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she has run away with him.'
What you tell me,
Lady Bellaston,' answered his lordship, affects me most tenderly, and only raises my compassion, instead of lessening my adoration of your cousin. Some means must be found to preserve so inestimable a jewel. Hath your ladyship endeavoured to reason with her?-Here the lady affected a laugh, and cried, My dear lord, sure you know us better than to talk of reasoning a young woman out of her inclinations? These inestimable jewels are as deaf as the jewels they wear: time, my lord, time is the only medicine to cure their folly; but this is a medicine which I am certain she will not take; nay, I live in hourly horrors on her account. In short, nothing but violent methods will do.' What is to be done?' cries my lord: What methods are to be taken? Is there any method upon earth? Oh! Lady Bellaston, there is nothing which I would not undertake for such a reward.' I really know not,' answered the lady after a pause; and then, pausing again, she cried out, Upon my soul, I am at my wit's end on this girl's account. If she can be preserved, something must be done immediately; and, as I say, nothing but violent methods will do. If your lordship hath really this attachment to my cousin (and, to do her justice, except in this silly inclination, of which she will soon see her folly, she is every way deserving), I think there may be one way: indeed it is a very disagreeable one, and what I am almost afraid to think of. It requires a great spirit, I promise you. I am not conscious, madam, said he, of any defect there; nor am I, I hope, suspected of any such. It must be an egregious defect indeed, which could make me backward on this occasion. Nay, my lord,' answered she, I am so far from doubting you, I am much more inclined to doubt my own courage; for I must run a monstrous risk. In short, I must place such a confidence in your honour, as a wise woman will scarce ever place in a man on any consideration. In this
point, likewise, my lord very well satisfied her; for his reputation was extremely clear, and commonfame did him no more than justice in speaking well of him. Well, then,' said she, my lord,II vow, I can't bear the apprehension of it. No, it must not be. At least, every other method shall be tried. Can you get rid of your engagements, and dine here to day? Your lordship will have an opportunity of seeing a little more of Miss Western. I promise you we have no time to lose. Here will be nobody but Lady Betty, and Miss Eagle, and Colonel Hamstead, and Tom Edwards: they will all go soon, and I shall be at home to nobody. Then your lordship may be a little more explicit. Nay, I will contrive some method to convince you of her attachment to this fellow.' My lord made proper compliments, accepted the invitation, and then they parted to dress, it being now past three in the morning, or, to reckon by the old style, in the afternoon.
THOUGH the reader may have long since concluded Lady Bellaston to be a member (and no inconsiderable one) of the great world, she was in reality a very considerable member of the little world; by which appellation was distinguished a very worthy and honourable society, which not long since flourished in this kingdom.
Among other good principles upon which this society was founded, there was one very remarkable: for as it was a rule of an honourable club of heroes, who assembled at the close of the late war, that all the members should every day fight once at least; so it was in this, that every member should, within the twenty-four hours, tell at least one merry fib, which was to be propagated by all the brethren and sisterhood.
Many idle stories were told about this society' which from a certain quality may be, perhaps not unjustly, supposed to have come from the society themselves. As, that the devil was the president; and that he sat in person in an elbow-chair at the upper end of the table; but, upon very strict inquiry, I find there is not the least truth in any of those tales; and that the assembly consisted in reality of a set of very good sort of people; and the fibs which they propagated were of a harmless kind, and tended only to produce mirth and good humour.
Edwards was likewise a 'member of this comical society. To him therefore Lady Bellaston applied as a proper instrument for her purpose, and furnished him with a fib, which he was to vent whenever the lady gave him her cue; and this was not to be till the evening, when all the company but Lord Fellamar and himself were gone, and while they were engaged in a rubber at whist.
To this time then, which was between seven and eight in the evening, we will convey our reader; when Lady Bellaston, Lord Fellamar, Miss Western, and Tom, being engaged at whist, and in the last game of their rubbers, Tom received his cue from Lady Bellaston, which was, I protest, Tom, you are grown intolerable lately: you used to tell us all the news of the town, and now you know no more of the world than if you lived out of it.'
Mr. Edwards then began as follows: The fault is not mine, madam; it lies in the dulness of the age, that doth nothing worth talking of. O la! though now I think on't, there hath a terrible accident befallen poor Colonel Wilcox-Poor Ned! You know him, my lord; every body knows him, faith! I am very much concerned for him."
What is it pray? says Lady Bellaston.
Why, he hath killed a man this morning in a duel, that's all.'
His lordship, who was not in the secret, asked
gravely, whom he had killed? To which Edwards answered, A young fellow we none of us know; a Somersetshire lad, just come to town, one, Jones his name is; a near relation of one Mr. Allworthy, of whom your lordship, I believe, hath heard. I saw the lad lie dead in a coffee-house. Upon my soul, he is one of the finest corpses I ever saw in my life.'
Sophia, who had just began to deal as Tom had mentioned that a man was killed, stopped her hand, and listened with attention (for all stories of that kind affected her); but no sooner had he arrived at the latter part of the story, than she began to deal again; and having dealt three cards to one, and seven to another, and ten to a third, at last drop. ped the rest from her hand, and fell back in her chair.
The company behaved as usual on these occasions. The usual disturbance ensued, the usual assistance was summoned, and Sophia at last, as it is usual, returned again to life, aud was soon after, at her earnest desire, led to her own apartment; where, at my lord's request, Lady Bellaston acquainted her with the truth, attempted to carry it off as a jest of her own, and comforted her with repeated assurances, that neither his lordship, nor Tom, though she had taught him the story, were in the true secret of the affair.
There was no farther evidence necessary to convince Lord Fellamar how justly the case had been represented to him by Lady Bellaston; and now, at her return into the room, a scheme was laid between these two noble persons, which, though it appeared in no very heinous light to his lordship (as he faithfully promised, and faithfully resolved too, to make the lady all the subsequent amends in his power by marriage); yet many of our readers, we doubt not, will see with just detestation.
The next evening at seven was appointed for the
fatal purpose, when Lady Bellaston undertook that Sophia should be alone, and his lordship should be introduced to her. The whole family were to be regulated for the purpose, most of the servants dis patched out of the house; and for Mrs. Honour, who, to prevent suspicion, was to be left with her mistress till his lordship's arrival, Lady Bellaston herself was to engage her in an apartment as distant as possible from the scene of the intended mischief, and out of the hearing of Sophia.
Matters being thus agreed on, his lordship took his leave, and her ladyship retired to rest, highly pleased with a project, of which she had no reason to doubt the success, and which promised so effectually to remove Sophia from being any future ob struction to her amour with Jones, by a means of which she should never appear to be guilty, even if the fact appeared to the world; but this she made no doubt of preventing by huddling up a marriage, to which she thought the ravished Sophia would easily be brought to consent, and at which all the rest of her family would rejoice.
But affairs were not in so quiet a situation in the bosom of the other conspirator: his mind was tossed in all the distracting anxiety so nobly described by Shakespeare...
Between the acting of a dreadful thing,
Though the violence of his passion had made him eagerly embrace the first hint of this design, especially as it came from a relation of the lady, yet when that friend to reflection, a pillow, had placed the ac