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said he, “as she is a relation of yours, will you do 'me the honour to propose it to her father?' And
are you really then in earnest?' cries the lady, with an affected gravity. “I hope, Madam,' answered he, 'you have a better opinion of me, than
to imagine I would jest with your ladyship in an 'affair of this kind.' 'Indeed then,' said the lady, • I will most readily propose your lordship to her
father; and I can, I believe, assure you of his ‘joyful acceptance of the proposal; but there is a bar, which I am almost ashamed to mention; and
yet it is one you will never be able to conquer. • You have a rival, my lord, and a rival who,
though I blush to name him, neither you, nor all 'the world, will ever be able to conquer. Upon
my word, lady. Bellaston,' cries he, you have 'struck a damp to my heart, which hath almost deprived me of being. Fie! my lord,' said she, ' I should rather hope I had struck fire into you. ' A lover, and talk of damps in your heart! I rather “imagined you would have asked your rival's name,
that you might have immediately entered the lists * with him.' 'I promise you, Madam,' answered he, there are very few things I would not under* take for your charming cousin: but pray, who is
, * this happy man?'-'Why he is,' said she, what 'I am sorry to say most happy men with us are, one of the lowest fellows in the world. He is a beggar, a bastard, a foundling, a fellow in meaner circumstances than one of your lordship’s footmen.' 'And is it possible,' cried he, that a young creature with such perfections should think of be
stowing herself so unworthily?' 'Alas! my lord,' answered she, consider the country—the bane of ' all young women is the country. There they learn
a sct of romantic notions of love, and I know not · what folly, which this town and good company can scarce eradicate in a whole winter.' 'Indeed,
Madam,' replied my lord, “your cousin is of too • immense a value to be thrown away: such ruin
as this must be prevented.’ ‘Alas! cries she, 'my
lord, how can it be prevented? The family have 'already done all in their power; but the girl is, • I think, intoxicated, and nothing less than ruin ' will content her. And to deal more openly with
you, I expect every day to hear she is run away • with him.' 'What you tell me, lady Bellaston,' answered his lordship, affects me most tenderly, ' and only raises my compassion, instead of lessen
ing my adoration of your cousin. Some means 'must be found to preserve so inestimable a jewel. * Hath your ladyship endeavoured to reason with • her?' Here the lady affected a laugh, and cried, ‘My dear lord, sure you know us better than to ' talk of reasoning a young woman out of her in'clinations? These inestimable jewels are as deaf
as the jewels they wear: time, my lord, time is 'the only medicine to cure their folly; but this is ‘a medicine, which I am certain she will not take; nay, I live in hourly horrors on her account. In short, nothing but violent methods will do.' • What is to be done?' cries my lord, "What 'methods are to be taken ?--Is there any method upon earth :-Oh! lady Bellaston ! there is nothing which I would not undertake for such a ' reward.''I really know not,' answered the lady, after a pause; and then pausing again, she cried out, Upon my soul, I am at my wit's end ' on this girl's account.--- If she can be preserved, • something must be done immediately; and, as I say, nothing but violent methods will do. If your lordship hath really this attachment to my cousin (and to do her justice, except in this silly inclination, of which she will soon see her folly, ‘she is every way deserving), I think there may 'be one way, indeed it is a very disagreeable one, and what I am almost afraid to think of. It requires a great spirit, I promise you.' 'I am not conscious, Madam,' said he, of any defect there;
‘ nor am I, I hope, suspected of any such. It must
* be an egregious defect indeed, which could make
me backward on this occasion.' 'Nay, my lord,' answered she, “I am so far from doubting you,
I am much more inclined to doubt my own courage; for I must run a monstrous risk. In short, 'I must place such a confidence in your honour as a wise woman will scarce ever place in a man on any consideration. In this point likewise my lord very well satisfied her; for his reputation was extremely clear, and cominon fame did him no more than justice, in speaking well of him. “Well,
then,' said she, “my lord, -1-I vow, I can't bear the apprehension of it.-—No, it must not be. ---At least every other method shall be tried. 'Can you get rid of your engagements, and dine * here to-day? Your lordship will have an oppor'tunity of seeing a little more of Miss Western.--• I promise you we have no time to lose. Here will 'be nobody but lady Betty, and Miss Eagle, and * colonel Hamstead, and Tom Edwards; they will * all go soon,-and I shall be at home to nobody. * Then your lordship may be a little more explicit. Nay, I will contrive some method to convince you
of her attachment to this fellow. My lord made proper compliments, accepted the invitation, and then they parted to dress, it being now past three in the morning, or to reckon by the old style, in the afternoon.
CHAP. III. A further Explanation of the foregoing Design. Though the reader may have long since concluded lady Bellaston to be a member (and no inconsiderable one) of the great world, she was in reality a very considerable member of the little world; by which appellation was distinguished a very worthy and honourable society which not long since flourished in this kingdom.
Among other good principles upon which this society was founded, there was one very remarkable: for as it was a rule of an honourable club of heroes, who assembled at the close of the late war, that all the members should every day fight once at least; so 'twas in this, that every member should, within the twenty-four hours, tell at least one merry fib, which was to be propagated by all the brethren and sisterhood.
Many idle stories were told about this society, which from a certain quality may be, perhaps not unjustly, supposed to have come from the society themselves. * As, that the devil was the president; and that he sat in person in an elbow chair at the upper end of the table; but, upon very strict inquiry, I find there is not the least truth in
of those tales, and that the assembly consisted in reality of a set of very good sort of people, and the fibs which they propagated were of a harmless kind, and tended only to produce mirth and good humour.
Edwards was likewise a member of this comical society. To him therefore lady Bellaston applied as a proper instrument for her purpose, and furnished him with a fib, which he was to vent whenever the lady gave him her cue; and this was not to be till the evening, when all the company but lord Pellamar and himself were gone, and while they were engaged in a rubbers at whist.
To this time then, which was between seven and eight in the evening, we will convey our reader; when lady Bellaston, lord Fellamar, Miss Western, and Tom being engaged at whist, and in the last game of their rubbers, Tom received his cue from lady Bellaston, which was, “I protest, Tom, you
are grown intolerable lately; you used to tell us ' all the news of the town, and now you know no * more of the world than if you lived out of it.'
Mr. Edwards then began as follows: ‘The fault is not mine, Madam ; it lies in the dulness of the
age, that doth nothing worth talking of.-O 'la! though now I think on't there hath a terrible * accident befallen poor colonel Wilcox.-Poor • Ned. You know him, my lord, every body knows him; faith! I am very much concerned for him.' 'What is it, pray ?' says lady Bellaston.
Why, he hath killed a man this morning in a duel, that's all.'
His lordship, who was not in the secret, asked gravely, whom he had killed ? To which Edwards answered, “A young fellow we none of us know;
, • a Somersetshire lad just come to town, one Jones ' his name is ; a near relation of one Mr. Allworthy, ' of whom your lordship I believe hath heard. I saw the lad lie dead in a coffee-house.—Upon my soul, he is one of the finest corpses I ever saw in
. Sophia, who had just began to deal as Tom had mentioned that a man was killed, stopt her hand, and listened with attention (for all stories of that kind affected her), but no sooner had he arrived at the latter part of the story, than she began to deal again; and having dealt three cards to one, and seven to another, and ten to a third, at last dropt the rest from her hand, and fell back in her chair.
The company behaved as usual on these occasions. The usual disturbance ensued, the usual assistance was summoned, and Sophia at last, as it is usual, returned again to life, and was soon after, at her earnest desire, led to her own apartment; where, at my lord's request, lady Bellaston acquainted her with the truth, attempted to carry it off as a jest of her own, and comforted her with repeated assurances, that neither his lordship, nor Tom, though she had taught him the story, were in the true secret of the affair. There was no farther evidence necessary to con