Amelia by Henry Fielding - HTML preview

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Thus This History Draws Nearer To A Conclusion

In the morning early Amelia received the following letter from Mrs. Atkinson:

"The surgeon of the regiment, to which the captain my husband lately belonged, and who came this evening to see the captain, hath almost frightened me out of my wits by a strange story of your husband being committed to prison by a justice of peace for forgery. For Heaven's sake send me the truth. If my husband can be of any service, weak as he is, he will be carried in a chair to serve a brother officer for whom he hath a regard, which I need not mention. Or if the sum of twenty pound will be of any service to you, I will wait upon you with it the moment I can get my cloaths on, the morning you receive this; for it is too late to send to-night. The captain begs his hearty service and respects, and believe me,

    "Dear Madam,

          Your ever affectionate friend,

             and humble servant,

                F. ATKINSON."

When Amelia read this letter to Booth they were both equally surprized, she at the commitment for forgery, and he at seeing such a letter from Mrs. Atkinson; for he was a stranger yet to the reconciliation that had happened.

Booth's doubts were first  satisfied  by  Amelia,  from  which he received great pleasure; for he really had a very great affection and fondness for Mr. Atkinson, who, indeed, so well deserved it. "Well, my dear," said he to Amelia, smiling, "shall we accept this generous offer?"

"O fy! no, certainly," answered she.

"Why not?" cries Booth; "it is but a trifle; and yet it will be of great service to us."

"But consider, my dear," said she, "how ill these poor people can spare it.”

"They can spare it for a little while," said Booth, "and we shall soon pay it them again."

"When, my dear?" said Amelia. "Do, my dear Will, consider our wretched circumstances. I beg you let us go into the country immediately, and live upon bread and water till Fortune pleases to smile upon us.”

"I am convinced that day is not far off," said Booth. "However, give me leave to send an answer to Mrs. Atkinson, that we shall be glad of her company immediately to breakfast."

"You know I never contradict you," said she, "but I assure you it is contrary to my inclinations to take this money."

"Well, suffer me," cries he, "to act this once contrary to your inclinations." He then writ a short note to Mrs. Atkinson, and dispatched it away immediately; which when he had done, Amelia said, "I shall be glad of Mrs. Atkinson's company to breakfast; but yet I wish you would oblige me in refusing this money. Take five guineas only. That is indeed such a sum as, if we never should pay it, would sit light on my mind. The last persons in the world from whom I would receive favours of that sort are the poor and generous."

"You can receive favours only from the generous," cries Booth; "and, to be plain with you, there are very few who are generous that are not poor."

"What think you," said she, "of Dr Harrison?"

"I do assure you," said Booth, "he is far from being rich. The doctor hath an income of little more than six hundred pound a-year, and I am convinced he gives away four of it. Indeed, he is one of the best economists in the world: but yet I am positive he never was at any time possessed of five hundred pound, since he hath been a man. Consider, dear Emily, the late obligations we have to this gentleman; it would be unreasonable to expect more, at least at present; my half- pay is mortgaged for a year to come. How then shall we live?"

"By our labour," answered she; "I am able to labour, and I am sure I am not ashamed of it."

"And do you really think you can support such a life?"

"I am sure I could be happy in it," answered Amelia. "And why not I as well as a thousand others, who have not the happiness of such a husband to make life delicious? why should I complain of my hard fate while so many who are much poorer than I enjoy theirs? Am I of a superior rank of being to the wife of the honest labourer? am I not partaker of one common nature with her?"

"My angel," cries Booth, "it delights me to hear you talk thus, and for a reason you  little  guess;  for  I  am  assured  that  one  who  can  so  heroically  endure adversity, will bear prosperity with equal greatness of soul; for the mind that cannot be dejected by the former, is not likely to be transported with the latter."

"If it had pleased Heaven," cried she, "to have tried me, I think, at least I hope, I should have preserved my humility.”

"Then, my dear," said he, "I will relate you a dream I had last night. You know you lately mentioned a dream of yours."

"Do so," said she; "I am attentive."

"I dreamt," said he, "this night, that we were in the most miserable situation imaginable; indeed, in the situation we were yesterday morning, or rather worse; that I was laid in a prison for debt, and that you wanted a morsel of bread to feed the mouths of your hungry children. At length (for nothing you know is quicker than the transition in dreams) Dr Harrison methought came to me, with chearfulness and joy in his countenance.  The prison-doors immediately flew open, and Dr Harrison introduced you, gayly though not richly dressed. That you gently chid me for staying so long. All on a sudden appeared a coach with four horses to it, in which was a maid-servant with our two children. We both immediately went into the coach, and, taking our leave of the doctor, set out towards your country-house; for yours I dreamt it was. I only ask you now, if this was real, and the transition almost as sudden, could you support it?"

Amelia was going to answer, when Mrs. Atkinson came into the room, and after very little previous ceremony, presented Booth with a bank-note, which he received of her, saying he would very soon repay it; a promise that a little offended Amelia, as she thought he had no chance of keeping it.

The doctor presently arrived, and the company sat down to breakfast, during which Mrs. Atkinson entertained them with the history of the doctors that had attended her husband, by whose advice Atkinson was recovered from everything but the weakness which his distemper had occasioned.

When the tea-table was removed Booth told the doctor that he had acquainted his wife with a dream he had last night. "I dreamt, doctor," said he, "that she was restored to her estate."

"Very well," said the doctor; "and if I am to be the Oneiropolus, I believe the dream will come to pass. To say the truth, I have rather a better opinion of dreams than Horace had. Old Homer says they come from Jupiter; and as to your dream, I have often had it in my waking thoughts, that some time or other that roguery (for so I was always convinced it was) would be brought to light; for the same Homer says, as you, madam (meaning Mrs. Atkinson), very well know,

[Greek verses]

[Footnote:  "If  Jupiter  doth  not  immediately  execute  his  vengeance,  he  will however execute it at last; and their transgressions shall fall heavily on their own heads, and on their wives and children."]

"I have no Greek ears, sir," said Mrs. Atkinson. "I believe I could understand it in the Delphin Homer."

"I wish," cries he, "my dear child (to Amelia), you would read a little in the Delphin Aristotle, or else in some Christian divine, to learn a doctrine which you will one day have a use for. I mean to bear the hardest of all human conflicts, and support with an even temper, and without any violent transports of mind, a sudden gust of prosperity."

"Indeed," cries Amelia, "I should almost think my husband and you, doctor, had some  very  good  news  to  tell  me,  by  your  using,  both  of  you,  the  same introduction. As far as I know myself, I think I can answer I can support any degree of prosperity, and I think I yesterday shewed I could: for I do assure you, it is not in the power of fortune to try me with such another transition from grief to joy, as I conceived from seeing my husband in prison and at liberty."

"Well,  you  are  a  good  girl,"  cries  the  doctor,  "and  after  I  have  put  on  my spectacles I will try you."

The doctor then took out a newspaper, and read as follows:

"'Yesterday one Murphy, an eminent attorney-at-law, was committed to Newgate for the forgery of a will under which an estate hath been for many years detained from the right owner.'

"Now in this paragraph there is something very remarkable, and that is--that it is true: but opus est explanatu. In the Delphin edition of this newspaper there is the following note upon the words right owner:--'The right owner of this estate is a young lady of the highest merit, whose maiden name was Harris, and who some time since was married to an idle fellow, one Lieutenant Booth. And the best historians assure us that letters from the elder sister of this lady, which manifestly prove the forgery and clear up the whole affair, are in the hands of an old Parson called Doctor Harrison.'"

"And is this really true?" cries Amelia.

"Yes, really and sincerely," cries the doctor. "The whole estate; for your mother left it you all, and is as surely yours as if you was already in possession."

"Gracious Heaven!" cries she, falling on her knees, "I thank you!" And then starting up, she ran to her husband, and, embracing him, cried, "My dear love, I wish you joy; and I ought in gratitude to wish it you; for you are the cause of mine. It is upon yours and my children's account that I principally rejoice."

Mrs. Atkinson rose from her chair, and jumped about the room for joy, repeating,

Turne, quod oplanti divum promittere nemo

Auderet, volvenda dies, en, attulit ultro.

[Footnote: "What none of all the Gods could grant thy vows,

That, Turnus, this auspicious day bestows."]

Amelia now threw herself into a chair, complained she was a little faint, and begged a glass of water. The doctor advised her to be blooded; but she refused, saying she required a vent of another kind. She then desired her children to be brought to her, whom she immediately caught in her arms, and, having profusely cried over them for several minutes, declared she was easy. After which she soon regained her usual temper and complexion.

That day they dined together, and in the afternoon they all, except the doctor, visited Captain Atkinson; he repaired to the bailiff's house to visit the sick man, whom he found very chearful, the surgeon having assured him that he was in no danger.

The doctor had a long spiritual discourse with Robinson, who assured him that he sincerely repented of his past life, that he was resolved to lead his future days in a different manner, and to make what amends he could for his sins to the society, by bringing one of the greatest rogues in it to justice. There was a circumstance which much pleased the  doctor, and made him conclude that, however Robinson had been corrupted by his old master, he had naturally a good disposition. This was, that Robinson declared he was chiefly induced to the discovery by what had happened at the pawnbroker's, and by the miseries which he there perceived he had been instrumental in bringing on Booth and his family.

The next day Booth and his wife, at the doctor's instance, dined with Colonel James and his lady, where they were received with great civility, and all matters were accommodated without Booth ever knowing a syllable of the challenge even to this day.

The doctor insisted very strongly on having Miss Harris taken into custody, and said, if she was his sister, he would deliver her to justice. He added besides, that it was impossible to skreen her and carry on the prosecution, or, indeed, recover the estate. Amelia at last begged the delay of one day only, in which time she wrote a letter to her sister, informing her of the discovery, and the danger in which she stood, and begged her earnestly to make her escape, with many assurances that she would never suffer her to know any distress. This letter she sent away express, and it had the desired effect; for Miss Harris, having received sufficient information from the attorney to the same purpose, immediately set out for Poole, and from thence to France, carrying with her all her money, most of her cloaths, and some few jewels. She had, indeed, packed up plate and jewels to the value of two thousand pound and upwards. But Booth, to whom Amelia communicated the letter, prevented her by ordering the man that went with the express (who had been a serjeant of the foot-guards recommended to him by Atkinson) to suffer the lady to go whither she pleased, but not to take anything with her except her cloaths, which he was carefully to search. These orders were obeyed punctually, and with these she was obliged to comply.

Two days after the bird was flown a warrant from the lord chief justice arrived to take her up, the messenger of which returned with the news of her flight, highly to the satisfaction of Amelia, and consequently of Booth, and, indeed, not greatly to the grief of the doctor.

About a week afterwards Booth and Amelia, with their children, and Captain Atkinson and his lady, all set forward together for Amelia's house, where they arrived amidst the acclamations of all the neighbours, and every public demonstration of joy.

They found the house ready prepared to receive them by Atkinson's friend the old serjeant, and a good dinner prepared for them by Amelia's old nurse, who was addressed with the utmost duty by her son and daughter, most affectionately caressed by Booth and his wife, and by Amelia's absolute command seated next to herself at the table. At which, perhaps, were assembled some of the best and happiest people then in the world.