Imagens das páginas

no small mortification to human pride, and in a whisper asked Mrs. Ellison, if she could not procure a third ticket; to which she received an absolute negative. During the whole time of Mrs. Bennet's stay, which was above an hour afterwards, she remained perfectly silent, and looked extremely melancholy. This made Amelia very uneasy, as she concluded she had guessed the cause of her vexation. In which opinion she was the more confirmed, from certain looks of no very pleasant kind, which Mrs. Bennet now and then cast on Mrs. Ellison, and the more than ordinar concern that appeared in the former lady's countenance, whenever the masquerade was mentioned, and which, unfortunately, was the principal topic of their discourse; for Mrs. Ellison gave a very elaborate description of the extreme beauty of the place, and elegance of the diversion. ... When Mrs. Bennet was departed, Amelia could not help again soliciting Mrs. Ellison for another ticket, declaring she was certain Mrs. Bennet had a great inclination to go with them; but Mrs. Ellison again excused herself from asking it of his lordship. “Besides, madam,” says she, “if I would go thither with Mrs. Bennet, which, I own to you, I don't choose, as she is a person whom nobody knows, I very much doubt whether she herself would like it; for she is a woman of a very unaccountable turn. All her delight lies in books; and, as for public diversions, I have heard her often declare her abhorrence of them.” ‘What, then,” said Amelia, ‘could occasion all that gravity, from the moment the masquerade was mentioned?” “As to that,’ answered the other, “there is no guessing. You have seen her altother as grave before now. She hath had these fits of gravity at times ever since the death of her .. “Poor creature!' cries Amelia, “I heartily pity her; for she must certainly suffer a #. deal on these occasions. I declare I ave taken a strange fancy to her.’ ‘Perhaps you would not like her so well, if you knew her thoroughly,” answered Mrs. Ellison.—'She is, upon the whole, but of a whimsical temper; and, if you will take m opinion, you should not cultivate too much intimacy with her. I know you will never mention what I say; but she is like some pictures, which please best at a distance.” Amelia did not seem to agree with these sentiments, and she greatly importuned Mrs. Ellison to be more explicit, ut to no F.; she continued to give only dark ints to Mrs. Bennet's disadvantage; and, if ever she let drop something a little too harsh, she failed not immediately to contradict herself, by throwing some gentle commendations into the other scale; but so

that her conduct appeared utterly unaccountable to Amelia, and, upon the whole, she knew not whether to conclude Mrs. Ellison to be a friend or an enemy to Mrs. Bennet. During this latter conversation, Booth was not in the room; for he had been summoned down stairs by the sergeant, who came to him with news from Murphy, whom he had met that evening, and who assured the sergeant, that if he was desirous of recovering the debt, and which he had before pretended to have on Booth, he might shortly have an opportunity; for that there was to be a very strong petition to the board, the next time they sat. Murphy said further, that he need not fear havi his money; for that to his certain knowledge the captain had several things of great value, and even his children had gold watches. This greatly alarmed Booth, and still more, wo the o reported to him from Murphy, that all these things had been in his possession within a day last past. He now plainly perceived, as ic thought, that Murphy himself, or one of his emissaries, had been the supposed madman ; and he now very well accounted to himself in his own mind, for all that had happened, conceiving that the design was to examine into the state of his effects, and to try whether it was worth his creditors’ while to plunder him by law. At his return to his apartment, he communicated what he had heard to Amelia and Mrs. Ellison, not disguising his apprehensions of the enemy's intentions; but Mrs. Ellison endeavoured to laugh him out of his fears, calling him faint-hearted, and assuring him he might depend on her lawyer. ‘Till you hear from him,” said she, “you may rest entirely contented ; for, take my word for it, no danger can happen to you, of which you will not be timely api. by him. And as for the fellow that ad the impudence to come into your room, if he was sent on such an errand as you mention, I heartily wish I had been at home; I would have secured him safe with a constable, and have carried him directly before Justice Trasher. I know the justice is an enemy to bailiffs, on his own account.” This heartening speech a little roused the courage of Booth, and somewhat comforted Amelia, though the spirits of both had been too much hurried, to suffer them either to give or receive much entertainment that evening; which Mrs. Ellison perceiving, soon took her leave, and left this unhappy couple to seek relief from sleep, that powerful friend to the distressed, though like other powerful friends, he is not always ready to give his assistance to those who Want it most.

CHAPTER IX. Containing a very strange incident.

WHEN the husband and wife were alone, they again talked over the news which the sergeant had brought; on which occasion, Amelia did all she could to conceal her own fears and to quiet those of her husband. At last she turned the conversation to another subject, and poor Mrs. Bennet was brought on the o “I should be sorry,’ cries Amelia, “to find I had conceived an affection for a bad woman; and yet I begin to fear Mrs. Ellison knows something of #. more than she cares to discover; why else should she be unwilling to be seen with her in public Besides, I have observed that Mrs. Ellison hath been always backward to introduce her to me, nor would ever bring her to my apartment, though I have often desired her. Nay, she hath given me frequent hints not to cultivate the acquaintance. What do you think, my dear?—I should be very sorry to contract an intimacy with a wicked person.’ ‘Nay, my dear, cries Booth, ‘I know no more of her, nor indeed hardly so much as yourself—But this I think, that if Mrs. Ellison knows any reason why she should not have introduced Mrs. Bennet into your company, she was very much in the wrong in introducing her into it.’ In discourses of this kind they passed the remainder of the evening. In the morning, Booth rose early, and going down stairs, received from little Betty a sealed note, which contained the following words: Beware, beware, beware, For I apprehend a dreadful snare Is laid for virtuous innocence, Under a friend's false pretence. Booth immediately inquired of the girl who brought this note? and was told it came by a chairman, who, having delivered it, departed, without saying a word. e was extremely staggered at what he read, and presently referred the advice to the same affair on which he had received those hints from Atkinson the preceding evening; but when he came to consider the words more maturely, he could not so well reconcile the two last lines of this poetical epistle, if it may be so called, with any danger which the law gave him reason to apprehend. Mr. Murphy and his gang could not well be said to attack either his innocence or virtue; nor did they attack him under any colour or pretence of friendship. Wher much deliberation on this matter, a very strange suspicion came into his head; and this was, that he was betrayed by Mrs. Ellison. He had for some time conceived no very high opinion of that good gentlewoman, and he now began to suspect that

she was bribed to betray him. By this means he thought he could best account for the strange appearance of the supposed madman. And when this conceit once had birth in his mind, several circumstances nourished and improved it. Among these, were her jocose behaviour and raillery on that occasion, and her attempt to ridicule his fears from the message which the sergeant had brought him. This suspicion was indeed preposterous, and not at all warranted by, or even consistent with, the character and whole behaviour of Mrs. Ellison; but it was the only one which at that time suggested itself to his mind; and, however blameable it might be, it was certainly not unnatural in him to entertain it; for so great a torment is anxiety to the human mind, that we always endeavour to relieve ourselves from it, by guesses, however doubtful or uncertain; on all which occasions, dislike and hatred are the surest guides to lead our suspicion to its object. When Amelia rose to breakfast, Booth produced the note which he had received, saying, “My dear, you have so often blamed me for keeping secrets from you, and I have so often, indeed, endeavoured to conceal secrets of this kind from you, with such ill success, that I think I shall never more attempt it.” Amelia read the letter hastily, and seemed not a little discomposed; then, turning to Booth, with a very disconsolate countenance, she said, ‘Sure fortune takes a delight in toing us! what can be the meaning of this?' Then fixing her eyes attentively on the paper, she perused it for some time, till Booth cried, ‘How is it possible, my Emily, you can read such stuff patiently the verses are certainly as bad as ever were written.”—“I was trying, my dear,” answered she, “to recollect the É. for I will take my oath I have seen it before, and that very lately;’ and suddenly she cried out, with great emotion, “I remember it perfectly now—it is Mrs. Bennet's hand. Mrs. Ellison showed me a letter from her but a day or two ago. It is a very remarkable hand, and I am positive it is hers.’ “If it be hers,’ cries Booth, “what can she possibly mean by the latter part of her caution? sure Mrs. Ellison hath no intention to betray us.” “I know not what she means,’ answered Amelia; “but I am resolved to know immediately, for I am certain of the hand. By the greatest luck in the world, she told me yesterday where her lodgings were, when she pressed me exceedingly to come and see her. She lives but a very few doors from us, and I will go to her this moment.’ Booth made not the least objection to his wife's design. His curiosity was, indeed, as t as hers, and so was his impatience to satisfy it, though he mentioned not this his impatience to Amelia; and perhaps it had been well for him if he had. Amelia, therefore, presently equipped herself in her walking dress, and leaving her children to the care of her husband, made all possible haste to Mrs. Bennet's lodg

Amelia waited near five minutes at Mrs. Bennet's door, before any one came to open it; at length, a maid-servant appeared, who being asked if Mrs. Bennet was at home, answered with some confusion in her countenance, that she did not know; ‘but, madam,” says she, “if you will send up your name, I will go and see.' Amelia then told her name; and the wench, after staying a considerable time, returned and acquainted her that Mrs. Bennet was at home. She was then ushered into a parlour, and told that the lady would wait on her presently.

In this parlour, Amelia cooled her heels, as the phrase is, near a quarter of an hour. She seemed indeed at this time, in the miserable situation of one of those poor wretches, who make their morning visits to the great, to solicit favours, or perhaps to solicit the payment of a debt; for both are alike treated as beggars, and the latter sometimes considered as the most troublesome beggars of the two.

During her stay here, Amelia observed the house to be in great confusion; a great bustle was heard above stairs, and the maid ran up and down several times in a great hurry.

§ length Mrs. Bennet herself came in. She was greatly disordered in her looks, and had, as the women call it, huddled on her clothes in much haste; for in truth she was in bed when Amelia first came. Of this fact she informed her, as the only apology she could make for having caused her to wait so long for her company.

Amelia very readily accepted her apology, but asked her, with a smile, if these early hours were usual with her? Mrs. Bennet turned as red as scarlet at the question, and answered, ‘No, indeed, dear madam. I am for the most part, a very early riser; but I happened accidentally to sit up very late last night. I am sure I had little expectation of your intending me such a favour this morning.”

Amelia looking very steadfastly at her, said: “Is it possible, madam, you should think such a note as this would raise no curiosity in me?” She then gave her the note, asking her, if she did not know the hand.

Mrs. Bennet appeared in the utmost sur

rise and confusion at this instant. Indeed, if Amelia had conceived but the slightest suspicion before, the behaviour of the lady would have been a sufficient confirmation

to her of the truth. She waited not, therefore, for an answer, which, indeed, the other seemed in no haste to give; but conjured her in the most solemn manner, to explain to her the meaning of so extraordinary an act of friendship: “For so, said she, ‘I esteem it; being convinced you must have sufficient reason for the warning you have given me.’ Mrs. Bennet, after some hesitation, answered; ‘I need not. I believe, tell you how much I am surprised at what you have shown me, and the chief reason of my surS. is, how you came to discover my hand. ure, madam, you have not shown it to Mrs. Ellison.’ Amelia declared she had not; but desired she would question her no farther. “What signifies how I discovered it, since your hand it certainly is f’ “I own it is,’ cries Mrs. Bennet, recovering her spirits; “and since you have not shown it to that woman, I am satisfied. I begin to guess now whence you might have .." information; but no matter, I wish I ad never done any thing of which I ought to be more ashamed—No one can, I think, justly accuse me of a crime on that account; and I thank Heaven, my shame will never be directed by the false opinion of the world. Perhaps it was wrong to show my letter; but when I consider all circumstances, I can forgive it.” ‘Since you have guessed the truth,” said Amelia, ‘I am not ofliged to deny it. She, indeed, showed me your letter; but I am sure you have not the least reason to be ashamed of it. On the contrary, your behaviour on so melancholy an occasion was highly praiseworthy; and your bearing up under such afflictions, as the loss of a husband in so dreadful a situation, was truly great and heroical.’ “So Mrs. Ellison then hath shown you my letter o' cries Mrs. Bennet eagerly. “Why, did not you guess it yourself?'answered Amelia, ‘otherwise I am sure I have betrayed my honour in mentioning it. I hope you have not drawn me inadvertently into any breach of my promise. Did you not assert, and that with an absolute certainty, that you knew she had shown me }. letter, and that you was not angry with er for so doing?” ‘I am so confused, replied Mrs. Bennet, ‘that I scarce know what I say; yes, yes, I remember I did say so—I wish I had no greater reason to be angry with her than at.” ‘For Heaven's sake,” cries Amelia, do not delay my request any longer; what you say now greatly increases my curiosity; and my mind will be on the rack till you discover your whole meaning; for I am more and more convinced, that something of the

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]


.1 very short chapter, and consequently requiring no preface.

Mrs. BENNET having fastened the door, and both the ladies having taken their places, she once or twice offered to speak, when passion stopped her utterance; and after a minute's silence, she burst into a flood of tears. Upon which, Amelia, expressing the utmost tenderness for her, as well by her look as by her accent, cried—“What can be the reason, dear madam, of all this emotion ?”—“O, Mrs. Booth !’ answered she, “I find I have undertaken what I am not able to perform—you would not wonder at my emotion, if you knew you had an adulteress and a murderer now standing before you.’ Amelia turned pale as death at these words, which Mrs. Bennet observing, collected all the force she was able, and a little composing her countenance, cried, ‘I see, madam, I have terrified you with such dreadful words; but I hope you will not think me guilty of these crimes in the blackest degree.”— Guilty!' cries Amelia. ‘O Heavens”—“I believe indeed your candour,” continued Mrs. Bennet, “will be readier to acquit me than I am to acquit myself—indiscretion, at least, the highest, most unpardonable indiscretion, I shall always lay to my own charge; and when I reflect on the fatal consequences, I can never, never forgive myself.” Here she again began to lament in so bitter a manner, that Amelia endeavoured, as much as she could, (for she was herself greatly shocked,) to sooth and comfort her; telling her that if indiscretion was her highest crime, the unhappy consequences made her rather an unfortunate than a guilty person; and concluded by sayint, ‘Indeed, madam, you have raised my curiosity to the highest pitch, and I beg you will proceed with your story.’ Mrs. Bennet then seemed a second time ing to begin her relation, when she cried ut, ‘I would, is possible, tire you with no

more of my unfortunate life than just with that part which leads to a catastrophe in which I think you may yourself be interested; but I ...}. at a loss where to begin.” “Begin wherever you please, dear madam, cries Amelia; “but I beg you will consider my impatience.”—“I do consider it,” answered Mrs. Bennet; ‘ and therefore would begin with that part of my story which . directly to what concerns yourself; for how, indeed, should my life produce any thing worthy your notice? — Do not say so, madam, cries Amelia, ‘ I assure you I have long suspected there were some very remarkable incidents in your life, and have only wanted an opportunity to impart to you my desire of hearing them:—I beg therefore you would make no more apologies.”—“I will not, madam, cries Mrs. Bennet, ‘and yet I would avoid anything trivial; though, indeed, in stories of distress, especially, where love is concerned, many little incidents may appear trivial to those who have never felt the passion, which to delicate minds are the most interesting part of the whole.”—“Nay, but, dear madam,” cries Amelia, ‘this is all preface.” ‘Well, madam,” answered Mrs. Bennet, ‘I will consider your impatience.” She then rallied all her spirits in the best manner she could, and began as is written in the next chapter. And here possibly the reader will blame Mrs. Bennet for taking her story so far back, and relating so much of her life in which Amelia had no concern; but, in truth, she was desirous of inculcating a good opinion of herself, from recounting those transactions where her conduct was unexceptionable, before she came to the more dangerous and suspicious part of her character. This I really suppose to have been her intention; for to sacrifice the time and patience of Amelia at such a season to the mere love of talking of herself, would have been as unpardonable in her, as the bearing it was in Amelia a proof of the most perfect good breeding.

The beginning of Mrs. Bennet's history.

“I was the younger of two daughters of a clergyman in Essex; of one in whose praise, if I should indulge my fond heart in speaking, I think my invention could not outgo the reality. He was indeed well worthy of the cloth he wore; and that, I think, is the highest character a man can obtain. * During the first part of my life, even till I reached my sixteenth year, I can recollect nothing to relate to you. All was one long serene day, in looking back upon which, as when we cast our eyes on a calm sea, no object arises to my view. All appears one scene of happiness and tranquillity. ‘On the day, then, when I became sixteen years old, must I begin my history; for on that day I first tasted the bitterness of sorrow. “My father, besides those prescribed by our religion, kept five festivals every year. These were on his wedding-day, and on the birth day of each of his little family ; on these occasions he used to invite two or three neighbours to his house, and to indulge himself as he said, in great excess; for so he called drinking a pint of very small punch ; and, indeed, it might appear excess to one who on other days rarely tasted any liquor stronger than small beer. “Upon my unfortunate birth-day, then, when we were all in a high degree of mirth, my mother having left the room after dinner, and staying away pretty long, my father sent me to seek for her. I went according to his orders; but though I searched the whole house, and called after her without doors, I could neither see nor hear her. ... I was a little alarmed at this, (though far from suspecting any great mischief had befallen her,) and ran back to acquaint my sather, who answered coolly, (for he was a man of the calmest temper,) “Very well, my dear, I suppose she is not gone far, and will be here immediately.” Half an hour or more passed after this, when, she not returning, my father himself expressed some surprise at her stay ; declaring, it must be some matter of importance which could detain her at that time from her company. His surprise now increased every minute ; and he began to grow uneasy, and to show sufficient symptoms in his countenance of what he felt within. He then despatched the servant-maid to inquire after her mistress in the parish; but waited not her return ; for she was scarce gone out of doors before he begged leave of his guests to go himself on the same errand.—The company now all broke up, and attended my father, all endeavouring to give him hopes that no mischief had happened. They searched the whole parish; but in vain; they could

neither see my mother, nor hear any news
of her. My father returned home in a state
little short of distraction. His friends in
vain attempted to administer either advice
or comfort; he threw himself on the floor
in the most bitter agonies in despair.
“Whilst he lay in this condition, my sis-
ter and myself lying by him, all equally, I
believe, and completely miserable, our old
servant-maid came into the room, and cried
out, her mind misgave her that she knew
where her mistress was. Upon these words
my father sprung from the floor, and asked
her eagerly, where —But, oh! Mrs. Booth,
how can I describe the particulars of a
scene to you, the remembrance of which
chills my blood with horror, and which the
o: of my mind, when it passed, made
all a scene of confusion! the fact, then, in
short was this : my mother, who was a
most indulgent mistress to one servant,
which was all we kept, was unwilling, I sup-
, to disturb her at her dinner; and there-
ore went herself to fill her tea-kettle at a
well, into which, stretching herself too far,
as we imagine, the water then being very
low, she fell with the tea-kettle in her hand.
The missing this, gave the poor old wretch
the first hint of her suspicion, which, upon
examination, was found to be too well
‘What we all suffered on this occasion
may more easily be felt than described.’—
‘It may indeed,” answered Amelia, ‘and I
am so sensible of it, that, unless you have a
mind to see me faint before your face, I be
you will order me something; a glass o
water if you please.” Mrs. Bennet immedi-
ately complied with her friend's request;
a glass of water was brought, and some
hartshorn drops infused into it; which Ame-
lia having drank off, declared she found her-
self much better, and then Mrs. Bennet pro-
ceeded thus:
• I will not dwell on a scene which I see
hath already aflected your tender heart,
and which is as disagreeable to me to relate,
as it can be to you to hear. I will therefore
only mention to you the behaviour of my
father on this occasion, which was indeed
becoming a philosopher and christian divine.
On the day after my mother's funeral, he
sent for my sister and myself into his room;
where, after many caresses, and every de-
monstration of fatherly tenderness, as well
in silence as in words, he began to exhort
us to bear with patience the great calamity
which had befallen us, saying, “That as
every human accident, how terrible soever,
must happen to us by divine permission at
least, a due sense of our duty to our great
Creator must teach us an absolute submis-
sion to his will. Not only religion, but com-
mon sense must teach us this; for oh! m
dear children,” cries he, “how vain is

« AnteriorContinuar »