« PreviousContinue »
me, madam, I so sincerely love you better than myself, that my great and principal end is your happiness. My first wish (why would not Fortune indulge me in it?) was, and pardon me if I say, still is, to see you every moment the happiest of women; my second wish is, to hear you are so; but no misery on earth can equal mine, while I think you owe an uneasy moment to him who is,
In every sense, and to every purpose,
What Sophia said, or did, or thought upon this letter, how often she read it, or whether more than once, shall all be left to our reader's imagination. The answer to it he may, perhaps, see hereafter, but not at present; for this reason, among others, that she did not now write any, and that for several good causes, one of which was this, she had no paper, pen, nor ink.
In the evening, while Sophia was meditating on the letter she had received, or on something else, a violent noise from below disturbed her meditations. This noise was no other than a round bout at altercation between two persons. One of the combatants, by his voice, she immediately distinguished to be her father; but she did not so soon discover the shriller pipes to belong to the organ of her aunt Western, who was just arrived in town; where hav ing, by means of one of her servants, who stopped at the Hercules' Pillars, learnt where her brother lodged, she drove directly to his lodgings.
We shall, therefore, take our leave at present of Sophia, and with our usual good-breeding, attend her ladyship.
THE 'squire and the parson (for the landlord was now otherwise engaged) were smoking their pipes together, when the arrival of the lady was first signified. The 'squire no sooner heard her name, than he immediately ran down to usher her up stairs; for he was a great observer of such ceremonials, especially to his sister, of whom he stood more in awe than of any other human creature, though he never would own this, nor did he, perhaps, know it him.
Mrs. Western, on her arrival in the dining-room, having flung herself into a chair, began thus to ha rangue: Well, surely, no one ever had such an intolerable journey. I think the roads, since so many turnpike acts, are grown worse than ever. La, bro. ther! how could you get into this odious place? No person of condition, I dare swear, ever set foot here. before.' I don't know,' cries the 'squire, I think they do well enough; it was landlord recommended them. I thought, as he knew most of the quality, he could best show me where to get among um. Well, and where's my niece? says the lady: have you been to wait upon Lady Bellaston yet? Ay, ay,' cries the 'squire, your niece is safe enough; she is up stairs in chamber.' How!' answered the lady, is my niece in this house, and doth she not know of my being here? No, nobody can well go to her,' says the 'squire; for she is under lock and key. I have her safe; I vetched her from my lady cousin the first night I came to town, and I have taken care o' her ever since: she is as secure as a fox in a bag, I promise you.' Good Heaven! returned Mrs. Western, what do I hear! I thought what a fine piece of work would be the consequence of my con. sent to your coming to town yourself; nay, it was,
indeed, your own headstrong will, nor can I charge myself with having ever consented to it. Did not you promise me, brother, that you would take none of these headstrong measures? Was it not by these headstrong measures that you forced my niece to run away from you in the country? Have you a mind to oblige her to take such another step?"-Z...ds and the devil!' cries the 'squire, dashing his pipe on the ground, did ever mortal hear the like? when I expected you would have commended me for all I have done, to be fallen upon in this manner! How! brother,' said the lady, have I ever given you the least reason to imagine I should commend you for locking up your daughter? Have I not often told you, that women in a free country are not to be treated with such arbitrary power? We are as free as the men, and I heartily wish I could not say we deserve that freedom better. If you expect I should stay a moment longer in this wretched house, or that I should ever own you again as my relation, or that I should ever trouble myself again with the affairs of your family, I insist upon it that my niece be set at liberty this instant.' This she spoke with so commanding an air, standing with her back to the fire, with one hand behind her, and a pinch of snuff in the other, that I question whether Thalestris, at the head of her Amazons, ever made a more tremendous figure. It is no wonder, therefore, that the poor 'squire was not proof against the awe which she inspired. There,' he cried, throwing down the key, there it is; do whatever you please. I intended only to have kept her up till Blifil came to town, which can't be long; and now if any harm happens in the mean time, remember who is to be blamed for it."
'I will answer it with my life,' cried Mrs. Western; 'but I shall not intermeddle at all, unless upon one condition, and that is, that you will commit the whole entirely to my care, without taking any one measure yourself, unless I shall eventually appoint
you to act. If you ratify these preliminaries, brother, I yet will endeavour to preserve the honour of your family; if not, I shall continue in a neutral
I pray you, good sir,' said the parson, ' permit yourself this once to be admonished by her lady. ship; peradventure, by communing with young Madam Sophia, she will effect more than you have been able to perpetrate by more rigorous measures.' What dost thee open upon me?' cries the 'squire: If thee dost begin to babble, I shall whip thee in presently.'
Fie, brother!' answered the lady, is this language to a clergyman? Mr. Supple is a man of sense, and gives you the best advice; and the whole world, I believe, will concur in his opinion; but I must tell you I expect an immediate answer to my categorical proposals. Either cede your daughter to my disposal, or take her wholly to your own surprising discretion; and then I here, before Mr. Supple, evacuate the garrison, and renounce you and your family for ever.'
I pray you, let me be a mediator,' cries the parson; let me supplicate you.'
Why, there lies the key on the table,' cries the 'squire. She may take un up, if she pleases; who hinders her?'
No, brother,' answered the lady, 'I insist on the formality of its being delivered me, with a full rati fication of all the concessions stipulated.'
Why then I will deliver it to you.There 'tis,' cries the 'squire. I am sure, sister, you can't ac cuse me of ever denying to trust my daughter to you. She hath a lived wi' you a whole year and muore to a time, without my ever zeeing her.'
And it would have been happy for her,' answered the lady, if she had always lived with me. Nothing of this kind would have happened under my eye.'
Ay, certainly,' cries he, I only am to blame.'
Why, you are to blame, brother,' answered she. 'I have been often obliged to tell you so, and shall always be obliged to tell you so. However, I hope you will now amend, and gather so much experience from past errors, as not to defeat my wisest machinations by your blunders. Indeed, brother, you are not qualified for these negociations. All your whole scheme of politics is wrong. I once more, therefore, insist, that you do not intermeddle. Remember only what is passed.'
Zds and bl-d, sister,' cries the 'squire, 'what would you have me say? You are enough to pro
voke the devil.'
There now,' said she, just according to the old custom. I see, brother, there is no talking to you. I will appeal to Mr. Supple, who is a man of sense, if I said auy thing which could put any human creature into a passion; but you are so wrong-headed every way.'
'Let me beg you, madam,' said the parson, 'not to irritate his worship.'
Irritate him!' said the lady: Sure, you are as great a fool as himself. Well, brother, since you have promised not to interfere, I will once more undertake the management of my niece. Lord have mercy upon all affairs which are under the directions of men! The head of one woman is worth a thousand of yours.' And now, having summoned a servant to show her to Sophia, she departed, bearing the key with her.
She was no sooner gone, than the 'squire (having first shut the door) ejaculated twenty bitches, and as many hearty curses against her, not sparing himself for having ever thought of her estate; but added, Now one hath been a slave so long, it would be a pity to lose it at last, for want of holding out a little longer. The bitch can't live for ever, and I know I am down for it upon the will.'
The parson greatly commended this resolution; and now the 'squire having ordered in another bot