« AnteriorContinuar »
'they mean two other persons; for there are many houses 'on the road.'—' Why, pr'ythee, friend,' cries the host, 'dost thou pretend never to have told a lie in thy life?' —' Never a malicious one, I am certain,' answered Adams, 'nor with a design to injure the reputation of any 'man living.'—' Pugh! malicious; no, no,' replied the host; 'not malicious with a design to hang a man, or 'bring him into trouble; but surely, out of love to one's 'self, one must speak better of a friend than an enemy.' —' Out of love to yourself, you should confine yourself to 'truth,' says Adams, ' for by doing otherwise you injure 'the noblest part of yourself, your immortal soul. I can 'hardly believe any man such an idiot to risque the loss 'of that by any trifling gain, and the greatest gain in this 'world is but dirt in comparison of what shall be re'vealed hereafter.' Upon which the host, taking up the cup, with a smile, drank a health to hereafter; adding, he was for something present.—' Why,' says Adams very gravely, 'do not you believe in another world?' To which the host answered, Yes; he was no atheist.—' And 'you believe you have an immortal soul?' cries Adams. He answered, God forbid he should not.—' And heaven 'and hell?' said the parson. The host then bid him, 'not to profane; for those were things not to be men'tioned nor thought of but in church.' Adams asked him why he went to church, if what he learned there had no influence on his conduct in life ?' I go to church,' answered the host, 'to say my prayers and behave godly.' —' And dost not thou,' cried Adams, 'believe what thou 'hearest at church?'—' Most part of it, Master,' returned the host. 'And dost not thou then tremble,' cries Adams, 'at the thought of eternal punishment?'—'As for that, 'master,' said he, 'I never once thought about it; but 'what signifies talking about matters so far off? The 'mug is out, shall I draw another?'
Whilst he was going for that purpose, a stage-coach drove up to the door. The coachman coming into the house, was asked by the mistress, what passengers he had in his coach ?' A parcel of squinny-gut b—s,' says he: 'I have a good mind to overturn them: you 'won't prevail upon them to drink any thing, I assure 'you.' Adams asked him, 'if he had not seen a young 'man on horseback on the road,' (describing Joseph). 'Ay,' said the coachman, 'a gentlewoman in my coach 'that is his acquaintance redeemed him and his horse: 'he would have been here before this time, had not the 'storm driven him to shelter.'—' God bless her,' said Adams in a rapture; nor could he delay walking out to satisfy himself who this charitable woman was; but what was his surprise when he saw his old acquaintance Madam Slipslop? Her's indeed was not so great, because she had been informed by Joseph that he was on the road. Very civil were the salutations on both sides; and Mrs. Slipslop rebuked the hostess for denying the gentleman to be there when she asked for him; but indeed the poor woman had not erred designedly; for Mrs. Slipslop asked for a clergyman, and she had unhappily mistaken Adams for a person travelling to a neighbouring fair with the thimble and button, or some other such operation; for he marched in a swingeing great but short white coat with black buttons, a short wig, and a hat, which, so far from having a black hatband, had nothing black about it.
Joseph was now come up, and Mrs. Slipslop would have had Mm quit his horse to the parson, and come himself into the coach'; but he absolutely refused, saying, he thanked heaven he was well enough recovered to be able to ride; and added, he hoped he knew Ins duty better than to ride in a coach, while Mr. Adams was on horseback.
Mrs. Slipslop would have persisted longer, had not a lady in the coach put a short end to the dispute, hy refusing to suffer a fellow in a livery to ride in the same coach with herself; so it was at length agreed that Adams should fill the vacant place in the coach, and Joseph should proceed on horseback.
They had not proceeded far before Mrs. Slipslop, addressing herself to the parson, spoke thus: 'There 'hath been a strange alteration in our family, Mr. 'Adams, since Sir Thomas's death.'—' A strange altera'tion indeed!' says Adams, 'as I gather from some 'hints which have dropped from Joseph.'—' Ay,' says she, 'I could never have believed it; but the longer 'one lives in the world, the more one sees. So Joseph 'hath given you hints.'—' But of what nature will always 'remain a perfect secret with me,' cries the parson: 'he 'forced me to promise, before he would communicate 'any thing. I am indeed concerned to find her ladyship 'behave in so unbecoming a manner. I always thought 'her in the main a good lady, and should never have 'suspected her of thoughts so unworthy a Christian, 'and with a young lad her own servant.'—' These things 'are no secrets to me, I assure you,' cries Slipslop, 'and 'I believe they will be none any where shortly; for ever 'since the boy's departure, she hath behaved more like 'a mad woman than any thing else.'—' Truly, I am 'heartily concerned,' said Adams, 'for she was a good 'sort of a lady. Indeed, I have often wished she had 'attended a little more constantly at the service, but she 'hath done a great deal of good in the parish.'—' O Mr. 'Adams,' says Slipslop, 'people that don't see all, often 'know nothing. Many things have been given away 'in our family, I do assure you, without her knowledge. 'I have heard you say in the pulpit we ought not to 'brag; but indeed I can't avoid saying, if she had kept 'the keys herself, the poor would have wanted many a 'cordial which I have let them have. As for my late 'master, he was as worthy a man as ever lived, and 'would have done infinite good if he had not been con'trolled; but he loved a quiet life, heavens rest his soul! 'I am confidous he is there, and enjoys a quiet life, 'which some folks would not allow him here.' Adams answered, he had never heard this before, and was mistaken if she herself (for he remembered she used to commend her mistress and blame her master) had not formerly been of another opinion.—' I don't know,' replied she, 'what I might once think; but now I am 'confidous matters are as I tell you; the world will 'shortly see who hath been deceived; for my part I say 'nothing, but that it is wondersome how some people 'can carry all things with a grave face.'
Thus Mr. Adams and she discoursed, till they came opposite to a great house, which stood at some distance from the road: a lady in the coach spying it, cried, 'Yonder lives the unfortunate Leonora, if one may 'justly call a woman unfortunate whom we must own 'at the same time guilty, and the author of her own 'calamity.' This was abundantly sufficient to awaken the curiosity of Mr. Adams, as indeed it did that of the whole company, who jointly solicited the lady to acquaint them with Leonora's history, since it seemed, by what she had said, to contain something remarkable.
The lady, who was perfectly well bred, did not require many entreaties, and having only wished their entertainment might make amends for the company's attention, she began in the following manner.
The history of Leonora, or the unfortunate jilt.
Leonora was the daughter of a gentleman of fortune; she was tall and well shaped, with a sprightliness in her countenance, which often attracts beyond more regular features joined with an insipid air: nor is this kind of beauty less apt to deceive than allure; the good-humour which it indicates being often mistaken for good-nature, and the vivacity for true understanding.
Leonora, who was now at the age of eighteen, lived with an aunt of hers in a town in the north of England. She was. an extreme lover of gaiety; and very rarely missed a ball, or any other public assembly; where she had frequent opportunities of satisfying a greedy appetite of vanity, with the preference which was given her by the men to almost every other woman present.
Among many young fellows who were particular in their gallantries towards her, Horatio soon distinguished huuself in her eyes beyond all his competitors; she danced with more than ordinary gaiety when he happened to be her partner; neither the fairness of the evening, nor the music of the nightingale, could lengthen her walk like his company. She affected no longer to understand the civilities of others; whilst she inclined so attentive an ear to every compliment of Horatio, that she often smiled even when it was too delicate for her comprehension.
'Pray, Madam,' says Adams, 'who was this Squire Horatio?'
Horatio, says the lady, was a young gentleman of a good family, bred to the law, and had been some few years called to the degree of a barrister. His face and