T H E

 

 

O F F S P R I N G

 

 

O F

 

 

F  A  N C  Y,

 

 

A  N O V E L.

 

 

By  A  L A D Y.

 

 

I N  T W O  V O L U M E S.

 

 

V O L.  I.

 

 

L O N D O N:

Printed for J. BEW, Pater-noster-Row.

MDCCLXXVIII.


 

T H E

 

 

O F F S P R I N G

 

O F

 

F  A  N C  Y.

 

*******

 

 

LETTER I.

 

MRS. CLEMENT TO MRS. BELLAS.

 

MY DEAR CHARLOTTE,

 

THOUGH you have not kept your word with me, of writing the moment you arrived at Frogly Farm, I will only chide you by my eagerness to prove the largest share of sisterly affection.—I had a pious visit this morning from your excellent pastor, who is come up to this wicked town once more, to initiate his son Charles into the study of the mysteries of the law, and to fix him in chambers to his own liking; that is to say, with windows to let in the morning sun, and a ventilator to expel all noxious vapours, and circulate a sufficient quantity of fresh air to preserve the bloom which he carried from Frogly to Cambridge, and has ever since, by his temperance and sobriety, preserved, in spite of bad example, and the prevalence of custom upon youthful minds.—This is the good doctor’s account of himself, his son, and his present journey to London.—He tells me that Sophia is as grave, Eliza as gay, and Henrietta as beautiful, as when I saw them with you last summer;—that you and your Corydon are, as usual, the delight of the village, the envy of your rich neighbours, and the parents, friends, and guardian-angels of the poor.—And, as an excuse for my present propensity to write to my dear Charlotte, he told me, that you had begged he would appologize to me for your laziness, by the disorder in which you found your dairy, store-room, &c. at your return, and the necessary fatigues of setting them to rights again.—Now, though I always give just as much credit (and no more) as I think proper to all excuses of this nature; yet, as we are always apt to believe what flatters ourselves, I give you this notice, that I shall at times be content with three lines, provided you are punctual in point of time;—do but begin with a dear sister, and conclude with an affectionate one;—give me leave to congratulate you upon an agreeable cause, or condole with you upon a sad one, such as the tooth-ach—the visit of an old-maid—or some misfortune of equal magnitude; in short, do but allow me to use my pen, and (as I know it suits your humour best) I will allow you to spare yours.

I am at present engaged in a very important service; Lady Frances Montford and I are going to the next masquerade.—She is a good little woman; but apt to be saucy enough—She fancies nobody can have taste without a title. Now (you know I love argument dearly) I am determined to convince her that she is mistaken:— not but it is a very clear case to me, that nature meant me for a dutchess, only fortune made a trifling mistake, and in her calculation set me down for plain Mrs. ———. Now do I see a cloud gathering upon your brow; but I will avert the threatning storm, by confessing the superior happiness of my lot. We must not always be wife, my dear; for, however humiliating to human nature, it must be owned, that her greatest favourites now and then indulge in an hour of folly.—Yet, as I know the almost perfect goodness of your disposition, I am always afraid of trifling, unless I atone for a dozen lines of levity, by at least as many more of a contrary nature. For the present, however, you must excuse me; my mind is in an uncommon state of ease and pleasantry;—indeed, blessed in such a husband, who lives but in and for me—blessed with three such little cherubs as almost mock infirmity, and laugh disease to scorn—surrounded by all the sweets of plenty, and happy (if I do not flatter myself) in the esteem of all whom I converse with, what should make me serious—except the fear of losing these blessings? That is a thought I dare not indulge—and why indeed should I indulge it? The bounteous Giver meant them for blessings; as such I will enjoy them, nor impiously anticipate a misery, he may not intend to inflict; for according to our favourite Pope, “to enjoy, is to obey:” yet sometimes I think upon this subject, till thoughts grow terrible. Duelling is become a fashion as general as powder; and Mr. Clement has a sense of what the men call honor; which is to me a perpetual monitor that no man can be perfect: else, had my Charles, who is in every other respect a christian, been tainted with such impiety? My children too, are beautiful; he who formed them, best knows how exquisitely beautiful!—yet, may the small-pox come, and in an hour destroy that fountain of maternal delight.—Then, as to fortune, the last and least article of my happiness, that, in a situation like Mr. Clement’s, is always fluctuating; but that I think not of; for though your flowery lawns and purling streams may be the properest scences for romance, as a wife and a mother, I think, I can match your extremest heroism: in short, I am thoroughly convinced, that were I destitute of all the superfluities, nay, almost of the comforts of life, possessing, as I do, such homefelt endearing blessings, in the undivided heart of my husband, and the seraphic smiles of my children, I could, with the firmness of a Roman matron, smile at misfortune, and defy pecuniary distress.——I was interrupted, my dear, by a note from my sweet friend in Dover-Street. She is not well; and begs that we will come and play an innocent pool with her this evening. She keeps her room, it says; and yet she asks Mr. Clement;—that’s odd! But she is above the little pruderies of narrow minds; her soul is not of the common size; but, like her form, speaks her of a species distinct and separate from the crowd. How beautiful she must look in an undress!—It is well I am sure of my husband:—but perhaps he may not go. I have sent the note down to the compting-house: he sends me word that he hates cards; and, Selby says, looks as if he was angry. Why should he be angry? Something in his business perhaps.—He is coming up. Charlotte, did you ever see your husband out of humour, and could not tell why?—There was nothing in Mrs. Belmour’s note to offend him; and yet he would neither go, nor tell me why he refused; so I ordered the coach, and am going by myself. Adieu!

 

Friday morn.

 

            I never spent so uneasy an evening as yesterday, though it was with a friend, who, next to my dear Charlotte, I love and esteem beyond all the women in the world! About ten o’clock Mr. Clement called at the door; and, notwithstanding our joint entreaties to come up stairs, sullenly refused; and said, “He would wait Mrs. Clement’s leisure.” I hurried down; and, with all the pleasantry I could assume, endeavoured to introduce a conversation as foreign to the subject as possible; which seemed to me the best way of consigning the unpleasant occurrences of the day to oblivion:—it succeeded; and we have been ever since upon the happiest terms; nor should I, perhaps, have recollected the circumstance, but that I thought I owed the communication to you.—Give me your thoughts upon the whole matter, my dear; for still I recur to my first proposition, why should that gloom take possession of Mr. Clement, because a sweet woman, who loves us both, invited us to spend a social evening in her sick room? I must add, that I thought she seemed hurt at his refusal to come up when he called at night. Whether she thought it a display of his delicacy, and a tacit reproach of hers—or whether she thought it a symptom of his displeasure to me, I know not.—I am sure she loves me—tenderly loves me; nor could I bear society, if ever I should have cause to doubt it.———Mr. Clement reminds me that we dine at the other end of the town; and Selby, that I have but an hour to dress.

            Adieu, my dear Charlotte! may your domestic happiness be as lasting as those virtues upon which it is founded are conspicuous!

 

Your affectionate sister,

 

MARIANNE.


 

LETTER  II.

 

MRS. BELLAS TO MRS. CLEMENT.

 

Frogly Farm.

           

            MY DEAR SISTER,

 

TO convince you how absolute your commands, and how dear all your interests are to your Charlotte, I lose not a moment in giving you my thoughts upon the contents of your last letter: you know me, slow to admire, and slow to censure. Would to heaven your open unsuspecting heart were as cool in making friendships, as susceptible of the miseries which ill-placed ones may produce!—In a word, I never liked your Mrs. Belmour.—Forgive me, my dear, nor start at my assertion—a female friend, a very attracting one too, is to a married woman, a dangerous possession.—Nay, I will go yet farther, and say, that a married woman who admits no friend but her husband, takes the most prudent and likely road to happiness—yet, bound as we are, by every natural tye, to share each other’s happiness or misery, it would be making duties clash (which he who formed them never intended) to carry our reserve to the exclusion of a sister’s participation.—You know, my dear, what cause I have to love and reverence your husband.—I know the goodness of his heart, for I have been in some degree an object of it; yet the warmth and sanguinity of his constitution is a sufficient reason why you should, as I often told you, be very much guarded in your choice of acquaintance; not that I would wish to insinuate an idea, to the injury of either your husband or your sweet friend as you call her: I believe her, in the last degree, virtuous; and I think her pride and her good understanding will be powerful incentives to her to remain so; but, my dear, she loves admiration, and does not love her husband.—I have seen you forget yourself in a large company, and see only her—what if your husband should discover as many charms in her as you do, can you blame him for following your example? Hitherto, I believe, you have no cause to suspect his fidelity—let me conjure you to make a timely retreat from the post of danger, where you so often place him and yourself: he is a good man, an amiable man—but remember he is a man—and when you reflect upon the licence, which education, custom and the example of those we live with, give to all the sex, you will be convinced that the best way to victory is to draw him off from an engagement.—Perhaps, by the time you read this, you will have forgotten the subject—your mind is capable of strong and quick impressions; but the superior generosity of your heart makes you ever the easy prey of artifice and dissimulation—and since I am upon the topick, I will just hint, that if you could easily replace Selby, I think your domestic tranquillity might be insured from the worst source of disquiet, that of a bosom snake who creeps close but to sting you.—I find my mind in a severer tone than usual; and as it will probably discourse nothing now but discordant musick, I will break off for the present.—Mr. Bellas joins his sincerest wishes for every earthly happiness to you and yours, with those of your truly affectionate sister,

 

CHARLOTTE.

 

 

LETTER  III.

 

MRS. CLEMENT TO MRS. BELLAS.

 

HA! ha! ha! my sweet, severe, sentimental, sister! why, Charlotte, you rail like an old maid at a wedding. How is it possible for so good a woman to be so uncharitable? I could hardly forbear reading your letter aloud:—I received it in the most critical situation imaginable—we were seated a partie quarrée in my little blue room—Mr. and Mrs. Belmour, Mr. Clement and I—the cards were but just dealt—Mrs. Belmour passed, whilst I broke the seal—Mr. Clement doubted a moment, whilst I cast my eye over the first line; then said, he would do the same—good-manners obliged me to look at my cards; when behold! A sansprendre vole!—Oh Charlotte, how flattering every symptom of good fortune attributed to those we love! During the next deal I read the remainder of your exhortation, I must call it.—I cast my eye insensibly on the sweet subject of your severity—she hoped Mrs. Bellas was well? I acquiesced—Mr. Bellas too?—I believed so—enquired whether you had done her the honor to mention her?—There, Charlotte—what return could I make to that? I believed I looked very silly, for I am a miserable Bon Tonist—I cannot lye with a good grace—I did lie however, and so pursued spadille.—We rang the changes upon the four aces till eleven o’clock, when the servant announced Mr. Belmour’s carriage.—He rose; she was not well, and yet did not seem disposed to go—so the cold chicken was laid, and we enjoyed another hour’s chat—I was disappointed of going to the last masquerade by lady Frances, being seized with an ulcerated sore-throat the evening before.—However, on Monday next, we go with an encreased party. Mr. and Mrs. Belmour—a Mr. Deacon, who visits them, and a Mrs. Colville, a sprightly elegant West Indian widow, who always puts me in mind of Sterne’s Brunette in The Sentimental Journey—I have racked my invention to make dresses for the whole set—and have left myself no time to make up any thing, but shall go in a man’s domino, as will the lovely Creole—indeed that is the Ton at present.—I have at last finished the rest of the groupe—Mr. Belmour goes as Lusignan, Mr. Deacon as Osman, and Mrs. Belmour as Zara. Now don’t you be scandalous—Mr. Deacon and Mr. Belmour are intimate as brothers—the latter you know; his greatest merit is the just value he sets upon his wife—his greatest misfortune, having married her so young, that she was not sufficiently acquainted with her own heart to know she could not bestow it upon him.—And yet how amiably does she conduct herself! how sweetly, how meritoriously, make duty alone supply the place of every united tie that you and I have to bind us to our husbands! My dear good sister, “be not righteous over-much;” cease to think ill of a woman, who, in a situation so unfavourable, has deserved, through twelve or fourteen years of penance, the approbation of the world. As to Selby, I think you are right—and I will part with her as soon as I can do it prudently—indeed I have often been sorry I did not take your advice when I married, and avail myself of Mr. Clement’s offer, to discharge all the servants that were prior to my time; yet my heart forbad me to deprive seven honest creatures of so good a master, for no other reason than that I had got so good a husband. However, I do not like Selby’s manner of late; she seems disposed to make trifles of consequence, and sometimes speaks of her master with a freedom which I do not take myself.—True, it seems the result of her attachment to me; so far I should forgive her—yet he has deserved more of her than I have; therefore, if she had a grateful heart, he would be her first object.—I have, at her desire, and from a principle of economy, had her taught to dress my hair; and, really, I may be mistaken, but I think she has never been the same creature since—besides, I have within these two days been greatly offended at the liberties I find she has taken in the nursery, I will not suffer my children to be injured by my partiality, but I will be the judge of their faults and their punishments.

 

MARIANNE.

LETTER IV.

 

MRS. BELLAS TO MRS. CLEMENT.

 

            MY DEAR SISTER,

 

THOUGH I foresaw the reception my admonitions would meet with, if they happened to obtrude themselves upon an hour of mirth; yet the pleasure I feel at your momentary enjoyments, every one of which I share, cannot entirely quiet my apprehensions for your future disappointment in those upon whom you have placed your hopes of lasting happiness. However, I will not visit you with the bodings of the raven, whose tidings, however true, are never welcome—my duty, as well as my affection, called upon me to warn you of your danger.—I have obeyed, and now shall wait your time of renewing the subject—my prayers are constantly offered up for your preservation—if they are heard, I have nothing left to desire—or should any misfortune befall, I shall always as sincerely sympathize in your painful feelings, as I now participate in your delights.—We were much concerned yesterday evening by a message from the parsonage-house; the worthy possessor was taken ill on Sunday after service; probably he caught cold, for it rained a good deal, and he would not suffer us to turn our horses east of the church to set him down, lest I should be frightened at turning in the lane, which you know is narrow and uneven—poor man! I am afraid his delicacy will be fatal to him.—Mr. Bellas ran down to his house with the messenger, and found him sitting in the porchway, eagerly imbibing the refreshment of the air; but, upon feeling his pulse, he found him so feverish, that he persuaded him to go to bed, and take some slop to promote perspiration.—This morning he went again, and, finding him much worse, prevailed upon him to take a few grains of James’s Powders, which he had carried for that purpose.—Philip is just returned—and the poor doctor in the most alarming situation.—Lord have mercy upon the poor girls if they lose him!—Sophia has never been a-bed since he first complained, the good girl will certainly kill herself; youth cannot bear the fatigue which custom and repeated trials make easy to some persons more advanced in life.—I have been asking permission of Mr. Bellas to send Collins to sit up to-night—she has been used to a sick room, and has great veneration for the doctor.—I think if you were to send for Charles, and desire him to come down to Frogly, the sight of a son so beloved would smooth the good old man’s pillow—he must be obliged, and perhaps restored by it; at least it can do no harm.—Adieu! my dear Marianne! Bless the sweet prattlers in their aunt’s name, and believe me ever thine most truly,

 

CHARLOTTE.


 

LETTER V.

 

MRS. CLEMENT TO MRS. BELLAS.

 

            MY DEAR CHARLOTTE,

 

THE moment I read your melancholy description of the parsonage-house, I sent to Charles Mason, and desired he would eat a bit of mutton with us at four o’clock, as I had something to say to him from you.—Mean time, Mr. Clement, who was apprehensive his finances might not be in the best condition, proposed taking that opportunity of carrying me to visit my dear sister, and transporting Charles without expence or delay to his father.—I am almost ashamed to give you the true reason, and yet I cannot impose upon you by pretending any other, for my rejecting an offer so kind. But this is the day for which our masquerade-party has been made for these three weeks;—and I have had so many ambassadors from the different personages who compose it, and answered all in the affirmative; that I cannot now change my plan, without the humiliating circumstance of giving a reason to each of them, and perhaps having the mortification of finding it refused credit; for so much does a town-life take off from the social feelings of hearts like my Charlotte’s, that it would seem incomprehensible to ninety-nine out of every hundred of those with whom I am just going to mix for the night, that the death of an old man, however worthy, and the dissolution of an amiable family, however happy, should be of sufficient consequence to keep a being no way connected but by the general tie of humanity from the dear delights of “Do you know me?”—Give me leave, however, my dear Charlotte, to blunt the edge of your reproaches, by assuring you, that my heart is busy in the right place, notwithstanding the appearance of an insensibility which I abhor. Should it be the will of Providence to take the good old man, I know Mr. Bellas and you will have some plan for disposing of the girls.—Command me for a year’s pocket-money;—it is but dressing my own hair, and avoiding a superfluous plume of feathers.—Dinner is on the table; and I think Charles has just knocked at the door: I will contrive some method of conveying him to Frogly.—We have a couple of horses, which you have promised to turn out with yours into the long meadow:—I will have them put to the travelling chaise, which we shall not want till it can by some other means be sent back again. Fill the little private packet with an account of yourself and your good man.—The dinner waits; adieu!

 

Monday even.

 

            A circumstance has occurred, my dear, which I cannot conceal from you, though I know it will give you concern:—poor Charles Mason has fallen into some of those snares with which London abounds for youths, who, like him, have been deprived of the most useful of all studies, that of human nature. His father certainly meant well to all his children in the extreme retirement to which he accustomed them; and, with respect to his daughters, it may do very well; but boys should, in my opinion, have an education as different as their habits.—Poor Charles, unconscious of guile in himself, and untaught to expect it in others, made one in a party on Monday sevennight to Ranelagh.—A lady, of the Millwood kind, struck with the bloom which the poor old man was so proud of, watched his departure; and, having wrote with her pencil an enraptured billet-doux, contrived to place her confident in the lobby, who slipped it into his hand unseen by any of his companions, from whom he immediately contrived to separate, and hurried to the place of assignation, which was the upper end of the canal, under a kind of alcove, which was erected for a night of illumination;—the poor fellow has given Mr. Clement such an artless account of their meeting, and the consequent circumstances, as would, he says, disarm even your virtue in the relation;—but unluckily a jealous old gentleman, who had, it seems, a prior property in the lady, by an unexpected visit, has discovered the amour, and the turtles (Charles having sold all his moveables to raise money) are this very hour, perhaps, setting out for Dover.—When I know more, you shall; mean time, write to

 

Your affectionate

 

MARIANNE.


 

LETTER VI.

 

MRS. BELLAS TO MRS. CLEMENT.

 

OH, my dear Marianne, the worthy good old man is gone to everlasting rest! and poor Sophia, as I expected, has taken to her bed; where, oppressed with the heavy weight of filial sorrow, she sinks under the symptoms of an approaching fever.—Eliza and Henrietta are at my house, under the care of Collins; and, should poor Sophia recover, I intend that she shall join them till some method of placing them out happily can be adopted.—Eliza’s lively turn seems to ward off misfortune; but the gentle, lovely, little, Henrietta is more affected than I could have supposed seven years old capable of.—If Charles be not set out, hurry him down; for though he can now administer no comfort to his father, I suppose he would wish to see him decently interred, for his own sake.—I have this moment received your letter. Good heavens! what an unfortunate occurrence!—Unhappy Charles, at such a time to be absent, and upon such an occasion; I suppose it will be in vain to defer the funeral now on his account, so we may as well give the orders immediately.—I will carry your letter to Mr. Bellas; though, for the poor girls sakes, I had rather not be the messenger of such news.—Yet there can be no apology for his not coming down but the true one. Make my acknowledgments to my brother for his kind intentions towards me; he knows how welcome such a visit would have been:—nor can I forgive you for declining it in favour of an amusement which I know your good sense must hold in contempt, unless you atone for it by giving me the comfort of your company at an approaching critical period. I am sometimes very silly in my bodings upon this occasion; but I dare not let them appear, they make my poor Frank so wretched.—Remember me kindly to my brother and the little ones; and be assured of the daily prayers of

                                                                       

Your

 

CHARLOTTE.

 


 

LETTER VII.

 

MRS. CLEMENT TO MRS. BELLAS.

 

            DEAR CHARLOTTE,

 

I CAN now give you the whole history of Charles; prepare for a melancholy catastrophe, and soften the concern which it will give you, by recollecting that the good old man, whose heart-strings it must have torn, is happily released in time to escape the knowledge of it.—Whilst I was stolen up into my dressing-room, to finish my last letter to you, Mr. Clement, who saw the matter in a less serious light than I could have supposed, yet thought it of consequence enough to wish to reason the unthinking boy into a resolution to pursue it no farther:—with this design he went again to the Paper-buildings, where, as he guessed, he found Charles still in conference with the broker, to whom he had made a sale of not only his furniture, but even his books, globes, and a part of his linen, for about seventy pounds.—The broker, it seems, was not able immediately to muster the money; and Charles’s situation did not admit of giving credit.—Mr. Clement offered the broker ten pounds for his bargain; which, for some time, he refused; till, upon remonstrating with him upon the advantage he must have taken of the young man’s situation, and something like a hint of legal redress, he consented, and, pocketing the bank note, left the chambers in statu quo, and the gentlemen to their tête à tête.—Charles, who very properly considered Mr. Clement’s behaviour as a severe though delicate reproof, was prevented by an ingenuous shame from interposing whilst the broker staid:—the moment he was gone, he burst into tears; and, taking Mr. Clement by the hand, he sobbed out, “Oh, Sir, you have meant to save me; but I am only rendered more miserable—more, by an unavoidable necessity, undone:—before, I should only have ruined myself; now I must add to my own misery that of an unfortunate woman, whose only crime has been an affection unworthily placed upon me.” Mr. Clement, who attributed all this eulogium upon the lady to Charles’s simplicity and want of knowledge of the world, chose to let the effusion exhaust itself before he applied the styptick which he went on purpose to administer;—at last, when reason seemed to stand a little chance, passion having had ample scope, Mr. Clement observed, that the lady, from the best intelligence he could collect, was in no material degree worse than when they met;—that, if she had lost the friendship of one gentleman, she had still charms enough to attract another;—that the affection she had bestowed upon Charles, however flattering, was not of such a value as required his utter ruin for the payment;—that those epithets which he had so liberally applied to himself, were in fact applicable only to her first seducer. Here he could no longer contain himself—he fell into an agony of passion, and cried, “I am, I am that monster!” Mr. Clement, who really thought his brain turned, was at a loss what argument next to apply, when the lady (with her maid, both in mourning) broke into the room; and, upon seeing Mr. Clement, instantly fainted away!—Charles, who was now entirely off his guard, tearing his hair, and throwing himself at her feet, cried, “Look up, look up, my injured, lovely, lost Amelia; ’tis thy husband calls, the husband of thy soul!—we are met, for the last time—never to part again;—nor law, nor gospel, nor Merisford himself, that usurper of my rights, that tyrant, that lord of thy alienated hand, shall ever force thee from my arms.”—She opened her eyes, and, seeing Mr. Clement fixed in astonishment at Charles’s exclamations, screamed out, “My uncle!” and fainted again. Mr. Clement, who, never having seen her since she was quite an infant, did not know her person, the moment she spoke recognized the voice of a sister whom he loved with the tenderest affection; but who, having married when my Charles was a child, a very bad kind of man, who delighted in making his family miserable, was, by that means, for many years before her death, alienated from her family.—You can conceive the situation into which this discovery threw the whole party, particularly Mr. Clement; who, having gone, in the warmth of a disinterested friendship, to rescue a man from the snares of a wanton, found in that man the avowed seducer of his niece;—her beauty, her distress, and her apparent sensibility, however, disarmed his rage; besides, the hints that had dropped of her having an husband, and he being stiled a tyrant and an usurper, together with the proper sense which Charles had of his guilt towards the unhappy lady, even whilst Mr. Clement (mysterious Providence! her own uncle!) was endeavouring to throw her into a light the most contemptible—all these considerations induced him to think, there might be some circumstances of extenuation. He therefore resolved to be calm till he had heard the different stories of the unfortunate pair. Having said as many extravagant things as the situation will allow you to conceive; and the unhappy lady having a third time fainted, and as often recovered; the distracted young man turned to Mr. Clement, and, baring his bosom with one hand, and offering a sword which had hung against his library with the other, he cried, “Take, Sir, I beseech you, a life which my crimes have forfeited; and which the loss of my Amelia has made a burden to me;—I lived but in hopes to die with her; let me die for her, and death will be doubly welcome!”—Shame and distress kept her silent; but her looks spoke unutterable things:—she knelt, she clasped her hands, she wept, she did every thing but speak; but when her uncle took the sword, she threw her arms round Charles, and, turning her sweet expressive eyes over her shoulder, she murmured out, in broken accents, “Oh, Sir, be not just by halves!—I am most guilty; for pity’s sake, let me in death find the only refuge that can hide me from a husband’s reproaches;—brutal as he is, I owed him duty, though I promised him not love.” Mr. Clement, who took the sword only to sheath it, bad her be composed, and follow him;—she obeyed—I am interrupted—the rest to-morrow.

 

MARIANNE.

 

LETTER VIII.

 

MRS. CLEMENT TO MRS. BELLAS,

 

in continuation.

 

            MY DEAR CHARLOTTE,

 

BUT that I am bound by promise, and that promise made to you—I do not know what consideration could enable me to go on with the dreadful task. I bad you prepare for a melancholy catastrophe: good heavens! I did not foresee how very melancholy. I left off, yesterday, with Amelia’s consent to come home with her uncle: they arrived in a hackney-coach about seven o’clock; and found us, that is to say, Mr. and Mrs. Belmour, Mr. Deacon, Mrs. Colville, and I, at tea, and in expectation of lady Frances, who was to call about eight, to proceed towards Soho, but in our way to stop at three or four houses which were open for the reception of masks. Mr. Clement came into the room, with a very expressive countenance; and, in answer to the reiteration of “What, not dressed yet!” said, coolly, “He hoped they would excuse him, as something of moment had happened in his family, which had untuned his mind for amusement.”—I started at the word family, and, running out of the room, flew up to the nursery; finding all well there, I was coming down stairs with gratitude to heaven, and rather angry in my own mind with Mr. Clement for making an apology for what perhaps he had no mind to, at the expence of truth: he met me at the door of my dressing room; and as he laid one hand to the lock, he took mine with the other; and said, with much concern in his looks, “Don’t be alarmed, Marianne; I must introduce an unfortunate relation to you;—she will find employment for that humanity which ever accompanies true and unaffected virtue.”—With these words he opened the door, and the most beautiful creature I ever beheld threw herself at my feet; and, hiding her face in my domino, cried, “Dear Sir, what need of the comparison? my own crimes are black enough, without the contrast of my aunt’s virtue!”—I raised her, and bad her be comforted; told her, “I hoped her distress aggravated errors into crimes; but that whatever she had been guilty of, as she had obtained her uncle’s forgiveness, she had no reason to despair of mine.” She looked up with a degree of astonishment mingled with thanks; and, upon my sitting down on the sopha where I had placed her, she leaned upon my shoulder with the familiarity of a long friendship, and said, “Oh that all women who enjoy the happy consciousness of unsullied chastity would add, as you do, the social virtue of generous charity!—could I have hoped for a refuge here but two years since, what guilt, what misery, had I avoided!—but my inhuman father”—here tears choaked her; and Mr. Clement, who had been obliged to fly from the scene as soon as he introduced me, returned to tell me that lady Frances was come, and all the party waiting:—I said at first that I would not go: but, as we could not find a proper apology for turning our friends out of our house without one of us to accompany them, and that we were not able to decide immediately how far, and under what restrictions, we should mention the unhappy circumstance, there was no alternative.—You will guess with how untoward a disposition for mirth I joined the masquing party: it was well I attempted no character, for it would have been miserably supported. About ten we arrived at Soho, having exhibited ourselves at lady Shelburn’s and one or two more houses in our way: the rooms were very full, and there was a great number of well-dressed characters; but my heart was so full of the scene I had left Mr. Clement engaged in, that I could not even assume spirits. Mrs. Belmour was infected with my melancholy; and having droped a hint as if she apprehended some impending misfortune to Mr. Clement’s affairs, I thought myself obliged to remove that idea, by an indirect promise to let her into the secret when we were next alone:—about four o’clock I begged permission to go home; indeed, the single circumstance of being in such a place, without my husband was a sufficient reason for my uneasiness. I was sorry to break up a party that seemed so happy; and yet so apt are we to judge for others from our own feelings, that I could not help wondering at Mrs. Belmour and Mrs. Colville, who are both women of sense, being so entertained with the flimsy stuff of every masquerader’s brain.—Lady Bridget

T—— and her two sisters were in the characters of nuns: they did not seem to have any ideas to support the appearance; but they looked handsome, and that was a sufficient reason for the choice.—About five I got home, and had undressed myself before I discovered that Mr. Clement was not in bed—I did not chuse to say much, because, as I have before observed, Selby seems well inclined to make me displeased with my husband—yet I could not so far conquer the woman in my heart, as to suppress my enquiries—Selby, how long has your master been a-bed?—She smiled—Ma’am, he is not a-bed at all—Where is he then?—I believe, Ma’am, he is now in his study. The now was so emphatical, that I asked how long he had left the parlour?—Ma’am, he has never been lower than your dressing-room since you went abroad.—I hope he has not been too severe with his niece—is she a-bed, pray?—Oh yes, Ma’am, the young lady has been in her bed-chamber ever since the sheets were laid on. I asked her, whether I should undress her. She thanked me, but she had rather be alone.—She is really vastly pretty, Ma’am—I wonder who she is in mourning for. Lord help us! we have all cause to mourn for our sins, though to be sure some sins are greater than others.—I could bear no more—but told her to leave the room, and inform her master that I was in bed.—She returned in five minutes—her master’s compliments, and, as he had neglected his letters in the evening, he had taken that opportunity of preparing them for the next day’s post—that he would not disturb me, as I must be fatigued, but take an hour’s rest on the sopha, and then ride out an hour or two before breakfast. —The malicious creature smiled as she delivered the message.—I was distracted with a thousand apprehensions—was it possible that he was displeased with me for going?—no, for he thought it eligible—did he expect me to seek him myself, before I went to-bed? I wished a thousand times I had.—Was it possible that he should have imposed an infamous creature upon me for his niece? and what intention could he have in such imposition? With these interrogatories I amused myself till about eight o’clock, without ever closing my eyes; when I heard a foot going softly towards my table. I pulled back the curtain, and seeing Mr. Clement, who had stolen-in to get my powder, to put a little in his hair, and would not trust any of the other servants, Selby being gone to-bed, lest they should disturb me—I started out of bed, and, seizing his hand, burst into tears—Is my dear Charles angry? was all I could say.—He seemed greatly affected, and took infinite pains to explain the reason why he did not come to-bed, which seemed to me to originate with Selby.—What a vile creature she must be! I see every hour fresh proofs of it.—He would fain have persuaded me to try to sleep; but I had banished sleep by my anxiety, and my eagerness to be instructed upon the subject of the unhappy discovery; so I got up and dressed myself, whilst he gave me the relation, which I have with pain transcribed for you, and yet the worst is to come.—As soon as I was dressed, I knocked at the door of Amelia’s room, which she immediately opened.—I told her, that as I should be happy to make her situation as bearable as possible, I would breakfast in her room, if she preferred it to coming down stairs; and that, at my request, her uncle would avoid seeing her, till something could be thought of for her relief; yet that, as hitherto we had only hints and innuendoes to judge of, it would be necessary for her to instruct us candidly, and thoroughly, upon the subject of her misfortunes.—She blushed, and begged that I would add to the tenderness I had so recently exerted towards her, by giving her all the information I could of the unhappy partner of her misery—assured me, that her own sufferings she was resigned to—that she thought them just—and, were she enabled to hope that he had a sufficient power over himself to be reconciled to life without her, she should welcome death in whatever shape it came; and, mean time, if her uncle thought proper, she would return to her husband, whom, whatever appearances were against her, she had never wronged—but that, if we would spare her the pain of a personal recital, she would commit to paper her melancholy story, and then rest entirely at our disposal.

 

MARIANNE.

 

LETTER IX.

 

MRS. BELLAS TO MRS. CLEMENT.

 

            DEAR SISTER,

 

I HAVE waited with the greatest impatience for the close of your melancholy narrative—what is become of your unfortunate visitor? what is become of Charles? Sophia, who after a fever of ten days continuance is but just able to sit up whilst her bed is made, is always talking, and, as she says, always dreaming of her brother: she cannot suppose that he is in a state of existence, and capable of absenting himself from his sisters in their present situation.—The new rector has been several times to visit his future residence, and seems to desire the possession of it with a degree of eagerness that ill suits the character he should support, whether as a christian or a gentleman. “So man from man may differ, whose clay is all alike.”—Had Dr. Mason found it under such circumstances, his delicacy would have wanted invitation even to see it; but Dr. Freeman, for that is our present pastor’s name, has never omitted a day since the late incumbent was interred, and seldom fails to temper his enquiries after the poor afflicted girl with sad lamentations upon the inconvenience he feels at being obliged to reside at his present house, though it has answered all his purposes for thirteen years that he has held the living; and has reared upon its produce seven sons and a daughter, all of whom are living; and Miss Freeman, as he calls her, as impatient as her father to come into our parish.—He has made a proposal of purchasing, at a fair appraisement, the furniture, plate, and house-linen, just as it stands—and I believe the girls would be glad to accept his offer, but Sophia wants to see Charles first.—The Doctor has left a will in his own hand-writing, by which he bequeaths his books, manuscript sermons, &c. to his son; and whatever ready-money he should die possessed of, together with his household furniture, garden tools, plate, china, linen, and pictures, to be made into three equal lots, and appropriated to his girls; or, if they agree upon selling the whole, the produce to be added to the ready-money, and the whole equally divided amongst them.—His mode of appointing executors is whimsical, and speaks his character; he says, that he has always been so fortunate in the esteem and friendship of his parishioners, that he will leave it to Providence to appoint any one of them to the sacred trust of his dear orphans—and begs, that whoever happens to assist his girls in opening his will, may consider himself as their guardian by divine appointment.—To this trust Mr. Bellas has succeeded, and seems greatly delighted with the employment. Eliza has amused herself with making my baby-things, but Henrietta does not seem to relish any thing but reading.—If I had any mode of conveyance for Sophia, that did not endanger her life, I would have her removed directly, and give Mr. Freeman possession of the house; but I will wait till I hear from you again. If Charles could collect himself sufficiently to come down, I think it might be of great service to them all—the girls would be the better satisfied with whatever they do, if it had his approbation; and he might, by busying himself in their concerns, forget, at least in some degree, his own—so true it is, that self-love and social are the same.—If his person be so engrossed by this most unhappy adventure as to be lost to them; at least desire him to write to his sisters, and give his opinion and advice; which, circumstanced as they are, should certainly, in any situation, claim his attention and regard.—We found in the Doctor’s bureau a memorandum-book, which gave us a very clear account of what he left behind him; in an adjoining drawer we found seven hundred pounds in bank-notes; and in another about fifty-six pounds in cash, which, as we managed, defrayed the expences of the funeral, a few little bills to different trades-people, and purchased mourning for the three girls; and I believe Mr. Bellas may have seven or eight pounds in balance, which he concludes will pay the apothecary’s bills, when it shall please heaven to restore Sophia. I am greatly alarmed at not having heard from you for more than a week—because I know it must be very bad indeed with you, when you relinquish your pen.—Write, my dear sister, and relieve your

 

CHARLOTTE.

 

LETTER X.

 

MRS. CLEMENT TO MRS. BELLAS.

 

            MY DEAR CHARLOTTE,

 

THE most alarming apprehensions you can have conceived, unless they related to my personal welfare, must fall short of what I have suffered since I last wrote to you.—Why it has pleased Providence to spare my life and my senses, under such distressful circumstances, he best knows: I dare not murmur; nor can I, as I ought, be grateful.—According to my notes—the last circumstance respecting Amelia, that I related to you, was her request to be permitted to write, instead of giving a personal information to her uncle and me, of the rise and progress of this fatal attachment between her and Charles; which she promised to set about as soon as we would compose the agitation of her mind, by giving her some account of him, from the time she tore herself from him, to follow her uncle, on Monday evening.—I went down stairs to make this proposal to Mr. Clement; who accepted the conditions, ordered some pens, ink, and paper, to be carried up to her room along with the breakfast-things; and said, that as I promised her my company, he would go and call upon the unhappy young man, and hear his story, that, by comparing both, he might be enabled to judge what degree of credit and protection was due to either—but that, mean time, he had held himself bound, by every feeling of an husband, to inform Mr. Merisford that his wife was in his care.—I could not condemn the step, yet my heart foreboded something fatal in its consequences.—He left me, and kindly thanked me for my conduct towards his unhappy niece, with words so sweet, as made my merit small.—I had returned to Amelia’s room, and was making the tea, when I heard a voice in the hall very loud and angry.—I just opened the door near which I sat, and heard the same voice pronounce—“Well, I will find him, so tell him from me.”—Francis, who is very fond of his master, jealous of his honor, and perhaps angry at being supposed to assert a falshood, replied, pertly, “Sir, my master is a gentle-man, and owes nothing to nobody, so he has no call to deny himself if he was at home.” The boisterous voice again repeated, “Well, I will find him, and let him know that he owes me—justice.”—Amelia, who had turned pale and red, and red and pale, several times in the course of this war of words, at the last sound dropped off her chair—and, as she fell, exclaimed, “Angry Providence, must the charity of my benefactors involve them!”—She could say no more—I rang the bell. Selby came into the room, and, as she entered, said, “Sir, this is the young lady’s bed-chamber—perhaps”—“Trouble yourself with no farther conjectures, young woman,” said the ill-looking wretch, “I have been in the young lady’s bedchamber before now, and mayhap may again.” These discordant sounds were more powerful than my sal-volatile:—She opened her eyes, screamed, “My husband!” and ran and threw herself, her face downward, on the bed.—I was so frightened, I neither knew what to say, nor whom to speak to;—my usual presence of mind entirely forsook me.—Yet, as Amelia had assured me she had not wronged his bed, I confess, my mind, at the first glimpse I had of the man, applauded her forsaking it. For sure, my dear, though marriage, where the minds are joined as well as the bodies, is a most honourable state, as it is a happy one; where that sweet union is not made, marriage of the bodies only cannot, to the eye of reason or of sentiment, be deemed other than licensed prostitution: and if the woman willingly approaches the altar, and leaves her heart behind; to the indelicate vice of prostitution, she adds the impious one of perjury. This, however, is a charge from which my poor Amelia has thoroughly exculpated herself;—but of that hereafter; you shall see her defence in her own words. I will keep this till I can add something more.

 

MARIANNE.


 

LETTER XI.

 

MRS. CLEMENT TO MRS. BELLAS,

 

in continuation.

 

YOU cannot well suppose a situation so disagreeable as mine: the wife—the eloped wife, on one side; and the deserted husband on the other:—she weeping and trembling, he railing and threatening.—At last, I summoned courage enough to speak; and, addressing myself to the monster, I assured him, “however displeasing to an husband the step which my niece had taken, yet that she had solemnly cleared her innocence to her uncle and me, so far as respected the honor of his bed—that, though the disturbed state of her mind had not permitted much conversation; yet we understood, that she had always dealt honestly with him, in declaring a prepossession in favour of another—that, where a man married a woman so circumstanced, he must either have a very partial passion for the lady’s person, or a very romantic confidence in her mind—that, so far as I could learn, she had not abused his confidence, but wished to decline it—that, having gained, by the death of her father, a small independence, it was her design to have escaped to Germany, where there are several Protestant nunneries, and there to have fixed for the remainder of her life; but that an accident had discovered her to her uncle; and, when he had brought her home, he thought it his duty to acquaint him with it—that, as a husband, who knew the nicety of an husband’s honor, he even thought it expedient that Mr. Merisford should be certain to an hour, when she came into our house; since when, no creature but ourselves, and my own maid, had had access to her.”—I was at the length of my argument, to which point I had arrived without the least interruption—the poor victim not daring to lift up her eyes—and the golden calf to which she had been sacrificed having employed himself in the contemplation of an amazing fine brilliant, which he wore upon a hand that nature designed for other decorations, but which seemed so devoted to the religion of its master, which is the idolatry of every thing dirty and every thing expensive, that it scorned an alliance with any thing so common and vulgar as soap, and to all appearance has kept clear of such company these seven years.—When he found I paused, he put his hand in his coat-pocket, and, pulling out a filthy pocket-handkerchief, which he displayed as an assistant to his oration, he began, “Why, look ye, madam, as to the honor, and the nicety, and all that, I be’nt so particular;—I married, because I was rich, and thought as how I ought to have an heir, d’ye see, to leave behind me, to keep up my name.—To be sure, miss told me as how she had a great regard for a young man, and he for she:—but her father know’d better, and giv’d her to me.—In Turkey, where I made eighty thousand pounds, I might have had as many wives, d’ye see; but I did not fancy they:—now, as I happened to see miss when I went down into Yorkshire, to see a main-fine estate that I had bought, and thought as I cou’d fancy her; I ax’d her father; and told’n what I had a gotten to make a jointure for her; and when I had his good-will, I did’nt stand shilly-shally, but come up straight to London, and got the writings finished out of hand. When I went back, miss knows I was not stingy in my mind towards her: I carried her a fine set of diamonds; and told her, when she could bring herself to fancy me, that she shou’d eat gold, and drink gold; and that, as for that there young man, d’y’see, the rarities and diversions of London wou’d soon put’n out of her head.”—In the course of this elegant harangue, she sat up, and appealed to me with her eyes, the language of which I very well understood, for a full and free pardon; which, I scruple not to confess, my eyes returned; my heart confessed, that for such a woman to be joined to such a man, was the worst of crimes; and that an escape, unattended with any circumstance of guilt, must be, not only an excusable, but a laudable, elopement. He looked to her, as if for an answer. She attempted to speak, but tears stopped her utterance. He began again—“As soon as we come to town, I took a house in Berkley-square, and desired her to choose, whether she wou’d have a new coach, or a chariot, or both:—and when I found that she and I sometimes used to be at a loss for conversation—I told her, that if she chose to find any young gentle-woman as was poor, and mayhap might be glad to live with us, that I shou’d have no dislike on’t:—so at last she did find one, that was the daughter of a captain, who, having lost an eye in the service, liv’d to see a wife and four children starving on his half-pay; this minx, when she had gotten herself in a warm house, began to be pert; and because I sometimes thought it right to remind her of her obligations, to make her a little grateful, for contradiction sake she took it in quite a different light, and was more pert than she was before; and so one night, as they two were at Ranelagh, my madam there found an opportunity to contrive, by means of this dependant, to run away with some young fellow that she never saw before.”—By this time the poor creature had a little composed herself; and having courage to speak, she addressed herself to me: “Permit me, my dear aunt, under the shelter of your presence and protection, to answer all that Mr. Merisford has advanced, in as few words as possible.”—“Don’t you provoke me, madam, says he, or—” “Oh, Sir, says she, I fear your blows less than my own reflections, and those of the world, who know not me, nor my provocations.” At the word blows, I started, and reiterated, “Blows ! Amelia !”—“Yes, ma’am.” “Go on, madam,” says he, “tell your fine story, to melt the gentlewoman’s heart, and get her excuse for making a brute of your husband.” She burst into tears—“that Power who has seen your brutality to me, knows that I am innocent of the foul charge;—yet be not flattered; it was what I owed to myself, not you, that saved me.” She then recapitulated many past transactions, in their nature almost too horrid to repeat;—at all events I will omit them now, as probably they will be contained in her own narrative; and a repetition of even agreeable circumstances becomes tedious; when the matter is of a contrary nature, it is unpardonable. He listened with a degree of insensibility that shocked me, if possible, more than the accusation. And when she had gone as far as her own delicacy would permit, he again surveyed his brilliant, took out his handkerchief, and, brandishing it with one hand, he held out the other, “Come, Milly, says he, as long as I be’nt a cuckold, I’ll forgive thee;—not but you might have done your worst, if you had managed with prudence, and not made me the laughing-stock of my acquaintance: howsomever, if you have a mind to be friends, say the word, and I’ll never upbraid you no more; only, if you can bring yourself to fancy me, why it may add a hundred a-year to your pin-money, as you fine ladies call it; if not, a man must have a wife; and as long as I have one—mayhap you may be as good as another.”—“Mr. Merisford, says she, I never deceived you—I never will—it is out of nature for you and I to be happy—I cannot love you—I cannot obey you—the woman who can long continue a good wife to one man, whilst her wishes are all another’s, must have the possession of a virtue for which I know no name—it is not patience—it is not fortitude—it is not self-denial—it is not chastity: but it is a combination of all those virtues in one. I do not possess it.—My duty is yours, if an involuntary vow can bind the free-born soul:—but my heart, my soul, my virgin-vows, were all bestowed before I saw you. I told you this, and yet you married me.”—Here we were interrupted, by the arrival of Mr. Clement: I hear his bell.

 

MARIANNE.


 

LETTER XII.

 

MRS. CLEMENT TO MRS. BELLAS,

 

in continuation.

 

MY dear Charlotte must be impatient to get to the end of my narrative, and therefore, whilst Mr. Clement is in a fine sleep, I will give myself up to her. I have hitherto communicated only those feelings which sympathy produces; but, ere long, the character of the lamenting friend will be changed to that of the distracted wife! Heaven has been gracious, however, to my hopes; and my Charles can once more look up, and bid me be comforted. I mentioned, at the close of the last page, the arrival of Mr. Clement; but did not tell you that he was brought in a chair, fainting with pain and loss of blood! the monster with whom I had been sitting had, without knowing it, been the cause. Well did my heart inform me when first I saw him; and side with heaven and my Amelia.—Selby, just at the period at which I closed, came into the room, with more composure than I could have expected on such an occasion; and told me that her master was returned. This, as it was usual, did not alarm me; and my dislike to leaving the ill-matched pair alone made me pause;—by which time I heard Francis roar, “My master! my dear master!” That exclamation made me deaf to every other sound; my fears lent me wings, and in an instant I was down in the parlour, where they had rested, by his desire, till I came. It is impossible for me to describe the scene; nor, indeed, to you, who know us both, can it be necessary.—When Mr. Forbes came, he examined the wound; and, by the faintness of his manner, in hoping all would be well, deprived me of all hope.—You know the sanguinity of my disposition—I cannot bear doubt in the cause of those I love;—however, the wounds were dressed; and Mr. Clement, in pity to my distraction, lay so quiet, that, by a kind deception practised upon me, he brought his own safety to a reality. An occurrence in favour of your maxim, Charlotte—by sacrificing to oblige others, we always, eventually, oblige ourselves.—My mind, however, was too much interested to be quick of belief; every favourable symptom engaged my gratitude; but the fear of an unfavourable one succeeding, lessened my present enjoyment.—For several hours after I first saw his deathly countenance, every other impression was erased from my memory.—I even lost the anxiety of distressing you—no wonder then if I did not enquire for poor Amelia, till she was gone, past recovery—the brute having taken advantage of the confusion of our house, to force her away; and, as the grocer at the corner of our street told Francis, hurried her into a coach amidst the curses of the passers-by, who no sooner saw, but they were interested for her.—Several days passed, in which I could not gain the least intelligence of either her or Charles—nor could I venture upon the subject nearest my heart, though I had reason to guess, from the first hints Mr. Clement dropped, that Merisford had been the cause.—Even now, he chuses to be silent on the subject; and though he cannot exculpate Charles, he pities him.—For oh, my sister, however shocking! it was Charles’s sword which pierced my husband’s side; and, had the wound been a sixteenth of an inch more central, it must have passed through his heart.—As far as I can collect from the different disjointed conversations we have had, which, however my curiosity prompts, I never press—that letter which Mr. Clement sat up the Monday night to write to Merisford, respecting the safety of his wife, and which his own delicacy pointed out to him as an essential duty—by some means or other he conveyed, or at least its contents, to Charles. The unhappy young man considered it as a breach of confidence, and, in the agonies of his despair, wrote to Mr. Clement, instantly demanding satisfaction—and that it was that made him so glad to engage me with Amelia, that he might, without surprizing me, go out directly.—How wonderful are the dispensations of Almighty Providence!—how anxiously did I press his going to see the unfortunate youth! how little foresee the consequence!—He declares that he took every gentle method of composing his mind; but, when he found there was no alternative but drawing his sword, or delivering Amelia to him, (which, knowing her to be the wife of another, was impossible)—he was obliged to comply with the former,—the consequence you have heard, so far as it respects Mr. Clement—but—the truth must be told.—Poor unhappy, ill-fated, Charles is now no more!—Shocked at spilling the blood of his friend, who had gone such lengths to serve him, he fell upon his own sword, and expired immediately. I would fain have softened the catastrophe—but death admits of no medium—it isa journey’s end.——Upon his table the following letter was found, directed,

 

(LETTER XIII.)

 

TO MRS. CLEMENT.

 

            MADAM,

 

RECEIVE a dying man’s contrition for the complicated miseries he has brought upon your family.—The dishonour of your niece hangs heavy on my soul—the blood of your husband overwhelms it.—But your surviving misery, added to what my Amelia feels, restored to the tyranny of an unfeeling, a licensed monster, tears my heart separate ways, and claims the expiaton of its dearest drops.—The sword is drawn—despair is ripe for execution—accept the atonement, and pity the untimely fate of the lost

CHARLES MASON.

            Paper Buildings,

         Tuesday afternoon.

 

            P.S. There were likewise letters to his sister and Amelia, which I suppose the servant will forward. My mind is sore with the painful recapitulation. Adieu!

MARIANNE.

 


 

LETTER XIV.

 

MRS. BELLAS TO MRS. CLEMENT.

 

MY DEAR SISTER,

 

I Received your dismal packet just before I sat down to dinner, and have never since recovered the shock of the catastrophe, notwithstanding the kind road through which you led me to it.—Mr. Bellas is as much concerned, and sets out at five o’clock to visit Mr. Clement. I am afraid to accompany him, though I long eagerly to embrace my dear sister, and congratulate the return of health to a brother, who has been almost a father to me.—Sophia is pretty well recovered, and I have got her home—but how to break the dreadful news to her, without giving her immediate death, I know not.—The furniture, &c. of the Parsonage-house is to be sold tomorrow: Mr. Bellas has engaged an appraiser and auctioneer, of very fair character, to come down for the purpose.—He thinks it best to dispose of them publickly, that if any of the parishioners, who esteemed the father, have a disposition to make a handsome present to the girls (as he has been informed), they may have an opportunity of doing it, without offering violence to their delicacy—and if Doctor Freeman chuses to buy the whole, he will still have it in his power.—He and his daughter came to the house yesterday; and as they ordered their horses to be taken out, Mr. Bellas thought he owed his character the compliment of asking him to dine with us.—The doctor thanked him with a ceremonious civility; said, “That they did purpose returning to a late dinner; but that they could not be insensible to the temptation, and would accept the invitation.”—The girl blushed her acquiescence; and to accommodate them (for they had nine miles across the country to go in a heavy chariot), we dined at two o’clock.—I was very much pleased with them both, notwithstanding the prejudice I had conceived against them for an unfeeling haste to step into the seat of my worthy deceased friend; but the most candid mind will sometimes, under certain circumstances, deviate from itself.—It is the property of narrow minds only, to persist in prejudice against conviction.—Mr. Bellas will give you this; and, as he knows my heart best, he shall speak its sentiments towards my dear sister.

 

CHARLOTTE.


 

LETTER  XV

 

MR. BELLAS TO MRS. BELLAS.

 

MY DEAREST LIFE,

 

ABOUT eleven last night I arrived at your sister’s house, a poor melancholy single wretch, feeling—like an Adam without an Eve.—There is a vacuity in the human breast, which only one object can fill; and which, in the absence of that object, must, in spite of the propensities which reason and philosophy would argue into our minds, become an aching void. This was my six hours contemplation, from the moment I left you at Frogly Farm, till I arrived at Mr. Clement’s in ——Street.—He was gone to-bed, having set up four hours in charming spirits. Your sister, having poured out the effusion of her capacious heart, in thanks for his recovery—for my kindness in this visit—on the beauty of her children, every one of which she insisted upon my viewing as they lay asleep—and in her eager and honest prayers for your safe and speedy recovery, and my living to see myself and you possessed of three such little angels as hers—gave me a neat little supper, and ordered my bed to be warmed.—Whilst I sat with her, I did not think myself quite deprived of you—but when I went to bed—that very bed, which on my wedding-night received me to the arms of—oh, Charlotte!—if I cannot sleep a night without you—I tremble to think—what an absolute power such a bewitching little woman must have, if she were disposed to abuse it.—Adieu! my soul! your brother is much better than he was yesterday.—Your sister is very well, if she would be content to remain so; but that busy, social, sympathetick soul of hers will impose so many of other people’s loads upon the little body that contains it, that she always runs the race of life with the odds at least twenty to one against her. Once more adieu! Write to me directly. I propose returning on Friday—mean time, take care of my boy, and remember that upon thy safety depends that of thy

 

F. BELLAS.


 

LETTER XVI.

 

MRS. BELLAS TO MR. BELLAS.

 

            MY DEAR LOVE!

 

I Should not have wanted the influence of a command, to enforce a duty so pleasant as that of writing to you—so pleasant as all the duties are which love and you are entitled to—and yet it is with difficulty I can now write at all.—Do not be alarmed, my love—but excuse my writing a few lines, as I am obliged to do it in bed—a little accident, I trust of no ill consequence, obliged me to come to-bed about seven yesterday evening; and Mr. Powell advises me to lie still for a day or two, as the best means to avoid at a certainty—a misfortune to the little existence about which you are so anxious.—Adieu! my love! For all the kind, the flattering things you say, accept these tears of gratitude—accept emotions, which, though no language can do them justice, your heart can judge of by its own.

 

CHARLOTTE.

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