At first we do not take too much concern that Agnes S- has not return’d from her shopping excursion – sure she may have gone look about for Sophy and misst her in the press – or may have determin’d on concluding her errands afore returning to R- House – but as the hours tick on we become considerable worry’d.
'Tis a material matter that we know her a prudent and sensible young woman, that would not desire cause worry to her hosts, and would be able take measures to return home expeditious was she able, not some silly creature that might not take thought.
Josiah and Eliza are in a considerable fret, but I tell them that they should go to the party to which they are bidden, for has aught come to Miss S-, the less gossip about it, the better, and did they not go to this occasion, that is held by some Parliamentary acquaintance of Josiah’s, 'twould look somewhat particular.
I dispatch a footman to the west wing with a note for Sandy, that comes at once. I open the business to him and say that sure I have been in concern over fortune-hunters that make suit to her, but there are alas cases where such fellows proceed to abduction. Sure I should be entire reliev’d did you tell me these are the fancys of a Gothick novelist and that this is England -
Sandy sighs and says, alas, 'tis a practice not unknown in this realm, and he will go at once and see whether he may put Matt Johnson to the task of finding out more.
'Tis possible, I say, with a rather pathetick hopefullness, that she felt herself faint, and – but, I continue, she is a good sensible girl and I confide in such case even was she in no state to write a note herself, would have sent word.
He leaves at once, and I find myself in a tendency to go pace up and down, until comes Patty to say that Miss Flora is demanding her sleepy wombatt. So I go to my precious darling, and hope that I do not appear distract’d as I go snuggle and kiss as sleepy wombatts are wont. Indeed, could anything distract me from my present worry 'tis my belov’d Flora.
After she sleeps – o, 'tis quite the prettyest sight – I go back to the small parlour where I have been sitting, ope my travelling desk, and address myself to the proofs of my tale of the Inca curse as 'tis better to undertake somewhat usefull rather than fretting.
I am sent up a nice little supper that I am in no great disposition to eat, but I endeavour take a little.
Sooner than I was in expectation returns Sandy along with Matt Johnson, that takes my hands and says reassuring that sure there will have been witnesses to this matter, and could he go talk to the maid that was with her, 'twould be most exceeding usefull.
So I send for Sophy, that comes looking as if she has been weeping a good deal – sure I hope Docket has not been at scolding her, for 'twas in no way her fault. I desire her to sit down and she does so, very timorous, right at the edge of the seat.
Matt Johnson looks upon her very kindly and says, 'tis entirely a matter of knowing where in particular you were at the time, and where you last saw Miss S-.
Sophy swallows and begins say where they were on Cheapside at the time the fellow grabb’d at her – sure, thinks I, may have been a confederate in the plot set to distract her – and becomes calmer as Matt Johnson praises her observation in the matter and the clear way she presents the evidence.
He is just about sketching out a little map of the scene, when there is a noise outside the door and comes in Agnes S-, looking a little dishevell’d but by no means as if she had been subject’d to any violence, altho’ I see she does not have her reticule about her.
I jump up and embrace her and say sure we are glad to see her safe, but we were in considerable concern over what had come to her.
I lead her to a chair and go pour her some brandy, that makes her cough somewhat but brings a little colour into her cheeks. I say I daresay she would also like a little supper, indeed, let us all have a little supper to restore ourselves and then you may tell your story.
After she had eaten somewhat, she looks up and says, 'twas Mr Miles O’N-, the scoundrel, wisht force marriage upon me.
But, she goes on, I do not think 'twas a carefull deep-laid plan, but that he saw me and thought to take the opportunity. For I was looking around to see what had come to Sophy, and had just seen her fighting off some low fellow, and as I was thus distract’d, one bundl’d me into a coach and drove off.
She frowns and says, and sure I was quite stunn’d by the suddenness of the attack, and did not cry out or protest, and by the time I had come to myself, 'twas going too fast for me to jump out. And I bang’d upon the roof but nothing happen’d.
One must have took my reticule, for 'twas no longer in my hand.
And sure I knew not where I was or where we were going.
But, she says with a sudden smile, most fortunate, one of the horses cast a shoe and thus we were oblig’d to halt somewhere along the road. And I was hustl’d into some inn and convey’d into a private parlour, and there 'twas that I saw that my kidnapper was Mr O’N-.
He made protestations of love towards me, and his fears that Lord D- would deny any suit he made on account of his Romish faith – I think he misapprehends Lord D-'s position in regard to me, for 'tis not in his power to say yea or nay to any match of mine, 'tis in my guardian’s, tho’ sure I would hesitate to consider any marriage that might lead to a breach with him and thus with my sister – and similar foolishness, when I was quite entire persuad’d that 'twas entirely my fortune at which he aim’d.
But I pretend’d to be quite entirely taken in by these beguilements, and desir’d that I might have the means to make myself a little comfortable while we wait’d, and in due course he came also with some tea so that I might, he said, refresh myself.
She grimaces and says, tho’ Mr O’N- is hardly a Lovelace, I was in some concern that he intend’d to deal with me as that rogue did with Clarissa Harlowe and drug me, to ensure docility even did he not purpose a ravishment - so after he had gone I went pour the tea out of the window rather than drink it, and perceiv’d that the parlour, altho’ 'twas on the first floor, gave out onto a penthouse thrown out behind the main building.
So I thought that I could contrive to climb out and make my way to the ground without I riskt breaking a limb or doing any great damage but for a scrape or a bruise or so. I went to the parlour door and ascertain’d that had been lockt upon me – for Mr O’N- is not quite entire foolish, I confide – but to prevent an unwant’d entry I went push furniture up against it that should at least hinder any pursuit.
We all look at her quite in amazement and I remark that had Clarissa Harlowe been as resourcefull 'twould have been a deal shorter of a book.
Agnes S- snorts and says she ever thought Clarissa a great fool. But, she says, to my tale. I climb’d out of the window and crawl’d down the penthouse roof, that indeed terminat’d not so far from the ground that I might not let myself down with any more than a slight jolt. And then I lookt about me very cautious and made my way around to the front of the place, and sure almost opposite was a coaching inn and a crowd there that made me think was a stage very shortly due.
And, she says, I will not mock Dora’s fears again, as tho’ I had lost my reticule, I was provid’d with the means to pay my fare by the sovereigns I had sewn into my stays to allay her apprehensions of just such an event.
There were those, she says, lookt a little askance at a young lady travelling unaccompany’d, but I made up a tale of a carriage accident, with my maid injur’d and left under the care of a local surgeon, and my pressing necessity to return to Town the e’en, and all went commiserate, and hope I was not myself too badly shaken, &C, and offer’d me brandy. Sure I felt quite the imposter.
And then, she says, came we to Town and I took a cab from the coaching station to R- House, and here you behold me, as unmarry’d a maiden as ever was. And Sophy, I hope that fellow did not hurt you?
O, says Sophy, took me some little while to come at my hat-pin so that I might poke him, but once I did he went running.
My dear, says I, what a wretch is Mr O’N- and what shocking behaviour he manifest’d. But how extreme courageous and resourcefull you show’d yourself, quite entire an example to womankind.
She looks about her and I see that, in the aftermath of this adventure, she looks a little tearfull, 'tis quite understandable. She says, rather urgent, but none need know, need they? 'Twould cast poor Dora quite into hystericks, and I know not what Lord D- might do.
Matt Johnson gives a grim smile and says, does one give him the direction of this fellow he will go frighten him with the rigours of the law so that he will not go talk of the matter – for tho’, indeed, 'tis naught he might boast of, he might claim that he did more than he accomplisht in respect of Miss S-.