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- Amelia Volume III - 30/41 -
"And will you swear that the goods stolen," said the justice, "are worth forty shillings?"
"No, indeed, sir," answered Booth, "nor that they are worthy thirty either."
"Then, sir," cries the justice, "the girl cannot be guilty of felony."
"How, sir," said Booth, "is it not a breach of trust? and is not a breach of trust felony, and the worst felony too?"
"No, sir," answered the justice; "a breach of trust is no crime in our law, unless it be in a servant; and then the act of parliament requires the goods taken to be of the value of forty shillings."
"So then a servant," cries Booth, "may rob his master of thirty-nine shillings whenever he pleases, and he can't be punished."
"If the goods are under his care, he can't," cries the justice.
"I ask your pardon, sir," says Booth. "I do not doubt what you say; but sure this is a very extraordinary law."
"Perhaps I think so too," said the justice; "but it belongs not to my office to make or to mend laws. My business is only to execute them. If therefore the case be as you say, I must discharge the girl."
"I hope, however, you will punish the pawnbroker," cries Booth.
"If the girl is discharged," cries the justice, "so must be the pawnbroker; for, if the goods are not stolen, he cannot be guilty of receiving them knowing them to be stolen. And, besides, as to his offence, to say the truth, I am almost weary of prosecuting it; for such are the difficulties laid in the way of this prosecution, that it is almost impossible to convict any one on it. And, to speak my opinion plainly, such are the laws, and such the method of proceeding, that one would almost think our laws were rather made for the protection of rogues than for the punishment of them."
Thus ended this examination: the thief and the receiver went about their business, and Booth departed in order to go home to his wife.
In his way home Booth was met by a lady in a chair, who, immediately upon seeing him, stopt her chair, bolted out of it, and, going directly up to him, said, "So, Mr. Booth, you have kept your word with me."
The lady was no other than Miss Matthews, and the speech she meant was of a promise made to her at the masquerade of visiting her within a day or two; which, whether he ever intended to keep I cannot say, but, in truth, the several accidents that had since happened to him had so discomposed his mind that he had absolutely forgot it.
Booth, however, was too sensible and too well-bred to make the excuse of forgetfulness to a lady; nor could he readily find any other. While he stood therefore hesitating, and looking not over-wise, Miss Matthews said, "Well, sir, since by your confusion I see you have some grace left, I will pardon you on one condition, and that is that you will sup with me this night. But, if you fail me now, expect all the revenge of an injured woman." She then bound herself by a most outrageous oath that she would complain to his wife--" And I am sure," says she, "she is so much a woman of honour as to do me justice. And, though I miscarried in my first attempt, be assured I will take care of my second."
Booth asked what she meant by her first attempt; to which she answered that she had already writ his wife an account of his ill-usage of her, but that she was pleased it had miscarried. She then repeated her asseveration that she would now do it effectually if he disappointed her.
This threat she reckoned would most certainly terrify poor Booth; and, indeed, she was not mistaken; for I believe it would have been impossible, by any other menace or by any other means, to have brought him once even to balance in his mind on this question. But by this threat she prevailed; and Booth promised, upon his word and honour, to come to her at the hour she appointed. After which she took leave of him with a squeeze by the hand, and a smiling countenance, and walked back to her chair.
But, however she might be pleased with having obtained this promise, Booth was far from being delighted with the thoughts of having given it. He looked, indeed, upon the consequences of this meeting with horrour; but as to the consequence which was so apparently intended by the lady, he resolved against it. At length he came to this determination, to go according to his appointment, to argue the matter with the lady, and to convince her, if possible, that, from a regard to his honour only, he must discontinue her acquaintance. If this failed to satisfy her, and she still persisted in her threats to acquaint his wife with the affair, he then resolved, whatever pains it cost him, to communicate the whole truth himself to Amelia, from whose goodness he doubted not but to obtain an absolute remission.
_In which Amelia appears in a light more amiable than gay._
We will now return to Amelia, whom we left in some perturbation of mind departing from Mrs. Atkinson.
Though she had before walked through the streets in a very improper dress with Mrs. Atkinson, she was unwilling, especially as she was alone, to return in the same manner. Indeed, she was scarce able to walk in her present condition; for the case of poor Atkinson had much affected her tender heart, and her eyes had overflown with many tears.
It occurred likewise to her at present that she had not a single shilling in her pocket or at home to provide food for herself and her family. In this situation she resolved to go immediately to the pawnbroker whither she had gone before, and to deposit her picture for what she could raise upon it. She then immediately took a chair and put her design in execution.
The intrinsic value of the gold in which this picture was set, and of the little diamonds which surrounded it, amounted to nine guineas. This therefore was advanced to her, and the prettiest face in the world (such is often the fate of beauty) was deposited, as of no value, into the bargain.
When she came home she found the following letter from Mrs. Atkinson:-
"MY DEAREST MADAM,--As I know your goodness, I could not delay a moment acquainting you with the happy turn of my affairs since you went. The doctor, on his return to visit my husband, has assured me that the captain was on the recovery, and in very little danger; and I really think he is since mended. I hope to wait on you soon with better news. Heaven bless you, dear madam! and believe me to be, with the utmost sincerity, Your most obliged, obedient, humble servant, ATKINSON."
Amelia was really pleased with this letter; and now, it being past four o'clock, she despaired of seeing her husband till the evening. She therefore provided some tarts for her children, and then, eating nothing but a slice of bread and butter herself, she began to prepare for the captain's supper.
There were two things of which her husband was particularly fond, which, though it may bring the simplicity of his taste into great contempt with some of my readers, I will venture to name. These were a fowl and egg sauce and mutton broth; both which Amelia immediately purchased.
As soon as the clock struck seven the good creature went down into the kitchen, and began to exercise her talents of cookery, of which she was a great mistress, as she was of every economical office from the highest to the lowest: and, as no woman could outshine her in a drawing-room, so none could make the drawing-room itself shine brighter than Amelia. And, if I may speak a bold truth, I question whether it be possible to view this fine creature in a more amiable light than while she was dressing her husband's supper, with her little children playing round her.
It was now half an hour past eight, and the meat almost ready, the table likewise neatly spread with materials borrowed from her landlady, and she began to grow a little uneasy at Booth's not returning when a sudden knock at the door roused her spirits, and she cried, "There, my dear, there is your good papa;" at which words she darted swiftly upstairs and opened the door to her husband.
She desired her husband to walk up into the dining-room, and she would come to him in an instant; for she was desirous to encrease his pleasure by surprising him with his two favourite dishes. She then went down again to the kitchen, where the maid of the house undertook to send up the supper, and she with her children returned to Booth.
He then told her concisely what had happened with relation to the girl--to which she scarce made any answer, but asked him if he had not dined? He assured her he had not eat a morsel the whole day.
"Well," says she, "my dear, I am a fellow-sufferer; but we shall both enjoy our supper the more; for I have made a little provision for you, as I guessed what might be the case. I have got you a bottle of wine too. And here is a clean cloth and a smiling countenance, my dear Will. Indeed, I am in unusual good spirits to-night, and I have made a promise to the children, which you must confirm; I have promised to let them sit up this one night to supper with us.--Nay, don't look so serious: cast off all uneasy thoughts, I have a present for you here-- no matter how I came by it."--At which words she put eight guineas into his hand, crying, "Come, my dear Bill, be gay--Fortune will yet be kind to us--at least let us be happy this night. Indeed, the pleasures of many women during their whole lives will not amount to my happiness this night if you will be in good humour."
Booth fetched a deep sigh, and cried, "How unhappy am I, my dear, that I can't sup with you to-night!"
As in the delightful month of June, when the sky is all serene, and the whole face of nature looks with a pleasing and smiling aspect, suddenly a dark cloud spreads itself over the hemisphere, the sun vanishes from our sight, and every object is obscured by a dark and horrid gloom; so happened it to Amelia: the joy that had enlightened every feature disappeared in a moment; the lustre forsook her shining eyes, and all the little loves that played and wantoned in her cheeks hung their drooping heads, and with a faint trembling voice she repeated her husband's words, "Not sup with me to-night, my dear!"
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