فصل 20

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فصل 20

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CHAPTER TWENTY

A Kidnapping is Planned

Mr Western took Sophia to his lodgings in Piccadilly and once again asked her to agree to marry Mr Blifil. When she refused, he locked her in her room and put the key in his own pocket. He swore he would not let her out until she promised to marry Blifil.

Lord Fellamar sent an apology to Mr Western, and asked for permission to visit his daughter as a lover. The messenger took the opportunity to tell Mr Western about his lord’s great position and fortune. To this, Western said: ‘Look, sir, my daughter’s marriage is already arranged, but if it was not, I would never marry her to a lord. I hate all lords and will have nothing to do with them.’ He then kicked the man out with shouts and curses.

In her prison room above, Sophia also began to kick and shout. Her father immediately ran upstairs, unlocked the door, and found her pale and breathless.

‘Oh, my dear sir,’ she said. ‘I was so frightened by all that loud noise. What happened? Were you hurt?’

‘Just a quarrel about you, Sophy. All my misfortunes are about you. Come, do be a good girl. Blifil will be here in a day or two. Make me the happiest man in the world and I will make you the happiest woman. You shall have the finest clothes in London, the finest jewels and a carriage with six horses. I promised Allworthy to give you half of my property when you marry, and you shall have the other half when I die. You are my only joy on earth, my little Sophy.’

Mr Western had tears in his eyes, and so did Sophia. ‘Do you really wish me to be happy, dear father? Then let me marry nobody. Let me come home and be your Sophy again.’

‘No, Sophy,’ he cried in a voice like thunder. ‘You will marry Blifil. You will have him even if you hang yourself the next morning!’ And he marched out of the room, leaving his poor, terrified daughter in a flood of tears.

Mr Western had brought several servants to town with him, and among them was his favourite, the gamekeeper Black George. Meals were taken regularly to Sophia’s room, but she ate very little, so when Black George asked his master if he could tempt her with a little cooked chicken, Mr Western agreed. They went upstairs together, Mr Western unlocked the door and Black George carried in her dinner. He told Sophia that the chicken was full of eggs, and left it on her table.

Sophia was very fond of eggs, so when she was alone again she opened the chicken. It was full of eggs. There was also a letter which had not been put there by Nature, but as the result of a lucky meeting in the street between Partridge and Black George that morning.

Sophia immediately tore open the letter and read it. It told her that her Tom loved her, that his arms were ready to receive her if she wanted to escape, but that if she decided to make peace with her father by forgetting her lover, he would understand.

Now a new noise came from downstairs. Mr Western was arguing loudly with his sister, who had just arrived.

‘How can you lock up your daughter,’ cried Mrs Western. ‘Have I not often told you that women in a free country cannot be treated like this? We are as free as men. You must let me take my niece with me to my own lodgings. These rooms are not fit for a woman of quality.’

Mr Western finally agreed. He did not want his sister to change her will and leave her wealth to somebody else.

From her aunt’s lodgings, Sophia managed to send a reply to Tom’s letter. He spent three hours reading and kissing it, for it told him she would never marry another man. It also said she had promised her aunt not to see or talk to him.

When Blifil arrived in London, Mr Western took him straight to see Sophia. To their surprise, her aunt was a little cool. She told them it was not polite to come so early in the day, and sent them away until the afternoon.

Actually, she had another reason for delaying Blifil’s visit. She wanted to visit Lady Bellaston and find out more about the lord who wanted to marry Sophia. What she heard about him from her cousin was very satisfactory indeed.

Lady Bellaston now had every reason to hate Sophia, and she told Mrs Western a secret. ‘This will make you laugh,’ she said. ‘Would you believe that young Jones tried to make love to me? Look, here is a letter he wrote me.’ And she passed her Tom’s letter with the proposal of marriage.

‘I am astonished,’ said Mrs Western. ‘Whatever did you do with this fellow?’

‘Whatever I did, I do not want him as a husband,’ laughed Lady Bellaston. ‘I tried that once, and once is enough for any reasonable woman. Please take the letter, if you think you can use it.’

When her cousin had left with the letter, Lady Bellaston received Lord Fellamar, who was still determined to win Sophia for himself. He told her about the way his messenger had been treated by Sophia’s father.

Lady Bellaston simply laughed. She told him the father was a country fellow not worth worrying about. His sister, Mrs Western, would persuade him to accept the lord’s proposal. The real problem was the young bastard whom Sophia loved.

‘Perhaps, my lord,’ she suggested, ‘you could find some way to remove him? Kidnap him, perhaps? Send him to sea? I could tell you where he lives, if you wish to know.’

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