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Love and Friendship, a novel by Jane Austen

LETTER the 13th LAURA in continuation

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_ They had been gone nearly a couple of Hours, before either
Macdonald or Graham had entertained any suspicion of the affair.
And they might not even then have suspected it, but for the
following little Accident. Sophia happening one day to open a
private Drawer in Macdonald's Library with one of her own keys,
discovered that it was the Place where he kept his Papers of
consequence and amongst them some bank notes of considerable
amount. This discovery she imparted to me; and having agreed
together that it would be a proper treatment of so vile a Wretch
as Macdonald to deprive him of money, perhaps dishonestly gained,
it was determined that the next time we should either of us
happen to go that way, we would take one or more of the Bank
notes from the drawer. This well meant Plan we had often
successfully put in Execution; but alas! on the very day of
Janetta's Escape, as Sophia was majestically removing the 5th
Bank-note from the Drawer to her own purse, she was suddenly most
impertinently interrupted in her employment by the entrance of
Macdonald himself, in a most abrupt and precipitate Manner.
Sophia (who though naturally all winning sweetness could when
occasions demanded it call forth the Dignity of her sex)
instantly put on a most forbidding look, and darting an angry
frown on the undaunted culprit, demanded in a haughty tone of
voice "Wherefore her retirement was thus insolently broken in
on?" The unblushing Macdonald, without even endeavouring to
exculpate himself from the crime he was charged with, meanly
endeavoured to reproach Sophia with ignobly defrauding him of his
money . . . The dignity of Sophia was wounded; "Wretch (exclaimed
she, hastily replacing the Bank-note in the Drawer) how darest
thou to accuse me of an Act, of which the bare idea makes me
blush?" The base wretch was still unconvinced and continued to
upbraid the justly-offended Sophia in such opprobious Language,
that at length he so greatly provoked the gentle sweetness of her
Nature, as to induce her to revenge herself on him by informing
him of Janetta's Elopement, and of the active Part we had both
taken in the affair. At this period of their Quarrel I entered
the Library and was as you may imagine equally offended as Sophia
at the ill-grounded accusations of the malevolent and
contemptible Macdonald. "Base Miscreant! (cried I) how canst
thou thus undauntedly endeavour to sully the spotless reputation
of such bright Excellence? Why dost thou not suspect MY
innocence as soon?" "Be satisfied Madam (replied he) I DO suspect
it, and therefore must desire that you will both leave this House
in less than half an hour."

"We shall go willingly; (answered Sophia) our hearts have long
detested thee, and nothing but our freindship for thy Daughter
could have induced us to remain so long beneath thy roof."

"Your Freindship for my Daughter has indeed been most powerfully
exerted by throwing her into the arms of an unprincipled Fortune-
hunter." (replied he)

"Yes, (exclaimed I) amidst every misfortune, it will afford us
some consolation to reflect that by this one act of Freindship to
Janetta, we have amply discharged every obligation that we have
received from her father."

"It must indeed be a most gratefull reflection, to your exalted
minds." (said he.)

As soon as we had packed up our wardrobe and valuables, we left
Macdonald Hall, and after having walked about a mile and a half
we sate down by the side of a clear limpid stream to refresh our
exhausted limbs. The place was suited to meditation. A grove of
full-grown Elms sheltered us from the East--. A Bed of full-
grown Nettles from the West--. Before us ran the murmuring brook
and behind us ran the turn-pike road. We were in a mood for
contemplation and in a Disposition to enjoy so beautifull a spot.
A mutual silence which had for some time reigned between us, was
at length broke by my exclaiming--"What a lovely scene! Alas why
are not Edward and Augustus here to enjoy its Beauties with us?"

"Ah! my beloved Laura (cried Sophia) for pity's sake forbear
recalling to my remembrance the unhappy situation of my
imprisoned Husband. Alas, what would I not give to learn the
fate of my Augustus! to know if he is still in Newgate, or if he
is yet hung. But never shall I be able so far to conquer my
tender sensibility as to enquire after him. Oh! do not I
beseech you ever let me again hear you repeat his beloved name--.
It affects me too deeply --. I cannot bear to hear him mentioned
it wounds my feelings."

"Excuse me my Sophia for having thus unwillingly offended you--"
replied I--and then changing the conversation, desired her to
admire the noble Grandeur of the Elms which sheltered us from the
Eastern Zephyr. "Alas! my Laura (returned she) avoid so
melancholy a subject, I intreat you. Do not again wound my
Sensibility by observations on those elms. They remind me of
Augustus. He was like them, tall, magestic--he possessed that
noble grandeur which you admire in them."

I was silent, fearfull lest I might any more unwillingly distress
her by fixing on any other subject of conversation which might
again remind her of Augustus.

"Why do you not speak my Laura? (said she after a short pause)
"I cannot support this silence you must not leave me to my own
reflections; they ever recur to Augustus."

"What a beautifull sky! (said I) How charmingly is the azure
varied by those delicate streaks of white!"

"Oh! my Laura (replied she hastily withdrawing her Eyes from a
momentary glance at the sky) do not thus distress me by calling
my Attention to an object which so cruelly reminds me of my
Augustus's blue sattin waistcoat striped in white! In pity to
your unhappy freind avoid a subject so distressing." What could I
do? The feelings of Sophia were at that time so exquisite, and
the tenderness she felt for Augustus so poignant that I had not
power to start any other topic, justly fearing that it might in
some unforseen manner again awaken all her sensibility by
directing her thoughts to her Husband. Yet to be silent would be
cruel; she had intreated me to talk.

From this Dilemma I was most fortunately releived by an accident
truly apropos; it was the lucky overturning of a Gentleman's
Phaeton, on the road which ran murmuring behind us. It was a
most fortunate accident as it diverted the attention of Sophia
from the melancholy reflections which she had been before
indulging. We instantly quitted our seats and ran to the rescue
of those who but a few moments before had been in so elevated a
situation as a fashionably high Phaeton, but who were now laid
low and sprawling in the Dust. "What an ample subject for
reflection on the uncertain Enjoyments of this World, would not
that Phaeton and the Life of Cardinal Wolsey afford a thinking
Mind!" said I to Sophia as we were hastening to the field of

She had not time to answer me, for every thought was now engaged
by the horrid spectacle before us. Two Gentlemen most elegantly
attired but weltering in their blood was what first struck our
Eyes--we approached--they were Edward and Augustus--. Yes dearest
Marianne they were our Husbands. Sophia shreiked and fainted on
the ground--I screamed and instantly ran mad--. We remained thus
mutually deprived of our senses, some minutes, and on regaining
them were deprived of them again. For an Hour and a Quarter did
we continue in this unfortunate situation--Sophia fainting every
moment and I running mad as often. At length a groan from the
hapless Edward (who alone retained any share of life) restored us
to ourselves. Had we indeed before imagined that either of them
lived, we should have been more sparing of our Greif--but as we
had supposed when we first beheld them that they were no more, we
knew that nothing could remain to be done but what we were about.
No sooner did we therefore hear my Edward's groan than postponing
our lamentations for the present, we hastily ran to the Dear
Youth and kneeling on each side of him implored him not to die--.
"Laura (said He fixing his now languid Eyes on me) I fear I have
been overturned."

I was overjoyed to find him yet sensible.

"Oh! tell me Edward (said I) tell me I beseech you before you
die, what has befallen you since that unhappy Day in which
Augustus was arrested and we were separated--"

"I will" (said he) and instantly fetching a deep sigh, Expired
--. Sophia immediately sank again into a swoon--. MY greif was
more audible. My Voice faltered, My Eyes assumed a vacant stare,
my face became as pale as Death, and my senses were considerably

"Talk not to me of Phaetons (said I, raving in a frantic,
incoherent manner)--Give me a violin--. I'll play to him and
sooth him in his melancholy Hours--Beware ye gentle Nymphs of
Cupid's Thunderbolts, avoid the piercing shafts of Jupiter--Look
at that grove of Firs--I see a Leg of Mutton--They told me Edward
was not Dead; but they deceived me--they took him for a cucumber
--" Thus I continued wildly exclaiming on my Edward's Death--.
For two Hours did I rave thus madly and should not then have left
off, as I was not in the least fatigued, had not Sophia who was
just recovered from her swoon, intreated me to consider that
Night was now approaching and that the Damps began to fall. "And
whither shall we go (said I) to shelter us from either?" "To
that white Cottage." (replied she pointing to a neat Building
which rose up amidst the grove of Elms and which I had not before
observed--) I agreed and we instantly walked to it--we knocked at
the door--it was opened by an old woman; on being requested to
afford us a Night's Lodging, she informed us that her House was
but small, that she had only two Bedrooms, but that However we
should be wellcome to one of them. We were satisfied and
followed the good woman into the House where we were greatly
cheered by the sight of a comfortable fire--. She was a widow
and had only one Daughter, who was then just seventeen--One of
the best of ages; but alas! she was very plain and her name was
Bridget. . . . . Nothing therfore could be expected from her--she
could not be supposed to possess either exalted Ideas, Delicate
Feelings or refined Sensibilities--. She was nothing more than a
mere good-tempered, civil and obliging young woman; as such we
could scarcely dislike here--she was only an Object of Contempt


Laura. _

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