Pamela or Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson - HTML preview

PLEASE NOTE: This is an HTML preview only and some elements such as links or page numbers may be incorrect.
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.

Letter 23



We had a great many neighbouring gentlemen, and their ladies, this day, at dinner; and my master made a fine entertainment for them: and Isaac, and Mr. Jonathan, and Benjamin, waited at table: And Isaac tells Mrs. Jervis, that the ladies will by and by come to see the house, and have the curiosity to see me; for, it seems, they said to my master, when the jokes flew about, Well, Mr. B----, we understand you have a servant-maid, who is the greatest beauty in the county; and we promise ourselves to see her before we go.

The wench is well enough, said he; but no such beauty as you talk of, I'll assure ye. She was my mother's waiting-maid, who, on her death-bed, engaged me to be kind to her. She is young, and every thing is pretty that is young.

Ay, ay, said one of the ladies, that's true; but if your mother had not recommended her so strongly, there is so much merit in beauty, that I make no doubt such a fine gentleman would have wanted no inducement to be kind to it.

They all laughed at my master: And he, it seems, laughed for company; but said, I don't know how it is, but I see with different eyes from other people; for I have heard much more talk of her prettiness, than I think it deserves: She is well enough, as I said: but her greatest excellence is, that she is humble, and courteous, and faithful, and makes all her fellow-servants love her: My housekeeper, in particular, doats upon her; and you know, ladies, she is a woman of discernment: And, as for Mr. Longman, and Jonathan, here, if they thought themselves young enough, I am told, they would fight for her. Is it not true, Jonathan? Troth, sir, said he, an't please your honour, I never knew her peer, and all your honour's family are of the same mind. Do you hear now? said my master.--Well, said the ladies, we will make a visit to Mrs. Jervis by and by, and hope to see this paragon.

I believe they are coming; and will tell you the rest by and by. I wish they had come, and were gone. Why can't they make their game without me?

Well, these fine ladies have been here, and are gone back again. I would have been absent, if I could, and did step into the closet: so they saw me when they came in. There were four of them, Lady Arthur at the great white house on the hill, Lady Brooks, Lady Towers, and the other, it seems, a countess, of some hard name, I forget what.

So Mrs. Jervis, says one of the ladies, how do you do? We are all come to inquire after your health. I am much obliged to your ladyships, said Mrs. Jervis: Will your ladyships please to sit down? But, said the countess, we are not only come to ask after Mrs. Jervis's health neither; but we are come to see a rarity besides. Ah, says Lady Arthur, I have not seen your Pamela these two years, and they tell me she is grown wondrous pretty in that time.

Then I wished I had not been in the closet; for when I came out, they must needs know I heard them; but I have often found, that bashful bodies owe themselves a spite, and frequently confound themselves more, by endeavouring to avoid confusion.

Why, yes, says Mrs. Jervis, Pamela is very pretty indeed; she's but in the closet there:--Pamela, pray step hither. I came out all covered with blushes, and they smiled at one another.

The countess took me by the hand: Why, indeed, she was pleased to say, report has not been too lavish, I'll assure you. Don't be ashamed, child; (and stared full in my face;) I wish I had just such a face to be ashamed of. O how like a fool I looked!

Lady Arthur said, Ay, my good Pamela, I say as her ladyship says: Don't be so confused; though, indeed, it becomes you too. I think your good lady departed made a sweet choice of such a pretty attendant. She would have been mighty proud of you, as she always was praising you, had she lived till now.

Ah! madam, said Lady Brooks, do you think that so dutiful a son as our neighbour, who always admired what his mother loved, does not pride himself, for all what he said at table, in such a pretty maiden?

She looked with such a malicious sneering countenance, I can't abide her.

Lady Towers said with a free air, (for it seems she is called a wit,) Well, Mrs. Pamela, I can't say I like you so well as these ladies do; for I should never care, if you were my servant, to have you and your master in the same house together. Then they all set up a great laugh.

I know what I could have said, if I durst. But they are ladies--and ladies may say any thing.

Says Lady Towers, Can the pretty image speak, Mrs. Jervis? I vow she has speaking eyes! O you little rogue, said she, and tapped me on the cheek, you seem born to undo, or to be undone!

God forbid, and please your ladyship, said I, it should be either!--I beg, said I, to withdraw; for the sense I have of my unworthiness renders me unfit for such a presence.

I then went away, with one of my best courtesies; and Lady Towers said, as I went out, Prettily said, I vow!--And Lady Brooks said, See that shape! I never saw such a face and shape in my life; why, she must be better descended than you have told me!

And so they run on for half an hour more in my praises, as I was told; and glad was I, when I got out of the hearing of them.

But, it seems, they went down with such a story to my master, and so full of me, that he had much ado to stand it; but as it was very little to my reputation, I am sure I could take no pride in it; and I feared it would make no better for me. This gives me another cause for wishing myself out of this house.

This is Thursday morning, and next Thursday I hope to set out; for I have finished my task, and my master is horrid cross! And I am vexed his crossness affects me so. If ever he had any kindness towards me, I believe he now hates me heartily.

Is it not strange, that love borders so much upon hate? But this wicked love is not like the true virtuous love, to be sure: that and hatred must be as far off, as light and darkness. And how must this hate have been increased, if he had met with such a base compliance, after his wicked will had been gratified.

Well, one may see by a little, what a great deal means. For if innocence cannot attract common civility, what must guilt expect, when novelty has ceased to have its charms, and changeableness had taken place of it? Thus we read in Holy Writ, that wicked Amnon, when he had ruined poor Tamar, hated her more than he ever loved her, and would have turned her out of door.

How happy am I, to be turned out of door, with that sweet companion my innocence!--O may that be always my companion! And while I presume not upon my own strength, and am willing to avoid the tempter, I hope the divine grace will assist me.

Forgive me, that I repeat in my letter part of my hourly prayer. I owe every thing, next to God's goodness, to your piety and good examples, my dear parents, my dear poor parents! I say that word with pleasure; for your poverty is my pride, as your integrity shall he my imitation.

As soon as I have dined, I will put on my new clothes. I long to have them on. I know I shall surprise Mrs. Jervis with them; for she shan't see me till I am full dressed.-- John is come back, and I'll soon send you some of what I have written.--I find he is going early in the morning; and so I'll close here, that I am

Your most dutiful DAUGHTER.

Don't lose your time in meeting me; because I am so uncertain. It is hard if, some how or other, I can't get a passage to you. But may be my master won't refuse to let John bring me. I can ride behind him, I believe, well enough; for he is very careful, and very honest; and you know John as well as I; for he loves you both. Besides, may be, Mrs. Jervis can put me in some way.