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tell you what, too, I have heard other young men say the same."
This conversation went a great way towards soothing the mind of Mr. Mortimer, who did not part from the baronet till he had engaged him to dinner; an invitation which the other was glad to accept, being pretty well assured that he should not meet Sophia elsewhere than at her father's house.
Sophia, in the mean time, had returned to her own room, where she spent the greater part of the morning in reflecting on what had passed; and though she felt satisfied that the thing that she had done was in itself right, she still deplored the mode in which she had done it, charging herself with abruptness, want of respect in manner, and a variety of other failures, by which she felt herself condemned.
Thus must every sincere Christian find reason more or less to lament a large mixture of depravity blended with even his best actions, and be ready, in his most triumphant moments, to complain, “When I would do good, evil is present with me.”
When the hour of dinner arrived, Sophia went trembling into the presence of her father. What then must have been her amazement to find him in perfect goodhumour, and her old acquaintance, Sir James Horton, by his side!
As Sophia had never regarded this gentleman in any other light than that of a common acquaintance, she received him graciously; and thus good-humour seemed to be restored to the whole party.
From that day, several weeks passed in a dull round of nothings. Sophia was, indeed, never asked to go out, but then, as Sir James continually visited at the house, she found herself constantly engaged in conversation with him, at home, if conversation it could be called; for, though he always sat by her after tea, he seldom ventured to say any thing, and she as seldom lifted up her
eyes from her work. She saw less of the three Miss Cliffords than when in the country, as they were out every evening; but Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer remained much at home, and received Sir James and other friends at their house. Sophia spent her mornings in her own room, with Mrs. Cicely, to whom she often read, and with whom she talked much of Annette, and of the poor people she used to visit, but seldom mentioned Mr. Sackville's
At Christmas, she made up a box for Annette, containing a variety of clothes made by her own hand, and a five-pound bill; all of which she sent off by a servant of the family, who was returning into Yorkshire. In answer to which, she received a letter, written by the old housekeeper at the Hall, containing Mr. Sackville's thanks, and several little anecdotes of Annette, who had, she said, been to see her several times.
Sophia, on reading this letter, could not belp shedding tears; and from that time, and for several successive days, she frequently indulged in thoughts about Mortimer-Hall and Fairfield, meditating on these things in bed, and forming imaginary plans of happiness, from which neither Annette nor Mr. Sackville were, of course, excluded : and to these thoughts she continued to give way, knowing at the same time that she was doing wrong, till dissatisfaction with herself, and with every one about her, was the consequence. She fancied that her relations and connexions possessed qualities even more unpleasant than they really did.
Mrs. Mortimer, though wholly a worldly character, had never been unkind to Sophia, nor interfered with her in the execution of any of her plans; and though Sophia, had she known her motives, would perhaps not have owed her many thanks for her forbearance, yet, judging from appearance, she had no reason to be dissatisfied with her step-mother, and, to say the truth, she had never felt herself very uneasy with her, till at this period in which she had yielded in secret to self-pleasing. As to Mr. Mortimer, he was precisely the same as he had always been, and as Sophia had always known him to be; yet it was not till now that she began to experience, from his coarseness, a kind of disgust which a daughter ought by no means to acknowledge to herself, and a sentiment of displeasure at his second
marriage, although that step was certainly justifiable. Once or twice, about this time, Mrs. Cicely enquired if she was unwell; and, one day, on her coming up from breakfast in a very disconsolate mood, the old servant asked her if any thing particular had happened that had affected her spirits. “Surely
my dear Madam,” she said, “you have had no bad news out of Yorkshire ?" "No," replied Sophia, sighing; “but I hate this
* Bath: and Mrs. Mortimer looks so coolly upon me: and my father is so rough: he gets worse and worse every day.”
Mrs. Cicely looked hard at her young mistress, and then said, "Why, surely, my dear young lady, you are not expecting to find heaven upon earth?”
“Not at Bath," replied Sophia, fretfully.
“ Nor any where else," returned Mrs. Cicely. “If you do, Miss, you will be sadly disappointed. There are troubles in every situation of life ; and I hope that you will not be one of those young ladies who make more than they need, by supposing that they are not well used, because their parents and friends have something else to do than to think of them, and be always striving to look pleasant and make themselves agreeable to them."
“Cicely!” said Sophia, looking at her with astonishment.
Perhaps I am too bold,” returned the old servant. “But, my dear Miss Mortimer, you cannot have forgotten that I was your nurse, that I closed the
eyes of your dear mother, and that I enjoyed the privilege of being present whenever that best of women, good Mrs. Fortescue, gave you your lessons; and though I never pretended to understand many things which she taught you, yet, when she gave you religious instructions, grace was given me to comprehend a great deal of them. And thus some light was put into my mind which otherwise I should not have had; and by this light, my dear Miss Mortimer, I am led to see that it is sinful to give way to fretful and uneasy tempers, especially when we consider that this life is but a passing state, and, as the Pilgrim's Progress explains it, but a road or pathway to a better world. To be sure, my dear young lady, you have some trials; but can you not leave your cares on God? Do, my beloved Miss Mortimer, make the trial.”
While Mrs. Cicely spoke, Sophia stood swelling, partly with anger, and partly with grief; and when the old servant was silent, the young lady walked out of the room, and down into the drawing-room, where, at that hour, she expected to be alone. A book was lying on the sofa
table. She took it up, and her eyes ran over some pages, but she knew not a word she read. She had never before felt so wretched ; she had never hated herself so thoroughly, or esteemed Cicely so much. At length, unable to bear her own reflections any looger, she dashed down the book, ran up to her own room, fell on her knees before Cicely, threw her arms round her neck, and, bursting into tears, acknowledged all her faults, and even went so far as to beg her pardon.
The worthy old servant clasped her young mistress again and again to her bosom, made a thousand apologies for having spoken so freely, and for some moments wept without restraint over the darling of her heart.
This little incident had the most blessed effect on Sophia in restoring the equilibrium of her mind. Her father had allowed her music and drawing-masters: she now set her whole heart to improve by them.
She employed Cicely to find out poor people, whom she relieved from her pocket-money, buying and making clothes for the needy. She cast aside all amusing books which had not a decidedly religious tendency, for there are certain states of mind when these act like poison on the feelings. She read the Bible, and the commentators upon it, aloud to Mrs. Cicely ; and so wholly occupied all her powers both of mind and body, that she fell asleep the moment she laid her head on her pillow, and ceased for a length of time from all speculations on her future plans of life.
In the mean time, while Sophia was endeavouring to think as little as possible of Fairfield, any further than as it was connected with the interest she took in Annette, Miss Clifford, who had not been a careless observer of the maneuvres of the baronet, dull as they were, was not inattentive to the good policy of keeping up the remembrance of Mr. Sackville in the mind of Sophia: not that she ever addressed her directly on the subject of her regard for this young gentleman; still, she was never at a loss for some occasion, either of speaking of him to her sisters in Sophia's presence, or alluding to something which must necessarily bring him to that young lady's recollection.
And here we have an additional proof of that which every well-meaning young lady must already have discovered that there is often much more danger to be appre
hended from indiscreet or designing persons of their own sex, than from their intercourse with the other. A young woman of correct views will seldom find it difficult to check the forwardness of any person who calls himself a gentleman; but she will find it to be by no means so easy to silence the poisonous insinuations of a female companion, or to shut her ears against those evil communications which corrupt good manners, too often
proceeding from persons of her own sex. In the mean time, the tardy baronet had made up
his mind to ask Mr. Mortimer for his daughter, which, one morning, as the two gentlemen were walking together to the pump-room, he accordingly did, with as little ceremony as he would have ordered a new pair of boots ; never having dreamed of the possibility of his being refused.
The father received the overture with the greatest satisfaction ; for Sir James was not only very rich, but of a rank to make his daughter a titled lady: besides which, he cherished the idea of outwitting Miss Clifford, with whose desires respecting Sir James he was better acquainted than he wished to have it thought. Accordingly, he gave the baronet every encouragement, and returned home in high glee, which he evidenced by kicking up an uproar among his dogs, as soon as ever he had set his foot within the doors of his temporary dwelling.
The communication respecting Sir James's offer was made immediately to Sophia, and the young lady was told at the same time, by her father, that he expected her acquiescence, and would hear of no denial.
It cannot be said that Sophia had never thought of Sir James in the character in which he was now offered to her, for it must be remembered, that Mr. Sackville had suggested this idea in the glen. But Sir James had evinced so little interest in any conversation he had ever held with her, that she had been led to consider Mr. Sackville's alarm on his account to be altogether without foundation, and she therefore received the communication with unfeigned surprise : neither was it till after she was in some degree recovered from this amazement, that she could find words wherein to state her objections to Sir James in language at once sufficiently gentle and decisive to use in the presence of her father.