An Apology for the Life of George Anne Bellamy

Letter XIV

Jan. 27, 17--.

[p. 79] In a few weeks I was so perfectly recovered that not the least vestige remained of my illness. The apothecary, who had attended me, was of the same persuasion as [p. 80] my cousins; and being deceived, as they had been, by the Quakerishness of my dress (excuse the new coined word) seemed to shew a partiality in my favour, which my relations did not discourage. At the annual fair, which in those country places is the season of festivity and enjoyment, my formal suitor gave my relations and myself an invitation to his house; which he had decorated with flowers, and stored with every good thing that was to be purchased, to shew his regard for me. But that blind lad,k dame Fortune, who dispenses both he favurs and her frowns sonetimes in a strange manner, was determined I should not enjoy my present tranquillity long. In an ill-natured fit, she brought about an event, which deprived me at once of my cousin's favour, and my admirer's attachment.

The well-known Zachaty Moore, as distinguished for his misfortunes as his dissipations, happened accidentally to be, at this period, in the neighborhood of the place to which we had been invited; and, unluckily for me to be introduced by a friend to the apothecary, to share in the feast of which we partook. This gentleman had once been possessed of an income of twenty-five thousand pounds per annum. But not being endowed with a proportionable share of prudence, he found hisself at length reduced, through his own extravagance, and the chicanery [p. 81] of his steward, to the most humiliating necessity. And what is very extraordinary, the wretch who had thus juggled him out of a princely fortune, had the audacity to propose to him to take his daughter to wife; on which condition he could agree to return him back the whole of the estate he had deprived him of. Mr Moore, nobly. in my opinion, rejected the disgraceful offer. The generality of his acquaintance, however, notwithstanding they could not but admire his magnanimity upon the occasion, blamed an imprudence, in consequence of which he was necessitated, at forty years of age, to accept of an ensigncy [sic] in an regiment that was ordered to Gibraltar.

How embittered must be the reflections of a person capable of such imprudence and inattention! The loss of an estate of such immense value could not have been completed without numberless instances of both. And though the chicanery of his steward may be considered as some palliation of Mr. Moore's want of attention; indolence in the extreme must have marked the progress of it. A proper attention to the prudential concerns of life, without meanness and avarice on the one hand, or indolence and profuseness on the other, is a duty which every person of property owes to himself, to his connections, and to the community at large -- But to return from this disgerssion.

[p. 82] Nothing happened to interrupt the harmony of the company, or that could give me uneasiness, till the afternoon; when upon Mr. Moore's acquaintance whispering to him, that I was a wet Quaker, for whom his friend the apothecary had an inclination, that gentleman, without intending me any injury, gave way to his volatile disposition, and thus exclaimed loud enough to be heard by the whole company. "A wet Quaker, indeed!" It is Miss Bellamy the celebrated actress, who met with so much applause the last winter at Covent-Garden-Theatre!" The confusion visible in my countenance, as soon as he had made this discovery, convinced him that he had comitted some error; but, like Marplot, he could not find out what it was.

As Mrs.Clarke took no notice, at the time, of the conversation that had just passed, I was in hopes she had not attended to what Mr. Moore had said. She, however, soon after ordered the carriage, and left her husband, who loved his bottle, to enjoy the conviviality of the gay Londoner. After we were gone, Mr. Clarke inquired more particularly concerning me; and learnt from Mr. Moore every thing relative to the unfortunate event which had lately befallen me. And upon that gentleman's adding that he believed all the world now concluded me innocent, my relation, who thought a Quaker, [p. 83] did not want pride, and whose courage was now roused by the juice of the grape, thought, as a branch of his wife's family, I was entitled to his protection. He accordingly returned home, fully determined to interpose in the affair, and avenge the ill-treatment I had received.

A lady of my cousin's acquaintance being in the chaise with us, her presence prevented anyy disagreeable altercation during our return. I own I was not without my apprehension of having some displeasing interrogatories put to me by Mrs. Clarke; as she always appeared to be of a dove-like disposition, I had no idea that she possessed the qualifications of a Xantippe, in the degree I afterwards found she did. I had been told that she was naturally of a jealous temper; but as she and Mr. Clarke were both arrived at an age, when the heighday of the blood is supposed to be over, I doubted not but that passion had long since been eradicated from her bosom.

As she stepped out of the chasie, she hurt her foot; observing this, I offered her my hand to assist her in getting into the parlour. But upon my presenting it to her, she rejected it with the dignity of a Tragedy Queen; uttering at the same time, with a haughty accent, the word "Avaunt!" Supposing the latter might be intended for the dog who ran to welcome his Mistress home, [p. 84] I took no notice of it.But I was soon undeceived in this conjecture. For we had no sooner got into the house, than looking steadfastly in my face, she addressed me in a manner, and in a language that I had not been accustomed to. "Avaunt!" said she; "Thou art a child of inquity -- Thou has sold thyself to the impure one -- Thou art an impostress." -- Here I stopped her short. Duplicity was a charge which I could not hear urged against me, without endeavouring to exonerate myself from the imputation. I therefore asked her in what I had imposed upon her; and challenged her to prove that in any of the conversations I had held with her, I had been guilty of a falsehood. As my cousin really regarded me next to her husband, she now appeared sorry for what she had uttered, and was about to make an apology; but unfortunately, at that crisis, Mr. Clarke came in.

He had no sooner informed her of the whole of what he had heard relative to me, and made known to her the resolution he had formed in consequence of it, than her rage in an instant rekindled; and instead of the dove, she once more resembled a Medusa, "Avaunt!" she again cried, "Avaunt! Perdition will follow thee. Thou comest with all thy frauds to seduce my best beloved. Satan hath got hold of thee, as well as thy parent. Therefore, I pray [p. 85] thee, leave my mansion." Here her beloved interposed, declaring, "That nothing should prevent his going to the great city, to make the bad man do me justice, by taking me for his spouse." "Didst thou not tell me, John," interrupted Mrs. Clarke, "didst thou not tell me, that the wicked man had an helpmate?" This was a part of the story that my cousin John, thorugh his inebriety, had forgotten. The observation, therefore, made by his wife, at once put a stop to his intended Quixotism.

Finding here, from the silence which ensued, an opportunity to speak, I told my cousin, that after what had just passed, I could not think of spending another day under her roof. Noo that I was offended at her accusing me of an intention to seduce the conjugal fideltiy of her beloved spouse, the insinuation being too laughable to give me a moment's uneasiness; but upon account of her reflectoin on my dear mother, whose name I would not hear mentioned with disrespect. That, conscious of my own innocence, I readily forgave her for every crime she had accused me of, except that of deception which made too deep an impression on my heart to be forgiven. Then assuming a very solemn air, in order, if possible, to make her repent of her illiberality, I thus went on: "Madame, I would have you to known that I have a soul above all art."

[p. 86] The moment I had uttered these words, Mrs. Clarke, with a transition both of countenance and voice, that would have done honour to the most comic actess, thus put a stop to my vindication. "Anne! Anne!" said she, with thw utmost placidity, "perhaps thou doest hold the faith of the Turks; who believe that women have no souls!" The archness of her look and her inexpressible manner, whilst she repeated this, made me drop the consequential air I had assumed, and put an end to my anger. And I could not refrain from bursting out into an immoderate fit of laughter. Thus terminated our conversation, and we now parted, to reitre to rest. At our separation, Mrs. Clarke shook my hand three times, and too kher leave for the night with wishing me every good thing; the saluation usually made use of by Quakers to their very best friends. But notwithstanding this proof of returning regard in the bosom of my lately exasperated cousin, I determined never to risk such another humiliating scene.

What a quantity I have written! My aching head and fingers have long since hinted to me that it was time to finish this letter; but I was unwilling to do so, till I had ended the account of my sojourning with my Quaker relations. Having now done this, I shall conclude, with wishing thee, agreeable [p. 87] to my cousin's expressive and charitable benediction, plenty of good things.

G. A. B.

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