BY MRS. HUNTER,
AUTHOR OF LETITIA; THE HISTORY OF THE GRUBTHORPE
FAMILY; AND MRS. PALMERSTONE’S LETTERS
TO HER DAUGHTER.
IN TWO VOLUMES.
PRINTED FOR T. N. LONGMAN AND O. REES,
AND W. T. ROBBERDS, NORWICH;
By R. Taylor, Black-Horse-Court, Fleet-Street.
You will suppose I lost no time in placing before Mr. Furnival the manuscript, with the little treasure of his unexpected guest; and I was gratified by seeing the impression I had made on his feelings. You know Mr. Furnival, and the peculiarity of his habits in applying to his cravat for relief in those moments of sympathetic benevolence which oppress his bosom. "Your story is a melancholy one," said he, untying his neckcloth, "and brings to my remembrance the unhappy catastrophe which left this boy’s father an orphan in the cradle. His parents lost their lives in returning from Ireland; the packet-boat started a plank, and all on board were lost. But I trust we shall be able to reinstate this child in his undoubted claims; and be the event what it may, you have acted conformably to your religion, and the example set before you by madame du Rivage." I mentioned Mrs. Wilmot’s suspicions, and Mrs. Whaley’s confirmation of them. "You must be prepared," answered he, "to expect such will be the result of your peculiar situation till the truth be made manifest. With the candid my protection of this child will have its weight, and I shall take care of his interest. When monsieur du Rivage arrives, his concurrence will proclaim your connexion with the child, and the tale of a gossip will be lost in a truth which will not disgrace you, nor those who take up the cause of the injured. Dismiss from your thoughts, therefore, all alarm for your reputation; I will take care of these documents, and now read you a letter from your old friend doctor Hawksbury." The doctor evidently still remembered his little favourite. A cordial invitation to his house, with the expectations which he had raised in the minds of his two girls, was followed by his informing Mr. Furnival that my mother and my sister were with Mrs. Budgely in Watling-street. The next morning Mr. Furnival proposed calling upon them, observing that it might be agreeable to my mother to have notice of my arrival, and to see me at his house. Governed by his judgment, I wrote a short note, and he took charge of it. At dinner he gave me an account of his commission. ‘The family were in the country, and only a dirty boy appeared to answer his inquiries. The cook was gone out on a jaunt, according to the lad’s report. He did not know exactly where his master’s country house was, for he was not a servant; but nephew to the porter, who had left him to take care of the house, it being Sunday, and no business to do.’ Mr. Furnival left the note, and the boy engaged to give it to his uncle at his return. I was disposed to regard this delay as a reprieve rather than as a privation. I was in hourly expectation of seeing the poor fugitive monsieur du Rivage; and released from my inquietudes in regard to my child, I gave up my mind to the suspense in which my father’s absence involved me. Mr. Furnival shared with me in this source of uneasiness. He had called on Mr. Wilmot at his hotel. ‘The family had left town for a few days.’ And my compassionate friend strove to amuse me by showing me its extent. Mrs. Dawson, in these excursions, carried me to shops; and with a youthful taste for novelty, I modelled my dress by English fashions, and Sigismund’s by the standard of ease and neatness. Eight days passed; the tender epithet of "my dear child" was become familiar to me; the plain and singular person of Mr. Furnival forgotten; whilst his manners won me to love and reverence him as the first of human beings. Dawson had lived with him eighteen years. She was never weary of talking of her good master; and with joy I perceived that Sigismund could make him forget his time, and his old favourites. For Mrs. Dawson with much seriousness asked him how many of Patch’s kittens were to be saved. And he answered with great indifference, "One," whilst he fondly caressed the lisping cherub on his knee, who then articulated "Papa." But to return from an image of pure delight to the vexations which troubled this hour of repose.
Again Mr. Furnival repaired to Watling-street. He was more successful than in the first instance: for Mr. Budgely received him; and probably knowing his reputed wealth and professional consideration, he received his visitor with great respect. He gave Mr. Furnival to understand that my note had duly reached my mother’s hand; but that particular engagements had prevented her answering it, she being unable to fix a day for seeing me in town. "I will conduct miss Murray to her," answered my friend coldly, "if that be more convenient to Mrs. Murray. Her daughter regrets that she has passed more than a fortnight in England without having seen her family." "It has fallen out rather unluckily," replied he, "for we are all curious to see the pretty French mademoiselle; and if you can make it convenient to dine with us to-morrow, I should be glad to see you, with miss Murray, at my little box at Hammersmith." Mr. Furnival accepted the engagement, and they parted, my friend being with ceremony attended to his carriage by Mr. Budgely, who observed the beauty of "Mr. Solicitor’s horses."
A faint recollection of Mr. Budgely’s manners, whom I had never beheld but once, with Mr. Furnival’s account of his reception, added little to the expectation of the pleasure my first visit to Hammersmith would produce: but my mind turned with hope to the welcome of a parent; and recalling my mother’s predilection in favour of beauty, I fondly yielded to the suggestions of vanity, and hoped that my external appearance might produce me an interest in her favour, which my long absence had probably weakened. I even thought my English dress, and chip hat with pale blue ribbands, wonderfully becoming; and with frankness I confess, I saw not in your Pauline a girl a mother could reject.
My companion during our little journey became thoughtful, and at length thus addressed me: "I do not like to repress hope, my dear Pauline, especially where the object is so legitimate as the wishes which now prompt yours. I know little of your relations beyond common report. But your friend the doctor does know them. He came to London expressly to serve you, when madame du Rivage’s donation was finally settled in your favour; and he requested of me to keep the secret, and to permit the stock to stand in my name; and, for your security, to give him a bond for the sum. This I did: and you have at present three thousand seven hundred pounds, I having been lucky in my speculations for you." His reasons for these precautions were conclusive with me. "Your mother and her children had so influenced your father, that he believed your fortune with madame du Rivage would be brilliant, and that you would inherit the whole large property of your benefactors. In proportion as he approached his grave he became anxious to see you. He was overruled, and flattered to hopes by madame du Rivage’s promises of being in England in the spring. The doctor, who had been discarded from the time he rejected the hand of your sister Judith, was at this time told by the physician who attended Mr. Murray, that his patient had expressed a wish to see him, as a friend whom he valued. He called, and without using any ceremony entered the sick man’s room. He was alone, and in his chair. Instead of talking of his complaints, which were of a kind not within the reach of medicine, he spoke of the ferments in France, and of you. Hawksbury gave his opinion, and predicted that the sittings of the ‘notables’ indicated the monarch’s necessities and sinking power; with other remarks of the same kind. Mrs. Murray soon entered the room, and with much reserve said, she did not know he was there. ‘Mine is a visit of friendship,’ replied the doctor, ‘and I am gratified by seeing Mr. Murray support confinement so cheerfully: it will shorten his penance, and I hope soon to see him in a condition to return my visit.’ Your mother observed, that every exertion fatigued him. The doctor shook the poor incurable by the hand, and departed. The codicil to the will has been ascribed by your brother to this visit, and he has never bowed to the doctor since. Hawksbury is perfectly at his ease on this subject of offence, for he believes your brother’s acquaintance would neither promote his pleasure nor his interest, and he also thinks you are entitled to your mother’s consideration; who, from the time she has been a widow, has been carefully watched by your brother and Mrs. Budgely. She divides her favours between them, living by turns with each. Your situation, my poor child, calls upon you for prudence. Monsieur du Rivage is now at your mercy; and it is your duty to relinquish those claims, which, it is to be feared, will be the only means of bread to him for his life. I do not even ask you what will follow his arrival. But I warn you to be on the reserve with your family in respect to a resource, which in justice you cannot call your own till the fate of your benefactor is decided." He paused, and with visible distress loosened his cravat. Need I repeat my answer? No, my dear madam, you will supply it. "I expected no less," replied Mr. Furnival. "But, my child, your nest has been hitherto lined with down, and guarded by affection. Do not expect to meet with a madame du Rivage in your mother. Neither her education nor her heart will supply to you the tenderness yours requires. You are legally, if nature has law with your family, entitled to a provision out of your father’s property. I conclude they will acknowledge this, at least; but I am disposed to think that they will be neither liberal nor willing donations which you will gain from them. Let not this idea disturb you. Remember, you have a guardian to protect you, and that guardian knows his duty."
Jacob at this moment checked his horses for directions to Mr. Budgely’s house; and a lad pointing to a turn from the great road, we entered a narrow lane, and proceeded. "Your brother-in-law has a wonderful predilection for strait paths," said Mr. Furnival, observing a dung-cart would unavoidably impede our progress. "I hope he is uniform in his preference; and will finally find the ‘strait gate,’ which some men of his calling as well as of my own find so difficult to pass." He dropped the glass. "What are we to do, Jacob?" asked he with good-nature. "Only to wait a few minutes," replied the servant; "we are quite in our road." The cart moved slowly on, and we reached an obscure door. A stout low man, in a cotton nightcap and a scarlet waistcoat, with naked arms and a spade in his hand, appeared, and with an air of resentment, as I conceived, saluting Mr. Furnival with "Your servant, sir," asked Jacob what fool had directed him to his back door. "However," added he with more good humour, and opening the chariot door, "they say there is an escape from all blunders but death. So you will do well, fair lady, to make the best of a bad road;" and offering me a hand, not perfumed by the sweets of Arabia, he hastily conducted me into the garden. "This is miss Murray, I presume?" said Mr. Budgely, as we advanced to the house. I bowed. "Well," replied he, "you will find the women within, better prepared to receive you than I am: but I have been giving my rascal a lesson this morning," added he, addressing Mr. Furnival, who prudently walked with the wind in his favour. "The scoundrel calls his duty dirty work; and I have shown him that no work is dirty which is profitable."
We entered; my head turned giddy, my eyes closed, and I fainted in my mother’s arms.
My return to consciousness discovered to me several females occupied in giving me succour. I was however too faint to speak, till my mother in a tone of compassion proposed to me to yield to her advice, and endeavour to compose myself by lying down. I passively submitted, and was assisted in gaining a bed-room. It was now observed that my linen, as well as my face, had received the water with which I had abundantly been sprinkled; and my sister Judith, who was more particularly assiduous about me, sent my mother to her room for articles requisite to supply the want of my robe and corset, which were too wet for my safety. When equipped by her care, she tenderly advised me to endeavour to compose myself. "You may sleep," added she, kissing my pale cheek, "and I will in the interim take care and dry your clothes." My head was throbbing with pain, and nothing loth I consented to lie down again, and she quitted me. I believe I did slumber for a time, for I found myself warm, and my headache better. When I was able to recall more distinctly the agitating interview as being somewhat more than a dream, I recollected that my mother looked much older than I had expected to see her; that Mrs. Budgely was become immensely fat; and that Judith looked pale and sickly. My meditations were interrupted by the approach of some one; it was my sister Judith, who with great kindness had brought with my apparel some chocolate. "We shall dine late, I believe, to-day," said she, "and if you could get into the air now you would be quite well. I know enough of nervous complaints to pity those who have them. I am sure it has fluttered my nerves to see you so overpowered; but I am glad to see you notwithstanding." Again she kissed me. "Where is my dear mother?" asked I: "I hope I did not frighten her?" "She will be with you presently," answered she, taking from my hand the empty chocolate cup: "but I wished to know whether you were better. Your corset is dry, and you will now dress." A recollection at this instant caused me to blush. It may be I ought to blush, my dear friend, even at this moment, in communicating to you the weakness which then caused my confusion of face. I had with caution, on leaving la Fontaine, secured about my person Sigismund’s treasure. His father’s picture had found its place in my corset; and on reaching London, and giving up my trust to Mr. Furnival, I had contented myself with mentioning to him the picture I still had of Mr. Middleton. He said I might give it him at my leisure. Alas! I had not found leisure or inclination to part with the image of that object which reigned in my bosom. I wore it in the lining of my corset; and it now instantly occurred to me that it had been discovered, and probably injured. "Good heavens!" exclaimed I, "the picture! Is it hurt? I would not for the universe have it injured!" "Make yourself easy," replied my sister, drawing it from her pocket; "it is quite safe." She examined it with attention, and with a sigh observed it would indeed have been a pity had such a face been spoiled; for in her life she had never beheld so beautiful a man. "It is not mine," answered I with eagerness; "it is a trust for another, and of infinite importance. But has any one seen it besides yourself?" "Only Mrs. Budgely," replied she, "who thought more of the diamonds than the god-like countenance. She says the frame is only paste." "Its intrinsic value is not to be calculated," answered I, "as it relates to the well being of—" The door opened, and my mother entered. She kindly inquired after my health, and said that I had fluttered her; for she was not quite so young, nor so strong, as when I had last seen her. Inquiries were now made and returned. I was told that my younger brother was dead; and in the same moment, that "he was no loss, having turned out very unluckily." He had lived to spend a great part of his money, and had been cajoled, by a girl whom he kept, to make a will in favour of a boy that she had persuaded him was his own. I had now to reply to many questions relative to monsieur and madam du Rivage; and my mother with astonishment found that her daughter was returned on her hands. She had indeed feared, from the accounts from France, that monsieur du Rivage might suffer. "But who could have believed that so prudent a man would have remained in such a country till he was a beggar!" I replied, that I trusted that would not be his fate, and I was only anxious for his arrival, when his friends would show him the fruits resulting from a life of goodness even in this world. "They will be extraordinary ones," replied she with some tartness, "if they do not show him the difference of being rich and poor. But," continued my mother, "by what means have you found out the rich Mr. Furnival?" I told her that my father had particularly recommended me to his care; and that I had not presumed to intrude on Mrs. Budgely, under circumstances which might have made me an inconvenient inmate with her; and also that the family with whom I travelled had particular injunctions from monsieur du Rivage to see me safe under Mr. Furnival’s roof, where with her permission I meant to remain till my father’s arrival. "Undoubtedly," replied she; "for I am sure I could not receive you, having no house of my own." I was now relieved by a maid-servant’s entrance, who said that two ladies were arrived; adding, "They have been in the parlour some time, and my mistress wonders that you do not come down stairs." "Who are they?" asked my mother. "I do not know," answered the girl: "they are to dine here, and we are in a fine fluster!" She retired with the utmost speed. "One might as well question a brick-bat as that creature," observed my mother rising. "Could I not be indulged by remaining here?" asked I. "By no means," replied she: "it might offend Mrs. Budgely, and I dare say they are only neighbours that she has detained to see you."
I followed my mother’s steps to the parlour, and was met with an acclamation of joy by miss Wilmot. "My sweet Pauline," cried she, "how fortunate is this rencontre! Did you not think me dead? for you could no otherwise settle to my advantage my apparent forgetfulness of you. How is our angel boy? I long to see him. He will forget his Na, na." I replied without embarrassment to her kindness, and told her that unless she came to Chancery-lane her favourite would forget her lessons in a new one, for he already called Mr. Furnival papa. To this succeeded my compliments to Mrs. Wilmot, which were received with much formality. Mrs. Budgely was silent, and I perceived that she had lost her beautiful red and white; for the lilies had disappeared: and I judged that she had been perplexed by her unexpected guests; for her discourse consisted of remarks on the inconveniences of the country, where there was nothing to be gotten, as in town, at a minute’s warning. These and such like observations were finished by hinting at the bustle of the morning, and by lamenting the gentlemen’s absence, as threatening to spoil the poor dinner which she had provided. Mrs. Wilmot, to whom this was addressed, consoled her;—the gentlemen were in sight; and my mother was sent to hasten the dinner.
Anna, whose careless eye roved unchecked from one to the other of the assembled group, instantly singled out Mr. Furnival; and with smiles which his goodness could not resist, she asked him how he liked the bird of paradise which had found a nest in Chancery-lane. "So well," replied he, "that I mean to cage him, and hang him out of my sight; for, not contented with good treatment, he is trying to nestle in my bosom." She laughed, and replied that she would answer for his success. My mother appeared not to understand this conversation as in anywise relating to me; and Mrs. Budgely, still maintaining much stateliness and colour, led the way to the dining-parlour.
I had not been left so uninformed, as not to expect to see any other modes and habits of life but such as I had been accustomed to. I had been taught to regard as illiberal, not to say invidious, the ridicule which has no fairer object than the foibles and weaknesses which particular classes in society, and particular circumstances in life, induce. I had read of London citizens, and I had heard of rich bourgeois of Paris; but I had never been a partaker of their sumptuous boards, nor the witness of their awkward attempts at distinction.
In a room sixteen feet long, including a bow-window of the exact dimensions of a side-board, we found a table abundantly covered, whilst the side-board was elaborately set out with plate, like a silversmith’s shop-window. In the corner of the room was a small table garnished with pewter pots, whose elevation, and frothy heads, looked disdain on three or four drinking-glasses below them.
Mr. Budgely had no sooner placed his friends than he suddenly rose, and, saying he was thirsty, demolished the snowy honours of one of the porter pots, and in his haste the glasses received a portion of his favourite beverage: then turning to his guests he invited them to drink, observing that it would do them no harm, nor spoil their stomachs, after their melting walk. They declined his courtesy; when taking off his wig, he deliberately hung it on a bracket, and called for his night-cap. I did not dare to encounter Anna’s saucy eyes. I dreaded to turn mine from off my plate; and it would have been an empty one, but for my sister Judith’s attention.
Mrs. Budgely was evidently discomposed. She pronounced "the turbot was not worth a pin, that the fowls were boiled to rags, and the ham was hard." "It is harder where there is none, Becky," cried the husband; "and besides, I think your cook has done wonders to-day." "You mind no one but yourself, Mr. Budgely," answered the angry wife: "Mr. Wilmot has asked twice for beef." "I am your man," said he, nodding at the petitioner; and sharpening the carving-knife with his own, he cut into the smoking surloin. "There!" said he, "taste that beef, and tell me whether the free men of France have better." It was pronounced delicious; and Mr. Wilmot acknowledged he had not seen such a surloin in France. "No, I believe not," replied Mr. Budgely, "nor can they ever succeed in producing such beef: it is a judgment upon them for cheating us of the breed; it never answered; for they dwindle to nothing with them. I have been told," added he, "that they had no horned cattle in their country till they got Calais from us, and took with the town the live stock in hand. There is a good picture of the business," added he, pointing to Hogarth’s Siege of Calais: "our troops were wisely commanded there! Who would ever have shown the hungry mounseers such a surloin as that? I do not wonder they fought like devils for such plunder." Mr. Furnival’s gravity nearly forsook him; and I was prepared for Anna’s laugh; instead of which, she gravely thanked him for a historical fact she had never heard before, assuring him at the same time, that although the breed of horned cattle had degenerated in France, they were abundant, and rivalled England in numbers. "Perhaps they may, miss," answered the contented Mr. Budgely; "but, in my mind, one fat beast of English growth is worth half a dozen of their lean ones." "They think so in France," replied she; "and were you there, you would find I do not deceive you." Mr. Furnival called for water; he had swallowed too hastily. "Come, miss, will you hob and nob with me?" asked Mr. Budgely, pleased with her cheerfulness. "Willingly," answered she, "provided I have a glass to myself. Give me that goblet, young woman, with some water." The girl, hurried by so unusual a request, drew incautiously the rich cut glass from the dozen, which terminated the pyramid of plate; when touching a large and massy silver waiter, set up on its edge for its greater display, it fell forwards, and with a crash of no common portent announced the mischief it concealed. Mrs. Budgely’s philosophy was not of that sort which, in the poet’s words, ‘could keep her temper tho’ e’en china fall.’ The epithet of "brick-bat" would have been gentle, compared to some which escaped her in her displeasure: and the "brick-bat," apparently roused in her turn, answered that she had not been hired to wait at table. This produced a diversion in the culprit’s favour; and we were entertained with the grievance to which I now attributed my sister’s ill-humour. The footman had left his place in the morning, having refused to assist at the cart business, alleging he had full employment in the house. Mr. Budgely acknowledged the fellow was handy, and that he had been angry; and with this concession my sister’s features settled. The wine and fruit succeeded to this disturbance, and all was harmony. At length Mrs. Budgely, filling her glass for the fourth time with mountain wine, said, "I would drink this to our newly arrived sister, did I know her name." "Use that which pleases you best," answered I, unconscious of her design: "Mary is my English name, Pauline my Paris one." "I should imagine neither the one nor the other would suffice for a young woman with a child to present with herself to friends who have not seen her for years," replied she. I burst into tears, and was unable to speak. "This is neither the time nor the place, Mrs. Murray," said Mr. Furnival rising with calmness, "to enter into a story of some importance to your daughter. Let it satisfy you for the present, that she is one who will do you honour. The child alluded to is not hers; and in the protection she has afforded him she has given an evidence of her virtue you must approve. I shall be glad to see you in Chancery-lane, and shall be at home to-morrow. You shall then be informed of those particulars which will fully convince you that your daughter, in her claims to the name of Murray, will not disgrace it. What say you, madam?" added he with a smile: "will you pass the day with us to morrow? My carriage shall attend you at an early hour, and you will, before you leave us, love my little client Sigismund Middleton." My mother hesitated. She was ‘in daily expectation of seeing her son; and would postpone her visit till he could accompany her. She was quite confounded with what had passed, and found herself unwell with the hurry of the morning.’ "You surely have been indiscreet, child," added she, turning to me: "what could induce you to burthen yourself with another person’s child?" "What indeed," observed the enraged Anna, "but the lack of that wisdom she will never attain whilst she lives? But be contented," added she: "you have enough of it in your family. Mrs. Budgely’s prudence and tenderness will manage this unlucky slip; and Pauline will be saved from open shame." "Well, enough has been said for the present on this strange affair," observed Mr. Budgely; "Mr. Furnival does not seem to wish us to take the boy, or to stir in his concerns; and so let us be cheerful, and think no more of him. Is he a bye blow of poor du Rivage’s, miss Mary?" I answered with resentment, that monsieur du Rivage, although a stranger to his existence, would bless me for having preserved him from the dangers to which he had been exposed. Mr. Furnival ordered the carriage, and the pitying Judith led me into her room. "You see, my dear Mary," said she, "what has been my lot since my father’s death. My sister Budgely never knew what it is to love. I have, and I pity you: you will be miserable with us…but is it true that you are still unmarried?" "Indeed it is," answered I; "this child is not mine. He belongs to parents much my superiors in rank and in fortune." "Then the handsome man whose picture you wear is your lover! Good heavens! how I pity you! I thought he might perhaps be your husband, and the father of this infant, and I almost envied you; for what would not a woman of sensibility endure for such a man?" I hastened from her, not wishing either to repress her kindness, or to make her a sharer in my disgrace with the redoubtable Mrs. Budgely, by augmenting her zeal in the cause of disastrous love. Fatigued as I had been by the occurrences of the day, I stood in need of the consolation I found in my ride home. Mr. Furnival saw my depression; and with a kindness which cheered me he thus began: "I do not ask my poor girl her opinion of the relations she has quitted. You have seen them without disguise; for it requires better talents than they have, to practise the concealment of defects which more polished minds can with ease gloss over. You cannot now, Pauline, be ignorant that you will be treated as a rival for your mother’s fortune, and they will succeed in those views for which you are disqualified. Till we have intelligence from monsieur du Rivage, no steps can be taken to secure you from a situation in which you would not live a twelvemonth; I shall in the interim consider such plans as will secure you from vulgarity and meanness. Be perfectly easy, my child; Furnival has secured the orphan before he knew you; and should you doubt my affection, depend on my principles." I attempted to speak my gratitude. "Let us change the subject," said he: "you have been sufficiently harassed to-day. I am pleased with that madcap your friend; I cannot believe she is the daughter of that woman whom she calls her mother." "One would imagine," replied I, "by the manner in which she treats her, that she entertained the same suspicions with yourself; for nothing can be more remote from filial respect than her conduct to both her parents." To this remark succeeded the traits in Anna’s character which had so much surprised me; and with this subject before us we reached our peaceful home. Mr. Furnival followed my steps to the nursery, and with much exultation observed that he had Sigismund’s first compliment. After supper, with some confusion I related to him the incident of the picture, and, giving it to him, begged he would take care of it. He viewed it with attention, and with a smile observed it was a dangerous inmate for any young woman’s bosom: "One would take this face upon trust," added he, musing over it. "But, Pauline, believe no man till you have a better confidence than any external advantages can supply. Study his principles, and the course of action which these have induced, before you give him your affections." He then gaily laughed at my account of my sister Judith’s admiration of the portrait, and observed that, had Sigismund resembled his father more, he might in time have been Judith’s flame.
The following morning, whilst at the breakfast table, I was surprised to see miss Wilmot enter; and still more astonished on hearing that she had made her way to me in the Hammersmith stage and unattended. "Were you not afraid," asked I, running over with my eyes her Frenchified and careless dress, "of being taken for a stranger to whom no civility or deference was due?" She laughed with her accustomed thoughtlessness, and replied, that she was neither a baby to be frightened with raw head and bloody bones, nor a silly damsel who in every strange face perceived an enemy; she had been highly amused, and preferred a stage to a family airing. "But did your mother think such a vehicle a proper one for a girl who has not been a month in England?" asked Mr. Furnival. "I did not consult her," replied Anna. "Here I am, and, what is more, I have neither encountered man-traps nor woman-traps. But now for my history," continued she: "My father is already disgusted with England. ‘Every thing is so dear here.’ I have my reasons for being of his mind; and I have so well succeeded that he has taken the house we now are in at Hammersmith only by the month, during our absence from London, in order to pay a visit to an old aunt of my mother’s who lives at Bedford. My father’s agent hired our present habitation, and your Mr. Budgely entered into the transaction. He formerly knew my father; and finding he had the reputation of ‘a good man,’ he wrote a civil letter, offering his and lady’s services on our first settlement. We reached Hammersmith the day before yesterday, and found Mrs. Budgely at our new abode. She had been useful, and my mother was thankful. The morning, however, produced a difficulty. The gardener said, we had no right to the vegetables without paying for them; my mother insisted this privilege was in her charter; and in order to settle this important debate we walked to Mrs. Budgely’s. The detail of your arrival and fainting followed, with remarks on the bustle and confusion you had occasioned. My mother with amazement now found she had an opportunity of learning something of madame du Rivage’s reception; and signifying her surprise that the late companion of her journey had been so long in England without having seen her friends, she added, ‘Pray, madam, did she bring her little boy with her?’ ‘A little boy!’ repeated your sister with astonishment. ‘What! has she a child with her?’ ‘Most assuredly,’ answered my mother: ‘but there is a mystery in the business which I cannot solve. She says that the child is not hers, and that she is not a married woman; but no doubt she will be explicit with you. Monsieur du Rivage did not appear to have any better knowledge of this ænigma than ourselves; he never mentioned the incumbrance of the child to us, nor made any provision for his journey. However, miss Murray was in no want of cash.’ ‘Nor do I think she will want it,’ observed your sister Judith; ‘for I have no doubt of her being married, and to such a man! Never did I behold such a face and air.’ ‘Show Mrs. Wilmot the picture,’ said Mrs. Budgely with a more composed countenance. Judith eagerly drew from her pocket your concealed lover. My mother gazed on it with mute wonder, and then suddenly turning to me, said, ‘Is it not the very image of the officer who came to the hotel with the women and Sigismund?’ ‘I saw him only once,’ replied I, ‘and that from the window; he had dark hair, this is light brown; but peradventure his head is of the cameleon tribe, and changes accordingly as it is viewed. You also forget that his wife travelled with us to Havre. She perfectly agreed with Pauline, and convinced me that miss Murray had not known either her or the child more than two months.’ ‘Pray, madam, do you not think these are diamonds?’ asked miss Judith, still enamoured of the picture. ‘Diamonds, truly!’ said Mrs. Budgely, surveying the brilliants on her fat fingers: ‘I think I ought to know diamonds: you may have such diamonds by the bushel.’ ‘I believe these are diamonds,’ replied my mother, ‘and very valuable ones.’ Your entrance with your mother prevented more, and Mrs. Budgely dispatched your sister to help in the store-room. You know what passed till your departure. We were detained to supper; and you became the subject of conversation. My mother brought forward Mrs. Whaley’s story, and I became angry. ‘Well, my dear madam,’ cried I rising, ‘I think by this time you can add little more to the suspicions with which you have entertained miss Murray’s family. It is late, and I am weary of a subject which points directly at the innocence of a young woman whom I love for her virtue.’ ‘I suppose you are in the secret, young lady,’ observed your brother. ‘Sufficiently so,’ answered I, ‘to know that she will never be acquainted with disgrace, although she is allied to cruelty and meanness.’ ‘You are rude, Anna,’ said my mother. ‘I always am,’ replied I, ‘when provoked by malignity.’—I hurried from the room, and waited in the garden my mother’s and father’s approach. In our walk home I was told that I must not think of keeping up any intercourse with you till your family noticed you. I made no answer; but determined on keeping my ground. So I took the stage, and proceeded here. To say the truth," continued she, "I am curious to know what will be your conduct in the line of duty you have so strenuously recommended to me. What will you do with the animals with whom you are connected?" "I will enforce my doctrine by my practice," replied I: "but, timid and abject as you believe me, I mean to reserve my obedience for my mother. When she is acquainted with Sigismund’s story, and his claims to my protection; when she knows he has a provision for his necessities, and future prospects of wealth, she will be reasonable, and will consent to my acting in concert with Mr. Furnival for his welfare. Monsieur du Rivage will, when he appears, corroborate my evidence; and from what I have seen, I hope my mother will permit me to remain with him whilst he lives." "Oh, you need not fear it," cried Anna. "Would to God he were here!" replied I: "my mind is on the rack by his delay. What does your father really think of his absence?" "Why, to say the truth," replied she, "were he capable of thinking, he would share in your inquietude; but he contents himself with leaving all to time." Sigismund now entered, and with sportive frolic she allured him to her; till recollecting her hour was arrived, she left me, heedlessly laughing because I insisted on the footman’s seeing her safe in the stage.
Three or four days had elapsed, when a note addressed to Mr. Furnival, and signed by my brother, announced to us his and my mother’s intention of making a morning visit for the purpose of hearing some explanations in regard to miss Mary Pauline Murray’s conduct. My heart palpitated; for I had not forgotten my brother John’s harshness of temper. Mr. Furnival encouraged me, and I met the visitors with collected composure. A cold bow was the return given by my brother for my offered cheek, and my mother scarcely spoke to me. Sigismund was in the room, and Mr. Furnival, with a smile, presenting the beautiful boy to my mother, said, "Come, sir, answer for yourself, and restore your generous preserver to the confidence of her mother." Sigismund, unable to answer to this appeal, said "Mamma!" and came to my arms. "Then I must speak for you," continued Mr. Furnival with seriousness; "and on the word of a man whose honour has never yet been called in question, I do affirm Mrs. Murray, this child’s mother to be a native of France of the highest rank, and, in consequence of that rank, now a prisoner with the duke her father. Desirous of preserving her infant, she implored your daughter to convey him to his father’s family, who are natives of England. This father monsieur du Rivage well knows; but he quitted France before this child was born, and his fate is uncertain. I have, however, in my hands such proofs as will secure to the child the inheritance his birth legally gives him: it is a princely fortune; and till I see him in possession of it, or his father, he is my client, and will remain under my protection." My brother insolently laughed. "This is a good story," said he: "but it is a pity, Mary, you did not suckle your child yourself. I have heard Mrs. Whaley’s account; and I have now your ‘Triumphs of Temper’ in my pocket, with your name at length." He drew the book from his pocket, and, showing me my name, added, "Can you deny this?" "I have no inducement to deny it," answered I with firmness. "Mr. Middleton, Sigismund’s father, borrowed it of me; and you may return it to the woman who placed it in your hands, and tell her that Mary Pauline Murray will have not only her triumphs of temper, but also of a virtue she cannot injure." "And did you borrow Mr. Middleton’s picture as one of your triumphs of virtue?" asked he with fury. I blushed: but resentment gained the empire. "I shall account for its being in my possession to my mother," answered I, "whenever she chooses to question me." "The business is plain enough," said he, turning to my mother: "this fair lady will take care of herself. She has not lived with du Rivage for nothing, since he lost his mate. And ‘les fidèles peuvent attendre le bonheur’ with the aged as well as the young gallant. Her good friend has not been unmindful of her. She is in good hands, and has only to be faithful in her calling with Mr. Furnival. Mr. Furnival rose. "Do not imagine," said he with sternness, "that this roof protects you from my resentment; for it protects no scoundrels; it is my contempt of an insinuation to which my life gives the lie…" He rang the bell; and on the servant’s appearing, he said with calmness, "Show Mr. Murray the door;" and instantly left the room. My brother sullenly followed the servant, telling my mother to take him up at a coffee-house which he named. "You have done wisely," said she, "to throw yourself on your family pennyless as you are, with all this scandal following you. I am sure I do not know what I am to do, nor what is to become of you. Every body thinks du Rivage is caught, and will be guillotined; and I cannot receive you without offending my son and Mrs. Budgely. I will allow you twenty pounds a year, on condition you conceal your name, and pass for a French emigrant. It is the fashion to notice them; and you may get a place as a governess. It is a shame that du Rivage did not provide for you before he was ruined: he had engaged to make you his child!" "My dear mother," replied I in a soothing tone, "have the goodness to listen to me without anger. My father and yourself consigned me to monsieur and madame du Rivage’s care when I was yet a child; you both voluntarily acceded to their adoption of me; and so entirely was I regarded as their child, that my father did not think it incumbent on him to make any provision for his fortunate Mary." "No, certainly," exclaimed my mother, interrupting me: "we had a right to expect your great and rich friends would leave you a handsome fortune, and give you a good marriage portion." "Such no doubt were my father’s views," replied I, "when he overlooked me; and I do not mean to call to judgment a parent I shall always honour. But I am involved in the misfortunes of my benefactor: he is unable to make my fortune; and to his other causes of depression his anxiety for me may be added. His last act of paternal love," added I, bursting into tears, "was his recommending me to his tried friend Mr. Furnival. I am at present sheltered by him, and want is yet a stranger to me. Here, with your permission, I mean to remain till I know the fate of my benefactor. He may yet be preserved by that Providence in whom he trusts. I may yet live, to repay in part his unnumbered acts of kindness. I may yet live, to be his help and consolation; and the talents I have acquired from his generosity shall be employed for his support. As Mary Murray, I will, if it be necessary, labour for him, as his Pauline watch over his declining years and sinking spirits. I appeal to you, I appeal to my Maker, can I act otherwise without condemnation and my own abhorrence?" She was silent. I continued: "In regard to the circumstances under which I have incurred not only suspicion, but the insults of a brother whose duty it was to protect me, I have only to assure you, that it is not improbable that you will hear a court of justice proclaim Sigismund’s rights to a name and fortune, far beyond those pretensions in which you believe I am a partaker. My evidence will be acknowledged, as that of Mary Pauline Murray, his deliverer, not his mother; and with the proofs of his parents’ marriage, and his identity, Mr. Furnival has no fears of seeing him acknowledged by his father’s relations. It still remains to be known whether that father is not yet living," continued I: "but till this be ascertained, he will be Mr. Furnival’s charge; he not judging it prudent to commence a business of such importance, whilst the family, who are the collateral heirs of Mr. Middleton, are absent from England. They are on the continent at present, and he means to write to them as soon as he has their address. I have only to add, madam, my sacred engagement with his unfortunate mother. Till this child is the acknowledged and cherished inmate with his family, he is my care, and I am bound by every obligation of humanity, and honour, never to lose sight of him." "It is mighty fine all this!" answered she: "but you seem quite equal to the business without my advice. I wish you success in your adventures. You certainly cannot do better than to remain where you are. It may turn out a good job for the lawyers, if all be true you say, and you may be paid for your nursing, and the loss of your good name."
Mr. Furnival’s entrance saved me the answer this unkindness might have produced. "I find, sir," observed my mother, "that my daughter Mary has got into great trouble with this child. I am disposed to believe, as you encourage her, that her story is as she has related it. It happens unluckily for her, that Mr. Whaley should be my son’s neighbour. He lives in the late Mrs. Maisin’s house, and is a man of large property. His lady is a most charming woman, and my son John and his wife cannot help being convinced by her report of Mary’s being in a situation which must preclude her from their notice and society. Mrs. Wilmot has no less influenced my daughter Budgely’s mind; and I know not what I can do with her." "Make yourself perfectly easy on that head, madam," replied Mr. Furnival with emotion: "I am, it is true, rather too old for a young lady’s amusement; but Pauline will not need a keeper more indulgent. My friend monsieur du Rivage understood this, when he appointed me to be her guardian. His destruction is by no means certain, and he shall find Pauline has a guardian." "It is very kind of you, sir," replied my mother with an air of contentment. "I shall leave her to your consideration, and I hope you will be recompensed for your trouble in getting master Sigismund’s estate for him." "I beg, madam," said I, "that you will, before we part, see the proofs of what I have asserted. This child has a property with him which will convince you that his birth is honourable." She took her seat again. Mr. Furnival rose in his turn, and with great seriousness observed, that "it neither suited his character to produce vouchers for what he had asserted, nor his client’s interest to make his concerns a gossip’s story." "It is mighty well, sir," answered my disappointed mother: "I shall leave my daughter to your care; and I only wish she may find those who are less curious and less suspicious than ourselves. The time may come when she may stand in more need of her relations, whom she has disgraced. I have done my duty." "Most assuredly," replied Mr. Furnival with a sarcastic smile; "it was not possible for you to have done more or less." He ceremoniously conducted her to the carriage, and I yielded to my painful emotions.
On my friend’s return to the room he found me much distressed, and he took his seat by me in silence. At length he said, "These are nature’s tears, Pauline, and a tribute which by no means lessens you in my good opinion: but under this trial of your feelings reflect on the cause of your distress; and let it strengthen you in your weakness. I am a man of a plain understanding, my child; and I am also a man who has placed his hopes on the commands and precepts he finds in the word of God. I shall never give my sanction or support to one who violates the first and most important duty prescribed by that law, as it regards the good order of society and the safety of youth. But in imposing the obligation on children to obey their parents is included, with me, the obligation of parents to perform their duty to their children. The laws of this country—and glorious laws they are!—have provided a refuge for the oppressed, in cases wherein the weaker is exposed to the oppressor; and you may legally make me the guardian of your personal security, as well as of your little property. I advise you to avail yourself of this privilege, and you are instructed so to do by madam du Rivage. Let me appeal to your understanding. Is that woman a parent, who, like your mother, gives up to another the care of a long absent child, who is not only poor and friendless but calumniated, and of whose innocence she has evidences of more than sufficient weight to counterbalance the charges of malignity? Is that woman a mother, who sent you from the maternal roof and trusted your infant years to the direction of another? Is she a parent, who could forget your claims, in favour of injustice and craft,—and who now, although provided with the means of sheltering you, and frustrating the mercenary designs of your family, shrinks from her duty, and leaves you to your supposed necessities and injured reputation? Thank God, she has thus acted!" added he with warmth. "By her folly you are saved; and I promise you that you will never need the tender mercies of your brother and sister, as they call themselves. You must see, my dear child, that madame du Rivage has unfitted you for the abode of vulgarity and meanness. Be thankful to Providence for the asylum to which he has conducted you; and leave to me the defence of your reputation. I am but an old gallant; but, I thank my Maker, I am equal to correct insolence, and to give protection to a girl like you"—He paused.
"I think," continued he, "of making a visit to Mr. Wilmot. Write to him that by your order I am sent to settle for the expenses of your journey, and to reclaim the jewels he has in his trust. Add the list of them, as it stands in poor du Rivage’s letter. I shall finish with this kind-hearted Mrs. Wilmot also, and caution her to forget Mary Pauline Murray, before we leave London. It does not favour your health to be shut up here. I intend to pay the doctor a visit, and may probably extend my holidays." "Then you despair of seeing my wretched father?" observed I, renewing my tears. "Not altogether," replied he: "but when I consider his age, and the distresses which have borne down his mind and enfeebled his health, I should not be surprised that he had sunk under the fatigues of his journey, and had found in death a friend; for such must be the summons that calls a man like du Rivage to his grave." "He has been butchered by his foes!" cried I in unspeakable agony; "and you know he has." "Indeed I have received no intelligence whatever," answered Mr. Furnival with solemnity, "nor do I think this has been his fate. Wilmot told me that he was quite broken down when he was with them in Paris; and that he had then eluded danger by the fidelity of a porter belonging to his house. He meant to go to Rouen, where he had a secure asylum in an American’s house, and he travelled on foot with the porter till he was beyond pursuit. This man returned before you quitted Paris, and gave a good account of his master, who had only two days’ journey to his friends at Rouen. This is the whole of my information; and you must endeavour to think of him, as being in a merciful Being’s care and guidance, whether in life or in death. And remember, Pauline, your faith is defective without this trust." My angel boy now entered; and leaving him to amuse Mr. Furnival, I withdrew to endeavour to strengthen my mind to more fortitude. My suspense and augmenting apprehensions relative to monsieur du Rivage afforded an ostensible cause for my dejection, and occasioned me an illness of some days. I was however mending, and my physician urged Mr. Furnival to lose no time in his purpose of leaving town, as the journey would contribute to my recovery.
The day before we were to set out I was agreeably surprised by hearing miss Wilmot’s cheerful voice, as she ascended to my room. A month, or more, had elapsed since I had seen her; and on her entrance I was no less surprised by her paleness than by her heedless dress; which, although it was in the English mode, was far remote from English neatness. I found that she had accompanied her father to town, and had his permission to pass the day with me. When left to ourselves, she observed that I was destroying myself by indulging a sensibility at once childish and unreasonable. "To what cause," asked I, "am I to attribute the change I see in you? Your heroism has not better served you than my weakness has me. I find you as pale as myself." "I could have disguised that by similar means to those I have used for the concealment of the miseries I have endured since I left Paris," answered she: "but I am come for comfort, Pauline; and if in my confession your prudence cannot absolve me, your heart will, in spite of its suggestions, plead in my favour. We may never meet again; and when your virtue shines forth like the morning light, your poor Anna’s glory may be in the shade. I wish you to remember me as one perfectly indifferent to the opinion of the world, but anxious to preserve your esteem. I was Broudier’s wife before I saw you," continued she. "He knew when I left Paris I was in a way to be a mother. We parted, with his solemn promise of being in England in a few days after me. He did not appear; and I wrote to him. I thought his reply to my letter contained more of the politics of Paris than of anxiety for his wife, and I gave him to understand that I was offended. His last letter has satisfied me: but he urges me to persuade my father to return to the continent, his prospects being too brilliant to allow him to leave Paris; and with a detail of his rising fortune, he advises me to acquaint my parents with my situation and marriage. He adds that Mr. Wilmot would treble his fortune by the purchase of confiscated lands, and I might urge this argument with assurance, on the honour of a man who needed no pecuniary inducements to preserve him faithful to the woman of his choice, and the first object of his ambition and affection. I have for some time," continued Anna, "hesitated in regard to the means I should employ to effect my husband’s wishes and my own. I detest England, and I dread the passing eye. Fortunately for me, my father has received a letter from an old acquaintance who is now settled at Morges, a neat little town in Switzerland; and who writes with enthusiasm of the comforts of a place, in which he enjoys a good house and garden for twelve pounds per annum, and can treat himself and his family with more fine trout than they can manage for sixpence. My father talks without ceasing of the blessings of Morges; and my mother incessantly of the expenses of Hammersmith. I urge the stupidity of those around us, and all is en bon train for my dénouement. My poor mother would go into perpetual banishment, rather than face her daughter’s disgrace, as she would call my connexion with a man to whom I had plighted my vows of fidelity. But I wish to reserve my secret till she is on the road. Your sister and her ‘brute’ are my torments; for they are continually opposing to my plans the security of the English funds, and the money that may be made by buying and selling of stock. Do you know," continued she with unabated vivacity, "that Mrs. Budgely and your wise brother are now good friends and confederates, to keep your mother at a distance from your bewitching face and prevailing rhetoric? They found Mrs. Murray very much disposed to find you a good girl as well as a beautiful one; and in her rebuke of Mr. John’s warmth before Mr. Furnival, she had the courage to say, she was glad that you had found such a friend, for you must have been miserable with her. Let me hear by what means you softened her to make this concession." I briefly went over my conversation with my mother, not omitting the part she maintained in it. Anna listened with serious attention to my little narrative. "I have more than once said, Pauline," observed she, "that you are beyond my depth. Tell me, by what principle is your conduct regulated? so timid and apprehensive at one hour, that I call you a child, so firm and collected at another, that I own you my superior!" "Your compliment shall not make me vain," replied I smiling, and taking her hand. "Madame du Rivage shall not be defrauded of her just tribute by an affected modesty on my part. I am, as far as I am able, what she incessantly laboured to make me. My attainments in knowledge were secondary objects with her. She was a christian, Anna, and she has left me one. Daily do I bless her name in my petitions to heaven; for, with the precepts and hopes of the gospel, I cannot willingly err, unless I deliberately choose ‘darkness rather than light.’ My understanding rests satisfied with every sacrifice my religion enjoins; and I feel its burthen nothing in comparison with those dangers from which it secures me. Shall I proceed, my dear Anna, and prove to you, that what I conceive to be a duty I boldly undertake, even at the hazard of offending those I love?" She was silent. "You have been unfortunate," pursued I with tenderness. "It was not in political debates, or in the circle of madame Broudier’s friends, that you could find that guide which is requisite for the most exalted reason. I mean not to sermonize," continued I; "but, on your own innate principles of right and wrong, I will maintain, that neither your reason nor your love of independence would be infringed by a conduct of more consideration to your parents. They are weak and ignorant, you say. But can that excuse you from insulting them with your superiority? Were not you weak and ignorant when they cherished you? You say that your mother’s mode of instruction was a restraint on your freedom. Might she not perceive, ignorant as you deem her, that the native strength and vigour of your mind needed a check? And if she acted according to her best judgment, can you on that ground find an apology for the contests I have witnessed, and in which you were governed by the very love of power you so vehemently reprobate? I appeal to your good sense. Consider your present situation, and the future claims of your child. Enter into no schemes in which your father’s comforts and property may be sunk. I mean not by this caution to implicate either the integrity or good sense of monsieur Broudier. I even plead for him. His enthusiasm is increased by the triumphs of his party. How soon may he have to lament their ruin, and his own; and to regret the advice he now gives you, when he has to deplore your ruin, with his own folly, in having lost the asylum he may need!"—"I believe you are right," replied she, musing. "It may be better to inform my father of the necessity which obliges me to leave him, and to advise him to remain quietly where he is safe. He loves me, and I should be sorry to injure him. I have no fears for Broudier’s success, nor any doubts of his attachment. I shall inform him of my intention of joining him; and he will be satisfied."
We were now summoned to dinner, and with a gaiety which astonished me she accosted Mr. Furnival as an old friend. The servant was no sooner withdrawn, than with the most perfect unconcern she asked him how she could return to France; and without delay she informed him that her husband wished her to return. Mr. Furnival was surprised. She continued to inform him of monsieur Broudier’s prospects, which had influenced him to give up his design of emigrating to England, and of his claiming her as his wife, her parents still being uninformed of her marriage. The good old man cautioned her, in the strongest terms, to remain with her parents. "I should conceive," said he, "the hazard of informing them of your situation to be much less than the dangers you may have to encounter in France at this time. I think they would be much easier led to forgiveness by your confidence, than by your desertion of them in favour of a man who is of the number of those who have made marriage a mere convention of inclination, and a divorce a matter of whim and convenience." She coloured. He continued: "A father’s heart and home, my dear young lady, are well worth the experiment I recommend. You have a plea your parents must admit, and which is in your favour. They cannot but love a daughter whose mistakes have arisen from their indulgence. Notwithstanding your husband’s brilliant prospects, nay, what is more, without calling in question an affection which prompted him to take advantage of your youth and inexperience, I must strenuously support my opinion. Declare your marriage, and remain with your parents." She looked distressed. "Consider of what I have said," added he with tenderness; "and if I can be useful to you, write to me, and send your letter here: it will reach me; and if my interference can be made useful to you, command it." She bowed, but was unable to speak.
It is perhaps fortunate for me that you have some faith in the veracity of your historian, my dear madam, otherwise I should do wisely to suppress the sudden return of miss Wilmot’s gaiety. She began an argument in favour of those measures which had produced the horrors of France, and, with a partial but eloquent precision, gave the characters of the leading members of the different factions. Mr. Furnival was amused; and she was enthusiastically haranguing on the heroism of Charlotte du Coudray, when the servant announced that Mr. Wilmot had sent a coach for her, and that he waited at a coffee-house she had to pass. Her gaiety fled. She approached me: "Adieu, Pauline," said she with emotion, "forget not your miserable friend." She hurried from me; and I have not forgotten her—although I shall probably never see her more; for she quitted England with her parents some short time after I left town. Mr. Furnival having seen her to the hackney-coach, and ordered Jacob to attend her, returned to me. "This miss Wilmot of yours," said he, "has not yet been able to conquer the feelings of nature. She was subdued by parting with you. Poor thing! I sincerely pity her!" He untwisted his neckcloth. "Is it not a deplorable consideration," continued he, "to see a young creature so graciously endowed by her Maker as that girl is, under a delusion which must inevitably conduct her to evil, and to its miseries? With a heart replete with warm and benevolent affections, with an understanding beyond the common standard of her years, she is so entangled in the jargon of politics and the sophistry of unprincipled declaimers, that her reason is utterly confounded, and her heart corrupted. She is one of the innumerable examples of those, who, in order to gratify an overweening pride, leave the safe path of duty for the vain conceits and doctrines of men more ingenious than honest; more pernicious than the concealed adder. Remember, Pauline, that no reason that is human can be an equivalent to the power which it has to encounter from the dominion of passion. The most distinguished reason is a mere rope of sand, without a firm conviction of those religious obligations which alone can secure it from error. Our Maker understood that we were insufficient, of ourselves, to the temptations which would assail us; and he has, in his mercy, given us a law to preserve us unspotted from the world, and to be a rock of defence even for that reason of which we make our boast. Let this law be its light with you; and be not deceived. Reason may err, or be betrayed; but the word of God is immutable, and never-failing." "I trust," replied I, "that my poor friend will soon discover this truth. You acknowledge she has a good heart and a good understanding?" "I do," answered he: "but it is to be feared, the one will be rendered useless, if nothing worse, and the other will be still more perverted by the miserable connexion she has made. Poor girl!" added he with compassion: "to judge of her energies (as she has been taught to call a silly vanity of rising above the meek and quiet spirit which is the ornament of her sex) by the condition in which she was in going from you, I should conceive it would be a long time before she will reach the standard of monsieur Broudier’s ideas of female heroism; for, with a voice almost lost in her agony of tears, she promised me to take care of her father; and added, that you had taught her her duty. I was touched by this trait of her docility; and, observing I had yet some preparations to make for my journey, withdrew."
In August 1792 I again saw the place of my nativity. As I approached it, memory busily brought forward the events which had marked the few intervening years that had separated me from it. The scene of domestic comfort had closed upon me in France. My father no longer lived to welcome his child; my nurse and Tabitha had also paid the debt of nature. I became pensive; till Mr. Furnival’s cheerful voice roused me, and diverted my meditations to a subject of more use,—for his words of kindness touched my heart, and a sentiment of gratitude swelled it. I traced the hand of mercy, which had conducted me, from the tender and simple examples of my nurse and her daughter, to the more enlightened instructions and enlarged plans of madame du Rivage, which had established my principles. I was even now protected by her agency; and sheltered by a being, whom I had not known three months, with a compassion merciful as my necessities required, your Pauline, Mrs. Underwood, yielded to heaven its tribute of gratitude; and blessed with fervour the privilege which encouraged her to trust in an almighty Friend.
My reception from the good doctor Hawksbury was cordial and affectionate. His lady’s was polite and courteous. Two fine girls of about nine or ten years old received Sigismund with caresses and admiration; and with the ingenuous warmth natural to their age, they left us, in order to show Mrs. Fanny the young guest’s nursery.
I found Mrs. Hawksbury was no stranger to my situation; and Mr. Furnival, in the course of the evening, entered into the detail of those measures he meant to pursue, in order to substantiate Sigismund’s birthright. Mr. Whaley was mentioned: and I learned that some doubts, which his lady’s conduct had rather confirmed, were entertained in regard to his marriage. "She gives herself out here," added Mrs. Hawksbury, "as having been the widow of a man of quality, and a ci-devant count. An emigré of the name of Arnois, who is a portrait-painter here, pretends to be an old acquaintance of the ci-devant countess. He is constantly with her; and it is whispered that Mr. Whaley is jealous of this handsome Frenchman." I was on the reserve, and determined to add no celerity to the lady’s loss of reputation. A week or ten days passed. Mrs. Hawksbury’s civilities relaxed. She became languid and nervous, and declined our little excursions and walks. I on the contrary improved in health by following the prescriptions of the friendly doctor. One morning, in a ramble with the two girls, and our escorts the doctor and Mr. Furnival, the children espied on a door-way an advertisement, that "the famous model of Paris was to be seen within." They expressed much curiosity to see a place in which I had lived, and where Sigismund was born; and suppressing my reluctance for a show which I well knew could afford me no pleasure, I seconded their request. Some company were in the room, and gratifying their curiosity. I soon perceived that the miniature of Paris was a too exact delineation for my feelings of the place I had quitted; for, my eyes turning to the Boulevards, I was struck with the house in which I had shared the comforts and pleasures of my benefactors. The showman was pointing out to the company the public buildings, &c. and he asserted that any inhabitant of Paris could ascertain, not only the house in which he had resided, but even the windows of his bed-chamber provided it was in front of the building. I assented in silence to this assertion, and was retreating from the view of mine; when two young women observed that Mrs. Whaley had assured some ladies in their shop, that she had almost persuaded herself that she was in a street she called Honoré, and could see the very bed and picture she had told them of. "That lady has been three times here with company," answered the showman: "she knows Paris, and was delighted to see it so exactly represented." "And which is the street she mentioned?" asked one of the girls with curiosity. "That," replied the man: "it is called la rue St. Honoré." "Well, I see nothing in it to make such a laugh," observed her companion. "No," replied the other; "you did not hear her tell about the green lutestring bed, and the young lady." They took the place some people had quitted, and continued their examination of Paris, too remote from me to hear their remarks. I now again experienced, my revered friend, that even innocence could not shield my bosom from the envenomed dart of defamation. The curiosity I had attracted when at church with Mrs. Hawksbury was no longer attributed to my being a stranger, and dressed in the mode. I recollected that Mrs. Hawksbury had not been out from that day; pleading her want of health. I recalled to my mind, that I had seen no female visitors; and with an anguished bosom I discovered that my society was shunned, and Mrs. Hawksbury’s prudence called in question. In the evening, being left by ourselves, she asked me with some compassion what had depressed my spirits, and why I had declined walking with the gentlemen and her daughters. I frankly told her of the incident of the morning; and with tears added, I should in future dread the inspection of every eye. She coloured; and replied, she knew of no remedy for a case of such delicacy beyond the one I had, namely, the consciousness of my own innocence: but she could not deceive me; my reputation had been deeply injured in Liverpool, by the representations of a woman whose own levity was the subject of censure. "I have," added she, "done all in my power to stem the current of opinion, and to vindicate you; but it has been to no purpose. Your being here with Mr. Furnival has also been remarked; and your brother’s account of your refusing to live with your mother has gained credit. I am sorry, miss Murray, to distress you; and it may seem harsh, when I add, that, as your friend, I would advise you to live retired in the country, and remote from Mr. Furnival. Neither my influence nor my situation as a parent will suffice to reinstate you in society here. The doctor laughs at this scandal, and wishes me to offer you the accommodations of my house. Believe me, I would with pleasure do so, were it not for my children; but, my dear miss Murray, I confess…" I interrupted her, and assured her that I was in no wise offended by a conduct of caution, which had such serious motives for its regulation; neither could any inducements prevail on me to reside in Liverpool. "Mr. Furnival," added I, "has already written to a lady in Derbyshire, who, he doubts not, will receive me. He does not think of my returning to his house, judging it not only unfavourable to my health, but also to Sigismund’s." She appeared relieved by this confidence, and with much kindness said, she hoped to see me restored, with honour, to the good opinion of the world. I smiled, and replied, I had nothing to do in it, but to preserve the good opinion of my friends, and to trust to Providence the event of a conduct of which I had never for a moment repented. She observed, that the reputation of a young woman too often depended on public opinion. "Certainly," replied I with assumed spirit; "and that young woman who exposes hers to misconstructions can never be accounted blameless, unless she hazards unmerited reproach in favour of a positive and superior duty." She made no reply, but observed that she feared to remain longer in the garden. I sought my consolation in the happiness I communicated to the helpless Sigismund, who with joy and confidence hailed me as his friend, and with infantine fondness clung to his preserver. My spirits were composed by seeing him in a peaceful slumber: and the petition I offered to heaven has not been disregarded; for he has been succoured, and his Pauline has been sheltered, with ‘the pure of heart.’ Mrs. Hawksbury examined my countenance with some anxiety when I joined the party in the supping-parlour. I perceived, by her extraordinary cheerfulness and assiduities about me, that she had accomplished her design, and wished not that her husband should know by what means it had been effected. When the girls withdrew, Mr. Furnival mentioned his intention of proceeding to his friend’s in Derbyshire; and giving me a letter, he added, "Read it, Pauline, at your leisure: it concerns you more than myself; for it is from Mrs. Hampden, who wants your boy for the deserted nursery, her daughter having left her with her children." Doctor Hawksbury with eagerness pressed me to send Mr. Furnival with my excuses; and to keep his nursery for the approaching winter. His lady remained silent. I declined his honest invitation, and mentioned with some qualifications my repugnance to remaining in Liverpool, where I was, in a peculiar and painful degree, at once the subject of curiosity and animadversion. He coloured, and with much seriousness acquiesced, observing that I was made to excite envy, and to refute malice. "She will do more," said Mr. Furnival, shaking the doctor’s hand: "she will extract from their venom a salutary medicine; for her faith and good principles will be strengthened, and her conduct justified in her preserver’s own time. In the interim she will have innocence to guard, and innocence to protect her; and with a few friends she may laugh at the world." Mrs. Hawksbury hoped it would be so. "I do more than hope," replied Mr. Furnival with vivacity; and, applying to his neckcloth, "I am certain it will be so, madam; for, bad as the world is said to be, I must believe that a virtuous girl, with your husband to fight her battles, and with old Furnival for her gallant and keeper, will make her way through it, and put to silence an army of gossips." He smiled; but in ‘such a sort,’ that not one muscle of the doctor’s serious face relaxed. We soon after retired for the night, and, on our final departure, with the doctor’s warm blessing and his lady’s kind adieux. I will, my dear Mrs. Underwood, transcribe for your better knowledge of my friend’s excellencies, his letter to Mr. Hampden, with his wife’s reply, which I have in my possession.
‘MY DEAR GEORGE,
‘I HAVE a poor little girl on my hands that I do not well know what to do with. She has had the temerity to brave the world, by harbouring in her bosom a deserted infant; and to provoke envy, by not only being a beauty, but also a modest unaffected beauty. But it happens that her principles are stronger than her nerves, and calumny does not agree with her constitution. Nor is Chancery-lane an abode that suits her, although I have had the honour of being called her keeper instead of her guardian. So I mean to bring her to your wife with her bantling, not knowing another female so worthy of the trust. Therefore, let us find the boy’s nursery ready, and your wife’s pure heart prepared to receive innocence and merit. I shall let her know the day she may expect us.
Mrs. Hampden’s reply was as follows:
‘To Mr. Furnival.
‘YOUR dear George, my good friend, says that you do not deserve a letter from him; and that he has a right to be surly, till you make your peace for having been absent from us three successive vacations. Subdued by the flattery contained in your letter, I am more placable. To be, in your estimation, the female best qualified to receive Mr. Furnival’s young and beautiful mistress, is enough for my glory, and has disarmed me of all resentment. Assure this happy and amiable object of your favour, that in Maria Hampden she will meet a mother and a friend; for, as being your gift, I must love and prize her. Tell her that my daughter Fielding leaves us tomorrow, and that the nursery will want a guest. Tell her that her protégé will find a foolish grandmother whom his endearing smiles will amuse. Tell her, that I shall glory in seconding the benevolence of a being who has lived to communicate comfort and joy to the mourner. Tell her (if thy left hand knows what thy right hand has performed in works of mercy) what thou hast done for the happiness of George and Maria Hampden; and then leave her to judge of the reception she will meet with, under that roof of peace we owe to Mr. Furnival. My husband thinks I have said more than is necessary; asserting that three words would have sufficed. Let him take the pen. Come and try us.
Come and bless us, says MARIA HAMPDEN.’
Soothed to composure by these letters, I expressed in lively terms my acknowledgements to Mr. Furnival. "Aye, aye," replied he, untying his neckcloth, "I will show you a woman you will love and reverence. True genuine virtue, Pauline, despises the maxims of a narrow-minded, cold-hearted caution. It is superior to the abject fear of being soiled in aiding the weak and oppressed to escape from the peltings of malice and the buffetings of detraction. Conscious of her own unsullied brightness, she can smile at the impotent attempt to spot her purity, and with calm and dignified firmness maintain her privilege of succouring those whose innocence needs support and merits protection. Virtue, Pauline," continued he with increasing energy, "solid and true virtue even here, shows the source from which it springs. It is merciful and tender, and, like the God of mercy and compassion, will not be diverted from its course by the shallow judgments of those who, in their affected zeal for a cause they do not understand, insolently condemn as wrong all that lies beyond their comprehension. But it ought to be no matter of surprise to you, that such as know not their Maker in his most glorious attributes, as these relate to us children of the dust, and imperfect in all our boasted prerogatives, should without pity see a victim immolated on the altar of envy and hatred. But we must have no more tears," added he: "you must not let the good doctor perceive you have been disturbed. He has been much vexed already by his immaculate lady’s difficulties in regard to you, and her dread of the world’s censure. Poor Hawksbury, I suspect, forgot, when he became enamoured with a statue, that he did not possess Prometheus’s gift; for he has not been able to transfuse one spark of that benevolent flame which warms his own heart, into the cold bosom of his wife. But we will not repay his generous intentions by leaving with him a subject for discord: he is mortified enough already…But every man is not master at home, nor every woman wise enough to know when her husband ought to rule."
I now proposed to Mr. Furnival my assuming the title of a married woman, alleging that I should think myself justified in evading, as much as was possible, an idle and impertinent curiosity, not only on my own account, but also on Mrs. Hampden’s; and by being called Mrs. Paulin by her and her more particular associates, it might prevent, amongst her neighbours and with her domestics, that spirit of inquiry which I so much dreaded to excite. I urged the prudence of the young woman who attended me and Sigismund, and the probability there was of my remaining unknown under Mr. Hampden’s roof. He perfectly concurred with me in my opinion of Fanny’s fidelity and good sense, adding with a twist of his cravat, "Her mother has been long one of my seraglio, and it may be your brother would call Fanny my daughter; for Dawson, her aunt, had her to rock for more than twelve years under my roof after her father’s death." He was not however so well satisfied with the intended change of my name; but it was finally determined to leave this delicate point to Mrs. Hampden’s decision.
During our journey into Derbyshire I was naturally led to question my friend in relation to Mr. and Mrs. Hampden. I was informed that he had long known them; that they had only one child, a daughter, happily married to a clergyman of the name of Fielding, who lived in his parish near Grantham, and that Mrs. Fielding had already given her husband two fine boys and a little girl. "You must know," continued he smiling, "that Mrs. Hampden was once the arbitress of my fate. Her father, knowing my situation to be such as not to render a fortune with a wife necessary, pleaded for me with more authority than tenderness; and his daughter, pressed by his entreaties and commands, adopted the wise measure of trusting me with her secret engagement and decided preference of my friend Mr. Hampden. So being in my turn as honest as herself, I became her confident; and finally succeeded in establishing the happiness of two persons I loved. The father was rescued from his difficulties, and Hampden placed in a situation of ease and profit. Maria was happy, and I had only to govern my own wayward heart…But for a time this was no pleasant work. It is only within a few years that I have been wise enough to trust it: and although we constantly corresponded, I never visited them till their daughter’s marriage; when finding all was peace within, I yielded to their fond wishes, and have since made their house my summer retreat from time to time." The frankness and simplicity of this confession, with the reflexions of wisdom it led to, raised in my mind the reverence of Mr. Furnival’s character to what with colder hearts than mine would be called idolatry. But I now check my pen. You know Mr. Furnival. You were present when he led the trembling Pauline to the sanctuary of Mrs. Hampden’s arms. You claimed a share in those tender cares which reassured her; you claimed the right to exercise your office; and you bade Pauline taste of the cordial Heaven had prepared for her support. My happiness is without alloy, for you believe me worthy of your protection; and under that protection no one will dare to defame me! Ah my dear and revered friend! what would not my swelling bosom prompt, but for your commands! Yet what language could convey to you the gratitude of
Your obliged and faithful
MARY PAULINE MURRAY?
Pauline waited not long for my thanks for the information her narrative had afforded; and a walk in our little wood finished her story.
"I have yet, my dear Mrs. Sedley," said she, "to mention my cares as these related to monsieur du Rivage’s fate, and the result of those measures we pursued in regard to Sigismund. In the first place, let me at once say that my consolation depends on being able to contemplate my more than father, as in his grave; but there are moments when even this hope yields to the horrid thoughts of his being in a prison, and wanting every comfort. I cannot enlarge on this subject," added she with visible distress: "it is too much for my faith and fortitude!…
"In respect to my dear child’s concerns," continued she with more composure, "I have been governed by Mr. Furnival’s advice. Influenced by my representations, and Claudine’s and her daughter’s suspicions of the views the Aimsworths had adopted, he thought it prudent to act as though he believed them capable of taking so dishonourable a part as that which without scruple I had attributed to them. He soon gained information of the place of residence the family had chosen; and he desired me to write to Mr. Middleton; proposing to direct the letter to his seat in the North, to the care of Mr. Middleton’s agent there, in order that it might be forwarded to him without passing through the hands of his relations. This proposal met my wishes. My letter contained little more than an account of my arrival in England with Sigismund. I briefly said, that for reasons which would be explained I should defer till I heard from Mr. Middleton the relation of those events which had placed his son in my hands, contenting myself with believing that, as a father, he would be satisfied of the infant’s security whilst protected by Pauline du Rivage. An immediate answer was requested; and my address was to a friend of Mr. Furnival’s who lived at Durham. This gentleman, who is in the law, had the goodness to see himself my letter safely delivered at Umfreville Hall; but it has not been noticed.—From madame Meunier I have received two letters: both were discouraging and melancholy, (for both were written soon after we parted,) except as the last held out to me the consolatory hope that the wretched Marianne knew that her precious child was safe, and in health with me in England. Jeanneton had spoken to monsieur Broudier, on delivering miss Wilmot’s letter to him. He had said, ‘It is very well: all shall be done that can be done. You need not return. I shall write to mademoiselle Wilmot. She knows my zeal in her service.’ ‘Beyond this all is an impenetrable cloud,’ adds she, ‘both as it regards my dear lady and Mr. Middleton.’—"For a time," continued the weeping Pauline, "I was convinced that death had removed Mr. Middleton, and I endeavoured to bring over Mr. Furnival to this opinion: but he chose I should write to Mrs. Hamilton; and ordered me to be direct in my inquiries relative to Mr. Middleton, and explicit in the reasons which entitled me to a speedy answer from her. Following his injunctions, I earnestly requested from her the intelligence I so much desired. ‘It is no idle curiosity,’ added I, ‘which prompts the question: is Augustus Middleton dead, or has he outlived his honour and the feelings of a man? Nothing less can account for his silence to an appeal, in which the innocence of his miserable wife Marianne Middleton and the fate of his son Sigismund Middleton are involved, and to which the name of Pauline du Rivage is affixed. This Pauline du Rivage, madam,’ continued I, ‘is not a woman who will be easily diverted from performing her duty. She has promised an injured and innocent mother to defend her offspring, and she will die if it be necessary in the cause she has undertaken. But she has Heaven and justice on her side, and she has friends who will assert her pretensions to notice in a different way, should this application fail.’
"This is the answer I received," added Pauline, giving me the letter. I read as follows:
‘Turin, &c. &c.
‘Mr. Middleton is living: if such an existence as his can be called life. He has in his possession such proofs of his worthless Marianne’s perfidy, as must conclusively and indisputably destroy your assertions, and the claims of the infant under your protection. We have Marianne’s declaration that no fruit, but that of hopeless misery to Mr. Middleton, sprung from his ill-fated marriage with a woman who meanly preferred contempt and ignominy to death, and, what was still more dreadful, consigned to destruction a faithful husband for the completion of her guilt. I am disposed to believe that your humanity has been imposed upon. I need no experience of the speciousness with which Marianne de Fouclaut can veil her want of principle, nor any proofs of the villainy which stamps the character of the duke her father. Your honesty, like my own, has been abused, mademoiselle; and you are charged with the care of a child, who, if he live, will blush at hearing his parents named. I pity you: and should your feeble resources render my purpose, what I intend it, useful to you, you have only to apply to Mr. Watson at Aimsworth Castle, who will be prepared to answer your draft for a hundred pounds. It is uncertain how long I shall be absent from England; but should any future exigence arrive to you or the unfortunate child in question, you will do well to recollect that Charlotte Hamilton considers it as her duty to succour innocence under every circumstance of distress. Mr. Hamilton desires me to inform you, that my cousin Augustus Middleton makes no part of our family at present. He is on a tour, his return undetermined, his pursuits rather those suggested to him by his friends, than resulting from his own hopes of relief from a dejection of spirits, which has not only excluded him from every enjoyment of life, but which has also threatened to destroy the hopes of his family, whose pride and boast were in his virtues and talents. I remain
‘Your humble servant,
"There is my reply to this unfeeling woman," said Pauline, her face glowing with the keen sense of her wounded feelings.—It was as follows:
‘The unsuccessful advocate for truth and innocence needs no incitements to duty, nor fears any discouragement. I want no pecuniary aid in the performance of those engagements which have united Sigismund Middleton’s fortune and preservation to my own well-being. Though abandoned by his father and rejected by his father’s relations, he wants not friends. The feeble instrument Heaven has appointed for his support will be sustained by the mercy which guards the helpless orphan. Sigismund will be preserved; and will live to rescue the spotless name of his mother from reproach, and, it may be, to pardon a father, whose injustice has thrown him into the hands of strangers, who are unacquainted with those views which stand in his way to his father’s bosom. They are fully convinced of his claims to the name of Middleton, and of the cruelty of those who ought to protect him. Pauline du Rivage, madam, has not yielded up her judgment to a ‘well-told tale.’ She has the strongest evidences in her hands, that in the cause she has to maintain truth will support her; and in this cause she will never cease to plead till the injured Marianne de Fouclaut’s wrongs are acknowledged, and her son established in the rights of his birth.
‘Pauline du Rivage.’
"Mr. Furnival," continued Pauline, "was not aware of the comfort he afforded me by declaring that he would take no steps in the business till the family returned to England. ‘A personal interview with Mr. Middleton,’ pursued he, ‘will effect more than volumes of letters; and when he sees the documents in my hands, he will acknowledge his son: at least we will make him just, Pauline,’ added he smiling, ‘or prove to the world that we are so ourselves. If, as I suspect, he has been the dupe of the machinations of his relations, our facts will undeceive him, and he will no longer wish to conceal his connexions in France, nor his being a parent.’ Fearing to discover to my revered friend the secret influence Mr. Middleton had in my bosom, I acceded to his opinions; and expressed only my satisfaction that Sigismund would not be removed from me. But to you, my dear and indulgent Mrs. Sedley, I may say all I think. What can be said in favour of Mr. Middleton’s honour? what for his conduct as it relates to me? Was not Pauline du Rivage entitled to a hearing, on a point of this consequence? Would not curiosity alone have suggested its gratification, had not his mind been predetermined to renounce for ever his ties with the angel he left to destruction? He dreaded the inquiry; for he believes his wife is innocent; and knows that his unfortunate child is the legal heir to his estate." She burst into tears. "I should have suffered less," continued she, "had I heard of his death. There is something peculiarly painful in finding those, to whom you had given every moral excellence that can dignify human nature, sinking beneath the level of the worst nature. Middleton has an understanding superior to any imposition of fraud and falsehood; he is acute, cool and persevering in his modes of action. Why did he not return to Paris, and seek there an elucidation of those appearances which produced doubts and suspicions? Why did he not seek me here? He was able to journey for his amusement. Oh, it is palpable! Middleton is base and cruel! However, my part is decided. Never will I part with Marianne de Fouclaut’s child! The hour in which I hear his inhuman father is in England, I will quit it. He shall never be at the mercy of the Aimsworths, nor a bar in the way of his father’s ambition!"—I saw that this was not the moment for combating her enthusiasm: I therefore contented myself with recommending to her some regard to her health, and repeating my assurances of constant regard and attention to her comforts. She thanked me, and proceeded to inform me of the inducements she had to quit Mrs. Hampden’s house for Mrs. Underwood’s. "I soon perceived," said she, "that Mrs. Hampden was the woman Mr. Furnival had described to me; but you know her, and my praise would be useless. Mrs. Underwood’s intimacy in the family, and her conduct to me, soon paved the way to my confidence in her goodness. She was consulted on the expediency of my being called Mrs. Paulin, and she took my part of the question; because it gratified my feelings: the retirement in which she lived gave to her house attractions which Mr. Hampden’s had not. At Rickland Farm we had no intruders; and it is needless for me to remark to you, that Mr. Hampden’s connexions and business bring many visitors to his table. On these occasions I commonly sought a refuge for myself and Sigismund at Mrs. Underwood’s; and in the similarity of our tastes and amusements we mutually found these days pleasant. Tenderness and confidence calmed my spirits; and the interest Sigismund gained in the hearts of his friends was a cordial to mine.
"In the following summer Mrs. Hampden persuaded me to accompany her and her husband in a visit to Mrs. Fielding, her daughter. Sigismund and Fanny were Mrs. Underwood’s guests during my absence. On our return from Grantham it was resolved that I should see Matlock. My scruples were overruled. ‘The full season was later in the summer, and I should find only the beauties of the spot to amuse me.’ This prediction was in part verified. There were few people in the house, but in the number of those we met at the dining-hour was a family Mr. Hampden knew; and induced by his friends, he engaged to pass a few days with them. We took possession of an apartment in a house called the Temple, and settled at once into the party which we found so inviting. Charmed with our temporary abode, we several times dined there, instead of joining our friends at the large house called the Hall; and, exhilarated by the scene around me, I found my health and spirits equal to the demands made on them by a good-humoured lively girl, the daughter of the gentleman and lady with whom we might be said to pass our time. At the expiration of a week Mr. Hampden with some regret said his holidays were finished; and that we should either remain without him, or be obliged to leave Matlock on the Sunday morning. Our decision was prompt; and to finish the entreaties which succeeded, we proposed to make the most of the intervening time. On returning from a long but delightful ramble, my young companion and myself took a seat on the road which separated the two houses, and which was placed there for the accommodation of the company which resorted to our host’s table; our friends attending Mrs. Hampden to a shop within our view, whither she proceeded for the purpose of enlarging her orders for articles made of the Derbyshire spar, and which were destined by her as a present to a lady in London. The delay of the party was longer than we had foreseen; but we enjoyed our seat, and chatted at our ease till our attention was called forth by the approach of a lady and two gentlemen, who in their way to the hall had no other road but the one before us. The lady was elegantly dressed, but was veiled, and the night was approaching. She was supported by her two escorts, one a military beau, the other a handsome well-dressed young man. ‘Those are of the party who drove in this morning after you left the hall,’ observed my young friend: ‘the lady is very handsome. I should judge they were very great people by their gay carriages. They drove up with a coach and four and a tandem, and in a style that nothing disgraced but a man who seemed to be the owner of the equipage, and such a ‘fright’ my eyes never before beheld! The lady has wisely left him to his repose,’ added she, lowering her voice to a whisper; ‘he is old, and dreadfully sickly.’ A loud laugh from the still slowly advancing party was followed by these words, ‘Oh! never fear: I will manage it.’ And I instantly recognised Mrs. Whaley. She approached the bench on which we were seated, and with affected languor slightly bowing to us, placed herself in the vacant place, the gentlemen standing before her. ‘You have killed me with your odious hill,’ said she, addressing them. ‘I must rest, or alarm my husband by sending for the coach.’ Gallant offers of carrying her followed. At length, on my asking my companion whether we should walk to our friends, she turned towards me with affected surprise, and exclaimed, ‘Bless me! fortune is singularly obliging to me! Who would have expected this second favour? I hope you are well, madam. Pray how do little Sigismund’s concerns go on? Has he found his father’s castle, or is it still le chateau d’Espagne?’ ‘He has found all he wanted,’ answered I with firmness and resentment,—‘friends in whose bosoms he has a sure refuge.’ ‘I am glad of it,’ replied she; ‘but permit me, madam, before you depart,’ for I was rising with that design, ‘to inquire of you what is become of the Wilmots our fellow travellers. I hear strange reports of your friend miss Wilmot. They tell me that she is returned to Paris, not being able to find in London any private lodging so commodious and fit for her purpose as those in la rue St. Honoré!’ She laughed rudely. ‘Were the report true that you have heard,’ replied I with cold disdain, ‘yet would miss Wilmot still possess one claim to lenity; for she would show that frailty was not always without modesty, nor vivacity and wit without discretion. But it fortunately happens that I can assure you, madam, that this lady is with her parents and her husband in Switzerland, and in a situation which entirely refutes the idle tale you have heard.’ I immediately quitted the spot, the gentlemen making room for us to pass, and civilly bowing. I was too much fluttered to speak for some moments. My companion perceived my disorder: ‘Surely," said she, ‘that lady cannot be a modest woman; I never saw so confident a one! She has disturbed you by her impertinence; and had not the men with her been wiser than herself, they would have been rude. Did you observe how they stared at you?’ I at once satisfied the amiable girl’s curiosity, by telling her that the lady in question was by chance in the same packet with the Wilmots and myself; that miss Wilmot, having discovered that she was a woman of levity, had treated her with some coldness, and more marks of contempt than pleased the lady’s vanity; and to this cause, and the idle curiosity of her beaux, I attributed her unexpected attack on me. ‘Say nothing of it,’ added I: ‘it will vex Mrs. Hampden, and we shall see no more of this Mrs. Whaley.’ Some little traits of her husband, given with more gaiety than I felt, finished the subject as far as it related to my companion’s amusement; but your poor Pauline quitted Matlock the following day, with sensations not unlike those which I conceive a reprieved criminal feels. I related this vexatious incident to Mrs. Underwood on my return home, and with tears enlarged on the continual anxiety I suffered, lest it should be remarked by Mrs. Hampden’s servants, that I shunned company at home and made no visits abroad. She entered into the state of my mind with that tender sympathy which had resulted from her own disappointments in life; and I soon after became stationary with her, Mrs. Hampden generously consulting my peace more than her own gratification. In this peaceful abode, in this sanctuary from the world’s scorn, in this asylum from every evil, you found me, my dear Mrs. Sedley. I was in deep affliction. I had seen my guardian angel’s last look! and I was again the child of sorrow and repining. You arrived…" She suddenly rose, and, throwing her arms round me as she kneeled, buried her face in my lap, and added "My mother! bless your Pauline! receive the thanks she cannot speak!"—I did bless her, gentle reader, and Heaven vouchsafed to hear my prayer: my heart has received its recompense.
My personal knowledge of Mr. Furnival took place at his usual and annual visiting term. To my obligations to him for the comforts I enjoyed was added the natural curiosity of beholding a man whose name was held in reverence by every one within my reach. The joy which his entrance communicated to the assembled groupe of his friends acted upon my mind with irresistible force. I forgot he was a stranger to my person, and with them I eagerly met his warm and frank salutation. He appeared in his turn to have forgotten that Rickland Farm had a new mistress; for in five minutes after the first greetings he called me ‘his dear friend.’
I think I should, from Mr. Furnival’s external appearance alone, have judged him to be something above the class of common minds. He was dressed with the simplicity and neatness of a quaker, without the stiffness and peculiarity of their sect. His person was of the middle height, and well made, but thin; his hair very gray, and his complexion approaching to the delicate tints of an infant: but his eyes still sparkled with the animation of his mind, and a colour glowed in his cheek, which at the first moment I saw him I pronounced to be the fallacious mark of health. I was not mistaken; for Mr. Furnival’s temperance and habits of life had for years counteracted the original weakness of his lungs. Poor Pauline welcomed him with tears. I surveyed his varied expression of countenance and tones of voice, whilst he received this tribute of her gratitude and affection. "Where is my boy?" said he with a smile which would have suited a pitying angel; and tying his slackened cravat, "he will welcome me with a shout of joy. Can he manage his rocking-horse as well as he does his mother?" Sigismund entered, and with transport acknowledged his Benefactor. Impressed by the scene I had witnessed, and, I may add, oppressed by a sense of my obligations to him, I was more silent than usual during the course of the first evening I passed with him. Pauline perceived it: and Pauline understood me. On quitting Mrs. Hampden’s for our home, he gaily addressed me: "You see," said he, "the spoiled child is not quite so young as Sigismund; but I trust to you, Mrs. Sedley, not only for my own reformation but also my playmate’s. I shall be with you for a lesson to-morrow morning, and you must order two portions of bread and milk instead of one at your breakfast table." My eyes filled: he pressed my hand, and turned from me. But I must check my pen. I forget that the young and the gay, the busy and the prosperous, may censure as dull a detail which has for its subject nothing more interesting than Mr. Furnival, and the sympathies of a mind which in some degree was like his own. Let it suffice, I was in a week his ‘dame Sedley’ and prime counsellor. One morning he took an opportunity of consulting Mrs. Hampden and myself in regard to the steps it was proper to take with his daughter, as he constantly called Pauline, relatively to some intelligence he had gained of monsieur du Rivage. It appeared that he had never slackened in his inquiries in regard to his unfortunate friend. Mr. Wilmot, when called upon to settle the account of Pauline’s journey and voyage, and to deliver up the jewels he had in his hands for Pauline, discovered to Mr. Furnival the meanness of his mind. He pleaded that du Rivage might appear, and want them for his own exigences. But his evasions answered no other purpose than to render Mr. Furnival more firm in his demands, and better qualified to trace poor du Rivage’s route and projects on leaving Paris. Amongst other expedients which his active zeal suggested, was assiduously searching out the French emigrants in and near London, whose arrival in any way corresponded with the period of time in which his friend had effected his escape from Paris. The spring after his autumnal visit, in which he had so much befriended me by his conversation with my cousin Mrs. Underwood, he saw by chance three persons in St. James’s Park sunning themselves on a seat, and eagerly conversing aloud in the French tongue. Their appearance bespoke them ecclesiastics; and they were men of a certain age, and their manners such as to invite his approach. He seated himself beside them, with an apology which at once proclaimed the motive of his intrusion; for with that frankness and courtesy which with the undesigning at once leads to confidence, he begged to know the precise time in which they had emigrated, and by what road they had reached England. After listening with sympathy to the tale of sorrow each in his turn brought forward, he enlarged on his hopeless anxiety in regard to his unhappy friend monsieur du Rivage, and detailed the circumstances of his escape from Paris, and the progress of his journey till within some leagues of his asylum at Rouen: adding, that from that period no intelligence had been gained of him, notwithstanding the zeal and diligence of the gentleman in whose house it had been his intention to take refuge till he could find an opportunity of reaching England. "I am from the neighbourhood of Rouen, sir," observed one of the priests; "and your relation of your unfortunate friend’s age and infirmities, with his delay, brings to my mind an occurrence which precisely agrees with the time you have specified. I will, if it please you, relate the particulars which strike me as having an analogy at least with the circumstances you have mentioned: you must judge for yourself: but in a crisis which has involved thousands in the ruin it portends, there want not examples of an interposing Providence in favour of the oppressed. At any rate, with this hope before us, you will find in it some alleviation of your present suspense." Mr. Furnival, eagerly thanking him, proposed their adjourning to a coffee-house, and dining with him; "for," added he, "the miseries of poor du Rivage were depicted in their pale and wan faces."
They had no sooner settled themselves in their warm covert than the curé began his tale.
"Previously to the unhappy events which have cast me on the generosity of your hospitable shores, monsieur," said he, "I patiently exercised my functions, although insulted and disregarded by my flock. It was numerous, but composed principally of the poor and unlettered; and my district being of large extent, I had diligently prescribed to myself the duty of visiting all the cottages in rotation. I relaxed not when I found I was considered as an impertinent intruder; for many of the poor people still loved their priest; and to prevent their being suspected of so doing, I made my visits general. One morning I passed a cottage which in the fullest plenitude of my influence I had abandoned, as being beyond my power to reform. The owner of it was a dissolute man, whose insolence had offended me. He was sitting at his door repairing a net; and I inquired after his wife. ‘She is within,’ answered he, ‘and I dare say will be thankful if you will give your passport to a dying man she has been fool enough to harbour.’ ‘It is my duty to visit the sick, and to assist the distressed,’ answered I: ‘your wife should have applied to me.’ ‘Enter then,’ answered he insolently, ‘and let us see what your prayers to your saints can do for him: at present he is past eating.’ I made no reply, but entered the house. The woman met me, and, with more piety than I expected, said in a low voice, that God had sent me; and leading the way to a hovel in the back part of the house, she directed my attention to an aged man in the agonies of death. I felt his pulse: it spoke the conflict of expiring nature. ‘Why have you not called upon me for succour, Thérese?’ asked I mildly. ‘He would not permit me,’ answered she with confusion. I had not time for contest; but drawing near his miserable bed I repeated the usual prayers for the dying. A convulsive struggle and a deep groan interrupted me. I raised him in my arms. He opened his eyes, and, gazing on my face, sighed profoundly. I applied my cross to his lips: he refused it, and pointed to a small book near him. The woman put it into my hand, and I saw it was a neat and elegant edition of the Neufchatel Liturgy. Every priest in France is not a bigot, my good sir. I had a dying fellow-creature before me, not the articles of any creed, and I repeated his prayers to my God and his God. The woman now brought some mulled wine, and endeavoured to get a portion of it into his mouth. But it was too late: he feebly turned his dying eyes on me, pressed my hand, tried to speak, but could not, and, sinking into my arms, with little struggle expired. The terrified woman screamed, and her husband entered. He surveyed the dead man; then brutally turning to his trembling wife he said, ‘Well! did I not tell thee as much yesterday? St. Peter never opens the door to those who are pennyless.’ ‘Sainte Vierge!’ exclaimed the woman, ‘how can you talk so like a heretic, Jaques, before monsieur? This business may cost us our lives, without his assistance. What shall we do with the body?’ The fellow was evidently struck by her question; and with more civility said, he hoped I would befriend him, for the deceased was neither an aristocrat nor a Frenchman. ‘If he had been,’ observed I mildly, ‘it was your duty, both as a christian and a man, to succour the afflicted; and you will find no difficulty with me in regard to his burial. But has he left no papers behind him, which may direct you to his friends? If they will not recompense you for your humanity and loss of time, I will.’ Jaques was softened, and, thanking me, said he had never named them, or said more of himself than that he was born and bred in Switzerland. ‘When I first saw him,’ added he, ‘which is now a fortnight since, I found him, as I thought, dying on the road: an ass was near him, with his packsaddle and two bags, which we have found to be filled with linen for sale. He implored me to harbour him for the night, saying, although he was a poor man, he was an honest one, and had wherewithal to pay me for his lodging. So I took off the bags, and having mounted, or rather, laid him on his beast, I led him home with me. Theresa was frightened at first; but she got him to bed, and gave him some hot wine. He was better in the morning, and told us that his illness arose from having been drenched with the rain, and having no change of clothes. He complained, however, of having a dreadful pain in his bones, and asked her, whether he might stay with us till he was well; adding, she might repay herself by means of his goods. So, sir, all was agreed between them: but he grew more and more feeble, and we saw it was all over with him.’—‘Why did you not get him a doctor?’ asked I. ‘I did ask him more than once,’ replied the woman with eagerness, ‘whether he would have one; but he always answered he had one in that little book you saw, and that he knew physic would do him no good.’ I next proposed examining the packsaddle. Jaques surlily answered, that he had examined it, and its contents proved he was an honest man, for there was nothing in it but straw. Convinced of my inability to detect the knavery of this fellow, I gave up the business, observing they had to concert such an account of the deceased’s connexion with them, as to elude inquiry. This they made no difficulty in promising, and I interred the corpse as their relation, who on his journey had died at their house suddenly. My assertion, that I had seen the man before he expired, sufficed; and Jaques and his wife appropriated undisturbedly the property he had left. Nothing however appeared but ‘the old cousin’s beast,’ and no suspicions followed.
"I was not forgotten for my kindness. The woman gave me the poor man’s prayer-book; and I lost not the opportunity of giving her, in return for it, my spiritual advice. She wept, and told me I was a saint, like the poor gentleman who was gone to heaven. ‘Then you think,’ observed I, ‘that he was something more than he appeared?’ She coloured, and replied, she was certain of it; but that her husband would kill her if he knew what she had said. I engaged to be faithful, and kissed my cross: but she solemnly declared she knew not his name, and that he had not a paper with him beyond the book in my hands, and a few assignats: ‘but,’ added she, ‘ignorant as I am, I saw by his behaviour he was no common man; and I call God to witness I did all in my power to comfort him. My husband is a rough man, monsieur, and he grew somewhat weary of having a sick man in his house, and a little uneasy also that he had taken him under his roof; but I persuaded him to be patient, and answered for concealing him from our neighbours.’
"When she withdrew, I examined her gift, in the hope of finding the late possessor’s name; well knowing these people could not read. It was alternately bound up with blank paper, and many pages of these were filled up with the pious effusions of the writer, and with passages taken from the Gospel and Psalms: but the writing was neat and fine, and evidently that of a female hand; the title page, on which the name had been written, was rent off; but so hastily that the word Paul was left jagged and imperfect."
Mr. Furnival observed, that the book might turn out an important evidence, he having in his hands many letters, not only of his unfortunate friend’s writing, but also of his wife’s, who was christened Pauline. "Alas!" replied the curé, "I have it not. My flight from my country resembled that predicted by my Divine Master to the Jews of old; but blessed be his adored name!" added he, devoutly crossing himself, "he has prepared many mansions of peace for his followers!" "Cannot you recollect the writing?" asked Mr. Furnival. "My letters may recall it to your mind." "I cannot say with certainty," answered he, "for that in question was pale and minute; and my eyes being weak, I consigned the book to a shelf with others, after having examined it without success for the immediate object of my inquiry."—An engagement followed for the next day to dine in Chancery-lane, in which was included the party, who had by more general conversation much interested the benevolent heart of my friend.
This second interview was favourable to Mr. Furnival’s hopes of ascertaining the fate of his friend. The gentleman thought the letters which he examined were written in the same hand, though the characters were larger, and more carelessly formed. "This visit proved no unfavourable one to the poor emigrants," added Mr. Furnival, "for they learned the way to a door always open to them at four o’clock. But, my dear friends," continued he, addressing Mrs. Hampden and myself, "I am still at a loss how to proceed. The only test to be relied upon is Pauline’s evidence. She may have some knowledge of this book; yet of late she has submitted to the belief of her benefactor’s death, and I dread renewing in her mind a suspense which has already worn her to a shadow. What is your advice?" I argued for a plain statement of the business to her, and convinced my friends, that her imagination was constantly picturing monsieur du Rivage under scenes of misery and horror; and that I was certain the experiment would be in her favour, by an explicit appeal to her understanding and principles. "She thinks," added I, "that her friends know more of the wretched state of du Rivage than she does; and she concludes from their reserve, that he is in a dungeon." I was deputed to act; and I lost no time in placing before Pauline the particulars above detailed. She wept, but with fervour blessed God that he was at peace; and she not only described the book with accuracy, but repeated also from memory several affecting and pious effusions of madame du Rivage’s writing. "I shall never forget the last she wrote," said the weeping Pauline. "It was as follows:
"‘Chasten me, O my God! as thy erring but not disobedient child. I bow with submission to thy will, and bless thy interposing grace, which wounds for the wise purpose of healing. But in mercy receive me, before my faith in thee is cast down by witnessing the oppression and ruin of those I love. Oh! God of all mercy! I implore thy pity. I am weak. My husband clings to my heart. Save him from his persecutors; and when I am at rest, protect and encourage him to seek in thee an asylum from his sorrows, and a place of safety for the remnant of his days.’—"She not only repeated this petition," continued Pauline, "many times, but turned down the leaf on which it was written, desiring me not to omit placing the book on her husband’s desk as soon as she was dead. ‘It will comfort him,’ said she, ‘for he will see that heaven in removing me was merciful: he will have the support of his own conscience for the trials yet to come; for he has been a faithful steward over those things committed to his keeping. He will recall to his memory, in the hour of poverty,’ continued madam du Rivage, ‘his own principles of action. How often have I heard him assert that a spirit of benevolence and generosity never impoverished any man! that, in his regard for the benefit and ease of others, he was securing his own comforts and gratifications! And yet, my Pauline, is he steady to his principles, although he has long known that amongst those whom he has to fear are many whom he has served by his friendship and propped by his credit.’—But let me quit a subject too painful for my present feelings," continued Pauline: "let it suffice that I should know this book in any state and condition; and would give all I possess to see it again." Pauline’s evidence, however, so forcibly corroborated the priest’s account, that Mr. Furnival and ourselves have remained without any doubts as to the termination of monsieur du Rivage’s sufferings. If in this detail of his last and concluding scene I be censurable for having digressed too far, and unnecessarily, from the more immediate thread of my narrative, my apology is this: Humanity dictated the page, which is intended to give that relief to others which I have experienced from it myself; for it is more soothing than painful to the human heart, to contemplate the good man sheltered from the storm, though still remote from us, than to see him buffeting in the waves, and his escape doubtful.
I could not with reason be mortified, much less offended, should it happen that my readers regard me in the same point of view they do the scene-shifter at the theatre, as a person useful in his way, but too insignificant for their notice. Yet there is even in the humblest stations in life an ambition, which when properly directed will ensure to us approbation and even glory; although it may be a glory neither adorned with laurels nor borne through the world on the wings of fame. I have hitherto endeavoured, to the utmost of my ability, to bring forward the machinery committed to my hands without bungling; and I now begin to hope for promotion, and to be allowed to face from time to time the audience. I am, however, modest in my pretensions; and in courting its applause, I shall not venture to give my own wit instead of the part allotted me. As I believe no character will so well suit my talents as that of an old woman, I will try to support that, and proceed to place before my readers an example that an old lady may be a reasonable being.
I had from day to day perceived that Sigismund’s influence over his mother’s mind was pernicious to himself, and fatiguing to her; and, what was equally evident, that neither my wisdom nor years had been able to resist his attractions. Sigismund was advancing to his sixth year; and although an amiable tyrant, he perfectly understood that his will was the law. Mr. Furnival’s visit did not mend matters; and I took the alarm. Mr. and Mrs. Fielding’s arrival at their father’s with their children made Mr. Furnival my guest; and, pleased with their management of their young pupils, I ventured to point out to Mr. Furnival my plan of extricating Sigismund from the dangers annexed to his passing his infancy with two women, who trembled ‘lest the winds of heaven should visit his face too roughly.’ My friends seconded me, and Mr. Furnival’s concurrence was gained. Poor Pauline acknowledged "that no people on earth were better qualified than Mr. and Mrs. Fielding for the task of education; but such a child as Sigismund still wanted a mother’s care, a mother’s tenderness." I smiled. "Are you quite satisfied," asked I, "that in this reluctance to parting with your idol you are disinterested? What think you of his triumph over you this very morning? A few tears subdued your firmness; a smile reconciled you, not only to the rebel but to your own better reason. Ask yourself what will be the future character of this noble boy, reared with a tenderness which precludes all rivality or emulation, which induces habits of fastidious nicety, even to his rejecting his bread and milk because a fly was drowned in it; and which must render him the slave of his own passions and the prey of the designing."—Pauline was not prepared for so serious an appeal.—"I could no more bear to see him in a large school than yourself," continued I; "but in Mr. Fielding’s family he would enjoy a home, and the advantages of an enlightened and cultivated father. Let us make the experiment; and if in ten days he be not reconciled to his new play-ground, and contented with the restraints of wisdom, he shall return to us, and, as major Oldcastle says, preserve his complexion, and charm our eyes." My remonstrances were not lost. Master Sigismund was sent with his new companions to the Grantham hills, and we had the satisfaction of hearing that he had given his great coat to a boy who had none, it being useless to him; for the Fieldings never wore one. Mr. Furnival’s departure for London was softened to us by the prospect held out of our being his guests in the succeeding February; and the goodness of his nature prompted him to give Fanny a holiday with her aunt Dawson, by way of balance for the absence of her little charge. She went to town with Mr. Furnival, and was to remain there till our arrival. The intermediate months, notwithstanding these desertions, had their enjoyments. Pauline gained spirits; for Sigismund braved the snow, and had forgotten his maid Fanny. She was however indulged in her wish to see the hero of Mrs. Fielding’s praise; and making Grantham our road, we passed ten days with our friends and the hardy Sigismund. From thence, escorted by major Oldcastle and my man-servant, we proceeded to London. At Stilton we ordered fresh horses and some refreshments; and whilst these were preparing, Ralph our servant entered the room, with that confidence which he felt in the indulgence of his ladies, to show us a small basket filled with toys. "I beg pardon," said the honest creature, "but I thought you would like to see them, they are so neat and uncommon; and I think, madam, if you saw the poor man without, you would buy something of him. He is a French prisoner here, and sells these things for his poor countrymen, who with himself are in Yaxley barracks. Here is a shoe, ladies," continued Ralph, producing one an inch long. "It is made of a piece of bare beef-bone: I am sure my bones would have been as bare, before my ingenuity would have reached to that contrivance for keeping me alive." "Where is the poor man?" asked Pauline with compassion. "In the kitchen," replied the servant: "he is resting himself, poor soul! and his crutches into the bargain. They let him go about to sell these things: there is no fear of his escaping, unless to another and better world." "Bring him hither," said the major, "and let us hear whether he can recommend his wares better than thou hast done." Ralph understood the language of nature: "His face will speak for him," answered he, hastily retreating to execute his commission.
The person thus described entered the room, supported by one crutch and Ralph. He was wrapped up in a threadbare military cloak; his head bound round with a coloured handkerchief, which by no means lessened the effect of his emaciated and deadly pale countenance. "Asseyez-vous, monsieur," said Pauline, drawing forward an arm chair; "reposez-vous pendant que nous examinons ces jolies bagatelles." She filled a glass at her hand with some mulled wine, and with tenderness pointed to it. He obeyed her first command; for, sinking into the chair, he fell back in it, his features became convulsed, and from a struggle we thought the forerunner of his dissolution he was relieved by groans and a burst of tears. The major offered him some of the wine. He took a little; and fixing his large and expressive eyes on Pauline, he deeply sighed. "It is indeed madame du Rivage," said he: "but misery has so changed Meunier that she knows him not! Tell me, does Sigismund live? Do you yet believe Nicolas faithful? Oh speak! and let me die in peace." "Good God!" exclaimed the frantic Pauline, "what shall I do to preserve him? He is dying! Send for succour! I shall be distracted!" "Be calm," said the major with firmness: "you increase his emotions: he is too weak for happiness; but he only needs repose to recover him." And again cautioning Pauline, he left us to provide for the invalid’s wants. Tears now were the only language employed; and I ventured to inform monsieur Meunier that we had just parted from Sigismund, who was in perfect health. He raised his eyes to heaven, and his lips moved. Pauline, unmindful of the major’s injunctions, now taking poor Meunier’s hand, and tenderly pressing it in hers, spoke of Sigismund’s friends. "They have succoured me for his sake," added she with eagerness: "they will succour you for your own; for faithfulness and Meunier are one." Again he raised his imploring eyes to heaven, but was unable to speak, and again his fleeting spirits seemed to desert him. He was carried to the bed the major had seen prepared in the house; and with Ralph’s assistance, the poor invalid was conveyed to it in a condition of extreme weakness. During the time the major thus exerted his friendly cares I was engaged in soothing Pauline. I had succeeded but indifferently. Her tears had, it is true, ceased to flow, but her countenance was flushed by anxiety and distress, when the major again joined us. He spoke with seriousness, and assured her that Meunier would do well, and that he was going to visit the commanding officer. "It happens," continued he, "that we are no strangers to each other, and he is a man who will permit another to give succour to the prisoner of war. Your friend has now the comforts necessary for his cure; and do you write, Mrs. Sedley, to Furnival, and tell him we shall not be with him this week." Pauline with renewed tears blessed him, and fervently implored heaven to recompense his kindness. He smiled, and, taking her hand, reminded her that she could repay him by relying on his services and ordering a good dinner, as he should bring home guests to share it. He kept his word; and we had the satisfaction of hearing from the surgeon that his patient was in no immediate danger from his wound. "It is a gun-shot wound in the hip," added he, "improperly treated by being healed too soon. He will probably be lame for life, but, with the comforts he will now enjoy, may do very well." The officer assured us that he would cheerfully promote every plan for his further enlargement; and with the most perfect politeness made over his prisoner to Pauline, with a compliment which proved him no novice in the language of gallantry.
The following day we were allowed to visit the sick man, and the gratified Pauline found him accommodated as she wished. I cannot better show my respect to my readers than by relinquishing the opportunity now before me of embellishing my work with a few strokes of the pathetic: but it so happens, that my imagination is never in the descriptive mood when my heart is under the strong impressions of feeling and pity; and the recollection of Meunier’s eloquence of looks has ruined me for the pathos in words. Let it therefore suffice that I place before my readers the narrative which he has supplied for my pen; and which was given us, as his strength and our precautions admitted, during the ten days we remained at Stilton.
Nicolas Meunier, during our first interview, had listened to Pauline’s information of the events which had conducted her dear Sigismund to the security he enjoyed. But a sadness she had remarked in him checked her wishes of hearing of his family, and of those occurrences in which there were so many circumstances to dread. He failed not to observe it, and with visible agitation said, "My captivity has had one alleviation: my beloved wife…" He stopped. "Say no more, my good friend," replied Pauline, struggling with her feelings: "it is needless." "She is happy, mademoiselle," answered he; "and I endeavour not to murmur. I have however had much to suffer, and you have much to hear that will call upon you for fortitude. I almost shrink from the task, although I have so lately implored the Almighty to give me the opportunity I have now before me, and to permit me to leave an evidence behind me, that in no one instance of my conduct have I failed in my duty to my benefactors. I have been graciously heard; and now have only to relate to you a scene of atrocity which will no less astonish than afflict you."
NICOLAS MEUNIER’S NARRATIVE
I will begin, my dear madam, by informing you, that in consequence of a wound in my right arm, and the importance my noble colonel gave to it, as having been received in the defence of his nephew, my captain, whose life was by my interference providentially saved, I obtained my discharge from further service, and retired with some éclat and a small pension. My dear wife, in the mean time finding she could be of no use to her lady, no sooner saw me in a convalescent state than she proposed to me to give up the apartment in la rue St. Honoré, and to retire to her mother’s. Her arguments for this step were grounded on the uselessness of the expense, and the little probability of her lady’s needing the rooms, or thinking them a proper refuge should her escape from the Abbaye be effected. But perpetually clinging to this fond and fallacious hope, she assiduously employed her time in preparing for her beloved lady an asylum in her mother Claudine’s house; and with an invention her zeal prompted, she contrived a means of eluding danger for the future inmate of the rooms, which she fitted up with her lady’s furniture. I will not detail to you the endless projects we conceived. Alas! they served no other purpose than to keep up an inquietude already pernicious to poor Jeanneton. Amongst the number of these projects was, however, one that I could not give up. In the relation given me of our lady’s intimation of the danger that was approaching on the morning of that fatal day she left l’Eclair, the circumstance of Clement’s name appearing had not been omitted; and I determined to discover what was become of him. With this purpose I lived more at Paris than in the country, and from policy served in my shop. But my inquiries proved abortive; and I was led to believe that he had left Paris, or was a prisoner with his master. You can be no stranger to the horrors perpetrated at the Abbaye on the fatal second of September (continued Meunier, wiping his languid face). We ought not to weep, my dear mademoiselle, for an angel’s release from misery, nor to stand appalled by the means by which she regained her native abode. No; let us reserve those tears of pity for the ferocious tigers who through eternity will have to suffer for their insatiate cruelty! But, dæmons as they were, they are blameless in comparison with those who rendered her the willing victim of their mad fury!
On hearing of the tumult, I flew to the Abbaye; and forgetful that my arm was still in a sash, I instinctively put my pistols in my pocket. My uniform gave me access into the house. Great and just Being! I have seen death in the field of battle—my nerves have not relaxed; but in that slaughter house in which brother was armed against his defenceless brother, what heart would not have been appalled? Sickening at the view, I slowly traversed a long corridor. All was as silent as the grave there; but from one moment to another I heard the more distant sounds of uproar and confusion. My passage was intercepted by a narrow staircase, and the hope which shot a ray through my soul renewed my strength and braced my arm. I ascended with my pistols prepared, and found myself in a passage which I conceived led from the offices to many apartments. A lamp was suspended near a niche in the wall, made I suppose for the guard. Shall I proceed, mademoiselle?….or shall I leave to your imagination a still more terrifying idea of insulted virtue? Marianne’s spirit was fled, and unconfined exulted in its purity. She was extended on her father’s bosom, her own bare, and one arm dreadfully wounded. I stood transfixed, but, reeling at length to the seat, recovered my recollection. The steps of several persons riotously singing, and which approached me, put me on my guard. I started up, and, presenting my pistol, warned them to stop. "Who are you?" asked the leader of the party, who I now perceived was an officer of the national guard. I named Meunier of the ——brigade. "What, Vieuxbois’s brave lieutenant?" rejoined he. "What are you doing here?" I explained the tragedy before me as well as my emotions would permit me, and conjured him to assist me in removing the bodies. They at once swore they would serve me, and, covering them with their cloaks, deposited them beyond the reach of insult. Touched by the scene and my agonies, these people faithfully served me; and the commanding officer exerted so much zeal, that I had the following night the consolation of seeing performed the last duty in which Meunier could be useful.
Distracted with alarms for my wife, who was far advanced in her pregnancy, I instantly set out for Claudine’s. I was too late. The horrid tale, which no time can erase from the annals of France, had reached my wife; and on seeing me she fainted. Let me abridge this part of my narrative…Suffice it, I was delirious when the grave enclosed the mother and my infant. Claudine, mademoiselle…But wherefore should I tell you the remedies she applied to my lacerated bosom? They were such as have sustained me to this hour, and will soften my pillow in my last! During the whole of this winter I was my mother’s care, and my retirement was frequently cheered by my captain’s visits. Vieuxbois was generous and grateful; and he could not forget the service I had been so fortunate as to render him: it was his pleasure to call an act of simple duty one of heroism; for he was attached to me as to a man whom he had found faithful. His arguments prevailed, and I accepted his offer to join his uncle as steward, and particular follower of his fortune in the new appointment and promotion which conducted him to join the troops in Flanders. My little commerce had flourished in the hands of my careful and honest associate; but I was miserable and unsettled, and even Claudine recommended a change of scene she conceived to be remote from danger. In consequence of these arrangements I left her early in the spring, in order to prepare for the campaign and to settle my commercial concerns. Monsieur Luzarche, my partner, wished to enlarge his speculations; and I, leaving him to his plans, took care of the shop for some short time whilst he was absent.
Accidentally crossing a court in my way to my abode, I met Clement. I believe I should have passed him, so much was he altered, had not his club-feet attracted my notice. On my accosting him he started; but, recollecting himself, expressed much satisfaction at the rencontre. Impelled by my curiosity, and the hopes of hearing something from him of de Béne’s fate, I invited him home with me; and he acceding to my proposal, we soon reached it. His shabby appearance and meagre countenance spoke his necessities; and as master of the house, my partner being still absent, I ordered some refreshments to be brought. "You do not eat," observed I: "you look ill." "I have been long in a poor way," replied he dejectedly. "Who has not?" answered I, filling his bumper: "but we must stand to our posts till we are discharged." He took the wine, and then observed that he had heard of my honourable discharge. "Yet I am on the point," replied I, "of following my noble commander to Flanders." "I heard you were disabled," said he, "and on the invalid list." "I am indeed disabled," answered I, "from ever knowing the comforts of a home; but I wish to spare a better man than myself, and one who has a wife to cherish: that is unhappily no longer my case." He expressed his concern, and I proceeded to mention the fatal effects of mademoiselle de Fouclaut’s death on my poor Jeanneton. I perceived that he applied to the bottle several times during this little relation, which my feelings rendered melancholy. "I suppose," continued I, "your master de Béne’s sun is set? What is become of him?" "Curse him!" answered he, again replenishing his glass, "he has met with his deserts. He massacred his thousands, and was too mildly treated." "He seems to have ill recompensed your services," observed I: "Why do you not enter, and serve your country?" "Because I cannot meet a cannon-ball as you can," answered he. "I have a bad conscience, and must clear up my accounts before I die. Notwithstanding the defect in my feet, I could still earn honester bread than ever de Béne gave me; but I am at present too miserable to seek employment." "Try what confession will do," answered I with assumed gaiety: "the time was when we thought it useful to the work of reformation, and a sovereign remedy for a troubled conscience." "We might not have been the worse," answered he gloomily, "had we still believed our grandmother’s tale: but as I have more faith in a red coat than in a black cowl, and think you an honest man, I will try and gain your absolution if I can." "Do so," replied I, ringing for more wine, and urging him to eat, "for I am not of those disciplinarians who mortify the body for the sins of the soul." "O Nicolas!" exclaimed he, "you know not the wretch whom you would comfort. I have been the blackest of villains, and now suffer the torments of the damned. But I will tell you: I am a dying man; and I may expiate a part of my sins by proving the innocence of that angel whom I have helped to murder." I shuddering bade him proceed. "I need not tell you," continued he, "of the favour I enjoyed with my master, and it may be as little to the purpose to mention the first cause of his preference; yet I will tell you, that I am the nephew of his honourable father, and that, when it was his pleasure to forget he ever had one, he recollected that his cousin Clement had too good a memory to forget his having been servant to our notaire, and having run away to Paris with more cash than his own, which my uncle refunded, and which pacified his master. I was then an honest young fellow; but he found me acute, and with his training I became a knave, and useful to him. I was soon informed of his connexions with the ci-devant duke de Fouclaut. The intimacy was no less useful to de Béne than to de Fouclaut. My master had wealth, and wanted alliance with a father it would not disgrace him to acknowledge; and de Fouclaut had nothing left but a daughter. I will pass over some transactions preceding my cousin’s happy adventures at St. Domingo, in which the duke had befriended him, and which, with his gold, had produced an equality that sometimes surprised me, notwithstanding they so strenuously supported the system of equalization: but not knowing exactly the secret services which had rendered them slaves and tyrants to each other by turns, I shall say nothing of my fortunate cousin’s early talents for physic and philosophy, which I suspect had been useful to the duke."
"The projected alliance between these great men," continued Clement, "was no secret to me; for my master returned home one day in such good humour that he told me he should be ‘the happiest man on earth,’ and described his future bride like a man in love. On seeing mademoiselle Marianne I was not surprised. But every man has his taste. Your pretty Jeanneton was more to mine. Be not displeased with this acknowledgment," added he: "remember, you are in the confessional chair. However, your wife was a less reasonable woman than I expected, and your honey moon had no wane. Stateliness and reserve were prevalent amongst the females of the duke’s hotel, and your wife was as proud and coy as her lady. I therefore amused myself en passant with a nymph who was better tempered, and left you to your Lucretia." He filled his glass, and with increasing impudence and loquacity continued: "On the eve of quitting Paris, for the prosecution of some one of those diabolical schemes which were hatched at the palais royal, I received orders to precede my master by some hours, in order to secure for him, and his colleague de Fouclaut, horses for their route to Thoulouse. They were, I found, to pass the night with the duke d’Orléans; and pretty well understanding in what way these nights were passed, I paid a visit to my dulcinea. I was not however unmindful of my commission; for I rose with, or rather preceded, the sun; and opening the window of Jaqueline’s little garret, I stood for a moment to inhale a sweeter atmosphere than the room afforded. Jaqueline’s lodging was in a house in the narrow lane which runs parallel with de Fouclaut’s garden, and she enjoyed from her aërial abode the whole view of it. It was in the early time of spring; but the morning was calm, and promised a fine day. I was soon diverted from my purpose of putting on my clothes, by the appearance of mademoiselle de Fouclaut and your wife. They were both wrapped in pelisses, and en bonnets de nuit. They reached the marble bason and stopped. You with your Jeanneton’s handsome cousin hastily joined them; and it was evident you had entered by the door in the lane. The weeping Marianne sunk into his arms, and he slowly led her to the temple, whilst you discreetly remained with your wife. My eyes followed the lovers. He placed himself, and fondly seated on his knee the beautiful object of his adoration; the light and slender pillars of the temple affording me a full view of the tender scene. It was not difficult to guess that it was a parting one. He wiped away her tears with her handkerchief, and placed it in his bosom. He kneeled at her feet, and she with frantic gestures threw herself into his arms. At this moment you and Jeanneton approached them; and with gentle violence, and pointing to the rising sun, you led your handsome cousin to the walk, and the outlet by which you had entered, Jeanneton and her lady returning to the house. ‘What are you about?’ asked the half slumbering Jaqueline: ‘you blind me with the light. You seem neither willing to stay, nor to go.’ Engaged in huddling on my clothes, and by the scene I had witnessed, I made her no reply, and she took offence; and cordially wishing me at the devil, I hastened from her: but you had eluded me, and I had lost time, as well as the good-will of Jaqueline.
"My master’s detention at Thoulouse, whilst it gratified his ambition and increased his influence with his party, by no means flattered his passion or relieved his thoughts from the disdainful coldness of Marianne. He began to suspect de Fouclaut was making a dupe of him; and he told me that he well knew the duc d’Orléans had not only visited Marianne, but had spoken of her beauty in the most enthusiastic terms. ‘I know de Fouclaut,’ added he. ‘The cursed pride of his rank, which still revolts at his alliance with a man to whom he stands indebted for more than the roof which shelters him, would exult at seeing his daughter the mistress of a Bourbon; and who can say whether the girl may not be as ambitious as her father?’ ‘I do not think she regards rank in a lover,’ replied I, still feeling the effects of a bottle of good Hermitage in my head: ‘young ladies are accurate judges in some cases, and overlook titles, and even gold, for the endowments of nature.’ I smiled, and he took the alarm, and with a lip quivering with rage he said, ‘Then it is as I suspected! She has a young lover!’ He eagerly pressed my hand with his well-stored purse. ‘Be honest,’ said he, ‘and tell me all thou knowest.’ I pocketed the bribe; for my conscience was drowned in the good wine I had swallowed. "I shall spare you the hearing of a twice told story," continued this wretch. "I was eloquent: the garden scene, however, worked up a storm which brought me to my recollection; and for reasons of my own I endeavoured to moderate it. He bade me retire; and upbraided me for having kept the secret so long from him.
"In the morning I found him very sullen; and fearing his resentment would interfere with my own views, I renewed the subject of his ill-humour. ‘I was an ass,’ observed I, ‘to trouble you with a silly story, which ought rather to make you laugh than angry. If, however, you expect a wife who has never had a little intrigue, I advise you never to marry.’ ‘You know the lover,’ answered he, relapsing into fury, ‘and sport with your benefactor’s feelings.’ I solemnly assured him he was a stranger to me; and with many protestations of my fidelity, I honestly told him that he would act wisely to leave the duke to make his own fortune, and his fair daughter to choose her own lovers, and be happy himself in his own way.
"‘I mean to do no such kindness to mademoiselle Marianne,’ answered he gloomily. ‘I see further into this business than you do. Her father favours these nocturnal interviews; it was Egalité whom you saw.’ I laughed, and assured him that he was deceived; for that the lady had chosen much better, adding, that I had never beheld so handsome a young fellow in all France. He was surprised; but immediately spoke of your and your wife’s functions with execration, and proposed to me a recompense adequate to my labour, could I succeed in detecting you and finding out the lover. I was soon after sent to Paris with a commission too profitable to be refused.
"Well knowing that every advance to your intimacy would be rejected, I remained quiet, and only inquired at your hotel after Jeanneton’s handsome cousin. Blanchard said, he was gone into Italy with his master; and I said no more. I renewed my visits to Jaqueline’s garret, but mademoiselle had deserted the garden. De Béne again returned to Paris, and was outrageous at my want of success. Again I pacified him; for my purse needed replenishing: again he departed; but I was left, in order to watch you. Some overtures I made to conquer your reserve having been received with more incivility than was common, or, as I thought, needful; and reflecting that I had never gone further in testifying my admiration of madame Meunier’s beauty, than she might, or might not, receive as the tribute due to her charms; I conceived, that in shunning my acquaintance you were actuated by motives that were independent of jealousy. One day, on your alleging that you had your shop to attend, for declining my invitation to dine with me, you may recollect that I walked with you to it; observing that I hoped you would not reject me as a customer, although it seemed your intention to avoid me as an acquaintance. You slightly bowed, and said, your time was fully engaged, for your partner was on a journey. On entering it, I found only a lad behind the counter. I made my purchase of some stockings, and you gave them to the boy to tie up. I paid for them, and asked for a receipt. You went to your desk, and wrote me one; and I saw you place a letter in your bosom of some bulk. ‘Give me the parcel,’ said I to the lad; ‘I am going home, and I can put it in my pocket.’ He assisted me in so doing; and I departed. I went not far; but taking my station, saw you again leave your shop. I followed you, and saw you at the post-office. You deposited the letter, and paid some money at the wicket; then disappearing, you took another direction.
"My measures were immediately adopted; for I was fully persuaded that your foreign correspondence was concerned with that business which it was now my interest to detect. I knocked boldly at the wicket. The same man appeared; and with three bright louis d’ors in my hand, I begged he would permit me to speak to him apart from witnesses. He eyed the gold, and, opening the door, civilly said there were no persons in the office but himself: and I entered. On the desk was the object I sought, which he had just stamped with other letters.
"‘I am, sir,’ said I with great solemnity, ‘a man in the confidence of citoyen de Béne.’ He bowed servilely. ‘I need not point out to you the perils which menace the republic.’ He shrugged up his shoulders: ‘Ah que non!’ replied he with a grimace of acquiescence. ‘A person long suspected has this very instant delivered to you a letter, and paid for its postage.’ ‘I received it officially,’ answered he, turning as pale as ashes: ‘this is the letter.’ ‘A suspicion of your conduct is not the question,’ replied I: ‘it is from my opinion of your patriotism and honesty that I am led to appeal to you. It too frequently happens that the innocent suffer for the guilty: the man who gave you that letter may be ignorant of the mischief he is concerned in. It is even possible that the packet he has delivered may contain nothing in it wherewith to criminate his employer any more than himself: but I wish to compare this name with the signature of the writer of the letter.’ ‘It is a delicate business,’ observed he, coldly looking at the louis d’ors which I carelessly passed from one hand to the other: ‘this envelope may contain bills of exchange.’ ‘Let them remain, if such be your pleasure,’ said I gravely; ‘I have only to report the success of my commission to my employer, citoyen de Béne.’ I rose to depart. ‘Pour l’amour de Dieu,’ said the terrified man, ‘have patience; you shall be satisfied.’ He instantly proceeded to an operation of some ingenuity and dispatch; and the letters were spread before me:—one written by you, to your ‘beau cousin,’ and another in a female character to Mrs. Hamilton, and which covered a third. I smiled, and observed, that as in most plots the woman was the most in the secret, so that was precisely the case in the instance before us, adding, that it was incumbent on me to secure the letters. But in so doing I wished to explain to him the authority by which I acted. ‘Do not think this trifle is a bribe to seduce you,’ said I, giving him the money in my hand. ‘Come to me this evening at de Béne’s hotel, and you will find it not only for your advantage, but security, to know the man to whom you trust these papers.’ He hesitated, and said he could not well quit the office; but would, if I pleased, call a man to receive such letters as might be offered. I saw his caution, and yielded; inviting him to dine with me. Let it suffice, Malpoix had his terms granted; and your letters travelled to Thoulouse. Master of your secret, you will not be surprised that you no longer received your letters. Malpoix was too well paid to betray his trust, or to become careless.
"De Béne’s return to Paris more effectually confirmed Malpoix in his interest; for he added promises of promotion to his purses of gold, whenever the correspondence should be completely in his hands. I thought I knew de Béne," continued Clement; "but his conduct now puzzled me. He still urged the duke de Fouclaut to complete the marriage, and even supplied him with a considerable sum of money. I expressed my surprise at his patience and long suffering. He smiled with bitterness. ‘Leave me to my revenge,’ said he: ‘I will soon show this girl my power over her and her worthless father; and instead of the asylum she has so notably prepared for herself and him, as she writes in her letters, and which he would with joy accept, as the only means of escaping from ruin and my just resentment, I will still hold them both in my toils. I have not forgotten, Clement,’ continued he with fury, ‘his insolent hauteur, when I proposed settling his accounts by taking his daughter. ‘What!’ cried he, yielding to his pride, and unmindful of my power, even as it regards his very life, ‘de Béne proposes the daughter of de Fouclaut for his wife?’ I only smiled, and said ‘Even so;’ and he trembled before me, and abjectly sued for pardon; pretending that his Marianne was yet a mere child. I suffered this evasion to pass, till, urged by his necessities, and finding me still useful, he proposed carrying me with him to see his daughter. I did see her, Clement: and I adore her as the loveliest of her sex. Let it suffice, de Fouclaut has from that time been entirely supported from my purse; and his credit has been propped by my securing to Marianne the wreck of that property which was legally hers. I have not been unmindful of his conduct since our engagement was ratified by his solemn oath, that Marianne should be his benefactor, his friend de Béne’s! I have not forgotten the proud rejection of my proposals by his daughter, which I am convinced he dictated, in consequence of the lures thrown out by the duke of Orleans. All this I have overlooked. Marianne stood between me and my resentment. But mark,’ added he, choked with rage, ‘she tells her husband, her proud Englishman! that her father scorns de Béne; that she has no doubt but that he will bless the means which have provided for her a refuge from dishonour, and a shelter for himself, remote from the lawless dominion of ambition! He shall be my sport, my derision! Clement,’ added he, striking the table with violence; ‘and when I am revenged, with le bras roturier will I crush him!’ ‘Perhaps you wrong your friend?’ observed I, nowise disposed to be mischievous to such an extent: ‘you take up this matter too warmly. It appears to me the young lady needed not the good offices of her father; and it is certain from her letters, that she still dreads to inform him of her situation. I suspect she has been the dupe in her turn, and that the lover is not the man he pretends to be. As for the marriage, I laugh at that: thanks to our new laws, marriages are now nothing; and a woman may call any man she prefers a husband, till she sees one whom she likes better. After all, monsieur, it would be better, in my opinion, to attribute this business to the wise instructions of her convent, and her faithful Jeanneton; and to let this matter pass over. You have now the means in your hands of making her believe her lover has forgotten her: you say you love her; and to what purpose all your pains, if you mean no more than to disgrace her?’ ‘I cannot live without her,’ replied the old dotard: ‘this her father knows!’ ‘And you will have her,’ answered I, interrupting him; ‘in a little time resentment will bring her to your wishes. She will have no letters to answer from Italy. Our good friend’s letter of advice, of the duke’s having sent her into Normandy, and under the care of a woman better qualified for the trust than his Jeanneton, will do our business.’"
"I started from my seat, mademoiselle," continued Meunier: my self-command forsook me. "Villain!" exclaimed I, "is this thy tale? and dost thou expect me to pardon thee?" "Hear me to the end," replied he with a look of despair. "This is nothing to what I have done, and I shall not resist your purpose; for I am weary of my life." I groaned, and sternly bade him proceed, as he hoped for pardon in another world. "I will hasten so to do," replied he, "and will pass over some time, in which we had nothing new to expect. Your letters went on as usual; but they were written with caution and reserve, and, like the oracles of old, often perplexed us.
"One day Malpoix brought us a packet directed to the duke de Fouclaut. ‘It is from Turin,’ said the smooth-faced rascal; ‘I thought you would like to see it.’ De Béne paid the postage, to his agent’s contentment; with a bribe to secure all letters directed to the duke for his perusal. "You may think of me as you please, Nicolas," said the specious villain, "but I declare before my Maker, that if these letters had fallen into my hands, I would have saved Mrs. Middleton; and for a reason you will admit. I should have gained by being honest; and when that is the case, few could resist the pleasure of serving such an angel as your lady! But I was born to be an agent of the devil!
"These letters were nearly as follows: for I have them at my lodgings with the rest; and now that sleep is a stranger to my eyelids, I read them till I am with the damned." He paused; and I was silent. "The first was from a nobleman. It begins thus," said he, wiping his pallid face: ‘I am, monseigneur, a father; I stand in this country in a similar order of rank with yourself. My opinions and views for the establishment of my family are such as you have probably entertained. Yet, monseigneur, I scruple not to address you on a subject which, as a man, and a man of honour, I submit to your attention. If, in the interruption of the correspondence between your daughter and her husband, you have interfered, from a suspicion that she has degraded you and herself, dismiss your fears; Mr. Middleton having pretensions on the side of family, fortune, religion, and merit, to the first alliances on the continent. If, in your resentment as a parent, you have exerted the authority of one, offended by the secrecy with which your daughter has secured to herself the man she loved, I conjure you to pardon the offence in favour of the sufferer, who is at this moment in a condition truly pitiable. His life and his faculties depend on the effects of seeing his fondly beloved wife. Hasten to restore him to reason, and to the hopes of his afflicted and miserable family. Be assured,’ continues the writer, ‘that neither your honour nor your interest will suffer by your attending to this appeal to your humanity. You will find in Augustus Middleton a son, who in the highest elevation of fortune and greatness would be your pride and boast; and in his honourable connexions, friends who love your daughter, and implore from you a gift necessary to them. In the name of Heaven I conjure you, monseigneur, to depend on my judgment. Your daughter’s presence might yet save the life of her husband; and without adverting to arguments of an interest she must have in a fortune which is princely, and which will find, in case of her husband’s death, successors in his family, I will conclude by assuring you that this family are infinitely more anxious to embrace his wife, than for the inheritance his death will secure to them.’ This letter was signed with several names," added Clement; "but I only remember the last: it was Spollino, marquis of D——; and the answer was to be sent to a banker’s at Avignon, from whence it would reach his hand by express. You shall see it tomorrow, as well as one from Mrs. Hamilton to Marianne. We wrote, however, as well as this noble correspondent. De Béne was so well served for his money, that I remember he swore, he was tempted to believe that de Fouclaut had written the answers himself for the sake of a little running cash; ‘for,’ added he, ‘I know from experience his talents, and the readiness and facility with which he can serve his friends when it suits himself.’ However, we kept up de Fouclaut’s dignity in our epistle. Monseigneur, after many polite acknowledgments, proceeds formally to announce his daughter’s marriage with monsieur de Béne; an event which had taken place soon after her quitting the convent, in which she had resided from her very early years. That it was incumbent on him to say, he had in the first instance found his daughter more reluctant than he expected to his commands. ‘But,’ added the writer, ‘you are too sensible of the duties annexed to high stations, to make it necessary for me to urge, that it rarely happens our views for our children will either admit of that indulgence we may be disposed to grant them, or of those prospects which, in the season of youth, they may entertain for themselves. I have however the satisfaction of knowing that my daughter is happy, and under the protection of a man, whose tenderness and generosity have convinced her that she has acted wisely in giving up a romantic fancy to the dictates of a sounder judgment and a sense of duty.
"‘It would have been degrading madame de Béne to have withheld from her the letter inclosed in yours, monseigneur. I have, with the most entire confidence in her virtue and principles, placed it in her hands; and shall, at her request, add to this packet the answer she may think needful to send to her former companion and confident; who will do well to recollect that, in the errors of youth, few are more dangerous than those in which she concurred.
"‘But this part of the subject is now sunk in my compassion for the fate of a young man, who, betrayed by his passions, has lost with me his pretensions to honour, although not his claims to my pity for his condition. I remain DE FOUCLAUT.’…Judge, my dear mademoiselle, whether Meunier wants fortitude or patience! No, I did not: for I was dumb; and petrified with horror, I listened to him with breathless eagerness. Prudence suggested to me the necessity of imposing on him in my turn: "Your master ought to have been duc de Fouclaut," observed I with a languid smile: "his letter was quite in his style; but proceed."—"I was grieved to the soul," said he, "on hearing him read Mrs. Hamilton’s letter to mademoiselle. I declare to you, it cut me to the soul! for, after all, I would not have given douze sous to have seen de Béne happy, as he called it; and I am no enemy to love, and had often contrasted his baboon face with that of the poor lady’s lover. Besides, Nicolas, I could not help thinking my master a fool, as well as a knave, to take so much pains, and to spend so much money, for the mere purpose of destroying another man’s happiness, and being gulled himself; and I have a hundred times laughed, when putting on the cork calves to his legs…" "Well, go on," cried I impatiently: "what did he write for the innocent madame Middleton?" "Oh, pour cela!" answered he, "we had his head, and that was not made of cork: le diable has not a better when he works in his own way. Madame de Béne’s letter to her friend was not less edifying than her friend’s was touching."
Poor Meunier, with emotions too powerful for his weak frame, paused. Let me finish this painful task with repeating it as briefly as I can. "She begins by saying," continued he, "that in order to close for ever a correspondence from which nothing could result but a more acute sense of self-condemnation, she informs Mrs. Hamilton that she had found the recompense of duty to her father. That he had discovered her deviation from it, in consequence of her indisposition, and the peculiar circumstances which had occasioned her confinement, from the woman whom he had placed in the post of the discarded madame Meunier. That, on her recovery, she had been sent to her father’s chateau in Normandy. And that in consequence of those appeals to her understanding and to her heart on her father’s part, and to those proofs of unexampled affection and generosity on the part of monsieur de Béne, she had voluntarily returned to that path, in which only she could find peace of mind, and that acquittal promised to repentance. She added that she had been thus circumstantial in a detail which had wounded her bosom with the keenest pangs of contrition and self-abasement: but reflecting on the affinity subsisting between the Aimsworth family and Mr. Middleton, she conceived it to be an act of justice to declare that they had nothing to fear from any claims to a succession, which might, and as she believed, in default of more immediate heirs to Mr. Middleton, would revert to them—Providence having in an especial manner signified to her its disapprobation of a union unsanctioned by parental authority, and even illegal in the eye of those laws which although superseded could not be infringed without punishment. The loss of my hopes as a mother was the beginning of that repentance in which I have found peace. My ardent wishes are that Mr. Middleton may recover; and in a renewal of his health experience a larger proportion of felicity in more legitimate bonds, which heaven may approve, as resulting from a more sober judgment, and a higher sense of duty, than he has done from the impetuosity of passion and youthful inconsideration." She adds in a postscript, continued Meunier with an agony not to be described, "that Nicolas has abandoned his wife for the life of a soldier, and is with the troops in la Vendée; wishing she could with propriety recall Jeanneton to her service, who she still believes was rather a weak than a designing woman." This I believe Clement would gladly have recalled; for again my patience yielded; and I should have been desperate, had I not been overcome by faintness. It was now his turn to recommend wine to me; and pretending that my tears flowed more from the recollection of my loss than on account of a calumny in which was included the ruin of every one it could reach, I led him on to proceed in his story; not however without hinting from time to time that I had information to give him in return, which would probably give a new face to his fortune.
I had now, mademoiselle, to listen to Clement’s long account of de Béne’s declining popularity, and the apprehensions and divisions which had gradually taken place in the duke of Orlean’s party. "Marianne, love, and jealousy," continued Clement, "yielded to his negotiations with Jews; and from the private and long visits of one who generally went away before day-light from the hotel, I took the alarm. My master, finding he could neither impose upon me nor find a friend whom he could more safely trust, explained himself fully. He told me, that he had long been preparing for his emigration; that the Jew I had noticed had happily secured for him large sums in the American funds, and for his pains had pillaged him like a Jew. ‘I know,’ added he, ‘that de Fouclaut is a marked victim. I cannot save him, were I willing to do so. I shall marry his daughter, however, and it will be her fault if she be not a happy woman. I love her to distraction, Clement; and I have already suspended measures at my own peril, in order to save her. Nothing but the apparent union in which I act with her father has suspended his arrêt. But my influence is losing ground daily. I am thought unfriendly to the rising faction, and I am preserved by those who were my friends, merely as the price they mean to give for their own security. I must go once more to Thoulouse with de Fouclaut. In my absence your business here must be, to secure me a safe retreat in Paris, to which I may trust for security during some time. I shall conduct Marianne thither; and when she finds there is no alternative between de Béne and the guillotine for her father,’ added he, curling his shaggy brows, ‘we shall hear no more of delays.’
"The result of our conference was my asking for my dismissal, on the pretence of a sick brother’s wishing to see me, and from whom I expected a legacy: this was graciously granted, on condition I could wait till my good master left Paris. I immediately secured a decent apartment in a tradesman’s house; and you will suppose I diligently observed my master’s instructions, in removing thither whatever would be necessary for his future exigencies. Amongst other and more necessary articles, I took a box in which were placed your and your lady’s letters. I had never been her enemy, Nicolas," added the miscreant, "whatever you may suppose; and I was determined to keep in my hands these proofs of her innocence, not without the prospect of their being one day useful to her and to myself. I found also in the box a few old trinkets and a ring or two out of date; which made no great difference between me and my worthy cousin." He passed his hand over his bronzed face, and smiled.
"De Béne in this interim saw you and Jeanneton discarded at la Rondeau, and his beauteous Marianne safely secured at l’Eclair under the surveillance of Babét du Bois. But he did not lose sight of your services. And how you escaped I know not; for you had better fortune than some who had offended de Béne, and who lost their heads without seeing an enemy. He also thought it necessary to make you the writer of another letter, which was addressed to Mr. Middleton, and sent through the same channel as those to the kind-hearted Italian nobleman. In this you inform your correspondent, that having received intelligence from your wife of her lady’s being married to monsieur de Béne, and of the duke’s hotel being shut up, and that she had been obliged to dispose of the few marks of her lady’s former bounty, in her pecuniary difficulties, not being able to discover whether she was still at the duke’s castle in Normandy or elsewhere; and having also heard that monsieur de Fouclaut’s state of fortune now makes him solely dependent on his son de Béne for bread,—you finish by a hint that some assistance is necessary for your wife, and with a direction to your shop. You add, that in the life of a soldier, you have found incredible fatigues and hardships, with unceasing anxiety at not having heard from Mr. Middleton; concluding that the marriage of de Béne to his lady must have surprised and vexed him, unless he had found another as fond and more faithful."
My part was taken, mademoiselle, (continued monsieur Meunier). I suppressed my feelings, though nearly suffocated by the attempt.
"The providing a retreat for my master," pursued Clement, "was a work of precaution, and of more difficulty than I had foreseen. But I was persevering, and had an interest in succeeding. My trunks were valuable; and I wished to secure them from the prying eyes of my hostess. I had gold, and it was a dangerous commodity. Yet day succeeded day, and my labours finished by passing the night under alarms you will easily imagine. I was returning home one evening, weary with my useless walks into various obscure parts of the town, and discouraged by the difficulties of my undertaking, when crossing a court I perceived two women before me, the one infirm and aged, the other young and tall, both meanly but decently clothed. I slowly followed their slow steps. A small threshold at the outlet met the old woman’s foot. She tripped; and notwithstanding the arm of her companion and guide, she fell on her knees. The young one uttered a cry of surprise and alarm. I offered my assistance, and in raising the poor woman saw she was blind. She complained of her knee; and her terrified companion, with reproaches on her own carelessness, appeared unequal to supporting her. I bade them be composed, and offered my assistance. It was accepted with gratitude, and at length we reached their home by various turnings and obscure alleys. I carried the lame woman up a narrow staircase, and, placing her at her ease, sat down myself. ‘I am afraid, my dear Madelaine,’ said the grateful woman, ‘you have nothing to offer to this good gentleman for his kindness, but our thanks; and yet I am certain he must be fatigued.’ ‘A little,’ replied I, ‘not altogether with having assisted you; but I have walked many hours, and I am faint for want of food. I have been too much engaged to-day to think of my soup.’ Madelaine looked distressed. ‘We also have been out,’ said she pensively, ‘ever since the morning, and it grieves me, monsieur…’. I interrupted her, and at once reminded her of a traiteur’s shop we had passed. ‘My home is remote,’ added I rising, ‘and with your permission I will fetch from thence what shall serve us all. Your mother wants something also for her bruised knees. I am not a very rich man,’ added I smiling, ‘but rich enough to gratify my humour.’ I departed, and soon returned with my purchases. These were such as suited my appearance of decent mediocrity; and I had not omitted a remedy for the knees, nor a bottle of wine. I found the table prepared for my stores; and with a neatness which pleased me we had our repast. Gratitude and a glass of wine made the old woman loquacious. Madelaine was reserved, but courteous and assiduous; and with a dejected and pretty face betrayed an anxiety for the departure of her guest which she could not conceal; for she observed more than once ‘that it was growing dark, and monsieur’s home was remote.’ I had, however, from calling her mademoiselle, learned that she was a widow; her husband the son of the blind woman; that he had lost his life in a mob. This relation was concluded by sighs and tears on the part of poor Madelaine, and by her mother’s reminding her that it was the will of God, and that she ought to remember that her husband died doing his duty. ‘For,’ added she, addressing me, ‘our dear François received his deadly blow in the endeavour to save the life of his benefactor, whose house was burnt to the ground by the very wretches whom he fed, and all because he was, as they said, an aristocrat. We have suffered, monsieur, with our sorrow, more poverty than we can well bear; but God will not forsake those who do their duty, and hope in him. I tell my daughter this every day; but I am a heavy burthen on her industry.’
"I am not quite a fool, Nicolas," continued Clement with energy; "I know well enough that religion has its use; nor was I displeased to find these women had more of it than I had myself. I told my story; and, as it happened, the truth served my purpose. My attachment to a good master whom I had long served; his beautiful young wife, who would inevitably be involved in his fate, produced the sympathy I wished to excite. I dispelled their fears by enlarging on my plan; and finally they agreed to shelter this unfortunate couple a few days. Madelaine showed me, with more alacrity than I expected, her small apartment. ‘It is clean,’ said she, ‘and it has an advantage which may render it useful.’ She opened a door: this led to a stair-case; and, as she informed me, to a ground-floor room in which her husband, who was a chair-frame maker, worked. ‘We took the apartment expressly on this account,’ added she, sighing; ‘for my husband could work early and late without disturbing his poor mother. But it is now useless! and I must pay the rent of it for three months longer, not being able to let it; such are the times!’—You may judge I did not hesitate one moment in perceiving the utility this outlet to another alley afforded; and before we parted all was arranged. The next morning I was Madelaine’s tenant; and with a cart-load of bird-cages and wire-work opened my shop in the face of day and my neighbours, leaving Madelaine amply provided with the means of rendering her apartment more tenantable for her expected refugees. My intimacy with these women satisfied me more and more. The sobriety and modesty of Madelaine imposed upon me manners which gave her no offence. She had neatly prepared her room; but with good sense observed, that she had cautiously avoided to furnish it unsuitably to her condition, modestly offering me the surplus money. This I refused; and I further engaged it would be only a small portion her services would gain. ‘My wishes are bounded,’ said she, ‘to being able to provide for my mother, and to save the lives of those who are persecuted unjustly. From this hour,’ added she, ‘I consider this room as your charge: there is the key of the stair-case door; and you may place here in safety what you please. We have secured the entrance on our side; and I would advise you, never to be seen on the stair-case: what is portable bring to us, and thus secure it. I work for the shops with my needle, and none will notice your approach in the common way.’ In a few days my trunks at my lodgings were prepared for the inspection of my hostess; and I called at de Béne’s hotel for news. ‘All was well: they expected his return to Paris.’ I was questioned. My answer was ready: ‘My brother was dead; and I had my little and expected inheritance, and was on the point of leaving Paris.’ My tale at my lodgings succeeded as well. I begged the mistress of the house to assist me in packing up my trunks, alleging my sudden summons into the country. She readily complied; and by presents of articles not worth removing, and paying her the full demand she made, we parted such good friends, that she invited me to think of her house whenever business recalled me to Paris. I was now settled in my shop, which served me as bedroom and kitchen, as it had done to many of its humble tenants: but my business attracted few customers; and I was undisturbed, though not idle. My retreat became however tiresome, and I persuaded these women to board me. I ventured to call on my late civil hostess, as a traveller in the stage coach from Estampe. She received me with kindness, and wished that her husband had been in the way to have seen me. ‘He is on duty at the Abbaye to-day,’ added she; ‘they are waiting the arrival of some prisoners who are expected this evening; they say the ci-devant duke de Fouclaut is amongst them.’ You will judge of my sensations; I need not describe them. I shortened my visit, pleading my hurry of business; and, repairing to my friends, told them to be in readiness for my master’s wife, with a perturbation which made them tremble for her safety. Madelaine wept and prayed, and again promised to be faithful. In return, I gave them a liberal supply of assignats; and telling them that my life was uncertain, and devoted to my master and his wife, and that my absence depended upon circumstances I could not foresee, and my return would be equally uncertain, I left them invoking Heaven and every saint to preserve me, and prosper my undertaking. They knew not that I had no friends there," added Clement, "but I did: and I left them unable to bear the thought. I wandered about, undetermined what course to pursue. I had received no answer to my last letter to de Béne. He might have left his colleague. I knew that my letter had reached its destination, and that no one could decypher its contents but himself. I went into a coffee-house; and there, with additional horrors, I found every one reasoning and debating on the arrêt of the expected prisoners. All agreed that de Béne was amongst them. Some said the duke has escaped; other betted ten to one that he was amongst them. During this contest, a gentleman entered. He had seen them; and they were both in the Abbaye, and he had heard to his astonishment that de Fouclaut had given his only daughter in marriage to de Béne; that she was also to be arrested, and would probably be in prison the next morning. ‘Where is that unfortunate victim?’ asked another with compassion. ‘She is in the neighbourhood of Paris,’ answered the first speaker, ‘at a seat once her father’s, or rather once her own—till he cheated her of it; after having destroyed her mother, and a son then a child.’ Had I been equal to my emotions, I might have heard more; but had the earth opened under my feet I could not have been more appalled. As I withdrew the speaker was eagerly relating the suspicions which were entertained respecting the death of the duchess; and the supposed cause for the duke’s protection of de Béne, who was then serving in a chemist’s shop.
"I followed the impulse of the moment, and in a state of mind I cannot describe I found myself, when nearly dark, on the road to l’Eclair: but exhausted by my internal agonies, and the speed which had impelled me forwards, I sunk on the ground, and, as I suppose, slept; for it was daybreak when the voice of some one passing in a cart roused me. It was a woman and a boy. They stopped, and inquired whether any accident had befallen me. I pleaded illness; and hearing the road I was going, they humanely offered to convey me to the cabaret in the village they had to pass; observing that my lame feet and condition moved their compassion. At the cabaret I said I should wait for a horse, or some conveyance; and ordering some refreshment, I threw myself on a wretched bed. Sleep, more salutary than the former, brought me to more composure; and I now formed my plan. I had learned from the woman, whilst in her cart, that her house was at a short distance from the village of l’Eclair; and with other particulars I had drawn from her and the lad, I conceived that both might be rendered suitable agents in my project of saving the angel I had conducted to the verge of destruction. My acknowledgments on parting had been received with a look I had translated to my wishes; and on taking my offered tribute, she had shaken her head, and said in a low voice ‘que le Dieu vous conduise!’ But the suggestion now arose to overset this hope…‘Babét du Bois knew me…Mademoiselle could not be a stranger either to my name, my person, or my station about de Béne, and she would never trust me with her confidence. Yet her life hung on the moment;’ and starting from my bed I left the house, saying I was going to walk, and to look at the chateau within sight, not expecting the conveyance for some hours.
"I took the path like a man not able to run away. The morning was delicious, and the hour yet early. I sat down for a few minutes in view of the house, and saw mademoiselle quitting the court. I concealed myself behind the tree, and she, without observing me or any other object, took the path to a neat house, I following her steps. This was, as I learned too late, your Jeanneton’s mother’s abode. She entered; and I was for a moment prompted to do the same, but again recollected that my appearance would tend to discredit my report of her danger. ‘Could I but give her the intimation undiscovered,’ thought I, ‘all might be effected. She has friends under that roof. She entered their abode with habitual confidence, she will communicate to them the information she receives, and they will urge her to trust to the friendly agent appointed to save her.’ I wrote the direful intelligence with a pencil on a blank leaf from my pocket-book. Words could not be stronger, nor more alarming. And with directions for her escape I pledged my life for her security. I kept my post, in the road she had to repass in her way home. She saw me, and stood irresolute. Dreading to surprise her, I hastily retreated through a thicket, leaving the paper under the book, in her path. From the rising ground, and at some distance, I turned. She had the book and paper in her hand, and held them up to my observation. Good heavens! how angelic! how meek and soft was her invitation to return for the trifle she supposed I had inadvertently dropped in my haste to quiet her timid fears! My heart smote me, Nicolas, even then: and in agony I said, ‘But for me she had been happy and secure!’ I waited at the cabaret. No interruption was given to the torments I endured from this suspense, till the alarm was general…. ‘The duke de Fouclaut’s daughter and her companion had been arrested at the chateau.’ My indisposition returned; and my host at the cabaret, engaged in the tumult and the news of the day, left me to take care of myself. The following morning I returned to Paris; and there I learned that madame de Béne at her own request was with her husband, a prisoner in the Abbaye; whilst others, better informed, said she had implored to share with her father his confinement; and that she had solemnly protested she was in no wise connected with de Béne, and would prefer death to his name: for that he was her scorn and abhorrence."
"I was too much indisposed for some days to be able to take any steps. My grief gave me additional claims with Madelaine and her mother. They nursed me, and strove to comfort me by the same lessons of piety which had served themselves. But I had no comfort from this quarter; and I cursed myself again and again for having been the servant of the devil, when I might have been with more profit the friend of the innocent. Madelaine, in the mean time, praising without ceasing my fidelity, recollected the name of a man who lived near the Abbaye, and who was employed there to go on errands. ‘He had known her husband, and was one of those who had brought her the sad news of his accident. He had shown much compassion for her; and she thought something might be done with him, towards gaining my master the comforts with which I was enabled to supply him.’ Let it suffice, I became at length monsieur Pataud’s comrade, and assistant in the office of errand-man, and my designation known in the house by the name of ‘Pieds-tortus,’ Jaques Pataud being promoted, by the influx of prisoners, to a menial station within the house. De Béne was thus amply supplied with comforts, which to my contentment were shared with the duke and his daughter; who I learned lived in the same chamber with de Fouclaut, and who was indebted to her youth and beauty for this consideration. My confidence in Pataud increased, and I ventured to go further, and to mention Marianne’s escape. ‘I do not believe,’ said he, ‘that she wishes it; for it was not long after her being here, that I know she might have had friends more able to have effected it than you are aware of. The girl, who has led me to this infernal abode, is the niece of the porter here, and I love her, and she loves me. She was appointed by these powerful friends to wait on mademoiselle in her room; and what is more, she was intrusted with a note for her. She gave Josephine a ring, when she asked her what she should say to the person who had intrusted her with the commission. ‘Tell him,’ replied she, ‘that I am now happy; and with my last breath will bless his humanity. Tell him, that I now wait for death with impatience; and that in my father’s lost honour and wretched condition his child will be a partaker, as long as Heaven appoints him to be her defence. Should he ever chance to meet the person,’ added she, ‘who gave him this blessed note, let him present that ring to her; and let it also be the pledge of my having destroyed the note before you.’ ‘Josephine told me,’ added Pataud, ‘that she had faithfully delivered her commission; and that the gentleman paid her well for her trouble.’ "Notwithstanding this account," continued Clement, "I hazarded a few lines to her. She took them from Josephine, and, reading them, returned the note. ‘Tell those who employed you, my good Josephine,’ said she with mildness, ‘that I prefer death to any enlargement from such a quarter.’ She cautioned her in regard to being the bearer of any future message, or note, and assured her she would never quit her father. The girl told her lover, on this occasion, that she could not help grieving sometimes for the poor young lady, whose proud father did not deserve such consideration; for he was a cruel man, and had no pity for his child; reproaching her with having been his ruin." Clement paused. "Need I remind you," said he with a tremulous voice, "of the second of September? Need I proceed to the moment in which my eternal misery was announced!! I saw her, Nicolas! I heard her say ‘Strike, ruffians! strike! I am the feeble barrier to de Fouclaut’s heart! I am his child, his Marianne!’ But I fled! The coward, who the moment before had thought his own life worthless but as it could deliver her, fled! Her voice, her words struck on my appalled senses. ‘She will call thee her murderer,’ whispered the dæmon within, ‘and thou canst not now save her! Save thyself!’—I listened to the groan of death, I heard the retreating steps of the assassins! Some power superior to my will prompted me to the fatal spot. I took from her bosom this cross, and from her finger this ring, whilst with horrors you cannot understand I thought I heard a footstep approaching. You know the rest. I was concealed, and saw you still faithful, and myself damned! I have from that hour been on the rack," continued he; "sleep is a stranger to these eye-lids. I hear in the hour of darkness my crimes announced. ‘It was my fell mischief that brought destruction and death to Marianne.’ Take my life: I am weary of it!"
"You may," said I with solemnity, "employ what remains of the term of grace in the service of the innocent being who has escaped thy miserable and villainous master’s revenge. Mrs. Middleton’s child is now in England, and it is your duty to reinstate him in his claims to his father’s protection, in case he has survived these infamous plots; or to place his birth and existence without delay before the family who are the heirs to his father’s large estate." He listened with avidity to my discourse; and I proceeded to inform him of your situation, mademoiselle, and the documents in your possession, which would serve to corroborate his evidence. Before we parted, he pleaded poverty; and I, still suspecting him, went with him the next morning to his lodgings. I found he had not deceived me in his report of the women who sheltered him; and I have reason to think they were tired of him. I made my terms with him before we parted, pleading that unless he left the letters in my hands, I had no evidence with which to prove my innocence, nor could he with prudence journey with them. He exacted a price for them, which confirmed me in my opinion of his penitence; and I doubt not, had I been able, I might have bribed him to new villainy. I carried off, however, my precious bargain; and these letters are in my mother’s hands. The cross was a plain gold one, of no importance; the ring an intaglio on onyx: these, as they were to him, as he said, reliques of a departed saint, I left with him, he swearing by the cross, which his impious lips pressed, not to defer his journey. This seemed to be no less Madelaine’s wish than mine; for she told me she feared he was deranged sometimes; and that he was very troublesome to her. She blushed in saying this, and I understood her. I reminded him of the good offices of these women, hoping he would not be ungrateful. "Oh, monsieur, pour cela, we have no reason to complain," answered Madelaine with eagerness. "When monsieur Clement had money, he was very kind to us. We are satisfied, and only wish we could have been more useful to him. But as that is now unfortunately prevented, we wish him to leave Paris as soon as he can, now he has money. We shall not stay in this apartment long." She spoke with anxiety; and opening the door to the little apartment, she added, "See, sir, our friend Clement has already been obliged to part with many of his things; but he has impoverished himself in doing his duty." In a word, my dear mademoiselle, I perceived clearly that this worthy young woman dreaded him, and that she rejoiced at the prospect of getting rid of a guest who did not suit her. I gave her my address: and she availed herself of it the following day; when she informed me that he was become insolent and tyrannical, extorting from her the obedience of a slave, and importuning her to quit her mother, and to marry him. I sent her away comforted; for she had a trifling donation promised, and which my partner engaged to pay her weekly till my return. "My hard fortune followed me," added Meunier; "but the life of Meunier as a military man is foreign to the present subject. Let it suffice, that I was taken prisoner at the capture of Valenciennes by the British forces; that I escaped, and reached St. Morlaix, and was again taken in a privateer, and brought hither: and for what gracious purpose, good God!…" He burst into tears… "To see the child my Jeanneton so loved, to prove my fidelity, and her unexampled attachment to her benefactors!…to see, it may be, Providence justified, and to close my eyes in peace."
Pauline was unable to speak. "We shall not let you close your eyes, monsieur," said I, assuming a cheerfulness I felt not, "till you have tasted the recompense you deserve. You shall not only see Sigismund, but his father, before we part with you. It is true, we know nothing of Mr. Middleton: but his child has found a parent, and you will not long want a friend." I was now the historian, and Mr. Furnival the hero of my tale.
We quitted Stilton, leaving Meunier a prisoner on his parole, and in a situation of ease and comfort. Poor Pauline had gained nothing in appearance by this journey; but encouraged to hope, and soothed in her sorrow, she yielded to our plans; and she saw London and its environs with some advantage to her health. Meunier’s recovery was her cordial. Mr. Furnival’s interest procured him the permission to come up to town as soon as he was able to undertake the journey; and to our joy, we saw him on his one crutch before we left town, and under the first medical hands in London. Mr. Furnival, whose mind had the peculiar faculty of thinking nothing was done whilst any thing remained to be done, which his feelings deemed essentially requisite to comfort, requested as a favour, his friend the good emigrant priest to give up his obscure, and to him chargeable, lodging, and scanty board, to share with Nicolas a pleasant abode at Chelsea. This arrangement was made in my presence; and had I needed a lesson in the art of conferring favours, I must indeed have been dull of comprehension had I not profited. Yet to this hour it is doubtful to me, whether he thought at the moment of any thing beyond this gentleman’s goodness to himself, in giving his imperfect knowledge of the English tongue, and his society to Meunier, in exchange for an exemption from every pecuniary care; for he repeatedly observed, with that complacency at once so ingenuous and natural to him, that he should now fancy monsieur Meunier was comfortable when he was not with him. Meunier was in danger of being too much subdued by these traits of goodness; and with tears he told Pauline, that he could not comprehend a man, who seemed not to know that in conferring obligations he was performing any thing more than gratifying himself. "He carried me," added he, "to the lodgings this morning, and, with the delight of a father regulating the comforts of a sick child, gave his orders to the master and mistress of the house with an exactness which marked the interest that he took in my welfare, and with a minuteness that would have escaped me; for, on seeing a child, he asked where it slept, adding, he hoped it was too remote to incommode his friend." Pauline had no need of this incitement to heighten her enthusiasm in respect to Mr. Furnival’s character, nor myself any clue to the motives which regulated a course of life drawn from the pure precepts of a religion, to which his heart as well as faith assented with an attachment so prevalent, that to have deprived him of this spring of action would have rendered him an inanimate and useless incumbrance to the spot of earth which he occupied. But I must curb my pen when Mr. Furnival is the subject—simple genuine goodness having attractions for me, which both as a matter of principle and of taste calls from me an admiration and reverence, which may be thought to have led me too far from my duty as an historian.
Previously to our quitting London, which was delayed to the beginning of June, we had consulted Mrs. Dawson in respect to our several commissions for our country friends. She recommended a celebrated haberdasher’s warehouse in the city, where, in her words, ‘things were given away, and where ladies of quality crowded to purchase bargains.’ Pauline, somewhat curious to see this fashionable lounging-place, and governed it may be by the vanity which is said to be the inmate of every female bosom, had contrived to render her appearance somewhat more attractive than common for the purpose of shopping. Yet there was so much discretion employed in the business of her toilet, that it is more than probable I should not have discovered any unusual cares had been used, had not the major complimented her on her dress: and on hearing how we meant to dispose of our morning, he observed, I had with me a model for the dress of a modest woman and a gentlewoman; and he hoped Pauline would become the mode. Mr. Furnival, gratified by seeing her out of mourning, commended her taste, and lamented the folly and absurdity of his country-women, who, he strenuously maintained, were the first in the creation for personal charms; "not merely," added he, smiling, "on the score of complexion or features, but from that characteristical donation with which nature has graced them. Does it not make you angry sometimes," added he, turning to me, "to see modesty despoiled of her drapery, and it may also be of her moral existence, by fashions sent us from warmer climates, and the unlicensed coquetry of females, whose purpose is to allure, not to be respected? I grieve to see women shivering with cold and nakedness, and looking as if they were drawn from a bath, rather than clothed by decorum and decency! Is it not astonishing that vanity, if no better motive can be found to operate, has not told an English-woman, that she is degrading herself by servilely copying the modes of other countries? The moment I see a beautiful girl undressed for exhibition, and in a winding-sheet, I wish to cure her folly by the penance,—not of standing in the church during divine service,—for they have braved that trial of their strength,—but in the church-yard, and by the tombstones of those who have died of cold and folly."
The carriage was announced; and we prepared for our departure. "Now I like that bonnet," said he, addressing Pauline with a smile: "it is neat and modest, and suits the face it covers from the gaze of fools. Do not forget to buy one like it for Mrs. Fielding." Thus dismissed, we repaired to the fashionable shop; but we had forgotten the fashionable hour, and the string of carriages Mrs. Dawson had mentioned were not in our way.
We proceeded to an inner shop; and were courteously served, and gratified by seeing the various articles of fashionable attire for some time; when two ladies entered, who directing their steps to the opposite counter were soon engaged in a similar way with ourselves. At length, in a voice which Pauline instantly recognised, Mrs. Budgely angrily said, "Why do you show us your trumpery Manchester muslin?" Then turning she added, pointing to a piece from which Pauline had purchased a gown, "Bring that there muslin here, young man." "How fortunate is this!" exclaimed Pauline, eagerly advancing to her mother, who appeared not less pleased by meeting her daughter. During their greetings, Mrs. Budgely, with curiosity and some irresolution of manner, remained silent. Pauline, without noticing her sister’s embarrassment, introduced her mother to Mrs. Sedley, to ‘her dear Mrs. Sedley, with whom she resided.’ Mrs. Budgely’s muscles relaxed, and with a curtsey she acknowledged she had frequently had the pleasure of hearing my name. Then with increasing graciousness she inquired whether I did not think the shop we were in a good one. "But," continued she, "these people sell for ready money, and rather than not sell they will take any thing of one customer, and refund themselves with another." Perceiving my office was to keep Mrs. Budgely engaged, I adverted to the muslin, observing that I thought we had bought some of it at a very fair price. She examined it, and with rude familiarity remarked that the Lunnoners well knew country ladies. The shopman took offence, and gravely answered, ‘It was no wonder, nor saying much for their acuteness.’ "Why, you must think a guinea a yard too much for this muslin, Mr. Vamper," replied she, still examining it. "We have not found others of your mind," replied the man, gravely folding up his wares. "That young lady’s was the third robe since yesterday morning when it came in, and I fear not her liking her bargain." She hesitated. "Come, madam," cried the man, "you know it is worth the money." "I know it is too dear for those who know what money is," answered she, turning away with quickness; and addressing her mother, she asked her whether she was ready to go, for that she could see nothing she liked, and would try elsewhere. The poor old lady, therefore, again said something in the complimentary style to me, and in my turn I mentioned to Mrs. Murray the day of our leaving Mr. Furnival, adding that I should share in Pauline’s disappointment, should it happen that we were absent when she called on us. "I hope," replied she with much confusion, "you will not be offended by my not doing so. My daughter knows my reasons for not visiting at Mr. Furnival’s house." "Why, cannot you give your mother an hour this morning?" asked Mrs. Budgely: "we shall be at home at three o’clock, and I shall be very glad to see Mrs. Sedley in Watling-street." I curtsied, and the business was settled, we leaving them to their engagements till the appointed hour.
Pauline hoped much from this rencontre. Her mother’s kindness was however balanced by her being apparently out of health, in Pauline’s opinion. "She pressed my hand," added she, "and whispered that she had something to tell me. I wish to know what it is; for I doubt she is not happy." I proposed taking Mrs. Budgely by surprise, by anticipating the time she had named for our visit; and Pauline eagerly adopting the plan, we reached the house half an hour before three. On asking for the mistress of it, a sturdy porter showed us the way; and on seeing the maid on the staircase, he bawled out, "Why, Jane! here are the ladies." Jane, in her bedgown and dirty cap, started with surprise from her knees, and, removing the mop and pail, muttered, ‘She knew there was not time.’ She was putting down, as we presumed, the best carpeting; but, recovering from her confusion, she conducted us into the drawing-room, saying that her mistress would wait on us in a few minutes.
A stranger ignorant of the wealth of a London citizen, or the affectation of it, so ruinously displayed, might have imagined that by some miracle he had been transported into the cabinet of the grand caliph; rich silk, carpeting, lustres, and gilding, giving to a room of no narrow dimensions an air of magnificence more conformable to a palace than Mr. Budgely’s shop. But we soon turned our attention to the more curious objects which decorated the room. These were the family portraits. At the bottom of the apartment was Mr. Budgely at full length, contemplating his future honours; an elevated model of the Mansion-house occupying a marble slab at his elbow, and his common-council-man’s robe forming the drapery of it. The artist, probably, having considered the more peculiar defects of Mr. Budgely’s person, had generously given him six feet in height, not foreseeing the inconvenience which would reduce the hero into Mr. Budgely’s own standard. But it so happened, that the crimson damask sopha, which had its fixed station at his feet, insolently raised its back to a level with his knees, and gave to the common-council-man the appearance of having suddenly grown from it. His solemn cast of features ought to have checked our mirth; and when Pauline recovered her gravity, she assured me, that she verily believed her good brother was sensible of the indignity offered him; for that, although his broad face had vacancy of thought, it was not sorrowful.
Opposite to the unfortunate master of the house hung his lady, who with ornaments of carving and girandoles filled the pannel over the chimney; and who, in the character of Rubens’s plump wife, smiled on us from amidst a profusion of feathers, pearls, point lace, and velvet. The side of the room opposite the windows, though not less than twenty-eight feet long, admitted only of Mrs. Murray and miss Judith, with a bracket between them for a lustre. Mrs. Murray was meditating; her elbow gracefully placed on the English Encyclopædia, opened on the table: globes and maps were at her feet, and in the back ground a library of general use, for the names of the books appeared to have been taken from a bookseller’s catalogue; and contained law, physic, and divinity. Miss Judith had evidently been more careful in the choice of her character; for her portrait approached nearer to truth than her mother’s. The tender-hearted Judith appeared as Sterne’s Maria on the road to Moulines, her pipe at her girdle, and the faithful Sylvio at her feet: she was attentively tying up in vine-leaves a white handkerchief marked with the initials L.S. Rocks and cascades, trees, goats, shepherds and shepherdesses, were not wanting; but what particularly diverted us was a man in the back ground, who in a three-cornered hat, a large wig, and a black coat, was so much in the Dutch style, that we thought it must be mynheer Zuyder himself, whose name was on the canvas. It was not without difficulty I could compose my features, in order to receive with suitable decorum Mrs. Budgely’s grave compliments, who at this moment made her appearance, dressed in a muslin robe so beautifully embroidered with coloured silks, that Flora might have taken it for her holiday suit. A bonnet, or cap, of lilac crape was finished by a Brussels lace veil; and a sash of the same colour marked that Mrs. Budgely had no waist. Pauline, somewhat disconcerted by the failure of her project, asked for her mother. "She will be here soon," replied the sister, displaying a superb watch, and sounding it. "We are before our appointment," observed I, smiling. She made no reply. "This apartment," continued I, surveying the pictures, "is however happily calculated to entertain a too early guest. May I ask you the name of the artist you have employed? I do not think I have seen any of his portraits before." "Probably not," answered she; "for he is a stranger here: the poor man was driven from Holland when it was besieged by the French. Alderman Gobbet took him up; and as he works cheap, and wanted bread, we were induced, out of civility to our friend, to give him a ‘lift.’ But nobody thinks my picture like me: it is ten years too old for me. He has succeeded tolerably in the dress, and the lace is loop for loop like my own point." "I do not think he has succeeded in his likenesses of any of the family," observed the timid Pauline. "I should not have found out Judith in any other place: I cannot think this painter a flattering one. Pray where is miss Murray at present?" "Miss Murray!" repeated Mrs. Budgely: "why, do you not know she is married? I should have thought your friend doctor Hawksbury would not have failed sending you such a proof of his wisdom; for he helped to make the ‘maiden all forlorn’ a wife, who will soon be ‘all tattered and torn.’" Mrs. Murray entered the room; and the salutation had not time to finish before Mrs. Budgely renewed the subject of miss Judith’s change of name; and with the utmost scorn and derision she laughed at the ‘curate’s lady.’ "I hope, my dear mother," said Pauline with compassion, "that you will see her happier than you expect." "I have no fears for her happiness," answered the mother. "Mr. Maitland has the best of characters, and, although a young man, is highly praised for his learning. Considering all things," added she, deeply sighing, "Judith might have done worse." "Who denies it?" said Mrs. Budgely with augmented colour. "No one who knew her would have wondered had she married a footboy." "You are too severe, daughter Budgely," replied the mother with some resentment on her part; "and after all you can say, you well know your sister was mistress of herself and her money." "Money!" echoed the lady: "I admire that! Who wanted her money? What difference could it make to us, whether she spent it in quack medicines or threw it away on a beggarly school-boy?" She rose and pulled the rich bell-string with fury. "Bring chocolate!" was the order; and replacing herself on the sopha, the conversation was at a stand. At length she asked Pauline what was become of her little boy, and whether he had found his father. "No," replied Pauline smiling; "but he has found a mother in Mrs. Sedley, who is no more ashamed of the title than I am." The door opened, and the porter entered in his livery coat, bearing on his sinewy arm a silver tray filled with all the appendages of an elegant morning repast; and followed by the damsel we had seen, in a long-trained robe, carrying a silver cake-basket furnished with all that luxury has produced to gratify a childish taste. "Bring me my usual luncheon," said Mrs. Budgely, surveying with complacency these evidences of her opulence. "Sweet cakes do not suit my stomach," addressing me: "I am for the wholsomes." "We perfectly agree," returned I, "on that point: I dare not touch rich cake." A magnificent sandwich tray was now placed before the lady of the house, with a tankard of porter; and with great dispatch she proceeded to uncover a silver dish, in which was a broiled beef-steak. With much more kindness than I expected she shared it with me; and softened into good humour by my commendations of her cook, she observed it would be wonderful indeed, if the instructions she had given the wench had not made her perfect. This was followed by a story of her having lost a cook, who ungratefully had quitted her after she had made her fit for any place in Lunnon. She now asked Pauline, whether she had heard from miss Wilmot, her dear friend. The answer was in the negative. "Dear me!" exclaimed she, "that surprises me. I concluded you were in one another’s secrets. Do you not know that the family are gone to look after miss Anna’s husband?" A second negative was given. "Well, I only wish she may not repent not having married, as her mother did, in her own parish church. But I am a true English-woman. I should never have been easy without knowing where to look for my marriage certificate. Give me, say I, the English way of becoming a wife. But I fancy the new-fashioned way of getting married in France suits some young ladies,—and particularly miss Wilmot, who loves freedom, and is the declared enemy of obedience. But they tell me that in making this new law the new kings were losing their time; for in France husbands to have and to hold were never quite so well understood or liked as in this country. It will be well for your friend if she finds a father for her child with a better head than her own, or with any head on his shoulders, at the rate they are going on in Paris. I am sure you ought to bless God for your escape; and as you have been so fortunate as to find friends here, for yourself and master Sigismund, I advise you to remain where you are; and not to think, like miss Wilmot, of running after a husband who cannot give you a house of your own, nor provide for your family. You did not know this all-accomplished young lady, madam, I believe?" added she, turning to me: "I am sure you would have disliked her as much as I did for your daughter’s acquaintance. She sickened me of French learning. Such a slattern! and as pert as a magpie, with her two or three lingos! I could not help laughing when I thought of my Mr. Budgely with such a wife! for, as he says, ‘Becky, be contented with your mother-tongue, and your husband’s purse will carry you to Leadenhall market with the finest of these learned ladies.’ But we are old-fashioned people, madam. He is not ashamed of his trade; nor his wife of her kitchen-wisdom; though we could, thank God, spend with many who keep their coaches and think themselves our betters." She raised the porter tankard to her lips, and drank to my health. Knowing that Pauline wished to be informed as to poor miss Wilmot, I endeavourured to gain from the loquacious Mrs. Budgely some particulars which might lead to her purpose of writing to the unhappy girl. I therefore took care the subject should not drop. "This poor girl is to be pitied," replied I; "but what can be said for her mother, who has brought her up to be useless and idle; and who has now the weakness to be governed by her?" "Governed!" repeated Mrs. Budgely: "Why, miss Wilmot thinks she has sense enough to govern the whole world; and although I would swear she cannot darn a stocking, one might fancy, to hear her talk, that she was wiser than Solomon." "Do you know where the family are now settled?" asked I. "Settled!" echoed she, with a smile of triumph. "In some private lodging, I suppose, at Paris, or near it; for they talked of a town called Morges, as being cheap and pleasant, and very retired. This was not unsuitable for miss Wilmot’s confinement, which was approaching, and she had been more noticed than she suspected. People thought she had delayed rather too long her married title; and madame ‘Broudier’ gained little favour with her neighbours, although the silly old man took so much pains to tell us of his son-in-law’s power in Paris, and the chance he had of being mayor there. But, as my Mr. Budgely said, he would find three common-council in Lunnon who would buy all the mayors in the world, if the commodity was worth having. Mr. Budgely, madam, has not lived in the world for nothing; that I know; and he told Mr. Wilmot again and again his mind. ‘A rolling-stone,’ said he, ‘never gathers moss. Never give up I have for I shall have. Trust to the English consols, my good friend, and stay where you can call your house your own,’ says he. ‘Send your daughter to her husband, and let him maintain her. Tell him that is the fashion here.’ But this good advice was all lost."—"The more is the pity," replied I; "for it might have been rendered very useful. But pray do you know who has the care of his affairs in England?" "No, not I," answered she with resentment; "for although he knew Mr. Budgely was in the stock-broking line, he did not choose to employ him, after all the civilities we showed his family." Finding that Mrs. Budgely was on the point of beginning a long story of the condition in which Mrs. Wilmot had left the house she had occupied at Hammersmith, I rose, and, pleading more visits, reminded Pauline of the hour; Mrs. Budgely entreating in vain that we would wait for her husband’s return home, "who," added she with a gracious smile, "will be happy to see you, madam, though you do not know him." I became curious, and at length I learned that I owed my favour with Mr. Budgely to his having seen my name in Mr. Breadley the stock-broker’s hand.
"He has let us into a secret which concerns you, Mary," continued she, turning to my companion. "Of what nature?" asked Pauline with a heightened colour. "Oh, I shall not tell you," replied she: "all I shall say is, that you have been more fortunate than wise. But it is a long lane which has no end; and I hope, as matters now stand, that you will settle into a prudent woman. My mother has often repented letting madame du Rivage keep my sister so long," continued she with amazing volubility, and addressing me; "for it was but too likely she would bring her up to be as fashionable as she was herself, and unfit for her station with us. However, madam, as you have been so kind to forgive what must have offended you, as well as ourselves, I shall say no more on the subject of her marrying without her mother’s consent; and it must be some comfort to you, that your son might have done worse; for Mary has no reason to blush at her relations." "My dear Mrs. Budgely," cried Pauline, "why will you persist in an error I have taken so much pains to remove?" "Because I know more of the matter than you think," answered she, gravely nodding her head. "However, I was never one of those who went about to publish the lies of a Mrs. Whaley, and to show your name in a book she found in your lying-in room. It is an ill bird with me who befouls its own nest."—Mrs. Murray, who had taken but little share in the conversation, and who appeared out of spirits, now said with an embarrassed air, that she was very glad to find Mary had found friends, and to hear that they were satisfied with her conduct. This being particularly addressed to myself, I answered by assuring her that she might safely dismiss every care, as these related to miss Murray, as I considered her not only as a daughter, but as a blessing. We were now suffered to depart without opposition, with the compliment, "that it was hoped we should not forget Watling-street when we were in town."
My account of our morning call, although it amused Mr. Furnival, could not dissipate Pauline’s concern for her mother. She persisted in her opinion that Mrs. Murray was unhappy on her account, and wished to be on terms of more kindness. Her tears flowed in saying this, and she appealed to me, as an evidence of her mother’s sickly countenance. "You will never be wise," replied the good old man with tenderness, "till you can better judge of your mother. Hawksbury has produced the affectionate squeeze of the hand, and paved the way to Mrs. Budgely’s sandwich tray, by talking of the rich widow who has taken you up, and the fortune you have in the British funds. His lady has found, that the best way of making her peace at home, and recovering her credit abroad with her immaculate gossips, was, to publish your innocence, and to implicate that of Mrs. Whaley, whose levity has been too manifest for strict decorum. As these opinions do no harm, the doctor leaves to his wife the honour of fighting your battles; and she now speaks of ‘her amiable and beautiful friend miss Murray’ with all possible enthusiasm and praise. Your sister Judith, in the mean time, not being able to forget the miniature picture,"—Mr. Furnival smiled—"sought out a lover who approached it in perfections. Hawksbury says she has succeeded; for that Maitland is the handsomest young fellow he ever beheld, and that he has moreover good talents, and an excellent character. But Judith, on finding her romance terminating happily, resolved to do something also for yours, and she has given many people to understand that you are a married lady, and that Mrs. Sedley is Sigismund’s grandmother; and that the period is not remote when you will be the envy of your sex, and the pride of your family, who never deserved you. Judith’s resentment, it is probable, has had some share in this defence of you; for she had the spirit which your mother wants, and had refused to remain with her at Welldown. She was in her own lodgings when she first saw Mr. Maitland. His sister, happening to be a guest in the same house, introduced him as a visitor; and with an independence no one censures who knows her situation, she has secured to herself the protection of an honest man, and an alliance at once respectable and suitable for her; for she is your sister," added he kindly: "poor Judith only wanted a madame du Rivage."—"Good heavens!" said Pauline with emotion, "how happy should I be to hear that my mother had resolution to live with Mrs. Maitland!" "Oh, let them alone," replied he, nodding his head: "it would not surprise me to see your mother break her chains. I have seen more examples than one, in which the selfish have defeated their purpose, by fancying they might trample on the slave they had subdued."
On Pauline’s leaving us in order to prepare for our removal from town, Mr. Furnival, with a sigh, asked me whether I had not suspected Pauline to have some disappointment of a tender kind hanging on her heart. "I see no necessity," added he, "for the repugnance she discovers for society; nor that alarm when I talk of seeing her happily married. She must know that your protection and mine are, with her own conduct, evidences of her worth which the world cannot reject; and I think all is not peace within, Mrs. Sedley." My answer was explicit. "I feared as much," replied he with emotion, and applying his hand to his cravat. "The quivering lip and the downcast eye did not escape me, when she gave me with blushes Middleton’s picture, and her excuses for detaining it. I was then almost on the point of betraying my suspicions. Poor thing! Unrequited affection, though it has no support from reason, often influences the character of mind, and bereaves the heart of the only remedy which might heal the wound, by subduing those spirits which are so needful to give renovation to hope, and to remove the weight of rejected love from the memory. I wish," added he, "these Aimsworths would return; we should soon remove from her the duty she now opposes to my wishes. When Sigismund is separated from her, she may be persuaded to relinquish her romantic project of living single." "My romance," replied I with cheerfulness, "goes much further than hers; for I intend her for Mr. Middleton’s wife; and should this dream of happiness be frustrated by his being dead, I will try the effects of time and plain sense; having seen unchangeable attachments settle into a very comfortable state of wedlock, with nothing better for its support than gratitude, mutual esteem, and the friendship resulting from mutual kindness and a common interest." He laughed, and said he wished he had found such a physician at twenty years of age; but that he still thought me no better than an empirick, who was imposing on him remedies in which I had myself no faith, and would have rejected with disgust when labouring under Pauline’s malady.
On reaching our peaceful abode we forgot not the Grantham road; and Pauline with a mother’s joy saw the improvement of her child, and the health and gaiety which at once pronounced him happy. But our domestic circle was not complete. Mr. Hampden was at the castle, and the duke still detained him. His return introduced a new topic for chit-chat: the splendid society the duchess had with her; their varied amusements, and above all the theatrical talents which had been displayed, were detailed for our gratification: "But," added Mr. Hampden, "even there I left an example of the insufficiency of human enjoyments in restoring lost peace. There is one amongst this train of belles and beaux who sighs for a quieter scene. He is a relation of the duchess, and of course an object of general attention and solicitude: without this claim to consideration, Mr. St. Clare would impose deference and conciliate good will. His fine person and unobtrusive manners must please; and the dejection of his spirits has, or I am much mistaken, excited a sympathy in more female breasts than one. He is in deep mourning; and at first I supposed he had lost his wife: but I have since heard he wears his sables for an uncle. My early rambles brought us acquainted," continued our friend; "for he seemed to enjoy a morning walk with me, more than mixing with the gay and elegant loungers. The duke noticed this preference, and observed to me that he had foreseen the duchess’s plan would not succeed; for that St. Clare had been miserable at the castle: ‘his sorrows are too recent,’ added he, ‘to be soothed by company, or beguiled by music, plays, or balls. I wish you could persuade him to make an excursion to your house, and then propose others round the county: he has taste and curiosity. We should gain something by renewing his spirit of inquiry; here we only depress him; and Gertrude already repents of having filled her house by way of annoying him, rather than curing him. I have without difficulty," continued Mr. Hampden, "engaged him to follow me in a day or two, when we shall settle our plans for visiting the beauties of Derbyshire. You must befriend me, major," added our friend; "he is a man exactly made to interest you." "Then I shall shun him," replied the major, "I hate to be interested; I suppose he is some disappointed heir, or a whining fool who expected his mistress to be faithful till he was weary of her." "We shall see," answered Mr. Hampden laughing; "but in case you should not like him, I will make him over to Mrs. Paulin. He has lived some time on the continent; and as this ‘melancholy fool’ is at least near thirty, and has not lived in vain, you may like him," added he, "although he be the despairing lover."
Our expectations were not disappointed on seeing this gentleman. We were assembled in Mrs. Hampden’s drawing-room, when we saw him on the lawn: he was on foot, and followed by a servant well mounted, leading his master’s horse by the bridle. Exercise had given to his manly countenance the glow of health; and the dignity of his person, which rose to six feet in height, was not lost by the simplicity of his dress; which was mourning, and his hair out of powder. Mr. Hampden flew to receive him with a welcome which went even beyond his usual hospitality; and introducing him to his wife, he forgot not her friends.
"You see, sir, my family," said he to his noble guest: "it is not so numerous as the one you have left; but we strive to imitate a good example. Every one does what he pleases under this roof, as well as at the castle: shall I show you to your apartment?" "You do well to remind me of my duty," answered he, surveying his dress; "but a ten-miles walk has not been without profit, as my coat-pockets will testify, although I am covered with dust." The major began to look curious, and he displayed his gleanings of plants and ores; with an animated account of a miner’s cottage and family, with whom he had breakfasted. On his retiring to dress, we began a warm debate on the merits of a man who had so much excited our curiosity, and the major settled the argument, by saying, he was not surprised at his having gained Hampden’s heart; for that was at every man’s service who was what his Maker designed him to be. The day did not pass unpleasantly, though the colour in St. Clare’s face gave place to a pensive paleness before we left him; and from the warmth of his manner when speaking of France, and French women, we had discovered that neither the politics nor the females of that country were much to his taste.
Mr. Hampden had, however, his triumph: for before the party separated Mr. St. Clare was engaged to walk at sun-rise with our cynic; and in our ride home he pronounced that St. Clare’s temporary absences and pensiveness had more in them than common grief. "What makes you think so?" asked Pauline. "Because he has no common mind," answered he. "He is a man who struggles with adversity, and who has virtue and understanding to support him in the conflict." "I wish to be as candid as you," returned she; "but would it be uncharitable to fancy, that with such attractions of person, and with such captivating powers of conversation, he has been the fabricator of his own difficulties; and that, by injuring the peace of some unguarded bosom, he has planted self-reproach in his own? What think you, Mrs. Sedley?" "I think he is a widower," replied I, "and that he loved the wife he has lost. He wears a plain gold ring on his finger, and I observed he from time to time fixed his eyes on it with an expression of sorrow." "Dear me!" cried Pauline, "that proves nothing: it is usual for men to wear them abroad, as simple memorials of friendship. Besides, this circumstance would have been mentioned at the castle. I am persuaded that he is an unmarried man." "Well," replied I, laughing at her eagerness, "I am for waiting. The major and you will soon find out his history; for you neither of you lack, I perceive, either curiosity or invention." Jacob stopped at farmer Thompson’s gate, and we dropped our companion.
September still found St. Clare at Mr. Hampden’s. The duke was at Brighton; and St. Clare ‘detested watering-places.’ Mr. Furnival, who had been my guest this summer, liked his nest, and St. Clare liked Mr. Furnival. Pauline’s harp was always in tune, and she became fond of walking, and an amateur of plants and fossils. Habit had made ‘my dear Mary’ familiar to St. Clare’s ear; but his guarded lips pronounced her Mrs. Paulin. An attack of that malady which Mr. Furnival called a cold, and from which I had for some time drawn my apprehensions of his lungs being affected, imposed upon him and ourselves some cautions, and Rickland Farm was for some days the general rendezvous. St. Clare without murmuring submitted to a season of repose the rain had enforced on him; and, forgetful that it fell in torrents between Mr. Hampden’s house and mine, as well as elsewhere, we found him at our breakfast-table with a new publication and the news-papers. The tea-board and the daily Chronicle were dispatched; and Mrs. Paulin with alacrity produced her work-bag; for amongst the varied talents of Mr. St. Clare was comprised reading with grace and propriety. The work-bag was hanging on one arm, whilst with a smile she gave him the book. St. Clare was idle; and instead of taking the hint, he noticed the work-bag, or the arm; for he observed, nature had never so well succeeded in baffling art; for, beautiful as was the rose, the hand which had embroidered it was infinitely more exquisitely formed. Pauline blushed; but, recovering herself, said the work was done by a dear friend of hers, whose heart was matchless in goodness, and whose beauty was the least of her perfections. A sigh escaped her; and it was not lost on St. Clare. His animation fled; and still detaining the work-bag, and the arm, he said, "We must have faith and patience, Mrs. Paulin, although the transient bloom of life disappears before this colour fade. There is a world where…" He stopped, and his countenance changed. In order to break a silence which I saw was becoming critical, I said, with assumed carelessness, "That work was performed, Mr. St. Clare, by a French woman, and in a convent: let it rectify your opinions in regard to them." "Were you ever in a convent, Mrs. Paulin?" asked he, relinquishing the work-bag for the book. "No," replied Pauline gravely, taking out her work. "I thought it could not be so," answered he with a forced smile. "But may I be permitted to ask you the name of a convent from which has proceeded a proof of taste and ingenuity so worthy of commendation?"
Pauline mentioned the convent of St. —— at Paris. "I have heard it spoken of as a good seminary for education," answered he with assumed calmness, "and I know one lady who was in it some time. But that was an English plant," added he, smiling with ambiguity of expression: "she would have flourished in any soil: her heart was too pure for deceit and hypocrisy! Did you ever hear your friend speak of miss Aimsworth?" The paleness of death covered Pauline’s face. "Miss Aimsworth!" repeated she: "good God! yes; I have heard of miss Aimsworth! of that miss Aimsworth who…" Her emotions were too violent to proceed. "I will finish her accusation," cried St. Clare with little less agitation. "It is her own perpetual reproach, and will never be erased from her memory. You have heard of Charlotte Aimsworth, Mrs. Paulin? of that miss Aimsworth whose unsuspecting nature, and too partial fondness for the most perfidious of women, have been the destruction of a man without parallel, and the innocent destroyer of the peace of her family and her own tranquillity!" Pauline sunk into my arms. "What have I done!" cried he wildly. "Tell me, madam, by what inexplicable concurrence of causes do I find in a Mrs. Paulin, a friend of the infamous, the base Marianne de Fouclaut!" He burst into tears. "Retire," said I, "all shall be explained: only leave us." "I cannot!" exclaimed he with impassioned eagerness. "I have murdered her. Oh let me hear her pronounce my pardon!" Pauline revived, and shuddering said, "Is Mr. Middleton dead?" "I will have no questioning now," said I with authority. "You must both be more composed." I rang the bell; and with the assistance it procured me, the again fainting Pauline was conveyed to her room. She was relieved by the remedies we applied; and leaving her more composed, I returned to the room I had quitted. St. Clare was still with Mr. Furnival; and having given a good report of my patient, I again rose to withdraw. "Stay a few minutes," said Mr. Furnival: "the occurrences of this morning are of too interesting a nature to admit of suspense. Mr. St. Clare tells me that the Aimsworths are returned to England, and are now at Aimsworth Castle. I have promised him a sight of Pauline’s papers, and he waits for them. Cannot you get them?" I hesitated. "Tell her that her father requests them," said he, "and that he will be answerable to her for the propriety of those measures which he has adopted." I delivered my commission; and Pauline without speaking gave me the keys of her cabinet. On joining the gentlemen, I perceived I had again broken into an earnest conversation. St. Clare’s face was flushed with a feverish colour, and Mr. Furnival’s eyes beamed with compassion on him. I delivered the papers to him. "Have you brought the whole?" said he eagerly. "We have to unravel a skein that will not admit of a half-told tale. Not a thread shall be broken in the artless narrative of my noble-minded girl. I will trust to St. Clare for his estimation of her character. Truth with him wants no concealment, nor will her conduct need an advocate." He gave the papers to St. Clare, who bowing with emotion instantly left us. On his leaving us, I again and again adverted to my having so incautiously given all the papers for St. Clare’s perusal. "Be easy," said Mr. Furnival, nodding his head; "and tell Pauline, that her sacrifices on the score of female delicacy must be set against my disappointment of a profitable suit in chancery: she cannot love Middleton too well for St. Clare’s acquittal, and I shall have the pleasure of seeing this poor boy in his proper station before the end of a month. We shall have no cross questioning in this business, dame Sedley; therefore prepare Pauline for her triumphs, and the temporary loss of her idol." He smiled mysteriously: but the major’s appearance suppressed my curiosity; and seeing them at the chess-board I withdrew.
Pauline was in a profound sleep when I entered her room; and dismissing the maid-servant I took her post. On awaking she sighed deeply. I spoke to her; and she asked me what was become of Mr. St. Clare. "He is gone home," said I with cheerfulness, "to read those papers, which will convince him that ‘the most perfidious and base of her sex’ was the most faithful and innocent of human-beings." "And what will be the conclusion?" asked she, raising herself in her bed with eagerness. "Mr. Middleton is dead, and Sigismund wants neither Mr. St. Clare nor the notice of his relations. Would to God they had never known such a being existed! But I am born to be wretched!" "That depends on yourself," replied I gravely: "if you cannot consider this child more than yourself, you will deserve to be so: but I will trust to your understanding and your principles. This child will be reinstated in his natural rights; and Pauline Murray will in a few weeks be acknowledged as the preserver of an infant, instead of its reputed and disgraced mother." I remained silent; whilst she gave an unrestrained current to her tears. "I have long made up my mind, Mrs. Sedley," said she at length, "in regard to the reproaches of this world, as these relate to Sigismund: and tell me, what will be the advantages resulting from those rights, which will give to him, with his wealth and greatness, its dangers, and the forced regard of a family in which he will be received as an unwelcome intruder? Has he not with me a competence sufficient for all the purposes of virtue? Has he not with me a mother, in whose bosom to lodge every care, every thought?" She looked earnestly in my face. "He is now mine by every claim," pursued she. "His injured mother gave him to me; his abused father is in his grave: let these Aimsworths enjoy his fortune in peace, if they can find it. Let me seek a refuge for Middleton’s orphan, and my own comfort, in which we may live strangers to the world, and undiscovered by his relations. They do not want him. Nor will he ever want them. Can you, can Mr. Furnival, believe that these people wish to see Mr. Middleton’s heir appear?…What but motives of interest led Mrs. Hamilton and her friends supinely to yield their assent to impossibilities? Why did they not come to Paris? Why did they not exert their influence with the deluded husband, in support of an angel whom they so well knew? Why did they not do this, Mrs. Sedley, instead of passively seeing him die, the victim of suspicion and credulity? But Sigismund shall never be in their power. I will fly with him to the furthermost corner of the earth, rather than lose sight of him. He is mine: and I will take care of Augustus Middleton’s deserted child!" I took her hand, and with calmness observed, that I had no doubt Mr. St. Clare was better qualified to answer her questions than myself; and to him I referred her. "But I will in my turn," added I, "ask you one question, Pauline, which you are able to answer: Are you not at this moment in danger of sinking into a romantic girl? Your conduct, as it has related to this child and his unfortunate mother, has manifested a perseverance in virtue, and a firmness of mind, both honourable and praise-worthy; but are you not losing sight of those principles, on which depends the recompense of well-doing, by contemplating even in idea a project which rests on no better ground than an early prepossession for this child’s father, and a fond attachment to an object gratifying to yourself? Does it become the woman who has nobly relinquished ease, reputation, and even her youthful hopes, for the more conscientious discharge of her engagements in a duty to which she was called by the particular agency of an overruling Providence, to murmur and repine, when by the same directing hand the object of her cares is removed from her protection, for the purposes of its unerring wisdom? Be satisfied, Pauline, with having performed your part well, and be grateful for the happy termination of your difficulties, and the assured security of your beloved child. It is no less a duty, Pauline, to be just to ourselves than to others; you have nobly devoted yourself to the care of this child, whilst he had no protector but yourself: it is now time for you to reflect on your situation as a young woman prepared by education and trial for the titles of wife and mother, on more legitimate grounds than you have hitherto borne them. When I consider, Pauline, the feeble tenure by which your present comforts are held; when I consider that in the course of nature both Mr. Furnival and myself will be removed before you, I cannot help rejoicing at Sigismund’s happy prospects, and anticipating the hour of your deliverance from calumny and suspicion. I expect to see madame du Rivage’s pupil rise superior to the girl of seventeen, and, under the guidance of a solid judgment and a grateful mind, making such an adoption as may secure her future life, as well as gratify her affections. We shall soon hear from Mr. St. Clare," continued I with cheerfulness, "I have no doubt but the suspicions you entertain of the Aimsworth family will be removed, and then my Pauline’s tender fears and romantic plans of stealing from them their remaining hope will appear to her, as it does to me, the baseless fabric of an idle fancy." Pauline made no other reply than pressing my hand, and sighing deeply. She was however not the worse for my sermon; for she appeared amongst us at the tea-hour with composure, and with firmness listened to Mr. Furnival’s predictions that Rick-farm would be on sale in a month, unless we could find another boy to love and talk of.
Three days elapsed, and we could only be composed; for St. Clare still kept his room, and, as Mrs. Hampden observed, "we all missed him." At length she was deputed by him to deliver to me the following letter, with the narrative annexed.
To Mrs. Sedley.
I SHALL not attempt to describe the condition of mind into which I have been plunged by perusing the manuscripts you did me the honour to place in my hands. No, madam, it is not St. Clare’s sufferings which call on you for compassion: these he must sustain, as he has done, by means of those aids which are not of this world. A duty more important than any consideration for himself is now before him. He has to rescue the memory of Augustus Middleton from indelible disgrace, and to stand forth as the evidence of an integrity which none living would have dared to implicate whilst he was on earth to answer for himself. When we next meet, madam, neither you nor mademoiselle Pauline du Rivage will need an apology for my unguarded conduct the last time I had the honour of being with you. In knowing St. Clare’s sorrows, you will pardon his being unequal to that self-command which prudence would have suggested in a cooler hour.
I remain, madam, with respect,
Your humble and obliged
MR. ST. CLARE’S NARRATIVE.
It is necessary, in order to complete the elucidation of those events in which not only my happiness has been shipwrecked, but also the peace and prospects of the most generous of her sex, to enter into a short detail of those circumstances which so firmly cemented the ties of friendship between Augustus Middleton and myself.
Miss Umfreville, his mother, and my own, were near neighbours and friends from their earliest years; and on my mother’s marriage to Mr. Boothby, and settling at St. Clare with her husband, a mutual promise was made, that in this separation there should enter no abatement of confidence or affection between the friends. Miss Umfreville, soon after losing sight of her companion, became Mrs. Middleton. My mother’s situation at this juncture prevented her visit to England; but the intercourse of letters still kept up the fond hopes each friend cherished, of again meeting with augmented blessings. This promised visit took place the following year, and my mother had the comfort of seeing the newly-born Augustus Middleton and his happy parents. The succeeding one was clouded by my father’s illness and death. A few weeks after this event, Mr. and Mrs. Middleton, prompted by the interest they took in my mother’s sorrow, determined on their visit to St. Clare; and in order to silence the fears of Mr. Umfreville, which they regarded as arising more from his repugnance to his being left even for a week by his idolized niece, than from any reasonable cause for alarm, they determined on leaving Augustus, then in his cradle, for his amusement and consolation. Permit me, madam, to be brief in regard to an event which left on my mother’s spirits an indelible impression of sadness; and which when known announced Augustus Middleton an orphan. You have already heard of the fate which terminated his parents’ lives in their passage to Holyhead on their return home.
My mother’s despair, on this occasion, for many months menaced her life: and my good uncle St. Clare conceived that she was rapidly declining into the same malady which had been so fatal to her husband. He therefore sent me to my grandmother’s, in England, and conveyed my mother to Lisbon for the winter. The voyage was happily followed by the patient’s slow recovery; and still doubtful of her health, Mr. St. Clare persuaded her to remain a second winter in a situation so evidently useful to her. During this period I was as often the guest in Augustus’s nursery as he in mine. My grandfather was the rector of Mr. Umfreville’s parish, and his abode very near the hall. No speculative doctrines or differences in religious worship could prevent such men as Mr. Umfreville and my grandfather from being friends; for both were liberal, and both loved and reverenced goodness under every form of worship and opinion which inculcated the precepts and example of their Divine Master and guide. From the age of childhood was I taught by my mother to love Augustus Middleton as a brother, as one whom it was my peculiar duty to love and to serve. The catastrophe of his parents’ death was repeatedly told me with tears; and with every eulogium of fond regret and affection, I was reminded, that I was two years older than my friend; that it was my duty to press forward in those attainments, in morals and learning, which might render me one day useful to my brother. I was given to understand, that every hope she entertained for my proficiency and advancement in virtue was connected with her solicitude to see me useful to her Amelia’s child; and in order to cement these ties, and further these views, she cheerfully yielded up her own comforts, and risked my life to the dangers of an element she dreaded. I was, in consequence of her plans, educated by my grandfather; and the only separation between me and Augustus was confined to my annual visit at St. Clare’s, in which my good grandfather shared with great satisfaction. I was in my seventeenth year when death deprived me of this friend and guide; and from that period my summers were passed at Mr. Umfreville’s. My mother having, from the happy experience resulting from my safety, lessened her dread of the Irish passage, once so fatal; time and the discriminations of a more mature judgment had now rendered my mother’s exhortations to love Augustus Middleton useless. But to whom was he not dear! Who that knew his worth was not his friend!
Mr. Umfreville, who perfectly understood his beloved nephew’s motives for remaining with him, when the laws of his country had made him master of his own actions, was induced by affection and gratitude to urge to Augustus a measure from which his heart had hitherto revolted; and the tour of Europe was brought forwards, as a plan not only of utility to Mr. Middleton but of essential service to the Aimsworths, who were at that time meditating on their journey to the continent. Augustus, who was particularly attached to his aunt, the only remaining sister of his father, did not endeavour to conceal his pleasure on receiving a permission which he had so considerately forborne to request for his own immediate gratification: my tender mother and my uncle instantly according with my wishes of joining the party. Our rendezvous was settled to be in London; but my uncle unfortunately was attacked by an illness of some danger, and I was detained at St. Clare for several weeks.
On joining my friends at Paris, I found the Aimsworths on the point of quitting it for Italy; and I was soon informed of the motives which still detained Augustus in that capital. It is needless for me to say, that I concurred in those views which had Mrs. Aimsworth’s sanction and my friend’s happiness for their object, and which I clearly perceived to be of the utmost consequence to mademoiselle de Fouclaut. I witnessed, madam, an union from which I fondly hoped to behold every wish of his family gratified, and which I have a thousand times execrated as ruinous to every prospect of his friends, and fatal to himself. Yes, madam, I witnessed those vows which sent Augustus to his grave! I beheld that beauteous form, and sweet and touching modesty, which had subdued a heart conscious of its excellence, and which had so steadily refused itself to folly and frivolity! I listened to the angel’s voice when, with the timid blush of virgin purity, and with dignified piety, she solemnly plighted her faith to Augustus! When the ceremony was over I blessed it with so much energy that she smiled, whilst a tear fell from her eyes; and she said, "Are all your English friends, my Augustus, like those whom I know? for, if they be, you must teach me your secret of gaining hearts: and what is more," continued she, "dispose them to overlook an apparent disregard of duty, in favour of a man whom they know to be as honourable as I believe him to be unequalled in goodness." She again gave him her hand, and he pressed it to his bosom, whilst with a melting tear and chastened joy she yielded to his embrace. We were obliged to leave the hotel immediately, and she bade me tell Charlotte Aimsworth, "that she was beyond the reach of fortune; for she should die Middleton’s wife." The priest who performed the marriage ceremony, and who appeared particularly affected by this scene, again joined their hands, and with visible emotion gave them a fervent benediction; then reminding us of the hazard of remaining, we left the house. On our way to the hotel, du Clos, the priest, told me that he had known the duke de Fouclaut many years, and knew him to be unworthy of such a daughter. "When I hear this innocent and injured young creature is safe in England, and in the bosom of her husband’s family," added he, "I shall thank my God for having appointed me as the agent of his merciful purposes; for I have no doubt on my mind in respect to her fate were she long in the power of her father."
Mr. Umfreville, to whom Mr. Middleton’s situation had been faithfully communicated by Mrs. Aimsworth and myself, had in the mean time felt the privation of his nephew’s absence in a degree proportionate to his peculiar attachment and strong affection. He received the intelligence of his engagements in Paris with much more alarm than resentment. It had long been the supreme wish of his heart to see Augustus married; and the connexion with Marianne de Fouclaut had nothing in it to disappoint his ambition, or to offend his principles. Mr. Middleton’s long minority had made him rich; and with his uncle’s fortune, to which he was heir, he was placed in a point of view which entitled him to overlook fortune in his choice of a wife; whilst at the same time it was an acknowledged truth, that his birth and connexions gave him pretensions to the highest alliances. Mr. Umfreville, satisfied on these important points, thought only of detaching Augustus from France, dreading lest, in the connexion he had formed in that agitated country, his safety might be implicated with the intriguing and caballing de Fouclauts. He determined on joining the Aimsworths, who were at this time settled in Nice, thinking that his influence when nearer Augustus would operate more effectually in drawing him from a spot in which he was not safe an hour, and, by his sanction of the marriage, secure to his Marianne the asylum needful to her. This plan was for a time opposed by his chaplain, doctor Wingrove. He had in his knowledge of physic been no less useful to his patron, than by his talents as a scholar to Augustus whom he had educated from his infancy. He reminded Mr. Umfreville of his peculiar and too often excruciating malady, which had for years incapacitated him for the exercise of a carriage without hazard, even on roads unequalled for goodness, and in a vehicle constructed for his use. But he soon perceived his friend had in the disquietude which succeeded to these hints a danger to encounter for which he had no remedies. The result of these observations was, strenuously recommending to him a voyage to Italy, in which his general health might be benefited, and his spirits relieved from the augmenting depression in which the poor old man indulged as one without hope. A vessel was prepared for him at Newcastle; and after a prosperous voyage, as it related to winds and weather, Mr. Umfreville reached Nice, but in a state of health at once precarious and alarming: he was ill when he arrived with his painful malady: it increased; and Augustus found him surrounded by his afflicted family, and they nearly hopeless of his recovery.
I omit, madam, in this detail those particulars which have been mentioned by the suffering angel, Mrs. Middleton, in her touching narrative consigned to mademoiselle Pauline’s care. I omit to place before you the state of my unhappy friend’s mind at this period. A fever of some danger was produced by his agitation. The punctuality of Marianne’s and Nicolas’s letters, aided by his excellent constitution, relieved him, and quieted our apprehensions: but his feebleness was extreme; and it was necessary for us to remain at Nice till he recruited his strength. A letter from his wife rendered him more docile to our entreaties. It was, madam, the last he received from her. She informed him in it of the absence of the duke; the tranquillity in which she passed her hours; and her exemption from every complaint but such as are incident to her condition, "which," adds she, "I bear cheerfully, in the sweet hope of a recompense I shall share with my Augustus. Jeanneton laughs at my little indispositions, and heroically suffers much more than I do from the same cause. She is my comfort, Augustus, and you must love her as your Marianne’s mother. I shall, at my father’s return," continues she, "fearlessly communicate to him my marriage and condition. I have the most substantial reasons to believe that he will not only pardon my offence, but will also become the cheerful partner in my journey to you. I am certain that such are the impending dangers of his situation here, that he will bless me for having provided for him an asylum at once so honourable and secure. He will, my Augustus, forget, in his children’s happiness and his own, his wild schemes of ambition; he will quit the turbulent scenes by which he is now surrounded, and in which he knows his life is daily exposed. He will fondly cling to our peaceful domestic joys. His heart will be renewed with us; and we shall see our father such as nature destined him to be; we shall see him fondly blessing our little ones; we shall see him happy, my dear Augustus; for we shall allure him to virtue, and he will die in our arms, and with hope."
To this letter succeeded one of those paroxysms of fury in Paris, which served as the prelude to new horrors. The alarmed Middleton could not be opposed in his designs. Neither Nicolas nor his wife had answered his letters; and in a state of fearful expectation we prepared for our journey to Paris. We had reached the frontiers with so much haste, and so little caution, that we were stopped by an impediment we had not foreseen. The extreme anxiety Middleton had discovered to reach the capital, with his fluency of language, and his unguarded offers of any price for horses, produced a suspicion in the newly constituted and patriotic municipality, that he was a Frenchman, and on business unfriendly to la nation. During our detention I happily recollected the name and residence of a gentleman who knew us; but on my naming him, I found he was in the country, and some few leagues remote. My coolness and arguments, however, prevailed. Middleton was permitted, with an escort of four guards, to apply to this gentleman, whom he more particularly knew than myself. Irritated by the loss of time and the impertinence of these new magistrates, he urged on with so much speed the miserable beast they had given him, that he fell, and his rider received a blow on his head from the flinty road, which at the moment was thought fatal by his attendants. He was brought by them to me in this state of apparent death; and I was for some time uncertain as to the event. A violent brain fever succeeded to his first stupor: at the end of six weeks the younger Aimsworths, to whom I had written, assisted me in conveying our passive, and, I may add, nearly idiotical patient to Nice, where we found Mrs. Aimsworth very ill, and Mrs. Hamilton in the expectation of her father’s arrival and her own confinement. We had been flattered by the hope, that, in the renovation of his bodily forces, Augustus would recover his mental vigour. Alas! these expectations were fallacious; for although we perceived transient moments of recollection, such was his condition that he appeared insensible to the distress of his friends, and the deep mourning we wore for his beloved aunt was not even noticed by him. It is needless for me to particularize the impressions made on us by the diabolical letters we received from France: but it may not be improper to mention, that the family quitted Nice soon after Mrs. Aimsworth’s death, in consequence of that event; and in the hopes of alleviating her husband’s sorrow by a change of place. An old connexion at Turin decided him to a preference of that situation; and we were received by Mr. Aimsworth’s early friend with attentions at once soothing and beneficial. The forlorn and wretched Middleton soon found a sympathetic friend in the marchese di Spollino; and by him was written that affecting appeal to the duke de Fouclaut, which was intercepted by the arch fiend de Béne employed. You know the answers we received.
In the mean time signor Spollino had suggested to me the expediency of trying again medical skill; and our Augustus and myself were conducted by him to a beautiful villa he had near the city. I had soon the consolation of seeing that he enjoyed the garden, and that he always knew me. But his unconquerable taciturnity still remained, and hope receded from my anxious bosom. His physicians proposed short sea cruizes; and this plan was followed the ensuing spring by a success I had little expected. These dawnings of hope were progressively followed by more cheerful prospects; for he became better in health, and would sometimes speak to me. He was always contented when in a carriage, slept in it very frequently, and in these slumbers discovered to me the latent cause which retarded his cure. With what anguish of soul have I heard him pronounce the name of his ‘wife! his lost Marianne! his sainted Marianne!’—‘Nicolas!’ ‘Jeanneton!’ by turns escaped from his lips. Why do I wish to recall his image, when on one occasion he started; and with eagerness asked me "when we should reach Paris." "We shall see our friends at Turin this evening," replied I, pressing his hand. "Shall we?" said he, bursting into tears: "then they have not been murdered." "You have been sleeping," answered I: "but now look at the glorious prospect, and tell me whether Titian’s skies are too glowing." He languidly raised his eyes, but made no reply.
I must hasten from this period of misery. Mr. Middleton gradually recovered his reason: sometimes he mixed with the family circle; but his melancholy augmented, and he never named his wife. The death of Mr. Aimsworth had long been foreseen; and his rapid approaches to the grave again plunged the family into the deepest distress. Middleton appeared, however, to gain by his efforts to lessen the general sorrow around him, and passed more of his time with his uncle than with me. I found he read to him sometimes; and that he now sought consolation in his own room in acts of devotion. On the event of Mr. Aimsworth’s dissolution he was calm and resigned; and with a sigh he observed that he envied him the repose he had found. "So should I at his age," replied I, "and with such an account prepared of talents well used as he can produce. But human life, Augustus, is a field of glory; and we cannot give the same triumph to the young adventurer, who quits its toils with impatient disgust, as to the veteran who has braved its perils and stood firm in his duty. "Yet even Aimsworth," answered he, "sunk when bereaved of his wife. Wherefore then do you reproach me for wishing to die, after all you have seen me endure? Do you imagine that I have forgotten Marianne? Do you think I am a stranger to her face? I know she is dead: and what have I to live for?" Hurried away by my feelings, rather than guided by my judgment, I endeavoured to relieve him from this idea. "Why then is she not here?" asked he with eagerness. "To what cause am I to attribute her silence, and the conduct of her friends, who never name her? Am I always to be treated as an idiot? Even Boothby, the friend of my soul, names not the wife I deplore. He fears to participate in the anguish I feel, and he sees me mourn without a comforter." My emotions betrayed me. "I know," continued he, "that there is some dreadful business concealed from me: but be not deceived, Boothby, my mind suffers more from your reserve than from the effects of my late accident. I conjure you to tell me what you know of my wife." My heart died within me, madam, I could only grasp his hand. "Speak," said he; "you shall find Augustus Middleton is prepared by a faith which is able to support him in ‘the crush of worlds!’"—"A sense of what you owe to yourself, your family, and your Boothby," answered I with assumed firmness, "is all that is necessary to sustain you under an evil neither uncommon nor without remedy. I have, with others of your friends, been silent, from a regard to the weak state of your health, and the consequences of an accident which unavoidably affected your head for a time. I will convince you of my opinion of your principles and understanding, by placing before you the proofs of its being your duty to forget Marianne de Fouclaut." Never shall I forget the tone with which he said, "It is enough: produce them: I am calm."—You will judge, madam, I had gone too far to recede. I placed before him the letters, including one which had reached us from Nicolas, and which is mentioned in Clement’s narrative. "The life of Boothby is now in your hands," said I: "I will retire, and leave you." "Remain," replied he, trembling with eagerness, "and see the triumph of friendship."
I silently took my place. He opened the damned scrolls with an universal tremor, and read them deliberately twice over. A paleness covered his face; and sinking back in his chair he fainted. I flew to his succour, uttering such expressions of despair as I believe roused him; for he faintly said, "Be not alarmed: this is physic that must either kill or cure." He took the drops from my trembling hand. "Poor Boothby," said he with a smile I shall never forget, "thou art a coward." I offered to remove the papers. "Not yet," said he, approaching the table, "I have not done with them, and you see I am not mad." He drew out his watch, and applied a small seal to that which had impressed his wife’s letter; then, placing it in his bosom, suddenly rose. "Whither are you going?" asked I, extending my arms. He rushed into my embrace, and burst into groans and tears. Once more did I see him carried to his bed as passive as an infant! But heaven was merciful; for he fell into a profound sleep. On awaking he took from my hand a cordial; and gazing on my face with attention he said, "My dear Boothby, you have shared the rack with me. Why do you not take the cordial heaven has granted me? Retire to your bed; and if you fear to leave the lunatic, send Henderson to me." The poor man sighed, and approached him. "Have you also watched?" asked he with tenderness. "But be comforted: Augustus will repay your cares if he can: for he is no longer the child, nor under the pangs of doubt and suspense. His God will not deceive him."
His conduct from this time appeared to be the result of a plan he had formed for his recovery; his hours of retirement were passed in devotional exercises: and I rejoiced, for I well knew that I had little to apprehend from any excesses of a superstitious kind from a man whose mind was too well informed for the purposes of a weak and erroneous faith; and although he was under the influence of a deeply wounded spirit, that neither his understanding nor his opinions would lead him to a cell as a refuge from sorrow. He soon convinced me that I had not erred in my judgment; for he proposed to me accompanying the two Middletons as far as Brussels, on their way to England, whither family concerns obliged them to go. You will judge I met this plan with alacrity; but he rejected proceeding with them quite to the destined port, and we left them, in order to pursue our own excursion. With what contentment of mind did I perceive that fatal indolence yielding to my entreaties and projects! With what gratitude to heaven did I see his mind emerging from the cloud of sickness and sorrow which had enveloped it! We visited, in our route back to Turin, several of the towns in our road: but I perceived curiosity was not yet awakened in Augustus’s mind; and I therefore adapted my taste to his, and we rather loitered than travelled on the road. His imagination had taken the lead, and the objects of nature only had charms for him. Every romantic spot, every retired and neat abode, was in unison with his mind; and with enthusiasm he would bring forward his darling project of restoring me to St. Clare and my mother, and of spending the remainder of his days in some retired spot near us, which should be inaccessible to all but ourselves. "We must see more of Italy first," answered I smiling: "my mother’s commands must be obeyed." "Does she not wish you to return home?" asked he. "Not for the purpose of being an anchoret," answered I, "but to give her the joy of seeing Augustus Middleton what I have engaged he shall be." "Joy!" repeated he with emotion. "Have I not, like the authors of my being, been the source of sorrow to her? Have I not clouded her days by intercepting from her maternal eyes the pride of her life, and doomed that son to cares which have withered his bloom, and wasted his health in unprofitable toils? Had the same element ingulphed me, which in its fury reached my parents, I had been happy! Those pitiless waves were no more than the blind instruments in the hands of unerring wisdom to recall to a state of blessedness ‘those meet for their inheritance.’ But I, Frederic, was left to buffet with the storm; left to struggle in the black surge of treachery and baseness; to feel my soul wrung by dark and hellish devices; and what is more, Boothby, to feel that Marianne is injured! Yes, injured!" repeated he wildly: "at the tribunal of her Maker will you hear this truth proclaimed, ‘She has been forced into the arms of a monster!’"
We had constantly avoided entering into any discussions with our unhappy friend on this painful subject; and madame du Rivage’s letter was, as we conceived, calculated to replunge him into that condition from which he had escaped. We had intelligence on which we could depend, that the duke’s hotel was shut up; that Marianne, his daughter, lived at l’Eclair, with de Béne and her father; and that no one doubted of her being de Béne’s wife. We had therefore concluded mademoiselle Pauline’s information to be a stratagem of de Fouclaut’s for purposes too obvious to need discussion. And you will not be surprised at our conclusions when I add, that we had been informed of de Béne’s wretched fate on the second of September; and of the report current in Paris that the duke and his daughter had effected their escape, by means of a girl in the house, the day before the horrid massacre.
I will now hasten to the conclusion of my history. The public affairs of France, and Mr. Hamilton’s motives for residing in Italy, had lengthened our absence from England some months after the general wish of being there had been started and reasoned on. The hopes of peace, with lord M—‘s first embassy to Paris, paved the way to our wishes; and we without difficulty effected our purpose of passing through France, having received passports from Paris so favourable as even to provide against the probable exigency of our being delayed on the road from the want of horses.
We had reached Grenoble in perfect safety; and Mrs. Hamilton was so well pleased with her accommodations, that she cheerfully acceded to her husband’s wish of staying a day or two in order to repose herself and the children. The hotel in which we had thus comfortably established ourselves, fronted la Grande Place, and was moreover spacious and well conducted. On assembling in the morning at breakfast, we found it was the day of an annual fair, and we were drawn to the balcony to survey the motley groupe collected in the square. Charles Hamilton, the eldest boy, importuned his friend Augustus to walk with him to see more nearly the wonders which so attracted his eager eyes; and the fondness with which this request was granted was too common to excite notice. I was however kindly invited to join the party by the good-natured boy, and I accepted the offer. We were disappointed in our first great object; the crowd pressed so much round the exhibition of some marionnettes, that we could not proceed, either with safety to the child, or near enough for his gratification. In order to pacify his impatience, and amuse him, I directed his steps to a small stall, or rather a table, on which were placed for show the merchandize and the purchases of poverty; and taking up some trifle, I observed that it was prettier than Punchinello, and that we might carry it home with us. This rhetoric succeeded; and during the time Charles was selecting what best pleased him, I surveyed with some attention the poor man, who was eagerly serving so unexpected a customer. He was wretchedly clothed, and exhibited a countenance at once worn down by sorrow and sickness; and I fancied he spoke his language correctly, and that in his civility there was more politeness than was common to his apparent condition. Charles, having filled his own hands and Middleton’s, left me to pay the man, not forgetting to tell me to bring something for his brother and sister. I was not indisposed for the commission; and taking up some tinselled toy, I remarked to the poor fellow, that his was but a sorry traffic, for it did not allow me to throw away my money: "but if you will accept of this silver as a donation," added I, "it will be well disposed of." He cast down his eyes, and bowing thanked me with confusion and embarrassment. A paper Harlequin caught my eye, and I took it; throwing down another Italian crown. "You are sent from heaven for my deliverance," said he with a tremulous voice. "The money your charity has bestowed will save my life. Would to God I could speak to you alone! I have," continued he, lowering his voice, "some trifling relics of better days about me, which, if I could convert them into money without danger of my life, would provide for me in a convent in Italy. Your generosity, monsieur, speaks you an Englishman; and I implore you to give me whatever you may please to think an equivalent for them." "I will do more," answered I, "if I find you what I believe you to be. Ask for me at the hotel at what hour you please." He mentioned six o’clock, and I gave my name.
On rejoining my friend, I found him quietly amusing himself with the children; and I recounted to him the incident which had detained me. Mr. Hamilton observed, he was sorry I had engaged myself, as he had depended on my company to visit the ruins of a Roman temple near the town. Perfectly understanding that the business I had to transact with the poor man would suffer nothing by being transferred to Middleton, and being as willing as Hamilton to visit these remains of antient taste, I made over to him the expected visitor, and contented myself with leaving instructions with Henderson for conducting the man cautiously to our apartment, and to his master. Augustus, on our quitting him, said he had letters to write, and retired to perform a task long since necessary. It was near eight in the evening, when, as we slowly walked down the street which led to the hotel, I perceived Henderson anxiously watching our return. The instant he saw us, he darted forward to meet us. "God be praised!" said he, "you are returned. I thought every moment an hour; my master is ill, and I have been miserable! Mrs. Hamilton knows nothing about it." Hamilton on entering the house went to his wife, and I, with forebodings of evil, repaired to Augustus. He was sitting on a sopha as motionless as a statue, and was neither less pale or cold than marble. Before him, on a table, were his empty purse and some trinkets. "What have you here, my dear Middleton?" asked I. He started at my voice. "You have been disturbed," added I: "surely the stranger…" He interrupted me: "Be satisfied till tomorrow," said he: "I am overpowered by his visit; yet not for worlds would I have missed seeing him!" We instantly led him to his bed; and, as was ever the case with our dear patient, his perturbations were succeeded by a heavy sleep.
Henderson’s account followed my first cares: "My master," said he, "on your leaving him after dinner repaired to his apartment, and, reminding me of the expected visitor, said he would write to the marchese di Spollino. I placed before him what was necessary, with a book, and left him, and then took my post. The man was punctual to his time; and on asking for you, sir, I stepped forward, and bade him follow me. On ascending the stairs, his peculiar manner of treading them occasioned me to turn my head, and I perceived he was club-footed, and withal the worst-looking man I ever saw. I stopped in the ante-room, and explained to him your engagement for the evening; adding that my master was however prepared to receive him. He appeared distressed and irresolute. ‘I had hoped to have quitted Grenoble to-night,’ said he with emotion. "Mr. Boothby’s absence will be no cause of disappointment to you," replied I; "for Mr. Middleton and he have one and the same heart and purse in their acts of benevolence." He sat down, saying something of his being faint and weary; then, after a momentary pause, said he was at my orders. I do not know, sir, what put it into my thoughts, but there was a look in this fellow’s eyes that I did not like. So I determined, on showing him into the room to my master, to remain within call. The interview was longer than I expected, and it began to make me uneasy; when suddenly the door opened, and the man hastily advanced. My appearance as suddenly checked his speed: ‘Good God!’ said he, ‘I was running to seek help for your master; he is fainting.’- "And it is necessary,"said I sternly, "for you to see him recovered before you depart." I turned the lock, and put the key in my pocket at the same moment. ‘Assurément,’ replied he, following me: ‘mais monsieur n’est pas en danger.’ My master was reclined on the sopha, his face covered with his hands; and those convulsive sobs which we have so often feared would suffocate him, clearly showed me that he had been much disturbed. In the terror of the moment, it is possible, the things on the table might not have been minutely remarked by me; but I can assert that I saw nothing on it but the writing implements when I prepared some drops for my master, which he took from my hand, saying he was better. When turning to set down the glass, my eye was struck by the sight of the trinkets. ‘You may retire,’ said my master to the man: ‘I hope you are satisfied, honest friend?’ ‘Perfectly,’ returned he, bowing, ‘and sincerely rejoiced to leave you better.’ ‘My disorder is nothing new to me,’ replied my master. ‘Henderson, show monsieur the way.’—He was obeyed; and I cannot add, sir, with alacrity on my part; for I never saw a thief, if that fellow was not one. And when I unlocked the ante-chamber door to let him out, I could not help saying he had met with good luck. And with a ghastly grin he answered, it was not before he wanted it. On my return to the room I mentioned my opinion to my master. ‘He has been the messenger of peace to me,’ said he languidly: ‘I only want Boothby to share with me feelings too powerful for my wretched spirits.’ You know what has since passed sir," added the faithful Henderson: "but, good God! what tidings of joy could this fellow communicate? I still repent that I did not detain him." Unable to solve the mystery, and engaged in my attentions to Augustus, I suffered the hours to pass till he awoke; when he mentioned his having neither any wish nor purpose to detain a person to whom he stood indebted for intelligence of the utmost importance to his happiness. Henderson was silenced; and I was soon informed of what had passed.
I will confine myself merely to the substance of the conversation which ensued, after this execrable villain’s introduction to my friend. He produced several articles of fashionable use, worn by gentlemen; such as buckles, snuff-boxes, and a ring or two of no great value. Augustus, judging from the man’s trepidation, and apparent reluctance to advance, that he feared lest some suspicion should be attached to his business, encouraged him, by observing that he was not a man to doubt of those exigences in life which might make him poor, without any imputation on his honour or honesty. "You only do me justice, sir," replied he, "in believing that I have not forfeited either the one or the other in gaining the few valuables I have brought. They were left to me by a master whom I served faithfully; but they would be my ruin if found upon me." "Well," replied Mr. Middleton, giving him his purse, "we will so manage as to secure you from this hazard. Let me know your route; I can send them to you when you are in safety, and I have a friend at Nice who will take care of them for you. They are, without doubt, of value to you as memorials of a good master: to me they are useless." The man sat down, and covering his face groaned. "Tell me," continued the benevolent Augustus, "can I more effectually serve you?" "Yes," replied he in a tone of despair. "You can relieve my soul of its insupportable burthen. You can speak of pardon to a wretch who is without hope! or you can recall your goodness, and leave me to perish as an expiation for my sins. I know you, sir," added he: "I served de Béne, and, as I told you, I served him faithfully, and have ruined myself for ever."
I leave to your imagination the effects of such an appeal on the feelings of my friend. When composed, the man proceeded to place before him what he infamously called his confession. These were the most important parts of it:—That the unhappy Marianne was taught to believe Mr. Middleton was dead, and also given to understand that in a fit of insanity he had destroyed himself. She was next assailed by terrors of seeing her father on a scaffold. She yielded; and the marriage with de Béne took place, although the ceremony was performed when she was unable to quit her bed.
De Béne, however, kept his engagement; for he instantly set out with the duke de Fouclaut for Thoulouse, leaving his nominal wife with a woman called Babét, whom he could trust, and with this man. During the space of many weeks she remained too weak to leave her room; but at length she walked in the garden, and gradually excited his pity and compassion. She observed it; and on thanking him one day for some fruit he offered her, she asked him to befriend her, adding that her request included no breach of duty to his master, nor any thing criminal in the sight of heaven. "I have sacrificed myself to save a father’s life," continued she. "Let that pass…In heaven all will appear, and I shall be justified. I was a mother, Clement, before I was a widowed wife—and, to save my infant from my cruel father’s horrid purpose, wrote, whilst he dictated with a drawn dagger over the sleeping innocent, a letter which sent his father to his grave, and has made an outcast of my child. You can serve him when I am no more; this blessed moment is not remote… My hours are numbered, and each revolving sun promises me freedom and a grave." Clement, for as such he announced himself, engaged to serve her; and she informed him that her child was at an old villa of her father’s, and passed there for the grandson of the man who lived at la Rondeau. From this time he undertook the commission of seeing the child, and contributing to the comforts of the miserable family, which consisted only of a very aged and infirm man, with Jaqueline his grand-daughter, who passed for the mother of the vigorous and beautiful child who was called Sigismund. Clement continued his narration, "Madame de Béne," said he, "gradually becoming more and more satisfied with my zeal, disclosed to me her views. ‘You will outlive me,’ said she: ‘such is my persuasion. Take care of this cross, and when I am dead be it your first care to secure my infant. His father’s family is rich and powerful, and will receive him and recompense you: endeavour to discover Meunier and his wife; they will be useful to you, and assist you with such evidences as will more than suffice for my child’s welcome to his country and friends. This cross will alone be your passport,’ added she, weeping and kissing it, ‘to one heart that you will find at Aimsworth Castle. Charlotte Aimsworth, now Mrs. Hamilton, will shelter my child, and pity his wretched mother.’ With this proof of her confidence and trust, my lady gave me twenty louis d’ors, saying it was all the money she had, but that Meunier had money of hers." The wretch paused. "Proceed," said Augustus. "I suppose you are prepared, sir," said he with dismay, "to hear that I was soon after at liberty to execute my lady’s orders; but it may be you do not know that my master suffered with the prisoners in the Abbaye. But permit me to pass to what now remains. I had no sooner seen the storm burst, without ruin to myself, than I went to la Rondeau. The chateau was sealed as national property, the old man was dead, and the neighbours told me that Jaqueline had found good friends at Paris, for that a lady fetched her away in her own coach; and Jaqueline told them she was going to England with Sigismund, who would be as rich as a milord.
"Thus defeated in my purpose," continued Clement, "and pressed by my necessities, I own I used the money my lady had intrusted to me: but happily I have still the cross; and your goodness has led me to relate to you circumstances which I would give worlds, if I had them, to forget."
Middleton now told me he had been tortured by the sight of the cross. "It was," said he, "the gift of Charlotte Aimsworth when in the convent to her Marianne. The initials of her name were on it, and my wife constantly wore it in her bosom: too well did I recall the hour when with pretended jealousy I added the letters A.M. Absorbed in my reflexions, I remained silent and gazing on the cross. "Have courage, monsieur," said Clement, "though I have not succeeded so well in serving you, as to my sorrow I did in injuring you, yet I think you will soon hear of your child; for, after many ineffectual inquiries, I at length met by accident in the street Nicolas Meunier. He wore an officer’s uniform; and perceiving that he wished not to take notice of me, I went after him; he turned into a coffee-house, and I requested to speak to him. He, with much pride and reserve, bade me be quick, for he had no time to lose. I instantly, monsieur," continued Clement, "mentioned his unfortunate lady, and the commission with which I had been intrusted by her. ‘You need not give yourself any trouble in the business,’ replied he with coldness. ‘The child is at this time safe in England, and will be protected by those who will not want your interference. There are such proofs of his birth with him as must establish him as Mr. Middleton’s legal heir; whether it please him or not to provide for his son during his life. I have had many vexations on this child’s account,’ added he, ‘and I may truly say he has been the death of my poor wife, whose affection for her lady, though ill requited, devolved, with her last sigh, on the poor deserted infant. But providence has been kind, and innocence has found a protector.’ I urged him to be more explicit. He said ‘it was useless; but as he might never see me again, he would take his oath that he was present and witnessed mademoiselle de Fouclaut’s marriage with Mr. Middleton; and that she was far advanced in her pregnancy when she dismissed from her service his faithful Jeanneton.’ I pleaded the cruel circumstances which had forced my lady to act as she did. He abruptly replied, ‘it was needless to talk of a matter on which his mind had long since been made up; he knew he had been ungenerously treated, and his wife hurried to her grave in consequence of her fidelity.’ He added, that he was on the eve of his departure to join his regiment under Dumourier, and pleading business left me.
"I saw I had nothing to expect from this quarter, monsieur; and warned by declining health and advancing misery, I determined to leave France, and seek a refuge in some convent in Italy. The savings of my better days were however of that sort which made it dangerous for me to offer them for sale. My natural defect, I well knew, would, upon the slightest suspicion, lead to the discovery of my having lived with monsieur de Béne. I therefore trusted to the usefulness of my feet for the safety of my life; few men can walk better than myself notwithstanding their unsightly shape; and with my wares on my back I make nothing of six leagues a day. Struck by the humanity of the gentleman this morning, and convinced by his generosity that I could not do better than to try him, I hazarded to mention the business which has brought me hither. The rest you know. I have disburthened my conscience, as it relates to my solemn engagement made to my lady. Ah, monsieur," added he, "she was an angel! and you have been basely betrayed by those in whom you trusted! I was not one of those…Yes, by this cross," he took it up and devoutly kissed it, "I swear that to the last hour of my life I shall repent of having been an accessary to those who have destroyed her and ruined your peace."
"I had supported this excruciating interview," continued poor Augustus, "to the last efforts of nature. I believe I fainted: but I was soon recalled to my perception and a father’s pangs; for I shall never behold this blessing here!" Need I detail the effects of this scene on my friend?
Our detention at Grenoble was followed by our taking possession of a chateau near the town, which the late miserable proprietors had left commodiously furnished. In this retreat we passed six weeks: they were the last of my friend’s sufferings. Notwithstanding Henderson’s suspicions of this man had passed into our minds, we determined to place before Mr. Middleton every evidence we could produce which favoured the pretensions of his son, and which soothed his fond hopes. With the motives which had induced us to suppress mademoiselle Pauline’s letters, we placed them before him with Mrs. Hamilton’s reply, in which I had perfectly concurred. From that hour he gave himself up to the cares which regarded this child’s security; and with sentiments which we did not attempt to oppose, spoke of the benign being who had interposed in saving him from destruction…Pauline du Rivage!…But I check my pen. Suffice it, I was taught to adore the woman whom I had believed a confederate with Middleton’s murderers.
I shall leave for the present the last testamentary act of my friend; only observing that to me were bequeathed his hopes, his duties, his affections as a father…precious legacy, although till within a few days the misery of my life, the corroding care of my pillow! I must indulge myself in placing before you the calm and resigned Augustus in the last hours of his mortal existence. He appeared to have anticipated the recompense of virtue and suffering. He was collected, easy, and even cheerful at intervals. The morning preceding that of his death, I entered the room by the dawn of day. I was not surprised to find him in his easy chair, a recumbent position being too painful for him. His windows commanded the rising sun, and it appeared in its refulgent glory above the hills which bounded our horizon. Augustus desired me to draw up the sash, and with placid delight he welcomed the soft breezes which refreshed him. "These zephyrs," observed I, "bring ‘health on their wings;’ and without being poetical, I would sooner trust to the influence of the Æsculapius before us than to a college of physicians for the remedy which you want." "I have enjoyed," answered he, "a doctor far more renovating than your favourite divinity Apollo. I have been favoured with a sun which has illumined my dungeon when his glories were to my eyes darkness; and what is more, Boothby, which will exist, when, in the sublime language of my poet,
The sun himself, with weary clouds opprest,
Shall in his silent, dark pavilion rest;
His golden urn shall broke and useless lie,
Amidst the common ruins of the sky;
The stars rush headlong in the wild commotion,
And bathe their glittering foreheads in the ocean.
Mrs. Barbauld’s Poems.
Then, even then, will my friend live and participate with me the blessedness of an eternal home. Then," added he, pressing my hand to his bosom, "the weight of gratitude which sometimes oppresses me will have its relief, and the recompense I cannot give, will be in the hands of Boothby’s approving God and my merciful judge." I was subdued, and he suffered my emotion to pass unregarded. In the course of the day he fondly caressed his favourite little Hamilton, and spoke to him of his cousin whom he would find in England; then again expatiated on the traits of that madame du Rivage’s character who had educated his child’s saving angel, anticipating the effect which she would produce on us when for the first time we should meet, and pleasing his imagination by predictions too sanguine to repeat.
The scene closed on the following day. He breathed his last sigh in my arms. Henderson attended his remains to Turin, and we immediately proceeded to Paris, determining to lose no time in our inquiries after the still suspected Clement—Henderson engaging to be equally industrious in the course of his melancholy journey. Nothing now remains but to recount to you the perplexing circumstances which resulted from our researches after this villain; and I will give you, madam, the narrative of our progress into a maze, in which we lost sight of the object in view at every turn.
Our first inquiries were directed to la Rondeau. The very first cottage we entered teemed with intelligence. We were told that the chateau was become national property: and an imperfect account succeeded of the duc de Fouclaut’s death; for the narrators differed in their melancholy tale—some affirming he had been guillotined, and others that he had been murdered in his bed. They were, however, precise in the knowledge of Jaqueline and her grandfather. The old man was dead, and Jaqueline was in service at the cabaret in the village.
We as explicitly mentioned our commission, and said we were sent for a child who had lived some time at the chateau with Jaqueline and her father. "You must be under some mistake," replied they with one voice. "There has been no child there, nor any guests but two ladies, whom no one knew, and who were supposed to be some of the duke’s madames: but Jaqueline can tell you more about it, for she lives hard by." We sent for the young woman: she confirmed the report the people had given us as it related to the child; but added, "It would have been no wonder had one been born in the house, for that madame Meunier scarcely saved her distance; and she did not believe she would then have left her dear lady, had not the duke her father, with the old baboon he had forced her to marry, taken away the sweet lady and carried her far from madame Meunier." "Did you ever see a man with club-feet," asked I, "who inquired of you concerning a child?" A firm negative was given me. She appeared even more surprised when questioned relatively to the lady, and with much simplicity related the distress she had been in on her grandfather’s being turned out of the chateau. "My neighbours," added she, "were my only friends; and they can tell you, I must have perished had they not been charitable, and had I not saved a little of the money which my ladies had given me; which was a comfort to my poor father." The simplicity with which the girl spoke admitted of no appeal, and we left her better satisfied with us than we were by this inquiry. For all we gained from it was, a conviction that Marianne and Jeanneton resided together at la Rondeau at the precise time we had been taught to believe the former in Normandy, and the latter separated from her lady.
Our next steps were directed to la rue St. Honoré. I had accompanied my friend in his visit to the owner of the house which he had prepared for his wife’s retreat previous to his leaving Paris, but I could not recall his name. Fortune was, however, in this instance propitious; for the old man opened the door himself, and, recollecting me, civilly received us. I briefly detailed the cause of my visit; and he frankly told me, that although he had suspected an intrigue was on foot, he had been satisfied with his tenant monsieur Meunier, and was sorry when he gave up the apartments. "When we parted," added he, "he was out of health from a wound that he had in his arm, but c’est un brave et trés respectable homme." To our questions he had nothing to say, for he lived at that time in another quarter of Paris. His wife entered the room, and he repeated what had passed. She was young and pretty, and listened with curiosity to his detail. "Surely," said she with amiable eagerness, "these gentlemen will not be discouraged! Le pauvre enfant! I would seek him to the world’s end! Ecoutez! There is a woman who lived with madame Meunier, we will send for her."
The husband, with nonchalance, observed that Catharine lived in a remote street, and it was ten to one whether she was at home. "That we shall soon see," replied the wife with spirit: "if the gentlemen please, I will attend them. Such business as this should be followed without buts or ifs. Suppose you had a son," added she tartly, "and had lost him as these poor parents have theirs,—mon Dieu! seeing him die before their eyes would be comfort compared to what they must endure." "It has been their death," answered I: "but their friends, madame, will not rest till he is found; and they are able to recompense those who contribute to the discovery. This child is heir to a very considerable fortune." The husband was silenced; and the lady, with great exactness giving the coachman his instructions, entered the carriage with us.
Catharine was at home, but she was in dishabille, and we walked in a little garden whilst the lady prepared her for our visit. She was about fifty, and without any demur said that she was sorry she had so little information to give us in regard to an infant that she had so dearly loved, for that madame had told her that we were in search of the dear baby whom she had nursed at madame Meunier’s. "I will be exact, however," continued she, "for I hope you will find him. There was a secret in the business from the very first," continued she; "for my aunt, though then very poorly, permitted me to leave her, in order, as she told me, to oblige monsieur Meunier, who wanted some one on whom he could depend. And I, well knowing my aunt had for years found kindness from monsieur Blanchard, his father, as one may say, was no wise unwilling to serve him. In conducting me to his house, he told me that I should find an infant and a young nurse to receive me. ‘But,’ added monsieur smiling, ‘my wife will soon be with you, and then my cares will cease; for she will not treat it as a rival to the one that she will bring me, nor as a stranger to whom she is indifferent. Your aunt has given me such a character of you that I shall now be easy till my wife returns from the country; and I hope for a little while you will not mind the confinement.’ I promised to be attentive, and I kept my word. I found in the house a very handsome lady; and the surprise which she discovered I shared. She was then suckling an infant beau comme le jour; and my master modestly passing the room in which she was, showed me the apartments, and gave me the necessary orders for our ménage; saying a traiteur near us would furnish our table. I was quite struck by the appearance of the house, for it was richly furnished. Monsieur left us, saying to madame that he should call again, and that in the interim she had only to give her orders to me." "Describe this lady, my good woman," said Mr. Hamilton, interrupting her. "She was a sweet pretty creature," replied she, "about the size of this lady, but she had blue eyes, and a skin de roses et de lys!—And hair! it was like silk-worms silk, and so long that she could not comb it herself; but she said her country abounded with fair women and light hair." "What was her name?" "I never heard her called any thing but Constance," answered she.—But I will not unnecessarily detail the numberless questions which the woman had to answer. Her little narrative will fully satisfy you, that we perceived not Middleton’s Pauline du Rivage in this flaxen-haired lady. Catharine told us moreover, that she was as gay as a bird for some days, singing, and amusing herself with examining the moveables in the house; and with endless conjectures in regard to the child, she settled into a belief that his mother was an English lady of high rank, because the baby’s clothes were in the English mode and fit for a prince; and a picture of a gentleman which was in the best apartment they both concluded was like Sigismund. In the mean time madame Constance knew no more how to dress or manage the infant than he did himself, and poor Catharine had him on her hands from morning to night. An old gentleman came every fine day, and the nurse and the child took airings with him. He was madame’s uncle; and Catharine observed, that these airings made madame gloomy the remainder of the day. Once or twice the lady nurse told Catharine that there was no need for them both to be prisoners at a time, and that she might go out if she liked to visit her friends; but Catharine said she had given her word, and her friends would like better that she should keep it than to see her. This displeased, but Catharine thought her too young and giddy for a nurse; though she was five- or six-and-twenty. Many of her hours were passed in writing, and she received letters daily. Catharine saw monsieur Meunier but seldom. The old gentleman was punctual every day, but always at different hours. He was a very tall, thin man, and very grave and formal. Madame Meunier’s arrival and accouchement followed. She was in a fair way, but her infant was weakly. All was comfort, except some bickering between the lady nurse and Catharine, for she would not fetch a napkin or water for her own hands. The good Catharine now spoke of her being suddenly called home to attend her aunt, who died of a paralytic fit.
To these cares and troubles succeeded her visit to madame Meunier. The poor woman had also been in great trouble; her child dead, and monsieur forced to join the army in la Vendée. She told her faithful Catharine that she had taken Sigismund to her bosom as her only remaining blessing, and she wept bitterly. Her fine nurse had left her at a moment’s warning, and when she was in despair for the loss of her little boy and her husband’s absence. She desired her maid-servant to bring Sigismund to his best nurse; and Catharine found him in health, and still more beautiful. Madame Meunier mentioned her intention of leaving Paris, and living with her mother in the country during monsieur’s absence. "Kiss your little charge again, Catharine," said she, "for you may never see him more: I hope he will not remain long in this country. But should you ever see this angel face, and this mark, you will remember it is Sigismund; and that I predicted he would live to bless those who sheltered him." She again wept, and, giving me his dear little shoulder to kiss, said, "What think you, Catharine, of a woman who had this cherub at her breast three or four months and could leave him for a jaunt of pleasure without kissing him; nay more, without knowing that I could supply her place? But you see how he thrives!" She made me a very handsome present, and I retired. Poor woman! I never saw her from that hour."
To our questions respecting Clement we received no other reply, than that she had never seen a man of that description. Nor did she know the old gentleman who visited Constance, and whose frequent calls were known to her master, who came with him twice or thrice; and she believed he was employed to keep madame Constance to her duty; it being clear that she feared and hated him. "Have you ever seen this madame Constance since?" "Yes, sir, I have seen her twice; but she was in an open carriage with a gentleman, and though I curtsied she did not know me."
I leave to your judgment, madam, the result of this visit; to us it was unsatisfactory. By the merest good fortune I recollected Meunier’s partner in business; and after having listened to his lamentations relative to Nicolas, whom he supposed dead or in an English prison, we in our turn simply stated our vexations. He confessed that a child named Sigismund had been born, as he had concluded, in Meunier’s house in la rue St. Honoré. He had seen him frequently; but he neither knew his parents nor what had been his fate, monsieur Meunier being much on the reserve. He knew nothing of Clement. But a lad who was in the shop told us that such a man had passed the night with Meunier, and that they sat up late, and went out together the next morning. "I have seen the fellow several times since," added he, "and I think he is now in Paris; for I am much deceived if I did not pass him yesterday: there is scarcely any mistaking him, for he looked, when here, as if he had been taken from a gibbet." "Did they appear as good friends?" asked Mr. Hamilton. "Yes; he supped with my master, and ate and drank heartily."
I should tire you with the speculations which resulted from information so imperfect: nothing was clear but that a child of the name of Sigismund had been born, and for a time had lived under Meunier’s, or rather Mr. Middleton’s roof. Every inquiry relative to monsieur du Rivage was uniformly replied to in the same way. He had buried his wife, and had quitted Paris secretly with his adopted daughter in a condition of insolvency and distress. Marianne’s fate was constantly mentioned as resulting from her being with de Béne, and no one disputed her being his wife. The duke’s fatal end was mentioned, with execrations on his name. Our suspicions now fell upon Meunier and his madame Constance; and, fatigued and harassed by the subject of our perpetual anxiety, Mrs. Hamilton was too unwell to travel. At this juncture Hamilton and myself were prevailed upon to go to a very popular club, by three gentlemen who had dined with us. The scene of exhibition of these orators was far remote from our hotel; but under the escort of a deputy, a general, and his aide-de-camp, we had little to fear. We were, however, soon satisfied with the oratory we heard; and our friends complied with our wishes of returning home to supper. The night was dark and rainy, and monsieur le député undertook to pilot us by a shorter course than the usual one. To this some slight objection was made by the other gentlemen, one of whom said the passage was the most dangerous of any in Paris: his caution was overruled by us; and we reached the perilous court, which was in fact a passage not altogether inviting at any hour, for it was extremely narrow, and contained only warehouses. We however advanced; when our ears were assailed by the most dreadful language, and the report of a pistol. Groans followed, and the hasty retreating steps of some one spoke the mischief. We pressed forwards till impeded by the body of a man stretched across the passage, and apparently dead. Our cautious companion, who most probably knew the place better than we did, now asserted that we were near a door which led to a house in which the man might find succour; and, with repeatedly knocking at one, we found admittance into a miserable-looking place I should have taken for a gaol, or something still worse, by the faces I saw about us. But from these observations I was soon diverted; for, on bringing a lamp near the wounded person, what was my surprise on recognizing Clement! I instantly gave my friends to understand the importance of his life to me; and, with an authoritative tone, the general ordered him to be conveyed to the house. We now followed, and traversing passages and broken staircases at length gained a spacious court and a handsome public hotel, which, to my amazement, I recollected as being the one we had quitted. Medical assistance being procured, and the wretch placed on a bed, I began to breathe more at my ease, for he opened his eyes and faintly groaned. The surgeon, however, gave me no hopes, saying, death would instantly succeed any attempt to extract the ball. I begged to have more assistance, having the most pressing motives for saving this man’s life. "I implore you, monsieur," added I, "to recommend to me any professional man whom you wish to act with you: prolonging his miserable existence even for an hour is saving life to every hope of mine." He shook his head, "Je vous entends," answered he, surveying his patient; "but I fear it would take more than an hour to settle his accounts; I know him: he lived with de Béne, and is a hardened wretch." He gave orders at the same moment for le sieur Champrimeau to be summoned; and this being a celebrated name, I was satisfied. A cordial was given to Clement, and every means used to stop the effusion of blood. He recovered to recollection, and uttered an execration on his murderer; then gazing around him, saw me. "Be not alarmed," said I with gentleness; "Boothby will be again your friend. But tell me by what accident you are here, and in this condition." He made no answer, but shutting his eyes groaned most piteously, at the same time grasping my hand convulsively. The second surgeon confirmed the opinion given by the first; and I saw I had not a moment to lose. In the most affecting terms I could employ I mentioned Mr. Middleton’s death, and conjured him to be explicit in his answers to the questions I had to propose. Let it suffice, madam, such was the obduracy of this villain, that for a time I despaired of extorting from him a word, though he voluntarily told people about him, that he had for once met with his match, and he had been shot by a man whom he attempted to stop and to rob, knowing he was good booty. At length, wearied with my prayers and exhortations, he said "Cease to torment me. Have I not enough to suffer? I know nothing of the child beyond what Nicolas told me. I never exchanged a word with his mother in my life. I was her murderer. But Nicolas has been…" Death closed his lips; for no cordial could recall his fleeting spirit. You will, madam, judge of the impressions such evidence as we had collected was calculated to make on our minds; and with the conviction it enforced we prepared for our journey home. But nothing could calm my anxiety; my very dreams had Middleton’s child for their object; and my health suffered from the restlessness of my mind. I laboured to trace more minutely du Rivage’s connexions, and the causes for his quitting Paris. And I learned that he had happily escaped from the guillotine as well as from his creditors; and that his adopted daughter was not the partner of his flight. "I saw her myself some weeks after," added the gentleman who gave me this information, "in an open carriage on the road with a young lady and an infant; and was on the point of stopping the carriage in order to speak to her: but recollecting that she might have solid reasons for wishing not to be noticed, I suffered her to pass. The lady with her was fair, had fine light hair, and was playing with her hat at bo-peep with the child who was on Pauline’s knees. We were going in a contrary direction; for I was returning from the country to Paris; they leaving it." Trusting to this gentleman, I further explained to him my reasons for my solicitude in regard to monsieur du Rivage and his adopted daughter, and asked him whether he thought England was the spot a native of Switzerland would under du Rivage’s circumstances have preferred. "Certainly not," replied he: "but to say the truth, I am doubtful whether or not this poor gentleman ever quitted Paris; for the last time I saw him, he looked like a dying man; and whenever the truth appears, it is my firm belief it will be found that he, like many others, died in a garret here. However, his darling Pauline had no symptoms of misery with her; she was dressed, like her beautiful companion, in a riding-habit, and looked as handsome as ever I saw her."—Thus again disappointed, and my mind still more confounded, I left Paris with my participating friends. Our conversations, always recurring to the vexations we had shared, and the disappointments which had chilled our hopes, took the decided relief which sprang from thinking that the child of whom we had heard so much was not Mr. Middleton’s, and in proportion as this doubt was admitted our conclusions followed. Need I add that we pronounced Meunier an artful designing knave, and mademoiselle Pauline du Rivage less the angel than the deluded girl?
We were surprised by meeting Mr. Aimsworth at Dover, who, in order to spare Mr. Hamilton, had brought him to that place intelligence which required his immediate presence in Ireland. This was the death of his rapacious mother-in-law, who had been the cause of many difficulties to my friend. Leaving his wife and children to Mr. Aimsworth’s care, we took the Cornwall passage, and without loss of time reached Ireland. I found my mother watching my uncle’s dying couch, and him like the patriarch of old saying "Let me see his face, let me bless him, and then depart!" His prayer was heard. For he died in my arms in less than a month after my arrival at St. Clare. With the inheritance I assumed his name; and when I disgrace it may there be none to pity me!…My mother! But I must check my pen: she is beyond my praise! and whilst I was yielding to a dejection fatal to her future comforts, she was planning with the duchess of D—— those means of relief for me which would once more send from her the prop of her own sinking spirits. Mrs. Hamilton’s letters precluded the last faint hope. The attorney who had been employed by Pauline du Rivage was dead; and the steward had not seen him since the time he gave him, at his house in Durham, Mrs. Hamilton’s letter for his client. My mother’s petitions and Hamilton’s arguments prevailed. I quitted my retirement, and we travelled together to London. There we parted, and I became a guest with my amiable relation, and for a time experienced that dissipation, however seasoned by taste and refinement, is no remedy for grief.
I have thus traced with minuteness those events which by the unerring hand of Providence have conducted me to a duty I hold dearer to me than life. I shall now have my Middleton’s child for my blessing. A remnant is spared, and Heaven is justified. When is it not so, my dear madam? Dark and intricate as the dispensations of Providence may appear to our limited views, protracted as the punishment of sin may be, and is, in mercy, ordered, and suspended as the manifestations of its constant protection of innocence frequently appear, the truth of those promises in favour of the virtuous and the helpless is immutable. Sigismund’s parents live not here, to bless their child. But they are not less happy! No: they have their recompense before them, and will one day hail those beings who have trained their child to be a fit inmate with them in that abode in which ‘every tear shall be wiped away.’ St. Clare checks his feelings. It is to heaven he directs them. His friend’s precious legacy is within his reach, and gratitude swells his bosom.
Mr. Furnival will second my request for permission to wait on you tomorrow. Tell your amiable friend that I will be composed. I will not even attempt to praise her matchless excellence. But assure her that Sigismund is still hers. She shall direct my conduct. She shall never have to reproach St. Clare for teaching his child to forget his mother, his saving sheltering friend! I am subdued by the reflexions which crowd on my mind.
Your most obedient servant and friend,
FREDERIC BOOTHBY ST. CLARE.
Our first interview with Mr. St. Clare convinced me that Pauline possessed that self-command which with me is the test of a sound understanding, and which I have seen practised by my own sex much oftener than by the lords of the creation. Whether this observation has had its influence on my opinion I will not determine; but most assuredly it appears to me that reason acts independently of muscular strength. I perceived also that, in compassion to St. Clare, who with an air of fatigue, and a face pale and agitated, strove in vain to say something no one could hear, that she smiled most graciously; and giving him her hand she said, "These emotions will subside, my dear sir, and you will be happy with your little boy." Her heroism failed: she shed some tears, but added, "I weep for joy." The poor cravat, like poor human nature, yielded to Mr. Furnival’s feelings of honest triumph and delight. "Od-so!" cried he, surveying the fracture, "I did not intend making paper stuff of my neck-cloth! But never mind! They were invented by a hangman, and my heart will swell for a month to my throat. I am better without them." He now with cheerfulness proposed his plans to Mr. St. Clare, and it was determined that Sigismund should be our guest for a few days, in order to prepare him and his escort for Aimsworth Castle. The major accompanied Mr. St. Clare to Mr. Fielding’s the following day; and in the reception Sigismund met with at Rickland farm St. Clare saw an evidence that Pauline had a mother’s tenderness to regulate. Mr. Furnival, whose spirits rose with the necessity he found of supporting Pauline’s for the approaching separation, asked Mr. St. Clare how he liked the boy. "If," added he gaily, "you are ashamed of him, say but the word: I am not; and will engage to get, at a guinea a man, a crowd of witnesses to prove that he is old Furnival’s child." The reader will supply the answer to this proposal. But St. Clare had now recovered his gift of speech, and with an impassioned eagerness engaged to return with Pauline’s treasure in a month. "I shall trust to your promise," answered she with a forced smile; "and what is more, for gaining Mrs. Hamilton’s consent to parting with a blessing so recently restored. But she is a mother, and will, I hope, acknowledge in me one not less tender than herself, though my claims are now feeble." There was no precise necessity for St. Clare’s warmth of manner, nor the solemn assertion which accompanied it. But so it was. He declared that Mrs. Hamilton would not only feel but acknowledge miss Murray’s claims to Sigismund Middleton superseded even those of his parents; and betrayed by his feelings he added, "My dear Pauline, trust to the honour of a man who…" He changed colour, and finished the sentence by more composedly saying, "I know this Mrs. Hamilton and her family. You have nothing to apprehend but from the excess of their gratitude."
I shall not follow the travellers into the north. A delay of a few days passed in town, for the purpose of preparing Meunier, and collecting Sigismund’s proofs of birth, was however unavoidable, and from thence we had good tidings of our friends. Mr. Furnival’s letters from the Castle were cordials which kept up our spirits. Pauline read with pleasure, that "he was in danger of loving Mrs. Hamilton better than he did his own girl." This assertion was however recanted, in consequence of her reply to a letter Mrs. Hamilton wrote to her. November approached, and the honour of St. Clare became doubtful. We were however lenient; for, jealous of his good name, he had taken the liberty of writing to Pauline; and the delay was clearly proved to be owing to the spells and enchantment which detained Mr. Furnival. Another week elapsed, and we became fretful; "for it was madness for Mr. Furnival to travel so late in the year." The rainy season was commenced; and the major kindly discovered that we could not get through the day without him. Curtained up for the evening with a new book and a blazing hearth, we were drawing to the work-table, when the sound of a carriage reached us. "There is Mrs. Hampden!" said Pauline. "This is like her! How kind to hazard such an evening!" "She will be in no danger," replied the major smiling; "for I hear four horses." He darted from the room; and in a moment we heard Sigismund’s voice asking for mamma. Is there a bosom which has not experienced the swell of joy which nature feels on beholding unexpectedly the faces of those whose image is fondly erected in the heart? If such there be, I should be losing my time and wasting my paper to record the simple gratifications which succeeded to our first emotions of surprise and pleasure. Wherefore should I relate to the cold and fastidious reader, the details of wonder and delight with which Sigismund amused us? wherefore recount the adventures of the two white ponies, and the feats of horsemanship performed by his cousin Charles and himself, or the story of the sociable in which Meunier rode with Mrs. Hamilton, and Augusta and George? To such, these tales of infancy and innocence would be but as the "sounding brass." But ask the fond mother, who clasps in her embrace the returned school-boy, the restored darling girl after her visit of a month, whether there is eloquence in nature, or pleasure in such reunions. Sigismund’s loquacity was however not seasoned with discretion; for he told his mother that Mr. St. Clare and Mr. Furnival had promised Mrs. Hamilton she should meet her in London. Monsieur Meunier was called upon to witness this fact. Meunier smiled. "Ah," cried the sprightly child, "I see you have not forgot the secret, or Mrs. Hamilton’s message to mamma!" Pauline with some haste rising proposed to him to hear this message, whilst he was undressing; and Sigismund, occupied in his endeavours to persuade her that he was neither sleepy nor weary, lost sight of his secret. His mother, reminding him that Fanny would expect a little news, settled the matter, and he retired.
I was somewhat alarmed the next morning on being told that Mr. Furnival wished me to breakfast with him in his own room, not doubting but the hurry of the journey had rendered him unwell. I was agreeably surprised on finding my supposed invalid seated in much form and order in his easy chair, and the apartment suitably arranged for a female visitor. The cheerfulness of his greetings at once dissipated my fears, and I asked him whether Pauline would relish being left to receive her two guests, who, on leaving us to sleep with the Hampdens, had engaged to breakfast with us. "They promised," added I, "that Mrs. Hampden should join them; but I know her dislike to early hours: she will not come till two o’clock." "Never mind," replied he: "leave them to manage. I want to consult you without Pauline’s suspecting the business." I laughed. "What, St. Clare has spoken to you already?" observed he with some surprise. "I understood that he had not his letters from his mother before he was in the North." "Why, my dear friend," replied I, "was there any occasion for speeches? Did you suppose Rickland Farm was the palace of Armida, and the widow Sedley with her gray locks and spectacled nose the object of attraction? or that it was the honeyed wisdom of your Nestor-like lips which drew St. Clare hither?" "I yield," said he, humorously taking off his velvet cap, and bowing: "your sex have the faculty of reading hearts as well as gaining them. But can you tell me how Pauline will receive this lover? There lies the test of your abilities: I wish to see her happy," continued he, "and I confess to you it will grieve me should she reject the addresses of St. Clare. He is worthy of her; and a man I should prefer to any I know for her protector. His house will be built on a rock, Mrs. Sedley; for neither his understanding nor his principles are at the mercy of every new opinion of conceited declaimers."—I encouraged him.—"This is all as I wish," answered Mr. Furnival: "but you might hint that I am not a Methusalem, nor does St. Clare need to sow acorns in order to raise a forest of oaks for his bride. Read to her Mrs. Boothby’s letter, and ask her whether the comforts of such a mother are to be delayed for the punctilios of female reserve and idle whims. I wish Pauline to show St. Clare that she is a wife who will suit him; and if she accepts of his hand, let it be generously: his mother lives but in the hope of seeing him married, and pines in uncomplaining sorrow at his absence." I rose to drop the window-blind, and saw St. Clare on the gravel-walk with Pauline, Sigismund at a distance with Meunier, and showing him his little garden. "I believe," observed I, "St. Clare will need no auxiliary; give your opinion." The good old man viewed them with pleasure, and said he thought they were made for each other. He now, with a contentment of heart which silenced my more selfish one, spoke of his intentions in Pauline’s favour, and the prudent measures Mr. Middleton had adopted for the security of his son. "He has made him a ward in chancery," added he, "but has nominated St. Clare as the guardian of his person; and, wisely considering the immense accumulation resulting from a clear estate of seven thousand pounds per annum and two minorities, he has been liberal to the Aimsworths. To Pauline he has bequeathed five thousand pounds, and to St. Clare the same sum, with a handsome provision for his tutor doctor Wingrove, and Henderson. St. Clare has a letter for Sigismund, which he has orders to keep till he is fourteen years old. Umfreville park and house are named as the occasional residence of his son, and express orders are given in his will that the establishment there should be kept up. So we may, my good friend, hope to see our Pauline sometimes; and if I knew I should never behold her again on this side of the grave, I should die contented in leaving her guarded by virtue and beloved by an honest man."—A sigh escaped me—"You will soon think as I do," continued he, taking my hand affectionately: "we know the tenure on which human comforts depend; and the only means of renewing the lease with time is, to look forward to the happiness which we have promoted, and to see youth and usefulness prepared to supply our place." "I have only to wish you were less useful," observed I, "unless you could renew your youth. It is not possible that your health can long resist the activity of your mind, or the perpetual employments in which you are engaged." "Mrs. Hampden has given you her text," answered he smiling: "she has believed me consumptive these thirty years; but I never was one of those qualified for the castle of indolence; neither ‘swollen with sleep’ nor able to show ‘the calm, broad, thoughtless face which breathes repose.’" "No, in truth," replied I, looking at his hectic cheek and glassy eye, "you want only the seraph’s wing, to be in your element." "I shall live to bury you," replied he smiling: "let that be your comfort, and in the mean time I will be yours, and let you into a secret. I have not for the last three years been in the harness, as you think. My name has been useful to my partner Mr. Carlton: but he takes good care I do not work too much; and, as his son is now useful, all goes on well with my friend.
"I often," continued he, "reflect on the incidental circumstances of my life; and it is with gratitude that I trace the invisible hand of Providence as fashioning my disappointments to my weakness. Do you know, I was once in danger of being a miser! The only relation I have living is a second Elwes, and with an estate of three thousand pounds per annum has not a roof over his head that is water proof. He lives in the Fens in Lincolnshire, because he cannot get a tenant for his house. I have not seen him these thirty years, nor wish to see him. He is an old bachelor; and about ten years since, on a child’s being sworn to him, he paid the overseers the allotted sum, and heard of its death in the poor-house with no other concern than for the money he had paid for its murder. My father was not a generous man. Frugality was, however, so qualified in him as to leave on my mind a reverence for his name. Yet I can remember my mother’s influence was often exerted to prevent the entrance of parsimony into our house. She died when I was sixteen, and my sorrow for her loss was accompanied by alarming symptoms of a consumption. My father, prudently judging the desk for which he intended me no remedy for weak lungs, sent me to Lausanne, and during two years I lived with poor du Rivage’s father. On my return to England I petitioned my father to permit me to engage in commerce; but I was refused, and my road prescribed, by a father who would be obeyed. So I plodded on, and my father was contented. I was in my twenty-seventh year when he died and left me the honest earnings of his life. I had seen the object of my love; and no sooner were my affairs settled than I applied to her for her favour. The sweet girl burst into tears, and with unfeigned truth and touching eloquence told me she loved, and was beloved by, a worthy man, and implored me not to speak of the honour I intended her to her father. She was then nineteen, and to the charms of youth were joined a solid understanding and genuine modesty. For a time this disappointment hung on my spirits; but in the enthusiasm which prompted me to make that object happy who was unattainable to me, I experienced a consolation that soothed my heart. When she married, however, I had again to struggle. I applied to business; for the habits of my life were not those of taste or dissipation, and I cheerlessly filled up my time and increased my fortune. You will smile when I tell you that I tried to fall in love; but my heart was refractory, and I gave up visiting the ladies. In this manner of life I lived till I was forty; when I became alarmed lest in the increase of my wealth I should become a miser. So I resolved to be something better; and by persevering in that resolution I have found not only a solace in my isolated condition, but also that I had taste and refinement, not indeed for pictures, books, horses, or dogs, but for enjoyments that will never pall. My first effort of this kind was taking into the profits of the office a worthy man who as head clerk had fagged for bread for his growing family. He brought me more and more clients, and my cent. per cents increased. I now set up a trade for myself, still thinking of my wretched cousin, and dreading old Mammon. I had long discovered that my casual donations at a prison did no good, they were only a dose of laudanum to a patient in a fit of the colic; a temporary relief, to be followed by an increase of pain. I therefore enlarged the plan, and, without draining my purse of more money, I have made it my business to prevent men from going into a gaol. My customers in this trade consist of young beginners in life; old tradesmen who have more mouths to feed than they know what to do with; and widows who have activity and knowledge sufficient to manage a calling which is necessary to keep the family together. This business has answered all my views; and the account will, I humbly trust, be in my favour. My heart reposes in the consciousness that I have not lived in vain, and in the imitation of my Maker I have found peace and security. But to the privilege I have assumed," continued he, "of propping a weak credit and giving courage to an untried adventurer, I have superadded, and that gratuitously, the duty of teaching them by my vigilance to shun the rocks which so frequently shipwreck the industrious and the active. Look into our gazettes:—I can prove that two-thirds of the bankruptcies which crowd them are produced by an inordinate ambition for gain, or the love of parade and dissipation. It is not long since I had the good fortune to cure a young couple of this mania. My five hundred pounds had done well for three years, and I was satisfied with the interest of seeing from time to time the young grocer busy and contented. On calling with an order my housekeeper had sent him, I found only his lady behind the counter, who, with a dress fitter for a drawing-room than a shop, was directing the two lads to be nimble, whilst with stately reserve she spoke of the weather to her well-dressed customer. Having perceived symptoms of this lady’s indisposition, I asked for her husband, and was informed he was gone down to Margate. ‘What carries him there?’ was my next question. She coloured, and said he was gone to secure a lodging for her, her health requiring a month’s sea bathing. I made no comments beyond the lady’s good looks. But a note to the husband recalled him to his shop; and the lady finds the air of Leadenhall-street, and serving behind the counter, very healthy; for she is now mother to a fine boy, and perfectly reconciled to Mr. Furnival, and the good sense of her husband."
Should the foregoing conversation have been found insipid, I beg my readers to ascribe to my want of judgment the preference I have given it to the more pleasing, but to me the more difficult task of composing love speeches for St. Clare. Such has been his reserve, that on this subject I must have trusted to my own ingenuity; and well knowing I never had talents for the tender conversations of lovers, I have, in my own opinion at least, offered a fair equivalent; and such would be the opinion of all my readers, could I convey to them the simplicity of heart which gives lustre and spirit to every action and word of Mr. Furnival. Let it however suffice, that such was his eloquence and St. Clare’s arguments, that we followed our friends to town soon after Christmas, in order to prepare for Pauline’s change of name, and my trial of philosophy; she becoming with Sigismund Mrs. Hamilton’s guest, and St. Clare a more suitable inmate under the duke’s roof. My abode was with Mr. Furnival; and I discovered that the idol of my worship had the weaknesses of human nature; nay, more, those of a woman. I have seen him making his bow to those whom he would have passed unnoticed, because he had overheard them praising his daughter’s beauty; and he pronounced the duchess the very first woman in England, on the mere evidence of her being pleased with Mr. St. Clare’s Pauline. Happily for the gratification of his vanity and the conviction of his understanding, he saw madame du Rivage’s pupil could maintain with dignity the favour of the great, the torrent of fashion, and the prosperity of her fortune.
Vain, however, were her endeavours to check the anxiety or limit the cares her father gave to her appearance. He insisted that St. Clare’s wife should be known as his mistress, and that for once in his life he would enjoy the reputation of being a generous man with the multitude.
I soon became tired of being full dressed; and frankly told him that I was determined to give up my post of intelligencer, having nothing new to bring him on the score of Pauline’s praise, and that he might go by himself to crowded rooms for me.
My friends were indulgent; and they left me to enjoy an evening in Chancery-lane, which I preferred to the party for the new tragedy at Covent-Garden. Mr. Aimsworth had engaged to take care of monsieur Meunier; and telling him that, the piece being more like a pantomime than a tragedy, he had been induced to prefer a front box, he conducted his companion into one. The following morning, our breakfast table was enlivened by Meunier’s relation of the adventure at the playhouse, which had amply supplied the defects of a condemned representation. I shall place it in my narrative as a caution against too much security in a path which, however smooth, may, as it appears, have its dangers.
"We had not been seated in the box five minutes," said Meunier, "before a black servant on the seat before us rose to the repeated summons of ‘Mr. Whaley’s servant! Mr. Whaley’s places!’ You may judge I was instantly on the alert; and Sigismund’s lady-nurse, with the air of a duchess, and a dress which bespoke her character, passed me to her seat. She was led by a country-man of my own, who with all the importance of a ci-devant duke placed himself so adroitly, that the lady sat between him and her less favoured spouse; for monsieur was not only young, but handsome. I had scarcely communicated to Mr. Aimsworth the good fortune which had placed me so near an acquaintance, before we were again disturbed by two ladies, who entering took the still vacant seats on the same row with my friends. We were however settled, and the curtain rose. You will not expect from me a very accurate description of the play," continued Meunier, laughing, "although I was benefited by Mrs. Whaley’s translation of it to her beau, whose imperfect knowledge of English stood in need of assistance from his kind companion. The first act passed, and monsieur had no reason to think himself neglected; but the ladies near him caused a diversion on the part of Mrs. Whaley which no assiduities or tender sighs could counteract. The strangers, for such the ladies were to their neighbours, talked of ‘the beauty’ miss Murray in the duchess’s box—the gentleman behind her was Mr. St. Clare, her lover:—one of the ladies had seen that morning the future bride’s dresses—they were elegant beyond all description:—but Mr. St. Clare was immensely rich, and miss Murray would have a large fortune.—From this important subject they digressed to the story they had heard. ‘Miss Murray had saved the life of an infant of the first quality in France, and had narrowly escaped the guillotine.’ The marvellous took the lead, and Mrs. Whaley now had enough to do to examine the side box.
"From this time the gallant at her left hand was left to construe for himself; and, teased by his questions, she fondly turned to her helpmate, asking him whether it would not fatigue him to stay for the entertainment. He answered in the negative, adding, ‘We must not desert our friend.’ On the conclusion of the performance several young men joined my companion, attracted, as I suspect, by the novelty of Mrs. Whaley’s face, who is still very handsome. Thus detained, I sat meditating on my own conduct, and finally concluded on suffering to pass unnoticed a woman so completely despicable. I found the party still waited for a friend; and some impatience escaped Mrs. Whaley on this subject, monsieur refusing to go in search of the vagrant. At this moment entered the adjoining box, which was now empty, the poor half-starved and shabby Luzarche. He accosted his frail and unfeeling wife with emotions which discovered much more of contempt than tenderness. ‘Eh, bien, ma mie,’ said he with a bitter mockery, ‘me voici! Tu vois que la misère m’a épargné, pour faire mes remercimens à monsieur votre cher et très honorable époux.’—‘Who is this fellow?’ asked Mr. Whaley with some alarm. ‘Ne vous vous inquiétez pas,’ replied Luzarche, bowing obsequiously: ‘il ne s’agit pas de grand chose: je suis un pauvre diable, que ce monsieur là a eu la bonté de soulager d’un fardeau trop pesant.’—‘You are either mad or tipsy,’ said Mr. Whaley: ‘begone!’—‘Oh, he is mad!’ cried the terrified wife: ‘I never saw him in my life: for pity’s sake let us go: he will be furious. My dear husband, take me away, or I shall die with terror.’—‘Comment!’ exclaimed Luzarche, laughing immoderately, and with a gesture that baffles description, ‘this is indeed comique, though not en régle; three husbands for one wife! and in a war like this! c’en est trop, madame! mais je me retire, et je vous laisse entre les bras de ces messieurs.’ At this moment Mr. Murray entered the box, saying the carriage was drawn up. ‘Oh, thank Heaven! you are come,’ said the weeping Mrs. Whaley: ‘here is a wretch who has insolently terrified me, and now laughs, with others who ought to know better, at my distress. Let us go.’ ‘I will soon spoil his mirth at least,’ replied Mr. Murray, looking fiercely at the miserable offender, ‘if he does not decamp this instant.’ Luzarche with folded arms kept his station. ‘Peut-être, monsieur fait-il le quatrieme époux,’ said he. ‘I thought we had in Paris slackened the matrimonial noose tolerably; mais, pardi, ces Anglois veulent toujours être nos maitres.’ Mr. Murray, enraged, attempted to collar him; but Mr. Aimsworth held his arm. ‘You had better retire with the lady,’ observed he: ‘this man shall be taken care of. He has friends near him.’ ‘No matter what becomes of him,’ said the half-fainting Mrs. Whaley, making her way to the box-door. I presented my hand. ‘Meunier,’ said I aloud, ‘will be answerable that he shall never offend you again, madam.’ She trembled to such a degree that she was obliged to sit down. ‘Retire,’ added I, ‘and do not provoke him to madness.’ She made an effort to rise, but was unable. A burst of tears succeeded. ‘Va-t-en, ma princesse,’ said the still inflexible Luzarche, "Je ne t’empeche pas; car je n’ai ni feu ni lieu: suis en paix ta bonne fortune, et oublies, si tu le peux, le misérable Luzarche!’ Mr. Murray again looked fierce and menacing. But Mr. Aimsworth, putting a card into his hand, advised him to take care of the lady. He prudently did so; for, as we discovered afterwards, the unhappy Luzarche had his pistols prepared in his pocket. I will not describe to you his extravagant joy at finding me; but seeing him ready to faint, we led him to a coffee-house. He wept most bitterly, and confessed that he had only had a penny roll the whole day for his support. When replenished by some refreshments, he entered on his history. "It will not amuse you," continued Meunier with compassion, "but as it leads to this meeting with his wife; for, availing himself of the liberty his worthy uncle had gained him, by satisfying his creditors, he came to England to search for this monsieur d’Arnois, and the faithless wife whom he had adored. But in vain did he seek his rival in London; who with an assumed name had left Paris before his mistress, or rather his wife; for such, by the indulgent law of divorces, madame Luzarche became to her gallant on leaving la rue St. Honoré, and her nursling.
"Within these few days chance threw Mrs. Whaley in Luzarche’s way, whilst he was giving a shilling lesson to his pupil, a shoe-maker’s daughter, in a little parlour next the shop. The lady entered to ask the price of a pair of clogs she saw at the window; and, being in immediate want of them, she desired the man to prepare them with speed for her, the streets being too dirty and wet for her safety. Her dress and a servant in livery proved that her condition was one of more ease than belonged to monsieur d’Arnois’s companion, and, suppressing his feelings, he resolved to follow her. By this means he learned that she was the wife of Mr. Whaley, a man of very considerable fortune and some respectability. Extreme poverty had damped Luzarche’s spirit; and with less love, and something like prudence, he wrote to her, stating their mutual situations, and engaging to leave her unmolested upon condition she would supply him with the means of returning to France. In pathetic terms he described his wretchedness, and with much compunction mentioned his errors in regard to his uncle, assuring her, that on her compliance with his terms of a final separation, he should find in this more than father’s kindness—a pardon, and an asylum for his life. To this letter he received no answer, but the one given him by the footman: ‘His lady relieved no emigrants from particular applications, as she liberally subscribed to the fund for their general benefit.’ Luzarche determined to be revenged, and then to die. In this temper of mind he was met by one of his country-men, who had been more successful than himself as a language-master; and he, perceiving Luzarche’s dejection, gave him an order of admission, which one of his pupils had just presented to him, recommending to the miserable Luzarche to amuse himself. Trusting to fortune, Luzarche followed his counsellor’s advice, and he was in the pit when his wife entered the box.
"I have fully convinced him," added Meunier, "that his wife is no longer to be thought of either with regret or resentment; and, free from the misery which oppressed him, Luzarche means to live pour l’amour de moi et de l’amitié." A few words will finish the history of this unfortunate man; and I trust my readers will not be displeased to know, that he soon after went to Hamburgh with good recommendations. His talents for business and his conduct have fully justified Meunier in the character he gave him; and the merchant is satisfied with him and his abilities.
The period for Pauline’s marriage approached. She had received from doctor Hawksbury her mother’s cordial benediction and good wishes; and her mind was tranquil on that point. Solicitous in the discharge of duty, we were consulted in regard to those steps it became her to take relative to Mrs. Budgely, urging that she had no resentment to gratify, but had to fear the imputation of having overlooked a sister. St. Clare proposed visiting Mr. Budgely; but this Mr. Furnival would not permit, contenting himself with informing him of Pauline’s being in town, and of the purpose for which she had left the country. "On my telling him that you were in Cavendish-square," added he, addressing Pauline, "with Sigismund’s friends and relations, he replied that he would tell his wife, but he was sure she would not think of visiting such great folks; for they were quite out of their line; but that it would be looking kind if Mary would call before she left London. Now I am, my child, still of opinion," continued Mr. Furnival, "that, whether as the poor Pauline or as the happy Mrs. St. Clare, you are quite out of Mrs. Budgely’s line. She neither wants you nor wishes to see you. Call, however, if you think it necessary: for my part, I think little of observances regulated by nothing better than appearances. But I may be wrong, and governed by prejudice."
Thus permitted, Pauline and myself took the road to Watling-street. We were told that Mrs. Budgely was at home by the same porter who had received us before, and who with much civility warned us of the several impediments in our way through the warehouse or shop, which was filled unusually with casks and goods. A small court we crossed showed us that we should not be received in the drawing-room; and entering a dark passage, he instantly opened the door of a back room, saying, "Here is your sister, madam." Mrs. Budgely, entirely thrown off her guard by this unexpected intrusion on her privacy, with an inflamed countenance and loud voice said, "You stupid rascal! did I not tell you that I was not at home to nobody?" "Yes," replied the man with a surly tone; "but I did not know I was to send away your relations." "Why did you not call Jenny?" replied the mistress, still elevating her voice. "She was up stairs," answered he, retreating, "helping the man to take down the beds:" and banging the door after him he escaped. Our apologies followed, and these were offered without venturing to advance further into the room; for, besides being somewhat confused by our reception, we saw no chair unoccupied. "No, no," cried she, softened by our excuses, "you shall not go. But it is enough to provoke a saint to have such fools about one. This blundering fellow knew I had enough to do this morning to be in no condition to receive company. But I do not mind you; nor will you be surprised at the bustle you see, when I tell you that I shall have my house full to-night, it being my third and last sandwich party for the season." The maid servant had during this explanation disembarrassed the chairs from the various articles of plate, which had been polished by the owner’s hands, and were now removed in a large tea-board, by the girl, to their destined place. I could not help admiring the judgment which had so appropriated every thing around Mrs. Budgely to her occupation and appearance. On a table stood a pewter porter-pot, and in a dish of the same metal the remains of cold boiled beef, and part of a loaf of bread. The embroidered robe had judiciously been spared, and a dark cotton loose gown supplied its place. A nightcap, not exactly as from the hand of the laundress, was further soiled by the plate powder; and the gown had gained no advantage from the contact with her hands. A large jelly-bag and stand were before the fire, and we modestly kept our distance from the hearth. "Well, my dear Mary," observed her sister, rubbing her hands, "you now see what it is to be the wife and mistress of a family; and as you will soon be one, I hope you will think, as I have done, and shall always do, that nothing is well done where servants are left to manage. People may have money, but I know of no fortune that is well spent where there is no care. Not that I ever think of sparing, when I entertain company. Thank God, we need not think of the cost. No one will ever find cream of tartar lemonade or raisin wine negus in my house. Come, you shall taste of my jellies; this is the last of twelve dozen I have run off; only see how clear they are!" She presented us the glass; and we acknowledged with truth that they were delicious. "Well they may," said she exultingly; "I never use any wine but sack and rhenish." "Your party will be numerous, I presumes?" observed I. "We shall have three rooms open," answered she, "and they will be well packed: but the more the merrier on these occasions." She now inquired after Mr. St. Clare, and asked Pauline whether she should not regret leaving England again. Pauline smiled, and said, Ireland was so connected with the mother country, that she should always think herself within reach of her friends, and should frequently see them. "Shall you be able to understand their language?" asked she: "they tell me they speak Irish in Ireland." "Oh, I have no fears on that head," replied Pauline, suppressing her mirth; "Mr. St. Clare will help me to understand his countrymen." "Well, my dear Mary, you are the best judge," continued Mrs. Budgely; "and a husband with a large estate is not to be had every day. But you are lucky in one thing: for you have found a home every where since you left your father’s house. For my part, I should be like a fish out of water in a foreign country: therefore I say, Lunnun for ever! But pray, madam, is this gentleman no relation of yours?" I replied in the negative. "Then I suppose the young gentleman has no parents living, and is master of himself and his fortune?" "He has a mother living," answered I, "and has been some years master of himself, and the boast of that mother." Pauline gravely inquired after the health of hers. On this subject Mrs. Budgely enlarged; and very circumstantially recounted the several instances of her sister’s and brother’s meanness: "but," added she, "what could my mother expect in a house where the cheese is weighed out, and where the master and mistress live like cat and dog? Such gentry! say I. I suppose you have heard of the bustle at their great cronies’? The fine Mrs. Whaley has been turned out of doors: she was nothing after all but a kept madam. However, she took care to provide for her dismission, and now lives with her French gallant on Whaley’s three hundred pounds per annum. John wanted me to invite her to my house when she was in Lunnun; but I told him I had seen enough of French breeding, it did not suit Jerry Budgely the Salt-drier’s wife." She was interrupted by her husband’s entrance, who, having with much cordiality paid us his respects, gave his lady a card, saying, "The Gobbets, after all, will not come." She coloured, and read their apology. "A lame horse, truly!" said she, throwing indignantly the card from her hand; "I suppose Mrs. Gobbet would never survive being in a hackney coach! I question whether when she was Nelly Waters she had ever rode in any but the stage from Coventry! Such pride! The next time I give sixteen shillings for a job coach to visit her she shall call me fool! Let her give her sour wine and tenpenny cake to her quality neighbours in the square for me! This is the third time I have invited her since she left Thames-street, and the last, I promise her. She will be mad enough when she hears that we have six military men here; for, with all their pride, they cannot manage to get off their daughters! I will take care they shall know that I have guests who can tell thousands for their hundreds!" "You need not travel far from home for that, Becky," answered the husband with complacency: "We all know Gobbet’s paper manufactory. All flash, my love! all false credit there! But that may do better in the square than in Thames-street. People there understand these matters. No taking-in will do there." During these observations the lady’s complexion settled to its usual roseate hue; and we rose to depart. "Why, you might come this evening," said she with the utmost good humour, "and bring your intended with you. We shall have room, and I should like to see this fine gentleman who is to be my brother." Pauline pleaded an engagement. "I wish we could ask you to dine with us," observed Mr. Budgely: "but on these grand occasions even I am left to shift for myself." This was said with good-humour, and we advanced to the door leading to the little court; when Mrs. Budgely, drawing with promptitude a huge key from her pocket, declared we should have a peep at her table; and, applying it with alacrity to a large lock on the warehouse door, she added, "every thing would be cold." Of this truth there could be no doubt, for no icehouse could be colder than Mrs. Budgely’s salle à manger. With shuddering impatience and dismay I was however obliged to listen to the detail of the superb decorations preparing to give eclat to the truly sumptuous table, which would not have disgraced a palace, whilst the display of bed-curtains of all colours and materials scantily covered the humid walls around it. At one end was a sort of recess, which I found terminated in the large folding-doors of a cellar; and a number of hogsheads were piled up in visible order, on each side of this Æolus’s cave; for every wind of heaven seemed pent up in it. Observing my retreat from this whirlwind, Mrs. Budgely kindly explained to me her contrivance to keep this annoyance from her guests. "We have a large screen," said she, "which will conceal all this; and when the transparencies are placed, it will serve for the servants to fetch and carry from; and with the coloured lamps round the room I only fear we shall be too warm." "It is more than can be said for it now," observed Mr. Budgely laughing: "but I have had enough of it; for I never liked these sandwich suppers, madam. Do you?" I replied, that I rarely went into large parties of any kind. "You are in the right, madam," continued he: "I never will go where there are six bottoms to one chair; they tire me to death." "You may be trusted, Mr. Budgely," answered the wife without ill humour; "for you will take care of one chair be you where you may. But these things do not occur every day." "No," replied he: "it is well they do not; for, what with porters’ and upholsterers’ work, a house is not settled again in a month." I found this observation contained in it a little leaven; for Mrs. Budgely replied, "Well, you need not say any more on that subject; you know I pay the costs." We were now permitted to depart; and with Mr. Budgely’s good wishes that nothing might happen "between the cup and lip," and his advice to be careful, "to make hay whilst the sun shone," and wishing Pauline happy, Mr. Budgely suffered the servant to shut the door of the carriage, and say "Go on."
Instead of detailing the order of Pauline’s wedding-feast and the elegance of her bridal attire, I will compromise matters with my young readers, by giving them a specimen of love in a cottage, which it is probable will please them as well; although it must be acknowledged the picture is not exactly correct, nor may it be finished off to their entire approbation. St. Clare was, however, so pleased with the following letter from Mrs. Maitland to her sister, that he read it to us; and told Pauline, that whenever he became enamoured of parade and dissipation she might send him to the curate’s in order to learn wisdom. I now present it to my readers.
"MY DEAR SISTER,
"Mr. Maitland and myself received with the sincerest satisfaction your kind letter; and, further prepared by doctor Hawksbury’s intelligence, read with joy your marriage as announced in the news-paper. We are highly gratified by finding you believed we should take an interest in your happiness. Believe me, we have never failed in so doing; and now rejoice that the innocence always unimpeached by the good and generous, has a complete triumph over those who vilified it for their own malicious and selfish ends. I need not repeat to you the troubles I have encountered in my progress to a harbour of peace, as you have heard from the good doctor the particulars of those persecutions I endured on account of my marrying; but when you know Mr. Maitland, you will acknowledge that I am one of the most fortunate women in the world. Every one loves and respects him: and well they may; for he is the friend of every one, and without wealth has been useful to many; for his piety is not without charity, nor his knowledge without profit. I often think he is the very image of Sigismund’s father, whose picture I shall never forget. The same sweet and penetrating eyes, and manly seriousness, you will find in my beloved Maitland, though still so young; but he was always serious in his deportment, although gentle and cheerful in his temper. I think with what surprise you would see the poor sickly brow-beaten Judith you met at Hammersmith. Since my getting up, I am grown as plump and rosy as a milk-maid, and my dear boy thrives hourly, though curtailed of his milk. However, my mother Maitland says, six months is a fair allowance. I wish you could see us surrounded as we are by comforts! It is true, we have no side-board of plate, nor "silken canopies of state." But love presides at our homely board, and peace is on our pillow. My little fortune suffices for our wants, with my father’s rectory of a hundred and fifty pounds per annum, and which will devolve to my Charles, whenever the Almighty recalls his faithful servant. But since my husband has settled with him, he has as it were taken a new lease; and we may, with God’s blessing, indulge in the hope that he will be spared to us some years. The duties of his office were certainly, as he performed them, too much for his strength; but, as he says, his curate has been his physician. As for me, who never knew what it was to have a friend, you will judge of my gratitude in finding all I say and do thought right. My dear mother commends my endeavours to become useful in the family; and she already says she is jealous of me, for that her good man likes no pudding so well as his daughter Judith’s. What must I be, my dear Pauline, were I not the most grateful and contented of beings, to find myself the cherished object of love and affection with those who cannot love the unworthy! for they are virtuous. But I think I cannot live long with such guides without improving, and I never wanted an affectionate heart. Life has been to me a mere blank till within these two years. Heaven grant that you may experience, as I have done, the comfort of having a kind husband! and when you are a mother, which I fervently hope you will be, that you may see with my delightful sensations your infant dandled in its father’s arms, as his pride and joy. My eyes overflow, my dear Pauline; and Maitland will chide me for indulging what he calls a pernicious sensibility. But I wish you could see him when he chides his grateful Judith! He is thought by every one the handsomest man in this county. Charles is the very image of his father: I hope master Sigismund resembles his. It would be a thousand pities if he do not; for, let people say what they please, a handsome face is a good letter of recommendation; and, for aught I can perceive those who have not this advantage to boast are as vain of ugly ones. But Maitland will laugh at me. So I will say no more on this subject. My mother has been very kind to me, and would be more so were she at liberty to do as she pleases. I have never been favoured with a line from Mrs. Budgely. But Mr. Maitland does not choose I should write again; which is no matter of concern to me, I do assure you, though I have no resentment; for, as my husband says, they have their enjoyments, and we have ours; and acrimony and ill-will have nothing to do with our plans in life.
"With our united and affectionate compliments to Mr. St. Clare I will now finish my long letter, trusting that in future we shall see more of each other, as the doctor says you will not be lost to your English friends; and in this number your affectionate sister will I hope be remembered, though remote from your scene of action.
It may be asked, why Mrs. Sedley, at the hazard of being censured as prolix and insipid, continues to multiply the number of her pages; where, according to all the prescribed rules of novel-writing, her work cannot terminate better than with the happy marriage and brilliant fortune of the heroine. But, my dear young ladies, I am no novelist; and I think I have already informed you that my occupation was similar to that of a scene-shifter. It is no fault, but rather a duty, to make the most of my calling; and I cannot help being of opinion that I have shifted some, to bring forward others highly requisite to the conclusion of the drama. But, dropping at once all allusions, I would ask in my turn, whether, in delineating human nature with fidelity and truth, the eye of experience can overlook the errors and mistakes of those beings which compose society, or the weaknesses and foibles which lessen the sum of human happiness, and degrade human nature. I am led to hope that most of my readers, like myself, are graciously secured by Providence from any approximation with open profligacy or hardened guilt, although we may be appalled by hearing that there are beings like ourselves who "shake with all the fiercer tortures of the mind,
"Unbounded passion, madness, guilt, remorse;
Whence tumbled headlong from the height of life,
They furnish matter for the tragic muse."
But a subject still more within the reach of every reflecting mind than these, it is to be hoped, rare instances of abandoned depravity is the consideration of those minute causes, and petty neglects, in the commencement of life, which kill "the promised fruit while yet a little embryo," and lay waste the work of the Creator. Under these impressions, which experience justifies, I regard the progress of folly, and the approaches to vice, as so many landmarks placed in the road of life. Nothing in this view is trivial; and a Mrs. Budgely, or a Mrs. Whaley, with such as resemble them, are, under this point of view, entitled to notice.
To begin therefore in proper order, I shall complete my sketches of common characters by employing the materials they have furnished; and thus contribute my mite to the truth of that adage, which asserts that "education makes the man."
Mrs. Murray, who from the absence of principle rather than from the defect of understanding (for plain and positive duties require no complex investigation), gave up a daughter whom she believed unfortunate and innocent to the interested controllers of her own actions, and to an indolence which called every exertion an useless contest; and an interruption of her own comforts discovered at length, when stimulated to action by a domestic she favoured, that she was not made "to endure all things;" and with a spirit and firmness her son had little reason to expect, she suddenly left his house, accompanied by the offended Abigail; and with the utmost resentment and pertinacity insisted on her rights to the Wellsdown-house for her life. The ’squire on his part was defeated: for neither concessions nor blustering could move his mother; and she gained her point by his purchasing her life in the estate, and they parted with irreconcileable enmity. Without consulting Mrs. Budgely, she hired a house near her daughter Maitland, merely from the motive, "that it would provoke her, to see that she would do as she pleased." She succeeded; for Mrs. Budgely was provoked; and with intemperate language abused the Mr. Maitlands, who had been strangers to her intentions, till doctor Hawksbury informed them, that by his advice, and with the assistance of her attorney, she had hired a house at N——, their market town, and within four miles of their abode. Had Mrs. Murray been five years old, instead of more than sixty-five, no situation could have been more suitable; for she must have been benefited by such an association with virtue and plain sense. She was however made sensible to some of the advantages it secured to her; and the latter days of Mrs. Murray would have been her best, had not an inveterate hatred to her offending children stood between her and the comforts within her reach.
The alarms which succeeded to Pauline’s marriage, relatively to the fate of Ireland, determined Mr. St. Clare to return thither for the purpose of conducting his mother to England; and during his short absence his wife paid a visit to Mrs. Murray. She found her comfortably and commodiously lodged in a handsome house, and with miss Maitland, who lived with her as her companion. Her passions had subsided, and were settled into a weak fondness for her grandson. Pauline, however, furnished some gratification to her vanity; and her daughter St. Clare’s post-coach and four met with a most gracious reception. Her visit to the Maitlands amply repaid her for the performance of a duty from which she had little pleasure to expect, and she returned to town with the fullest conviction that Judith had been fortunate, and that her husband and his family were estimable in every point of view. Resentment had rendered Mrs. Murray generous: in her first effusions, she had given her daughter Judith a promise of allowing her a hundred pounds per annum, upon condition she continued near her. Mrs. St. Clare had the satisfaction of seeing this intention formally arranged, and beyond Mrs. Murray’s power to retract. Her death, which happened this year, proved the prudence which suggested the measure; for she bequeathed every shilling she possessed, amounting to five hundred pounds per annum, to her grandson; although her daughter Maitland had at that time three other children equally promising.
On her return to town, my amiable Pauline called on Mrs. Budgely. She was not at home; but we had, in consequence, a visit from her, though the guests of Mr. Furnival. The conversation turned on Pauline’s late journey to N——; and with cautious attention to promote the peace she wished to see re-established, she mentioned her mother’s agreeable situation and neighbourhood. "Oh, no doubt but she will be taken good care of," replied Mrs. Budgely with a malicious smile: "her six hundred pounds penny rent will be very convenient to the parson. But, dear me! I know my poor mother so well, that I should not be surprised if she quarrelled with them in a month." "She is, I believe, settled for the remainder of her life," answered Pauline with a smile; "for, to say nothing of the fascinations of her son-in-law, she is completely subdued by her grandson, and so happy in her present thraldom, that I trust she will never have a wish to break her chains. For, believe me, she never was in a situation in which you had less reason to fear an undue influence." "Lord! do not mistake me, Mrs. St. Clare," returned the irascible sister: "I do assure you, I do not care where she spends her money: so long as John is disappointed in his low, pitiful schemes; and as Judith is likely to be a curate’s wife in all points, it is all mighty well." "I wish you could see her little Charles," replied Pauline; "I am certain you would be delighted with him." The tone with which this observation was made could not be mistaken; and yet I was surprised by the mode in which it was received. Mrs. Budgely awkwardly laughed, and then with emotion said, "Oh, that time is past and gone. To be sure, I did once wish to have a family: but I would not now be a mother for all the world; for, as Mr. Budgely says, children are certain cares and very uncertain blessings." "Much of the one and the other depends on ourselves," answered the unconscious Pauline; "but the Maitlands will never prevent those they are favoured with from being comforts." The servant’s entrance with refreshments interrupted a conversation which had in some way or other produced visible seriousness on the part of Mrs. Budgely. She refused to taste any thing; said she had the headache; and with much impatience of manner concluded a visit of ceremony with ceremony. Our comments on the cause of Mrs. Budgely’s sudden depression have been since confirmed. Mr. Budgely has lately gained in the lottery the highest prize of 30,000l; and an immediate change of abode succeeded to this accumulation of a fortune before ample and solid. His lady now lives in a square; and, what is still more gratifying, is the opposite neighbour to Mrs. Gobbet, who sees her whirl past her daily in a post-coach and four to her country-house. But, as Mrs. Maitland observes in her letter to Mrs. St. Clare on this occasion, Mrs. Budgely would not only give the thirty thousand pounds for a boy like hers, but begin the world anew for the chance of being a mother. "But there is always a something," adds the contented Judith, "to counteract the unreasonable wishes of such a mind as poor Becky’s; and had not her husband been as patient as Job, she would have made him more miserable, and less indulgent, than he has been: and yet I am certain, if Providence had blessed her with a family, she would have found a new source for envy and discontent. She has lately written to my mother, who is hourly declining, to complain of our pride. My husband only smiles, and observes, that were ‘pride made for man,’ he might have pretensions to it; but that not being the case, he contrives to be grateful and humble, before that gracious Being who has strewed his paths with the sweetest of flowers.
Of the ’squire, Mr. John Murray, few will expect me to say much; for, in truth, his character contains nothing worthy of notice, nor his life any thing for instruction. A decided sordidness and hardness of nature need neither comments nor cautions; nor can it afford a subject of curiosity or interest to my readers, to hear that he continues the poor and childless man with a large estate. A much more important inquiry now claims my pen; and without the fear of being thought an egotist, I will place before my readers my own infirmities and imperfections, for their use and benefit.
Notwithstanding my parting embrace was unexpectedly soothed by the certainty, that for a time at least no seas would divide me from Pauline, I saw her depart for the North with a grief of heart I wish not to recall to my memory. And I so completely indulged it that I at last discovered, that in yielding I had been fostering a sickly discontent which encroached on the comforts of my life, and exposed me to enemies I had never expected. Mrs. St. Clare’s tender and amusing letters became the food of something in my mind not unallied to envy; and I surprised myself repeatedly in making comparisons between my claims to Pauline’s affection and those Mrs. Boothby so anxiously wished to establish. Something like perverseness had operated, in my obstinately refusing to accompany them to the castle; and it had been with some difficulty I had kept the secret from passing my lips, which preyed on my heart, and which whispered, "Your place is supplied by Mrs. Boothby. Pauline must love such a mother. You would only be in her way." Such symptoms were not to be disregarded; and happily not being constitutionally a part of my mind, they were soon dispelled by a proper regimen; part of which was the resolution of being more with my neighbours than in my solitary home. Mrs. Hampden’s friendship aided me; and the major’s good humour convinced me, that he was again friends with "the simpleton whom forty or fifty years had not improved in the art of self-government."
Amongst the various little occurrences with which Mrs. Hampden had endeavoured to amuse me on my return home to our village, she mentioned an agreeable addition to our neighbourhood: an old acquaintance of her husband’s having secured the vacated house called the Lodge. "They saw it in their way to Buxton," continued she, "and were so pleased with it and its furniture, that they inquired of the person who has the care of it, to whom it was necessary to apply; and Mr. Parry, surprised by my husband’s name, with whom he was formerly intimate, immediately determined on paying us a visit. The family consists of himself, a wife, and a daughter; and I am certain they will please you. They have resided in France some years, on account of Mrs. Parry’s health: and delighted with being near us, they have finally agreed with sir Thomas’s creditors for his house and the moveables. You will see them very soon, and at my house, for they have promised to make it convenient to their finally settling in their own. You will like my favourite," added she with sympathy: "Fanny Parry is a very charming young woman."
In due time I was introduced to this family; and having been under the wise discipline of common sense for some time, my mind was in a better humour for amusement, and I was just to the merits of these truly respectable people. I suspect something had been said of the cause of my still too apparent dejection; for I found I was treated with marked kindness. Mrs. Parry looked like the mother, who had cheerfully conceded to a blooming daughter those charms she might have still contested; for she was only at the epoch of beauty in the fashionable calendar, and, it may be, had not yet seen her fortieth year. The husband was older by ten years, at least, but was not care-worn, and appeared to have more vivacity than his lady. The daughter was extremely pretty, and in five minutes I discovered she was amiable—for she was unaffected.
After the cloth was removed, Mrs. Parry with a polite apology engaged the mistress of the house in a serious consultation relative to hiring servants, and the gentlemen talked of the war. Some recent news from Paris led Mr. Parry back to his detention in France, and the edict which had shown him and his family the inside of a prison, as chargeable with the crime of being English subjects. "I dare say you will be surprised," said the young lady, addressing me, "when you hear me declare, that had it not been for my mother’s terrors and the inconveniences she suffered, I should have been highly amused in my captivity. For we were not treated with harshness, and could have any thing our money could purchase. I am certain I saw more originality of character in our prison than I have seen at Buxton; nor could I have formed a conception, that under the pressure of similar circumstances I should meet with characters so opposite.
"Amongst the group I think I now see an English family who were till then strangers to us. The daughter, a very handsome woman, had unhappily married a Frenchman; and it was whispered that monsieur Broudier had suffered death in Paris. Of this intelligence, however, she and her parents appeared ignorant. But imagine to yourself the contrast of this daughter, with the most beautiful hair I ever beheld, uncombed about her ears, haranguing for hours, in her robe de chambre, on the blessings of freedom and the age of reason; whilst the poor whining silly mother, Mrs. Wilmot, was lamenting not only her real misfortunes, but enumerating article by article the contents of a box of linen which had been lost! the poor father in the mean time dejectedly endeavouring to keep out of mischief his grandson, a poor dirty and hungry child, who was our torment: for master Publicola, though not five years old, was as dexterous as a Spartan boy in pilfering whatever he could find that was eatable; and his heroic mother, without attending to his wants, or the disgrace he incurred, calmly asserted that Publicola would be prepared by his education to be an independent and reasonable being. Yet, Mrs. Sedley," continued the amiable girl, "it was not possible to refuse one’s pity and good will to madame Broudier. She was the animated spirit which cheered me. I never saw such firmness. I shall never forget her consolation to her parents, whom by the way she despised. She finished her stoical flight by reminding them that the emancipation of millions and millions still unborn was cheaply purchased by individual distress and ruin. That very night, poor creature! she with the utmost gaiety asked me to lend her a chemise; ‘for,’ added she laughing, ‘as I do not enjoy all the advantages of a savage life, I wish to defer nakedness for your sake, my dear Fanny, as long as I can.’" Miss Parry now proceeded to describe to me, in lively colours, an old French marquis who made collations for the party, and charades and bouts-rimés, till the evening he was summoned to Paris to meet his disastrous fate. A ramble in the garden followed; and from Mr. Parry I learned the following particulars of this unfortunate family. Monsieur Broudier had for a time suffered his wife and her family to remain tranquilly at the little town of Morges, in Switzerland. His conduct was such as to confirm the confidence miss Wilmot had placed in his honour and affection, and he succeeded in gaining the esteem and respect of her weak parents. It by no means appeared that Broudier in his conduct had any intentions of a sinister kind; but following the enthusiasm, or rather the fanaticism, of his political creed, and his ambition, he succeeded in convincing Wilmot that it would be for his advantage to transfer his money from the English bank, for the purpose of purchasing the national property of confiscated lands in France. This plan was pursued to a large extent of Wilmot’s fortune: and such was the common interest which united the family, that the father cheerfully granted Broudier full powers to negotiate the business in his own name, on certain conditions of advantage and security for his own life, and his wife’s. The estate thus purchased had on it a noble chateau, and was near Paris: it was therefore agreed that it should be the future residence of the family; and Broudier, without delay, yielding to his vanity, prepared it with a show and parade which little conformed to the spirit of republican tenets. Suspicion and jealousy resulted from this ostentation; and a division in his faction completed his ruin. He was arrested under the vague but common pretences which he had seen so fatal to others: but sanguine, and trusting to his importance, he gave his wife orders to wait at Dijon for his arrival; at which place she received his letter in her way from Morges. Slenderly provided with pecuniary resources, yet hoping from day to day for intelligence that this cloud had happily passed, the family remained for some weeks, living in that privacy which suited their slender finances. At this juncture the order for the confinement of the English arrived, and Mr. Wilmot and his family, as English subjects, thus became known to the Parrys. "It may not be amiss," continued Mr. Parry, "to observe to you, that madame Broudier had a secret influence which the females, of my family at least, did not perceive, and which, in all probability, saved her from a more serious confinement as the wife of a denounced Frenchman.
"An Irish gentleman, who from policy rather than a want of interest with the reigning despots, submitted to be imprisoned, was her protector: and I have no doubt of his having succeeded in his designs of gallantry; though it is still to be seen, what will result from his Quixotism in respect of his love of his own country. He was deep in the scheme of freeing Ireland from her chains, and was well paid for his activity in deluding his countrymen. I should not be surprised to hear your amiable Mrs. St. Clare should meet her late acquaintance in Dublin; for I know O’Neal is there. My daughter," continued he smiling, "was in some danger of being fascinated by the sweetness of this woman’s temper and the brilliancy of her talents; and with a generosity I wish rather to regulate than to repress, she was her warm advocate and defender amongst the ladies who were more discriminating than herself. I was not sorry when she lost sight of this syren: for, to say the truth, she is amusing; and one cannot but deplore the perversion of such talents and the corruption of such a heart."
The addition of this amiable family to our society has been of use to me; and since I have been miss Fanny’s "good Mrs. Sedley," she has ingenuously confessed that she was not so ignorant as not to perceive the precipice to which madame Broudier’s turn of mind was conducting her; but that she had been frequently impelled to support her cause with warmth, against two ladies who were notorious for their coquetry, and who hated her on account of her attractions. The mother, who was present at this amiable confession, with apparent satisfaction smiled her approbation. "I flatter myself that my child was under the influence of a generous and amiable motive on these several occasions, in which she stood forth as the champion of madame Broudier," said she with great mildness, "and I did not wish to check those effusions of a benevolent spirit which had for their object succouring and supporting even the culpable in an hour of distress. I trusted to my daughter’s principles and good sense for her safety; and with a more correct judgment there can be but one opinion in regard to this miserable and erring woman. The delusions of the doctrines she had been taught could not always impose on herself, any more than on any attentive observer of her conduct. I have, Mrs. Sedley, seen the workings of nature and of conscience appear through her stoical pride and assumed gaiety many times; and it is not without compassion that I trace her future career. She will be the victim of doctrines which have not only overleaped the restraints of religion, but which take pride in confounding the simplest deductions of experience." "She has been very unfortunate, my dear mother," observed the sweet girl in a deprecating tone: "you will allow her parents were by no means qualified to guide and control such a mind as hers." "I do not wish to overlook this palliating circumstance," replied the mother; "but let me ask you, in my turn, did not these parents love her? and can any weakness on the side of judgment, or any errors in conduct, which result from confined notions or infirmities of temper in the well-meaning parent, absolve a child from the charge of insulting the weak, and repaying the cares of a mother with ingratitude and contempt? Let this question be brought to the test of madame Broudier’s creed, and, for a moment, let us not consider the positive command to honour our parents as more obligatory than she does. Is there nothing to be paid by creatures so feeble and helpless as we are, for the tender cares of those that toil in order that their children should reap; who stand forth as their guard in youth; and who have to sustain their unstable feet with unremitting anxiety, and too often with disappointed hopes and heartfelt pangs of anguish? What can be said for a child whose mind has been better furnished than her parents, by the very bounty of those parents; whose views have been more enlarged by the means they have with ardour procured; and, it may be, by the relinquishment of their own ease and indulgencies? What, I repeat, can be said for that child, who employs her talents, and her flippant wit, for the purpose of rendering those ridiculous whose weakness she might support, and whose infirmities she would, had she humanity or gratitude, regard with tenderness, and yield to with cheerfulness? When I see an outrage of this kind," added Mrs. Parry, "it shocks me, not only as a mother and a christian, but as a being endowed by nature with sympathy for the wretched of my species; for I cannot help believing the heart of that being must be callous, which can sport with a parent’s defects, or insult their feelings." The daughter took her mother’s hand. "How favoured am I," said she with emotion, "who find in my parents the first objects of my esteem as well as of my love!" "They are your best friends, my dear Fanny," answered Mrs. Parry with cheerfulness: "but they are not perfect; and it may be a madame Broudier would discover that we have our weak side, when we implore heaven to preserve to you a docile mind and a firm belief in our good intentions. These will never oppose your true happiness, although they may not always coincide with you in opinion."
Without regard to the order of time, I shall place here the result of our inquiries relative to this unfortunate family. Sigismund’s friends left no steps untried to discover their situation. We have reason to believe that madame Broudier did accompany her gallant to Ireland, as his wife; but Mr. St. Clare has been unable to trace her or O’Neal further. Monsieur Broudier suffered death; and his chateau and estate again became national property. A letter I have lately received from Pauline, who is at present in Dublin, with her mother, for the purpose of a third confinement, will not, I trust, be an unpleasant offering to my readers; and as it will gratify me by transcribing it, and at once finish the information we may wish to receive concerning the Wilmots, I hasten to lay it in part before them.
"A few days since, my dear friend, our Sigismund’s triumphs were completed. At rather a late hour in the evening, a stranger of a genteel appearance inquired for my husband, who was reading to his Pauline and mother in my dressing-room. Henderson showed the stranger into the dining-parlour, and came himself to deliver his message. ‘He says, sir,’ said the faithful creature, ‘that his business, though momentary, requires his seeing you; but he does not choose to send up his name.’ St. Clare gave poor Henderson a reproving look, and left us. ‘You need not fear, my dear ladies,’ said the faithful creature: ‘this stranger is a true son of St. Patrick, and more likely to blunder on some mischief for himself, than to injure others: besides, his face is a letter of credit: but I will be in the way, though no cloven-foot appears.’ We had neither time for suppressing or increasing our fears; for in less than five minutes my husband returned with a neat little box in his hand, and at once explained the stranger’s visit. He had engaged his honour to deliver it either to Mr. St. Clare or Mrs. Boothby; and hearing my husband was in Dublin, presumed so hasty a visit, which might have been judged too intrusive by a lady, would find an excuse with him. ‘Your friend monsieur Meunier will explain the rest,’ added he bowing, and, I have not a moment to spare.’ ‘He was booted and spurred,’ added Frederic; ‘and, leaving me and my thanks, instantly withdrew.’ Mrs. Boothby voted for the box remaining unopened, but two against one was a decided majority. I will leave you to judge of our feelings when we found we had the intercepted correspondence of our unfortunate friends before us, with Sigismund’s coral necklace and ruby locket, which poor Jeanneton had forgotten at his departure from her mother’s. We made no opposition to our dear mother’s prudence: she secured these papers, and we were recompensed for our docility by the perusal of Meunier’s little narrative, which I now send you:—
"‘Being of late more in Paris than usual, in consequence of Luzarche’s return, and the arrangements which his good uncle has made for his future comforts, I have met with an adventure which will interest Mrs. St. Clare as much as it surprised myself. Stepping into a traiteur’s shop for some little refreshment, I found him roughly speaking to a little boy, whose shabby gentility and pale meagre face spoke his necessities. I asked for some soup; and the man engaged in serving me ceased to speak to the humble petitioner, who with eager looks surveyed the pastry spread around. ‘You are hungry, my little man,’ observed I, giving him a cake. ‘So is my grandfather,’ replied he, hastily devouring his prize; ‘and this ill-natured man will not send him any dinner.’ This appeal did not soften monsieur le traiteur. He thundered out a malediction on England, and English beggars, and told the child, he and his grandfather might go to the diable. ‘’Tis but a sorry journey,’ observed I laughing, ‘for an empty stomach: send the poor man his dinner: I will pay you.’ No objection being made, he gave his orders to a lad in the shop to carry Wilmot’s dinner, and, addressing me, said ‘there was no end of trusting such people.’ Having gained all the intelligence I wanted, and having seen the ragout and the little boy enter a house opposite the shop, I withdrew, and, as you will imagine, lost no time in making my visit to Mr. Wilmot. Sickness and dirt were more conspicuous than penury. He was in an easy chair, and appeared dropsical and lethargic: the child had some difficulty in explaining to him, that I was the gentleman who had sent him his dinner. ‘I was in hopes,’ replied he, ‘that he had news of your mother’s arrival, for otherwise it is all over with us.’ My assurances of relief, and mentioning my knowledge of Mrs. St. Clare, roused his attention, and shaking his head, he said, ‘Ah, monsieur, had my Anna been like Pauline, I had not lived to want a dinner. However, she was forced to leave me; and had not her mother’s illness and death exhausted my resources, I should have held out till her return; for she has changed her cursed name of Broudier, and is now an Irish gentleman’s wife, and I expect them every day. The sooner the better,’ added he, ‘on all accounts, for this boy is ungovernable.’ ‘He looks unhealthy,’ said I. ‘How should he look otherwise?’ answered he with more emotion than he had yet betrayed. ‘I wish he were dead! It would be a happy release for him; and I should die undisturbed.’ I now proposed sending him to my mother’s in the country: to which he made no objection; and having settled with his hostess, of whom he spoke with commendation, I left him under her peculiar care, and in the hands of a skillful doctor; the poor ragged boy, with a transport of joy, attending me home, and talking of the green fields he should play in. You need not be told the reception he met with from my dear mother, who with uplifted hands, and the tenderest compassion, discovered that poor Publicola neither knew his letters, nor had been taught a paternoster. He was, however, so fearful of being sent from the green fields, that he became docile, and Claudine was satisfied with her pupil. In this manner the three last months have passed: and I began to fear that poor Wilmot would not live to see his daughter; for he rapidly declined, and had the jaundice to a high degree. A card left at my house, by a gentleman, announced to me Mrs. O’Neal’s arrival, and her request to see me. I was astonished at finding her in an abode elegantly furnished, and herself gaily attired, and perfectly cheerful and easy. She thanked me for my kindness to her father and her son, and begged to know the sum I had advanced for them. I replied, I had only acted by commission, and should be amply repaid by knowing I had served her, and gratified Mrs. St. Clare, her friend, the ci-devant Pauline du Rivage. She coloured. Her lips trembled. ‘Friend!’ repeated she with emotion. ‘But Heaven will recompense her! She wants no acknowledgments from me.’ She changed the subject: and with eagerness listened to my story of Sigismund, and the prosperous state of his fortune, with the happiness of madame St. Clare. Bursts of triumph escaped her, and I gave her credit for a mind acutely sensible and generous. I inquired whether I might be permitted to see my poor sick friend, not doubting but that he had been removed to her house during my week’s intermission of my visits to him; when with an air of the most perfect unconcern she told me I should find him in his own chair, and with the careful nurse I had secured him, for he could not be more comfortable. Suppressing my feeling, I gravely rose, saying, I was going to see Mr. Wilmot. During the space of fourteen days I repeated my visits to the dying father. Happily he suffered little, and I much question whether he was sensible of her neglect. But I was; and my soul revolted at the idea of seeing again this wretched and contemptible woman! convinced that she was equally obdurate as a mother, from her having made no steps either to recall her son, or to visit him. I turned my thoughts to the care of the abandoned child, and blessed heaven for his escape. In this disposition of mind, I was surprised by my captain and friend Vieuxbois’s telling me that Mrs. O’Neal requested me to sup with her, having business of consequence to communicate to me. My refusal was explicit; and Vieuxbois, laughing at my scruples, and the unequivocal terms I had employed, more seriously added, that I did not know her excellencies. ‘I do,’ pursued he, ‘and you will find her true to friendship. She wishes to serve Sigismund and his Pauline du Rivage.’
"‘Unable to resist this plea, I accompanied my deluded friend, and we found madame O’Neal and her husband cheerfully enjoying a new political pamphlet. It supplied for a time a scope for her oratorical flights, and un petit souper followed. I was serious, and with good humour she rallied me on my taciturnity: then suddenly checking herself, she added, ‘On one point, monsieur, we both agree; for no opposition of character, or of opinions, has concealed from us the charms of virtue, as exhibited in a Pauline du Rivage; and could I produce no other proof of my alliance to virtue, I would rest my pretensions on the irresistible attractions I felt to love her under her embodied form. Pauline is now a married woman, and an insurmountable barrier is between us; for I respect even Pauline as the child of prejudice, because she is not one of guile and deceit. I have in Mr. O’Neal found a friend, to whom I shall intrust the care of conveying to her hands a proof that honour is not annihilated within that bosom in which she has a place. Amongst some trifles which have lately reached me, from the wreck of poor Broudier’s fortune, I have found a hair ring. It was carefully sealed up, and ticketed with these words, "Sent in answer to the note from Pauline." I confess,’ continued she, ‘that in the various troubles which engaged us, neither of us thought of this commission: but trifling as it is, I know it to be invaluable to Pauline, and she shall have it.’ She produced the ring: it was, as she informed us, a sort of bagatelle made at Bath, and purposely intended for the cheap gifts of girls and boys. Miss Aimsworth’s name was written in it. But I trust it will reach you.
"‘It now occurred to me to send the letters; and on consulting captain Vieuxbois, he assured me that I could not have a more secure opportunity of conveying them, O’Neal’s honour being unimpeached, and his promise sacred. ‘He has been deceived,’ added he, ‘and I rejoice at his resolution. His uncle has passed an act of oblivion over his errors; and he is going to Ireland, where he means to reside, and, by marrying his cousin, secure more firmly his uncle’s favour and a good estate, which,’ added he smiling, ‘luckily for him, is not national property.’ ‘And madame O’Neal!’ cried I with amazement. ‘She must not be judged by common rules,’ answered he with eagerness.—But knowing as I do that Vieuxbois is a much better soldier than a reasoner, I will not lessen him in your good opinion. Let it suffice, the treaty of amity now subsisting between him and the separating friends is settled.
"‘Vieuxbois said something relative to poor little Publicola Broudier’s remaining under my care. I soon satisfied him that this depended solely on his mother’s pleasure, I having no wish to resign him. My dear mother is become fond of him, and with a christian name, which she has given him, will he find the christian’s charity and zeal. He improves in health, and gets forward in his alphabet: we shall, I trust, make him useful to some better purpose than that his mother so eloquently sets forth. For poor Publicola already blushes when he cannot repeat his lesson.’"
"Meunier, my dear Mrs. Sedley, finishes this letter with his usual prayer for peace. He sighs for England, and the renewal of that kindness he experienced with us. Claudine kept her birth-day with the usual eclat. She is now eighty-two."
I trust it will not lessen Mrs. St. Clare in the opinion of my readers, when I inform them, that she could not, under any article of her faith, find a prohibition to exclude her from attempting to recall the erring Anna Wilmot to the paths of peace; and following the dictates of her own pure and ingenuous mind, she employed such language as, with enthusiasm she observed, could not fail to touch her friend; "for," added she, "I have said the truth, in telling her that her return to me would contribute to my happiness as well as hers." Her proposal followed; and she informed her, that both Mr. St. Clare and herself had determined to apply Mr. Middleton’s legacy to the benefit of those who had generously aided in the protection of his son. "My husband," added she, "found a worthy claimant in monsieur Meunier, for his deposit of five thousand pounds. Your Pauline has her Anna Wilmot, and the child of that man, who generously hazarded his own safety, and opposed his own opinions, in order to administer comfort to Sigismund’s wretched mother." With these assurances of a decent independence, Pauline placed before her a plan of retirement, and a picture of that life, her fond imagination and innocent heart conceived to approach nearest to unsullied virtue.
She received this answer.
"Forbear to torture me with your letters, or to render that being a coward whose hopes terminate in the grave. Leave to the convictions of my own reason the conduct I pursue. Do what you please with my child, and think not that in abandoning him I want natural affection. You will be more useful to him than myself. Would to Heaven my parents had left me to chance! I should not, it is probable, now have existed. I want no pecuniary aid, Pauline. Forget me. I am on the point of leaving Paris.
Adieu for ever!
This laconic epistle was transmitted to Mrs. St. Clare, with one from Meunier. It appears that monsieur Vieuxbois became soon weary of his philosophical mistress; and she disgusted with a lover who could not argue like a logician on Paine’s "Age of Reason." With all bienséance, she quitted his protecting arms, and embarked with a new friend for St. Domingo. Vieuxbois being convinced that in the choice of a wife, whom his good uncle strongly recommended, although she was not one of those extraordinary females "not to be judged of according to common rules;" yet that she had the sympathies of nature, and a good understanding, married, and settled in a way little conformable to the fashion, but much so to the views of his uncle, who having served his country, and lost half his limbs, had been permitted to retire into the country, and to finish his days in comfort.
Meunier still continues the father to the deserted little Publicola Broudier; and he speaks of him as a promising youth, and takes much pleasure in his instruction.
How soothing and consolatory is it to the human bosom in which benevolence resides, to turn from the consideration of folly and misery, to the contemplation of a being like ourselves, who having escaped the contagion, and harmonized every discordant passion, calmly meets that grave, to which he looks for not only a new but an improved state of existence! My last winter months were consecrated to the first of all human duties; for I was learning the "End of the pious Man;" and practising my own mind in a submission to that divine will, which called to its destined abode a spirit matured for heaven. Who that has travelled a few years, in this our earthly pilgrimage, will not, like myself, find before him the chilling annals of departed friends? and who, if they have the faith and the hopes of the gospel firmly knit about their hearts, will faint when a Mr. Furnival dies? Supported by health and youth and activity, although we keenly feel the depriving stroke which separates us from those we love, we still perceive in the gloom which surrounds us, the clearing sky, and the cheering prospect of another interval, in which all will smile anew. Thus we advance to the last stage; and, unmindful of the provision it will want, fill up the void in our comforts, and the place of our retreating enjoyments, by pursuits that often disgrace us, or, in the fretfulness of discontent, render us burthensome. But even in the decrepitude of old age, under the infirmities of sinking nature, Mr. Furnival could smile. He had not the frowardness of a sickly infant: no splenetic humour nor absurd whims wearied his attendants. Although time worn, and bowed down by sickness, he welcomed with cheerfulness all who approached him. His younger visitors were sent away comforted and encouraged, "Mr. Furnival would get well again, he did not look like a dying man." With his more experienced friends, he mildly bade them look beyond his grave for their consolation, and take care not to die before they were summoned. This lesson was enforced by his constant application to business. "It amuses me, dame Sedley," said he, "to settle my lesser accounts. Fear not; I am not behind hand in the main chance." It might be said that Mr. Furnival was the executor of his own will; and those who are curious in regard to the defalcation of the wealth they supposed had been amassed, must be supplied by myself, and a few others of his friends, with a list of cancelled bonds, which would nearly bring his fortune to their calculation. Amongst his numerous donations of this peculiar kind, many hundred pounds passed into a fund called "the poor man’s purse." He had been for many years an unknown contributor to no less than twenty different societies of this sort. To each was sent a bank bill. But to what purpose should I enumerate the acts of benevolence he left behind him? His will was, like his life, prompted by zeal for his fellow-creatures’ happiness, and the hopes of approbation from his Maker.
No one of his legatees was, I believe, more envied than myself; for, before he died, he gave me his favourite picture of The Good Samaritan, because, as he said, he knew I liked it; and on the back he had placed these words, "Friendship knows no grave,—we shall meet again."
Pauline, with the name of his adopted child, had to sustain the grief of the most affectionate daughter: Mrs. Hampden, with an equal share of his fortune, was named residuary legatee with Mrs. St. Clare.
In all things governed by the impulse of his heart, he did not choose to name the major in his will. "I think," said he, "we have managed better; so we have bought him stock, and now he may growl as he pleases. I will make him promise to keep a horse." The major retired with his gift of three thousand pounds to a sick bed, and has not yet named Mr. Furnival. Pauline has him with her at present, and I hear he is become more cheerful.
Adieu, gentle reader! Being determined not to be old before my time, I have written this Novel; I do most seriously assure you, that it has promoted the peace and harmony of my mind. Let it not put you out of humour, nor excite in you a contempt for a gray head so employed. Wisdom, like the current coin, may be divided and subdivided, till in the penny it only suffices to purchase a morsel of bread. But, provided this be wholesome, the penny is not to be despised which supplies it. Remember that we have not always guineas in our purse.
R. Taylor, Printer, Black-Horse-Court.
WORKS written by Mrs. Hunter, of Norwich, printed for T.N. LONGMAN and O. REES, No. 39, Paternoster-Row; and W.T. ROBBERDS, Norwich.
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