Miss Georgiana Stanhope to Miss XXX
My dear Anne
Sophy and I have just been practising a little deceit on our eldest Sister, to which we are not perfectly reconciled, and yet the circumstances were such that if any thing will excuse it, they must. Our neighbour Mr Watts has made proposals to Mary; Proposals which she knew not how to receive, for tho' she has a particular Dislike to him (in which she is not singular) yet she would willingly marry him sooner than risk his offering to Sophy or me which in case of a refusal from herself, he told her he should do, for you must know the poor Girl considers our marrying before her as one of the greatest misfortunes that can possibly befall her, and to prevent it would willingly ensure herself everlasting Misery by a Marriage with Mr Watts. An hour ago she came to us to sound our inclinations respecting the affair which were to determine hers. A little before she came my Mother had given us an account of it, telling us that she certainly would not let him go farther than our own family for a Wife. 'And therefore' (said she) 'If Mary won't have him Sophy must, and if Sophy won't Georgiana shall.' Poor Georgiana!--We neither of us attempted to alter my Mother's resolution, which I am sorry to say is generally more strictly kept than rationally formed. As soon as she was gone however I broke silence to assure Sophy that if Mary should refuse Mr Watts I should not expect her to sacrifice her happiness by becoming his Wife from a motive of Generosity to me, which I was afraid her Good nature and Sisterly affection might induce her to do.
'Let us flatter ourselves' (replied She) 'that Mary will not refuse him. Yet how can I hope that my Sister may accept a Man who cannot make her happy.'
'He cannot it is true but his Fortune, his Name, his House, his Carriage will and I have no doubt but that Mary will marry him; indeed why should she not? He is not more than two and thirty; a very proper age for a Man to marry at; He is rather plain to be sure, but then what is Beauty in a Man; if he has but a genteel figure and a sensible looking Face it is quite sufficient.'
'This is all very true, Georgiana, but Mr Watts's figure is unfortunately extremely vulgar and his Countenance is very heavy.'
'And then as to his temper; it has been reckoned bad, but may not the World be deceived in their Judgement of it. There is an open Frankness in his Disposition which becomes a Man; They say he is stingy; We'll call that Prudence. They say he is suspicious. That proceeds from a warmth ofHeart always excusable in Youth, and in short I see no reason why he should not make a very good Husband, or why Mary should not be very happy with him.'
Sophy laughed; I continued,
'However whether Mary accepts him or not I am resolved. My determination is made. I never would marry Mr Watts were Beggary the only alternative. So deficient in every respect! Hideous in his person and without one good Quality to make amends for it. His fortune to be sure is good. Yet not so very large! Three thousand a year. What is three thousand a year? It is but six times as much as my Mother's income. It will not tempt me.'
Yet it will be a noble fortune for Mary' said Sophy laughing again.
'For Mary! Yes indeed it will give me pleasure to see her in such affluence.'
Thus I ran on to the great Entertainment of my Sister till Mary came into the room to appearance in great agitation. She sate down. We made room for her at the fire. She seemed at a loss how to begin and at last said in some confusion.
'Pray, Sophy, have you any mind to be married!'
'To be married! None in the least. But why do you ask me? Are you acquainted with any one who means to make me proposals?'
'I--no, how should I? But mayn't I ask a common question'
'Not a very common one, Mary, surely.' (said I). She paused and after some moments silence went on--
'How should you like to marry Mr Watts, Sophy?'
I winked at Sophy and replied for her. 'Who is there but must rejoice to marry a man of three thousand a year?'
'Very true' (she replied) 'That's very true. So you would have him if he would offer, Georgiana, and would you Sophy?'
Sophy did not like the idea of telling a lie and deceiving her Sister; she prevented the first and saved half her conscience by equivocation.
'I should certainly act just as Georgiana would do.'
'Well then,' said Mary with triumph in her Eyes, 'I have had an offer from Mr Watts.'
We were of course very much surprised; 'Oh! do not accept him,' said I, 'and then perhaps he may have me.'
In short my scheme took and Mary is resolved to do that to prevent our supposed happiness which she would not have done to ensure it in reality. Yet after all my Heart cannot acquit me and Sophy is even more scrupulous. Quiet our Minds my dear Anne by writing and telling us you approve our conduct. Consider it well over. Mary will have real pleasure in being a married Woman, and able to chaprone us, which she certainly shall do, for I think myself bound to contribute as much as possible to her happiness in a State I have made her choose. They will probably have a new Carriage, which will be paradise to her, and if we can prevail on Mr W. to set up his Phaeton she will be too happy. These things however would be no consolation to Sophy or me for domestic Misery. Remember all this and do not condemn us.