« PreviousContinue »
member, for your comfort, that there is this great difference between those faults which candour may construe into imprudence, and those which can be. deduced from villany only. The former, perhaps, are even more apt to subject a man to ruin; but if he reform, his character will, at length, be totally retrieved; the world, though not immediately, will, in time, be reconciled to him; and he may reflect, not without some mixture of pleasure, on the dangers he hath escaped; but villany, my boy, when once discovered, is irretrievable; the stains which this leaves behind, no time will wash away. The censures of mankind will pursue the wretch, their scorn will abash him in public; and if shame drives him into retirement, he will go to it with all those terrors with which a weary child, who is afraid of hobgoblins, retreats from company to go to bed alone. Here his murdered conscience will haunt him. Repose, like a false friend, will fly from him. Wherever he turns his eyes, horror presents itself; if he looks backward, unavailable repentance treads on his heels; if forward, incurable despair stares him in the face; till, like a condemned prisoner confined in a dungeon, he detests his present condition, and yet dreads the consequence of that hour which is to relieve him from it. Comfort yourself, I say, my child, that this is not your case; and rejoice, with thankfulness to him who hath suffered you to see your errors, before they have brought on you that destruction, to which a persistance in even those errors must have led you. You have deserted them; and the prospect now before you is such, that happiness seems in your own power. At these words Jones fetched a deep sigh; upon which, when Allworthy remonstrated, he said, "Sir, I will conceal nothing from you: I fear there is one con sequence of my vices I shall never be able to retrieve. O, my dear uncle! I have lost a treasure.'
You need say no more,' answered Allworthy; I will be explicit with you; I know what you la
ment; I have seen the young lady, and have discoursed with her concerning you. This I must insist on, as an earnest of your sincerity in all you have said, and of the steadfastness of your resolution, that you obey me in one instance--To abide entirely by the determination of the young lady, whether it shall be in your favour or no. She hath already suffered enough from solicitations which I hate to think of; she shall owe no further constraint to my family: I know her father will be as ready to torment her now on your account, as he hath formerly been on another's; but I am deter mined she shall suffer no more confinement, no more violence, no more uneasy hours. O, my dear uncle!' answered Jones, lay, I beseech you, some command on me, in which I shall have some merit in obedience. Believe me, sir, the only instance in which I could disobey you, would be to give an uneasy moment to my Sophia. No, sir, if I am so miserable to have incurred her displeasure beyond all hope of forgiveness, that alone, with the dreadful reflection of causing her misery, will be sufficient to overpower me. To call Sophia mine is the greatest, and now the only additional blessing which Heaven can bestow; but it is a blessing which I must owe to her alone.' I will not flatter you, child,' cries Allworthy; I fear your case is despe rate: I never saw stronger marks of an unalterable resolution in any person, than appeared in her vehement declarations against receiving your addresses; for which, perhaps, you can account better than myself. Oh, sir! I can account too well,' answer. ed Jones; I have sinned against her beyond all hope of pardon; and, guilty as I am, my guilt unfortunately appears to her in ten times blacker than the real colours. O, my dear uncle! I find my follies are irretrievable; and all your goodness can. not save me from perdition.'
A servant now acquainted them, that Mr. West. ern was below stairs; for his eagerness to see Jones
could not wait till the afternoon. Upon which Jones, whose eyes were full of tears, begged his uncle to entertain Western a few minutes, till he a little recovered himself: to which the good man consented; and having ordered Mr. Western to be shown into a parlour, went down to him.
Mrs. Miller no sooner heard that Jones was alone (for she had not yet seen him since his release from prison), than she came eagerly into the room, and advancing towards Jones, wished him heartily joy of his new found uncle, and his happy reconciliation; adding, I wish I could give you joy on ano. ther account, my dear child; but any thing so inex. orable I never saw."
Jones, with some appearance of surprise, asked her what she meant. Why then,' says she, I have been with your young lady, and have explained all matters to her, as they were told me by my son Nightingale. She can have no longer any doubt about the letter; of that I am certain; for I told her my son Nightingale was ready to take his oath, if she pleased, that it was all his own invention, and the letter of his inditing. I told her the very reason of sending the letter ought to recom mend you to her the more, as it was all upon her account, and a plain proof, that you were resolved to quit all your profligacy for the future; that you had never been guilty of a single instance of infidelity to her since your seeing her in town: I am afraid I went too far there; but Heaven forgive me! I hope your future behaviour will be my justi fication. I am sure I have said all I can; but all to no purpose. She remains inflexible. She says, she had forgiven many faults on account of youth; but expressed such detestation of the character of a libertine, that she absolutely silenced me. I often attempted to excuse you; but the justuess of her accusation flew in my face. Upon my honour, she is a lovely woman, and one of the sweetest and most sensible creatures I ever saw. I could have
almost kissed her for one expression she made use of. It was a sentiment worthy of Seneca, or of a bishop. "I once faucied, madam," said she, "I had discovered great goodnes of heart in Mr, Jones; and for that I own I had a sincere esteem; but an entire profligacy of manners will corrupt the best heart in the world; and all which a good-natured libertine can expect, is, that we should mix some grains of pity with our contempt and abhor. rence." She is an angelic creature, that is the truth on't. O, Mrs. Miller!' answered Jones, bear to think I have lost such an angel ? no,' cries Mrs. Miller; 'I hope you have not lost her yet. Resolve to leave such vicious courses, and you may yet have hopes; nay, if she should remain inexorable, there is another young lady, a sweet pretty young lady, and a swinging fortune, who is absolutely dying for love of you. I heard of it this very morning, and I told it to Miss Western; nay, I went a little beyond the truth again; for I told her you had refused her; but indeed I knew you would refuse her. And here I must give you a little comfort: when I mentioned the young lady's name, who is no other than the pretty widow Hunt, I thought she turned pale; but when I said you had refused her, I will be sworn her face was all over scarlet in an instant; and these were her very words, "I will not deny but that I believe he has some affection for me."
Here the conversation was interrupted by the arrival of Western, who could no longer be kept out of the room even by the authority of Allworthy himself; though this, as we have often seen, had a wonderful power over him.
Western immediately went up to Jones, crying out, My old friend, Tom, I am glad to see thee, with all my heart. All past must be forgotten. I could not intend any affront to thee, because, as Allworthy here knows, nay, dost know it thyself, I took thee for another person; and where a body
means no harm, what signifies a hasty word or two? One Christian must forget and forgive another.'-'I hope, sir,' said Jones, I shall never forget the many obligations I have had to you; but as for any offence towards me, I declare I am an utter stran. ger.' A't,' says Western; then give me thy fist; a't as hearty an honest cock as any in the kingdom. Come along with me; I'll carry thee to thy mistress this moment.' Here Allworthy interposed; and the 'squire, being unable to prevail either with the uncle or nephew, was, after some litigation, obliged, to consent to delay introducing Jones to Sophia till the afternoon; at which time Allworthy, as well in compassion to Jones, as in compliance with the eager desires of Western, was prevailed upon to promise to attend at the tea-table.
The conversation which now ensued was pleasant enough; and with which, had it happened earlier in our history, we would have entertained our reader; but as we have now leisure only to attend to what is very material, it shall suffice to say, that, matters being entirely adjusted as to the afternoon, visit, Mr. Western again returned home.
WHEN Mr. Western was departed, Jones began, to inform Mr. Allworthy and Mrs. Miller, that his liberty had been procured by two noble lords, who together with two surgeons, and a friend of Mr. Nightingale's, had attended the magistrate by whom he had been committed, and by whom, on the surgeons' oaths, that the wounded person was, out of all manner of danger from his wound, he was discharged.
One only of these lords, he said, he had ever seen before, and that no more than once; but the other had greatly surprised him, by asking his pardon for