Amelia by Henry Fielding - HTML preview
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Containing Very Extraordinary Matters
"Miss Bath," continued Booth, "now recovered so fast, that she was abroad as soon as my wife. Our little partie quarree began to grow agreeable again; and we mixed with the company of the place more than we had done before. Mons. Bagillard now again renewed his intimacy, for the countess, his mistress, was gone to Paris; at which my wife, at first, shewed no dissatisfaction; and I imagined that, as she had a friend and companion of her own sex (for Miss Bath and she had contracted the highest fondness for each other), that she would the less miss my company. However, I was disappointed in this expectation; for she soon began to express her former uneasiness, and her impatience for the arrival of Captain James, that we might entirely quit Montpelier.
"I could not avoid conceiving some little displeasure at this humour of my wife, which I was forced to think a little unreasonable."--"A little, do you call it?" says Miss Matthews: "Good Heavens! what a husband are you!"--"How little worthy," answered he, "as you will say hereafter, of such a wife as my Amelia. One day, as we were sitting together, I heard a violent scream; upon which my wife, starting up, cried out, 'Sure that's Miss Bath's voice;' and immediately ran towards the chamber whence it proceeded. I followed her; and when we arrived, we there beheld the most shocking sight imaginable; Miss Bath lying dead on the floor, and the major all bloody kneeling by her, and roaring out for assistance. Amelia, though she was herself in little better condition than her friend, ran hastily to her, bared her neck, and attempted to loosen her stays, while I ran up and down, scarce knowing what I did, calling for water and cordials, and despatching several servants one after another for doctors and surgeons.
"Water, cordials, and all necessary implements being brought, Miss Bath was at length recovered, and placed in her chair, when the major seated himself by her. And now, the young lady being restored to life, the major, who, till then, had engaged as little of his own as of any other person's attention, became the object of all our considerations, especially his poor sister's, who had no sooner recovered sufficient strength than she began to lament her brother, crying out that he was killed; and bitterly bewailing her fate, in having revived from her swoon to behold so dreadful a spectacle. While Amelia applied herself to soothe the agonies of her friend, I began to enquire into the condition of the major, in which I was assisted by a surgeon, who now arrived. The major declared, with great chearfulness, that he did not apprehend his wound to be in the least dangerous, and therefore begged his sister to be comforted, saying he was convinced the surgeon would soon give her the same assurance; but that good man was not so liberal of assurances as the major had expected; for as soon as he had probed the wound he afforded no more than hopes, declaring that it was a very ugly wound; but added, by way of consolation, that he had cured many much worse.
"When the major was drest his sister seemed to possess his whole thoughts, and all his care was to relieve her grief. He solemnly protested that it was no more than a flesh wound, and not very deep, nor could, as he apprehended, be in the least dangerous; and as for the cold expressions of the surgeon, he very well accounted for them from a motive too obvious to be mentioned. From these declarations of her brother, and the interposition of her friends, and, above all, I believe, from that vast vent which she had given to her fright, Miss Bath seemed a little pacified: Amelia, therefore, at last prevailed; and, as terror abated, curiosity became the superior passion. I therefore now began to enquire what had occasioned that accident whence all the uproar arose.
"The major took me by the hand, and, looking very kindly at me, said, 'My dear Mr. Booth, I must begin by asking your pardon; for I have done you an injury for which nothing but the height of friendship in me can be an excuse; and therefore nothing but the height of friendship in you can forgive.' This preamble, madam, you will easily believe, greatly alarmed all the company, but especially me. I answered, Dear major, I forgive you, let it be what it will; but what is it possible you can have done to injure me? 'That,' replied he, 'which I am convinced a man of your honour and dignity of nature, by G--, must conclude to be one of the highest injuries. I have taken out of your own hands the doing yourself justice. I am afraid I have killed the man who hath injured your honour. I mean that villain Bagillard--but I cannot proceed; for you, madam,' said he to my wife, 'are concerned, and I know what is due to the dignity of your sex.' Amelia, I observed, turned pale at these words, but eagerly begged him to proceed. 'Nay, madam,' answered he, 'if I am commanded by a lady, it is a part of my dignity to obey.' He then proceeded to tell us that Bagillard had rallied him upon a supposition that he was pursuing my wife with a view of gallantry; telling him that he could never succeed; giving hints that, if it had been possible, he should have succeeded himself; and ending with calling my poor Amelia an accomplished prude; upon which the major gave Bagillard a box in the ear, and both immediately drew their swords.
"The major had scarce ended his speech when a servant came into the room, and told me there was a fryar below who desired to speak with me in great haste. I shook the major by the hand, and told him I not only forgave him, but was extremely obliged to his friendship; and then, going to the fryar, I found that he was Bagillard's confessor, from whom he came to me, with an earnest desire of seeing me, that he might ask my pardon and receive my forgiveness before he died for the injury he had intended me. My wife at first opposed my going, from some sudden fears on my account; but when she was convinced they were groundless she consented.
"I found Bagillard in his bed; for the major's sword had passed up to the very hilt through his body. After having very earnestly asked my pardon, he made me many compliments on the possession of a woman who, joined to the most exquisite beauty, was mistress of the most impregnable virtue; as a proof of which he acknowledged the vehemence as well as ill success of his attempts: and, to make Amelia's virtue appear the brighter, his vanity was so predominant he could not forbear running over the names of several women of fashion who had yielded to his passion, which, he said, had never raged so violently for any other as for my poor Amelia; and that this violence, which he had found wholly unconquerable, he hoped would procure his pardon at my hands. It is unnecessary to mention what I said on the occasion. I assured him of my entire forgiveness; and so we parted. To say the truth, I afterwards thought myself almost obliged to him for a meeting with Amelia the most luxuriously delicate that can be imagined.
"I now ran to my wife, whom I embraced with raptures of love and tenderness. When the first torrent of these was a little abated, 'Confess to me, my dear,' said she, 'could your goodness prevent you from thinking me a little unreasonable in expressing so much uneasiness at the loss of your company, while I ought to have rejoiced in the thoughts of your being so well entertained; I know you must; and then consider what I must have felt, while I knew I was daily lessening myself in your esteem, and forced into a conduct which I was sensible must appear to you, who was ignorant of my motive, to be mean, vulgar, and selfish. And yet, what other course had I to take with a man whom no denial, no scorn could abash? But, if this was a cruel task, how much more wretched still was the constraint I was obliged to wear in his presence before you, to shew outward civility to the man whom my soul detested, for fear of any fatal consequence from your suspicion; and this too while I was afraid he would construe it to be an encouragement? Do you not pity your poor Amelia when you reflect on her situation?' Pity! cried I; my love! is pity an adequate expression for esteem, for adoration? But how, my love, could he carry this on so secretly?--by letters? 'O no, he offered me many; but I never would receive but one, and that I returned him. Good G--! I would not have such a letter in my possession for the universe; I thought my eyes contaminated with reading it.'" "O brave!" cried Miss Matthews; "heroic, I protest.
"'Had I a wish that did not bear
The stamp and image of my dear,
I'd pierce my heart through ev'ry vein,
And die to let it out again.'"
"And you can really," cried he, "laugh at so much tenderness?" "I laugh at tenderness! O, Mr. Booth!" answered she, "thou knowest but little of Calista." "I thought formerly," cried he, "I knew a great deal, and thought you, of all women in the world, to have the greatest---of all women!" "Take care, Mr. Booth," said she. "By heaven! if you thought so, you thought truly. But what is the object of my tenderness--such an object as--" "Well, madam," says he, "I hope you will find one." "I thank you for that hope, however," says she, "cold as it is. But pray go on with your story;" which command he immediately obeyed.