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- Amelia Volume II - 6/37 -
D--n me, give me a buss, my dear boy; I ask your pardon for that infamous appellation I dishonoured your dignity with; but d--n me if it was not purely out of love, and to give you an opportunity of doing yourself justice, which I own you have done like a man of honour. What may be the consequence I know not, but I hope, at least, I shall live to reconcile you with my brother."
Booth shewed great concern, and even horror in his countenance. "Why, my dear colonel," said he, "would you force me to this? for Heaven's sake tell me what I have ever done to offend you."
"Me!" cried the colonel. "Indeed, my dear child, you never did anything to offend me.--Nay, I have acted the part of a friend to you in the whole affair. I maintained your cause with my brother as long as decency would permit; I could not flatly contradict him, though, indeed, I scarce believed him. But what could I do? If I had not fought with you, I must have been obliged to have fought with him; however, I hope what is done will be sufficient, and that matters may be discomodated without your being put to the necessity of fighting any more on this occasion."
"Never regard me," cried Booth eagerly; "for Heaven's sake, think of your own preservation. Let me put you into a chair, and get you a surgeon."
"Thou art a noble lad," cries the colonel, who was now got on his legs, "and I am glad the business is so well over; for, though your sword went quite through, it slanted so that I apprehend there is little danger of life: however, I think there is enough done to put an honourable end to the affair, especially as you was so hasty to disarm me. I bleed a little, but I can walk to the house by the water; and, if you will send me a chair thither, I shall be obliged to you."
As the colonel refused any assistance (indeed he was very able to walk without it, though with somewhat less dignity than usual), Booth set forward to Grosvenor-gate, in order to procure the chair, and soon after returned with one to his friend; whom having conveyed into it, he attended himself on foot into Bond-street, where then lived a very eminent surgeon.
The surgeon having probed the wound, turned towards Booth, who was apparently the guilty person, and said, with a smile, "Upon my word, sir, you have performed the business with great dexterity."
"Sir," cries the colonel to the surgeon, "I would not have you imagine I am afraid to die. I think I know more what belongs to the dignity of a man; and, I believe, I have shewn it at the head of a line of battle. Do not impute my concern to that fear, when I ask you whether there is or is not any danger?"
"Really, colonel," answered the surgeon, who well knew the complexion of the gentleman then under his hands, "it would appear like presumption to say that a man who hath been just run through the body is in no manner of danger. But this I think I may assure you, that I yet perceive no very bad symptoms, and, unless something worse should appear, or a fever be the consequence, I hope you may live to be again, with all your dignity, at the head of a line of battle."
"I am glad to hear that is your opinion," quoth the colonel, "for I am not desirous of dying, though I am not afraid of it. But, if anything worse than you apprehend should happen, I desire you will be a witness of my declaration that this young gentleman is entirely innocent. I forced him to do what he did. My dear Booth, I am pleased matters are as they are. You are the first man that ever gained an advantage over me; but it was very lucky for you that you disarmed me, and I doubt not but you have the equananimity to think so. If the business, therefore, hath ended without doing anything to the purpose, it was Fortune's pleasure, and neither of our faults."
Booth heartily embraced the colonel, and assured him of the great satisfaction he had received from the surgeon's opinion; and soon after the two combatants took their leave of each other. The colonel, after he was drest, went in a chair to his lodgings, and Booth walked on foot to his; where he luckily arrived without meeting any of Mr. Murphy's gang; a danger which never once occurred to his imagination till he was out of it.
The affair he had been about had indeed so entirely occupied his mind, that it had obliterated every other idea; among the rest, it caused him so absolutely to forget the time of the day, that, though he had exceeded the time of dining above two hours, he had not the least suspicion of being at home later than usual.
_In which the reader will find matter worthy his consideration._
Amelia, having waited above an hour for her husband, concluded, as he was the most punctual man alive, that he had met with some engagement abroad, and sat down to her meal with her children; which, as it was always uncomfortable in the absence of her husband, was very short; so that, before his return, all the apparatus of dining was entirely removed.
Booth sat some time with his wife, expecting every minute when the little maid would make her appearance; at last, curiosity, I believe, rather than appetite, made him ask how long it was to dinner? "To dinner, my dear!" answered Amelia; "sure you have dined, I hope?" Booth replied in the negative; upon which his wife started from her chair, and bestirred herself as nimbly to provide him a repast as the most industrious hostess in the kingdom doth when some unexpected guest of extraordinary quality arrives at her house.
The reader hath not, I think, from any passages hitherto recorded in this history, had much reason to accuse Amelia of a blameable curiosity; he will not, I hope, conclude that she gave an instance of any such fault when, upon Booth's having so long overstayed his time, and so greatly mistaken the hour of the day, and upon some other circumstances of his behaviour (for he was too honest to be good at concealing any of his thoughts), she said to him after he had done eating, "My dear, I am sure something more than ordinary hath happened to-day, and I beg you will tell me what is."
Booth answered that nothing of any consequence had happened; that he had been detained by a friend, whom he met accidently, longer than he expected. In short, he made many shuffling and evasive answers, not boldly lying out, which, perhaps, would have succeeded, but poorly and vainly endeavouring to reconcile falsehood with truth; an attempt which seldom fails to betray the most practised deceiver.
How impossible was it therefore for poor Booth to succeed in an art for which nature had so entirely disqualified him. His countenance, indeed, confessed faster than his tongue denied, and the whole of his behaviour gave Amelia an alarm, and made her suspect something very bad had happened; and, as her thoughts turned presently on the badness of their circumstances, she feared some mischief from his creditors had befallen him; for she was too ignorant of such matters to know that, if he had fallen into the hands of the Philistines (which is the name given by the faithful to bailiffs), he would hardly have been able so soon to recover his liberty. Booth at last perceived her to be so uneasy, that, as he saw no hopes of contriving any fiction to satisfy her, he thought himself obliged to tell her the truth, or at least part of the truth, and confessed that he had had a little skirmish with Colonel Bath, in which, he said, the colonel had received a slight wound, not at all dangerous; "and this," says he, "is all the whole matter." "If it be so," cries Amelia, "I thank Heaven no worse hath happened; but why, my dear, will you ever converse with that madman, who can embrace a friend one moment, and fight with him the next?" "Nay, my dear," answered Booth, "you yourself must confess, though he be a little too much on the _qui vive,_ he is a man of great honour and good-nature." "Tell me not," replied she, "of such good-nature and honour as would sacrifice a friend and a whole family to a ridiculous whim. Oh, Heavens!" cried she, falling upon her knees, "from what misery have I escaped, from what have these poor babes escaped, through your gracious providence this day!" Then turning to her husband, she cried, "But are you sure the monster's wound is no more dangerous than you say? a monster surely I may call him, who can quarrel with a man that could not, that I am convinced would not, offend him."
Upon this question, Booth repeated the assurances which the surgeon had given them, perhaps with a little enlargement, which pretty well satisfied Amelia; and instead of blaming her husband for what he had done, she tenderly embraced him, and again returned thanks to Heaven for his safety.
In the evening Booth insisted on paying a short visit to the colonel, highly against the inclination of Amelia, who, by many arguments and entreaties, endeavoured to dissuade her husband from continuing an acquaintance in which, she said, she should always foresee much danger for the future. However, she was at last prevailed upon to acquiesce; and Booth went to the colonel, whose lodgings happened to be in the verge as well as his own.
He found the colonel in his night-gown, and his great chair, engaged with another officer at a game of chess. He rose immediately, and, having heartily embraced Booth, presented him to his friend, saying, he had the honour to introduce to him as brave and as _fortitudinous_ a man as any in the king's dominions. He then took Booth with him into the next room, and desired him not to mention a word of what had happened in the morning; saying, "I am very well satisfied that no more hath happened; however, as it ended in nothing, I could wish it might remain a secret." Booth told him he was heartily glad to find him so well, and promised never to mention it more to any one.
The game at chess being but just begun, and neither of the parties having gained any considerable advantage, they neither of them insisted on continuing it; and now the colonel's antagonist took his leave and left the colonel and Booth together.
As soon as they were alone, the latter earnestly entreated the former to acquaint him with the real cause of his anger; "for may I perish," cries Booth, "if I can even guess what I have ever done to offend either you, or your brother. Colonel James."
"Look'ee, child," cries the colonel; "I tell you I am for my own part satisfied; for I am convinced that a man who will fight can never be a rascal; and, therefore, why should you enquire any more of me at present? when I see my brother James, I hope to reconcile all matters, and perhaps no more swords need be drawn on this occasion." But Booth still persisting in his desire, the colonel, after some hesitation, with a tremendous oath, cried out, "I do not think myself at liberty to refuse you after the indignity I offered you; so, since you demand it of me, I will inform you. My brother told me you had used him dishonourably, and had divellicated his character behind his back. He gave me his word, too, that he was well assured of what he said. What
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