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In Which Miss Matthews Begins Her History
Miss Matthews, having barred the door on the inside as securely as it was before
barred on the outside, proceeded as follows:
"You may imagine I am going to begin my history at the time when you left the
country; but I cannot help reminding you of something which happened before.
You will soon recollect the incident; but I believe you little know the consequence
either at that time or since. Alas! I could keep a secret then! now I have no
secrets; the world knows all; and it is not worth my while to conceal anything.
Well!--You will not wonder, I believe.--I protest I can hardly tell it you, even now.--
- But I am convinced you have too good an opinion of yourself to be surprized at
any conquest you may have made.---Few men want that good opinion--and
perhaps very few had ever more reason for it. Indeed, Will, you was a charming
fellow in those days; nay, you are not much altered for the worse now, at least in
the opinion of some women; for your complexion and features are grown much
more masculine than they were." Here Booth made her a low bow, most probably
with a compliment; and after a little hesitation she again proceeded.---"Do you
remember a contest which happened at an assembly, betwixt myself and Miss
Johnson, about standing uppermost? you was then my partner; and young
Williams danced with the other lady. The particulars are not now worth
mentioning, though I suppose you have long since forgot them. Let it suffice that
you supported my claim, and Williams very sneakingly gave up that of his
partner, who was, with much difficulty, afterwards prevailed to dance with him.
You said--I am sure I repeat the words exactly--that you would not for the world
affront any lady there; but that you thought you might, without any such danger
declare, that there was no assembly in which that lady, meaning your humble
servant, was not worthy of the uppermost place; 'nor will I,' said you, 'suffer, the
first duke in England, when she is at the uppermost end of the room, and hath
called her dance, to lead his partner above her.'
"What made this the more pleasing to me was, that I secretly hated Miss
Johnson. Will you have the reason? why, then, I will tell you honestly, she was
my rival. That word perhaps astonishes you, as you never, I believe, heard of any
one who made his addresses to me; and indeed my heart was, till that night,
entirely indifferent to all mankind: I mean, then, that she was my rival for praise,
for beauty, for dress, for fortune, and consequently for admiration. My triumph on
this conquest is not to be expressed any more than my delight in the person to
whom I chiefly owed it. The former, I fancy, was visible to the whole company;
and I desired it should be so; but the latter was so well concealed, that no one, I
am confident, took any notice of it. And yet you appeared to me that night to be
an angel. You looked, you danced, you spoke-everything charmed me."