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Love and Friendship, a novel by Jane Austen

LETTER the 14th LAURA in continuation

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_ Arm yourself my amiable young Freind with all the philosophy you
are Mistress of; summon up all the fortitude you possess, for
alas! in the perusal of the following Pages your sensibility
will be most severely tried. Ah! what were the misfortunes I
had before experienced and which I have already related to you,
to the one I am now going to inform you of. The Death of my
Father and my Mother and my Husband though almost more than my
gentle Nature could support, were trifles in comparison to the
misfortune I am now proceeding to relate. The morning after our
arrival at the Cottage, Sophia complained of a violent pain in
her delicate limbs, accompanied with a disagreable Head-ake She
attributed it to a cold caught by her continued faintings in the
open air as the Dew was falling the Evening before. This I
feared was but too probably the case; since how could it be
otherwise accounted for that I should have escaped the same
indisposition, but by supposing that the bodily Exertions I had
undergone in my repeated fits of frenzy had so effectually
circulated and warmed my Blood as to make me proof against the
chilling Damps of Night, whereas, Sophia lying totally inactive
on the ground must have been exposed to all their severity. I
was most seriously alarmed by her illness which trifling as it
may appear to you, a certain instinctive sensibility whispered
me, would in the End be fatal to her.

Alas! my fears were but too fully justified; she grew gradually
worse--and I daily became more alarmed for her. At length she
was obliged to confine herself solely to the Bed allotted us by
our worthy Landlady--. Her disorder turned to a galloping
Consumption and in a few days carried her off. Amidst all my
Lamentations for her (and violent you may suppose they were) I
yet received some consolation in the reflection of my having paid
every attention to her, that could be offered, in her illness. I
had wept over her every Day--had bathed her sweet face with my
tears and had pressed her fair Hands continually in mine--. "My
beloved Laura (said she to me a few Hours before she died) take
warning from my unhappy End and avoid the imprudent conduct which
had occasioned it. . . Beware of fainting-fits. . . Though at the
time they may be refreshing and agreable yet beleive me they will
in the end, if too often repeated and at improper seasons, prove
destructive to your Constitution. . . My fate will teach you
this. . I die a Martyr to my greif for the loss of Augustus. .
One fatal swoon has cost me my Life. . Beware of swoons Dear
Laura. . . . A frenzy fit is not one quarter so pernicious; it is
an exercise to the Body and if not too violent, is I dare say
conducive to Health in its consequences--Run mad as often as you
chuse; but do not faint--"

These were the last words she ever addressed to me. . It was her
dieing Advice to her afflicted Laura, who has ever most
faithfully adhered to it.

After having attended my lamented freind to her Early Grave, I
immediately (tho' late at night) left the detested Village in
which she died, and near which had expired my Husband and
Augustus. I had not walked many yards from it before I was
overtaken by a stage-coach, in which I instantly took a place,
determined to proceed in it to Edinburgh, where I hoped to find
some kind some pitying Freind who would receive and comfort me in
my afflictions.

It was so dark when I entered the Coach that I could not
distinguish the Number of my Fellow-travellers; I could only
perceive that they were many. Regardless however of anything
concerning them, I gave myself up to my own sad Reflections. A
general silence prevailed--A silence, which was by nothing
interrupted but by the loud and repeated snores of one of the

"What an illiterate villain must that man be! (thought I to
myself) What a total want of delicate refinement must he have,
who can thus shock our senses by such a brutal noise! He must I
am certain be capable of every bad action! There is no crime too
black for such a Character!" Thus reasoned I within myself, and
doubtless such were the reflections of my fellow travellers.

At length, returning Day enabled me to behold the unprincipled
Scoundrel who had so violently disturbed my feelings. It was Sir
Edward the father of my Deceased Husband. By his side sate
Augusta, and on the same seat with me were your Mother and Lady
Dorothea. Imagine my surprise at finding myself thus seated
amongst my old Acquaintance. Great as was my astonishment, it
was yet increased, when on looking out of Windows, I beheld the
Husband of Philippa, with Philippa by his side, on the Coachbox
and when on looking behind I beheld, Philander and Gustavus in
the Basket. "Oh! Heavens, (exclaimed I) is it possible that I
should so unexpectedly be surrounded by my nearest Relations and
Connections?" These words roused the rest of the Party, and
every eye was directed to the corner in which I sat. "Oh! my
Isabel (continued I throwing myself across Lady Dorothea into her
arms) receive once more to your Bosom the unfortunate Laura.
Alas! when we last parted in the Vale of Usk, I was happy in
being united to the best of Edwards; I had then a Father and a
Mother, and had never known misfortunes--But now deprived of
every freind but you--"

"What! (interrupted Augusta) is my Brother dead then? Tell us I
intreat you what is become of him?" "Yes, cold and insensible
Nymph, (replied I) that luckless swain your Brother, is no more,
and you may now glory in being the Heiress of Sir Edward's

Although I had always despised her from the Day I had overheard
her conversation with my Edward, yet in civility I complied with
hers and Sir Edward's intreaties that I would inform them of the
whole melancholy affair. They were greatly shocked--even the
obdurate Heart of Sir Edward and the insensible one of Augusta,
were touched with sorrow, by the unhappy tale. At the request of
your Mother I related to them every other misfortune which had
befallen me since we parted. Of the imprisonment of Augustus and
the absence of Edward--of our arrival in Scotland--of our
unexpected Meeting with our Grand-father and our cousins--of our
visit to Macdonald-Hall--of the singular service we there
performed towards Janetta--of her Fathers ingratitude for it . .
of his inhuman Behaviour, unaccountable suspicions, and barbarous
treatment of us, in obliging us to leave the House . . of our
lamentations on the loss of Edward and Augustus and finally of
the melancholy Death of my beloved Companion.

Pity and surprise were strongly depictured in your Mother's
countenance, during the whole of my narration, but I am sorry to
say, that to the eternal reproach of her sensibility, the latter
infinitely predominated. Nay, faultless as my conduct had
certainly been during the whole course of my late misfortunes and
adventures, she pretended to find fault with my behaviour in many
of the situations in which I had been placed. As I was sensible
myself, that I had always behaved in a manner which reflected
Honour on my Feelings and Refinement, I paid little attention to
what she said, and desired her to satisfy my Curiosity by
informing me how she came there, instead of wounding my spotless
reputation with unjustifiable Reproaches. As soon as she had
complyed with my wishes in this particular and had given me an
accurate detail of every thing that had befallen her since our
separation (the particulars of which if you are not already
acquainted with, your Mother will give you) I applied to Augusta
for the same information respecting herself, Sir Edward and Lady

She told me that having a considerable taste for the Beauties
of Nature, her curiosity to behold the delightful scenes it
exhibited in that part of the World had been so much raised by
Gilpin's Tour to the Highlands, that she had prevailed on her
Father to undertake a Tour to Scotland and had persuaded Lady
Dorothea to accompany them. That they had arrived at Edinburgh a
few Days before and from thence had made daily Excursions into the
Country around in the Stage Coach they were then in, from one of
which Excursions they were at that time returning. My next
enquiries were concerning Philippa and her Husband, the latter of
whom I learned having spent all her fortune, had recourse for
subsistence to the talent in which, he had always most excelled,
namely, Driving, and that having sold every thing which belonged
to them except their Coach, had converted it into a Stage and in
order to be removed from any of his former Acquaintance, had
driven it to Edinburgh from whence he went to Sterling every other
Day. That Philippa still retaining her affection for her
ungratefull Husband, had followed him to Scotland and generally
accompanied him in his little Excursions to Sterling. "It has only
been to throw a little money into their Pockets (continued
Augusta) that my Father has always travelled in their Coach to
veiw the beauties of the Country since our arrival in Scotland
--for it would certainly have been much more agreable to us, to
visit the Highlands in a Postchaise than merely to travel from
Edinburgh to Sterling and from Sterling to Edinburgh every other
Day in a crowded and uncomfortable Stage." I perfectly agreed with
her in her sentiments on the affair, and secretly blamed Sir
Edward for thus sacrificing his Daughter's Pleasure for the sake
of a ridiculous old woman whose folly in marrying so young a man
ought to be punished. His Behaviour however was entirely of a
peice with his general Character; for what could be expected from
a man who possessed not the smallest atom of Sensibility, who
scarcely knew the meaning of simpathy, and who actually snored--.


Laura. _

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