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- Amelia (Complete) - 90/114 -
"I am glad to see you are not," said the doctor; "and your behaviour in this affair becomes both the man of sense and the Christian; for it would be surely the greatest folly, as well as the most daring impiety, to risque your own life for the impertinence of a fool. As long as you are assured of the virtue of your own wife, it is wisdom in you to despise the efforts of such a wretch. Not, indeed, that your wife accuses him of any downright attack, though she hath observed enough in his behaviour to give offence to her delicacy."
"You astonish me, doctor," said Booth. "What can you mean? my wife dislike his behaviour! hath the colonel ever offended her?"
"I do not say he hath ever offended her by any open declarations; nor hath he done anything which, according to the most romantic notion of honour, you can or ought to resent; but there is something extremely nice in the chastity of a truly virtuous woman."
"And hath my wife really complained of anything of that kind in the colonel?"
"Look ye, young gentleman," cries the doctor; "I will have no quarrelling or challenging; I find I have made some mistake, and therefore I insist upon it by all the rights of friendship, that you give me your word of honour you will not quarrel with the colonel on this account."
"I do, with all my heart," said Booth; "for, if I did not know your character, I should absolutely think you was jesting with me. I do not think you have mistaken my wife, but I am sure she hath mistaken the colonel, and hath misconstrued some over-strained point of gallantry, something of the Quixote kind, into a design against her chastity; but I have that opinion of the colonel, that I hope you will not be offended when I declare I know not which of you two I should be the sooner jealous of."
"I would by no means have you jealous of any one," cries the doctor; "for I think my child's virtue may be firmly relied on; but I am convinced she would not have said what she did to me without a cause; nor should I, without such a conviction, have written that letter to the colonel, as I own to you I did. However, nothing I say hath yet past which, even in the opinion of false honour, you are at liberty to resent! but as to declining any great intimacy, if you will take my advice, I think that would be prudent."
"You will pardon me, my dearest friend," said Booth, "but I have really such an opinion of the colonel that I would pawn my life upon his honour; and as for women, I do not believe he ever had an attachment to any."
"Be it so," said the doctor: "I have only two things to insist on. The first is, that, if ever you change your opinion, this letter may not be the subject of any quarrelling or fighting: the other is, that you never mention a word of this to your wife. By the latter I shall see whether you can keep a secret; and, if it is no otherwise material, it will be a wholesome exercise to your mind; for the practice of any virtue is a kind of mental exercise, and serves to maintain the health and vigour of the soul."
"I faithfully promise both," cries Booth. And now the breakfast entered the room, as did soon after Amelia and Mrs. Atkinson.
The conversation ran chiefly on the masquerade; and Mrs. Atkinson gave an account of several adventures there; but whether she told the whole truth with regard to herself I will not determine, for, certain it is, she never once mentioned the name of the noble peer. Amongst the rest, she said there was a young fellow that had preached a sermon there upon a stool, in praise of adultery, she believed; for she could not get near enough to hear the particulars.
During that transaction Booth had been engaged with the blue domino in another room, so that he knew nothing of it; so that what Mrs. Atkinson had now said only brought to his mind the doctor's letter to Colonel Bath, for to him he supposed it was written; and the idea of the colonel being a lover to Amelia struck him in so ridiculous a light, that it threw him into a violent fit of laughter.
The doctor, who, from the natural jealousy of an author, imputed the agitation of Booth's muscles to his own sermon or letter on that subject, was a little offended, and said gravely, "I should be glad to know the reason of this immoderate mirth. Is adultery a matter of jest in your opinion?"
"Far otherwise," answered Booth. "But how is it possible to refrain from laughter at the idea of a fellow preaching a sermon in favour of it at such a place?"
"I am very sorry," cries the doctor, "to find the age is grown to so scandalous a degree of licentiousness, that we have thrown off not only virtue, but decency. How abandoned must be the manners of any nation where such insults upon religion and morality can be committed with impunity! No man is fonder of true wit and humour than myself; but to profane sacred things with jest and scoffing is a sure sign of a weak and a wicked mind. It is the very vice which Homer attacks in the odious character of Thersites. The ladies must excuse my repeating the passage to you, as I know you have Greek enough to understand it:--
Os rh' epea phresin esin akosma te, polla te ede Maps, atar ou kata kosmon epizemenai basileusin, All'o, ti oi eisaito geloiton Argeiosin Emmenai
[Footnote: Thus paraphrased by Mr. Pope:
"Awed by no shame, by no respect controll'd, In scandal busy, in reproaches bold, With witty malice, studious to defame, Scorn all his joy, and laughter all his aim."]
And immediately adds,
----aiskistos de aner ypo Ilion elthe
[Footnote: "He was the greatest scoundrel in the whole army."]
"Horace, again, describes such a rascal:
----Solutos Qui captat risus hominum famamque dicacis,
[Footnote: "Who trivial bursts of laughter strives to raise, And courts of prating petulance the praise."--FRANCIS.]
and says of him,
Hic niger est, hunc tu, Romane, caveto."
[Footnote: "This man is black; do thou, O Roman! shun this man."]
"O charming Homer!" said Mrs. Atkinson, "how much above all other writers!"
"I ask your pardon, madam," said the doctor; "I forgot you was a scholar; but, indeed, I did not know you understood Greek as well as Latin."
"I do not pretend," said she, "to be a critic in the Greek; but I think I am able to read a little of Homer, at least with the help of looking now and then into the Latin."
"Pray, madam," said the doctor, "how do you like this passage in the speech of Hector to Andromache:
----Eis oikon iousa ta sautes erga komize, Iston t elakaten te, kai amphipoloisi keleue Ergon epoichesthai?
[Footnote: "Go home and mind your own business. Follow your spinning, and keep your maids to their work."]
"Or how do you like the character of Hippodamia, who, by being the prettiest girl and best workwoman of her age, got one of the best husbands in all Troy?--I think, indeed, Homer enumerates her discretion with her other qualifications; but I do not remember he gives us one character of a woman of learning.--Don't you conceive this to be a great omission in that who, by being the prettiest girl and best workwoman of her age, got one of the best husbands in all Troy?---I think, indeed, Homer enumerates her discretion with her other qualifications; but I do not remember Don't you conceive this to be a great omission in that charming poet? However, Juvenal makes you amends, for he talks very abundantly of the learning of the Roman ladies in his time."
"You are a provoking man, doctor," said Mrs. Atkinson; "where is the harm in a woman's having learning as well as a man?"
"Let me ask you another question," said the doctor. "Where is the harm in a man's being a fine performer with a needle as well as a woman? And yet, answer me honestly; would you greatly chuse to marry a man with a thimble upon his finger? Would you in earnest think a needle became the hand of your husband as well as a halberd?"
"As to war, I am with you," said she. "Homer himself, I well remember, makes Hector tell his wife that warlike works--what is the Greek word --Pollemy--something--belonged to men only; and I readily agree to it. I hate a masculine woman, an Amazon, as much as you can do; but what is there masculine in learning?"
"Nothing so masculine, take my word for it. As for your Pollemy, I look upon it to be the true characteristic of a devil. So Homer everywhere characterizes Mars."
"Indeed, my dear," cries the serjeant, "you had better not dispute with the doctor; for, upon my word, he will be too hard for you."
"Nay, I beg _you_ will not interfere," cries Mrs. Atkinson; "I am sure _you_ can be no judge in these matters."
At which the doctor and Booth burst into a loud laugh; and Amelia, though fearful of giving her friend offence, could not forbear a gentle smile.
"You may laugh, gentlemen, if you please," said Mrs. Atkinson; "but I thank Heaven I have married a man who is not jealous of my understanding. I should have been the most miserable woman upon earth with a starched pedant who was possessed of that nonsensical opinion that the difference of sexes causes any difference in the mind. Why don't you honestly avow the Turkish notion that women have no souls? for you say the same thing in effect."
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