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- Amelia Volume I - 20/38 -
beloved mount which you have not pointed out to me?'--Thus she went on, the woman, madam, you see, still prevailing."--"Since you mention it," says Miss Matthews, with a smile, "I own the same observation occurred to me. It is too natural to us to consider ourselves only, Mr. Booth."--"You shall hear," he cried. "At last the thoughts of her present condition suggested themselves.--' But if,' said she, 'my situation, even in health, will be so intolerable, how shall I, in the danger and agonies of childbirth, support your absence?'--Here she stopt, and, looking on me with all the tenderness imaginable, cried out, 'And am I then such a wretch to wish for your presence at such a season? ought I not to rejoice that you are out of the hearing of my cries or the knowledge of my pains? if I die, will you not have escaped the horrors of a parting ten thousand times more dreadful than this? Go, go, my Billy; the very circumstance which made me most dread your departure hath perfectly reconciled me to it. I perceive clearly now that I was only wishing to support my own weakness with your strength, and to relieve my own pains at the price of yours. Believe me, my love, I am ashamed of myself.'--I caught her in my arms with raptures not to be exprest in words, called her my heroine; sure none ever better deserved that name; after which we remained for some time speechless, and locked in each other's embraces."--
"I am convinced," said Miss Matthews, with a sigh, "there are moments in life worth purchasing with worlds."
"At length the fatal morning came. I endeavoured to hide every pang of my heart, and to wear the utmost gaiety in my countenance. Amelia acted the same part. In these assumed characters we met the family at breakfast; at their breakfast, I mean, for we were both full already. The doctor had spent above an hour that morning in discourse with Mrs. Harris, and had, in some measure, reconciled her to my departure. He now made use of every art to relieve the poor distressed Amelia; not by inveighing against the folly of grief, or by seriously advising her not to grieve; both of which were sufficiently performed by Miss Betty. The doctor, on the contrary, had recourse to every means which might cast a veil over the idea of grief, and raise comfortable images in my angel's mind. He endeavoured to lessen the supposed length of my absence by discoursing on matters which were more distant in time. He said he intended next year to rebuild a part of his parsonage-house. 'And you, captain,' says he, 'shall lay the corner-stone, I promise you:' with many other instances of the like nature, which produced, I believe, some good effect on us both.
"Amelia spoke but little; indeed, more tears than words dropt from her; however, she seemed resolved to bear her affliction with resignation. But when the dreadful news arrived that the horses were ready, and I, having taken my leave of all the rest, at last approached her, she was unable to support the conflict with nature any longer, and, clinging round my neck, she cried, 'Farewel, farewel for ever; for I shall never, never see you more.' At which words the blood entirely forsook her lovely cheeks, and she became a lifeless corpse in my arms.
"Amelia continued so long motionless, that the doctor, as well as Mrs. Harris, began to be under the most terrible apprehensions; so they informed me afterwards, for at that time I was incapable of making any observation. I had indeed very little more use of my senses than the dear creature whom I supported. At length, however, we were all delivered from our fears; and life again visited the loveliest mansion that human nature ever afforded it.
"I had been, and yet was, so terrified with what had happened, and Amelia continued yet so weak and ill, that I determined, whatever might be the consequence, not to leave her that day; which resolution she was no sooner acquainted with than she fell on her knees, crying, 'Good Heaven! I thank thee for this reprieve at least. Oh! that every hour of my future life could be crammed into this dear day!'
"Our good friend the doctor remained with us. He said he had intended to visit a family in some affliction; 'but I don't know,' says he, 'why I should ride a dozen miles after affliction, when we have enough here.'" Of all mankind the doctor is the best of comforters. As his excessive good-nature makes him take vast delight in the office, so his great penetration into the human mind, joined to his great experience, renders him the most wonderful proficient in it; and he so well knows when to soothe, when to reason, and when to ridicule, that he never applies any of those arts improperly, which is almost universally the case with the physicians of the mind, and which it requires very great judgment and dexterity to avoid.
"The doctor principally applied himself to ridiculing the dangers of the siege, in which he succeeded so well, that he sometimes forced a smile even into the face of Amelia. But what most comforted her were the arguments he used to convince her of the probability of my speedy if not immediate return. He said the general opinion was that the place would be taken before our arrival there; in which case we should have nothing more to do than to make the best of our way home again.
"Amelia was so lulled by these arts that she passed the day much better than I expected. Though the doctor could not make pride strong enough to conquer love, yet he exalted the former to make some stand against the latter; insomuch that my poor Amelia, I believe, more than once flattered herself, to speak the language of the, world, that her reason had gained an entire victory over her passion; till love brought up a reinforcement, if I may use that term, of tender ideas, and bore down all before him.
"In the evening the doctor and I passed another half-hour together, when he proposed to me to endeavour to leave Amelia asleep in the morning, and promised me to be at hand when she awaked, and to support her with all the assistance in his power. He added that nothing was more foolish than for friends to take leave of each other. 'It is true, indeed,' says he, 'in the common acquaintance and friendship of the world, this is a very harmless ceremony; but between two persons who really love each other the church of Rome never invented a penance half so severe as this which we absurdly impose on ourselves'
"I greatly approved the doctor's proposal; thanked him, and promised, if possible, to put it in execution. He then shook me by the hand, and heartily wished me well, saying, in his blunt way, 'Well, boy, I hope to see thee crowned with laurels at thy return; one comfort I have at least, that stone walls and a sea will prevent thee from running away.'
"When I had left the doctor I repaired to my Amelia, whom I found in her chamber, employed in a very different manner from what she had been the preceding night; she was busy in packing up some trinkets in a casket, which she desired me to carry with me. This casket was her own work, and she had just fastened it as I came to her.
"Her eyes very plainly discovered what had passed while she was engaged in her work: however, her countenance was now serene, and she spoke, at least, with some chearfulness. But after some time, 'You must take care of this casket, Billy,' said she. 'You must, indeed, Billy--for--' here passion almost choaked her, till a flood of tears gave her relief, and then she proceeded--'For I shall be the happiest woman that ever was born when I see it again.' I told her, with the blessing of God, that day would soon come. 'Soon!' answered she. 'No, Billy, not soon: a week is an age;--but yet the happy day may come. It shall, it must, it will! Yes, Billy, we shall meet never to part again, even in this world, I hope.' Pardon my weakness, Miss Matthews, but upon my soul I cannot help it," cried he, wiping his eyes. "Well, I wonder at your patience, and I will try it no longer. Amelia, tired out with so long a struggle between variety of passions, and having not closed her eyes during three successive nights, towards the morning fell into a profound sleep. In which sleep I left her, and, having drest myself with all the expedition imaginable, singing, whistling, hurrying, attempting by every method to banish thought, I mounted my horse, which I had over-night ordered to be ready, and galloped away from that house where all my treasure was deposited.
"Thus, madam, I have, in obedience to your commands, run through a scene which, if it hath been tiresome to you, you must yet acquit me of having obtruded upon you. This I am convinced of, that no one is capable of tasting such a scene who hath not a heart full of tenderness, and perhaps not even then, unless he hath been in the same situation."
_In which Mr. Booth sets forward on his journey._
"Well, madam, we have now taken our leave of Amelia. I rode a full mile before I once suffered myself to look back; but now being come to the top of a little hill, the last spot I knew which could give me a prospect of Mrs. Harris's house, my resolution failed: I stopped and cast my eyes backward. Shall I tell you what I felt at that instant? I do assure you I am not able. So many tender ideas crowded at once into my mind, that, if I may use the expression, they almost dissolved my heart. And now, madam, the most unfortunate accident came first into my head. This was, that I had in the hurry and confusion left the dear casket behind me. The thought of going back at first suggested itself; but the consequences of that were too apparent. I therefore resolved to send my man, and in the meantime to ride on softly on my road. He immediately executed my orders, and after some time, feeding my eyes with that delicious and yet heartfelt prospect, I at last turned my horse to descend the hill, and proceeded about a hundred yards, when, considering with myself that I should lose no time by a second indulgence, I again turned back, and once more feasted my sight with the same painful pleasure till my man returned, bringing me the casket, and an account that Amelia still continued in the sweet sleep I left her. I now suddenly turned my horse for the last time, and with the utmost resolution pursued my journey.
"I perceived my man at his return--But before I mention anything of him it may be proper, madam, to acquaint you who he was. He was the foster-brother of my Amelia. This young fellow had taken it into his head to go into the army; and he was desirous to serve under my command. The doctor consented to discharge him; his mother at last yielded to his importunities, and I was very easily prevailed on to list one of the handsomest young fellows in England.
"You will easily believe I had some little partiality to one whose milk Amelia had sucked; but, as he had never seen the regiment, I had no opportunity to shew him any great mark of favour. Indeed he waited on me as my servant; and I treated him with all the tenderness which can be used to one in that station.
"When I was about to change into the horse-guards the poor fellow began to droop, fearing that he should no longer be in the same corps with me, though certainly that would not have been the case. However, he had never mentioned one word of his dissatisfaction. He is indeed a fellow of a noble spirit; but when he heard that I was to remain where I was, and that we were to go to Gibraltar together, he fell into transports of joy little short of madness. In short, the poor fellow had imbibed a very strong affection for me; though this was what I
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