Part 3 out of 4
"But what may perhaps appear more extraordinary, my aunt began soon to
speak of him with concern. She said he had some understanding
formerly, though his passion for that vile woman had, in a great
measure, obscured it; and one day, when she was in an ill-humour with
me, she had the cruelty to throw out a hint that she had never
quarrelled with her brother if it had not been on my account. "My
father, during his life, had allowed my aunt very handsomely for my
board; for generosity was too deeply riveted in his nature to be
plucked out by all the power of his wife. So far, however, she
prevailed, that, though he died possessed of upwards of L2000, he left
me no more than L100, which, as he expressed in his will, was to set
me up in some business, if I had the grace to take to any.
"Hitherto my aunt had in general treated me with some degree of
affection; but her behaviour began now to be changed. She soon took an
opportunity of giving me to understand that her fortune was
insufficient to keep me; and, as I could not live on the interest of
my own, it was high time for me to consider about going into the
world. She added, that her brother having mentioned my setting up in
some business in his will was very foolish; that I had been bred to
nothing; and, besides, that the sum was too trifling to set me up in
any way of reputation; she desired me therefore to think of
immediately going into service.
"This advice was perhaps right enough; and I told her I was very ready
to do as she directed me, but I was at that time in an ill state of
health; I desired her therefore to let me stay with her till my
legacy, which was not to be paid till a year after my father's death,
was due; and I then promised to satisfy her for my board, to which she
"And now, madam," said Mrs. Bennet, sighing, "I am going to open to
you those matters which lead directly to that great catastrophe of my
life which hath occasioned my giving you this trouble, and of trying
your patience in this manner."
Amelia, notwithstanding her impatience, made a very civil answer to
this; and then Mrs. Bennet proceeded to relate what is written in the
"The curate of the parish where my aunt dwelt was a young fellow of
about four-and-twenty. He had been left an orphan in his infancy, and
entirely unprovided for, when an uncle had the goodness to take care
of his education, both at school and at the university. As the young
gentleman was intended for the church, his uncle, though he had two
daughters of his own, and no very large fortune, purchased for him the
next presentation of a living of near L200 a-year. The incumbent, at
the time of the purchase, was under the age of sixty, and in apparent
good health; notwithstanding which, he died soon after the bargain,
and long before the nephew was capable of orders; so that the uncle
was obliged to give the living to a clergyman, to hold it till the
young man came of proper age.
"The young gentleman had not attained his proper age of taking orders
when he had the misfortune to lose his uncle and only friend, who,
thinking he had sufficiently provided for his nephew by the purchase
of the living, considered him no farther in his will, but divided all
the fortune of which he died possessed between his two daughters;
recommending it to them, however, on his deathbed, to assist their
cousin with money sufficient to keep him at the university till he
should be capable of ordination.
"But, as no appointment of this kind was in the will, the young
ladies, who received about each, thought proper to disregard the last
words of their father; for, besides that both of them were extremely
tenacious of their money, they were great enemies to their cousin, on
account of their father's kindness to him; and thought proper to let
him know that they thought he had robbed them of too much already.
"The poor young fellow was now greatly distrest; for he had yet above
a year to stay at the university, without any visible means of
sustaining himself there.
"In this distress, however, he met with a friend, who had the good
nature to lend him the sum of twenty pounds, for which he only
accepted his bond for forty, and which was to be paid within a year
after his being possessed of his living; that is, within a year after
his becoming qualified to hold it.
"With this small sum thus hardly obtained the poor gentleman made a
shift to struggle with all difficulties till he became of due age to
take upon himself the character of a deacon. He then repaired to that
clergyman to whom his uncle had given the living upon the conditions
above mentioned, to procure a title to ordination; but this, to his
great surprize and mortification, was absolutely refused him.
"The immediate disappointment did not hurt him so much as the
conclusion he drew from it; for he could have but little hopes that
the man who could have the cruelty to refuse him a title would
vouchsafe afterwards to deliver up to him a living of so considerable
a value; nor was it long before this worthy incumbent told him plainly
that he valued his uncle's favours at too high a rate to part with
them to any one; nay, he pretended scruples of conscience, and said
that, if he had made any slight promises, which he did not now well
remember, they were wicked and void; that he looked upon himself as
married to his parish, and he could no more give it up than he could
give up his wife without sin.
"The poor young fellow was now obliged to seek farther for a title,
which, at length, he obtained from the rector of the parish where my
"He had not long been settled in the curacy before an intimate
acquaintance grew between him and my aunt; for she was a great admirer
of the clergy, and used frequently to say they were the only
conversible creatures in the country.
"The first time she was in this gentleman's company was at a
neighbour's christening, where she stood godmother. Here she displayed
her whole little stock of knowledge, in order to captivate Mr. Bennet
(I suppose, madam, you already guess that to have been his name), and
before they parted gave him a very strong invitation to her house.
"Not a word passed at this christening between Mr. Bennet and myself,
but our eyes were not unemployed. Here, madam, I first felt a pleasing
kind of confusion, which I know not how to describe. I felt a kind of
uneasiness, yet did not wish to be without it. I longed to be alone,
yet dreaded the hour of parting. I could not keep my eyes off from the
object which caused my confusion, and which I was at once afraid of
and enamoured with. But why do I attempt to describe my situation to
one who must, I am sure, have felt the same?"
Amelia smiled, and Mrs. Bennet went on thus: "O, Mrs. Booth! had you
seen the person of whom I am now speaking, you would not condemn the
suddenness of my love. Nay, indeed, I had seen him there before,
though this was the first time I had ever heard the music of his
voice. Oh! it was the sweetest that was ever heard.
"Mr. Bennet came to visit my aunt the very next day. She imputed this
respectful haste to the powerful charms of her understanding, and
resolved to lose no opportunity in improving the opinion which she
imagined he had conceived of her. She became by this desire quite
ridiculous, and ran into absurdities and a gallimatia scarce credible.
"Mr. Bennet, as I afterwards found, saw her in the same light with
myself; but, as he was a very sensible and well-bred man, he so well
concealed his opinion from us both, that I was almost angry, and she
was pleased even to raptures, declaring herself charmed with his
understanding, though, indeed, he had said very little; but I believe
he heard himself into her good opinion, while he gazed himself into
"The two first visits which Mr. Bennet made to my aunt, though I was
in the room all the time, I never spoke a word; but on the third, on
some argument which arose between them, Mr. Bennet referred himself to
me. I took his side of the question, as indeed I must to have done
justice, and repeated two or three words of Latin. My aunt reddened at
this, and exprest great disdain of my opinion, declaring she was
astonished that a man of Mr. Bennet's understanding could appeal to
the judgment of a silly girl; 'Is she,' said my aunt, bridling
herself, 'fit to decide between us?' Mr. Bennet spoke very favourably
of what I had said; upon which my aunt burst almost into a rage,
treated me with downright scurrility, called me conceited fool, abused
my poor father for having taught me Latin, which, she said, had made
me a downright coxcomb, and made me prefer myself to those who were a
hundred times my superiors in knowledge. She then fell foul on the
learned languages, declared they were totally useless, and concluded
that she had read all that was worth reading, though, she thanked
heaven, she understood no language but her own.
"Before the end of this visit Mr. Bennet reconciled himself very well
to my aunt, which, indeed, was no difficult task for him to
accomplish; but from that hour she conceived a hatred and rancour
towards me which I could never appease.
"My aunt had, from my first coming into her house, expressed great
dislike to my learning. In plain truth, she envied me that advantage.
This envy I had long ago discovered, and had taken great pains to
smother it, carefully avoiding ever to mention a Latin word in her
presence, and always submitting to her authority; for indeed I
despised her ignorance too much to dispute with her. By these means I
had pretty well succeeded, and we lived tolerably together; but the
affront paid to her understanding by Mr. Bennet in my favour was an
injury never to be forgiven to me. She took me severely to task that
very evening, and reminded me of going to service in such earnest
terms as almost amounted to literally turning me out of doors;
advising me, in the most insulting manner, to keep my Latin to myself,
which she said was useless to any one, but ridiculous when pretended
to by a servant.
"The next visit Mr. Bennet made at our house I was not suffered to be
present. This was much the shortest of all his visits; and when he
went away he left my aunt in a worse humour than ever I had seen her.
The whole was discharged on me in the usual manner, by upbraiding me
with my learning, conceit, and poverty; reminding me of obligations,
and insisting on my going immediately to service. With all this I was
greatly pleased, as it assured me that Mr. Bennet had said something
to her in my favour; and I would have purchased a kind expression of
his at almost any price.
"I should scarce, however, have been so sanguine as to draw this
conclusion, had I not received some hints that I had not unhappily
placed my affections on a man who made me no return; for, though he
had scarce addressed a dozen sentences to me (for, indeed, he had no
opportunity), yet his eyes had revealed certain secrets to mine with
which I was not displeased.
"I remained, however, in a state of anxiety near a month; sometimes
pleasing myself with thinking Mr. Bennet's heart was in the same
situation with my own; sometimes doubting that my wishes had flattered
and deceived me, and not in the least questioning that my aunt was my
rival; for I thought no woman could be proof against the charms that
had subdued me. Indeed, Mrs. Booth, he was a charming young fellow; I
must--I must pay this tribute to his memory. O, gracious Heaven! why,
why did I ever see him? why was I doomed to such misery?" Here she
burst into a flood of tears, and remained incapable of speech for some
time; during which the gentle Amelia endeavoured all she could to
soothe her, and gave sufficient marks of sympathizing in the tender
affliction of her friend.
Mrs. Bennet, at length, recovered her spirits, and proceeded, as in
the next chapter.
_The story of Mrs. Bennet continued._
I scarce know where I left off--Oh! I was, I think, telling you that I
esteemed my aunt as my rival; and it is not easy to conceive a greater
degree of detestation than I had for her; and what may, perhaps,
appear strange, as she daily grew more and more civil to me, my hatred
encreased with her civility; for I imputed it all to her triumph over
me, and to her having secured, beyond all apprehension, the heart I
"How was I surprized when, one day, with as much good-humour as she
was mistress of (for her countenance was not very pleasing), she asked
me how I liked Mr. Bennet? The question, you will believe, madam,
threw me into great confusion, which she plainly perceived, and,
without waiting for my answer, told me she was very well satisfied,
for that it did not require her discernment to read my thoughts in my
countenance. 'Well, child,' she said, 'I have suspected this a great
while, and I believe it will please you to know that I yesterday made
the same discovery in your lover.' This, I confess to you, was more
than I could well bear, and I begged her to say no more to me at that
time on that subject. 'Nay, child,' answered she, 'I must tell you
all, or I should not act a friendly part. Mr. Bennet, I am convinced,
hath a passion for you; but it is a passion which, I think, you should
not encourage. For, to be plain with you, I fear he is in love with
your person only. Now this is a love, child, which cannot produce that
rational happiness which a woman of sense ought to expect.' In short,
she ran on with a great deal of stuff about rational happiness, and
women of sense, and concluded with assuring me that, after the
strictest scrutiny, she could not find that Mr. Bennet had an adequate
opinion of my understanding; upon which she vouchsafed to make me many
compliments, but mixed with several sarcasms concerning my learning.
"I hope, madam, however," said she to Amelia, "you have not so bad an
opinion of my capacity as to imagine me dull enough to be offended
with Mr. Bennet's sentiments, for which I presently knew so well to
account. I was, indeed, charmed with his ingenuity, who had
discovered, perhaps, the only way of reconciling my aunt to those
inclinations which I now assured myself he had for me.
"I was not long left to support my hopes by my sagacity. He soon found
an opportunity of declaring his passion. He did this in so forcible
though gentle a manner, with such a profusion of fervency and
tenderness at once, that his love, like a torrent, bore everything
before it; and I am almost ashamed to own to you how very soon he
prevailed upon me to--to--in short, to be an honest woman, and to
confess to him the plain truth.
"When we were upon a good footing together he gave me a long relation
of what had past at several interviews with my aunt, at which I had
not been present. He said he had discovered that, as she valued
herself chiefly on her understanding, so she was extremely jealous of
mine, and hated me on account of my learning. That, as he had loved me
passionately from his first seeing me, and had thought of nothing from
that time but of throwing himself at my feet, he saw no way so open to
propitiate my aunt as that which he had taken by commending my beauty,
a perfection to which she had long resigned all claim, at the expense
of my understanding, in which he lamented my deficiency to a degree
almost of ridicule. This he imputed chiefly to my learning; on this
occasion he advanced a sentiment which so pleased my aunt that she
thought proper to make it her own; for I heard it afterwards more than
once from her own mouth. Learning, he said, had the same effect on the
mind that strong liquors have on the constitution; both tending to
eradicate all our natural fire and energy. His flattery had made such
a dupe of my aunt that she assented, without the least suspicion of
his sincerity, to all he said; so sure is vanity to weaken every
fortress of the understanding, and to betray us to every attack of the
"You will believe, madam, that I readily forgave him all he had said,
not only from that motive which I have mentioned, but as I was assured
he had spoke the reverse of his real sentiments. I was not, however,
quite so well pleased with my aunt, who began to treat me as if I was
really an idiot. Her contempt, I own, a little piqued me; and I could
not help often expressing my resentment, when we were alone together,
to Mr. Bennet, who never failed to gratify me by making her conceit
the subject of his wit; a talent which he possessed in the most
"This proved of very fatal consequence; for one day, while we were
enjoying my aunt in a very thick arbour in the garden, she stole upon
us unobserved, and overheard our whole conversation. I wish, my dear,
you understood Latin, that I might repeat you a sentence in which the
rage of a tigress that hath lost her young is described. No English
poet, as I remember, hath come up to it; nor am I myself equal to the
undertaking. She burst in upon us, open-mouthed, and after discharging
every abusive word almost, in the only language she understood, on
poor Mr. Bennet, turned us both out of doors, declaring she would send
my rags after me, but would never more permit me to set my foot within
"Consider, dear madam, to what a wretched condition we were now
reduced. I had not yet received the small legacy left me by my father;
nor was Mr. Bennet master of five pounds in the whole world.
"In this situation, the man I doated on to distraction had but little
difficulty to persuade me to a proposal which, indeed, I thought
generous in him to make, as it seemed to proceed from that tenderness
for my reputation to which he ascribed it; indeed, it could proceed
from no motive with which I should have been displeased. In a word,
within two days we were man and wife.
"Mr. Bennet now declared himself the happiest of men; and, for my
part, I sincerely declared I envied no woman upon earth. How little,
alas! did I then know or suspect the price I was to pay for all my
joys! A match of real love is, indeed, truly paradise; and such
perfect happiness seems to be the forbidden fruit to mortals, which we
are to lament having tasted during the rest of our lives.
"The first uneasiness which attacked us after our marriage was on my
aunt's account. It was very disagreeable to live under the nose of so
near a relation, who did not acknowledge us, but on the contrary, was
ever doing us all the ill turns in her power, and making a party
against us in the parish, which is always easy enough to do amongst
the vulgar against persons who are their superiors in rank, and, at
the same time, their inferiors in fortune. This made Mr. Bennet think
of procuring an exchange, in which intention he was soon after
confirmed by the arrival of the rector. It was the rector's custom to
spend three months every year at his living, for which purpose he
reserved an apartment in his parsonage-house, which was full large
enough for two such little families as then occupied it. We at first
promised ourselves some little convenience from his boarding with us;
and Mr. Bennet began to lay aside his thoughts of leaving his curacy,
at least for some time. But these golden ideas presently vanished;
for, though we both used our utmost endeavours to please him, we soon
found the impossibility of succeeding. He was, indeed, to give you his
character in a word, the most peevish of mortals. This temper,
notwithstanding that he was both a good and a pious man, made his
company so insufferable that nothing could compensate it. If his
breakfast was not ready to a moment--if a dish of meat was too much or
too little done--in short, if anything failed of exactly hitting his
taste, he was sure to be out of humour all that day, so that, indeed,
he was scarce ever in a good temper a whole day together; for fortune
seems to take a delight in thwarting this kind of disposition, to
which human life, with its many crosses and accidents, is, in truth,
by no means fitted.
"Mr. Bennet was now, by my desire as well as his own, determined to
quit the parish; but when he attempted to get an exchange, he found it
a matter of more difficulty than he had apprehended; for the rector's
temper was so well known among the neighbouring clergy, that none of
them could be brought to think of spending three months in a year with
"After many fruitless enquiries, Mr. Bennet thought best to remove to
London, the great mart of all affairs, ecclesiastical and civil. This
project greatly pleased him, and he resolved, without more delay, to
take his leave of the rector, which he did in the most friendly manner
possible, and preached his farewell sermon; nor was there a dry eye in
the church, except among the few, whom my aunt, who remained still
inexorable, had prevailed upon to hate us without any cause.
"To London we came, and took up our lodging the first night at the inn
where the stage-coach set us down: the next morning my husband went
out early on his business, and returned with the good news of having
heard of a curacy, and of having equipped himself with a lodging in
the neighbourhood of a worthy peer, 'who,' said he, 'was my fellow-
collegiate; and, what is more, I have a direction to a person who will
advance your legacy at a very reasonable rate.'
"This last particular was extremely agreeable to me, for our last
guinea was now broached; and the rector had lent my husband ten pounds
to pay his debts in the country, for, with all his peevishness, he was
a good and a generous man, and had, indeed, so many valuable
qualities, that I lamented his temper, after I knew him thoroughly, as
much on his account as on my own.
"We now quitted the inn and went to our lodgings, where my husband
having placed me in safety, as he said, he went about the business of
the legacy with good assurance of success.
"My husband returned elated with his success, the person to whom he
applied having undertaken to advance the legacy, which he fulfilled as
soon as the proper enquiries could be made, and proper instruments
prepared for that purpose.
"This, however, took up so much time, that, as our fund was so very
low, we were reduced to some distress, and obliged to live extremely
penurious; nor would all do without my taking a most disagreeable way
of procuring money by pawning one of my gowns.
"Mr. Bennet was now settled in a curacy in town, greatly to his
satisfaction, and our affairs seemed to have a prosperous aspect, when
he came home to me one morning in much apparent disorder, looking as
pale as death, and begged me by some means or other to get him a dram,
for that he was taken with a sudden faintness and lowness of spirits.
"Frighted as I was, I immediately ran downstairs, and procured some
rum of the mistress of the house; the first time, indeed, I ever knew
him drink any. When he came to himself he begged me not to be alarmed,
for it was no distemper, but something that had vexed him, which had
caused his disorder, which he had now perfectly recovered.
"He then told me the whole affair. He had hitherto deferred paying a
visit to the lord whom I mentioned to have been formerly his fellow-
collegiate, and was now his neighbour, till he could put himself in
decent rigging. He had now purchased a new cassock, hat, and wig, and
went to pay his respects to his old acquaintance, who had received
from him many civilities and assistances in his learning at the
university, and had promised to return them fourfold hereafter.
"It was not without some difficulty that Mr. Bennet got into the
antechamber. Here he waited, or as the phrase is, cooled his heels,
for above an hour before he saw his lordship; nor had he seen him then
but by an accident; for my lord was going out when he casually
intercepted him in his passage to his chariot. He approached to salute
him with some familiarity, though with respect, depending on his
former intimacy, when my lord, stepping short, very gravely told him
he had not the pleasure of knowing him. How! my lord, said he, can you
have so soon forgot your old acquaintance Tom Bennet? O, Mr. Bennet!
cries his lordship, with much reserve, is it you? you will pardon my
memory. I am glad to see you, Mr. Bennet, but you must excuse me at
present, for I am in very great haste. He then broke from him, and
without more ceremony, or any further invitation, went directly into
"This cold reception from a person for whom my husband had a real
friendship, and from whom he had great reason to expect a very warm
return of affection, so affected the poor man, that it caused all
those symptoms which I have mentioned before.
"Though this incident produced no material consequence, I could not
pass it over in silence, as, of all the misfortunes which ever befel
him, it affected my husband the most. I need not, however, to a woman
of your delicacy, make any comments on a behaviour which, though I
believe it is very common, is, nevertheless, cruel and base beyond
description, and is diametrically opposite to true honour as well as
"To relieve the uneasiness which my husband felt on account of his
false friend, I prevailed with him to go every night, almost for a
fortnight together, to the play; a diversion of which he was greatly
fond, and from which he did not think his being a clergyman excluded
him; indeed, it is very well if those austere persons who would be
inclined to censure him on this head have themselves no greater sins
to answer for.
"From this time, during three months, we past our time very agreeably,
a little too agreeably perhaps for our circumstances; for, however
innocent diversions may be in other respects, they must be owned to be
expensive. When you consider then, madam, that our income from the
curacy was less than forty pounds a year, and that, after payment of
the debt to the rector, and another to my aunt, with the costs in law
which she had occasioned by suing for it, my legacy was reduced to
less than seventy pounds, you will not wonder that, in diversions,
cloaths, and the common expenses of life, we had almost consumed our
"The inconsiderate manner in which we had lived for some time will, I
doubt not, appear to you to want some excuse; but I have none to make
for it. Two things, however, now happened, which occasioned much
serious reflexion to Mr. Bennet; the one was, that I grew near my
time; the other, that he now received a letter from Oxford, demanding
the debt of forty pounds which I mentioned to you before. The former
of these he made a pretence of obtaining a delay for the payment of
the latter, promising, in two months, to pay off half the debt, by
which means he obtained a forbearance during that time.
"I was now delivered of a son, a matter which should in reality have
encreased our concern, but, on the contrary, it gave us great
pleasure; greater indeed could not have been conceived at the birth of
an heir to the most plentiful estate: so entirely thoughtless were we,
and so little forecast had we of those many evils and distresses to
which we had rendered a human creature, and one so dear to us, liable.
The day of a christening is, in all families, I believe, a day of
jubilee and rejoicing; and yet, if we consider the interest of that
little wretch who is the occasion, how very little reason would the
most sanguine persons have for their joy!
"But, though our eyes were too weak to look forward, for the sake of
our child, we could not be blinded to those dangers that immediately
threatened ourselves. Mr. Bennet, at the expiration of the two months,
received a second letter from Oxford, in a very peremptory stile, and
threatening a suit without any farther delay. This alarmed us in the
strongest manner; and my husband, to secure his liberty, was advised
for a while to shelter himself in the verge of the court.
"And, now, madam, I am entering on that scene which directly leads to
all my misery."--Here she stopped, and wiped her eyes; and then,
begging Amelia to excuse her for a few minutes, ran hastily out of the
room, leaving Amelia by herself, while she refreshed her spirits with
a cordial to enable her to relate what follows in the next chapter.
Mrs. Bennet, returning into the room, made a short apology for her
absence, and then proceeded in these words:
"We now left our lodging, and took a second floor in that very house
where you now are, to which we were recommended by the woman where we
had before lodged, for the mistresses of both houses were acquainted;
and, indeed, we had been all at the play together. To this new lodging
then (such was our wretched destiny) we immediately repaired, and were
received by Mrs. Ellison (how can I bear the sound of that detested
name?) with much civility; she took care, however, during the first
fortnight of our residence, to wait upon us every Monday morning for
her rent; such being, it seems, the custom of this place, which, as it
was inhabited chiefly by persons in debt, is not the region of credit.
"My husband, by the singular goodness of the rector, who greatly
compassionated his case, was enabled to continue in his curacy, though
he could only do the duty on Sundays. He was, however, sometimes
obliged to furnish a person to officiate at his expence; so that our
income was very scanty, and the poor little remainder of the legacy
being almost spent, we were reduced to some difficulties, and, what
was worse, saw still a prospect of greater before our eyes.
"Under these circumstances, how agreeable to poor Mr. Bennet must have
been the behaviour of Mrs. Ellison, who, when he carried her her rent
on the usual day, told him, with a benevolent smile, that he needed
not to give himself the trouble of such exact punctuality. She added
that, if it was at any time inconvenient to him, he might pay her when
he pleased. 'To say the truth,' says she, 'I never was so much pleased
with any lodgers in my life; I am convinced, Mr. Bennet, you are a
very worthy man, and you are a very happy one too; for you have the
prettiest wife and the prettiest child I ever saw' These, dear madam,
were the words she was pleased to make use of: and I am sure she
behaved to me with such an appearance of friendship and affection,
that, as I could not perceive any possible views of interest which she
could have in her professions, I easily believed them real.
"There lodged in the same house--O, Mrs. Booth! the blood runs cold to
my heart, and should run cold to yours, when I name him--there lodged
in the same house a lord--the lord, indeed, whom I have since seen in
your company. This lord, Mrs. Ellison told me, had taken a great fancy
to my little Charley. Fool that I was, and blinded by my own passion,
which made me conceive that an infant, not three months old, could be
really the object of affection to any besides a parent, and more
especially to a gay young fellow! But, if I was silly in being
deceived, how wicked was the wretch who deceived me--who used such
art, and employed such pains, such incredible pains, to deceive me! He
acted the part of a nurse to my little infant; he danced it, he lulled
it, he kissed it; declared it was the very picture of a nephew of his
--his favourite sister's child; and said so many kind and fond things
of its beauty, that I myself, though, I believe, one of the tenderest
and fondest of mothers, scarce carried my own ideas of my little
darling's perfection beyond the compliments which he paid it.
"My lord, however, perhaps from modesty, before my face, fell far
short of what Mrs. Ellison reported from him. And now, when she found
the impression which was made on me by these means, she took every
opportunity of insinuating to me his lordship's many virtues, his
great goodness to his sister's children in particular; nor did she
fail to drop some hints which gave me the most simple and groundless
hopes of strange consequences from his fondness to my Charley.
"When, by these means, which, simple as they may appear, were,
perhaps, the most artful, my lord had gained something more, I think,
than my esteem, he took the surest method to confirm himself in my
affection. This was, by professing the highest friendship for my
husband; for, as to myself, I do assure you he never shewed me more
than common respect; and I hope you will believe I should have
immediately startled and flown off if he had. Poor I accounted for all
the friendship which he expressed for my husband, and all the fondness
which he shewed to my boy, from the great prettiness of the one and
the great merit of the other; foolishly conceiving that others saw
with my eyes and felt with my heart. Little did I dream that my own
unfortunate person was the fountain of all this lord's goodness, and
was the intended price of it.
"One evening, as I was drinking tea with Mrs. Ellison by my lord's
fire (a liberty which she never scrupled taking when he was gone out),
my little Charley, now about half a year old, sitting in her lap, my
lord--accidentally, no doubt, indeed I then thought it so--came in. I
was confounded, and offered to go; but my lord declared, if he
disturbed Mrs. Ellison's company, as he phrased it, he would himself
leave the room. When I was thus prevailed on to keep my seat, my lord
immediately took my little baby into his lap, and gave it some tea
there, not a little at the expense of his embroidery; for he was very
richly drest; indeed, he was as fine a figure as perhaps ever was
seen. His behaviour on this occasion gave me many ideas in his favour.
I thought he discovered good sense, good nature, condescension, and
other good qualities, by the fondness he shewed to my child, and the
contempt he seemed to express for his finery, which so greatly became
him; for I cannot deny but that he was the handsomest and genteelest
person in the world, though such considerations advanced him not a
step in my favour.
"My husband now returned from church (for this happened on a Sunday),
and was, by my lord's particular desire, ushered into the room. My
lord received him with the utmost politeness, and with many
professions of esteem, which, he said, he had conceived from Mrs.
Ellison's representations of his merit. He then proceeded to mention
the living which was detained from my husband, of which Mrs. Ellison
had likewise informed him; and said, he thought it would be no
difficult matter to obtain a restoration of it by the authority of the
bishop, who was his particular friend, and to whom he would take an
immediate opportunity of mentioning it. This, at last, he determined
to do the very next day, when he invited us both to dinner, where we
were to be acquainted with his lordship's success.
"My lord now insisted on my husband's staying supper with him, without
taking any notice of me; but Mrs. Ellison declared he should not part
man and wife, and that she herself would stay with me. The motion was
too agreeable to me to be rejected; and, except the little time I
retired to put my child to bed, we spent together the most agreeable
evening imaginable; nor was it, I believe, easy to decide whether Mr.
Bennet or myself were most delighted with his lordship and Mrs.
Ellison; but this, I assure you, the generosity of the one, and the
extreme civility and kindness of the other, were the subjects of our
conversation all the ensuing night, during which we neither of us
closed our eyes.
"The next day at dinner my lord acquainted us that he had prevailed
with the bishop to write to the clergyman in the country; indeed, he
told us that he had engaged the bishop to be very warm in our
interest, and had not the least doubt of success. This threw us both
into a flow of spirits; and in the afternoon Mr. Bennet, at Mrs.
Ellison's request, which was seconded by his lordship, related the
history of our lives from our first acquaintance. My lord seemed much
affected with some tender scenes, which, as no man could better feel,
so none could better describe, than my husband. When he had finished,
my lord begged pardon for mentioning an occurrence which gave him such
a particular concern, as it had disturbed that delicious state of
happiness in which we had lived at our former lodging. 'It would be
ungenerous,' said he, 'to rejoice at an accident which, though it
brought me fortunately acquainted with two of the most agreeable
people in the world, was yet at the expense of your mutual felicity.
The circumstance, I mean, is your debt at Oxford; pray, how doth that
stand? I am resolved it shall never disturb your happiness hereafter.'
At these words the tears burst from my poor husband's eyes; and, in an
ecstasy of gratitude, he cried out, 'Your lordship overcomes me with
generosity. If you go on in this manner, both my wife's gratitude and
mine must be bankrupt' He then acquainted my lord with the exact state
of the case, and received assurances from him that the debt should
never trouble him. My husband was again breaking out into the warmest
expressions of gratitude, but my lord stopt him short, saying, 'If you
have any obligation, it is to my little Charley here, from whose
little innocent smiles I have received more than the value of this
trifling debt in pleasure.' I forgot to tell you that, when I offered
to leave the room after dinner upon my child's account, my lord would
not suffer me, but ordered the child to be brought to me. He now took
it out of my arms, placed it upon his own knee, and fed it with some
fruit from the dessert. In short, it would be more tedious to you than
to myself to relate the thousand little tendernesses he shewed to the
child. He gave it many baubles; amongst the rest was a coral worth at
least three pounds; and, when my husband was confined near a fortnight
to his chamber with a cold, he visited the child every day (for to
this infant's account were all the visits placed), and seldom failed
of accompanying his visit with a present to the little thing.
"Here, Mrs. Booth, I cannot help mentioning a doubt which hath often
arisen in my mind since I have been enough mistress of myself to
reflect on this horrid train which was laid to blow up my innocence.
Wicked and barbarous it was to the highest degree without any
question; but my doubt is, whether the art or folly of it be the more
conspicuous; for, however delicate and refined the art must be allowed
to have been, the folly, I think, must upon a fair examination appear
no less astonishing: for to lay all considerations of cruelty and
crime out of the case, what a foolish bargain doth the man make for
himself who purchases so poor a pleasure at so high a price!
"We had lived near three weeks with as much freedom as if we had been
all of the same family, when, one afternoon, my lord proposed to my
husband to ride down himself to solicit the surrender; for he said the
bishop had received an unsatisfactory answer from the parson, and had
writ a second letter more pressing, which his lordship now promised us
to strengthen by one of his own that my husband was to carry with him.
Mr. Bennet agreed to this proposal with great thankfulness, and the
next day was appointed for his journey. The distance was near seventy
"My husband set out on his journey, and he had scarce left me before
Mrs. Ellison came into my room, and endeavoured to comfort me in his
absence; to say the truth, though he was to be from me but a few days,
and the purpose of his going was to fix our happiness on a sound
foundation for all our future days, I could scarce support my spirits
under this first separation. But though I then thought Mrs. Ellison's
intentions to be most kind and friendly, yet the means she used were
utterly ineffectual, and appeared to me injudicious. Instead of
soothing my uneasiness, which is always the first physic to be given
to grief, she rallied me upon it, and began to talk in a very unusual
stile of gaiety, in which she treated conjugal love with much
"I gave her to understand that she displeased me by this discourse;
but she soon found means to give such a turn to it as made a merit of
all she had said. And now, when she had worked me into a good humour,
she made a proposal to me which I at first rejected--but at last
fatally, too fatally, suffered myself to be over-persuaded. This was
to go to a masquerade at Ranelagh, for which my lord had furnished her
At these words Amelia turned pale as death, and hastily begged her
friend to give her a glass of water, some air, or anything. Mrs.
Bennet, having thrown open the window, and procured the water, which
prevented Amelia from fainting, looked at her with much tenderness,
and cried, "I do not wonder, my dear madam, that you are affected with
my mentioning that fatal masquerade; since I firmly believe the same
ruin was intended for you at the same place; the apprehension of which
occasioned the letter I sent you this morning, and all the trial of
your patience which I have made since."
Amelia gave her a tender embrace, with many expressions of the warmest
gratitude; assured her she had pretty well recovered her spirits, and
begged her to continue her story, which Mrs. Bennet then did. However,
as our readers may likewise be glad to recover their spirits also, we
shall here put an end to this chapter.
_The story farther continued._
Mrs. Bennet proceeded thus:
"I was at length prevailed on to accompany Mrs. Ellison to the
masquerade. Here, I must confess, the pleasantness of the place, the
variety of the dresses, and the novelty of the thing, gave me much
delight, and raised my fancy to the highest pitch. As I was entirely
void of all suspicion, my mind threw off all reserve, and pleasure
only filled my thoughts. Innocence, it is true, possessed my heart;
but it was innocence unguarded, intoxicated with foolish desires, and
liable to every temptation. During the first two hours we had many
trifling adventures not worth remembering. At length my lord joined
us, and continued with me all the evening; and we danced several
"I need not, I believe, tell you, madam, how engaging his conversation
is. I wish I could with truth say I was not pleased with it; or, at
least, that I had a right to be pleased with it. But I will disguise
nothing from you. I now began to discover that he had some affection
for me, but he had already too firm a footing in my esteem to make the
discovery shocking. I will--I will own the truth; I was delighted with
perceiving a passion in him, which I was not unwilling to think he had
had from the beginning, and to derive his having concealed it so long
from his awe of my virtue, and his respect to my understanding. I
assure you, madam, at the same time, my intentions were never to
exceed the bounds of innocence. I was charmed with the delicacy of his
passion; and, in the foolish thoughtless turn of mind in which I then
was, I fancied I might give some very distant encouragement to such a
passion in such a man with the utmost safety--that I might indulge my
vanity and interest at once, without being guilty of the least injury.
"I know Mrs. Booth will condemn all these thoughts, and I condemn them
no less myself; for it is now my stedfast opinion that the woman who
gives up the least outwork of her virtue doth, in that very moment,
betray the citadel.
"About two o'clock we returned home, and found a very handsome
collation provided for us. I was asked to partake of it, and I did
not, I could not refuse. I was not, however, entirely void of all
suspicion, and I made many resolutions; one of which was, not to drink
a drop more than my usual stint. This was, at the utmost, little more
than half a pint of small punch.
"I adhered strictly to my quantity; but in the quality I am convinced
I was deceived; for before I left the room I found my head giddy. What
the villain gave me I know not; but, besides being intoxicated, I
perceived effects from it which are not to be described.
"Here, madam, I must draw a curtain over the residue of that fatal
night. Let it suffice that it involved me in the most dreadful ruin; a
ruin to which I can truly say I never consented, and of which I was
scarce conscious when the villanous man avowed it to my face in the
"Thus I have deduced my story to the most horrid period; happy had I
been had this been the period of my life, but I was reserved for
greater miseries; but before I enter on them I will mention something
very remarkable, with which I was now acquainted, and that will shew
there was nothing of accident which had befallen me, but that all was
the effect of a long, regular, premeditated design.
"You may remember, madam, I told you that we were recommended to Mrs.
Ellison by the woman at whose house we had before lodged. This woman,
it seems, was one of my lord's pimps, and had before introduced me to
his lordship's notice.
"You are to know then, madam, that this villain, this lord, now
confest to me that he had first seen me in the gallery at the
oratorio, whither I had gone with tickets with which the woman where I
first lodged had presented me, and which were, it seems, purchased by
my lord. Here I first met the vile betrayer, who was disguised in a
rug coat and a patch upon his face."
At these words Amelia cried, "O, gracious heavens!" and fell back in
her chair. Mrs. Bennet, with proper applications, brought her back to
life; and then Amelia acquainted her that she herself had first seen
the same person in the same place, and in the same disguise. "O, Mrs.
Bennet!" cried she, "how am I indebted to you! what words, what
thanks, what actions can demonstrate the gratitude of my sentiments! I
look upon you, and always shall look upon you, as my preserver from
the brink of a precipice, from which I was falling into the same ruin
which you have so generously, so kindly, and so nobly disclosed for my
Here the two ladies compared notes; and it appeared that his
lordship's behaviour at the oratorio had been alike to both; that he
had made use of the very same words, the very same actions to Amelia,
which he had practised over before on poor unfortunate Mrs. Bennet. It
may, perhaps, be thought strange that neither of them could afterwards
recollect him; but so it was. And, indeed, if we consider the force of
disguise, the very short time that either of them was with him at this
first interview, and the very little curiosity that must have been
supposed in the minds of the ladies, together with the amusement in
which they were then engaged, all wonder will, I apprehend, cease.
Amelia, however, now declared she remembered his voice and features
perfectly well, and was thoroughly satisfied he was the same person.
She then accounted for his not having visited in the afternoon,
according to his promise, from her declared resolutions to Mrs.
Ellison not to see him. She now burst forth into some very satirical
invectives against that lady, and declared she had the art, as well as
the wickedness, of the devil himself.
Many congratulations now past from Mrs. Bennet to Amelia, which were
returned with the most hearty acknowledgments from that lady. But,
instead of filling our paper with these, we shall pursue Mrs. Bennet's
story, which she resumed as we shall find in the next chapter.
"No sooner," said Mrs. Bennet, continuing her story, "was my lord
departed, than Mrs. Ellison came to me. She behaved in such a manner,
when she became acquainted with what had past, that, though I was at
first satisfied of her guilt, she began to stagger my opinion, and at
length prevailed upon me entirely to acquit her. She raved like a mad
woman against my lord, swore he should not stay a moment in her house,
and that she would never speak to him more. In short, had she been the
most innocent woman in the world, she could not have spoke nor acted
any otherwise, nor could she have vented more wrath and indignation
against the betrayer.
"That part of her denunciation of vengeance which concerned my lord's
leaving the house she vowed should be executed immediately; but then,
seeming to recollect herself, she said, 'Consider, my dear child, it
is for your sake alone I speak; will not such a proceeding give some
suspicion to your husband?' I answered, that I valued not that; that I
was resolved to inform my husband of all the moment I saw him; with
many expressions of detestation of myself and an indifference for life
and for everything else.
"Mrs. Ellison, however, found means to soothe me, and to satisfy me
with my own innocence, a point in which, I believe, we are all easily
convinced. In short, I was persuaded to acquit both myself and her, to
lay the whole guilt upon my lord, and to resolve to conceal it from my
"That whole day I confined myself to my chamber and saw no person but
Mrs. Ellison. I was, indeed, ashamed to look any one in the face.
Happily for me, my lord went into the country without attempting to
come near me, for I believe his sight would have driven me to madness.
"The next day I told Mrs. Ellison that I was resolved to leave her
lodgings the moment my lord came to town; not on her account (for I
really inclined to think her innocent), but on my lord's, whose face I
was resolved, if possible, never more to behold. She told me I had no
reason to quit her house on that score, for that my lord himself had
left her lodgings that morning in resentment, she believed, of the
abuses Which she had cast on him the day before.
"This confirmed me in the opinion of her innocence; nor hath she from
that day to this, till my acquaintance with you, madam, done anything
to forfeit my opinion. On the contrary, I owe her many good offices;
amongst the rest, I have an annuity of one hundred and fifty pounds a-
year from my lord, which I know was owing to her solicitations, for
she is not void of generosity or good-nature; though by what I have
lately seen, I am convinced she was the cause of my ruin, and hath
endeavoured to lay the same snares for you.
"But to return to my melancholy story. My husband returned at the
appointed time; and I met him with an agitation of mind not to be
described. Perhaps the fatigue which he had undergone in his journey,
and his dissatisfaction at his ill success, prevented his taking
notice of what I feared was too visible. All his hopes were entirely
frustrated; the clergyman had not received the bishop's letter, and as
to my lord's he treated it with derision and contempt. Tired as he
was, Mr. Bennet would not sit down till he had enquired for my lord,
intending to go and pay his compliments. Poor man! he little suspected
that he had deceived him, as I have since known, concerning the
bishop; much less did he suspect any other injury. But the lord--the
villain was gone out of town, so that he was forced to postpone all
"Mr. Bennet returned to town late on the Saturday night, nevertheless
he performed his duty at church the next day, but I refused to go with
him. This, I think, was the first refusal I was guilty of since our
marriage; but I was become so miserable, that his presence, which had
been the source of all my happiness, was become my bane. I will not
say I hated to see him, but I can say I was ashamed, indeed afraid, to
look him in the face. I was conscious of I knew not what--guilt I hope
it cannot be called."
"I hope not, nay, I think not," cries Amelia.
"My husband," continued Mrs. Bennet, "perceived my dissatisfaction,
and imputed it to his ill-success in the country. I was pleased with
this self-delusion, and yet, when I fairly compute the agonies I
suffered at his endeavours to comfort me on that head, I paid most
severely for it. O, my dear Mrs. Booth! happy is the deceived party
between true lovers, and wretched indeed is the author of the deceit!
"In this wretched condition I passed a whole week, the most miserable
I think of my whole life, endeavouring to humour my husband's delusion
and to conceal my own tortures; but I had reason to fear I could not
succeed long, for on the Saturday night I perceived a visible
alteration in his behaviour to me. He went to bed in an apparent ill-
humour, turned sullenly from me, and if I offered at any endearments
he gave me only peevish answers.
"After a restless turbulent night, he rose early on Sunday morning and
walked down-stairs. I expected his return to breakfast, but was soon
informed by the maid that he was gone forth, and that it was no more
than seven o'clock. All this you may believe, madam, alarmed me. I saw
plainly he had discovered the fatal secret, though by what means I
could not divine. The state of my mind was very little short of
madness. Sometimes I thought of running away from my injured husband,
and sometimes of putting an end to my life.
"In the midst of such perturbations I spent the day. My husband
returned in the evening. O, Heavens! can I describe what followed?--It
is impossible! I shall sink under the relation. He entered the room
with a face as white as a sheet, his lips trembling and his eyes red
as coals of fire starting as it were from his head.--'Molly,' cries
he, throwing himself into his chair, 'are you well?' 'Good Heavens!'
says I, 'what's the matter?--Indeed I can't say I am well.' 'No!' says
he, starting from his chair, 'false monster, you have betrayed me,
destroyed me, you have ruined your husband!' Then looking like a fury,
he snatched off a large book from the table, and, with the malice of a
madman, threw it at my head and knocked me down backwards. He then
caught me up in his arms and kissed me with most extravagant
tenderness; then, looking me stedfastly in the face for several
moments, the tears gushed in a torrent from his eyes, and with his
utmost violence he threw me again on the floor, kicked me, stamped
upon me. I believe, indeed, his intent was to kill me, and I believe
he thought he had accomplished it.
"I lay on the ground for some minutes, I believe, deprived of my
senses. When I recovered myself I found my husband lying by my side on
his face, and the blood running from him. It seems, when he thought he
had despatched me, he ran his head with all his force against a chest
of drawers which stood in the room, and gave himself a dreadful wound
in his head.
"I can truly say I felt not the least resentment for the usage I had
received; I thought I deserved it all; though, indeed, I little
guessed what he had suffered from me. I now used the most earnest
entreaties to him to compose himself; and endeavoured, with my feeble
arms, to raise him from the ground. At length he broke from me, and,
springing from the ground, flung himself into a chair, when, looking
wildly at me, he cried--'Go from me, Molly. I beseech you, leave me. I
would not kill you.'--He then discovered to me--O Mrs. Booth! can you
not guess it?--I was indeed polluted by the villain--I had infected my
husband.--O heavens! why do I live to relate anything so horrid--I
will not, I cannot yet survive it. I cannot forgive myself. Heaven
cannot forgive me!"
Here she became inarticulate with the violence of her grief, and fell
presently into such agonies, that the frighted Amelia began to call
aloud for some assistance. Upon this a maid-servant came up, who,
seeing her mistress in a violent convulsion fit, presently screamed
out she was dead. Upon which one of the other sex made his appearance:
and who should this be but the honest serjeant? whose countenance soon
made it evident that, though a soldier, and a brave one too, he was
not the least concerned of all the company on this occasion.
The reader, if he hath been acquainted with scenes of this kind, very
well knows that Mrs. Bennet, in the usual time, returned again to the
possession of her voice: the first use of which she made was to
express her astonishment at the presence of the serjeant, and, with a
frantic air, to enquire who he was.
The maid, concluding that her mistress was not yet returned to her
senses, answered, "Why, 'tis my master, madam. Heaven preserve your
senses, madam!--Lord, sir, my mistress must be very bad not to know
What Atkinson thought at this instant, I will not say; but certain it
is he looked not over-wise. He attempted twice to take hold of Mrs.
Bennet's hand, but she withdrew it hastily, and presently after,
rising up from her chair, she declared herself pretty well again, and
desired Atkinson and the maid to withdraw. Both of whom presently
obeyed: the serjeant appearing by his countenance to want comfort
almost as much as the lady did to whose assistance he had been
It is a good maxim to trust a person entirely or not at all; for a
secret is often innocently blabbed out by those who know but half of
it. Certain it is that the maid's speech communicated a suspicion to
the mind of Amelia which the behaviour of the serjeant did not tend to
remove: what that is, the sagacious readers may likewise probably
suggest to themselves; if not, they must wait our time for disclosing
it. We shall now resume the history of Mrs. Bennet, who, after many
apologies, proceeded to the matters in the next chapter.
_The conclusion of Mrs. Bennet's history._
"When I became sensible," cries Mrs. Bennet, "of the injury I had done
my husband, I threw myself at his feet, and embracing his knees, while
I bathed them with my tears, I begged a patient hearing, declaring, if
he was not satisfied with what I should say, I would become a willing
victim of his resentment, I said, and I said truly, that, if I owed my
death that instant to his hands, I should have no other terrour but of
the fatal consequence which it might produce to himself.
"He seemed a little pacified, and bid me say whatever I pleased.
"I then gave him a faithful relation of all that had happened. He
heard me with great attention, and at the conclusion cried, with a
deep sigh--'O Molly! I believe it all.--You must have been betrayed as
you tell me; you could not be guilty of such baseness, such cruelty,
such ingratitude.' He then--O! it is impossible to describe his
behaviour--he exprest such kindness, such tenderness, such concern for
the manner in which he had used me--I cannot dwell on this scene--I
shall relapse--you must excuse me."
Amelia begged her to omit anything which so affected her; and she
proceeded thus: "My husband, who was more convinced than I was of Mrs.
Ellison's guilt, declared he would not sleep that night in her house.
He then went out to see for a lodging; he gave me all the money he
had, and left me to pay her bill, and put up the cloaths, telling me,
if I had not money enough, I might leave the cloaths as a pledge; but
he vowed he could not answer for himself if he saw the face of Mrs.
"Words cannot scarce express the behaviour of that artful woman, it
was so kind and so generous. She said, she did not blame my husband's
resentment, nor could she expect any other, but that he and all the
world should censure her--that she hated her house almost as much as
we did, and detested her cousin, if possible, more. In fine, she said
I might leave my cloaths there that evening, but that she would send
them to us the next morning; that she scorned the thought of detaining
them; and as for the paultry debt, we might pay her whenever we
pleased; for, to do her justice, with all her vices, she hath some
good in her."
"Some good in her, indeed!" cried Amelia, with great indignation.
"We were scarce settled in our new lodgings," continued Mrs. Bennet,
"when my husband began to complain of a pain in his inside. He told me
he feared he had done himself some injury in his rage, and burst
something within him. As to the odious--I cannot bear the thought, the
great skill of his surgeon soon entirely cured him; but his other
complaint, instead of yielding to any application, grew still worse
and worse, nor ever ended till it brought him to his grave.
"O Mrs. Booth! could I have been certain that I had occasioned this,
however innocently I had occasioned it, I could never have survived
it; but the surgeon who opened him after his death assured me that he
died of what they called a polypus in his heart, and that nothing
which had happened on account of me was in the least the occasion of
"I have, however, related the affair truly to you. The first complaint
I ever heard of the kind was within a day or two after we left Mrs.
Ellison's; and this complaint remained till his death, which might
induce him perhaps to attribute his death to another cause; but the
surgeon, who is a man of the highest eminence, hath always declared
the contrary to me, with the most positive certainty; and this opinion
hath been my only comfort.
"When my husband died, which was about ten weeks after we quitted Mrs.
Ellison's, of whom I had then a different opinion from what I have
now, I was left in the most wretched condition imaginable. I believe,
madam, she shewed you my letter. Indeed, she did everything for me at
that time which I could have expected from the best of friends, She
supplied me with money from her own pocket, by which means I was
preserved from a distress in which I must have otherwise inevitably
"Her kindness to me in this season of distress prevailed on me to
return again to her house. Why, indeed, should I have refused an offer
so very convenient for me to accept, and which seemed so generous in
her to make? Here I lived a very retired life with my little babe,
seeing no company but Mrs. Ellison herself for a full quarter of a
year. At last Mrs. Ellison brought me a parchment from my lord, in
which he had settled upon me, at her instance, as she told me, and as
I believe it was, an annuity of one hundred and fifty pounds a-year.
This was, I think, the very first time she had mentioned his hateful
name to me since my return to her house. And she now prevailed upon
me, though I assure you not without some difficulty, to suffer him to
execute the deed in my presence.
"I will not describe our interview--I am not able to describe it, and
I have often wondered how I found spirits to support it. This I will
say for him, that, if he was not a real penitent, no man alive could
act the part better.
"Beside resentment, I had another motive of my backwardness to agree
to such a meeting; and this was--fear. I apprehended, and surely not
without reason, that the annuity was rather meant as a bribe than a
recompence, and that further designs were laid against my innocence;
but in this I found myself happily deceived; for neither then, nor at
any time since, have I ever had the least solicitation of that kind.
Nor, indeed, have I seen the least occasion to think my lord had any
"Good heavens! what are these men? what is this appetite which must
have novelty and resistance for its provocatives, and which is
delighted with us no longer than while we may be considered in the
light of enemies?"
"I thank you, madam," cries Amelia, "for relieving me from my fears on
your account; I trembled at the consequence of this second
acquaintance with such a man, and in such a situation."
"I assure you, madam, I was in no danger," returned Mrs. Bennet; "for,
besides that I think I could have pretty well relied on my own
resolution, I have heard since, at St Edmundsbury, from an intimate
acquaintance of my lord's, who was an entire stranger to my affairs,
that the highest degree of inconstancy is his character; and that few
of his numberless mistresses have ever received a second visit from
"Well, madam," continued she, "I think I have little more to trouble
you with; unless I should relate to you my long ill state of health,
from which I am lately, I thank Heaven, recovered; or unless I should
mention to you the most grievous accident that ever befel me, the loss
of my poor dear Charley." Here she made a full stop, and the tears ran
down into her bosom.
Amelia was silent a few minutes, while she gave the lady time to vent
her passion; after which she began to pour forth a vast profusion of
acknowledgments for the trouble she had taken in relating her history,
but chiefly for the motive which had induced her to it, and for the
kind warning which she had given her by the little note which Mrs.
Bennet had sent her that morning.
"Yes, madam," cries Mrs. Bennet, "I am convinced, by what I have
lately seen, that you are the destined sacrifice to this wicked lord;
and that Mrs. Ellison, whom I no longer doubt to have been the
instrument of my ruin, intended to betray you in the same manner. The
day I met my lord in your apartment I began to entertain some
suspicions, and I took Mrs. Ellison very roundly to task upon them;
her behaviour, notwithstanding many asseverations to the contrary,
convinced me I was right; and I intended, more than once, to speak to
you, but could not; till last night the mention of the masquerade
determined me to delay it no longer. I therefore sent you that note
this morning, and am glad you so luckily discovered the writer, as it
hath given me this opportunity of easing my mind, and of honestly
shewing you how unworthy I am of your friendship, at the same time
that I so earnestly desire it."
_Being the last chapter of the seventh book._
Amelia did not fail to make proper compliments to Mrs. Bennet on the
conclusion of her speech in the last chapter. She told her that, from
the first moment of her acquaintance, she had the strongest
inclination to her friendship, and that her desires of that kind were
much increased by hearing her story. "Indeed, madam," says she, "you
are much too severe a judge on yourself; for they must have very
little candour, in my opinion, who look upon your case with any severe
eye. To me, I assure you, you appear highly the object of compassion;
and I shall always esteem you as an innocent and an unfortunate
Amelia would then have taken her leave, but Mrs. Bennet so strongly
pressed her to stay to breakfast, that at length she complied; indeed,
she had fasted so long, and her gentle spirits had been so agitated
with variety of passions, that nature very strongly seconded Mrs.
Whilst the maid was preparing the tea-equipage, Amelia, with a little
slyness in her countenance, asked Mrs. Bennet if serjeant Atkinson did
not lodge in the same house with her? The other reddened so extremely
at the question, repeated the serjeant's name with such hesitation,
and behaved so aukwardly, that Amelia wanted no further confirmation
of her suspicions. She would not, however, declare them abruptly to
the other, but began a dissertation on the serjeant's virtues; and,
after observing the great concern which he had manifested when Mrs.
Bennet was in her fit, concluded with saying she believed the serjeant
would make the best husband in the world, for that he had great
tenderness of heart and a gentleness of manners not often to be found
in any man, and much seldomer in persons of his rank.
"And why not in his rank?" said Mrs. Bennet. "Indeed, Mrs. Booth, we
rob the lower order of mankind of their due. I do not deny the force
and power of education; but, when we consider how very injudicious is
the education of the better sort in general, how little they are
instructed in the practice of virtue, we shall not expect to find the
heart much improved by it. And even as to the head, how very slightly
do we commonly find it improved by what is called a genteel education!
I have myself, I think, seen instances of as great goodness, and as
great understanding too, among the lower sort of people as among the
higher. Let us compare your serjeant, now, with the lord who hath been
the subject of conversation; on which side would an impartial judge
decide the balance to incline?"
"How monstrous then," cries Amelia, "is the opinion of those who
consider our matching ourselves the least below us in degree as a kind
"A most absurd and preposterous sentiment," answered Mrs. Bennet
warmly; "how abhorrent from justice, from common sense, and from
humanity--but how extremely incongruous with a religion which
professes to know no difference of degree, but ranks all mankind on
the footing of brethren! Of all kinds of pride, there is none so
unchristian as that of station; in reality, there is none so
contemptible. Contempt, indeed, may be said to be its own object; for
my own part, I know none so despicable as those who despise others."
"I do assure you," said Amelia, "you speak my own sentiments. I give
you my word, I should not be ashamed of being the wife of an honest
man in any station.--Nor if I had been much higher than I was, should
I have thought myself degraded by calling our honest serjeant my
"Since you have made this declaration," cries Mrs. Bennet, "I am sure
you will not be offended at a secret I am going to mention to you."
"Indeed, my dear," answered Amelia, smiling, "I wonder rather you have
concealed it so long; especially after the many hints I have given
"Nay, pardon me, madam," replied the other; "I do not remember any
such hints; and, perhaps, you do not even guess what I am going to
say. My secret is this; that no woman ever had so sincere, so
passionate a lover, as you have had in the serjeant."
"I a lover in the serjeant!--I!" cries Amelia, a little surprized.
"Have patience," answered the other;--"I say, you, my dear. As much
surprized as you appear, I tell you no more than the truth; and yet it
is a truth you could hardly expect to hear from me, especially with so
much good-humour; since I will honestly confess to you.--But what need
have I to confess what I know you guess already?--Tell me now
sincerely, don't you guess?"
"I guess, indeed, and hope," said she, "that he is your husband."
"He is, indeed, my husband," cries the other; "and I am most happy in
your approbation. In honest truth, you ought to approve my choice;
since you was every way the occasion of my making it. What you said of
him very greatly recommended him to my opinion; but he endeared
himself to me most by what he said of you. In short, I have discovered
that he hath always loved you with such a faithful, honest, noble,
generous passion, that I was consequently convinced his mind must
possess all the ingredients of such a passion; and what are these but
true honour, goodness, modesty, bravery, tenderness, and, in a word,
every human virtue?--Forgive me, my dear; but I was uneasy till I
became myself the object of such a passion."
"And do you really think," said Amelia, smiling, "that I shall forgive
you robbing me of such a lover? or, supposing what you banter me with
was true, do you really imagine you could change such a passion?"
"No, my dear," answered the other; "I only hope I have changed the
object; for be assured, there is no greater vulgar error than that it
is impossible for a man who loves one woman ever to love another. On
the contrary, it is certain that a man who can love one woman so well
at a distance will love another better that is nearer to him. Indeed,
I have heard one of the best husbands in the world declare, in the
presence of his wife, that he had always loved a princess with
adoration. These passions, which reside only in very amorous and very
delicate minds, feed only on the delicacies there growing; and leave
all the substantial food, and enough of the delicacy too, for the
The tea being now ready, Mrs. Bennet, or, if you please, for the
future, Mrs. Atkinson, proposed to call in her husband; but Amelia
objected. She said she should be glad to see him any other time, but
was then in the utmost hurry, as she had been three hours absent from
all she most loved. However, she had scarce drank a dish of tea before
she changed her mind; and, saying she would not part man and wife,
desired Mr. Atkinson might appear.
The maid answered that her master was not at home; which words she had
scarce spoken, when he knocked hastily at the door, and immediately
came running into the room, all pale and breathless, and, addressing
himself to Amelia, cried out, "I am sorry, my dear lady, to bring you
ill news; but Captain Booth"--"What! what!" cries Amelia, dropping the
tea-cup from her hand, "is anything the matter with him?"--"Don't be
frightened, my dear lady," said the serjeant: "he is in very good
health; but a misfortune hath happened."--" Are my children well?"
said Amelia.--"O, very well," answered the serjeant. "Pray, madam,
don't be frightened; I hope it will signify nothing--he is arrested,
but I hope to get him out of their damned hands immediately." "Where
is he?" cries Amelia; "I will go to him this instant!" "He begs you
will not," answered the serjeant. "I have sent his lawyer to him, and
am going back with Mrs. Ellison this moment; but I beg your ladyship,
for his sake, and for your own sake, not to go." "Mrs. Ellison! what
is Mrs. Ellison to do?" cries Amelia: "I must and will go." Mrs.
Atkinson then interposed, and begged that she would not hurry her
spirits, but compose herself, and go home to her children, whither she
would attend her. She comforted her with the thoughts that the captain
was in no immediate danger; that she could go to him when she would;
and desired her to let the serjeant return with Mrs. Ellison, saying
she might be of service, and that there was much wisdom, and no kind
of shame, in making use of bad people on certain occasions.
"And who," cries Amelia, a little come to herself, "hath done this
"One I am ashamed to name," cries the serjeant; "indeed I had always a
very different opinion of him: I could not have believed anything but
my own ears and eyes; but Dr Harrison is the man who hath done the
"Dr Harrison!" cries Amelia. "Well, then, there is an end of all
goodness in the world. I will never have a good opinion of any human
The serjeant begged that he might not be detained from the captain;
and that, if Amelia pleased to go home, he would wait upon her. But
she did not chuse to see Mrs. Ellison at this time; and, after a
little consideration, she resolved to stay where she was; and Mrs.
Atkinson agreed to go and fetch her children to her, it being not many
The serjeant then departed; Amelia, in her confusion, never having
once thought of wishing him joy on his marriage.
_Being the first chapter of the eighth book._
The history must now look a little backwards to those circumstances
which led to the catastrophe mentioned at the end of the last book.
When Amelia went out in the morning she left her children to the care
of her husband. In this amiable office he had been engaged near an
hour, and was at that very time lying along on the floor, and his
little things crawling and playing about him, when a most violent
knock was heard at the door; and immediately a footman, running
upstairs, acquainted him that his lady was taken violently ill, and
carried into Mrs. Chenevix's toy-shop.
Booth no sooner heard this account, which was delivered with great
appearance of haste and earnestness, than he leapt suddenly from the
floor, and, leaving his children, roaring at the news of their
mother's illness, in strict charge with his maid, he ran as fast as
his legs could carry him to the place; or towards the place rather:
for, before he arrived at the shop, a gentleman stopt him full butt,
crying, "Captain, whither so fast?"--Booth answered eagerly, "Whoever
you are, friend, don't ask me any questions now."--"You must pardon
me, captain," answered the gentleman; "but I have a little business
with your honour--In short, captain, I have a small warrant here in my
pocket against your honour, at the suit of one Dr Harrison." "You are
a bailiff then?" says Booth. "I am an officer, sir," answered the
other. "Well, sir, it is in vain to contend," cries Booth; "but let me
beg you will permit me only to step to Mrs. Chenevix's--I will attend
you, upon my honour, wherever you please; but my wife lies violently
ill there." "Oh, for that matter," answered the bailiff, "you may set
your heart at ease. Your lady, I hope, is very well; I assure you she
is not there. You will excuse me, captain, these are only stratagems
of war. _Bolus and virtus, quis in a hostess equirit?_" "Sir, I
honour your learning," cries Booth, "and could almost kiss you for
what you tell me. I assure you I would forgive you five hundred
arrests for such a piece of news. Well, sir, and whither am I to go
with you?" "O, anywhere: where your honour pleases," cries the
bailiff. "Then suppose we go to Brown's coffee-house," said the
prisoner. "No," answered the bailiff, "that will not do; that's in the
verge of the court." "Why then, to the nearest tavern," said Booth.
"No, not to a tavern," cries the other, "that is not a place of
security; and you know, captain, your honour is a shy cock; I have
been after your honour these three months. Come, sir, you must go to
my house, if you please." "With all my heart," answered Booth, "if it
be anywhere hereabouts." "Oh, it is but a little ways off," replied
the bailiff; "it is only in Gray's-inn-lane, just by almost." He then
called a coach, and desired his prisoner to walk in.
Booth entered the coach without any resistance, which, had he been
inclined to make, he must have plainly perceived would have been
ineffectual, as the bailiff appeared to have several followers at
hand, two of whom, beside the commander in chief, mounted with him
into the coach. As Booth was a sweet-tempered man, as well as somewhat
of a philosopher, he behaved with all the good-humour imaginable, and
indeed, with more than his companions; who, however, shewed him what
they call civility, that is, they neither struck him nor spit in his
Notwithstanding the pleasantry which Booth endeavoured to preserve, he
in reality envied every labourer whom he saw pass by him in his way.
The charms of liberty, against his will, rushed on his mind; and he
could not avoid suggesting to himself how much more happy was the
poorest wretch who, without controul, could repair to his homely
habitation and to his family, compared to him, who was thus violently,
and yet lawfully, torn away from the company of his wife and children.
And their condition, especially that of his Amelia, gave his heart
many a severe and bitter pang.
At length he arrived at the bailiff's mansion, and was ushered into a
room in which were several persons. Booth desired to be alone; upon
which the bailiff waited on him up-stairs into an apartment, the
windows of which were well fortified with iron bars, but the walls had
not the least outwork raised before them; they were, indeed, what is
generally called naked; the bricks having been only covered with a
thin plaster, which in many places was mouldered away.
The first demand made upon Booth was for coach-hire, which amounted to
two shillings, according to the bailiff's account; that being just
double the legal fare. He was then asked if he did not chuse a bowl of
punch? to which he having answered in the negative, the bailiff
replied, "Nay, sir, just as you please. I don't ask you to drink, if
you don't chuse it; but certainly you know the custom; the house is
full of prisoners, and I can't afford gentlemen a room to themselves
Booth presently took this hint--indeed it was a pretty broad one--and
told the bailiff he should not scruple to pay him his price; but in
fact he never drank unless at his meals. "As to that, sir," cries the
bailiff, "it is just as your honour pleases. I scorn to impose upon
any gentleman in misfortunes: I wish you well out of them, for my
part. Your honour can take nothing amiss of me; I only does my duty,
what I am bound to do; and, as you says you don't care to drink
anything, what will you be pleased to have for dinner?"
Booth then complied in bespeaking a dish of meat, and told the bailiff
he would drink a bottle with him after dinner. He then desired the
favour of pen, ink, and paper, and a messenger; all which were
immediately procured him, the bailiff telling him he might send
wherever he pleased, and repeating his concern for Booth's
misfortunes, and a hearty desire to see the end of them.
The messenger was just dispatched with the letter, when who should
arrive but honest Atkinson? A soldier of the guards, belonging to the
same company with the serjeant, and who had known Booth at Gibraltar,
had seen the arrest, and heard the orders given to the coachman. This
fellow, accidentally meeting Atkinson, had acquainted him with the
At the appearance of Atkinson, joy immediately overspread the
countenance of Booth. The ceremonials which past between them are
unnecessary to be repeated. Atkinson was soon dispatched to the
attorney and to Mrs. Ellison, as the reader hath before heard from his
Booth now greatly lamented that he had writ to his wife. He thought
she might have been acquainted with the affair better by the serjeant.
Booth begged him, however, to do everything in his power to comfort
her; to assure her that he was in perfect health and good spirits; and
to lessen as much as possible the concern which he knew she would have
at the reading his letter.
The serjeant, however, as the reader hath seen, brought himself the
first account of the arrest. Indeed, the other messenger did not
arrive till a full hour afterwards. This was not owing to any slowness
of his, but to many previous errands which he was to execute before
the delivery of the letter; for, notwithstanding the earnest desire
which the bailiff had declared to see Booth out of his troubles, he
had ordered the porter, who was his follower, to call upon two or
three other bailiffs, and as many attorneys, to try to load his
prisoner with as many actions as possible.
Here the reader may be apt to conclude that the bailiff, instead of
being a friend, was really an enemy to poor Booth; but, in fact, he
was not so. His desire was no more than to accumulate bail-bonds; for
the bailiff was reckoned an honest and good sort of man in his way,
and had no more malice against the bodies in his custody than a
butcher hath to those in his: and as the latter, when he takes his
knife in hand, hath no idea but of the joints into which he is to cut
the carcase; so the former, when he handles his writ, hath no other
design but to cut out the body into as many bail-bonds as possible. As
to the life of the animal, or the liberty of the man, they are
thoughts which never obtrude themselves on either.
_Containing an account of Mr. Booth's fellow-sufferers._
Before we return to Amelia we must detain our reader a little longer
with Mr. Booth, in the custody of Mr. Bondum the bailiff, who now
informed his prisoner that he was welcome to the liberty of the house
with the other gentlemen.
Booth asked who those gentlemen were. "One of them, sir," says Mr.
Bondum, "is a very great writer or author, as they call him; he hath
been here these five weeks at the suit of a bookseller for eleven
pound odd money; but he expects to be discharged in a day or two, for
he hath writ out the debt. He is now writing for five or six
booksellers, and he will get you sometimes, when he sits to it, a
matter of fifteen shillings a-day. For he is a very good pen, they
say, but is apt to be idle. Some days he won't write above five hours;
but at other times I have know him at it above sixteen." "Ay!" cries
Booth; "pray, what are his productions? What does he write?" "Why,
sometimes," answered Bondum, "he writes your history books for your
numbers, and sometimes your verses, your poems, what do you call them?
and then again he writes news for your newspapers." "Ay, indeed! he is
a most extraordinary man, truly!--How doth he get his news here?" "Why
he makes it, as he doth your parliament speeches for your magazines.
He reads them to us sometimes over a bowl of punch. To be sure it is
all one as if one was in the parliament-house--it is about liberty and
freedom, and about the constitution of England. I say nothing for my
part, for I will keep my neck out of a halter; but, faith, he makes it
out plainly to me that all matters are not as they should be. I am all
for liberty, for my part." "Is that so consistent with your calling?"
cries Booth. "I thought, my friend, you had lived by depriving men of
their liberty." "That's another matter," cries the bailiff; "that's
all according to law, and in the way of business. To be sure, men must
be obliged to pay their debts, or else there would be an end of
everything." Booth desired the bailiff to give him his opinion on
liberty. Upon which, he hesitated a moment, and then cried out, "O
'tis a fine thing, 'tis a very fine thing, and the constitution of
England." Booth told him, that by the old constitution of England he
had heard that men could not be arrested for debt; to which the
bailiff answered, that must have been in very bad times; "because as
why," says he, "would it not be the hardest thing in the world if a
man could not arrest another for a just and lawful debt? besides, sir,
you must be mistaken; for how could that ever be? is not liberty the
constitution of England? well, and is not the constitution, as a man
may say--whereby the constitution, that is the law and liberty, and
Booth had a little mercy upon the poor bailiff, when he found him
rounding in this manner, and told him he had made the matter very
clear. Booth then proceeded to enquire after the other gentlemen, his
fellows in affliction; upon which Bondum acquainted him that one of
the prisoners was a poor fellow. "He calls himself a gentleman," said
Bondum; "but I am sure I never saw anything genteel by him. In a week
that he hath been in my house he hath drank only part of one bottle of
wine. I intend to carry him to Newgate within a day or two, if he
can't find bail, which, I suppose, he will not be able to do; for
everybody says he is an undone man. He hath run out all he hath by
losses in business, and one way or other; and he hath a wife and seven
children. Here was the whole family here the other day, all howling
together. I never saw such a beggarly crew; I was almost ashamed to
see them in my house. I thought they seemed fitter for Bridewell than
any other place. To be sure, I do not reckon him as proper company for
such as you, sir; but there is another prisoner in the house that I
dare say you will like very much. He is, indeed, very much of a
gentleman, and spends his money like one. I have had him only three
days, and I am afraid he won't stay much longer. They say, indeed, he
is a gamester; but what is that to me or any one, as long as a man
appears as a gentleman? I always love to speak by people as I find;
and, in my opinion, he is fit company for the greatest lord in the
land; for he hath very good cloaths, and money enough. He is not here
for debt, but upon a judge's warrant for an assault and battery; for
the tipstaff locks up here."
The bailiff was thus haranguing when he was interrupted by the arrival
of the attorney whom the trusty serjeant had, with the utmost
expedition, found out and dispatched to the relief of his distressed
friend. But before we proceed any further with the captain we will
return to poor Amelia, for whom, considering the situation in which we
left her, the good-natured reader may be, perhaps, in no small degree
[Illustration: no caption]
_Containing some extraordinary behaviour in Mrs. Ellison._
The serjeant being departed to convey Mrs. Ellison to the captain, his
wife went to fetch Amelia's children to their mother.
Amelia's concern for the distresses of her husband was aggravated at
the sight of her children. "Good Heavens!" she cried, "what will--what
can become of these poor little wretches? why have I produced these
little creatures only to give them a share of poverty and misery?" At
which words she embraced them eagerly in her arms, and bedewed them
both with her tears.
The children's eyes soon overflowed as fast as their mother's, though
neither of them knew the cause of her affliction. The little boy, who
was the elder and much the sharper of the two, imputed the agonies of
his mother to her illness, according to the account brought to his
father in his presence.
When Amelia became acquainted with the child's apprehensions, she soon
satisfied him that she was in a perfect state of health; at which the
little thing expressed great satisfaction, and said he was glad she
was well again. Amelia told him she had not been in the least
disordered. Upon which the innocent cried out, "La! how can people
tell such fibs? a great tall man told my papa you was taken very ill
at Mrs. Somebody's shop, and my poor papa presently ran down-stairs: I
was afraid he would have broke his neck, to come to you."
"O, the villains!" cries Mrs. Atkinson, "what a stratagem was here to
take away your husband!"
"Take away!" answered the child--"What! hath anybody taken away papa?
--Sure that naughty fibbing man hath not taken away papa?"
Amelia begged Mrs. Atkinson to say something to her children, for that
her spirits were overpowered. She then threw herself into a chair, and
gave a full vent to a passion almost too strong for her delicate
The scene that followed, during some minutes, is beyond my power of
description; I must beg the readers' hearts to suggest it to
themselves. The children hung on their mother, whom they endeavoured
in vain to comfort, as Mrs. Atkinson did in vain attempt to pacify
them, telling them all would be well, and they would soon see their
At length, partly by the persuasions of Mrs. Atkinson, partly from
consideration of her little ones, and more, perhaps, from the relief
which she had acquired by her tears, Amelia became a little composed.
Nothing worth notice past in this miserable company from this time
till the return of Mrs. Ellison from the bailiff's house; and to draw
out scenes of wretchedness to too great a length, is a task very
uneasy to the writer, and for which none but readers of a most gloomy
complexion will think themselves ever obliged to his labours.
At length Mrs. Ellison arrived, and entered the room with an air of
gaiety rather misbecoming the occasion. When she had seated herself in
a chair she told Amelia that the captain was very well and in good
spirits, and that he earnestly desired her to keep up hers. "Come,
madam," said she, "don't be disconsolate; I hope we shall soon be able
to get him out of his troubles. The debts, indeed, amount to more than
I expected; however, ways may be found to redeem him. He must own
himself guilty of some rashness in going out of the verge, when he
knew to what he was liable; but that is now not to be remedied. If he
had followed my advice this had not happened; but men will be
"I cannot bear this," cries Amelia; "shall I hear that best of
creatures blamed for his tenderness to me?"
"Well, I will not blame him," answered Mrs. Ellison; "I am sure I
propose nothing but to serve him; and if you will do as much to serve
him yourself, he will not be long a prisoner."
"I do!" cries Amelia: "O Heavens! is there a thing upon earth--"
"Yes, there is a thing upon earth," said Mrs. Ellison, "and a very
easy thing too; and yet I will venture my life you start when I
propose it. And yet, when I consider that you are a woman of
understanding, I know not why I should think so; for sure you must
have too much good sense to imagine that you can cry your husband out
of prison. If this would have done, I see you have almost cried your
eyes out already. And yet you may do the business by a much pleasanter
way than by crying and bawling."
"What do you mean, madam?" cries Amelia.--"For my part, I cannot guess
"Before I tell you then, madam," answered Mrs. Ellison, "I must inform
you, if you do not already know it, that the captain is charged with
actions to the amount of near five hundred pounds. I am sure I would
willingly be his bail; but I know my bail would not be taken for that
sum. You must consider, therefore, madam, what chance you have of
redeeming him; unless you chuse, as perhaps some wives would, that he
should lie all his life in prison."
At these words Amelia discharged a shower of tears, and gave every
mark of the most frantic grief.
"Why, there now," cries Mrs. Ellison, "while you will indulge these
extravagant passions, how can you be capable of listening to the voice
of reason? I know I am a fool in concerning myself thus with the
affairs of others. I know the thankless office I undertake; and yet I
love you so, my dear Mrs. Booth, that I cannot bear to see you
afflicted, and I would comfort you if you would suffer me. Let me beg
you to make your mind easy; and within these two days I will engage to
set your husband at liberty.
"Harkee, child; only behave like a woman of spirit this evening, and
keep your appointment, notwithstanding what hath happened; and I am
convinced there is one who hath the power and the will to serve you."
Mrs. Ellison spoke the latter part of her speech in a whisper, so that
Mrs. Atkinson, who was then engaged with the children, might not hear
her; but Amelia answered aloud, and said, "What appointment would you
have me keep this evening?"
"Nay, nay, if you have forgot," cries Mrs. Ellison, "I will tell you
more another time; but come, will you go home? my dinner is ready by
this time, and you shall dine with me."
"Talk not to me of dinners," cries Amelia; "my stomach is too full
"Nay, but, dear madam," answered Mrs. Ellison, "let me beseech you to
go home with me. I do not care," says she, whispering, "to speak
before some folks." "I have no secret, madam, in the world," replied
Amelia aloud, "which I would not communicate to this lady; for I shall
always acknowledge the highest obligations to her for the secrets she
hath imparted to me."
"Madam," said Mrs. Ellison, "I do not interfere with obligations. I am
glad the lady hath obliged you so much; and I wish all people were
equally mindful of obligations. I hope I have omitted no opportunity
of endeavouring to oblige Mrs. Booth, as well as I have some other
"If by other folks, madam, you mean me," cries Mrs. Atkinson, "I
confess I sincerely believe you intended the same obligation to us
both; and I have the pleasure to think it is owing to me that this
lady is not as much obliged to you as I am."
"I protest, madam, I can hardly guess your meaning," said Mrs.
Ellison.--"Do you really intend to affront me, madam?"
"I intend to preserve innocence and virtue, if it be in my power,
madam," answered the other. "And sure nothing but the most eager
resolution to destroy it could induce you to mention such an
appointment at such a time."
"I did not expect this treatment from you, madam," cries Mrs. Ellison;
"such ingratitude I could not have believed had it been reported to me
by any other."
"Such impudence," answered Mrs. Atkinson, "must exceed, I think, all
belief; but, when women once abandon that modesty which is the
characteristic of their sex, they seldom set any bounds to their
"I could not have believed this to have been in human nature," cries
Mrs. Ellison. "Is this the woman whom I have fed, have cloathed, have
supported; who owes to my charity and my intercessions that she is not
at this day destitute of all the necessaries of life?"
"I own it all," answered Mrs. Atkinson; "and I add the favour of a
masquerade ticket to the number. Could I have thought, madam, that you
would before my face have asked another lady to go to the same place
with the same man?--but I ask your pardon; I impute rather more
assurance to you than you are mistress of.--You have endeavoured to
keep the assignation a secret from me; and it was by mere accident
only that I discovered it; unless there are some guardian angels that
in general protect innocence and virtue; though, I may say, I have not
always found them so watchful."
"Indeed, madam," said Mrs. Ellison, "you are not worth my answer; nor
will I stay a moment longer with such a person.--So, Mrs. Booth, you
have your choice, madam, whether you will go with me, or remain in the
company of this lady."
"If so, madam," answered Mrs. Booth, "I shall not be long in
determining to stay where I am."
Mrs. Ellison then, casting a look of great indignation at both the
ladies, made a short speech full of invectives against Mrs. Atkinson,
and not without oblique hints of ingratitude against poor Amelia;
after which she burst out of the room, and out of the house, and made
haste to her own home, in a condition of mind to which fortune without
guilt cannot, I believe, reduce any one.
Indeed, how much the superiority of misery is on the side of
wickedness may appear to every reader who will compare the present
situation of Amelia with that of Mrs. Ellison. Fortune had attacked
the former with almost the highest degree of her malice. She was
involved in a scene of most exquisite distress, and her husband, her
principal comfort, torn violently from her arms; yet her sorrow,
however exquisite, was all soft and tender, nor was she without many
consolations. Her case, however hard, was not absolutely desperate;
for scarce any condition of fortune can be so. Art and industry,
chance and friends, have often relieved the most distrest
circumstances, and converted them into opulence. In all these she had
hopes on this side the grave, and perfect virtue and innocence gave
her the strongest assurances on the other. Whereas, in the bosom of
Mrs. Ellison, all was storm and tempest; anger, revenge, fear, and
pride, like so many raging furies, possessed her mind, and tortured
her with disappointment and shame. Loss of reputation, which is
generally irreparable, was to be her lot; loss of friends is of this
the certain consequence; all on this side the grave appeared dreary
and comfortless; and endless misery on the other, closed the gloomy
Hence, my worthy reader, console thyself, that however few of the
other good things of life are thy lot, the best of all things, which
is innocence, is always within thy own power; and, though Fortune may
make thee often unhappy, she can never make thee completely and
irreparably miserable without thy own consent.
_Containing, among many matters, the exemplary behaviour of Colonel
When Mrs. Ellison was departed, Mrs. Atkinson began to apply all her
art to soothe and comfort Amelia, but was presently prevented by her.
"I am ashamed, dear madam," said Amelia, "of having indulged my
affliction so much at your expense. The suddenness of the occasion is
my only excuse; for, had I had time to summon my resolution to my
assistance, I hope I am mistress of more patience than you have
hitherto seen me exert. I know, madam, in my unwarrantable excesses, I
have been guilty of many transgressions. First, against that Divine
will and pleasure without whose permission, at least, no human
accident can happen; in the next place, madam, if anything can
aggravate such a fault, I have transgressed the laws of friendship as
well as decency, in throwing upon you some part of the load of my
grief; and again, I have sinned against common sense, which should
teach me, instead of weakly and heavily lamenting my misfortunes, to
rouse all my spirits to remove them. In this light I am shocked at my
own folly, and am resolved to leave my children under your care, and
go directly to my husband. I may comfort him. I may assist him. I may
relieve him. There is nothing now too difficult for me to undertake."
Mrs. Atkinson greatly approved and complimented her friend on all the
former part of her speech, except what related to herself, on which
she spoke very civilly, and I believe with great truth; but as to her
determination of going to her husband she endeavoured to dissuade her,
at least she begged her to defer it for the present, and till the
serjeant returned home. She then reminded Amelia that it was now past
five in the afternoon, and that she had not taken any refreshment but
a dish of tea the whole day, and desired she would give her leave to
procure her a chick, or anything she liked better, for her dinner.
Amelia thanked her friend, and said she would sit down with her to
whatever she pleased; "but if I do not eat," said she, "I would not
have you impute it to anything but want of appetite; for I assure you
all things are equally indifferent to me. I am more solicitous about
these poor little things, who have not been used to fast so long.
Heaven knows what may hereafter be their fate!"
Mrs. Atkinson bid her hope the best, and then recommended the children
to the care of her maid.
And now arrived a servant from Mrs. James, with an invitation to
Captain Booth and to his lady to dine with the colonel the day after
the next. This a little perplexed Amelia; but after a short
consideration she despatched an answer to Mrs. James, in which she
concisely informed her of what had happened.
The honest serjeant, who had been on his legs almost the whole day,
now returned, and brought Amelia a short letter from her husband, in
which he gave her the most solemn assurances of his health and
spirits, and begged her with great earnestness to take care to
preserve her own, which if she did, he said, he had no doubt but that
they should shortly be happy. He added something of hopes from my
lord, with which Mrs. Ellison had amused him, and which served only to
destroy the comfort that Amelia received from the rest of his letter.
Whilst Amelia, the serjeant, and his lady, were engaged in a cold
collation, for which purpose a cold chicken was procured from the
tavern for the ladies, and two pound of cold beef for the serjeant, a
violent knocking was heard at the door, and presently afterwards
Colonel James entered the room. After proper compliments had past, the
colonel told Amelia that her letter was brought to Mrs. James while
they were at table, and that on her shewing it him he had immediately
rose up, made an apology to his company, and took a chair to her. He
spoke to her with great tenderness on the occasion, and desired her to
make herself easy; assuring her that he would leave nothing in his
power undone to serve her husband. He then gave her an invitation, in
his wife's name, to his own house, in the most pressing manner.
Amelia returned him very hearty thanks for all his kind offers, but
begged to decline that of an apartment in his house. She said, as she
could not leave her children, so neither could she think of bringing
such a trouble with her into his family; and, though the colonel gave
her many assurances that her children, as well as herself, would be
very welcome to Mrs. James, and even betook himself to entreaties, she
still persisted obstinately in her refusal.
In real truth, Amelia had taken a vast affection for Mrs. Atkinson, of
the comfort of whose company she could not bear to be deprived in her
distress, nor to exchange it for that of Mrs. James, to whom she had
lately conceived no little dislike.
The colonel, when he found he could not prevail with Amelia to accept
his invitation, desisted from any farther solicitations. He then took
a bank-bill of fifty pounds from his pocket-book, and said, "You will
pardon me, dear madam, if I chuse to impute your refusal of my house
rather to a dislike of my wife, who I will not pretend to be the most
agreeable of women (all men," said he, sighing, "have not Captain
Booth's fortune), than to any aversion or anger to me. I must insist
upon it, therefore, to make your present habitation as easy to you as
possible--I hope, madam, you will not deny me this happiness; I beg
you will honour me with the acceptance of this trifle." He then put
the note into her hand, and declared that the honour of touching it
was worth a hundred times that sum.
"I protest, Colonel James," cried Amelia, blushing, "I know not what
to do or say, your goodness so greatly confounds me. Can I, who am so
well acquainted with the many great obligations Mr. Booth already hath
to your generosity, consent that you should add more to a debt we
never can pay?"
The colonel stopt her short, protesting that she misplaced the
obligation; for, that if to confer the highest happiness was to
oblige, he was obliged to her acceptance. "And I do assure you,
madam," said he, "if this trifling sum or a much larger can contribute
to your ease, I shall consider myself as the happiest man upon earth
in being able to supply it, and you, madam, my greatest benefactor in
Amelia then put the note in her pocket, and they entered into a
conversation in which many civil things were said on both sides; but
what was chiefly worth remark was, that Amelia had almost her husband
constantly in her mouth, and the colonel never mentioned him: the
former seemed desirous to lay all obligations, as much as possible, to
the account of her husband; and the latter endeavoured, with the
utmost delicacy, to insinuate that her happiness was the main and
indeed only point which he had in view.
Amelia had made no doubt, at the colonel's first appearance, but that
he intended to go directly to her husband. When he dropt therefore a
hint of his intention to visit him next morning she appeared visibly
shocked at the delay. The colonel, perceiving this, said, "However
inconvenient it may be, yet, madam, if it will oblige you, or if you
desire it, I will even go to-night." Amelia answered, "My husband will
be far from desiring to derive any good from your inconvenience; but,
if you put it to me, I must be excused for saying I desire nothing
more in the world than to send him so great a comfort as I know he
will receive from the presence of such a friend." "Then, to show you,
madam," cries the colonel, "that I desire nothing more in the world
than to give you pleasure, I will go to him immediately."
Amelia then bethought herself of the serjeant, and told the colonel
his old acquaintance Atkinson, whom he had known at Gibraltar, was
then in the house, and would conduct him to the place. The serjeant
was immediately called in, paid his respects to the colonel, and was
acknowledged by him. They both immediately set forward, Amelia to the
utmost of her power pressing their departure.
Mrs. Atkinson now returned to Amelia, and was by her acquainted with
the colonel's late generosity; for her heart so boiled over with
gratitude that she could not conceal the ebullition. Amelia likewise
gave her friend a full narrative of the colonel's former behaviour and
friendship to her husband, as well abroad as in England; and ended
with declaring that she believed him to be the most generous man upon
Mrs. Atkinson agreed with Amelia's conclusion, and said she was glad
to hear there was any such man. They then proceeded with the children
to the tea-table, where panegyric, and not scandal, was the topic of
their conversation; and of this panegyric the colonel was the subject;
both the ladies seeming to vie with each other in celebrating the
praises of his goodness.
_Comments upon authors._
Having left Amelia in as comfortable a situation as could possibly be
expected, her immediate distresses relieved, and her heart filled with
great hopes from the friendship of the colonel, we will now return to
Booth, who, when the attorney and serjeant had left him, received a
visit from that great author of whom honourable mention is made in our
Booth, as the reader may be pleased to remember, was a pretty good
master of the classics; for his father, though he designed his son for
the army, did not think it necessary to breed him up a blockhead. He
did not, perhaps, imagine that a competent share of Latin and Greek
would make his son either a pedant or a coward. He considered
likewise, probably, that the life of a soldier is in general a life of
idleness; and might think that the spare hours of an officer in
country quarters would be as well employed with a book as in
sauntering about the streets, loitering in a coffee-house, sotting in
a tavern, or in laying schemes to debauch and ruin a set of harmless