« PreviousContinue »
him, soon complied. Five years did I live in a state of perfect happiness with that best of men, till at last-Oh! cruel! cruel fortune! that ever sepa. rated us, that deprived me of the kindest of bus bands, and my poor girls of the tenderest parent! O my poor girls! you never knew the blessing which ye lost. I am ashamed, Mr. Jones, of this womanish weakness; but I shall never mention him with. out tears. I ought rather, madam,' said Jones, to be ashamed that I do not accompany you. "Well, sir,' continued she, I was now left a second time in a much worse condition than before; be sides the terrible affliction I was to encounter, I had two children to provide for; and was, if possible, ⚫ more penniless than ever, when that great, that good, that glorious man, Mr. Allworthy, who had some little acquaintance with my husband, accia dentally heard of my distress, and immediately writ this letter to me. Here, sir, here it is: I put it into my pocket to show it to you. This is the letter, sir; I must and will read it to you.
"I heartily condole with you on your late griev ous loss, which your own good sense, and the excellent lessons you must have learnt from the wor thiest of men, will better enable you to bear, than any advice which I am capable of giving. have I any doubt that you, whom I have heard to be the tenderest of mothers, will suffer any immo. derate indulgence of grief to prevent you from dis. charging your duty to those poor infants, who now alone stand in need of your tenderness.
"However, as you must be supposed at present to be incapable of much worldly consideration, you will pardon my having ordered a person to wait on you, and to pay you twenty guineas, which I beg you will accept till I have the pleasure of seeing you, and believe me to be, madam, &c."
This letter, sir, I received within a fortnight af ter the irreparable loss I have mentioned; and within a fortnight afterwards, Mr. Allworthy, --the blessed Mr. Allworthy, came to pay me a visit, when he placed me in the house where you now see me, gave me a large sum of money to furnish it, and settled an annuity of 50l. a year upon me, which I have constantly received ever since. Judge, then, Mr. Jones, in what regard I must hold a benefactor, to whom I owe the preservation of my life, and of those dear children, for whose sake alone my life is valuable. Do not, therefore, think me impertinent, Mr. Jones (since I must esteem one for whom I know Mr. Allworthy hath so much value), if I beg you not to converse with these wicked wo
You are a young gentleman, and do not know half their artful wiles. Do not be angry with me, sir, for what I said upon account of my house : you must be sensible it would be to the ruin of my poor dear girls. Besides, sir, you cannot but be acquainted, that Mr. Allworthy himself would never forgive my conniving at such matters, and particularly with you.'
Upon my word, madam,' said Jones, you need make no farther apology; nor do I in the least take any thing ill you have said; but give me leave, as no one can have more value than myself for Mr. Allworthy, to deliver you from one mistake, which, perhaps, would not be altogether for his honour: I do assure you, I am no relation of his."
'Alas! sir,' answered she, I know you are not. I know very well who you are; for Mr. Allworthy hath told me all : but I do assure you, had you been twenty times his son, he could not have expressed more regard for you, than he hath often expressed in my presence. You need not be ashamed, sir, of what you are; I promise you no good person will esteem you the less on that account. No, Mr. Jones; the words, "dishonourable birth," are nonsense, as my dear dear husband used to say, unless VOL. II. N
the word "dishonourable" be applied to the parents; for the children can derive no real dishonour from an act of which they are entirely innocent.'
Here Jones heaved a deep sigh, and then said, Since I perceive, madam, you really do know me, and Mr. Allworthy hath thought proper to mention my name to you; and since you have been so explicit with me as to your own affairs, I will acquaint you with some more circumstances concerning myself.' And these Mrs. Miller having expressed great desire and curiosity to hear, he began and related to her his whole history, without once men. tioning the name of Sophia.
There is a kind of sympathy in honest minds, by means of which they give an easy credit to each other. Mrs. Miller believed all which Jones told her to be true, and expressed much pity and con cern for him. She was beginning to comment on the story, but Jones interrupted her; for, as the hour of assignation now drew nigh, he began to stipulate for a second interview, with the lady that evening, which he promised should be the last at her house; swearing, at the same time, that she was one of great distinction, and that nothing but what was entirely innocent was to pass between them; and I do firmly believe he intended to keep his word.
Mrs. Miller was at length prevailed on, and Jones departed to his chamber, where he sat alone till twelve o'clock, but no Lady Bellaston appeared.
As we have said that this lady had a great affection for Jones, and as it must have appeared that she really had so, the reader may perhaps wonder at the first failure of her appointment, as she apprehended him to be confined by sickness, a season when friendship seems most to require such visits.. This behaviour, therefore, in the lady, may, by some, be condemned as unnatural; but that is not our fault; for our business is only to record truth.
MR. Jones closed not his eyes during all the for
mer part of the night; not owing to any uneasiness which he conceived at being disappointed by Lady Bellaston; nor was Sophia herself, though most of his waking hours were justly to be charged to her account, the present cause of dispelling his slumbers. In fact, poor Jones was one of the bestnatured fellows alive, and had all that weakness which is called compassion, and which distinguishes this imperfect character from that noble firmness of mind, which rolls a mau, as it were, within himself; and, like a polished bowl, enables him to run through the world without being once stopped by the calamities which happen to others. He could not help, therefore, compassionating the situation of poor Nancy, whose love for Mr. Nightingale seemed to him so apparent, that he was astonished at the blindness of her mother, who had, more than once the preceding evening, remarked to him the great change in the temper of her daughter, who, from being,' she said, one of the liveliest, merriestgirls in the world, was, on a sudden, become all gloom and melancholy.'
Sleep, however, at length got the better of all resistance; and now, as if he had already been a deity, as the ancients imagined, and an offended one too, he seemed to enjoy his dear-bought conquest. To speak simply, and without any metaphor, Mr. Jones slept till éleven the next morning, and would, perhaps, have continued in the same quiet situation much longer, had not a violent uproar awakened him.
Partridge was now summoned, who, being asked what was the matter, answered, That there was a dreadful hurricane below stairs; that Miss Nancy
was in fits; and that the other sister, and the mother, were both crying and lamenting over her.' Joues expressed much concern at this news; which Partridge endeavoured to relieve, by saying, with a smile, he fancied the young lady was in no danger of death; for that Susan (which was the name of the maid) had given him to understand, it was nothing more than a common affair. In short,' said he, Miss Nancy hath a mind to be as wise as her mother; that's all: she was a little hungry, it seems, and so sat down to dinner before grace was said; and so there is a child coming for the Foundling Hospital. Prithee, leave thy stupid jesting,' cries Jones. Is the misery of these poor wretches a subject of mirth? Go immediately to Mrs. Miller, and tell her I beg leave-Stay, you will make some blunder: I will go myself; for she desired me to breakfast with her.' He then rose and dressed himself as fast as he could: and while he was dressing, Partridge, notwithstanding many severe rebukes, could not avoid throwing forth certain pieces of brutality, commonly called jests, on this occasion. Jones was no sooner dressed than he walked down stairs, and knocking at the door, was presently admitted by the maid into the outward parlour, which was as empty of company as it was of any apparatus for eating. Mrs. Miller was in the inner room with her daughter, whence the maid presently brought a message to Mr. Jones, That her mistress hoped he would excuse the disappointment; but an accident had happened, which made it impossible for her to have the pleasure of his company at breakfast that day; and begged his pardon for not sending him up notice sooner.' Jones desired she would give her. self no trouble about any thing so trifling as his disappointment; that he was heartily sorry for the occasion; and that if he could be of any service to her, she might command him.'
He had scarce spoke these words, when Mrs. Miller, who heard them all, suddenly threw open the