Page images
PDF
EPUB

The Squire at first heard her with some degree of patience; but when he found that she was not to be brought over to his purpose by any arguments which he could urge, he broke out into such a storm of indignation, that Sophia was almost ready to faint with terror. Still, however, she adhered to her first declaration, and maintained her resolution never to accept of Sir James.

What,” said the Squire, " because you mean to have the parson? Now hear my words:” and, walking up close to her, he held up his clenched hand before her face—“You sha'n't have him,—that you sha'n't. So, if I ever hear of your thinking about him again, I'll turn you out to live in my dog-kennel.”

“I promised you, Sir," replied Sophia, * when in Yorkshire, that I never would marry him but with your approbation; neither will I carry on any intercourse with him unknown to you. I will also endeavour to think as little of him as possible, and I never willingly mention his name.

But while I feel a distinguishing preference for him, I must persist in refusing every other man who may honour me with his notice.”

“ Distinguishing preference!” repeated the Squire; “ what fool's language is that? Can't you speak out at once? Say that you like the man, and you

won't

marry any other man, and then I shall understand you, and know how to deal with you." And he raised his hand again, with such a threatening aspect, that Sophia retreated to the door, trembling from head to foot.

On seeing this, the Squire burst forth again; and so loud were his menaces, that Mrs. Mortimer, who had been listening at the key-hole, thought proper now to come in.

And as she opened the door, Sophia glided by her, and escaped to her own room.

Sophia never knew what then passed between her father and mother, for she was not called down till evening, when she found her father in a state of higl. yet sullen displeasure, and the rest of the family looking more or less uneasy. Mrs. Mortimer, however, was the only one who accosted her with any kindness when she came into the room; but as this lady seldom betrayed her real feelings, Sophia was left in a state of uncertainty respecting her sentiments on the late transactions.

From that time, Sir James was never more mentioned

[ocr errors]

to Sophia, and his visits were discontinued, though he was known to be still in Bath, and was often seen by the Miss Cliffords.

Sophia had hoped that her father's sullen humour towards herself would have cleared up after a few days: but this was by no means the case. The Squire continued to retain his displeasure against her, and often allowed his anger to break out in a very coarse and unseemly manner; insomuch, that the young lady herself began, after a while, to feel offended, and to yield to dissatisfaction in her turn; forgetting that unreasonableness in a parent is no excuse for want of a cheerful acquiescence on the part of a daughter.

About this time, to add to Sophia's discomfort, Mrs. Cicely was taken ill; and, as Mr. Mortimer's groom was going back into Yorkshire, it was deemed advisable that she should return with him, Mr. Mortimer having taken it into his head that she encouraged Sophia in her attachment to Mr. Sackville. Mrs. Cicely was therefore sent to Mortimer-Hall, and another servant was provided for the disconsolate Sophia. Mr. Mortimer, also, either from irritation of mind, or from being deprived of his usual exercise, became unwell; and as Mrs. Mortimer had her particular reasons for not wishing to go far from Bath, nothing would serve him but he would go to the Hot-Wells; with which arrangement she complied, leaving her daughters with a certain old dowager lady of quality, her acquaintance, in the house in Bath, which had been taken for six months, four only of which were expired.

It was with a sorrowful heart that Sophia left Bath, to accompany

her parents to the Hot-Wells; for she looked forward to nothing but melancholy in the society of her incensed father.

Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer had taken their lodgings on St. Vincent's Parade, in a situation which commanded a view of the river and the beautiful rocks called St. Vincent's Rocks, near the Well-House and small crescent adjoining it. The scene was lovely; but it wanted both the rural simplicity of the environs of Mortimer-Hall, and the magnificent gaiety of the more fashionable parts of the City of Bath. There had now subsisted a coldness between Sophia

VOL. IV. N

and her father for several weeks ; in consequence of which, she avoided his presence as much as possible, seldom seeing him but at meals, and habitually spending the rest of her sad hours alone, not even having her old and faithful servant with whom to converse.

Spring was now advancing apace. The flowers were budding, the hedges becoming green, and many young lambs were sporting on the heights. Such sights and sounds were but too well calculated to recal to the mind of Sophia, as she walked solitarily under the rocks, or climbed the steeps which led to the Downs, the remembrance of her happy early days: and though, in these walks, she met many persons, yet all were equally unknown to ber; and she often experienced that peculiarly sad sensation, of feeling herself alone in the midst of a crowd.

At this time, every thing around poor Sophia apparently conspired to prepare her mind for the indulgence of those dissatisfied and melancholy feelings, which such persons as deal in works of fancy commonly dignify by the name of love,-a sentiment, which they delight to trace through all its windings and modifications, and to describe as irresistible. These feelings, in fact, did for a short time powerfully influence the mind of Sophia on her first arrival at the Hot-Wells; when looking round on the beautiful objects of nature, with which that place abounds, she remembered her native woods and her little Annette, her thoughts, at the same time, dwelling much on one whom it was more dangerous to think of than ever, because she had solemnly bound herself never to form any connexion with him without the approbation of her father, and there was little room for the hope that this approbation would ever be given. But after awhile, although she had no human guide at hand, that Holy and Blessed Spirit, whose secret influence is equally above above all human wisdom and control, made her sensible that this state of mind was not such as that religion which requires the devotion of the whole heart of God could by any means justify. She was, therefore, once again induced to make a strong effort to overcome her feelings; she applied herself once more to the little book of directions left her by Mrs. Fortescue, and was particularly struck by this expression — "What is commonly called

66

love, is a selfish feeling, and frequently shuts up the heart of the person under its influence from every object but the one by which it is particularly excited: therefore, when love of this kind seizes the mind, it generally leads to the neglect of our duties, and perhaps, under superior motives, it could not better be contended with than by an immediate, consistent, and persevering attention to these duties, which should be persisted in till love has lost its power, and the heart is restored to peace.”

“But what duties have I here,” said Sophia, “ in the pursuit of which I might divert these sad thoughts? Where is my little Annette ? where are my poor people ? where is my harpsichord ? or my little school?” Here she burst into tears; but, quickly checking these rebellious thoughts, she, on again considering her situation, said to herself, I have a Saviour whom I may seek, and to whom I may unite myself; a heavenly Father, whom, through my Saviour, I may dare to love; and a promised assistant and comforter in the Holy Spirit, to whom I may freely open my heart. And by these shall I not, on earnestly praying, be led to see my duty, and to overcome these morbid feelings, by which I am rendered at once miserable and useless ?”

From that day, Sophia strove earnestly to check these dangerous feelings ; not allowing herself to indulge in the use of any kind of book or employment which could either strengthen or encourage them.

She committed to memory many hymns and texts of Scripture, besides daily reading with care such portions of the Sacred Volume as suited her present situation. She was earnest in prayer, and employed the remainder of her leisure in working for the poor, and other innocent occupations. By degrees her mind recovered its strength, and she became sensible that its late state had been far from right. She also now saw what she wondered that she had not sovner discovered that her silent acquiescence in her father's coldness had by no means proceeded, as she had supposed, from a humble state of mind, but, on the contrary, from pride and sullenness. Prompted by this conviction, she now endeavoured, without loss of time, to alter her conduct; to seek the society of her father and mother, and to

pay little attention in her power. Her advances were not iil

them every

66

received by her mother, who was at this time particularly pleased with her for having refused the baronet, and Sophia now found much assistance from her in restoring her father's good-humour.

She had still much to bear from the coarseness and irritability of her father ; notwithstanding which, she gained upon him so much, that, at length, he began to joke with her, and that, sometimes, before visitors, upon her rejection of Sir James, and her contempt of titles and fortune: and he once or twice even went so far as to wish Mr. Sackville had but a little more of the good things of this world, for his daughter's sake.

My dear father,” Sophia would sometimes answer on these occasions, “I desire to have grace to think of none of these persons; but to be kept in that state of mind in which I may be ready at all times to acquiesce in any thing that Providence may have appointed for me.”

A loud laugh, or some coarse expression, was the general reply to a remark of this kind, from Mr. Mortimer; and Mrs. Mortimer usually expressed her doubt of the sincerity of young ladies when they made professions of this kind, with a gentle hint that she thought it might be quite as well if her dear Sophia were not so anxious to conceal from her friends her real sentiments.

Notwithstanding Sophia's conviction that she did not possess the entire confidence of her parents, she still felt that, during the latter part of her residence at the HotWells, she had succeeded in making herself agreeable to them; and, sensible that she was thus in the

way

of duty, she became daily more cheerful.

While things were going on with Sophia in the manner which I have described, the Miss Cliffords remained at Bath, and were managing their affairs quite as successfully as they could have wished. Sir James had, indeed, taken flight ; but Miss Juliana was addressed by a gouty old lord, and had every prospect of having the honour of being his third wife; and Miss Harriet was in the high-road of becoming the lady of a certain Nawaub or old Civilian from the East Indies, who was reported to have more rupees than wit. These were circumstances which greatly elevated the spirits of Mrs. Mortimer, and made her, therefore, vastly better company than she would otherwise have been.

« EelmineJätka »