A Collection of Letters
Letter the Second
From a Young Lady crossed in Love to her freind
Why should this last disappointment hang so heavily on my spirits? Why should I feel it more, why should it wound me deeper than those I have experienced before? Can it be that I have a greater affection for Willoughby than I had for his amiable predecessors? Or is it that our feelings become more acute from being often wounded? I must suppose my dear Belle that this is the Case, since I am not conscious of being more sincerely attached to Willoughby than I was to Neville, Fitzowen, or either of the Crawfords, for all of whom I once felt the most lasting affection that ever warmed a Woman's heart. Tell me then dear Belle why I still sigh when I think of the faithless Edward, or why I weep when I behold his Bride, for too surely this is the case--. My Freinds are all alarmed for me; They fear my declining health; they lament my want of spirits; they dread the effects of both. In hopes of releiving my melancholy, by directing my thoughts to other objects, they have invited several of their freinds to spend the Christmas with us. Lady Bridget Darkwood and her sister-in-law, Miss Jane are expected on Friday; and Colonel Seaton's family will be with us next week. This is all most kindly meant by my Uncle and Cousins; but what can the presence of a dozen indefferent people do to me, but weary and distress me--. I will not finish my Letter till some of our Visitors are arrived.
Lady Bridget came this morning, and with her, her sweet sister Miss Jane--. Although I have been acquainted with this charming Woman above fifteen Years, yet I never before observed how lovely she is. She is now about 35, and in spite of sickness, sorrow and Time is more blooming than I ever saw a Girl of 17. I was delighted with her, the moment she entered the house, and she appeared equally pleased with me, attaching herself to me during the remainder of the day. There is something so sweet, so mild in her Countenance, that she seems more than Mortal. Her Conversation is as bewitching as her appearance; I could not help telling her how much she engaged my admiration--. "Oh! Miss Jane (said I)--and stopped from an inability at the moment of expressing myself as I could wish-- Oh! Miss Jane--(I repeated) --I could not think of words to suit my feelings-- She seemed waiting for my speech--. I was confused-- distressed--my thoughts were bewildered--and I could only add--"How do you do?" She saw and felt for my Embarrassment and with admirable presence of mind releived me from it by saying--"My dear Sophia be not uneasy at having exposed yourself--I will turn the Conversation without appearing to notice it. "Oh! how I loved her for her kindness!" Do you ride as much as you used to do?" said she--. "I am advised to ride by my Physician. We have delightful Rides round us, I have a Charming horse, am uncommonly fond of the Amusement, replied I quite recovered from my Confusion, and in short I ride a great deal." "You are in the right my Love," said she. Then repeating the following line which was an extempore and equally adapted to recommend both Riding and Candour--
"Ride where you may, Be Candid where you can," she added," I rode once, but it is many years ago--She spoke this in so low and tremulous a Voice, that I was silent--. Struck with her Manner of speaking I could make no reply. "I have not ridden, continued she fixing her Eyes on my face, since I was married." I was never so surprised--"Married, Ma'am!" I repeated. "You may well wear that look of astonishment, said she, since what I have said must appear improbable to you--Yet nothing is more true than that I once was married."
"Then why are you called Miss Jane?"
"I married, my Sophia without the consent or knowledge of my father the late Admiral Annesley. It was therefore necessary to keep the secret from him and from every one, till some fortunate opportunity might offer of revealing it--. Such an opportunity alas! was but too soon given in the death of my dear Capt. Dashwood--Pardon these tears, continued Miss Jane wiping her Eyes, I owe them to my Husband's memory. He fell my Sophia, while fighting for his Country in America after a most happy Union of seven years--. My Children, two sweet Boys and a Girl, who had constantly resided with my Father and me, passing with him and with every one as the Children of a Brother (tho' I had ever been an only Child) had as yet been the comforts of my Life. But no sooner had I lossed my Henry, than these sweet Creatures fell sick and died--. Conceive dear Sophia what my feelings must have been when as an Aunt I attended my Children to their early Grave--. My Father did not survive them many weeks--He died, poor Good old man, happily ignorant to his last hour of my Marriage.'
"But did not you own it, and assume his name at your husband's death?"
"No; I could not bring myself to do it; more especially when in my Children I lost all inducement for doing it. Lady Bridget, and yourself are the only persons who are in the knowledge of my having ever been either Wife or Mother. As I could not Prevail on myself to take the name of Dashwood (a name which after my Henry's death I could never hear without emotion) and as I was conscious of having no right to that of Annesley, I dropt all thoughts of either, and have made it a point of bearing only my Christian one since my Father's death." She paused--"Oh! my dear Miss Jane (said I) how infinitely am I obliged to you for so entertaining a story! You cannot think how it has diverted me! But have you quite done?"
"I have only to add my dear Sophia, that my Henry's elder Brother dieing about the same time, Lady Bridget became a Widow like myself, and as we had always loved each other in idea from the high Character in which we had ever been spoken of, though we had never met, we determined to live together. We wrote to one another on the same subject by the same post, so exactly did our feeling and our actions coincide! We both eagerly embraced the proposals we gave and received of becoming one family, and have from that time lived together in the greatest affection."
"And is this all? said I, I hope you have not done."
"Indeed I have; and did you ever hear a story more pathetic?"
"I never did--and it is for that reason it pleases me so much, for when one is unhappy nothing is so delightful to one's sensations as to hear of equal misery."
"Ah! but my Sophia why are YOU unhappy?"
"Have you not heard Madam of Willoughby's Marriage?"
"But my love why lament HIS perfidy, when you bore so well that of many young Men before?"
"Ah! Madam, I was used to it then, but when Willoughby broke his Engagements I had not been dissapointed for half a year."
"Poor Girl!" said Miss Jane.