Amelia by Henry Fielding - HTML preview
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Mr. Booth Continues His Story. In This Chapter There Are Some Passages That May Serve As A Kind Of Touchstone By Which A Young Lady May Examine The Heart Of Her Lover. I Would Advise, Therefore, That Every Lover Be Obliged To Read It Over In The Presence Of His Mistress, And That She Carefully Watch His Emotions While He Is Reading
"I was under the utmost concern," cries Booth, "when I retired from my visit, and had reflected coolly on what I had said. I now saw plainly that I had made downright love to Amelia; and I feared, such was my vanity, that I had already gone too far, and been too successful. Feared! do I say? could I fear what I hoped? how shall I describe the anxiety of my mind?"
"You need give yourself no great pain," cried Miss Matthews, "to describe what I can so easily guess. To be honest with you, Mr. Booth, I do not agree with your lady's opinion that the men have a superior understanding in the matters of love. Men are often blind to the passions of women: but every woman is as quick- sighted as a hawk on these occasions; nor is there one article in the whole science which is not understood by all our sex."
"However, madam," said Mr. Booth, "I now undertook to deceive Amelia. I abstained three days from seeing her; to say the truth, I endeavoured to work myself up to a resolution of leaving her for ever: but when I could not so far subdue my passion---But why do I talk nonsense of subduing passion?--I should say, when no other passion could surmount my love, I returned to visit her; and now I attempted the strangest project which ever entered into the silly head of a lover. This was to persuade Amelia that I was really in love in another place, and had literally expressed my meaning when I asked her advice and desired her to be my confidante.
"I therefore forged a meeting to have been between me and my imaginary mistress since I had last seen Amelia, and related the particulars, as well as I could invent them, which had passed at our conversation.
"Poor Amelia presently swallowed this bait; and, as she hath told me since, absolutely believed me to be in earnest. Poor dear love! how should the sincerest of hearts have any idea of deceit? for, with all her simplicity, I assure you she is the most sensible woman in the world."
"It is highly generous and good in you," said Miss Matthews, with a sly sneer, "to impute to honesty what others would, perhaps, call credulity.”
"I protest, madam," answered he, "I do her no more than justice. A good heart will at all times betray the best head in the world.--- Well, madam, my angel was now, if possible, more confused than before. She looked so silly, you can hardly believe it."
"Yes, yes, I can," answered the lady, with a laugh, "I can believe it.--Well, well, go on."--"After some hesitation," cried he, "my Amelia said faintly to me, 'Mr. Booth, you use me very ill; you desire me to be your confidante, and conceal from me the name of your mistress.'
"Is it possible then, madam," answered I, "that you cannot guess her, when I tell you she is one of your acquaintance, and lives in this town?"
"'My acquaintance!' said she: 'La! Mr. Booth--In this town! I--I--I thought I could have guessed for once; but I have an ill talent that way--I will never attempt to guess anything again.' Indeed I do her an injury when I pretend to represent her manner. Her manner, look, voice, everything was inimitable; such sweetness, softness, innocence, modesty!--Upon my soul, if ever man could boast of his resolution, I think I might now, that I abstained from falling prostrate at her feet, and adoring her. However, I triumphed; pride, I believe, triumphed, or perhaps love got the better of love. We once more parted, and I promised, the next time I saw her, to reveal the name of my mistress.
"I now had, I thought, gained a complete victory over myself; and no small compliments did I pay to my own resolution. In short, I triumphed as cowards and niggards do when they flatter themselves with having given some supposed instance of courage or generosity; and my triumph lasted as long; that is to say, till my ascendant passion had a proper opportunity of displaying itself in its true and natural colours.
"Having hitherto succeeded so well in my own opinion, and obtained this mighty self-conquest, I now entertained a design of exerting the most romantic generosity, and of curing that unhappy passion which I perceived I had raised in Amelia.
"Among the ladies who had expressed the greatest satisfaction at my Amelia's misfortune, Miss Osborne had distinguished herself in a very eminent degree; she was, indeed, the next in beauty to my angel, nay, she had disputed the preference, and had some among her admirers who were blind enough to give it in her favour."
"Well," cries the lady, "I will allow you to call them blind; but Miss Osborne was a charming girl.”
"She certainly was handsome," answered he, "and a very considerable fortune; so I thought my Amelia would have little difficulty in believing me when I fixed on her as my mistress. And I concluded that my thus placing my affections on her known enemy would be the surest method of eradicating every tender idea with which I had been ever honoured by Amelia.
"Well, then, to Amelia I went; she received me with more than usual coldness and reserve; in which, to confess the truth, there appeared to me more of anger than indifference, and more of dejection than of either. After some short introduction, I revived the discourse of my amour, and presently mentioned Miss Osborne as the lady whose name I had concealed; adding, that the true reason why I did not mention her before was, that I apprehended there was some little distance between them, which I hoped to have the happiness of accommodating.
"Amelia answered with much gravity, 'If you know, sir, that there is any distance between us, I suppose you know the reason of that distance; and then, I think, I could not have expected to be affronted by her name. I would not have you think, Mr. Booth, that I hate Miss Osborne. No! Heaven is my witness, I despise her too much.--Indeed, when I reflect how much I loved the woman who hath treated me so cruelly, I own it gives me pain--when I lay, as I then imagined, and as all about me believed, on my deathbed, in all the agonies of pain and misery, to become the object of laughter to my dearest friend.--O, Mr. Booth, it is a cruel reflection! and could I after this have expected from you--but why not from you, to whom I am a person entirely indifferent, if such a friend could treat me so barbarously?'
"During the greatest part of this speech the tears streamed from her bright eyes. I could endure it no longer. I caught up the word indifferent, and repeated it, saying, Do you think then, madam, that Miss Emily is indifferent to me?
"'Yes, surely, I do,' answered she: 'I know I am; indeed, why should I not be indifferent to you?'
"Have my eyes," said I, "then declared nothing?"
"'O! there is no need of your eyes' answered she; 'your tongue hath declared that you have singled out of all womankind my greatest, I will say, my basest enemy. I own I once thought that character would have been no recommendation to you;-- but why did I think so? I was born to deceive myself.'
"I then fell on my knees before her; and, forcing her hand, cried out, O, my Amelia! I can bear no longer. You are the only mistress of my affections; you are the deity I adore. In this stile I ran on for above two or three minutes, what it is impossible to repeat, till a torrent of contending passions, together with the surprize, overpowered her gentle spirits, and she fainted away in my arms.
"To describe my sensation till she returned to herself is not in my power."--"You need not," cried Miss Matthews.--"Oh, happy Amelia! why had I not been blest with such a passion?"--"I am convinced, madam," continued he, "you cannot expect all the particulars of the tender scene which ensued. I was not enough in my senses to remember it all. Let it suffice to say, that that behaviour with which Amelia, while ignorant of its motive, had been so much displeased, when she became sensible of that motive, proved the strongest recommendation to her favour, and she was pleased to call it generous."
"Generous!" repeated the lady, "and so it was, almost beyond the reach of humanity. I question whether you ever had an equal."
Perhaps the critical reader may have the same doubt with Miss Matthews; and lest he should, we will here make a gap in our history, to give him an opportunity of accurately considering whether this conduct of Mr. Booth was natural or no; and consequently, whether we have, in this place, maintained or deviated from that strict adherence to universal truth which we profess above all other historians.