Chapter 7


Mrs. Waters remaining a few moments silent, Mr. Allworthy could not refrain from saying, “I am sorry, madam, to perceive by what I have since heard, that you have made so very ill a use—” “Mr. Allworthy,” says she, interrupting him, “I know I have faults, but ingratitude to you is not one of them. I never can nor shall forget your goodness, which I own I have very little deserved; but be pleased to wave all upbraiding me at present, as I have so important an affair to communicate to you concerning this young man, to whom you have given my maiden name of Jones.”

“Have I then,” said Allworthy, “ignorantly punished an innocent man, in the person of him who hath just left us? Was he not the father of the child?” “Indeed he was not,” said Mrs. Waters. “You may be pleased to remember, sir, I formerly told you, you should one day know; and I acknowledge myself to have been guilty of a cruel neglect, in not having discovered it to you before. Indeed, I little knew how necessary it was.” “Well, madam,” said Allworthy, “be pleased to proceed.” “You must remember, sir,” said she, “a young fellow, whose name was Summer.” “Very well,” cries Allworthy, “he was the son of a clergyman of great learning and virtue, for whom I had the highest friendship.” “So it appeared, sir,” answered she; “for I believe you bred the young man up, and maintained him at the university; where, I think, he had finished his studies, when he came to reside at your house; a finer man, I must say, the sun never shone upon; for, besides the handsomest person I ever saw, he was so genteel, and had so much wit and good breeding.” “Poor gentleman,” said Allworthy, “he was indeed untimely snatched away; and little did I think he had any sins of this kind to answer for; for I plainly perceive you are going to tell me he was the father of your child.”

“Indeed, sir,” answered she, “he was not.” “How!” said Allworthy, “to what then tends all this preface?” “To a story,” said she, “which I am concerned falls to my lot to unfold to you. O, sir! prepare to hear something which will surprize you, will grieve you.” “Speak,” said Allworthy, “I am conscious of no crime, and cannot be afraid to hear.” “Sir,” said she, “that Mr. Summer, the son of your friend, educated at your expense, who, after living a year in the house as if he had been your own son, died there of the small- pox, was tenderly lamented by you, and buried as if he had been your own; that Summer, sir, was the father of this child.” “How!” said Allworthy; “you contradict yourself.” “That I do not,” answered she; “he was indeed the father of this child, but not by me.” “Take care, madam,” said Allworthy, “do not, to shun the imputation of any crime, be guilty of falshood. Remember there is One from whom you can conceal nothing, and before whose tribunal falshood will only aggravate your guilt.” “Indeed, sir,” says she, “I am not his mother; nor would I now think myself so for the world.” “I know your reason,” said Allworthy, “and shall rejoice as much as you to find it otherwise; yet you must remember, you yourself confest it before me.” “So far what I confest,” said she, “was true, that these hands conveyed the infant to your bed; conveyed it thither at the command of its mother; at her commands I afterwards owned it, and thought myself, by her generosity, nobly rewarded, both for my secrecy and my shame.” “Who could this woman be?” said Allworthy. “Indeed, I tremble to name her,” answered Mrs. Waters. “By all this preparation I am to guess that she was a relation of mine,” cried he. “Indeed she was a near one.” At which words Allworthy started, and she continued—“You had a sister, sir.” “A sister!” repeated he, looking aghast.—“As there is truth in heaven,” cries she, “your sister was the mother of that child you found between your sheets.” “Can it be possible?” cries he. “Good heavens!” “Have patience, sir,” said Mrs. Waters, “and I will unfold to you the whole story. Just after your departure for London, Miss Bridget came one day to the house of my mother. She was pleased to say, she had heard an extraordinary character of me, for my learning and superior understanding to all the young women there, so she was pleased to say. She then bid me come to her to the great house; where, when I attended, she employed me to read to her. She expressed great satisfaction in my reading, shewed great kindness to me, and made me many presents. At last she began to catechise me on the subject of secrecy, to which I gave her such satisfactory answers, that, at last, having locked the door of her room, she took me into her closet, and then locking that door likewise, she said ‘she should convince me of the vast reliance she had on my integrity, by communicating a secret in which her honour, and consequently her life, was concerned.’ She then stopt, and after a silence of a few minutes, during which she often wiped her eyes, she inquired of me if I thought my mother might safely be confided in. I answered, I would stake my life on her fidelity.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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