Julia, a novel; interspersed with some poetical pieces. By Helen Maria Williams. In two volumes.: [pt.1]
JULIA: A NOVEL.
AN Officer, to whom we ſhall give the name of Clifford, derived from his anceſtors a very honourable deſcent, being able to trace their poſſeſſion of an eſtate in the northern part of England thro' ſeveral centuries. That eſtate, however, was diſſipated by the imprudence and extravagance of his parents; and Captain Clifford, who had received a very liberal education, and was brought up with the expectation of an ample inheritance, found his only remaining poſſeſſion was his commiſſion in the army. He married a beautiful young [Page 2] woman, the daughter of a neighbouring family, to whom he had been long attached, and who died a few years after their marriage, leaving him one daughter. To this child he transferred the tenderneſs he had felt for her mother, and undertook himſelf the charge of her education. Diſpirited by his domeſtic misfortune, wounded by the diſappointment of his early views in life, and the mortification of ſeeing many raiſed above him in the army, becauſe he was unable to purchaſe promotion, he retired in diſguſt, and lived upon a captain's half-pay, in a ſmall village in the neighbourhood of London, where his father, who was far advanced in years, made a part of his family.
In this retreat Captain Clifford found conſolation and employment, in devoting his time to the improvement of his daughter; and his own mind being highly cultivated, ſhe derived greater advantages from his inſtructions than ſhe could have received from the moſt expenſive education, under a leſs anxious as well as a leſs able preceptor.
[Page 3] Nature had liberally beſtowed upon Julia Clifford the powers of the underſtanding, and the virtues of the heart: her ſenſibility was quick, her diſpoſition affectionate, and her taſte was improved by the ſociety of her father, till it attained an uncommon degree of elegance and refinement; but of her ſuperiority to others ſhe ſeemed intirely unconſcious. Her manners were perfectly modeſt and unaſſuming; her converſation ſimple and unſtudied; ſhe ſpoke from the impulſe of her heart, and ſhe poſſeſſed the moſt amiable candor and frankneſs of diſpoſition. Julia was above the middle ſize: her figure had not been much molded by the dancing-maſter; but nature had given it a gracefulneſs "beyond the reach of art." She had a madona face, and an expreſſion of intelligence and ſenſibility in her countenance, infinitely engaging.
Captain Clifford's younger brother, after the paternal eſtate was diſpoſed of, went in purſuit of fortune to the Eaſt Indies [Page 4] —he was a man of a plain underſtanding and an excellent heart. Juſt in his principles, and generous in his diſpoſition, he acquired wealth ſlowly, but honourably. Mr. Clifford married at Bengal, and his only daughter, Charlotte, was ſent when a child to England for education, and committed to the care of her aunt Mrs. Melbourne, the ſiſter of Charlotte's mother.—At eighteen Charlotte was taken from ſchool at Queen Square, to live with her aunt, till the return of her father from the Eaſt Indies. Charlotte was one of thoſe ſweet lively characters, whoſe unaffected manners and invariable good-humour ſtrongly engage the affections, and with whom one would wiſh to paſs thro' life. The gay powers of wit and fancy are like thoſe brilliant phaenomena which ſometimes glow in the ſky, and dazzle the eye of the beholder by their luminous and uncommon appearances; while ſweetneſs of temper has a reſemblance to that gentle ſtar, whoſe benign influence gilds alike the morning [Page 5] and the evening. But the diſtinguiſhing and moſt amiable trait of Charlotte's character, was her perfect exemption from envy. She was ſenſible of her inferiority to Julia, whom ſhe tenderly loved; and whenever any preference was ſhewn to herſelf ſhe ſeemed conſcious of its injuſtice. Quite content to remain in the back-ground, ſhe embraced with the moſt natural and lively pleaſure every opportunity of diſplaying the accompliſhments of her couſin.—Charlotte was little, her features were not regular, but her countenance had a very agreeable and animated expreſſion. Her chief motive for rejoicing at her removal from ſehool, was the hope of a more frequent intercourſe with Julia, for her aunt had ſmall hold on her affections.
Mrs. Melbourne's maiden name was Wilſon—her father, who was an eminent merchant in the city, became a bankrupt when ſhe had juſt attained her twenty-third year. A young man who had been her father's clerk, and was now married and engaged in a flouriſhing [Page 6] buſineſs, invited Miſs Wilſon, from a principle of gratitude towards her father, to take up her reſidence at his houſe, where his wife received her with great kindneſs. Meanwhile her younger ſiſter, who was then eighteen years of age, was fitted out at the expence of her relations, and ſent to the Eaſt Indies in purſuit of a huſband; or rather in ſearch of the golden fleece, which is certainly the aim of ſuch adventures, and the huſband is merely the means of attaining it.—The God of Love in the Eaſt frames his arrows of maſſy gold; takes the feathers of his quiver not from the ſoft wing of his mother's dove, but from the gaudy plumage of the peacock; and points all his ſhafts with the bright edge of a diamond.—Miſs Charlotte Wilſon was married ſoon after her arrival in Bengal to Mr. Clifford, and died ſome years before his return to England.
At the houſe where Miſs Wilſon found an aſylum, Mr. Melbourne frequently viſited, [Page 7] the miſtreſs of the houſe being his near relation.—He was a man of parts, and had attained conſiderable eminence in the law, a profeſſion in which above all others eminence is honourable, ſince it is invariably connected with diſtinction of mind.—Miſs Wilſon was tolerably handſome, and Mr. Melbourne paid her ſome attention: ſhe had an admirable degree of ſagacity, and perceived that this young man, notwithſtanding his ſuperior underſtanding, was the dupe of vanity. She ſoon betrayed the moſt violent paſſion for him; and this diſplay of fondneſs, which would probably have excited diſguſt and averſion in a man of delicacy, had a very different effect on Mr. Melbourne. He was handſome, and vain of his figure, as well as of his talents—he did not think it unlikely that he ſhould inſpire a violent paſſion—Miſs Wilſon appeared deſperate in her love; and he married her in good nature, and merely to prevent ſuicide. Mrs. Melbourne continuing with great [Page 8] judgment to flatter his weakneſſes, he made her an excellent huſband, and at his death left her a conſiderable jointure, and her daughter an independent fortune of twenty thouſand pounds.
Mrs. Melbourne had a large acquaintance, by whom ſhe was reſpected as a woman of ſenſe, but not beloved; for her manners were ſtiff and diſagreeable.—She gave ſome alms to the poor, becauſe ſhe thought a little charity was requiſite to ſecure a good place in heaven; but ſhe found no duty more difficult, and wiſhed that any other had been enjoined in its place. "One cannot help pitying the unfortunate," (ſhe would exclaim) "and yet there is not one in a thouſand who is not ſo in conſequence of imprudence; one muſt therefore be ſorry for the imprudent, or not ſorry at all." She penetrated with nice diſcernment into the characters of her acquaintances; could perceive all their follies, and deſcant upon them with great acuteneſs;—no foible eſcaped her accurate [Page 9] obſervation; and her friends met with none of that ſpecies of partiality which ſhades the weakneſſes of thoſe we love. Whenever her viſitors departed, they were ſure of being analyſed, and of having their defects weighed in a rigorous ſcale, without the ſlighteſt peculiarity being omitted. She had, indeed, too ſtrict a regard for truth to invent any ſlanders of her acquaintance. All Mrs. Melbourne could be charged with, was interpreting every word and action her own way, which was invariably the worſt way poſſible; and with great perſeverance refuſing to aſſign a good motive for any thing, when a bad one could be found. She often remained ſilent in company, while ſhe was ſtoring her memory with materials for future animadverſion; and Mrs. Melbourne's memory was like a bird of prey, which ſeizes on ſuch food as milder natures would reject. This lady was unfortunately quick in diſcovering imperfection, but very liable to overlook what was worthy of regard: [Page 10] ſhe left others to enjoy the flowers which are ſcattered over the path of life, while ſhe employed herſelf in counting the weeds which grew among them. She might, indeed, have acknowledged with Iago, "that it was her nature's plague to ſpy into abuſes;" and might properly enough have added with him, that "oft her jealouſy ſhap'd faults that were not." In her family Mrs. Melbourne was moroſe and ill-humoured. She ſcolded her ſervants with little intermiſſion, which ſhe conſidered an indiſpenſable part of the province of a good houſewife; and her ſervants, whom habit had reconciled to reproach, liſtened to her with the moſt perfect indifference; as thoſe who live near the fall of a cataract, or on the banks of the ocean, hear at length the ruſhing of the torrent, or the rage of the billows, without being ſenſible of the ſounds. The only ſeaſons memorable for Mrs. Melbourne's tenderneſs were, when any of her connections or family were ill. [Page 11] She was then the moſt courteous creature exiſting, and began to love them with all her might, as if ſhe thought there was no time to loſe, and that ſhe muſt endeavour to crowd ſuch an extraordinary degree of fondneſs into the ſhort ſpace which was left, as might counterbalance her neglect or unkindneſs through the whole courſe of their lives. The way to make her regard permanent was to die—her affection was violent when her friends came to the laſt gaſp; and after having ſettled the matter with her own conſcience by theſe parting demonſtrations of ſorrow, ſhe ſubmitted with pious reſignation to her loſs. The ruling paſſion of Mrs. Melbourne's ſoul was her love of her daughter; but it was carried to an exceſs that rendered it illiberal and ſelfiſh: her mind reſembled a convex glaſs, and every ray of affection in her boſom was concentered in one ſmall point. She conſidered every fine young woman as the rival of Miſs Melbourne, and hated [Page 12] them in proportion as they merited regard. She could not forgive Julia for being young, beautiful, accompliſhed, and amiable, till her own daughter was married. After that period ſhe pardoned theſe intruſive qualities; and at the requeſt of Charlotte, upon her removal from ſchool, invited Julia to ſpend a ſhort time at her houſe in Hanover-ſquare.
JULIA diſcovered at a very early age a particular ſenſibility to poetry. When ſhe was eight years old ſhe compoſed a poem on the departure of one of her young companions, in which ſhe diſplayed, with great diligence, her whole ſtock of claſſical knowledge; and obliged all the heathen gods and goddeſſes, whoſe names ſhe had been taught, to paſs in ſucceſſion, like the ſhades of Banquo's line. Her father did not diſcourage this early fondneſs for the muſe, becauſe he believed that a propenſity for any elegant art was a ſource of happineſs.
Perhaps more laſting reputation has been acquired by the powers of the imagination, than by any other faculty of the human mind. But even where the talents [Page 14] of the poet are altogether inadequate to the acquiſition of fame, the cultivation of them may ſtill confer the moſt ſoothing enjoyment. Though the ſoil may not be favourable to the growth of the immortal laurel, it may produce ſome plants of tranſitory verdure. Perhaps the moſt precious property of poetry is, that of leading the mind from the gloomy miſts of care, or the black clouds of misfortune, which ſometimes gather round the path of life, to ſcenes bright with ſunſhine, and blooming with beauty.
JULIA, for the firſt time, accepted with pleaſure Mrs. Melbourne's invitation; for her former viſits to that lady had been productive only of wearineſs and diſguſt. She had always been treated by Miſs Melbourne with great neglect, and by her moſt intimate companions, the Hon. Miſs C [...]'s, with particular rudeneſs. Miſs Melbourne had diſcernment enough to perceive Julia's merit, and, had ſhe been more obliged to fortune, and leſs to nature, would have valued her acquaintance highly; but no honour could have been gained with people of ton, by an intimacy with one in Julia's ſituation; while, at the ſame time, her engaging qualities would have been perpetually in the way, and obtruded themſelves in a manner very [Page 26] troubleſome to Miſs Melbourne. Her boſom friends, the Hon. Miſs C [...]'s, had an unconquerable antipathy to female beauty: they agreed with many wiſe men in the opinion, that beauty often proves fatal to the poſſeſſor; but, notwithſtanding this conviction, theſe ladies had the magnanimity to wiſh that this dangerous property had been entirely confined to themſelves.
The eldeſt of theſe ſiſters, who had juſt reached her twenty-eighth year, had alſo an inſuperable averſion to the age of nineteen. Julia, therefore, who had the accumulated misfortune of being beautiful, and juſt nineteen, was the object of general diſlike to theſe ladies. The Miſs C [...]'s, who were of all Mrs. Melbourne's parties, uſually placed themſelves in a corner of the room with Miſs Melbourne, and found amuſement in laughing at the reſt of the company as they entered. When any gentleman approached their circle, the laugh was increaſed; for they were of that [Page 27] order of young ladies who, having heard of the attractions of ſprightlineſs, affect perpetual mirth, and fancy that vivacity conſiſts in a titter, and wit in a pert remark: yet it was eaſy to diſcern that their gaiety was artificial, becauſe it was always beyond what the occaſion juſtified. It reſembled thoſe flowers which are reared in winter by the force of art, and are deſtitute of that delicious fragrance which nature only can beſtow. Miſs Melbourne and the Miſs C [...]'s had long been on a very intimate footing, profeſſed the moſt violent mutual regard, and were commonly called friends: yet this intimacy, which was dignified with the name of friendſhip, had no other foundation than ſelfiſhneſs; for, had Miſs Melbourne renounced her balls and concerts, or the Miſs C [...]'s been deprived of their rank, this ſentimental intercourſe would inſtantly have terminated: mean while their affection appeared fervent, becauſe it was untried; and durable, becauſe it was yet unſhaken [Page 28] by misfortune. Miſs Melbourne was lately married; the viſits of the Miſs C [...]'s were therefore no longer frequent at her mother's houſe; and Julia looked forward to nothing but pleaſure in the ſociety of the affectionate and amiable Charlotte. She alſo promiſed herſelf a new kind of gratification, in mixing for awhile with the gay and elegant parties at Mr. Seymour's, the gentleman whom Miſs Melbourne had married, and who indulged her in her fondneſs for ſplendor and diſſipation.—Nature, who had been avaricious of the qualities of taſte and ſenſibility to Mrs. Melbourne, had given an accumulated portion of both to her daughter, together with more than an hereditary ſhare of beauty. She was a painter and a muſician; but her vanity perverted every natural and acquired talent, "grew with her growth, and ſtrengthened with her ſtrength," and kept pace with her underſtanding and accompliſhments. Vanity made her ſelfiſh; for ſhe was ſo extravagantly [Page 29] fond of admiration, that, in the continual purſuit of it, ſhe could think only of herſelf, and forgot all the claims of others. But ſhe felt that ſentiment was amiable; ſhe was, therefore, made up of ſentiment:—ſhe alſo knew, that perſons of refinement were often, from the wayward circumſtances of life, extremely miſerable; ſhe, therefore, deemed diſcontent the teſt of feeling, and, with ſcarcely a wiſh ungratified, ſhe thought that to be happy, with what would make any vulgar mind happy, would be only proving that ſhe was dull.—She ſpoke, therefore, in a plaintive voice, and often complained of melancholy, but left the cauſe of it concealed; which was ſuch as no underſtanding could penetrate, and no heart could gueſs. Sometimes, indeed, ſhe ſmiled, while ſhe deſcanted, in wellchoſen words, on what was weak, low, or ridiculous; but the penſive caſt of countenance quickly returned, and an affected ſigh explained the difficulty ſhe felt in aſſuming [Page 30] gaiety. If ſhe carved at table, or made tea, ſhe did both with a ſort of ſlow and ſolemn movement, to convince the company that ſhe was in a frame of mind, from which it coſt her a cruel effort to deſcend to the common offices of life. She ſeemed to think eating a coarſe and vulgar toil; and her converſation frequently wandered from a roaſted duck to Minerva's owl, or Jove's eagle. She could not hear an Italian air without weeping; ſhe pitied the miſeries of the poor in very pathetic language; and lamented being obliged, in conformity to her ſituation in life, to ſpend much more than ſhe wiſhed upon dreſs, which put it out of her power, in the account of her annual expences, to reckon the claims of benevolence, and confined her to a negative ſort of good-will towards the unfortunate. Yet ſhe often declared, that ſhe complied with the rules of faſhion, merely becauſe ſhe thought ſuch compliance fit and right. If Mrs. Seymour's notions on this ſubject were [Page 31] juſt, and conformity to faſhion is virtue, how extenſive was her merit! how upright had been the paſt, how perfect was the preſent, and how certain was the proſpect of future excellence!—But ſhe did not recollect that it is eaſy to diſcern whether the motive from which we act be duty or inclination; our obedience is ſo much more exact in the one caſe than in the other. If ſhe had been ſwayed ſolely by the former principle, there would probably have been ſometimes a little relaxation in the labours of the toilet; nor would every ribbon and feather have been placed in ſuch unqueſtionable ſubmiſſion to the laſt mode.
When Mrs. Seymour received company, ſhe advanced to meet them not with the pleaſure which kindneſs or affection dictates. She ſpoke to her viſitors as if ſhe were intereſted in what ſhe ſaid, but ſhe ſcarcely knew what it was. She was not thinking of the perſons who had juſt entered: her concern was that her [Page 32] manner of receiving them might be thought graceful by the ſpectators. She was ſcarcely ever at home, but ſpent her time in lamenting, wherever ſhe went, the fatigues of a large acquaintance. She impoſed upon herſelf the duty of going to every ball, or card-aſſembly, to which ſhe was invited; but performed the rigadoon ſtep, and dealt the cards, with ſentimental penſiveneſs, and as if ſhe were fully perſuaded that dancing was vanity, and whiſt vexation of ſpirit. Her complaints, however gracefully delivered, were often ill timed: ſhe would invite a ſocial party to dinner, and then, inſtead of promoting chearfulneſs and good-humour, be languiſhingly mournful the whole day. The nightingale judges better than Mrs. Seymour did, for ſhe never begins her elegies of woe amidſt the freſhneſs of the morning, and the luſtre of a bright horizon, when we would rather liſten to the rapture of the lark; but waits till the fading ſcenery, and the melancholy [Page 33] of twilight, ſhall diſpoſe us for a dirge. But in truth, though Mrs. Seymour affected the plaintive notes of the nightingale, ſhe had no congenial taſte with that pathetic bird for the ſhade, but was as fond of ſunſhine as the lark himſelf.
ON her arrival in town, Julia expreſſed a great deſire to go to the theatre; and Mrs. Seymour engaged a box at Drury-lane for the next evening, when the tragedy of Douglas was performed. Julia admired with enthuſiaſm that charming play, which never "overſteps the modeſty of nature," and is ſo true to her genuine feelings; but which had not, till ſome years after this period, its full effect upon the heart, in having the part of Lady Randolph repreſented by Mrs. Siddons, whoſe power over the human paſſions it is far more eaſy to feel than to delineate.
Julia and her couſin went to dinner at Mrs. Seymour's, and were anxious to reach the theatre before the performance [Page 35] began: Mrs. Seymour affected to wiſh ſo too; but, after the carriage came, ſhe found ſo many pretences for delay, that the firſt act was almoſt over before they reached their box. This was what Mrs. Seymour deſired: ſhe choſe to excite attention by diſturbing the performance, and drawing the looks of the audience from the ſtage to herſelf. When ſhe was ſeated, ſhe began talking to Julia with great ſeeming earneſtneſs, who was too much engaged by the ſcene before her to pay attention to Mrs. Seymour's remarks; and indeed that lady did not deſire it: her whole mind was occupied in performing her own part gracefully, while ſhe remained an object of general obſervation. She ſpoke to be looked at, not to be heard; and her lips moved, or were ſtill, from no other impulſe than as ſhe thought ſpeech or ſilence would have the beſt effect in perſpective.
Julia and Charlotte ſoon became deeply abſorbed in the ſorrows of Lady Randolph, [Page 36] and their tears flowed often and irreſiſtibly. Mrs. Seymour now thought proper to diſplay her ſenſibility too, of which ſhe really poſſeſſed a conſiderable ſhare; but in her eagerneſs to diſcover her feelings in the moſt pathetic parts, to ſhew her admiration of the fineſt paſſages, and to weep at the preciſe moment when it would do her taſte moſt honour, ſhe loſt the charm of the illuſion; and her ſympathy was ſo interrupted by her vanity, that at length ſhe could ſcarcely force a tear; and all that was left in her power, was to lean in a penſive attitude on the ſide of the box, and aſſume a look of dejection.
Mr. Seymour's was a houſe of ſhow, rather than of hoſpitality; a houſe where oſtentatious entertainments were occaſionally given with the moſt laviſh expence, [Page 37] but where no intimate gueſts were led by friendſhip, and detained by kindneſs; for that cordial welcome which ſprings from the heart, was in this family neither underſtood nor practiſed.
The company were obliged to wait dinner ſome time for Mr. Charles Seymour, who was always too late by rule, which he very methodically obſerved. Mr. Charles Seymour was the youngeſt brother of Mr. Seymour, and had, thro' his intereſt, obtained a place at court. He was a young man of weak underſtanding, but he made up in pliability and fineſſe, what he wanted in good ſenſe. His perſon was genteel, he had acquired a graceful eaſe of manner, danced well, dreſſed with elegance, courted the great by all thoſe little attentions which only little minds can pay, and was rewarded for his aſſiduity by frequent invitations to ſplendid and faſhionable parties. He was a young man whoſe acquaintance every lady, when ſhe gave a [Page 38] ball, was proud to acknowledge, and happy to embrace; for he ſeemed made on purpoſe for ſuch an occaſion, and, whenever it occurred, was found a treaſure to ſociety; for he was the leader of cotillons, the example of faſhion, and the oracle of etiquette.
The company who now waited for him at his brother's houſe, began to appear tired. The gentlemen had finiſhed the politics of the day, and the ladies had diſcuſſed the ſubject of the opera; beſides having deſcanted for a conſiderable time on the complexion, features, age, perſon, voice, and manners of a young lady, who had the week before made a great marriage, to which the Hon. Miſs C [...]'s inſiſted ſhe had not the ſmalleſt pretenſion. Faſhionable converſation is not very extenſive: it goes on rapidly for a while, in a certain routine of topics, and reminds us of our ſtreet-muſicians, who, by turning a ſcrew, produce a ſet of tunes on the hand-organ; but when they have gone [Page 39] through a limited number, the inſtrument will do no more, and the performer haſtens to a diſtant ſtreet, where the ſame ſounds may be repeated to a new ſet of auditors.
Mr. Seymour, with ſome diſpleaſure, rang the bell for dinner, and at that moment Mr. Charles Seymour was announced. He heard with the moſt polite nonchalance, that he had kept the company waiting, muttering however ſomething between his teeth of his having been particularly hurried that morning.
The converſation at dinner opened a new fund of knowledge to Julia. She found that among the faſhionable world eating had become a ſcience. The gentlemen were all ſkilled in the complicated art of cookery, talked in a deciſive tone of the proper flavour of every diſh, diſcriminated with the niceſt accuracy the different ingredients of the ſauces, devoured each other's remarks with "greedy ear," and ſeemed to take as much heart-felt ſatisfaction [Page 40] in the delineation of a ragoût, as "if to live well, meant nothing but to eat."
The ladies left a diſſertation on French wines unfiniſhed, and returned to the drawing-room. Mrs. Seymour ordered coffee, and the gentlemen ſoon followed. Mr. Seymour, who was much charmed with Julia, though he had no leiſure for admiration at dinner, began a converſation with her, which ſhe found extremely agreeable, and which promiſed her ſome compenſation for all ſhe had heard of ragoûts, and French wines; but which was almoſt immediately interrupted by the arrival of Mrs. Melbourne's carriage; who inſtantly hurried away to a card-aſſembly, followed by Charlotte and Julia, who, as ſhe went down ſtairs, could not help repeating to herſelf, with the author of the Epiſtle to Spleen,
Defend us, ye kind gods! tho' ſinners,From many days like this, or dinners.
[Page 41] The week following, Mrs. Seymour gave a dance. The ſplendor of the apartments, elegantly decorated, and illuminated; the gaiety of the company, the chearfulneſs of muſic, and the animation of dancing, were all highly delightful to Julia, to whom ſuch ſcenes had the charm of novelty. She was much admired, and was aſked to dance by ſome young men of rank, whom the Hon. Miſs C [...]'s had in their own minds appropriated to themſelves. This was at once ſo mortifying, and ſo ſtrange, that the Miſs C [...]'s wiſhed there were no ſuch entertainment as a ball; or at leaſt, that the men had no ſuch impertinent privilege as a choice of partners, ſince they were ſo apt to chuſe ill, and make the evening diſagreeable. Envy is a malignant enchanter, who, when benignant genii have ſcattered flowers in profuſion over the path of the traveller, waves his evil rod, and converts the ſcene of fertility into a deſart.
Mr. F [...], the gentleman who paid [Page 42] Julia the moſt marked attention, was a man of family and fortune, as well as of conſiderable talents; and was a particular favourite with Mrs. Seymour, who valued ſuperior abilities when they were united with fortune, and could be found within that faſhionable circle, beyond the limits of which no promiſe of intellectual enjoyment could have tempted her to ſtray; for ſhe could perceive no beauty in the gems of wit or fancy, unleſs their light was thrown from a particular ſituation, and blended with the luſtre of wealth. Mr. F [...] was intirely occupied by Julia, and perfectly inſenſible of Mrs. Seymour's mortification; who ſecretly reſolved not to invite that young lady the next time ſhe gave a dance. She came frequently to that part of the room where Julia was ſitting, and ſpoke to her oftener than was neceſſary, when ſo large a company required her attention. She tried to catch the tone of Mr. F [...]'s mind, advanced with a penſive air when [Page 43] ſhe ſaw him look ſerious, and dreſſed her face in ſmiles when ſhe obſerved that he was converſing with gaiety. Theſe tranſitions ſhe performed with admirable ſkill; but, far from producing the effect ſhe deſired, they were not even obſerved by the perſon to whom they were directed. With inexpreſſible chagrin ſhe perceived, that when Julia danced with any other perſon, Mr. F [...] ſat down and contemplated her figure. Mrs. Seymour felt the tears of vexation fill her eyes; ſhe had never met with any incident ſo provoking; there is ſurely, thought ſhe, a perverſe and contradictive ſpirit in man, which makes the whole ſex odious. Any evening but this, ſhe would have forgiven Mr. F [...]; but to chooſe her own ball-room for the theatre of her mortification, was refining on ill-nature. Any evening but this, ſhe would have attributed his preference of Julia to ſome neglect of her own perſon; an unbecoming cap, or too pale a ribbon: but on this [Page 44] occaſion there was no ſuch refuge for her vanity; for ſhe was dreſſed with the moſt ſtudied elegance, and rouged with the moſt careful delicacy. She recalled the general idea of her own figure in the looking-glaſs after the labours of the toilet were finiſhed, and found no room for ſelf-reproach on account of inattention to her appearance. Her retentive memory then traced each particular part of her dreſs, the poſture of every curl, the arrangement of every flower, and the flow of every feather, and found no ſubject of diſſatisfaction even in this minute retroſpection. She well remembered that no toil had been omitted, no time had been ſpared, nothing overlooked, or unfiniſhed: her aim had been perfection, and her efforts were proportionably arduous to attain it. She determined, however, to hide her real ſenſations under the appearance of particular gaiety: ſhe danced continually, and laughed exceſſively whenever ſhe came within ſight or hearing of [Page 45] Mr. F [...], though ſhe would much rather have cried, if ſhe had thought crying would have ſuited her purpoſe as well.
Whenever Miſs C [...] was not aſked to dance by a man of faſhion, ſhe ſuddenly grew tired, and choſe to ſit down; where ſhe remained with inquietude in her looks, and ſpite in her converſation. What ſo wretched as a neglected beauty of the ton, when the gay images of coronets, titles, and equipages, which have long floated in her imagination, and ſeemed within her graſp, at length vaniſh, as the luxuriant colours of an evening ſky fade by degrees into the ſadneſs of twilight? Her feelings are more acute than thoſe of a loſing gameſter, as ſhe is compelled in ſecret to acknowledge ſome deficiency in her own powers of attraction, to caſt an oblique reflection on nature, as well as fortune, and has no hope of retrieving her diſappointments, ſince the fairies have long ago uſed every drop of [Page 46] that precious water which could renew expiring beauty.
Miſs C [...] was ſeated for a ſhort time next Julia, and began to relate anecdotes to the diſadvantage of ſome of the company preſent, with whom ſhe appeared to be on a footing of great cordiality: anecdotes of this kind ſhe was careful to collect, and happy not merely to detail but embelliſh. This lady had ſome powers of ridicule, and could ſprinkle over her diſcourſe a little ſmart repartee, which many people miſtook for talents. She delighted to play at quart and tierce in converſation; but her weapons were very blunt, compared to the fine-edged inſtruments of genuine wit. Julia, however, made it an invariable rule, not only never to ſpeak ſlander, but never to liſten to it. She conſidered it as one of thoſe poiſons, which not only corrode the frame they touch, but whoſe ſubtile venom infects the purity of the ſurrounding air: ſhe therefore fled from ſuch communication [Page 47] with diſguſt, and obliged Miſs C [...] to go in ſearch of a more willing auditor.
Mr. Charles Seymour danced with the Miſs C [...]'s moſt indefatigably, went with unwearied perſeverance from one ſiſter to the other, and divided his attentions between them with moſt exact propriety; repeated to each of them all the faſhionable cant he had acquired; laughed when they laughed, and was of the ſame opinion with them on every ſubject; muttering every ſyllable with his teeth almoſt cloſed, and his face as cloſe to his fair partners as propriety would admit. When he had fulfilled his duty to the Miſs C [...]'s, he deliberated with himſelf upon the next object of his choice, which required a little reflection. Mr. Charles Seymour admired beauty, but he was one of thoſe prudent young men, who are too well trained in the ſchool of the world, to be the dupes of any tender ſenſibility. He choſe his partners at a dance by other rules than the proportion of their features, [Page 48] or the grace of their perſons: the darts poured from bright eyes fell blunted on his heart, unleſs the fair object had the more ſolid recommendation of fortune. To ſuch only he devoted his gallantry; for even when he had no particular view of engaging their regard, he conſidered their acquaintance as uſeful, and their favour as tending towards the accompliſhment of his ultimate aim in life, which was to acquire diſtinction, and obtain intereſt in the faſhionable world.
Charlotte had the proſpect of a larger fortune than any young woman at the dance, but then it depended on certain contingencies. The other young women had their property in poſſeſſion. Mr. Charles Seymour, after making a haſty calculation of the difference between a hundred thouſand pounds at Bengal, and ten thouſand in the bank of England—after gliding in imagination over the boundleſs ocean through which the gold muſt paſs, conſidering the ſtormy Cape which [Page 49] muſt be doubled, and the "moving accidents by flood and field" which muſt be hazarded—at length recollected how much eaſtern gold had happily ſurmounted theſe perils, and, without farther deliberation, decided in favour of Charlotte. He endeavoured to entertain her in the ſame manner he had done the Miſs C [...]'s; but Charlotte was equally inſenſible to all his faſhionable grimace, and indifferent to his converſation. She had, indeed, the happieſt face of the whole group; pleaſure and exultation ſparkled in her eyes. Her manner of thinking on the ſubject of a ball was entirely different from that of the Hon. Miſs C [...]'s: Charlotte loved dancing for its own ſake, and without any other care about her partner than that he did not put her out in the figure. She allowed herſelf no interval of reſt; for ſhe was never ſo fully convinced of the value of time as at a ball, where ſhe thought not one moment was given to be loſt, and purſued her favourite [Page 50] occupation with a degree of delight, of which one muſt have the extreme youth, the gay ſpirits, and light heart of Charlotte to judge.
Julia, who frequently ſat down, heard ſeveral of the gentlemen complain pathetically to each other of the hardſhips of dancing, and enumerate the ſucceſſion of private balls, which hung over their future evenings like a cloud. Mr. Charles Seymour avoided Julia carefully the whole evening, leſt he ſhould be under the neceſſity of aſking her to dance: but when he ſaw her preparing to go away, he ſeated himſelf next her, muttering between his teeth, "Miſs Clifford, you come ſo late, and go away ſo ſoon!"—adding, how beautiful ſhe looked that evening, how much her head-dreſs became her, and how cruel ſhe was to bury ſuch a figure in the country.—Julia heard him with a degree of contempt, which ſhe had too much ſweetneſs to diſplay; but his converſation ever appeared to her of ſuch a [Page 51] barren nature, that ſhe conſidered liſtening to it like travelling over ſands, and left him almoſt immediately; which was no leſs a relief to him than to herſelf. Julia had that evening received much entertainment from Mr. Seymour's converſation, who paid her great attention, and was endued with the powers of pleaſing in a very eminent degree.
MR. Seymour, who was poſſeſſed of conſiderable talents, and great taſte for literature, was brilliant in converſation. His perſon was elegant, and his manners frank and agreeable. He had a perfect knowledge of the world, and great penetration into character; but his ambition was boundleſs; and his conſtant aim was his own aggrandizement: he courted people of rank and influence with admirable addreſs; and, under an appearance of infinite candour and plainneſs, was no common flatterer, who ſets about his buſineſs in a clumſy way, and diſcovers his own ſecret. He had judgment enough to appreciate the underſtanding of others with nicety, and always began his operations like a wiſe general, [Page 53] by an attack on the weak ſide. Mr. Seymour lived in a continual plot againſt the reſt of his ſpecies—he regarded men and women as puppets moved by various ſprings, which he underſtood perfectly how to govern, and which he could touch ſo ſkilfully, that wiſdom was over-reached as well as folly. His ſchemes were crowned with ſucceſs, and he obtained a conſiderable poſt under government: yet his pride and ſelfiſhneſs were ſtill unſatisfied. He had married Miſs Melbourne, whoſe perſon he did not admire, and whoſe character he diſliked, becauſe ſhe had twenty thouſand pounds. No man could talk with more energy of the virtues of generoſity and diſintereſtedneſs than Mr. Seymour; and this not with an appearance of oſtentation, but as if friendſhip and univerſal good-will were the genuine feelings of his ſoul. Yet, while he thus deſcanted on benevolence, he concealed a mind, the ſole view of which was ſelfintereſt; and ſometimes reminded thoſe [Page 54] who knew his real character, of a ſwan gracefully expanding his plumes of pureſt whiteneſs to the winds, and carefully hiding his black feet beneath another element. Mr. Seymour poſſeſſed ſtrong feelings, and his heart was capable of tenderneſs; but ambition, and long commerce with the world, had almoſt entirely blunted his ſenſibility; and, to the few perſons for whom he ſtill felt ſome affection, he would not have rendered any ſervice, however eſſential to their intereſt, which could in the ſmalleſt poſſible degree ever interfere with his own. His friendſhip was only to be procured by beſtowing favours upon him, or at leaſt by not requiring any at his hands: to aſk for ſuch proofs of his regard was to forfeit it altogether. Every acquaintance he made was with ſome intereſted view: he had no aſſociates among the companions of his youth, except thoſe who, like himſelf, had been proſperous in the career of life: the unfortunate he left [Page 55] where misfortune had placed them, and ſhunned all intercourſe with them carefully. He treated Mrs. Seymour with decent attention; but he was a man of gallantry, and made love to every woman who had the attraction of youth or beauty; and Mrs. Seymour, when ſhe thought the heroics would become her, acted a fit of jealouſy admirably; complained in pathetic terms of his indifference; lamented her hard fate in not having met with a congenial ſoul, and in being ſubject to have her exquiſite ſenſibility ſo cruelly wounded. From ſuch complaints he fled with diſguſt and averſion, and took refuge in company, where he contributed too much to the general entertainment not to be received with pleaſure.
Julia, after ſpending a few days more in town, left it with little regret; for, tho' ſhe was convinced that London furniſhed a more enlarged and liberal ſociety, and more elegant amuſements, than could be met with elſewhere, the manner in which [Page 56] ſhe had paſſed her time was not at all ſuited to her taſte. The mornings had been generally devoted to ſhopping and dreſs, and the evenings to card-aſſemblies. Mrs. Seymour loved to range from one milliner's to another; and at firſt Julia was diverted with the ſerious air with which a cap is recommended, the contemplative ſpirit with which the complexion and the ribbon are compared; while ſhe obſerved the particular good-humour of the handſome, who found every thing they tried becoming, and the diſcontent of the ugly, who quarrelled with the head-dreſs inſtead of the face: but the good-humour, and the diſcontent, became at length equally tireſome to Julia. She alſo found that the pleaſures of card-aſſemblies were like fairy gold, which, when touched by a vulgar hand, turns to duſt, and could only be enjoyed by people of ton; while to her, who had acquired no knowledge of cards, and no paſſion for a crowd, ſuch meetings were extremely [Page 57] weariſome. At theſe aſſemblies ſhe was introduced to ſome perſons who had the reputation of wit and talents; but of their pretenſions to either ſhe had no opportunity of judging, ſince their converſation, to which ſhe liſtened with avidity, was continually interrupted by ſome movement of the crowd, or ſome call to the card-table. She therefore found that underſtanding was of no current value at a card-aſſembly, except to ſerve the purpoſe of applying the rules of whiſt, a ſcience for which her country education had taught her but little reverence.
This young lady lamented nothing ſo much in leaving London, as her ſeparation from Charlotte; for ſhe found that the joys of diſſipation are like gaudy colours, which for a moment attract the ſight, but ſoon fatigue and oppreſs it; while the ſatisfactions of home reſemble the green robe of nature, on which the eye loves to reſt, and to which it always returns with a ſenſation of delight.
IT has been mentioned, that Captain Clifford's father made a part of his family. This old man, who was heir to an eſtate which had deſcended to him through a long line of anceſtors, had received a very liberal education, was poſſeſſed of a good underſtanding, and a moſt benevolent heart. In truth, his liberality was carried to exceſs, and he practiſed that profuſe hoſpitality which was the faſhion of the laſt century. Every gueſt was received at his houſe with the welcome of ancient times, and both his purſe and his table were open to all thoſe whoſe neceſſities ſeemed to claim his aſſiſtance.
His eſtate was a little incumbered, when he came to the poſſeſſion of it. He [Page 59] had engaged early in a military life, and ſerved long abroad, while his affairs were left too much to the management of his wife, a woman of unbounded vanity, who vied in expence with families poſſeſſed of much larger eſtates. She died ſuddenly, in the abſence of her huſband; who, at his return from Germany, found that her debts were numerous, and that he had loſt a very conſiderable ſum, for which, in the confidence of unſuſpicious friendſhip, he became anſwerable for one, whoſe principles he conſidered as no leſs honourable than his own. He was undeceived too late. The world will blame his imprudence, and think he deſerved to ſuffer from it: but, while foreſight and policy are ſo common, let us forgive thoſe few minds of truſting ſimplicity, who are taught in vain the leſſon of ſuſpicion, on whom impreſſions are eaſily made, and who think better of human nature than it deſerves. Such perſons are for the moſt part ſufficiently puniſhed for their venial error, [Page 60] as was the caſe with Mr. Clifford, who was forced to extricate himſelf from the difficulties in which he was involved by the ſale of his paternal inheritance.
With a degree of anguiſh which can be better felt than deſcribed, he had quitted for ever a ſpot endeared to him by every tie of local attachment, and every feeling of family pride. He flew for refuge to his ſon, and implored his forgiveneſs of the wrongs he had done him: he was received with all the tenderneſs of filial regard. Captain Clifford ſtudied, by the moſt delicate attentions, to ſoften the gloom and deſpondency of his father's mind: and at length the old man became ſoothed into a leſs painful recollection of the paſt, though at times it wrung his heart with ſorrow.
The endearments of his grand-daughter, who had then reached her ſeventh year, gave him a pleaſure mingled with ſadneſs; and often, when ſhe climbed upon his knees, the old man's tears would [Page 61] fall upon her face; for age had not yet dried their ſource. Yet his temper was naturally cheerful, and in happier moments he would ſing to her ſome of his old ſongs, or tell her ſome marvellous ſtory; and, when ſhe was old enough to liſten to the tale of his battles in Germany, he "ſhewed how fields were won." Nor was he ever ſo eloquent as when he gave theſe deſcriptions: his language became animated, his martial enthuſiam revived, and all the misfortunes of his paſt life were abſorbed in the gratifying recollection of having ſerved his king and country.
This old man had infinite benevolence and ſweetneſs of diſpoſition, and was one of thoſe few aged perſons who rejoice in the happineſs of the young. To witneſs the mirth and gaiety of youth, was to him a renovation of thoſe ſcenes "where once his careleſs childhood ſtrayed, a ſtranger yet to pain." In conſequence of this diſpoſition, he was adored by Julia, and beloved [Page 62] by all her companions. As ſhe grew up, ſhe was ever ready to ſacrifice every wiſh, and every pleaſure, to his eaſe and comfort. She would leave with alacrity a circle of company where ſhe was happy, to return home, and read for an hour to her grandfather in the old family bible, with a long expoſition; of which he liked to hear a portion every evening. I think I ſee her at this moment; her chair drawn quite cloſe to his, and her voice raiſed, becauſe he heard with difficulty. I ſee the old man, placed in his crimſon-damaſk chair, dreſſed in his long green gown, and white night-cap, liſtening to her with a ſort of elevation in his look, and ſometimes aſſenting to an affecting paſſage by the lifting up of his hands, and a movement of his lips in a ſhort ejaculation. When ſhe had done reading, ſhe always ſtayed to converſe with him a little; and, when ſhe ſaw him quite cheerful, ſhe bid him good night, and received a kiſs, and a bleſſing.
This old man, who had kept the beſt [Page 63] company in his youth, had much of the old-faſhioned politeneſs. The forms of ancient ceremony muſt have been burdenſome in the intercourſe of ſociety; yet in an old perſon this kind of manner ſtill appears reſpectable. We are charmed with the light and graceful accompaniments with which the taſte of Brown has decorated our modern villas, and rejoice that each alley has no more "a brother:" but when we viſit an ancient manſion, who can wiſh that its long avenues of venerable trees, ſanctified by age, and their connection with the days of former years, and the generations that are paſt, ſhould feel the deſtroying axe, and give place to new improvements?
The old man had a taſte for flowers, which he cultivated with great aſſiduity, and which he planted, with all the variety he could procure, round the borders of a little lawn before the houſe. A green ſlope led from the lawn to the river Thames: one ſolitary willow-tree grew [Page 64] at the top of this bank. The old man had a ſeat made for himſelf under the ſhade of this tree. There he delighted to ſit, and contemplate the green banks of the oppoſite ſhore—the reflected landſcape in the ſtream—the gentle motion of the current—the ſun-beams playing on the waters—the long-necked ſwans gliding majeſtically by, unleſs tempted towards the bank by the crumbs with which he fed them—the black-bird's ſweet and various note, in ſome neighbouring trees, ſometimes interrupted by the thruſh or the linnet—the boats which were paſſing continually, and added chearfulneſs and animation to the picture.
The old man was viſited every Saturday morning by a ſet of penſioners, to each of whom he gave a ſmall weekly allowance. He had not much to give; yet he denied himſelf ſome indulgences his age required, to beſtow that little; which, however trifling, was ſufficient to procure ſome additional comfort to the [Page 65] receivers. The luxuries of the poor are not expenſive, and the rich can make them happy by parting with ſo little, that it can ſcarcely be termed a privation. This benevolent old man felt charity leſs a duty than a pleaſure. He might have made the ſame appeal to Heaven which was made by Job, "if I have eaten my morſel myſelf alone, and the fatherleſs hath not eaten thereof," without danger of incurring the forfeiture. He felt none of that admiration of himſelf which the ſelfiſh feel when they perform a kind action; for he could perceive little merit in exertions which were attended with the moſt ſweet and exquiſite ſatiſfaction. That kindneſs which flows from the heart, is like a clear ſtream, that pours its full and rapid current cheerfully along, for ever unobſtructed in its courſe; while thoſe acts of beneficence, which are performed with reluctance, reſemble ſhallow waters ſupplied by a muddy fountain, retarded in their noiſy progreſs [Page 66] by every pebble, dried by heat, and frozen by cold. This old man's chief ſource of happineſs was drawn from religion. His devotion was more than habitual; for his mind had attained that ſtate in which reflection is but a kind of mental prayer; and every object around him was to him a ſubject of adoration, and a motive for gratitude. Praiſe flowed from his lips like thoſe natural melodies, to which the ear has long been accuſtomed, and which the voice delights to call forth.
The contemplation of a venerable old man ſinking thus gently into the arms of death, ſupported by filial affection, and animated by religious hope, excites a ſerious yet not unpleaſing ſenſation. When the gay and buſy ſcenes of life are paſt, and the years advance which "have no pleaſure in them," what is left for age to wiſh, but that its infirmities may be ſoothed by the watchful ſolicitude of tenderneſs, and its darkneſs cheered by a [Page 67] ray of that light "which cometh from above?" To ſuch perſons life, even in its laſt ſtage, is ſtill agreeable. They do not droop like thoſe flowers, which, when their vigour is paſt, loſe at once their beauty and their fragrance; but have more affinity to the fading roſe, which, when its enchanting colours are fled, ſtill retains its exhilarating ſweetneſs, and is loved and cheriſhed even in decay.
VERSES were ſometimes compoſed by Julia, merely to amuſe her grandfather; who uſed to read them with a degree of ſatisfaction, which may, perhaps, be pardoned from the conſideration that the writer was his grand-daughter. Affection is generally ſuppoſed to blind the judgment; and if ſo, ſhe probably throws one of her thickeſt bandages acroſs the critical taſte of a grandfather, while he is peruſing the productions of one, who is the darling of his age, the joy of his eyes, and the ſoother of his infirmities.
Julia was walking one morning upon the lawn before the houſe, when ſhe ſaw a black cat ſeize a linnet that was perched upon a neighbouring tree, and to whoſe [Page 69] ſong ſhe had been liſtening. She made an exclamation, which brought a maid-ſervant to the door; Julia pointed eagerly to the black cat; upon which the maid inſtantly ran, and, ſeizing the animal with great intrepidity, reſcued the linnet from its gripe. After breakfaſt Julia ſcrawled the following lines upon this incident.
MR. Clifford returned from the Eaſt Indies, and had the ſatisfaction of reaching England time enough to ſee his father again.—The old man had almoſt deſpaired of this meeting. He threw his arms round his ſon's neck, and embraced him for a conſiderable time in ſilence. When he was able to ſpeak, he ſaid to him, in the words of Jacob, for the language of ſcripture was familiar to him, "Now let me die, ſince I have ſeen thy face, becauſe thou art yet alive!"—This happy family experienced thoſe delightful ſenſations in each other's ſociety, which can only be felt after long abſence. Our affections are not conſtantly active, they are called forth by circumſtances; and what can awaken them ſo forcibly, as the [Page 73] renewal of thoſe domeſtic endearments which conſtitute the charm of our exiſtence?
Mr. Clifford returned with an ample fortune, and without one ſubject of ſelfreproach to embitter the enjoyment of it. He induced the perſon who was in poſſeſſion of the old family eſtate to part with it, by giving him a price beyond its value. This event ſeemed a renovation of life to the good old man; who expreſſed ſo earneſt a deſire to end his days in that beloved ſpot, that his ſons determined to remove him thither by ſlow and eaſy journies.
He was accompanied, like the patriarch of old, by his children and grandchildren. When they reached the ſummit of a hill which gave him the firſt view of his paternal manſion, he ordered the poſtilions to ſtop; and gazed upon the ſcene before him with a ſort of elevation in his look, which ſnewed that his mind was in intercourſe with heaven.
[Page 74] As he deſcended the hill, he ſaw his tenants coming out to meet him.—The women brought their infants in their arms to receive his bleſſing, and the old men crawled to the ſide of the chaiſe as well as they could, and bleſſed God that they had lived to ſee their old maſter again.—His heart was too full for ſpeech; but he pointed to his two lovely grand-daughters, whoſe eyes were ſuffuſed in tears, and at length told the people, in a broken voice, that he had brought thoſe treaſures to make them happy. Amidſt bleſſings and acclamations, this welcome retinue reached the family-ſeat. The tenants were feaſted in the hall; the ale flowed liberally; nothing was heard but the voice of rejoicing: and the Vicar of Wakefield, who had a taſte for happy human faces, would have found this a charming ſpectacle.
The old manſion, which was ſeated on the ſide of a hill, was emboſomed in trees; and the landſcape around it exhibited the moſt pictureſque variety. The [Page 75] houſe commanded a view of the celebrated lake of [...]; its boundaries in ſome places frowning in a ſeries of rude broken crags and rocky promontories, and in others riſing into verdant hills, richly wooded to the edge of the water. The ſound of a cataract, which precipitated itſelf into the lake, was heard, and its foam was ſeen at a diſtance. A hanging wood, planted on a part of the ſame hill where the houſe ſtood, threw the moſt venerable ſhade from its old majeſtic trees.—A wild irregular path led from the manſion to a deep glen, which opened into a vale where the little village of [...] is built. Its ſmall white ſpire riſes above the ſtraw hamlets, and a clear winding rivulet wanders through this ſweet tranquil vale; which is encompaſſed by mountains, ſome of whoſe tops are covered with ſnow, and ſome darkened by the clouds that reſt upon them. The contraſt between this cultivated valley, and [Page 76] its ſavage boundaries, was ſo ſtriking, that it ſeemed like Beauty repoſing in the arms of Horror, and ſheltered in its ſafe retreat from the tempeſts which ſpent their force above.
The old furniture, which had been placed in Mr. Clifford's paternal manſion, by his anceſtors, ſtill remained; for, the gentleman who had purchaſed the eſtate dying ſoon after, his ſon, a gay and diſſipated young man, had never viſited the place but once, when he came to take poſſeſſion of it upon the death of his father, and had made no alterations.
The walls of the larger apartments were ſtill hung with rich tapeſtry, on ſome of which was repreſented Calypſo's enchanted iſland, where the blooming Telemachus ſtood ardently gazing on the nymphs, regardleſs of the frown of the venerable Mentor. Some of the hangings diſplayed the defeat of the Spaniſh armada, and the taking of Cadiz, by the Earl of Eſſex. [Page 77] Many tales of other times were related on the ancient walls; but on ſome the colours were ſo faded, and the action ſo defaced, that all that could be perceived was a half-ſeen figure, or a face that dimly glared from the pale groundwork, or an arm that ſeemed ſtretched out in defiance.
The great ſtair-caſe, and the floors of the ſtate apartments, which were of oak, and had been rubbed with careful diligence for the reception of the family, ſhone bright as a mirror, and occaſioned many a falſe ſtep to the London ſervants, who were unuſed to ſuch ſlippery treading. The broad and immoveable chairs of the ſtate-rooms, holding forth their gigantic arms, ſeemed calculated for beings of a larger make than the preſent race of mortals; and theſe maſſy chairs were covered with damaſk ſo rich and durable, that it appeared to have been made for the uſe of the antediluvian ages.
A long gallery on the firſt floor was [Page 78] hung with the portraits of the Clifford family, in antique dreſſes, with buſhy beards, great ſcymetars, ſhort whiſkers, and ſtiff ruffs; and placed in heavy gilt frames: a collection which, at a ſale of pictures, would perhaps have ſold no better than aunt Deborah and her flock of ſheep. But the venerable owner of the manſion felt as great a reſpect for his anceſtors, as Sir Oliver himſelf.
Mr. Clifford had too much pride in his family to remove any marks of its ancient magnificence. He left, therefore, the tapeſtry, the maſſy chairs, and the family pictures, undiſturbed, as uſeleſs but proud monuments of antiquity, in the back-ground of his apartments, while he took care to bring forward all the comforts and conveniences of modern luxury.
On the evening of their arrival at the family-ſeat, Julia walked out with Charlotte, and felt, with particular ſenſibility, the beauties of nature. She had, till now, [Page 79] only ſeen the rich cultivated landſcapes of the ſouth of England; but her ardent imagination had often wandered amidſt the wild ſcenery of the north, and formed a high idea of pleaſure in contemplating its ſolemn aſpect; and ſhe found that the ſublime and awful graces of nature exceed even the dream of fancy. The ſetting ſun painted the glowing horizon with the moſt refulgent colours: immediately above its broad orb, which was dazzling in brightneſs, hung a black cloud that formed a ſtriking contraſt to the luxuriant tints below: ſome of the hills were thrown into deep ſhadow, others reflected the ſetting beams. When the ſun ſunk below the horizon, every object gradually changed its hue. The form of the ſurrounding hills, and the ſhape of the darkening rocks that hung over the lake, became every moment more doubtful; till at length twilight ſpread over the whole landſcape that penſive gloom ſo ſoothing to an enthuſiaſtic [Page 80] fancy. Every other ſound was loſt in the fall of the torrent, a ſound which Julia had never heard before, and which ſeemed to ſtrike upon her ſoul, and call forth emotions congenial to its ſolemn cadence.
The moon now aroſe clear and lovely above the dark hills, with a circle of unuſual luſtre round her orb: the beams ſuddenly ſpread their light over the whole lake, except where long deep lines of ſhadow were thrown from the rocks on its ſurface. Julia gazed upon the objects which ſurrounded her with a tranſport of mind which ſhe had never felt before. She uttered frequent exclamations of admiration and wonder; but ſhe found it impoſſible to expreſs the ſenſations with which her ſoul was overwhelmed. It is in ſuch moments as theſe that the ſoul becomes conſcious of her native dignity: we ſeem to be brought nearer to the Deity; we feel the ſenſe of his ſacred preſence; the low-minded cares of earth vaniſh; [Page 81] we view all nature beaming with benignity, and with beauty; and we repoſe with divine confidence on him, who has thus embelliſhed his creation. In the country, the mind borrows virtue from the ſcene. When we tread the lofty mountain, when the ample lake ſpreads its broad expanſe of waters to our view, when we liſten to the fall of the torrent, the awed and aſtoniſhed mind is raiſed above the temptations of guilt; and when we wander amid the ſofter ſcenes of nature, the charms of the landſcape, the ſong of the birds, the mildneſs of the breeze, and the murmurs of the ſtream, ſooth the paſſions into peace, excite the moſt gentle emotions, and have power to cure "all ſadneſs but deſpair." "Can man forbear to ſmile with nature? Can the ſtormy paſſions in his boſom roll, while every gale is peace, and every grove is melody?"
A whole ſummer paſſed delightfully to the happy inhabitants of Mr. Clifford's [Page 82] hoſpitable manſion. He employed himſelf in arranging his affairs, redreſſing the grievances of which his tenants complained, and aſſiſting ſuch as wanted his aſſiſtance.
His brother conſented to live with him; and Mr. Clifford, without his knowledge, ſettled five hundred pounds a year upon him for life, by a deed ſo framed, that it was not in his own power to revoke it. He alſo bound himſelf to give Julia ten thouſand pounds at the death of her father. When the deed was executed according to all the forms of law, Mr. Clifford preſented it to his brother in a manner too delicate to wound his pride, and too tender not to gratify his affection.
The happineſs of this domeſtic circle was interrupted by the bad health of Mr. Clifford. His conſtitution had ſuffered materially from a hot climate, and his increaſing complaints obliged him to go to Bath; which, however, failed to produce [Page 83] any ſalutary effects. His phyſicians thought him unable to bear the ſeverity of the approaching winter in this country, and he was ordered to Nice. With this advice he reluctantly complied; and, before he ſet out for the continent, took a journey to the north, to embrace his father once more; whom he left to the care of his brother and Julia, and took Charlotte with him abroad.
The old man, who did not long ſurvive the departure of his ſon, in his dying hour expreſſed his ſatisfaction at the thoughts of being buried in the tomb of his fathers: ſo true it is, that, "even from the tomb the voice of nature cries, even in our aſhes live their wonted fires!" He expired calmly, and without a groan; nor could thoſe who witneſſed the pious reſignation of his laſt moments, avoid wiſhing "to die the death of the righteous, and that their latter end might be like his!"
His corpſe was attended to the place of [Page 84] interment by a long proceſſion of his tenants, who hung over his grave as if unwilling to leave it; while the old recounted to the young, all they remembered of his childhood and his youth.
Mr. Clifford received at Nice the intelligence of his father's death, and felt the moſt ſenſible regret at not having been preſent to perform the laſt duties to his venerable parent. He wrote to his brother, requeſting that he and Julia would prepare for a journey to Nice early in the ſpring; as he himſelf intended to viſit Italy, and wiſhed for the gratification of their ſociety on his tour.
Mean while Mr. Clifford, after two months reſidence at Nice, found his health ſo well eſtabliſhed, that he went from that place to paſs ſome time at Avignon. He there met with Mr. Frederick Seymour, the ſecond brother of Mr. Seymour, who had been ſent abroad as ſecretary to the embaſſy at [...], where he had remained ſome years. When the ambaſſador [Page 85] was recalled, Mr. Frederick Seymour was invited to make the tour of France and Italy with a friend, and was on his way to Rome when he became acquainted with Mr. Clifford and Charlotte, neither of whom he had before ſeen; for Mr. Seymour's acquaintance and marriage with Miſs Melbourne had taken place ſome time after Mr. Frederick Seymour's departure.
This young man was of a different character from either of his brothers, and ſuperior to both. He poſſeſſed the elevated underſtanding, and the fine taſte, for which his elder brother was conſpicuous; and he had alſo that love of diſtinction which belongs to a man of parts and ſpirit; but his ambition was of that nobler kind, which purſues its ends fairly, openly, and honourably. Equally incapable of the deep-laid plots of one brother, and the little artifices of the other, Mr. Frederick Seymour diſdained to tread in the ſerpentine paths of duplicity [Page 86] and cunning; and his character was ſtrongly marked by an impatience of every thing mean, ſelfiſh, or ſordid.—His early intercourſe with the world had not chilled that enthuſiaſm which is awake to every generous impreſſion, and that warmth of feeling which long continues to animate an ardent mind, and which, in ſome, the diſappointment of their deareſt hopes, the experience of the coldneſs and ſelfiſhneſs of mankind, and even the chilling hand of age itſelf, have no power to repreſs. The noble principles which actuated Seymour's mind, gave it additional force and vigour. It will ever be found that great talents derive new energy from the virtue of the character; as when the ſun-beam plays upon gems, it calls forth all their ſcattered radiance. Mr. Frederick Seymour's perſon was tall and elegant; his eyes were dark, and his countenance was ſtrongly expreſſive of intelligence and ſenſibility. His converſation was highly agreeable, and his manners were infinitely [Page 87] engaging; and his good underſtanding had taught him to connect the poliſh of faſhion, with plainneſs and ſimplicity. He had acquired eaſe without negligence, and frankneſs without familiarity. Perfect good-breeding undoubtedly requires the foundation of good ſenſe; as the oak, which is the moſt ſolid and valuable, is alſo the moſt graceful tree of the foreſt.
Charlotte was conſtantly in Mr. Seymour's ſociety, and ſhe ſoon felt its powers of faſcination. In the mornings they rode out in little parties, amidſt ſcenes the moſt lovely and romantic. They often viſited the fountain of Vaucluſe, and Mr. Seymour ſtill appeared to find inſpiration in its waters. He compoſed ſonnets, which Charlotte read with pleaſure; he pointed out the beauties of the ſcenes they viſited, or traced them with his pencil; and Charlotte gazed on them with delight. He perceived her prepoſſeſſion in his favour, and was ſolicitous to improve [Page 88] her partiality. The ſweetneſs and vivacity of her diſpoſition, the ſimplicity of her manners, and the purity of her heart, formed a contraſt to the vanity and levity of many young women in the gay circle of Avignon, very favourable to Charlotte.
CAPTAIN Clifford and his daughter paſſed the months, previous to their intended journey, in a retirement which was cheared by books, by muſic, and, above all, by the pleaſures of benevolence. Julia rejoiced in the poſſeſſion of fortune, becauſe ſhe could now indulge the feelings of compaſſion. She was no longer ſubject to the pain of flying from diſtreſs, which ſhe was unable to relieve: ſhe remembered how often her eyes, wet with tears, had been lifted up to heaven, and implored that ſhe might one day have the power of comforting the afflicted! Her prayer had been accepted, the days of affluence were arrived, and they were devoted to the purpoſes of benevolence.
[Page 90] Julia ſpread a little circle of happineſs around her. She had too that ſoothing charm in her manner, which proceeds from the moſt delicate attention to the feelings of others: ſhe beſtowed her alms with that gentleneſs and ſympathy, by which the value of her donations was increaſed, and her pity was almoſt as dear to the poor as her charity.
Meantime, Mr. Clifford, though not very quick in penetration, at length diſcerned his daughter's partiality for Mr. Frederick Seymour, whoſe talents he admired, and whoſe character he eſteemed. This indulgent father, contrary to every eſtabliſhed rule in ſuch caſes, determined to make his daughter happy her own way. He ſuffered her to liſten to Seymour's addreſſes, and conſented to her marrying the object of her choice, on her return to England the following ſummer.
To WILLIAM CLIFFORD, Eſq.
My deareſt Uncle,
I write to you with a degree of anguiſh, which renders me almoſt incapable of holding my pen. Laſt week I was all joy and exultation, at the thoughts of our journey to Avignon—Alas, thoſe dreams of happineſs have vaniſhed for ever! My father was, three days ago, prevailed on by Mr. B [...] to join a hunting party. The chace was uncommonly long, and my father returned almoſt overcome with fatigue. We ſat down to dinner, but he had ſcarcely eaten a morſel before he was ſeized with a violent vomiting of blood. I ſent inſtantly for the Surgeon at [...] He arrived in half an hour, and declared that my father [Page 92] had burſt a blood-veſſel. He was put to bed, where he lay almoſt inſenſible. The next morning he was ſomewhat better, but in the evening he ſpit a great quantity of blood; and the Surgeon has this day acknowledged to me, that, though my father may linger ſome weeks, he has no hope of his recovery. Oh my father! my ever-deareſt father! how will your wretched child ſurvive your loſs? Oh, may Heaven but enable me to perform the laſt ſad duties, and then ſuffer one grave to hold us!—He is ſenſible of his approaching diſſolution, and ſeems to have no wiſh, in this world, but to ſee you once more. Come then, my deareſt uncle, and receive his dying embrace! Haſten to him, before he is inſenſible of this laſt mark of your tenderneſs. Remember me to my dear Charlotte; ſhe will pity the ſufferings of
[Page 93] Mr. Clifford did not heſitate a moment in obeying the mandate contained in this melancholy letter: he and Charlotte left Avignon that night, in their way to England—Mr. Frederick Seymour wiſhed to accompany them, but this they would not allow. He, however, obtained their conſent to follow them in a ſhort time to England; and Charlotte promiſed to write to him, on her arrival at home, and inform him of the ſituation of her uncle.
Mr. Clifford had the melancholy conſolation of reaching home time enough to ſee his beloved brother once more. He found Captain Clifford in a ſtate of great compoſure of mind. He talked with reſignation of his approaching diſſolution, and exerted all the little ſtrength he had left in comforting his friends: he told them he felt the moſt firm perſuaſion that they ſhould meet again in a better region, never more to feel the pang of ſeparation. He then made Julia unlooſe a ribbon from his neck, to which was [Page 94] fixed a locket that hung upon his breaſt, and which contained ſome of his wife's hair—He deſired Julia to cut off a little of his own hair, and put it into the locket. He begged that his brother would keep his watch, and Charlotte a ring for his ſake. They will ſerve, added he, as Ophelia ſays, "for thoughts, and remembrances." He then graſped Julia's hand while ſhe knelt at his bedſide, and ſaid to her, in a faint voice, "Compoſe your mind, my love! you will ſtill have a father in my brother's protection—I leave you to his care—God Almighty bleſs you, my child—and reward your filial goodneſs! You have been the comfort of my life—and death has no pang but leaving you!—but we ſhall meet"—His voice became inarticulate, and in a few minutes he expired. Julia was with difficulty perſuaded to forſake the breathleſs remains of her father: ſhe clung to his corpſe in an agony of unutterable ſorrow; and in vain Charlotte endeavoured to ſooth [Page 95] her affliction; in vain Mr. Clifford attempted to conſole her by the aſſurance, that it ſhould be the conſtant aim of his life to promote her happineſs. In the bitterneſs of her ſoul, Julia ſhrunk from theſe aſſurances: the laſt ſigh of her father ſeemed to her the extinction of every earthly hope, and her aching heart refuſed that happineſs which he could no longer participate.—Her father had always treated her as a friend, and her affection for him was unbounded. When ſhe looked back on the paſt, ſhe recollected, on his part, a conſtant wiſh to make her happy; and an uniform gentleneſs of diſpoſition, which rendered that wiſh effectual. She could recall no expreſſion of harſhneſs, none of thoſe fits of moroſeneſs, or caprice, notwithſtanding which, obedience to a parent ſtill remains a duty, but ſometimes ceaſes to be a pleaſure.
In the reflection on her own conduct towards her father, Julia felt the ſoothing [Page 96] conſciouſneſs of having done more than even duty required. She had not only implicitly obeyed every injunction, and complied with every wiſh of her father; but ſhe had lived in the conſtant habit of making every ſacrifice to his comfort, that the quick ſenſibility of her own heart could ſuggeſt—ſacrifices of eaſe, of convenience, of pleaſure, which aroſe from the confined circumſtances of her father; ſacrifices, which ſhe carefully concealed from his knowledge, and of which ſhe found the ſole reward in her own boſom.
When, at length, the all-ſubduing influence of time had compoſed her mind ſufficiently to enjoy the beauties of nature, the pleaſures of ſociety, and the comforts of affluence, ſhe ſtill frequently lamented, with tears of bitter regret, that her father had not lived to partake longer of thoſe bleſſings. She reflected, that his life had been the conſtant ſtruggle of an high and honourable ſpirit with miſfortune, [Page 97] poverty, and neglect: ſhe wept at the recollection of thoſe difficulties in which ſhe had often ſeen him involved, of thoſe anxieties he had ſuffered for her ſake; and mourned that the hour of proſperity had ſcarcely arrived, before the object of her pious affection was mouldering in the duſt.
The tranquillity ſhe regained, was not like the ſweet glow of a ſummer morning, enlivened by ſunſhine, and the exulting ſong of the birds: it had more affinity to the penſive ſtillneſs of the evening, when the mildneſs of the air, and the fading charms of the landſcape, excite in the mind a ſoft and tender ſenſation, which has a nearer alliance to melancholy than to joy.
Mrs. Melbourne brought with her a young man who was her relation, and for whom ſhe hoped, through Mr. Clifford's intereſt, to obtain an appointment in the Eaſt Indies. She poſſeſſed but a very moderate ſhare of benevolence, either in thought, word, or deed, towards the human race in general; but ſhe eagerly embraced this opportunity of providing for her own relation, and placing him above the want of farther aſſiſtance from herſelf.
Lately ſhe had increaſed her income [Page 99] by a prize of ten thouſand pounds in the lottery; but ſhe found the calculation of her own wants increaſe in the ſame proportion with her fortune; and in eſtimating the wants of others, ſhe was leſs exact in her arithmetic. This lady could hear the complaints of miſery with indifference, and ſee the tears of the unfortunate without ſtretching out a hand to their aſſiſtance; and yet ſhe contrived to live at peace with herſelf. Soon after her marriage, ſhe had provided for a couſin, who, by the death of both his parents, was thrown entirely upon her protection; and, whenever her heart reproached her with any deficiency of compaſſion, ſhe inſtantly called to mind her couſin, and perſuaded herſelf that ſociety had no farther demands on her benevolence.
The young man whom ſhe now brought to Mr. Clifford's houſe, had loſt his father, and his mother was unable to provide for him; but, happily for Mr. Chartres, he was ſo nearly related to Mrs. [Page 100] Melbourne, that her pride came in as an auxiliary to her benevolence in the determination to promote his fortunes.
Mrs. Melbourne's occaſional acts of beneficence, which generally proceeded either from oſtentation or fear, reſembled thoſe ſcanty ſpots of verdure to which a ſudden ſhower will ſometimes give birth in a flinty and ſterile ſoil; while pure genuine philanthropy flows like thoſe unſeen dews which are only marked in their benign effects, ſpreading new charms over creation.
Mr. Chartres had been educated by the curate of a ſmall village in Yorkſhire, who had taught him Greek, Latin, and mathematics, but had not given him the leaſt knowledge of men and manners, that being a ſcience of which his preceptor was entirely ignorant. At nineteen Mr. Chartres returned to his mother, who had a ſmall houſe in London. She was a weak vain woman, and, being exceedingly diſguſted with her ſon's [Page 101] awkwardneſs, and quite incapable of judging of his claſſical acquiſitions, very thankfully reſigned him to Mrs. Melbourne, who introduced him in all his native ſimplicity to Mr. Clifford.
Mr. Chartres was tall and thin, and ſo perfectly erect, that he had not the ſmalleſt tendency towards a bend in his whole figure. His coat was always buttoned quite cloſe, and diſplayed his ſhape with great exactneſs; his complexion was ſallow, his aſpect ſolemn, and his black hair hung lank down his ſhoulders. He had a good underſtanding, and a warm veneration for literature; but his extreme awkwardneſs could only be equalled by his ſimplicity. In the company of ſtrangers he was entirely ſilent. When longer acquaintance gave him courage to ſpeak, his opinions were found to be reſpectable, on account of their antiquity: his ſentiments were ſtrictly moral; and, though there was no novelty in his ideas, they were generally delivered in a manner peculiar [Page 102] to himſelf. Chartres had a tender heart, felt the influence of beauty, and wiſhed to ſhow the moſt devoted attention to the ladies: but whenever he attempted any mark of gallantry, it generally ended in his own diſgrace, though he never hazarded any ſuch attempt without mature deliberation; for he was always obliged, previouſly to the ſlighteſt movement he made in company, to call forth all his reaſoning faculties, and convince himſelf that it was unmanly, as well as unphiloſophical, to tremble at walking acroſs the room, placing a chair for a lady, or handing her a tea-cup. Yet even after he had ſettled his plans of courteſy in his own mind, much to his ſatisfaction, he was apt to mar them by his mode of performance. But we will leave him to ſtruggle with his baſhful terrors, and return to Julia.
One evening, when the party aſſembled at Mr. Clifford's preferred cards to walking, ſhe went out alone, and wandered [Page 103] along the border of the lake; gazing at the majeſtic ſcenery around her, which was obſcured by twilight, while imagination gave new forms to every half-ſeen object. On her way home ſhe ſtopped at a cottage near the houſe, and, ſeating herſelf on a ſtraw chair at the door, patiently liſtened to the good woman's anecdotes of her poultry.
Julia uſually ſpent two hours every day in teaching the children of the cottagers to read. She had a particular fondneſs for children, which is an affection very natural to a tender heart; for what is more intereſting than the innocence, the helpleſſneſs, the endearing ſimplicity of childhood?—The eldeſt child of the good woman who loved to talk of her poultry, was a girl of ſeven years of age, with a ruddy complexion, and auburn ringlets, and was Julia's diſtinguiſhed favourite. Little Peggy did not, however, owe this diſtinction to any advantages of beauty over her companions; for roſy [Page 104] cheeks, and curled locks, were in great plenty in the village. Julia's partiality aroſe from an incident we ſhall mention.
One morning, as ſhe paſſed the cottage, ſhe looked in at the window, and ſaw little Peggy ſtanding at the table, taking ſome flies out of a bowl of water, and placing them in the ſun, where they ſhook their wet wings, and were aſſiſted in the operation of drying themſelves by Peggy; who put her face very cloſe to the table, and endeavoured to revive them with her warm breath. When Julia entered the cottage, the child, who knew her well, looked up in her face, and told her to "come and ſee how glad the flies were to get out." Peggy was endeared to Julia by her kindneſs to the flies; for ſhe herſelf felt for every thing that had life, with a degree of ſenſibility which many would account a fooliſh weakneſs. She had frequently been engaged in the very ſame buſineſs of reſcuing flies from deſtruction; and, when ſhe [Page 105] ſaw a worm lying in her path, had often conveyed it to a place of ſafety among the untrodden graſs, to prevent its being cruſhed by ſome foot leſs careful than her own. We do not pretend to juſtify theſe actions, which people, who have firm nerves for every pain that does not reach themſelves, may probably ridicule; but we think it our duty to relate the fact.
Julia had indeed no leſſon of humanity left untaught by her grandfather. She had ſeen the linnets and ſparrows, who built their neſts in the neighbourhood of that good old man, ſecure of a comfortable proviſion in winter; and the robins, who ventured to his gate, had always met with an hoſpitable reception. He had often, when recommending tenderneſs to animals, pointed out to his grand-daughter that paſſage in ſcripture—‘Are not five ſparrows ſold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God!’—Dear, and venerable old man! how congenial to thy ſpirit [Page 106] was this tender aſſurance!—by what heart is univerſal benevolence cheriſhed as it was by thine!—But this beloved old man has led us from the cottage, and little Peggy; who now repeated a hymn Julia had taught her, with her hands joined together, and her voice ſcorning all pauſe as long as her breath would hold out. Julia promiſed her a reward if ſhe would mind her ſtops; and ſhe went to play with her brother, a child of three years of age, before the door of the cottage. A few minutes after, Julia ſaw her ſtruggling to bring her brother to the door, but the little one refuſed to come; upon which Peggy fl [...]w to the door, pointed to her brother, and burſt into tears. Julia roſe haſtily from her ſeat, and, ſtepping forward, ſaw a gentleman and his ſervant riding at full ſpeed towards them; and ſo near the child, that ſhe had only time to fly, at the hazard of her own life, and ſnatch him away. The ſcreams of his mother, and the appearance of Julia, [Page 107] firſt informed the ſtranger of the child's danger, which the approach of night, and the additional gloom caſt by ſome trees over the road, had prevented him from ſeeing. He inſtantly diſmounted, and, giving the reins to his ſervant, haſtened to Julia, expreſſed his concern for the alarm he had occaſioned her, and enquired with great earneſtneſs if ſhe had recovered her terror.—After a few minutes converſation, he told her that he was on his way to Mr. Clifford's houſe—"That houſe is my home," ſaid Julia. She then diſcovered that ſhe was converſing with Mr. Frederick Seymour, who aſked permiſſion to attend her home. To this ſhe readily conſented; but before they ſet out ſhe wiped away the tears, which ſtill ſtood in the eye of her roſy-cheeked pupil, and told her ſhe would always love her for taking care of little Tom.
Mr. Frederick Seymour followed Julia into the drawing-room without being announced. Charlotte was thrown into [Page 108] ſome confuſion by his ſudden appearance, but ſoon recovered herſelf: the adventure at the cottage was recounted, and the evening paſſed away cheerfully. Even Mrs. Melbourne, whoſe manners were uſually formal and ungracious, caught the univerſal gladneſs. She tried to be agreeable, and ſucceeded as well as could be expected from one not much accuſtomed to make the experiment. In general Mrs. Melbourne ſpoke but little, and never hazarded any ſentiment that aroſe in her heart, till ſhe had firſt made it travel to her head, and examined whether it was preciſely ſuch as would do her honour; and ſhe delivered her opinions, even among her friends, with the moſt laboured correctneſs. Her underſtanding was always in full dreſs; not like that of the preſent times, eaſy, gay, and graceful; but more reſembling the ſtiff ruffs, and ſtately finery of the days of Queen Elizabeth.
Mr. Seymour alone had ſome unpleaſant [Page 109] reflections. He ſaw that his brother, without the practice of duplicity, had obtained a fortune far ſuperior, and a woman in every view more amiable, than all his own deep-laid ſchemes had acquired for himſelf. While he made theſe reflections, his heart ſickened at the recollection of all the plots and counterplots of his head; and he lamented, that the labour of years had enſured to him a leſs degree of proſperity than ſeemed, unſolicited, to court the acceptance of his brother.
Mr. Charles Seymour felt nothing but joy at his brother's marriage, which he knew would give the whole family additional conſequence, and conſiderably increaſe its influence. He determined, however, not to be outdone by his brother, but to take the firſt opportunity of marrying the daughter of a nabob, himſelf.
From the moment of his arrival at [Page 110] Mr. Clifford's ſeat, he had endeavoured to inſinuate himſelf into the favour of Julia, by paying her the moſt conſtant diſtinctions. He foreſaw, that, as miſtreſs of her uncle's houſe, which would happen on Charlotte's marriage, her importance in the faſhionable world would be conſiderable; and, though her fortune was not ſufficient to tempt him to any matrimonial deſigns upon her himſelf, he was ſenſible that, with her beauty and accompliſhments, ſhe could ſcarcely fail to marry advantageouſly; ſince he knew that, though love was much out of faſhion, there ſtill exiſted ſome young men of rank and fortune, who were addicted to that weakneſs; and ſome perſon, of ſuch a temper, might probably abate a few thouſands in his matrimonial expectations, in conſideration of Julia's beauty. He therefore devoted his chief attention to that young lady; for Charlotte he conſidered as an acquiſition [Page 111] already made to his family. Mr. Charles Seymour's principles of action were as mechanical as thoſe of a watch, conſtantly regulated by the bright noonday ſun; but all machines are ſubject to imperfection, and Charles's movements of courteſy towards Julia, which had formerly gone too ſlow, now went ſomewhat too faſt. She could not avoid being put in mind of his paſt rude neglect, which ſhe would otherwiſe have forgotten, by his preſent obſequious attention. When he flew to meet her at her entrance into the room, when he handed her with alacrity to the carriage, or rode by her ſide on horſeback, ſhe recollected how often he had formerly ſeen her enter, and depart, without taking the ſmalleſt notice of either.
A week after the arrival of Mr. Frederick Seymour, Mrs. Melbourne, and Mr. and Mrs. Seymour, left Mr. Clifford's houſe on their way to Scotland, and Mr. Charles Seymour departed for the ſeat of Lord [...]. Mr. Chartres was left at [Page 112] Mr. Clifford's till the return of the party, a circumſtance which gave him a degree of pleaſure that no one ſuſpected; for he had not yet conquered the terrors his new acquaintances inſpired; and, though he admired and loved them, he had hitherto kept both his admiration and his love a profound ſecret, and had never hazarded more than a monoſyllable at a time to any of the family. His good ſenſe was wrapt up as carefully as a motto within a ſugar-image; and the cruſt of awkwardneſs was not eaſily broken.
The ſatisfaction derived from Mr. Frederick Seymour's arrival was not confined to Charlotte: his ſociety was felt to be a moſt agreeable acquiſition by the whole family. In his converſation there was originality, wit, and fancy; the ſtrength of a ſuperior underſtanding, and the warmth of a feeling heart. The converſation often turned on ſubjects of literature, and Charlotte, though much leſs devoted to books than her couſin, had a [Page 113] mind ſufficiently cultivated to bear a part in ſuch converſations; which ſhe enjoyed the more on account of their giving her lover an opportunity of diſplaying his talents. Julia, whoſe underſtanding was far ſuperior to Charlotte's, ſoon perceived that the powers of Seymour's mind were not fully diſcerned by her couſin; that often a ſtroke of wit, an emanation of fancy, which ſhe herſelf admired, was not comprehended by Charlotte; and that a mind leſs ſuperior to the general maſs of mankind would have made her happy. Yet ſhe entertained not the leaſt doubt of her felicity in her marriage with Seymour. She knew that Charlotte was tenderly attached to him, and that he was fully ſenſible of all her claims to his affection; that he was charmed with the ſweetneſs of her diſpoſition; and ſhe believed that he would do her merit the juſtice it deſerved.
Mr. Frederick Seymour and Julia were ſoon the beſt friends poſſible. She already [Page 114] conſidered him as the huſband of Charlotte, and he ſometimes, in a ſort of whiſper, called her his couſin. A month paſſed ſo agreeably, that its flight was ſcarcely perceived by this domeſtic circle. In the enjoyment of the beauties of nature, the charms of friendſhip, and the delightful intercourſe of elegant and cultivated minds, the ſtream of time flowed not like the turbulent torrent which ruſhes in unequal cadence, as impelled by the tempeſtuous winds, nor like the ſluggiſh pool, whoſe waters reſt in dull ſtagnation: it glided cheerfully along, like the clear rivulet of the valley, whoſe ſurface is unruffled by the blaſt of the mountains, and whoſe boſom reflects the verdant landſcape through which it paſſes.
Mr. Chartres, encouraged by the gentleneſs with which he was treated, conquered his baſhful terrors ſufficiently to enjoy the amiable ſociety in which he was placed. He no longer ſat at table with as much apparent uneaſineſs as if he had [Page 115] been ſtretched on the bed of Procruſtus. He raiſed his eyes when he was ſpoken to, found it leſs difficult to diſpoſe of his hands than formerly, loſt his tremulous accent, and ſometimes delivered his opinions with the firm tone of a man at eaſe.
Mr. Clifford had ſome affairs to regulate previouſly to his daughter's marriage, which was therefore deferred two months longer: mean while Charlotte, who delighted to diſplay the merits of Julia, and wiſhed her beloved friend to be a favourite with her future huſband, was at pains, in her frequent converſations with Seymour, to give him the moſt amiable picture of Julia; deſcribed her filial tenderneſs, her candour, her benevolence, and every amiable quality ſhe poſſeſſed, with all the enthuſiaſm of affection. This was unneceſſary—Frederick Seymour had, at firſt ſight, greatly admired Julia's beauty; and, as ſhe had converſed with him with the utmoſt frankneſs and cordiality, he found that the purity of her mind, and the goodneſs [Page 116] of her heart, were equal to the excellence of her underſtanding; nor could he refuſe his friendſhip to one ſo dear to Charlotte. He loved to talk to Charlotte of her couſin; he loved to think of her when alone; and at length he diſcovered that Charlotte's ſociety loſt its charm when Julia was abſent. He could deceive himſelf no longer: Julia had inſpired him with the moſt violent, the moſt unconquerable paſſion.
The gradations from friendſhip to love are often imperceptible to the mind. Like ſucceſſive ſhades of the ſame colour, they blend ſo finely together, that it is difficult to mark the preciſe point at which their diſtinctions commence. Love comes to the boſom under the gentle forms of eſteem, of ſympathy, of confidence: we liſten with dangerous pleaſure to the ſeducing accents of his voice, till he lifts the fatal veil which concealed him from our view, and reigns a tyrant in the ſoul. Reaſon is then an oracle no longer conſulted; and [Page 117] happineſs, often life itſelf, become his victims.
Seymour, called upon by every tie of honour to fulfil his engagements with Charlotte, reſolved to ſtifle his unhappy paſſion for Julia, to treat her with reſerve, and to avoid her as much as poſſible. That young lady had already perceived the ſituation of his mind. A thouſand little circumſtances in his behaviour had betrayed to her penetration the emotions of his heart—but indeed every woman is quick-ſighted on this ſubject. The perturbation of an impaſſioned mind cannot long be concealed from the object of its inquietude. In vain it may aſſume the look of indifference, or wear the ſmile of tranquillity: the moſt trifling occurrences will ſerve to diſcover the agitation of its feelings—as the light breeze, that but gently waves the branches of the other trees of the foreſt, makes every leaf of the poplar tremble.
The knowledge of Seymour's paſſion [Page 118] gave Julia the moſt cruel uneaſineſs. Her heart was too pure to think without horror of ſupplanting Charlotte in the affections of her lover—that amiable Charlotte, whoſe ſweetneſs and generoſity of temper had led her to laviſh upon Julia every diſtinction, every preference ſhe could beſtow; who, in every amuſement, conſulted Julia's taſte, and forgot her own inclinations in ſtudying to prevent Julia's wiſhes.
At firſt, in the fulneſs of her heart, ſhe was on the point of flying to her couſin, of revealing her ſuſpicions, and aſking Charlotte's permiſſion to leave the houſe till her marriage was accompliſhed; but a little reflection convinced her of the impropriety of this meaſure. She knew that Charlotte's affections were deeply engaged, and was ſenſible that to awaken a ſuſpicion of Seymour's indifference in her mind, would deſtroy her peace for ever. She was convinced that he meant to fulfil his engagements, and ſhe had too [Page 119] much confidence in his honour and integrity, to doubt that he would treat Charlotte, when his wife, with tenderneſs and attention. She hoped that Charlotte's ſweetneſs of diſpoſition, and the ſeparation which would then take place between Seymour and herſelf, would entirely conquer his unhappy prepoſſeſſion in her favour; and ſhe determined, mean while, to lock the fatal ſecret within her own breaſt, and to haſten the marriage by every means in her power.
FREDERICK Seymour and Julia now avoided each other by a ſort of tacit agreement. They never met but at thoſe ſeaſons when the whole family were aſſembled; they were careful to place themſelves at a diſtance from each other at table; and in the walks, which they frequently took along the wild and rugged boundaries of the lake, where they ſometimes wandered near the edge of the cliffs, or deſcended the hills by ſteep and formidable paths, Mr. Seymour, even when Charlotte was eſcorted by any other gentleman, never offered his arm to Julia, if there was any other lady preſent. Julia was no leſs reſerved to wards him; but, if ſhe happened to walk behind him, ſhe always obſerved [Page 121] that when the path was dangerous, he could not reſiſt looking back repeatedly, to ſee if ſhe was ſafe. He appeared to be ſolicitous to converſe with any of Charlotte's female viſitors in preference to Julia: yet, notwithſtanding this behaviour, it was eaſy for that young lady to perceive that he was acting a part which he performed with great difficulty; but ſhe was happy, at leaſt ſhe believed ſhe was happy, that he had reſolution enough to obſerve this conduct.
Seymour, by unremitted efforts, concealed the ſtate of his mind from Charlotte. All her unſuſpecting heart perceived, was his reſerve towards Julia, for which ſhe could not account; but which gave her uneaſineſs; and with the frankneſs natural to her diſpoſition, ſhe ſometimes complained to him of his inattention to her couſin, and reminded him of particular inſtances of neglect; which he generally excuſed, by obſerving that he had been wholly occupied by herſelf. [Page 122] Charlotte once mentioned to Julia ſomething of Seymour's inattention to her. Julia coloured violently; Charlotte thought it the bluſh of reſentment, and ſaid no more on the ſubject.
Had Mr. Clifford been a man of much obſervation, it is probable he would have remarked the change in Seymour's behaviour to his niece. But Mr. Clifford paid little attention to the minuter traits of manners, and being at preſent wholly occupied in arranging his affairs, previouſly to his daughter's marriage, and improving the grounds round his houſe, the ſenſations of Seymour's mind were by him entirely unnoticed. Mr. Clifford was delighted to ſee his lawns aſſume a brighter verdure; his ſhrubbery filled with every plant that could embelliſh it; his woods affording the moſt venerable ſhade, or opening into viſtas, that preſented the moſt ſublime landſcape—and was unconſcious, that to the wounded ſpirit of Seymour, nature had loſt her beauty, and [Page 123] the earth its pleaſantneſs!—Mr. Clifford was in the ſituation of one of thoſe ſheltered trees, which grew in his own cultivated vallies, protected from the violence of the winds, and feeling only the gentleſt influence of the ſeaſons; while the unhappy Seymour, agitated by the utmoſt violence of conflicting paſſions, reſembled one of thoſe plants which are ſcattered on the bleak mountains, undefended, and expoſed to all the fury of the elements.
Seymour was ſometimes thrown into great perturbation, by the obſervations which Chartres, in the ſimplicity of his mind, made upon his conduct. One evening, when there were ſome company from the neighbourhood, Seymour was relating, at the tea-table, a ludicrous adventure which had happened to him in France, and which he embelliſhed with all the graces of wit and fancy. While he was proceeding with great vivacity, a ſervant came, and ſpoke to Julia; upon which ſhe immediately left the room. [Page 124] Seymour fancied he ſaw her change colour as ſhe went out; and occupied in conjecturing what could be the reaſon of it, he made a pauſe in his ſtory.—"Pray go on," ſaid Charlotte.—He reſumed the narrative, but Chartres almoſt inſtantly interrupted him, ſaying, "I beg your pardon Sir, but you have not begun at the place where you left off, and the parts of the ſtory have loſt their connection: you know Sir [...]" Chartres then added a Latin quotation of ſome length, which we believe was very appoſite; but which, as we are entirely ignorant of Latin, we muſt leave our learned readers to gueſs. While Chartres was diſplaying his erudition, Seymour recovered himſelf ſufficiently to proceed in his narrative; but the tone of his voice was changed; the ſpirit of the ſtory evaporated; and when it was finiſhed, every body appeared diſappointed: and though this is a circumſtance which often happens to the retailers of ſtories, many people having an everlaſting propenſity to [Page 125] ſpeak, from the want of ſufficient underſtanding to be ſilent, Seymour, who poſſeſſed conſiderable talents for narration, was accuſtomed to be heard with applauſe. He perceived the diſappointment of the company, and added, in a confuſed manner, "I have done my adventure great injuſtice; but a diſagreeable recollection came acroſs me, and I could not for my ſoul get rid of it."—Julia returned juſt as he had done ſpeaking, and Chartres, who thought, that after Seymour's own confeſſion that he had ſpoiled the jeſt, there could be no impropriety in his avowing the ſame opinion, told Julia, that ſhe had not loſt the moſt agreeable part of the ſtory; "for, ma'am," added he, "Mr. Seymour gave us no more wit after you left the room." Julia tried to ſmile, and Seymour walked to the window, affecting to join in the general laugh, which was uſually excited by the ſolemn tone in which Chartres delivered his ſentiments. The company preſent were not remarkable [Page 126] for penetration, and were more occupied by the awkward formality of the young man's manner, than by the force of his remark. There was, however, one lady of the party, whoſe obſervation was more acute than that of her companions. Miſs Tomkins had perceived an unaccountable degree of reſtraint in the behaviour of Seymour and Julia towards each other. She had remarked, that Seymour faultered in his ſtory upon Julia's leaving the room; but the effect which Chartres ſpeech had had upon them both, betrayed at once to Miſs Tomkins a ſecret, which ſhe carefully treaſured up in her own mind, and of which ſhe made a moſt ungenerous uſe, as will be ſeen hereafter.
Moſt of the company went to cards, and Chartres followed Seymour to the window; who turned towards him with ſuch a reſentful air, that Chartres, terrified at the thoughts of having given offence to one whom he ſo highly reſpected, began in an audible voice to ſolicit pardon. "I am [Page 127] heartily ſorry, Mr. Seymour," ſaid he, "if I have made any comment on the ſtory that is offenſive to you; but I thought Miſs Julia Clifford would like to hear, that as it grew leſs agreeable juſt as ſhe left the room, ſhe had not loſt much by going. I feel an innocent ſatisfaction in ſaying any thing that will pleaſe her, when I have an opportunity." "Pray, Mr. Chartres, talk no more of it," Seymour replied, in an impatient and diſturbed manner. After pauſing a little, he added, "I am not very well this evening; will you come and take a walk with me?" Chartres thankfully conſented. Seymour burthened himſelf with this young man's company, becauſe he was afraid, that if left with the ladies, Chartres might make ſome farther animadverſions on the ſtory; but he excuſed himſelf from converſing with his companion on pretence of indiſpoſition; and wandering along the rocky ſhores of the lake, indulged his own gloomy meditations.
[Page 128] Julia longed to take a walk; but ſhe confined herſelf to the corner of the cardtable, becauſe ſhe dreaded meeting Seymour. When he returned, ſhe retired for a ſhort time to her own apartment, and gave way to that ſorrow which the perplexity of her ſituation wrung from her heart. She was indeed perſuaded, that ſhe felt no other uneaſineſs than what aroſe from the agitation with which ſhe perceived that Seymour's mind was ſtruggling; but perhaps there was ſomething of ſelf-deception in this young lady's reflections; as to a paſſenger, in a boat that glides rapidly down a ſtream, the current only appears to move, and the boat ſeems perfectly ſtill, while in reality the waves bear it impetuouſly along.
But whatever were Julia's real ſenſations, her conduct was irreproachable. Her ideas of rectitude were of the moſt exalted kind; and no pain would have been ſo inſufferable to her pure and feeling boſom, as the conciouſneſs of having [Page 129] in the ſmalleſt degree deviated from thoſe principles of delicacy, truth, integrity, and honour, which were not only the inviolable ſentiments of her ſoul, but the ſtedfaſt rules of her actions. If her heart was not quite at peace, its exquiſite ſenſibility was corrected by the influence of reaſon; as the quivering needle, though ſubject to ſome variations, ſtill tends to one fixed point.
MR. and Mrs. Seymour, and Mrs. Melbourne, returned to Mr. Clifford's ſeat, where they had promiſed to paſs a week or two on their way home. It was the time of the aſſizes at [...], and Mrs. Seymour heard with great ſatisfaction that Mr. Clifford's family were going to a ball at that town the following evening.
Mr. Chartres, on the firſt intelligence he received of the ball, inſtantly aſked Julia to dance: "I own," added he, playing all the time with his fingers, and looking very fooliſh, for he felt that his requeſt was a bold one; "I own I ſhall appear but aukward, having never been at any ball, except my dancing-maſter's; but I am determined to improve myſelf [Page 131] in dancing, which I think a very pleaſant device, and what reflects honour on the inventor." Some young ladies, as ſecure as Julia of having their choice of many partners, would have refuſed Mr. Chartres without much remorſe; but it was not in her nature to exert power in giving pain when it could be avoided; and though ſhe diſliked her ſhackles, ſhe determined to wear them with chearfulneſs. Frederick Seymour was ſecretly rejoiced that Julia was engaged to Chartres, being conſcious that, had ſhe been provided with a more agreeable partner, it would have given him ſome very unpleaſant ſenſations.
Charlotte mentioned to Mrs. Seymour, at dinner, that ſhe would probably meet her acquaintance, Mr. F [...], at the ball. "Miſs Tomkins", added ſhe, "who is on a viſit at Lord [...]'s ſeat, told me that Mr. F [...] was expected this evening; and what will he do, Julia, when he finds you are engaged?—Mr. Chartres, I adviſe you not to be too happy to-morrow, [Page 132] for I have a ſtrong ſuſpicion that you will be robbed of your partner." "I am conſcious, Madam," ſaid Chartres, laying down his knife and fork with great ſolemnity, "I am very conſcious of my unworthineſs of Miſs Julia Clifford, and you know, Madam," continued he, turning to Julia "I offered this morning to give up the honour of your hand to Mr. Frederick Seymour, for a dance or two, if he ſhould happen to aſk it." Julia coloured violently; but it was not perceived by any one preſent except Mr. Seymour; for Frederick Seymour, at that moment, ſpilt a glaſs of wine as he was putting it to his lips, on Charlotte's gown, and occaſioned ſome confuſion. Charlotte again renewed the ſubject of the ball, and Julia, who ſaw that Mr. Seymour's penetrating eyes were fixed upon her, endeavoured to conquer her embarraſſment. Mrs. Seymour aſked her, if the ball-room at [...] was a good one. "Yes," replied Julia; "but it ſeems rather ſtrange, ſince the time of the aſſizes [Page 133] is choſen for particular gaiety, that the town-houſe ſhould be made to contain both the aſſembly-room and the priſon: they ſeem placed with little judgment ſo near each other." "I believe," ſaid Mr. Seymour, "the mirth of the company in general will not be much diſturbed by this reflection, though it comes very naturally from the perſon who made it." "A ball-room," ſaid Frederick Seymour, "divided only by a thin partition from a priſon, reminds one of a magical lanthorn, where all the gay colours are thrown on one little ſpot, and every thing round it is involved in complete darkneſs." "Well, pray talk no more of it," ſaid Charlotte." "Indeed," cried Mrs. Seymour, with a ſigh loud enough to be heard by all preſent, "my feelings are ſo wounded by what has paſſed, that I am ſure I ſhall be miſerable the whole evening; and I muſt beg of you, Miſs Clifford, to excuſe my going." "O no," replied Charlotte, "I will not excuſe you." [Page 134] Mrs. Seymour acquieſced in ſilence, and expreſſed no farther deſire of remaining at home.
The next morning Charlotte propoſed a ride. A carriage was ordered for Mrs. Melbourne, and horſes for the reſt of the company, immediately after breakfaſt; when Charlotte obſerved that Julia looked pale. "I have a ſlight head-ach," ſaid Julia, "and as I intend to dance a great deal at the ball, I hope you will excuſe my going out with you this morning," "Certainly," ſaid Charlotte, "if you wiſh it; but I am ſure you will be quite well in the evening; I never had a head-ach but once, when I was going to a ball, and the ſound of the fiddles carried it off directly." Julia ſmiled at her couſin's remedy for the head-ach, and left the room.
She retired to her own apartment for an hour, and then wandered to a wood on the ſide of a neighbouring hill, completely ſhaded from the ſun by thick intervoven [Page 135] trees. She ſeated herſelf on a green bank, at the foot of an old oak: the lake was ſeen, and the ſound of the torrent was heard foaming down the cliffs at a diſtance. The trees formed a thouſand wild avenues, and the paths of the wood appeared as if they had never been trodden by any human foot-ſtep. Julia, in this ſolitude, found "room for meditation even to madneſs." She recalled the beloved image of her father; ſhe thought of the paſt with tender regret, and the preſent ſeemed involved in perplexity and ſadneſs.
The beauties of the landſcape at length ſoothed and elevated her mind. She lifted her eyes to heaven, for her admiration of the works of nature was ever accompanied with emotions of gratitude and praiſe; her heart became full—her tears flowed faſt, but not painfully—when her reverie was diſturbed by the ruſtling of the leaves near her. She looked round, and ſaw Frederick Seymour almoſt cloſe to her, [Page 136] and gazing at her with earneſtneſs. It inſtantly occurred to her, that ſome accident had happened, and occaſioned the return of the party; and ſhe enquired with eagerneſs and terror the reaſon of his coming. He told her, in a confuſed manner, that he had received letters, after ſhe left the room, which required an immediate anſwer, and had obliged him to remain at home. The truth was, that no ſooner had Julia declared her intention of ſtaying at home, than Frederick Seymour, who diſliked his ſiſter-in-law, and abhorred Mrs. Melbourne, felt a great diſguſt at the thoughts of going. A few minutes after Julia quitted the room, letters were brought to him by the poſt, and he could not reſiſt the temptation they offered him of pretending that they required an immediate anſwer, and of deſiring, on that account, to be excuſed joining the party on horſeback. He was ſenſible that he was acting in direct oppoſition to every rule he had preſcribed for his conduct; [Page 137] he felt that it was madneſs to court that dangerous ſociety, which had already proved ſo fatal to his peace; but the ſenſations which impelled him to remain behind, were too powerful to be combated by any effort of his reaſon. Alas! there are moments when the exertions of reaſon are ineffectually oppoſed to the violence of paſſion!—there are moments in which paſſion, like the ocean-flood, overthrows the mounds which were oppoſed to its progreſs!—Charlotte, with her uſual ſweetneſs, accepted Seymour's apology for not attending her in her ride, and went with the reſt of the company.
When Julia diſcovered that Seymour had not joined the party, a conſciouſneſs of his motive for declining it took inſtant poſſeſſion of her mind. Surpriſe gave place to embarraſſment, and a deep bluſh, which overſpread her face, betrayed what was paſſing in her breaſt. She remained ſilent.—"Are you angry with me," ſaid [Page 138] he, in a faultering voice, "for intruding upon your ſolitude?—My letters were finiſhed; I was going to walk; and was it poſſible for me to turn my ſteps another way, when I knew you were here?"—Julia had by this time recovered from her painful confuſion. Without taking notice of what he had been ſaying, ſhe expreſſed her regret at having loſt the morning's ride. "The day", added ſhe, "is ſo favourable, that the proſpect from the hills will be ſeen to particular advantage." "I am ſorry you regret it," he replied; "I have no ſuch ſenſation—but may the intereſt which all who know Miſs Clifford muſt feel in her happineſs, give me a right to enquire into the cauſe of thoſe tears which only ceaſed upon my intruſion, and which I would ſacrifice my life to wipe away?" "Indeed," ſaid Julia, quickening her pace towards the houſe, "my tears were nothing more than a movement of admiration at the view of nature: the ſolitude and grandeur of the [Page 139] ſcene affected me, and my tears flowed, becauſe I felt pleaſure in ſhedding them." "Oh," exclaimed he, with paſſionate vehemence, "may your téars never proceed from any other ſource than that of pleaſure! May you, moſt ámiable of women, be happy, and I can never be quite miſerable!"—"What ſtrange language is this! Mr. Seymour," ſhe anſwered, in a tone of reſentment. "I ſuſpect, Sir," ſhe added, "that your letters this morning have conveyed ſome diſagreeable intelligence; you appear diſordered. If you will return to the ſpot I have juſt quitted, you will find its ſtillneſs more favourable to compoſure of mind than any company whatever." "Ah, Miſs Clifford," reſumed he, "if I may never hope for compoſure of mind, but in a ſpot which you have juſt quitted, how poor is my chance of attaining tranquillity!" They reached at that moment a little cottage which ſtood between two hills: a clear rivulet ran along the narrow valley, and [Page 140] a plank was thrown acroſs it. A young man was reſting himſelf on the graſs before the door of the cottage; his eldeſt child ſtood behind him, peeping over his ſhoulder at a younger infant, who was placed upon his knees; his wife, a pretty clean young woman, ſat at work on the root of an old elm. Joy ſparkled in the looks of the whole family at the approach of Julia. She had ſpent the paſt winter in relieving the diſtreſſes of the neighbouring poor, and, "when the eye ſaw her it bleſſed her!"—She ſtopped a few minutes to ſpeak to the cottagers, and then haſtened towards home. "What a charming picture of domeſtic enjoyment we have juſt ſeen!" exclaimed Seymour, with enthuſiaſm. "If in the higher ranks of life we were not the ſlaves of the world, what other ſcheme of happineſs could be ſo precious to a heart endued with ſenſibility, as that which this family groupe diſplays?"—Julia was ſilent.—"But then," he continued, with increaſed eagerneſs, [Page 141] "the world can only be renounced with pleaſure for the object of all others moſt dear to the affections. It muſt be a connection not formed from intereſt, from a combination of circumſtances, which entangle the mind, and warp its inclinations; it muſt be the free election of the ſoul! What felicity to live for one beloved object, to prevent every wiſh, to ſtudy every look, to anticipate every deſire!—And in that beloved object, to diſcern fidelity never to be ſhaken, even in the greateſt conflicts and convulſions of fortune; to meet with everlaſting ſupport and ſympathy, with the charm of unbounded confidence, the—" "No more Sir," ſaid Julia, interrupting him, "I have no pleaſure in being led into the regions of romance." "By the happy," he replied, "the dream of imagination may be diſcarded; but it is the refuge of miſery, and—" "To me," ſaid Julia, again interrupting him, "the language of diſcontent never appears more unreaſonable [Page 142] than amidſt ſuch beautiful ſcenes as theſe, which ſeem formed to inſpire tranquillity." "Complaint," reſumed he, vehemently, "has indeed no language which can convey an adequate idea of my peculiar wretchedneſs." Julia made no reply, but walked as faſt as ſhe was able. Seymour preſerved a gloomy ſilence till they came to the lawn before the houſe. While they were croſſing the lawn, he ſaid, in a low voice, "I fear I have offended you, from your evident anxiety to get rid of me: Ah! I acknowledge the infatuation, the madneſs of this intruſion!—could I dare to expect, could I even hope for your ſympathy!—Oh no! I am not ſuch a wretch as to wiſh that your peace ſhould be a moment diſturbed by any pity for the wretchedneſs, the extreme—I know not what I am ſaying.—Forgive me, Madam; forgive the incoherent expreſſions of a diſtracted mind—I will not offend again!—never ſhall your ear again be wounded by my complaints; [Page 143] I will ſuffer in ſilence."—He opened the door of the ſaloon. Julia entered without ſpeaking, made him a ſlight curteſy as ſhe paſſed him, and haſtened to her own apartment. He looked after her till ſhe was out of ſight, and then wandered to a diſtant ſcene, unconſcious where he was going, and abſorbed in profound melancholy.
Julia for ſome time gave way to tears; but ſhe wiped the traces of ſorrow from her eyes before the return of Charlotte, and determined to decline no parties in future, however diſagreeable to her, that ſhe might not again be expoſed to an interview ſo painful to her feelings, as that which had juſt paſt.
WHEN Charlotte returned from her ride, her firſt care was to haſten to Julia's apartment, and enquire if her head-ach had ceaſed. At that moment Julia felt Charlotte's kindneſs like a reproach; her heart was full, and tears ſtarted into her eyes. "What is the matter, my deareſt friend?" ſaid Charlotte: ſhe then enquired if it was the thoughts of going for the firſt time into public ſince the death of her father that affected her. Julia now wept without reſtraint. "If you are ſo much hurt at going, my deareſt girl," reſumed Charlotte, "I will not inſiſt upon it."—Fearing, however, that if ſhe remained at home, Frederick Seymour would attribute it to the effects of their meeting, Julia told Charlotte [Page 145] that ſhe was determined to go, and begged that ſhe would take no notice to any one of the depreſſion of her ſpirits. Charlotte threw her arms round her friend's neck, and embraced her tenderly, with the moſt ſoothing expreſſions of affection. They then parted, in order to dreſs for the ball.
When Charlotte left the room, Julia threw herſelf on her knees, and implored the aſſiſtance of that Being, to whom ſhe had been ever accuſtomed to fly, as to the refuge of calamity. Her heart was formed for devotion, and the conſolation it afforded her will be only diſbelieved by thoſe who have never tried its influence.—Theſe young ladies appeared at dinner dreſſed alike, and with the moſt graceful ſimplicity. Julia's complexion was a little fluſhed by the agitation ſhe had ſuffered, which ſerved to heighten her beauty; and Charlotte gazed at her with as ſincere delight as if ſhe had not been handſomer than herſelf.
[Page 146] Mrs. Seymour was very fantaſtically arrayed, and her ſenſations at the appearance of Julia were of a very oppoſite nature from thoſe which glowed in the generous boſom of Charlotte. Mrs. Melbourne alſo diſcovered by her looks, and by more than uſual peeviſhneſs of manner, her entire diſapprobation of the increaſed bloom of Julia's complexion, who was placed at dinner between Mr. Seymour and Chartres. "Did you take a long walk this morning, Ma'am?" ſaid Chartres. "No, a very ſhort one," replied Julia. "Why, walking alone is dull enough," ſaid Mr. Seymour, looking at her earneſtly. "I do not think ſo," anſwered Julia; "but I was not alone, I met Mr. Frederick Seymour." "Oh, ſo he found you out, Ma'am," exclaimed Chartres: "well, I really thought you would have hid yourſelf; for, although woman, as well as man, is certainly a ſocial being, yet there are ſeaſons when ſolitude is more valuable than ſociety." "What does [Page 147] Mr. Chartres ſay about hiding yourſelf, Julia?" ſaid Charlotte, who was ſitting at ſome diſtance. "He ſays," replied Mr. Seymour, "that your fair couſin is very cruel, and ſtays at home to hide herſelf moſt maliciouſly from us, who live only in her ſight." Julia ſmiled faintly, and Mr. Seymour immediately changed the ſubject.
While they were at tea, Mr. Seymour deſcribed with rapture the falls of the river Clyde, which he had viſited in his tour through Scotland. Mrs. Seymour ſaid, ſhe had been particularly pleaſed with the romantic beauties of the river Evan, as it runs through Hamilton Wood, paſſing by Chat'lherault, to join the Clyde, at a bridge in ſight of Hamilton Houſe. But what, added ſhe, perhaps, impreſſed the beauties of that ſpot upon my mind more ſtrongly than thoſe of any other, was ſome verſes which were given to me by a lady in that neighbourhood, and [Page 148] which, ſhe told me, were written by two intimate friends of her own, in their days of courtſhip. I took a copy of the verſes, together with a little account of the writers, which their friend had ſcrawled on a blank leaf of the paper. Charlotte begged Mrs. Seymour would produce the verſes; which ſhe did immediately, and deſired Mr. Frederick Seymour to read them. He took the paper, and read as follows:
‘A young gentleman, born on the banks of the Evan in Scotland, had formed a ſtrong attachment to a young lady in that neighbourhood; but fortune refuſing even that competency, which would have ſatisfied two min [...]s equally diveſted of ambition and avarice, he accepted of an offer of going to the Eaſt Indies. Time and diſtance had no power to obliterate the traces of a ſacred and ſerious paſſion, ſuch as may perhaps ſtill be found in the boſom of [Page 149] retirement. On the banks of the Ganges his imagination often wandered to that humbler, but, in his mind, far more beautiful ſtream, which winds in delightful mazes through the wood of Hamilton, and whoſe banks, of a romantic height, are covered with the freſheſt verdure, and crowned with trees of the moſt venerable antiquity. This had been the ſcene of his early paſſion. Under the ſhade of thoſe majeſtic trees, by the brink of that beloved ſtream, he had often wandered with his miſtreſs; and in his mind, every impreſſion of beauty, and every idea of happineſs, was connected with the borders of the Evan.’
‘With ſuch feelings, it is not ſurpriſing that, having acquired a fortune far greater than would have been ſufficient to have fixed him in the arms of love and happineſs in his native country, he immediately determined to return. A ſhort time before his departure, [Page 150] he compoſed the following ſong; and ſome years after his return; he accidentally found a little ballad, which his miſtreſs had written during their ſeparation; an unequivocal proof, among many he daily experienced, that their love was reciprocal.’
When the ſongs were finiſhed, Mrs. Seymour mentioned that her Scotch acquaintance, who had a ſweet voice, ſung theſe words to ſome of the old ſimple tunes of her own country—"Which was the very circumſtance that made them intereſting," replied Mr. Seymour. [Page 155] "The tricks of execution," he added, "may ſurprize, but are too remote from nature to touch the paſſions: they are more eaſily moved by ſtriking one tender ſtring, than by flying through all the notes of the gamut." "I like Scotch muſic," ſaid Chartres, "becauſe the tunes are eaſily comprehended; whereas, in complicated pieces, I never can underſtand what the compoſer means to expreſs; and the whole appears to me a contrivance, to ſhow how much may be done in a ſhort time." Chartres had juſt finiſhed his ſpeech, when the carriages came to the door, and the party ſet off for the ball.
MR. F [...], who came to pay his compliments to Mrs. Seymour, on her entering the aſſembly-room, ſoon directed his principal attention to Julia, and obtained her permiſſion to aſk Mr. Chartres to reſign her hand for one dance. Mrs. Seymour had no time to be out of humour at Mr. F [...]'s attention to Julia, being immediately aſked to dance by Lord [...], and after that ſhe felt no inclination; for, if the female brow is ever clouded by ill-temper, it is certainly not in thoſe moments when vanity is gratified.
Frederick Seymour danced with Charlotte, and Julia with Chartres; who wore a look of great ſolicitude, while by the moſt ſerious and unremitting attention he [Page 157] made himſelf maſter of the figure of each country dance, before he began to practiſe it. His performance of his leſſon was, however, ſomewhat ludicrous. He flung out his arms and legs in a very ſingular manner, and, by his indefatigable efforts to dance with ſpirit, afforded infinite diverſion to the whole company. This young man, whom nature had formed more on the plan of the yew than the oſier, had, while dancing, rather the appearance of a puppet than of a human form; for his figure ſeemed to be framed of wood, and his movements directed by wires: but he believed that extended arms denoted eaſe, and that a high ſpring demonſtrated ſpirit; while, in truth, his performance was as remote from either, as the ſtiff ringlets of our learned counſellors wigs, (thoſe ſtupendous ſymbols of knowledge,) from the graceful flow of natural curls. Julia alone appeared inſenſible to the awkward motions of her partner, becauſe ſhe was not willing to give him pain. She [Page 158] ſaw that he obſerved, with mortification, the tittering of the young ladies whenever he approached; and ſhe determined to appear perfectly ſatisfied with his abilities for dancing; though ſometimes, when he ſprang unuſually high, with out-ſtretch'd arms, ſhe found it difficult to ſuppreſs a ſmile.
Mr. Charters, after the labour of two dances, which, by his mode of performance, had been rendered no trifling fatigue, conſented to a ſuſpenſion of his toils, and reſigned his partner to Mr. F [...], for one dance; telling her, "That he would ſit in the mean time, and meditate on the paſtime before him, which he thought was very delightful to behold." Frederick Seymour knew nothing of this arrangement till he ſaw them ſtanding up together. He had perſuaded Charlotte to ſit down during that dance, and, as the ball-room was very hot, ſhe propoſed going to the card-room, where Seymour was leading her when he firſt perceived [Page 159] Julia and Mr. F [...] . He felt a pang of jealous anguiſh at the ſight, and an irreſiſtible deſire to obſerve their behaviour to each other. Suppreſſing his emotion, he turned to Charlotte, with as much careleſſneſs in his manner as he could aſſume, and ſaid, "This is a very lively tune, and, if I thought you could forgive me for being ſo whimſical, I ſhould confeſs that I feel a great inclination to go down this dance." "And ſo do I too," replied Charlotte, haſtening to her place, "it's a pleaſure to oblige you, when you chuſe to dance; but one really finds it difficult to ſit down; ſo pray don't take that humour again."
After Julia and Mr. F [...] had paſſed them in the dance, Frederick Seymour ſaid to Charlotte, in a tone of indifference, "How has your fair couſin contrived to get rid of her firſt partner?" "She has only got rid of him for one dance," replied Charlotte. "Mr. F [...] was miſerable when he heard ſhe was engaged, [Page 160] and was determined to dance one dance with her at leaſt: I can ſee," added Charlotte, "that Mr. F [...] is in love with Julia." Seymour felt that Mr. F [...]'s love was a ſubject on which he was not likely to ſpeak with much ſucceſs, and therefore prudently forbore to make any reply. When the dance was finiſhed, he could not reſiſt leading Charlotte to the ſame bench where Julia and Mr. F [...] were ſitting; walking himſelf about the room, almoſt unconſcious where he was, or what he was doing.
Mrs. Melbourne ſat and contemplated Mrs. Seymour, while ſhe was dancing, with the fondeſt admiration. Her whole ſtock of applauſe ſhe laviſhed upon her daughter; and at length, dazzled with the graces and attractions which ſhe perceived in this favourite object, ſhe turned her eyes for relief upon the reſt of the company, where ſhe eaſily diſcovered ſome ſhades of imperfection; diſtributing the whole number of female defects among the [Page 161] young ladies preſent, and, with laudable impartiality, giving to each of them an equal ſhare. Julia, whoſe beauty eclipſed that of all others, ſhe regarded with as much malignity as if ſhe had herſelf been her rival; held Mr. Clifford's underſtanding in the higheſt contempt, on account of his having received into his family one, whoſe ſuperior attractions muſt ever bear away the palm from his own daughter; and was ready to exclaim to Charlotte, in the words of Shakeſpeare,
Thou art a fool, ſhe robs thee of thy name,And thou wilt ſhow more bright when ſhe is gone.
Mrs. Melbourne then reflected how much more ſagaciouſly ſhe would have acted in the ſame circumſtances; at what a prudent diſtance ſhe would have ſeparated a beautiful niece from her own daughter, by leaving her in that ſafe obſcurity, where ſhe would have been ſecure from danger herſelf, and could neither [Page 162] have excited admiration or envy in others.
Mr. Chartres, after the interval of repoſe he had enjoyed, felt himſelf prepared for freſh exertions, and claimed his partner the next dance. Charlotte could not be perfectly happy, even in dancing with her beloved Seymour, while ſhe ſaw Julia devoting the evening to ſuch a partner as Chartres. The affectionate Charlotte had long made Julia's happineſs neceſſary to her own. Her heart was attuned to joy; but when ſhe fancied Julia's was not in uniſon, the ſtrings of pleaſure in her own boſom refuſed to vibrate.
She propoſed to Frederick Seymour, that he ſhould aſk Chartres to allow him to dance one dance with Julia, and added, that ſhe herſelf would dance with Chartres "It will really divert me," ſaid Charlotte, "to go down one dance with him; and we ſhall do vaſtly well, for I'll make him get the figure by heart before we ſet off." Seymour, however, appeared but [Page 163] little diverted with Charlotte's plan, which threw him into ſuch perturbation, that he ſcarcely knew what he ſaid. "Yes—certainly—if you wiſh it"—he replied, in a ſtammering manner. "Surely it cannot be diſagreeable to you," rejoined Charlotte, with ſome ſurprize at his heſitation. No—I did not mean—I—ſhall I go and aſk Miſs Julia Clifford's permiſſion?" "Certainly," anſwered Charlotte. He went up to Julia, aſked her to dance, and added, in a low voice, that he ſhould not have preſumed to ſolicit that honor, if Miſs Charlotte Clifford had not commanded him. Julia could alledge no pretence to Charlotte for refuſing: ſhe therefore gave her conſent, and he led her to the dance. He was two or three times out in the figure, and Julia's countenance wore an expreſſion of gravity and reſerve. When the dance was finiſhed, Julia, followed by Frederick Seymour, went in ſearch of Charlotte, who was at that moment ſurrounded by a number of her acquaintances; and Julia could find no vacant place except [Page 164] at a little diſtance, where ſhe ſat down, and Frederick Seymour placed himſelf next her. He endeavoured to converſe with her, but his powers of entertainment failed him, and her manner towards him was cold and diſtant. Julia's uſual manners had the moſt engaging frankneſs: her heart ſeemed to hover on her lips, and every emotion of her ſoul was clearly ſeen in her expreſſive countenance. Frederick Seymour had obſerved that ſhe converſed with Mr. F [...] with the utmoſt ſweetneſs and vivacity; and the contraſt in her behaviour towards himſelf, ſtruck his mind ſo forcibly, that, after a ſilence of ſome minutes, during which he had wrought up his feelings to a degree of agony, he ſaid to her, "Miſs Clifford, I am conſcious that I deſerve your reſentment, yet I find the pang it inflicts is inſupportable: from my very ſoul, I implore you, Madam, to forgive the frenzy of this morning. If you could look into my mind, if you could know what paſſes within this boſom, you would perhaps think that I am [Page 165] puniſhed enough." "I will endeavour, Sir," replied Julia, "to forget what it is ſo diſagreeable to me to remember." She the roſe haſtily from her ſeat, and joined ſome ladies of her acquaintance.
The company went to tea; and Mr. Chartres, who was conſcious that dancing was not his fort, determined at leaſt to diſtinguiſh himſelf by his ſervices to the ladies during tea. He aroſe with great alacrity to hand ſome bread and butter; but no ſooner did he find himſelf ſtanding upright, a public ſpectacle to the whole circle, than all the excellent arguments, by which he had ſpurred his courage to this enterprize, ſuddenly failed him, and his confuſion was ſo great, that it ſeemed to bereave him of his faculties: he haſtily placed his tea-cup upon the chair on which he had been ſitting, and, while undergoing the pains of preſenting the cake, let the plate ſlip out of his trembling hand, which fell in pieces on the floor. Overcome with horror at this accident, he immediately [Page 166] retreated to his chair, unmindful o the tea-cup which he had placed upon it, the contents of which now flowed upon the ground. Mrs. Seymour fell into convulſions of laughter, nor could Charlotte reſiſt joining with her heartily. Julia checked her inclination to laugh, in compaſſion to poor Chartres, whoſe whole face became ſcarlet, and who ſuffered ſuch torments of mind, that though his legs were a good deal ſcalded, he was for ſome time inſenſible to his bodily pains; and when he did feel them, had not courage either to complain or move from his ſeat, till Frederick Seymour perceived his ſituation, and offered to accompany him to another apartment. When he had changed his ſtockings, and felt his ſufferings aſſuaged, he complained bitterly, that Mrs. Seymour made no more conſcience of laughing at him, than if he was not related to her by the ties of blood; and lamented that a man's zeal to ſerve the moſt amiable part of the creation [Page 167] ſhould expoſe him to ſuch diſgrace.
Mr. Seymour was not unemployed at the ball, though he did not dance, and forbore to play at whiſt, of which he was exceedingly fond. But lady [...] did not chuſe to play, which was Mr. Seymour's reaſon for declining it: he ſeated himſelf next her, and exerted all his brilliant talents for her entertainment. She had been acquainted with him in London, and was ſo dazzled by his wit, and ſo charmed with the warmth and frankneſs of his manner, that he had gained a high place in her admiration and eſteem: and he now contrived to blend ſome very delicate and agreeable flattery to herſelf in his remarks on the company. Lady [...] was handſome, amiable, and not inſenſible to praiſe, which was particularly grateful to her from Mr. Seymour, becauſe ſhe reſpected his abilities, and had a firm perſuaſion of his candour and ſincerity. She believed, that had ſhe [Page 168] been in the moſt obſcure ſituation of life, he would have admired her as much, and loved her as fervently. She fancied that ſhe had made a powerful impreſſion on his heart; and, notwithſtanding Lady [...]'s diſpoſition was virtuous, and ſhe was determined never to deviate in eſſential points from the duty ſhe owed to her huſband, her early intercourſe with the faſhionable world had given her mind a laxity in its opinions on the ſubject of gallantry, though it had not power intirely to pervert her principles. She thought there was no harm in a fine woman's inſpiring paſſion in other men as well as her huſband; and in liſtening to the language of love, or even in feeling the ſentiment in her own boſom, ſo long as her conduct was without reproach. Having hitherto walked ſafely in a dangerous path, though it led along the edge of a precipice, ſhe had now loſt the apprehenſion of falling. Perhaps ſhe would have been in more danger from Mr. Seymour than any of [Page 169] her other admirers, becauſe he purſued the gratification of his paſſions with indefatigable perſeverance, and with conſummate powers of inſinuation. But another object, with whom the reader will ſhortly be acquainted, at preſent occupied his heart; and his ſole aim, in this tender attention to lady [...], was to obtain the exertion of her influence with her lord, which was very conſiderable, to procure Mr. Seymour ſome additional emoluments to the office he held under government. "Well," ſaid ſhe, after they had converſed together a conſiderable time, "I muſt leave you now—our tête-à-tête has been quite long enough." "Perhaps for you," he replied, with a ſigh. "No, indeed," interrupted lady [...], "I'm not at all tired of you; but, if I ſtay any longer, theſe good country-folks will be making ſome obliging comments upon it." "What! on your chatting with an old married man." I think a tête-à-tête with ſo harmleſs a creature as I am, can [Page 170] ſcarcely furniſh the goſſips with a ſubject, notwithſtanding the dearth of converſation in theſe parts." "If I thought you were harmleſs," anſwered lady [...], "I ſhould like your friendſhip of all things." This confeſſion was followed by the moſt profuſe, tender, ardent profeſſions of regard on the part of Mr. Seymour. Their plan of friendſhip was immediately fixed, and he took a future opportunity of diſcloſing his political ſcheme, at the moment when he ſaw it would ſucceed; alledging ſuch plauſible reaſons for the application, that ſhe had not the leaſt ſuſpicion that it originated in the moſt ſordid avarice. Lady [...], who ſcarcely knew the value of money herſelf, was not aware that Mr. Seymour could never be convinced that he poſſeſſed enough, while there was any means left untried of obtaining more. Avarice is a paſſion as deſpicable as it is hateful. It chuſes the moſt inſidious means for the attainment of its ends: it dares not purſue its object with the bold [Page 171] impetuoſity of the ſoaring eagle, but ſkims the ground in narrow circles like the ſwallow.
Mr. F [...] danced with Miſs Tomkins; who, however, perceived that his whole thoughts were bent upon Julia; a diſcovery which produced ſenſations of a very painful nature in the mind of Miſs Tomkins, who had for ſome time formed a ſerious matrimonial plot upon this gentleman, which ſhe now perceived would very probably be defeated. It is neceſſary to give a ſhort ſketch of the character of this young lady.
Miſs Tomkins was of low birth. Her father had a plodding head, and raiſed himſelf by unwearied diligence, and a conſtant and watchful attention to the main chance, from which nothing diverted his thoughts a ſingle moment. He was one of thoſe perſons whom Sterne deſcribes as walking ſtraight forward through the path of this world; turning neither to the right hand, nor the [Page 172] left; and his application to buſineſs was at length rewarded by his obtaining the office of ſteward to a nobleman poſſeſſed of a very conſiderable eſtate. His daughter, who was at that time in her twentythird year, was a young woman of ſuperior underſtanding, and quick penetration into character. She had received an excellent education; and her mind was highly cultivated. Her talents had introduced her into a reſpectable ſociety of the middle rank, perhaps the ſociety of all others from which the greateſt improvement may be derived; for the middle ſtation of life appears to be that temperate region, in which the mind, neither enervated by too full a ray from proſperity, nor chilled and debaſed by the freezing blaſt of penury, is in the ſituation moſt favourable for every great and generous exertion.
No ſooner was her father appointed ſteward to the earl of [...], than Miſs Tomkins perceived that a new and ſplendid [Page 173] career was opened to her ambition. The counteſs of [...] invited her to ſpend a ſhort time at their country ſeat. Miſs Tomkins availed herſelf of this invitation with eagerneſs, and ſoon made herſelf well acquainted with the character of lady [...], managed her foibles ſkilfully, and in a ſhort time became a great favourite, and a conſtant viſitor at her houſe. This acquaintance led to others of the ſame conſequence. Miſs Tomkins's friendſhips were formed upon the calculations of intereſt: ſhe was aware that all her proſpects of fortune depended upon her father's life, and was anxious to provide farther ſecurities of future affluence, in caſe this ſhould fail. But ſhe concealed the utmoſt ſubtlety of worldly policy, under the appearance of the greateſt diſintereſtedneſs, and the moſt tender and genuine ſenſibility. Among her friends, ſhe could number many people of talents, as well as rank; for her real character was only known to a few, to whom [Page 174] long acquaintance had developed it; but thoſe few had too much honour to betray her, and felt more contempt than indignation at her total neglect of them, now ſhe was introduced into an higher circle.
Mr. F [...] was a frequent viſitor at the houſe of her patroneſs. Miſs Tomkins found that he poſſeſſed accompliſhments ſufficient to gratify her pride, and a fortune ample enough to ſatisfy her ambition. He had appeared pleaſed with her converſation, and ſhe hoped, in the courſe of a few weeks paſſed with him at lord [...]'s ſeat, to confirm her empire over his heart; when the ſuperior attractions of Julia at once defeated all her projects. How often do we build a gay palace in the air, decorate it with gold and purple, and almoſt fancy the foundation is a ſubſtantial one; till a paſſing breeze ſhakes the fair fabric, and ſcarcely leaves even a broken pillar on which the imagination may reſt!
A Few days after the ball, lord and lady [...], Miſs Tomkins, and Mr. F [...], were invited to dinner at Mr. Clifford's. Mr. F [...] devoted his whole attention to Julia, which Mrs Seymour was in no diſpoſition to witneſs with the ſame complacency ſhe had done at the ball; for lord [...] was placed next another lady, and the other gentlemen at table were plain country ſquires.
Miſs Tomkins affected to diſtinguiſh Julia with particular fondneſs, in order to conceal the envy and averſion which rankled in her heart. The pain ſhe felt in making this effort, was perhaps a ſufficient puniſhment for her malignity; and it would have coſt her leſs trouble to conquer [Page 176] thoſe bad paſſions, than it did to hide them from obſervation.
Charlotte entertained her gueſts in the moſt engaging manner. Her ſweet countenance beamed with good-humour and vivacity; nor had ſhe a ſuſpicion that any of her company were ſtrangers to that conſcious ſerenity which filled her own gentle boſom. The pure and delicate ſenſations of a firſt paſſion, which is oppoſed by no duty, and embittered by no obſtacle, ſhed over the mind a ſweet enchantment, that renders every object agreeable, and every moment delightful: it is like that firſt freſh and vivid green which the early ſpring awakens; that lovely and tender verdure which is not found amidſt the glow of ſummer, and is as tranſitory as it is charming.
Julia felt nothing but indifference for Mr. F [...]; but ſhe ſaw that her behaviour was watched by Mr. Seymour, and was glad to avoid his ſcrutinizing looks, [Page 177] by engaging in converſation with that gentleman; which ſhe did with an appearance of pleaſure that threw Frederick Seymour into the utmoſt perturbation. This did not paſs unnoticed by his brother, who had diſcovered, from many little circumſtances ſince his arrival, that unhappy ſecret which Frederick Seymour thought was concealed from all obſervation. Mr. Seymour, however, determined to make no other uſe of his diſcovery than that of haſtening, as far as was in his power, his brother's marriage with Charlotte, which he conſidered as a connection too advantageous to be loſt for any reaſon whatever; nor did Mr. Seymour think that a paſſion for one woman was the ſmalleſt obſtacle to a marriage with another. He was himſelf a libertine, both in principle and practice: he had converſed chiefly with the moſt worthleſs part of the female ſex, and had conceived a very contemptible opinion of the principles of the female mind. He thought it was probable that [Page 178] Julia would ſoon marry: he ſaw, or fancied he ſaw, that his brother was not perfectly indifferent to her, and believed, that if he could not conquer his paſſion, he might at length find it returned.—Mr. Seymour's opinion was founded on his obſervation of Julia's extreme ſenſibility; but the concluſions of this reaſoner were drawn from falſe premiſes: he did not know that in a mind where the principles of religion and integrity are firmly eſtabliſhed, ſenſibility is not merely the ally of weakneſs, or the ſlave of guilt, but ſerves to give a ſtronger impulſe to virtue; nor could his own mind, which was hardened and debaſed by the freedom of a licentious life, form a conjecture of that horror which the idea of vice excites in a pure and ingenuous boſom. He did not know, that to a heart framed like that of Julia's, ſelf-reproach would be the moſt inſupportable of all evils; that ſhe had ſufficient fortitude to ſuſtain any miſery that was not connected with guilt, and [Page 179] ſufficient rectitude never to ſeparate the idea of pleaſure from that of virtue. Virtue is indeed the only true ſupport of pleaſure; which, when disjoined from it, is like a plant when its fibres are cut, which may ſtill look gay and lovely for a while, but ſoon decays and periſhes.
Mr. Seymour, who had a curioſity to know if Chartres had any ſuſpicion of his brother's partiality for Julia, propoſed a walk to him, and, after a little converſation on other ſubjects, ſaid to him, "Well, Mr. Chartres, is your heart in no danger among theſe fine young women? I ſuppoſe you feel no ſmall envy of my happy brother." "Why really, Sir," ſaid Chartres, "if I did not gueſs from my own feelings that it muſt be a pleaſant thing to be on the point of marriage with Miſs Charlotte Clifford, I ſhould never find it out from Mr. Frederick Seymour; for, to tell you the truth, I think if he diſliked the marriage, he would behave preciſely as he does now." "Did you ever [Page 180] make this remark to any one before?" "Yes, Sir; Miſs Julia Clifford and I were walking together, a few days ago, as we generally do; for I believe Mr. Frederick Seymour would ſee her fall down a rock before he would offer to aſſiſt her, ſo I have that honour; and perhaps I acquit myſelf but awkwardly, yet ſhe always ſeems better ſatisfied when I attend her, than when your brother offers his help. I really do not know how it has happened, Sir, but ſhe and Mr. Frederick Seymour ſeem to have taken a great averſion to each other; Is it not very ſtrange?" "Very ſtrange indeed, Mr. Chartres," ſaid Mr. Seymour drily, "that they ſhould feel ſo great an averſion as you mention: but let me hear what paſſed in your walk with Miſs Julia Clifford." Why, Sir, as we walked under the ſhade of that woody hill near the houſe, I heard Miſs Julia ſigh very deeply. "Pray, Ma'am," ſaid I, "don't ſigh ſo heavily, you are not going to be married." "What do you mean, Mr. Chartres?" ſaid ſhe. [Page 181] "Why, Ma'am," I replied, "what I meant was this, that Mr. Frederick Seymour, who is going to be married, does nothing but ſigh all day long; that is, when he and I are alone together; for, when any of you appear, he ſtarts up, rubs his eyes, and puts on quite another ſort of countenance. Now this behaviour ſeems to me quite inconſiſtent with reaſon, if he is happy; and by no means conſonant to philoſophy, if he is otherwiſe." "Well Sir," ſaid Mr. Seymour, "and what anſwer did the young lady make to theſe obſervations?" "Why, Sir, ſhe was ſilent ſo long, that I thought ſhe was not going to anſwer at all; but at laſt, ſhe ſaid, "that the ſeriouſneſs which I had remarked was probably natural to Mr. Frederick Seymour's diſpoſition, ſince he had certainly great reaſon to be happy at preſent;" ſhe then begged I would not mention his fits of gravity to Charlotte, becauſe ſuch intelligence would give her no pleaſure." "I entirely approve of Julia's advice," "ſaid Mr. Seymour, [Page 182] "and therefore we will keep the ſecret to ourſelves." "With all my heart, Sir," ſaid Chartres; "I own this is the firſt ſecret with which I was ever entruſted, but I have no doubt I ſhall be able to keep it."
Though ſome circumſtances had betrayed Frederick Seymour's paſſion to his brother, it eſcaped the vigilant obſervation of Mrs. Melbourne, who indeed ſeldom ſaw him but at meals. She however perceived that he was ſometimes abſent and thoughtful, which occaſionally happened in ſpite of all his efforts, and ſhe never failed to mention what ſhe had remarked to Charlotte, only giving to abſence and thoughtfulneſs, the epithets of ſullenneſs and caprice; immediately after, aſſerting how much ſuch qualities were to be dreaded in a huſband; aſſuring her, at the ſame time, that the heart of man was compoſed of ſuch ſlippery materials, that it could not long be retained by any plan of conduct, and that, upon the whole marriage [Page 183] was but another name for misfortune. Charlotte liſtened in ſubmiſſive ſilence to theſe comfortable aſſertions, but felt no inclination to bewail her own fate; and, notwithſtanding the gloomy forebodings of her aunt, thought that the evil, if ſuch it was, of a union with the man ſhe loved, might be ſubmitted to with reſignation. She could not be perſuaded, in conformity to her aunt's doctrine, that happineſs was as rare as the flower of the aloe, and that life was too ſhort for its cultivation; but believed that the bloſſoms of joy were ſcattered as liberally as the primroſe, or the violet, and that every traveller through the path of life might enjoy a ſhare of their ſweetneſs.
Meanwhile Frederick Seymour grew more and more wretched. Sometimes, with a degree of ſophiſtry which paſſion dictated, he reaſoned himſelf into a perſuaſion that it would be more generous to undeceive Charlotte, by making known to her the real ſtate of his mind, than to [Page 184] impoſe on her credulity, by receiving her hand, when his heart was devoted to another. But a high ſenſe of honor ſoon overturned this wretched caſuiſtry. To inflict anguiſh on a heart which repoſed on him with unſuſpicious confidence, was an idea he could not long ſupport; and he knew Julia's rectitude of mind too well, not to be convinced that ſuch a conduct would baniſh him from her ſight for ever. He felt that every principle of juſtice, and generoſity, demanded the abſolute ſacrifice of his own feelings; and he determined to marry Charlotte, to make her happineſs his chief object, and to confine his wretchedneſs within his own boſom.
Yet, while he formed theſe laudable reſolutions, he contrived, with ſtrange infatuation, to cheriſh his unhappy paſſion. One evening Charlotte, while ſhe was making tea, requeſted Julia to try ſome new muſic, which ſhe had received from London, on the piano forte. Julia pulled off her gloves, and placed them haſtily on [Page 185] her lap: one of them dropped on the floor while ſhe was playing. Frederick Seymour, who was walking up and down the room, ſeized a moment when Charlotte was talking to Mrs. Seymour, and pretending to be looking over ſome ſongs which lay on the piano forte, dropped one of them on the ſpot where the glove lay, which he contrived to pick up, at the ſame time putting it haſtily into his boſom. When Julia had finiſhed the piece of muſic, ſhe roſe from the piano forte, and miſſed one of her gloves: ſhe ſtooped to look for it, and Frederick Seymour affected to be buſy in looking for it too; but in a few moments left the room with precipitation. Julia continued a little longer her vain ſearch, and then haſtened to join the company, diſturbed and uneaſy from a ſuſpicion of what had really happened, which aroſe in her mind upon Seymour's leaving the room.
Seymour, when he reached his own apartment, locked the door, pulled the [Page 186] precious prize from his boſom, preſſed it to his heart and lips ten thouſand times, and was guilty of the moſt paſſionate extravagancies.
Affection, like genius, can build its ſtructures "on the baſeleſs fabric of a viſion;" and the eſtimation which things hold in a lover's fancy, can be tried by no calculations of reaſon. The lover, like the poor Indian, who prefers glaſs, beads and red feathers to more uſeful commodities, ſets his affections upon a trifle, which ſome illuſion of fancy has endeared, and which is to him more valuable than the gems of the eaſtern world, or the mines of the weſt; while reaſon, like the ſage European, who ſcorns beads and feathers, in vain condemns his folly.
When Seymour returned to the drawing-room, he was more gay, more animated, more agreeable than uſual; while Julia marked her reſentment of his conduct in the only way in her power, by [Page 187] behaving to him with the utmoſt reſerve and coldneſs.
Mr. F [...], after finding ſome pretence every day for a viſit to Mr. Clifford's, at length ventured to declare to Julia her power over his heart, and to make propoſals of marriage to her. Julia was ſenſible that by accepting Mr. F [...], ſhe would put a final end to her preſent perplexities, and perhaps baniſh for ever, from the mind of Seymour, that unhappy paſſion which her preſence nouriſhed. She felt too that Charlotte's friendſhip claimed every ſacrifice in her power; and, perhaps, many will think the ſacrifice it now required, might have been very eaſily made; and that, independently of all conſiderations reſpecting Charlotte, nothing could be more abſurd than to heſitate in accepting ſo advantageous an offer. It muſt be acknowledged, that the young people of the preſent age have in general the wiſdom to repreſs thoſe romantic feelings [Page 188] which uſed to triumph over ambition and avarice, and have adopted the prudent maxims of maturer life. Marriage is now founded on the ſolid baſis of convenience, and love is an article commonly omitted in the treaty. But Julia, who had paſſed her life in retirement, was not ſo far advanced in the leſſons of the world. Her heart, delicate, yet fervent in its affections, capable of the pureſt attachment, revolted at the idea of marrying where ſhe did not love; and, though ſhe was now unhappy, ſhe determined not to fly from her preſent evils to a ſpecies of wretchedneſs, of all others the moſt intolerable to a mind of her diſpoſition.
She refuſed Mr. F [...] in ſuch a manner as convinced him that he poſſeſſed much of her eſteem. He was a man of ſenſe and ſpirit: he did not, therefore, degrade himſelf by abject ſolicitation, or diſguſt the object of his affection by reiterating thoſe expreſſions of paſſion, which he knew were more likely to change [Page 189] indifference into averſion, than love; as the pale evening flower ſhrinks from the warmth of thoſe beams by which other flowers are cheriſhed. Mr. F [...] accepted with gratitude the friendſhip Julia offered him, and was, perhaps, not without hopes of inſpiring her in time with more tender ſentiments.
Miſs Tomkins, mean while, left lord [...]'s ſeat, and Mr. F [...], with infinite reluctance. But ſhe ſaw that he was an object of perfect indifference to Julia, and believed, that when rejected by that young lady, he would renew his attentions to herſelf.
ONE morning, when Mr. Clifford and Mr. Seymour were gone on a fiſhing party, and Mrs. Seymour was engaged in writing letters, Julia, at the requeſt of Charlotte, went out with her on horſeback, accompanied by Frederick Seymour, and Chartres. Charlotte propoſed that they ſhould take a path they had not yet explored, near the borders of the lake, which led to the ruins of an old abbey, about ſix miles diſtant.
The country afforded a wild variety of landſcape, but the view was ſometimes obſtructed by hills, and the path ſometimes winded under hanging rocks, piled rudely together. At length they came to a narrow road, which led for two miles along the edge of a precipice. A ridge of [Page 191] horrid cliffs frowned above, and at the bottom of this dangerous path was a deep chaſm, through which a noiſy, rapid ſtream, rolling over a ſtony channel, forced its way into the lake. Seymour trembled at every ſtep, not for himſelf, for no life was more indifferent to him than his own; but Julia was mounted on a very ſprightly horſe, who, if ſtartled by any object, would inevitably throw his fair rider into the gloomy abyſs beneath. Seymour's imagination was ſo poſſeſſed by this frightful image, that he was ſome time before he could recover his compoſure, after they had reached the end of this formidable road, which opened to a wooded hill, near whoſe broad baſe, on a gentle declivity, the ancient abbey was feated; commanding a view of the lake, with its ſublime ſcenery, and ſhaded by large groups of venerable trees.
Before he approached the abbey, Seymour inſiſted that the ladies ſhould not repaſs that formidable road on horſeback; [Page 192] and they agreed to ſend the ſervants and horſes forward, and walk thoſe two miles. Chartres expatiated on the prudence of this plan, after having made a declamation of ſome length, on the diſagreeable ſenſations of fear.
The party now came to the remains of an old wall, of conſiderable extent, that appeared to have ſurrounded the building. A mouldering gothic gate led to a ſpacious area overgrown with tall graſs: huge fragments of ſtone, which had fallen from the decayed towers, were ſcattered upon the ground, and rendered the acceſs difficult to the inner part of the abbey, which was on this ſide entirely diſmantled; there being only the remains of the ruined walls, and towards the eaſt a large gothic window, which ſhook at every blaſt, and appeared to be entirely ſupported by the branches of tall elms that had grown in the inſide of the building, among its ſcattered fragments.
On the other ſide of the abbey, a narrow [Page 193] ſtone ſtaircaſe of one of the towers ſtill remained; which Chartres having aſcended, haſtened to aſſure the ladies that the aſcent was extremely eaſy, and that when they reached the top they would find themſelves amply rewarded for their trouble. Charlotte, however, had not ſufficient courage for this expedition; but Julia was eager to explore every part of the ruins, and aſcended the ſtaircaſe with Chartres, notwithſtanding the remonſtrances of Seymour, who was perſuaded ſhe would meet with ſome accident, and caſt an indignant look at Chartres for making the propoſition. Julia found the ſtaircaſe much decayed: many of the ſteps were broken; the roof was ſo low that one could not ſtand upright; and the light was only admitted through narrow clefts in the thick ſtone wall. This aſcent opened on a turret which commanded a noble proſpect, and connected the ſhattered towers together; leading alſo to a narrow footway round the top of the chapel, the walls [Page 194] of which were ſtill entire, though the whole roof had fallen in, except one arch, carved with the moſt exquiſite fret-work, and which, when ſurveyed from below, ſeemed ſuſpended in air, and threatened with every breeze to cruſh the prying mortal who trod thoſe hallowed precincts. Seymour was obliged to remain below with Charlotte; and, when he looked up and ſaw Julia on that dangerous height, felt all his enthuſiaſm for ruined abbies vaniſh, and wiſhed this tottering pile had long ago been levelled to its foundations. Meantime, Julia gazed from the turret on the ſublime landſcape which ſurrounded her, and the venerable ruins, with that ſolemn emotion ſo grateful to a contemplative mind. "Surely," thought ſhe, (in the fervor of an elevated ſpirit,) "ſurely the inhabitants of this retreat were happy!—Ah, could it be difficult to renounce a world, where an ardent heart ſo often finds its hopes diſappointed, its joys embittered, and ſeek for `Peace, the ſacred ſiſter of [Page 195] the cell!' This vaſt expanſe of water, the diſtant ſound of that falling torrent, and thoſe lofty mountains that arreſt the clouds in their progreſs, muſt have inſpired a frame of mind, in which the concerns of the world are conſidered in all their littleneſs, and have no power to affect our tranquillity."—Such were the reflections which paſſed in Julia's mind, but which only laſted till ſhe was out of ſight of the abbey.
When ſhe deſcended from the turret, they walked over the floor of the chapel, which was now covered with looſe ſtones, half overgrown with nettles. Under the towers were a number of gloomy ſubterraneous apartments with vaulted roofs, the uſe of which imagination was left to gueſs, and could only appropriate to puniſhment and horror.
Charlotte, who had in vain reminded Julia ſeveral times of going home, now told her, "That ſhe hoped ſhe was not determined to take up her abode at the [Page 196] abbey; becauſe," added Charlotte, "though our own houſe is leſs ſublime, it has the advantage of being roofed." Julia conſented to go; and, as they paſſed through the area of the building, they heard the ſhrill cry of the daws and rooks, and the twittering note of the ſwallows and martins, which now occupied this habitation, deſerted by man.
When the party had paſſed through the old gateway, they ſtopped to look at the thick moſs, and rich folds of ivy, whoſe mantling branches overſpread, with the wildeſt luxuriance, this haunt of deſolation. The wind had riſen, and the lake was violently agitated: Julia turned her eyes from the abbey, to contemplate the ſurges of the lake, while Charlotte, who was at a little diſtance behind, leaning on Seymour, ſtopped to look at a cavity in the wall, in which the ſnail had made his neſt. At that moment a guſt of wind ſhook the building, and ſome looſe ſtones fell from the top of the wall and rolled [Page 197] with velocity down the hill, in the direction where Julia was walking; whom they would inevitably have cruſhed in their paſſage, if Seymour had not flown with impetuoſity and ſnatched her from the impending deſtruction. She received no other injury than a blow from a ſmall ſtone, that ſtruck her ancle, which was bruiſed by the ſtroke, and became ſwelled and painful from the ſwiftneſs with which he had hurried her over the rough and hilly grounds. Supported by Charlotte and Seymour, who, in his preſent agitation, forgot his uſual ſcruples, and felt no diſpoſition to reſign his charge to Chartres, Julia walked on ſlowly. Chartres was ſent forward to the place where the ſervants and horſes were waiting, with orders that one of the men ſhould haſten home, and ſend the carriage to that ſpot. In the mean time, Julia walked with great difficulty along that narrow and dangerous road which has been before deſcribed, and which was two miles in length; but [Page 198] ſhe had not gone far before her ancle ſwelled ſo much, that it could ſupport her weight no longer, and ſhe was unable to proceed. "I will go," ſaid Seymour, "and bring the ſervants to aſſiſt me, in conveying Miſs Clifford to the carriage." "No, no," replied Charlotte, "here is no place for Julia to reſt on: you can ſupport her better than me, and I will run to the top of this riſing ground, and look for the carriage." "Mr. Seymour will go faſter than you," ſaid Julia. "I ſhall be back inſtantly," replied Charlotte; and ſhe flew with a light ſtep up the hill, before Julia had time to frame any farther objection to her going. Julia felt uneaſy at being left alone with Seymour: ſhe was obliged to lean on his arm, and he hung over her in ſilence, but with a look that ſpoke his feelings more forcibly than any words he could have uttered.—She wiſhed to ſpeak, but had no power to make the effort; and appeared to feel conſiderable pain. "Oh, why was I not a moment [Page 199] ſooner," ſaid Seymour, with much emotion, "that I might have ſaved you thoſe ſufferings!" "They are very trifling," ſaid Julia, "and you have ſurely no cauſe of ſelf-reproach on that ſcore, ſince you preſerved my life at the riſk of your own." "Oh," cried he with vehemence, "if you knew in how little eſtimation I hold my life, you would not think I had any merit in having hazarded it:—but the reflection that I have been the inſtrument of your preſervation, I ſhall ever cheriſh as the moſt delightful that can occupy my mind!" He ſpoke, but Julia could no longer liſten: overcome with pain of body, and agitation of mind, ſhe grew faint; and Charlotte, at that moment, returned with Chartres: and the ſervants, who aſſiſted Seymour in conveying Julia to the carriage. She had walked a conſiderable way after the accident: her ancle was violently ſwelled, and bruiſed by the blow, and the pain ſhe ſuffered, joined to more than common fatigue that [Page 200] morning, occaſioned ſome degree of fever; and ſhe was confined a few days to her room.
Frederick Seymour now found, that, however painful were his ſenſations in her preſence, the pang which her abſence awakened was more inſupportable than any other. Although ſhe conſtantly treated him with a degree of reſerve, which wrung his heart with anguiſh, it was ſtill a conſolation to be near her. It was ſoothing to hear her voice, though her lips to him had loſt their utterance. It was a pleaſure to hang upon her looks, though from him her eyes were averted. He was ſo reſtleſs and uneaſy, that he did little elſe but wander from one apartment to another, ſeizing with avidity the moſt trivial information he could procure reſpecting her, from any of the family.
Mr. Seymour was almoſt as anxious as his brother for Julia's recovery; for he ſaw, that if her illneſs laſted much longer, there was ſome reaſon to fear that his behaviour [Page 201] would betray the ſecrets of his heart, and that Charlotte's great fortune would be loſt to the family. When Julia was well enough to leave her room, ſhe was led to the drawing-room by Charlotte, who placed her on the ſofa, and then left her to dreſs for dinner. A ſhort time after, Frederick Seymour entered the room, without knowing ſhe was there. His delight at ſeeing her was too great to be ſuppreſſed: he flew to the ſofa, ſeized her hand, which ſhe in vain endeavoured to withdraw, preſſed it to his lips, and poured forth expreſſions of the moſt unbounded rapture at her recovery. "You ſeem determined, Sir," ſaid Julia, ſnatching her hand from him, "to make me wiſh I was ſtill confined to my room." "How cruel, how inhuman," cried he, "after ſo many days of diſtraction, to forbid the momentary expreſſion of joy, which ruſhes from my ſoul to my lips at the ſight of you! What have I done? how have I deſerved?"— [Page 202] "Oh heaven!" ſaid Julia, leaning back on the ſofa, and turning very pale, "how have I deſerved this perſecution?—Leave me, Sir, inſtantly; I am too weak at preſent"—She ſtopt, unable to proceed. Seymour, with a frantic look, paſſionately exclaimed, "Oh, wretch that I am!—you are ill—look up, angelic excellence!—what have I ſaid? have I dared to utter a complaint? a complaint of you!—Oh, ſay but you forgive me! men ſtretched upon the rack, in the extremity of their miſery, are ſometimes wicked enough to impeach the guiltleſs."—Mr. Chartres at this moment entered the room, and made Julia a low bow, accompanied with all the poſitions, which were very familiar to him at preſent; for he had practiſed a little dancing privately in his own room every day ſince the ball, with a laudable wiſh to make himſelf more agreeable to the ladies. He congratulated Julia upon her recovery, informing her, at the ſame time, "that the whole human race were ſubject [Page 203] to accident, and infirmity; that ſuch was the law of our nature, from which neither the vigor of youth nor the bloom of beauty were exempt; and recommending to her earneſtly the ſtudy of mathematics, which, if ſhe felt any diſpoſition to repine, would fortify her mind againſt the caſualties of life."
Julia, though ſhe was unable to liſten to his harangue, found a relief in his preſence, and in a few minutes grew better; While Frederick Seymour walked up and down the room in a diſtracted manner, frequently putting his hand to his forehead with the action of a man in deſpair, and enquiring of Julia, a thouſand times over, if ſhe found herſelf better; till the appearance of the reſt of the family obliged him to rouſe his faculties, and aſſume a look of calmneſs to which his heart was a ſtranger.
Charlotte, during Julia's confinement to her room, had found her one morning [Page 204] looking over ſome papers; and ſpied among them a Sonnet to Hope, written by Julia, of which Charlotte took a copy.
MR. Seymour now fixed the day for his departure from Mr. Clifford's ſeat, where the uniform mode of living began to grow extremely irkſome to him, who required variety of amuſements, who was accuſtomed to a wide range of diſſipation and gaiety, and could not long be confined, without diſguſt, to the circle of domeſtic enjoyments. Beſides, every purpoſe of his viſit was now fully anſwered, having ſtaid a ſufficient time to ingratiate himſelf completely into Mr. Clifford's favor, who conceived the higheſt opinion of his worth, and offered to aſſiſt him with all his influence, (which his large fortune rendered very conſiderable in the county where he lived,) in ſome electioneering buſineſs. Independently, however, of this [Page 206] particular conſideration, Mr. Seymour had foreſeen that Mr. Clifford's intereſt might on many occaſions be of uſe, and had therefore determined to ſecure it himſelf, truſting but little to the mediation of Frederick Seymour, who he knew was a novice in the arts of ſolicitation, and was not likely to make any improvement in a ſcience which he diſdained.
Mr. Seymour had ſecured Julia's eſteem by his apparent candour and benevolence, and had obtained her admiration by the brilliancy of his converſation, and his fine taſte for thoſe elegant arts which ſhe loved with the fondeſt enthuſiaſm. She ſaw that he had long diſcovered his brother's paſſion for her, and felt grateful to him for the kindneſs and delicacy with which, on many occaſions, he had relieved her embarraſſments, without appearing to obſerve them, and had often ſaved Frederick Seymour from betraying his emotions, by giving a playful turn to the converſation. Julia was not aware, that Mr. Seymour's [Page 207] motive for this conduct was neither kind nor delicate; and aroſe merely from his apprehenſion of his brother's loſing an advantageous marriage, in which the intereſt of the whole family was concerned. But the real motives which influence men of the world, can be as little known from their actions, as the original hue of ſome muddy ſubſtance, which, by chemical operations, has been made to aſſume a tint of the pureſt colour.
The taſk of obtaining Julia's friendſhip was by no means unpleaſant to Mr. Seymour, who was charmed with her beauty, and ſometimes extolled it with a freedom of admiration, which he found was extremely diſguſting to a mind ſo delicate, and from which he had therefore at length the prudence to deſiſt.
It was agreed that Frederick Seymour ſhould accompany Mr. and Mrs. Seymour, and Mrs. Melbourne, to London, to ſettle ſome affairs, and to hire a villa which Mr. Seymour recommended to him, about [Page 208] thirty miles from town; where he might bring Charlotte immediately upon her marriage, which was to take place within a fortnight.
Mrs. Melbourne looked forward with ſecret ſatisfaction to the period of her departure from Mr. Clifford's, for ſhe began to grow exceedingly tired for want of her uſual occupations; having no ſervants to ſcold when alone, and to complain of when in company; and, though in Mr. Clifford's numerous train of domeſtics ſhe ſaw a fine field for action, yet ſhe was not at liberty to diſplay her talents for command, and could take no part in the management of the houſehold, except that of warning Charlotte againſt the impoſitions of ſervants, whom ſhe always mentioned as the moſt degenerate of the human race. But, unhappily for the ſucceſs of theſe doctrines, Charlotte had already found by experience, that kindneſs awakened gratitude, and that confidence enſured affection. The human heart revolts againſt oppreſſion, and [Page 209] is ſoothed by gentleneſs, as the wave of the ocean riſes in proportion to the violence of the winds, and ſinks with the breeze into mildneſs and ſerenity. Mrs. Melbourne met with as little encouragement in the comments which ſhe occaſionally made upon the viſitors at Mr. Clifford's houſe; where ſhe could find no perſon to whom ſarcaſm and ſeverity were agreeable, except Mrs. Seymour, and began to pine for more auditors.
In this manſion, which was the abode of benevolence and univerſal good-will, Mrs. Melbourne was in the ſituation of an unfortunate waſp who has loſt his ſting, and, though he ſtill feels a great inclination for miſchief, has no power to gratify it. The frequent reading parties at Mr. Clifford's afforded that lady as little amuſement as the ſtile of converſation in this family; where the beſt new publications were ſent from town, and peruſed with a degree of candour, which gave her no ſmall offence. She felt that, next to [Page 210] beſtowing money, nothing was ſo diſagreeable as beſtowing praiſe; and was almoſt as avaricious of commendation as of gold, to all except her daughter, to whom ſhe was ever ready to give an accumulated heap of both. Mrs. Melbourne was, however, too prudent to diſpute the merit of thoſe literary performances, whoſe claims to applauſe had been long appreciated by the voice of the public; but, where genius was not clad in the ſtrong armour of mature reputation, ſhe crept like the ſnake to the cradle of Hercules, and with better ſucceſs, for ſhe could dart upon an infant author with great ſkill and ingenuity—
Damn with faint praiſe, aſſent with civil leer,And, without ſneering, teach the reſt to ſneer.
But what, more than either her deſire of power, or her fondneſs of ſatire, impelled Mrs. Melbourne to haſten her departure, was, that ſhe had caught a cold, and began to apprehend that the air of the north was too ſharp for her conſtitution. She had a [Page 211] more than common horror at the thoughts of dying, and, whenever that terrific idea obtruded itſelf, haſtened to baniſh it from her affrighted mind by every effort in her power; and, when ſhe failed of ſucceſs, endeavoured to find comfort in recollecting all the inſtances of longevity ſhe had ever heard, and which were carefully treaſured in her memory. She found ſome refuge for her fears in ſuch of her acquaintances as were older, and more infirm than herſelf; and hoped, by an unremitting care of her own perſon, to extend life to its utmoſt limits: but, when attacked by the ſlighteſt malady, ſhe inſtantly fancied that ſhe perceived the approaches of the griſly phantom, couched under the head-ach, or advancing in the rear of a cold, and armed herſelf for defence with a formidable force of medicine. Nor was there a diſorder to which the human frame is liable, of which ſhe had not felt, at ſome period or other, the moſt indubitable ſymptoms. Her phyſician, [Page 212] who was a man of a very liberal mind, ſometimes reaſoned, and ſometimes laughed at her weakneſs; but pleaſantry and reaſon were both adminiſtered in vain to her diſtempered imagination, which preferred a preſcription to argument, and a cordial drug to the gayeſt effuſions of wit.
The day of Mr. Seymour's departure arrived, and Mr. Clifford propoſed, with his daughter and niece, to accompany the travellers twenty miles on their journey. The whole family accordingly ſet out together. Julia was at ſome pains to avoid going in the ſame carriage with Frederick Seymour; and, at the inn where the party ſtopped to breakfaſt before they ſeparated, ſhe was careful to place herſelf at a diſtance from him. He did not venture to approach her, but appeared thoughtful and melancholy.
When the carriages were ready, Charlotte took hold of Mrs. Seymour's arm, and they went out together. Frederick [Page 213] Seymour was near the door, and Julia kept back, pretending to look at ſomething from the window, till ſhe thought he was gone: but he ſuffered the other gentlemen to paſs him, and then, after deſiring aloud to have the honour of handing her down ſtairs, he ſtopt her for a moment, and ſaid, in the greateſt agitation, "Muſt I, then, leave you under the cruel impreſſion of having entirely forfeited your eſteem." "If that, Sir, was of any value to you—" "If," interrupted he, with vehemence, "it was of any value to me! What a cruel ſurmiſe!—Ah, when that eſteem is altogether loſt, the link by which I hold my exiſtence will be broken. In pity to the wretchedneſs of my heart, ſay that you will forgive the paſt." "I will remember it no more."
They now reached the door of the inn, and Frederick Seymour, in the perturbation of his mind, almoſt forgot to bid Charlotte farewel; who, however, attributed [Page 214] his apparent chagrin to the thoughts of his ſeparation from herſelf.
Mr. Chartres had diſplayed ſo much unaffected ſorrow at the proſpect of leaving Mr. Clifford's, that he received an invitation from that gentleman to remain with him till his return to town. This young man had one peculiarity in which he reſembled Mr. Nathaniel Transfer*; (a perſonage whoſe acquaintance every reader of taſte is, no doubt, proud to acknowledge). Mr. Chartres only liked thoſe things to which he had been long accuſtomed. He had looked forward to his introduction at Mr. Clifford's with a degree of apprehenſion which ſometimes deprived him of appetite, and ſometimes of reſt; but, being now accuſtomed to the family, he deſired no happineſs beyond its ſociety, and was in tranſports of joy when he found that happineſs would be prolonged; remarking, in their way home, "That pleaſure, after uneaſineſs, was particularly [Page 215] grateful to the heart of man; and, in my opinion," added he, "the country, to thoſe who have a competent knowledge of Greek, Latin, and experimental philoſophy, is far preferable to a town." "Well, Mr. Chartres," ſaid Charlotte, "I can entertain myſelf in the country without being obliged to any of your auxiliaries." But a man who has leiſure," rejoined Chartres, "ſhould not live merely for his own entertainment, but have recourſe to ſcience, for the benefit of poſterity." Charlotte aſked him, "if he intended, in kindneſs to poſterity, to adopt thoſe ſtudies when he came back from the Eaſt?" "Certainly," anſwered Chartres; "and although I conſider riches as an ignoble purſuit, my love of experimental philoſophy will prompt me to acquire wealth, in the hopes of adding ſomething to the ſtock of uſeful learning at my return to my native country."
Mr. Clifford and his party, in their way home, came to the foot of a very ſteep [Page 216] hill, and Charlotte propoſed that they ſhould alight, and walk up the hill. In their way, they paſſed a ſmall cottage, or rather hut, where they ſaw a lovely young woman, who appeared about eighteen years of age, ſitting at the door, and crying bitterly: two little girls were crying with her. "What is the matter?" ſaid Charlotte: one of the children anſwered, "that ſhe cried becauſe Hannah cried." "Have you met with any misfortune?" ſaid Charlotte. "My poor dog, Madam," anſwered the young woman, ſobbing, "I have loſt him." "Is that all?" rejoined Charlotte, "you can get another dog." "But he will not have been Harry's dog," replied the young woman; who then, in a voice often choaked by tears, told Charlotte her ſtory. She had been courted by a young peaſant, and the day was fixed for their wedding. Her father and mother were both dead; but her brother, with whom ſhe lived, had bought her a new gown, and a ſet of red ribbands for her [Page 217] marriage; when her lover returning home from his work one ſtormy night, acroſs a rapid ſtream, the boat overſet, and the young man was drowned. His dog, Rover, had jumped into the water, dragged his maſter on ſhore, and then lay down near the dead body moaning moſt piteouſly. Hannah, and her brother, who began to fear, from Harry's long ſtay, that ſome evil had befallen him, went out to look for him, and found his corpſe on the bank of the ſtream, and Rover ſtretched beſide it. Poor Hannah, at the ſight of her dead lover, wiſhed to die too; but her brother intreated her to be comforted, and live for the ſake of her young brothers and ſiſters. It was with difficulty that Hannah could be torn from her lover's corpſe, and Rover ſeemed as unwilling to leave it as herſelf. "Rover," ſhe ſaid, "if he had been a chriſtian, could not have loved his maſter better, or took his loſs more to heart; and ever ſince that time, it had been a ſort of comfort to her to have the [Page 218] poor dog always with her. Many a time," ſhe ſaid, "ſhe had talked to him of his maſter, and often, when they had not victuals enough for themſelves and Rover too, ſhe had gone without a morſel, to give it to him; for Rover eat as much as any of the children; and now he had gone and loſt himſelf in the wood." Julia aſked her "if it was not a pleaſure to take care of thoſe pretty children, and ſee them thrive." She ſaid "Yes, ſhe would try and live as long as ſhe could, for their ſakes, but ſhe knew her heart would break at laſt." A countryman now appeared at a diſtance, calling out, "Hannah, Hannah!" He was her brother, with Rover in his arms. Hannah flew to the dog, kiſſed him a thouſand times, and aſked him, how he could leave her? Rover wagged his tail heartily, and ſeemed to partake in the joy of their meeting. There were many marks of extreme poverty diſcernible in theſe poor people, and their habitation, although they made no complaint. But [Page 219] it would ſeem that the precious eſſence of content can be more eaſily extracted from the ſimple materials of the poor, than from the various preparations of the rich. Its pure and fine ſpirit riſes from a few plain ingredients, brighter and clearer than from that magical cup of diſſipation, where the powerful, and the wealthy, with lengthened incantations, pour their coſtly infuſions—"double, double, toil and trouble!"
Mr. Clifford aſked Peter, "How he could get enough by his work to maintain ſo large a family?" Peter ſaid, "To be ſure it was not eaſy, but they were good children, and moreover, he had promiſed his father, when he lay a dying, to take care of them; but ſometimes he could get no work, and then it went a little hard with them to be ſure." Mr. Clifford, touched by the ſimple goodneſs of this young peaſant, generouſly offered to give him a cottage in his own neighbourhood and to employ him in working in his [Page 220] grounds. The propoſal was accepted with tranſport; and, the very next day, Peter, accompanied by Hannah, the children, and Rover, ſet out for his new habitation.
Julia and Charlotte employed themſelves in making camlet-gowns and round caps for the children, who were delighted with their new finery; while poor Hannah cried, and ſaid, "ſhe never thought to be ſo happy again; and ſhe wiſhed Harry had but lived to ſee the little ones in their new gowns, for he always loved the children." The happineſs of this poor family was amply ſhared by their kind benefactors. Charlotte was ſo buſy in furniſhing their cottage, and providing for their wants, that ſhe almoſt forgot the abſence of her lover; and Julia aſſiſted, with delighted aſſiduity, in theſe offices of charity.
FREDERICK Seymour, in his letters to Charlotte, informed her that buſineſs would detain him in town longer than he expected; and the day he fixed for his return was only that preceding the day of his marriage. Afraid of truſting his feelings in ſo critical a ſituation, he determined to delay his return as long as it was poſſible.
The day before that on which Seymour was expected, Mr. Clifford was invited to a gentleman's houſe in the neighbourhood, where an old friend of his was juſt arrived from the Eaſt Indies, and was to paſs one night in his way to the habitation of his parents. Mr. Clifford could not deny himſelf the ſatisfaction of preſenting his daughter to his friend; and [Page 222] Charlotte, though her mind was too much occupied by the approaching change in her ſituation, to leave her any inclination for company, determined to go, becauſe her father wiſhed it.
Julia, agitated and oppreſſed, deſired nothing ſo much as a day of ſolitude, in which ſhe might fortify her mind by reflection, form plans for her future conduct, ſettle every account with her own heart, and prepare to meet Frederick Seymour with compoſure, and even chearfulneſs. She therefore complained of being ſlightly indiſpoſed, and requeſted permiſſion to remain at home, which was reluctantly granted. Mr. Chartres accompanied Mr. Clifford and Charlotte, and Julia ſaw them depart with pleaſure, ſoothed with the proſpect of one day of tranquillity. She walked to her favourite nook, that overhung the lake, and contemplated the majeſty of nature; paſſed ſome hours in meditation, and returned home with a mind [Page 223] elevated above the ſadneſs and depreſſion with which ſhe had ſet out.
After dinner ſhe viſited ſome of the cottagers. It was a bright afternoon in October, and ſhe loitered in her way home to admire the rich variety of tints which were caſt on the ſurrounding ſcenery; ſhe then ſaw the ſetting ſun ſinking ſlowly behind a hill at ſome diſtance, from which a vapour aſcended that was tinged, as it aroſe, by the glowing rays, and gave the broad ſummit of the hill the appearance of a ſtream of floating flame.
Julia had never before obſerved this effect of the ſetting ſun, which ſhe gazed at till the bright viſion gradually diſſolved, and "Twilight grey, had in her ſober liv'ry all things clad." To a lover of nature, the laſt days of autumn are peculiarly intereſting. We take leave of the fading beauties of the ſeaſon with a melancholy emotion, ſomewhat ſimilar to that which we feel in bidding farewell to a lively and agreeable companion, whoſe preſence has diffuſed gladneſs, whoſe [Page 224] ſmile has been the ſignal of pleaſure, and whom we are uncertain of beholding again: for, though the period of his return is fixed, who, amidſt the caſualties of life, can be ſecure, that, in the interval of abſence, his eye ſhall not be cloſed in darkneſs, and his heart have loſt the ſenſation of delight?
When Julia returned to the houſe, ſhe found one of the ſervants was ſent back by Charlotte with a note, informing her, that her father had been prevailed on to remain that night. Julia was thankful for this reprieve. She congratulated herſelf on the comfort of one evening of undiſturbed calmneſs, brought a volume of each of her favourite poets, Pope and Thomſon, from the library, and ordered tea, to which ſhe thought that ſtillneſs and poetry gave a more agreeable flavor than uſual, when the door was ſuddenly opened by Frederick Seymour. At his appearance, ſhe ſtarted from her ſeat; but, immediately recollecting herfelf, ſpoke [Page 225] to him with all the compoſure ſhe could aſſume. "Mr. Seymour," ſaid ſhe, "you were ſo little expected to-night, that my uncle and Charlotte are gone to pay a viſit." "I thought," he anſwered, with great emotion, "that it would not have been in my power to return to-night, but, as my buſineſs was finiſhed, I had little inclination to remain abſent till to-morrow." He appeared in much agitation. Julia, on her part, determined to ſupport the trial of the evening with firmneſs and dignity, talked on ſubjects of indifference. Afraid of any interval of ſilence, ſhe made an effort, the moſt painful, to keep up a converſation, almoſt intirely unſupported on the part of Seymour; and, without ſeeming to obſerve his confuſion, continued ſpeaking, till at length he recovered ſome degree of compoſure.
When other topics were exhauſted, Julia, diſturbed and unhappy, almoſt unable to ſpeak, and yet terrified to remain ſilent, had recourſe, in her perplexities, to the [Page 226] ſetting ſun, whoſe uncommon appearance that evening ſhe deſcribed; though, in the preſent perturbation of her thoughts, it had loſt all power of affecting her imagination: ſhe painted the ſcene with little energy, and the picture ſeemed to intereſt Seymour ſtill leſs than herſelf. She then talked of the country, which was, at preſent, as indifferent to her as the ſetting ſun; and obliged Seymour to repeat deſcriptions of the ſublime ſcenes of Switzerland, which he had often given her before with animation and ſpirit, and which he now gave with the utmoſt coldneſs and difficulty. Thence ſhe took refuge in Italy, and made him lead her through half Europe, glad to be tranſported, as far as poſſible from herſelf.
Tea was protracted as long as ſhe could—it was having ſomething to do. When that reſource failed, ſhe took up her work, affected to be very buſy, and aſked him to read ſome of Pope's moral epiſtles, which lay upon the table. He read very [Page 227] ill, and with ſuch abſence of mind, that, when Julia, at the end of an epiſtle, mentioned the paſſages which particularly pleaſed her, he anſwered in ſuch a manner as ſhewed that he ſcarcely recollected the ſubject. At length the deſcription of Timon's villa put him in mind of the contraſt between that and the beautiful villa he had juſt taken; and he laid down the book, to give Julia an account of the diſpoſition of the grounds, with which ſhe appeared extremely pleaſed. "And when will you viſit it?" ſaid Seymour, in a tone of emotion. "Probably next ſummer," ſhe anſwered. "Not till next ſummer!" rejoined Seymour. "You will, I believe, be ſettled in town," ſaid Julia, "before my uncle leaves this place; if not, we ſhall certainly come in ſearch of Charlotte." "Charlotte!" he repeated—"ſhe is very amiable." "She is indeed," ſaid Julia, with earneſtneſs, "every thing the heart can wiſh in a domeſtic companion." She then gave Seymour [Page 228] the hiſtory of the poor peaſant's family, and deſcribed, with enthuſiaſm, Charlotte's active benevolence. "Oh! way," ſaid Seymour, with an emotion he ſeemed wholly unable to controul, "why, when Charlotte poſſeſſes ſo many virtues, ſhould there exiſt one, to whom Charlotte—Oh Julia! your penetration has diſcovered—" She immediately roſe to leave the room. "Oh ſtay but one moment," he eagerly cried, "in compaſſion, Madam, ſtay but while I ſolemnly aſſure you, that you have nothing more to fear from my complaints—that they ſhall never again be uttered in your preſence, that they ſhall never again diſturb your felicity.—Oh may every felicity attend you!—may you be happy, when the grave ſhall have covered my deſpair, and my heart ſhall retain no longer thoſe ſenſations, which are interwoven with my exiſtence." Julia walking towards the door as faſt as ſhe could, he came up to her: "Say but [Page 229] you forgive me—Oh go not, Madam, if you wiſh me to preſerve life or reaſon, go not from me in diſpleaſure!" She turned back: her eyes were filled with tears. "I return, Sir," ſhe ſaid, in a faltering voice, "only to tell you, that another ſcene like this, will force me to forſake the aſylum I have found beneath my uncle's roof, and conceal myſelf where I may never more be heard of." "Oh do not terrify me with ſuch images; in compaſſion forgive the ravings of madneſs, and never ſhall they again offend you." The anguiſh of his looks, and the extreme perturbation of his voice and manner affected her. "I will forget what is paſt," ſhe faintly pronounced. He ſeized her hand, and preſſed it to his heart. She haſtened out of the room: he held the door open, and looked after her, till ſhe had croſſed the ſaloon, and was out of ſight.
When ſhe had ſufficiently recovered [Page 230] herſelf, ſhe rung the bell for her maid, told her ſhe was not very well, and deſired, that one of the ſervants would beg of Mr. Seymour to order ſupper for himſelf at what hour he choſe. Seymour paſſed the evening in an agitation of mind, which gave him reaſon to repent of the weakneſs that had led him to change his reſolution not to return till the next day.
Julia, for a ſhort time, indulged that ſadneſs excited by the painful ſcene which had paſt. She then tried to read, but could not command her attention, and walked to a window, where ſhe ſaw, above ſome dark rocks, that overhung the lake in the ſhape of ruins, the ſky tinged with a variety of colours, which were reflected on the ſurface of the water. The northern lights flaſhed over the hemiſphere, and their motion was ſtronger than uſual. Julia gazed a conſiderable [Page 231] time on thoſe beautiful appearances of nature, and in ſuch contemplation, which had ever a moſt powerful effect on her mind, regained ſome compoſure before ſhe retired to reſt.
THE following morning Julia breakfaſted in her own apartment, and Mr. Clifford and Charlotte returned ſoon after. Through the courſe of this day, Julia avoided, as much as was in her power, the ſight of Seymour, for ſhe trembled leſt any diſcovery of his feelings ſhould yet prevent the marriage, and earneſtly wiſhed for the arrival of the ſucceeding day, which would for ever unite him to another, and, by baniſhing all ſuſpence and doubt, lead him to exert the conſtancy and reſolution of his ſpirit. And ſhe hoped, that when his ſituation was irrevocable, the certainty of its being ſo would prove a great and powerful antidote againſt the indulgence of unavailing regrets.
[Page 233] Mr. Clifford was in high ſpirits, and Chartres diſplayed, though ſomewhat in a bungling manner, his ſympathy in the felicity of his friends. The whole houſe was a ſcene of general chearfulneſs; the ſervants were buſy in adjuſting their ſilver favours, and making preparations for the marriage day; and, as Charlotte was beloved by every individual in the family, all were ſolicitous and proud to diſplay their joy and exultation.
Mean while, Seymour paſſed the day in the moſt violent ſtruggles of paſſion, the moſt cruel conflict between honour and inclination. But, when we attempt to deſcribe the ſtruggles of paſſion, how inadequate is language to its purpoſe!—Where are the words that ſhall convey a juſt idea of the pangs of wounded affection?—Alas! the heart can feel more ſtrongly than the imagination can paint; and, even while we heave the ſigh of commiſeration for the ſufferer, we do not reflect on the full force of his ſufferings. [Page 234] We cannot exactly judge of the bitterneſs of thoſe moments when the overwhelmed ſpirit flies to ſolitude to give vent to its ſtifled agonies; when ſorrow abſorbs every faculty of the ſoul; when it rejects every thought of conſolation, and finds a gloomy indulgence in nouriſhing its own wretchedneſs! Yet Seymour was obliged to appear not merely contented, but animated and happy. Oh, ſurely the moment in which miſery is moſt intolerable to the human mind, is, when we are condemned to conceal its deſpondency under the maſk of joy! to wear a look of gladneſs, while our ſouls are bleeding with that wound which gives a mortal ſtab to all our future peace! It is then that the anguiſh, which has been for a moment repulſed to make room for other ideas, ruſhes with redoubled force upon the ſickening heart, and oppreſſes it with a ſpecies of torment little ſhort of madneſs. The effuſions of gaiety, which [Page 235] are ſo exhilarating to a mind at eaſe, come to an aching breaſt as a ray of the ſun falls upon ice, too deep to be penetrated by its influence.
Charlotte and Julia, the next morning, went in one carriage, and Mr. Clifford, Seymour, and Chartres, in another, to the church of [...], where the marriage ceremony was performed. They returned, accompanied by the clergyman, to breakfaſt, after which, the new-married pair were to ſet out for the country ſeat that was prepared for their reception and where they were to paſs ſome weeks. When the carriages which were to convey the married couple, and their attendants, were ready, Charlotte, after embracing Julia, and taking leave of Chartres, felt her heart too full at this awful ſeparation from her father, to bid him farewell before a number of witneſſes: ſhe could not truſt her voice, but, taking his hand, led him to another room. The clergyman and Chartres ſauntered, mean time, to the door of the [Page 236] ſaloon, to examine the equipage in waiting; and Seymour and Julia were left together. "Will you ſuffer me," he ſaid, "Miſs Clifford, before I go, to expreſs the regret—the contrition I feel, for all the uneaſineſs my conduct muſt have given you? May I implore you to baniſh from your remembrance, that perſecution for which I feel the trueſt penitence; and to believe that my reſpect, my admiration of your virtues—" "Talk no more, Sir, of the paſt," ſhe replied: then, riſing from her ſeat, ſhe added, "I muſt go in ſearch of Charlotte." "Will you not," rejoined Seymour, "greatly as I have offended, beſtow one generous wiſh for my peace at parting?" "I ſincerely wiſh, Sir, your felicity, and ſurely no mortal has a fairer proſpect of happineſs than yourſelf." "Of happineſs!" he exclaimed, and, after a moment's pauſe, added, "May you, Madam, be happy as your virtues deſerve, happy as I wiſh you!—To hear of your felicity will be the only"—then checking [Page 237] himſelf, he ſaid, "but I will not preſume to detain you." Julia was haſtening out of the room, when Mr. Clifford and Charlotte returned: the two friends again embraced each other in ſilence. Mr. Clifford led his daughter to the carriage, Seymour followed, and in a few minutes Charlotte was out of ſight of her paternal dwelling.
Mr. Clifford feaſted his tenants liberally; who drank with much vociferation to the happineſs of their fair miſtreſs; and the day was paſſed in feſtivity. Chartres joined heartily in the general mirth, and, when his ſpirits were elevated by repeated toaſts to Charlotte's felicity, ſung his beſt ſongs for the entertainment of the company. He had a very powerful voice, and ſung as he danced, with all his ſtrength and might, and as if he thought the firſt excellence of ſinging was to be loud.
Julia, in an adjoining apartment, thankfully liſtened to this noiſy merriment, which, by engaging Mr. Clifford's attention, [Page 238] ſpared her the taſk of ſtruggling with a conſcious ſadneſs that weighed upon her heart, and which, though ſhe determined to ſubdue it, refuſed to be inſtantly repulſed by any effort of her reaſon. Chartres alarmed her not a little, by enquiring of Mr. Clifford, "what could be the reaſon that Mr. Seymour turned as pale as death when he preſented his bride with the wedding-ring?" Mr. Clifford replied, "That it was not uncommon to be agitated on ſo ſolemn an occaſion." To this Chartres rejoined, "That Mr. Seymour's countenance that morning, had convinced him, that matrimony was a very ſolemn affair indeed."
JULIA's perplexities were now over. She felt that ſhe ought to be happy, and endeavoured to perſuade herſelf that ſhe was ſo. Nevertheleſs, the ſcenes which had paſſed with Seymour, had left her mind in a ſtate of diſturbance and depreſſion, which ſhe could not immediately conquer, but which ſhe determined not to indulge.
By her affectionate attention, ſhe tried to ſupply to Mr. Clifford the loſs of his daughter; made every effort to be cheerful; and when, in ſpite of her efforts, her cheerfulneſs forſook her, ſhe imputed it to an anxious ſolicitude which hung upon her mind reſpecting Charlotte's happineſs.
[Page 240] It was fortunate that Julia had at this time but little leiſure for ſolitude, or reflection, Mr. Clifford's houſe being crouded with a ſucceſſion of viſitors, who came to congratulate him on his daughter's marriage. We muſt add, much to the honour of Charlotte, that their congratulations were not made in oppoſition to their feelings: and what higher eulogium can we beſtow on Charlotte's merit, than to declare that her proſperity excited no envy? Her uniform ſweetneſs of diſpoſition, her kind and unaſſuming manners, and conſtant attention to promote the ſatisfaction of others, had endeared her to all by whom ſhe was known; and even thoſe who had the greateſt inſenſibility of temper, agreed, that if ſome one in the world muſt be more fortunate, more happy than themſelves, Charlotte was the very perſon who beſt deſerved that diſtinguiſhed lot.
Among Mr. Clifford's viſitors was Mr. F [...], who was dreſſed in deep mourning, and appeared in great dejection of [Page 241] ſpirits. In the courſe of a walk, which Mr. Clifford propoſed, Mr. F [...] took an opportunity of telling Julia, that he had lately loſt his only brother. "The circumſtances of his death," ſaid he, "are ſuch as I am unable to relate, but they were particularly affecting, and, if you will give me permiſſion, I will ſend you a packet which contains the account, and which, I believe, will intereſt you." The next morning Julia received the following letters:
To G _… F _… , Eſq.
Long Iſland, Auguſt, 1776.
My dear Sir,
To communicate afflicting intelligence is ſo painful a taſk, that I am only prompted to undertake it by the conſideration that it is a duty which friendſhip on this occaſion demands. I muſt not leave you to be informed by [Page 242] public report of our mutual misfortune. Your gallant brother, my dear friend, fell in the action of yeſterday.
As we marched to the attack, he was uncommonly gay. Having received a ſevere wound in the arm, he refuſed to leave the ranks, and continued to encourage the ſoldiers, till a ſecond ſhot brought him to the ground; and even then he would not permit any of the men to leave the action to carry him off. The ſurgeon dreſſed his wounds on the ſpot where he fell. After we had driven the enemy from the intrenchments, he was borne to a hut by four grenadiers. "Albeit unuſed to the melting mood," their cheeks were bathed in tears. As they paſſed one ſoldier who lay wounded on the ground, the poor fellow, ſeeing his officer, raiſed his languid head, and ſaid, "God Almighty recover, and bleſs your honour!" My friend inſiſted on their ſtopping: he took the ſoldier by the hand, ſaying, "I thank you, my brave lad; be of good cheer, I'll ſend [Page 243] your friends for you directly." The ſoldier repeated, "God Almighty bleſs you!" and expired.
I paſſed the night with your brother; and it was a moſt affecting night. He talked with much emotion of the anguiſh you would feel. He deſired his effects might be given to certain officers whom he named: his ring to one; watch to another, &c. hoping they would keep them as remembrances of a departed comrade and friend. He then took from his boſom the profile of a young lady, whom I had often heard him mention with rapture. "Send this profile," ſaid he, "by the firſt proper opportunity, to my beloved Sophia: let her know that I parted with this dear remembrance but in death!—Alas! how will ſhe ſuſtain this affliction?—Heaven ſupport and comfort her!—Oh my Sophia! ſhall we meet no more?"
His ruling paſſion, a thirſt for military fame, did not forſake him even in theſe laſt moments; and I am convinced that he [Page 244] regretted his approaching diſſolution moſt on account of its cutting him ſhort in the career of glory. To me he made a preſent of his ſword. "May it be your protector in the hour of danger," ſaid he, laying his cold hand on mine—"and lead you to a degree of diſtinction, to which I once hoped it would have conducted me. I regret not the loſs of life; but, my dear Edward, I do regret, like Douglas, "to be cut off glory's courſe"—"which," added he, with a dying voice, "never mortal was ſo fond to run!" Judge, my dear friend, how I was affected—how I am affected!—I cannot continue.
The intelligence you received by the meſſenger who brought your letter to me, conveying the tidings of Captain F [...]'s death, and encloſing my friend Sophia Herbert's profile, was, alas! too true. When your meſſenger left this place, ſhe lay in the delirium of a fever. You tell me, in your ſecond letter, that a better principle than curioſity leads you to enquire into the hiſtory of this unfortunate attachment. To gratify this requeſt will be a relief to my afflicted mind.
[Page 246] Mr. Herbert had an eſtate in the neighbourhood of Norfolk, in Virginia, and his houſe was within half a mile of the town. This gentleman had two ſons and a daughter. The eldeſt ſon, who was perſonally known to General Waſhington, had been appointed one of his aid-ducamps, and was with the main army: the younger ſon remained with his father, and was walking with him, and his ſiſter, on the lawn before their houſe, when the cry of arms was heard. The young man haſtily tore himſelf from his ſiſter, flew to his arms, and ruſhed towards the town: his father prepared to follow. Surpriſe and horror had, for a few moments, deprived Sophia of the power of ſpeech or motion; but ſhe now clung round her father's neck, and implored him not to deſert her. He diſengaged himſelf from her hold, intreated her to be calm, and go inſtantly to the houſe; told her he would ſoon return, and recommended her to the care of Heaven.
[Page 247] Sophia looked after him in ſilent agony, and, when he was out of ſight, ſtill continued ſtanding in the ſame attitude, unable to ſhed a tear. At length ſhe ſaw a ſoldier running paſt the end of the lawn, and called to him to ſtop. The ſoldier pauſed a moment—he was one of her father's tenants. "Ah, Madam," he exclaimed, "all is over; our troops have given way, and the Engliſh have ſet fire to the town; I have no time"—"Stop," ſhe eagerly cried, with horror in her looks, "Have you ſeen my father, and brother?" "Ah, Madam, you will never ſee your brother more; I ſerved in his company, and ſaw him fall, and I fear—." Sophia waited not for more, ſhe gave a piercing ſhriek, and flew with precipitation towards the town; but, as ſhe approached, the ſight of the ſpreading flames, the tumultuous cries of the women, and the claſh of arms, made her ſhrink back involuntarily. She had, however, gone too far to retreat, and was [Page 248] mingled with a crowd of helpleſs women and children, who were flying in deſperation, they knew not whither; ſome haſtening from the ſcene of deſolation, others returning, with diſtracted countenances, to ſave an aged parent or a helpleſs infant from the fury of the flames. Careleſs of danger, and almoſt inſenſible of her ſituation, Sophia ſtill preſſed forward, till ſhe was ſtopped by a bleeding corpſe which oppoſed her paſſage; when caſting her eyes down, ſhe perceived the features of her brother, disfigured by death, and covered with blood. She claſped her hands—her lips moved, but they had loſt the power of utterance: her whole frame trembled, and ſhe fell ſenſeleſs on her brother's corpſe.
When ſhe recovered, ſhe found herſelf ſupported by an Engliſh officer, who gazed on her with a look of earneſt ſolicitude. She appeared for ſome minutes unconſcious of all that had paſſed; but, when her recollection returned, and ſhe perceived the dead body of her [Page 249] beloved brother, her ſufferings were renewed in all their bitterneſs. Diſengaging herſelf from the arm that ſupported her, ſhe preſſed the remains of her brother to her boſom, and bathed them with her tears. The officer intreated ſhe would permit him to lead her from that ſpot, telling her the flames would ſoon reach it, and that her life was in danger. "My brother!" ſhe cried, "my beloved brother!" Then, ſtarting with ſudden horror, ſhe exclaimed, "Oh merciful Heaven, my father! where's my father?"
She attempted to ſpring forward, but the officer ſeized her arm, aſſured her that the town was nearly conſumed, and entirely deſerted, and begged ſhe would ſuffer him to conduct her to ſome place of ſhelter.
Without daring to caſt her eyes again on the fatal object at her feet, ſhe walked ſlowly away, leaning on her protector's arm. They turned from the town, and reached the lawn, which led by a gentle [Page 250] aſcent to her father's houſe. "At the end of this lawn," ſaid ſhe, "is the dwelling where—" "Ah, I fear," anſwered the ſtranger; but, before he could proceed, Sophia lifted her eyes and perceived the whole manſion was in flames.
A perſon, wringing his hands in all the anguiſh of deſpair, approached: he was her father. She threw herſelf on his boſom; "Have I ſtill my dear father left me?" ſaid ſhe, in a voice half choaked with ſobs. "My ſon!" exclaimed the wretched parent, "my dear boy!"
After a ſcene which can be better imagined than deſcribed, Mr. Herbert and his daughter retired to a hamlet in the neighbourhood, where the Engliſh officer, Capt. F [...], when he went to viſit them the next day, found Sophia ſitting by her father's bedſide, whom fatigue of body, joined to the moſt vehement emotions of mind, had thrown into a fever. His pulſe throbbed violently, and his ſoul ſeemed burſting with indignation and deſpair. [Page 251] Sophia's countenance was pale, and her looks ſpoke the complaints to which her lips refuſed utterance. Soon after Capt. F [...] reached the cottage, a peaſant led into the room an old man near eighty years of age; who was an Engliſhman, that had gone to America in his youth, as the ſervant of Mr. Herbert's father, and now paſſed his declining years under the protection of the ſon. This old man had crawled to the town the preceding night, in ſearch of his maſter, and had been ſeen ſitting under the ſhelter of a barn, by an American countryman who knew him, and led him to the cottage. Sophia flew with eagerneſs to meet him: ſhe had been taught to reverence him in infancy, and more advanced years had confirmed the habit of childhood into a ſentiment of the ſoul. Robert had ſerved her grandfather with a ſimplicity of affection, and a pride of integrity, which claimed the warmeſt returns of gratitude. This valuable domeſtic had felt towards his maſter that ſentiment [Page 252] of ſtedfaſt fidelity which Naomi expreſſes to Ruth, in the beautiful language of Scripture, "Whither thou goeſt I will go, and where thou lodgeſt I will lodge; thy people ſhall be my people, and thy God ſhall be my God; where thou dieſt will I die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do ſo to me, and more alſo, if aught but death part thee and me."
Sophia took the old man's arm from the countryman: "Robert," ſaid ſhe, "I hope you are not much hurt." "Ah, Miſs Sophy," ſaid he, ſhaking his head, "no matter, ſince you are ſafe, and my maſter." "Robert!" ſaid Mr. Herbert; but his voice ſeemed choaked, and he did not attempt to proceed. "I ſee you are ill, Sir," replied the old man, "and no wonder. Poor Mr. Charles—I loved him like my own child, and he was pleaſed to let me call him ſo; but the dear youth is [...]—A flood of tears bedewed the old [...] cheeks; he wiped them away with [Page 253] his white locks. "Ah, Robert," ſaid Sophia, "you will kill us if you talk ſo." "I'll ſay no more," anſwered he, "though, if it had pleaſed Heaven to take a poor old man, and ſpare him"—"Sit down, and compoſe yourſelf," ſaid Sophia. The officer aſſiſted in placing him at the foot of his maſter's bed. Mr. Herbert fixed his eyes upon him, with a gloomy look, in which deſpair was painted. "I am a good deal bruiſed," ſaid the old man. "How were you bruiſed, Robert?" ſaid Mr. Herbert. "Laſt night, Sir, when I found you were all three gone, what, thought I, ſhould I ſtay for here? If any harm happens to them, thought I, I ſhall have nothing more to live for; ſo I crawled on, and reached the place where poor Mr. Charles—" Here the old man pauſed a moment. "I kiſſed his poor corpſe, Sir, and ſpoke to it, as if it coul [...] anſwer me, and then when the flames came near, I dragged it away as [...] could; but my ſtrength failed me, [...] [Page 254] fell againſt ſome ſtones, that bruiſed me a good deal. So I lay all night by my poor young maſter's ſide; and when it grew light, and they came to bury the dead, I kiſſed his cold hand, and went a little way off: but I ſaw where they laid him; I ſhall know the ſpot if the graſs ſhould grow over it."
Capt. F [...] went up to Robert, and begged he would ſay no more: Robert anſwered, "I have done, Sir; he's in his grave; but if you had known him, Sir, ſo kind-hearted and ſo humble he was—: He has often made me lay hold of his arm, and led me to my wicker ſeat at the end of the garden. Sit down, Robert, he would ſay, and baſk a little in the ſun, it will do you good: but it's all over now. Yes, Sir," turning to his maſter, "they have deſtroyed every thing—the ſhrubbery is all cut down, and torn to pieces, except a branch here and there, that is blown by the wind; it would have broke your heart to ſee it."
[Page 255] Mr. Herbert's fever increaſed, and, for ſome days, his life was in danger. Captain F [...] brought the ſurgeon of his regiment to viſit him, and witneſſed, in his own frequent viſits to the cottage, the filial piety of Sophia, who watched day and night by the bed-ſide of her father, attended him with unremitting tenderneſs, and at length had the conſolation of ſeeing his health reſtored.
You will not wonder, Sir, that thoſe diſtreſſes which rendered Sophia's beauty more touching, and ſerved to diſplay the virtues of her heart, ſoon converted Captain F [...]'s pity into the enthuſiaſm of paſſion. Nor was Sophia inſenſible to the merit of her generous lover. Although Mr. Herbert lamented that Captain F [...] was an Engliſhman, he did not ſuffer political prejudice to ſubdue thoſe ſentiments of eſteem and gratitude which the conduct of that young man had nobly merited, and conſented that his daughter ſhould marry Captain F [...] [Page 256] at the end of the ſummer compaign. Mean time he conducted her to this diſtant village, which he knew our early friendſhip would render an agreeable ſituation to her, while ſhe waited the events of the ſummer. Before Mr. Herbert ſet out for this place, he went, attended by Sophia, to take a laſt look of his ruined poſſeſſions. When Sophia had deſcribed to me the melancholy picture they preſented, ſhe added theſe words—"I could bear to gaze upon the ruins of that once happy dwelling, did I conſider them merely as the relics of loſt ſplendor: but it was the ſcene of all my pleaſures! this is what affects me. Had the ſame ties, the ſame ſoothing recollections, endeared the ſhelter of a cottage, the ſtraw that thatched its roof would have been ſacred, and called forth my affections as forcibly as the manſion which is laid in duſt. Paſſing by the ſide of that ſmall ſtream which runs near the bottom of the lawn, I ſaw ſome of the ſticks with [Page 257] which my father had himſelf formed my laurel bower, taken away by the current. They floated on the ſurface of the water; I looked after them with a vehement ſenſation, which I almoſt tremble to recall. When I turned, I ſpied ſome ſcattered branches of the laurel, which he had twiſted round thoſe very ſticks, withering on the ground: I ſnatched them up inſtantly, bathed them with my tears, and have preſerved them till their laſt leaf is withered."
Mr. Herbert placed his daughter under my mother's protection, and ſoon after joined the army. Their ſeparation was final; he fell in the firſt engagement; and Sophia, in the midſt of her affliction at this event, received a moſt angry letter from her brother in Penſylvania, who had heard with the utmoſt indignation of her engagements to Captain F [...], and ſeemed to feel leſs concern for his father's death, than regret at the weakneſs which had led him to beſtow his daughter on a [Page 258] man who had drawn his ſword againſt America.
Sophia lamented the prejudices of her brother, but determined to adhere inviolably to thoſe engagements on which all her hopes of happineſs depended, and which had received the ſanction of parental authority. In the mean time ſhe counted the hours of ſeparation, which ſhe believed, though long and melancholy, would at length paſs away, and reſtore the object of her affection.
While ſhe indulged this fond illuſion, your letter, conveying the fatal tidings of Captain F [...]'s death, arrived. Sophia received this intelligence without complaint. She ſhed no tear, but her blood ſeemed chilled in her veins: ſhe ſtarted frequently, and there was a wildneſs and diſorder in her countenance, that alarmed us for her reaſon. She was put to bed, her pulſe beat high, the ſtruggles which for ſome time paſt ſhe had undergone, had weakened a frame [Page 259] naturally delicate. This laſt ſtroke ſhe was unable to ſuſtain, her fever increaſed every moment, and the following night her reaſon entirely forſook her. I perceived a ſudden change in her manner that ſhocked me. "Do not be uneaſy," ſaid ſhe, "I am better—much better—that bloody engagement at Long Iſland!—and yet he's ſafe—it was fooliſh to be ſo uneaſy—I cried for whole nights together—my head ſtill burns."
The phyſician, who now entered the room, ſhe miſtook for her brother, and ſhrieked at the ſight of him. "Oh my God!" cried the unhappy Sophia, "he's dead—and that's his murderer."—Then falling on her knees, "Save him—ſave him yet," ſaid ſhe, "have you the cruelty to kill him?—he loves you—indeed he does—I'm your ſiſter—don't break my heart—ſpare him—ſpare him—Oh it's too late!—you've murdered him already:—fly—fly, my beloved—all that's deareſt to my heart!—all that's left me on earth! [Page 260] fly for my ſake—here—here—I'm ready to die—why look ſo at me?—I can't ſave you!—how he groans!—he's covered with blood—I can bear it no longer." She ſprang up in her bed, but, overcome by theſe violent emotions, ſunk back in a kind of ſtupor: I knelt by her bed-ſide, and ſhe again revived a little. "Is that Captain F [...]?" cried ſhe, putting out her hand, "Heaven—Heaven preſerve!—Write whenever the battle's over—I ſhall have no reſt till a letter comes." "Do you not know me, my dear friend," ſaid I, taking her hand. "Yes, yes, there's no occaſion to kneel—tell my brother I conſent to our parting—but I can never love again—I never lov'd but one!—Who ſtands there?—mercy!—mercy! my brother!—bury yourſelf deep in earth—he's dead—quite dead—would you kill him in the grave?—have you no pity?—Oh, he feaſts on my tears!—he ſcorns me!"
Again exhauſted by theſe efforts, ſhe ſunk into almoſt total inſenſibility; in [Page 261] which ſtate ſhe remained ſome hours: her pulſe grew weaker every moment, and, as death approached, her reaſon was in ſome meaſure reſtored. She again opened her eyes, and aſked for me; I flew to her. "My dear Frances," ſaid ſhe, in a faint voice, "I feel myſelf dying: to you, my dear friend, I leave the care of our poor old ſervant; comfort, comfort the good old man for our loſs." Then, lifting up her hands and eyes, "Oh, my Creator and my judge," cried ſhe, "Thou, whom I have ſought in the ſincerity of my ſoul; thou, whoſe bounties in the days of my happineſs I loved to acknowledge, forgive me if I have ſuffered affliction to prey too much upon my heart, and have ſhortened my life! Thou canſt witneſs, that amidſt my ſorrows, never has one murmuring thought ariſen againſt thee! Oh, beſt of beings! object neareſt to my heart! of thy benevolence and goodneſs it has never doubted for a moment. When thy diſpenſations appeared dark and myſterious, I have looked round on nature, [Page 262] and ſeen it beaming with benignity and beauty. I have ſearched my own breaſt, and found it formed for happineſs and virtue; and thou haſt not formed it thus in vain. Thou wilt juſtify thy ways: thou haſt afflicted me on earth, but my ſufferings are paſt, and thou wilt make me for ever happy in thy preſence." Her voice now faltered—ſhe looked on me—and expired. Oh, my friend! my ſweet, my amiable companion! You, whoſe heart, far from being wrapped in ſelfiſh woe, could forget its own ſufferings to comfort the unhappy; you, whoſe ſoothing pity could heal the wounds of the afflicted; who ſeemed born, in this period of general diſtreſs, to lighten the burden of human wretchedneſs; to be the miniſtering angel of ſorrow!—where ſhall the deſolate mourner now look round for aid? He aſks thy ſympathy, but thou canſt not hear his complaint: it is only poured to the cold earth that covers thee! Oh, when I think of all thy perfections, the tenderneſs of thy diſpoſition, the virtues of thy heart, [Page 263] how can I live without thee? How can I drag on a wretched exiſtence which thy friendſhip endears no longer? But thou art happy. Yes, ſhe is united to that amiable and unfortunate lover, whom ſhe could not ſurvive.
I have been viſiting the grave where the remains of my friend repoſe. I have poured out my complaints; but the ſorrow I feel is not for her, but for myſelf. She is at reſt, and this cruel war had made her happineſs impoſſible. Alas, how dreadful are the effects of war! Every form of evil and miſery is in its train: the groans of deſpair are mingled with the ſong of triumph, and the laurels of victory are nouriſhed with the tears of humanity.
I am, Sir, Your obedient Servant, FRANCES LAWRENCE.