فصل 15

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فصل 15

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CHAPTER FIFTEEN

Sophia Finds a Place to Stay

When Sophia and Honour left Upton they asked their guide to travel towards London. They had just crossed a river when they heard the sound of horses behind them. Sophia ordered the guide to travel faster. Faster still came the horses behind them, and soon they were overtaken.

The travellers who joined Sophia were also a lady, her maid and a guide. Very politely, the two parties agreed to travel together. They rode steadily, without speaking, until daylight came. Then the two ladies, who were riding side by side, looked at each other and said with one breath: ‘Sophia!’

‘Harriet!’

The wise reader will not be surprised to learn that the lady whom Sophia recognized was Mrs Fitzpatrick, for she had indeed been staying in the inn they had just left. What will surprise you is that Harriet Fitzpatrick was Sophia’s cousin. They had once lived together with their aunt, Mrs Western, and were dear friends until Harriet had run away to marry Mr Fitzpatrick at the age of eighteen.

In the afternoon they stopped at an inn to eat and rest. Sophia, who had not been to bed for two nights, slept until after the sun went down. When she woke, she ordered tea and told Harriet that she was travelling to London. Her cousin agreed to accompany her. She had planned to go to Bath, or to stay with her aunt Western, but her husband’s sudden arrival at the inn in Upton had changed her mind.

Sophia now felt so fresh that she suggested leaving immediately It was a clear night, and not too cold. Harriet begged her to wait until morning, so the two cousins stayed the night in the inn and exchanged stories.

Harriet’s story was so tragic that when dinner came, Sophia could hardly eat. Harriet had suffered from cruelty, jealousy and terrible unhappiness, but her appetite seemed excellent, and she stopped for a while to enjoy her meal. Then she finished her story.

‘Mr Fitzpatrick wanted the last of my money. He never beat me, but he did lock me in my room. I had no pen, no paper, no books, just a servant to make my bed every day and bring me food. I was desperate, but by very good fortune (well, I will not tire you with the details) I managed to escape. I made my way to Dublin, took a boat to England and was travelling to Bath when I stopped at Upton. My husband overtook me there last night, but though I heard him, he did not find me.’

Sophia gave a sigh. It was now time to tell her story, which she did, and I hope the reader will excuse me for not repeating it. But I will say one thing. She never mentioned Tom from beginning to end. It was as if he didn’t exist.

Very late that evening, an Irish lord arrived at the inn. Learning that Mrs Fitzpatrick was upstairs, he sent the landlord up with a message.

Harriet seemed very pleased to receive the message, and invited the lord to visit them immediately. He seemed to be a very special friend. He was a neighbour of Harriet’s in Ireland, and in fact it was with his help that she had managed to escape from her husband. But for some reason she had not given this information to Sophia.

The lord seemed surprised that Harriet was not in Bath. He very politely offered to take the two ladies to London in his carriage. Harriet accepted instantly.

When the lord left, Harriet spoke warmly about him, and his love for his wife, saying she believed he was the most faithful husband she knew. Then it was time for sleep.

Next morning, the ladies paid their guides, and it was then that Sophia discovered she had lost something. It was a banknote which her father had given her to buy her wedding clothes. She searched everywhere, but the note was not to be found, and she realized she must have dropped it on the road when she pulled a handkerchief from her pocket.

The ladies and their maids now got into the lord’s carriage and set off, accompanied by many servants. They travelled ninety miles in two days, and on the second evening arrived in London.

They were taken to the lord’s house. As his wife was not in town, Harriet absolutely refused his invitation to stay in the house, and lodgings were found for her.

Sophia spent one night with her cousin, but next day sent a note to Lady Bellaston, the relative she had met at her aunt’s house. She was immediately invited to stay with her.

Harriet seemed happy for Sophia to leave her alone, and Sophia began to suspect the reason. She tried to give her cousin some wise advice. ‘Consider what a dangerous situation you are in, my dear. You are a married woman, and your friend’s wife is not here. People will gossip.’

Harriet was amused, and said, ‘I will visit you soon, dear Sophy. Now, please try to forget your country ideas.’

So Sophia went to Lady Bellaston’s house, where she found a warm welcome. Lady Bellaston promised to give her all the protection which it was in her power to give. And as we have now brought our heroine into safe hands, we can leave her there for a while and return to poor Tom.

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