To Miss LAETITIA WILLIS, at Gloucester.
My dear Letty,
This method of writing to you from time to time, without any hopes of an answer, affords me, I own, some ease and satisfaction in the ’midst of my disquiet, as it in some degree lightens the burthen of affliction: but it is at best a very imperfect enjoyment of friendship, because it admits of no return of confidence and good counsel—I would give the whole world to have your company for a single day—I am heartily tired of this itinerant way of life. I am quite dizzy with a perpetual succession of objects—Besides it is impossible to travel such a length of way, without being exposed to inconveniencies, dangers, and disagreeable accidents, which prove very grievous to a poor creature of weak nerves like me, and make me pay very dear for the gratification of my curiosity.
Nature never intended me for the busy world—I long for repose and solitude, where I can enjoy that disinterested friendship which is not to be found among crouds, and indulge those pleasing reveries that shun the hurry and tumult of fashionable society—Unexperienced as I am in the commerce of life, I have seen enough to give me a disgust to the generality of those who carry it on—There is such malice, treachery, and dissimulation, even among professed friends and intimate companions, as cannot fail to strike a virtuous mind with horror; and when Vice quits the stage for a moment, her place is immediately occupied by Folly, which is often too serious to excite any thing but compassion. Perhaps I ought to be silent on the foibles of my poor aunt; but with you, my dear Willis, I have no secrets; and, truly, her weaknesses are such as cannot be concealed. Since the first moment we arrived at Bath, she has been employed constantly in spreading nets for the other sex; and, at length, she has caught a superannuated lieutenant, who is in a fair way to make her change her name—My uncle and my brother seem to have no objection to this extraordinary match, which, I make no doubt, will afford abundance of matter for conversation and mirth; for my part, I am too sensible of my own weaknesses, to be diverted with those of other people—At present, I have something at heart that employs my whole attention, and keeps my mind in the utmost terror and suspence.
Yesterday in the forenoon, as I stood with my brother at the parlour window of an inn, where we had lodged, a person passed a horseback, whom (gracious Heaven!) I instantly discovered to be Wilson! He wore a white riding-coat, with the cape buttoned up to his chin; looking remarkably pale, and passed at a round trot, without seeming to observe us—Indeed, he could not see us; for there was a blind that concealed us from the view. You may guess how I was affected at this apparition. The light forsook my eyes; and I was seized with such a palpitation and trembling, that I could not stand. I sat down upon a couch, and strove to compose myself, that my brother might not perceive my agitation; but it was impossible to escape his prying eyes—He had observed the object that alarmed me; and, doubtless, knew him at the first glance—He now looked at me with a stern countenance; then he ran out into the street, to see what road the unfortunate horseman had taken—He afterwards dispatched his man for further intelligence, and seemed to meditate some violent design. My uncle, being out of order, we remained another night at the inn; and all day long Jery acted the part of an indefatigable spy upon my conduct—He watched my very looks with such eagerness of attention, as if he would have penetrated into the utmost recesses of my heart—This may be owing to his regard for my honour, if it is not the effect of his own pride; but he is so hot, and violent, and unrelenting, that the sight of him alone throws me into a flutter; and really it will not be in my power to afford him any share of my affection, if he persists in persecuting me at this rate. I am afraid he has formed some scheme of vengeance, which will make me completely wretched! I am afraid he suspects some collusion from this appearance of Wilson.—Good God! did he really appear? or was it only a phantom, a pale spectre to apprise me of his death.
O Letty, what shall I do?—where shall I turn for advice and consolation? shall I implore the protection of my uncle, who has been always kind and compassionate.—This must be my last resource.—I dread the thoughts of making him uneasy; and would rather suffer a thousand deaths than live the cause of dissension in the family.—I cannot conceive the meaning of Wilson’s coming hither:—perhaps, it was in quest of us, in order to disclose his real name and situation:—but wherefore pass without staying to make the least enquiry?—My dear Willis, I am lost in conjecture. I have not closed an eye since I saw him.—All night long have I been tossed about from one imagination to another. The reflection finds no resting place.—I have prayed, and sighed, and wept plentifully.—If this terrible suspence continues much longer, I shall have another fit of illness, and then the whole family will be in confusion—If it was consistent with the wise purposes of Providence, would I were in my grave—But it is my duty to be resigned.—My dearest Letty, excuse my weakness—excuse these blots—my tears fall so fast that I cannot keep the paper dry—yet I ought to consider that I have as yet no cause to despair but I am such a faint-hearted timorous creature!
Thank God, my uncle is much better than he was yesterday. He is resolved to pursue our journey strait to Wales.—I hope we shall take Gloucester in our way—that hope chears my poor heart I shall once more embrace my best beloved Willis, and pour all my griefs into her friendly bosom.—0 heaven! is it possible that such happiness is reserved for
The dejected and forlorn LYDIA MELFORD Oct. 4.