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And now the month of March was gone, and April was come in, with her wreaths of hawthorn, her violets, her primroses, and her mildest zephyrs. Sophia, as I before remarked, had been seeking, for some time, entirely to resign her own will to that of her heavenly Father, and had, in consequence, been blessed with a considerable degree of peace, when certain circumstances, which I shall basten to relate, successively took place.
It is at this time, I imagine, scarcely necessary to tell my reader, that, if Sophia had found it difficult to avoid thinking of Mr. Sackville, this good young man had also the same difficulty to encounter with regard to her. That he respected and loved her more than any other young lady he had ever known, was very certain ; but whether it was right for him to indulge this affection he knew not, as he had every reason to believe that his addresses would not be approved by her father. He, too, had, therefore, endeavoured to put the affair into the hands of Providence, with an entire resignation of his
The winter, however, passed with him in, at least, an uneasy manner : for, although he was at home, and had many consolations, and many interesting duties ; yet he was more than once troubled by reports respecting Sophia, and was almost afraid that Sir James might in the end carry away from him that prize which he valued more than all that the world could give him besides. In the month of April, however, a sudden and unexpected change was made in his prospects by the death of a distant relation, who bequeathed to him a property in the funds, fully worth three hundred a year, with various articles of household furniture, plate and linen.
Mr. Sackville, although the next heir to this person, had never built upon receiving any thing from him, as he was a humorist, and it was, therefore, supposed would have found some other objects to whom to bequeath his property. The young gentleman was, consequently, the more surprised when made acquainted with this increase of his fortune. And now, finding himself in possession of at least seven hundred a year, over and above his pretty parsonage and glebe, he resolved to take courage, and, without loss of time, to make known his wishes respecting Sophia to her father. With this view, therefore, he put on his best coat, and took his seat in a coach which was to convey him to the Hot-Wells.
It may be supposed that he found the journey long, and his progress slow, towards the haven of his wishes : he, at length, however, arrived at Bristol ; but it being near midnight when he got there, he was obliged to bear his suspense till the morning. In situations of this kind, a mind chastened by habitual piety will be more than any other under the influence of self-control : nevertheless, there are occasions in which the heart, though lifted up in constant prayer, is unable to express itself in words ; and this was one of those seasons with Mr. Sackville. During his walk from Bristol to the Wells, he heard and saw nothing but the servant of the inn, whom he had engaged to guide him along the intricate labyrinths of new and old buildings through which he must needs approach the precincts of the Hot-Wells in the shortest way.
By this time, Sophia had entirely won back the good graces of her father, and she was pouring out his coffee, and sweetening it to his taste, in the breakfast-room, at the moment when the Yorkshire footman came into the room, and, with a countenance full of satisfaction, announced the name of Sackville.
“ Sackville!” repeated the Squire, with one of his usual rough expressions.
Yes, Sir,” said the servant, “ Mr. Sackville from Fairfield. It is Mr. Sackville, to be sure.'
All that was in Sophia's hand fell from it at that moment; and it was well that it was not her father's dish of coffee, instead of a silver spoon full of soft sugar.
In the mean time, Mr. Sackville was introduced, and kindly received by Mrs. Mortimer; while the Squire, though he begged him to sit down and take some breakfast, had not quite made up his mind what sort of humour he meant to be in for the next twenty-four hours.
Whether Mr. Sackville spoke to Sophia, or whether she ma
any answer, no one present could have ascertained: but certain it was, that, unless Mrs. Mortimer had exerted herself, nothing could have been more embarrassing than the scene which, on this occasion, was witnessed at the breakfast-table; and if Sophia did not burn her mouth with a scalding dish of tea, it was be
cause she swallowed down the liquor so hastily, that her lips escaped while her throat was almost on fire.
At length, this troublesome breakfasting was over, and Mr. Sackville requested a private audience with Mr. Mortimer, which was afforded him by Mrs. Mortimer taking her daughter out of the room.
I do not mean to enter into the particulars of the conversation between these two gentlemen. Suffice it to say, that Mr. Mortimer's mind for a short time hung in doubt between the pleasure of making his daughter happy, and the chance of seeing her a titled lady. At length, the recollection of Sophia's late sweet and amiable deportment obtained a triumph over his ambition, and he permitted Mr. Sackville to endeavour to obtain his daughter's approbation.
• But I will tell you what, young man,” added he, in his boisterous way; " I should be heartily glad if I thought there was no chance of your succeeding.
Those persons who have read the former part of this story will, of course, have no expectation that Mr. Sackville would meet with a repulse from Sophia: on the contrary, he met with all the encouragement which the most perfect modesty would admit; and, after a few days' residence at the Hot-Wells, he returned, to prepare his humble dwelling for his lovely bride.
It had been suspected by the inhabitants of Fairfield and its neighbourhood, for what purpose his journey to the Hot-Wells was undertaken; and when he returned home with a smiling countenance, and began to add some simple decorations to his house and garden, what had before been a mere matter of conjecture now became a certainty, and a cause of great rejoicings throughout the parish.
Mr. Mortimer had presented Mr. Sackville with two hundred pounds, desiring him to add two convenient rooms to his house; and this improvement was commenced with all possible expedition, as Sophia's father declared that he would not part with his daughter till they were finished.
In a few months, this work was accomplished, at least, as far as was possible till the walls were sufficiently dry to admit of interior ornaments; and every thing within and without being set in order, Mr. Sackville prepared himself for a journey into the south, in order to bring back his beloved Sophia.
On the day of his departure, having previously given all requisite orders to his man-servant and housekeeper, who had hitherto performed a variety of offices, but who now was to be relieved by one assistant, he turned to the little Annette, when, taking her in his arms and kissing her, he said, “And now, my beloved Annette, I am going away for a little time; but I hope to come back very soon, and bring you a mother, from whom I hope you never may be parted while you stand in need of a mother's care.
The child clasped her arms round his neck, and, pressing her damask cheek to his, exclaimed, “ No, no, Sir, no, no: I do not want a mother; but I want my own dear, dear Miss Mortimer."
• Sweet child !” he replied, “ I hope and trust your wish may be granted: and I will write to you the day before I come home; and you shall put on your best frock, and be ready to run to meet us, when we get out of our carriage.”
Annette smiled, but wept again when Mr. Sackville tore himself from her arms.
Mr. Mortimer's family had left their houses in Bath and at the Hot-Wells, and were at a watering-place on the Devonshire coast. Mr. Sackville had therefore a long journey: but his impatience was rewarded in the end by a sight of his beloved and smiling Sophia. He found her in the midst of the gayest society, still blessed with her late simple and holy state of mind.
I shall not give an account of her marriage, which, by her own desire, was performed as quietly as possible, but shall describe to my readers what I think may perhaps be more interesting to them, namely, the arrival of this happy young couple at their own home.
It was a fine evening in the month of August, when Sophia first again discerned the high grounds and woods in the neighbourhood of Mortimer-Hall. The look which at this moment she gave to Mr. Sackville conveyed more pleasure to his pious and simple heart than is experienced by a vicious mind through the longest and most successful life. “There,” said Sophia, "are the beloved woods; and you say, my dear Edward, that they are within a very pleasant distance from your house?”
“Not my house, my beloved Sophia," he said, “but yours. Henceforward, all that I have is
yours.” Sophia looked down, and her long dark eye-lashes concealed the tears which suffused her gentle eyes; but was a sweet smile on her lovely lips.
"My little Annette !” she said, “my sweet little Annette ! And is she grown? Does her pretty flaxen hair curl as it used to do?”
“ It was a happy day, my lovely Sophia, when we first saw Annette," replied Mr. Sackville; "and, though it should please God to bless us with many children, we shall still, I trust, consider our little Annette as our eldest and not least beloved."
The tears gushed unrestrained from the eyes of the grateful Sophia, as she heard these words,--tears of joy and ineffable thankfulness to the almighty Bestower of all good, for his infinite mercy in granting her a partner for life, whose piety and charity were such as are but rarely to be met with even in this Christian country.
And now the carriage approached the outskirts of the park, while every moment some old well-known object presented itself to the delighted recollection of Sophia.
They now drew near to the lodge; and through the iron gates Sophia had a momentary glimpse of the bridge and gravel road leading to the Hall, terminated by the house itself, half concealed by trees, yet disclosing the windows of the oak parlour to full view. Sophia saw, too, the spot where she had beheld the little Annette for the last time, in the hand of her now happy and beloved husband.
Scarcely had they passed the lodge, when they heard the bells of several churches sounding from different quarters. The cheeks of Sophia flushed when she understood the cause of this rejoicing; and, turning to Mr. Sackville, she said, “O what a call is this upon us so to act that these poor people may have reason to rejoice indeed that we are come among them !”
And now they had proceeded a long way in a line with the park-paling, and were come to that place at the upper side of the park where the road took a direction