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port to the candle, he looked through the ruby-coloured liquor with one eye, while the other was closed.
“ I met Mr. Sackville in the dingle," proceeded Sophia, resolved at once to speak out.
“You did !” said the Squire, setting down his glass, and looking in high displeasure. “By appointment, i presume?” “ No, Sir,” returned Sophia, “ by accident.” "A
very common accident, I reckon?" said the father. “No, Sir," answered his daughter ; “I never met Mr. Sackville in the park before."
“Where, then, were you used to meet him?” asked the Squire.
“I never saw him but twice,” replied Sophia," till he came here, by invitation, to dinner.”
Miss Clifford drew up her mouth, and looked as if she would have said, “That's false."
• Well,” said Mr. Mortimer, breathing short, “and what passed between you and the young man ?”
“We first spoke of the little girl, Sir, of whom you allowed me to take charge; and Mr. Sackville undertook to provide for her during my absence."
“ Indeed !” said Mr. Mortimer, holding in his indignation with no small difficulty; "and so, you and Mr. Sackville are in partnership in this concern! A pretty prudent arrangement, truly !"
Pathetic and tender, at least,” said Miss Clifford ; quite romantic!”
Sophia's heart was beating violently; but she was strengthened by the hope, nay, the assurance, that she was doing right: and thus she was enabled to give a straight-forward and simple statement of her first accidental meeting with Mr. Sackville, and of the engagements into which they were then drawn.
The Squire puffed, and swelled, and swallowed a bumper. And Miss Clifford, laugbing outright, said, “Pretty enough! The opening scene of a romance ! O for the pen of a Richardson, to work up this beautiful commencement into some sentimental denouement !”
“And so,” said the Squire, “ you first talked of your mutual protegee!—and then, what else? what was the next subject?"
“Mr. Sackville," replied Sophia, " said, that he re
gretted--that he was sorry-that-that I was going to Bath." “ Did he so?" said the Squire.
" And did he not ask you to stay behind, and assist him in taking care of the beggar's brat?”
“Not exactly, Sir,” replied Sophia, trembling; “but something to that purpose.".
Every eye was now opened wide, and fixed on Sophia. “And what might be your answer to all this?”
“I referred him to you, Sir; because I am resolved never to accept any offer without your consent."
“And you are now come to ask it, I presume?” said the Squire.
“No, Sir,” replied Sophia; “ I have nothing to ask of
you but a continuance of your affection, of which I should have felt myself unworthy had I attempted to conceal, either from you or my mother, what had passed this morning."
Mr. Mortimer looked at his daughter for a moment, as if he knew not whether to be pleased or displeased with her straight-forward manner. At length, displeasure prevailing, he broke forth with a voice as loud as if he had been calling a pack of hounds from a false scent, and wished Mr. Sackville every misfortune which a vindictive or passionate man commonly desires to imprecate upon the object of his resentful feelings; and, at the same time, rising from his chair, he turned his back to the fire, kicking his dogs, and holding his sides with his hands.
“ And so," said he, recovering from the first burst of passion, “ you did not tell the young man that he was a presumptuous fool, but made a courtesy, and thanked him for his good opinion of you. Was it not so ?”
Sophia made no answer : on which, he turned shortly round to her, raised his fist as if he would have struck her, and bending his face down to hers, “ Tell me, I say; do you like the man? Say you do, and I renounce you. Why don't you speak?'
"What, Šir,” said Sophia, gently, “and be renounced by my father! Surely, no man living ought to be so dear to me as my father.”
“ You are an artful hussy,” said the Squire, with abating displeasure. “But remember, child, that you
don't deceive me. I hate deceit : and it would break my heart to be deceived by my child.”
“No, my father, no," said Sophia, bursting into tears, and throwing herself on his neck, “no, I will never deceive you (the Almighty helping me) nor any one here present. I own that I respect and-and-esteem Mr. Sackville; but I should hate myself, if I could be guilty of any thing like art on his, or, indeed, on any account; and this was my motive for entering upon this subject in the present company."
The Squire returned the embrace of his daughter with even more than his usual warmth, exclaiming, “ You are a good girl, Sophia ; and I am proud of my girl; and I do believe every word you utter : and that's more than ever I would say of any other woman under the sun.”
“ Under the sun!' said Miss Clifford, laughing. “ That would be saying a great deal, had you been speaking at noonday.
“At noonday !” said the Squire, letting go his hold of Sophia, and turning to the other, “ what do you mean
Why, is not the sun above us all at noonday, papa?” said the young lady, in an affectedly childish accent; “ and is it not below us all at midnight? And so, as it happens, there are none of your dear connexions under the sun precisely at this moment."
“Why, there now," replied the Squire ; "what is this but one of your feminine fetches and roundabouts? I am sure that my good girl here would never have had such a crooked thought as that you have just uttered. But,” added he, “as I stand here, whether under or over the sun I know not, nor care ; and as my name is Cockspur Mortimer, she shall not have the parson : and here I am, ready to stand to it. So go to your room, girl, wipe your eyes and smooth your brow, and let me never again hear the name of Sackville as long as I live and breathe.”
So saying, he popped himself down in his chair, bade Sophia ring for a pipe, and looked, at the same time, towards the door, and then at his wife, as much as to say,
“ You had best now be going to your own quarters." It was with a heart comparatively easy, that Sophia returned to her room. She felt that she had been enabled to do right; and she was now further enabled to commit the entire affair respecting Mr. Sackville into the hands of God, being well assured that all would be ordered for the best. And here was an exercise of faith; an exercise of a kind, to which many, if not all persons are called, at some stage of their youthful progress. Happy, then, thrice happy, are those whose religious feelings are such as Sophia Mortimer's ;—who are enabled to bring their faith to bear on matters of this kind;
-and who, instead of repining, either at the necessary or unnecessary restraints to which they may be subject in their parents' houses, are led to be habitually thankful for the blessings and comforts they actually enjoy, and are supported in their endeavours to throw their cares upon their God.
In the mean time, Mrs. Mortimer and her daughters being assembled in a room into which Sophia had no access, were engaged in conversing on what had just taken place, and in discussing the character of the young lady.
Miss Juliana and Miss Harriet seemed disposed to think that she wanted sense ; but Mrs. Mortimer was rather inclined to the opinion that it was not sense which she wanted so much as experience and knowledge of the world. “She certainly is attached to Mr. Sackville,” said she, “and he to her; and they both wish the match. I therefore cannot conceive what could have been her motive for breaking the matter so abruptly to her father, and arming him, as it were, against herself: for she could not have expected from him any other answer to the proposal, than that which he gave her."
While the rest were speaking, Miss Clifford looked unutterable things; and when she had heard every opinion, she burst out to the following effect.—“Indeed,” said she, “I wonder at you all; yet not so much at my sisters, as at you, Mrs. Mortimer. If Sophia Mortimer is a fool, I am one; and if she is a simple, undesigning character, so am I. No; depend upon it, she is as deep as the grave, and does nothing without design. There are no characters so profoundly artful as those who conceal their art under the semblance of truth. Depend upon it, Sophy knows the length and breadth of her father's finger, better than either you or I do: and, not
withstanding his storming and raving as he did, I do not think she could have taken a wiser step towards the promotion of her end, than what she did this evening. The Squire loves an open, straight-forward manner; and Sophia knows that he does, and she acted accordingly. She was well prepared for his bluster, and armed against it. And I think I never saw a prettier piece of acting in my life, than the scene between the roaring country Squire-the good-hearted John Bull--and the pretty, modest, blushing daughter." “ Kate," said Mrs. Mortimer, you are a naughty
"Set a thief to catch a thief!'- is there not some such proverb? But I will not have you take such liberties with my husband, your honoured father. I won't have him called a roaring country Squire."
“Well, then, I won't repeat the words again, my dear mother," replied the daughter.–And so saying, the ladies adjourned to the drawing-room, and called for coffee.
I have said nothing of Mr. Mortimer's sons, and my readers may suppose that they therefore occupied but little of their father's attention, but the truth is, that they were at school near London, and were not to come home during the Christmas holidays, because their parents had engaged that they should spend them with Mrs. Mortimer's sister, a lady who lived near Windsor. Sophia was therefore obliged to postpone the pleasure she had promised herself of becoming acquainted with her brothers.
From the eventful day of which I have given so full a description, until that fixed for the journey to Bath, was only one short fortnight, during which every thing passed smoothly between Mr. Mortimer and his daughter. Nevertheless, Sophia felt herself still uneasy, on account of her little Annette; particularly as the child still continued to weep bitterly whenever the journey was spoken of.--"Oh, Ma'am, dear Ma'am," the child would often say, “my mother is dead, and you are going away. What will become of little Annette ?”
“I hope that I shall come again,"Sophia would answer: " and then we shall be so happy.” And, on these occasions, she would try to direct the thoughts of the child to that great Being who is the Father of the fatherless.