« PreviousContinue »
cion of any one; but you are an utter stranger to me.'
'If you will have patience, madam,' answered Mrs. Miller, I will acquaint you who I am, and how I came by that letter.'--' I have no curiosity, madam, to know any thing,' cries Sophia; ⚫ but I must insist on your delivering that letter back to the person who gave it to you.'
Mrs. Miller then fell upon her knees, and, in the most passionate terms, implored her compassion; to which Sophia answered: Sure, madam, it is sur prising you should be so very strongly interested in the behalf of this person. I would not think, madam-. No, madam,' says Mrs. Miller, you shall not think any thing but the truth. I will tell you all, and yon will not wonder that I am interested. He is the best-natured creature that ever was born.' She then began and related the story of Mr. Henderson. After this she cried, 'This, madam, this is his goodness; but I have much more tender obliga. tions to him. He hath preserved my child.' Here, after shedding some tears, she related every thing concerning that fact, suppressing only those circum. stances which would have most reflected on her daughter, and concluded with saying, Now, madam, you shall judge whether I can ever do enough for so kind, so good, so generous a young man ; and sure he is the best and worthiest of all human be ings.'
The alterations in the countenance of Sophia had hitherto been chiefly to her disadvantage, and had inclined her complexion to too great paleness; but she now waxed redder, if possible, than vermilion, and cried, I know not what to say; certainly what arises from gratitude cannot be blamed. But what service can my reading this letter do your friend, since I am resolved never- Mrs. Miller fell again to her entreaties, and begged to be for given, but she could not, she said, carry it back.
Well, madam,' says Sophia, I cannot help it, if you will force it upon me. Certainly you may leave it whether I will or no.' What Sophia meant, or whether she meant any thing, I will not presume to determine; but Mrs. Miller actually understood this as a hint, and presently laying the letter down on the table, took her leave, having first begged per mission to wait again on Sophia; which request had neither assent nor denial.
The letter lay upon the table no longer than till Mrs. Miller was out of sight; for then Sophia opened and read it.
This letter did very little service to his cause; for it consisted of little more than confessions of his own unworthiness, and bitter lamentations of despair, together with the most solemn protestations of his unalterable fidelity to Sophia, of which, he said, he hoped to convince her, if he had ever more the honour of being admitted to her presence; and that he could account for the letter to Lady Bellaston, in such a manner, that though it would not entitle him to her forgiveness, he hoped at least to obtain it from her mercy. And concluded with vowing, that nothing was ever less in his thoughts than to marry Lady Bellaston.
Though Sophia read the letter twice over with great attention, his meaning still remained a riddle. to her; nor could her invention suggest to her any means to excuse Jones. She certainly remained very angry with him, though, indeed, Lady Bellaston took up so much of her resentment, that her gentle mind had but little left to bestow on any other person.
That lady was most unluckily to dine this very day with her aunt Western, and, in the afternoon, they were all three, by appointment, to go together to the opera, and thence to Lady Thomas Hatchet's drum. Sophia would have gladly been excused from all, but she would not disoblige her aunt; and as to the arts of counterfeiting illness, she was so
entirely a stranger to them, that it never once entered into her head. When she was dressed, therefore, down she went, resolved to encounter all the horrors of the day; and a most disagreeable one it proved; for Lady Bellaston took every opportunity very civilly and slily to insult her; to all which her dejection of spirits disabled her from making any return; and indeed, to confess the truth, she was at the very best but an indifferent, mistress of repartee.
Another misfortune which befel poor Sophia, was the company of Lord Fellamar, whom she met at the opera, and who attended her to the drum. And though both places were too public to admit of any particularities, and she was farther relieved by the music at the one place, and by the cards at the other, she could not, however, enjoy herself in his company; for there is something of delicacy in wo men, which will not suffer them to be even easy in the presence of a man whom they know to have pretensions to them, which they are disinclined to fa
Having in this chapter twice mentioned a drum, a word which our posterity,, it is hoped, will not understand in the sense it is here applied, we shall, notwithstanding our present haste, stop a moment to describe the entertainment here meant, and the rather as we can in a moment describe it.
A drum, then, is an assembly of well-dressed per. sons of both sexes, most of whom play at cards, and the rest do nothing at all; while the mistress of the house performs the part of the landlady at an inn; and, like the landlady of an inn, prides herself in the number of her guests, though she doth not always, like her, get any thing by it.
No wonder then, as so much spirits must be required to support any vivacity in these scenes of dulness, that we hear persons of fashion eternally complaining of the want of them; a complaint confined entirely to upper life, How insupportable must we
imagine this round of impertinence to have been to Sophia at this time; how difficult must she have found it to force the appearance of gaiety into her looks, when her mind dictated nothing but the tenderest sorrow, and when every thought was charged with tormenting ideas!
Night, however, at last restored her to her pillow, where we will leave her to sooth her melan. choly at least, though incapable, we fear, of rest, and shall pursue our history, which, something whispers us, is now arrived at the eve of some great event.
MRS. Miller had a long discourse with Mr. All
worthy, at his return from dinner, in which she acquainted him with Jones's having unfortunately lost all which he was pleased to bestow on him at their separation; and with the distresses to which that loss had subjected him; of all which she had -received a full account from the faithful retailer Partridge. She then explained the obligations she had to Jones; not that she was entirely explicit with regard to her daughter; for though she had the ut most confidence in Mr. Allworthy, and though there could be no hopes of keeping an affair secret, which was unhappily known to more than half a dozen, yet she could not prevail with herself to mention those circumstances which reflected most on the chastity of poor Nancy; but smothered that part of her evidence as cautiously as it she had been before a judge, and the girl was now on her trial for the murder of a bastard.
Allworthy said, there were few characters so ab solutely vicious as not to have the least mixture of good in them. However,' says he, I cannot deny but that you had some obligations to the fellow, bad as he is, and I shall, therefore, excuse what hath
passed already, but must insist you never mention his name to me more; for I promise you, it was upon the fullest and plainest evidence that I resolved to take the measures I have taken.'. Well, sir,' says she, I make not the least doubt, but time will show all matters in their true and natural colours, and that you will be convinced this poor young man deserves better of you than some other folks that shall be nameless."
'Madam,' cries Allworthy, a little ruffled, I will not hear any reflections on my nephew; and if ever you say a word more of that kind, I will depart from your house that instant. He is the worthiest and best of men; and I once more repeat it to you, he hath carried his friendship to this man to a blameable length, by too long concealing facts of the blackest die. The ingratitude of the wretch to this good young man is what I most resent; for, madam, I have the greatest reason to imagine he had laid a plot to supplant my nephew in my favour, and to have disinherited him.'
I am sure, sir,' answered Mrs. Miller, a little frightened (for though Mr. Allworthy had the ut most sweetness and benevolence in his smiles, he had great terror in his frowns), I shall never speak against any gentleman you are pleased to think well of. I am sure, sir, such behaviour would very little become me, especially when the gentleman is your nearest relation; but, sir, you must not be angry with me, you must not indeed, for my good wishes. to this poor wretch. Sure I may call him so now, though once you would have been angry with me, if I had spoke of him with the least disrespect. How often have I heard you call him your son! How often have you prattled to me of him, with all the fondness of a parent! Nay, sir, I cannot forget the many tender expressions, the many good things you have told me of his beauty, and his parts, and his virtues; of his good-nature and generosity. I am sure, sir, I cannot forget them; for I find them all