A Satirical Novel.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
BY THE AUTHOR OF
‘A PRIVATE HISTORY OF THE COURT OF ENGLAND, &C.’
GNATHO. Quid agitur?
Numquid nam hic, quod nolis, vides?
M.G. LEWIS, ROSA MATILDA, HORSLEY
CURTIES, &c. parlent.
Hélas, mon Dieu, craignez tout d’un auteur en courroux,
Qui peut—— BOILEAU.
PRINTED FOR T. HOOKHAM, JUNIOR, AND E.T. HOOKHAM,
15, OLD BOND STREET.
A JOURNEY AND AN UNEXPECTED
I saw her breast with every passion heave—
I left her; . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Oh! my hard bosom that could bear to leave!
The wife, where danger or dishonour lurks,
Safest and seemliest by her husband stays;
Who guards her, or with her the worst endures.
FREDERIC HARRINGTON had not yet ceased to love his Mary with ardour, when he threw himself into the post-chaise, which bore him from his cottage; he at first felt all the delight of emancipation, but he had not proceeded many miles before he found a void in his breast, and Mary presented herself to his fancy in all the sweet attractive influence of her lovely form.
Every pleasant scene recalled her to his imagination, and on every one of nature’s lovely views which he beheld as he passed through the country, he wanted his beloved and constant companion to partake of his pleasure; and as there was a great similarity in their tastes for rural landscapes, he wished her present, that they might mutually make their remarks to each other.
Just before he arrived at the inn, where he meant to stop for dinner, so sincerely did he regret the loss of his Mary’s society, that he was almost determined to take post-horses back, and request her to accompany him on his little excursion: but how ridiculous and how capricious he would look! and still worse, what a petticoat-governed husband! for Mary might mention among their acquaintance her agreeable surprise at his coming back for her: it would never do!—no, he would write for her—that would be as bad: his letter would always tell against him; it would give her and her family unbounded sway over him.
Harrington was a man of the world; he was, indeed, in some respects the world’s slave—and Mary was doomed to stay where she was.
He ate for his dinner a morsel of fish, and the roast fowl went away untouched: he tossed off three or four glasses of port, and his thoughts about Mary seemed drowned in the last: he, therefore, leaped into the chaise, with a jocund air, and promised to make himself amends at supper.
He nodded in the chaise; and a dream brought his beloved Mary again by his side: he cursed his stars when he awoke, that she was not really there; and as the setting sun shot its departing rays over the heath, he dropped a few tears at the idea of his Mary—left alone! He recalled her tender farewell—he execrated his own folly! while fashion, and fashion’s pleasures appeared poor indeed, when put in competition with her.
But, as he stopped to supper, the remembrance of his wife, his blissful cottage, his happy wedded state, vanished at one instant, and swift as the lightning’s flash. Some of his former dashing companions were at the inn; renowned members of the whip-club, who had just been taking their dinner there; and were all getting completely forward in the service of the god of wine.
They all hailed him by the title of "Benedick, the married man!" but hoped he had not become a sober-sides; they applauded him for his courage, in so soon breaking his fetters, though composed only of the roses and myrtle of love; and added, that however charming was the pretty little grisette he had married, yet he did right to let her know in time how he meant to act.
Mr. Harrington, however, did not look well pleased, to hear his wife denominated a grisette! and he repeated the term in that way which shewed he was offended. "Nay, d—n it!" said Lord Armitage, "it was only what we heard: come, come, you shall not be sparring with us—we’ll have no more duels; Mrs. Harrington must ever challenge our sincere respect, as your wife; and forgive, I beseech you, us set of choice spirits, if we chanced to make use of an improper term: why, my buck, you and I have been old fellow school-mates! a fig for all women, be they wives, maids, or widows! Come, we must initiate you in the rules of our club! our favourites* are of the four-legged breed; we toast none of your capricious females, either of town or country—but pass about the bottle to Frolicksome Fan, Betty slim-legs, Jack the Crop, and Jemmy Twitcher; all quadruped favourites of the whipping sport—four-in-hand, my fine fellow, four-in-hand! that’s the present order of the day. I made a figure of eight* this morning five times going; won two hundred pounds of Ned Needham; look, how glum he sits there at the corner of the table!"
Harrington could not forbear laughing at the rattling peer; and taking his seat amongst them, he took a couple of glasses of champaign with them, and then bespoke an expensive supper for them all. The orgies of Bacchus continued till the dawn of the next morning, and they all reeled off to their several chambers, declaring Harrington the finest fellow in the world; and that, if they were sure matrimony would spoil them, no more than it did him, they would all set off on the morrow, in search of some rich dowager, to help to support the expences of the whip!
Before Frederic rose to breakfast his boisterous companions had departed; and a violent head-ach prevented him from finishing his journey that day: he could not help contrasting the scene he had just witnessed, and in which he had borne a part, with the tranquil and self-approving pleasures of his dear cottage; and he penned that first tender letter to Mary, which she received with so much delight.
He arrived early the next morning at his place of destination: the beautiful and picturesque situation of Cromer again made him wish for Mary, to participate in the sublime kind of pleasure which it imparted to his mind. He did not bathe that day, but returned to his inn; and in the evening dressed himself, and took a walk, at the going out of the tide, to observe with an awe-felt curiosity, if he could perceive any vestiges of a part of the old town and church that were overwhelmed by an influx of the sea a considerable number of years since*.
As he walked onwards, a very elegant female passed him, leaning on the arm of an officer; the gentleman appeared a veteran, had been handsome, and bore about him that evident look of gallantry which shewed he had been un homme aux bonnes fortunes in his day.
There was a dignity in his appearance which bespoke him of rank in his profession, and a kind of air which thoroughly marked the man of high birth. The form of the lady was not only elegant, but was exquisitely fine: what little Frederic could see of her face, which was much hid by a lace veil, appeared young and very beautiful; Frederic fancied he had seen one like it, though he had now so very partial a view of that which was almost hid, as the lady passed him: however, the old town, the church, all was forgot, in this more lovely and modern piece of divine workmanship.
Frederic retired to his lodgings; and a sentiment beyond curiosity actuated the whole of his thoughts and ideas. The evening was sultry, he threw up the sash, and seated himself to enjoy a moonlight scene of uncommon beauty, and which, in another frame of mind, would have recalled all his forsaken pleasures of rural life; but now, not one inmate of his cottage shot their calm remembrance across his agitated heart.
Several carriages passed by in hurried succession: he called up his landlady, and asked her what it meant? "They are going to the assembly, sir," said she; "there is a grand ball and supper given there to-night by the great general, Lord Fenwater, to the officers of a regiment, who arrived here last week: I forget the name of the regiment, for we have such a power of soldiers now coming, one after the other, all round the coast, that I am sure it so bewilders my poor brains that I do not know the one from the other! Ah, Lord help us! sir, the General is old enough, I believe, to be your grandfather: but I am sure he is turned fool; saving your presence, sir, for speaking so of any gentleman; and is fallen in love with a beautiful young creature in the regiment; and it’s all along with she, that he gives this fine ball and supper: for I heard say as how he should say once, that he hated that there regiment, and called them all a set of scamps! I think was his word; and he said the officers’ wives were all no better than a fusty set of old maids."
"Lord Fenwater!" exclaimed Frederic, who, though he was weary of the good dame’s prolixity, yet wanted to hear more, as he was now convinced that this was the nobleman he had seen in the morning with this lovely unknown. "Sit down, my good madam," continued Frederic, "and do tell me about this inconsiderate old peer, of whom I know very little, only that he is a friend of my uncle’s, with whom I once saw him."
"Why, sir, I must say, I does not know much good of him; for this lady is another man’s wife, and she is married to a very handsome young man; and I am told, it was quite a love-match on both sides: now, sir, as I said before, though she is as beautiful a creature as ever I clapped my eyes upon, yet I say, handsome is, that handsome does; and she does not do very handsomely, to give the General every encouragement; she does not care one fig for her husband; nay, she left him one day on a sick bed, to drive out with the General in his phaeton."
"What is the lady’s name?" said Frederic, with an ill-assumed indifference. "I declare I almost forget, replied the landlady, "but I think it is Lady Arabella Hammond, or somewhat very much like it."—A loud knocking at the door put a period to this dialogue, and a kind of consequential voice demanded if Mr. Harrington did not lodge there? and, in the space of a moment, jumpt up-stairs, at three steps, the Honourable Mr. Lawson, an old fellow-collegian, and intimate friend of the gay Frederic.
"Why, what in the d——l’s name, Fred," said Lawson, "is it I have heard? I am told you are married! and yet not wedded to the dear dashing female who so much captivated you, and whom every one declared was expressly made for you; that resplendent beauty, the Isabella Emerson! Come, where’s the bewitching creature that has transplanted her? and whom you have honoured by dubbing Mrs. Harrington! cannot one have a peep at her? or do you keep her locked up in a glass case, for fear any one should touch her?"
"Mrs. Harrington is not with me," replied Frederic, half abashed; inwardly vexed at his hasty marriage, yet rejoiced to see his friend; and almost wishing that he had married a female of Lady Isabella’s shining and fashionable exterior. "Bravo! Bravissimo!" said Lawson; "well, now this is something like a modern husband; broke your fetters already! hang me, if I do not believe you have united yourself to some rich dowager of quality, who has with you made the delightful, mutual compact, of letting each act as shall best please the other." "No such thing," said Frederic; "let us, for a moment, dear friend, be serious; I have married a young girl, whose lovely person is far inferior to all her other attractions! her face and form, all charming as they are, sink into nothing, when compared with the virtues of her pure and spotless mind! and—" "Whew!" interrupted Lawson, "how long will this fit be upon you? Do not you recollect, my dear fellow, that I always compared your mind to a rainbow? a charming diversity of sentiment coloured it, but yet only tinged it, like that beautiful arch; for it could boast equal instability: its firmness was as easily dissolved by the tears of impulsive mistaken sensibility, as its brighter hues were, at other times, obscured by a shower of intemperance, or by an accidental dark cloud of gravity, which might throw a shadow over it: while the bright sun of pleasure has triumphed in its splendour; and the sentimental tints of Frederic Harrington’s rainbow were all lost!"
"Have you done?" said Harrington, smiling; "or is this a part of some old theme that was given you when at Oxford? Come, a truce to metaphor;—pray why are you thus accoutered? upon my honour, vous êtes bravement equipé!"
"Yes, yes," said Lawson; "a truce, my dear fellow, to every thing but present pleasure: I have a ticket from the amourous old General, Lord Fenwater, to a ball he gives this evening: with this ticket I received a very polite note, earnestly requesting me to attend, and to bring with me any friend I thought proper: hasten then to thy toilette, thou Adonis, formed to please the fair; forget thou art married, and equip thyself to accompany me."
Harrington was soon persuaded; away they drove to the assembly-room: Frederic Harrington more elegant, infinitely more pleasing and interesting than when in full health, derived new attractive powers from his suit of mourning; and in this guise he entered the ball-room.
Thus interesting, thus attractive, the first object which met his eyes, increased in loveliness with every auxiliary of the most tasteful and superb attire, was Lady Isabella Raymond!
She was seated on a sofa at the upper end of the room, behind which gracefully leaned the fine martial figure of the General, who was dealing out to her all the pretty compliments of gallantry which he had practised for thirty years amongst twice that number of different females. Lawson advanced towards him with all the familiarity of an old acquaintance, and waving his hand towards Frederic, he said, "Permit me, my lord, to introduce my friend, Mr. Harrington, to your notice." "I have had the honour of seeing Mr. Harrington before, with his worthy uncle, Sir Edward," said the General, with visible coldness; his penetrating eye having observed the changes and emotion of Lady Isabella’s and Harrington’s countenances. Frederic, however, on the invitation of her ladyship, which was given with all the nonchalance she could assume, threw himself gracefully on the vacant seat beside her. "Ah! ah!" said Lawson, "Lady Isabella, do you know my quondam friend with his pale visage, and garb of woe?" "Oh!" replied she, "he is not under so dark a cloud but that I can discover him." This she uttered with a vain attempt to be sprightly; and the vanity of Harrington was gratified at perceiving the evident tremor of her heart, as her eyes met his: a rapidity of ideas thronged in quick succession upon her mind, and made her answers to every question that was put to her, vague, and from the purpose.
Hilarity, content, self-approbation, which were the inmates of many a bosom, and had sat smiling on the outward countenance, had all fled at the appearance of the intruder, Harrington: the men all envied him, and wished him any where but there; for every lady was exclaiming, in one general buz of whispers, "What a handsome man!"
The general had been content to the utmost with the good humour of his goddess*, whose superb set of brilliants, and whose guinea-and-a-half bouquet of choice exotics, had been presented to her by him in the morning, and for which she had amply repaid him by her bewitching smiles in the evening; she had also declared she would not dance that night, because his lordship no longer skipped in the train of Terpsichore: no, she preferred regaling herself with that mental feast, the charms of his conversation!
Now he saw her not only delighted with the handsome intrusive guest, but he heard her say that she would certainly go down a dance or two with him in the course of the evening: but Lady Isabella’s mind was in a state of cruel agitation; she feared, she hoped, and lamented: she knew that Frederic Harrington had married Mary Marsham; but on her removal from the quarters she had first occupied with her husband, she knew not of Mr. Ralph Marsham’s fatal accident: the mourning of Harrington was deep; he might, perhaps, be a widower! she had heard Mrs. Harrington was thought to be consumptive. "Oh! if he was a widower, then was she a wretch indeed; she was married to a man she began to detest:" then again she thought that Harrington would not dance if he was so recent a widower. She therefore felt all her hatred return towards Mary, and feared her superior attractions; but yet she hoped, fondly hoped, he still loved herself: and Frederic Harrington was sure, at that moment, he loved her ladyship more than any woman he had ever yet seen; he felt all that ardour of fond desire return in her presence, which is so often dignified by, and mistaken for the pure passion of love; and when she ventured to ask him after the health of Mrs. Harrington, he stammered out that she was well, blushed and hung down his head, while he inwardly cursed his precipitate marriage; "This woman," thought he, "this resplendent beauty, who does honour to a court by her appearance, might have been mine!" and rashly and guiltily did he mentally vow that she should be his; for he fancied it impossible to endure life without the possession of her charming person.
About twelve o’clock Major Raymond made his appearance; he was much altered in person for the worse, and wore the evident marks on his countenance of severe embarrassment; his mien was altogether dejected, and his spirits forced; he advanced towards the proud Frederic with a freedom which that gentleman by no means approved, who never much liked Major Raymond, and who now felt for him every symptom of hatred, particularly for his being the legal possessor of the fair enchantress who sat beside him.
Lady Isabella Raymond, from her pecuniary embarrassments, had been tempted to listen to the gallant compliments, and receive the pointed attentions of Lord Fenwater*; whose proverbial munificence was such, to the fair ones he admired, that she flattered herself it would soon disperse the numerous swarm of creditors who continually assailed her husband’s quarters: but Lady Isabella knew not a fourth part of the extent and enormity of their claims.
Dislike to her, as well as indifference, had taken place in the Major’s bosom of all that violent and ardent affection he had once felt for her; and he winked at the too palpable attachment of the General; partook, with a blind connivance, of all the festivities given in honour of his wife; encouraged her in accepting the wealthy lover’s presents; drank copiously of the rare foreign wines with which the General supplied his cellar; while a speedy* promotion to a lieutenant-colonelcy, through his lordship’s interest, danced, in gay vision, before his eyes. But now the torch of love was kindled again, with added fire, in the breast of her ladyship, by the fine person of Frederic Harrington; the electric spark of which beamed from her eyes, and inspired Frederic with mutual passion.
Love gave softness and additional animation to one of the most beautiful countenances in the world; fashion, and native original wit, now emulous only to please, and wholly free from satire and ill-nature, rendered her conversation irresistible; profound sense and acquired accomplishments united their seductive force, and Harrington was more firmly her captive than ever.
The General now saw, and left the field to the more fortunate and irresistible conqueror. A single state, abundant wealth, a person yet handsome, and a title, he knew would ever give him the power of purchasing beauty in all her most brilliant attractions.
Frederic Harrington knew not yet the pecuniary embarrassments of the Raymonds; and thus, though "feasts and tournaments" might be given, to please the beauteous dame, yet valuable presents flowed not in so amply as when the more aged lover was the experienced and devoted slave, who, much to the surprise of the Major, had quitted Cromer in a kind of haughty despair; he soon, however, in the unguarded conduct of his Isabella and the imprudent Harrington, saw the cause, and was vile enough to resolve to profit by it.
Sorry we are to record, that, though Frederic Harrington had been married scarce three little months, the fascinations of the syren he unhappily fell in with so wrought on his wavering disposition, that he became a criminal husband, and Lady Isabella a guilty wife!
In a moment of tender confidence, she revealed to him the burthened state of their pecuniary affairs: the mind of the mistaken Frederic was horror-struck, and he resolved to mortgage every acre of his estate sooner than see the woman he loved, almost to idolatry, in distress: but Major Raymond, knowing the ample fortune of Frederic, gave every opportunity to the criminal lovers, and meditated more public means of retrieving his shattered circumstances, and meant to spare the thoughtless Harrington the trouble of so incumbering his estate.
FASHIONABLE INTRIGUE, AND A VIRTUOUS
O ye woods! spread your branches apace,
To your deepest recesses I fly;
I would hide with the beasts of the chace,
I would vanish from every eye.
—— —— —— —— —— ——
Yet my reed shall resound through the grove,
With the same sad compliment it begun:
How he smil’d, and she could not but love,
Was faithless, and she is undone."
LEAVING the faithless Harrington to his guilty, and as he fondly imagined, secure pursuit of lawless pleasure, we must revert to the virtuous inhabitants of his forsaken home, and trace back our history to that period which told near a fortnight after his departure.
Mary, till her Frederic ceased to write to her often, and till a forced kind of tenderness, and cold expressions in his letters, made her wretched, had been reconciled in some degree to her state of separation from him she held most dear, and she passed her hours in cheerful content; while her father’s chief occupation was studying politics, and groaning over the newspapers at the ill success of our continental expeditions.
Lord Fenwater, on his departure from Cromer, visited town for a few days; where, to his surprise, he met Sir Edward Harrington; but he imparted more astonishment to the mind of Sir Edward, when he informed him that his nephew, from whom he had not heard for some time, was at Cromer! And when Sir Edward, not without a faint blush, asked Lord Fenwater, if he, who was such an admirer of female beauty, had seen his pretty niece? and was told Mr. Harrington was there without her, a degree of indignation accompanied his wonder, which was by no means lessened by the sly inuendos of the disappointed peer, who enjoyed the mischief he discovered he had made with a splenetic malevolence.
The heart of Sir Edward Harrington, however education and high birth might have fed a natural pride of family, was yet goodness itself; and he now felt keenly for the blooming young creature, whose amiability had often charmed him, and whose virtue he revered: he wrote to his thoughtless nephew to quit the society of a woman whom he had ever deemed most unprincipled and dangerous, and an adept in every seductive artifice; alleging, that he flattered himself his presence would be some inducement for his quick return, as he meant to finish the summer at his cottage; whither he was going to repair immediately.
The admonitory letter was at first scoffingly thrown on one side; he had not then possessed the person of his bewitching Isabella; he was on the bright eve of expectation, and should he quit such a prize, in view, for the insipid caresses of a virtuous wife?
Such were the impulsive thoughts of the deluded Frederic; but on cooler reflection he wrote a flattering answer to his uncle, saying, he should instantly repair home as soon as ever the physician who attended him would give him leave to quit the sea; then he would, on the wings of love, fly to his much-loved home, and dearly-revered uncle.
Sir Edward, at first, was the dupe of these hyperbolical expressions, but his silence afterwards, with his constrained letters to his charming wife, made the worthy baronet dread the worst.
How delighted were the good Curate and his daughter at beholding this excellent man! who advanced, with a sweet cordiality, to embrace his niece, and whom he now regarded with the fondest paternal interest. He was resolved to make her ample amends for any coldness he might hitherto have shewn her; and that she should solely occupy that place in his affections so long held by his worthless nephew.
One fine autumnal morning, as he was walking in the romantic and extensive garden which belonged to the cottage, he listened with enthusiastic pleasure to the most exquisite voice which had ever met his ear: the air it sung was plaintive, the peculiar harmony of it was wafted with the morning breeze to the place where he had seated himself; and Sir Edward, who was passionately fond of music, listened with that mute attention which dreaded to give way, even to his own respiration, lest it should destroy one melodious note of a songstress whose warbling seemed almost celestial.
The voice seemed to proceed from a little Chinese pavilion near the end of the garden; Sir Edward rose in order to direct his steps thither; but a servant coming to inform him that breakfast was ready, prevented him: the servant then turned down another allée; the voice soon ceased, and Sir Edward walked slowly to the house; where he found seated to receive him, at their morning repast, Mr. Marsham and his daughter.
"Some spirit of the air surely haunts your gardens," said the baronet, "what vocal genii preside over the place? the voice of a seraph seemed to regale my ears this morning, and appeared to proceed from the Chinese pavilion." Edward smiled, while Mary blushed deeply; but recovering herself, she said, "Oh! Sir Edward, you have lived, I see, too long in a court; flattery in that hemisphere is natural to you all, for even Sir Edward Harrington makes use of the destructive ingredient?" "How flattery?" replied Sir Edward; "what, by saying I thought your cottage-garden attended by genii?" "No, no, Sir Edward," said Mr. Marsham, "it was my daughter you heard, she was singing a favourite air which Mr. Harrington taught her; indeed, I believe the words are his own, though set to an old tune." "Your daughter! why I found her at the tea-table when I entered."
"Yes," said Mr. Marsham, "she came in, sir, by a nearer way than you did." "Dear sir," said the embarrassed Mary, "why say any more about it? Sir Edward, I am sure, must have seen me, and is now only quizzing me." "Pardon me, my love," said Sir Edward, "you know there is nothing I so much despise as that fashionable propensity: but, pray tell me, has your charming voice, with so just an ear as I find you possess, never had any cultivation?" "No, sir," replied Mary, "my father and uncles little thought I should ever fill the elevated situation I now hold, as the wife of Mr. Harrington, and the acknowledged niece of Sir Edward: and my husband says I am now too old to learn."
A faint blush of indignation tinged the cheek of Sir Edward, and he finished his breakfast in silence.
This displeasure against his once darling Frederic was by no means lessened at receiving a letter from a sincere friend, a gentleman who was then at Cromer, and between whom and Sir Edward there had been a friendship existing from their days of infancy: this friend charged him, if possible, to withdraw his nephew immediately from a scene of iniquity and destruction; he informed the baronet, that he saw through all the despicable and unmanly artifice of Major Raymond, with the fascinations and dangerous principles of Lady Isabella; and that the morals and fortune of Mr. Harrington would be inevitably ruined by her baneful allurements.
Sir Edward, on the receipt of this afflicting intelligence, wrote to his nephew the most kindly expostulating letter, wherein he made use of every tender and affectionate persuasion to induce his return to a wife, who not only loved him with virtuous constancy, but who did honour to his choice: he urged the obligatory necessity of his breaking those ignominious fetters by which he was now so completely and infamously bound; expatiated on the dreadful crime of indulging the illicit passion with which he was inspired; but firmly promised, ere he concluded his letter, that not one reproachful sentence from him should reach his ear, if he would instantly return.
This letter afforded only laughter to him and the gay partner in his guilt; and, by her advice, he wrote an answer, saying, That he was of age to act, in every respect, as he pleased; that he was quite weary of the shackles and restraints which an uncle, who could have no right to act with any authority, had so long laid upon him; that he was determined henceforth to act and think for himself: he had done every thing in his power to render his wife and her father independent and happy; and he was sure the present society of his uncle had much added to their felicity, and must make his own presence more easily dispensed with: that uncle he should certainly welcome with the most sincere pleasure; and for that purpose he should come home as soon as it was conducive to his health, or any other reasons which might keep him where he was; but, that he never would be restricted; and he must beg to be considered as totally independent in future, and at liberty, in every respect, to act as he pleased.—By the same post, Mary received a cold and distant letter from her once kind and tender Frederic. Sir Edward watched the various emotions of her interesting countenance as she read it; and "Oh!" thought he, "thou shalt yet triumph!"
Once he had an idea of taking the worthy Curate and his daughter, and setting off to Cromer; "But alas!" thought he, "then perhaps, this new-made wife, almost yet a bride, may witness the distracting truth of her husband’s infidelity! now, in her retirement, we may succeed in keeping it from her: I will therefore occupy her thoughts, and prepare her for that splendid station I yet hope to see her fill—the happy and honoured wife of Frederic Harrington."
Without loss of time, and at that highly purchased and profuse expence which his large fortune enabled him to bestow on her, he sent to London for the most eminent masters to attend upon Mary; he was resolved, that on her introduction into the great city next winter, she should outshine her criminal rival in the elegance of her carriage and manners, and also in those accomplishments to which he knew her divine voice and wonderfully quick capacity would impart a brilliancy.
He told not his niece the extent of her misfortune, but gently hinted to her that Frederic was a gay young man, too apt to be swayed by the contagion of modern manners: "Exert yourself, then, my sweet niece," he would say; "study indefatigably the shining accomplishments I wish you to possess: as you are superior in every virtue of the mind, so rise, even by trivial accomplishments, above the vain coquettes and gaudy flutterers of the present hour; the heart of your husband may stray, and be tempted to wander amongst them; but you will, you shall regain it!"
Mary started. "Fear nothing, my Mary," continued he; "I only tell you, the world you have just entered is beset with danger and temptation of every kind, particularly for our sex; the labyrinths of fashion are unknown to you; I fear not that you will lose yourself in them, but I am not without some portion of anxiety on my nephew’s account: born and educated amongst fashion’s votaries, he is become one of them, and loves the fickle goddess too well: to you, the wife of his bosom, the object of his fondest choice, belongs the glorious task of his reformation. You must perceive, my dear girl," added the worthy man, while a tear started to his benevolent eyes, "that the reign of romantic ardour, short as it has been, is at an end. When your husband returns, receive him with smiling tranquillity; beware equally of rapture as of reproaches; be yourself; be mistress of your feelings; shew that cheerful spirit which is worthy your virtue; a glorious conquest will be yours! shame, repentance, and true and lasting reformation his: and yet, suffer not, my sweet Mary, while you endeavour to deck your face with smiles, the worm of anguish to prey upon your susceptible heart; for I will venture to answer for Frederic, if you pursue the line of conduct I have chalked out for you; shew yourself generous and forbearing; and if vice and fashion do not quite corrupt his heart, you will be happier with him than if he had never erred; he will never again leave you, nor forsake you."
While this excellent man made use of this honest artifice to encourage the hopes and elevate the spirits of his niece, it was he who felt the "worm of anguish!" Pale, distressed, his fine form wasted to a shadowy appearance, the inward state of his mind can be better fancied than pourtrayed: he hoped much from Mary, but he dreaded the wavering principles of his nephew, to whom he now fancied his former partiality had been so great as to make him blind to his imperfections, which he, with all the self-tormenting pangs of anxiety, now magnified into a vicious disposition: but Frederic Harrington was not naturally wicked; he had excellent principles and a feeling heart, but he had been spoilt by the incense of flattery, and the too evident admiration of the softer sex; while the gay principles of the present fashionable world were such, as, while they pleased his senses, ensnared his heart, by fatally deluding his sanguine imagination and too easy temper.
Week after week flitted away, but no kind husband arrived to the expectant Mary, who attended to her fashionable accomplishments with diligent perseverance: the hope that Sir Edward held out to her she easily received; her disposition had ever been such as to look always on the fairest side of life’s deluding prospects; and her unwearied occupations in the day, with her music, dancing, and singing masters, studying Italian with Sir Edward, who was a proficient in the language, and learning of him, in the evening, every fashionable game at cards, so employed her, that when she pressed her pillow an hour before midnight, her sleep was sweet, sound, and unbroken, and she awoke, each morning, more blooming, more lovely in person than ever.
In the mean time, her sister Margaret would have been completely weary of the splendid kind of vassalage in which she lived with Mrs. Davenport, were it not that visions of unalterable love occupied all her thoughts from the deceitful protestations dealt out to her by the libertine, Sir Charles Sefton: he had but lately become acquainted with the Davenports, and highly admired the bewitching Mrs. Davenport; but the greatest cause of his admiration of her, was, that she then chanced to be the fashion, and a most delightful notoriety was attached to him who could be happy enough to be her most favourite cicisbco.
Margaret Marsham, on his entering the drawing-room, the first evening after she became an inmate of Mr. Davenport’s house, trembled and changed countenance, and was in a state of cruel anxiety, to think that he was the man whom Mrs. Davenport had professed to love very much, both to her waiting-maid and her confidential friend; for in Mrs. Davenport, Margaret imagined she had a most formidable rival to contend with, whose charms, though very bewitching, were yet much heightened in the eyes of Margaret by the warm principles of gratitude which glowed in her bosom.
Sir Charles fixed his eyes on the poor little Eglantine grisette; but he again took them off without addressing her; though he resolved from that moment to complete the ruin of her youthful innocence; for lovely as was Mrs. Davenport, he had never felt for her one spark of desire.
He was, indeed, as Mrs. Davenport had told her friend, grown much handsomer; and though he was fast approaching to that state which in so dissipated a being is generally hastened, and is far beyond middle age, yet there was a certain air, which so marked the gentleman, in spite of his defects, and so pleasing and insinuating a smile embellished his countenance, when he wished to appear amiable, that, together with his fine speeches and pretended regard, he had really made a conquest over the silly Margaret, whose desire to have a lover proceeded more from a vain and deluded imagination than from natural constitution.
Her former predilection for Sir Charles she now found return, with renewed ardour, on thus unexpectedly meeting him: the poisonous effects of romance-reading had not yet, notwithstanding the variety of life’s usual scenes she had lately witnessed, been eradicated from her mind: and she now, without reflecting how much the members of the fashionable world unite, and are found together, thought it a most wonderful event that the first day of her arrival in London she should thus, so unlooked for, behold the object of her regard; and she felt certain that it was a sure presage of their being united: but, alas! he seemed to have forgotten her; and was the chosen favourite of a lady whom he appeared to regard with uncommon interest, and to attend her with the most pointed gallantry.
She caught a glance at herself in a long pier-glass; her thick figure appeared slimmer in mourning, her face was flushed from agitation, her bugles glittered from the reflection of numerous wax-lights, and she fondly imagined, that perhaps she was so much altered for the better, that Sir Charles did not immediately recognise her, and she was determined, if an opportunity offered, to address him first.
It had not yet occurred to her, that perhaps the violent anger of disappointed love, at her refusing to elope with him from the masquerade, was the cause of his pretending not to recollect her.
"Well, I am a careless creature!" said Mrs. Davenport, with a childish lisp and giggle; "I forgot, Sir Charles, to introduce my companion to you: Sir Charles Sefton, Miss Marsham, sister to Mrs. Harrington." Sir Charles Sefton coldly bowed; while Margaret, with true naïveté, said, "Oh! ma’am, I have seen Sir Charles Sefton very often before." "Where? child," said Mrs. Davenport, with quickness, not unobservant of a deep sigh and a kind of reproachful love-glance which the baronet pointed directly to Margaret as she concluded her artless sentence; who immediately explained, saying she had seen him at the Leslies’, when that family were at Eglantine.
Love, particularly that illicit affection which goes by that name, is generally attended by a damsel in yellow attire, yclept Jealousy: Mrs. Davenport observed some stolen glances between the baronet and Margaret; she appeared, however, not to notice them, and turning to Sir Charles, said, "I have invited Mr. Leslie and Lady Caroline to a rout next week; you have no objection to meet your old acquaintance, I suppose: I have never heard you even mention them; but I intended to have sent you a card to-morrow."
"None, in life," said Sir Charles, colouring; "I do not visit there now, but we frequently meet."
There was a constraint about Sir Charles, and a kind of mystery this evening, which did not well please Mrs. Davenport; and she was out of humour with him, with herself, and every one else. Sir Charles, with a desponding look, after numerous efforts to restore the lady to her usual sprightliness, uttered a pointed philippie against the cruel caprices of the fair; and darted a most reproachful look at Margaret, which she well understood, and was now convinced she had found out the cause of his former coldness towards her.
The arrival of some gay young men to supper, who were favourites of Mrs. Davenport, for that gross incense of flattery which they continually offered at the shrine of her beauty, gave Sir Charles an opportunity of speaking to Margaret apart. She was so desirous of being re-instated in his good opinion, and receive again from him looks of tenderness instead of anger, that she said to him, "La! Sir Charles, I see you are angry; but I am sure, when my sister was taken so ill, I could not act otherwise than I did on the night of Mr. Leslie’s masquerade, though I had consented to a clandestine marriage with you." "Marriage!" repeated the baronet; "marriage! my adorable girl? I thought you had more liberality of sentiment than to think of that certain destroyer of true and lasting love: look now at the amiable Mrs. Davenport, who married for love; is she happy? look at Lady Isabella Raymond, who now detests her husband, and he her." "Lady Isabella!" said Margaret; "ah! where is that dear friend of my heart? that congenial soul with my own!" "I do not know," said the baronet; "we have never met since her marriage; I am told she is very unhappy; and point me out, if you can, one married pair that is otherwise." "Yes, sir, my sister."—"Is she?" continued Sir Charles with a sneer; "I much doubt it: Mr. Harrington is not the man to make one woman happy long; he was always a professed libertine, and had he really loved your sister, he would never have married her." "Dear sir," said Margaret, "what but love could make him marry my sister? she had no fortune, no accomplishments to entitle her to such a match."—"Nonsense! child," said Sir Charles, "why the man was under the dominion of a raging fever, quite delirious, I understand." "No, indeed, sir," said Margaret, "not when he was married." "Married!" echoed Sir Charles, "how I do hate that odious word! Oh! my beloved, my angelic Margaret, I love you with that refined ardour that assures me I shall love you for ever! and I could not bear the idea of being obliged to love you because a priest muttered over a few vows, which vows are poor indeed, to those my heart would make to the charms of your mind and person!
"How can I write to you, my dear girl? we are now observed." He then turned to the company, but soon found a second opportunity, amidst the buz of fashion, to address the credulous girl, under pretence of enquiring after some friends in the country.
"Beware," said he to her, "of Mrs. Davenport; she is of a very suspicious disposition; therefore, forgive me, if I am sometimes obliged apparently to take no notice of you; be assured, at those very moments of seeming neglect, my heart holds sweet communion with yours: tell me how I can write to you?"
"I fear that will be impossible," said Margaret; for she had no friend, or confidante to whom she could repose so important a trust; and the licentious baronet and the romantic girl concluded therefore only to watch every opportunity which chance might offer of plighting to each other their mutual protestations of unalterable and unrestrained affection.
NEWS FROM EGLANTINE.
"The Great O’s and Macs!"
——————The sons of pleasure flow
Down the loose stream of false, enchanting joy,
To swift destruction.———————————
MRS. DAVENPORT, now tortured by all the pangs of jealousy, treated poor Margaret not only with neglect, but ill-nature: the unfortunate victim of Sir Charles Sefton’s arts bore it with Job-like patience, reflecting on the lot of all the beauteous and amiable heroines of romance, who were born to encounter difficulties, be the sport of fortune, and afflicted sufferers, from the caprice of tyrants and jealous friends converted into foes!
As she sat in her dressing-room one morning, contemplating on the happiness of being the ever-cherished and lasting favourite of the fashionable sultan who admired her, Mademoiselle Minette (for Margaret had no peculiar maid to wait on her, as was at first promised) came to her, and said, "that one very odd-looking, petite boule of a man wanted to speak with her; and ah! mon dieu," continued the soubrette, "qu’il est roux!" So saying, she very politely spit on the carpet, and shrugged her shoulders: "Mais, tenez, mademoiselle, de porter has shew him into de littell anti-room next to de salle à manger; dare you vill find him."
Mademoiselle then, who was completely equipped in a most elegant and voluptuous morning costume, hastily descended; and Margaret, with a fluttering heart, trembling lest Sir Charles had been imprudent enough to have hazarded the sending her a letter by some precarious hand, was some moments in that agitation, which prevented her from immediately descending; but summoning all her resolution, she judged how very imprudent it was in her to delay, and how much it behoved her to hasten and snatch from the herald of her admirer the love-breathing epistle before any questions might be asked, or perhaps the amourous effusions of her devoted knight be perused by another.
As she passed the door of Mrs. Davenport’s dressing-room, which stood open, she beheld, to her amazement, Mademoiselle Minette on the staircase, clasped in the arms of Mr. Davenport, who was giving her several fervent kisses, while she impudently threw her arms round his neck, saying, "Dare, monsieur, dat is de last, madame is vaiting for me."
"Shocked at what she had seen and heard, Margaret yet trembled for the repose of her benefactress, and gently approached her door in order to close it, and while in the good-natured act, Mrs. Davenport screamed out, "Merciful heaven! who is shutting my room-door? I am almost dying with the unusual heat of the weather!" then advancing forward, she added, with the most quiet sang-froid,* "Come, Davenport, when you can spare Minette, do send her to me; I am going to Ackermann’s this morning to choose some dressing-boxes and a few ornaments, and I want her attendance."
"Upon my word, Emily," replied he, "I never saw Minette look so pretty in my life." He then laughed, gave her another kiss; and the astonished Margaret could not avoid feeling disgust at this licentious accommodation of modern manners, which was carried to that unfeeling excess by Mr. and Mrs. Davenport, as had not only been unwitnessed by herself, but by every one else; and was unparalleled in all the annals of fashion.
A greater surprise, however, succeeded, and of a very different kind, when she beheld in the porter’s anti-room, wiping his face from profuse perspiration, Phelim O’Gurphy!
To see at this moment the son of one of the kings of Ireland filled her bosom with self-reproach and violent agitations; she felt that it was now utterly impossible for her ever again to have the least regard for him, for all her fondest affections centered in Sir Charles Sefton: no, Phelim could no longer make any impression on her heart, even if he had then laid a crown and sceptre at her feet. She fervently wished for his immediate departure, and broke silence by speedily asking after the health of her father and sister.
"Och, and they are all well," said Phelim, "and there’s my young mistress Harrington, to be sure, and hasn’t she a deal of business now? She has masters out of number—just as many as three of them, for music, singing, and dancing: and then there’s Sir Edward Harrington teaching her to spake a new kind of language." "What, is it German?" said Margaret; "Och! miss, mayhap it may be, I don’t know; only I am sure it is not Irish, for och gramachree, it is not half so sweet by a third part."
"But have you no letters for me?" asked Margaret. "Och! and by the powers but I have, miss: be so good as to read that direction, miss, whether that letter is for you or the lady of the house?"
Margaret was astonished that this scion of royalty knew not how to read; but imagining it was only pretension, from fear of a discovery, and that he was over-acting his part, she said, "Oh! Phelim, why this disguise? it is all in vain——"
"Och! by the holy St. Patrick, miss, and there is no disguise at all, at all: why, I saw my master direct the letter himself, with his own hand and pen."
One of the letters was directed to Mrs. Davenport; and Margaret immediately hastened with it, upstairs, to that lady’s dressing-room, and then retired to peruse her own.
She found therein, that in about a fortnight her father purposed visiting town, with letters of recommendation from Sir Edward Harrington to the Chancellor, requesting his favour and patronage to a most worthy divine, and that he would bestow on him one of those valuable livings which were in his immediate gift. She perceived a kind of depression of spirits ran through every line of this letter, and that he appeared by no means elevated with the fair prospects which awaited him. He wrote her word also that her uncle Charles had been amongst the sick at Flushing, but was speedily recovering, and expected shortly to arrive in England. She shed a few bitter tears; she dreaded the arrival of this uncle; she had acted that culpable part which she knew, if discovered, he would never forgive; for oh! the silly and romantic Margaret Marsham had suffered herself to be dishonoured by a treacherous and abandoned libertine!
Though her betrayer had triumphed over her innocence and credulity, yet she was not an adept in art; vice was a stranger to her, and she was never likely, with all her failings, to become depraved: though her eyes were not yet open to the absurdity of the opinions she had imbibed from her dangerous readings, yet, after this, her fatal error, her sentiments became more refined, her way of thinking more just, and even her heart might be said to be better. Sir Charles had triumphed over all her scruples, had taught her to consider her connection with him as virtuous: as yet she had perceived no change in his affections; and Sir Charles had really wondered at himself that she pleased him so long: but there was a novelty in the amour; their interviews were short and stolen, and a kind of mystery attached to the intrigue which rendered it out of the common way, and gave a zest and a variety to his amorous pursuits.
He told her how requisite it was, at present, from the eyes of a prying world (which he rejoiced to find was daily getting more liberal and enlightened), to conceal their present state of happiness, and confine it to their own bosoms: the consciousness of her deceitful conduct, an innate sense of the principles of female honour, which she knew she had violated, now made her heart sink with shame, and the big tear of unavailing repentance and regret dropped from her eye.
Mrs. Davenport’s bell rang, and roused her to rally and recover her spirits; Margaret was summoned into her presence. "I have here a letter from your father, Margaritta," said she; "in a fortnight I expect he will be in town." "So he writes me word, madam," said Margaret. "Well, my dear," said Mrs. Davenport, with her accustomed good-nature, "will you have the goodness to answer this letter for me; make every apology on my part, but tell him I am obliged to go out, or I would certainly have done myself the honour of answering it myself; but be sure you tell him that I entreat, as does Mr. Davenport also, that he will make our house his home during his stay in town: and while you write your letter, pray see that the young man who brought these has whatever refreshment he may wish, and that the larder and cellar can afford: I love your father, Margaritta, and oh! how dearly, in my girlish days, did I love your dear mother!" Here a sigh of regret stole also from the bosom of Mrs. Davenport at the recollection of her days of innocence, for which fashion, that approximate goddess of vice, had made her so little amends by the change; but hurrying reflection from her mind, as a painful intruder, she dashed off, in all the morning elegance of modern taste, in her new carriage to the Repository of Arts and Fashion.
A momentary gleam of comfort, when she saw her depart with smiles beaming upon her, quieted the mind and conscience of Margaret, and she hastened to write her letter to her father; but as she again descended to desire Phelim to avail himself of Mrs. Davenport’s kind hospitality, she beheld the royal Phelim and a stout Hibernian, who was one of the supporters of Mrs. Davenport’s sedan, in a firm embrace; both crying, or almost howling, and speaking together in a language she could not understand; but she was sure it was neither Italian nor German, though no doubt much sweeter to the ears of the present speakers, being the ancient language of dear little Ireland!
This brawny son of Erin, whom Phelim now embraced, was coarseness and vulgarity personified; and the very sight of him had often disgusted the romantic fair-one, who now looked with wonder on the scene before her.
But now she was soon convinced of all the native low breeding of Phelim, and that he was no royal or noble lover in disguise; for turning to her, he exclaimed, while a broad grin embellished the countenance of his companion, as he wiped away the tears with his sleeve, "Och! Miss Margaret, and I am sure now, you are so kind-hearted, that you will be glad to hear that, who should this be but my own cousin, who I thought had been drowned in the Dublin packet, as he came over to hay-making, when he arrived here about two summers ago: och! and you did not do well not to let me know whether you was dead or alive! Well, what a blessed day is this! for just stop a little, now, miss, and be after listening to me a bit: a young girl named Jenny O’Dunnahough, sells milk here to my lady’s house, and do you know that she promised to marry me when I first saw her at the time I went with my poor mother to Dublin: och! what a little bit of a thing was Jenny then! I think I see her padding barefoot after her mother, along Fish-amble-street; och! Paddy Gallacher, did not her mother sell the best Dublin bays* in the whole city?" "By J——s and she did," replied the chairman; "but make yourself aisy, honey, and I’ll warrant you Jenny will be glad enough to keep her word; she did not come here with the soldiers for nothing; one of the guards got her to milk the cows in the park; and now she makes a pretty penny, let me tell you, by selling milk about, and puts as much water in it as any girl in London."
Phelim did not much like the remembrance of Jenny O’Dunnahough having followed the soldiers from Dublin, and was glad to wave the subject, by accepting the repeated offer of Margaret to refresh himself; and repairing to Mr. Davenport’s plentiful kitchen, made himself ample amends for the fatigues of his journey.
Poor Margaret found great relief in the task Mrs. Davenport had set her, of answering her father’s letter which he had addressed to that lady; she would otherwise have been much at a loss for expressions to lengthen her own. The sun of innocence had set never to rise again; and her now overstrained terms of filial affection, though regarded by her parent as proceeding from that romantic enthusiasm she had ever evinced, were yet very different from those which formerly filled her letters: for heaven, when it formed the hearts of the Marshams, filled them with the fondest natural affections for the ties of blood and kindred, which nothing could eradicate, nor indeed obscure.
But Margaret knew, in spite of all Sir Charles Sefton’s sophistry, that she had acted wrong; she rejoiced when she saw Phelim, half intoxicated, depart with the letters; and hastening to her dressing-room, she indulged her sorrow and inward anguish in a copious flood of tears. Sir Charles Sefton, however, soon restored comfort to her mind, who finding out by his spies that Mr. and Mrs. Davenport were from home, was ushered, for a golden bribe, by the convenient Minette into the apartment of Miss Marsham.
Sir Charles certainly felt some degree of tenderness for one who, though nature had been led astray by the delusions of imagination, was yet a child of nature; artifice and deceit were by no means the native inhabitants of her breast, they were as foreign to her heart as it was repellant to them.
He did not now perceive her red and swoln eyes without an emotion of pity and concern; and from his kind soothings and ardent protestations of unchanging affection, he soon restored her to that state of happiness which she thought it impossible ever again to feel, after the mental anguish she had experienced in the morning. "Oh!" thought she, "he often told me, and he told me true, that his love for me would increase each day by possession: I am the happiest of my sex! and, ah! how delightful is a connexion like ours, how superior to the cold restraints of formal marriage!"
Sir Charles had stayed with Margaret till he heard the clock strike five; he was yet in his morning dress; and the hair of Margaret was still en papillotes. The Leslies were expected in the evening, and the family were to dine at half past five; Margaret had not seen them at Mrs. Davenport’s rout, being confined to her room by a cold, and she reckoned much on seeing Lady Caroline that evening, when she hoped to hear something of Lady Isabella, her sister, whom she had ever loved, and to whose principles she had too fondly listened and adhered;—yet though it took her more than half an hour always to adorn herself, for it was now but very seldom that she could get any one to assist her, yet she could not forbear intreating the baronet to stay a little longer: but soon the thundering peal at the knocker of Mrs. Davenport’s door convinced the lovers it was time to separate; and put Sir Charles at his wit’s end to frame an excuse for being caught there in his morning dishabille at so late an hour: he, however, endeavoured to dart to the drawing-room, but not time enough to prevent his meeting Mrs. Davenport, as he descended the last stair which led from Miss Marsham’s apartment.
"Pray, Sir Charles," said Mrs. Davenport, while her face flushed with passion, "what am I to understand by this? Have you an intrigue with my chambermaid, or any one else, upstairs? for as to Miss Marsham, you have often told me she was too ugly for any man to think about her, so I suppose it is not that lady you have just been visiting."
Sir Charles stood before the lady, whom he had often declared the sole divinity to whom he paid adoration, in deep confusion: the edge of his beaver was applied to his lips, and helped to shade a part of his face, the natural yellow tinge of which was suffused by a kind of orange-coloured red, which imparted that shame to the speaking eyes he possessed from nature, that Mrs. Davenport was now convinced, as she, with the quickness of thought and recollection, revolved over with rapidity several concurring circumstances, which served to prove to her that Sir Charles had a nymph in her house which was much dearer to him than herself, whom he had frequently styled his matchless Calypso. She, therefore, rang the bell with violence, and ordered a servant to let Miss Marsham be informed that she wanted her instantly in the drawing-room, and that she must descend, dressed or undressed.
"I must beg then to take my leave," said the wily baronet, "as the lady may perchance be the latter; oh! thou medicean goddess, if it was thee in such a guise, I would stay with all the temerity love inspires, though all the artillery of earth and heaven were pointed against me."
"Hold! hold! Sir Charles," said Mrs. Davenport, with a scornful sneer, "explain this morning visit to my satisfaction, and then——" "Why," interrupted Sir Charles, "I called to ask Davenport how he did; the girl was in the parlour, and—" "What girl?" said Mrs. Davenport. "Why—why, Miss Marsham," stammered out the baronet; "and she teazed me to go and look at her tasteful dressing-room, as I had once promised her: it was late, to be sure, when I came—but I do not think I have spoken five words to her; I was reading the Morning Post almost all the time. What do you think of the brutes* at Covent-Garden Theatre opposing Jack Kemble and the divine Catalani?"
"That is nothing to the purpose, Sir Charles," said Mrs. Davenport; and immediately poor Margaret entered, with her hair just combed out, and a dressing-jacket on: she would fain have retreated at sight of Sir Charles, but Mrs. Davenport immediately stopped her, and said, "Why you were not in the parlour, I think, when Sir Charles came, were you?" "No, madam." "Very well," said Mrs. Davenport, darting an angry look at Sir Charles, between whom and Margaret she had so placed herself as to prevent any intelligent looks. "Go, Margaritta, and fetch me the Morning Post out of your room." "Madam, if you recollect, you took it out with you on account of an advertisement about some laces that were to be sold." "Oh! yes, here it is," said Mrs. Davenport, taking it from her ridicule; "and now, sir, you may read about the brutes at Covent-Garden, while I and this young lady go to dress ourselves, as we dine to-day before six: Margaritta, take care of this gentleman, he has more art than you, my poor girl."
Mrs. Davenport had no idea that the baronet and Margaret were carrying on their intrigue under her roof, or that she had been so long the object of his intended seduction; but yet she saw she had every reason, with all her superior beauty and peculiar loveliness, to be jealous of a girl whose person would never have been noticed in her presence, unless to make comparisons very much to the disadvantage of Margaret: yet Mrs. Davenport had penetration enough to see, and knowledge of the fashionable world enough to know that variety, in almost any form, is pleasing to the depraved libertine; and that the uncontaminated youth of Margaret, and the simplicity of her character might render her a formidable rival: she would not, however, even to her highly-favoured Minette, impart her ideas that such an object as Miss Marsham could inspire her with jealousy; but she was resolved to watch all her movements herself, and put some scheme in execution to get rid of such an inmate, whom she now heartily repented having taken under her protection.
About ten the Leslies arrived: Mr. Leslie thought Margaret much improved in her person, and expatiated upon the change in many fashionable compliments. Mr. Davenport just looked off his cards with that kind of expression in his countenance which seemed to say, Good Heavens! what must she have been then? while Lady Caroline, when at supper, happening to sit near her, and having been uncommonly in luck at the card-table, was in high good humour, and addressed her with, "Why, Miss Marsham, you really look divinely! I am sure, Theodore," added she, turning towards her husband, "Miss Marsham’s late lover, Sir Charles Sefton, must now be completely captivated: I never saw such an alteration in my life for the better in any young person."
The agitation of Mrs. Davenport, at discovering that Sir Charles had so long been an admirer of Margaret’s, almost caused that lady an hysteric fit, had she not flattered herself that she perceived in her Ladyship’s manner a great deal of the fashionable hoax.
"Pray, my Lady," said Margaret, smiling (for she did not now dread to smile when she spoke, having had her broken teeth replaced by a skilful dentist, at the earnest entreaties of Sir Charles), "permit me to ask you if you have heard lately from your charming sister, Lady Isabella Raymond?" "Oh! we very seldom hear from her," replied her ladyship, "but we often hear of her: Isabel had always an independent spirit; and wherever she goes, and whatever she does, she will always be a pattern of fashionable notoriety: your brother-in-law, Harrington, is now her favoured swain." "Indeed!" said Margaret. "Aye," said the rector, "Isabel must take care of herself; for if she is guilty of any indiscretion, all the world will be acquainted with it, from her known celebrity." "I dare answer for my sister," said Lady Caroline, "for I am sure she would never live with loss of reputation."
"Why, no," said Mr. Leslie, "she holds it as a constant maxim, that our life is always at our own disposal; and Isabella does not damp the joy of the present hour by any idle notions concerning futurity; which, by the bye, we none of us know any thing about. Come, Davenport, pledge me in a bumper of Madeira, to the delights of our present existence." "Encore! Bravo!" said Davenport, tossing off two bumpers, one after the other. Lady Caroline laughed, and joined in the gay unthinking toast, saying, "Come, ladies, follow my example." Mrs. Davenport forced a smile; for even Mrs. Davenport, with all her fashionable folly, with all the coldness of her moral character, knew how dearly to estimate the principles of the pious curate, Marsham, before those of his dissipated rector.
"I know," said Lady Caroline, with an arch look, "Miss Marsham will not drink this toast, for she looks forward to the happy future moments, not of heavenly bliss, but the earthly joy of being Lady Sefton!" Oh! no, indeed," said Margaret, again smiling; for though she would have liked the title, Sir Charles had succeeded in making her dislike the married state; and reflecting on her brother-in-law being now the declared admirer of another lady than his wife, and contrasting with such a wedded state her own present happiness, she cheerfully joined in the toast.
"Well, I never did see any one so wonderfully improved," said Lady Caroline, looking quizzically at Margaret’s mouth; but Mrs. Davenport, who had also many of her toilette-mysteries, which she wished to conceal, said, "Dear Lady Caroline, I see nothing extraordinary, that so very young a girl as Miss Marsham should improve in her outward appearance; think of the advantages she derives from seeing nothing but fashionable life; and the care that is taken of her person, which is never thought of in the country."
Lady Caroline, who owed very little of her beauty to the auxiliaries of art, replied, as she glanced her meaning eyes at the fine red and white of Mrs. Davenport’s complexion; "Undoubtedly you are in the right; numerous are the aids in London to set off the person; which, though they may have found their way into the country amongst a few who are past the bloom of life, are scarcely ever practised there by young ladies, till the town air, and continual dissipation, render it indispensable!"
The wit of the ladies began now to border on satiric invective: the gentlemen had taken wine sufficient to be captious, but not enough to be pleased with any thing and every thing. Lady Caroline’s servants, and those of other gay visitants, were called;—amongst this partie en famille, were Mrs. Benworth and her daughter; the latter, who had not spoken three words the whole evening, made herself amends for her silence as she went home, expatiating on the false teeth of Miss Marsham, and how easily they might be known from those that were natural. The varnished face of Mrs. Davenport, and her pencilled eye-brows; with the pains she took to shew her real fine teeth, and the dimple in her cheek, which Mrs. Davenport was continually flattered about, and which she herself thought so bewitching, but which she, Miss Benworth, looked upon as a vile defect: Lady Caroline Leslie was certainly pretty, if she was not so pale; she wondered she did not use a little rouge, as it would certainly set off her eyes, which, though fine, looked rather languid and hollow. These and other similar remarks amused the mother and daughter in their short ride to Berkeley Square, from the morning hour of three (the time they left Mr. Davenport’s house), till a few minutes after, when they arrived at their own mansion.
Be wisely cautious of your sliding hearts;
Dare not th’ infectious sigh, the silent look,
Down-cast and low, in meek submission dress’d,
But full of guile: let not the fervent tongue,
Prompt to deceive, with adulation smooth,
Gain on your purpos’d will: nor in the bow’r,
Where woodbines flaunt and roses spread a couch,
When evening draws her crimson’d curtains round,
Trust your soft minutes with betraying man.
THE study of politics affording so little comfort to the mind of Mr. Marsham; and being no ways interested in the opposition of the public against the raised prices at the new theatre of Covent-Garden, with which accounts the papers were filled, although he certainly rejoiced at the systematic loyalty of the populace, as much as he detested the factious mob which succeeded after the sitting of the committee: he left his daughter one morning wholly occupied with her worthy uncle, who was attending to the progress of her improvements, and repaired to the library: he there, turning over some of the books, without settling to the study of any one in particular, found a collection of valuable notes in manuscript, by the late Miss Seward, which Mr. Harrington had purchased at a great price at the sale of that celebrated lady’s effects after her decease: the hand-writing was somewhat similar, and brought to his recollection that of the packet his nephew had given him the last time he called at the farm; for Mr. Matthew Marsham had taken a journey into Suffolk soon after, and had not yet returned.
Edward had laid the paper in his bureau, and had forgotten it till the present moment; he therefore closed the volume in his hand, and retiring to his chamber, he opened the packet and read as follows:
"To my beloved child Matthew Mar-
sham, to be perused by him when he
shall have attained his four-and-twen-
"As the hand of sickness is now extended over my shattered frame, and unavailing and bitter regret for past errors lacerates my bleeding heart, and threatens my prime of life, with rapid and premature decay, I look forward in imagination to those years which you, an healthy promising child, will doubtless, with the blessing and protection of the Almighty, attain unto. When you open this paper, my beloved son, you will have attained your twenty-fourth year; and when you arrive at that period, your unfortunate mother will have long descended to the "narrow house" appointed to us all. But that period was to me the happiest I knew, since the fault that plunged me into sorrow, my family into disgrace, yet made me the happy mother of a child, who, though so very young in years, seems rich in sense and every moral virtue.
"At this area of my life, after seven years unremitting and implacable anger from my sole surviving parent—a father! I received, with a summons to my long-forbidden home, his last blessing and forgiveness; till then, after my fatal crime, committed at the inexperienced and thoughtless age of seventeen, his doors had been shut against me, and all the ardent pleadings of a tried and valued friend were in vain. Oh! my son, had it not been for that friend, thy mother would have never lived to have brought thee forth! Sacred, pure, and heaven-descended affection, female friendship! why art thou so seldom found? Yet this celestial plant, though scarce, always, when of genuine growth, flourishes fairest amidst the chilling storms of adversity; then bright it blooms, and twines its finest tendrils with healing succour around the suffering and bursting heart!
"Such to me, when expelled a parent’s roof, and compelled to buffet against all the horrors of indigence (for I had solemnly vowed never to behold your father more), was Ellen Bradbury. How often has her fine form knelt before my unrelenting father, how often has she clung to him, kissed his feet and bedewed them with her tears; and been as often spurned from him! Oh! my son, the retrospect of these sorrowful moments, when the generous Ellen would share with me her last guinea, are too painful to my recollection—I am becoming incoherent—I must endeavour to preserve some method in this, the last epistle I shall most probably write to you; which will inform you of some events you are yet ignorant of; and which, as a fond mother’s bequest and dying intreaty, will be of infinite importance to you.
"When I was about the age of seventeen, I was complimented, in the village where I resided, for possessing much beauty; and my father being a wealthy farmer, and I his only child, it was rumoured that my fortune would be large: this latter consideration, more than the former, gained me many suitors in a county remarkable for its expence, and where fortune is always sought for, as an appendage to personal qualifications, however bountiful THEY may have been bestowed on the owner. At this time, a gentleman arrived from London, who had recently lost his father; and a valuable farm being attached to his patrimony, he came down to my father, through the recommendation of a friend, to receive from him some instructions in the farming business, of which he was totally ignorant.
"There was nothing ever so repugnant to my frank disposition as any kind of artifice; and there was a blunt honesty about this young man, united with the character of the true gentleman, which highly pleased me: never did I behold so much candour in a human countenance before; and indeed his whole person might then be said to be very handsome.
"The man of education, the innate well-born gentleman, as much surpasses the rich country farmer which we farmers’ daughters are in the habit of seeing, as a finished courtier about St. James’s does an inhabitant of Smithfield or Whitechapel: I, who had received a boarding-school education in Queen-Square, and passed the vacations with a rich relation in London, could but too easily, with many a degree of comparison, see the difference between Mr. Marsham, my father’s pupil, and the young men who in general visited at our house. "Our souls soon looked out" from "their windows, the eyes," and greeted each other:—alas! too soon, for my peace of mind, they found they were congenial. Oh! let me not dwell on these scenes, which, though then delightful to my thoughtless mind, now fill my bosom with shame and remorse! Suffice it to say, one fatal evening, lost in the enthusiasm of love, your mother, with her honour, forfeited for ever all her self-esteem.
"Marsham had the highest ideas of female delicacy and chastity; I too plainly saw, that though he had not ceased to love me with ardent fondness, yet he no longer respected me—how should he? I despised myself.
"He prepared to depart; and I really think he could not support the idea of calling that woman his wife, who had not possessed sufficient command over herself to repel his persuasions: he appeared to labour to express himself; a weight seemed pressing on his heart, from which I, with a bosom torn by anguish, relieved him: "We have given way, Marsham," said I to him, "to the indulgence of our mutual passion, and I well know that I am despicable in your eyes; so hateful am I in my own, that I should now blush to hail you by the title of husband—we part, never to meet again!"—"No, no, my beloved girl!" said he, tenderly embracing me; "I know it is true that your father has higher views for you, for he has made me his confident; but I am willing instantly to carry you off and marry you privately, if you will risk the possibility of his forgiveness when the deed is done." There was a coldness in this constrained offer I could not bear, and I said, "No, Mr. Marsham, as I never will carry deceit to the arms of any other man, so my true affection for you shall never give indiscretion and female instability to yours—we part—for ever!—I am fixed—"—"Oh! as to that," said your father, and as I then fancied, with a kind of contempt, "what has passed between us, my dear Jane, need never be known; and the gentleman your father has chosen for you is very wealthy, young, and by no means disagreeable; I think the best you can do is to comply with his wishes, and let us endeavour to forget each other."—Oh! man! man!—Ah! my son, retrieve the honour of thy sex! be not like thy father in that one instance; and while thou art cautious of betraying, never desert the innocence that may chance to trust in thee!
"What became of your father at that moment I knew not, I saw no more of him; the severe agonies of my mind caused me a fainting fit; and on my recovery, I found myself lying on my bed, and the village apothecary, the very sight of whom I detested, standing by me: this man was a vulgar, gossiping being, who went tattling from house to house, and made himself welcome at many, by retailing all the scandal he could pick up.
"It seems I had fainted in the parlour, and that Mr. Marsham had ran out, alarmed, to call assistance; I was laid on my bed, restored by volatiles, and, as I kept my room the next day, I saw your father no more, who departed in the evening. In a few weeks I became extremely ill, and though I knew but too well the nature of my complaint, and made myself appear as well as I could, yet my father would insist upon sending for this hateful apothecary; poor Ellen, whom on the discovery of my pregnancy I had made my confidante, was then in the room alone with me. "Ha! ha! Miss Matthews," said he, with a malicious grin, as he felt my pulse, "why Miss— merciful heaven! why you are with—" "Oh! sir," said the almost fainting Ellen, interrupting him before he had finished his sentence, "indeed, sir, you are wrong,"—"Wrong, in what? Miss Bradbury," said he, "why you would not let me finish what I had to declare; but in plain terms, we will leave out the with, your friend, Miss Mathews, is about four months advanced in a state of pregnancy! she best knows by whom." "And here," said I, franticly, as I fell on my knees, "I solemnly vow, in the face of heaven, no one but the father shall ever know by whom." I then whispered Ellen to take the same rash oath; then, with equal agitation, I turned to the doctor, saying, "Oh! sir, spare my reputation; save, oh! save me from the wrath of a parent;" and taking my purse, containing ten guineas and some loose silver, I put it into his ready-opening hand, and said, "Oh! dear sir, accept this trifle from a grateful heart, and I will do much more for you, you shall not find me ungrateful."—"Oh! no," said Ellen, "spare but my friend, be secret, and here, dear doctor." She then gave him her little stock, consisting of about three guineas; and as he took the money, he said, "Do you think I would not perform a good-natured action without fee or reward? however, I will accept these proofs of your generosity, and be only your banker; you may want this, if your father is unrelenting."
"Surely, thought I, I have been mistaken in this man; he promises to be my friend, should my transgression reach the ears of my parent. I kissed his hands, I blessed the wretch who was meditating my instant ruin; for the first thing he did, after he had quitted me, was to hasten to my father and inform him of the situation I was in; who no sooner heard it, than, without mercy, without listening for one instant to my cries and intreaties, turned me immediately out of doors, without money, or any other clothes than those I at that wretched minute wore.
"The Misses Bradbury were without father or mother; but Ellen was under the charge of a sister near eighteen years older than herself: she was still a very beautiful woman, and possessed much liberality of mind and sentiment; but, to guard her pretty young sister, she affected more rigidity of manners than were natural to her real disposition, which I have been since told was always uncommonly gay and lively; but she was, at that time, yet of an age not to escape censure, with her very fine person, had she not been uncommonly prudent and rather reserved.
"Ellen was afraid to say much to her on my account, as she happened then not to be greatly in her sister’s good graces, having formed an attachment which Miss Bradbury thought very imprudent in a girl who had very little fortune of her own.
"This predilection of Ellen’s was very strong towards a young clergyman of the name of Ringwood; who had nothing but a small curacy for his support: the ardent love however that he felt for the lovely Ellen, obscured his reason; and, without reflecting on the indigence to which he might reduce the object of his affections, he was continually urging her to a private marriage: to this Ellen would by no means consent, fearful of giving offence to her amiable sister, whom she tenderly loved.
"This sweet pattern of friendship, my dear Ellen, whose small fortune was in the hands of her sister till she should come of age (and Miss Bradbury had been left a very handsome independency by her god-mother), affected to stand in want of some trifles for the approaching winter, and borrowed five guineas of her guardian sister; these she presented me; and I took an humble lodging, anxiously awaiting the time of my delivery, while she continually essayed, but all in vain, to melt the obdurate heart of my father in my favour. My generous friend suffered me not to want the common necessaries of life; but this was all she could do for me; alas! I had been used to its luxuries.
"In the mean time I found it impossible to subsist, and pay my rent with the little succour my poor friend could afford me; and my inhuman landlady, observing the state of my finances, told me her character was dear to her, and she could have no young lady’s bastards brought forth, indeed, in her house! while various conjectures sprang up in the village about the father of my child, whom I was resolved to conceal, and that from the tenderest concern for his safety: not that my father was a violent man, or one likely to resort to sword or pistol, as means of vengeance: he was also very infirm; but he might have recourse to law: he might even compel my seducer, as he would call him, to marry me: horrid thought! that Marsham, whose love of me and my refined way of thinking, wishing to be only free and spontaneous, and that his mind and heart should be mine, and mine alone, should be compelled to do me justice, by marrying me! I should have been even sorry that my forlorn and abandoned state had caused him, from kind compassion, to have become my husband; for,
"Could it bring me peace, or heal my shame,
"That pity gave, what love refus’d to share?"
"However, this vow of Ellen’s and mine caused Miss Bradbury to set her face against me; for it was confidently reported that the father of my child was one of the lowest labourers about my father’s farm; he was uncommonly handsome for such a sort of man, but he was vulgarity itself: I had often remarked to several people how handsome he was, and particularly to Miss Bradbury: and one night, as we were unseen spectators of an harvest supper amongst the labourers, this unfortunate man was called upon to drink the health of the prettiest girl in the village that he knew: he immediately swore a great oath, that there was not such a pretty girl in the whole world as his young mistress, and added, with all the coarseness natural to such a being, "Ecod! I know she’s as dainty a lass as ever a man would wish to kiss." The apothecary and his wife, with Miss Bradbury, stood next me, where we were peeping at the jovial crew. "There’s a conquest, Miss Matthews," said they; and I, like a silly girl, blushed and motioned immediately to withdraw; but it was more from the enraptured and love-darting eyes of your father, who stood on the other side of me, than from the admiration of the clown.
"The apothecary, however, during my pregnancy, threw out his inuendos that there was little doubt about the father; especially, by my determining to conceal him. "No doubt," Miss Bradbury said, "but I was ashamed of such a vulgar amour; she did not think my taste could have been so grovelling; and though she was very willing to grant every indulgence and forgiveness to those who went astray, yet she could not endure a woman, who had shewn herself so sensual, and made the first advances; which must have been the case indeed in the present instance." My father soon took care to get the poor fellow pressed and sent to sea; without daring to risk the knowledge of so fatal a truth, by asking the unhappy wretch any questions.
"How much ought my sex to take warning from an error like mine! they may assure themselves that the calumny which attacks an imprudent female increases her fault to tenfold its imagined enormity, by the malevolence of that sting which her own guilty conduct has provoked and barbed against her.
"Poor Ellen, as a last resource, flew to the apothecary. "You said," urged she, sobbing, "you said you would only consider yourself as our banker, or rather, as the banker of Miss Matthews;—the ten guineas, or half of them, will now be of infinite service to her,—she perishes!—her time draws nigh, and what will become of her? I have had so much money of my sister lately, that she reproves me for my extravagance, and I dare not ask her for more."
"Me her banker?" said the cruel wretch, "to such a shameless, abandoned, young woman, who has seduced a poor ignorant fellow, and has now been the cause of banishing him from his country."—"Oh! indeed," said my faithful Ellen, "he is not the father of that child which my dearest friend expects every day to usher into this world of sorrow and misery. Do not deny her a part of what she so generously gave you."—"I’ll tell you what, Miss Ellen," said he, "if you are sure that Tom Smith is not the father of that child, you surely know who is; and as perhaps the discovery might do something in reconciling her father to her, tell me who it is, or go out of my house this instant." "Sir," said she, "I will obey you, and leave you to the bitter reproaches of your own sordid mind: I do not know who is the father; but I know my friend so well, that I am convinced she never would submit to the embraces of a low, untaught and vulgar man, one from the very dregs of society." He gave an impudent laugh in her face, and made use of terms that would only sully my pen to transcribe. She returned to me, with a countenance on which sat despair, without the smallest illumination of hope. "My dear Jane," said she, "suffer me to tell your father this dreadful secret."—"Oh! never," replied I, "both my vow and yours are registered in heaven; never, never must we break it. No, Marsham, no; thou hast abandoned me to want, shame, and infamy: of all this thou art ignorant; and never will I endanger thee, or impair thy moderate fortune." "Suffer me," said the charming girl, "to write to him, and inform him of your situation." I told her, that if she attempted such a thing, she must forfeit my friendship and esteem for ever: at the same time, I assured her, that when the time arrived that I could with certainty inform him he was the father of a living child, I would write to him myself and let him know the event.
"What now shocked me most of all was, that the character of my Ellen began to suffer, from her known and constant attachment to my worthless self: even her Ringwood began to treat her with some degree of coldness, and requested her one day to break off her connection with me; she answered him to the following purpose.
"My dear Ringwood, you have frequently asked me to wed you privately; I have as often protested against it; you have told me that you had friends in the commons, willing and able to grant you a special licence whenever you applied: should I take this rash step, my amiable sister, much more frank-hearted and good-humoured than she outwardly appears, would forgive me, notwithstanding the invalidity of our marriage, from my being not quite of age. Now, Ringwood, I have often refused to grant you your strenuously urged request; I now, perhaps undergoing the mortification of being refused, offer myself to you."
"The enraptured lover knew not how to express his grateful thanks and acquiescence: "But hold," said Ellen, "it is on one condition alone I am yours. My unfortunate friend, Miss Matthews, must become a part of our family; she must share, equally with us, our scanty fortunes, and find an asylum under the roof of our humble cottage, for herself and her babe." Ringwood appeared embarrassed: "You hesitate," added she; "if you refuse, I never will be yours."—"Retract that heart-rendering sentence, my adored Ellen," said he, "I will ever be the friend of your friend; and under our roof she shall find protection, and every comfort in my power to bestow." This generous scheme, however, I never would consent to, as it might perhaps injure the young man in his ecclesiastical promotion; but I acted a deceptive part, and affected to accede to his liberal offers. During the delays always attendant on these stolen weddings, you, my beloved son, made your appearance, in a wretched hovel, where a woman who had formerly worked on our farm, permitted me to lye in: it was there, my child, you first drew your vital existence.
"Had you been of my own sex, it is most probable I should never have given your father any intimation of your birth; but I wished my son to be educated as a gentleman, and to feel the protection of a father. I informed him therefore, that though I wished to have no farther claim upon him myself, yet now a dearer claim called upon him and his parental feelings. I forbore to say any thing of my indigent state; only told him, as my father would never see the child or me, whom he could not forgive, I requested him as a father, and as a man, to attend to his education, and let his boy be placed in some situation which might not be a discredit either to his parents or himself. He sent me a handsome remittance; requesting, as I was so young a mother, you might be put out to nurse: I complied with his request, and repaired to my dear friend, Mrs. Ringwood, who, with her worthy husband, often accompanied me in my frequent visits to you.
"At the age of five years old your father placed you at a boarding-school, not many miles from where I resided; whither he frequently went down to see you, and, as I was informed, absolutely doted on you. I was cautious of meeting with this destroyer of my peace, and frequently intreated of my beloved Mrs. Ringwood to feign that I was actually dead: she always replied, "Wait till your son may be sent farther from you; for I have been informed that Mr. Marsham, when he is arrived at a proper age, means to send him to a public school, or place him as an apprentice to an eminent surgeon, a genteel profession, and for which he himself had been destined by his late father."
"Ah! my son, when you had entered your eighth year, your father sent you to a respectable academy near London, and for some years I saw you no more! Eventful epocha of my life! your grandfather then lay on the bed of death; he sent for me, embraced me, and gave me entire forgiveness.
"On opening his will, I found myself the sole heiress to his immense wealth, with a fortune in the hands of an eminent banker amounting to twenty thousand pounds; but thus restricted, that by no means should I leave you one shilling of it, until you attained your twenty-fourth year: that day, that I obtained my parents’ forgiveness, was my birth-day: I just became that age; the lawyer sat by his bedside, penning the will; and he said to me, in a low voice, "Miss Matthews, it is well known, that illegitimate children have no right to any name but that of their mother: your father is not well pleased, that though you have had the modesty not to call your son by your own name, yet that you should think of giving him one of a long-valued friend: cannot you change it, and adopt some other?" My heart rose to my lips, I was about to break my vow, and tell them of your father; but then, joy at the assurance that my parent had no suspicion of my Marsham; terror, lest violent anger on the discovery might not only injure him on his bed of death, but also him I could never cease to love, and his still more dearly beloved offspring, made me check myself; and as your father had desired you might bear his name, I said, "Sir, the name pleased me: old Mr. Marsham was my godfather; I esteem the character of his family though unknown to me, and I do them no injury by adopting a name which is common in England; nor can I think of changing it, as my son has been known by it for seven years." He said no more, but continued his writing.
"In this will, I found I was strictly forbade to marry your father, whoever he might be: this filled my eyes with tears of anguish and indignation, because it convinced me that my father had died in full belief that you was the child of Thomas Smith. Beware, my son, oh! beware of making rash vows; they argue a temerity in us wretched children of the dust, which mars the plan of our creation; poor, helpless, dependent beings in that great scale; unable of ourselves, to say what shall be the event of the next moment.
"Without hesitation, I gave the house, the farm, and all its lands, to my dear respected friends, the Ringwoods; with liberty, at their deaths, to bequeathe them to whomsoever they might please to make their heirs. I only requested in return, that Ellen would write to your father, that I was no more; and you was told the same, until I should be able to entrust you with the secret.
"The health of my dear Mrs. Ringwood had been sadly declining since the birth of her little girl: she is four years younger than yourself; from an infant, she promised to be a pattern of female loveliness, and was the perfect resemblance of her angelic mother.
"I was informed your father bore the news of my death not without being tenderly affected for me, but with that resignation and philosophy which shewed his love towards me had never equalled mine for him: no, it was rather the fugitive impression made on a man possessing all the ardour of youth, by a young creature in her first bloom, and whose person had the universal reputation of being beautiful.
"But how delightfully was I compensated, in hearing the deep affliction which my supposed death gave to your yet infantine mind!
"At the time you was about nine years old, I lost my inestimable Ellen; and her husband, whose love for her increased, as each day passed over their heads, expired in less than a twelvemonth after, leaving their only daughter solely dependent on Miss Bradbury, to whom they bequeathed all that I had given them. Miss Bradbury adopted the Mrs. to her maiden name, and with her niece removed into Essex. I had at this time retired into Devonshire, where I passed, under a feigned name, for a widow; and no one but my banker, in whose hands I placed my fortune, knew that Jane Matthews was yet living: you recollect this worthy man accompanying me, when with sweet filial fondness you witnessed, with overflowing joy, my resuscitation; you was then an apprentice, at the age of fourteen.
"Finding my health gradually decaying, and the approach of death sensibly near, I made my will; I learned, with much satisfaction, your father’s intention of providing for you by a genteel profession, knowing well that I could leave you independent of it.
"As you will, no doubt, receive also some other advantages from a father, who evinces much affection for you, I have bequeathed, in my will, ten thousand pounds of the twenty yet in my banker’s hands, to Lucy Ringwood, the daughter of the first among female friends, and a worthy divine, Ellen and Percival Ringwood; all this you will find explained and enlarged upon in my last will and testament, now in the hands of Mr. Molesworth, attorney at law, residing in the village of Freelingham, where you was born, in the parish of St. John’s, county of Suffolk. I am told that Lucy Ringwood promises to possess all that fascination so pleasing to your sex in ours, and which peculiarized her lovely mother. Let me warn you, my beloved Matthew, against the easy lapse of the heart, in the season of youth: reflect, that you never can espouse Lucy Ringwood, after my bequest to her, without an appearance of that sordid interest which would desire to obtain the whole of your mother’s property: I look upon you both as my children; love her like a kind brother no more. I have equally divided my fortune between ye; but it must be separately, or it is no longer gratitude on my part towards her valued mother, who succoured me when I had not a shilling. Oh! no, if Lucy Ringwood and you were united in marriage, it would be only a desire for it to descend to my children’s children. Beware! ah! beware of her attractions; shew yourself uninterested, in every respect, when you present her, from me, with an independent fortune.
"An humble green turf will cover the remains of your mother, on the left hand; and close to the stately monument she erected over your grandfather: kneeling on that rustic grave, there breathe a promise (and your mother’s spirit will rest in peace,) that no admiration of Lucy Ringwood’s person may tempt you to express a wish, that she should bestow herself (for with herself her fortune must be bestowed) on you. Yet, ah! take warning by your unhappy mother, and make no solemn vow! promise only to obey her to the utmost of your power: all vows are rash; for when made, they must be strictly kept; for oh! what sin can exceed that of perjury. "We know not what to-morrow may bring forth;" nor what is hidden in the secret abysses of time: from my religious observance of a solemn vow, I have suffered ignominy, shame and reproach! Blessed be the ALMIGHTY for the paternal instinct he implants in our bosoms; and that your father, in spite of all the calumny that assailed me, knew it was his own child which he clasped to his fond heart! The sweetest satisfaction I ever knew, since my days of sorrow, was in once hearing that your father declared, that "in many instances, he never knew a mind so great as mine; that I might once err; but that my soul was too naturally virtuous, ever to repeat my error." I hope he was not deceived in me; but oh! when he thought me thus excellent, why not joyfully pass his life in honourable marriage with such a woman?
"Yet this, his last expression concerning me which ever reached my ears, gives comfort to the last hours of my life, and I die most happy! Visit then the grave of your mother, and think of her last request! She releases you from the promise, but think, oh think! of her dying wishes; oh! my son, they centre all in thy happiness and honour. May thy fair tree of manhood be rich in those fruits of integrity, humanity and goodness, for which the blossoms of thy youth bid so fair! Beware of deception, beware the influence of the passions: marry the object of your fond choice, and lead a life of respected honour; but be ever cautious of carrying misery and regret into a family, by the indulgence of inclination, or the too easy yieldings of female youth and inexperience: be assured, in the circles of life in which I have moved, and in those which you will most probably fill, man is the first aggressor, and on that superior sex much depends the morality of every class of life.
"The hand that writes this will have perished in the silent grave long before you attain the period of discretion, marked out by my father, to put you in possession of your inheritance: lay the last words of your earthly parent to your heart, and be assured that by practising virtue, and doing to every one as you would wish them to act towards you, you will ensure the favour of your HEAVENLY FATHER.
(At the bottom was recently written, in Matthew Marsham’s own hand-writing; "My dear Mother departed this life March 23d, in the third year of my apprenticeship.")
Eh! le voeu le plus libre et le plus volontaire,
Devant Dieu qui prevoit tout, peut sembler témeraire.
————————————Hence venal love!
Love, that is slave to gold, is such a monster,
So senseless quite, and so abominable,
As the earth breeds not, or the ocean holds
In his dark caverns.————————
AMINTA OF TASSO.
SCARCELY had Edward finished perusing the affecting tale of sorrow which had been penned during a last, lingering illness, by the once beautiful Miss Matthews, when a note was brought him from his nephew, informing him he was just arrived from Suffolk, and requesting to see him at the farm.
He had again resumed his deep mourning habit, which before had become more slight, since the months that had elapsed after his father’s decease; and on his face sat a settled grief, which did not agree with that of the possessor of a handsome independent fortune: but how little happiness that capricious goddess can bestow, even when she pours her wealth in abundance into the lap of mortals, the lacerated mind and anguished heart, sighing under the garb of gorgeous pomp, can too well evince.
Edward was grieved to see this change in so young a man; and in one whose hilarity and correctly tempered, equal cheerfulness, and flow of spirits, added to all that amiability he, in every degree, so eminently possessed.
Unable to restrain the big tear from starting into his manly eyes, he grasped the hand of Mr. Marsham, and giving him a sealed parchment, he said, "This I found sealed, and inclosed in my mother’s will, addressed to Mrs. Susanna Bradbury; be pleased yourself to deliver it into her hands, and also this letter to Miss Ringwood, whom I am resolved, let the sacrifice cost me whatever it may, never to behold again."
Edward, revolving over many circumstances in his mind, and seeing in an instant that, by some means hitherto unknown, an attachment between these young people had existed prior to the mandate of the dying Miss Matthews; with a pallid countenance and a tremulous voice, he said, "My dear Matthew, I hope you have bound yourself by no rash vow as you knelt on the grave of your mother?" "No," replied he, "that was one of her last requests; but ought not the other wish of such a mother to be as sacredly fulfilled as if I had taken the most solemn and binding oath? to me, her wish is as obligatory."
He then without farther comment informed his Uncle of his attachment to Miss Ringwood, and which we, for brevity’s sake, will give the reader in simple narration.
When Matthew Marsham returned from the West Indies, he became a temporary resident in London, and at the house of a gentleman and lady, with whom he had been very intimate, before he visited the Occidental Islands, he met with Lucy Ringwood, who was there on a visit for several weeks. He was desired to consider this house as his home during his stay in the metropolis; and thus two amiable young people became inmates under the same roof.
That wonder of literature, which Litchfield had the honour of producing, has asserted, and with much truth, that it is next to an impossibility for two people of a different sex, particularly if in the season of youth, to reside for any time together without experiencing for each other a tender sentiment. Can it then be wondered at, if two young people, so eminently gifted with the fascinating powers of pleasing as were Matthew Marsham and Lucy Ringwood, should form that fond attachment which was to mark the colour of their future lives? This, in many a solitary moment, in many a pleasurable excursion, became known to each other: mutual faith was plighted!—from Lucy, totally dependent on a rich aunt, to marry no one else than Matthew Marsham, or for ever wear the willow;—from him, a solemn promise and fixed resolution to ask her in marriage of that aunt, whenever a comfortable and easy independence should put it in his power to offer her, with his hand and heart, a fortune in some degree worthy of her. A private correspondence was agreed upon, and the virtuous and honourable principles of Matthew Marsham elevated him each hour in the esteem of his admired fair-one. Lucy, the very counterpart of her amiable mother, had a soul superior even to her personal attractions, which were captivating in the extreme; each day brought increased affection for her to the breast of Matthew, who loved with all that tender and unbounded, though refined, ardour natural to such a mind as his.
By her appointment he attended as a minstrel at Mr. Leslie’s masquerade, and there it may well be imagined the variety of emotions he underwent; he beheld before him his father, and all his paternal kindred, who knew not at that time they had such a relative as himself in existence; he longed to throw himself at his father’s feet, and receive his paternal blessings and embrace—and various feelings so agitated his heart, that, though fondly returned love was the most predominant, yet he was obliged to hasten sooner than he desired from the festive scene.
Lucy Ringwood, at this time, was assailed by an host of suitors; of some her aunt approved, who much wished to see her well and respectably married, before she herself was gathered to her ancestors: Matthew Marsham, among the rest, might not, perhaps, have applied in vain, had he been wealthier, and not dependent on his profession for support; for Mrs. Susan had been fully convinced by her late sister, though yet ignorant whose child he was, that he was not the son of the man who was generally suspected; for Ellen had at length, told her that she knew, but was under a solemn oath not to divulge it; at the same time, she could take another equally solemn, that he was not the son of Thomas Smith: as to the name of Marsham, that had never struck Mrs. Susan, as the only time she ever saw Ralph was at the harvest-supper, and the Miss Bradburys shortly after took a journey to London, where they stayed till after Mr. Marsham had quitted the house of Mr. Matthews; and in fact, if she had heard his name, she had entirely forgotten it.
Lucy, the cherished, and almost spoiled child of her kind aunt, affected now an etourderie and caprice, by no means natural to her excellent character; which made her lovers fall off, one after the other, to the astonishment of every one, and to the branding of her own conduct, as giddy, trifling, and inconsistent.
When Matthew came to take possession of his inheritance, how surprised was his Lucy, and how overjoyed to find that he stood in something of a relationship to the dearest friend of her heart, Mrs. Harrington.
Mrs. Susanna Bradbury, when Edward, who had no secrets from her, imparted to her the clause in his late brother’s will, took no notice of having known him before. Ellen had rather offended the jealousy of sisterly affection, in hazarding her resentment, and giving up every thing to the enthusiastic dictates of the female friendship of early youth: she, therefore, always desirous of feeling that gay and cheerful disposition so natural to her, and which she could now evince without censure, sedulously drove from her remembrance every thing likely to give her pain; and never suffered her tongue to utter the sorrows of days gone by, nor her mind to dwell on the retrospect of aught that had given a cloud to the natural bright cheerfulness of her benevolent mind: and as she was much altered in person, and had not seen Matthew since he was quite a child, they met as perfect strangers to each other.
Edward Marsham acquitted himself now of the unpleasant office his nephew had assigned him: he found Mrs. Susanna and her lovely niece seated at work, in their little summer parlour: the first words from Mrs. Susan, after the usual salutations were over, were, "Pray, is Mr. Matthew Marsham yet returned?" while a deep blush crimsoned the cheeks of Lucy, and the sparkle of love added new lustre to her intelligent eye; when the Curate replied in the affirmative.
But how soon is the cup of bliss dashed from the lip of mortality, as it hastens to sip its palatable ingredients! Edward said, "My visit to you, ladies, this morning, is on his account." And unable, from his own emotions to say more, with an air of solemnity, delivered the letter to Lucy, and the parchment to her aunt.
Mrs. Susan put on her spectacles and prepared to break the seals; she thought nothing particular—the Curate was not a man of many words; but a smile generally lighted up his countenance when he was addressing the young and innocent, and the agitation which the freezing gravity of his present demeanour imparted to the mind of Lucy, made her move to withdraw. "Read it here, my good girl," said Edward, in a tender and compassionate accent, which made Lucy tremble as she broke the sombre seal; it represented Cupid weeping over two hearts, divided by a bar, and encircled by a motto—"Divided by duty." But when her eye glanced over the few lines wherein her Matthew took a last, though a tender and affectionate farewell, it was too much for her nature to support; she gave a faint shriek, and fell senseless on the floor.
Mrs. Susan, all terror and dismay, summoned the servants, and with the assistance of volatiles, they soon brought the unhappy girl to an awakened sense of her wretched situation. Mrs. Susan, to rally her spirits, affected a gaiety she then by no means felt: "Here’s a pretty business indeed," said she; "why you do not know the good fortune I have got here for you in this little bit of parchment: many a poor girl would almost lose her senses with joy; but I hope you will recover your spirits, when I tell you that you are here bequeathed an independent fortune of ten thousand pounds!"—"Oh! rather," replied Lucy, not knowing what she said, "rather give me poverty with him, the most generous of men: he finds me rich, and he thinks himself unworthy of me!"
"What does all this mean?" said Mrs. Susan, taking up the letter which her niece had dropped; and as she read it, a little displeasure appeared seated on her placid brow; not that she disapproved the worthy object on whom her beloved Lucy had placed her affections; but the term, "our long attachment," in the letter, proved that a clandestine correspondence had been carried on, by a niece who was indulged in all her wishes, always encouraged to place unlimited confidence in her kind aunt, and whom that aunt had imagined artlessness itself.
Taking off her spectacles, she said, with much gravity, "However, Miss Ringwood, a clause in this codicil will shew you that an union with Mr. Matthew Marsham is forbidden you; and, of course, whatever affliction it may give you, will be impracticable." She then read as follows, after resuming her optical glasses.
"I wrote my restricting and ardent wishes to my son, Matthew Marsham, that honour and generosity might never make him aspire to an union with Lucy Ringwood: as we cannot foresee future events, I think it best thus to prevent a marriage which I wish, on account of the above-mentioned noble principles, never to take place. To prevent, therefore, the whole of the sum of twenty thousand pounds sterling ever coming again into the hands of my son, the said Matthew Marsham, this bequest of ten thousand pounds, being the half of all the fortune I leave in ready money, devolves only to Lucy Ringwood on condition that she never marries the said Matthew Marsham, my son. If such an unlooked-for union ever should take place, the ten thousand pounds devolves to her aunt, Susanna Bradbury, and at her death to go to John Besborough, banker, in ——"
The tears of Lucy Ringwood now streamed afresh: Mr. Marsham had yet the packet of papers in his pocket, which he had forgotten to deliver to his nephew; but now, hastily acceding to the painful impulse of his feelings, he presented it to Mrs. Susan, and said, "Dear madam, read over, as soon as you are at leisure, these papers; you will there see the generous and delicate reason of this restriction: I am happy to find it thus expressed in the parchment; Matthew is rich enough, and two amiable young people may yet be happy, without the addition of ten thousand pounds. Farewell, comfort the poor little drooping blossom!" and with parental affection he kissed her cheek as he took his leave, and as he bade her aunt good morning, the good lady’s aspect became more serene, and holding the papers in one hand, as she cordially and gracefully gave the other to Edward, she said, "My much respected and excellent friend, Lucy well knows that I can never long be displeased with her; and if she relates, with that sweet candour so natural to her, and without any prevarication, the commencement and continuance of her first acquaintance with Mr. Matthew Marsham, whom I already feel myself disposed to be partial to, and the whole tenor of these young people’s conduct gives me as much satisfaction as I am almost sure the perusal of these papers will, as recommended by you, I shall readily pardon what I am sorry to say has at present a great appearance of duplicity on her part."
Edward had imparted that morning, to one part of the family, the pleasing tidings of augmented wealth; he now felt the flattering hope that he might also impart happiness and the bright bliss of successful love to the other: alas! for himself, there threatened a fatal cloud to obscure his peace, and now ready to burst over his head as sudden as it was unexpected.
THE RESULT OF INTRIGUE.
——————————He left the nymph,
To think on what was past, and sigh alone.
The nobleness of love has been dishonour’d
And her delicious sweetness, all by thee,
Is turn’d to bitterness.————————
AMINTA OF TASSO
ON the return of the Reverend Mr. Marsham to his daughter’s cottage, he observed a kind of dismay seated on the countenances of the servants: on enquiry, he found Sir Edward Harrington had ordered his horses, and departed for London with all possible speed; promising, however, to return as soon as possible.
"Had he received any special letter?" asked Mr. Marsham, for the post had arrived long before he went out. "No," they replied, "he had been engaged with Mrs. Harrington all the morning, as she practised an Italian air on the Spanish guitar;" and Mrs. Harrington’s footman said, "he had heard Sir Edward remark to his mistress, that he was so sure there was not any news in the papers, he had not read them since their arrival: when he came into the room to see to the fire, Mrs. Harrington was performing her lesson for the third time; and he heard her say, as she looked at her watch, that it was getting so late, she should not have time to dress herself by dinner: after she left the parlour, he saw Sir Edward take up the newspapers, and almost immediately after ordered his horses and departed." In a few minutes after, his servant rode back, requesting the footman of Mrs. Harrington to give him all the newspapers; but he could not find them; and he afterwards found they were taken out of the library, and laid on the breakfast-table, with the directions put on them again, as Mr. Marsham saw them.—"Where is your mistress?" said Edward.—"In her dressing-room, sir," replied the servant, "where she has locked herself in, and desired that no one may interrupt her."
Edward in vain endeavoured to persuade himself that perhaps she had finished her toilette, and might be in earnest application over some of the many accomplishments she had to attend to; but then he felt assured, from the sudden departure of his noble guest, after his perusal of the news, that something fatal had befallen the Harrington family.
He took up the MORNING POST, he hastily skimmed it over, and reverted to his favourite political register, the TIMES; and after he had scanned over the dearth of home news and foreign politics contained at that time, even in this paper, and read the probable changes in the cabinet, in which perhaps he began to imagine Sir Edward Harrington might be personally interested, and have had some reason, on that score, for his sudden departure; when his eye glanced on a paragraph, which he read with real anguish of mind, and which ran nearly in the following words:
"The conduct of Lady I———— R———D has, at length, so increased in notoriety, that after furnishing conversation for every inhabitant of Cromer, in Norfolk, she has actually eloped with the dashing and elegant Mr. H————N, the nephew of the rich, the excellent, and illustrious Sir E———— H—————. The injured husband, Major R———D, a most deserving officer, had pursued the fugitives; and, with anguish unspeakable, received ocular proofs of his wife’s infidelity. What particularly aggravates the fault of MR. H————N, is, that he has been only a few months married to a beautiful and amiable young lady in Essex. This notorious faux-pas in the fashionable world, it is thought, will furnish ample matter for the gentlemen of the long robe, in the display of their oratorical talents; and no doubt enormous damages will be obtained by Major R————D, an accomplished and handsome young man, the avowed object of her ladyship’s virgin choice, and a most affectionate and tender husband."
The TIMES, when attacking characters in high life, has often had the reputation, we will not say whether deservedly or not, of being rather libellous; but though all the late conduct of Frederic Harrington seemed but too well to tally with this fatal news, yet, as the drowning man will catch at a straw, so poor Edward felt a faint, alas! a very faint glimmering of hope that this might be an exaggerated account. He recollected that the MORNING POST was the first of all papers for fashionable intelligence; an article he scarcely ever attended to, unless it was to deplore the expence of luxury,
"——————straining her low thought,
"To form unreal wants————————"
while worthy poverty industriously laboured, and with difficulty could earn one daily meal.
He now took up this vehicle of intelligence, and eagerly glanced his anxious eye over the miscellaneous paragraphs: he there read all, and more than the other paper had reported; even the names were not all initialized, but boldly informed the public that Major RAYMOND intended to apply immediately for a divorce, and had engaged the famous Serjeant B. to plead his cause in Westminster Hall; while Mr. H. had retained for his counsel the learned and eloquent Mr. G————. The reader was likewise informed, through this polite channel of fashionable news, that Major Raymond, in company with a brother-officer, after tracing the fugitives to an inn on the London road, was an eye-witness of his own disgrace: however, this paper did not speak quite so much in favour of the Major; it appeared rather to hint a connivance on the part of the husband, with a view to obtain enormous damages; which connivance, if proved, would infallibly end in his deserved disappointment, and draw on him the contempt he so amply merited. But all this did not heal the wound inflicted by this poisoned arrow on the hearts of the worthy curate and his daughter; neither did it extenuate Harrington’s guilt.
The HERALD and the COURIER gave the paragraph in much the same words as the TIMES; but the latter made some excellent and moral reflexions on the enormity of that crime, which is become so prevalent in this country; and particularly dwelt on the aggravation of Mr. Harrington’s fault, as being so lately married to a young lady, who had been his fondest choice, and who, though not yet known in the great world, was allowed to do honour to his taste, and was a pattern of amiableness, virtue, and loveliness.
The heart of Edward was now in such extreme anguish, that the full tide of sorrow which overwhelmed it burst from his eyes, and leaning his face on his hands over the fatal newspapers, he gave way to the womanish relief of tears, unheeding of the servant, who had told him twice that dinner was waiting, and at length gently touched his elbow to repeat the information: he requested a glass of water to compose his agitated spirits, and then with all the tranquillity he could assume, repaired to the dining-parlour.
He there found his daughter, the image of silent woe: ever mistress of herself, Mary had been always accustomed to conceal any agitation of mind from her servants; but though they would never hear their master’s fault from her lips, yet she well knew concealment would be in vain in this instance.
She had seated herself, with a pallid countenance, and the roseate hue, which always embellished her cheek and lip, now only encircled her eyes; in vain she endeavoured to eat, and appear tranquil; in vain she pressed her father to eat likewise; his appetite, like hers, was fled, and the dinner went away almost untouched.
When the servants were withdrawn, the bursting sorrow again found its way from the sweet eyes of Mary: her father drew his chair towards her, and as she leaned forward to return his embrace, the consolation of having such a worthy parent, the dread of adding to his grief on her account, made her endeavour to dry her tears, and essay to impart that comfort of which she herself stood most in need.
"Be still yourself, my angel daughter," said he, as he pressed her to his fond bosom; "perhaps your virtues, your sweetness, mingled with dignity, and void of all clamorous reproaches, may reclaim the wanderer, and you may in the end be happy."—"Never!" replied Mary, with a solemn kind of assurance that she never could be so again: "the sweet delusion is fled for ever, which taught me to think that my Frederic was mine, and mine alone! If so soon he shews the fickleness and inconstancy of his nature, what have I not to expect as years roll on, and the probable loss of some of these poor attractions I possess are fled! Cheerfulness, the bright prospect of that happiness which I constantly looked forward to in my union with Harrington, will no longer animate my countenance, or impart lustre to my now continually weeping eyes: to cheerful vivacity, will succeed lowering care; mistrust and jealous fears will, with my disappointed views, cloud all my features, and render sallow that cheek which my deceiver has often kissed as he likened it to the fresh-blown rose. I too well know the powerful and seductive charms of my rival: supreme in beauty, as in wit and accomplishments, she possesses also that fascination which will for ever supplant me, and stamp her image indelible on the heart of Frederic."
"Pardon me, my beloved," said Edward, "you have been, hitherto, accustomed, with your happy disposition, to behold life in its fairest perspective; but the little worldly knowledge you boast, has caused you, when a real misfortune assails you, to fear the worst. I am much deceived in Mr. Harrington, if he is not now, by the influence of modern manners, acting under a false character: for there always seemed in him, under the painted mask of fashionable dissipation, an inward love for virtue, and oft-times a severe reprehension of his own thoughtless conduct. Believe me, my dear one, that a man can never long admire a woman devoid of principle, and who sets virtue at defiance as prudish grimace."
"But such a woman, surely, is not Lady Isabella Raymond," said Mary; "whom my unhappy husband has seduced from the path of honour!"—"He seduce her?" said Edward, with contempt; "no, no, Mary, it is she who is the seducer: and though I greatly blame, and even detest the conduct of Mr. Harrington towards you, yet I still look forward with hope, that a great and entire reformation will be worked in his conduct, even by this atrocious error, and that you and your virtues will become dearer to him than ever. A woman who breaks through all the sacred ties of conjugal duty, who to a life of honour, decency, and decorum, prefers that of guilt, giving way to the indulgence of passion, is never esteemed by a man after the enthusiasm of desire is grown languid by possession; and without esteem, love is but of short duration. It is this known truth in the married state, which renders it so essential for a man to choose his partner rather for virtue and mental qualifications than beauty; the one he gets accustomed to—each day it fades before his eyes; while the others increase in attraction: he esteems more and more what is so valuable, and loves what he esteems."—"But think, my dear sir," said Mary, "of the wonderful abilities and accomplishments of Lady Isabella!"
"Acquirements only, my dear," said Edward, "they are not the virtues of the heart and mind; for six or seven shillings," added he, smiling, "Mr. Harrington may go to the theatre, and behold and hear all the fascinating accomplishments of his once adored Isabella represented on the stage, for I dare say she is no longer adored! but rather becoming a very troublesome appendage to him."—"But, as a man of honour," said Mary, "he must not quit her; she can never again return to her husband’s home; her friends will not look upon her: Frederic, for whom she has sacrificed so much, must not leave her destitute: I really think, sooner than the unhappy woman should be driven to distress, I could grant her an asylum, and be tempted almost to act like Lady Gresham*, in the affair of her husband and Lady Harriet Egmont."
"Such conduct, I think," said her father, gravely, "is a misplaced generosity, which borders upon want of feeling, and shews rather too much tameness in a wife. I, certainly, as well as yourself, would not wish Mr. Harrington to leave a woman in distress, as he has been the primary cause of her being for ever banished her husband’s roof, and despised in the eyes of the world: but she must not become an inmate in the same house with a virtuous wife; for, in order to be truly reconciled to that injured wife, he must never behold the partner in his crime again."
It may be easily imagined that, though the excellent father often tried to converse with his daughter on general matters, yet their discourse continually reverted to the subject that was nearest their hearts. In the evening numerous country visitors called; but Mrs. Harrington was not at home to any one; too well she knew the secret motive of such visits, and found her cottage would be no place for her to remain in for the present: in which opinion she was further strengthened the next morning by receiving the following letter from Sir Edward Harrington to her father.
"Dear and respected friend;
"WHEN I so suddenly left the hospitable home of my dear niece yesterday, I intended shortly to have returned to it; mature reflection, however, tells me it is better she should quit it for a time; exposed alike to a painful retrospect of past felicity, and the visits of impertinent curiosity, concealed under the mask of condolence, I think it best that you repair with the dear sufferer immediately to the vicinity of London, where she will be less known, and less liable to interruption: at the same time, actually in the metropolis, my niece cannot reside as MRS. HARRINGTON, without subjecting herself to be the public talk. I have, therefore, hired a pleasant, furnished little villa, on the banks of the Thames, at Twickenham, where she may be as retired as she pleases, and see only those few friends she wishes: yourself, I particularly desire to remain in town for a day or two, when I will introduce you personally to the Chancellor; as I trust his Lordship will, in a few days, put you in possession of an excellent benefice, now vacant, and in his gift. As soon as you can possibly make your arrangements for the journey, leave the housekeeper and gardener to take charge of the cottage, and come immediately to my house in St. James’s Square, where you will be cordially and affectionately welcomed by
"Your ever true friend,
The Reverend Mr. Marsham and his daughter lost no time in hastening their departure from Eglantine; a clergyman, a few miles off, consenting to perform the parochial duty for the good curate during his absence. The bustle, the change of scene, by employing the natural energy of Mary’s mind for a few days, made her, in some degree, forget the deep anguish which had lately assailed her; but sleepless nights, as she sought repose on her pillow, told her that her grief only slumbered, but still existed: a sound and heavy sleep towards morning, or flattering dreams of Frederic’s constancy and fond affection, has caused her to wake, to the sad reverse of wretchedness and tears: she has then quickly risen, again to employ herself, and try, if possible, to fly from thought and from herself.
While an affectionate father mourned over the sorrows of a virtuous child, his griefs were, in part, but begun; his youngest daughter had become the prey of a villain’s systematic arts, whose fugitive inclination for her person was now succeeded by disgust, and she already experienced from him the most contemptuous neglect. Poor Margaret, whose personal attractions scarcely approached to mediocrity, without one elegant accomplishment to compensate for the deficiency of them; a slattern in her dress, with all the affectation of a female pedant; was not likely long to retain the attention of a libertine admirer: she had good-nature, sincerity, and an heart too tender; but these are poor qualifications, when there is nothing else to be thrown into the scale to make it preponderate. The corroding sorrow of her heart, the tears she shed in secret, by no means contributed to heighten the very few agrémens of person she possessed from nature; and the wretched girl was in that state
"Which women wish to be who love their lords,"
but which Margaret was much afflicted at discovering; for when she imparted the unwelcome news to Sir Charles, he said it was "devilish unlucky," he was "confoundedly sorry to hear it," but "what would she have him do?" She saw him afterwards but very seldom, and then he scarcely took any notice of her.
Mrs. Davenport, inspired by rage and jealousy, accused her of her criminal intrigue with Sir Charles Sefton; the tears and blushes of the unhappy Margaret too plainly told the truth of what her tongue denied: and when she found the unkindness of Mrs. Davenport increase towards her, when she hourly endured, and trembled at the threats of that lady, to acquaint her father with her faulty conduct, she resolved on visiting Sir Charles at his house, and endeavouring by tears and all the persuasion she was mistress off, to intreat him to take her under his protection. Repeatedly did she make her morning visits, while the surly porter as oft uncivilly told her his master was not at home; and when she once urged that she saw him at the window, "Aye, child," said the porter, "but he does not choose to be at home to you; and this is no time; his ladies always come of an evening: not that I think," added he, looking in her face and insolently laughing, "that he will see you! however, if you have a mind to come to-morrow night, I believe he will be at home."
Somewhat comforted to hear that there was a prospect of her seeing him on the morrow, she went home; she knew Mrs. Davenport was going to the theatre in the evening of the morrow, and that she should be left alone; for she now never went with her in public. The poor girl’s spirits were this day better, being rather elevated by hope; but the behaviour of Mr. and Mrs. Davenport to her was not only rude and uncivil, but cutting in the extreme: the trio dined together, and as they were taking their wine after, Mr. Davenport made many animadversions on the depravity of taste; for Mr. Davenport detested a woman, if she was not very pretty: "Oh! by heaven," said he, "any ugly devil now may get a lover; we shall have a d——d pretty breed, I expect, in the next generation: well, thank God, I don’t suppose I shall live to see the baboons, for I’m going, as fast as I can, to the d——l; so, Emily, you’ll be a handsome dashing widow, with a good jointure, my girl—" "Which I’ll keep to myself," said the gay lady, "whenever you kick, Davenport, depend upon it; love who I please; but marry no more; and the age is not so nice, but many a dear soul, free as myself, will caress and visit me."—"No, no," replied her husband, "you are right, Emily, the age is not nice, upon my soul! why I was told the other day," and he glanced his eyes full upon Margaret, "that a poor yellow looking devil of a baronet, the exact complexion of a china orange, with jaws like a frog, has an affair with a little ugly, broken-toothed toad, newly come from the country;—and there’s the devil to pay; Miss is going to present him with a young cub, which, I dare say, will be the exact likeness of an ourang-outang." Mrs. Davenport forced a smile; she did not much like her once favoured swain to be so handled by the satiric genius of Mr. Davenport: but venting her mortification upon Margaret, she said, "Pray, child, is your sister like you, at all, in person? I never saw her since she was a little child; and I then thought she promised to be pretty."—"She is reckoned so, generally, madam," said Margaret.—"Oh! well then," said Mrs. Davenport, "without any offence to Miss Marsham, it is impossible there can be any likeness."—"No, sir," said Margaret, "we do not resemble each other at all, except that our mouths are alike."—"Why, what the d—!" said Mr. Davenport, "has she lost her front teeth too?"—"Oh! no," said the good-natured Margaret, who could not help smiling at the laugh this caused Mrs. Davenport; "our teeth are not alike, only—" "Well, well," said Mrs. Davenport, "I must say, Margaritta, that your mouth is pretty enough." Mr. Davenport took his eyes off his dessert-plate, and was condescending enough to acknowledge the truth of the remark by an assenting nod with his head. "Well," said Mrs. Davenport, "go where I will, I hear nothing but the present scandal of the day; Harrington’s amour with Lady Isabella Raymond—and, indeed, I do think any man is excusable in going astray with such a woman."—"She would be an absolute divinity," said Davenport, "if she was not so cursed satirical; but it was not at all likely that such a fine dashing fellow as Harrington would tie himself to a country girl; besides, he always, I am told, loved Lady Isabella; and no doubt she is far superior to Mrs. Harrington, though they say she is a nice little creature:—by heaven, I think I’ll go down and see the pining bride, and advise her to the retort courteous! Come, Margaritta, tell us," continued he, as he helped her to a glass of port, "now, without any partiality, suppose Mrs. Harrington was not your sister,—which is the handsomest, your sister or the divine Isabella?" Margaret, who always thought, that in her life she had never seen so resplendent a beauty as Lady Isabella, said, without hesitation, "Oh! sir, Lady Isabella, certainly." But the heart of Margaret was full; it rose to her throat, and almost choked her utterance: she reflected on her sister’s misfortune, and how cruelly the infidelity of Harrington must have operated on a mind like hers; and, bringing her thoughts home to her own sorrows, the perfidy of man, the unfeeling behaviour of those she thought once her best benefactors, caused her, in spite of all her efforts to restrain her feelings, to burst into an agony of tears.
"Why, what is the matter with the girl?" said Mrs. Davenport.—"Indeed, ma’am," replied Margaret, "I cannot think of my dear sister’s misfortunes, without being much affected; it is a painful subject to me, and if you and Mr. Davenport wish to converse any more upon it, will you permit me to withdraw: I dearly love my sister, I always did, indeed I do still; I wish I did not affectionately love Lady Isabella."
"Lord bless me, child!" said Mrs. Davenport, "these things are nothing in fashionable life; and pray, why should you wish you did not love Lady Isabella?—pray, what violent harm has she done? For, as to Harrington’s fortune, that she will not much injure, as it is a notorious fact, and will come all out on the trial, that Major Raymond has been aiding and assisting in this little faux-pas of his wife. But, mark me, Margaritta, when I say* these things are nothing in fashionable life; and where a woman is married, and consequently privileged to commit many freedoms which are quite unbecoming in a girl, yet a young woman, who has not a shilling, must be very careful to preserve her modesty and good name, for it is all she has to depend upon;—you understand me, Margaritta, I am sure: I wish I could say, that I hope things are not so bad as they have been represented to me; but I am sorry to say, I have seen too much myself:—go, and arrange your hair, and put on a little of my rouge—you look like a witch: I have a few friends coming to-night."
Margaret trembled, lest her father might chance to be one of them, and hastily withdrew to perform the orders of Mrs. Davenport; whom she left laughing heartily at some new sallies of her husband’s wit upon Mrs. Harrington, the deserted bride, whom he swore he would go and comfort, promising himself certain success: but sitting about a quarter of an hour longer with his wife, to whom he was uncommonly polite and attentive, he repaired to pass the evening with his favourite Sultana, while his lady entertained at home a party of dashing beaux, and a bevy of gay females; amongst whom Margaret remained like a cypher, unnoticed, except by the whisper of Mrs. Davenport to one or two of her particular friends, and the shrugs and sneers of the gentlemen.
At length the eventful evening arrived, and Margaret, after Mrs. Davenport had driven to the theatre, stole softly down stairs, and with a beating heart and trembling feet, escaped into the street.
It was dark; she was young and well dressed; her bonnet and pelisse made in the highest style of fashion: she had never been in the street alone, before, in the evening; she was accosted by many smart-looking young men; she thought that surely she had captivated them by her appearance, and she hoped the most delightful success, from the self-conviction of her personal charms, which must have been so striking on that evening, when, in walking from Grosvenor Square to St. James’s Street, she had been called "pretty girl," "sweet little dear," and earnestly requested by several dashing looking men, as she thought them, the permission of escorting her home: these dashers were, however, chiefly men-milliners, tavern-waiters, servants out of livery, and markers at the gambling-tables, and who were either going to their several avocations, or taking a lounge after their dinners, and affecting the fine gentlemen.
She arrived at Sir Charles Sefton’s door, and knocked at it with all the buoyant spirit she just then felt. "Ah! what, is it you, my dear?" said the porter. "Pray, who are you speaking to?" said she, offended at his familiarity. "I’ll be d——d if I know," said he, holding the door half open; "but Sir Charles is not at home." "You told me he would be," said Margaret. "So I believe he will," said the porter, stretching himself, and yawning, "when the play is over; he has ordered supper at home." —"Then cannot I sit down in one of the apartments, and await his return? Sir Charles knows me very well, and I am sure he will be glad to see me."—"Oh! like enough," said the porter, "my master knows a great many young ladies; but as you are quite un-known to me, having never been admitted here, I can’t let you in." So saying, he slammed the door in her face. Poor Margaret burst into tears; but resolving to see Sir Charles that night, even if she should never again be admitted within Mrs. Davenport’s doors, she determined on staying till the performance at the theatre was ended.
As an Eastern writer has justly observed, "Who is it that regardeth sorrow in the public streets? who is there but turneth away the face and fleeth from her?" The weeping Margaret, now no more accosted in the language of promiscuous admiration, was jostled about from one side to the other; the rude porter with his load, almost knocked her down; the whistling ’prentice drove her nearly into the kennel; the newsman blew his horn in her ear; while the chairmen drove her almost before them with their poles, and then, laughing, cried out, "By your leave!" The fear that accompanies the pedestrians in London, who are unused to ramble in the dark, generally, by betraying itself, subjects them to every insult and danger; and there is no other way to escape nocturnal buffetings and terrors inflicted by the canaille, than by walking with the appearance of undaunted resolution, or with the affected bustle of urgent business.
The moon now began to rise in full splendour, and, added to the lamps and the bright passages of the gaming and coffee-houses, imparted a brilliant illumination to the street. An hackney-coach stopped at a shop opposite to where Margaret was standing; she crossed over, though from what motive she knew not, except to give some kind of variation to her nightly walk. A gentleman got out, and handed out a lady, who was closely wrapped in a dark coloured shawl, and who wore a large bonnet which entirely concealed her face. The gentleman attempted to follow her into the house, but she said, "No, no—we never meet again, except on ONE condition." He bowed with solemnity, and reascended the carriage. The lady entered the house, after waving her hand to the servant to take away the light, and the door suddenly closed with a kind of caution. The gentleman was wrapped in a curricle-coat, the cape buttoned over his cheeks, while a slouch hat hid the upper part of his face. Of the gentleman or lady Margaret had not the slightest recollection; but the lady seemed to interest her, and she was almost certain she had heard her voice before; she felt herself unable to move from the door after it was shut; she watched its re-opening, she looked up at the windows, but all were close shut; and a still silence seemed to prevail about the house.
The rattle of carriages from various directions now announced the close of the theatrical entertainment; and seeing Sir Charles Sefton’s chariot draw up to his door, she almost hazarded her life, by nimbly crossing, amidst throngs of carriages, and arrived time enough to see him hand out a lady richly dressed, while another carriage stopped, from which descended two more ladies and two gentlemen, all apparently of the first fashion. She waited the departure of the carriages, and then again presented herself before the Cerberus of the hall.
"Why it is impossible you can see Sir Charles now," said the porter, "he has brought home company to supper." "Oh! tell him," said Margaret, "that a lady wishes only to speak one word with him." "Oh! that is not my office," replied he; but the solitary dollar in Margaret’s ridicule, transferred from thence into his hand, made him relent, though he shrugged his shoulders at the smallness of the bribe; however, calling a footman who just then crossed the hall, he told Margaret she had better go to the fire and warm herself till he had brought down an answer.
The footman soon came down, saying, that he was sure he could not say when he should be able to speak to his master, he was so engaged; but she had better walk into that room, shewing her a little dark side-parlour, in which was no fire, and where he left her with one solitary bit of candle, which soon began to glimmer in the socket; and the wretched girl sat shivering with cold, and without even the comfort of light: she heard the watchman cry the hour of half-past one, and a starlight morning. To return to Mr. Davenport’s she now found would be impracticable, and she trembled at the result. Presently she heard the door softly open.
Not being able to distinguish objects from the shutters being closed, the fond idea rushed upon her mind that it was her dear Sir Charles; but she was soon undeceived by the footman saying, "What, are you in the dark, miss? I have at last, with much difficulty, spoken to Sir Charles; he says it is totally impossible for him to see you now, but, if you like, you may call at half-past eleven in the morning. Here, David," added he, addressing the porter, "Shew a light to this young lady, and open the door for her."
Margaret still leant on the hope of seeing her perfidious lover in the morning, and strolled to the Park, determined there to pass the night: the sentries hailed her, as she crossed the stable-yard, with "Who comes there?" She knew not how to reply, and they suffered her to pass on in silence, as they deemed it might not be impossible but that she had an appointment with the sergeant of the guard, or, perhaps, a higher military hero in rank, to pass the night with him, sub rosa.
She crossed the Park, and the moon retiring, while night was "at odds with morning," she repaired to a solitary bench in the most retired part of this scenic promenade, and wrapping her pelisse around her, huddled herself up in one corner, awaiting the rising of the sun.
As in the case of Sterne’s Le Fevre, it "rose bright on almost every eye" in that vicinity, except on that of the afflicted Margaret: exhausted from fatigue, want of rest, and faint for want of food, she continued to wile away the tedious hours, in walking and re-seating herself, till the clock struck eleven. The grand, or the jocund strain of martial music, as the guards attended morning parade, only served, instead of raising her spirits, to sink them to a state of melancholy depression: the insolent remarks, the puppy exclamation of d——d ugly! continually assaulted her ears. At length, the Horse-Guards chimed a quarter past eleven: she rose with aching limbs, and retraced her steps to St. James’s street. The porter did not open the door, but an elderly female, who, when requested by Margaret to inform Sir Charles Sefton that she wished to speak to him, frowned suspiciously upon her, and said, "Why, Sir Charles left town this morning at half-past eight o’clock." "Impossible!" said Margaret, "he desired me to be here at half-past eleven." "Why, you may as well tell me, young woman," said the housekeeper, "that I lie! I tell you, I and the porter are the only persons left here to take charge of the house; my master is going to-night, or to-morrow, to sail for the Madeiras, for the recovery of his health before he marries."— "Marries!" echoed Margaret. "Why, yes," said the housekeeper; "is that any thing wonderful? he is to be married, when he returns, to his cousin, Lady Louisa Walton: she took her leave of him with his two aunts, last night: why, la, if you know any thing of Sir Charles, you must know that it has been a fixed thing for some weeks; Lady Louisa has a most immense fortune." Margaret, scarcely able to conceal her emotions, or articulate a sentence, said, "Will you, ma’am, have the kindness to give me a glass of water?"
The woman, seeing her ready to faint, did not then, as she was just going to do, shut the door in her face; but her hard features relaxing into a little expression, something like compassion, she told her, as she opened the half-closed entrance a little wider, to follow her down into her own room; where she gave her a bit of toast that was left frying on a plate before the fire, and a cup of half-cold tea, which she stirred for her, and then put the silver tea-spoon out of her reach: this temporary refreshment somewhat revived poor Margaret; but her head ached violently, and she took her leave of the unfeeling housekeeper, unknowing where to bend her course.
As she came nearly opposite to the shop where she had seen, the night before, the lady and gentleman alight from an hackney-coach, she stopped a little while and looked up at the windows: they were close shut; but in the second story she saw the shade of a female figure, as if peeping though a chamber-blind of gause-like texture: she stood for some moments, pondering where she should go to escape observation, or the probable search of the Davenport’s after her; when a young girl put a sealed note in her hand, and begged she would be pleased to read it: it was written in a hand evidently disguised, and contained the following words:
"If, as I am almost assured, you are Miss Margaret Marsham, accompany the bearer, and enquire at the house she will bring you to, for Mrs. Frederic. I see you are unhappy: alas! I have suffered, and feel for every sufferer. From me you will receive all the comfort a wretched being like myself can be capable of bestowing. But this I have yet to give you—the most cordial and sisterly affection.
"Whatever makes you thus a wanderer, fear not to confide to her, who loves you with more sincerity and tenderness than ever."
Oh! thought Margaret, as she pressed the letter to her lips and heart, it is from my generous Mary! she has, to avoid being known, adopted the christian name of her faithless husband.—She then instantly followed the bearer, and almost flew to receive the embrace of a sister!
———————Action treads the path
In which opinion says he follows good,
Or flies from evil; and opinion gives
Report of good or evil, as the scene
Was drawn by fancy, lovely or deform’d:
Thus her report can never there be true
Where fancy cheats the intellectual eye
With glaring colours and distorted lines.
MRS. DAVENPORT had not been long departed for the theatre, when Edward Marsham called on her;—after passing the day with his worthy friend, Sir Edward Harrington, he thought he must in gratitude, take the earliest opportunity of visiting the kind benefactress of his daughter.
He therefore presented himself at the superb mansion of Mr. Davenport; and as the magnificent well-lighted hall and spacious staircases gleamed on his sight, evincing opulence and grandeur, he rejoiced in seeing the lovely friend of his late wife so splendidly established in life; yet a sigh escaped his bosom, when, in the elegant and often envied situation to which his Mary had been raised, she had experienced but little comfort in such glittering donations, which taste and affluence have in their power to bestow: Davenport might be, he reflected, another Harrington, and his wife might look back with unavailing regret to the rural scenes of Emily Maddison’s more tranquil hours. Yes, Davenport had all Harrington’s failings, but they had in Mr. Davenport degenerated into depravity; he had none of Mr. Harrington’s good qualities: and Emily Davenport, only existing in the scenes of fashionable folly, and fluttering in a round of continual dissipation, would have died at the idea of again experiencing that state of quiet and genteel mediocrity enjoyed by Emily Maddison.
Edward was not sorry to hear that his daughter was at home alone; for, with a father’s tender affection, he loved his poor Margaret with all her foibles; and he hoped her residence in town had taken off, in some degree, the romantic enthusiasm of her ideas: and, as he had frequently been told that both her person and manners were much improved, he flattered himself he should really find her more reasonable, and that he should have the satisfaction of enjoying with her an hour or two of social and rational conversation.
After waiting a considerable time in the drawing-room, he was at length informed that Miss Marsham could no where be found; and that Mademoiselle Minette was out, who could give the most positive assurance whether or no Miss Marsham had accompanied Mrs. Davenport to the theatre, as the above-mentioned French lady presided over their toilettes: the other servants said they were almost sure she did not go with their mistress; while the porter in the hall said, no person was with her except Miss Benworth and two gentlemen, which four persons just filled the coach. Edward, however, concluding she had gone with Mrs. Davenport, felt no anxiety, and leaving his card, saying he would call the next morning, went to his temporary habitation at the good Baronet’s, in St. James’s Square.
These fashionable servants, who had always looked upon Margaret as a dependent on their master and mistress, never heeded whether or no she had descended from the carriage at the return of the partie quarrée; and Margaret was never thought of till the hour of one, when, after partaking of a few sandwiches and other slight refreshments, the company departed. "Well, I always forget that girl," said Mrs. Davenport; "do, Robert, order some one to go to Miss Marsham’s apartment, and tell her to come and take a sandwich and a glass of wine-and-water before she goes to bed."
Robert then mentioned his not being able to find her when her father called. "It is singular," said Mrs. Davenport, addressing her husband in French; "but I dare say she stole out to take leave of her lover; and is now retired to her chamber, to weep over his departure."—"What do you mean?" said Mr. Davenport. "Oh!" said she, continuing the subject in her own native language at the departure of Robert; "will you believe that Sir Charles Sefton took leave of me to-night, as he quitted my private box, for he is going to Madeira to-morrow." "The d——l he is?" said Davenport. "Yes, and he had that she-monkey of a woman with him, in his box, Lady Louisa Walton, his rich cousin."—"What a precious ugly pair they will make!" said Mr. Davenport. "Well," replied his lady, endeavouring to smile, but looking very spiteful, "I fairly sent him out of my box with confusion; I asked him what his beautiful favourite, Miss Marsham, would do without him? He stammered, hesitated, and with the most awkward air in the world, wished me and my party a good night. I shall be glad when he is gone," continued she, her eyes giving the lie to her tongue; "and I’m heartily glad too," added she, with much more sincerity, "that Margaritta’s father’s come, and that I can wash my hands of her."
Mr. Davenport said, "I’m cursed sorry this affair has happened in my house; I shall be sorry to pain the good man." "Oh! that I think we need not," said Mrs. Davenport; "let us only get Mr. Marsham to take her away again, we will make her a handsome present; and after he gets her home, let him find it out himself: we need not be supposed to know any thing about it."—"That’s a devilish good thought, Emily," said Mr. Davenport: he pondered, however, some time, as if in deep reflection. "Let Minette," said he, after he had been silent a few minutes, "see if the girl is in bed; we have sent for her to supper, but you see she is not to be found again." Miss Marsham was not, however, in her bed, nor in any part of the house.
"By heaven," said Mr. Davenport, "I’m afraid, Emily, that Sir Charles is fool enough to think of taking the girl off with him to Madeira; there is no doubt but that the consequence of her indiscretion is likely very soon to appear: the fellow does not seem possessed of much feeling; yet, perhaps the idea of being a father, may make him take some care of the mother, till such time as the dear creature presents him with his ape-like countenance; then he may make her a trifling settlement, sufficient to maintain her there, and I really think it is the best thing he can do.—Well, sure such a pair was never seen!"
"I declare, Davenport," said his Lady, "you are quite spiteful about Sir Charles. I think his appearance by no means deserving ridicule; I am sure he is quite the gentleman and man of fashion."—"Quite so, my dear, but, by the bye, confounded ugly. Don’t be uneasy, Emily, if I tell you something that I saw to-night. As I was coming out of Boodle’s rather earlier than I usually do, for I could find by the carriages the play was but just over, I could neither find my rascals nor the chariot; I suppose they had gone to take a peep at the riot that was expected to take place at the theatre: I walked on, however, as you know I am not devoted to gaming, and finding myself in the losing vein, I had no inclination to return; so telling the porter at the door to inform my servants when they came, that I had walked home, the night being uncommonly fine, I made a stroll of it. As I passed opposite to Sir Charles Sefton’s house, I am almost sure I plainly perceived your Margaritta go into it: I knew her by the grey bonnet and pelisse you gave her last week;——because my Cora once saw her walking in it with you, in Kensington Gardens, the little tasty hussy would never let me rest till I purchased one resembling it for her. The moon shone full upon the lady at Sefton’s door, and at first I took it to be Cora herself; but looking circumspectly, I soon saw the difference in Meg’s high shoulders and broad back, to those of * my divinity; so I dare say the happy lovers will be off to-morrow morning; and d——n it, let them alone, I think it very fortunate for us—our house will not be disgraced, nor your care and prudence the least called in question." Mrs. Davenport burst into tears.
Now we cannot pretend to take upon ourselves to say what was the actual cause of those tears, but we are very much inclined to believe, that, really liking Sir Charles Sefton, she could not support the idea of Margaret accompanying him across the seas, and receiving from him daily proofs of his regard and attentions: the bare thought, no doubt, stung her mind with all the bitter vexation of jealousy. It could not be for the fate of the poor girl, whom she cared but little about; it could not be jealousy of a little actress who had once performed the part of Cora, in Pizarro, and with whom her husband was so enraptured, that he took her from the stage, and she performed in public no more; in private she acted the part of a most extravagant and expensive mistress: but Mrs. Davenport knew all this before, and had never evinced any displeasure: so we really believe the primary cause was jealousy of Sir Charles and Margaret.
"My dear Emily," said Mr. Davenport, "you know I cannot bear to see you in tears; what can I do for you?"
"Go instantly," she replied, "to Sir Charles Sefton; we have taken the girl under our protection, we must see that nothing happens to her; she shall not go with him! Fly! lose not a moment, they may set off to-night!"
"I think it cursed ridiculous, my dear Mrs. Davenport, and you would do much better to let them alone."
"If you do not go, by all that’s dear to me, I’ll go myself," said the still weeping lady.
"Oh! my dear, that would be ten times more ridiculous; I’ll go:—but do you think Sir Charles will not deny her being in his house, if he wishes her to go with him?"
"Oh! he cannot wish it," said she; "it is only her, a forward creature! Put him upon his honour, he will not surely forfeit that!"
"No, no, as a gentleman, I think he will not," said Mr. Davenport, and set off, against his better judgment, to Sir Charles Sefton’s.
That gentleman’s party had just quitted him, and he instantly left his chamber, to which he had retired for the remainder of the night, to wait on Mr. Davenport in the drawing-room. Mr. Davenport entreated him to answer him as the man of honour and the gentleman, whether he knew any thing of Miss Marsham?
His ignorance, Sir Charles could safely plead; for it was near two hours since she had quitted his house! and laying* his extended hand on his bosom, as the seat of unblemished honour, and casting up his eyes, he called heaven, with the most solemn asseverations, to witness that he had not seen her, neither was she in his house. "Search, my dear friend," added he, "let not a single closet be unexplored. Why, what the deuce, my good fellow, fond as I am of variety, do you think I am going to carry into a foreign climate a woman who would discredit the angels of our own?—"No, no, hardly," said Mr. Davenport, "only the situation she is in, you know, often softens the heart, and—" "Bagatelle! my dear Davenport," interrupted the Baronet, with that chilling kind of expression which shewed that circumstance had not in the least softened his heart.
"Why," resumed Davenport, "as to your little caprice, en passant, with the poor little unlucky devil, that is a mere bagatelle; I’m only d——d sorry it happened while she was under our charge; but that is not to the present purpose. We know, in many instances, my dear Sir Charles, you have proved your high sense of honour in several rencontres; and in the honour of a man of your rank and fashion, implicit trust may be placed! I wish you a good-night and a pleasant voyage, which I hope may fulfill all your wishes and those of your friends, for the benefit of your health." Then with a few polite congées, these votaries of modern honour took leave of each other.
Sir Charles, on looking at his watch, found, instead of night, it was fast approaching the hour of four in the morning; he therefore called to him his favourite servant, the depository of all his secrets, and told him, that though he had not meant to quit London till after nine o’clock, he would now go at eight, and therefore should not go to bed at all. Not that he feared the calling of Margaret before the time he had treacherously allotted her; for not thinking she would be desperate enough to stay out all night, he rather thought she would never find it practicable to get out from Mr. Davenport’s at so early an hour, and though Mr. Davenport had told him she could no where be found, he had little doubt but she would yet be there before his return to Grosvenor-square; but yet, supposing she had not gone home, he should be many miles on his journey before she would venture to call.
Mrs. Davenport, not quite so well satisfied as her husband, of the honourable principles of Sir Charles Sefton, anxiously awaited the morning visit of the Reverend Edward Marsham.
Edward wished to pay his respects that morning to his Right Honourable and Reverend Rector; but, to present himself there for a morning visit before two o’clock in the afternoon, would never do: an earlier hour must not be thought of either, for Mrs. Davenport’s levee; and he knew his Margaret was so pliable, that she no doubt implicitly followed the steps of her patroness.
Mrs. Davenport, however, rose that morning from her restless pillow earlier than usual, so anxious was she for this visit to be over, in which she must inform a father of the wanderings of his child; and ignorant where she had betaken herself, the dreadful idea rushed on the mind of Mrs. Davenport, that perhaps she had, in terror at the arrival of her father, taken her final leave of the world, and entered another uncalled and unprepared. This idea was strengthened by the return of Robert, her footman, whom she had sent to various parts of the town, to discover, if possible, any tidings of her: he had heard, that a young lady, exactly answering the description of Miss Marsham, in an elegantly made, grey, corded sarsnet pelisse, and bonnet of the same, with black tassels, had been seen wandering in the park at day-break, seemingly in great distress of mind. Mrs. Davenport’s good-natured disposition now made her detest the cruelty of Sir Charles Sefton, whom, she made no doubt, had driven the unhappy girl from his presence, when Mr. Davenport saw her at his door; and that she had in despair drowned herself in the canal. She knew not how to act, she was half tempted to order her carriage and drive out, to avoid the sight of her long-known and respected friend, and spare him the pangs which she must give to his parental feelings: but then he had left word the evening before, that he would call again, and Mrs. Davenport knew and practised the etiquette of politeness too correctly to be out that morning.
It was now past one, and at that hour Margaret was safely housed, and closely concealed at the mysterious lodgings in St. James’s-street; but how was she surprised, when she found, as she looked up, that instead of being enfolded in the arms of her sister (for she had rushed to her embrace without regarding the object), she perceived she was clasped to the bosom of Lady Isabella Raymond! "Oh! Lady Isabella!" said the unhappy girl, "cruel disappointment!" and from bodily weakness and various contending emotions, she fainted away.
When she revived, she found herself seated on a sofa by the bewitching Isabella, who was administering restoratives to her with the tenderest concern, and weeping over her.
"Will you refuse," said she to her, "to the friend who loves you, your affection and confidence?"
"Oh! Lady Isabella," replied Margaret, "do I not see in you, disposed though I am, and ever was, to love you, yet do I not behold the destroyer of my sister’s peace and happiness?"—"Are you then still possessed of the same narrow prejudices as when I first knew you? and which I once endeavoured, and hoped I had succeeded in the attempt to eradicate from a soaring mind like yours? Tell me, pray, what are kindred ties to those the affections of the soul approve? Are we under any obligation to those who usher us into a world which the cruelty of man renders a scene of tears and anguish! And what claim have those on our affections, which they present to us under the titles of brothers and sisters? and these, however undeserving, they would compel us to love, because they are their children. How often have I told you, and you once paid deference to my understanding, that all love should be free, nor bound and manacled by human ties: the same of course holds good in friendship, which is but love refined, and exalted to that purity which owns no sexual attachment. Man talks of love: alas! few men know what it is. Man has forsaken me! Yes, the once idolized Isabella is forsaken by all she most loves. Oh! Do not, Margaritta, add to the number, do not thou forsake me."
Margaret sank, weeping, on the bosom of this female sophist: by degrees her repugnance wore off at the idea of uniting her fate to that of the woman who had seduced the husband of her sister, and ere two hours had past, she felt for her the warmest affection and admiration.
She consented to share with her, her home and fortune; and as concealment on each side was absolutely requisite, they were discoverable to no one, from the recluse manner in which they lived, each lady taking the name of her perfidious lover—Mrs. Frederic, and Mrs. Charles; reporting themselves to the land-lady of the house, who was not very particular or tenacious about her lodgers, as the wives of officers, who were abroad.
Margaret soon imbibed all the deadly poison of Lady Isabella’s opinions, who succeeded in making her think that what each of them had been guilty of was no crime, and that inclinations would never have been given us, if they were not to be gratified: she taught her to glory in their present friendship, which, sacred and liberal in itself, disdained the common-place opinion of the world, or the unavoidable ties of kindred; and so much did she need the soothings of a friend herself, so much consolation did she feel in talking over her own misfortunes to Margaret, and in the good-nature and real good heart of this poor unfortunate, that Lady Isabella really felt for her all the friendship she had, in the commencement of their acquaintance, only feigned.
"We are fellow sufferers, my Margaret," she would say, "both have suffered by the perfidy of men, who now forsake us. Sir Charles is the most inhuman villain of the two: for I am not, my poor girl, I am not in your situation; if I was, I very well know how I should act. How hard are early prejudices to root from the mind! Harrington, the sentimental Harrington, will not for me forswear all future commerce with his wife, if she does condescend to forgive him; no, he will gratefully, he says, accept her forgiveness! He will not, as I request him, devote his life to me and me alone, on the shores of the Atlantic; we therefore meet no more! Nor will I accept the least assistance from him, though his liberality would furnish me amply: but fear not, we shall not want, my dear girl; I have money sufficient for two months: and then I have a beautiful set of diamonds to dispose of, which will support us for some time. But I would trust all to chance, my only deity, sooner than be obliged to him for pecuniary aid, who will not make for me the trifling sacrifice I have required."
Margaret, however, though she did not contradict her ladyship, thought the giving up so lovely a creature as her sister Mary, and a lawful wife beside, was no such trifling sacrifice! notwithstanding the beauty of the lady before her was so resplendent: but she now estimated more the great mind of her ladyship, who, generously braving the opinions of a cruel and illiberal world, had intreated and implored, when she saw Margaritta on the point of perishing, and not knowing where to betake herself, not only that she would share her lot, but promised, if any thing should happen, to deprive her of her protection, that she would recommend her to the care of a sister, who lived in affluence, but who having yielded to the soft passion for another man besides her husband (for she was married), and followed the dictates of nature (though she had forsaken her* three children to indulge her illicit inclination), had become obliged to forego respectable society, yet Lady Isabella assured Margaret was a most liberal-minded woman, and would take the tenderest care of her and her child . . . .Yet this tender lady had forsaken her own!!!
"As to my sister, Caroline," said Lady Isabella, "with more faults than you and I have hairs on our heads, amongst which is that love-repelling, odious vice of gaming, says, forsooth, she will never look upon me again! While her husband, who preaches a doctrine he cannot believe, because he shews his disbelief by his daily practice, inveighs against my conduct, which, he says, will absolutely prevent my ever filling again those circles I had once a right to move amongst! Yet, to gratify their own family pride, and keep up the respectability of our rank, they are endeavouring to accommodate matters, and prevent a trial, with its consequent divorce; for a divorce, they say, must ever prove a wife to be guilty! Whereas a separation only makes the wife received and pitied as a sufferer; she can tell her own story, and having an husband in many degrees unworthy, he is often looked upon as the sole transgressor: poor subterfuges, my Margaritta. However, the detestable Raymond can never allow me a maintenance of separation, but what must be trifling indeed; for nothing but being ordered abroad and eluding his creditors, can save him much longer from the King’s Bench; the confines of which have long groaned for him. His friends, perhaps, conscious that he endeavoured to sell me to old Lord Fenwater, and also knowing that he purposely gave me every opportunity with Harrington, may try (to prevent his being sent to Coventry by the whole army) to make up a purse for him, or rather for me: some of them are very wealthy. If a trial at Westminster-Hall must take place, so be it; I have been guilty of no crime, and Isabella Emerson will never live to be the public scorn, or be in any way publicly disgraced, nor an outcast from any one of those circles she has been accustomed once to honour by her presence."
Though every word this independent spirited lady uttered served but to convince Margaret of the superiority and greatness of her mind, yet she could not help frequently remarking to herself, how much the late agitations of that mind had impaired her person: life, spirit, and vivacity no longer sparkled in her now anxious eyes; no more the arch smile embellished her lovely mouth, nor the elegant repartée escape it: instead of the keen and pointed satire tempered with genteel, though original wit, which used to enliven her conversation, as they now spoke to each other of their absent friends, to the recollection of some she gave a sigh,—on others she bestowed the strong expressions of anger and malevolence.
The mind of Lady Isabella was not, naturally, intended for the throne of vice: education, the prevalence of fashion, the ill examples of her nearest relations, with the books she perused from her girlish days, had warped, and almost entirely overset the few good principles inherent in her, and caused her to give way to the free indulgence of any favourite inclination: the pride and obstinacy of self-will made her continue in any opinion she once thought proper to receive, even though her heart or her mature judgment condemned it: rashness and impetuosity governed her conduct; and to shew her independence of her relatives, and her contempt of the world, she would, in the momentary impulse of haughty vexation, exercise her revenge on those who would dare to contradict or restrain her, even though she inflicted vengeance on herself. Such chiefly was her motive for her marriage with Major Raymond; and of this imprudent and hasty marriage the reader has already seen the result.
The passions of Lady Isabella were warm, her affections ardent, and her friendship, if it once took root, even if misplaced, was sincere: had she been differently educated, though her mind was by no means faultless, and though her temper was naturally severe and mischievous, yet, if in early youth her fine sense had been taught to take a proper bent, she would, with her native energies, have been as conspicuous for her virtue, as for her contempt of that ornament to the female character, and her mind would have become as excellent as it was great.
It is a painful reflection on the bounded limits of all human worth, but there certainly are some characters, wherein the weeds of pride and passion so choke the latent, but yet not extinct virtues, that they must sink before they can rise: the commission of some crime must abash the haughty countenance, and bend down the lofty head, that towers in all the pride and insolence of mistaken virtue, or rather the pride of an unsullied reputation, (for true virtue is meek and humble). Misfortune and neglect must shew them their dependence on the kindness of their inferiors in worldly rank; and as they feel their own littleness before superior goodness, they will be sedulously emulous and ambitious of becoming good likewise.
THE INFIDEL’S LAST RESOURCE.
Asylum sad! from reason, hope, and Heaven!
IT is in vain to describe the agitation of Mrs. Davenport, when the Reverend Edward Marsham entered her boudoir, and the feelings of the father, when he heard from her the fatal lapse of his child from the path of virtue, and her elopement.
With anguish unspeakable, he took his leave, and after traversing the whole town, in the hope of meeting her, his intention was, if he succeeded in his search, to call the wanderer back to peace and hope by his kind forgiveness. This truly christian divine felt no emotions of unrelenting wrath against his daughter; but wished only to heal the lacerated heart of the credulous girl, who had been misled by the artifice of a villain.
After many perplexing conjectures, it struck him that it was more than probable she had accompanied her seducer on his voyage. On the honour of a wretch, who had thus, with cruel wantonness, dishonoured his daughter, he placed no reliance; though Mrs. Davenport had laid so much stress on it, and he doubted not but she was actually in the house at the very time he requested Mr. Davenport to search every corner of it; for the painful intelligence which Robert had brought from the Park, Mrs. Davenport had carefully concealed from a parent, already but too much anguished by the afflicting information which she had imparted.
Worn out by fatigue, sorrow, and disappointment, he returned to St. James’s-square; he retired to his chamber and sent his respects to Sir Edward, and that, not finding himself very well, he hoped he would excuse his attendance at dinner.
Now alone, and freed from the busy unfeeling throng, who had passed him in the public streets, all employed, regardless of other’s concerns, in the pursuit of their own individual business or pleasure, he reflected seriously on what course he had best take, and how to make known to his worthy friend this disgrace, and the additional sorrow which now assailed him; for, to conceal any part of his concerns from such a friend, he deemed unpardonable.
Sir Edward ordered that his dinner might be sent up to him, and which went accompanied by his kindest and most affectionate enquiries after his health: in vain the unhappy man essayed to eat; and while Sir Edward was taking his wine, he joined him in the parlour, and informed him of the fatal circumstance which had happened, without reserve.
"There remains little doubt, my worthy friend," said Sir Edward, "but that Sir Charles Sefton has taken off your daughter: I know that he sails to-morrow early, because I am intimately acquainted with a gentleman who goes in the same vessel; and it is now seven o’clock; not winged horses could reach the port now, before they will be off. I have no acquaintance with Sir Charles, further than that I formed with him at the parsonage at Eglantine, and which ceased at my departure; for he was a man I ever despised: but I will immediately write to my friend, and the letter will arrive nearly as soon on the island as they do: he can inform me if Sir Charles has a lady with him answering your daughter’s description. In the mean time, dear friend, do not sink, Providence watches over the good; to that small, select class I am sure you belong, and he will not afflict those, his only chosen, with more than they are able to bear. We will go down to Twickenham, for a few days, to that excellent sufferer, our dear Mary: remember, my worthy friend, it behoves you, as much as possible, to pour the balm of paternal comfort into her bleeding heart; and for this, I am sure, you will see how needful it is for you to exert all your energies: and we must patiently wait the event of hearing of your other daughter, by the next accounts from Madeira; for I have not the least doubt but that she has prevailed on Sir Charles to take her with him: she expected, daily, your arrival in town, and dreaded to encounter the anger of a virtuous parent. Make yourself easy, my excellent friend; when I certainly find she is with Sir Charles, I will compel him to do her justice." "That, sir, he can never do," replied Edward, "and wretched and infamous as is her present lot, I should be sorry to see her the wife of such a man!"
It was in vain for poor Edward Marsham that night to press his pillow with his aching head: alas! the heart ached so much more, that sleep fled his eye-lids the whole night; and it was absolutely requisite to remove him from town, had he not even owned the dear tie which called him to Twickenham.
In about three or four days, Sir Edward and Mr. Marsham came to town: as the former was now anxious to present the worthy Curate to the Chancellor, they called on him in their way home; but found, more to the disappointment of Sir Edward, than the heart-broken Mr. Marsham, that the benefice had been given away a few days before: the Chancellor, however, made most fervent promises of very soon providing for one, who was so urgently recommended by his friend, Sir Edward Harrington, and whom, on his own account, he felt sincerely desirous of serving.
Such a flattering reception from one so high in rank and power, would at one time have imparted much pleasureable hope to the mind of Edward, but now that mind was only alive to sorrow; hope could no more allure, nor the prospect of an easy competency any longer gratify, which, on account of bequeathing something to his poor Margaret, would once, had she remained virtuous, have been the summit of his earthly wishes.
He left Sir Edward in Pall-mall, where he was engaged to dine with a very particular friend, and where he much wished to persuade Edward Marsham to accompany him, for change of scene, and to dissipate his thoughts; but the Curate intreated so earnestly to be excused, that Sir Edward was obliged to acquiesce.
After he had taken a solitary dinner, a note was brought him by a servant, who left it, saying it required no answer. He saw the seal was engraved with the arms of the Leslie family; and on hastily breaking it, he read the following words:
I was extremely surprised to find that you left your cure, without first writing to me, to obtain my permission." [Edward here could not forbear smiling, for this was an ecclesiastical despotism he had never heard of before.] "This I would have looked over, but you might have been polite enough to have called on me, after your arrival in town, and informed me of your reasons for thus quitting your parochial duty. However, sir, I write to inform you, another Curate is appointed in your place.
"I am now," thought Edward, "bereft of all but the scanty pittance left me by my sister: on that I cannot possibly exist. Can I bear the idea of becoming a dependant on the bounty of Sir Edward Harrington? That must never be! And my son-in-law will soon diminish his noble fortune to help to pay those exorbitant damages which Major Raymond has laid against him."
For the town now rang with the approaching trial. Major Raymond scorned all accommodation urged for, both by the Leslie and Harrington families: the one, he resolved to humble for their former contempt of him, when he married into the family; the other, he looked upon as the golden mine, which would compensate him for that dishonour he had aided and connived at. In order that Harrington should satisfy all his creditors, some of his claim he had discharged, with the immense sums he had already borrowed from the thoughtless Frederic.
Though he had, at first, winked at the infidelity of his wife, yet her own conduct had been truly reprehensible; and Harrington’s fault was so aggravated by his recent marriage with a woman he once adored, it was expected that Major Raymond would succeed in obtaining every shilling of his damages, which he laid at sixty thousand pounds!
Edward sat some time in that scheming kind of various thought, which fixes upon nothing, when a faint sickness came over him; and being a beautiful night, and rather warm for the season, he walked towards the Green Park, to try the effect of the air, to ponder over his misfortunes, and await the next morning for action and exertion, which would now become requisite towards his own support.
As he knew the keeper of the gate, he rang, and asked his permission to walk round the bason: after taking two or three turns, it began to grow somewhat dark, from the moon being under a cloud, which appeared to threaten rain: he discovered during this obscurity something white, like two female figures, who appeared to move towards the grove. Whether from an irresistible impulse of curiosity, or only with a view of dissipating his wretched thoughts, he knew not, but he rose with caution, and followed with softly stealing step after them, till he drew near, and then concealed himself among the trees.
One of them addressed the other in a very low voice, as follows: "I think the Park is totally empty. Now, my friend, my comforter in affliction, give me a last embrace!" The other figure fell on her knees, and answered her; but her voice seemed hoarse and scarcely articulate, and as if she laboured under a severe cold. "Think, oh! think, my dear friend," said she, "Oh! let us reflect, before it will be too late."—"Cowardice and prejudice, I see," said the other, "have so taken root in your mind, that nothing will be able to do them away. Farewell! go to that home which we left, and to which I have bade an eternal adieu! they will receive you: go to my sister Beatrice, tell her you come from me, she will assist you."—"To all that may concern myself," said the other, "you have conquered every prejudice: but shall I not commit a double murder, by destroying with myself, my unborn child?"—"Better is it," said her companion, "to give it peace by death, than usher it into this world of misery: oh! if it should be a daughter, you deliver it from man, its greatest future enemy."—"But do not we, ourselves," said the other, "make this world a scene of misery?" "Farewell," said she, whose daring mind seemed most under the influence of despair, "a moment is too long to live, after the upbraidings of a friend; and if I have been guilty, and there is a future state of punishment, I hasten to receive my deserts; but my chastisement shall be inflicted by a superior being to the sons and daughters of mortality." She then dragged herself from her friend, who still endeavoured to cling to her, crying, "No, no, living or dying, my lot shall never be separated from yours." They then walked so quick to the fatal bason, that Edward had much ado to overtake them, and prevent the dreadful plan which he found was in agitation. He endeavoured to exalt his voice, and cry, "Hold!" but the palpitation of his heart made the word die amongst the rustling of the leaves, which were agitated by a rising wind: he plainly, however, distinguished the voice of Lady Isabella Raymond calling to her friend, "Now I set you the example," and gave the fatal plunge before Edward had time to prevent it. He seized the other trembler in his arms, and said, "Stop, rash young woman, and I will save your friend." He then rushed into the water, and bore her breathless to the shore: he alarmed the Park-gate-keeper, and between them, they conveyed her to the nearest public-house, where medical assistance being immediately sent for, the wretched Isabella was soon recovered.
During this scene, Edward had not once turned towards Margaret; having little idea that his daughter could be residing with, and the avowed friend of, the woman who had destroyed her sister’s peace: she had been strictly watched, in the fear that she might escape, and still commit what these desperate young women had seemed resolved upon.
Margaret had soon discovered her father in the deliverer of Lady Isabella; and dreading to encounter his looks and reproaches, she had knelt by the bed-side, with her face hid by, and resting on her arms: the physician, however, whom Edward had called in, said, "I think it is requisite to attend to this young woman; I have remarked her posture for some time, and what little I can see of her face, is pale as death.
Edward helped him to raise her: what a sight for a father to behold! a daughter in the evident situation of disgrace to her family, the avowed friend of the woman to whom his other daughter owed her conjugal misery, and ready, with her, to rush into eternity, with her unborn infant!
She sank, covered with guilt and shame, at the feet of her father; nor could that father, notwithstanding the anguish of mind he felt, which had more in it of "sorrow than of anger," spurn her from him: ideas crowded on his soul, that villainous and sophistical arts had wrought on an imbecile mind, to tempt it to dishonour, inconsistency, and irreligion; and he resolved in spite of every worldly prejudice to call her back, by tenderness and paternal soothings. "Thou hast been faulty, Margaret," said he, "but fear not thy father, he will forgive thee. Look up, forlorn and abandoned one, abandoned by all thou hast most loved and trusted in, and now nearly forsaken by thy God! thy lover and thy friend have taught thee vice, and what comfort have they afforded thee? Thy impoverished parent will give thee all in his power to bestow, and guide thy wandering mind to repentance and peace."
"And is this," thought Margaret, as she again received the parental embrace, "is this the father I once thought so rigid? O life, life! how do thy real events condemn the fictitious joys and sorrows of romance, and shew the folly of such idle and improbable adventures!"
How different, also, felt the Lady Isabella, as she lay on an humble bed, restored to life, and snatched from eternity! how did she prove the truth of the poet, who says,
"Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view,
Who stand upon the threshold of the new."
She, who was resolved no longer to live, when public infamy had branded her name, when she could no longer shine honoured, the gayest of the gay, now felt happy again to "breathe the vital air, and triumph in existence" only.—"If the true Christian is deluded," thought she, "oh! how happy is such sweet, such powerful delusion! hope ever dwells in his bosom, amidst all his severest misfortunes. My brother, whose life is a reproach to his doctrine, will see me no more! a world of continual crime condemns me, and shuts me out: he, whose sacred character forbids him to associate with guilt, to whose eyes the very sight of my form must be repugnant, saves my life, at the hazard of his own. "Mr. Marsham," said she, "how can you bear my odious presence? I beg you will leave me; I cannot meet your reproachful eye."—"Have I then reproached you, Lady Isabella," replied Edward, "even with my looks?"—"No, sir, but they strike me with awe: methinks, you should have rejoiced to see me perish."
"Pardon me, madam, it is the duty of every man to step forward to rescue a fellow-creature from destruction: to me, peculiarly belongs the exertion of saving souls, not the wish that they may perish. Every worldly prejudice must therefore be now done away: as Lady Isabella Raymond can no longer shine with dignity, amongst the great and gay, be it my part to soothe her mind with devotion’s fairest hopes, and her own in retirement to pass her days in quiet and virtue: for retirement, to a lady of your cultivated mind, will not bring with it that dreary gloom which you may now imagine. At present, be calm; at some future period, we will speak more of those subjects, to which you have hitherto, I fear, given but a very little portion of thought except to despise. I am happy to find you so perfectly recovered: I have just ordered a coach, and when you find yourself able to rise, I will accompany you back to your lodgings; but you must pardon me, and I am sure your good sense will see the propriety of my resolution, that I cannot think of my child being any longer an inmate in the same dwelling with you; honour, decorum, the ties of sisterhood equally forbid it; and you both part this night, to meet no more while I live, to have any influence or authority over my daughter. You weep, Margaret; and I rejoice to see that Lady Isabella weeps also, these tears are salutary and will relieve you; and, trust me," added the good man, with much mildness, "I will do all in my power to befriend you: assistance, alas! poor as I am, I cannot offer you; but I can ensure it you from a quarter whence you might least expect, and least merit it." "What!" said the still proud Isabella, "do you imagine I would consent to receive assistance from her I have so deeply injured? No, nor from any one, sir, who is even in the smallest degree allied to her; I would sooner toil for hard-earned existence, in the very lowest occupation: but it is needless. I have jewels of considerable value in the hands of my banker, which, whenever I should die, I bequeathed to my sister, Beatrice, whom you know not, and* the world have disclaimed her. Those jewels I shall convert into money; they will support me for some time in that retirement, where I may choose hereafter to end my days: and if my friends succeed in making my unfeeling and sordid husband allow me, out of the damages he gains, the half only of the sum he received as my fortune after our marriage, I shall then have no farther pecuniary wants. I feel myself now, sir, able to rise, and I will accompany you from hence."
The day began to break, as Mr. Marsham led the unhappy Isabella Raymond to the hackney-coach which stood in waiting: much did he say to her, during her ride to her former lodgings in St. James’s-street; deeply did he impress her mind with her sole dependence on a superior power: the haughty, high-born, the once flattered and caressed Lady Isabella Raymond now sank humbled before a poor country Curate, whose dictates she would once, not only have despised, but looked upon, had they been directed to her with that superiority which virtue now gave him, the height of insolence. She ventured however to remark, and that very judiciously, as she agreed with Mr. Marsham that he could not take his daughter, in her situation, to Sir Edward Harrington’s, that it would not be possible to fix her in any temporary lodging, that was reputable, till a later hour in the day; and with so much sad and forlorn meekness, with so much polished and native sweetness, did she urge her request, that Edward and his daughter not only stayed and partook of her breakfast, but he sat near two hours after with her, enforcing his pious and gentle precepts, and advising the plan of life he wished her in future to adopt. He had long studied the human heart, he had often witnessed the real contrition of the sincere penitent, as he has attended the bed of sickness and death; and he feared not now to trust Lady Isabella with the worst of all her enemies—herself! He meant, after he had seen her re-established in her lodgings, to take Margaret to an hotel for that day; but he found it impossible to resist her persuasions, especially in her disconsolate and wretched situation.
The parting between her and Margaret was affecting, even to agony: they saw each other for the last time, and the worthy Edward chid not their frequent procrastination; he even tenderly took the hand of the deeply abashed Isabella, and said, as his eyes were moistened with the tear of pity, "Persevere! think how many years are yet before you. Remember always the mercy of Omnipotence, and you will, I am sure, you will be happy." Lady Isabella dropped on her knees, and gratefully bedewed the hand, which she fervently grasped, with her tears. They then all solemnly repeated the word, farewell, and Edward and his daughter departed.
They drove a short distance from London, and the father took an humble lodging for his daughter, where he left her, promising to see her (as indeed he promised the same to her wretched friend, who stood so much in need of consolation and advice) the next day.
He then returned to St. James’s-square.
"I was much surprised and alarmed," said Sir Edward, after the usual salutations, "that you did not sleep here last night. Did you return to Twickenham?" "My best of friends," replied he, "I have such wonderful events to relate to you, that you will no longer be surprised at my absence, when I unfold them."
"I shall be most happy to hear you," said the Baronet, with a degree of cold severity, "for I have both heard and seen what has much astonished me."
Edward then gave a full detail of all the reader has been informed of in the commencement of this chapter. "Excellent, best of men!" said Sir Edward, as he cordially took his hand, "how much do I glory in taking to my heart the true christian, who sets aside all personal animosity, and discovers, with the benevolent eye of charity, latent virtues, under appearances the most vicious, and seemingly lost amongst actions the most reprehensible; while he saves the sinner who injures him, with equal joy and delight, as he would the dearest of his earthly friends. Yet, such a character as thine stands as a more certain mark for the arrows of slander: would you believe that calumny has most severely handled you this morning? Mr. Leslie was returning from a masquerade, as you handed into an hackney-coach, from a little obscure public-house, his sister-in-law, Lady Isabella! He huddled his domino round him, for the revered gentleman, by what chance I know not, was on foot, and traced the coach, till he saw it stop at an house in St. James’s-street: he marked well the house, and then repaired to the St. James’s Coffee-house, where bereaving himself of his domino, he sat and watched this house, to which he was nearly opposite.
"I walked in there early, from taking a walk round the Park; I had not met Mr. Leslie since the affair of my nephew with Lady Isabella, and I was desirous of quitting the coffee-room, as an interview, I judged, would not be very pleasant to either party; but Mr. Leslie rose and intreated a few minutes conversation with me, at the window in which he was posted: he related to me what he had seen; I told him it was impossible: "Do you think," said he, "I do not know Lady Caroline’s sister?"—"Assuredly, sir, any one who had often seen Lady Isabella, could not easily be mistaken in her person, in Mr. Marsham’s you might."—"What! in my late Curate?" said the noble Rector of Eglantine. "Yes, sir, your late Curate," said I. Leslie dropt his bold eyes;—however, to make short my story, to satisfy his repeated request, I stood and gazed with him at the window, and, to my great surprise, saw you hand a female into a hackney-coach; she was so enveloped in a shawl, and her face so concealed in a huge bonnet, that no one could distinguish her form or features: but we had little doubt but it was Lady Isabella. I was much mortified, took my leave, and came away; for it was nearly two hours after my arrival at the coffee-house, before you took your leave: and I must say, that I thought within myself, whatever may be Edward Marsham’s motives, he surely carries Christian charity too far, to be thus mysteriously in company with the woman who has, by an adulterous commerce with his daughter’s husband, made that daughter miserable. But this was not all I was fated to endure this morning.
"I called in at a fruit-shop, to pay for some fruit I had purchased a few days ago, and there stood a gossiping awkward-looking girl of a servant maid, twirling the key of a street-door round her finger. "Why, yes," said she to the shop-woman, (while I was speaking to the master,) "I thinks, indeed, they be but queer ones! they brought home a gentleman at day-break this morning; and there’s been such crying and kissing one another’s hands with he and the tall handsome un, as nothing can be like; and he does seem so to love her, and look so pitiful at her."—"Ay!" said the shop-woman, "they went off, I fancy, together in a hack: he took some lady, but she so muddled herself up, that nobody should know her, I suppose."—"Sure! well, like enough," said the wench, "I hasn’t been at home some time, and I dare say I shall get a fine noise; for I’se been giving it our butcher’s boy! he axed me which of the ladies that gentleman in black was a-going to take into keeping? I’d no notion of his inperance; ’tisn’t, you know, ma’am, like you, who has a right to axe about their neighbours." She then began a long gossip’s tale, in which I found you and your ladies no more concerned, and I went home: but recollecting that I had appointed my banker to meet me at his house at a certain hour, I went there; and as I came back, met with an old friend, and whom nothing would serve, but we must lounge away an hour at the Panorama, in the Strand. I accompanied him, malgré moi, in his carriage.
"When I arrived at the Panorama, I met with several acquaintance, who all seemed to regard me with a queer pity, like that of Mrs. Candour in the School for Scandal: presently I got behind a knot of genteel-looking people, but of whom I knew nothing, and I am sure they did not personally know me, by what they said. "Well!" said a lady of a certain age, "What will the depravity of these times come to?"—"Oh!" said an affected puppy, on her right hand, "C’est tout bien commode! the poor parson wanted to marry his pretty daughter well, at any rate, and on easy terms: and so, it is thought, between them all they agreed to let the handsome and dashing Mr. Harrington, who could never keep to one woman for one month, enjoy himself with every yielding fair-one, that might chance to please him: so, I think the least they can do, after giving him so much latitude, is to take notice of her that has made him so happy!"—"I maintain," said the lady who had first spoken, "that it is the height of depravity, for* young Mrs. Harrington and her father, and Lady Isabella Raymond, to be all living together: it seems the father has just taken her down to his daughter’s this very morning."—"The person I pity most," said a young lady, "is Sir Edward Harrington: they say, he has lavished immense sums upon the education of Mrs. Harrington, who, I believe, before her marriage, could hardly read or write: and now, you see, they are all revelling and living together upon the good Baronet, for I am told, he entirely supports Mrs. Harrington and her father; and I dare say, he does not know that the shameless Lady Isabella is among them."
"I could not help smiling, as I looked on my friend; but I observed that he kept a petrifying kind of gravity, nor did he return my smile; and, vexed at what I had heard, and also at what I had seen in the morning, I moved to come home. As we came through Pall-Mall, for curiosity’s sake, I said we would step into the Historic Gallery; I there heard a general buz of — "*Is not it very strange that they should be all living together?" while a pert Miss amongst them, said, "I am sure, when I am a wife, my husband will not find me so very accommodating!"
"Disgusted at what I had heard, I took leave of my friend: but he said, "My dear Sir Edward, I can tell you the meaning of all this: it was all through the coffee-room of the St. James’s, this morning, that Mr. Harrington, his wife, and Lady Isabella are all living together en famille, as comfortably as can be, and have for some time; that the father knows it, and not only has winked at it, but approves, and frequently comes up to town with her ladyship to transact her business, and meets her at a little public-house, in the vicinity of Piccadilly, or at private lodgings in St. James’s Street: I would not tell you, did I not know it to be a fact, for my intelligence came from the Reverend Mr. Leslie himself."—"Depend upon it," said I, "much has been added to it, both by him and those who carried the tale to you."—We then parted, and when I came home, I found it was past four o’clock, and that you had not yet returned: this vexed me, I own:—We will dine now, and after dinner I have more to say to you."
"The banished are not unfortunate, so long as they
are not prevented from taking their virtue with
them into banishment. Wise Providence! thy
loveliest possessions are independent of human
GENERAL MOREAU’S MSS.
AS this work has already exceeded its intended limits, we inform the reader, as briefly as we can, that the dinner, to which Sir Edward Harrington was so particularly engaged, the day he returned with Mr. Marsham from Twickenham, and to which he so much wished the Curate to accompany him, was, to meet his penitent nephew; for so his friend had contrived for it, unknown to Sir Edward. We will pass over Frederic’s unfeigned contrition, and his reconciliation with his uncle: again Sir Edward promised to restore him to his favour, and to employ all his powers, to gain him the pardon of his affectionate and excellent wife.
Retirement the most secluded, was now become absolutely requisite for most of the conspicuous actors in this piece. Sir Edward had an estate in Wales: and as his imprudent and thoughtless nephew, notwithstanding his own riches, had greatly impaired his uncle’s large fortune, it was judged expedient that he, the good Curate and his daughter, with her contrite and deeply humbled Frederic, should occupy the retired mansion in Wales; Edward Marsham as resident chaplain to the Baronet, who would also put him in possession of a small Welch living, then vacant and in his own gift, but which he had never thought sufficiently good to present him with, having higher views for him.
The poor romantic wanderer, Margaret, was still to retain the name she had adopted, and to pass for a young widow; for, as Sir Edward remarked, a little deception which does no harm, must sometimes be practised in a deceptive world, to enable us to pass through it, when we have erred, not only for our own credit, but chiefly for that of our families and connexions.
This good man carried his generosity so far, as even to propose that Margaret might make a part of his family, at his mansion in Wales; but this her father would by no means admit; and it was agreed that a comfortable lodging should be provided for her near them, with some respectable matron, with whom she might board. When all these plans were laid, and ready to be put in execution, Charles Marsham arrived from Walcheren.
Prosperous in his situation, honoured by all his superior officers, and beloved by those beneath him, he had obtained, through the interest of those in power, who were well disposed to serve him, and to whom his merits were long unknown, the most rapid promotion; and had an appointment of still higher trust, honour, and profit bestowed upon him, but which, however, would compel him again to quit his country, and that in a very few days.
When this became known to his excellent brother and worthy benefactor, they judged it best not to pain his susceptible heart, nor irritate his over-warm temper, by a detail of many afflicting circumstances. Margaret was, therefore, reported to be on a visit to a lady in the country. The infidelity of Harrington to his amiable and favourite niece, they could not conceal from him; the public-papers had too much dwelt on the painful circumstance: men are too apt to excuse each other, in their promiscuous gallantry; of Harrington’s fault he said but little, but perhaps it was owing to the presence of his uncle.
Many, however, were the bitter epithets, which he bestowed on Lady Isabella; and boasted his prophetic powers, saying, he always knew her daring spirit would never come to any good.
Edward, who now felt for her only those emotions excited by pity, said, he made no doubt but she deeply repented her crime; that she had retired from the world, and was truly afflicted at her past conduct.
Charles made no other reply than "the d——l help her; God forgive her, but I’ll be shot if I ever shall." He gave fresh tears to the memory of poor Ralph; of whose fatal accident he had been previously informed by letters: and then asked, "What sort of being is his son?—who has come so unlooked and unwished for!" "Such an one," replied Edward, "whom every body must love,"—"Ay!" said Charles, "with your grave countenance, and often frowning brow, you would have said the same of a poor donkey; for I believe, Ned, you are disposed to love every thing that has life!"—"But," said Sir Edward, on whose judgment Charles implicitly relied, "Mr. Matthew Marsham is the most amiable of human beings." Charles said no more, but hastened to Twickenham, to his dear and favourite niece, whom he ever thought the most amiable among women. She now, though a soft sorrow was seated on her countenance, which, though much dispelled by the return of her Frederic’s affection, yet remained visible, appeared more lovely than ever: elegance had succeeded to the untaught and uncultivated graces she had received from nature; and before her uncle Charles departed, she astonished him with her progress in the accomplishments she had been taught.
Charles stayed but three days, before he again received his orders to go abroad; and the remainder of Mr. Marsham’s family, accompanied by Sir Edward and his penitent nephew, soon after set off for Wales.
It will not be displeasing, we think, to the reader to learn, that Mrs. Susanna Bradbury, able to leave her niece a fortune of seven thousand pounds, readily, and with the more ready consent of the other parties, gave up the ten, to unite her to her worthy lover: they still reside at Eglantine; Matthew having purchased Mrs. Harrington’s cottage, where they dwell a pattern of conjugal felicity.
While recording a wedding, we must not forget to mention that of the Royal Phelim O’Gurphy! who soon followed his master to town; was united by him to Jenny O’Dunnahough; and this doughty descendant of Hibernia’s ancient Kings has taken a little shop in Petty-France, Westminster: Jenny still sells milk, and Phelim vegetables, pickled salmon, and oysters.
Sir Charles Sefton fell a victim to his vices and dissipation, almost as soon as he reached the Island of Madeira: he expressed some regret at his usage of Margaret; and owned, that never having met before with a truly innocent female, he loved her better than any other woman. He bequeathed her one thousand pounds, and two for his child. Margaret wept at the death of its father, and prayed heaven to forgive him, as readily as she did.
*The Honorable and Reverend Theodore Leslie, receiving that rapid church preferment, which places him in a very conspicuous situation, affects in his outward demeanour a thorough reformation; and we are happy to say, that we believe this affectation of goodness will render it in time as real as it is habitual.
*The love of gaming is the vice of all others, which takes deepest root, and is the most difficult to eradicate:—Lady Caroline Leslie yet devotes the greatest part of her time to the card-table.
Mrs. Kennedy is her decided favourite, and still prospers as an authoress: she still flatters the great, and her own taste and genius ensure her success, while she administers the charming well-tempered draught of adulation.
Lady Isabella Raymond retired, as soon as she could possibly arrange her pecuniary affairs to her satisfaction, to a small rural cottage, plain and humble, in the remotest part of Devonshire; and here she met the amiable woman, whom her towering virtue (which owed itself all to concurring circumstances) once despised, or noticed only in private, Mrs. Edmonds; who, with her benefactor, Mr. Rouveau, had left Eglantine, not finding the inhabitants quite congenial to their taste; the house also where they resided, being infested by damps which injured their health.
She found these amiable people true comforters in her affliction; ready to afford her every kindness and assistance in their power: in depression of spirits their cheerfulness enlivened her; in sickness their attentions soothed and restored her. She regularly corresponds with the Reverend Edward Marsham, who is delighted with the pious style of her letters, and encourages her in the glorious work of reformation: he teaches her comforted mind to receive the bright blessings of Hope! Her health daily and rapidly decays; the world has few charms for her; and though with her books, and her newly-acquired friends, she passes her time more satisfactory than she at first imagined she could do in seclusion, yet she looks anxiously forward to that period, when she shall receive the unalloyed happiness promised to the truly penitent.
Mr. and Mrs. Davenport still continue the slaves of unmeaning fashion, their lives prejudicial to themselves, and useless and uninteresting to others.
Frederic and Mary seem likely, in their retirement, to experience a far greater degree of happiness than before his error: he now never languishes for change or emancipation; but thinks himself only unhappy when bereft of the company of his beloved wife, from whom he never experiences the slightest reproach, but who shews him the sweetest and kindest attention, possesses thereby his fondest regard, while they enjoy
"An elegant sufficiency, content,
"Retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books,
"— — — — — — — — useful life,
"Progressive virtue, and approving Heav’n!"
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