Amelia by Henry Fielding - HTML preview

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The Arrival Of Booth At Gibraltar, With What There Befel Him.

"The adventures," continued Booth, "which I happened to me from this day till my arrival at Gibraltar are not worth recounting to you. After a voyage the remainder of  which  was  tolerably  prosperous,  we  arrived  in  that  garrison,  the  natural strength of which is so well known to the whole world.

"About a week after my arrival it was my fortune to be ordered on a sally party, in which my left leg was broke with a musket-ball; and I should most certainly have either perished miserably, or must have owed my preservation to some of the enemy, had not my faithful servant carried me off on his shoulders, and afterwards, with the assistance of one of his comrades, brought me back into the garrison.

"The agony of my wound was so great, that it threw me into a fever, from whence my surgeon apprehended much danger. I now began again to feel for my Amelia, and for myself on her account; and the disorder of my mind, occasioned by such melancholy contemplations, very highly aggravated the distemper of my body; insomuch that it would probably have proved fatal, had it not been for the friendship of one Captain James, an officer of our regiment, and an old acquaintance, who is undoubtedly one of the pleasantest companions and one of the best- natured men in the world. This worthy man, who had a head and a heart perfectly adequate to every office of friendship, stayed with me almost day and night during my illness; and by strengthening my hopes, raising my spirits, and cheering my thoughts, preserved me from destruction.

"The behaviour of this man alone is a sufficient proof of the truth of my doctrine, that all men act entirely from their passions; for Bob James can never be supposed to act from any motives of virtue or religion, since he constantly laughs at both; and yet his conduct towards me alone demonstrates a degree of goodness which, perhaps, few of the votaries of either virtue or religion can equal." "You need not take much pains," answered Miss Matthews, with a smile, "to convince me of your doctrine. I have been always an advocate for the same. I look upon the two words you mention to serve only as cloaks, under which hypocrisy may be the better enabled to cheat the world. I have been of that opinion ever since I read that charming fellow Mandevil."

"Pardon me, madam," answered Booth; "I hope you do not agree with Mandevil neither, who hath represented human nature in a picture of the highest deformity. He hath left out of his system the best passion which the mind can possess, and attempts to derive the effects or energies of that passion from the base impulses of pride or fear. Whereas it is as certain that love exists in the mind of man as that its opposite hatred doth; and the same reasons will equally prove the existence of the one as the existence of the other."

"I don't know, indeed," replied the lady, "I never thought much about the matter. This I know, that when I read Mandevil I thought all he said was true; and I have been often told that he proves religion and virtue to be only mere names. However, if he denies there is any such thing as love, that is most certainly wrong.--I am afraid I can give him the lye myself.”

"I will join with you, madam, in that," answered Booth, "at any time."

"Will you join with me?" answered she, looking eagerly at him--"O, Mr. Booth! I know not what I was going to say--What--Where did you leave off?--I would not interrupt you--but I am impatient to know something."

"What, madam?" cries Booth; "if I can give you any satisfaction--"

"No, no," said she, "I must hear all; I would not for the world break the thread of your story. Besides, I am afraid to ask--Pray, pray, sir, go on."

"Well, madam," cries Booth, "I think I was mentioning the extraordinary acts of friendship done me by Captain James; nor can I help taking notice of the almost unparalleled fidelity of poor Atkinson (for that was my man's name), who was not only constant in the assiduity of his attendance, but during the time of my danger demonstrated a concern for me which I can hardly account for, as my prevailing on his captain to make him a sergeant was the first favour he ever received at my hands, and this did not happen till I was almost perfectly recovered of my broken leg. Poor fellow! I shall never forget the extravagant joy his halbert gave him; I remember it the more because it was one of the happiest days of my own life; for it was upon this day that I received a letter from my dear Amelia, after a long silence, acquainting me that she was out of all danger from her lying-in.

"I was now once more able to perform my duty; when (so unkind was the fortune of war), the second time I mounted the guard, I received a violent contusion from the bursting of a bomb. I was felled to the ground, where I lay breathless by the blow, till honest Atkinson came to my assistance, and conveyed me to my room, where a surgeon immediately attended me.

"The injury I had now received was much more dangerous in my surgeon's opinion than the former; it caused me to spit blood, and was attended with a fever, and other bad symptoms; so that very fatal consequences were apprehended.

"In this situation, the image of my Amelia haunted me day and night; and the apprehensions of never seeing her more were so intolerable, that I had thoughts of resigning my commission, and returning home, weak as I was, that I might have, at least, the satisfaction of dying in the arms of my love. Captain James, however, persisted in dissuading me from any such resolution. He told me my honour was too much concerned, attempted to raise my hopes of recovery to the utmost of his power; but chiefly he prevailed on me by suggesting that, if the worst which I apprehended should happen, it was much better for Amelia that she should be absent than present in so melancholy an hour. 'I know' cried he,

'the extreme joy which must arise in you from meeting again with Amelia, and the comfort of expiring in her arms; but consider what she herself must endure upon the dreadful occasion, and you would not wish to purchase any happiness at the price of so much pain to her.' This argument at length prevailed on me; and it was  after  many  long  debates  resolved, that  she  should  not  even  know  my present condition, till my doom either for life or death was absolutely fixed.”

"Oh! Heavens! how great! how generous!" cried Miss Matthews. "Booth, thou art a noble fellow; and I scarce think there is a woman upon earth worthy so exalted a passion."

Booth made a modest answer to the compliment which Miss Matthews had paid him. This drew more civilities from the lady, and these again more acknowledgments; all which we shall pass by, and proceed with our history.