Amelia by Henry Fielding - HTML preview
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A Very Tragic Scene
The clock had struck eleven, and Amelia was just proceeding to put her children to bed, when she heard a knock at the street-door; upon which the boy cried out, "There's papa, mamma; pray let me stay and see him before I go to bed." This was a favour very easily obtained; for Amelia instantly ran down-stairs, exulting in the goodness of her husband for returning so soon, though half an hour was already elapsed beyond the time in which he promised to return.
Poor Amelia was now again disappointed; for it was not her husband at the door, but a servant with a letter for him, which he delivered into her hands. She immediately returned up-stairs, and said--"It was not your papa, my dear; but I hope it is one who hath brought us some good news." For Booth had told her that he hourly expected to receive such from the great man, and had desired her to open any letter which came to him in his absence.
Amelia therefore broke open the letter, and read as follows:
"SIR,--After what hath passed between us, I need only tell you that I know you supped this very night alone with Miss Matthews: a fact which will upbraid you sufficiently, without putting me to that trouble, and will very well account for my desiring the favour of seeing you to- morrow in Hyde-park at six in the morning. You will forgive me reminding you once more how inexcusable this behaviour is in you, who are possessed in your own wife of the most inestimable jewel.
I shall bring pistols with me."
It is not easy to describe the agitation of Amelia's mind when she read this letter. She threw herself into her chair, turned as pale as death, began to tremble all over, and had just power enough left to tap the bottle of wine, which she had hitherto preserved entire for her husband, and to drink off a large bumper.
The little boy perceived the strange symptoms which appeared in his mother; and running to her, he cried, "What's the matter, my dear mamma? you don't look well!--No harm hath happened to poor papa, I hope--Sure that bad man hath not carried him away again?"
Amelia answered, "No, child, nothing--nothing at all." And then a large shower of tears came to her assistance, which presently after produced the same in the eyes of both the children.
Amelia, after a short silence, looking tenderly at her children, cried out, "It is too much, too much to bear. Why did I bring these little wretches into the world? why were these innocents born to such a fate?" She then threw her arms round them both (for they were before embracing her knees), and cried, "O my children! my children! forgive me, my babes! Forgive me that I have brought you into such a world as this! You are undone--my children are undone!"
The little boy answered with great spirit, "How undone, mamma? my sister and I don't care a farthing for being undone. Don't cry so upon our accounts--we are both very well; indeed we are. But do pray tell us. I am sure some accident hath happened to poor papa."
"Mention him no more," cries Amelia; "your papa is--indeed he is a wicked man-- he cares not for any of us. O Heavens! is this the happiness I promised myself this evening?" At which words she fell into an agony, holding both her children in her arms.
The maid of the house now entered the room, with a letter in her hand which she had received from a porter, whose arrival the reader will not wonder to have been unheard by Amelia in her present condition.
The maid, upon her entrance into the room, perceiving the situation of Amelia, cried out, "Good Heavens! madam, what's the matter?" Upon which Amelia, who had a little recovered herself after the last violent vent of her passion, started up and cried, "Nothing, Mrs. Susan--nothing extraordinary. I am subject to these fits sometimes; but I am very well now. Come, my dear children, I am very well again; indeed I am. You must now go to bed; Mrs. Susan will be so good as to put you to bed."
"But why doth not papa love us?" cries the little boy. "I am sure we have none of us done anything to disoblige him."
This innocent question of the child so stung Amelia that she had the utmost difficulty to prevent a relapse. However, she took another dram of wine; for so it might be called to her, who was the most temperate of women, and never exceeded three glasses on any occasion. In this glass she drank her children's health, and soon after so well soothed and composed them that they went quietly away with Mrs. Susan.
The maid, in the shock she had conceived at the melancholy, indeed frightful scene, which had presented itself to her at her first coming into the room, had quite forgot the letter which she held in her hand. However, just at her departure she recollected it, and delivered it to Amelia, who was no sooner alone than she opened it, and read as follows:
"MY DEAREST, SWEETEST LOVE,--I write this from the bailiff's house where I was formerly, and to which I am again brought at the suit of that villain Trent. I have the misfortune to think I owe this accident (I mean that it happened to-night) to my own folly in endeavouring to keep a secret from you. O my dear! had I had resolution to confess my crime to you, your forgiveness would, I am convinced, have cost me only a few blushes, and I had now been happy in your arms. Fool that I was, to leave you on such an account, and to add to a former transgression a new one!--Yet, by Heavens! I mean not a transgression of the like kind; for of that I am not nor ever will be guilty; and when you know the true reason of my leaving you to-night I think you will pity rather than upbraid me. I am sure you would if you knew the compunction with which I left you to go to the most worthless, the most infamous. Do guess the rest--guess that crime with which I cannot stain my paper--but still believe me no more guilty than I am, or, if it will lessen your vexation at what hath befallen me, believe me as guilty as you please, and think me, for a while at least, as undeserving of you as I think myself. This paper and pen are so bad, I question whether you can read what I write: I almost doubt whether I wish you should. Yet this I will endeavour to make as legible as I can. Be comforted, my dear love, and still keep up your spirits with the hopes of better days. The doctor will be in town to-morrow, and I trust on his goodness for my delivery once more from this place, and that I shall soon be able to repay him. That Heaven may bless and preserve you is the prayer of, my dearest love,
Your ever fond, affectionate,
and hereafter, faithful husband,
Amelia pretty well guessed the obscure meaning of this letter, which, though at another time it might have given her unspeakable torment, was at present rather of the medicinal kind, and served to allay her anguish. Her anger to Booth too began a little to abate, and was softened by her concern for his misfortune. Upon the whole, however, she passed a miserable and sleepless night, her gentle mind torn and distracted with various and contending passions, distressed with doubts, and wandering in a kind of twilight which presented her only objects of different degrees of horror, and where black despair closed at a small distance the gloomy prospect.