I LEFT your houſe this morning, pre-determined never to enter it again; the ſhelter I have flown to promiſes me the utmoſt ſecurity: do not therefore ſeek after me; ſince I am obliged, in the ſorrow of my ſoul, to tell you, that I [Page 2] ſhould be compelled to refuſe even the ſupplications of my beloved Charles, ſhould his vigilance detect my retreat. May you be for ever happy, and have the philoſophy and prudence ſoon to forget the unfortunate
GOD of heaven! Pre-determined never to enter my houſe again —And did the hitherto kind, gentle, affectionate Charlotte, form ſuch a reſolution; and has ſhe had the heart to put it in practice—? Inhuman girl! What am I to think of this? I will inſtantly fly to all your acquaintance, and never reſt till I again have the fugitive Charlotte in the arms of the faithful
I BEGAN my purſuit at five minutes paſt eleven in the morning, and I continued it till within a quarter of twelve at night; the cloth and dinner all that time remaining untouched upon the table; for I ſent your ſiſter one way, while I went another: but the labour of both hath terminated in diſappointment.
I now catch up the pen involuntarily to write to you, without knowing whither to ſend my letter: [Page 5] and though convinced of this, I continue to write on. My heart is full, and I muſt diſcharge ſome part of its load upon paper: ſurely your reſidence will not long be a ſecret, and then I will ſend it to you.
Soft a little—'Tis the dead of the night, and the leaſt alarm is heard diſtinctly. In the moment of expectation the ſoul ſits in the ear, and liſtens to the approaches of her object—The ſound of a coach wheel rolls remotely. May it bring onward the treaſure I have loſt!
ACCURSED is the gift of ſenſibility. 'Tis the ſmart that "agonizes at every pore." Ever wretched ſhall the lover be, in proportion to the fineneſs of his feelings. [Page 7] How little to be deſired is delicacy of paſſion! The higher degrees of tenderneſs are diſtracting; and, if the agitation I am now in ſhould continue long, with what fervency of ſupplication ſhould I pray for ſtoiciſm or apathy, or any other power that deadens the enervating ſoftneſs of recollection!
I riſe from my bed to pen this ejaculation before the dawn of the day. Ah! barbarous Charlotte, what a night have I laboured through? I had reſolved to think of you no more, but my heart, unfaithful to its reſolutions, will admit no other ideas but thoſe which are connected with love and Charlotte. Inſtantly ſprang [Page 8] the tear to my eye as I entered the ſolitary chamber: the late ſcenes of ſerenity and interchanged endearment were now altered on the ſudden to every thing that is dreary, every thing that is deſolate: unpreſſed was the pillow, which, but the night before, adminiſtered the balm of ſoftneſs to the cheek of beauty; and I found ſomething to awaken a diſtreſsful feeling in every object that the taper exhibited to my view—The toilet was not truſted with its ſuſpended ornaments—the chair was unoccupied which uſed to ſuſtain your day-dreſs—but the night robes were hanging idly, and full in view, at the ſide of the bed: there was nobody to take them [Page 9] down—nobody to wear them. Their miſtreſs had deſerted them. I toſt about for an hour, and fretted myſelf into fatigue; an unquiet ſlumber ſuceeded only to torture fancy by preſenting you to me in dreams.
She gave you to me in colours the moſt glowing, attitudes the moſt atttacting, and ſituations impoſſible to be born. I yielded to the pleaſures of imagination, caught her dear figure in my arms, and imprinted upon it the viſionary kiſs. What was my aſtoniſhment—what my anguiſh, when I awaked to the deception—? If the poſt of the morning does not bring me intelligence, or if affection does not prevail with you [Page 10] to come yourſelf—ah, thou fair, returning fugitive—! I ſhall either loſe my ſenſes, or have reaſon left, only to hope for its departure.
Polly, your ſiſter, has examined your trunks and drawers, out of [Page 11] which ſhe ſays nothing is miſſing; and, it ſeems, you are gone without either cloaths or money. How ſhall I interpret this? Dreadful images riſe before me; and yet—it cannot be,—you have no cauſe. Since the day that we met I have affectionately anticipated every wiſh, and, to the utmoſt of my power, protected you from every care—ſelf-deſtruction—! No, no, that can never be; you have too aweful a ſenſe of deity—of duty—and you have no temptation to rob the world and me of an individual ſo ineſtimable—the more I think, the deeper do I dive into perplexities. I will throw away the pen and think no more. You do not imagine the peace of my ſoul [Page 12] worth a ſingle ſlip of paper, or one ſtroke of the pen. Farewell:
You have injured CHARLES.
SOMETHING is due, I forſee, to the alleviation of that anxiety, which my abſence will throw you into. I am therefore hence induced to tell you that I am well and happy, and, upon your ſolemn engagement of promiſe never to come in perſon, will tranſmit to you my addreſs, [Page 13] where I ſhall think myſelf honoured by your correſpondence, the only connexion that can for the future take place betwixt Charles and
I Received your packet, every ſentence of which was calculated to afflict me—ah forbear my beloved Charles—forbear to charm me into a relapſe! you accuſe me of barbarity, when you ought to encourage me in virtue. I have made a ſacrifice my dear friend—late as it is, I have made a ſacrifice to devotion, and to duty. That I may not however ſuffer any longer the imputation of cruelty, I will frankly reveal to you the motive—the only motive that could prevail with me to quit the ſociety of Charles.
[Page 16] To tell you the whole matter in a ſingle ſentence—I have ſeen a perſon who hath a greater right to Charles than Charlotte—I have ſeen—your wife. Ah, ſir, what an interview—? unprepared for the ſcene, how could I ſuſtain it? I ſunk under it; and your lady triumphed in all the dignity of privilege, and advantages of argument.—Surely heaven threw her in my way to ſhew me in bluſhing colours to her and to myſelf.— We had never met before, and as the meeting was delayed for more than four years, it was by ſo much the more aweful and inſupportable. Yet do not blame her Charles. Whatever may have been your diſagreements, and however multiplied the [Page 17] cauſes that led originally to your diſunion, ſhe hath ſtill the right of a married woman, and deſerves to be heard. Nor can I complain of her conduct even upon ſo trying an occaſion—ſhe did not inſult, ſhe did not execrate: but, purſuing a much nearer way to the heart, ſhe appealed from my paſſions to my ſenſe of juſtice, and from my tenderneſs, to my truth. Oh! Charles, Charles, her pleadings were too pathetic to be reſiſted—I took her hand and bathed it with my tears, and ſhe followed the advantage ſhe had gained till ſhe obtained that promiſe, which I have at length had the fortitude to perform.
[Page 18] Severe, I confeſs to you—ſevere, even to the verge of diſtraction, has been the conflict. Long I heſitated, long I remained undetermined; and even at laſt I have been compelled rather to ſtifle the riſing emotions of tenderneſs precipitately, than act upon the calm principles of deliberation.—Yet I have now been almoſt a week abſent, and am alive: though there is a ſtand of coaches oppoſite my window (any one of which would carry me to the only man I love upon earth) I have had the courage to ſee them drive off and return, without filling a place in any one of them myſelf.
[Page 19] No longer therefore accuſe a behaviour that challenges your admiration, even while it afflicts you. My trunk, you may, if you pleaſe, forward to my apartment, and my ſiſter (who being ignorant of our real ſituation had better be ſtill kept ſo) I would recommend you to ſend home to her mother in the country, where the news, neither of our ſeparation nor its motive, may ever arrive. Be this as it may, return to you again I never can; and indeed, to ſhew you the impoſſibility of it, I have paid a voluntary viſit to Cleora, your lawful lady, to aſſure her we are parted for ever. Nothing therefore remains, but that you endeavour to emulate, [Page 20] till you ſurpaſs, the heroiſm of the determined
IN the agony of my heart I have equity enough to praiſe your heroiſm, though it is daſhed with a romance that aſcends to the very ſummit of enthuſiaſm. I now ſee my fate, and the continuance of the miſery that attends it.
Think not, Charlotte, I laugh at laws, or ridicule inſtitutions held ſacred and obligatory. Dear girl, I do not laugh at them, but, in my particular caſe, and in others ſimilar to mine, an ample apology is found in the dictates of nature, reaſon, and common ſenſe. I will not, nor indeed am I yet calm enough, to ramble into the detail of original grievances—thoſe grievances which produced a ſeparation from the wife of the law, who hath now ſeparated the wife of the ſoul. Suffice it to [Page 22] ſay, it was a raſh marriage, and ſoon repented on both ſides: the bitterneſs of conjugal repentance is beyond every other poignant, and happy is it if diſunion, rather than perpetuated diſagreement, reſults from it. Is this ſophiſtry? — Is this caſuiſtry? no Charlotte, it is ſimple, didactic argument, ratified by unprejudiced reaſon, and ſtampt with the ſanction of unbigotted ſenſe—I feel as nicely as yourſelf the force of virtue, and the elegant triumphs of unſpotted character, but I ſee no reaſon why thoſe, who, upon the evidence of more than two years experience, are unſuited to each other, "join'd, not match'd," ſhould live janglingly together, merely to pull the tight cord of a connexion [Page 23] at different ends, and exiſt miſerably under the ſame roof, for the meagre ſatisfaction of having it to ſay, we fight it out friendly, without parting.
Egregious folly! and ſuperſtition and ſlavery in their extremes! you know the whole matter: my ſituation has been often delineated to you, and I will only deſire you to reflect attentively upon it, before I obey your cruel requeſt in relation to your trunk. Ah, Charlotte, how can I bear to ſee thoſe ſeveral ornaments purchaſed by my own hand in the oſtentatious fondneſs of ſhewing you to the admiring public as the property of your conſtant protector— [Page 24] how can I bear to ſee theſe depart into any other dreſſing-room but that which belongs to you, and in which they are now waiting the return of her who honours them in the wearing. My dear, dear companion, it muſt not be: the laws of love and life, and reciprocated conjunction of hearts and minds forbid it. Think better—oh, think better of it—throw aſide the rigour of thoſe reſolutions which can produce no good, and admit thoſe receiv'd ideas which will ſoften this unneceſſary ſeverity, and direct you to the ſighing boſom, and open arms of
YOU do ſophiſticate Charles, and you are a caſuiſt. Deny it not. Your wife is a fine woman, and you ought to love her: ſhe is chaſte, and you ought to live with her. But live with her or not, I have done my duty, and though it ſhould ſhorten my life, I will ſtill perſevere, and fly the open arms of the late beloved Charles as ſedulouſly as if they were filled with poiſon.
I ASK your pardon for detaining any part of your property after it was ſo peremptorily demanded. I have however now, though late, made reſtitution of every thing which either your ſiſter's induſtry or mine, could find about your apartments—I have ſeen, madam, the trunk containing your dreſſes, and decorations carried upon the ſhoulders of a porter, coffin like; and had it been indeed your coffin my deſpair would have been only one degree ſuperior. Heavy as it is, [Page 27] with what a joy ſhould I have ſtooped to the burden, and been myſelf the meſſenger; while the inſenſible athletic animal who is now ſuch, will be intent only upon the profits of his meſſage, and view only with a vulgar amazement, the form of the fair tyrant who rejects her conqueſt, and and yet holds in chains her captive.
Your concluding ſentiment enters a caveat againſt further argument, and ſhortens my letter. It is not, I perceive, the force of virtuous principles drives you from me only, but the poiſon of averſion you have conceived for thoſe open arms to which you were ſo tenderly, though I confeſs ſo officiouſly invited. Fear not, I [Page 28] beſeech you madam, the ſhortneſs of your life upon my account; it is in no danger from that quarter, and I do not doubt but your health and ſpirits will continue to encreaſe in proportion to the length of your abſence.
The point is plain enough, and I am ſorry your delicacy and ingenuity have been put to ſuch a ſtrait for an expedient. How extremely-á-propos was your interview with Cleora! and how ſincerely do I congratulate you upon the lucky criſis in which it has united inclination and duty. I perceive they have gone in this affair, like friends, well, but unexpectedly met, hand in hand together. Four [Page 29] years poſſeſſion, is I muſt own enough to poiſon any body, and it is only for ſuch conſtant fools as Charles to increaſe his paſſion, by gratifying it. I again beg your pardon, and promiſe to treſpaſs no more upon that time, which you are no doubt employing in more agreeable engagements than reading the letters of a caſt lover— perhaps the preſent hour is enlivened by the charms of a new acquaintance, and it may be, in the delirium of female vivacity upon the dear ſubject of liberty reſtored—that paradiſe regained to the ſoul of a woman— the name, I ſay, and infirmity of the neglected Charles may give additional zeſt to ſprightlineſs, and enhance the [Page 30] entertainment of a delicious tête-á-tête.
The victor, I muſt own, hath a right to imitate the barbariſm of Achilles, and draw at the tail of his chariot the corpſe of conqueſt. At this I ſhall not pretend to cavil. 'Tis the preſcriptive right of the tyrant, and the ſlave muſt ſubmit. But if there exiſts any man in the creation hardy enough to partake your conqueſt, and to expreſs the impudence of exultation over it—if ſuch a one there is madam, let him tremble—for nothing but his life ſhall pacify my heart, or atone for the ſport he has made of my weakneſs, or my ſenſibility.
NOW, indeed, Sir, you have nobly exerted yourſelf, and I ought to expreſs to you my thanks for taking the only method that could make me forget you. Were I not inexcuſably weak I ſhould do this, but I own you have wounded me: I own that your ſeveral ſarcaſms have gone where you directed them—into the receſſes of my heart. Moſt ungenerous Charles, to interpret that action into the moſt mercenary meanneſs, which, I ſummon the great God that inſpired it, to witneſs, proceeded from principle.
[Page 32] No, Sir; my ſpirits and health (if I may judge of the future, by the preſent) are not likely to be reſtored to me in proportion to the length of my abſence: nor was the abruptneſs of my departure the effort of ſo much ingenuity as you may be pleaſed to imagine.—
If you are yet capable of doing juſtice, I deſire you to reflect on the various ſtruggles I have at different times had ſince the commencement of our connection, upon the point that now carried me for ever from you! Even before I ſaw the lawful Cleora I ſhed many a tear, and heaved many a ſigh at the thought of that injury I was every hour [Page 33] committing againſt her. Nay, did I not twice before, even in the warmeſt tranſports of our tenderneſs, bring myſelf to the reſolution of leaving you? You purſued, perſuaded, prevailed, and brought me back to guilty pleaſures. Seeing the life of Charles bound up in the ſociety of Charlotte, I endeavoured again to reconcile myſelf to my ſituation. I even adopted, in ſome degree, the ſophiſtry of your own ſentiments. I argued, as an apology, the innocence of my intention; the hearty deſire I had to ſerve your family, the gratitude I owe to the man, who improved my underſtanding and adorned my manners: and, in ſhort, I took refuge in a thouſand plauſibilities, [Page 34] rather than be torn on the rack of reflection, and leave a ſociety ſo inexpreſſibly dear to me.
Auſpicious to the ſcheme of forgetfulneſs, it was about this time you know, Sir, that we began our excurſions, and took the different tours of England, Ireland, and Scotland. The improvements I made in the courſe of theſe journies, the ſerenity of the ſeaſons in which they were, for the moſt part, performed, and the attracting benefits of ſo ingenious a companion as Charles, ſuſpended for a while the kneener ſenſe of an illicit connection. Yet, in the very boſom of bliſs I was never ſo dull as not to know that it [Page 35] was an illicit one; and therefore, proper to be broken. To break it, nevertheleſs, was far beyond the feebleneſs of my power. The idea of Charles and all his faſcinating qualities, mixt with every image, and made the leading feature of every figure that was formed by the ſoul. In repugnance to the conduct I ought to have purſued, I called to my aid all the ſeductions of imagination, and, when they failed, I derived the comforts of ſelf-deluſion, even from the pictures of truth—Is he not, ſaid I, induſtrious to juſtify my error, while I ſoothed my paſſion; is he not the man, who took me up in a more than orphan ſtate, and proved himſelf to me a father and a friend? [Page 36] Did he not find me a ruined creature—a poor unfortunate wanderer, who had been juſt deſerted by the villain lord, who, taking advantage of ſimplicity had robbed my innocence, and turned me unprovided upon the world—? Ought I not to bleſs the accident then that threw me in the way of this affectionate protector? From what irremediable miſery may he not have ſaved me? How indefatigable has been his tenderneſs? How aſſiduous his efforts to ſupport me? How anxious and unremitting his wiſhes and labours to place me in a way of ſupporting myſelf, againſt that day in which he might want life to exert himſelf? Was not this my firſt preceptor? [Page 37] Wanting the attentions of a parent, and an early victim to my credulity, did he not find me ſtepping into the very border of female violation? Was not our firſt interview in the very momentous criſis of a woman's fate; and was I not weeping, in the bitter ſincerity of my heart, over the proſpects of deſtruction?
Surrounded by calamities like theſe, did not providence direct Charles to ſave me, as the guardian angel of an unhappy girl? and has not this very Charles preſerved his friendſhip unbroken, and his fidelity conſummate ever ſince the day of my deliverance?
[Page 38] Arguments like theſe, ſtrongly ſeconded by the feelings of my heart, did I frequently exert, till, cooperating with the refinements of your converſation, and the charm I never failed to find in your entertaining company, I had almoſt brought myſelf to believe there was nothing extremely wrong in our intercourſe.
Lulled, however, by this pleaſing lethargy of the ſenſes, and ſung to repoſe by the ſyren of tenderneſs, I argued myſelf into a tranſient ſerenity, and indulged the ſoftneſs which I perceived to be ſo ſoothing. We compleated our deſigns, and returned from our rambles in the [Page 39] Engliſh nation and its neighbouring countries, in order to viſit together the continent of France. Preparations you know, Sir, were making for our route ſoon after our arrival in London, and the beginning of the next week was fixed for our departure.
In the interim I met with the injured Cleora, who told me in the moſt affecting manner, that, though ſhe never wiſhed a re-union with you, it would give that peace to her heart which was long loſt, if I would tear myſelf from your embraces. Agonized by her pleadings, and ſtung by the ſenſe of having wronged her, I fell upon my knee, and, ſolemnly in that ſituation engaged to do what I have done.
[Page 40] I have nothing to do with your family differences Charles, nor ſhall I liſten to the ſtory of either party. Duty and conſcience are both concerned in the meaſure I have taken, and I ſhall not be made to repent of it, even by the ſeverity of your upbraidings. It was, nevertheleſs, too much deſcending from the native dignity of your diſpoſition—too unlike the candour of Charles's character, to ſuppoſe a connection of four years eſtabliſhment, every day of which produced ſome evidence of its ſincerity, ſhould be ſacrificed to the very groſſeſt purpoſes in the firſt week's ſeparation. A new acquaintance! What would you inſinuate? To what indelicacy do you allude? I [Page 41] have a tear now falling upon that part of your letter, and I wiſh it had the power to blot both the ſentiment and the recollection of it out of my memory for ever! With great reluctancy ſhall I admit any ideas that diſgrace the elegance of Charles's ſenſibility. Though duty commands me to quit his protection, my knowledge of his many eminent virtues, incline me to cheriſh his idea, and ſtill love him for his excellencies. I would moſt gladly conſider him as a friend, a correſpondent, and a conſpicuous character: and, though we ſhall never meet again, the ſenſe of my obligations to him, and his own merits, might be a conſtant ſource of innocent contemplation to me: [Page 42] why, Charles will you rob me of ſo agreeable a refuge, perhaps the greateſt the whole world has now to afford me. Do you think Sir, then that I can ſo ſoon make a transfer of my affections? can I, think you, in ſo very ſhort a ſpace of time, command them from Charles to any accidental object? have I ſo convenient a heart —ſo obedient a verſality? what do you take me for? but indeed I deſerve it all; ſhe who can bring herſelf to ſleep upon an unſanctified pillow, four long twelve months, may well be ſuppoſed to perpetrate any thing that is wrong; and therefore I forgive you: although, in juſtice to myſelf, I muſt obſerve how I ſhudder, and how the blood runs from my [Page 43] heart, at the bare ſuggeſtion of ſuch perfidy.
Indeed you wrong me; and I cannot bear you to entertain ſuch ideas: even though by entertaining them yourſelf, my image would be the ſooner obliviated. Though you found me a fallen woman, I am not conſtitutionally a wretch of purchaſe, Sir. Your many amiable leſſons of morality have not been ſo egregiouſly miſemployed. The virtue you have inculcated, and the volumes you have put into my hand, have produced effects more ſalutary: nay Charles, it is to your own inſtructions — to your own cultivation of my head and heart, that I have been induced to [Page 44] undertake the magnanimity of this action. With reſpect to reſources— ſuch I mean as are neceſſary, merely neceſſary to the preſervation of human life, it is impoſſible that I ſhould be deſtitute of them, while I have health; and the power who encouraged me to a good action will not, I truſt, ſuffer the ſharpneſs of poverty to reſult from it. But even if he ſhould, I ſhall eat no longer the bitter bread of adultery, and conſidering that puniſhment proportioned to the offence, ſhall kiſs the omnipotent rod without complaining, and ſupplicate the aids of penitence and patience till my ſentence is ſoftened, and the puniſhment remitted.
[Page 45] For the ſupport of life, I have no doubt but that induſtry will enable me to get a ſufficiency. You, Charles, have not ſuffered me to lead a life of idleneſs: I am ſkilled in the elegant labours of the needle: I can embroider: I have ſome little knowledge of thoſe employments which may aſſiſt me from applying to the milliners— nay, and—ſuch has been the effect of your inſtructions—I am not incapable of undertaking the elementary principles of female education. Here, indeed Charles, I feel a ſevere ſtroke from reflection. Who will put any children under the care of a free woman? what parent will truſt its riſing hopes to one who has herſelf failed?—how long, alas! will it [Page 46] be before the world can be convinced of my penitence, or my propriety! let this be as it will, my reſolution remains firm as at the firſt, and Charles muſt be eternally diſunited from
Too amiable CHARLOTTE.
WHEREFORE do you thus officiouſly labour to extort my approbation? and wherefore have you not left it in my power to cenſure you? were there any hard part in your character—had you charitably left me but one ſingle cruelty, on which I might have founded a reaſonable complaint, ſo that I might have ruminated upon it till I had argued myſelf into averſion, it might [Page 48] have been more tolerable: but you are obſtinately bent upon murdering me by your goodneſs, and every moment increaſe the admiration which I ought to feel daily diminiſhing. The laws of the land and the preſcriptions of cuſtom have thrown the arguments ſo abundantly on your ſide, that 'tis impoſſible to baffle them without ſeeming to ſophiſticate. Fool and idiot that I was, to run into the ſhackle that galls for life, and to bind it like a volunteer ſlave, on my own leg! and yet, Charlotte, you have aſſiſted Cleora in acting contradictions. Does ſhe not by her own confeſſion militate againſt a re-union? does ſhe not declare the miſery, of which ſhe foreſees, it would be productive? [Page 49] to what end then—to what end, but the moſt cruel and unneceſſary one, ſhould ſhe wiſh to effect a ſeparation between Charles and Charlotte? Cleora and Charles entertain not for each other either hatred or love; indifference is the point between them. And what virtuous purpoſe is likely to ariſe from the parting, in which ſhe has been inſtrumental.
But you are, I ſee, too immerſed in eſtabliſhed ideas and the cuſtoms of a country, to admit a ſingle exception to a general rule: although a minute's reflection would convince you that my caſe and yours are ſuch [Page 50] as ſhould be abſolutely ſet apart from almoſt every other.
Ah, inflexible Charlotte, wherefore have you ſhielded your heart from the dear arrows of love under the bulwark of ſuch venerable maxims—maxims, which, be their general tenor ever ſo admirable, muſt always allow deviation in certain caſes. How eaſy were it to prove that, in ſtrict ſpeaking, it would be abſurd and irrational even to unite again with Cleora. Nay, to put our of the queſtion every other plea, and rely only on the energy of a ſingle argument: the argument of our mutual indifference, is it not (demonſtrably) ridiculous to live a loveleſs [Page 51] life with any being? Peculiar circumſtances, of temporal diſtreſs at the firſt occaſioned my leaving Cleora: I left her with a heart utterly at liberty, and in ſituations in no degree worſe than before I heartily invited, and haſtily obtained her hand. Chance, or rather ſurely the contrivance of ſome pitying deity, ſoon afterwards preſented before my eye the image of Charlotte. Every thing in human nature that correſponds with the pathetic, united to favour our firſt interview. It was in the ſtill hour of midnight: 'twas in the hour of misfortune. We were both ſufferers: I mourned the barbarity of a mother, embarraſſed affairs, and anxieties at home: you [Page 52] were ſinking under the ſenſe of an equal injury. Social ſorrows ſoon ſuit themſelves to the ſoul, and the impreſſion that is made in ſuch a criſis, is deep and delicate, indeed.
I ſee, methinks, the firſt ſcene; and I feel what language and ſentiment denies the power to deſcribe. Ah! Charlotte—Think a little upon it!—Prepare for a Picture ſo particularly intereſting. Invoke the powers of imagination, fidelity, and fondneſs to do it juſtice.—Lay aſide every formal, every unneceſſary punctilio, and give, upon ſo important an occaſion, a full ſcope to the tenderneſs of nature.—That tenderneſs, my dear, which was beſtowed by the [Page 53] great God of kindneſs to ‘make the nauſeous draught of life go down.’
I have, in preparing you for ſuch a portrait inſpired myſelf. The ſubject is not to be withſtood.—I dedicate it Charlotte to your ſenſibility. —I addreſs it to your Heart. Did I, in the firſt Scene, inſult you? Did I inſult you with any offer that could diſtreſs or confuſe you? No, Charlotte — ſome ſecret impulſe it was that withheld me from the deed: ſome god it was, which inclined me to be inquiſitively exact in drawing from you the hiſtory of your unhappineſs. The tale was told with a ſimplicity and bewitching artleſſneſs, that might have gained credit from [Page 54] infidelity, and attracted attention from frolic. Let the tears that I then ſhed, let the kindneſs with which I have ſince cheriſhed you, witneſs the truth of my tenderneſs and protection. How were we both affected? how did our ſympathy incline us to approach till our cheeks were as the repoſing, yet glowing cuſhions of each other's. Can you forget the trembling throbs that you felt as I preſſed your making hand upon my boſom.—I withdrew till you undreſt, and I appeal to you, if I did not ſit like the nurſe of your chamber by the ſide of your bed till morning. I found it abſolutely impracticable to treat your miſery in any other manner: even your beauty, dazzling as [Page 55] it was, and in the moſt trying of all ſituations, was not able to betray me: I paid my court to your heart— to your ſituation—to your pathetic circumſtances, and to every thing but your perſon: the charms of which, reſplendent as I acknowledge they were, I had no leiſure to reflect upon, till I had in ſome meaſure ſoothed the mighty anguiſh under which you were ſtruggling.
I propoſed a retreat in the receſſes of the country. Such a retreat, Charlotte, my vigilant affection, (ever wakeful, ever indefatigable) ſoon provided; and when I had ſmoothed your own ſituation, and related to you in the undiſguiſe of my ſoul, the [Page 56] particulars of mine, I then ventured (and not till then) to mention the wiſhes, which, after all the little delaying reluctances that endear ultimate conſent, were ſucceſsful.
Tell not me, Charlotte, of the prude's unfeeling formality. Do not ſuggeſt to me the ſneer which outrageous virtue would caſt upon ſuch a tranſaction. Spirits I know there are (terribly holy, and formidably devout—punctilious as to the minutiae of ceremonials, and negligent of eſſentials) which would ridicule the delaying reluctances of Charlotte, as artful pretences — What—ſay they, piouſly violent—ſhall ſhe who aſcends the nuptial couch to ſupply unlawfully, [Page 57] the place of the lawful—to fill the arms that are awefully preoccupied— who hath, moreover, forfeited her innocence to the ſeducer, and been reduced to irreputable refuges — ſhall ſhe aſſume the character of chaſtity and all its coyneſſes, or, indeed, any of thoſe marks of amiableneſs which ought to diſtinguiſh only married modeſty, and maiden decorum—? Fie upon her!
Ah! hard of heart, and ſhallow of head! illiberal, contracted women! Is it not poſſible for virtue to be independent of forms? is it not poſſible, in a caſe like Charlotte's, for the moſt unſpotted purity of mind to ſurvive an accidental violation of [Page 58] perſon?—But then, you reply, ſhe lived, after all, publicly with the huſband of another woman. In any other exigence but her's and mine, it might be impoſſible to offer a plea of palliation:
Far be it from me, far from the moſt unhappy Charles be it, to blaſt the laurels, or wither the roſes of conjugal life. 'Twere impious, 'twere impracticable. I am not audacious enough to ſay with Eloiſa, ‘ [Page 59] Curſe on all laws but thoſe which love has made.’ Ah gracious, gracious heaven, that it had been permitted to blend in our connection the laws of love, and of the land, natural, with moral inſtitutions! —May never any pair, Charlotte, who love as we love, be reduced by the tyranny of their ſituation, to equal meaſures: may thoſe whoſe hearts are equally tuned by nature into equal ſympathy, find a friend in fortune to facilitate their union! Happy—eminently happy they, who are thus aſſiſted, and whoſe joys receive, in conformity to the cuſtom of nations, [Page 60] their imprimatur of tenderneſs and poſſeſſion at the altar.—Let wealth and honour wait the wedded dame;Auguſt her deed, and ſacred be her fame.
Our fates, Charlotte, were unfortunately peculiar, and our reſolution to run them together was natural, and, ſet off as they were by ten thouſand delicacies, irreſiſtable. Let not our conduct be propoſed as an example to be adopted, where it is even poſſible for man and wife to live together: but let not our fidelity, after we had united, be cenſured too vigourouſly, or too incautiouſly.
HOW often muſt I repeat— how often waft it on the wings of the poſt, that I muſt never more repoſe on the boſom of Charles. Ceaſe, ceaſe then, ah, my dear ſeducer, for pity's ſake. Do not continue to croud upon me thoſe images which it is pernicious to entertain! Wherefore—oh thou ungenerous— wherefore do you oppoſe the moſt omnipotent of all human arguments, wherefore do you oppoſe yourſelf, betwixt the ſeverely contending powers [Page 63] of duty and paſſion—Ah inhuman! it is not without exertions the moſt violent, and pangs the moſt accumulated, that I am able to ſuſtain the conduct I have for the laſt four days obſerved. Conſcious as you are of the propriety of that conduct, forbear, I ſolemnly conjure you, to addreſs my partiality again upon the only ſubject which it cannot ſafely contemplate!
The ſketch you have delineated of our intercourſe, in its firſt dear, but unfortunate beginnings, is too boldly coloured, and bears too viſibly the delicate touches of a maſter, for the eye of one, who can trace ſo lively a likeneſs betwixt the copy and the [Page 64] original. If then you have any regard to the peace of my mind—any to my proſperity—never preſent to my view again, ſo animated or ſo dangerous a picture: rather, I beſeech you, turn that moſt powerful pen of yours into a chaſter ſtyle: indulge it in the diſplay of ſubjects more ſuited to our circumſtances. Direct your fine, but too perſuaſive genius into the proper channel, and let the ſtrength and vigour of Charles's underſtanding, rather prevent than debilitate the infirmity of Charlotte's; and beſides this, how unfair is it to avail yourſelf of that very feeling in your favour, which your reaſon tells you it is inequitable to indulge.
[Page 65] The copious effuſion of tender tears that flowed, as I ſuppoſe you cruelly intended they ſhould, in obedience to the commanding ſentiments of your laſt, have a little relieved my heart, at the expence of exhauſting my ſpirits.
You did ſave me, Charles, from diſtreſs the moſt agonizing; from a ſtate the moſt dreadful: you did unite in your character, all the relations; as a father inſtructed—as a mother admoniſhed—as a brother protected [Page 66] —as a ſiſter entertained, and as a huſband cheriſhed. Oh Charles, Charles, it is all well, all great, all a noble climax, till we get to the laſt expreſſion. It was only as a huſband: it was like one, that you cheriſhed me. 'Twas out of your power—oh, the malice of fortune—to be one, and as that was the caſe, we ſhould not have united. I ſhould have found that generoſity in your friendſhip, which you ought to have denied me in your tenderneſs. I might have been the object of your benevolence, without— I write the ſentence with a bluſh burning my cheek—without ſharing your bed. How would it have redounded to the honour of my Charles, how officiouſly would the daughters [Page 67] of diſtreſs have truſted his fame to the echo of poſterity, if his bounty had been totally unaccompanied by guilt: if he had reſcued an unhappy girl from miſery, without bringing her out of one error to lead her into another.
Methinks I now ſee how Charles might at once have procured my honour, and my happineſs: and I, who know the goodneſs of his heart, wonder the ſcheme, or ſomething ſimilar to it, eſcaped him. Might he not have placed the unhappy female far from the deluſions of the metropolis, in ſome ſheltering part of the country, where the knowledge of her calamity might never arrive? [Page 68] There, might ſhe not, under the protection of ſome decent matron, have learned all the arts of uſeful life, even till the often tranſmitted bounty of her abſent friend Charles, might be no longer neceſſary to her ſubſiſtance. What room had here been for probation—what ſcope for innocence recovered: and what immortality—what undeſcribeable ſenſations muſt have attended an action ſo diſintereſted, ſo unmixt—ſo admirable! Inſtead of which — but I cannot, I ought not to upbraid you. I acknowledge the delicacy of your deportment when it was the moſt eſſential, and when very, very few would have therefore beſtowed it. But let us drop the ſubject: aſſiſt me [Page 69] not treacherouſly, to the recollection of ſcenes, which I wiſh, and ought to forget. Surely, ſurely it is not now a time to receive them in the memory. Ah, Charles, why did not heaven allow our firſt meeting to have preceded your union with Cleora: then, with what a tranſport, a tranſport ſanctified by religion, ſhould I—but it is unavailing to wiſh: we are parted eternally: nor can even ſuch an epiſtle as your laſt, adorned as it is with all the glowing graces of language, and artfully addreſſed to every paſſion that alarms the ſex, make me revolt from that ſteady principle I have fixt to myſelf, in the deliberation of my ſoul, as the rule of my future conduct. If [Page 70] therefore you ſet any price upon the pleaſures of our continued correſpondence—for I will forfeit even your letters rather than read myſelf into a relapſe—let this ultimate, this repeated aſſurance, ſatisfy you once for all. In a word, Charles, let it teach your heart to be contented with a gratification, ſomewhat leſs terrible than that which would terminate in the perdition of the afflicted, but, alas! ſtill
P. S. You do not mention my ſiſter, but you certainly have ſent her to the arms of an innocent and expecting mother, whoſe want of knowledge [Page 71] in my caſe, is, perhaps, the only thing that prevents bringing her grey hairs with ſorrow to the grave.
INVULNERABLE, and unrelenting as you are, I have the right of a painter to finiſh my picture. Hard would it indeed be, were I denied ſo trifling a liberty as that which the pen allows, when I obey your too rigid injunctions in keeping from the apartment which I know to [Page 72] contain my treaſure. Think, madam —oh, that cold word—think, Charlotte, of the ſevere reſtraint I impoſe upon myſelf! I know the very houſe in which you ſleep—if you indeed can ſleep—and yet I deſiſt from going to make enquiries in which I am ſo much intereſted.
And are you alarmed by the faintly drawn ſketch of our firſt week's connexion? Alas! how very poor, how very unequal was all which then paſt, when compared to the months, and years that ſucceeded it! a dew drop to the deep, and main world of waters! Carry your imagination in retroſpect to the time when we firſt yielded to the exigence, and agreed [Page 73] to live in the ſame houſe; when, in all tender reſpects, we agreed to conſider ourſelves as—united people. Look back to the very night, ever precious to love-ſick remembrance, when you firſt indulged the ſolicited embrace. Till after the attention of many days, I did not dare to intimate the hopes of a conquered heart, nor even at laſt, till I had reconciled you to every part of my hapleſs ſituation—till we had both lamented the bar that prevented a public ſanction. Paint to your fancy the joy that was then realized, when you firſt permitted me, half conſenting, half denying, to draw the curtain betwixt us and every interruption — I can ſay no more: I refer you to the powers of [Page 74] imagination—It was not the unſoul'd debauch of a diſſipated pair: it was not the delirium of two young people, ſedulous to ſnatch the haſty revels of a night's voluptuouſneſs! but it was the unaffected tranſport of ſentiment and taſte, of body and mind, conſolidated: not a vein in our hearts that did not thrill to the emotions of ſympathy: animated by the fire of real love, not a pulſe about us that did not leap to ſalute its hindred pulſation. Remember, above all things, our next morning meeting at breakfaſt: the ſighs which we then wafted over the tea-cup: the tears which were ſcarce contained within their ſluices of cryſtal: the various fluſhings of the countenance, [Page 75] and our aukward-enough endeavours to conceal the confuſion which was thus rendered the more apparent, all gave ſilent, but delicious teſtimony, that the mutual approbation was compleat.
Perhaps you will ſay, that this might be the energy of juvenile deſire: the mere enthuſiaſtic riot of the agitated ſenſes—the tranſient fever of inflamatory ſpirits. How eaſy were it, in oppoſition to this, to prove its origin from a more pure and permanent ſource. Reflect, I prithee, fair fugitive, on the ſcenes which ſucceeded. Conſider what diverſity of events happened after, to cool the blood, and ſettle the ſenſes. Examine the train of misfortunes [Page 76] which aroſe rapidly one out of another. Did not my whole patrimony, and all my hopes of elevated circumſtances, ſink ſuddenly before me? did not the hardened creditor then take his advantage of my calamity, and hunt me with a blood-hound induſtry, from to place? was not my health invaded in conſequence of my anxiety, and were we not both reduced to uncertain reſources? was not this aggregate of affliction enough to quiet the impetuoſity of mere animal inclination? ſurely it was; but they only rendered us ſtill dearer to one another: the burdens were heavy, and each was therefore emulous to carry the greateſt load of them: we had even a ſort of jealouſy [Page 77] leſt the one ſhould encroach upon the ſhare of the other. Tenderneſs and tranſport preſided over our very difficulties—Ah! how often in the deſolate moment, when the whole hemiſphere of hope was clouded, have we watched the fall of the tear upon the cheek, and kiſt it away? how frequently have we caught the ſigh while parting from the lips? great woes we reconciled into ſentiments of moderation; and every gale of good fortune, from whatever corner of her compaſs it blew, was ſwelled by love into enchantment: the beauty of a flower; the paint of a tulip; the fragrance of a roſe; the ſudden luſtre of the ſun; an evening walk; or the morning proſpect [Page 78] over our breakfaſt, painted by the gay pencil of imagination, were more than a match for the empty purſe, the ill-natured accident, or miſeries of the greateſt magnitude. And, can thoſe who have gone for the ſervice of each other through the fiery trial, ever forget, ever ultimately ſeparate? Of all paradoxes, it is to me the moſt irreconcilable.
I conjure you then by the memory of our paſt misfortunes, than which even the recollection of extacies is not more endearing—I conjure you by the memory of our pleaſures, of which we have had our proportion— I conjure you by the wiſhes you cheriſh for my health; by the many [Page 79] miſeries of a ſituation that calls aloud for conſtant attentions; in ſhort, Charlotte, I conjure, implore, and challenge you, by all that you hope, and all which you dread, to ſuffer me to enforce the pleadings of my heart at your own lodgings: I will obey every injunction—ah! thou delightful tyrant—impoſed upon me: the click of the clock ſhall bring me to the moment of your aſſignation: I ſhall enter your apartment with all the tremors of a lover, and yet I will not, till you permit me, ſpeak of love: I will anticipate the commands of your tongue, and watch the time to depart from the waving of your finger, the nod of your head, or the turn of your eye—More than [Page 80] than the power of a ſultaneſs ſhall attend you in this interview—Only admit me once—to tea, to breakfaſt — to dine — to ſup — I cannot Charlotte—I ſwear by the heart you have carried forcibly away from me —I cannot, any longer, ſupport your abſence. Do not then hurry me into violence, but indulge, for this once, my paſſion, and truſt to my prudence, and my promiſes. Farewell, farewell.
IS this your ſolemn engagement? preſſing for an interview already. To what end do you think I left you Sir? Was it to give myſelf a few days unneceſſary agony, to involve you in needleſs calamity, and then to repent upon my folly, and return again to the errors I have left? I am angry that you think me guilty of ſo much inconſiſtency. What a child muſt you believe me? and yet how do you oblige me to be even with you. For ſhame, Sir, for ſhame; you want the philoſophy of [Page 82] an infant. You have devoted ſeveral of the years of your youth to the ſtudy of the ſciences, you are deeply read in virtuous compoſitions, and yet you are more feeble than the babe.
To be outdone in a good action by a woman, by the very woman whoſe undemanding and heart have been, as it were, the work of your own hands: whom you have made what ſhe is —To let her ſurpaſs you in fortitude! Bluſh, bluſh, and riſe into the ambition of excelling her.
From the very arguments that you draw as motives of my return, [Page 83] I can extract the moſt forcible reaſons for my deſiſting from a reunion, even ſuppoſing that there was no perſonal criminality attending it.
Wherefore ſhould I hang as a clog at the foot of a man already oppreſſed by the heavy hand of calamity? whatever you may think, it is no real teſtimony of regard to ſhare your miſeries without being able to relieve them. To behold you ſtruggling with your fate, without the power to better it, and rather adding to, than taking from, your embarraſſments. No, Charles; truſt me, we can both do more tolerably alone, at leaſt for the preſent: in the courſe of a little time, fortune [Page 84] may be generous to one of us, which, is a point of no moment: our perſons only, and not our purſes, are divided: it will be the ſame thing whether the ſhower of proſperity falls upon Charles, or Charlotte: I hope neither of us ſhall at any time be capable of ſeparate intereſts, and that neither of us ſhall be too proud to receive aſſiſtance at the hand of the other. As to your part, your talents will recommend you, whereſoever or howſoever you exert them; and you cannot long fail of conquering the inconveniences which at preſent ſurround you. Charlotte's ſociety, however dear, was rather an impediment than any thing elſe, to Charles's advancement, and he will now be [Page 85] admitted into connections which were before impenetrable. We may amuſe ourſelves, my dear friend, with the idea of deſpiſing the cuſtoms of our country, and the forms of our church: nay, we may attempt to ſoothe ourſelves with the opinions of ourſelves, and a narrow circle of our private friends, but if the voice of the public, and the eſtabliſhed modes of religion are againſt us, it will be in vain that we receive a partial approbation. It is not only politic, but morally juſt, that the general clamour ſhould be raiſed againſt a couple in our ſituation. The diſagreements that paſs under a man's own roof, and the quarrels or feuds which divide the huſband from [Page 86] the wife, do not authorize an open defiance of either the laws of man, or the commands of God: nor will the world, however proper the ſeparation, ever enter into the intricacies of circumſtance, or pathetic of paſſion that throws the divided huſband into the arms of another woman. I am ſtill willing to hope, Charles, that our offence will be mitigated by the God of mercy, upon account of the many peculiar temptations and exigences that belonged to it: in ſtrict ſpeaking, perhaps, there may not be any greater degree of guilt in our late connection, than if it had immediately ſucceeded a divorce from your Cleora: but when I am appealed to by a pleading wife, [Page 87] who charges me with ſeducing the the affections of a huſband; when I am branded by that wife, as the artful and infamous cauſe of her child's miſery, and her own, amongſt all her friends and acquaintances; when I am held up as the terror of married women, at the very time that I know I would have at any time yielded the ſociety of Charles to to more lawful claims; how do you think I can bear to live under this load of half-merited ignominy, and half-undeſerved reproach? the truth will break, like the ſun, through all diſguiſing interceptions: the delicacy of your paſſion for me, Charles, led you to conceal the fact in regard to my real ſituation. Wherever you [Page 88] went, the brilliance of your wit and the poliſh of your genius, together with the public evidences you have given of it, attracted notice, enſured popularity, and commanded curioſity—You took me by the hand, and preſented me in all our excurſions as your wedded wife: I did my beſt to ſupport the character, I would have given worlds to have realized it: but even in my happieſt moment, Charles, I felt a pang at my heart, and apprehended a diſcovery that would have overwhelmed me with the bluſhes of confuſion. In the courſe of our rambles, your ſanction provided for me ſeveral amiable friends. I had too much veneration for the name of wife to injure it by any [Page 89] light, or unbecoming behaviour; and I have the felicity to reflect, that my deportment under this aſſumed character, was in all reſpects, conjugal and exact: well was it for me, nevertheleſs, dear Charles, that our paſſion for travel, did not allow us to ſtay long in a place. Your ſituation muſt ſoon have been publicly known; even the political diſguiſe of your real name muſt have been ſeen through; your fatal pre-engagement with Cleora would have been detected, and the endearing countenance that was before ſhewn me, while I lay under the ſhelter of a charming impoſition, would be ignominiouſly withdrawn. That this, in part has been the caſe, you cannot [Page 90] but remember: I have occaſionally been met by an old acquaintance of yours, who hath officiouſly circulated the ſecret of our connexion, and my character became in an inſtant ſuſpected, or at leaſt ambiguous.
The induſtry with which I applied to thoſe accompliſhments in which it is the chief glory of women to excel, and the books and maſters which you recommended to me for that purpoſe, ſoon poliſhed ſimplicity into a degree of refined knowledge, and made me more deſerving my Charles's ſociety. And yet, my friend, the agonies of my heart increaſed with the inſtructions of my head. Objects and actions [Page 91] ſoon preſented themſelves to me in a different light from that in which I had been accuſtomed to behold them: the days of girliſh giddineſs were paſt, and the ſedater reflections of the woman ſucceeded. From a ſtate of ruſticity and village ignorance, I was able to think profoundly and compare accurately; a nicer ſenſe of right and wrong began to take place; an aweful admiration for illuſtrious characters, and a more than enthuſiaſtic ambition to reach them, ſeized upon my ſenſes: proportioned to the augmentation of my intellectual powers, roſe into greater luſtre the ſenſibilities of my ſoul; and, under the influence of theſe cultivations, all flowing from the generous ſtream [Page 92] of Charles's fondneſs, think what I muſt in the cool hour undergo, at the thought of living in a ſtate ſo palpably condemned by mandates above and below; and ſo forcibly reprobated by every law, divine and human.
It was not, Charles, over the exigences of a precarious fortune, it was not for the loſs of your eſtate, nor was it even for the gradual declinings of your health, that half thoſe tears were ſhed, which in different places, and at different periods, flowed from me. Studious of your ſerenity, how often have I repreſs'd the ſigh that was half ready to break its way through my boſom: arm in arm as [Page 93] we walked affectionately together, amidſt the perfumes of the ſpring, or the fragrant profuſions of the ſummer; delighted too as I was with the faithful teſtimonies of the warmeſt paſſion that ever nature rendered mutual, even then, in ſeaſons ſo ſacred to compoſure, the bitter idea would overtake me, and I have been compelled to complain of ſome tranſient pain of the perſon, to hide from my companion the anguiſh of the heart. Nay, Charles, I have often ſought out a hiding-place when my heart was overcharged, to relieve it by tears. That Cleora and you could not live amicably together, that I was the woman of your choice, that incidents perfectly uncommon united us, that [Page 94] we both lived in the ſtricteſt fidelity, that our paſſion was as elevated as ever inhabited the human boſom, and that we were every thing that is precious to each other, were by no means counterballances to the cenſure of the world, the violation of moral obligations, the ſtrokes of my own conſcience, and the claims of Cleora, which my avow'd reſidence with you, ſeemed at leaſt to intercept.
Collect yourſelf ſufficiently Charles, to put theſe ſeveral ſentiments together: conſider them one by one, as you arrange them in due order, and form them into a whole. When you have done this, quiet I beſeech you the diſorders of every rebellious paſſion, [Page 95] and let reaſon, in her robes of ſobriety, ſit in judgment. The ſentence which ſhe paſſes will command your attention: methinks I ſee her from her aweful throne, in the center of the human heart preparing to ſpeak —hark, Charles, I hear her voice, and it ſhall decide between us.— Perſevere Charlotte, perſevere in theſe reſolutions, ſhe ſays. "Forbear Charles, forbear to throw thy temptations again in the path of the penitent."
AWEFUL, admirable girl, I bow to the dignity of thy ſuperior ſoul. I yield to the ſentiments it is impoſſible to controvert. Yes, cruel world, I will henceforth bleed in ſilence a victim to thy circumſcribed opinions. Your reſolves, Charlotte, are, I perceive, as the rock that defies the batter of the winds and of the waves. Your virtue commands, and my paſſions ſhall obey:
adieu, adieu for ever, to CHARLES.
THE ſtruggles of conſcience, have again prevailed over the tenderneſs of love, and I have lived a whole week, without the ſociety, or even the ſight of Charlotte. Leave —I deſire you, as ſoon as poſſible, and haſten to the apartments of the unhappy
YOUR laſt ſhort letter was as a cordial to the ſpirits of a ſwooning creature. Noble, noble youth, how agreeably you flatter me! and is it poſſible that Charles can be a convert to the ſentiments of Charlotte? has ſhe been ſo happy as to vindicate her own conduct, and kindle in his heart the ſparks of imitation?— imitation did I ſay? no; my dear friend has twice the power and ten times the goodneſs of Charlotte, if he will but exert them. Have I not [Page 99] known him melt and ſoften into ſympathy at the pitiable circumſtances of a diſtreſſed enemy? have I not ſeen the tear of gratitude in his eye, and his hands folded together, for pain alleviated, danger eſcaped, differences accommodated, and comforts multiplied? is he not the friend of all that want, of all that wiſh? hath not nature directed his hand to his purſe to divide with the indigent or the ſoliciting, the laſt efforts of his liberality? doth not his own miſeries teach him to feel for others, and ſuggeſt to him all the finer obligations of morality?
And can ſuch a character, can ſuch an exalted ſpirit, long remain inſenſible [Page 100] to a duty of the greateſt magnitude? impoſſible, impoſſible! 'Tis I, only I, have been to blame, in winding my fatal image, and deſtructive affections, round his heart, till it became entangled beyond the power of extrication. Long ago would this excellent young man have recovered the dignity of his duty, had not I prevented it. I ſhould have ſlown before: ſince his delicacy was too great to quit me, my virtue ſhould ſooner have urged me to quit him. Perhaps by this time, he might have quite forgotten me, or only at moſt have recollected me with the indifference I deſerve.
[Page 101] It is, however, ſome conſolation, that I have at laſt been equal to the impulſes of my reaſon, and I cannot but hope the moſt ſalutary effects will ariſe from them. Already my deareſt friend (for as ſuch I ſhall ever conſider him) is open to conviction: to be ſo, is one great ſtep towards every thing laudable and deſirable: to ſee the path of virtue, and to be pleaſed with it, is a powerful inducement to purſue it without any ſuture deviations. I riſe every morning more reconciled to my ſeparation, and I can command my thoughts from the image of Charles, when I find them wandering that way, with the coſt only of a few tears: my ſlumbers are not indeed ſound, nor [Page 102] can I frequently cloſe my eyes; but I can meditate without diſtraction, and know the direction of the only man upon earth whom I—I—I whom —whom—I—I ſay I can reflect upon the very ſpot, where I ſuppoſe Charles to be ſitting, without paſſing by his door, or knocking at it for admittance: for that admittance, which I now hope, and believe he will, after the lapſe of a few months, refuſe me, except upon the terms of an ordinary acquaintance. — No Charles, no: not an ordinary acquaintance neither. I could not bear to receive from you the forms of compliment, or the cold civilities of a mere well-bred decorum. If we ever do again ſee each other, let it be with kindneſs, with [Page 103] attention, with friendſhip, and with any thing from the extremes either of relapſing fondneſs, or faſhionable diſregard: it would be extremely aukward—perhaps it would be utterly impoſſible for Charles and Charlotte ever to meet upon ſo ceremonious a viſit: nor will it, I dare ſay, be neceſſary. The paſſion will be altered, the ſenſibilities of love will be extinguiſhed, but the ſentiments of a pure and eſtabliſhed friendſhip, may, and muſt remain.
I STILL remain ſteady in purſuing the meaſures I have taken: and though my endeavours were twice ineffectual before, yet I now feel myſelf equal to the ſacrifices which my own conſcience, and juſtice to you, [Page 105] require. Your huſband ſeems already to be ſenſible of my propriety, and ceaſes to talk upon a ſubject I am truly labouring to forget for ever. I have heard your ſtory and his; and I am utterly unable (and a very improper perſon) to ſay who is in the right. It is moſt likely (you will pardon me) that both of you are in the wrong; family differences are much too delicate for one out of the family to interfere in them. The injuries, however, I have done you are at an end, and Charles is at full liberty to repair the miſchiefs, if indeed they are the heavieſt on his ſide) of Cleora. That any thing not extremely ſubſtantial ſhould diſunite him from ſo much ſenſe and [Page 106] beauty, as you Madam, are poſſeſt off, would be ſuch a repugnance to every part of his character, that I cannot readily conceive it poſſible; and yet, it appears to me full as ſtrange and unaccountable, that ſo accompliſhed a lady ſhould not have the power to fix the affections of a man whoſe heart is extremely tender, and whoſe love of domeſtic happineſs, is the manifeſtly firſt principle of his ambition.
Theſe myſteries make it improper for me to ſay more, than that I cordially wiſh (if it is for his felicity, and for yours) that whatever has paſt may be obliviated; that a ſingle trace of his connection with the moſt unfortunate [Page 107] Charlotte may never interrupt you, and that, whatever becomes of me, you may paſs the long remainder of your days in reconciled tenderneſs, and reſtored affections.
Although, Madam, I can no otherwiſe promote this than by my good wiſhes, and perſevering in my good reſolutions, yet I think it a part of my duty to tell you, that your huſband's preſent lodgings are at —.
I am, Madam,
the truly penitent CHARLOTTE.
P. S. I ought to give you the caution of directing to him under cover to his friend Mr. K. whoſe addreſs you know, and who will deliver your letter immediately on the receipt of it. Poor Charles's ſituation renders this neceſſary to his perſonal ſafety, and neither you, nor I Madam, can be indifferent to that.
I AM juſt informed, Madam, that your circumſtances demand the attention of benevolence, and as I know the preſent ſituation of your huſband (were you both happily united) could not allow him to aſſiſt you, I have taken the liberty, as a very old friend to your family, to incloſe a modicum, which, though ſhamefully ſmall, is I proteſt to you, proportioned to the immediate ability of
Your moſt obliged humble ſervant.
A WEEK's ſilence, my dear Charles, muſt ſure have done great things: you certainly find it for your eaſe to lay down the pen which uſed ſo frequently to addreſs Charlotte; and, therefore, I ſubmit to the ſuſpenſion of your correſpondence. Poſſibly I am by this time an object only of friendly, and undiſturbed contemplation. I will endeavour to rejoice at the ſuppoſition: 'tis what I ought to do.—Now then, my friend, ſummon yourſelf to the undertaking: I have made the firſt [Page 111] ſacrifice to virtue; do you collect all your ſtrength to ſuſtain a ſecond!
Your wife is now in London, Charles, and the child, which you have ſo long and anxiouſly wiſhed to fondle in your arms, is now blooming in beauty, by the ſide of her. Your barbarous mother (voluptuous in her age, and wicked in her weeds) denies any longer to ſupport or educate the babe, and the little fortune is at preſent locked up, and is likely to remain ſo till the ſale of that eſtate of which you have been iniquitouſly robbed, is compleated. In the worſt dilemma, however, your talents are always a ſufficient reſource, for the ſubſiſtance of [Page 112] human life. She who indeed loves, will love in all circumſtances: ſhe who feels as ſhe ought to feel, will follow her object into the worſt of all poſſible ſituations—What ſay you to an interview with Cleora? can you not obliterate the idea of the ſubjects which parted you, and viſit each other, without a paſt unneceſſary reflection? I have been ſeveral hours in her company. There is nothing in her perſon but what might attract a huſband's attention: her underſtanding is even maſculinely ſtrong. She doats upon the child you have preſented to her. She denies the infamous charge that either malice, or wantonneſs brought againſt her fame: ſhe is young, [Page 113] handſome, accompliſhed, well born, your real wife, and in diſtreſs, oh, heavens! can ſuch a heart as Charles's remain hardened, or can he cloſe his eye upon ſuch a picture— a picture, glowing with the two principal portraits of his own family?
Admitting, however, that you cannot feel upon this occaſion all the luxury of a love-match; admitting, that Cleora wants the power to delight; ought ſhe not to be received as a married wife? and though you may want ability to be tranſported, yet cannot you entertain enough of that friendſhip, which you always allow to our ſex, to live within the limits of propriety? in fine, Charles, [Page 114] if you can avoid abſolute averſion on the one hand, and altercation (to which I am ſure you are not by nature inclined) on the other, it is a plain point of honour and conſcience, to invite her again to your arms.
Believe me, my friend, ſhe is the only woman in the creation I could bear to ſee there: but I have been the ſeeming inſtrument of keeping you from her—the real one I am ſure I have not—and therefore it would give me a pleaſure inexpreſſible to bring you together, even before I have totally conquered my own partialities. Do Charles, do endeavour to give my vanity the gratification [Page 115] of one diſtinguiſhed action: let me have one opportunity to ſhew thoſe who have aſperſed me, that I had ſomething like a ſoul at the bottom. Exert yourſelf, I charge you; and let it be ſaid, that Charles was capable of a dignity in conduct, which was not unworthily emulated by
AM I never to ſee my beſt friend, the amiable Charles, permanently happy? is he for ever [Page 116] to be ſubjected to theſe anxious viciſſitudes? and is one of the nobleſt of human hearts thus conſtantly to be tortured on the wheel of misfortune? If you bear as ill the third elopement of Charlotte, as you did the firſt and ſecond, I ſhall dread to ſee you: ſure never did a young man poſſeſs ſo unfaſhionable a fidelity: and yet I cannot blame you: the value of the object juſtifies the conſtancy and violence of the paſſion.
[Page 117] The beauties of your Charlotte, both mental and bodily, are indeed too attractingly eminent to be eaſily worn from the memory of a man, who hath not only poſſeſs'd, but ſo greatly contributed to poliſh them.If to her ſhare ſome female errors fall,Look in her face, and you forget them all.
I have long known her merit; long paid to it the tribute of my admiration; and as long lamented the bar that prevented the union of which ſhe is ſo truly deſerving. From the ripening refinements of her mind, however, and from the ardent precipitation of her temper, tinctured as it is with a little both of enthuſiaſm and romance, I apprehended ſomething of this ſort would enſue from [Page 118] the meeting of her and Cleora, ſhould that ever happen.
How unlucky is it that the point is on all ſides, too nice and critical to be ſpoken to. I moſt heartily wiſh all wives well, and all lovers happy: above all other things I have ever wiſhed it upon ſolid motives: their hearts were moulded for each other: the joys, ſorrows, evil, and good, they have mutually ſuſtained in the courſe of a long, and faithful interchange, muſt have bound them in chains of peculiar force. And yet, as the matter has fallen out, what has my friend to do, but to exert his phi [...]hy, and call all the powers of [...] is aſſiſtance.
[Page 119] I am heartily glad you are in London, where uneaſineſs of any kind may be whirl'd off, much ſooner than in the country. The ſhades are infectious: rural objects, and eſpecially to a poetical mind, are abſolutely ſo many diſtractions. I would not have you by any means venture into thoſe parts of the country where you have of late been uſed to reſide. The idea that ſhould not be indulged, will obtrude itſelf in a moment: every thing you behold, from the leaves of the tree, to the huſbandman at his labour, will revive the treacherous image you ſhould eradicate.
Rather, my good friend, purſue a different courſe: however reluctantly, [Page 120] ruſh into mixt and multiplied ſociety. Indulge not the ſoftneſs of relaxing ſolitude. Engage for a ſhort time in all the frivolous ſcenes of buſy exiſtence. Let the great ſoul ſtoop a little, and condeſcend to be amuſed by innocent levities. Superior as you are, I would now adviſe you to frequent the places of public reſort — and, in ſhort, I would adviſe every thing gay and airy, except downright diſſipation. Againſt that I would caution you; for you already know its ineffectuallity. I ſhall be in town on Thurſday, and will dedicate my time totally to you. In the mean while, pray think of Charlotte only as a departed friend; as one who does, and muſt ever wiſh you [Page 121] well, but whoſe preſent abſence is neceſſary to her future happineſs. You ſee Charles, by the dull common-place of this letter, that it is a ſubject I really know not how to treat. I am honeſtly the friend of Charles and Charlotte: what then is to be ſaid upon this trying criſis? I will only ſay, that if the ſmalleſt degree of either's happineſs depended upon me, my power ſhould be exerted before it could be ſolicited. Be of good courage: look about you: think little, read leſs, ſigh ſeldom, ſmile as often as you can, and God bleſs you. Such are the hints of your ever faithful ſervant
FOR the ſecond time in my life I am abſolutely inebriated— Dead drunk, Templeton, in the vain effort of drowning my diſtraction, and your letter was delivered to me over the dizzineſs of the third bottle.
Charlotte is fixt in the froſt of her reſolutions, and I have ceaſed to addreſs her on my ſubject. Heavy hung the hours upon my hand, and I have been endeavouring to ſhorten them by forgetfulneſs — Ah, Templeton! [Page 123] I have gone ſuddenly from the extremes of melancholy to thoſe of madneſs. I called upon a vacant acquaintance, who never felt a poignant woe in his life, who laughs at tenderneſs, and ſnaps his fingers at love, and, in the very ſtupor of my ſoul, ſtrolled with him into a tavern. I am this moment every thing but delirious, and I have compelled my colleague in diſſipation, to drink proſperity to every ſtep of Charlotte —at leaſt at every ſecond glaſs—In this ſtate of capital elevation, what will become of me for the reſt of the night, heaven knows; but as I am certain of being both ſick and ſorry tomorrow, I am reſolv'd not to be either to night.—Heigh—heigh—oh! Templeton! [Page 124] Templeton, what machines we are! obedient to the breath of every paſſion, toſt into tempeſt by every guſt of diſappointment or deſire. What a fever we are in from fifteen to five and twenty; what an ague overtakes us ſoon after that, till we are frozen to death and good for nothing—Oh! theſe violent tranſitions —I lay down my pen to pledge you in a bumper of good wiſhes for the health of Charlotte. I would murder my brother if he refuſed the toaſt of my heart—Never was I ſo ſtrongly inclined to break my promiſe, and go abruptly to her apartment. I could now talk to her like an angel: I could charm her with [Page 125] claret-caught eloquence, were ſhe adamant from top to bottom.
"Hot with the Tuſcan grape, and high in blood,"—by my ſoul, Templeton, I am juſt at this time a a match for every thing that could happen to me—I could ſmooth the wrinkles of her dear indignant brow— I could preſs her beloved hand with a tenderneſs ſo gentle—I could advance to her roſy lip with ſo pathetic an humility, a countenance ſo touching, and a ſigh ſo delicate, that I ſhould certainly conquer all her ſcruples, and allure her once more to the arms that are ever extending involuntarily, to embrace her. The fellow who has been the companion [Page 126] of my revels, is both too headleſs and too heartleſs to continue any longer — His dull eye twinkles in drowſineſs, and he had rather, I perceive, hug his pillow, than the goddeſs of beauty—The wretch abſolutely yawns. Oh the negative—! Whatever becomes of me I will never pray, no Templeton, (though agony of ſoul were to mark every moment) I will never pray for the lethargies of inſenſibility—I will this inſtant go to the arms of willing beauty.
CONFUSION and perplexity! What a miſtake have I blundered into! Curſe on the power of wine! Curſe on the folly that ruſhes into extremes. In the giddineſs of my cups, I haſtily preſt my ſeal upon the letter intended for you, and addreſſed it to Charlotte: addreſſed to her, what I had written in the libertine hour of drunkenneſs and intoxication. The poſt-office happened to be hard by, where I had been accuſtomed to throw in my correſpondence, [Page 128] and as I parted from my fuddled aſſociate, I truſted my licentious epiſtle to the letter box. Read the incloſed, Templeton, and execrate the ſtupidity of
YOU have directed to one friend, what was, I perceive, deſigned for another: the letter I return to you under cover, will explain the [Page 129] matter. I ſhall only obſerve upon it, that the fair hopes I began to entertain are again deſtroyed, and I have the worſt conſequences to apprehend from your deſperate, and dreadful conduct. I do not doubt but you put into execution the ſcheme you projected, and practiced the odious purpoſes at which you glanced in the concluding lines of your letter to Mr. Templeton! what, Charles, are you already capable of this? can you, with a more than brutal precipitation, ſubdue the boaſted feelings of tenderneſs for one woman, and hurry away to make an offer of your perſon to another?
[Page 130] Indelicate and ungrateful youth! ſeparated as we are—could I have imagined—could I have even believed it poſſible, that a few days ſhould ſo have proſtituted, what I fondly took to be the moſt conſtant of hearts? rather than have committed ſo groſs—ſo diſreſpectful—ſo barbarous, an action, why did you not even venture, as you threatened, (wrong as ſuch a ſtep would have been) to call upon me. The condition you were in, would have, in ſome meaſure, excuſed you to me— I might have adviſed you to return home: I might have—as a friend, as a ſiſter—as a parent, pointed out to you the palpable ſin—guilt—impropriety—barbarity of ſuch an action! [Page 131] not, Sir, that the action affects me: I have neither right or dominion over you. I ſpeak not upon my own account, heaven knows! ſo far on the contrary, that in my very laſt letter, I promiſed your reconciliation with Cleora. In her arms I could almoſt bear to behold you. But what could lead you to this early violation? who knows what may be the conſequence!—who knows what multiplied miſchief may ſpring from it! Ah, my friend, think what a ſlight conſtitution you poſſeſs—think how long, and aſſiduouſly (even with all the attentions and nurſings of love) your Charlotte laboured to confirm your health—Perhaps the unhappy female, whoſe favours [Page 132] you have thus purchaſed, may be one, who—oh, Charles! you have been much to blame; indeed you have. I am ſo truly—ſo deeply affected at this raſhneſs—for your ſake—that I tremble as I ſit in my chair; a ſigh which I cannot repreſs, burſts from my boſom, and a tear which I cannot reſtrain, drops upon my paper. If you look cloſely you will perceive where it fell. But that is nothing; a friend's health muſt ever be precious—were it not for your health's ſake, the raſhneſs of your conduct would not ſo much vex me. What though you bought a beauty—! ſhe was extremely handſome no doubt— 'Tis very ſtrange, Sir, that you cannot be contented with having a pretty [Page 133] wife for nothing; but you muſt— in your embarraſſed circumſtances too—ramble into houſes a man of feeling ſhould bluſh to enter. Do not ſuppoſe I want to trace your favourites—I have no ſuch curioſity. Poſſibly the lady was your fair incog. long before I left you. But what indeed is that to me? you are your own maſter—we are utterly diſunited, and, and, and—oh! Charles, Charles, I begin to adopt the ſentiment of Cleora, and believe, you never had the leaſt affection for
DEAR, and juſtly offended Charlotte, forgive me! The agonies I have felt, and ſtill feel from your reproaches, are even more inſupportable than the abſence which made me ruſh into the behaviour that deſerved them. And yet, (ſo thrive my hopes for your felicity) I am leſs guilty than you may be led to gueſs, from the declarations of a drunken man!
When the partner of my intoxication left me, I was in the ſtreet; ſcarce ſenſible in my head, and unable to keep my heels. I ſtood ſupporting myſelf for ſome time againſt the pillars of a door in a ſtate of irreſolution: even then, the image of the relentleſs Charlotte preſented itſelf; I would have died with pleaſure [Page 136] the next morning, to have part that night in your company. The little likelihood of this drove me to deſpair, and calling a coach, I ordered the driver to carry me to your lodgings. About twenty yards from the houſe I pulled the check-ſtring, and alighted: the moon was in her meridian, and I walked on till I came oppoſite your window. The ſhutters were cloſed; the ſtreets were quiet, and not an object near, except the watchman, whoſe night-box was ſtationed within five paces of your apartment. I twined my arms in a melancholy folding, and directed my eye, as I ſtood fixed, to that part of the manſion which I knew you occupied. There is a lane which [Page 137] leads to the back of the houſe, and I got ſtaggeringly upon the wall that ſeparated the property. Here, Charlotte, as I ſtood upright on the ridge, I commanded the adjacent apartments.—The extreme warmth of the night had induced the inhabitant to ſuffer the ſaſh about a third part open, and the cooling breezes of midnight rewarded the deſign. Ah! God! what were my ſenſations, when, levelling my eye to the caſement, I ſaw, by the aſſiſtance of the moon-beams, (at this time uncommonly bright) a dreſs that I knew! At the edge of the toilet lay that very huſſive which I preſented to you ſo very lately, and whoſe firſt employment was to contain the needles which aſſiſted [Page 138] in making the ruffles you left unfiniſhed. The ſpotted handkerchief, the cap, the hat, and even the garters you yourſelf knitted, were there. Spread upon a chair, at a ſmall diſtance, was a packet of papers, partly unfolded, perhaps the correſpondence of Charles—and the curtain on the female ſide of the bed was undrawn: at the foot it was impenetrably and enviouſly pinned cloſe together. Imagine, oh! imagine, my ſituation! for I cannot deſcribe it. The watchman neglected to inſpect the lane, though he ſat almoſt at the beginning of it. Love's auſpicious god had ſurely charmed him to reſt, for he did not even call his hour after the clock had ſtruck. I remained [Page 139] ſtill undiſcovered, and could not perſuade mvſelf to remove. How ſhall I paint what followed? ah! beloved woman, pardon and pity me! I brought my ear even with the edge of the window-frame, and liſtened: what did I hear? even the balmy breath of my Charlotte, heaving ſomewhat interruptedly in ſlumber. I opened my lips, if aught of the perfume would reach me, that I might inhale it. Five minutes, or more than five, did I continue in this attitude; and then — mighty love aſſiſt me — then did I hear the deareſt of women, ſtarting from her ſleep, exclaim— "This ſhould be his pillow—here ſhould his cheek repoſe—ah! [Page 140] Charles, Charles, why did we ever meet? this parting will diſtract me" —My heart at this time prompted me to diſcover myſelf, and I tremblingly put my hand to the ſaſh, and heaved it higher—I could have ſtepped into Charlotte's bedchamber with eaſe: another lift would have carried me into her arms; but the pullies rattled, you called loudly to know "who was there," and I was compelled to deſcend from the walls of paradiſe.
The abruptneſs with which I deſcended, brought me headlong to the ground, I cut myſelf with pieces of broken glaſs, and other rubbiſh that had been thrown into the lane. [Page 141] I had juſt riſen, when I once more looked at the window, where, to compleat my miſery, I ſaw the diſrobed, lovely, and beautiful Charlotte, pulling down the ſaſh.
Agitated as I was, I dared not ſpeak. I kept my promiſe with you, even in drunkenneſs, and was ſilent under all theſe touching circumſtances. But what did all theſe efforts of honour coſt me? I thought my ſenſes would utterly have left me!
That nothing may remain concealed, I will diſcloſe even the ſcenes which ſucceeded — And yet, why ſhould I? to what end do I make you acquainted with more inſtances [Page 142] of my weakneſs? — you wiſh me to hate you: you have annihilated my image, and you earneſtly deſire I ſhould obliviate yours: you deteſt, you abhor, you laugh at the agonies of
FOR heaven's ſake, my dear Charles, be more guarded: you will deſtroy the happineſs both of Charlotte and yourſelf. She is [Page 143] palpably jealous of you: every ſyllable in her letter declares it. Her tenderneſs for you is even greater than ever. I conjure you, therefore, not to injure her: continue ſtill to conſider her ſilently as your ſiſter, and I prophecy that ſomething will happen in the courſe of a little time, to make her as eſſentially your wife, by the laws of the land, as ſhe is evidently already by the laws of the tendereſt love that can poſſibly be reciprocated. At leaſt give her the indulgence of a ſhort period. I ſtill expect to ſee you happy together, and I am perſuaded, if you let fortune take her own play, without unſeaſonably interrupting her, ſhe will contrive matters in your favour, till [Page 144] all ſhall work together for your good. Perſecutions and ſearchings after her at preſent, will only defeat your purpoſes. View her, therefore, I again conjure you, as the deareſt relation in the world, who cannot poſſibly live in the ſame houſe with you. Surely there is a moſt delicate conſolation in believing yourſelf moſt paſſionately beloved by an abſent friend. That you are paſſionately beloved, and that you will continue to be ſo, there is not the ſmalleſt doubt: and, give me as a friend, leave to tell you, that, to ſuppoſe you are not, is a poor compliment to Charlotte: your incredulity, in this caſe, argues your want of confidence. Depend upon it, if ſhe [Page 145] who has torn herſelf from you, ever finds it again in her power (I mean in the power of her feelings) to return, ſhe will not heſitate to crown the warmeſt wiſhes of her amiable companion, who, both by habit and inclination, muſt be too dear to be ſoon forgotten. Do you think ſhe has forgotten you? oh, Charles, you cannot be ſo ignorant of the workings of nature, nor can you be ſo inſenſible to the peculiarly ſoft heart of her, whoſe abſence you are deploring. Take my word for it, that were you to meet twelve-months hence, your firſt interview would not be ſuſtained like perſons who had buried the remembrance of each other. I judge not romantically, [Page 146] but from a knowledge of you both: I judge from the ſcenes of lively, and laſting endearment you have both experienced: you can no more forget one another, than you can forget yourſelves. Many a ſad hour does ſhe feel, as well as Charles, and much anguiſh muſt ſhe undergo to ſupport and continue theſe triumphs of her delicacy. Once more, therefore, I deſire you to let things take their courſe, and, by ſome ſtroke of providence, Charlotte will aſſuredly be reſtored to you. I am not able to ſettle my buſineſs here ſo expeditiouſly as I could, for your ſake, wiſh. But I muſt inſiſt on your letters giving me all material occurrences, ſince it is impoſſible [Page 147] any thing ſhould happen to you, that can be matter of indifference to
P. S. I like not your ſcheme of indulging in wine; it is only one degree more excuſable than indulging with women. Neither of theſe will aſſiſt you at preſent; and therefore you would do better to avoid both.
GOOD God, Charles, what a life do you make me lead! and what real miſery hath diſtinguiſhed the night and the day ſince the arrival of your laſt! how can you be ſo ingenious to torture your own heart and mine? Your ſcene at my window thrills me with horror. What a time to be expoſed to the open air: careleſs and intoxicated too as you were! what wretchedneſs muſt attend your proſpect! How could the impetuoſity of your paſſion ſuggeſt ſuch [Page 149] an expedient; dangerous in itſelf, and painful in its conſequences? I hope, however, you have not cut yourſelf alarmingly: pray get the beſt advice: glaſs ſometimes ſticks within the ſkin, and gangrenes. Oh! for heaven's ſake, take care. Had you ſtaid till the noiſe brought me to the window, what would have become of us both? to have denied you admittance, would have been, in ſuch a ſituation, impoſſible: to have admitted you would have been a freſh gall to thoſe wounds of honour which I am trying to heal. If you regard either my health, my happineſs, or my life, never put me again to ſuch ſevere trials.
[Page 150] If, Charles, the ſcenes that ſucceeded this ſhocking one at my chamber window are ſuch as an eye, not wholly abandoned, may dare to look upon, you may ſend it to me. I can, however, too readily gueſs the ſcope of it: and yet it was, methinks, a ſtrange heart, that could juſt quit the moſt pathetic object in the world, and find a gratification, the next minute, in the groſſeſt.
Write, nevertheleſs, and faithfully write, the honeſt truth. Tell me how happy you have been made by the miſerable ſhe whom gold allured to the man ſhe poſſibly never ſaw before. Oh! Charles, where has been your delicacy! or if your paſſions [Page 151] rioted over your reaſon, why did you not ſeek to relieve them in the arms of Cleora? Farewell, you have planted a freſh dagger in the boſom of
HARD-judging Charlotte! you think worſe of me than you ought. I have, as you will preſently ſee, preſerved my delicacy, in ſpite of my diſſipation; did I not at this time feel too ſeverely the effects of that diſſipation, and was I [Page 152] not ſitting up in my bed, in defiance of a fever that almoſt parches the pen as I hold it, I would convince you of this. But I am quite exhauſted, and muſt defer this matter to a future opportunity.
I am your afflicted CHARLES.
I HAVE met an adventure that I think may draw off your mind, in ſome meaſure, from its preſent fatal object of contemplation; and therefore I will deſcribe it as accurately as my memory permits. You cannot too attentively apply yourſelf to thoſe ſcenes which amuſe the imagination and ſoothe the fancy.
[Page 154] At the houſe of Mr. — where I now am on a viſit (from which I cannot yet politely diſengage ſelf) dined the other day, ſix people of both ſexes; amongſt them a ſtripling, who complained bitterly that he had been abuſed by the lady of his heart, who, after a courtſhip (and all its coſtly conſequences) of five years, had left him in the lurch; kept his preſents, ſtolen his affections, and turned him adrift, in favour of a ſtupid fellow with a ſmooth face, a laced coat, and a well-turned pair of legs. This poor ſwain made a fool of himſelf all dinner time, could drink little, eat leſs, ſighed every ſecond, and at laſt ſolemnly declared he would renounce [Page 155] the ſex, and ſet out the next week to ſeek for indifference, in rambling round the habitable globe.
After this declaration, he ſat ſilent and melancholy for a long time, and really infected the whole company: at length an old gentleman that ſat next him, tapp'd him ſoftly on the ſhoulder, and ſaid, "he was in hopes he did not know in what real miſery conſiſted; and ſo, continued he, as we are all mighty Engliſh, and inclined to be penſive, I will tell you the heads of my hiſtory, from which you will be able, perhaps, to deduce a very uſeful leſſon: namely, that happineſs hates to be hunted, and is very ſeldom caught by thoſe, who [Page 156] violently purſue her. She deteſts preſſing, and muſt come a volunteer into the ſervice of mortals."
"All our miſery, or at leaſt the greateſt portions of it, ariſe from the want of ſettled and conſolidated ſentiments—in other words, from ſubmitting to the violence of various paſſions, without ſticking to any one of them upon principle. This has been my misfortune; take care that it is not yours. I am now, you ſee, in the decline of life, and yet, from the time that I came to years of diſcretion, as indiſcreet people too often call them, I have been chacing different ſhadows; and fluctuating, tempeſt-toſt, betwixt oppoſite [Page 157] opinions. At my firſt coming into the world, a mere noviciate in all reſpects, (as it were, in the very morning of exigence) fancy, and curioſity threw before my eye a thouſand gay and glittering appearances. I could neither engage in a dance, or make one at a dinner, or attend a concert, or viſit any place of public diverſion, without receiving ſome unlucky impreſſion in favour of objects either recommended by their novelty, or to which I was invited by the ardour of my temper. I, like you, had a free hand, a liberal ſoul, and a ſuſceptible heart: my ſpirits were lively, my ideas excurſive, and fancy for ever on the wing. The ruling propenſities of my nature [Page 158] were ſocial, and, I cultivated with a vigour peculiar to young people, all the friendly and intereſting connections."
"To reſcue my friend, or to prove my fidelity, to him, I ſet at nought hazard, embarraſſment, and enterprize, with all the enthuſiaſtical vehemence of a knight-errant. My efforts were without the leaſt mercenary mixture, and my opinions conceived and admitted without any ſuſpicion. Having indulged this luxury of the young man for ſome time, till certain tokens of inſincerity ſomewhat cooled my ardour, I was taught by experience, the neceſſity of caution, and found it wholeſome [Page 159] to alter a little the ſyſtem I had adopted: inſtead, therefore, of falling in love at firſt ſight, of conferring indiſcriminate favours, of fixing promiſcuous friendſhips, or of laviſhing offers of ſervice to all men, without caution or diſtinction, I was tempted to enter into intercourſes of a more ſtationary kind: my appetites were now leſs refractory: imagination had enjoyed her frolic, and the curioſity of a rambling, romantic heart was ſatisfied. I now reſolved to begin the world on a new principle: I courted a young woman eminently beautiful, and obtained her hand: from this moment I entertained notions, views and wiſhes, utterly the reverſe of my former ones: fortune— [Page 160] intereſt—children—family and poſterity, all crouded upon me: the ſhilling, which in my late bachelor-ſtate I ſhould have toſs'd careleſly away, I turned very deliberately, and placed it as an accumulated twelve-pence in my drawer."
"At the end of a year my wife preſented me with a ſimilitude of herſelf; and the moment it came into the world, I imagined it gave ſo ſacred an addition to my character, that, I remember well, on that very day I buſtled into my barber's ſhop with an unuſual ſtrut, and ordered a ſupernumerary row of curls to my peruke, the better to figure as the father of a family. The ſucceeding [Page 161] year gave me a ſon, with whom I was no ſooner provided, than I became anxious to provide a fortune to ſupport him. To accompliſh this, need I ſay, that I adopted the moſt circumſpect maxims. I gave nothing without knowing to what end. I engaged in a good buſineſs, entertained but ſeldom, threw myſelf as little as poſſible in the way of pleaſurable temptation, roſe up early in the morning to the account book, and knowing my infirmity (for you muſt know I always loved wine) I kept the bottle out of ſight. Yet, in reward of this ſelf-denial, I eat hearty, ſlept ſound, and repaired the conſtitution, which the career of the former part of my life had deplorably [Page 162] ſhaken. For ſeveral years I applied myſelf to the maxims of gain, and, in the end, obtained by ſuch induſtry a conſiderable fortune."
"About this period my ſentiments underwent another total alteration: from the domeſtic friend and man of buſineſs, I ſhifted to the man of magnificence and parade; and juſt as I had, by dint of infinite drudgery, obtained a good fortune, I took it into my head to ſpend it like a fool. As you are in love, young Sir, you know ſomething about human inconſiſtency, and therefore will not wonder at this apparent lunacy. Well, Sir, I took it into my ridiculous head, as I was ſaying, to purchaſe [Page 163] a piece of ground on the ſide of a hill, in the county of Somerſet: upon this hill, I had the nonſenſical ambition to build a ſpacious houſe, and in this houſe, to my ſhame be it ſpoken, I placed pictures and paintings, which, as the learned in thoſe matters told me, were extremely fine and valuable. I now no longer liſten'd to the chatter upon change, the jargon of Garraway's, nor the ſtupidity of the ſtocks. I buſtled no more in buſineſs, took my caſh out of trade, ſet up a chaiſe, and commenced the eminent merchant retired from ways, to live upon his means. I turned a bleak, bare hill behind my villa, into a ſhrubbery of ſirs, and the ſteep deſcent from before my front door, I converted into [Page 164] a garden, in which I placed ſtatues of all the great folks; and, that the matter might be compleat, I ordered a pond to be cut in the centre, that I might have at once wood, water, and fiſh into the bargain. My wife, however, ſoon complained that the walls were damp, my children were conſtantly afflicted with colds: my gardener diſcovered, that nothing either uſeful or beautiful would grow, upon account of barren ground; and the neighbouring gentry, after paying a compliment to my taſte in building, pitied me on being unfortunate in the ſituation. I made no more ado, Sir, but upon this, I pull'd (like a true baby tired of my plaything) the whole edifice down, even to the cornerſtone; [Page 165] and, in the rage of my heart, hurried with my family again to London, where I took lodgings, and, in mere deſpair and ſhame, ſhut myſelf up for ſeveral days."
"My fortune, acquired by the diligence of many years, was too ſubſtantial to be much hurt by a ſingle folly. I had indeed thrown away upwards of two thouſand pounds, and I had got a pretty deal of experience. Now mark the reverſe: from that day to this, I do not believe I have miſemployed or miſplaced a ſingle penny. You ſee me now in the laſt ſtage of my journey. My wife is in heaven, and my children are in good circumſtances: one of my boys has [Page 166] made a very good piece of arable out of that very ground which was reprobated by the indolent gardener: I have rebuilt the houſe, ſo as to make it fine, and warm enough for a farmer; and my third ſon has perſuaded me to buy a pretty parcel of land contiguous to it. As to myſelf, after all the frolics and vagaries of youth, I have ſomething to line the eaſy chair of old age: I have an old woman to rub my ancles when the gout hath wrapt them up in flannels; my bed is the ſofter for being my own buying, and though I do not bid every puppy put his hand into my purſe, yet, if he can prove to me that he is not a rogue, and is guilty only of raggedneſs, I ſhall never be churl enough to refuſe [Page 167] him a caſt coat that hangs idly collecting duſt upon a peg, nor will I ſend him away in the winter, without warming himſelf againſt the weather, by a warm ſeat in the chimney-corner. Thus young, Sir, you ſee how fatal it is to indulge imagination: I was the ſport of it for a long time, and happy was it for me, that I condeſcended, in the ſeaſon of the grey hair, to lead the life of reaſon."
Here, my dear Charles, the old gentleman ended his ſtory, which, though not abſolutely in point, was truly entertaining, and enriched by very pertinent and ſalutary obſervations. In all events it will anſwer a very good purpoſe, if the recital of it [Page 168] in any degree alleviates the miſery of my friend—a friend, whoſe joys and woes are always reverberated upon the heart of his
I HAVE health, or at leaſt ſtrength enough returned to vindicate myſelf to you; for I feel, that I muſt ever remain additionally uneaſy till I ſtand fair and unſuſpected in your thoughts and opinions.
[Page 169] True it is, that I wandered into a houſe of ill reputation, and did it with a view of burying the image which haunted my repoſe. The utmoſt, indeed, that could poſſibly be expected from ſuch an effort, was not pleaſure, but alleviation of pain. Heaven knows I did not hope for happineſs from the embraces of venal beauty, but merely to deaden for a moment, the ſenſe of intolerable anguiſh; and even this was attempted in the abſence or lethargy of every cool and rational faculty. Shall I confeſs to you, that I ſent a creature of convenience for a wretched female, who depended on her daily violations for ſubſiſtence? the meſſenger delayed, and my ſpirits ſinking in the interim, I ſwallowed a [Page 170] bumper of champaign, and drank to the health of Charlotte, even in my debauch. As I was pouring down the third glaſs, now almoſt daylight, I heard the ruſtle of ſilks upon the ſtairs. What a ſenſation did this trifle produce! but, ah! how unlike that I had been us'd to feel, when the ſtep of Charlotte animated my expectation. A female came; ſhewy, laboriouſly adorned, and, as ſhe ſoon told me, juſt out of bed. I began immediately to make compariſons: they were indeed odious. I look'd in the eyes, for Charlotte's love-born languiſhment, and I found in their ſtead artful ogles, miſuſing the luſtre of what might once have been innocently bright. I ſurveyed [Page 171] the face for tender ſenſibility; the form for engaging deportment, and the dreſs, for the union of elegance and judgment; inſtead of which, I beheld confident aukwardneſs, and a flaunting variety, betraying at once the taſte and the trade. The lady, however, to whom long habit had rendered every thing indifferent but finery, called up a look which ſignified an entire compliance. I muſt own to my dear friend, that time, place, and opportunity, all favoured. Ah! madam, there was but one thing wanting to compleat the ſcene. There was only wanting— inclination. In a word Charlotte, confeſs yourſelf deceived in me; confeſs that I am leſs infamouſly unfaithful [Page 172] than you ſuppoſed. I was ſhocked, diſguſted, and burſt into tears both of remorſe and diſappointment. As ſoon as I recovered, I threw five pieces on the table, hung on my ſword with a trembling hand, and bade the unfortunate, farewell. Upon this tranſaction I dare not make a comment, nor have I the courage to expect more than your pity for the yet ardent paſſion of
'TIS impoſſible I ſhould ſpeak upon the ſubject of your laſt. I rejoice however truly, in the recovery of your health, of which I deſire you to be extremely careful, and take the liberty of a tender friend to adviſe you never will again put yourſelf unneceſſarily in the way of deſtroying it.
Adieu I am yours CHARLOTTE.
CHARLES has ſent me what, under my preſent circumſtances, I have no right to detain, and which, for fear of wounding his delicacy, I had not the courage to forbid his tranſmitting. I do not doubt but he has ſent a proper meſſage to you; at the ſame time I judge it a point of honour, and ſhall eſteem it a very great favour, if you will not be offended at my incloſure, which is undoubtedly the property of Cleora.
YOU are not to be acquainted that I have loſt my happineſs. But that is not to be the ſubject of this addreſs: you complain of your circumſtances, and I ſhall, to the utmoſt of my very ſlender abilities, be ever ready to alleviate them. You will pleaſe to accept the incloſed trifle, as an evidence of my future intentions.
[Page 179] I believe you have no idea that it is poſſible for you and I to be re-united. Without entering painfully into a repetition of the points that at firſt divided us, I ſhall only obſerve to you, that our reconciliation (I mean ſo far as relates to our living together) is impracticable.
I find that our child is at boarding-ſchool at a great diſtance from you: as your money is locked up at preſent, the ſupport of this muſt be inconvenient. I have been long anxious to ſee, and have my ſhare of the pleaſure ariſing from the ſociety of the child; and I will now venture to requeſt that I may be allowed to take [Page 180] upon me the care of its education under my own eye. It ſhall receive from me all the tenderneſs and delicate aſſiduities of a father. I will lead it up in the paths of honour; not a ſentiment ſhall be inculcated but thoſe that will inſpire her heart with virtue, or accompliſh her head with underſtanding. Surely madam, though it is neceſſary we ſhould remain ſeparate, it is by no means ſo that we ſhould, in any degree, altercate, or entertain againſt each other a ſingle ſentiment of antipathy. I beſeech you therefore to allow me the common pleaſure of a parent: as the child is apart from you at preſent, it may as well remain under my protection as that of a ſtranger. [Page 181] I have thoughts of placing it near me at an excellent ſeminary, of which I will, at the proper time, give you the direction, that you may favour the object of our mutual delight with your viſits, and maternal attention: only truſt it to my care, and I ſhall be ſatisfied.
I do not inſult you with a ſentence in relation to a late connection. Whatever were the diſagreements betwixt you and me, may they never be communicated to the curioſity of the public: and as to my intercourſes elſewhere, may they never come within your knowledge to diſtreſs you. Farewel.
I am, your obedient ſervant, CHARLES.
IT is not without great uneaſineſs, I find it neceſſary to be the amanuenſis of your old correſpondent Charles, who is in a condition that renders it impoſſible for him to take up the pen at preſent. In a word, madam, he is wounded, and I ſeriouſly fear at the point of death. The cauſe of this you will better learn [Page 183] from the incloſed, than from any thing I can poſſibly ſay upon the ſubject. He wiſhes exceedingly to hear from you, although he does not know that I am addreſſing you; and therefore I muſt beg you will not take any ſtep to acquaint him by what means the news of his illneſs arrived.
I am, with the beſt wiſhes for the health and happineſs of both,
your moſt obedient, humble ſervant, HAMLET TEMPLETON.
I WRITE to you with my left arm in a ſling, and a ball in the bottom of my breaſt, as yet vainly endeavoured to be extracted: the anguiſh of my mind exceeds that of my body, and I have no relief but from writing to you; and that is a relief although it is not without a great deal of pain I hold the pen: my ſurgeon, however, has left me for an [Page 185] hour, and I am reſolved to employ the interval of his perfections, in relating to you the principal circumſtances of a quarrel that ended in blood on both ſides.
I was on Tueſday laſt at a public dinner in the city, whither I went (in the hand of an acquaintance) on purpoſe to diſſipate a little, and to expel thought, by looking about me. The glaſs was briſkly circulated, and after we had run rapidly the round of general healths, ſuch as the king, church, royal family, &c. &c. we came home to the private toaſts of the heart, and drank each to the proſperity of his paſſion, and the happineſs of his miſtreſs. In the ſincerity [Page 186] of my heart, I verged a little upon common ceremonies, and gave the divine Charlotte. I was pleaſed to ſee many politely ready to fill his glaſs of good wiſhes; but a perſon at the other end of the table repeated her name two or three times ſarcaſtically, and at laſt, in a kind of half whiſper, told his companion that ſhe was to be had at—, but that her price was confoundedly high. I deſired an explanation of this— ſmoke the favourite, ſaid the gentleman, ſimpering to his companion.—The companion called to order, and I ſat down: we drank freely, and though my heart lay burning within my boſom, I did not revive the ſubject, 'till the toaſt came [Page 187] round to the perſon who had inſulted me. He propoſed a lady: I drank her health, and then apologizing to the maſter of the treat for being unable to ſtay longer, withdrew.
I retired haſtily into a room belonging to the ſame tavern, and ſoon found from my landlord, the name and quality of the perſon which at preſent employed my thoughts: he was an half pay officer of —'s regiment. Pen and ink being brought, I wrote as follows:
To Lieutenant A—.
YOUR profeſſion leaves your courage unſuſpected. Without commenting, therefore, on wanting the manners of a Britiſh ſoldier, I have only to hint, that you have inſulted a gentleman, who is waiting for you where the bearer will privately conduct you. I am ſtepping out to prepare properly for your reception, as I preſume neither of us are prepared in that way; but I ſhall return immediately.
After I had folded up, and ſent the waiter with this billet, I went to a [Page 189] gunſmith's in the neighbourhood, and ſoon provided a brace of piſtols, with which I returned. The officer ſent a verbal meſſage by the ſervant, that he ſhould not attend to ſuch kind of engagements 'till the company broke up, and perhaps after that he might be in a humour to correct a ſtripling, who was hot enough to fight for his w—. Stung beyond meaſure at this, I ran abruptly into the dining-room, and placed myſelf oppoſite to the inſulter. He was that minute entering into what he was pleaſed to ſuppoſe the hiſtory of our former ſeparation, having heard, as it appeared, ſome abſurd ſtory on that ſubject. He broke off upon my entrance, and filled his glaſs: juſt as he [Page 190] was lifting it to his lip, I roſe, and in a whiſper told him my contemptible opinion of a ſcoundrel, eſpecially when he happened to diſgrace a cockade. The colour of rage immediately roſe over our hero's countenance, and he threw the contents of his glaſs into my face. All meaſures being now taken between us, I withdrew a ſecond time, and the lieutenant was held by his companions.
I WENT to a coffee-houſe, that luckily faced the door of the tavern, ſo that when the lieutenant came away it would be impoſſible for him to eſcape unſeen. In about an hour he came out by himſelf without his hat, as if he had ſtolen from the company, upon ſome neceſſary pretence, and was deſirous to find me. I ſhewed myſelf.—The lieutenant beckoned to me, and I followed him. With the firſt opportunity [Page 192] he called a hackney coach, into which we both got, and rode in it ſullenly till we came to the apartment of the Lieutenant. Both of us threw down a ſhilling for the fare, becauſe either diſdained the obligation, in ſuch a eaſe, of being treated. He conducted me into a large well furniſhed dining-room, where, after having turned the key, he begg'd pardon for not attending me at the firſt ſummons, and propoſed an immediate accommodation of differences.—We fought —he conquered—I fell.—
I AM much more mangled without being more relieved: after near an hour's miſery, the ball remains in my body, and I am not able to finiſh my account of the duel. The ſurgeon begins to look awful: his eye ſeems to menace actions ſtill more bloody. He has almoſt cut into my heart. The next experiment will probably diſcover it to the ſpectator: ah, that Charlotte was then preſent—ah, that ſhe could ſee it [Page 194] throbbing for her—after that I could wiſh its motion to ceaſe for ever.
A Correſpondence would be inconſiſtent. I ſhall moſt certainly endeavour to keep you and Charlotte aſunder. That I have been inſtrumental in ſo good a meaſure is my chief glory, even though I have not the moſt diſtant idea of being with you myſelf: nay, even though you now want the power to pleaſe
CHARLOTTE intreats Mr. Templeton to be in the bird-cage walk of St. James's park, within fifty paces of Buckingham gate, this evening at ſeven o'clock, where a relation of Charlotte's, who has the greateſt deſire to ſee Charles, will be extremely obliged to Mr. T. if he will conduct him (as he is a ſtranger) to Charles's lodgings.
MR. T. will certainly obſerve Charlotte's appointment, and conduct her kinſman to the unhappy Charles, from whoſe body the ball is this minute diſlodged, at the price of ſuch inciſions and torments as [Page 198] ſurely no other man has the fortitude to bear. In the height of the torture, as the blood was flowing from the fleſh, he preſs'd Mr. T.'s hand, and told him in a whiſper, even with a ſmile on his face, that he was ſuffering in the cauſe of the vindicated Charlotte.
I DARE not adviſe at preſent, either a diſcovery, or a ſecond experiment. The ſpirits of poor Charles are in too great a hurry, and as his fever intermits, it might be more dangerous than if it was, as before, perfectly delirious. Depend upon it I will never leave him, and tell you, from time to time, very faithfully, how he goes on.
IT is not romance; it is not a flight of fancy; I muſt ſee him again—I muſt ſee him inſtantly— Fear not any diſcovery; I will thicken my diſguiſe—I will diſcolour [Page 201] my cheeks—I will ſtain my complexion—I will do any thing ſo as you will yourſelf keep my ſecret, and let me ſee him this night. Write directly, and ſay that you will call upon me by ſeven o'clock: I will wait even till eight with patience; but if you cruelly exceed that hour —ah! Mr. Templeton— I muſt—indeed I muſt ſee him.
PARDON my impatience—pardon ſuch perpetual meſſages and letters. I write now, only to tell you of an expedient—tell me the name, and give me the addreſs of Charles's ſurgeon. I'll acquaint you of my reaſons for this, ſpeedily. I hope no turn for the worſe has happened ſince my laſt. What an unfortunate creature am I to occaſion ſuch complicated miſchief to ſo amiable a man!
THE ſurgeon who has the care of Charles, is named Melbank, and his reſidence is in St. James's-ſtreet. I am very ſorry again to acquaint you that our wretched friend is in the delirium of a fever, in its worſt ſtate, and calls ravingly, ſeveral times in an hour, on his Charlotte. Mr. Melbank is to bring with him in the morning, or perhaps [Page 204] this evening, another ſurgeon of eminence, and a phyſician, reſolving to proceed no farther without aſſiſtance.
I am, Madam,
your humble Servant, H. T.
I AM intereſted Sir, beyond expreſſion, in the life of your patient Charles, and have been, in ſome meaſure, the occaſion of his preſent diſorder. [Page 205] There are the moſt delicate reaſons why I would not, juſt at this criſis, pay him an open viſit; but if vou will take me in your hand, under the diſguiſe of a ſtudent in phyſic and ſurgery, I will provide myſelf with the dreſs, and wait upon you in the evening. Oh Sir,—it is vain to attempt theſe tranſparent concealments. I am the moſt miſerable CHARLOTTE. I am that unhappy girl for whom he fought, for whom he was wounded. Mr. Templeton has, no doubt, made known to you the particulars of your ſtory. If he has —am I not to be pitied? am I not to be juſtified in taking a ſtep apparently romantic, but truly affectionate, truly innocent, in order to ſee the man [Page 206] whom I have plunged into blood? Notwithſtanding this, I will not call upon you till permitted, and I beg you will on no account reveal this circumſtance to any perſon, unleſs to Mr. Templeton.
AND ſo Sir, I find you have demanded ſatisfaction of a certain gentleman for only ſpeaking ſlightly of Charlotte's conſtancy, although [Page 207] you could ſuffer ſeveral licentious young fellows to circulate the moſt infamous falſhood to the diſhonour of your wife's character. But this I ſuppoſe, in the fine gentleman's calendar, is gallantry, and I muſt ſet it down to the account of genteel life.
FAR be it from me to interpoſe a ſingle ſentiment betwixt two perſons of the ſame family at variance; [Page 208] but juſt for the preſent I am deſired by the ſurgeon to beg you would forbear any ſeverity in your letters; and, indeed, if you knew Charles's preſent ſituation, you would at leaſt ſtay till he is able to defend himſelf, by holding the pen to anſwer you.
I am, Madam,
your obedient ſervant, H. T.
YES, Charles, I confeſs it. It was Charlotte who took you by the hand: it was ſhe who came into your ſick chamber, under the diſguiſe of a man's habit, and ſmoothed your uneaſy pillow! nor do I repent, or bluſh at it. As I perceive you are pleaſed at it, I rejoice in the ſtratagem, and defy the ſneers of ſuch as have the heart, in thoſe circumſtances, to withſtand the beſt of its impulſes. I enjoin you, oh! my dear [Page 210] Charles, to compoſe yourſelf, and remember that in your life is involved the life of
I KNEW it was impoſſible to be miſtaken. I knew it by a thouſand circumſtances! by the brow of alabaſter delicately meander'd by the cerulian of the veins—by the ſilken eye-laſh—by the ſoft preſſure of the hand—by the roſy lip—ah, Charlotte! [Page 211] my very ſenſes returned to welcome you; pain ſtood ſuſpended, and pleaſure advanced! my wound was well for the moment—my heart acknowledged you. Did I not lay your dear hand upon it! did it not bound in gratitude! —
What can I ſay, Charlotte. I am eaſier—I am better—I ſhall ſoon be well. And is your life indeed wrapt up in mine? be it ſo. Your wiſhes will be granted. Heaven will ſpare Charles for the ſake of Charlotte. What wonders have you worked in a moment—a ſingle interview!—
OH my dear father aſſiſt me: the oldeſt, and beſt, and moſt ingenious friend I have in the world, is now on the bed of ſickneſs, and in want of a ſmall ſupply of caſh to [Page 213] anſwer the exigences of ſo pathetic a ſituation. He has been dangerouſly wounded in a duel, and is now ſlowly recovering. The loſs of a large eſtate in the court of chancery; a diſagreement in his family; and a thouſand other ſevere ſtrokes of hard fortune, attend him. I know your generoſity, Sir, and beg leave to invite it on this moſt intereſting occaſion. Ah! my dear father, you know not how extenſive a happineſs I could make, were you to tranſmit me an order for the trifling ſum of fifty pounds! if I cannot obtain it any other way, from your liberality, I entreat that it may be conſidered as ſo much in advance of my next year's allowance. I will live the more ſaving and oeconomical in order [Page 214] to ſerve my friend. But why do I ſay this? you will applaud my ſentiments: you will encourage the noble feelings of ſocial ſympathy, and congratulate yourſelf and your ſon. 'Twere unneceſſary to obſerve that my poor friend has been already reduced to part with ſeveral things of value, which I have, one by one, carried in the duſk of the evening, to thoſe who lend money to the children of diſtreſs, upon depoſiting the very neceſſaries of life.
I am, honoured Sir,
your moſt dutiful, H. T.
NOW the murder's out I find. I ſhall forbear henceforward to wonder at your extravagance, or at the various ſhifts you are driven to, to ſupport it. Upon my word, young gentleman, you are a mighty pretty fellow; a very prince of generoſity; a perfect Pilades! and pray who is this heroic Oreſtes? but no matter! and ſo you want to fleece the old fellow out of fifty pieces, do [Page 216] you? very well puſhed, I muſt confeſs; but it won't take. I warrant you now, if I ſhould be blockhead enough to ſend you a draft for this money, you and your friend would be both cured of your ſickneſs and your ſorrows, and hug yourſelves happily at having humbug'd the old put of a father.
I am mightily tickled with the compliment you pay my generoſity, at the expence of my prudence. As much as if you had ſaid to a lady, madam, I admire your eyes, if they were not in the way of your noſe, and I am charmed with your teeth, only it is a pity they overhang your lips. — Between you and I, Sir, it is not [Page 217] quite clear to me whether your generoſity, as you call it, will not one day or another exalt you above the heads of the people, and give you a preeminent exit at Tyburn. Why, you no more mind fifty pounds than fifty flea-bites, or ſo many ſnaps of the finger. Do you know Sir, that fifty pounds will buy me a pair of horſes for my carriage — that it will equip me in cloaths for two years?—that it is more than you ought to have per annum, and find every thing; although I am fool enough to double it?
If I will give you an order for this ſum, you will live more oeconomically —ſo you can live more oeconomically, [Page 218] can you? why, you are a prodigal by your own confeſſion, and I have a great mind to ſink the half of your allowance from this day, till you are pinched into prudence! I can't conceive where the plague you got that curſed talent for laviſhing money! none of my family, nor any of your mother's, were ever ſpendthrifts. We were all upon the ſaving order. Zounds, ſir! I have had three ſets of buttons upon one ſuit of cloaths: but you ſcorn to ſet any thing off ſavingly, and by the way of Cheapſide, as I uſed to expreſs myſelf. I have abſolutely heard you laugh at ſoling a pair of ſhoes; you never would ſuffer my taylor to turn cloth of eighteen ſhillings per yard; [Page 219] and I have ſeen you toſs up your noſe at a fine-drawn ſtroke in the elbow! for all this, you can condeſcend to go ſkulking with a bundle under your arm, in the duſk of the evening, to a pawn-brokers! Zounds, ſir! what a low-ſpirited dog you muſt be! to run into ſuch a horrid place, with a coat, a ſhirt, and an old pair of ſtockings!
To be plain, young man, I do not expect any good from you while you are ſo conſumedly liberal, and ready to give away your money to every coxcomb or impoſtor that aſks for it. But 'tis as I ever ſaid, "lightly come lightly go." Be that as it may: I will not ſend you a ſingle ſhilling to [Page 220] ſpend in ſuch romantic purpoſes: and I would rather relieve any wound than that occaſioned by a duel. Every fellow that dares to lift up his hand againſt the life of another, ought to ſmart for it; and I ſhould be ſorry, for any one to eſcape out of ſuch an infamous encounter without the loſs of a limb, or a ſcar at the leaſt. If the truth was known, I don't doubt but your friend fought for a wench, or becauſe he was drunk, or becauſe he wanted better and wiſer employment. Let the fact, however, be what it will, I am very angry that you ſhould be a very great fool yourſelf, and that you ſhould endeavour to make me a much greater.
I am, your offended father, HENRY TEMPLETON.
I Continue to mend, and yet the inhuman Melbank ſtill denies me the uſe of pen and paper; but I have bribed my nurſe to buy me ſome, and ſhe keeps it under lock and key. Theſe phyſical folks are ſuch pedants —Can any thing in nature ſo ſoon or ſo effectually contribute to my recovery as writing to, and hearing from, the amiable Charlotte? Her ſenſe—her elegance—her delicacy— her gentleneſs—her love — I mean her friendſhip, are all ſo many cordials to me. I lay them—I lay the [Page 222] letters which contain the marks of them, upon my pillow, and they add ſoftneſs to the down—I preſs them upon my boſom, even till they touch my wounds, and they act as the healing balm, or reſtoratives of life, health, and joy—I then carry them to my heart, and it pants to confeſs from whence they came. How then can this cruel Melbank tell me that I muſt ſtifle ſuch ideas—ſuch actions —how can he ſay they will agitate me into a relapſe? You, Charlotte, are acquainted—you have perhaps ſome intereſt with Cleora. If ſo, intercede with her, I beſeech you, for my child. She never ſees it herſelf, and yet ſhe will not allow it the ſhelter of a father's arms. She is [Page 223] every way unkind. But I muſt not indulge melancholy reflections. I already feel the effect of them. My ſpirits are fluttered—my pulſes are irregular. Melbank is coming to dreſs my wound. I wiſh to heaven I was well enough to diſcharge him! I had rather die than be denied to correſpond with Charlotte. Melbank is at the door. The nurſe ſhall hurry away my writing inſtruments.
YOU delay the recovery of your friend's health, madam. Your letters diſorder and affect him too much. Every thing that alarms, every thing that excites a tumultuous paſſion, ſhould be moſt cautiouſly avoided in his preſent ſtate. You cannot conceive what an injury you are doing, and all the endeavours of nature and a ſurgeon will be ineffectual if you do not deſiſt. I will give you a call this afternoon, and explain the nature of this miſchief [Page 225] more explicitly. In the mean time, I hope you will excuſe the well-intended advice of
Your obedient ſervant, ERSKINE MELBANK.
MY friend, Mr. Templeton, is ſuddenly ſummoned from my chamber, to attend the funeral of a ſuperannuated couſin, at Sir Henry, his father's ſeat, in the country; and the cloſe-handed old baronet, only ſent him an order for five pounds to carry him almoſt an [Page 226] hundred miles, though he is heir to near ſeven thouſands a year. As this great conſolation is taken from me, let it inſpire the benevolence of Charlotte, and then ſhe will charitably employ her pen in forwarding the recovery of
NOtwithſtanding, dear madam, what I urged to you, in tenderneſs to your friend Charles, laſt night, in regard to the danger of [Page 227] writing pathetic letters before the nervous ſyſtem could bear ſuch alarming concuſſions, I would not, on any account, have you take any notice of this friendly hint to my patient. He might miſconſtrue it. Young men of lively ſpirits, and animated tempers, are apt to miſtake. You, however, ſee my motive, and will take your meaſures accordingly. I cannot but uſe this opportunity to applaud the dignity of your reſolutions in regard to the ſeparation. 'Tis an effort even ſuperior to the virtue of the Spartan Ladies: 'tis Roman—'tis Chriſtian! How much ought you to be celebrated for ſo illuſtrious an action! and how infinitely ought Cleora to ſound your praiſes! [Page 228] at the ſame time, my good lady, are you not a little too enterprizing to continue the correſpondence? was it not a little too much in the novel ſtrain to come in a boy's habit, and diſplay ſuch various beauties to the eye of Charles, in ſuch a ſituation— ſoftened as he was by ſickneſs, touched as he muſt be at the diſcovery? you recollect to what an embarraſſment he was reduced: did not he faint? did not he fall lifeleſs on the pillow? and was it not with great difficulty you yourſelf could ſupport the conflict? ſuffer me to ſay, ſuch trials, if frequent, would ſtagger the firmeſt philoſophy, and I doubt, it is at beſt raſhneſs to put too much confidence in our own ſtrength when we [Page 229] oppoſe it to thoſe paſſions which too often turn ſtrength into weakneſs. It is certainly your duty to avoid the temptation as much as poſſible, and this you can do, only by aſſiduouſly avoiding every thing that reminds you of the object. Don't you know, my dear Madam, that in epidemic diſtempers, we are only ſecure, while we eſcape the touch of the contagious perſon? and with reſpect to wounds of the mind, they are like thoſe of the body; if we venture abroad too ſoon, or, thinking ourſelves quite cured, if we run haſtily into circumſtances that hurt us before, we ſhall, in all human probability, have a return of our complaint; and a [Page 230] relapſe, in either caſe, is often worſe than the firſt attack.
To drop, however, the language of my profeſſion, and ſpeak as a moraliſt, I muſt every way, and by every argument, recommend it to you to lay aſide the correſponding pen: every line in every letter ſtirs the embers, which, if not meddled with would go out, till, in the end, the fatal paſſion which at firſt kindled the original flame, would be utterly extinguiſhed. But, I beg pardon. I am too haſtily aſſuming the ſoft authority of friendſhip. I confeſs, madam, your merit has greatly intereſted me in your welfare; and this, with the duty I owe to my patient, [Page 231] and the ſincere love I bear to virtue, will unite to plead my excuſe for the great freedom I have taken.
My ſenſibility is exceedingly hurt at your offering to ſettle Charles's account with me, for my attendance. I am well informed, madam, of that young gentleman's misfortunes, and my chief uneaſineſs upon that ſubject ariſes from not knowing how I can aſſure him the viſits I have paid him were on the ſcore of a friendſhip, which his merit hath powerfully excited in the breaſt of
TWO days run away, and not one letter? but you may be ill—you may be incapable of writing —Oh! heaven forbid that! I would rather find myſelf neglected, than have you furniſhed with an apology from real indiſpoſition. Yet, indeed, Charlotte, if you can, you ſhould write, and write longer letters than ever. There is more neceſſity for ſuch an indulgence. I am very weak; my wound heals tardily—my friend is abſent, and a nurſe's officiouſneſs, [Page 233] is by no means like the tender attentions of a lover or a friend. Ah! what a bleſſing would my Charlotte's ſociety now be! how might ſhe ſupport me with her kind arm as I made gradual efforts to walk acroſs my chamber: from her hand how acceptable would be the bittereſt draught, and the moſt nauſeous drugs that could be adminiſtered! in the middle of the day, when the ſun favoured the attempt, here might Charlotte lead me to the opened window till I revived: the balmy air would be additionally ſalubrious, the warm beams of noon would be doubly genial, if Charlotte was by my ſide. But this is impoſſible — yet ſurely it is not impoſſible to give me [Page 234] the only comfort I can now receive! —the innocent comfort of a daily letter! the moſt rigid enemy could not deny me that! and will Charlotte then deny it? write, I charge you, and gild my ſolitary ſickneſs with one ray of ſatisfaction!
THE date of a card I have this inſtant received from a perſon in the city, puts me in mind of a circumſtance that brings the [Page 235] tears of tender congratulation into my eyes. It is the 18th of Auguſt! my watch, which hangs at the head of the bed, points betwixt the hours of eight and nine! It is the anniverſary morning of my Charlotte's birth! it is the returning day of the year, that gave to the world one of the beſt and lovelieſt of women! the ſun darts chearfully into my chamber: the ſky is uncommonly azure! I have opened the caſement, and am ſaluted with a breeze more balmy and ſerene, than I ever felt in my life. There is a grape-vine runing along the wall, till its tendrils ambitiouſly twiſt round my window, and come mantling into my bedroom. The foliage on the outſide is [Page 236] uncommonly luxurious! and ſince I have been confined, a red-breaſt has neſted amongſt the leaves. He is this moment in the ſweeteſt thrillings of his domeſtic ſong! Even ſo near the buſtle and buildings of the metropolis, I have all the advantages of rural life! Every thing around me ſeems to compliment my Charlotte! What then muſt I feel upon the ſubject? how muſt I be touched—with what an ardent ſincerity muſt I wiſh this day, and every revolving one— every eighteenth of Auguſt—how —how, I ſay, muſt I pray—how ſupplicate the powers of happineſs and health that
[Page 237]From the bottom of my heart I hail the return of this delightful morning. And yet, Charlotte, how cruelly buſy is fancy in the breaſt and brain of a man under certain influences? what a train of objects now uſe before me? what a viſion is Imagination drawing? how ſhe ſwells upon the canvaſs? what a glow in [Page 238] her colouring? what animation in her touches? there is character in every ſtroke of her pencil; her figures are from the life. She has a hand that throws Raphael into deſpair. Her exact ſimilitudes captivate the eye, and her reſemblances ſubdue the heart!This day may be always ſacred;No mourning, no misfortune happen on it;That it be mark't with triumphs and rejoicings;That happy lovers ſtill may make it holyAnd ever chooſe it to endear remembrance!
Methinks I now ſee how Charlotte employs the preſent day; ſhe invites the numerous circles of thoſe that wiſh her well: the feaſt is prepared: the lovely entertainer in the bloom of beauty and youth, ſits at the head of the table as goddeſs of the banquet. She delights more by her ſenſes, her wit, and her politeneſs, than by the delicacies of her board. [Page 239] And yet can it ever Charlotte, ah! can it ever be forgotten, in what Charles uſed to engage upon this day! will not his attention to the very hour, the minute—the ſecond of her birth, be long remembered? With what a more than bridal vigilance did he watch the returns of this auſpicious aera! how did he fondly buſy himſelf in birth-day preparations—love conſtant, exalted love inſpired, his conduct upon theſe occaſions. It was love that invited the ſun to ſhine on that day with a conſpicuous luſtre: it was love that provided the ornament, and decorating novelties which were then, for the firſt time, to be worn: it was love that wept over the ſparkling glaſs: love it was which [Page 240] gave the congratulating kiſs—and it was love which ſmiled as the day cloſed, and as the indulging night advanced, to give you, all accompliſhed, to my embraces.
Surely theſe recollections will, even in the midſt of natal feſtivity, revive thoſe ſentiments in the ſympathizing boſom of Charlotte, which will beſtow one tender ſigh to the memory of affection, and