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heart, was very glad to hear this; but forcing into her face an air of more coldness than she had yet assumed, Why,' said she, Mr. Jones, do you take the trouble to make a defence where you are not accused? If I thought it worth while to accuse you, I have a charge of an unpardonable nature indeed.'
What is it, for Heaven's sake? answered Jones, trembling and pale, expecting to hear of his amour with Lady Bellaston. Oh,' said she, how is it possible! Can every thing noble, and every thing base, be lodged together in the same bosom?" Lady Bellaston, and the ignominious circumstance of having been kept, rose again in his mind, and stopped his mouth from any reply. Could I have expected,' proceeded Sophia, such treatment from you; nay, from any gentleman, from any man of honour? To have my name traduced in public; in inns, among the meanest vulgar! To have any little favours that my unguarded heart may have too lightly betrayed me to grant, boasted of there! Nay, even to hear that you had been forced to fly from my love!'
Nothing could equal Jones's surprise at these words of Sophia; but yet, not being guilty, he was much less embarrassed how to defend himself, than if she had touched that tender string, at which his conscience had been alarmed. By some examination he presently found, that her supposing him guilty of so shocking an outrage against his love, and her reputation, was entirely owing to Par tridge's talk at the inns, before landlords and servants; for Sophia confessed to him, it was from them that she received her intelligence. He had no very great difficulty to make her believe that he was entirely innocent of an offence so foreign to his character; but she had a great deal to hinder him from going instantly home, and putting Partridge to death, which he more than once swore he would do. This point being cleared up, they soon found themselves so well pleased with each other, that Jones
quite forgot he had began the conversation with conjuring her to give up all thoughts of him; and she was in a temper to have given ear to a petition of a very different nature: for before they were aware, they had both gone so far, that he let fall some words that sounded like a proposal of marriage. To which she replied, That, did not her duty to her father forbid her to follow her own inclinations, ruin with him would be more welcome to her, than the most affluent fortune with another man. At the mention of the word ruin, he started, let drop her hand, which he held for some time, and striking his breast with his own, cried out, Oh, Sophia! can I then ruin thee? No! by Heavens, no! I never will act so base a part. Dearest Sophia, whatever it costs me, I will renounce you: I will give you up: I will tear all such hopes from my heart as are inconsistent with your real good. My love I will ever retain, but it shall be in silence; it shall be at a distance from you; it shall be in some foreign land; from whence no voice, no sigh of my despair, shall ever reach and disturb your ears. And when I am dead. He would have gone on, but was stop ped by a flood of tears, which Sophia let fall in his bosom, upon which she leaned, without being able to speak one word. He kissed them off, which, for some moments, she allowed him to do without any resistance; but then recollecting herself, gently withdrew out of his arms: and, to turn the dis course from a subject too tender, and which she found she could not support, bethought herself to ask him a question she never had time to put to him before How he came into that room? He began to stammer, and would, in all probability, have raised her suspicions by the answer he was going to give, when, at once, the door opened, and in came Lady Bellaston.
Having advanced a few steps, and seeing Jones and Sophia together, she suddenly stopped; when
after a pause of a few moments, recollecting herself, with admirable presence of mind, she said, though with sufficient indications of surprise both in voice and countenance, I thought, Miss Western, you had been at the play?"
Though Sophia had no opportunity of learning of Jones by what means he had discovered her, yet as she had not the least suspicion of the real truth, or that Jones and Lady Bellaston were acquainted, so she was very little confounded; and the less, as the lady had, in all their conversations on the subject, entirely taken her side against her father. With very little hesitation, therefore, she went through the whole story of what had happened at the playhouse, and the cause of her hasty return.
The length of this narrative gave Lady Bellaston an opportunity of rallying her spirits, and of considering in what manner to act. And as the beha viour of Sophia gave her hopes that Jones had not betrayed her, she put on an air of good humour, and said, I should not have broke in so abruptly upon you, Miss Western, if I had known you had company.'
Lady Bellaston fixed her eyes on Sophia whilst she spoke these words. To which that poor young lady, having her face overspread with blushes and confusion, answered in a stammering voice, I am sure, madam, I shall always think the honour of your ladyship's company--I hope, at least,' cries Lady Bellaston, I interrupt no business. No, madam,' answered Sophia; our business was at an end. Your ladyship may be pleased to remember, I have often mentioned the loss of my pocket-book, which this gentleman, having very luckily found, was so kind to return it to me with the bill in it.'
Jones, ever since the arrival of Lady Bellaston, had been ready to sink with fear. He sat kicking his heels, playing with his fingers, and looking more like a fool, if it be possible, than a young booby
'squire, when he is first introduced into a polite assembly. He began, however, now to recover himself: and taking a hint from the behaviour of Lady Bellaston, who, he saw, did not intend to claim any acquaintance with him, he resolved as entirely to affect the stranger on his part. He said, ever since he had the pocket-book in his possession, he had used great diligence in inquiring out the lady whose name was writ in it; but never till that day could be so fortunate to discover her.'
Sophia had, indeed, mentioned the loss of her pocket-book to Lady Bellaston; but as Jones, for some reason or other, had never once hinted to her. that it was in his possession, she believed not one syllable of what Sophia now said, and wonderfully admired the extreme quickness of the young lady, in inventing such an excuse. The reason of Sophia's leaving the playhouse met with no better credit; and, though she could not account for the meeting between these two lovers, she was firmly persuaded it was not accidental.
With an affected smile, therefore, she said... Indeed, Miss Western, you have had very good luck in recovering your money; not only as it fell into the hands of a gentleman of honour, but as he happened to discover to whom it belonged. I think you would not consent to have it advertised. It was great good fortune, sir, that you found out to whom the note belonged.'
'O madam,' cries Jones, it was enclosed in a pocket-book, in which the young lady's name was written.'
'That was very fortunate, indeed,' cries the lady: and it was no less so, that you heard Miss Western was at my house; for she is very little known.'
Jones had at length perfectly recovered his spirits; and as he conceived he had now an opportunity of satisfying Sophia, as to the question she had asked him just before Lady Bellaston came in, he pro
ceeded thus: Why, madam,' answered he, it was by the luckiest chance imaginable I made this discovery. I was mentioning what I had found, and the name of the owner, the other night, to a lady at the masquerade, who told me, she believed she knew where I might see Miss Western; and if I would come to her house the next morning, she would inform me. I went according to her appointment, but she was not at home; nor could I ever meet with her till this morning, when she directed me to your ladyship's house. I came accordingly, and did myself the honour to ask for your ladyship; and upon my saying that I had very particular business, a ser. vant showed me into this room; where I had not been long before the young lady returned from the play.'
Upon his mentioning the masquerade, he looked very slily at Lady Bellaston, without any fear of being remarked by Sophia; for she was visibly too much confounded to make any observations. This hint a little alarmed the lady, and she was silent; when Jones, who saw the agitations of Sophia's mind, resolved to take the only method of relieving her, which was by retiring: but before he did this, he said, I believe, madam, it is customary to give some reward on these occasions ;---I must insist on a very high one for my honesty ;---it is, madam, no less than the honour of being permitted to pay an other visit here.'
'Sir,' replied the lady, 'I make no doubt that you are a gentleman, and my doors are never shut to people of fashion.'
Jones then, after proper ceremonials, departed, highly to his own satisfaction, and no less to that of Sophia; who was terribly alarmed lest Lady Bellaston should discover what she knew already but too well.
Upon the stairs Jones met his old acquaintance, Mrs, Honour, who, notwithstanding all she had