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- Amelia Volume III - 20/41 -
Trent," cries Booth, "for mentioning his name to me, as you are a stranger to what hath passed between us."
"Nay, I know nothing that hath passed between you," answered Trent. "I am sure, if there is any quarrel between you of two days' standing, all is forgiven on his part."
"D--n his forgiveness!" said Booth. "Perhaps I ought to blush at what I have forgiven."
"You surprize me!" cries Trent. "Pray what can be the matter?"
"Indeed, my dear Trent," cries Booth, very gravely, "he would have injured me in the tenderest part. I know not how to tell it you; but he would have dishonoured me with my wife."
"Sure, you are not in earnest!" answered Trent; "but, if you are, you will pardon me for thinking that impossible."
"Indeed," cries Booth, "I have so good an opinion of my wife as to believe it impossible for him to succeed; but that he should intend me the favour you will not, I believe, think an impossibility."
"Faith! not in the least," said Trent. "Mrs. Booth is a very fine woman; and, if I had the honour to be her husband, I should not be angry with any man for liking her."
"But you would be angry," said Booth, "with a man, who should make use of stratagems and contrivances to seduce her virtue; especially if he did this under the colour of entertaining the highest friendship for yourself."
"Not at all," cries Trent. "It is human nature."
"Perhaps it is," cries Booth; "but it is human nature depraved, stript of all its worth, and loveliness, and dignity, and degraded down to a level with the vilest brutes."
"Look ye, Booth," cries Trent, "I would not be misunderstood. I think, when I am talking to you, I talk to a man of sense and to an inhabitant of this country, not to one who dwells in a land of saints. If you have really such an opinion as you express of this noble lord, you have the finest opportunity of making a complete fool and bubble of him that any man can desire, and of making your own fortune at the same time. I do not say that your suspicions are groundless; for, of all men upon earth I know, my lord is the greatest bubble to women, though I believe he hath had very few. And this I am confident of, that he hath not the least jealousy of these suspicions. Now, therefore, if you will act the part of a wise man, I will undertake that you shall make your fortune without the least injury to the chastity of Mrs. Booth."
"I do not understand you, sir," said Booth.
"Nay," cries Trent, "if you will not understand me, I have done. I meant only your service; and I thought I had known you better."
Booth begged him to explain himself. "If you can," said he, "shew me any way to improve such circumstances as I have opened to you, you may depend on it I shall readily embrace it, and own my obligations to you."
"That is spoken like a man," cries Trent. "Why, what is it more than this? Carry your suspicions in your own bosom. Let Mrs. Booth, in whose virtue I am sure you may be justly confident, go to the public places; there let her treat my lord with common civility only; I am sure he will bite. And thus, without suffering him to gain his purpose, you will gain yours. I know several who have succeeded with him in this manner."
"I am very sorry, sir," cries Booth, "that you are acquainted with any such rascals. I do assure you, rather than I would act such a part, I would submit to the hardest sentence that fortune could pronounce against me."
"Do as you please, sir," said Trent; "I have only ventured to advise you as a friend. But do you not think your nicety is a little over- scrupulous?"
"You will excuse me, sir," said Booth; "but I think no man can be too scrupulous in points which concern his honour."
"I know many men of very nice honour," answered Trent, "who have gone much farther; and no man, I am sure, had ever a better excuse for it than yourself. You will forgive me, Booth, since what I speak proceeds from my love to you; nay, indeed, by mentioning your affairs to me, which I am heartily sorry for, you have given me a right to speak. You know best what friends you have to depend upon; but, if you have no other pretensions than your merit, I can assure you you would fail, if it was possible you could have ten times more merit than you have. And, if you love your wife, as I am convinced you do, what must be your condition in seeing her want the necessaries of life?"
"I know my condition is very hard," cries Booth; "but I have one comfort in it, which I will never part with, and that is innocence. As to the mere necessaries of life, however, it is pretty difficult to deprive us of them; this I am sure of, no one can want them long."
"Upon my word, sir," cries Trent, "I did not know you had been so great a philosopher. But, believe me, these matters look much less terrible at a distance than when they are actually present. You will then find, I am afraid, that honour hath no more skill in cookery than Shakspear tells us it hath in surgery. D--n me if I don't wish his lordship loved my wife as well as he doth yours, I promise you I would trust her virtue; and, if he should get the better of it, I should have people of fashion enough to keep me in countenance."
Their second bottle being now almost out, Booth, without making any answer, called for a bill. Trent pressed very much the drinking another bottle, but Booth absolutely refused, and presently afterwards they parted, not extremely well satisfied with each other. They appeared, indeed, one to the other, in disadvantageous lights of a very different kind. Trent concluded Booth to be a very silly fellow, and Booth began to suspect that Trent was very little better than a scoundrel.
_Contains a letter and other matters_.
We will now return to Amelia; to whom, immediately upon her husband's departure to walk with Mr. Trent, a porter brought the following letter, which she immediately opened and read:
"MADAM,--The quick despatch which I have given to your first commands will I hope assure you of the diligence with which I shall always obey every command that you are pleased to honour me with. I have, indeed, in this trifling affair, acted as if my life itself had been at stake; nay, I know not but it may be so; for this insignificant matter, you was pleased to tell me, would oblige the charming person in whose power is not only my happiness, but, as I am well persuaded, my life too. Let me reap therefore some little advantage in your eyes, as you have in mine, from this trifling occasion; for, if anything could add to the charms of which you are mistress, it would be perhaps that amiable zeal with which you maintain the cause of your friend. I hope, indeed, she will be my friend and advocate with the most lovely of her sex, as I think she hath reason, and as you was pleased to insinuate she had been. Let me beseech you, madam, let not that dear heart, whose tenderness is so inclined to compassionate the miseries of others, be hardened only against the sufferings which itself occasions. Let not that man alone have reason to think you cruel, who, of all others, would do the most to procure your kindness. How often have I lived over in my reflections, in my dreams, those two short minutes we were together! But, alas! how faint are these mimicries of the imagination! What would I not give to purchase the reality of such another blessing! This, madam, is in your power to bestow on the man who hath no wish, no will, no fortune, no heart, no life, but what are at your disposal. Grant me only the favour to be at Lady----'s assembly. You can have nothing to fear from indulging me with a moment's sight, a moment's conversation; I will ask no more. I know your delicacy, and had rather die than offend it. Could I have seen you sometimes, I believe the fear of offending you would have kept my love for ever buried in my own bosom; but, to be totally excluded even from the sight of what my soul doats on is what I cannot bear. It is that alone which hath extorted the fatal secret from me. Let that obtain your forgiveness for me. I need not sign this letter otherwise than with that impression of my heart which I hope it bears; and, to conclude it in any form, no language hath words of devotion strong enough to tell you with what truth, what anguish, what zeal, what adoration I love you."
Amelia had just strength to hold out to the end, when her trembling grew so violent that she dropt the letter, and had probably dropt herself, had not Mrs. Atkinson come timely in to support her.
"Good Heavens!" cries Mrs. Atkinson, "what is the matter with you, madam?"
"I know not what is the matter," cries Amelia; "but I have received a letter at last from that infamous colonel."
"You will take my opinion again then, I hope, madam," cries Mrs. Atkinson. "But don't be so affected; the letter cannot eat you or run away with you. Here it lies, I see; will you give me leave to read it?"
"Read it with all my heart," cries Amelia; "and give me your advice how to act, for I am almost distracted."
"Heydey!" says Mrs. Atkinson, "here is a piece of parchment too--what is that?" In truth, this parchment had dropt from the letter when Amelia first opened it; but her attention was so fixed by the contents of the letter itself that she had never read the other. Mrs. Atkinson had now opened the parchment first; and, after a moment's perusal, the fire flashed from her eyes, and the blood flushed into her cheeks, and she cried out, in a rapture, "It is a commission for my husband! upon my soul, it is a commission for my husband:" and, at the same time, began to jump about the room in a kind of frantic fit of joy.
"What can be the meaning of all this?" cries Amelia, under the highest degree of astonishment.
"Do not I tell you, my dear madam," cries she, "that it is a commission for my husband? and can you wonder at my being overjoyed at what I know will make him so happy? And now it is all out. The letter is not from the colonel, but from that noble lord of whom I have told
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