« PreviousContinue »
phia; for she had some time before left the room, with more appearance of passion than she had ever shown on any occasion; and now his lordship, after many expressions of thanks to Mrs. Western, many ardent professions of passion which nothing could conquer, and many assurances of perseverance, which Mrs. Western highly encouraged, took his leave for this time.'
Before we relate what now passed between Mrs. Western and Sophia, it may be proper to mention an unfortunate accident which had happened, and which had occasioned the returu of Mrs. Western, with so much fury as we have seen.
The reader must then know, that the maid, who at present attended on Sophia, was recommended by Lady Bellaston, with whom she had lived for some time, in the capacity of a comb-brush; she was a very sensible girl, and had received the strictest instructions to watch her young lady very carefully. These instructions, we are sorry to say, were communicated to her by Mrs. Honour, into whose favour Lady Bellaston had now so ingratiated herself, that the violent affection which the good waitingwoman had formerly borne to Sophia, was entirely obliterated by that great attachment which she had to her new mistress.
Now, when Mrs. Miller was departed, Betty (for that was the name of the girl), returning to her young lady, found her very attentively engaged in reading a long letter; and the visible emotions. which she betrayed on that occasion might have well accounted for some suspicions which the girl enter. tained; but indeed they had yet a stronger founda. tion, for she had overheard the whole scene which passed between Sophia and Mrs. Miller.
Mrs. Western was acquainted with all this matter by Betty, who, after receiving many commendations, and some rewards for her fidelity, was ordered, that if the woman who brought the letter came again, she should introduce her to Mrs. Western herself.
Unluckily, Mrs. Miller returned at the very time when Sophia was engaged with his lordship. Betty, according to order, sent her directly to the aunt; who, being mistress of so many circumstances relating to what had passed the day before, easily imposed upon the poor woman to believe that Sophia had communicated the whole affair; and so pumped every thing out of her which she knew, relating to the letter, and relating to Jones.
This poor creature might, indeed, be called simplicity itself. She was one of that order of mortals, who are apt to believe every thing which is said to them; to whom Nature hath neither indulged the offensive nor defensive weapons of deceit, and who are consequently liable to be imposed upon by any one, who will only be at the expense of a little falsehood for that purpose. Mrs. Western having drained Mrs. Miller of all she knew, which, indeed, was but little, but which was sufficient to make the aunt suspect a great deal, dismissed her with assurances that Sophia would not see her, that she would send no auswer to the letter, nor ever receive another; nor did she suffer her to depart without a handsome lecture on the merits of an office, to which she could afford no better name than that of procuress. This discovery had greatly discomposed her temper, when coming into the apartment next to that in which the lovers were, she overheard Sophia very warmly protesting against his lordship's addresses: at which the rage already kindled, burst forth, and she rushed in upon her niece in a most furious manner, as we have already described, together with what passed at that time till his lordship's departure.
No sooner was Lord Fellamar gone, than Mrs. Western returned to Sophia, whom she upbraided in the most bitter terms, for the ill use she had made of the confidence reposed in her; and for her treachery in conversing with a man with whom she had offered but the day before to bind herself in the most
solemn oath, never more to have any conversation. Sophia protested she had maintained no such conversation. How, how! Miss Western,' said the aunt; will you deny your receiving a letter from him yesterday? A letter, madam!' answered Sophia, somewhat surprised. It is not very well bred, miss,' replies the aunt, to repeat my words. I say a letter, and I insist on your showing it me immediately.' I scorn a lie, madam,' said Sophia: I did receive a letter, but it was without my desire; and, indeed, I may say, against my consent. Indeed, indeed, miss,' cries the aunt, you ought to be ashamed of owning you had received it at all; but where is the letter? for I will see it.'
To this peremptory demand, Sophia paused some time before she returned an answer; and at last only excused herself by declaring she had not the letter in her pocket, which was, indeed, true; upon which her aunt, losing all manner of patience, asked her niece this short question, whether she would resolve to marry Lord Fellamar or no? to which she received the strongest negative. Mrs. Western then replied with an oath, or something very like one, that she would early the next morning deliver her back into her father's hand.
Sophia then began to reason with her aunt in the following manner: Why, madam, must I of necessity be forced to marry at all? Consider how cruel you would have thought it in your own case, and how much kinder your parents were in leaving you to your liberty. What have I done to forfeit this liberty? I will never marry contrary to my father's consent, nor without asking yours. And when I ask the consent of either improperly, it will be then time enough to force some other marriage upon me. Can I bear to hear this,' cries Mrs. Western, 'from a girl who hath now a letter from a murderer in her pocket? I have no such letter, I promise you,' answered Sophia; and if he be a murderer, he will soon be in no condition to give you any
ther disturbance. How, Miss Western!' said the aunt, have you the assurance to speak of him in this manner; to own your affection for such a vil lain to my face? Sure, madam,' said Sophia, you put a very strange construction on my words.'' Indeed, Miss Western,' cries the lady, I shall not bear this usage; you have learned of your father this manner of treating me: he hath taught you to give me the lie. He hath totally ruined you by his false system of education; and, please Heaven, he shall have the comfort of its fruits; for once more I declare to you, that to-morrow morning I will carry you back. I will withdraw all my forces from the field, and remain henceforth, like the wise King of Prussia, in a state of perfect neutrality. You are both too wise to be regulated by my measures; so prepare yourself, for to-morrow morning you shall evacuate this house."
Sophia remonstrated all she could; but her aunt was deaf to all she said. In this resolution, there fore, we must at present leave her, as there seems to be no hopes of bringing her to change it.
R. JONES passed above twenty-four melancholy hours by himself, unless when relieved by the company of Partridge, before Mr. Nightin gale returned: not that this worthy young man had deserted or forgot his friend; for indeed, he had been much the greatest part of the time employed in his service.
He had heard, upon inquiry, that the only per sons who had seen the beginning of the unfortunate rencounter, were a crew belonging to a man of war, which then lay at Deptford. To Deptford, therefore, he went in search of this crew, where he was informed that the men he sought after, were all gone
ashore. He then traced them from place to place, till at last he found two of them drinking together, with a third person, at a hedge-tavern near Aldersgate.
Nightingale desired to speak with Jones by him. self (for Partridge was in the room when he came in). As soon as they were alone, Nightingale, taking Jones by the hand, cried, Come, my brave friend, be not too much dejected at what I am going to tell you--I am sorry I am the messenger of bad news; but I think it my duty to tell you. I guess already what that bad news is,' cries Jones; the poor gen tleman then is dead? I hope not,' answered Nightingale. He was alive this morning; though I will not flatter you; I fear, from the accounts I could get, that his wound is mortal. But if the affair be exactly as you told it, your own remorse would be all you have reason to apprehend, let what would happen; but forgive me, my dear Tom, if I entreat you to make the worst of your story to your friends. If you disguise any thing to us, you will only be an enemy to yourself.'
What reason, my dear Jack, have I ever given you,' said Jones, to stab me with so cruel a suspicion? Have patience,' cries Nightingale, and I will tell you all. After the most diligent inquiry I could make, I at last met with two of the fellows who were present at this unhappy accident, and I am sorry to say, they do not relate the story so much in your favour as you yourself have told it.'Why, what do they say?' cries Jones. Indeed, what I am sorry to repeat, as I am afraid of the consequence of it to you. They say, that they were at too great a distance to overhear any words that passed between you; but they both agree that the first blow was given by you.' Then, upon my soul,' answered Jones, they injure me. He not only struck me first, but struck me without the least provocation. What should induce those villains to accuse me falsely? Nay, that I cannot guess,' said Nightingule; and if you yourself, and I, who am so heart