Letter the 13th - Laura in continuation
They had been gone nearly a couple of Hours, before either Macdonald or Graham had entertained any suspicion of the affair. And they might not even then have suspected it, but for the following little Accident. Sophia, happening one day to open a private Drawer in Macdonald's Library with one of her own keys, discovered that it was the Place where he kept his Papers of consequence, and amongst them some bank notes of considerable amount. This discovery she imparted to me; and having agreed together that it would be a proper treatment of so vile a Wretch as Macdonald to deprive him of Money, perhaps dishonestly gained, it was determined that the next time we should either of us happen to go that way, we would take one or more of the Bank notes from the drawer. This well-meant Plan we had often successfully put in Execution; but alas! on the very day of Janetta's Escape, as Sophia was majestically removing the 5th Bank-note from the Drawer to her own purse, she was suddenly most impertinently interrupted in her employment by the entrance of Macdonald himself, in a most abrupt and precipitate Manner. Sophia (who though naturally all winning sweetness could, when occasions demanded it, call forth the Dignity of her sex) instantly put on a most forbidding look, and darting an angry frown on the undaunted Culprit, demanded in a haughty tone of voice "Wherefore her retirement was thus insolently broken in on?" The unblushing Macdonald, without even endeavouring to exculpate himself from the crime he was charged with, meanly endeavoured to reproach Sophia with ignobly defrauding him of his Money... The dignity of Sophia was wounded; "Wretch (exclaimed she, hastily replacing the Bank-note in the Drawer) how darest thou to accuse me of an Act, of which the bare idea makes me blush?" The base wretch was still unconvinced and continued to upbraid the justly-offended Sophia in such opprobrious Language, that at length he so greatly provoked the gentle sweetness of her Nature, as to induce her to revenge herself on him by informing him of Janetta's Elopement, and of the active Part we had both taken in the Affair. At this period of their Quarrel I entered the Library and was, as you may imagine, equally offended as Sophia at the ill-grounded Accusations of the malevolent and contemptible Macdonald. "Base Miscreant! (cried I) how canst thou thus undauntedly endeavour to sully the spotless reputation of such bright Excellence? Why dost thou not suspect my innocence as soon?" "Be satisfied Madam (replied he) I do suspect it, and therefore must desire that you will both leave this House in less than half an hour."
"We shall go willingly; (answered Sophia) our hearts have long detested thee, and nothing but our freindship for thy Daughter could have induced us to remain so long beneath thy roof."
"Your Freindship for my Daughter has indeed been most powerfully exerted by throwing her into the arms of an unprincipled Fortune-hunter" (replied he).
"Yes, (exclaimed I) amidst every misfortune, it will afford us some consolation to reflect that by this one act of Freindship to Janetta, we have amply discharged every obligation that we have received from her father."
"It must indeed be a most gratefull reflection, to your exalted minds" (said he).
As soon as we had packed up our wardrobe and valuables, we left Macdonald Hall, and after having walked about a mile and a half, we sat down by the side of a clear limpid stream to refresh our exhausted limbs. The place was suited to meditation. A grove of full-grown Elms sheltered us from the East. -- A Bed of full-grown Nettles from the West. -- Before us ran the murmuring brook and behind us ran the turn-pike road. We were in a mood for contemplation and in a Disposition to enjoy so beautifull a spot. A mutual silence which had for some time reigned between us, was at length broke by my exclaiming -- "What a lovely Scene! Alas why are not Edward and Augustus here to enjoy its Beauties with us?"
"Ah! my beloved Laura (cried Sophia) for pity's sake forbear recalling to my remembrance the unhappy situation of my imprisoned Husband. Alas, what would I not give to learn the fate of my Augustus! to know if he is still in Newgate, or if he is yet hung. But never shall I be able so far to conquer my tender sensibility as to enquire after him. Oh! do not, I beseech you ever, let me again hear you repeat his beloved name. -- It affects me too deeply. -- I cannot bear to hear him mentioned, it wounds my feelings."
"Excuse me my Sophia for having thus unwillingly offended you --" replied I -- and then changing the conversation, desired her to admire the noble Grandeur of the Elms which sheltered us from the Eastern Zephyr." Alas! my Laura (returned she) avoid so melancholy a subject, I intreat you. Do not again wound my Sensibility by observations on those elms. They remind me of Augustus. He was like them, tall, magestic -- he possessed that noble grandeur which you admire in them."
I was silent, fearfull lest I might any more unwillingly distress her by fixing on any other subject of conversation which might again remind her of Augustus.
"Why do you not speak my Laura?" (said she after a short pause) "I cannot support this silence -- you must not leave me to my own reflections; they ever recur to Augustus."
"What a beautifull sky! (said I) How charmingly is the azure varied by those delicate streaks of white!"
"Oh! my Laura (replied she, hastily withdrawing her Eyes from a momentary glance at the sky) do not thus distress me by calling my Attention to an object which so cruelly reminds me of my Augustus's blue satin Waistcoat striped with white! In pity to your unhappy freind, avoid a subject so distressing." What could I do? The feelings of Sophia were at that time so exquisite, and the tenderness she felt for Augustus so poignant that I had not power to start any other topic, justly fearing that it might in some unforseen manner again awaken all her sensibility by directing her thoughts to her Husband. Yet to be silent would be cruel; she had intreated me to talk.
From this Dilemma I was most fortunately releived by an accident truly apropos; it was the lucky overturning of a Gentleman's Phaeton, on the road which ran murmuring behind us. It was a most fortunate accident as it diverted the attention of Sophia from the melancholy reflections which she had been before indulging. We instantly quitted our seats and ran to the rescue of those who but a few moments before had been in so elevated a situation as a fashionably high Phaeton, but who were now laid low and sprawling in the Dust. "What an ample subject for reflection on the uncertain Enjoyments of this World, would not that Phaeton and the Life of Cardinal Wolsey afford a thinking Mind!" said I to Sophia as we were hastening to the field of Action.
She had not time to answer me, for every thought was now engaged by the horrid Spectacle before us. Two Gentlemen most elegantly attired, but weltering in their blood, was what first struck our Eyes -- we approached -- they were Edward and Augustus. -- Yes dearest Marianne they were our Husbands. Sophia shreiked and fainted on the Ground -- I screamed and instantly ran mad. -- We remained thus mutually deprived of our Senses some minutes, and on regaining them were deprived of them again. For an Hour and a Quarter did we continue in this unfortunate Situation -- Sophia fainting every moment and I running Mad as often. At length a groan from the hapless Edward (who alone retained any share of Life) restored us to ourselves. Had we indeed before imagined that either of them lived, we should have been more sparing of our Greif -- but as we had supposed when we first beheld them that they were no more, we knew that nothing could remain to be done but what we were about. No sooner, therefore, did we hear my Edward's groan than postponing our Lamentations for the present, we hastily ran to the Dear Youth and kneeling on each side of him implored him not to die. -- "Laura (said He, fixing his now languid Eyes on me) I fear I have been overturned."
I was overjoyed to find him yet sensible.
"Oh! tell me Edward (said I) tell me, I beseech you, before you die, what has befallen you since that unhappy Day in which Augustus was arrested and we were separated --"
"I will" (said he) and instantly fetching a deep sigh, Expired. -- Sophia immediately sunk again into a swoon. -- My greif was more audible. My Voice faltered, My Eyes assumed a vacant stare, my face became as pale as Death, and my Senses were considerably impaired. --
"Talk not to me of Phaetons (said I, raving in a frantic, incoherent manner) -- Give me a violin. -- I'll play to him and sooth him in his melancholy Hours -- Beware ye gentle Nymphs of Cupid's Thunderbolts, avoid the piercing Shafts of Jupiter -- Look at that Grove of Firs -- I see a Leg of Mutton -- They told me Edward was not Dead; but they deceived me -- they took him for a Cucumber --" Thus I continued wildly exclaiming on my Edward's Death. -- For two Hours did I rave thus madly and should not then have left off, as I was not in the least fatigued, had not Sophia who was just recovered from her swoon, intreated me to consider that Night was now approaching and that the Damps began to fall. "And whither shall we go (said I) to shelter us from either?" "To that white Cottage" (replied she pointing to a neat Building which rose up amidst the grove of Elms, and which I had not before observed). -- I agreed and we instantly walked to it -- we knocked at the door -- it was opened by an old Woman; on being requested to afford us a Night's Lodging, she informed us that her House was but small, that she had only two Bedrooms, but that However we should be wellcome to one of them. We were satisfied and followed the good Woman into the House, where we were greatly cheered by the sight of a comfortable fire. -- She was a Widow and had only one Daughter, who was then just seventeen -- One of the best of ages; but alas! she was very plain and her name was Bridget... Nothing, therefore, could be expected from her -- she could not be supposed to possess either exalted Ideas, Delicate Feelings or refined Sensibilities. -- She was nothing more than a mere good-tempered, civil and obliging Young Woman; as such we could scarcely dislike her -- she was only an Object of Contempt. --
Love and Freindship - Letter 12: Laura to Marianne | Love and Freindship | Love and Freindship - Letter 14: Laura to Marianne
Please Note: I have retained this mispelling in following my printed edition.