Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

‘ of the man. Love, however barbarously we may * corrupt and pervert its meaning, as it is a lauda‘ble, is a rational passion, and can never be violent “but when reciprocal; for though the scripture ‘ bids up love our enemies, it means not with that “fervent love which we naturally bear towards our “friends; much less that we should sacrifice to “ them our lives, and what ought to be dearer to us, “our innocence. Now in what light, but that of “an enemy, can a reasonable woman regard the ‘man who solicits her to entail on herself all the ‘misery I have described to you, and who would ‘purchase to himself a short, trivial, contemptible “ pleasure, so greatly at her expense ! For, by the ‘ laws of custom, the whole shame, with all its “dreadful consequences, falls entirely upon her. ‘Can love, which always seeks the good of its ob‘ject, attempt to betray a woman into a bargain ‘where she is so greatly to be the loser If such ‘corrupter, therefore, should have the impudence ‘to pretend a real affection for her, ought not the ‘ woman to regard him not only as an enemy, but “ as the worst of all enemies, a false, designing, ‘treacherous, pretended friend, who intends not ‘ only to debauch her body, but her understanding * at the same time * Here Jenny expressing great concern, Allworthy paused a moment, and then proceeded : ‘I have ‘ talked thus to you, child, not to insult you for ‘what is past and irrevocable, but to caution and ‘strengthen you for the future. Nor should I have “taken this trouble, but from some opinion of your ‘good sense, notwithstanding the dreadful slip you have made; and from some hopes of your hearty repentance, which are founded on the openness and sincerity of your confession. If these do not deceive me, I will take care to convey you from this scene of your shame where you shall, by being unknown, avoid the punishment which, as I have

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“ said, is allotted to your crime in this world; and I “hope, by repentance, you will avoid the much * heavier sentence denounced against it in the other. “Be a good girl the rest of your days, and want shall ‘be no motive to your going astray: and believe ‘me there is more pleasure, even in this world, in “an innocent and virtuous life, than in one debauch“ed and vicious, “As to your child, let no thoughts concerning it ‘molest you; I will provide for it in a better man‘ner than you can ever hope. And now nothing * remains, but that you inform me who was the * wicked man that seduced you ; for my anger * against him will be much greater than you have ‘ experienced on this occasion.’ Jenny now lifted her eyes from the ground, and with a modest look and decent voice thus began : “To know you, sir, and not love your goodness, ‘ would be an argument of total want of sense or ‘goodness in any one. In me it would amount to ‘the highest ingratitude, not to feel, in the most sen“sible manner, the great degree of goodness you have * been pleased to exert on this occasion. As to my * concern for what is past, I know you will spare my “blushes the repetition. My future conduct will “much better declare my sentiments, than any pro“fessions I can now make. I beg leave to assure “you, sir, that I take your advice much kinder than “your generous offer with which you concluded it; * for, as you are pleased to say, sir, it is an instance * of your opinion of my understanding.'—Here her tears flowing apace, she stopped a few moments, and then proceeded thus: ‘Indeed, sir, your kindness * overcomes me; but I will endeavour to deserve “ this good opinion: for if I have the understanding “you are so kindly pleased to allow me, such ad“vice cannot be thrown away upon me. I thank “you, sir, heartily, for your intended kindness to my “poor helpless child: he is innocent, and I hope • will live to be grateful for all the favours you shall “show him. But now, sir, I must on my knees en‘treat you not to persist in asking me to declare “ the father of my infant. I promise you faithfully “you shall one day know; but I am under the most “solemn ties and engagements of honour, as well as ‘the most religious vows and protestations, to con‘ ceal his name at this time. And I know you too ‘ well, to think you would desire I should sacrifice ‘ either my honour or my religion.’ Mr. Allworthy, whom the least mention of those sacred words was sufficient to stagger, hesitated a moment before he replied, and then told her, she had done wrong to enter into such engagements to a villain; but since she had, he could not insist on her breaking them. He said, it was not from a motive of vain curiosity he had inquired, but in order to punish the fellow; at least, that he might not ignorantly confer favours on the undeserving. As to these points, Jenny satisfied him, by the most solemn assurances, that the man was entirely out of his reach; and was neither subject to his power, nor in any probability of becoming an object of his goodness. The ingenuity of this behaviour had gained Jenny so much credit with this worthy man, that he easily believed what she told him; for as she had disdained to excuse herself by a lie, and had hazarded his farther displeasure in her present situation, rather than she would forfeit her honour, or integrity, by betraying another, he had but little apprehension that she would be guilty of falsehood towards himself. He therefore dismissed her, with assurances that he would very soon remove her out of the reach of that obloquy she had incurred; concluding with some additional documents, in which he recommended repentance, saying, ‘Consider, child, there * is one still to reconcile yourself to, whose favour is * of much greater importance to you than mine.’

* CHAP. VIII.

A dialogue between mesdames Bridget and Deborah; containing more amusemens, but less instruction, than the former.

W HEN Mr. Allworthy had retired to his study with Jenny Jones, as hath been seen, Mrs. Bridget, with the good housekeeper, had betaken themselves to a post next adjoining to the said study; whence, through the conveyance of a key-hole, they sucked in at their ears the instructive lecture delivered by Mr. Allworthy, together with the answers of Jenny, and indeed every other particular which passed in the last chapter. This hole in her brother's study door was indeed as well known to Mrs. Bridget, and had been as frequently applied to by her, as the famous hole in the wall was by Thisbe of old. This served to many good purposes. For by such means Mrs. Bridget became often acquainted with her brother's inclinations, without giving him the trouble of repeating them to her. It is true, some inconveniences attended this intercourse, and she had sometimes reason to cry out with Thisbe, in Shakspeare, ‘O ‘wicked, wicked wall !' For as Mr. Allworthy was a justice of peace, certain things occurred in examinations concerning bastards, and such like, which are apt to give great offence to the chaste ears of virgins, especially when they approach the age of forty, as was the case of Mrs. Bridget. However, she had, on such occasions, the advantage of concealing her blushes from the eyes of men; and De mon apparen/ibus, & non existentibus, easlem est ratio. In English, “When a woman is not seen to blush, ‘ she doth not blush at all.’ Both the good women kept strict silence during the whole scene between Mr. Allworthy and the girl; but as soon as it was ended, and that gentle

man out of hearing, Mrs. Deborah could not help exclaiming against the clemency of her master, and especially against his suffering her to conceal the father of the child, which she swore she would have out of her before the sun set. At these words Mrs. Bridget discomposed her features with a smile (a thing very unusual to her). Not that I would have my reader imagine, that this was one of those wantom smiles which Homer would have you conceive came from Venus, when he calls her the laughter-loving goddess; nor was it one of those smiles which lady Seraphina shoots from the stage-box, and which Venus would quit her immortality to be able to equal. No, this was rather one of those smiles which might be supposed to have come from the dimpled cheeks of the august Tisiphone, or from one of the misses her sisters. With such a smile then, and with a voice sweet as the evening breeze of Boreas in the pleasant month of November, Mrs. Bridget gently reproved the curiosity of Mrs. Deborah; a vice with which it seems the latter was too much tainted, and which the former inveighed against with great bitterness, adding, ‘That, among all her faults, she thanked Heaven * her enemies could not accuse her of prying inte ‘the affairs of other people.’ w She then proceeded to commend the honour and spirit with which Jenny had acted. She said, she could not help agreeing with her brother, that there was some merit in the sincerity of her confession, and in her integrity to her lover: that she had always thought her a very good girl, and doubted not but she had been seduced by some rascal, who had been infinitely more to blame than herself, and very probably had prevailed with her by a promise of marriage, or some other treacherous proceeding. This behaviour of Mrs. Bridget greatly surprised Mrs. Deborah; for this well-bred woman seldom

« AnteriorContinuar »