Henry: in four volumes. By the author of Arundel. ... [pt.3]
Ficta voluptatis causâ ſint proxima veris,Nec quodcunque volet poſcat ſibi fabula credi.
BOOK THE SEVENTH.
- CHAP. I. An humble Apology for Authors in general, with ſome modeſt Hints at their peculiar Uſefulneſs Page 1
- CHAP. II. Our Hero undergoes a ſtrict Examination by a certain Judge called Conſcience Page 10
- CHAP. III. Our Hero undergoes a ſecond Examination by a, certain Judge, with whom Conſcience has no concern Page 19
- CHAP. IV. The Decree of the Judge without Conſcience is reverſed Page 32
- CHAP. V. Our Hero is admitted to an unexpected Conference Page 36
- CHAP. VI. The Conference is interrupted, reſumed, and concluded Page 47
- CHAP. VII. The Penitent on his Death-bed atones to Juſtice Page 55
- [Page iv] CHAP. VIII. An Incident of the tragic Caſt Page 71
- CHAP. IX. Surgeon's Work Page 84
- CHAP. X. Our wounded Hero bleeds afreſh Page 93
BOOK THE EIGHTH.
- CHAP. I. An old Man's Prattle in a wintry Night Page 109
- CHAP. II. The beſt Friends muſt part Page 116
- CHAP. III. Our Hero goes out to Sea Page 128
- CHAP. IV. A certain intereſted Gentleman meets with a Rebuff Page 142
- CHAP. V. Let Innocence beware! Spring-guns and Man-traps are laid in theſe Premiſes! Page 151
- CHAP. VI. Cunning can hold off Detection for awhile Page 163
- CHAP. VII. Let the Man, who ſuſpects, reſort ſpeedily to Explanation Page 173
- CHAP. VIII. She, who confeſſes leſs than the Whole, may ſave a Bluſh, but will incur a Danger Page 181
- CHAP. IX. A tempting Offer honourably withſtood Page 195
- [Page v] CHAP. X. Where is the Daughter, that may not take a Leſſon from our Heroine? Page 205
- CHAP. XI. A pious Mind reſorts to Providence for its Support Page 212
BOOK THE NINTH.
- CHAP. I. A ſhort Interlude between the Acts Page 219
- CHAP. II. An Adventure on board a Frigate Page 223
- CHAP. III. Our Hero makes an intereſting Diſcovery Page 232
- CHAP. IV. Firſt Love ſtrikes deep Page 238
- CHAP. V. Our Hero quits the Sea Page 245
- CHAP. VI. Friends long divided meet at laſt Page 254
- CHAP. VII. Our Hero is reſtored to both his Parents Page 267
- CHAP. VIII. A gentle Being drops into the Grave Page 276
- CHAP. IX. Our Hiſtory preſents a Scene not very flattering to human Nature Page 281
- CHAP. X. The Scene is ſhifted to Manſtock Houſe Page 291
- CHAP. XI. A Gleam of Hope ſuddenly reverſed Page 301
1.1. CHAPTER I. An Humble Apology for Authors in general, with ſome modeſt Hints at their peculiar Uſefulneſs.
I HOPE the candid reader now and then calls to mind how much more nimbly he travels over theſe pages than the writer of them did. When our dullneſs is complained of, it would be but charity in him to reflect how much pains that ſame dullneſs has coſt us; more, he may be aſſured, than our brighter intervals, where we ſprung nimbly forward with an eaſy weight, inſtead of toiling like a carrier's horſe, whoſe ſlow and heavy pace argues the load he draws, and the labour he endures: alas! for us poor Noveliſts, if there was no mercy for dull authors, and our countrymen, like the barbarous Libethrians of old, ſhould take it into their minds to baniſh muſic [Page 2] and the muſes out of the land, and murder every Orpheus that did not fiddle to their taſte. They ſhould conſider, that the man, who makes a book, makes a very pretty piece of furniture; and if they will but conſign us to a quiet ſtation on a ſhelf, and give us wherewithal to cover us in a decent trim, the worſt amongſt us will ſerve to fill up the file, and ſtop a gap in the ranks.
'Tis hard indeed to toil, as we ſometimes do, to our own loſs and diſappointment; to ſweat in the field of fame, merely to reap a harveſt of chaff, and pile up reams of paper for the worm to dine upon. It is a cruel thing to rack our brains for nothing, run our jaded fancies to a ſtand-ſtill, and then lie down at the concluſion of our race, a carcaſe for the critics. And what is our crime all the while? A mere miſtake between our readers and ourſelves, occaſioned by a ſmall miſcalculation of our capacities and their candour; all which would be avoided, if happily for us they had not the wit to find out our blunders, or, happily for them, had all that good nature for us that we generouſly exerciſe towards ourſelves. If once they could bring their tempers to this charming complacency, they might depend [Page 3] upon having books in plenty; authors would multiply like polypuſſes, and the preſs would be the happieſt mother in the kingdom.
How many worthy gentlemen are there in this bleſſed iſland of our's, who have ſo much time upon their hands, that they do not know what to do with it? I am aware how large and reſpectable a portion of this enlightened nation center their delights in the chace, and draw an elegant reſource from the ſagacity of the hound and the vigour of the horſe; but they cannot always be on the ſaddle; the elements they cannot command; and froſt and ſnow will lock them up within their caſtle walls: there it is poſſible that ſolitude may ſurpriſe them, and diſmiſs them for a time to the ſolace of their own lucubrations: now, with all poſſible reſpect for theſe reſources, I ſhould think it may ſometimes be worth their while to make experiment of other people's lucubrations, when they have worn out their own, for thoſe muſt be but ſorry thoughts, which are not better than not thinking at all; and the leaſt they can gain by an author is a nap.
The ingenuity of man has invented a thouſand contrivances for innocently diſpoſing of [Page 4] idle time; let us, therefore, who write books, have only the idlers on our ſide, in gratitude for the amuſement we give them, and let the reſt of the world be as ſplenetic as they will, we may ſet their ſpleen at naught; the majority will be with us.
If a querulous infant is ſtilled by a rattle, the maker of the rattle has ſaved ſomebody's ears from pain and perſecution; grant, therefore, that a novel is nothing better than a toy for children of a larger growth and more unruly age, ſociety has ſome cauſe to thank the writer of it; it may have put an aching head to reſt; it may have cheered the debtor in his priſon, or the country ſquire in a hard froſt. Traders will cry up the commodity they deal in, therefore I do not greatly inſiſt on the praiſes which ſome that write books have beſtowed on book-writing, but I do obſerve, that great reſpect is paid to an author by thoſe who cannot read him, wherefore I conclude, thoſe who can read, and do not praiſe him, are only ſilent becauſe they want words to expreſs their admiration and gratitude; whilſt thoſe ſanguine flatterers, who, in the exceſs of their reſpect for our perſons, cry down our performances, give evident proof how much [Page 5] higher they had pitched their expectations of what our talents would produce, than our productions could make good; but though in their zeal for our reputations, they tell us how ill we write, they ſeldom neglect at the ſame time to ſhew us how we might have written ſtill worſe.
Some over-wiſe people have pretended to diſcover, that this altercation between author and critic is nothing more than a mere plot and contrivance to play into each others hands, like Mountebank and Zany; but this is over-acted ſagacity, and an affectation of finding more myſteries in the art of authorſhip, than really belong to it; for my part, I believe it is a buſineſs of a more ſimple nature than moſt which can be taken up, and that authors in general require nothing more than pen, ink, and paper to ſet up with. In ancient times, the trade was in few hands, and the work ſeems then to have been compoſed with much pains and forethought; materials were collected with great care, and put together with conſummate accuracy and attention; every part was fitted to its place, poliſhed to the heighth, and finiſhed to perfection; there were inſpectors on the part of the public, men [Page 6] of ſound judgment, and fully competent to the office, who brought the work to a ſtandard of rule and meaſure, and inſiſted upon it, that every whole ſhould have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Under theſe ſtrict regulations the ancients wrote; but now that practice has made us perfect, and the trade is got into ſo many hands, theſe regulations are done away, and ſo far from requiring of us a beginning, middle, and end, it is enough if we can ſhew a head and a tail; and it is not always that even theſe can be made out with any tolerable preciſion. As our authors write with leſs labour, our critics review with leſs care, and for every one fault that they mark in our productions, there probably might be found one hundred that they overlook. It is an idle notion, however, to ſuppoſe that therefore they are in league and concert with the authors they reviſe; for where could that poor fraternity find a fund to compenſate them for ſuffering a vocation once ſo reputable to fall into ſuch utter diſgrace under their management, as to be no longer the employ of a gentleman? As for our readers, on whom we never fail to beſtow the terms of candid, gentle, courteous, and others of the like ſoothing caſt, they certainly [Page 7] deſerve all the fair words we can give them, for it is not to be denied, but that we make occaſionally very great demands upon their candour, gentleneſs, and courteſy, exerciſing them frequently and fully with ſuch trials as require thoſe ſeveral endowments in no ſmall proportion. The farther I advance therefore in this work, the civiller I will be; and to thoſe readers who ſhall follow me into this third volume, I may with juſtice apply the epithets of patient, perſevering, faithful, and ſo on, with a creſcendo in my ſtrain, till the piece is concluded.
But are there not alſo faſtidious, angry, querulential readers? readers with full ſtomachs, who complain of being ſurfeited and overloaded with the ſtory-telling traſh of our circulating libraries? It cannot be altogether denied, but ſtill they are readers: if the load is ſo heavy upon them as they pretend it is, I will put them in the way of getting rid of it, by reviving the law of the ancient Cecertaeans, who obliged their artiſts to hawk about their ſeveral wares, carrying them on their backs, till they found purchaſers to eaſe them of the burthen. Was this law put in force againſt authors, few of us, I doubt, would be [Page 8] found able to ſtand under the weight of our own unpurchaſed works.
But whilſt the public is contented with things as they are, where is the wonder if the reform is never made by us till they begin it in themſelves? Let their taſte lead the faſhion, and our productions muſt accord to it. Whilſt the Cookeries of Hannah Glaſs outcirculate the Commentaries of Blackſtone, authors will be found, who prefer the compilation of receipts to that of records, as the eaſier and more profitable taſk of the two. If puerilities are pleaſing, men will write ut pueris placeant.
When Demoſthenes was engaged in the defence of a certain citizen of Athens, who was brought to trial upon a charge of a capital nature, neither the importance of the cauſe, nor the eloquence of the pleader, could fix the attention of the judges who were ſitting on the trial: the orator, obſerving their levity, on a ſudden ſtopt ſhort in the midſt of his harangue, and addreſſing himſelf to the court,—‘"Liſten to me,"’ he cried, ‘"ye venerable judges, for a few moments, and I will tell you a merry tale:—A certain young man, having occaſion to take a journey from this city [Page 9] of our's to Megara, hir'd an aſs for the job; but being extremely incommoded on the way by a ſcorching ſun, which ſmote him with intolerable heat at noon, he diſmounted from his beaſt, and made free to take poſt under the ſhade of his carcaſe: upon this the aſs-owner, who accompanied him, remonſtrated with great vehemence, contending that his aſs was let for the journey ſimply and preciſely, and that the ſervice now required of him was extra-conditional and illegal: the traveller with equal vehemence maintain'd, that he was warranted in the uſe he made of him, and that having hir'd the aſs in ſubſtance, he was intitled to the benefit of his ſhadow into the bargain: the queſtion was open to controverſy, and the parties went to trial on the caſe."’—Here Demoſthenes ceaſed, and taking up his brief, prepared to leave the court: the judges ſeeing this, called out to him to return and go on with his pleading.—‘"For ſhame, ye men of Athens,"’ cried the indignant orator, ‘"ye can lend your ears to the ſtory of an aſs, but will not beſtow your attention upon a trial that involves the life or death of a fellow-citizen."’
AS ſoon as our hero had brought Blachford to conſent to his diſintereſted propoſal, he took immediate meaſures for ſecuring the ſucceſs of it. To bring the infant and its mother to an interview with the dying penitent was his firſt object. The woman, who had the child at nurſe, did not live above two miles off, ſo that a meſſenger would ſoon fetch her over: Suſan, indeed, was at a greater diſtance, but the day yet ſerved for bringing her from Manſtock; and Henry immediately ſate down and wrote the following note:
A buſineſs, in which you are greatly intereſted, requires your preſence in this place; Mr. Blachford's life is ſo precarious, that not an hour is to be loſt: I recommend it to you therefore to ſtate this to your amiable lady, and, with her permiſſion, come away [Page 11] directly in the chaiſe, that will attend for that purpoſe.
Your's ſincerely, Henry.
Whilſt Henry was writing this note, young Tom Weevil, who had got notice of his arrival, opportunely called upon him, and no ſooner underſtood that he wanted a meſſenger to Manſtock houſe, than he zealouſly tendered his ſervices for that errand, and by Henry was inſtructed to ride to the next market town, which luckily was in the road, and there put himſelf into a poſt chaiſe for the purpoſe of conveying Suſan in the moſt ſpeedy and commodious manner.
This buſines being thus adjuſted, and another meſſenger diſpatched for the nurſe and child, our hero returned to the cottage, and throwing himſelf into Ezekiel's wicker chair, enjoyed for ſome minutes, in ſilent reflection, that heart-felt ſatisfaction, that only can reſult from ſelf-approving conſcience. As he meditated on the ſacrifice he was now about to make, he felt a momentary gleam of virtuous exultation, which tempted him to cry out—‘"O Ratcliffe! dear departed friend! thou wou'd'ſt [Page 12] have prais'd me for this deed, and if thy ſainted ſpirit holds communication with me ſtill, I know thou wilt regard it as a pledge of my obedience to thy fatherly inſtructions. But what is this I boaſt of? Nothing, compar'd to the ſeverer trial that awaits me, and demands an effort ſtrong indeed, a ſacrifice from which my heart ſhrinks back with terror and diſmay. Oh! be my guardian ſtill; let thy protecting ſpirit ſtrengthen my feeble nature, and inſpire me with the reſolution to fulfil the fatal promiſe I have made, and pay the forfeit of my folly.—Married to Fanny Claypole!—All hopes of happineſs for ever blaſted to repair her reputation wantonly expos'd.—Hard terms indeed, and heavy penalty I have exacted from myſelf in an unguarded moment; but the word is paſs'd, and I muſt honourably make it good: and fit I ſhou'd, if that is the atonement ſhe requires; for what but chance prevented the completion of my guilt? The meditation therefore in my inſtance is the act itſelf, and I am virtually her debtor to no leſs amount than for the loſs of all that can be valuable to a modeſt woman. I know the plea that ſome wou'd make; her forwardneſs, her fondneſs, her allurements: if [Page 13] this were good in any caſe, it wou'd be ſo in mine; but the excuſe is mean and villainous; that and that only can be my acquittal, which acquits me to myſelf; this cannot ſerve the turn; my conſcience never will be quieted by evaſions. 'Tis true the act was fruſtrated; what then? I was not quite ſo abandon'd as to ſin in preſence of a warning angel: and can I ever loſe the memory of that rebuke, which the offended purity of that angel juſtly beſtowed? Oh, Iſabella! how that frown made my heart ſink within me! Never again ſhall I have confidence to look upon that lovely face, which till that moment ever greeted me with ſmiles. No more ſhall that ſweet voice ſalute my ears like muſic, as it was won't to do in the ſtill hour of evening, when we walk'd together: thoſe happy hours are never to return again."’
Zachary Cawdle now made his appearance, having returned from his viſit to Lady Crowbery—‘"I bring you news,"’ ſaid he, ‘"of our excellent lady, that will pleaſe you; her diſorder ſeems abated, and I flatter myſelf ſhe will gain ſtrength and ſpirits to carry her through her journey both by land and ſea: ſhe ſets out to-morrow in the forenoon for Manſtock-houſe, [Page 14] where ſhe will repoſe herſelf for that night. I have her expreſs commands to deſire you will not fail to meet her there."’—‘"I know not how that can be,"’ ſaid Henry. ‘"She is very anxious it ſhou'd be, I can aſſure you,"’ rejoined the Doctor, ‘"and I believe ſhe has very intereſting matters to confer with you upon, for ſhe ſaid ſhe muſt poſitively ſee you, as ſhe cou'd not expreſs all ſhe had to ſay by letter; neither indeed do I hold it fit ſhe ſhou'd exhauſt herſelf in writing for any length of time. If it is your buſineſs with Mr. Blachford that ſtands in the way, I hope that may be diſmiſſed before it will be neceſſary for you to ſet out to-morrow from this place."’
Henry aſked if her ladyſhip had ſaid any thing on that ſubject. ‘"Not much,"’ Zachary replied; ‘"ſhe had noticed it but ſlightly, ſeeming to intimate a doubt whether it was matter of congratulation or not, which I confeſs,"’ he added, ‘"rather puzzled me to account for, as her ladyſhip cannot fail to know that our neighbour will, in the vulgar phraſe, die fat; and let your expectations be what they may, ſurely a good fortune in hand is a good thing at all events."’—‘"Moſt people are of that opinion,"’ ſaid Henry, ‘"but her ladyſhip, perhaps, [Page 15] may think otherwiſe."’—‘"Whatever ſhe thinks,"’ replied Zachary, ‘"I dare ſay ſhe will keep it to herſelf, till ſhe meets you, and converſes with you at Manſtock."’
To this our hero made no further anſwer, but turned the diſcourſe, by enquiring after Mrs. Cawdle.—‘"Her health,"’ ſaid the Doctor, ‘"is no better, her temper much worſe, and her enthuſiaſm more extravagant than ever. Blachford's ſituation ſeems to trouble her much; ſhe has liv'd with him as a ſinner, and wou'd now fain part from him like a ſaint; but he has refus'd all her tenders, and has given his conſcience into Ezekiel's keeping: this mortifies her in a double ſenſe, for ſhe not only meant to ſend him out of the world in the true faith, but had an eye alſo to the good things he has to leave behind him, of which ſhe had no objection to come in for a ſhare; but, thanks to the fates! all that is otherwiſe diſpos'd of. As to the ſtate of her conſtitution, that is in a rapid decline from bad to worſe, being only held together like a ſinking veſſel by the very elements that ſap and undermine it. When I take my leave of her, as I ſhall do to-morrow, great chance if our's is not an everlaſting farewell."’
Henry was not ſorry to be left to his reflections, for his mind was greatly embarraſſed by the meſſage he had received from Lady Crowbery. To preſent himſelf once more at Manſtock-houſe was painful in the extreme; to diſobey the commands of a mother on ſo intereſting a ſummons was an alternative not to be thought of: how to avoid the one without tranſgreſſing the other was a point of difficulty that now engroſſed his thoughts; and as for Zachary's concluding account of Jemima's melancholy condition, from that it is more than probable he had carried off very little, if any, information.
The great evil of all, that ſunk deepeſt into his mind, was his engagement to Miſs Claypole, a lady very little to his taſte, and the conſequent loſs of all hope that had reſpect to Iſabella, a lady, whom at his heart he moſt ardently admired and loved. The diſgrace he had incurred with himſelf, as well as with her, in that fatal moment of his weakneſs, was a cutting recollection; till then he had ſtood high in the good opinion of that excellent [Page 17] young lady; every hour that he paſſed in Manſtock-houſe, whilſt ſhe was preſent, made this more and more manifeſt; even his natural humility of character could not overlook it; he ſaw the advances he made in her good graces, and only trembled for her danger leſt they were too rapid; every look, every action that that was directed towards him had an expreſſion not to be miſtaken; Suſan's reports confirmed the intereſt that he had eſtabliſhed in the approving heart of her lovely miſtreſs, and the ſatisfaction which ſhe took in her evening walks with him, with the innocent contrivances ſhe had to prolong and to repeat them, were flattering indications of an attachment forming faſt, if not already formed; the greater therefore was his fall from hopes ſo elevated; and what could he now expect from purity like her's, but abſolute diſmiſſion and contempt?
As for the meaſures he was now to take towards his new diſcovered mother, they ſeemed to offer nothing to his view but a maze of difficulties. To lay open to her his embaraſſments, and make a full confeſſion of his faults and misfortunes, was a taſk his reſolution was not equal to, neither did it ſeem a fit ſubject [Page 18] to diſcourſe with her upon in her preſent ſtate of health and ſpirits. But how to keep it from her was the queſtion; how to ſtop ſo many channels through which the diſgraceful ſtory might find its way to her, was a point not eaſily to be determined; how far Miſs Manſtock might have ſpread her diſcovery was matter of uncertainty; her delicacy would hardly be brought to continue the ſame intimacy with Fanny Claypole as before, and every thing was to be dreaded from that young lady's flippant ſtile of talking, who would naturally make public the engagement ſhe had entered into with him as an apology eſſential to her own defence; theſe, and many other apprehenſions, that preſſed upon his thoughts, were rendered doubly alarming, when he took into his conſideration the character of Mr. Claypole; from him he had every thing to expect that a jealous, deep-projecting ſpirit could deviſe; he ſaw to what extent his influence over Sir Roger Manſtock might be carried; and he had no cauſe to doubt him well diſpoſed to put it to the ſtretch for any object that he had at heart: beſet on all ſides with ſuch difficulties, and in a ſtreight from which he ſpied no honourable [Page 19] eſcape, it is not to be wondered at if his thoughts wavered without any fixt reſolve, embarraſſed and diſtreſſed.
One ſmall alleviation Fortune granted him by the occupation of Ezekiel at this time with with his penitent at next door; he was not preſent to interpoſe and aggravate with fruitleſs declamations againſt the incontinence of Suſan May, or the enormous crime of duelling, which Henry's affair with Captain Crowbery was ſure to draw upon him; when behold the whole matter brought to iſſue at once by the arrival of Mr. Claypole himſelf now at the door of the cottage, and at this very moment in the act of diſmounting from his palfrey.
1.3. CHAPTER III. Our Hero undergoes a ſecond Examination by a certain Judge, with whom Conſcience has no Concern.
THOUGH the reverend gentleman, who now viſited our hero in his humble cottage, was left by us, when laſt we attended upon him, in the mind to defer this viſit to the next [Page 20] morning, yet ſecond thoughts had made him change that reſolve, upon the prudent recollection of the many interventions a procraſtinated meaſure is expoſed to, eſpecially when it hangs upon the ſingle ſecurity of a verbal promiſe, extorted as it were by ſurprize, and not deliberately given upon judgment and inclination. He therefore thought it beſt to ſteal a march upon diſappointment, and without communicating his intentions to his niece, making only a ſlight apology to Sir Roger, mounted his horſe, and proceeded upon a round trot to the village of Crowbery, pondering by the way upon the meaſures he was to take, and the language he was to hold, for ſecuring the important purpoſes of his ſecret expedition.
There was an air of ſtudied compoſure in his firſt approaches, with a degree of obſequious ceremony, that did not eſcape the penetrating obſervation of our hero Henry, who immediately aſſimilated his ſtile of addreſs to that of his viſitor, and kept himſelf on the reſerve. After the uſual ſalutations had paſſed and repaſſed between them, Claypole began to open his commiſſion in the following manner:
‘"I wait upon you, Sir, on the behalf of [Page 21] an orphan niece, for whoſe happineſs and reputation I have all that tender intereſt, which, as a father, I cou'd entertain for an only child. Miſs Claypole, give me leave to ſay, is a young lady, on whoſe character not the ſlighteſt imputation hitherto has been known to reſt; judge therefore with what exquiſite ſenſibility ſhe feels the conſequences of laſt night's event, and with what poignant inquietude ſhe is now waiting the confirmation of that promiſe, which alone can heal thoſe feelings, and relieve her anxious mind from its ſuſpence: ſhe is by nature endow'd with the warmeſt affections; thoſe affections you have gain'd; your fine perſon, engaging attentions, and amiable character have made a conqueſt of her heart, and love, which in colder boſoms ripens by degrees, in her's ſprung up at once to full maturity, and gave you unequivocal proofs how much you was beloved and truſted: I will not give the name of prudence to a paſſion of this caſt; I muſt as a divine and moraliſt condemn exceſs in every ſhape; even our moſt virtuous propenſities muſt have bounds ſet to their exertions; and errors, tho' ariſing from motives the moſt generous, merit ſome reproof; yet I will confeſs to you, that if in any inſtance I cou'd [Page 22] find excuſe for an unbounded confidence, it wou'd be in your's, relying, as I do, with ſo much juſtice, on your honour and integrity of principle; but, Sir, the virgin fame of an untainted character is delicate in the extreme; it is a bloſſom ſhrinking at the blaſt, withering and drooping with the touch. Thoſe fond unguarded moments, which the ſenſualiſt calls golden opportunities, the man of honour ſhou'd account as ſacred, and hold the heart, which love commits into his hands, as an inviolable truſt. Now it has ſo happened, whether caſually or providentially we will not enquire, that thoſe very proofs of confidence and affection, which muſt have endeared her to you, have expoſed her to reproach and ſhame, and obliged her to fly from the ſociety ſhe was in to my ſolitary parſonage, where ſhe is now hiding herſelf in retirement and excluſion from all viſitors but yourſelf, anxiouſly awaiting the completion of your promiſe to reſtore her to her reputation, her happineſs, and friends. It is not therefore that I harbour any doubt of your good faith; it is not that I can ſuppoſe you loſt to honour, or inſenſible to the beauty, fortune and good qualities of my niece, that I now require a confirmation of your word of [Page 23] honour from your own lips, but ſimply that I may be authoriz'd not only to put her inquietude to reſt, but alſo to aſſure Sir Roger Manſtock, whoſe delicacy ſuffers great alarm by what has paſs'd beneath his roof, that there is no call for his remonſtrances, nor any inſult meditated to a lady under his protection, and for whoſe redreſs he holds himſelf reſponſible."’
Here Claypole ceaſed, and Henry replied as follows:—‘"A very few words, Sir, will ſuffice to anſwer all you have been pleas'd to ſay. I perfectly well remember what I have promis'd to Miſs Claypole; and I want neither menaces nor perſuaſions to induce me to perform it."’
‘"Give me leave then,"’ cried Claypole, interpoſing, ‘"to felicitate you on the poſſeſſion of a lady, whom I have the vanity to ſay, the beſt gentleman in the kingdom might be proud to call his wife. I boaſt not of her fortune, Sir, that is but a ſecondary conſideration where ſo many admirable qualities conſpire to make the union happy; and fortune, perhaps, tho' with many the firſt object, may have loſt much of its weight, if any it ever had, in your eſteem, ſince this great acceſſion has ſo luckily devolv'd upon you."’
[Page 24] ‘"Truly, Sir,"’ ſaid Henry in reply, ‘"Miſs Claypole's fortune never weigh'd with me; and as for this extraordinary bequeſt of Mr. Blachford's, which was totally unthought of, 'tis evident from the recency of the event, that it cou'd never be in contemplation of that lady at the moment of our engagement. It was, as you obſerve, a lucky caſt of chance, and therefore, I conceive, whether I may or may not be benefited by it, it does not regularly come into queſtion between you and me."’
‘"Not as a principal, perhaps, but collaterally it does; it gives you means which you was unprovided with before, and therefore, as a friend ſoon to be connected with you in a near degree, you cannot wonder if I feel a lively intereſt in an event ſo calculated to promote your happineſs."’
‘"Right, Sir,"’ reſumed Henry;" ‘it will promote my happineſs, as all things muſt that pleaſe me on reflection, and enable me to ſay within myſelf, I have fulfilled the golden rule of doing as I wou'd be done by."’
‘"That is indeed,"’ ſaid Claypole, gravely, ‘"the great rule of Chriſtian equity; but I muſt own I do not at this time exactly ſee your application of it, for I ſhou'd ſuppoſe [Page 25] the point of conſcience rather lies with Blachford than with you."’
‘"But you and I are neither of us lawyers,"’ replied our hero, ſoftening his manner: ‘"You are a divine, a moraliſt profeſt, and as for me, poor altho' I am, and probably in the very ſame predicament with this ſon of nature, yet [Page 26] I wou'd fain aſpire to copy that great rule of Chriſtian equity approv'd by you, and ſhew that I am not wanting in a ſenſe of honour towards others, no leſs than towards Miſs Claypole."’
‘"But I,"’ ſaid Henry, ‘"am no ſon of [Page 27] Blachford's; I covet not his gold: I can forgive my enemy without a bribe, but I cannot ſtrip the child of its inheritance to purchaſe the world's wealth; I cannot do it; and I think you do not wiſh to ſee me rich on ſuch conditions."’
To this the reverend viſitor replied, ‘"I ſhou'd have thought, young gentleman, that you had felt the ſmart of poverty ſufficiently to warn you from encountering it afreſh: an unconnected being in the world may be romantic at his own expence, but you are not this being; you have claims upon you nearer, I ſhou'd ſuppoſe, and dearer to you, than this brat of Blachford, which poſſibly ſome huſſey fathers on him falſely; and I am unwilling to believe you ſeriouſly intend to throw good fortune from you, when you ſo happily might ſhare it with a well-beloved wife."’
‘"Had that lady ever had a ſhare in it,"’ replied Henry, ‘"or had that fortune ever been but hinted at as a contingency within the ſcope of ſpeculation, I ſhou'd have ſomething to account for; but you muſt be conſcious how very recently this thing has dropt upon me; and that it is an unlookt for opportunity of being juſt at my own coſt; no other perſon [Page 28] has a part in what I ſacrifice; and what is that man's honeſty, which does not reach beyond his intereſt? If we do well, and ſuffer for it, that ſervice is acceptable. This being a chriſtian principle, I cannot doubt but it is your's."’
At theſe words the reverend perſonage aſſumed a look of more than ordinary gravity, in which 'tis poſſible ſome mixture of wrath might be diſcernible, and thus made anſwer—‘"It is not now a queſtion what my principles may be, but what your's are, and I ſuſpect that, under a romantic idea of juſtice to others, you forget the juſtice due to yourſelf and thoſe connected with you. If you can laviſh Blachford's whole eſtate away at a ſtroke, what ſecurity have I that you wou'd not ſerve Miſs Claypole's in the like manner, was it in your power? Such principles as theſe are dangerous to the peace and proſperity of families, and you cannot wonder if, in point of prudence, I am ſomewhat ſtagger'd: he that enriches beggars may make rich folks poor. What will my Lady Crowbery ſay to this proceeding?"’
‘"But it will much import you ſo to do. This fortune wou'd have made you independent: [Page 29] you have now nothing to look to but her favour; and how is it certain, when this buſineſs ſhall be known, ſhe may not think fit to withdraw it? 'Tis right at leaſt that her intentions ſhou'd be underſtood before we venture further. You have alſo been engag'd in a duel with a relation of Lord Crowbery's. Theſe are altogether ſuch proceedings as may cauſe a change of ſentiment in your patroneſs; and what then becomes of my poor niece? I muſt be certified from that noble perſonage herſelf in what light ſhe regards this moſt extraordinary meaſure."’
To this Henry replied—‘"If you act ſolely for yourſelf in this affair, Mr. Claypole, you will act ſolely from your own judgment; if for your niece, you will probably conſult her wiſhes before you take a ſtep ſo totally ſubverſive of the whole tranſaction, as your reference to Lady Crowbery wou'd be."’
‘"I certainly had not pledg'd her conſent in my promiſe, and did not therefore engage more than myſelf to the performance of it. If Miſs Claypole accepts that promiſe, my [Page 30] honour is attach'd to it, and I hold it ſacred: if it is referr'd to Lady Crowbery, my reſponſibility is taken off, and I ſhall act by her deciſion. I hold it as a point of honour to Miſs Claypole, thus to ſtate it to you; the alternative is before you."’
Mr. Claypole pauſed for reflection, and then demanded, ‘"How wou'd you adviſe us to proceed, when it appears that you have nothing to depend upon but the eventual bounty and protection of the Lady Crowbery? But there is yet another thing,"’ added he, ‘"to be explain'd: you inform'd my friend Sir Roger Manſtock by a letter which I ſaw, that you was going out to ſea with Captain Cary; I truſt you have no thoughts of that."’
‘"I hope,"’ ſaid Henry, ‘"you will not preſs me on that queſtion, ſeeing we do not treat entirely upon confidence; had we ſo done, I ſhou'd hold nothing back. The affair is now entirely with Miſs Claypole; in her hands I depoſit my honour and my deſtiny; if ſhe accepts them unconditionally as they, were pledg'd, ſhe has then a right to be inform'd of my intentions; if not, the ſecret dwells with me."’
MR. Claypole had riſen from his ſeat, and was upon the point of departing, when Ezekiel bolted into the room with unaccuſtomed alacrity, and running up to our young hero, threw his arms about his neck: curioſity, or ſome deeper motive, fixed the reverend viſitor to the ſpot, and the animated enthuſiaſt, who probably did not know there was a third perſon preſent, proceeded to cry out in an ecſtatic tone—‘"Henry! my ſon! my child! my glorious generous boy! may Heaven ſhower down its bleſſings on your head! Come to my heart, for it runs over with affection for you. No, no, I cannot part from you; I never will; I will work for you, pray for you, nay, by the Lord, I will fight for you."’—Having, whilſt he uttered theſe laſt words, quitted his embrace, to put himſelf in a martial attitude, correſpondent with the ſentiment, he caſt his eyes upon the perſon of the looker-on—‘"Under [Page 33] favour, reverend Sir,"’ he ſaid, ‘"I proteſt I did not advert to your perſon being preſent: Mr. Claypole, or I am miſtaken."’
‘"Not ſo, worthy Sir,"’ rejoined Ezekiel, ‘"you ſerve no human maſter; and I hail the happy chance that brings you hither to partake of that delight, that chriſtian joy and exultation, which your heart muſt feel, as preacher of the word of truth and charity, to ſee this youth, a ſtripling in the race that is ſet before us, outſtep all competitors, and ſeize the glorious goal of victory over Mammon, and all his ſordid, lucre-loving, filthy worſhippers, at an age green in experience, grey, thank Heaven, in virtue, charity and every chriſtian grace! Yes, reverend Sir, you muſt ſurely rejoice and be glad, inaſmuch as our friend Henry now appertaineth to your flock; and report ſpeaks loudly of you as of a faithful paſtor in Chriſt, and I your poor fellow ſervant and follower at due diſtance, venerate you therefore. How then muſt your pious boſom glow to ſee that this our friend has ſacrific'd a noble fortune to his love of juſtice, rejected treaſures pour'd into his lap; treaſures [Page 34] that might have tempted hermits from their cells, to ſave the ſinner's ſoul, and clear his conſcience for the great account. ‘'There is that maketh himſelf rich, yet hath nothing; there is that maketh himſelf poor, yet hath great riches,'’ faith the wiſe man. Behold! this good deed hath our young man done; and verily, he ſhall have great riches in the true ſenſe of the proverb: he hath not taken away the inheritance of the poor deſtitute; he hath not robb'd the children's children of their bread, therefore he ſhall have an inheritance amongſt the children of light. I have this inſtant left the couch of the dying man; I pronounce him a true penitent; the thorns, that lurk'd within his pillow, thy hand, my Henry, hath drawn; his death will be eaſy; his ſpirit will expire in bleſſings; his child is now his heir; the will is clos'd, and he longs to claſp him in his arms: the poor deluded wench, whom his baſe arts ſeduc'd, the widow's only child, will now be comforted, and when I've ſet before her eyes the loathſomeneſs of ſin in proper colours, I have good hope ſhe'll tread the paths of purity hereafter; at leaſt ſhe ſhall not want for exhortations on my part; the daughter of our friendly widow May ſhall [Page 35] not be loſt for lack of ſpiritual aſſiſtance and advice."’
‘"How's this?"’ exclaimed Claypole, turning himſelf towards Henry; ‘"Is Suſan May the mother of a ſon by Blachford? and has the daughter of my friend Sir Roger Manſtock been harbouring a ſtrumpet in her ſervice?"’
‘"A ſtrumpet do you call her?"’ cried Ezekiel. ‘"Reverend Sir, I pray you be advis'd more truly; I do pronounce Suſan May to be no ſtrumpet, albeit the mother of this babe; for virtue undermin'd by artifice, or violated by force, is virtue not the leſs, and charity will give it its true name, with pity and compaſſion ſuper-added. Your Maſter, reverend Sir, and mine, condemn'd not her that was taken even in adultery itſelf; ſhall we, forgetting his divine benevolence, condemn this damſel, ſacrific'd by treachery, diveſted of reaſon by the operation of ſeducing and intoxicating potions, and then thrown inſenſible and unreſiſting on the impure couch of the defiler? Forbid it, charity! that you, or I, or any one of chriſtian training, ſhou'd call that guiltleſs ſufferer a ſtrumpet."’
Claypole had heard enough; confounded, vext, indignant; he now ſtarted from his ſeat, [Page 36] and ſnatching up his hat, whiſpered a few words to Henry; and then darting an angry look at honeſt Daw, haſtily departed.
WHILST this was paſſing in the cottage, Captain Crowbery, after his rencontre with Henry, had returned to the caſtle, and in a converſation with his couſin the Viſcount had done juſtice to the ſpirited behaviour of his antagoniſt, relating the grounds of their quarrel, the words that had paſſed at their meeting, and all the particulars conſequential of it. Now it ſo happened, that the peer was conſcious of being as deep in the plot of the preſs-gang as his kinſman, but he was not conſcious of the ſame courage to face the reſentment of our hero: the ſtory, therefore, cauſed certain perturbations in his Lordſhip's mind not altogether agreeable, and he became extremely anxious to be aſſured that [Page 37] the affair was made up ſo completely, that no after-reckonings could be ſtarted, which he himſelf might be called upon to account for. Nothing humbles ſome people's pride ſo much as fear; the pride of Lord Crowbery hardly ſtooped to any other corrector. On the preſent occaſion, it was thoroughly brought down by more fears than one, for the Captain had brought the news of Henry's being heir to Blachford, which not only cut up his Lordſhip's intereſted expectations from that quarter, but brought to his recollection certain papers and correſpondences in the poſſeſſion of the ſaid teſtator, which would naturally fall into the hands of his executor, and diſcloſe matters very inconvenient to his Lordſhip to have revealed. How to get theſe out of Henry's reach was now the queſtion; he had called frequently at the ſick man's door for that purpoſe, but had never been admitted; and to theſe documents, if they were yet in exiſtence, not only his reputation, but what was dearer to him ſtill, his perſonal ſafety, was committed.
It was now that he regretted his former haughty treatment of our hero; he felt himſelf the dupe of Blachford, and perceived that he had practiſed upon his jealouſy with no [Page 38] other view but to ſerve his own revengeful purpoſes, and engage him as a party in his plots againſt an innocent man. Nay, it is to be preſumed, he was not quite proof againſt the many inſtances of Henry's honourable conduct; and the impreſſion Captain Crowbery had now received of our hero's behaviour was ſuch, as had made a total change in his ſentiments, and that gentleman was now become as zealous an advocate and admirer, as before he was an enemy and a perſecutor of Henry. Lord Crowbery, who had motives not quite ſo honourable, but not leſs cogent, for making his peace with our hero, lent a willing ear to the commendations that his couſin beſtowed upon him, and declared himſelf ſo fully convinced that he had been betrayed by Blachford into groundleſs jealouſies and ſuſpicions, that he propoſed inviting him to his houſe, and indulging him with a viſit to his benefactreſs upon the eve of her departure, as a token of his entire reconciliation, and to do away, by this mark of his confidence, all thoſe reports that had been circulated againſt the reputation of his Lady.
This propoſal being heartily ſeconded by the Captain, Lord Crowbery immediately repaired [Page 39] to the chamber of his Lady, and approaching her with a mild and gracious look, he began by aſſuring her that he had entirely and for ever diſmiſſed every relic of unkindneſs and ſuſpicion from his mind; that he was ſenſible he had been led into error, and alarmed without reaſon as to her partiality for Henry; that he ſaw it now not only in the moſt innocent but moſt amiable light, and he wiſhed her to perſiſt in the protection of one ſo well deſerving. Leſt ſhe ſhould doubt the ſincerity of his converſion to an opinion ſo directly oppoſite to what he had lately held, he repeated, in ſhort, the ſubſtance of the converſation he had juſt had with his kinſman, and concluded by ſaying, that as he was perſuaded ſhe muſt wiſh to ſee Henry, and to take leave of him before her departure, he propoſed, with her conſent, to ſend for him to his houſe, where ſhe herſelf ſhould be a witneſs of the reception he would give him.
Lady Crowbery heard this propoſal with a ſenſation of pleaſure not entirely clear from ſuſpicion of its ſincerity, yet as ſhe could readily comprehend ſome reaſons that her Lord might have for altering his tone at leaſt, if not his temper, ſhe was not backward to embrace [Page 40] it with as good a grace as ſhe was capable of aſſuming. Few favours could be leſs expected than that of her being permitted to viſit Manſtock houſe; this was an indulgence far beyond all hope or conjecture, yet, as ſhe owed the firſt to the influence of Mr. L—, ſhe might alſo be indebted to him, jointly with Captain Crowbery, for this further inſtance of a revolution, either real or affected, in the conduct and opinions of her Lord: and now the Captain with much alacrity undertook to be the bearer of a very civil invitation to our hero on the part of the Viſcount, requeſting him forthwith to repair to the Caſtle, where Lady Crowbery was expecting his arrival.
He obeyed the ſummons, and being prepared for a kind reception by the Captain, who accompanied him from the cottage, he was uſhered without delay to the chamber of his mother, where my Lord was waiting, and with as much addreſs as he was maſter of, welcomed him to his houſe, ſaying, that he hoped all former miſunderſtandings would be forgotten, and that they might be good friends and neighbours in all future time. To this Henry made a proper reply in the ſame ſtile of civility, and approached towards Lady [Page 41] Crowbery, to pay her his reſpects ſilently and cautiouſly, with a tender look of pity and attention. Her languid but ſtill lovely countenance cut him to the heart; the change her frame and features had undergone ſince laſt he ſaw her was too viſible. Turning from a ſpectacle ſo affecting, he ſaid,—‘"It is very kind in you, my Lord, to allow me to pay this melancholy duty to my benefactreſs; 'tis generous to have this conſideration for one, who, with all the pureſt ſentiments of gratitude to the only friend he has in life, is now at length permitted to approach her: I humbly thank you for this great indulgence."’
His voice could execute no more—not a word was attempted by the mother.—‘"I'll leave you to yourſelves,"’ ſaid Lord Crowbery, ‘"and give orders that you ſhall not be diſturbed; your time and privacy ſhall be your own."’
The door was ſhut; his ſtep was heard upon the ſtairs; nature was freed from all reſtraint; Henry dropt on his knee, and bathed his mother's hand with tears.—‘"My ſon, my ſon!"’ was all that ſhe could utter. To attempt the recapitulation of this tender dialogue would be in vain, for words can ill deſcribe [Page 42] a ſcene like this; and he muſt be an actor rather than author, that can give life to repreſentatives of ſon and mother in ſuch touching ſituations. The matter, not the manner, lies within my powers. Henry imparted to her his plan of meeting her at Liſbon, by the favour of Captain Cary, now upon the point of ſailing.—‘"Did ſhe approve of his ſo doing?"’—She moſt highly approved of it, and warmly recommended it, for reaſons intereſting to him, no leſs than to herſelf: ſhe had received a verbal intimation, through a confidential channel, from his father, Mr. Delapoer, avowing himſelf the perſon who had ſent her the ring as a token of his affectionate remembrance of her, and faithful adherence to his firſt vows, through many years of abſence, and a long courſe of various adventures; that he ſtill conſidered himſelf as her huſband in heart; and hearing with the deepeſt concern that her caſe was ſuch as made it neceſſary for her to reſort to Liſbon, he had determined to haſten thither himſelf, in the hope that he might be permitted there to devote his honourable attentions to her ſervice, and approve himſelf ſtill gratefully impreſſed with that pure but ardent attachment, which no [Page 43] abſence had been able to abate, and which to the laſt hour of life he ſhould unalterably retain.
This intelligence was in all reſpects moſt ſatisfactory to Henry, who had now a certainty of his father being living, and a fair proſpect of retrieving his late diſappointment, by a ſpeedy meeting. We ſhall not be minute in detailing all that was ſaid by the reſpective parties upon this intereſting topic, nor ſhall we be more particular in ſtating what paſſed between them on the ſubject of Blachford's will; it may ſuffice to ſay, that Henry's diſintereſted renunciation of the bequeſt, in favour of a natural heir, met with full approbation and applauſe from his generous mother, who concluded her remarks upon the tranſaction, by declaring, that from the firſt moment ſhe had heard of it, ſhe had never cordially reconciled herſelf to the circumſtance of her ſon's being made heir to a fortune ſo amaſſed and ſo deviſed, which not only robbed him of the credit of forgiving a repentant enemy, freely and unconditionally, but which would probably involve him in trouble and perplexity, and ſet him forth to the world under a ſuſpicion of foul dealing, which ſhe could [Page 44] not bear to have his character expoſed to, and be made a topic for detraction, for the mere worldly advantages of ſtepping into a man's fortune, who bore no other relation or alliance to him, than as one, who having been his enemy and intentional aſſaſſin, had by a death-bed repentance been converted to a friend and unexpected benefactor. It was therefore with the moſt heartfelt ſatisfaction ſhe ſaw him endowed with ſpirit to judge and act ſo conſonantly to her feelings, without any advice on her part, or any knowledge on his of the extent of her intentions towards him, which, ſhe would now inform him, were no leſs than to bequeath him the whole and entire eſtate of her father, which by will ſhe was inveſted with; a property ſo ample, that the ſuperfluous bequeſt of Mr. Blachford was no longer worth a thought.
This led her to ſpeak of Sir Roger, in whoſe hands ſhe had lodged her will; and after enquiring of her ſon how he had paſſed his time at Manſtock Houſe, with a view to diſcover what the ſtate of his heart was towards the fair Iſabella, turning to him with a look of maternal affection, ſhe ſaid—‘"Ah! my beloved Henry, wou'd you know the firſt and [Page 45] warmeſt wiſh of your fond mother's heart, it is that you may gain an intereſt with that lovely girl, ſo form'd to make you happy: I know her to be ſo devoted to her father, as to have profeſt certain reſolutions, which I hold to be romantic; and I can well believe it muſt be a lover of no common qualities, that can induce her to forego them; but as you cannot in your preſent unacknowledg'd character hope to engage the conſent of my uncle, nor honourably make known your real pretenſions to Iſabella herſelf, I have that perfect truſt in her honour, that I am ready to confide to her alone the ſecret of your being my ſon, if you can give me hope there is that diſpoſition in her, which, upon this diſcovery, might be improv'd to your advantage: tell me therefore with ſincerity how you ſtand in her good graces, and to-morrow, when ſhe and I are alone at Manſtock, I will be your advocate, and throw myſelf upon her candour for your ſake."’
‘"Heaven bleſs you for your goodneſs!"’ cried Henry; ‘"how can I ever thank you as I ought? What can I ſay or do, or undertake for your ſake, that may but in the leaſt degree demonſtrate to you my gratitude for all your [Page 46] bounties? Let me attempt ſome act of duty, which no ſon has ever yet aſpir'd to! let me forbear to think of love and Iſabella, whilſt your life, ſo dear to me above all earthly bleſſings, hangs in this dangerous ſuſpence. I will not ſuffer any other thought to lodge within my heart: Oh! my beloved honour'd mother, let me devote myſelf to you alone."’
Here he again caſt himſelf at her feet, whilſt ſhe threw her arms about his neck and preſſed him to her boſom;—‘"My ſon! my ſoul!"’ ſhe cried, ‘"this tranſport of affection is a cordial to your ſick mother, that gives her a new life: your love revives me, my dear child, and ſeems to animate my languid frame with health and ſtrength. Is it not fit that I ſhould live for him that gives me life? And now, my ſon, without more queſtioning, I have found you out; your heart is in my ſight; I ſee the lovely Iſabella has poſſeſſion of it. How ſhou'd it be otherwiſe? How ſhould ſuch beauty, modeſty, good ſenſe, and ſweetneſs fail to gain the affections of a ſoul congenial to her own? You love her, Henry, and as it is not in your nature to prevaricate, it is not in your nature to deny it."’
At this moment Zachary Cawdle entered [Page 47] the apartment, bearing in his hand a phial, which, although its contents were of a reſtorative quality, we doubt if his patient was not more annoyed by his interruption, than profited by his cordial.
THOUGH Zachary was informed that Henry was with his patient, and knew, without being informed, that the minutes of their privacy were extremely precious, yet as he was fixt in the opinion that all things ought to give way to medicine and method, he did not permit any ſcruples to ſtop him, as ſoon as ever the clock gave notice that the four hours draught was in turn to be repeated. In this inſtance however, the feelings of the ſon did not entirely correſpond with thoſe of the mother, and the interruption that gave pain to her, was to him a ſenſible relief, for in this interval of time he had ſo far recollected himſelf, as to be prepared againſt the dilemma, [Page 48] to which he was now driven with reſpect to Iſabella. The firſt caution, that occurred to his thoughts, was to divert Lady Crowbery from her propoſal of divulging the ſecret of his birth to Miſs Manſtock, or taking any meaſures with that young lady for intereſting her in his favour, eſteeming it unfair that any attempt ſhould be made on her affections on his behalf, circumſtanced as he was with reſpect to Fanny Claypole: the next thing that ſtruck him, was the propriety of holding back from his mother the vexatious embarraſſment he was involved in with the lady laſt mentioned, at leaſt till the reſult of her uncle's report, and her reſolutions thereupon, were made known to him. From the language lately held by Mr. Claypole he ſtill nouriſhed a faint hope that it was poſſible he might be ſet looſe from his unfortunate engagement, an emancipation that he would have thought cheaply purchaſed by the ſacrifice of Blachford's legacy; and in this interim, why was he to be the firſt to publiſh an affair not over delicate in the recital, and certainly not very reputable to the lady in queſtion? If he was diſmiſſed, the leaſt he could do was to keep his own ſecret; if not, it became his intereſt [Page 49] to uphold her reputation by all the means in his power: he therefore prudently determined not to open himſelf on this painful and afflicting ſubject.
No ſooner had the punctual man of medicine left them at liberty to reſume their converſation, than Henry, taking up the ſubject where Lady Crowbery had left it, addreſſed himſelf to her as follows:—‘"I ſhou'd be aſham'd of prevarication in your preſence, more eſpecially as you declare that my heart is in your ſight, which that it may deſerve to be, both now and for ever, it behoves me to keep it clear from diſſimulation and hypocriſy: I am flatter'd therefore, when you ſay that you diſcern in it affection and eſteem for the lovelieſt and moſt amiable of her ſex, as I muſt own you wou'd have reaſon to turn away your eyes with loathing and averſion had you found it unempaſſion'd by her charms or inſenſible to her perfections. Bleſt indeed muſt be the man who cou'd boaſt of the poſſeſſion of a heart like her's, and whoſe pretenſions might be ſanction'd by her father's free conſent; but as I hold myſelf excluded from all chance of ſuch a bleſſing, and am perſuaded that my deſtiny is otherwiſe directed, [Page 50] I do moſt earneſtly implore my kind and generous mother, not only not to let the ſecret of my birth, and the too liberal diſpoſition of her fortune, paſs her lips, but alſo to refrain from moving the ſoft heart of Iſabella in my favour: let that ſweet nature be at peace, nor ſtir her any farther to a thought of me, than as of one who knows himſelf unworthy her regards, and hopeleſsly admires and honours her. If I had ever any place in her affections, let it wear out by abſence; let me, like her, devote myſelf to filial duty, and then, although our objects are alike, our deſtinations will be widely apart: Liſbon and Manſtock Houſe will make a chaſm between us, over which I hope no ſigh of her's will ever paſs. That you believe me worthy ſuch a bleſſing is an honour above all merit; that you would riſque your ſecret, and engage yourſelf to plead for me to Iſabella, is a mark of your benevolence, for which I am ever bound to you; but I moſt ſolemnly implore you for the preſent to withold it."’
‘"Well, my dear Henry,"’ the tender mother replied, ‘"I'll not go counter to your wiſhes, but give you credit for the principle on which you act, though I confeſs you puzzle and ſurprize [Page 51] me: reaſons I muſt ſuppoſe you have, more than you think it needful to diſplay; and as I have firm reliance on your rectitude of thought and conduct, I will not embarraſs you with any queſtions on this point. Are we to meet at Manſtock Houſe?"’
‘"None,"’ replied Henry; ‘"abſolutely none, upon my honour; I am in perfect reconciliation with that gentleman, and hold myſelf for ever bound to teſtify to his moſt honourable and manly behaviour in an affair, where I was much too warm."’
‘"Oh! my dear Madam,"’ exclaimed Henry, ‘"why that queſtion? Let me conceive in ſilence, but not vent thoſe wiſhes even in a whiſper: aſk me not what to Iſabella; my whole ſoul is her's, yet wou'd my tongue be the verieſt traitor to the cauſe of honour and [Page 52] humanity, were it to tell her how I doat upon her. By the love you bear me, I conjure you do not let her know the inſolent confeſſion, which your ſudden queſtion has drawn from me: 'twill ruin me for ever in her thoughts, if ſhe ſhou'd hear that I preſume ſo much as but to name her, though it were in my prayers."’
‘"What is this you tell me?"’ ſhe cried. ‘"Now, Henry, now I own you rouſe my curioſity to know what thought ſo dreadful harbours in your heart. What have you done to ruin yourſelf with Iſabella? Confeſs, for the alarm is terrible; ſurely, my ſon, ſurely your paſſion has not maſter'd your reſpect."’
‘"Juſt Heaven renounce me, if in thought I could offend againſt ſuch purity! No, Madam,"’ he cried, ‘"no, your ſon is not a ſavage; and if I were, her virtue wou'd reſtrain and awe the wildeſt and the worſt of natures."’
‘"What then,"’ ſaid ſhe, ‘"reduces you to hold this language? 'Tis not mere reſpect that dictates to you words like thoſe you utter'd; the moſt humble ſupplicant, nay, Henry, the moſt abject ſelf-convicted offender [Page 53] wou'd not ſo addreſs himſelf to any human being."’
‘"What have I ſaid?"’ reſumed he: ‘"Oh! that I could recal my words; but you will not releaſe them. What can I ſay? Muſt I confeſs to you I have offended Iſabella paſt redemption? Shock'd her chaſte eyes, revolted her pure nature; not indeed in her own perſon; that were to ſin as it were againſt Heaven; but in the perſon of another, far, far different, alas! from her. There let me ſtop; preſs me no farther I conjure you; let her divulge the reſt; and if ſhe does, defend me not, dear mother, but tell her I am conſcience-ſmitten, ſelf-condemn'd, and puniſh'd more than ever wretch was puniſh'd, in the loſs of her eſteem."’
‘"If I did not perſuade myſelf,"’ ſhe replied, ‘"that you are incapable of any thing that's groſsly wrong, I ſhould be truly wretched; but as I am firm in that perſuaſion, and ſatisfied by your aſſurance that the offence does not perſonally affect my co [...] Iſabella, I will not believe that you need [...] to deſpair of pardon: I gueſs it is ſome [...]dy boyiſh ſcrape, which you have fallen into, and I can alſo gueſs with whom, but lovers uſe ſtrong [Page 54] language when they ſpeak of their quarrels, and I can allow a great deal for your extraordinary ſenſibility; a frown, a pout, a pettiſh word can make ſtrange havoc with a heart feeling and fond as your's; but Iſabella will forgive you; take my word for it, Henry, I ſhall find a ſoft moment to make your peace, and ſend you a full pardon, upon proper ſubmiſſion and atonement."’
Henry had by this time collected his thoughts ſufficiently to ſee the danger into which he had been ſurprized, and how far he had outſtept diſcretion in this unguarded declaration of his paſſion; he was therefore eager to avail himſelf of the opening, which his mother's temperate anſwer gave him, for drawing back in time to ſave himſelf, without committing Fanny Claypole; and though it was pretty clear that Lady Crowbery's ſuſpicion pointed at Suſan May, yet as ſhe was not directly named, and time would quickly ſerve for him to clear her character, he acquieſced in the deception, and was ſilent.
It was now time to put an end to their conference; but before this took place, he was fain to compound for a releaſe from all further enquiries, by promiſing to remain where he [Page 55] was during the whole of the next day, when he was to hold himſelf amenable to any ſummons that his mother, after her arrival at Manſtock Houſe, might think fit to ſend him. This compromiſe being acceded to on his part, and ſealed with a maternal embrace on that of Lady Crowbery, they tenderly took leave of each other, and parted.
WHEN Henry arrived at the cottage, he found the nurſe with Suſan May's child waiting his return: in a few minutes after, the chaiſe with the mother herſelf drove to the door. Ezekiel Daw was at this time in attendance upon his penitent. Henry put the nurſe and child into the inner chamber, and no third perſon being preſent at his meeting with Suſan, he proceeded without interruption to explain to her the purpoſes for which he had called her from Manſtock Houſe, and in ſpeaking of her connection with Blachford, [Page 56] treated her feelings with ſuch delicacy (aſſuring her, that by the confeſſion of her ſeducer ſhe would ſtand acquitted to all that heard the ſtory) that his conſideration for her character, no leſs than the very extraordinary ſacrifice he had made to her intereſt, ſo affected her, as to leave her no other powers of expreſſing her gratitude, except what her tears, which flowed in plenty, could ſupply.
‘"Wonder not,"’ he cried, ‘"at what I have done, as if it was a caſe uncommon for a man to be juſt and honeſt. What have I to do with Blachford and his money? If he had bequeath'd it to me, and died before I had made this diſcovery of the claim you have upon him, I ſhou'd have held myſelf obliged in conſcience to make over what he left me to your ſon and you. New I do not wiſh to make a parade of my diſintereſtedneſs, and ſhou'd hold it rather as an affront to be complimented for an act of juſtice, regarding it as a hint, that they ſuſpected me to be a knave; I therefore think myſelf very happy to have found your ſecret out in time, to make that an act of atonement on his part, which, had it devolv'd upon me, wou'd have put me to the trouble of a conveyance, and annoy'd me very probably [Page 57] with a great deal of that popularity and applauſe, which ſome people are flatter'd with, but which I have no taſte for."’
When Henry, by this and other repreſentations like this, perceived that he had in ſome degree quieted the agitation of Suſan's ſpirits, he put her in mind to make ready for an interview with the father of her child, and having ſtept into the inner room, he preſented to her ſight the child itſelf, giving it into her arms, and declaring it to be his ward, and the infant heir of Blachford. The beauty of the child, the ecſtacy of the mother, the aſtoniſhment of the nurſe, and the benevolence depicted in the features of our blooming hero, compoſed a group of characters not totally unworthy the hiſtoric pencil of the painter of the paſſions.
The generous heart of Henry, in the contemplation of this ſcene, enjoyed a more luxurious banquet than the wealth of Blachford could have purchaſed. True gratitude, like deep-felt woe, is not to be diſcharged by words; Suſan was mute, and once, if Henry had not ſtopt her, ſhe was falling at his feet.—‘"What are you about to do?’ he cried. ‘"Remember, you once tender'd me your all; I'm [Page 58] only paying you with what is not my own."’—And now bidding her take heart and follow him, he proceeded with her, the infant, and the nurſe, to the ſick man's houſe: they were admitted without delay; Blachford was impatiently expecting them, and Ezekiel Daw was in the chamber with him. Henry took the child in his arms, and advancing to the couch, preſented it to its father—‘"I have brought,"’ he cried, ‘"two comforters to viſit you; the one, in the perſon of this ſmiling cherub, ſeems the very emblem of peace; the other, (pointing to Suſan as he ſpoke) by your juſtice reinſtated in her innocence, and indemnified for her injuries, will heal thoſe inward pains that agonize us more than all our fleſhly wounds: accept them, cheriſh them, embrace them; they will brighten every moment of your life, and the laſt moment more than all; in this life, they will be the witneſſes and recorders of your penitence, in the life to come your advocates and interceſſors at the throne of mercy."’—Blachford took the child in his arms, and liſting up his eyes, exclaimed—‘"The Lord of mercy grant their interceſſions may avail!"’—‘"Amen!"’ echoed the pious Ezekiel, from a corner of the room, to which [Page 59] he had retreated, and where, dropping on his knees, he ſilently put up a fervent and (let us hope) not ineffectual prayer.
Blachford, whoſe mind was now prepared for death, and felt the awful coming on, was inſtant in his wiſhes to complete the laſt remaining taſk he had to do on earth, whilſt yet his ſenſes were entire. The lawyer was in waiting, and Zachary, with his ſub-ſurgeon Kinloch, coming in moſt opportunely at the inſtant, all things ſeemed to favour the important work, and nothing now was wanting but the concluding forms to make it perfect. Blachford was raiſed upon his couch to ſign and ſeal; the materials were ſet before him, the witneſſes ſtood round him, when turning his eyes on Zachary firſt, and next on Kinloch, he ſaid,—‘"I call upon you, gentlemen, to atteſt upon the faith of honeſt men, and able judges of my ſituation, that I am now in mental faculties ſound and competent to execute this deed, declaring it my will and teſtament, by which I make this infant, born of Suſan May here preſent, and my ſon, of her begotten out of wedlock, ſole heir of all my property, ſave what is herein given and bequeathed to her, the mother, by annuity charged [Page 60] on the eſtate; alſo one ſmall acknowledgment of five hundred pounds to this my executor, and guardian of my ſon, Henry Fitzhenry, ſo called, at whoſe ſolicitation, voluntarily and generouſly made, I have revoked the former diſpoſition of my affairs in his behalf. A moſt diſintereſted and conſcientious act it was, and I do pray him to accept this ſmall bequeſt in token of my love and his forgiveneſs, conſcious as I am of his unequalled worth, and deeply penitent for all that I have ſaid, or done, or meditated in his wrong: and further, I enjoin and ſtrictly charge the mother of my child to be obſervant of his counſel and advice, and firmly to impreſs upon the mind of this her infant, as he grows to years of reaſon and reflection, what he owes to this his benefactor, by whoſe ſpecial bounty he is now endow'd with affluence, that elſe it never cou'd have been his fortune to enjoy."’
Having ſaid this, and the appeal he had made to Zachary and his attendant being anſwered with aſſurances of their entire conviction of his being in perfect poſſeſſion of his ſenſes (a point indeed which no one of his hearers could be deceived in) he ſigned and ſealed his will, and, after it was witneſſed, delivered [Page 61] it to Henry. Exhauſted by theſe efforts, he began ſo evidently to droop, that Doctor Cawdle, in virtue of his medical authority, diſmiſſed the whole company. The mother, child and nurſe were by Blachford's deſire accommodated with beds in his houſe; Henry contented himſelf with his quarters at the cottage; but having hitherto abſtained from aſking any queſtions about a matter that was neareſt to his heart, and the buſineſs to which he had devoted his firſt attention being ſo happily concluded, he became impatient for a few minutes in private with his friend Suſan. Of this wiſhed-for opportunity he was ſoon put in poſſeſſion; for Ezekiel, on whoſe mind theſe events had made a powerful impreſſion, had walked home in deep meditation, without ſaying a word to any body; whereupon Suſan, having given her boy in charge to the nurſe, retired with Henry into Blachford's parlour. It was the very room where the one party had been arraigned for his life, and the other deſpoiled of her innocence. What mighty revolutions can a few ſhort days effect! the offender at the point of death, the ſufferers reſtored to their character, and the property of the guilty, including the very ſcene [Page 62] of his criminality, actually made over as an atonement to the guiltleſs.
Henry, to prevent interruption, made faſt the door, and taking Suſan by the hand, led her to a chair: ſhe was ſtill trembling with agitation; tremors of another ſort would have poſſeſſed her, had Henry ſo done a while ago: ſhe now looked up to him with aweful admiration; love, tempered with reſpect, gave that chaſte expreſſion to her eyes, which on ſome paſt occaſions had exhibited affections not ſo pure: paſſions as irreſiſtible as that which now had command of her more than once had impelled her to embrace him wantonly in her arms; pure gratitude, unmixed with any groſſer impulſe, now threw her, bathed in tears, upon his neck: he preſſed her tenderly to his boſom, ſpoke of the kindneſſes ſhe had ſo often ſhewn him, and aſſerted obligations received on his part, prior and ſuperior to theſe conferred on her; when, having ſoothed her in this generous manner for ſome minutes—‘"Now tell me, I conjure you,"’ he cried, ‘"and tell me truly, am I totally undone in the opinion of your lovely miſtreſs?"’—‘"Alas!"’ ſhe replied, ‘"what can I tell you, my dear friend and benefactor? certain it is, [Page 63] that gentle heart is wounded through and through; but whether more by diſpleaſure than by ſorrow I am yet to learn. She is very ſilent on the ſubject, and it is not from her lips that the ſtory has eſcap'd; it is Miſs Claypole herſelf and her politic uncle (pardon me, if I cannot ſpeak of them with the reſpect that becomes me) who have made public what my young lady's delicacy never would have ſpoken of, and what their's, one ſhould have thought, would have been intereſted to conceal. But when Miſs thought fit to blazon her own ſhame, by bouncing out of the houſe, and betaking herſelf to the parſonage, as if ſhe had been flying from her perſecutors, the whole family were up in arms, as I may ſay, and every mouth was open'd to cry ſhame upon her. 'Tis not to be told with what a confidence ſhe has carried it off, venting herſelf againſt my meek young lady in a manner that I am ſure you wou'd deteſt her for. Ah! my beloved friend, where were your eyes, your heart, your underſtanding, during that fatal gallery-adventure? I can no otherwiſe account for it, than by ſuppoſing you was not in your ſenſes at the moment; knowing how temperate you are, and unaccuſtom'd to exceſs, [Page 64] I muſt impute it to the effects of the wine you drank upon the election meeting, and ſo I told my Lady."’—‘"You told her true,"’ ſaid Henry; ‘"but what then? One beſtiality cannot excuſe another."’
‘"Pardon me,"’ rejoined Suſan, ‘"her candour found a motive for excuſing it; but no candour can juſtify the ſacrifice you are making of your happineſs, if the report be true, which that young madam circulates, that you are pledg'd to her for marriage. Heaven forbid that I ſhou'd ſee that day! Surely, ſurely you have not madly made that promiſe; why, 'tis ruin, miſery, diſgrace inevitable! Stop me, if I proceed too far; I ſhou'd be ſorry to offend you; but indeed, my dear Sir, every body knows, and every body ſays, without ſcruple, what Miſs Claypole is."’
‘"What is ſhe! A coquette, a flirt, a wanton: one that will go great lengths, if not all; but that perhaps you can beſt tell: be that however as it may, you are not the only favour'd lover; others, and not a few, have been as kindly treated as yourſelf: her uncle knows that well enough, and is indeed a generous man to part with what he's tir'd of, and [Page 65] knows to be a property that hangs upon his hands, and keeps him in alarm for every day that paſſes till he is rid of her. Believe me, my dear Sir, that uncle is a deep one; not a ſervant in the family but laments the influence he has over their good maſter; and though Miſs Manſtock is too delicate to ſpeak out, I can diſcover to a certainty that ſhe is not miſtaken in his character; no, nor my Lady Crowbery neither, though it is given out in the houſe that he is to ſucceed to your Mr. Ratcliffe's living."’
‘"Indeed!"’ cried Henry, ‘"is that ſaid? 'Tis time for me to counteract him in thoſe hopes. Claypole ſucceed my friend! my honour'd friend! Impoſſible! that ſhall never take place."’—Obſerving Suſan look at him with ſurprize, he recollected himſelf, and in an humble tone added,—‘"At leaſt if I have any intereſt with the lady patroneſs."’—Suſan reſumed her diſcourſe—‘"And now,"’ ſaid ſhe, ‘"Miſs Claypole gives it out that ſhe was frighted by the thunder-ſtorm, and fainted in your arms: if it were ſo, what then? I hope you are not bound to marry the firſt lady that faints in your arms: but who believes that ſhe was frighted? Nobody; ſhe is not of the ſort [Page 66] to be ſo eaſily frighted; you muſt have known, if you had been yourſelf, that it was all put on to win you to her ways. The ſervants all declare that ſhe was fit to eat you up, as they deſcribe it; every one ſaw that, and knew what ſhe was driving at: ſhe dogg'd you to the gallery, and there the lucky ſtorm help'd forward her determin'd ſcheme to take you in the very cue for miſchief, heated with wine, half tipſey, and leſs than half yourſelf. Oh, Henry, Henry! (ſuffer me this once to addreſs you thus familiarly) can I not ſpeak in proof of your forbearance; of your ſelf-command? Have I not a right to ſay, though ſaying it, I ought to bluſh at the recollection, that I have found you maſter of yourſelf, when I have loſt all government of reaſon in the exceſs of my love to you? How often and how impetuouſly has paſſion hurried me into your arms, although no lucky ſtorm was there commodiouſly to favour my fond wiſhes? yet you have withſtood all trials; but perhaps nature has given her charms and powers to tempt, which I am not poſſeſs'd of; but this is true, as truth itſelf can witneſs, that no conceſſions on my part, no promiſe on your's, ſhou'd have prevail'd with me, even when [Page 67] your fortune was at the loweſt ebb, to have trepan'd you into marriage, conſcious as I was that I had not that maiden purity to give, which you had ſo much right to expect. You know, full well you know, deareſt and beſt of friends, there was a time, when in our ſports and frolics by the way, as we return'd from making our purchaſes, that when you glanc'd at marriage, I drew back at once, and oftentimes I've been upon the point of telling you this tale of my ſeduction, had you not always ſeis'd thoſe dangerous moments to cut ſhort our converſation, and preſerve my virtue and your own: and now, what mighty obligation can you have to this ſeducing wanton, though we'll ſuppoſe you have gone beyond that limit where diſcretion ſhou'd have ſtop'd? Grant that you have; whoſe virtue ſuffer'd moſt by the ſurpriſe? your's or the lady's? Becauſe ſhe throws away her reputation, muſt you marry her?"’
‘"Before I anſwer to that queſtion,"’ replied Henry, ‘"let me clear up one error. If Miſs Claypole was inviolate before our meeting in that odious gallery, I promiſe you ſhe left it as ſhe enter'd it for me: her favours did not go the length you hint at. The viſion of an [Page 66] [...] [Page 67] [...] [Page 68] angel ſcar'd me from her embrace; the frown of purity itſelf ſubdued my guilty paſſions, and I fled from her allurements: but as I hold it due from every man of honour to make atonement for even the ſlighteſt ſtain he caſts upon the fame of a woman of character, I tender'd her the only reparation in my power; my hand, if that cou'd heal the injury. She took my hand, alas! and broke my heart."’
‘"Thank Heaven!"’ cried Suſan, ‘"you have taken one weight from my mind; the main point was not carried; ſhe has felt one diſappointment, and I'll engage it was a cutting one. Now I can underſtand the reaſon for her ſhifting to the vicarage; 'tis all a trap to catch you, and make ſure of you; ſhe thinks your honour then wou'd ſeal the bargain, and ſurrender you for life the dupe of her contrivances; but go not near her, I conjure you; let not that uncle, who is her ſetter, draw you in to viſit her alone; you are ruin'd if you do. As for a word dropt in an unguarded moment, when you was not in clear poſſeſſion of your reaſon, that I perſuade myſelf you will not think yourſelf oblig'd to abide by, nor ſacrifice the happineſs of your whole life for a romantic punctilio."’
[Page 69] Henry ſhook his head: ſhe proceeded—‘"Now I begin to have more than a dawn of hope. Oh! let me once come to the ear of my dear young lady, and I'll pledge myſelf that all will be ſet ſtraight. She loves you at her heart; I know ſhe does; nay, ſhe has own'd it to me in ſo many words. Vext as ſhe was, and mortified to the very ſoul at your proceeding, ſtill, when ſhe ſurpris'd me reading your kind note on the morning of your leaving us, and ſaw the generous gift that it inclos'd, underſtanding it was a farewel token to my mother before you left us and went out to ſea, the colour fled her cheeks, her eyes quiver'd in their lids, and ſhe dropt, ſweet afflicted ſoul, like a bloſſom from the ſtalk, lifeleſs into my arms. If this is not the very teſt of love, what is it? Ah! my dear, dear friend, do but once ſhake off this flirting damſel, and Miſs Manſtock is your own."’
‘"Who ſays that it is thrown away,"’ replied Suſan? ‘"I have conviction to the contrary."’—(Here ſhe drew a letter from her pocket.) [Page 70] ‘"Does this appear like anger?"’ ſhe demanded.—‘"Here is a note penn'd with her own fair hand; it is entruſted to me on this condition, only to be deliver'd to you, if you are diſengag'd from Fanny Claypole."’—‘"Stop then,"’ cried Henry; ‘"on theſe terms I muſt not take it, bleſs'd as I ſhou'd be."’—‘"What am I to infer from this?"’ ſaid ſhe.—‘"That I will not permit you to break through conditions, which Miſs Manſtock has impos'd."’—‘"But what if I am privy to the contents?"’—‘"Let them be ſacred,"’ he rejoined; ‘"breathe not a ſyllable, however delightful to my ears: I am not diſengag'd from Miſs Claypole, and therefore muſt not violate the ſeal, nor ſecretly purloin the purport of that letter, entruſted to you under thoſe reſtrictions: remember, Suſan, the ſame principle, which led me to decline the bequeſt of Mr. Blachford, now obliges me to deny myſelf the tranſport which the peruſal of that angel's favour wou'd beſtow."’—‘"What do I hear?"’ cried Suſan.—‘"Are you then—?"’—‘"Undone!"’ ſaid Henry, and departed.
IF there is not a ſecret joy in being ſtrictly faithful to the rigid laws of honour, our hero muſt have been at this moment of all men moſt miſerable; for he might well preſume that Iſabella's letter was a kind one; and what had this world to give him comparable to a teſtimony of her kindneſs? Nothing but the conſciouſneſs of acting right. Educated in the moſt correct adherence to truth and rectitude, he had no ſophiſtry to palliate the ſlighteſt deviation from them, and ſhuddered at deceit however qualified. Stung to the quick by his remorſe for having been a party in the cauſe, if not the cauſe itſelf, of Fanny Claypole's miſbehaviour, he took her ſhame upon himſelf; and vexed at the recollection of his own weak facility in falling in with her advances, he determined to meet the conſequences he had drawn upon himſelf, unleſs reſcued either by her voluntary releaſe, or ſome ſuch unequivocal proofs of her miſconduct as [Page 72] might juſtify him in renouncing the connection. Upon his return to the cottage, he found Ezekiel in the act of conſoling himſelf with his afternoon's pipe, whilſt his bible laid open on the table before him. The pious creature was in profound meditation upon the book of Proverbs, on which he was founding an admonitory diſcourſe for the edification of Suſan May, whom, though he had exculpated in the face of her reverend accuſer, yet it muſt be owned to have been a ſlight ſtretch upon the truth of his opinion, extorted from him in his zeal for ſaying the beſt of a friend, and for oppoſing any ſentiment of Claypole, who was juſt then in no high favour with him, or, more properly ſpeaking, in ſovereign contempt. Occupied in this manner, he took ſo little notice of Henry, on his coming into the room, that it might be doubted if he ſaw him; and Henry, on his part, had his thoughts too much employed to ſolicit his attention.
My uncle, who ſees moſt things in a falſe light, thinks you have done very unwiſely in [Page 73] declining Blachford's fortune; but money is his god, and love is mine. I build my happineſs upon better things than riches, and admire your ſpirit; though I muſt own it wou'd not have been amiſs had you taken the fellow's dirty pelf, rather than it ſhou'd fall into the hands of thoſe low creatures, who are in the way now to profit by it. I ſhou'd like to live at Crowbery, and have particular reaſons for wiſhing you to reſerve that place at leaſt to yourſelf, whatever becomes of the reſt of the property. I have quitted the old manſion and its formal inhabitants, and am now entirely alone in my uncle's houſe; if you have any pity for a ſolitary damſel, you will come to me without delay: here are no ſpirits to haunt us, nor any galleries in which they walk by night. My houſe, my heart, my arms are open to receive you. What can my teazing uncle mean by telling me you are going out of England without ſeeing me? that I am ſure is impoſſible; that I will not believe: the man of my choice will never treat me ſo; he has too much honour, too much love, too much pity for a fond doating heart, which ſuch neglect wou'd break. I ſhall look for you this night, this happy [Page 74] night; if not, with the firſt dawn of day at fartheſt; longer than till then I cannot live without you; think what I am ſuffering till I ſee you; loſt to all the world but you, I have nothing to regret ſo you are faithful, and delay not to bleſs
Your fond expecting FRANCES CLAYPOLE.
This was a puzzling dilemma; Henry had promiſed his mother to obey her ſummons if ſhe called him to her at Manſtock-houſe; he could not therefore tell Miſs Claypole he was going to his ſhip the next day, neither could he with any face come to Manſtock without viſiting her; if therefore he was ever to ſee her, better he ſhould go before Lady Crowbery arrived at her uncle's; and whatever was to be the reſult of his meeting, better he ſhould bring it to a definitive concluſion before he put himſelf in the way of Iſabella, whoſe attentions to him, whilſt his fate was in ſuſpenſe, would embarraſs him beyond meaſure, as not knowing how far he might be warranted in honour to receive them.
It was now about ſeven o'clock in an autumnal evening, the diſtance twelve miles, and [Page 75] the meſſenger was well mounted: he was a country fellow, and no domeſtic of Claypole's. Henry aſked him if he would lend him his horſe, and take money for hiring another at the poſt town two miles off. This propoſal, backed with a piece of gold, was perfectly acceptable to the meſſenger, and Henry ſtept into the cottage to apprize his friend Ezekiel of his motions, and to equip himſelf for the ſaddle. A very ſhort apology ſatisfied Ezekiel, whoſe thoughts were farther from home than Henry would be at the end of his ſtage; as ſoon therefore as he had drawn on his boots, and ſignified his intentions of ſleeping at Dame May's, he ſet off at a ſmart rate, and within the hour arrived ſafely at the vicarage gate.
Great was the tranſport of Fanny Claypole when the object of her anxious expectation preſented himſelf to her ſight; ſhe flung the book ſhe was reading from her, and ran with open arms, in an ecſtacy, to embrace him: wild with ſurprize and joy, ſhe ſcarce knew what ſhe did; with her hair looſe and flowing, ſhe ſeemed a perfect Sybil in her phrenzy; her dreſs (if dreſs it might be called, that totally obſcured no charms which nature had endowed her with) was ſo invitingly diſpoſed as [Page 76] ſhewed the effects of ſtudy and deſign rather than of chance or negligence; for little was concealed that could allure, yet not ſo much expoſed as to leave nothing for imagination to ſupply; and a fairer field for excurſions of that ſort could hardly be found than in the form of Fanny.
When her flutter had in part ſubſided, ſhe threw herſelf on the couch in a careleſs attitude, and obſerving that Henry kept himſelf aloof, and did not take her hint for ſeating himſelf by her, ſhe demanded what was the matter with him? had not he recovered his alarm in the gallery? or was he waiting for another thunder ſtorm before he could find in his heart any pity for a poor diſconſolate damſel, who had no ſoul in the houſe to protect her but one old woman, who had neither eyes, ears, nor underſtanding? ‘"Here we are,"’ ſaid ſhe, ‘"without one ſoul that will come near us for the live-long night, and what will become of me Heaven only knows, in this deſolate manſion, unleſs you will manfully undertake to guard me, and turn into the vicar's bed for the night."’
Henry ſmiled, and ſhook his head.—‘"Poſitively,"’ reſumed ſhe, ‘"I cannot part from [Page 77] you; I wou'd as ſoon ſleep amongſt the tombs as in this dreary ſolitude, with no other centinel than the ſnoring old dame in the garret. Now I know as well as can be, by your looks, what is paſſing in your mind: my uncle has been preaching to you in his canting ſtrain; but I take no account of what he thinks or what he ſays; I am independent of him and the whole world; and if you ſuppoſe my peace of mind can be diſturb'd by their talk, you are miſtaken; where I have beſtow'd my heart I am not afraid to entruſt my reputation: ſurely, if I aſk protection of you, you will not refuſe it to me."’
‘"Certainly I will not,"’ ſaid Henry; ‘"but as no danger can accrue to your perſon, tho' I ſhou'd leave you, and much to your reputation if I ſhou'd remain with you, can there be a doubt what I ought to do?"’—‘"Ridiculous!"’ reſumed ſhe, ‘"this over-care of what the world may ſay, if you perſiſt in it, will make me doubt if I have form'd a right opinion of your character. When you rejected the temptations that fortune threw before you, it was a gallant reſolution; but it is no proof of ſpirit to decline the favours of a lady. What care I if the whole world knew that you ſlept in this houſe? The thing [Page 78] ſpeaks for itſelf; I am miſtreſs of my choice, and you the man I have choſen; let the world comment upon that as it likes. I have quitted ſociety, and put myſelf into ſolitude for your ſake; to whom then but to you am I to reſort for protection, for conſolement, nay, for juſtification? Where elſe ſhall I go? To my uncle? Never; I have done with him; I renounce him; I am your's and only your's. We have interchang'd our hearts: what witneſſes do we need of that? Not all the parſons in the kingdom can do more, and without this their ceremonies are but mockeries; therefore let's hear no more of this affected tenderneſs for reputation, this hypocriſy of ſentiment, which wou'd refine away the nobleſt paſſions of the ſoul; let our love be without canting, our confidence without reſtraint; and to convince you of my ſincerity in both reſpects, I am free to confeſs that it is not to any real terrors I experienc'd in the ſtorm that you are indebted for the endearments I beſtow'd on you laſt night; they were the free effuſions of my heart, and you may tell your conſcience to be quiet on that ſcore; for it was love, my Henry, not the elements, that threw me in your power, and the ſame love now [Page 79] courts you to the ſame endearments, ſecret and ſecure from all diſturbers of our hours ſo precious. Come then, throw off that cold reſerve, thoſe diſtant looks that have no ſympathy with mine. My eyes are honeſt and ſincere; they ſpeak a plain intelligible language; what ails your's, that they cannot or will not underſtand it without compelling me, againſt the practice of my ſex, to help you to a comment?"’
‘"It is becauſe I do underſtand their language, and feel their power,"’ replied Henry, ‘"that I avoid them. Either you think yourſelf leſs dangerous than you are, or me more firm than I pretend to be, when you beckon me to that couch."’—He was proceeding, when ſhe ſtopt him, crying out—‘"Come, come, there is enough of this trifling; more than enough of this ridiculous, this unmanly affectation. Beware how you provoke me; I ſhall become deſperate if I am inſulted."’ Regardleſs of theſe menaces, Henry kept his poſt, and advanced not a ſtep towards her. She kept her eyes fixed upon him, and exclaimed—‘"By all the loves and graces, Henry, you have the form of an Apollo! wou'd to heaven you had his fire! Well, keep your pedeſtal, cold lifeleſs [Page 80] image, and let me gaze upon you till my admiration warms into idolatry; 'twill gratify your pride, perhaps, to ſee me kneeling at your feet and worſhipping you: mark, how naturally I'll act Pygmalion's part, and make love to a ſtatue."’
This ſaid, ſhe ſtarted from the couch, and was advancing towards him, when, preventing her as ſhe was in the act of dropping on her knees, he cried, ‘"Pray, do not laugh at me; I cannot ſtand your ridicule."’
‘"Vittoria!"’ ſhe cried, ‘"I've made the ſtatue move and ſpeak. Now, ſince your marble majeſty can bend, be pleas'd to ſit beſide me. Oh! all ye gods! it ſmiles, it animates, it yields, it ſoftens with the touch; happy change! it lives! If the mere preſſure of the hand does this, my arms, perhaps, may warm it into love: I'll claſp it to my heart, I'll breathe my life into its lips, and ſhare my ſoul between us."’
‘"Stop, Syren!"’ Henry exclaimed, ‘"I'm not reſponſible for conſequences thus urg'd upon me, nor am I bound in honour to repair them: whilſt I believ'd your terrors in the ſtorm had thrown you from your natural guard, and ſubjected you to weakneſſes, which in a [Page 81] more collected moment your virtue wou'd have ſpurn'd at, I felt myſelf a party in the treaſon, and tender'd you the only reparation in my power ('twas all I had to offer) my unworthy ſelf; but when you openly declare thoſe fears were feign'd, and freely take the blame upon yourſelf, you quit me of the atonement; and now again, when you return to the attack, and with ſuch exquiſite allurements tempt a man, who viſits you with none but honourable purpoſes, and combats againſt nature to preſerve you in that purity of character, which is your ſex's ornament, I think it fair to warn you that my ſentiments reſpecting favours in anticipation differ ſo eſſentially from your's, that ſhe, who has been miſtreſs to me with her own conſent, ſhall never be my wife. Beauty, and wit, and fortune, you poſſeſs more than my hopes aſpire to; but permit me to obſerve, that, flatter'd as I am by your attachment, chaſtity is a virtue indiſpenſible in the female character, and without that I ſhou'd conſider marriage as a certain ſacrifice of happineſs."’
‘"Marriage! I laugh at it! marriage was never made for ſouls like mine: my love can never wait upon the lazy forms of plodding [Page 82] mercenary law; I ſcorn them all; nor are you fit for the dull drudgery of that ſlaviſh ſtate; too young, too inexperienc'd, and too choice to be made daily uſe of, your beauty, like a precious garment, ſhou'd be reſerv'd for feaſts and holidays; 'twas never made for the coarſe wear-and-tear of wedlock; if you had thought of marriage you wou'd never have refuſed the fortune Blachford had bequeath'd you: I ſee it hangs upon you like a debt of honour, therefore I ſet you free; I'll not exact it of you; marry ten years hence, and marry whom you will; of this and every other obligation honour can impoſe I perfectly acquit you, only for this I ſtipulate, I'll not be treated with contempt; of all engagements I acquit you, but not of gratitude: Oh Henry! have a care how you inſult a woman who has broke through all reſerve, and laid her heart before you: after this night you are free; I reſign you—even to Iſabella."’
How quick and ſudden are the ſhifts of paſſion! a word ſometimes will call up a new train of thoughts, and change our reſolutions in an inſtant. It was not virtue's ſelf, but virtue's ſubſtitute that ſaved our hero; ſunk into the arms of the ſeducer, and reſigned to [Page 83] the temptation, the name of Iſabella rouſed him like a ſpell; he ſtarted, ſprung with horror from the couch, and cried, ‘"You have redeem'd yourſelf and me: I leave you to your better recollection."’—‘"Stop,"’ ſhe exclaimed, ‘"unleſs you are reſolv'd to be my murderer."’ Then, ſnatching up a ſharp-pointed knife, with which ſhe had been cutting open the leaves of her book, ‘"by the eternal Truth,"’ ſhe cried, ‘"I'll plunge this weapon in my heart if you deſert me."’ Here ſhe put herſelf into a menacing attitude, with a look of ſo much deſperation, that Henry on the inſtant ſprung forward, and ſeized her uplifted hand, to wrench the knife from her graſp: furious with rage, ſhe ſtruggled to keep hold of it; and in the ſtruggle, whether purpoſely or accidentally we pretend not to ſay, lodged the point of it in his left arm, below the elbow: in the ſame moment he got poſſeſſion of the knife, and ſecured it in his pocket: ſhe probably perceived what ſhe had done, for ſhe ſtood torpid with aſtoniſhment and terror: he rang the bell with violence; an elderly woman came running to the call. ‘"I charge you be attentive to your lady,"’ he cried, ‘"for ſhe is ſuddenly taken ill."’ Then, finding that [Page 84] the blood was flowing apace from the wound, and would ſoon diſcover itſelf if he ſtaid any longer, he haſtened out of doors, and ſtuffing his handkerchief up his ſleeve, ran as quick as he could to the houſe of Goody May, which luckily was near at hand.
IT was well for our hero that he had not many paces to meaſure before he found an houſe to take ſhelter in; for though he held his hand cloſe preſſed upon the wound, the ſluice kept running apace, and his waſte of blood would not have ſuited a much longer march. The widow was at home, and her hoſpitable door ſtood open. ‘"Come, Mother,"’ cried Henry, as he entered, ‘"I have another caſe for you; more work for the good Samaritan."’ This ſaid, he began to ſtrip off his coat, which had no ſooner diſplayed to her ſight an arm covered with blood, than ſhe gave a loud ſhriek, ſtarted back with horror, and fell a-trembling from head to foot. ‘"Courage! my good friend,"’ cried the undaunted [Page 85] youth, with a cheering ſmile; ‘"a good ſurgeon does not ſhrink at the ſight of a wound,"’—‘"Wou'd to Heaven I was a good ſurgeon for your ſake,"’ replied ſhe, ‘"or any way more able to aſſiſt you than I am.’—‘"Take heart,"’ he cried; ‘"give me a chair to reſt my arm upon in an horizontal poſture, and fetch ſome lint to ſtaunch the blood; then, I warrant, all will be well in a few minutes."’ Cheered with theſe words, the good dame beſtirred herſelf, and preſently returned from her repoſitory with a large pledget of lint ſteeped in friar's balſam, which ſhe laid over the wound, and bound it up with a ſwathe of linen in ſeveral folds. ‘"Here's a piece of work,"’ ſhe cried; ‘"Oh that Mr. L— was here to dreſs you! but let me ſend poſt haſte for Doctor Cawdle; as for myſelf, God help me, it pities me to the heart to ſee your fair fleſh hack'd and hew'd in ſuch a barbarous manner: Oh the villain that has done this! I wou'd I had him ſafe in fetters of iron! ſome murderous wretch has ſtabb'd you in the dark; as ſure as can be 'tis that bloody Captain you fought with in the morning; he has way-laid you on the road at night; but we'll raiſe the neighbours, and have a hue-and-cry after him, pleaſe God! Is there to be no [Page 86] end to the malice of theſe accurſed Crowberys?"’
‘"There are no Crowberys in the caſe,"’ replied Henry, ‘"nor any malice, ſo put yourſelf at peace, and ſay no more about it; 'tis an accident, and nothing more; a mere caſualty, owing to my own aukwardneſs."’—‘"But how did it happen?"’ ſhe ſtill demanded; ‘"I'm poſitive it has been the ſtab of a ſword, or a dagger, or a knife, or ſome wicked weapon or other, for it has gone in the Lord knows how far."’ In this manner ſhe perſiſted in preſſing him with enquiries, till he found no eſcape but by taking a little more liberty with the truth than was his cuſtom to do, and making up as plauſible a ſtory as he could invent to account for the accident: however, ſhe ſtill remained incredulous, crying out, ‘"You are too forgiving; indeed, my dear young Sir, you are much too forgiving in all conſcience; and tho' to be ſure humanity is very amiable, yet after all it is an act of juſtice to bring the guilty to puniſhment, and you may depend upon it they will be the death of you ſome time or other, tho' I hope, with God's bleſſing, they have miſs'd their aim for this turn."’
‘"If you will go on in a miſtake, my good [Page 87] friend,"’ ſaid Henry, ‘"you muſt; ſo there let us leave it: I have news to tell you of your daughter, whom you ſeem to have forgotten."’ He then related to her briefly what had been paſſing at Blachford's, and how he had diverted that dying man's great bequeſt from himſelf to thoſe whom he conſidered as having a better claim to it.
When this was diſcloſed to her, with the circumſtance of her daughter's being a mother, (of which, ſtrange as it may ſeem, ſhe had hitherto been kept in ignorance) the variety of ſenſations which the diſcovery of facts ſo affecting at once excited, ſeemed to deprive her of ſpeech and recollection. Henry ſaw the conflict of her thoughts, and perceiving that in ſpeaking of her grand-child he had opened an affair which till then he had no notion ſhe could be uninformed of, inſtantly began to explain to her, in the moſt conſoling manner, the whole plot which Blachford and his accomplice had put in practice to obtain their wicked purpoſes, and entrap their innocent victim.
Here the good mother's paſſion broke in upon his narrative. ‘"Monſter! villain!"’ ſhe exclaimed; ‘"Oh! that I had known his goings-on, [Page 88] that I might have brought him to the gallows as he deſerved. What cou'd poſſeſs my child to ſcreen ſo vile a wretch?"’—‘"Be content,"’ replied Henry; ‘"he has met his doom at laſt; and you have now the comfort to reflect, that by eſcaping the puniſhment of the law, he has liv'd to repent, and, as far as human circumſtances will admit, to atone for the crime he has perpetrated: the ſon, which that dark tranſaction brought into the world, now ſurvives to inherit the fortune of the father, and the injur'd mother is enabled to live eaſy and independent for the reſt of her days; and who ſhall arraign her character?"’ He then concluded with what he knew would be the moſt healing reflection he could ſuggeſt to her, aſſuring her that even Ezekiel Daw, with all his purity and preciſeneſs, abſolutely and entirely acquitted Suſan May, and had aſſerted her innocence in the ſtrongeſt terms to the Rev. Mr. Claypole, in a converſation on the ſubject.
As he was thus diſcourſing, the cloud that had gathered upon her countenance cleared away, and the ſhower it had been collecting began to vent itſelf at her eyes. Words were no longer wanting, but, like a ſpring repreſſed, [Page 89] burſt out with increaſed volubility; they were the unpremeditated effuſions of a heart overcharged with its own feelings; gratitude, aſtoniſhment, joy, tranſported her by turns from one to the other, yet ſhe found expreſſions for them all, in broken ſentences, after her manner, ſo that it was ſome length of time whilſt Henry was fain to give patient hearing to her rhapſodies before he could perceive her ſpirits to ſubſide into any tolerable degree of calmneſs; and perhaps it was more owing to her being exhauſted, than to any efforts on his part, when at laſt ſhe became quiet and compoſed.
This interval, however, was but ſhort; for ſoon the recollection of his wound ſeized her afreſh, and ſhe began to moan and lament over him more piteouſly than at firſt: her imagination painted him expiring under the ſtab of an aſſaſſin; all his noble generous acts roſe in review; accumulated obligations preſſed upon her memory with ſuch overwhelming weight, that her grateful ſoul ſunk under it, and ſhe caſt herſelf proſtrate at his feet, embracing them, and crying out, in broken accents, ‘"The Lord of mercy ſave you! the widow's prayers protect and draw a bleſſing on you, in return for all your bounteous goodneſs, [Page 90] and for this your unſpeakable tenderneſs in ſoftening to my poor heart an event that wou'd elſe have broken it, had any other tongue but your's reveal'd this dreadful ſecret to me!"’
Here ſhe was called off by a meſſenger ſent in great haſte from the vicarage to claim her inſtant aſſiſtance to Miſs Claypole, who had been in ſtrong hyſterics ſince Henry had left her, and ſo terrified the old woman, her only attendant, that, after rouſing the cottagers at next door, ſhe had diſpatched one of them to Dame May, as a perſon of ſkill in ſuch caſes, and ſtocked with medicines to relieve them. The dame had great ſcruples about leaving her wounded friend; but Henry inſiſting upon it, ſhe obeyed the ſummons, and departed, taking with her a competent proviſion of ſuch noſtrums as ſhe judged proper for the occaſion.
In leſs than an hour ſhe returned, having left her patient in a convaleſcent ſtate; but in this period the hyſteric lady had in her ramblings been ſo communicative, that the good dame, who had at leaſt as much curioſity as came to the ſhare of any one individual, had perfectly informed herſelf of every particular that could elucidate the myſtery of our hero's [Page 91] pretended accident: fraught with this information, ſhe ſoon gave him to underſtand that ſhe was no longer impoſed upon, though he ſtill perſiſted in taking it upon himſelf as a chance blow in the ſtruggle, and that he was poſitive the lady had no ſerious intention of doing any injury either to him or herſelf. As the dame, however, was ſtrenuous in unbelief, and he found himſelf rather faint and exhauſted by loſs of blood, he cut ſhort the argument, by deſiring her to prepare Ezekiel's bed for his repoſe; but as he well knew her paſſion for telling news was not a whit inferior to her pleaſure in hearing it, he was very earneſt with her to keep ſecret what ſhe had heard from Fanny Claypole, or rather what ſhe herſelf ſuggeſted from the ramblings of a diſordered imagination, ſtating to her how extremely diſhonourable it would be in her, who acted in a medical capacity, to diſcloſe the ſecrets of a patient, which, he obſerved, would be a heinous ſin againſt the inviolable free-maſonry of the faculty.
Henry retired to his repoſe with the pleaſing reflection that he had compounded a very heavy penalty with a ſlight fine, for ſuch he now conſidered his wound to be; and indeed [Page 92] the pure habit of his body would have accommodated itſelf to a demand of a more ſerious nature than this was likely to prove; for the knife had only pierced the fleſhy part of his arm, without any material injury: neither was he the leſs happy in his preſent quarters for the teſtimony which every thing about him bore to the taſte and benignity of the beloved perſon who had provided them: every object he now looked upon, every comfort he enjoyed, was of Iſabella's beſtowing; and whilſt he fed on that delightful recollection, no wonder if the grateful approaches of ſleep, ſo ſweetly recommended, ſtole upon his ſenſes with peculiar ſoftneſs, till, by the magic of his dream, the air-drawn image of his beauteous Iſabella roſe to view, graced with ten thouſand charms, and pictured to the heighth of fancy's warmeſt colouring, kind, happy, greeting him with ſmiles of love, conſenting, melting into ſoft deſires, and ſelf-ſurrendered to his fond embrace.
THE next morning Henry roſe with recruited ſtrength: the air was ſo freſh, and the ſun ſo gay, that if we had any ambition to emulate our brother noveliſts in deſcription, here is the very moment for it; but we decline the opportunity.
Dame May examin'd his wound, and perceiving that Dame Nature was in the humour to take the cure out of her hands, humbly reſigned the taſk into her care, and contented herſelf with the ſimple application of a freſh pledget of dry lint, and ſwath'd it as before. She now ſet out her tea-table in its holiday trim, and adminiſter'd the ceremonies of breakfaſt in her very beſt ſtile: when this ſervice was diſpatch'd, ſhe left her gueſt in poſſeſſion of her parlour, and addreſs'd herſelf to her own domeſtic affairs in another quarter.
She had not left him many minutes, when her lovely patroneſs ſtept into the houſe, unſeen by Henry;—‘"It occurs to me,"’ ſaid Iſabella to the dame, ‘"that ſomething may [Page 94] be wanting in your friend Mr. Daw's apartment, and therefore I ſhou'd be glad to look it over before he arrives."’—Without ſtopping for an anſwer, ſhe nimbly aſcended the ſtairs. The good dame's thoughts were rather from home at that moment, and not preſent to the recollection that Henry's bed-chamber was not exactly in a ſtate fit to receive the viſit of a young lady; inſtead therefore of ſtopping her on the ſtairs, ſhe hobbled after her into the room;—‘"Heyday,"’ cried Iſabella, upon looking about her, ‘"what is this? ſomebody has ſlept here I perceive."’—‘"Lackaday!"’ exclaimed the dame, ‘"I humbly aſk your pardon for not ſtopping you in time. Dear good young lady, be not offended with me; but indeed you was ſo nimble, and took me, as I may ſay, at ſuch a nonplus, that I never thought to tell you that the chamber was not fit for you to come into. Sure enough, though, it was my ſweet dear young friend, Mr. Henry himſelf, who repoſed himſelf in that bed laſt night, (Heaven bleſs him!) and I have not had leiſure yet to ſet the room to rights."’
‘"Did he ſleep here?"’ ſaid the lovely intruder, as ſhe was quitting the chamber; and juſt then recollecting that ſhe was leaving the [Page 95] ſurvey unfiniſhed, which ſhe came to make, ſtopt and caſt her eyes deliberately round the room, obſerving that ſhe wiſh'd it was more worthy of her gueſt, ‘"But I hope at leaſt,"’ added ſhe, with an encouraging ſmile, ‘"you took care to air it well for your friend and benefactor."’—‘"Heaven forbid!"’ cried Goody May, ‘"that I ſhould bring his precious life into danger; there are wretches enough in this world too ready to do that, the more ſhame their's; but I ſay nothing; the Lord he knows their hearts and mine alſo, how it bleeds for him at this moment; and that's the reaſon I was ſo abſent in my duty to you. Well, to be ſure, the wickedneſs of ſome folks is ſurpriſing; I am ſure it will be more God's mercy than my ſkill, if my dear Mr. Henry eſcapes out of their murderous hands alive."’
‘"Bleſs me!"’ cried Iſabella, ‘"I proteſt you ſtartle me. Is Mr. Henry now in the houſe?"’ Goody May anſwering in the affirmative, Iſabella came ſilently down the ſtairs, and underſtanding he was in the parlour, turned into the common room which was oppoſite to it, making a ſign to her follower to do the ſame. Here ſhe immediately began a courſe of queſtions, which ſoon betrayed the communicative [Page 96] dame into ſo complete a recital of every circumſtance reſpecting Henry's wound, that nothing ſhe had collected from Miſs Claypole in her fit, and which Henry had conjured her to keep ſecret, was untold. There is reaſon to believe, this poor woman wou'd have gone to death for Henry's ſake, whilſt ſhe was thus running counter to his injunctions; but to deny herſelf the pleaſure of broaching a piece of news, particularly one ſo honourable to Henry, and ſo intereſting to the hearer, was a virtue which her nature could not reach; a ſacrifice her reſolution was not equal to.
Henry, in the meanwhile, unconſcious of what was paſſing ſo near him, ſate in the little parlour with his eyes fixt upon the print of Iſabella's father, that hung oppoſite to him, pondering in his mind the lovely viſion of the preceding night, his imagination faſcinated with the contemplation of her matchleſs beauty, her engaging manners, and attractive graces, when behold the ſound of the lock drew his eyes to the door, which, gently opening, diſcloſed to his ſight the very object of his meditations in her exiſting and ſubſtantial form, more exquiſitely beautiful than any ſhade that fancy ever pictured in the poet's brain: ſurprized, [Page 97] enraptured, he ſtarted from his chair, and in the momentary tranſport that deprived him of reflection, ran and caught her in his arms: inſtantly undeceived, and convinced it was no ſhadow he embraced, terrified at what he had done, he dropt upon his knee, and beg'd for pardon.—‘"I was deceiv'd,"’ he cried; ‘"my mind had left me, and was ſtray'd beyond realities: I ſaw you in my meditations, and, like a man delirious, ſeiz'd what in my better ſenſes I would not offend for worlds, and know myſelf unworthy to approach."’
What paſſed in Iſabella's mind, whilſt Henry was thus pleading for pardon at her feet, words will not deſcribe, for ſhe made uſe of none: it was not anger, for her looks were melting ſoft; it could not but be modeſty, for bluſhes ſpread all over her fair face; no doubt but ſenſibility had a ſhare in it, for tears bedewed her cheeks.
He was preparing to proceed with his apology, when a ſhriek from Iſabella ſtopt his ſpeech, and inſtantly he perceived the blood ſtreaming from his wound.—‘"Behold,"’ he cried, ‘"how juſtly I am brought to recollection of my offence."’ Iſabella, in the mean time, frightened paſt the power of motion, [Page 98] kept calling out for Goody May. It was obvious that her ſudden appearance had ſurpriſed him into an exertion, that had opened his wound afreſh, when he inconſiderately threw his arms about her waſte. The poor woman, terrified with what ſhe heard and ſaw, in her confuſion ſcarce knew what to do firſt; but recollecting, after a few moments, the proceſs ſhe had before obſerved, begged Iſabella to aſſiſt in opening his coat ſleeve, whilſt ſhe haſtened to her repoſitory for means to ſtop the blood. Iſabella, pale and trembling as ſhe was, ſummoned ſpirits to aſſiſt in ſupporting his arm, as well as in the operation of untying the tapes Goody May had ſewed upon his ſleeve, which ſhe had ripped open over the wounded part. The buſineſs moſt immediately neceſſary was ſoon effected by the application of freſh lint and the former ſtyptic; but Iſabella's horrors at the glimpſe ſhe had of his wound were not ſo ſoon diſmiſſed. Henry's attention was ſo totally abſorbed in his care for his fair aſſiſtant, that he ſeemed to have no ſenſe of what was doing to himſelf, and he would fain have diſmiſſed the operatrix for hartſhorn and water, before ſhe had ſecured the bandage; but when he felt the [Page 99] gentle touch of Iſabella, engaged in the work jointly with the old woman,—‘"Who wou'd not gladly ſhed his blood,"’ he cried, ‘"for ſuch an honour?"’ and now a certain tender glance from Iſabella's eyes made anſwer in ſo flattering a language, that the heart of our hero, ſo far from ſinking under its loſs, ſeemed to beat with double energy and ſpirit.
‘"We look'd for you laſt night,"’ ſaid Iſabella; ‘"my father charg'd Suſan with a meſſage to that purpoſe, and to prevent miſtakes I wrote you a ſhort note; but I underſtand from Suſan that you did not receive it."’
‘"She did,"’ rejoined Iſabella; ‘"the letter I received from her this morning does credit to her heart and juſtice to your honour, not only in the trifling matter of my note, but in a circumſtance of real ſelf-denial, in which, [Page 100] permit me to ſay, you have given the nobleſt proof of an exalted generoſity."’
‘"If I merit your praiſe,"’ ſaid Henry, ‘"in either inſtance, it is in that which you term the more trifling inſtance of the two: it is no hard taſk for a man not mercenary to act as I did in the affair of Blachford, for it is a victory over a mean and abject paſſion; but there is ſome ſtruggle to obey the dictates of honour, when it calls upon us to oppoſe the ſtrongeſt impulſe and affection that the heart can feel; but your commands to Suſan May were poſitive, and I obey'd them."’
‘"There,"’ ſaid he, ‘"you lead me to look back upon a tranſaction that covers me with confuſion and ſelf-reproach; yet, if it were a plea your purity might liſten to, I have enough to ſay that wou'd acquit my conſcience towards the engagement you allude to, though nothing can totally exculpate me from folly and infirmity. A fortunate explanation with Miſs Claypole, yeſterday evening, has ſet me free from all conditions of atonement, [Page 101] and I am happy it is in my power to aſſert with truth, that the promiſe I held myſelf bound to make was not a compoſition for the loſs of innocence on her part, but ſimply for the riſque of reputation."’
‘"Whatever you ſeriouſly aſſert,"’ Iſabella replied, ‘"I implicitly believe; but when you call your explanation with that lady a fortunate one, I ſhould ſuſpect you are once more guilty of forgetting you have a wound, that demands more care and attention than you ſeem diſpos'd to afford it. If you are to ſhed your blood with ſuch repeated profuſion in every lady's company you chance upon, and one is to give, another to renew your wounds, I think you are in a likely way to become a victim to the ſex."’
‘"I ſee,"’ ſaid Henry, ſmiling, ‘"that my old prattling dame has broke faith with me, and let out all ſhe knows, with more, perhaps, than her information warrants; but in your heavenly nature I well know there will be found a principle of candour, that can look with pity on the extravagances of an uncorrected temper, and conſign them to oblivion. If the tongue of this goſſip can be ſtopt in time, we may yet ſuppreſs a ſtory, that wou'd [Page 102] do no credit to Miſs Claypole; and in this I flatter myſelf your good nature will aſſiſt me. For my own part, I propoſe to wait here no longer than till Lady Crowbery arrives, who muſt paſs this door in her way, and whom I am bound to ſee once more before I leave England."’
‘"What are you talking of?"’ ſaid Iſabella, fixing her expreſſive eyes deſpondingly upon him.—‘"Can you think of leaving us at this moment, and truſting yourſelf in this condition on board a ſhip? Can there be any ſuch cruel neceſſity to make ſo raſh a ſacrifice of yourſelf? Can my gentle Lady Crowbery require it of you? Will her humanity permit it? Nay, when you conſider how diſconſolate ſhe will leave us, will your own?"’
‘"Oh, thou angelic ſweetneſs!"’ he exclaimed, gently taking her hand in his, ‘"my gratitude, my duty, my deſtiny demand this effort, for which, if I might now expoſe to you all the motives, you wou'd confeſs them ſuch as I muſt be a monſter if I ſhrunk from, how ſevere ſoever the ſeparation they compel me to. And can I look upon thoſe eyes, and ſee them beaming with ſuch ſoft compaſſion on me, yet [Page 103] forbear to tell you what I ſuffer by this painful effort? No, lovelieſt of your ſex, whom preſent, abſent, my poor heart devotedly adores, it is in vain to counterfeit; you ſee, you know the violence I commit againſt my nature, when I ſuppreſs its feelings; you perceive I love you. What ſhall I ſay? How ſhall I palliate my preſumption? Yet reflect with pity on my caſe; remember I have liv'd by ſufferance in your ſight; (cou'd I ſee and not admire you?) have by your condeſcenſion been indulg'd beyond my humble merit, with ſome moments of your privacy; (cou'd I converſe with you, and not be charm'd?) in ſhort, I have contemplated perfection in your mind and perſon, and fixt your image on my heart ſo deep and ſo indelible, that if to love you be a crime, I am unpardonably guilty."’
‘"I know,"’ reſumed Henry, ‘"who it is that print which faces me reflects—your excellent father; I know your love, your piety, to that beſt of parents, and can well believe the patience you now hear me with ſprings [Page 104] from pity; on that therefore I build no falſe preſumptuous hopes; for I know the difficulties of my preſent ſituation, the diſtance to which it throws me, and I wou'd ſcorn to take advantage of your private moments for ſaying any thing in a whiſper, which I dar'd not openly to repeat in the preſence of Sir Roger Manſtock himſelf: if then, at this inſtant, the fatherly eye within that frame had ſight, though I might ſhrink from it a while, myſterious as I am compelled to be, yet in my conſcience I ſhou'd ſtand acquitted, becauſe I know myſelf."’
A ſtart of ſurpriſe from Iſabella, and a look betokening curioſity, at this moment directed towards him, checked him from proceeding; after a pauſe, he repeated—‘"Yes, lovelieſt Iſabella, I know myſelf, and hope I ſhall in time be known."’
Here Henry ſtopt; it ſeemed as if the moſt important ſecret of his life was upon the verge of diſcovery. Iſabella too was ſilent; ſhe was debating in her thoughts whether ſhe ſhould urge him to explain, or repreſs her curioſity; the latter ſeemed moſt honourable, and ſhe decided for it: at laſt, turning towards him [Page 105] with a look of inexpreſſible ſweetneſs, ſhe thus addreſſed him—‘"Henry (ſo let me call you, till I know by what addition elſe to accoſt you) I wou'd not wiſh to have the keeping of a ſecret, that might cauſe regret to you for having parted with it; neither is there any information wanting to convince me you are nobly born; I am certified of that by my own obſervation, and have long been ſo. Honour, and worth, and genius may emerge from low originals, but elegance and delicacy of manners are rarely natives of a coarſe and ruſtic ſoil. A ſtrange idea haunts me: ſhall I confide it to you? I have really thought at times, or fancy may have feign'd it, that you have a mark'd reſemblance in your air and features to my beloved Lady Crowbery, as I remember her ſome few years ago: this may be mere imagination; but I have humour'd myſelf in it the rather, becauſe it helps me naturally to account for certain ſituations I have ſeen her in with you, which elſe might ſeem at variance with her ſtrict reſerve and delicacy of conduct: I can almoſt perſuade myſelf you are after ſome manner related to her; at leaſt theſe have been my idle reveries; but never did one [Page 106] ſyllable to that effect eſcape my lips till now; I am not quite ſo fond of tatling as our good dame. And now, moreover, I recollect amongſt the motives you enumerated for leaving us, you mention'd duty: be it ſo! we muſt conform ourſelves to duty; but let me hope that we ſhall meet again."’
‘"And do you wiſh it?"’ ſaid he, looking tenderly upon her.—‘"Do I wiſh it?"’ ſhe repeated.—‘"Oh Henry! Henry! if that's a queſtion with you, where is your intelligence?"’—Here the tears ſtopt her, and ſhe leant her forehead on his ſhoulder, covering her face with her handkerchief.—‘"Heaven guard your life!"’ ſhe cried; ‘"may no female daemon ever more attempt it! Horrid creature! ſhameleſs abandon'd being! what phrenzy cou'd poſſeſs her! Come not in her way; oh Henry, I conjure you; never look upon her more; I cou'd not bear the ſight of her; I bluſh to think that I have ever convers'd with ſuch a woman. But you, thank Heaven, had virtue to reſiſt her, and virtue ſure, without a bluſh, may give the hand to virtue."’
This ſaid, ſhe took his hand. The manner of the action ſtamped it with the ſeal of modeſty, [Page 107] and modeſtly it was received, though love was the inſpirer: it was the ſilent contract of their hearts, pledged with the tender interchange of ſighs and looks, that bade farewel, and vowed unalterable conſtancy: again ſhe preſſed his hand—‘"And are you now convinc'd,"’ ſhe aſked, ‘"how anxiouſly I ſhall wiſh for your return? Yes, Henry, I'm free to own, my hopes, my happineſs, my heart goes with you."’
Oh! ecſtacies how pure! moments how precious! 'tis now, O love, that virtue's ſelf may welcome thee without reſerve or coyneſs; compoſed of theſe chaſte qualities, honour may lodge thee in his heart's beſt core; yea, in his heart of heart; the moral hand may paint, the modeſt eye peruſe thee in this attitude; come ever thus, thou beſt and worſt of deities, or dwell not with us long upon the ſcene! this will not raiſe a bluſh; Heaven warrants theſe endearments, and nature in this inſtance borrows no excuſe from ſophiſtry to palliate her propenſities.
And now the tender conference cloſed: a ſervant of Lady Crowbery galloped paſt the window to announce her approach: Iſabella [Page 108] ſaw the ſignal, and ſlowly roſe from her ſeat; ſhe pauſed awhile, and it ſeemed as if ſomething was in her mind to ſay, which ſhe could wiſh to give utterance to, but it died away in a ſigh. Henry preſſed her hand to his lips in ſilence, and they parted.
AS the ſtate of ſociety becomes more refined, eccentricity of character wears away; a writer therefore of the preſent age, who aims to give amuſing pictures of the humours of the times, finds nature leſs favourable to him in that reſpect than ſhe was to thoſe who reſorted to her for the like purpoſes a century or two ago. This cannot be denied; but nature ſtill is inexhauſtible, and there is no need to emigrate from her domain in ſearch of novelty and entertainment.
Originality of humour, or as it is more commonly called, a new character, in play or novel, is the writer's firſt aim, as it is ſure to be the firſt in requeſt by every ſpectator and critic, and the chief teſt by which his genius will be tried; but when we uſe the term originality as applied to the human character, we cannot be underſtood to mean a new creature, a being [Page 110] formed by fancy, and not to be found in nature, but ſimply a cloſe copy, a happy likeneſs, of ſome ſtriking character, whoſe peculiarities have a ſtrong effect, either in the moral or the humour of our compoſition. The old drama abounds with perſonages of this ſort, and as the moulds in which they were caſt are now deſtroyed by time, we gaze upon them with ſurpriſe and delight, regarding them as non-deſcripts, or creatures of a ſeparate ſpecies, though, at the time of their production, they were doubtleſs ſketched from nature; and it is poſſible that the authors of that aera were not more applauded for their originality, than we of the preſent time are by our contemporaries. When the critics therefore cry againſt the ſtage as fallen off in its ſpirit from the old maſters, and ſeem to think we ought to exhibit as much novelty, and produce as much ſurpriſe by living characters, as they do by raiſing the dead, who are out of memory and forgotten, they require of us a power, which, though the witch of Endor had, no modern poet now can boaſt; hence it follows, that ſome amongſt us, who are indignant of reproach, however unreaſonable, being hurried upon raſh attempts, either ſpend their talents [Page 111] in copying after copies, whilſt they aim to paint the manners as they were in times paſt, or endeavouring to create the ſame ſurpriſe by modern novelties, find themſelves carried out of nature and probability into the viſions of extravagance and romance. This in its conſequence brings diſgrace upon the ſtage, by reducing comedy into farce, and farce into puppet-ſhew and pantomime: the noveliſt, in the mean time, breaking looſe from ſociety, runs wild into foreſts and deſerts, in ſearch of caves and uninhabited caſtles, where, forgetting every law of nature, and even every feature of the human countenance, he paints men and women ſuch as never were in exiſtence, and then, amidſt the ſhades of night and horror, rattles his chains, and conjures up his ghoſts, till having frightened his readers out of their ſenſes, he vainly ſuppoſes he has charmed them into applauſes.
But the evil does not ſtop here; for as a man, who runs mad about the ſtreets, will be followed by a mob, in like manner the rhodomontade of the novel is copied by the nonſenſe of the opera; and whilſt ghoſts glide over the ſtage, thunders roll, and towers tumble, to the amuſement of the galleries, the carpenter [Page 112] plays off his machinery to the roar of applauding crowds, and the author, if he has any feeling for the dignity of his profeſſion, bluſhes at his triumphs, when he reflects that they are founded on the diſgrace of the theatre.
Let the author then beware how he is piqued into abſurdities by his own vanity, or the falſe taſte of the public; if the genius that God has given him, and the matter that nature ſupplies him with, will not ſerve the purpoſe, let him drop the undertaking. If his imagination can frame incidents, combine them well, and weave them naturally into a pleaſing fable, he has gained his point; but an over-anxiety to produce ſome ſtriking novelty will moſt likely end in producing ſome ſtriking abſurdity. All ranks of life are open to his choice, and he has a right to ſelect the ſtrongeſt humours he can find; but if he does not find what ſuits his purpoſe in nature, he has no excuſe for going out of it, whilſt he profeſſes to be a delineator of the living manners: fancy may ramble as ſhe likes, if ſhe avowedly beats about for imaginary beings; but if ſhe produces her own creations, and calls them men and women, or paints characters out of date, and paſſes them upon us for contemporaries, [Page 113] ſhe does more than ſhe has fair warrant and authority to do.
What I have here ſaid of character is applicable to incident: the writers of fiction are generally actuated by ſo ſtrong a paſſion for the marvellous, that they ſeem to throw every thing off the hinges, merely to alarm us with the din and clatter they make. Of all wretched expedients, which barren genius can reſort to, the abrupt introduction of caſualties is one of the meaneſt; in the novels of the preſent day, we encounter them at every turn, yet they never impoſe upon credulity; for when the ſick heroine at death's door threatens us with an exit, we are convinced ſhe does not mean to favour us with the performance of it. Surely there is no occaſion for all this; neither is the impreſſion very pleaſing which it conveys.
If that originality of character, which we have been ſpeaking of, is now become hardly attainable, diſcrimination is yet within reach; and by a happy contraſt of leading characters, although they ſhall not be really new, yet all the beſt effects of novelty may be obtained by an alternate play on each other's humours, by the means of which very comic and amuſing [Page 114] ſituations may be ſtruck out. Amongſt our countrymen, the great maſters of contraſt in our own day are Fielding and Sterne: Square and Thwackum, Weſtern and his ſiſter, the father and the uncle of Triſtram Shandy, are admirable inſtances: Shakſpeare had it from nature, Jonſon caught it from Ariſtophanes; Socrates and the Clown Strepſiades, in the comedy of The Clouds, is, perhaps, the moſt brilliant contraſt of comic humour in the now-exiſting records of the ſtage, ancient or modern.
Let me ſuppoſe I am now ſpeaking to a young author, ſitting down for the firſt time to his maiden work. The firſt thing neceſſary is to underſtand himſelf, the next, to know the age, in which he writes: when his nerves are fortified with a proper confidence in his own powers, let that confidence be tempered with all the reſpect, which is due to people of an enlightened underſtanding, who are to be his examiners and judges. It is a very ſacred correſpondence, that takes place between the mind of the author and the mind of the reader; it is not like the ſlight and caſual intercourſe we hold with our familiars and acquaintance, where any prattle ſerves to [Page 115] fill up a few ſocial minutes, and ſet the table in a roar; what we commit to our readers has no apology from hurry and inattention; it is the reſult of thought well digeſted, of ſentiments by which we muſt ſtand or fall in reputation, of principles for which we muſt be reſponſible to our contemporaries and to poſterity.
In the degree of entertainment our productions may have the fortune to afford, our expectations may be pardonably miſtaken; but in what offends good morals, or ſins againſt the truth of nature, we err without excuſe; ſelf-love cannot blind us in theſe reſpects, becauſe it is not a matter of talents, but of rectitude and common ſenſe. We talk of critics as of men ſet apart on purpoſe to annoy and cenſure us; whereas every reader is a critic, and publiſhes his opinion of us whereever he goes; we ourſelves are critics in our turn, and what we complain of in our own perſons we do to others; and though few think it worth their while to publiſh their criticiſms, let it be remembered that ſome men's voices circulate further than other men's publications.
Let us, therefore, who write, weigh well the duty of the taſk we engage in, and let the [Page 116] puerile practice of invoking the mercy of our readers be no more thought of, for, generally ſpeaking, we are entitled to no more mercy than liberal-minded men will give us without our begging for it: I am aware of ſome exceptions, and am, I hope, as ſenſitive towards ſuch caſes as I ought to be; but I am now ſpeaking generally of authors, who write for ſame, and not for bread. If theſe had all the diffidence they affect to have, how came it not to ſtand in their way when they reſorted to the preſs? And why this terror of the critics? An author cannot be harmed by a bad critic; and why ſhould he be afraid of being benefitted by a good one?
WE cloſed our laſt book with the parting of Henry and Iſabella, in one of thoſe ſituations which we would rather refer to the reader's imagination than aim to deſcribe. Happily for him, his friendly hoſteſs gave no interruption to his meditations, nor did they [Page 117] wander from their beloved object, till the ſound of Lady Crowbery's wheels called him out to meet her. The chaiſe was ſtopt at the gate of the cottage-garden, and her attendant got out by her lady's order, and ſtept aſide, whilſt Zachary and the nurſe, who occupied a hackney carriage, halted in the rear. When Henry's converſation with his mother was over, and they had parted, he engaged the driver of Zachary's chaiſe to take him back to Crowbery on his return, which was accordingly done, and he once more found himſelf in the hoſpitable cottage with his friend Ezekiel.
To him he purpoſed to dedicate the remainder of that day, and the next morning to join the ſhip, according to the notice he had received from Captain Cary. Upon his arrival, he found that Blachford had breathed his laſt, and Suſan May, with her infant, had taken poſſeſſion of his quarters at the cottage; he therefore determined upon going on that evening to the port, and to wait no longer than till a chaiſe could be brought from the neighbouring poſt town. When he had paſt ſome time with Suſan and honeſt Daw, in diſcourſing on their affairs, and had contrived to ſatisfy their [Page 118] anxiety about his wound, with as little violence to truth as the ſuppreſſion of Miſs Claypole's name would admit of, a tap at the door announced a viſitor, when young Tom Weevil preſented himſelf, clad in his beſt apparel, carrying a wallet or knapſack at the end of a crooked ſtick upon his ſhoulder, with a cutlaſs ſlung in a buff belt round his waſte.
The preacher, ſeeing an armed man enter his houſe, ſtarted from his ſeat, and marching up to him with an intrepid air, cried out, ‘"What aileſt thou, Thomas Weevil, that thou haſt armed thyſelf in this faſhion? ſpeak, is it peace, Jehu?"’—‘"With your leave, Doctor Daw,"’ replied the young miller, ‘"my buſineſs is with the gentleman there, and not with you."’—‘"Render up your purpoſe to my ears, Thomas Weevil,"’ repeated Ezekiel, ‘"for thou ſhalt not paſs me to approach my gueſt, until thou haſt anſwered to my queſtion; Is it peace?"’—‘"I know not what you mean by your queſtion,"’ quoth Tom, ‘"for be it peace or be it war, all's one to me, ſeeing that I am come to tender my ſervices to Mr. Henry, who, I underſtand, is going over ſea to foreign countries; and as I bear, do you ſee, in grateful mind, that he has ſav'd my life, I think it but [Page 119] juſt and right to riſque it in his ſervice; and ſo I am here ready to follow him to the world's end; that's all, Maſter Zekiel, I have to ſay."’
‘"And thou haſt ſaid well, friend Thomas,"’ quoth Ezekiel, ‘"therefore paſs in peace, and make thyſelf welcome with a cup of my beſt ale, which I will forthwith adminiſter unto thee."’ So ſaying, the good man went out, on hoſpitable thoughts intent.
At the ſame time old Weevil made his appearance, and repeated to Henry the ſame tender, in nearly the ſame terms, adding, that he had given his free conſent to Tom's departure, for, God be thank'd, he had ſons enough left to keep the mill going the whilſt. ‘"Tom,"’ ſaid he, ‘"has play'd a little looſe to be ſure, but he has ſeen his error, and that is every thing. He is a good lad in the main, and has a grateful heart."’ Here Ezekiel came to them, bearing in his hand a luſty pitcher, and ſaluting the miller with a friendly nod, ſet it down on the treſſel-board, invitingly full and frothing.
Henry now, having given his hand to the father firſt, and afterwards to the ſon, expreſſed himſelf very ſenſibly affected by the offer they had [Page 118] [...] [Page 119] [...] [Page 120] made him. He was going out, he told them, with a gallant captain, in a ſhip of war, who might poſſibly fall in with an enemy before he found his port—‘"and who can tell,"’ ſaid he, ‘"where an unlucky ſhot may glance? I ſhou'd be ſorry therefore to expoſe my friend Tom to broken bones, tho' I know him to be a brave fellow."’ To this Tom replied, that he deſpis'd danger in his ſervice; that he was ready to ſhare his fortune by ſea and by land; that he had got his father's leave, and had a longing deſire to ſee the world; in ſhort, that it wou'd break his heart if Henry wou'd not permit him to go with him. This was again ſeconded by old Weevil, when Ezekiel, riſing up, and putting himſelf into his accuſtomed poſture, took up his parable as follows:—‘"Thy zeal, young man, to ſhare the fortune of him, who, under Providence, was the preſerver of thy life, indicates a grateful mind, and I commend thee therefore; and thou, ſon Henry, muſt no longer oppoſe the laudable deſire, which this youth hath expreſs'd, of devoting himſelf to thy ſervice, ſeeing it is no leſs a part of generoſity, in ſome caſes, to receive an obligation, than to beſtow one: it ſufficeth that thou haſt ingenuouſly forewarn'd Thomas [Page 121] Weevil of the dangers he may chance to incur in the courſe of thy peregrination. And verily I am myſelf at this moment in no ſmall ſtrait, having fully purpoſed not to ſuffer thee to depart alone, but to bear thee company in thy travels in pure affection of heart, knowing thee to be of a bold adventurous ſpirit, which puſheth thee into dangers; theſe, if by counſel and experience I cou'd not avert, I might at leaſt have ſhar'd, being reſolute to go with thee, if need requir'd, even unto death. But now behold the corpſe of Mr. Blachford lieth yet unburied, and having been the happy means of turning him from the error of his ways, can I fail to attend his body to the grave, and not be preſent to put up a prayer for the repoſe of his ſoul? And lo! here is the damſel alſo, who hath ſuffer'd violence by him, and whoſe heart now faileth her through fear of ſlander, needeth one to conſole her and ſupport: who then but myſelf, the friend of her mother the widow, and witneſs to the confeſſion of her ſeducer, who was once a ſon of Belial, excuſing her and accuſing himſelf, is ſo fitted to that labour of love? Theſe, not to mention the care of her worldly affairs, which lieth on me, are amongſt the calls by which [Page 122] the trouble of my heart is enlarged, when I reflect that I muſt ſuffer thee, ſon Henry, to depart alone; yet not alone, if ſo be this friendly youth, whoſe grateful tender of himſelf I do exhort thee to accept, ſhall be thy companion by the way. And now ſeeing the hour of thy departure approacheth, and the evening draweth on, I muſt be brief, as is my manner of ſpeech, ſaying only thoſe things which it were a ſhame to omit, and praying the Lord of all mercy to preſerve thee in all thy goings, beſeeching him to diſpoſe thy heart to continue ſtedfaſt in his fear and love amidſt all the temptations of this ſinful world, and in his good time to return thee and this thy companion ſafe and unhurt to your rejoicing friends."’
The good man having concluded his harangue, lifted the pitcher to his lips, and drank a farewell to his parting gueſts, for Henry's chaiſe had now come up to the door. Tom Weevil, whoſe offer was accepted joyfully, beſtirred himſelf in ſtowing Henry's baggage and his own upon the carriage; and now the moment came when our hero, taking Ezekiel's hands in his, tenderly addreſſed him in theſe words—‘"Farewell, my worthy friend; whereever [Page 123] Providence diſpoſes of me, and whatever may befal me, whilſt I retain life and memory, your kindneſs, benevolence, charities, and virtues will be regiſter'd in my heart."’—Then turning to Suſan, who ſtood [...]ute with ſorrow at ſeeing him prepare to depart, heir cheeks bathed with tears, he took her in his arms, and, after a tender embrace, recommended her to the protection of Ezekiel, ſaying—‘"I leave you to the care of this good man, who will alſo ſtand in my place as guardian of your infant till I return to you again: he knows the purport of Mr. Blachford's will, and will take the meaſures on my part as executor, which a prudent care of your intereſt will preſcribe: I need not caution you to obſerve a proper attention to the amiable young lady, in whoſe ſervice you will now no longer remain. To this your beſt of benefactors you owe the duty of a daughter, and you will not fail to pay it, for to his pious exhortations it is owing, that the father of your child was brought to a ſenſe of the injuries he had done you, and induced to atone for them; at the ſame time take notice, that this excellent creature ſuffer'd not one ſhilling of the deceas'd to adhere to his fingers, notwithſtanding every offer which, to my knowledge, [Page 124] was repeatedly preſs'd upon him by that penitent on his death bed."’—‘"This,"’ ſaid he, addreſſing himſelf to old Weevil, who was ſtanding by, ‘"is a noble inſtance of diſintereſtedneſs, and merits the applauſe of every honeſt man."’—Then giving his hand to Weevil, he bade him farewell, promiſing him to take care of his ſon; and haſtening out of doors, ſtept into his chaiſe, followed by Tom, and was off as faſt as four nimble horſes and two daſhing drivers could tranſport him.
In the mean time ſilence reigned in the cottage: Ezekiel committed himſelf to his wicker-chair, and remained in penſive meditation: Suſan ſeated herſelf by his ſide, and as he reſted his hand upon the arm of his chair, preſſed her lips upon it, and bathed it in her tears: old Weevil felt an aching in his throat, and applied himſelf to the pitcher without uttering a word. Ezekiel ſeeing this, rouſed himſelf in his ſeat, and cried, though in a faultering voice, ‘"Courage, neighbour, we have only parted from our friends, we have not loſt them."’—‘"No, no,"’ cried the miller, as he took the pitcher from his lips; ‘"to be ſure, as you ſay, we have not to mourn over the loſs of them, but ſomehow or other it makes one feel a little [Page 125] queer; for, as nobody can be ſure of life for an hour to come, parting methinks is, as I may ſay, like taking leave for ever."’—‘"Heaven, in its mercy, forbid that,"’ cried Suſan, and burſt aloud into an agony of grief.—‘"Child, child,"’ ſaid Ezekiel, ‘"moderate thy wailing; it becometh not us to give way to inordinate grief: what haſt thou loſt which I have not loſt, and doſt thou ſee me give way to this unſeemly weakneſs? why doſt thou not take example by me? thou ſeeſt, damſel, that I am firm and unſhaken."’ Here his voice began to quiver, and he ſeemed fighting againſt ſomething that roſe in his throat, and would not ſuffer him to proceed. ‘"I know,"’ cried Suſan, ‘"we ſhould not anticipate affliction, but when a dreadful image is preſented to my imagination, how can I forbear to feel a horror at the thoughts of loſing ſuch a friend for ever? Think only what he has been to me; think what he is, how kind, how gentle, how benevolent! Call to mind his virtues, his ſufferings, his humility"’—Ezekiel groaned.—‘"What poverty, what perſecution he has endur'd."’—Ezekiel marked his aſſent with a motion of his head, muttering to himſelf, with a ſigh, that it was true. ‘"You, I am ſure,"’ [Page 126] ſaid Suſan, turning to Weevil, ‘"have cauſe to bleſs him, you can witneſs to his good deeds, and you can alſo tell how he was rewarded for them; but let the dead ſleep in peace; there are ſome ſtill living whoſe malice never ſleeps, there is no end to their attempts againſt his life, wicked wretches! it is to ſome of them he owes that wound, which he wou'd make us believe is accident, becauſe he's all forgiveneſs: but I believe ſome villain has beſet him: Heavens! what muſt that man's heart be made of?"’—‘"Mill-ſtones,"’ ſaid Ezekiel.—‘"I wiſh I had them between mine,"’ quoth Weevil, ‘"by the Lord Harry I wou'd ſqueeze them."’—‘"I know whereabouts they are,"’ rejoined Suſan, ‘"and what their ſpite ſprings from; and now, my dear Mr. Daw, can you wonder I am afflicted, when ſuch is their diabolical malice, that perhaps even now they have a plot upon his life, and are lying in wait to deſtroy him."’—Theſe words ſeizing the brain of Ezekiel, he ſprung upon his legs, and with an aſſeveration not far ſhort of an oath, declared he would that inſtant go forth and defend him. Suſan, who ſaw the phrenſy, cried out to Weevil to ſtop him. ‘"Are you beſide yourſelf, friend Daw,"’ ſaid the miller, ‘"to think of [Page 127] overtaking four poſt-horſes with one pair of legs? what the plague, is not my ſon Tom there to guard him, and didn't they ſet off helter ſkelter as if the devil drove them? why by this time they are half way to the ſea-ſide, and who ſhou'd ſtop them? Our friend Suſan does but ſpeak as all women do when they are in a fright; and I thought you was too much a man to be ſtartled by what they ſay."’—‘"I believe,"’ replied Daw, reſuming his dignity, ‘"I am as much of a man as my neighbours, and not leſs of a friend to my fellow-creatures than I ought to be. I am not apt to be idle when the wicked are a-foot, and innocence is in danger. However, I do recollect that they went off with ſpeed, and that there is little likelihood I can with all my exertions overtake them, tho' I hold myſelf no mean pedeſtrian, and yield to no one in the race on foot. Howbeit, I decline the conteſt againſt ſuch odds; but no ſooner ſhall to-morrow's ſun riſe than I will riſe with him, and ſtep over to the port to ſee if all be well; and, if aught be wanting, to ſtand forth in their ſervice and defence."’
‘"Wilt thou,"’ cried Weevil, ‘"then I am with thee, and will whip thee over in my [Page 128] jockey-cart in a trice, you'll go as eaſy as if you was in your own wicker-chair. I will be here at thy door by the firſt peep of day. What ſay'ſt thou, is't agreed?"’—‘"Agreed!"’ cried Ezekiel, ‘"but hold, what day in the week will to-morrow be?"’—‘"Thurſday,"’ ſaid the miller.—‘"I proteſt that is lucky,"’ replied the preacher; ‘"for had it been the Lord's day I could not have gone with thee."’—‘"Then give me hold of your hand,"’ quoth Weevil, ‘"for damn me if thou art not as good a heart as lives, and if ever I have ſlipt out any thing in the way of joke to offend thee, I am heartily ſorry for it, and I aſk thy pardon."’—‘"Enough,"’ quoth Daw, ‘"and more than enough, friend Thomas; for I cou'd have credited thy good-will without an oath; however drink, and let us empty the pitcher."’
PUNCTUAL to his appointment, Miller Weevil preſented himſelf, by break of day, at the door of Ezekiel's caſtle, where, having ſeated the apoſtle by his ſide, directly over the [Page 129] axletree of a vehicle, which, if it had been conſtructed profeſſedly as an inſtrument of torture, might have done credit to the ingenious cruelty of its inventor, he ſet forward on a round trot, jolting him over ruts and rocks with a mercileſs indifference the ſtraiteſt way to his point, till they came in view of the ſea, with the frigate riding at anchor. Ezekiel, who now ſaw a period to the perſecution he had endured for two long hours, took courage, and being juſt then in a ſandy paſs, availed himſelf of the firſt moment he could venture to put his tongue to any uſe, having wiſely kept it ſtill whilſt his teeth were in motion: the ſcene was magnificent; the ſun, which was flaming in their rear, threw a gleam of ſplendour over the ſhore, the ſhip and the expanſe of waters, that terminated the proſpect. Objects like theſe could not fail to carry up Ezekiel's thoughts to the Creator of all things; in his ſoul Devotion, eagle-winged, ſate ever ready to catch the ſignal for ſoaring in its flight towards Heaven; accordingly he began, in a lofty cadence, to rehearſe that portion of the 107th pſalm, which begins ‘"They that go down to the ſea in ſhips."’ His charioteer in the mean while, ſtruck with the awful ſtrain, reſpectfully [Page 130] ſlackened his pace and liſtened in ſilence, pondering the fate of his ſon, then floating on the ſurface of that tremendous ocean, in the mercy of Him ‘"at whoſe word the ſtormy wind ariſeth."’
When Ezekiel ceaſed his recitation, Weevil obſerved that the words were very fine, though he was pretty ſure he had heard them before. ‘"I believe thou haſt,"’ quoth Ezekiel, ‘"if thou didſt ever hear the pſalms."’—‘"If ſo,"’ ſaid he, ‘"I wiſh you wou'd double down the leaf for ſon Thomas, for I think every man who goes to ſea ſhou'd have the fear of God before his eyes."’—‘"And whither ſhou'd any man go without it?"’ ſaid Ezekiel; and immediately ſtruck into that enraptured paſſage of the ſame ſublime minſtrel, ‘"Whither ſhall I go then from thy ſpirit," &c.’
This again drew the profoundeſt attention from Weevil, who, at the concluſion, expreſſed himſelf very highly delighted with what he had heard, obſerving, that he firmly believed it all, and that no man could commit a bad action ſafely, for that God's eyes were every where; ‘"and I make no doubt,"’ added he, ‘"but that villain Bowſey, tho' he has got out of our reach, will fall into the hands of juſtice ſooner or later, and pay ſauce for his wickedneſs in the end; [Page 131] and as I hold him to be a murderer all one as if Tom had died under his hand, I don't deſpair of ſeeing him brought to the gallows in God's good time."’—‘"Neighbour Weevil,"’ replied Ezekiel, ‘"it is not in the death, but in the converſion of a ſinner that our God delighteth, and thou, taking pattern from his mercy, ſhouldſt abſtain from vengeance, ſeeing it belongeth not to thee, but to him alone. Forbear, therefore, to wiſh for the puniſhment of that runnagate, wiſh rather for his repentance. Do all things, my friend, in love and charity to all men; give thy heart to him that deſerves it, thy help to all that ſtand in need of it. Remember that the law tries our actions, but God judges our thoughts. There is a rule, ſhort, eaſy, equitable—Do as you would be done by, and you cannot do wrong."’—‘"Why that's exactly the rule I follow,"’ ſaid the miller; ‘"if a man does me a good turn, I requite him with one as good; if he does me an ill one, I pay him in his own coin; and if he robs and plunders me, like that villain Bowſey, I wiſh to ſee him hang'd; that's my way, and I believe it's very natural."’
Weevil was not famous for drawing right concluſions, and Ezekiel would hardly have [Page 132] failed to convince him of it, had not he juſt then turned into his inn-yard, under the ſign of the ſhip, where he was inſtantly accoſted by his ſon Thomas, who had juſt come off from the ſhip to procure ſome things that Henry had occaſion for: one of the frigate's boats was waiting for him, and his job would be diſpatched in half an hour, when he would go with them on board, where Henry was. This interval Weevil propoſed to fill up with a good breakfaſt; for whatever his companion might think of the matter, he at leaſt recollected that he had come away from home faſting.
There was a fellow in the kitchen, belonging to the boat, who called himſelf the captain's cockſwain, who made himſelf known to our travellers upon hearing them ſay they were going on board; he had been taking leave of a nymph of the ſhore, who went by the dubious title of his wife, and indeed it may well be queſtioned if that honourable and happy title was more than nominal; ſhe was however in tears, and Jack was comforting her and himſelf with a glaſs of brandy, whilſt he repeated to her in a lamentable tone his parting vows, interlarding them with a continual repetition [Page 133] of ‘"Only be true to me, Poll;"’ and clenching his promiſes of reciprocal fidelity with oaths of ſo peculiar a ſort, as made Ezekiel ſtare with aſtoniſhment, though he hardly knew what interpretation to put upon them. At laſt, when the fellow had pretty well diſpoſed of every particle about himſelf to ſome devil or other, to hold in pledge for his conſtancy to his beloved mate, Ezekiel, though in cloſe action at that moment with the ſalted buttock of an ox, laid down his knife and fork, and began to take the ſwearer to taſk. ‘"Friend,"’ ſaid Ezekiel, ‘"thou haſt talk'd in ſo loud a tone that thou haſt made us hearers of thy converſation whether we wou'd or not; I perceive with regret that in the midſt of thy affliction at parting from thy ſpouſe, thou haſt exhorted her to conſtancy frequently, and in ſuch a manner as argues a ſuſpicion of her fidelity to thee in thine abſence: what cauſe thou haſt to hold in doubt the virtue of the wife of thy boſom I cannot tell, as thou haſt ſtated no actual charge againſt her; but I ſhou'd hope the young woman hath not enter'd into the holy ſtate of wedlock without weighing and perpending the duties of a wife, and alſo what a heinous ſin it is to violate the nuptial bed: if ſhe knoweth [Page 134] this, what need is there for thy ſo frequent repetitions on a caſe ſo clear? if ſhe knoweth it not, I am here ready to inſtruct her in her matrimonial offices to the beſt of my abilities."’
‘"Are you ſo? you be damn'd,"’ cried the ſailor, eyeing him from head to foot with the moſt ſovereign contempt; ‘"I'll tell you what, brother, 'twill be the worſt job you ever took in hand in your life. You, indeed! you, with thoſe lantern jaws, pretend to talk to my Poll; you, with that lank carcaſe, for all the world like the purſer's ſhirt upon a hand-ſpike."’ And now the lady, no leſs irritated than her ſpokeſman, joined her treble to the baſe, overwhelming poor Ezekiel with a torrent of words not the moſt courtly, in a key not the moſt harmonious, whilſt he ſtood ſtaring with aſtoniſhment on them both, yielding however no one inch of ground from the poſt he had taken, nor from the upright attitude in which he ſtood, conſcious of having given no offence, ſave that his zeal had innocently intruded a kind offer where it was not called for. But ſoon the din became general; for Weevil, the miller, had now turned out on the part of his friend, whilſt the landlady, who exerted her voice for peace and ſilence, roared louder, and [Page 135] with more fury than the parties themſelves, who were vociferous enough in the controverſy without her help. When this confuſion was at the heighth, and the ſailor, now rouſed, like the lion, with his own roar, was become ferocious, thundering out his oaths by whole broadſides at a volley, a ſtripling youth, or rather boy, in the uniform of a midſhipman, ſtepping up to him, and catching hold of a button of his jacket, cried out in a ſhrill emaſculate voice,—‘"What's here to do with you, raſcal? hold your jaw and jump aboard, you lubber, or I'll make you change your doxy for the gunner's daughter."’
The youngſter aſked the landlady if the fellow had left any thing unpaid; and being told there was nothing on the ſcore but a ſhilling for the brandy he and the lady had been drinking, he immediately diſcharged it, intimating to the aforeſaid lady, that no more women would be admitted on board, as the frigate would weigh with the next tide.
Ezekiel contemplated this inſtance of diſcipline with ſurprize and admiration: the [Page 136] boyiſh age and perſon of the officer carried ſo little authority in appearance, that he could ſcarce account for the immediate effect it took upon the boiſterous ſpirit of the ſailor, and the obedience it produced.—‘"Truly, young gentleman,"’ he ſaid, ‘"there muſt be admirable order on board your ſhip, when an unruly nature can be ſo readily controul'd by a gentle one."’—‘"I believe, Sir,"’ ſaid the boy, ‘"we are as well off in that reſpect as our neighbours; Captain Cary ſupports his officers, and I fancy that's the ſureſt way to keep the men in order."’—Ezekiel then enquired after his friend on board, ſaid that he had come for the purpoſe of paying him a ſhort viſit before he ſailed, and civilly requeſted permiſſion to be paſſed to the ſhip in his boat.—‘"Moſt readily,"’ ſaid this young commander; ‘"I am only waiting for a man who is on ſhore on that gentleman's buſineſs, and I ſhall be off directly."’ At that inſtant Tom Weevil entered the kitchen, and the miller having paid the reckoning, Ezekiel with the father and ſon, under conduct of their warlike leader, proceeded to the beach, where the boat was manned and waiting. There was a heavy ſwell ſet in by the oppoſition of wind and tide, and further [Page 137] out a bar, on which the ſea broke in a manner not a little formidable to a landſman's eyes: the frigate was at anchor about two miles without this bar; Ezekiel and old Weevil were placed in the ſtern-ſheets, Tom took his poſt at the bow, and the noiſy fellow, now in office as cockſwain, took his ſeat in the ſteerage, as perfectly under command of his beardleſs officer, as if the admiral of the fleet had been on board the boat. If Ezekiel was ſtruck with ſurprize at the authority of the youngſter on ſhore, he was ſtill more ſo with his addreſs and ſkill in manoeuvring the boat through a ſea, which he conceived was every inſtant about to whelm them in the waves. The miller, who was as much a novice in navigation as the preacher, exhibited ſtrong ſymptoms of alarm, jumping up once or twice in the boat, for which he was very properly reprimanded by the youngſter, who ridiculed his fears, telling him if he was afraid of being ſwamp'd, he went the very way to bring it about. Ezekiel, on the contrary, ſate ſtill and kept a ſteady countenance, not that he did not think he was at the laſt criſis of his fate, but becauſe he poſſeſſed a mind tranquillized by religion, and perfectly reſigned to that all-directing [Page 138] Being, to whom his mental ejaculations were then ſilently addreſſed. When they had ſtruggled for ſome time on the bar, with luſty ſinews and hearts of controverſy, the young officer giving his orders with perfect firmneſs and preciſion, and all voices were huſhed, but the ſhrill ſmall pipe of a child, he cried to the cockſwain—‘"Mind your helm and be damn'd to you! Steer ſteady; now, lads, give way all, and we are clear."’—The energy was inſtantaneous; what cannot Britiſh ſailors do? the boat was driven through the waves, the bar was paſſed, and they found themſelves at once in deep water and a ſmoother ſea: the little midſhipman now bade them ſtep the maſt and hoiſt the ſail; they ſhot before the wind, and quickly were along-ſide of the frigate. The humanity of this youngſter gave orders for taking care of Ezekiel and old Weevil, as they awkwardly ſcrambled up the ſide; a lieutenant ſtood upon the gunwhale, giving orders about ſome freſh beef and other ſtores they had brought off in the cutter; and Ezekiel had another call upon his wonder and ſurprize, when he heard this lieutenant ſay to the young officer of the boat—‘"You have had a good tuzzle on the bar, Lord Frederick."’—‘"So, [Page 139] ſo,"’ replied Lord Frederick, and immediately taking off his hat, whilſt he addreſſed his ſuperior officer, informed him that theſe two gentlemen wiſhed to ſpeak to Mr. Fitzhenry. The anſwer was, that he was then in the cabin under the ſurgeon's hands, but if the gentlemens' buſineſs was urgent, he would direct them to be ſhewn the way to him. Ezekiel expreſſing a deſire to be inſtantly admitted to his friend, was put under the guidance of a marine, whilſt old Weevil went aſide with Tom to his quarters.
When Ezekiel entered the cabin, he found Henry with his arm ſtripped, and the ſurgeon cleaning his wound; a kind ſalutation was all theſe friends could interchange in their preſent circumſtances.—‘"This gentleman,"’ ſaid Henry, ‘"who is the ſurgeon of the ſhip, is ſo kind to take in hand this paltry ſcratch, and I aſſure you, he gives a very handſome teſtimony to our good dame's performances."’—‘"A ſcratch, do you call it?"’ cried Ezekiel, knitting his brow, ‘"it is a perilous ſtab! I proteſt I did not think by your account it had been any thing like this:"’—then addreſſing himſelf to the ſurgeon, he added,—‘"I pray you, learned Sir, what is your opinion of this [Page 140] ugly gaſh?"’—‘"My opinion is,"’ cried the ſurgeon, ‘"that had it not been in the direction where fortunately it is, it might have been an ugly gaſh indeed; but as it is, I think it will be well in a few more dreſſings."’—This he ſaid without looking at Ezekiel, being then employed in applying a compreſs to the wound before he bound it up: having done this, he looked round for the ſpeaker, whom he no ſooner ſet eyes on, than he ſaid, ‘"Is it you, Mr. Daw? I am very glad to ſee you."’—Ezekiel ſtared upon him for a moment, then marching up to him, and taking him cordially by the hand, exclaimed,—‘"As I live, it is my old friend and favourite, Billy Williams: never truſt me, but I rejoice to ſee thee in the land of the living, Mr. Williams; heartily I rejoice at thy well-doing, for I have much bewail'd thy ſudden diſappearance from amongſt us, eſteeming thee very truly for thy towardly diſpoſition and good qualities, no leſs than for thy talents. If I miſtake not, it is now going on to two years ſince you quitted neighbour Cawdle, and we knew not whither you went?"’—This ſatisfied Henry's curioſity ſo far, and as they proceeded in their converſation, Williams filled up the interval with an [Page 141] account of himſelf in various ſhips to the preſent time, when having done his buſineſs with Henry, and anſwered all Ezekiel's enquiries, he reſpectfully took his leave and retired. And now our hero and his friend being left to themſelves, had a conference of at leaſt half an hour without interruption, when Captain Cary entered the cabin, who very kindly welcomed Ezekiel upon Henry's introduction of him: he lamented he could not aſk him to dinner, as they were then weighing anchor, and ſhould be out to ſea. ‘"We muſt think therefore,"’ ſaid he, ‘"how to get you on ſhore:"’ and the firſt lieutenant then entering the cabin, he deſired him to hail the tender along-ſide of them, and aſk the loan of their boat to ſet Ezekiel and his friend Weevil on ſhore. They now adjourned to the quarter deck, whilſt Ezekiel's attention was deeply engaged with the exertions of the men at the capſtan, where, for the time they are at work, they enjoy a kind of temporary ſaturnalia, venting their ſea jokes without reſtraint, in a moſt ridiculous ſtile. All was new to Ezekiel, but the heavy moment of parting from Henry hung upon his heart, and now the tender's boat was hauled along ſide; the frigate ſwung with the tide; the [Page 142] ſails were hoiſting, the boatſwain plied his whiſtle, the men ſwarmed upon the yards, the officers roared through their trumpets, Weevil was already in the boat, Ezekiel caſt a parting look at Henry, threw his arms about his neck, ſighed out a farewell; recommended him to Providence, and committed himſelf to the boat.
THE tender's boatmen hawled off from the ſhip a few lengths, and then laid on their oars, and cheered the frigate, who now began to feel her ſails and make way through the water: this rouſed Ezekiel from his torpor, and inſtantly his ears were aſſailed by three repeated cheers, in a much louder key from the whole crew of the tender, who had manned ſhip in compliment to Captain Cary: the frigate's crew returned the inſpiring compliment, and then preſenting her ſtern to the [Page 143] tear-full eyes of Ezekiel, ſhe glided majeſtically over the waves, ſcarce deigning them a curtſey as they ſunk beneath her keel, conſcious, as it ſhould ſeem, that ſhe was worthy to aſſert the empire of the flag which ſhe diſplayed.
‘"Hurrah! my hearts,"’ cried the man in the ſteerage, the boat cut through the water.—‘"There ſhe goes,"’ looking at the frigate, ſaid one of the fellows at his oar.—‘"Damn me, but I wiſh I was in her,"’ repeated a ſecond.—‘"Have you then a friend,"’ ſaid Ezekiel, ‘"on board that ſhip, whom you regret to part from? and is your heart agoniz'd with grief like mine?"’—‘"Grief indeed!"’ cried the fellow, in a ſurly tone; ‘"grief never came near my heart ſince I had one: I wiſh myſelf in her becauſe I think ſhe has a fighting captain on board, and there'll be ſomething to be got to make merry with on ſhore: but belike you are tender-hearted, and take on becauſe your friend is gone to ſea; if that be the caſe, do you mind me, do as I do, when I part from my wife, ſwab the ſpray out of your glims, and think no more about it."’—‘"I cannot be ſure that I clearly underſtand thee, friend,"’ replied Ezekiel, ‘"but I preſume it [Page 144] makes to the benefit of thy country, that thou art void of feeling."’
As this did not reach the underſtanding of the tar, it produced no anſwer, and whatever want of feeling in Ezekiel's ſenſe of it there might be in thoſe he had embarked with, there was ſuch ſtrength and alacrity, that our paſſengers ſoon found themſelves ſafely landed on their native ſoil. A can of grog to the crew, and a ſlight refreſhment for Weevil and Ezekiel, to revive languid nature, filled up the time, whilſt the miller's cart was getting ready, which at length ſafely landed our travellers at Ezekiel's door, and not without many of thoſe jars and jumbles emblematic of the troubles inſeparably attendant on our paſſage through life.
Whilſt Henry was now wafted into the ocean, and whilſt the land he had left was ſinking in the horizon of his proſpect, the tender heart of his beloved Iſabella had directed many a ſigh to attend him over the watery waſte. Lady Crowbery had arrived at Manſtock Houſe, leſs exhauſted with her firſt ſtage than could reaſonably be expected: Sir Roger, Iſabella, Zachary Cawdle, every ſoul male and female in the family, were in motion to attend upon her, nor did the reverend [Page 145] Mr. Claypole fail to be amongſt the forwardeſt to exhibit his devoirs: Fanny, meanwhile, remained in ſullen ſolitude at the vicarage, her mind experiencing the various torments ſlighted paſſion is expoſed to. Her ſecret was entombed in Iſabella's breaſt; in that of Goody May it had a more precarious tenure; yet for the preſent ſhe adhered to the injunctions ſhe had received, and held her tongue. Lady Crowbery had remarked the condition of Henry's arm, but had taken up with the ſlight account he had given of it, the rather becauſe ſhe perceived he had a ready uſe of it. Little, however, was ſaid upon the ſubject whilſt the family were about her, and Iſabella did not think it neceſſary to ſpeak of the interview ſhe had had at the dame's.
When dinner was over, and Lady Crowbery's ſpirits ſeemed recruited by her repaſt and the company of her friends, an opportunity was taken by Sir Roger to introduce a ſubject, which he knew his friend Mr. Claypole to have much at heart, and which he opened, by enquiring if ſhe had filled up Mr. Ratcliffe's vacancy. Upon her replying, that it was yet open, Sir Roger expreſſed his wiſhes in favour of his friend then preſent, for Claypole's [Page 146] delicacy had not prevailed with him to retire from the hearing of his own ſucceſs at firſt hand, of which he very naturally entertained the moſt ſanguine expectation.—‘"Are you a party in theſe wiſhes of your worthy friend?"’ ſaid the Lady, addreſſing herſelf to Claypole.—‘"I confeſs to your Ladyſhip I am,"’ replied he, ‘"and ſhould hold myſelf infinitely bound to you for putting me in poſſeſſion of thoſe wiſhes."’—‘"Mr. Ratcliffe was a conſtant reſident,"’ reſumed ſhe, ‘"and, perhaps, you are not aware that I ſhou'd ſtipulate with his ſucceſſor to tread as nearly as poſſible in his ſteps."’—‘"I hope, Madam,"’ replied the Divine, ſomewhat piqued at the expreſſion, ‘"I ſhou'd not fall ſhort of my predeceſſor in any part of his practice."’—‘"In ſome of his doctrines, I believe, you differ, Mr. Claypole, if I have been rightly inform'd."’—‘"As how, Madam, I beſeech you,"’ reiterated the reverend gentleman, with eagerneſs, ‘"in what one doctrine, fitting for Mr. Ratcliffe to hold, have I been found to differ from him, or fall ſhort? I never had my orthodoxy queſtion'd."’—Sir Roger looked at his niece with marks of ſurpriſe, but being a man of few words, waited ſilently for a further explanation of this [Page 147] myſtery.—‘"In this reſpect,"’ ſaid the Lady, ‘"I conceive you differ: Mr. Ratcliffe put a value on a juſt and generous act, that wou'd have led him to deſpiſe the man who gave him ſordid counſel, or condemn'd him for a ſacrifice of intereſt to conſcience. This, I dare ſay, is your doctrine in the pulpit, Mr. Claypole, for I don't doubt your orthodoxy; but, allow me to ſay, it was his alſo in the cloſet; this he inculcated to Henry, whom he father'd, and who has nobly practis'd what he taught, by giving up the whole of Blachford's fortune to the ſon of Blachford: this you condemn'd; but this my departed friend wou'd have ſo decidedly approv'd of, that I take upon me to ſay, you differ in your doctrine; and being employ'd in ſeeking out ſome ſucceſſor, who ſhall, as I before ſaid, tread as nearly as poſſible in the ſteps of that excellent and ever-lamented friend, I can only tell you, that I have not yet diſcover'd the perſon that anſwers to my ſearch."’
Here the lady ceaſed from ſpeaking. The perſons preſent were Sir Roger Manſtock, Iſabella, and the gentleman himſelf, to whom the words were addreſſed; of theſe not one ſeemed diſpoſed at that time to renew the ſubject; various motives kept them ſilent; when [Page 148] Claypole, who had probably better diſpoſitions for taking up the converſation, but leſs matter to ſupport it with than any preſent, ſullenly retired, and leſt the uncle, niece, and Iſabella, to comment upon it as they ſaw fit.
Sir Roger, who was not yet informed of the tranſaction alluded to by Lady Crowbery, and, to his great ſurpriſe, had heard his application anſwered in ſo different a manner from what he looked for, ſaw Claypole leave the room without offering a word either in ſupport of his ſuit, or which might lead to an explanation of what he did not yet comprehend. Iſabella alone knew the real motives of the abſent gentleman for the proceeding, which Lady Crowbery reſented in this manner, and at the ſame time foreſaw the farther diſappointment that was in reſerve for him, when he ſhould next have a meeting with his niece. Sir Roger, in the mean time, after ſome pauſe, requeſted to be informed by Lady Crowbery, how it was Mr. Claypole had been ſo unfortunate as to looſe her good opinion? This drew from her an account of Henry's generous behaviour in the matter of Blachford's will, and of the ſentiments Mr. Claypole had expreſſed upon that tranſaction, when he called upon [Page 149] Henry at Crowbery. Every circumſtance of this was new to the worthy Baronet, who, without heſitation, concurred in paſſing the higheſt encomiums on our hero, and concluded by ſaying, that he always ſuſpected his friend Claypole to have a little more attention to the main chance, than was ſtrictly conſiſtent with his own way of thinking.—‘"Witneſs,"’ ſaid he, ‘"his readineſs to give up me and my pariſh for an exchange, which, upon calculation, cou'd not have benefitted him in more than a hundred a year at moſt, ſo that, I confeſs to you, it put me upon computing the price at which he valued the ſociety of an old friend, whoſe houſe and heart were ever open to him. After all, perhaps, it may be too much to require of any man, that he ſhou'd love me better than his money; and as for his advice to our friend Henry, which appears to you ſo reprehenſible, recollecting, as I do, how much it was the wiſh of his heart to marry him to his niece Fanny, I can account for his regret at ſeeing ſuch a fortune as Mr. Blachford's ſlip out of his fingers."’—‘"Heavens!"’ exclaimed Lady Crowbery, forgetting herſelf in the moment of ſurpriſe, ‘"had he the aſſurance to ſuppoſe that my Henry wou'd throw himſelf [Page 150] away upon that flippant flirting thing Fanny Claypole? I'll venture to pronounce, his heart was never that way diſpos'd; no, no, he has better notions, better taſte, and better pretenſions."’
The Baronet, though too much a man of honour to expoſe what had been paſſing in his houſe, was yet unwilling to hear his intelligence ſo totally decried, and turning to his daughter, ſaid, he fancied ſhe could teſtify there was ſome truth in what he ſaid: this appeal came rather unſeaſonably upon Iſabella, who had taken to herſelf the application of ſome words, which Lady Crowbery had concluded with, and ſhe ſimply replied, that Miſs Claypole, ſhe believed, would not have been adverſe to ſuch a propoſal; but ſhe added, incautiouſly enough, that ſhe was ſure no ſuch thing could ever take place.—‘"Indeed!"’ cried her father, ‘"are you ſure of that? Upon what grounds, I beg to know, do you ſpeak ſo confidently about Henry's reſolutions?"’—‘"Becauſe,"’ replied Iſabella, and here ſhe faultered; but truth was too familiar with her lips to be held back—‘"becauſe he told me ſo himſelf."’
WHEN Iſabella gave this honeſt anſwer to her father's queſtion, a light ſtruck upon his mind, which ſome of our readers may think might have reached him before. Accuſtomed ever to behold her open brow without a cloud, and to hear her ſpeak to him without faultering, the embarraſſment that now he could not fail to diſcover, opened a new train of thoughts, and he inſtantly preſſed freſh queſtions upon Iſabella, which ſhe had too much candour to evade. She told him how ſhe had accidentally dropt in at dame May's that very morning, where ſhe found Henry.—‘"And how came he there?"’ Sir Roger demanded?—‘"He had hurt his arm, and the good woman was dreſſing it."’—‘"And did he tell you of Mr. Claypole's propoſal for his niece, and of his own rejection of her?"’—‘"I underſtood,"’ replied Iſabella, ‘"he had an interview with Miſs Claypole, which had been concluſive [Page 152] againſt any further correſpondence or connection."’—‘"And how was you intereſted,"’ demanded he, ‘"to be inform'd of that?"’—‘"I ſhou'd hope,"’ replied Iſabella, ‘"that my father does not want to ſearch into my thoughts, as ſuſpecting they conceal what ought not to be there."’—This apoſtrophe, and perhaps the preſence of Lady Crowbery, checked for a time the curioſity of Sir Roger; Zachary alſo helped to turn the ſubject, by coming in with a medicine he had been preparing for his patient.
The reverend Mr. Claypole, who had left the room upon his rebuff from the lady patroneſs of Ratcliffe's living, had gone ſtraight to the vicarage in queſt of his niece: here he was greeted, not with the ſight of Fanny, but of Fanny's letter, put into his hands by the old woman of the houſe, who informed him that the young lady had taken her departure early in the morning. This letter briefly told him, that ſhe had for ever taken leave of a place that was rendered odious to her by the treatment ſhe had met in it; that ſhe made no doubt ſtories would be circulated diſreputable to her character, but they could be nothing but the baſeſt forgeries, which ſhe conjured him [Page 153] to treat with the contempt they merited; that ſhe had diſcovered the young man, he thought ſo well of, to be half knave half fool, and, for her part, ſhe had done with him; ſhe added, that he had frightened her into fits by his awkwardneſs, in letting a knife, which ſhe had uſed for cutting open the leaves of a book, run into his arm, and wound him. In concluſion, ſhe apologized for the early hour of her departure, which prevented her from taking leave of him; but he ſhould hear from her when ſhe arrived in London.
Claypole's breaſt now boiled with indignation againſt Henry; he had diſgraced his niece, and, which was worſe, diſappointed him of a valuable living; for he was too well informed, not to know that Ratcliffe had left it in a ſtate that would bear a deal of ſtretching. In this temper of mind he ſauntered ſlowly towards Sir Roger's, deeply meditating by the way: the baronet was no leſs eager for the meeting than he was, and having ſtept out of the room when Zachary entered in, encountered him in the hall. Claypole was full charged with venom he had brooded upon by the way; ‘"I thank you, dear and worthy Sir,"’ ſaid he, with counterfeited humility, ‘"for your kind though [Page 154] ineffectual interceſſion in my favour. Having heard a character of myſelf ſo contrary to what I expected or deſerved, I hope you will not think me petulant, if I beg leave to retire to my chamber for this evening, rather than meet the eyes of a lady, which had not us'd to look ſo unfavourably upon me, and for whom I entertain too high a reverence and eſteem, to be indifferent to her contempt of me. Perhaps, Sir, you may have thought, as Lady Crowbery does, that this young man's conduct in Blachford's buſineſs is an act of high honour, and that I was a very ſhabby fellow to adviſe him otherwiſe."’—‘"I don't quite ſay that,"’ replied Sir Roger gravely; ‘"becauſe I believe you thought of him as likely to be a part of the family; but I confeſs to you, the tranſaction, as repreſented to me, appears a very honourable one on his part."’—‘"His motives muſt determine that,"’ ſaid Claypole; ‘"it is a cheap way of doing a ſeemingly diſintereſted action, when he gains the favour of Lady Crowbery, and the good opinion of Miſs Manſtock."’ Sir Roger ſtarted. ‘"I own,"’ continued he, ‘"that I did zealouſly preſs forward a marriage, in which I did not altogether wiſh to make ſo total a [Page 155] ſacrifice of my niece, as to marry her to abſolute beggary, but recommended him to reſerve ſome portion of Mr. Blachford's property as a maintenance: this is the mercenary advice for which I am condemn'd; but, with humble ſubmiſſion to Lady Crowbery, I am of opinion I was ſufficiently diſintereſted, when I promoted a marriage even upon theſe terms, and which I ſhou'd not have liſten'd to for a moment upon any, had I not been perſuaded, that by taking the danger of an obſcure unpromiſing connection on myſelf, I was fulfilling the duties of gratitude and friendſhip, by conſulting the intereſts of my patron and benefactor, in the moſt eſſential object of his life."’ Here Sir Roger again made a motion expreſſive of agitation and ſurpriſe. ‘"And now, Sir,"’ added he, ‘"if I, who have been ſo long honour'd with your friendſhip, and ſo much profited by your hoſpitality, have appeared to you as a man inſenſible to your bounty and my own happineſs, and one who, upon mercenary motives, was reaching after a better benefice in a diſtant place, I hope you will now diſcern my motives, and acquit me of ſuch folly, and ſuch ingratitude, as wou'd ſtamp my conduct, upon any other principles [Page 156] than the real ones; for, in the firſt place, what cou'd I profit by the exchange, granting that Mr. Ratcliffe's living were ſomewhat better than my own, a fact which I have not been curious to enquire into: but be the advantage what in may, ſurely it wou'd not balance the difference between living upon my own eſtabliſhment, and appertaining to your's; but when I foreſaw, with grief of heart, that whether this young nameleſs fellow married, or married not, my Fanny Claypole, my ſtation in this family had no laſting tenure, conſiſtently with your repoſe or my own, can you wonder that I caught at any hope that offer'd me an opportunity of retreating in good time, without diſturbing your peace at my departure, content that you ſhou'd even condemn me for the meaſure, rather than be driven, as I now am, to open your eyes upon the real motives for it?"’
‘"Mr. Claypole,"’ ſaid Sir Roger, no longer able to refrain himſelf, ‘"you do indeed open my eyes, which have been in darkneſs; but I muſt deſire you will alſo enable them to ſee clearly all the danger that is before them, elſe, permit me to obſerve, that your friendſhip only goes the length of alarming me, but [Page 157] ſtops ſhort where it ſhou'd inform me."’—‘"Sir Roger Manſtock,"’ replied Claypole, in a tone of much ſolemnity, ‘"after the proof I have given how far my attachment has already carried me, I ſhou'd hope you will not ſuppoſe it likely to ſtop ſhort, or ſhrink from any duties friendſhip can require of me. If this young adventurer had carried off my niece, I ſhou'd have held myſelf juſtified in ſerving you ſo far, and ſhou'd have ſeceded from your family in ſilence; for where wou'd have been the kindneſs or uſe in opening your eyes upon dangers, after you had eſcap'd them? You would then, perhaps, have ſet me down in your thoughts for a capricious, fickle minded man; but my conſcience would have witneſs'd better things. But now that this Mr. Henry Fitzhenry, or whatever name he chuſes to be call'd by, has thought fit to reject Miſs Claypole, with fifteen thouſand pounds to her fortune, and my honeſt attempt is defeated, with the ſacrifice of my niece's peace and reputation, whilſt he is extoll'd to the ſkies for his rejection both of her generous offer and Blachford's liberal bequeſt, what am I to think, but that he has friends in thoſe who ſo highly praiſe him, who are too [Page 158] well diſpoſed to reward him for ſacrificing my connection, and to ruin me in your eſteem, (of which deſign I think you have already had ſome proof) for my attempt to take upon myſelf your danger, and defeat their wiſhes! And now, Sir Roger, let me make one ſerious condition with you in this place; conſent to drop this matter for the preſent; Lady Crowbery is your gueſt for this night; ſeparate not yourſelf any longer from her, I beſeech you; change not, if poſſible, your countenance, nor abate of your good humour to either of thoſe amiable ladies, who will wonder at your abſence, if you do not ſuffer me to retire immediately. If any queſtion is aſk'd, why I do not attend at ſupper, be pleas'd to let my apology be a ſlight indiſpoſition: the plea will not offend againſt the truth, for I am far from well."’ This ſaid, he took Sir Roger's hand, tenderly preſſed it in his, and haſtened away.
When he found himſelf in his chamber, he again took out his niece's letter, and then for the firſt time diſcovered that there was a poſtſcript over leaf, which he had overlooked in his firſt reading, there being no reference to it. The purport was as follows:—‘The Gentleman took up his abode laſt [Page 159] night with Mother May, a good commodious body, as you will confeſs, if you find, upon enquiry, that the immaculate Iſabella ſhall have given him the meeting there (if ſhe did, let Sir Roger look about him); I can take upon me to aſſure you ſhe is fond of him; and it is my opinion, that in ſpite of all her ſanctified airs, ſhe is up to any act of deſperation love can drive her to. Once more I repeat,—let Sir Roger look about him.’
This poſtſcript, ſo happily coinciding with his own operations already commenced, determined Claypole to ſet out immediately upon diſcoveries. His firſt wiſh was to ſift Goody May; but of this he ſoon ſaw the impolicy, at leaſt of undertaking it in his own perſon; he therefore bent his ſteps to his own houſe, ſuppoſing he might get ſomething from the old woman in his ſervice, and with whom his curioſity was not likely to ſubject him to the ſame ſuſpicion. Of her he learnt no more, than that Henry had been a pretty conſiderable time alone with Miſs Fanny, during which ſhe never entered the room; but that juſt as he was going, he rung the bell with great vehemence, and upon her coming to it, told [Page 160] her, that her young lady was taken ſuddenly ill, and charged her to be careful of her, and not leave her; that ſhe did not then diſcover he was wounded, but was told it by Miſs Fanny, who raved, and rambled, and took on at a piteous rate, being in ſtrong hyſterics. ‘"As for what ſhe talk'd about in her fit"’—ſaid the old woman. ‘"Tell me what ſhe ſaid in her fit;"’ quoth Claypole; ‘"it is very material to me to know what ſhe ſaid, and 'tis your duty not to conceal it from me."’ The woman then repeated, as well as ſhe could, ſuch of her incoherent ſallies, as ſhe could call to mind: they were made up of various paſſions, breaking out in confuſed exclamations; ſometimes of violent love, at other times of hatred and contempt as violent; ſome expreſſions ſhe recollected full of terror for his life, and as if ſhe had accuſed herſelf of having murdered him. ‘"At one time,"’ added the old woman, ‘"I was ſorely afraid the poor young lady had been betray'd, and dealt diſhoneſtly by, for ſhe ſaid again and again, that he had made a fool of her, and was a baſe deceiver; upon that I ſtraitly aſk'd her, if he had taken advantage of her in an unlucky moment, and had his wicked will of her. To [Page 161] this ſhe anſwer'd, no, no, with great vehemence; he had deceiv'd her in another way."’—‘"Well, well,"’ cried Claypole, ſtopping her, ‘"ſay no more upon that ſubject; I am ſatisfied no real injury has been done to her virtue."’—‘"None, be aſſur'd,"’ echoed the old Dame; ‘"I'll ſtake my life upon that, and Mrs. May will certify the ſame."’—‘"How!"’ exclaimed he, ‘"Mrs. May will certify! what knows ſhe of the affair?"’—‘"Lackaday!"’ anſwered ſhe; ‘"I was fain to call in help, for young Madam was quite obſtreperous; and ſo as I knew neighbour May was knowing in thoſe caſes, I ſent away for her, and well it was ſhe came, for ſhe quickly fetch'd her out of her fit, and quieted her.’—‘"Well,"’ reſumed Claypole, ‘"and what became of the gentleman?"’—‘"Oh!"’ cried the old woman, ‘"he took up his lodgings at Mrs. May's, and did not go off next morning till he had ſeen my Lady Crowbery, who ſtopt at the door, and took him into the chaiſe with her, where they ſat together, as ſome of the neighbours tell me, for I know not how long, whilſt my Lady's Gentlewoman got out to make room for him; nay, and there's more than all that, only belike you will be angry [Page 162] with me for talking to you about matters."’—‘"Not I,"’ quoth Claypole; ‘"I deſire you will tell of all matters that you believe or know to be true. Did Miſs Manſtock come to Goody May's, while the Gentleman was there?"’—‘"Aye, did ſhe, as ſure as you are in that place alive,"’ ſaid the hag; ‘"and was all alone with him ever ſo long in the parlour that Madam has deck'd out ſo finely for a new-comer amongſt us, when, as all the neighbours ſay, ſhe might have found ſome of her own poor pariſhioners to beſtow it upon, inſtead of a ſtranger."’—‘"What's that to the purpoſe?"’ ſaid Claypole, peeviſhly, ‘"go on with your ſtory about Henry and Miſs Manſtock; are you ſure they were in private together?"’—‘"Certain ſure,"’ replied ſhe; ‘"for juſt then I call'd upon Mrs. May to return her ſome bottles of ſtuff, which had not been us'd, and as I was turning into the parlour to the cloſet where ſhe keeps her drugs, ſhe laid hold of me in a great hurry, telling me I muſt not go into that room for my life; I, ſeeing her in ſuch a combuſtion, ſtrait thought within myſelf, how that ſomething was going on more than common, and taking no further notice at the time, determin'd upon peeping [Page 163] in at the window when I went away, and ſhe was out of ſight: I did ſo; God forgive me if I did wrong! and there I ſaw young Madam and her ſpark ſitting lovingly together; not that I wou'd go to ſay there was any harm in what they were about; but if ever I ſaw any thing clearly with theſe eyes in my life, I ſaw Madam Iſabella, with her head upon the Gentleman's ſhoulder, and his arm round her waiſt: Oho! ſaid I to myſelf, well may our poor young Lady weep and wail at ſuch a rate if theſe be your falſe hearted doings."’
A NATURE like Sir Roger Manſtock's was not eaſily wrought upon by the poiſon of ſuſpicion towards a character like Iſabella's: Confidence, long rooted in ſtrong affection, was not ſpeedily to be ſhaken; yet his happineſs was diſturbed, and his ſpirits [Page 164] depreſſed. When Henry was ſpoken of, which he frequently was by Lady Crowbery, he was either ſilent on the ſubject, or contrived to paſs it off; his looks at the ſame time were watchfully directed towards his daughter, and the effect of them was very painfully felt. When Lady Crowbery retired for the night, he attended her himſelf to her chamber, and contrived to take Iſabella away with him. The night paſſed heavily with her, and the next morning afforded no opportunity of being private with her couſin; the ſad hour of departure drew near, and though there was not more than time for ſuch friends to take a farewel, which was probably to be their laſt, nobody dared to ſpeak the word; all parties ſate ſilent; Zachary Cawdle had the conſideration to keep out of the way: at laſt, Lady Crowbery ſpoke as follows:—
‘"I had reſerv'd many things to ſay to you, my dear uncle, but I perceive too late the fallacy of poſtponing thoſe things to a time, when the pain of parting occupies the mind to the excluſion of all other thoughts. I ſhall therefore refer you for them to my letters, if my health enables me to write; if not, you will find a paper inclos'd with my will, to be [Page 165] read by you after my death, in which my heart, and all its ſorrows, is laid open to your view: be as tender to my memory when I am no more, as you have been kind and generous to me whilſt living, and may Heaven reward you for it! if I have offended you in the matter of your application for Mr. Claypole, or in the manner of my treating it in the preſence of that gentleman, I am ſorry for it; but I cannot revoke my opinion of him, though I ſuſpect it may appear to you as a very harſh one; but this is not the moment for me to prevaricate, impreſs'd as I am with the perſuaſion, that it is amongſt the laſt I have to paſs with you."’
‘"Heaven forbid!"’ cried the venerable Baronet, and tenderly embraced her. Iſabella, weeping, next preſented herſelf, to take her melancholy adieu; Lady Crowbery whiſpered a few words to her as ſhe was in her arms, and then, with aſſiſtance, roſe from her chair, and was ſupported to the carriage, that waited at the door, where all the domeſtics of Manſtock Houſe were aſſembled, to offer up their good wiſhes for her recovery: alas! how fruitleſs!
Sir Roger retired to his library, Iſabella to [Page 166] her apartment. Claypole had kept cloſe, and did not preſent himſelf at Lady Crowbery's departure. This was not unnoticed by Sir Roger, who did not expect to meet ſo ſtrong a mark of his reſentment: the ſolemn declaration made by that lady, under the impreſſion that they were the laſt words ſhe ſhould addreſs to him in perſon, ſunk deep into his mind—I cannot revoke my opinion of him.—He was not of a nature prone to ſuſpicion, nor had he that gift of intuition, which can diſcover the real character of a man, by tracing it through the windings and involutions of artifice and cunning. Claypole, by ſuperior acuteneſs of intellect, had gained a complete aſcendancy over him, and preſerved it long; yet he had not a little ſurpriſed Sir Roger by his ſolicitation for Ratcliffe's living; it ſtruck him in the light of a dereliction of his friendſhip, upon motives merely mercenary; but the artful interpretation afterwards given to thoſe motives had put a very favourable gloſs upon it as to Claypole's conduct; but it fatally inſtilled into his mind a doubt, as to the deareſt object of his affections, and for the firſt time ſhook his confidence in his beloved Iſabella. This was now [Page 167] the painful ſubject of his meditations; and after oppoſing thought to thought, and weighing them calmly and impartially to the beſt of his judgment and underſtanding, he began to ſum up the reſult of his reflections in the following manner:—
‘"Lady Crowbery ſays, ſhe cannot revoke her opinion of Mr. Claypole; neither can I, without better proof than I am yet provided with.—If a ſmall augmentation of his income cou'd have tempted him to turn his back upon me, I ſhou'd have doubted the ſincerity of his friendſhip; for he does not want money.—But this exchange was not the way to gain it; therefore I am the more diſpos'd to believe the reaſons he aſſigns for ſeeking it.—He ſays, he wou'd have given his niece to Henry for my ſake, for my repoſe,—and what can that imply, but that he apprehends me to be in danger; and how in danger! but that he ſuſpects my Iſabella to be attach'd to the young man, whom he wou'd have married to Miſs Claypole.—This is indeed alarming; ſuſpicion is always ſo; but I muſt not give way to ſuſpicion without proofs; hitherto he has given me none. Iſabella confeſſes that ſhe met him accidentally at the cottage; what then? [Page 168] her very confeſſion of it ſhou'd diſarm ſuſpicion; and my child has ever been ingenuous and ſincere. Claypole wou'd have me think he took a dangerous connection on himſelf for my ſake; if ſo, he has had an eſcape; why then this reſentment againſt Henry for refuſing to endanger him? But he was eager enough for the connection when I firſt convers'd with him about it: he ſought the young man, unknown to me, confer'd with him at Crowbery, and ſtrove to perſuade him to avail himſelf of Blachford's legacy; that cou'd not be for my ſake; there is ſomething here that does not ſeem to accord: I am puzzled how to judge."’
At this moment Claypole announced himſelf with a gentle tap at the library dour, and was deſired to enter. Sir Roger had well nigh entangled himſelf in his medications, and probably was not ſorry thus to cut the knot, which he could not untie. ‘"Well, my good friend,"’ ſaid he, with a ſigh, ‘"my niece is gone, perhaps for ever: I think you was not preſent to take leave of her."’—‘"My preſence, I am afraid,"’ replied Claypole, ‘"cou'd not have been agreeable to her, nor my reſpects acceptable."’—‘"To me at leaſt they wou'd, if [Page 169] not to her,"’ ſaid Sir Roger.—‘"To you they never can be wanting,"’ reſumed he; ‘"of which this tender of them is my witneſs, when I am fitter for my bed than to be about."’—‘"I am very ſorry you are indiſpoſed,"’ reſumed the Baronet; ‘"for I confeſs to you there was part of your converſation laſt night which has left my thoughts in a ſtate of great inquietude."’—‘"If that be ſo,"’ replied Claypole, ‘"I am quite at leiſure to ſatisfy you upon any points you may wiſh to have explain'd; clear in conſcience, and cordial in my zeal for your intereſt and content, I can never be taken unprovided with a ſtrait anſwer to any queſtions you may chooſe to aſk."’—‘"I cannot doubt you,"’ quoth the Baronet; ‘"and ſhall accordingly avail myſelf of your indulgence. I think you ſtated the propoſed connection with young Henry and Miſs Claypole as a dangerous one, but which, nevertheleſs, you was reſolute to encounter upon reaſons that had reſpect to my repoſe, the nature of which I can well underſtand."’—‘"I did ſo."’—‘"Did you ſee it in that light of danger when you firſt ſtarted it in our converſation together in the hall?"’—‘"I do not perfectly call to mind how I ſaw it, or how I ſtarted it upon that occaſion; it was a night [Page 170] of buſtle and confuſion; we had ſate long and indulged freely at table."’—‘"We had ſo,"’ rejoined Sir Roger; ‘"yet I remember you embrac'd it with ſo much ſeeming warmth and good liking, that if you was then projecting to make a ſacrifice of your own intereſts to mine, you really maſk'd your motives ſo effectually, that I was not aware of the concern I had in them."’—‘"That they were my motives,"’ ſaid Claypole, ‘"I can truly aſſert; that you did not diſcover them might very naturally happen, as I did not ſtudy the diſplay of a diſintereſted action, and cautiouſly avoided alarming you with danger which I was in hopes to divert from you for ever: but, added to this, might it not happen, that I thought better of the young man at that time than I have done ſince? I am free to ſay, notwithſtanding Lady Crowbery's deciſion againſt me for my opinion in that caſe, I did not approve of his romantic heroiſm in beggaring himſelf for Suſan May's baſtard: he held a very haughty language to me upon that occaſion, and I do not think it became him either to talk or to act as he did in that affair."’—To this Sir Roger replied, ‘"A haughty language did not become him, and [Page 171] a diſreſpectful one towards a perſon of your age and character was greatly reprehenſible; but as for the act itſelf, I cannot but regard it as a very honourable one."’—‘"Sir,"’ ſaid Claypole, ‘"theſe are high-flown fancies; the fellow is a beggar with a fair face and a proud ſtomach; he lives upon charity."’—‘"And that charity will enable him to live,"’ ſaid Sir Roger calmly.—‘"Scantily, I ſhou'd gueſs,"’ replied Claypole; ‘"ſome ſmall proviſion Lady Crowbery may have made for him in her will, but I ſhou'd hope her Ladyſhip will not heap any great matters upon ſuch an one as him, to the detriment of your family."’—‘"There, Sir,"’ returned the Baronet, ‘"you are much more zealous for my family than I am myſelf: my eſtate is more than ſufficient for all my occaſions, ſure it will ſuffice to portion one daughter."’—‘"Permit me then,"’ replied Claypole, ‘"to ſay to you, Sir, without offence, that I ſincerely hope that daughter will never have any other intereſt in Lady Crowbery's property but what that lady herſelf may bequeath to her as Miſs Manſtock."’—‘"I clearly comprehend you,"’ ſaid Sir Roger; ‘"and as you mean it ſo I receive it: and now I call upon you as my friend, to tell me, without [Page 172] reſerve, upon what proofs you ground your apprehenſions of my daughter's attachment to this young man; ſuſpicion is a ſerious thing; I am perſuaded you wou'd not frivolouſly alarm it: be ſo good to tell me what you have diſcover'd in Miſs Manſtock's conduct."’—‘"Pardon me,"’ replied Claypole; ‘"I pretend to take no other part than that of a warning friend; I do not covet the character of an informing ſpy: let the woman of the cottage be interrogated."’—‘"Not ſo,"’ ſaid Sir Roger calmly; ‘"let my child, with your leave, be fairly heard before I call witneſſes to the charge againſt her. Let me at leaſt make trial of her ſincerity; ſhe has never yet deceiv'd me to my knowledge, and I ſhould be loth to take a ſecret courſe with her; and now as you have, with ſo much friendly zeal, made my repoſe and the honour of my family your own concern, let me requeſt you wilt be preſent whilſt I aſk a few queſtions of my daughter as from myfelf."’ Claypole inſtantly ſtarted from his ſeat, and reſolutely proteſted againſt ſuch a propoſal, ſaying that he had no deſire to be made a party in family diſputes, either by being ſet up as an umpire between father and daughter, or called to the indelicate office of [Page 173] depoſing againſt a young lady: he had ſpoken his fears in the way of caution; if they were inveſtigated, he did not doubt but they would be found not to have been lightly taken up, but he confeſſed he had not ſufficient firmneſs to aſſert them to the face of ſo fair a lady. This ſaid, he left the room.
‘"CAN this be pure friendſhip?"’ ſaid Sir Roger within himſelf, as Claypole parted from him; ‘"I am willing to hope it is, but I can hardly think it has all the characteriſtics of it."’ He now went up ſtairs to his daughter's dreſſing-room, where he found her alone; ſhe had been weeping, and was ſitting in a penſive poſture without any employment. He approached her gently, for ſorrow claims reſpect, and in a tender tone he ſaid, ‘"You have been in tears, my child; but I cannot wonder at it, 'tis an affecting trial to take leave of ſo dear a friend with ſo little hope of ever meeting again. I feel it deeply too; I believe [Page 174] my affliction is as heavy as your own."’—‘"I hope not,"’ replied Iſabella, ‘"becauſe I am afraid I have more loſſes than one to aggravate my affliction."’—‘Of what loſs do you complain beſides this of Lady Crowbery?"’ ſaid he, in the accent of alarm.—‘"Of the loſs of your confidence, Sir,"’ returned ſhe, looking up in his face with conſcious innocence. The appeal was irreſiſtible; the moſt hardened tyrant would have felt it; how could it fail to touch the tender heart of ſo affectionate a father? ‘"Not ſo, my child,"’ ſaid he; ‘"you have not loſt my confidence; you will not loſe it; you will merit an increaſe of it, your candour will confirm and fix it beyond the reach of doubt for ever after."’—‘"In truth,"’ ſhe replied, ‘"my heart is exactly as nature and you have made it; it is conſcious of no guilt, and I have taught it no diſguiſe; prove it therefore and examine it; tell me all that you ſuſpect, all that has been reported to you, all that your own fears ſuggeſt, and leave no particle unfifted, for never can I be happy whilſt any doubt remains to cloud that countenance which hitherto has ſmil'd upon me ſo ſerenely."’—‘"'Tis ſpoken like yourſelf,"’ ſaid the father, his countenance brightening as he ſaid it; [Page 175] ‘"and now, my dear, I ſhou'd be glad to know, provided you can tell me with honour to Lady Crowbery, what it was ſhe ſaid to you in a whiſper when you took leave of each other."’—‘"Readily,"’ anſwered Iſabella; ‘"and the rather becauſe it was advice that does her credit, tho' in juſtice to myſelf I muſt add, I did not then ſtand in need of it. She had obſerv'd you was ſtartled at my meeting Henry at the cottage, ſhe ſuſpected Mr. Claypole had been alarming you on the ſubject, and ſhe advis'd me to be ſincere in relating to you every thing that paſs'd between us: this was the purport of what ſhe whiſper'd to me, and this I am now moſt perfectly ready to fulfil."’
Here it may be proper to inform our readers, that Iſabella in this ſtatement reported truly as far as ſhe went, but candour, it is hoped, will acquit her if ſhe did not betray what was further divulged to her in ſtrict ſecrecy; for in that parting moment Lady Crowbery, impreſſed with a ſad preſentiment that ſhe ſhould never ſee her more, had imparted to her the myſtery of Henry's birth, avowing him to be her ſon by Captain Delapoer, and informing her that ſhe had made him her heir.
[Page 176] In return for this candid tender Sir Roger obſerved, that it was not merely the circumſtance of her meeting Henry, and converſing with him without a third perſon preſent that gave him alarm; that muſt have often happened whilſt he was a viſitor in his houſe; but in this buſineſs there was a ſeeming ſecrecy and myſteriouſneſs in their meeting that gave it the air of a concerted aſſignation; that his ſudden departure without a word ſaid or written to him by way of farewell favoured that appearance; and he added, that he could not well account for his declining a connection every way ſo flattering and ſo advantageous to a perſon in his circumſtance as that with Miſs Claypole, any otherwiſe than as having an attachment elſewhere.
In anſwer to this Iſabella aſſured him, that her meeting with Henry at the cottage was purely accidental: he had a wound which broke out afreſh whilſt ſhe was there and bled profuſely; ſhe ſtaid with him whilſt it was dreſt; it was a deep ſtab in the arm: ſhe remained ſome time after it was ſtanched, and they were left to themſelves; he then told her that his treaty with Miſs Claypole was broken off; the reaſons for it he did not tell, but he [Page 177] certainly did not ſpeak of it with any regret, nor did ſhe believe he had ever conſidered it either as an advantageous or agreeable connection. As to her father's obſervation, that he had not communicated with him in any manner, ſhe ſaid ſhe could only aſcribe that to his fear of being queſtioned about his wound, of which ſhe found him very unwilling to give any other account than in general terms as an accident, and even this ſhe obſerved was unpleaſant to him to ſpeak of. ‘"Did he come wounded from his interview with Fanny Claypole?"’—‘"She believed he did."’—‘"Then he got it there."’—‘"She underſtood ſo."’
Sir Roger pondered upon this for ſome time in ſilence; he then renewed the converſation in the following manner: ‘"This is a dark buſineſs, Iſabella: Fanny Claypole is a girl of a violent temper; as for Henry, I ſhou'd be unjuſt if I did not bear teſtimony to his good principles as far as I have had experience of them: his perſon, manners and behaviour are highly impreſſive; the ſituation in which I ſound him, the unjuſt treatment he had ſuffer'd, and his deportment under it, prejudic'd me ſtrongly in his favour; my niece Crowbery's protection in the firſt instance was natural, [Page 178] as conſidering him the eleve of Ratcliffe and undeſervedly diſtreſs'd: I warmly coincided with it: it afterwards grew more ardent, I was alarm'd at it; it now is become myſterious, and I cannot underſtand it. When I invited him into my houſe, I did not forget that I poſſeſs'd a beautiful daughter, the heireſs of my fortune and the darling of my ſoul; but ſuch was the diſtance of your conditions from each other, ſuch my confidence in your diſcretion, and my opinion of his proper underſtanding of himſelf, that I own to you I foreſaw no danger, and let me hope I have incurr'd none. But if my confidence has led me into error, or he, miſtaking your pity for encouragement, has been raſh enough to attempt your affections, it is now high time that I endeavour to repair that error by calling you to a recollection of yourſelf and me."’
‘"I wou'd have you keep in mind,"’ he replied, ‘"that I exact no other rights than nature has endow'd me with, when I require you, if ever you entertain'd a thought of this young man, to call to mind now in good time my ſolemn [Page 179] declaration, that I never will admit of your connection with a man ſo circumſtanc'd: I never wiſh to force your inclinations, have no unreaſonable ambition to ally you to great rank or overgrown eſtate; but to abſolute obſcurity, to myſtery, to an unknown creature, parentleſs and nameleſs, I cannot, will not ſacrifice my child."’
‘"I underſtand it perfectly,"’ ſhe ſaid, ‘"he muſt be known; his hiſtory muſt be develop'd and his parentage clearly aſcertain'd. Shou'd time bring that to light, and ſet him forth to view as unexceptionable in birth and condition as he is amiable in character and manners, may I not preſume my father wou'd relax?"’—‘"Stop there,"’ he cried, ‘"nor cheriſh ſuch deluſions, which will only prove you have him more at heart than I cou'd wiſh. Alas! alas! my child, I fear your eyes have led your underſtanding aſtray; I doubt, Iſabella, you are [Page 180] captivated by what the worſt as well as the beſt, the meaneſt as well as the moſt noble may preſent to you, a handſome perſon."’—‘"Surely, my dear Sir,"’ ſaid Iſabella bluſhing, ‘"you juſt now ſpoke with approbation of his principles."’
‘"But there are deeper and more fatal wounds than he has yet felt,"’ ſaid Iſabella, ‘"that he has ſtill to apprehend; I have reaſon to believe that a ſtab in your opinion, wou'd [Page 181] afflict him more than any thing his fleſh can ſuffer."’
2.8. CHAPTER VIII. She, who confeſſes leſs than the Whole, may ſave a Bluſh, but will incur a Danger.
ISABELLA found the anguiſh of her mind allayed by the preceding converſation with her father; it had not totally extinguiſhed it. There were ſtill ſome tender incidents belonging to her interview with Henry, which remained untold; yet upon reflection ſhe could hardly be perſuaded, to attach any degree of ſelf reproach to the omiſſion of ſuch incidents in her narrative, as it was next to [Page 182] impoſſible to convey by any form of words the delicacy of thoſe circumſtances which introduced, and the purity of thoſe ſenſations which admitted theſe chaſte and innocent endearments. How could ſhe find expreſſions that would deſcribe what was paſſing in the mind of Henry, when ſtarting from his reverie on her ſudden appearance in his room, he wildly ran and caught her in his arms, unmindful of his wound that burſt inſtantly open? In the like degree language would have failed her to impreſs him with a juſt conception of thoſe ſoft but guiltleſs emotions, occaſioned by the ſight of the blood flowing from his wound, by the tenderneſs of his looks, his language, and the mixt aſſemblage of enervating ideas at the touching criſis of departure, which had cauſed her to ſink under a momentary oppreſſion of ſpirits, whilſt he ſupported her in his arms. This ſhe deſpaired to paint in terms that could exemplify a ſcene, which nothing but the manner of it could ſtrictly juſtify, and none but a ſpectator could completely underſtand.
Therefore it was that her ingenuous nature found a plea in its own want of powers for letting theſe ſmall incidents remain untold, [Page 183] and who that has a heart, which love or pity ever touched, but will ſubſcribe a wiſh that they had been unſeen?
In the next converſation that took place between Claypole and Sir Roger, the latter repeated the ſubſtance of what had paſſed between himſelf and his daughter; expreſſing his entire ſatisfaction in the reſult of it, and declaring in the joy of his heart, that he was now perfectly at eaſe with reſpect to his late alarm, about the inteveiw at the cottage. Claypole affected to receive this account with pleaſure, ſaying he was very glad he had taken that method of inveſtigation, which made the quickeſt diſpatch in diſmiſſing his uneaſineſs; happineſs, he obſerved, was worth obtaining even by deluſion, and for that reaſon he would recommend to him to ſit down contented with the account he had received, though it was from the party concerned, and not expoſe himſelf to the riſque of future inquietude by inveſtigating the affair any further, or ſeeking after witneſſes whoſe accounts might perhaps perplex him, by differing in ſome particulars from that which had been ſo ſatisfactory. He then with an air of indifference turned the diſcourſe to ſome other ſubject, and left his obſervation [Page 184] to work as it might, or might not, within the mind of his friend to whom he addreſſed it.
The next day Ezekiel Daw walked over from Crowbery, upon a viſit to his friend Dame May at the cottage, bearing a kind meſſage from her daughter, and inviting her to take up her abode with her at the deceaſed Mr. Blachford's houſe, where, by advice of her friends, ſhe purpoſed to eſtabliſh herſelf and the infant heir. He was alſo encharged by Suſan to apologize on her behalf, in the moſt reſpectful terms, to Miſs Manſtock, for her not paying her duty in perſon, and with other ſmall commiſſions to be ſettled with the ſervants. This brought him to the great houſe, after halting on his way at the widow's, and his arrival was announced to Iſabella, as ſhe was in company with her father and Mr. Claypole. She would fain have left the room to attend upon him, but the thought ſtruck Sir Roger to have him introduced to the parlour, declaring that he was not only greatly taken with the oddity of his character, but that he eſteemed him as a very upright honeſt creature.
Ezekiel made his advances in a reſpectful [Page 185] manner to the worthy Baronet, and was by him very kindly welcomed to Manſtock Houſe. He acquitted himſelf of his commiſſion to the young Lady after his manner properly enough, and then made an effort to take leave, but was ſtayed by a queſtion from Sir Roger, relative to the amount of what Mr. Blachford had bequeathed to his heir: Ezekiel ſaid that it conſiſted of property in Jamaica, which returned about two thouſand pounds one year with another, as far as he could underſtand, with about ten thouſand pounds in money, and the ſmall eſtate at Crowbery; but he deſired not to be underſtood as ſpeaking correctly. Sir Roger ſaid in an under-voice to Claypole,—‘"It is not ſo much as I gueſſed he was poſſeſſed of, but it is a great deal for a poor man to give up upon principle."’ He then enquired if there were any legacies: Ezekiel informed him there were a few; upon which Claypole ſaid,—‘"I ſuppoſe you have got a legacy, ſir;"’—‘"No, reverend ſir,"’ replied the good man, ‘"I have no legacy, nor did I covet one; it fits not the ſervant of Chriſt to be greedy after gain."’—‘"Then I ſuppoſe,"’ reſumed he, ‘"that it was by your advice Mr. Fitzhenry declined [Page 186] his legacy;"’—‘"Not ſo, ſir,"’ replied Ezekiel, ‘"the firſt I heard of it was juſt before you came into my poor cottage, when, if I miſtake not, you diſapprov'd of that act, which in my humble opinion was a very meritorious one: but it is not by the praiſe or diſpraiſe of men that actions can be truly tried; Heaven knows that excellent young man hath receiv'd little elſe but unjuſt judgment upon earth, and evil treatment from cruel hands. Even now he is gone forth to ſea moſt barbarouſly wounded."’—‘"Do you pretend to know then,"’ ſaid Claypole, ‘"how he got that wound?"’—‘"Yes, reverend ſir,"’ replied Ezekiel, riſing in his tone, ‘"I do pretend to know."’—‘"Stop there, Mr. Daw,"’ cried Iſabella, haſtily interpoſing, ‘"I dare ſay your abſent friend wou'd not wiſh you to ſpeak of that affair in this company, or any other; I beſeech you ſay no more upon the ſubject:"’—‘"Lady, I obey,"’ anſwered Ezekiel, ‘"and verily I am beholden to you for your timely counſel."’ Silence now enſuing, honeſt Daw made his bow and retired.
‘"Pray, Madam,"’ ſaid Claypole, ‘"may I aſk without offence why you ſtopp'd that man's anſwer to a queſtion, which I who put it to [Page 187] him had a right to expect, and no repugnance to meet?"’—‘"Becauſe I am perſuaded,"’ replied Iſabella, ‘"he had received no account of the tranſaction from the perſon who receiv'd the wound, and I think it was both dangerous and improper for him to ſpeak upon any other authority:"’—‘"Suffer me to obſerve,"’ ſaid he, ‘"that I do not ſee the juſtice of ſaving any man from the danger of a malicious ſtory, when it is clear he has the propenſity to publiſh it. Had he been ſuffer'd to proceed, we might have been led through the medium of falſhood to the inveſtigation of truth, and I might have had a fair opportunity of vindicating the character of my niece, as well as of puniſhing the wickedneſs of her defamers. But I perceive Ezekiel Daw, the itinerant preacher, is conſider'd by you as a ſacred perſon; and under your ſhield, Madam, how can it be expected that my arm can reach him, or indeed be rais'd againſt him? I perceive, Madam, there is a deſign to propagate a moſt villainous ſtory, and to affix a murderous intent upon a matter of mere accident. When the wounded gentleman got his hurt, nobody was preſent but my niece; I am at a loſs, therefore, to think from whom [Page 188] elſe this evil report ſhou'd originate but from him."’ To this Iſabella ſteadily replied, ‘"Whatever term you may affix to the report, I dare ſay it did not ſpring from him, if indeed it be an evil one it cou'd not."’—‘"Then, Madam,"’ replied Claypole, ‘"we muſt lay it at the door of ſome tattling goſſip, who, gathering ſome expreſſions from the terrified imagination of my niece, when the ſight of the accident had thrown her into fits, founded this malicious interpretation of it; and if that be all, I am ſure the wiſeſt way is to diſregard it; for in truth their ſilly fables merit nothing but contempt; they pretend to hear things that were never ſaid, and to ſee things that probably were never done, and then they faſten their fictions upon you and upon Henry, and perhaps upon every one of us in our turn."’—‘"What do they faſten upon me, may I aſk?"’ demanded Iſabella.—‘"What I paid little or no attention to when I heard it, yet it ſerves to ſhew how ingenious they are in their idle devices not to let the pureſt character eſcape their tongues; what wonder then if their ſcandal is buſy with my poor niece?"’—‘"There is a myſteriouſneſs in this ſtory,"’ ſaid Sir Roger, ‘"and I think all ſuck ſhou'd be fairly produc'd [Page 189] with their authors, eſpecially where a lady's name is made uſe of."’—‘"I am clearly of that opinion,"’ replied Claypole; ‘"and I hold it to be a duty which I owe to you, to this amiable young lady, and to truth itſelf, not to let any report affecting her enter my ears without giving up both it and the author, whom I am the leſs inclin'd to ſcreen becauſe ſhe belongs to me for the preſent; and as I am perſuaded Miſs Manſtock can confute her tale, I ſhall inſtantly proceed to puniſh her by a diſmiſſion from my ſervice, and ſorry I ſhall be that my power reaches no farther."’—‘"This is perfectly candid in you,"’ ſaid Sir Roger; ‘"and what I ſhou'd expect from your friendſhip; but without more delay let us hear the ſtory; I will venture to ſay my daughter has no objection to hearing it."’—‘"None in life,"’ replied ſhe, ‘"if Mr. Claypole has none to the relation of it; but indeed he has now gone too far to ſuppreſs it."’
‘"It is ſoon told, Madam,"’ ſaid Claypole, ‘"and I doubt not as ſoon confuted; but my fooliſh old woman at the vicarage pretends to ſay, that calling upon the widow May whilſt you and Mr. Fitzhenry were together, ſhe was prevented from entering the room where [Page 190] you were, with ſo much appearance of alarm on the part of the good woman who guarded the door, that ſuſpecting there was a ſecret, and naturally curious, as ſuch ſilly old goſſips are apt to be, ſhe took her opportunity of peeping in at the window, and diſcover'd you in an attitude (impoſſible upon the face of it!) for the impudent huſſey ſays ſhe ſaw him with his arm round your waiſt, and your head reclining upon his ſhoulder."’—‘"How's that?"’ cried Sir Roger with vehemence, ſtarting at the ſame moment on his legs; ‘"does the infamous trollop ſay that? I'll have her taken up and committed to the houſe of correction."’—‘"No, Sir,"’ ſaid Iſabella, ‘"ſinking as I was under my alarm at the bloody ſpectacle I had been ſurveying, I can ſtill recollect too much of my ſituation at that moment not to remember that there was a perſon came up to the window whilſt Henry was ſupporting me, and if this is the perſon ſhe ſays no more than the truth, which Mr. Claypole has very faithfully reported, with what intent he beſt knows; but juſtice compels me to ſay that correction is not due to the woman."’ There was an air of ſo much conſcious innocence in Iſabella's ready explanation and confeſſion, that Claypole inſtantly [Page 191] perceived he had miſſed his aim in her particular at leaſt, but in Sir Roger he had lodged his ſhaft. A ſtrict obſerver of decorum in all its antiquated rigour, he only looked to conſequences, not to cauſe; it was enough for him to know his daughter had ſubmitted to the embrace of this young man, and that ſhe had been a ſpectacle for vulgar eyes in that degrading ſituation; it ſtruck him with a painful recollection, that ſhe had ſuppreſſed this circumſtance in the account ſhe had given him at firſt; and turning a ſevere look to his daughter, he ſaid, ‘"Iſabella, you never ſee that young man again whilſt you live; at leaſt within my doors never. You have deceiv'd me, child, for the firſt time: you have conceal'd from me a fact, whilſt you made me believe you had ingenuouſly related the whole of what paſs'd between you. You have been diſcover'd in a ſituation unfit for you to be ſeen in by a peaſant in the pariſh, who, having gratified her own curioſity, will not ſpare to gratify the curioſity of others, and the tale will be circulated through the neighbourhood, to your ſhame and to mine."’
To this our heroine inſtantly replied as follows:—‘"When I aſſure my father that ſuch [Page 192] was the ſtate of my nerves at the time I was diſcover'd in the ſituation Mr. Claypole has been deſcribing, that I muſt have ſunk upon the floor had not Henry prevented it, I flatter myſelf I ſhall not be thought guilty of any great offence againſt propriety in accepting of his ſupport, neither, perhaps, can he be juſtly condemn'd for giving it. I hope I have not hitherto been found ſo diſingenuous as not to deſerve credit for what I aſſert, nor ſo flippant as to be thought capable of throwing myſelf voluntarily into any man's arms. The ſight of a deep and terrible wound ſtreaming with blood upon the floor, and the aſſiſtance that humanity compell'd me to give in ſtanching the wound, was a ſcene ſo new and alarming to me that my ſpirits cou'd not ſtand againſt it. I confeſs to you I ſuppreſt this circumſtance in my diſcourſe with you, but I had motives for ſo doing which did not ſpring from any conſciouſneſs of guilt or dread of explanation on my own part: my ſilence had reſpect to others, not to myſelf; and the ſame motives that led me to ſtop Ezekiel Daw juſt now from ſpeaking on this ſubject, operated with me, and will operate, for avoiding as far as it is in my power any mention of that affair."’ She then turned [Page 193] to Mr. Claypole, and, in a calm, unembarraſſed accent, ſaid, ‘"You will now perceive, that your fooliſh old woman, as you call her, has done nothing to incur your diſpleaſure, or to merit the puniſhment you threaten her with; ſhe had only the curioſity to peep in at a window, and ſeems to have related to you, very faithfully, what ſhe diſcover'd, which you, Sir, as faithfully, have related to my father; this, no doubt, you did in the pure ſpirit of friendſhip to my father; and I have only to ſay, for his ſake, that I hope this will be the laſt proof of your friendſhip, accompanied with pain to him, and that every ſubſequent one will communicate nothing but pleaſure. You have, however, told him ſomething, which I had not told him, and ſo far I am made to appear evaſive and diſingenuous; but I have given you the clue to my exculpation, and, if you have a mind to purſue it, you will be led to the clear underſtanding of my motives. I am willing to interpret the part you have taken as meant for my good; and, indeed, if I have been guilty of thinking more favourably of this myſterious young man, than you conceive I ought to think, your meaſures have been ſo far crown'd with ſucceſs, that you have [Page 194] had the ſatisfaction to hear my father declare, that I am never again to ſee that perſon whilſt I live, at leaſt within his doors. To this I anſwer, I have never yet diſobey'd my father's commands, nor ever will; let him therefore repeat that ſolemn denunciation again, and here I am ready as ſolemnly to pledge myſelf to the obſervance of it, let it coſt me what it will. I deſire to live but to pleaſe him, and only whilſt I pleaſe him; and tho' I don't wiſh to hold back the very high opinion I entertain of this proſcrib'd young man, (or, if you pleaſe to give it any other name that purity may acknowledge, I will confeſs to that) yet I now declare, I will never hereafter hold correſpondence, direct or indirect, with him, unleſs it ſhall be with the privity and conſent, nay, even by the requiſition and deſire, of my father himſelf. This, Sir, I preſume, will ſatisfy you, if you are ſincerely bent to oppoſe my attachment; and if my dear father is truly deſirous to interdict it, he will, I dare ſay, confide in what I have promis'd."’
TO this defence Claypole made no reply, neither did Sir Roger ſeem in haſte to ſpeak; for the guſt of anger, which artifice had raiſed, innocence and truth had now diſpelled. He turned his eyes upon the accuſer firſt, and then upon his daughter; each look was deciſive to the party it was addreſſed to; neither of them ſtood in need of any further explanation of the opinion he entertained; at laſt, turning to Claypole, he ſaid, ‘"I think, Sir, it had been better for us both if you had not liſten'd to this eaves-dropper; for it appears to me, that you have gather'd nothing from her information, but what my Iſabella has very naturally accounted for.’—‘"It is very well,"’ replied Claypole; ‘"I know the conſequences of over-zealous friendſhip, and none can accrue to me, which I am not prepar'd for."’ With theſe words he left the room.
‘"He is very angry,"’ ſaid Sir Roger; ‘"but his diſappointments vex him: rebuff'd by Lady Crowbery, rebuff'd by Henry, and tormented [Page 196] with his niece, his vexations have follow'd cloſe upon one another; we muſt make allowances for men's tempers, and Claypole's is not the moſt patient, therefore let it paſs; we'll ſay no more of him: and now, my child, a word or two with you upon what is neareſt to my heart—your happineſs, and a right underſtanding betwixt us. It is clear to me, Iſabella, that you are attach'd to this young unknown; that is a very ſerious thing, truly; for who is he, and what is he? If you can anſwer to theſe points, explain to me, ſatisfy me. I am not greedy of wealth, I am not ambitious of titles for you; but the character and condition of a gentleman is an indiſpenſible requiſite in the perſon of my ſon in-law; I cannot away with obſcurity or meanneſs; therefore, if you know any thing of Henry, tell it to me; 'tis your own concern, and, if a ſecret, I will not reveal it."’
‘"I am ſure you wou'd not,"’ replied ſhe; ‘"and was a ſecret imparted to me, under ſtrict injunctions to keep it inviolable, I am no leſs ſure, you wou'd hold me baſe, ſhou'd I reveal it; I hope, therefore, you will not regard it as a breach of duty, if I decline an anſwer to your queſtion."’
‘"Hold there,"’ replied the father; ‘"I am [Page 197] apt to think it is a part of your duty to take no ſecrets into your truſt in which I am not to ſhare, eſpecially when they are committed to you by a young man like Henry."’—‘"But if I have it not from him,"’ ſaid ſhe, ‘"the caſe does not apply."’
‘"No matter,"’ rejoined he; ‘"it is of him, it relates to him, and that's reaſon enough why I ſhou'd know it. In one word, Iſabella, give me up the matter of your information without the author of it, and if it appears, to my ſatisfaction, that this young man is by birth a gentleman, and ſuch as I can with propriety adopt into my family, I paſs my word to you, that I will no longer oppoſe myſelf to your inclinations, for his character and manners pleaſe me, and I can well believe his perſon not leſs engaging; but if you will not confide to me what you know of this young man, I ſhall take for granted it is not fit to be known, and, in that perſuaſion, exert the authority of a father for laying my injunctions upon you, never to let me ſee his face, or hear his name again; neither ſhall I forgive you, if I diſcover that you carry on any correſpondence with him, or about him. This, Iſabella, is your alternative; now take your choice, and the conſequences of your choice."’
[Page 198] A ſtronger temptation than was now offered to Iſabella could hardly preſent itſelf; but her ſteady nature rejected it without ſcruple, and, by perſiſting in her good faith to Lady Crowbery, ſhe incurred, to her infinite regret, the diſpleaſure of her father, moſt tenderly belov'd: the conference, therefore, concluded in anger on his part, and in a ſolemn promiſe on her's, to hold no correſpondence with Henry, nor, even through her couſin Lady Crowbery, about him in future. Time, it is true, might probably develope the myſtery which her honour would not ſuffer her to do, and to that alone ſhe truſted for a juſtification of her ſilence, both towards her father and her lover.
The Rev. Mr. Claypole, meanwhile, betook himſelf in ſullen diſcontent to his chamber, there to meditate upon future meaſures: in the interim, a letter was delivered to him, which had come by ſpecial meſſenger from Crowbery Caſtle, the contents of which were as follow:—
My dear Uncle,
In conſequence of a moſt polite invitation from the worthy Lord of this caſtle, I have been prevail'd upon to take up my abode here for a few days. The chief inducement with me for accepting this ſolicitation was, [Page 199] the opportunity it affords me of being within reach of my dear uncle, without the pain of taking up my reſidence in the ſame place with a family from whom I have received the moſt unhandſome treatment. Nothing can exceed the kindneſs and attention of Lord Crowbery, and I am charged by him, in the moſt earneſt manner, to requeſt the favour of your company at the caſtle: I am ſure you will not regret the change from Manſtock Houſe; and, if I have any intereſt with you, his requeſt will be complied with the rather as I find myſelf, in Lady Crowbery's abſence, in a ſituation to ſtand in need of your cover and protection, being at preſent the only female viſitor in the houſe.
I am, ever your's, FRANCES CLAYPOLE.
Nothing could be more acceptable to Mr. Claypole, in his preſent ſtate of mind, than the invitation which this letter conveyed; it relieved him from a ſituation, of which he was heartily ſick, and offered him the gratification of putting a ſlight upon Lady Crowbery, of the moſt pointed ſort: he well knew how it would be felt by Sir Roger Manſtock, and on [Page 200] that very account he embraced it the more readily; for there was no longer any trace of paſt favours in his memory, and of favours to come all expectation was at an end. He had, however, views upon futurity in Lord Crowbery's particular; for he had ſeen enough of Lady Crowbery, to ſet her down, in his account, as a dead woman, and his niece Fanny was a very lively one. He had more than once taken her with him to the caſtle, in times when better harmony ſubſiſted between the families, and on thoſe viſits Fanny had made her way much better with the lord than with the lady of the houſe, with the latter of whom, to ſay the truth, ſhe was in no great favour. The fact was, that Lady Crowbery regarded her character with contempt, and Fanny imputed it to jealouſy; to rouſe this paſſion was a gratification too agreeable to be reſiſted, and therefore, though his Lordſhip was nothing leſs than an Adonis, there was amuſement at leaſt in the experiment, and ſhe conſidered it as no ſmall triumph to engage the attention of a man, who was capable of neglecting a moſt lovely woman, and devoting himſelf to her. Her purpoſe in haſtening from the vicarage, in the manner we have related, was with the [Page 201] view of obtaining one more interview with Henry, or, at leaſt, of gaining ſuch intelligence as might ſatisfy her as to the conſequences of his wound; ſhe therefore boldly ſhaped her courſe towards the port he was to embark at, but in paſſing through the village of Crowbery, luckily fell in with the noble proprietor, who was cheering his ſpirits with a morning ride, in his lady's abſence, and, after ſome importunity, prevailed upon her to ſtop ſhort in her progreſs, and repoſe herſelf in the caſtle. Here ſhe remained ſome time, till propriety, or ſomething elſe, dictated to her the expedient of writing to her uncle in manner above related, to which his Lordſhip, with equal propriety, very courteouſly acceded.
Sir Roger Manſtock, who perceived that his daughter was in poſſeſſion of a ſecret that he could not extort from her, concluded, very naturally, that it came from Lady Crowbery; and this brought to his recollection, what ſhe had ſaid to him upon their parting, relative to the paper ſhe had incloſed under the ſame cover with her will, to be opened after her death. This packet he had depoſited in his ſtrong box; it was under four ſeals, and evidently enveloped more papers than one: he [Page 202] had no doubt, from Iſabella's anſwers, that the ſecret ſhe had in charge from Lady Crowbery related to Henry's birth, and that it would be diſcovered upon the opening of this packet. He could not reconcile to himſelf the being excluded from a confidence which had been repoſed in his daughter, and was not a little diſcontented to find, that his niece had referred him to her death for a diſcovery that ſhe had already made to Iſabella.
He now ſummoned Iſabella to him, and holding Lady Crowbery's packet in his hand, addreſſed himſelf to her as follows:—‘"I am here encharged with a paper, ſeal'd as you ſee, containing your couſin's will, and other private matters, which are only to be open'd by me upon the event of her death: I have no doubt but it incloſes a diſcovery of that very ſecret, which ſhe has already imparted to you, and that it refers to the myſtery of this young man's birth, who has caus'd ſo much unhappineſs to me and my family. I underſtand withal, that I am to be the executor of this will, and, moſt probably, of certain inſtructions and truſts relative to the gentleman, who is then, for the firſt time, to be made known to me. Now theſe are terms that I will not [Page 203] agree to; I am no dealer in obſcure matters, and it is therefore become my fixt reſolution peremptorily to decline the commiſſion, and ſo to inform Lady Crowbery, by ſpecial expreſs, unleſs you are prepar'd to tell me what it is you know of theſe ſecret contents, ſo far as they relate to the perſon called Henry Fitz-Henry; for I do not hold it becoming me, in any reſpect, to be ſurpris'd into a truſt that may involve me with a perſon whom at preſent I have every reaſon to hold at diſtance, and for whom, perhaps, I may never chooſe to be concern'd, even in the moſt trifling degree. Now then, Iſabella, let me aſk you, if what I have been ſaying ſeems reaſonable, and whether you rightly comprehend it?"’ To this ſhe replied in the affirmative; upon which he thus proceeded:—‘"If it is reaſonable then that I ſhou'd not be blindly committed in a buſineſs I am ignorant of, and if you are intereſted to retain theſe papers in my hands, rather than to have them ſent back to her from whom they came, you have the alternative at your choice; tell me what you know of them, or take the conſequences, and abide by the promiſe you have made me: never let me hear the name of Henry Fitz-Henry from your lips any more."’
[Page 204] ‘"If that be the alternative,"’ replied the lovely Iſabella, whilſt the tears ſtarted in her eyes, ‘"neceſſity impoſes the hard taſk upon me of abiding by the painful conſequences you have ſtated. Can I violate my promiſe? Ought not every truſt to be held ſacred? This is of all moſt ſacred, and I dare not betray it. Let me then, for the laſt time in your hearing, declare, that wherever this diſcarded perſon, whoſe name I will not utter in your ears, ſhall betake himſelf, he carries with him, to the end of life, my prayers, my bleſſings, my unalienable affections, and my heart for ever; but let not this ingenuous confeſſion of my love ſhake your confidence in my honour, for upon my knees I take to witneſs truth, and Heaven itſelf, that I will faithfully perform the promiſe I have made you, and, renouncing him, devote myſelf to your commands and to my duty."’
THE definitive anſwer, which our laſt chapter concludes with, put a period to any further conference between the reſpective parties, and determined Sir Roger Manſtock to take the very meaſure he had threatened to purſue. He immediately wrote a letter to his niece, explanatory of his ſenſations with reſpect to Henry, and beſeeching her to excuſe him from any truſt that had relation to a perſon, who had cauſed him ſuch uneaſineſs, and whom he was determined never to be connected with: he alſo informed her of the promiſe made to him by his daughter, and prayed her to ſend down a truſty perſon, properly authorized, into whoſe hands he might ſafely render back the packet ſhe had entruſted to him: he then concluded, in the moſt conciliating terms that his tenderneſs could ſuggeſt, wiſhing her a return of health, and aſſuring her of his unalterable affection.
[Page 206] A ſervant was ordered to ſet off expreſs with this letter, who had directions where to find the lady in town, if he did not overtake her on the road, of which, however, there was the greateſt probability, as her daily ſtages were very ſhort.
In the mean time our amiable heroine did not, like ſome others, dedicate every hour to ſullen ſilence and continual melancholy; for though her private moments were ſad enough, ſhe had yet a ſmile for her father when they met, and the ſame eyes that ſhowered tears in ſecret, reaſſumed their native cheerful luſtre when her parent was in ſight.
Not ſo the Reverend Mr. Claypole; there was ſomething in his breaſt reſembling thoſe goads and ſtings which diſappointed malice or ambition ſometimes entertain themſelves with in ſecret, in the way of penance for attempts which conſcience does not quite approve of. He was indeed ſuperior to that tergiverſation and incertitude of purpoſe, which conſciences over nice ſometimes impoſe upon reſolutions not over ſtrong; for he was firmly reſolved to turn his back upon his old friend, and his face towards his new one; but he could not quite perſuade himſelf that ſuch a reſolve had all the [Page 207] qualities of a virtuous purpoſe; for he could not but feel that he ought to be grateful to the one, and ſuſpicious of the other. He had motives, however, and principles of action in his mind, which ſome ſoft ſouls in the world ſeem to know nothing of; amongſt theſe, the gratification that his viſit to Lord Crowbery would adminiſter to his mind, as an inſult to the patroneſs of Ratcliffe's living, was to him very pleaſing on reflection. That his viſit would be highly offenſive to Sir Roger, and cut off his return for ever after to the houſe of Manſtock, he clearly ſaw; but there was no loſs could accrue from an excluſion, where he never wiſhed more to be admitted. In fact, he ſaw how totally he was ruined in this family; and having no doubt that his niece had dealt the ſtab to Henry, he was not ſorry to avail himſelf of the protection of Lord Crowbery, and the countenance, which his reception of her would give to her ſtory, in oppoſition to all others; but what above all weighed with him for accepting the invitation was, the hope it held out to his ambition, upon the event of Lady Crowbery's death, if his niece would conſent to govern herſelf by his advice.
Reaſoning in this manner, he prepared for [Page 208] his departure from the houſe of his friend; and this he did ſo ſecretly and expeditiouſly, that he ſtole his march, unknown to Sir Roger, leaving only the few following lines as his apology and adieu:—‘Mr. Claypole leaves his reſpectful compliments to Sir Roger Manſtock, with thanks for all favours: the duty which he owes to a much-injur'd orphan niece compels him to ſo haſty a departure, that time, conſpiring with his own feelings, prevents him from taking leave in perſon of a friend, whom he has ſo long and juſtly held in honour.’
An order was now diſpatched from Sir Roger, directing Dame May to come to him at the Great Houſe. This was inſtantly obeyed by the good woman, who was given to underſtand, in a few words, that her longer reſidence in the houſe, which Iſabella had provided for her, would be very readily diſpenſed with. To this ſhe immediately anſwered, that ſhe would without delay prepare for her removal, having received an invitation from her daughter, who, by the bleſſing of Providence, was now in a condition to ſupport her; ſhe therefore begged [Page 209] leave to return her humble thanks for the favours ſhe had received, and would no longer be a burthen to his charity; ſhe would be gone that very night, if Sir Roger wiſhed it, and leave the few things ſhe had in the houſe to follow her the next day. To this the Baronet ſhortly anſwered, that it was very well, and there the buſineſs would have cloſed, but that it occurred to him, as ſhe was leaving the room, to put a queſtion to her for curioſity's ſake, reſpecting Fanny Claypole, which was ſimply this,—‘"If ſhe underſtood or believed, that the ſtab in Henry's arm was given by her hand purpoſely and revengefully?"’ The poor woman was ſtaggered with the abruptneſs of the queſtion, and the ſtern manner in which it was put. She heſitated through fear and confuſion; upon which, in an angry tone, Sir Roger told her, he had no wiſh to hear her anſwer, for he ſhould put little faith in what anybody ſaid, who was not always ready with a plain reply to a plain queſtion, and with this rebuke waved his hand and diſmiſſed her.
In relating this ſhort ſcene as it paſſed, we are ſenſible that we muſt repreſent the character of the worthy Baronet in a harſher light than it has hitherto been ſeen; but in [Page 210] extenuation we have to ſay, that he had impreſſions on his mind not favourable to this poor woman, and was alſo diſturbed in temper at the preſent moment, by the valedictory note of his ſeceding friend Mr. Claypole, juſt before delivered into his hands. Under the ſame impreſſion, he was meditating to give orders for diſmantling the cottage of its furniture, when Iſabella entered the room, upon which he thought proper to apprize her of his deſign, qualifying it with ſome introductory obſervations upon the jealouſy, which ſuch favours created in the pariſh, and the unſuitable elegance with which ſhe had fitted the apartment: ‘"With your leave, therefore,"’ added he, ‘"I ſhall give orders to have the furniture remov'd, and the cottage reduc'd to a condition better fitted to the poverty of the next inhabitants, whom charity may recommend to it."’ Iſabella bowed her head in token of obedience, but felt the unkindneſs of this order in the moſt poignant manner; ſhe recollected that ſhe had been allowed to conſider this little tenement as her own, and to carry on her works, both within doors and without, after her own ſimple but elegant fancy: the reſumption of a fond gift, and the [Page 211] reverſal of all her little amuſing operations, by a decree ſo peremptory and unexpected, ſtruck deep into her heart, yet ſhe commanded herſelf ſo far, when aſked if ſhe had any further uſe for the furniture, as to make anſwer with great mildneſs and ſubmiſſion, that there was nothing there ſhe particularly wiſhed to preſerve, but a certain print, which ſhe had hung up in the parlour, as a memorial of the donor, and the ſimilitude of a face, which had ever been accuſtom'd to look upon her with the tendereſt affection. ‘"Pooh! pooh!"’ replied Sir Roger, ‘"you have copies enough of that unhappy countenance, and I wou'd adviſe you to put this out of the way as ſpeedily as you can, leſt it ſhou'd ſometime or other tell tales of what it has been a ſpectator of."’—‘"I am anſwer'd, Sir,"’ replied Iſabella, ‘"and with a reproach, which, if I am capable of deſerving from you, I muſt be unfit any longer to remain in your preſence."’
FEW moments had paſſed after Iſabella left her father, before he felt as much pain from the aſperity of the retort he had given, as ſhe had experienced in receiving it. Nature could not be long expelled from his heart, nor could ill humour take any laſting poſſeſſion of it. He wiſhed he had not ſaid it; he felt the cruelty, the injuſtice of wreaking vengeance on the harmleſs works of her fancy, and, perhaps, he would at this moment have not been ſorry, could he have recalled the meſſenger he had diſpatched to Lady Crowbery. Thoſe ſenſations of regret, which a good mind is capable of, Sir Roger felt; but to confeſs and atone is the effort of a great mind as well as good, and that was not beſtowed by nature upon him. Men, who affect the reputation of a decided character, are too apt to miſtake obſtinacy in error for conſiſtency of opinion; and this was Sir [Page 213] Roger's misfortune. Few things could have galled him more than Claypole's conduct, yet his whole life did not furniſh ſo great an inſtance of weakneſs, as his pertinacious attachment to that unworthy friend. No hypocriſy is ſooner diſcovered than the pretended generoſity of a ſelf-intereſted man, and opportunities enough had offered themſelves to Sir Roger Manſtock for developing the real character of Claypole; but the ſtronger the light was that ſtruck upon him, ſo much the cloſer he ſhut his eyes againſt it. The veil was now drawn off at once, and prejudice could no longer ſave him from the conviction of his own miſtake. This vexatious diſcovery was juſt rankling in his mind, when innocence, unfortunately falling in his way, was made to ſuffer (as too often happens) for the guilty, who had eſcaped his reſentment.
The next morning brought over Suſan May to Manſtock Houſe, who was admitted to her lovely miſtreſs to pay her laſt duty, and take leave. On this occaſion, ſhe was led into a diffuſive recital of all particulars reſpecting Henry's late generous proceeding, to which Iſabella lent a willing ear. As the one recounted the noble acts of her benefactor, the [Page 214] heart of the other glowed with delight; his virtues, his ſufferings, his magnanimity, his ſelf-denials were enumerated and acknowledged; when the ſubject of his mental perfections was exhauſted, his perſon, his graceful form, the beauty of his countenance, became the topic of their praiſe, and on this ſubject Suſan's eloquence ſeemed animated into warmer phraſe and diction than on the former. Whilſt this was going on, Iſabella's bluſhes witneſſed to the ſenſibility of ſoul, which this recital inſpired; at laſt, no longer able to refrain from joining in the praiſe of one ſo dear to her, ſhe ſaid, ‘"I perfectly agree with you in every thing you have ſaid, or can ſay, in commendation of your amiable benefactor. I do not think it is in nature for any human being to be more noble in mind, more charming in perſon; and I feel no ſhame in confeſſing to you, what I have avow'd to my father, that in purity of ſoul I love him. But alas! alas! I have difficulties to encounter, objections to overcome, and ſorrows to endure, that will probably make that a condition of neceſſity, which you may remember was once my choice, and devote me to a ſingle life."’—‘"Heaven in its mercy [Page 215] forbid!"’ cried Suſan, ‘"that ſo much beauty and love ſhou'd be left to pine away in ſolitarineſs and diſappointment; fathers muſt have hearts of marble, that can ſo controul and thwart the virtuous affections of their children."’—‘"Hold,"’ cried Iſabella, ‘"you muſt not talk in that ſtile, Suſan, if you have any value for my friendſhip; my father muſt always be ſpoken of with reſpect in my hearing; we will therefore change the ſubject to what we cannot differ about, and you will tell me what you think of Henry's wound: Did he tell you how he came by it?"’ To this Suſan replied, that he had been very reſerved upon the ſubject; but, for her own part, ſhe was certain it had been given him by that deſperate creature Fanny Claypole, in the rage of diſappointment; ‘"which, indeed,"’ added ſhe, ‘"her own confeſſion puts out of doubt; for my mother told me in ſecrecy, that when ſhe attended her in her fits and ravings, that and many other things came out, which are almoſt too bad to relate."’—‘"I don't wiſh to hear them,"’ replied Iſabella, ‘"for things of that ſort are perfectly diſguſting to me; and, I dare ſay, if any thing improper paſs'd, ſhe herſelf was in the fault of it."’—‘"So much [Page 216] I will venture to inform you of,"’ ſaid Suſan, ‘"that ſhe was not in the fault that it did not paſs; but the truth of the fact is, that the rage of the lady was rous'd by the virtue of the man, and the ſtab was given him in the fury of revenge and diſappointment."’—‘"That I can well believe,"’ replied the bluſhing fair; ‘"and I own to you, I am glad at my heart that Henry did not demean himſelf by ſtooping to her arts; but I wonder what is become of her."’ To this Suſan anſwered, that ſhe was now with the Lord of Crowbery Caſtle, where ſhe was treated with great attention, and where ſhe did not doubt but ſhe was playing a very deep and cunning game, and the rather, as ſhe underſtood that her reverend uncle had made one of the party, and was now upon a viſit at the Caſtle.—‘"So ſoon after the departure of my couſin!"’ cried Iſabella, ſighing; ‘"that is indeed extraordinary on his part. I underſtood he had left us, but I did not gueſs he was gone thither of all places; I am ſure my father muſt have felt that affront very ſeverely."’—‘"I hope it will open his eyes,"’ replied Suſan, ‘"for all the neighbours cry out upon Mr. Claypole already."’ Iſabella made ſome ſlight obſervation [Page 217] upon this, and here the conference ended.
Iſabella, now alone, reſigned herſelf to meditation, and after a few minutes ſo employed, broke out into the following ſoliloquy:—‘"Oh Henry! myſterious ſon of an unhappy mother, little does my father think how nearly thou art allied to him; and though I am now interdicted from all communication with thee, I will ſtill nouriſh one ſpark of hope, that thy affection may prevail againſt appearances, and thou perſiſt to love me, till time ſhall develope the ſecret which honour now forbids me to divulge, in ſpite of all temptations. May providence protect thee in all dangers, and by reſtoring thy beloved parent to health, crown thy filial undertaking with a happy event! meanwhile, though I will pray for thee in ſecret, I muſt remember the promiſe I have given to my father, and ſacredly fulfil it in its ſtricteſt ſenſe, without prevarication: this is my duty; but when I reflect what circumſtances may occur to ſhake my conſtancy, and overpower my nature, I tremble at the taſk I have engag'd in. Where then ſhall I find fortitude in the hour of trial, and whither ſhall I reſort, but [Page 218] to thee, O thou, who art the father of all thoſe that faithfully refer themſelves to thy protection? take then, I pray thee, into thy moſt gracious diſpoſal, my heart and its purpoſes, too weak without thy ſtrengthening providence, too fallible without thy merciful ſupport."’
WHILST the dramatic author cheers his audience with a tune between the acts, I am forced to fill up my intervals with a treatiſe, and (what is ſtill worſe) with a treatiſe of my own making, which is not quite the caſe with his tune. His ſpectators are regaled with harmony in a brilliant theatre, amidſt a blaze of lights; my reader, in his ſolitary chair, ſits moping over the dull ſtrain of an unintereſting diſſertation, which probably has little other merit but of putting him to ſleep: what inſpires his critics with good humour, only ſtupifies mine.
But if theſe are his advantages in the periods of ſuſpenſion, many more and much greater are they, when he returns to the ſtage and I to my hiſtory. The actor before the curtain and the ſceniſt behind it conſpire to lift him into fame, almoſt without any effort of his [Page 220] own: he is upheld by the charms of ſpectacle, I am loaded with the drudgery of detail; he has caſtles in the clouds, that drop down at the word of command, we are forced to labour late and early, till our brains are well nigh beaten into brick and mortar with the ſlavery of building them. A nimble ſcene-painter will daſh off a cataract in full froth and foam, that will coſt us twenty pages of hard pumping, before we can get a ſingle drop to flow: how many pens do we ſplit in conjuring up a ſtorm of thunder and lightning, whilſt he, by one mark in the margin of his manuſcript, ſets all the elements in a roar; we find it a very troubleſome job to furniſh horſes and carriages for the conveyance of our company, his characters are wafted from ſcene to ſcene by a whiſtle; when his heroine is in a criſis, ſome one cries,—Hah! ſhe faints!—and the inimitable Siddons dies away; another cries,—Hah! ſhe revives!—the inimitable Siddons is alive again. We cannot do this without ſalts and hartſhorn at the leaſt, and in an obſtinate ſit, hardly with the help of burnt feathers, an unſavoury experiment he is never driven to.
Let us put the caſe, that the author of a [Page 221] novel ſhall lay his ſcene in the houſe of ſome abandoned ſtrumpet, where a ſet of cutthroats reſort for the plotting of ſome murderous conſpiracy, and let the hero of his ſtory, for whom our pity is to be intereſted, enliſt himſelf in this gang, and let him introduce a virtuous wife, the darling of his heart, and the faithful partner of his bed, into this houſe of ill-fame and aſſembly of villains, there to be left in the hands of theſe miſcreants as a hoſtage for his good faith, telling her withal, that he is ſworn to aſſaſſinate her father that very night, who but would cry out againſt the conduct of ſuch a fable? but let Otway's faſcinating muſe put this into melodious metre, let the bell toll for execution, bring forth the rack, ſend the actreſs on the ſtage with hair diſhevelled, cheeks of chalk, and eyes wildly ſtaring—no matter why ſo mad at once, nor what ſhe talks of, (be it of ſeas of milk or ſhips of amber)—all hearts bow down to her reſiſtleſs energy; ſhe takes her poet on her wings, and ſoars to fame.
Wonderful in all ages, and honoured by all enlightened nations, hath been the actor's magic art; the theatres and forums of Greece were embelliſhed with his ſtatues; they gazed [Page 222] upon him like a deſcended god; their greateſt poets, down to Aeſchylus and Ariſtophanes, trod the ſtage in perſon: Rome alſo honoured her actors, and they in return were the grace and ornament of all ſocieties; their ſayings were recorded, and collections of their apothegms have come down to our times; Caeſar in all his power made ſuite to them, and even knights of Rome did not revolt from the profeſſion. It remained for modern times to complete their triumphs, by admitting female candidates into the liſts; from that moment Nature took poſſeſſion of her rights; the fineſt feelings were conſigned to the faireſt forms; the very Muſe herſelf appeared in her own ſex and perſon: beauty, that gives being to the poet's rapturous viſion, a voice that guides his language to the heart, ſmiles that enchant, tears that diſſolve us, with looks that faſcinate, and dying plaintive tones that ſink into the ſoul, are now the appropriate and excluſive attributes of that all-conquering ſex; in ſhort, they bind our nobles in chains, and our princes in links—of love.
WE now return to our hero, who, with fair weather and favouring gales, was far advanced upon his voyage. A few, and but ſlight ſenſations of uneaſineſs had attended his initiation on ſhip-board. Cary's gay and gallant ſpirit cheered him at all moments; the novelty of the ſcene, the ſucceſſion of adventures which occurred to him in paſſing through the Channel, and the ſtriking characters of Britiſh ſeamen, for ever in his view, were to a mind like his moſt intereſting contemplations. The cleanlineſs, good order, and diſcipline of Cary's frigate were exemplary; and as ſhe had cleared the Channel, and was upon the ſharp look-out for an enemy, expectation kept every body alert, and in a ſtate of warlike preparation.
Tom Weevil was a lively thoughtleſs fellow, and had paſſed through all the diſcipline of being ſeized up to the ſhrouds, and every other ſpecies of ſea-jokes practiſed upon freſh-water novices, with perfect good-humour. He had [Page 224] made acquaintance with ſeveral gentlemen of eaſy addreſs, particularly in the foretop, with the captain of which, Jack Jones by name, he had eſtabliſhed a ſworn friendſhip; and as Tom was very fond of taking the air on that elevated ſtation where Jack preſided, he was moſtly to be found in the aforeſaid top, where, in leiſure hours, he edified his company with reading (a gift which he alone poſſeſſed) the illuſtrious hiſtory of Robinſon Cruſoe, to which all ears were open, and univerſal faith from all parties ſubſcribed without reſerve. Happy would it be for congregations in general were they ſo attentive to their preacher as Tom's audience were to him: they were alſo able commentators upon many parts of the work; but as they did not always concur in the ſame explanations and remarks, the progreſs of the hiſtory was liable to conſiderable interruptions and chaſms, whilſt the interlocutory parts were filled up with oaths and lies, given and taken very liberally in the true ſpirit of controverſy.
Mr. William Williams, the ſurgeon (or, in the ſea phraſe, the doctor) had ſo ably conducted the cure of Henry's wound, by adding nothing to nature's operations but cleanlineſs [Page 225] and freſh lint, that his arm was come to its perfect uſe, and, it may be preſumed, his ſpirit was not unwilling to try its ſtrength upon the enemies of his country, if they came in his way. It was now early morning, and that wiſhed-for opportunity was in near approach: Henry was on deck, enjoying that moſt magnificent of all ſpectacles, the ſun riſing over the waters, a rayleſs globe of fire; his heart expanded at the ſight, and his thoughts aſcended towards the Creator of thoſe wonders he contemplated. Captain Cary was at preſent under eaſy ſail, and the weather fine, when the man at the maſt-head deſcried a ſail a-head: inſtantly the officer on watch informed the Captain, who, leaping out of his cot, huddled on his clothes, and in little more time than a lion would beſtow upon his toilet, preſented himſelf on the quarter-deck, having ordered all hands up, and ſail to be made. A very little time diſcovered her to be a ſquare-rigged veſſel, and as ſhe kept her courſe towards Cary, with the wind in her favour, ſhe was ſoon viſible from the deck, where every glaſs in the ſhip was directed towards her, and every voice pronounced her to be a frigate of equal or ſuperior force to their own; and, upon a nearer [Page 226] view, from certain marks, which experienced ſeamen are quick in diſcerning, ſhe was adjudged, without one diſſenting voice, to be an enemy, and an enemy, it ſhould ſeem, that did not decline an action.
Now began that aweful arrangement in which ſilence ſtill as death prevailed, and every thing moved at the word of one man, whoſe voice, and none other, was heard, and to whoſe command abſolute obedience followed on the inſtant. Henry ſurveyed the whole with ſilent awe, and reverence for a ſervice ſo conducted: his heart glowed with love and pride for his friend, whom ſituation ſeemed now to have transformed into a new creature; that countenance, which hitherto he had only ſeen charactered with the mirthful ſmile of raillery and frolic, was now terrible and frowning, as he bent his eye upon the enemy, in the ſame act of preparation with himſelf. He was a perfect hero arming for battle, courage tempered with deliberate circumſpection marked every word he ſaid, which were diſtinctly and preciſely given out in orders to every officer in the ſhip; the lieutenants repaired to their quarters, the men aſſembled in the tops, and honeſt Weevil was honoured [Page 227] with a poſt at one of the cabin-guns, in company with eight other brave fellows. Cary, having hoiſted his colours, addreſſed himſelf to his men in a ſhort but animating ſpeech, that in language ſuited to their habits and apprehenſions gave them to underſtand, that whilſt he had breath in his body thoſe colours were never to come down; that the advantage of the few guns the enemy had over them was to be compenſated by ſuperior ſkill and courage, and he was reſolved that republican frigate ſhould either follow him into a Britiſh port or ſink alongſide of him. This was followed by three cheers; when, turning to Henry, he ſaid, ‘"Now, my brave Henry, if you like the ſport, we will give you a taſte of it; this fellow ſeems to have ſome ſtomach for fighting, but no great management in bringing it to bear: I ſee he means to fight us on the ſtarboard ſide, and has arm'd himſelf accordingly; but I ſhall baulk his fancy, and take him where he is not prepar'd."’ This ſaid, he gave the word, helm-a-weather, and by a rapid manoeuvre well executed, brought his frigate on the other ſide, pouring in a raking fire as he ſheered acroſs him. This manoeuvre produced much [Page 228] confuſion and ſome loſs to the enemy, who are in the practice of arming only on one ſide. The poſition Cary had taken, and the rapidity of his fire, had great effect, as the action was cloſe. When the enemy had recovered from his ſurpriſe, his behaviour was perfectly gallant; and by ſomething giving way on board the Britiſh frigate, ſhe became unmanageable, and fell broadſide to upon the Frenchman; part of the crew being occupied in repairing this accident, the enemy ſeized the opportunity for boarding, being full of men. Henry now felt his ſpirit called upon in a manner not to be reſiſted; a confuſed and ſcrambling fight took place upon the gang-way, where the French had lodged themſelves in ſome numbers, under conduct of a ſpirited officer, whom Henry immediately ſingled out as his man; he flew to the ſcene of action ſword in hand, ſhouting to the people as he advanced, and at the very firſt ſtroke brought down the leader of the boarding crew, who fell dead into the waſte. Animated by his example, the defendants became invincible, and repulſe and ſlaughter enſued: the few that eſcaped back to their ſhip were inſtantly followed by the victorious party, Henry being [Page 229] one of the firſt, if not the very firſt, that leapt on board the national frigate; there was no leader like him to rally the fugitives; in the firſt fury of the onſet the carnage was indiſcriminate, till a general cry for quarter recalled that mercy which is never long abſent from the hearts of our countrymen, and ſtopt the hand of death. The colours were hauled down, and three cheers from the conquerors gave notice to their gallant captain and comrades alongſide of them, that they were in poſſeſſion of their prize. A crowd gathered round Henry, who, like Achilles bathed in the blood of Hector, ſtood in the midſt of them tremendouſly beautiful: he had thrown off his coat before he entered into action, his hat had been beaten off, and his hair, Meduſa like, fell in wild diſorder on his forehead, his eyes ſeemed on fire, the frown yet dwelt upon his brow, and the angry ſpot of crimſon hue ſtill burnt upon his cheek. A confuſion of voices now aroſe, all applauding their young volunteer, with many huggings, and ſqueezings, and ſlappings on the back, garniſhed with oaths of the moſt unaccountable variety, which, through an exceſs of good-will, blaſted every limb in the company, and ſent our hero himſelf [Page 230] to the devil by a thouſand different conveyances. Amongſt theſe vociferous admirers his eye ſingled out a figure in the outward row, whom he diſcovered to be his friend Tom Weevil, in ſpite of a ſmall alteration in his countenance, occaſioned by the removal of one ear and part of a cheek out of their place, and dangling upon his ſhoulder by the help of certain fibres which ſtill reſtrained them from total ſeparation. Henry flew to his wounded friend, compreſſed the fleſhy fragments into their place as well as he could, and taking off his neckcloth, bound them up, and hurried him away to Doctor Williams, whom he found in the cockpit ſtript to his ſhirt, with his ſleeves rolled up to his ſhoulders, and bathed in a mingled ſtream of blood and ſweat. ‘"When you can turn your hand,"’ cried Henry, ‘"to a brave lad, who wants a little of your art, I ſhall be oblig'd to you."’ A foretop man, one of Weevil's audience, was then under Williams's hands, who ſeemed in a moſt hopeleſs caſe. ‘"It's all up with me,"’ cried the dying ſailor; ‘"death has ſtopt my grog for everlaſting; therefore, do you ſee, Doctor, never break your head about me, but turn your hand to the lad, ſplice his chops, and ſend him [Page 231] going."’ The heroiſm of this expiring warrior, the ſcene of human miſery which the cockpit preſented, and the gory figure of Williams himſelf, were too much for the unhardened nerves of Henry—the tears ſtarted from his eyes. The dying man was ſtill anxious for the glory of his country, and demanded to know what had been the event of the fight. When Henry had informed him of this, life ſeemed to reinſpire his half-cloſed eyes, a gleam of joy fleeted over his diſtorted viſage; ‘"Oh! that I cou'd have one peep at the prize,"’ he exclaimed, ‘"before my daylights are out."’—‘"So thou ſhalt,"’ exclaimed Jack Jones, who was ſtanding over him, ‘"if the brave volunteer will condeſcend to bear a hand."’—‘"If I was an admiral,"’ replied our hero, ‘"I ſhou'd be honour'd by the office;"’ and having ſo ſaid, taking up one end of the hammock on which the dying man was ſtretched, and Jones taking the other, they carried him up the ladder, and placed him where, with the prize in his view, he breathed out his gallant ſpirit in the arms of victory.
WHEN our hero had performed the laſt offices to the dying ſailor, he went upon the quarter-deck, where Captain Cary was buſily occupied in giving orders upon various matters. The firſt moment he could detach himſelf from buſineſs, he ran to Henry, and throwing his arms about him, overwhelmed him with applauſes: great was their mutual joy to find that neither had received the ſlighteſt hurt; but what a change did it appear to Henry, as he caſt his eyes about the frigate, late in ſuch beautiful and perfect trim, now exhibiting nothing but a pent-houſe of dangling rags and mangled rigging overhead, and below, a chaos of broken booms, ſhattered boats, and decks floated with water black as Styx with the ſcattering of the powder. When Cary had devoted a few moments to his gallant friend, he called the firſt lieutenant to him, and ſhaking him cordially by the hand, gave him joy of his prize; ‘"Go, my brave fellow,"’ he cried, ‘"and take poſſeſſion [Page 233] of that noble frigate, which your valour and good conduct has contributed to conquer; and you, volunteer,"’ added he, addreſſing himſelf to Henry, ‘"go with your officer, and board her for the ſecond time; but here,"’ pointing to his coat, that laid under the barricade, ‘"ſlip on your clothes, and get a hat."’ He then gave directions for ſhifting the priſoners, and that proper care ſhould be had of the wounded men, by ſuperintending the treatment they received from their own ſurgeons: and now began the carpenter's and boatſwain's reports, with a long train of various duties, that fall to the ſhare of every one in Cary's ſituation, and which none were better qualified to execute than he was.
When the firſt lieutenant, accompanied by our hero, came on board the prize, he found the crew and paſſengers of a Liſbon packet, which ſhe had captured in her cruize, and of theſe he bade Henry take charge, whilſt he gave attention to more preſſing matters. Henry, now acting under orders, immediately began to exert his delegated authority, by aſſembling his countrymen from all parts of the veſſel, for the joyful purpoſe of reſtoring them to their liberty. When he was about to embark them in the [Page 234] boat, that waited to receive them, under the command of Lord Frederick, our young midſhipman heretofore deſcribed, one of the company informed him, there was a ſick gentleman in his hammock below, whoſe ſtate of health required inſtant attention. To this perſon Henry immediately went, with one of the party for a guide, who brought him to the cable-tier, where the ſick gentleman was lying in his hammock, attended by two ſervants. When our hero had imparted to him the cheering purpoſe of his viſit, and recommended a ſpeedy removal on board the Britiſh frigate, where he would be better accommodated, he anſwered, in a faint tone, that it would be a moſt welcome releaſe; he had been tortured with noiſe and clamour, and, at the ſame time, nearly ſuffocated with heat and ſtench; ‘"but ſurely,"’ added he, ‘"I have heard that voice before, tho' I cannot diſcern your countenance in this dark place. Is it poſſible, Sir, that you and I can have met at Crowbery?"’ A ſhort explanation now took place, which, to Henry's great and joyful ſurpriſe, convinced him that Providence had directed him to the reſcue of his father. Difficult though it was to ſuppreſs his emotion [Page 235] on ſuch a diſcovery, yet he had command enough over himſelf to check his tongue, and immediately began his operations for removing him from his loathſome abode, all which he planned and executed with the tendereſt care and attention. The refreſhing ſenſation of air and motion revived the ſpirits of the redeemed priſoner; he was lifted into the boat in his bedding; Henry's eye watched every movement that could annoy him, Henry's arm ſupported him through every moment of the paſſage, and his care ſuperintended the operation of getting him on board, where he inſtantly aſſigned him his own cot, and recommended him, in the ſtrongeſt terms, to his friend Williams.
So reformed was the appearance of Cary's frigate, that it appeared to Henry as the work of magic; but what cannot Britiſh ſeamen, well commanded, perform? She was now once more in ſailing trim, her decks waſhed, and her lumber ſtowed away. Henry delivered up his redeemed priſoners, with a liſt of their names, to the captain; and, having executed theſe inſtructions, demanded if there were any further commands for him? ‘"Nothing, [Page 236] at preſent, but to refreſh yourſelf in the cabin,"’ replied Cary, ‘"where you will find cold meat and wine, and ſome of the national officers at work upon it."’ Thither our exhauſted hero eagerly repaired; and, as he was mixing with the priſoners, he heard one of them relating a circumſtance of an Engliſh deſerter, who, being mutinous at his gun in the time of action, and refuſing to ſerve it againſt his countrymen, had been run through the back by one of the officers on the ſpot. This was told in French, which Henry had enough of the language to underſtand, and, in the ſame language, made ſhift to enquire the name of the renegado. This the Frenchman did not know; but he learnt enough of his ſtation and deſcription in the ſhip to guide him in the enquiries which his humanity towards a fellow-creature, under ſuch circumſtances, inſpired him to make. He therefore ſnatched a haſty morſel, took a refreſhing draught of wine, and jumped into the boat, that was juſt then going off to the prize. Here he ſoon traced his enquiries to the wretched object he was in ſearch of, and in whom there appeared ſo much to pity and condemn. He found him ſtretched at [Page 237] his length upon the bare deck, beſide the gun he had been poſted at, incapable of raiſing himſelf up, floated with his own blood, and at the point of death. Judge, reader, what was Henry's ſenſation, when, in this expiring wretch, he recognized the features of his acquaintance Bowſey. ‘"Ah! miſerable man,"’ he cried, ‘"is this your fate at laſt? Do you not know me? Speak to me, if you have ſtrength to utter; look on me, if you can lift your eyes, and I will yet give you the laſt comfort of knowing that your victim, Thomas Weevil, ſurvives the blow you dealt him."’—‘"Good Lord, good Lord,"’ murmured the expiring man; ‘"Weevil is alive, then I am no murderer: I know you, Mr. Henry; you are a good man; I wiſh I had taken your good counſel, then I had never been in theſe damn'd fellows' hands; I am dying, I am dying; I wou'd not fight againſt my country; tho' bad enough in all reaſon, I was not ſuch a ſhabby raſcal as that came to, ſo a ſcoundrel thruſt his ſword into my back, (the devil reward him for it!) and here I've lain ever ſince."’ Henry ſaw the agonies of death upon him; he grew convulſed at times, then brought out a few words, and ſeemed ſtruggling to reach out [Page 238] his hand, which Henry no ſooner perceived, than ſtooping down, he took him by the hand, ſaying, ‘"Farewel, the Lord have mercy upon you and forgive you."’ This was underſtood by Bowſey, who, deeply groaning, muttered ſomething, of which Henry could make out no more than, Sleep, ſleep—they ſay it is all ſleep.—‘"They are liars and blaſphemers,"’ exclaimed Henry, and was proceeding, when he perceived the ſenſes he addreſſed were cloſed, the laſt breath was ſpent, and the ſoul had taken flight to thoſe unknown regions, where all who credit or inculcate theſe impious doctrines, will be deſtined to experience a terrible confutation of their eternal ſleep.
WHEN Captain Cary had taken into conſideration the ſtate of his prize, (a large forty gun frigate) the number of his priſoners, and various other circumſtances, which made a ſeparation unadviſeable, he determined to avail himſelf of a fair wind, and his proximity to the coaſt, for convoying her [Page 239] into the firſt Engliſh port he cou'd make, though his own deſtination was for the Tagus; he therefore made known this his reſolution to his officers in each ſhip, and ſteered for the channel; the wind continued to ſerve, and he puſhed into Falmouth, as the firſt port that was favourable to his purpoſe.
Here Henry landed with his father, who ſtill concealed himſelf under the name of Smith. The ſhips took the firſt occaſion for proceeding to Plymouth, where they could receive the neceſſary repair, whilſt Henry ſtaid with his two convaleſcents at Falmouth, for Tom Weevil's wound was now, by Williams's ſkill, far advanced towards a cure. The laſt converſation that Henry held with Williams was on the evening preceding the departure of the ſhips, when with ſome difficulty he prevailed upon him to accept a ſuitable preſent for his great attention to his own and Weevil's wounds: Mr. Smith, ſo called, had rewarded him in a more magnificent ſtile, according to the cuſtoms of the Eaſt. In this converſation Williams, whoſe modeſty had ſeldom permitted him to ſpeak of himſelf and his own adventures, was enticed into a more circumſtantial detail of paſt occurrences, which it [Page 240] imports not this hiſtory to record in any other period, than that in which he was employed as an aſſiſtant to our acquaintance Zachary Cawdle at Crowbery, where the youthful charms of Suſan May, then in their firſt bloſſom, made ſad havock with Williams's ſuſceptible heart. It did not appear, even from his own modeſt account, that Suſan was altogether inexorable, for Williams was a very handſome fellow, with a thouſand good qualities, and, over all, one of the ſweeteſt tempers man ever poſſeſſed, but there were rubs innumerable, which fortune perverſely threw in the way of his paſſion that Williams had not ſkill or confidence to ſtruggle with: the chief of theſe had root in Jemima's jealouſy and ſpite, ſome ſprung from honeſt Zachary himſelf, who thought love no great recommendation in a compounder of medicines; and others were thrown in his way by the colluſion of Blachford with Dame Jemima, the bright eyes of the damſel having ſet fire to the bilious particles of the Juſtice's blood in no leſs degree than to the milky ones of Williams. To extricate himſelf from this dilemma by deliberate means required more nerves than Williams had to ſpare, he therefore [Page 241] took quicker but leſs regular meaſures, and fairly eſcaped by flight, taking nothing away with him but an aching heart, and defrauding his maſter of no one tittle of his right, ſave only of the pleaſure of paying him certain running arrears of wages, which Williams probably had neither time nor inclination to demand.
When Williams had concluded his narrative, Henry reſolved firſt to try the pulſe of his affection, before he threw the lure of Suſan's fortune in his way, and this he rightly conceived to be the moſt honourable proceeding to both parties. He therefore began to diſcourſe with him in ſuch a way as might beſt diſcover how far Suſan ſtill kept any hold upon the heart of her firſt lover, and when this was made clear to him, he proceeded to unfold the dark tranſaction which Blachford had been concerned in, and the conſequences it had produced. Here Williams, no longer able to reſtrain himſelf, broke out into violent denunciations againſt her betrayer, taking Heaven to witneſs, that whenever opportunity ſhould ſerve, he would have his revenge upon him for what he had done; but this Henry ſoon put a ſtop to, by informing [Page 242] him how completely the offender was now out of his reach. ‘"It is an exit too good for ſuch a villain,"’ cried Williams, ‘"he ſhou'd have died by the halter, or, if the law cou'd not have reach'd him, my arm ſhou'd; but though his life is out of my reach, his memory is not, and I will vindicate the innocent againſt the guilty, by making public the truth, and ſharing my laſt ſhilling in ſupport of my poor girl, wherever ſhe can be found, and to whatever ſituation ſhe may be reduc'd."’—‘"That is a reſolution,"’ ſaid Henry, ‘"every way worthy of you, and beſpeaks a generous ſoul; it alſo convinces me that you lov'd her honourably, and eſteem'd her worthy of your love."’—‘"And ſhe is worthy ſtill,"’ rejoined he. ‘"Can I love her leſs becauſe ſhe has ſuffer'd wrong and violence from the blackeſt wretch that ever breath'd? No, I ſhou'd be baſe as he is if I cou'd; but I am impatient to know what has been her fate, and how ſhe has ſtruggled under miſery ſo complicated."’ This drew out that account, which no relater but one of Henry's delicacy of ſentiment would have reſerved for the concluſion of his ſtory; and though it may be well believed the facts now recounted were not [Page 243] embelliſhed with any ſelf-encomiums, yet the coldeſt colour he could give to truth could not prevent his hearer from receiving it with tranſports of admiration and gratitude.—‘"Oh Heavens!"’ cried Williams, ‘"what a ſoul is yours? And have you riſqued a life ſo precious in a voluntary combat with thoſe madmen? God be prais'd, the villains have not drawn one drop of blood from your veins! well might we conquer, who were headed by an angel."’—‘"Stop,"’ cried Henry; ‘"we will talk common ſenſe, if you pleaſe, and treat each other like rational creatures. I have been telling you mere matter of fact, and as you ſeem to take a warm ſhare in our friend Suſan's intereſt, ſo far my ſtory has repaid you for the pains it gave you in ſome parts, by the pleaſure you receive in the concluſion of it. When your duty permits, and your inclination diſpoſes you to make a trip to Crowbery, you will find your old acquaintance reſpectably eſtabliſh'd; and if you ſee her with my eyes, and judge of her as I think you muſt, I perſuade myſelf you will find no one charm of perſon, or good quality of heart, impair'd by what has paſs'd ſince you loſt ſight of her: and now a thought ſtrikes me, [Page 244] Mr. Williams, as a hint for you to turn in your mind, which is ſimply this; your old friend Zachary Cawdle is now from home upon a ſervice, which, I have reaſon to believe, will ſet him free from buſineſs for the reſt of his days; ſhou'd this be the caſe, and if you prefer a ſtationary employ to a roving one like your preſent, it is not improbable but means may be taken for ſettling you in his buſineſs, if the ſpot is agreeable to you, and the object worth your thoughts."’ To this Williams anſwered, that the ſituation indeed would be very deſirable; but he doubted his capacity of obtaining it, for he had no money, nor was in the way of getting any.—‘"Then I perceive,"’ quoth Henry, ‘"my good friend, you have no preſent thoughts of marrying."’ Williams bluſhed and was ſilent. Henry ſmiled, and ſhaking him by the hand, bade him be of good courage, telling him that it was probable he ſhould have an opportunity of talking with Zachary before long, and that he would find means to inform him of the reſult of their converſation.
THE next day Captain Cary took his departure for Plymouth, carrying his prize with him. Some time would be neceſſary for repairing the damages his frigate had received in the action, and this determined Henry to ſtay at Falmouth, not only for the purpoſe of attending upon his father, but in the hope of hearing ſome tidings of Lady Crowbery, whoſe arrival might now be looked for from day to day. Mr. Smith had taken lodgings in a private houſe, and was recovering his ſtrength apace: to him Henry repaired, after his converſation with Williams above related, and found a chaiſe waiting at his door for a morning airing. His tender attentions had ſo won the heart of his unconſcious father, that he ſeemed to live only in his company, and as this airing was a firſt effort, Henry offered to attend upon him in the carriage, which was moſt thankfully accepted. The driver was directed to chuſe [Page 246] the ſmootheſt road, and go gently along; the ſick man's ſpirits were revived by the air and motion, and now for the firſt time he found ſtrength to converſe more at large, than as yet he had been able to do.—‘"Your goodneſs to me, dear ſir,"’ ſaid he, ‘"has been ſuch as I can never find words to expreſs my ſenſe of: I have hitherto been ſilent, not through want of gratitude but want of powers to give utterance to it; yet I have much to ſay to you, ſome things to explain, and others to apologize for. In the firſt place I ſhou'd tell you, that in all our caſual rencounters, ſince the firſt time we met, when I pretended to have pick'd up a ring of Lady Crowbery's, I have been impoſing myſelf upon you under a feign'd name and character: I am the third ſon now living of the Lord Pendennis, my name Henry Delapoer; a very early attachment to the lovelieſt of her ſex being moſt unfortunately traverſed by her father decided my fate, and hurried me to the Eaſt Indies, with a broken heart, upon a deſperate adventure. It was the will of providence I ſhou'd ſurvive my loſs of happineſs, by turning aſide from me in various ways, almoſt miraculous, that death which I preſumptuouſly courted. [Page 247] As my heart never varied from its firſt affection, I never have had a thought of marrying; and though I have been little ſtudious of accumulating money, yet circumſtances, unſought for on my part, have thrown a fortune upon me, which, though not to be compar'd with many, is an affluent one, and, which is better, fairly earn'd, without cruelty or extortion. Having now diſclos'd to you who I am, I ſhall next inform you of my purpoſe in ſetting out for Liſbon, in which undertaking I ſuſpect it will be found that we have both the ſame object, namely, that of tendering our laſt melancholy offices to the much injured lady of that execrable tyrant Crowbery; of your motives, my dear Sir, I know no more than common report has given out, and they do credit to your gratitude, for I have heard ſhe has been a beneficent and kind friend to you, and I cannot doubt but ſhe has acted on the pureſt principles; how it comes to paſs that I am ſo affected by her ſituation, and enrag'd againſt her oppreſſor, a ſingle word will explain, when I tell you ſhe was all but my wedded wife, when her inexorable father overtook us, in the laſt ſtage of our progreſs towards Gretna Green, and obſtinately ſever'd [Page 248] that knot which a very few hours wou'd have made indiſſoluble. Merciful Heaven! what a heart-rending moment was that, which tore me from the arms of my Cecilia! Oh! Sir, it was attended with ſuch aggravating horrors! Figure to yourſelf the circumſtance moſt killing to the heart of honour, and that caſe was our's. What might have been the reſult of it I can well conceive; what it was Heaven only knows; for I was hurried out of England, and remain'd in ignorance of her fate; and now I find her wedded to a brute, childleſs, unhappy, and alas! far gone in a decay. If providence ſhall graciouſly permit her to ſurvive her voyage, Liſbon gives me one laſt chance of meeting her on this ſide Heaven; if not, the ſhort remnant of days that may be left to me ſhall be ſpent in bewailing her loſs, and, if opportunity can be found, in avenging her wrongs."’
Here the father ceaſed, exhauſted not leſs by the agitation of his mind, than by the exertion of his diſcourſe; a ſhort ſilence took place, which Henry was too conſiderate of his repoſe to interrupt; at length perceiving that he expected a reply, he ſpoke as follows,—‘"I am greatly honour'd by the confidence [Page 249] you repoſe in me, and it gives me the higheſt ſatisfaction to know, that my ſmall ſervices have been uſeful to you in any degree: I was certainly well prepared for the diſcovery you have been pleas'd to make, for it has long been out of doubt with me, that your firſt aſſum'd condition was not your real one; the manners, character, and deportment of a man of birth and education cannot eaſily be diſguis'd, and your's leaſt of all. I am not totally uninformed of Lady Crowbery's early attachment to the honourable Captain Delapoer, my life from infancy to a period not long paſs'd having been ſpent under the care and tuition of a moſt intimate friend of her's, the Reverend Mr. Ratcliffe, lately deceas'd; by that excellent man I was receiv'd as a deſerted nameleſs infant, depoſited at his door, and recommended to his benevolent protection by my myſterious mother. Through ſome ſecret channel, unknown to me, the charges of my maintenance were ſupplied, when at his death they ſtopt at once, and I was thrown friendleſs and helpleſs on the world at large. Misfortunes, which at ſome other time I will detail to you, fell upon me, preſſing me down to the extremity of human [Page 250] miſery and diſtreſs; in this ſtate the charity of Lady Crowbery found me; her bounty to me drew the malice of her tyrant into open acts of oppreſſion, loading her with calumny moſt groſs and injurious, and racking her too ſenſitive feelings, till her tender frame gave way, and ſunk under the attack; it is to me, therefore, belongs the puniſhment of that monſter, for it is I who have been made the plea and apology for his abominable cruelty. Her death, which Heaven avert, wou'd ſet my hands at liberty, and as I have an auſpicious impreſſion on my mind that time will ſhortly reveal the preſent myſtery of my birth, I may then be in poſſeſſion of a name cowardice cannot ſhrink from; and when his pride can no longer ſhelter itſelf in the obſcurity of my perſon, his cunning will no longer be able to evade the terror of my appeal. Here then you ſee the motives of my journey to Liſbon, and rightly ſuggeſt that they are in ſome reſpects congenial with your own. Undiminiſhed affection on your part, and ardent gratitude on mine, attract us to the ſame point; and this being the caſe, I ſhou'd humbly conceive it will be our mutual wiſh to wait her arrival in this port, and, if ſhe has no objection, [Page 251] to embark with her in the ſame packet, if your health ſerves for the undertaking."’
‘"You ſpeak my wiſhes correctly,"’ replied the father; ‘"and as for my health, it is ſo ſecondary an object, compared to her's, that I do not ſuffer it to occupy a ſingle thought."’ As theſe words were uttering, a chaiſe came in ſight, followed by another, and by two ſervants on horſeback. Henry ſtarted at the ſight, and exclaimed, ‘"My God! here is the very lady herſelf."’ Then calling to the poſtillion to ſtop, he haſtily opened the door of the chaiſe, and leaping out, planted himſelf by the ſide of the road, which it was neceſſary for the approaching carriages to take.
Henry, though greatly agitated, was not wanting in ſufficient preſence of mind to be cautious in his mode of ſtopping Lady Crowbery's carriage, which he did as gently and as ſilently as he could contrive. When he preſented himſelf at the window, the exhauſted traveller had raiſed herſelf up to enquire into the cauſe of the ſtop, when immediately as her eyes lighted on the face of her ſon, the blood ruſhed into her faded cheeks, and ſhe exclaimed—‘"My Henry! my Henry! is it poſſible?"’ and was proceeding; when, to ſave her from unſeaſonable [Page 252] exertions, he told his ſtory in as few words as poſſible, omitting for the preſent the circumſtance of his meeting with his father, who remained in his chaiſe, drawn out of the road at ſome diſtance.
He had taken the precaution to ſecure her quiet apartments in a private houſe, and having directed her drivers to follow his chaiſe, he left her, and returned to his father, whom he found in great agitation of ſpirits. It was agreed between them that Henry ſhould prepare Lady Crowbery, before Mr. Delapoer attempted to ſee her; and as ſoon therefore as he had entered the town he quitted the chaiſe, and conducted Lady Crowbery's people to the door of the houſe he had taken for her.
Here ſhe alighted, and between Henry and Doctor Cawdle was conducted to her apartment, which, preſenting her with a fine view of the ſea, and being both in point of aſpect and interior accommodations much to her liking, ſeemed to have the effect of reviving her ſpirits, exhilarated no doubt by the ſight, above all others, of her beloved Henry.
Honeſt Zachary, little leſs delighted than his patient at this unexpected meeting, now [Page 253] let out the circumſtance, hitherto ſuppreſſed by Henry, of the action Cary had had, which he had picked up by report upon the road, but prudently forbore to ſpeak of. This forced our hero upon a narrative of the whole affair, in which he took not the glory to himſelf that was due, but in all other particulars was a very correct relater of facts. Zachary now began his journal, and travelled very circumſtantially from London to Falmouth, commenting upon his own ſagacious proceedings by the way, to which he very juſtly aſcribed the ſucceſs that had hitherto crowned his operations; and certain it was, the health and ſtrength of the lady did not appear, to Henry's obſervation, to have ſuffered much, if any, diminution by the journey. A reſtorative was now adminiſtered, on which Zachary deſcanted with much learning, and at the ſame time pronounced, that a repoſe of ſome days would be indiſpenſible for her Ladyſhip's ſafety, before ſhe embarked on board the packet. A freſh ſupply of certain drugs being wanted, he ſallied forth in ſearch of a proper ſhop, from whence to repleniſh his ſtock. As ſoon as he was gone, the mother being left with her ſon, threw her arms about his neck, [Page 254] and gave full vent to thoſe exquiſite ſenſations which nature and affection, hitherto repreſſed, had implanted in her ſoul. Moments ſo free and mutually delicious they had never yet enjoyed; they exchanged embraces and mingled tears, till Henry, recollecting that even joy may be too violent, gently extricated himſelf from her embrace, roſe from her feet where he was kneeling, and having ſeated himſelf at her ſide, claſping one of her hands in his, ſhe began a converſation, which will be recorded in the following chapter.
‘"I HAVE receiv'd a letter,"’ ſaid the Lady Crowbery, ‘"from my uncle Manſtock, which occaſion'd me to make a longer ſtay in London than I ſhould elſe have made; it obliged me to ſend down my lawyer, to receive from his hands the packet containing my will and other papers, which I had depoſited with him. What particular reaſons he had for declining a truſt, that he had willingly [Page 255] accepted, is matter of conjecture only; but I ſuppoſe they proceed from ſome ſuſpicion entertain'd of your attachment to Iſabella, and her's to you, for which he is probably indebted to the kind ſuggeſtions of his friend Mr. Claypole, from whoſe reſentment, upon being refus'd the living of our lamented Ratcliffe, I have every thing malicious to expect. If, then, my uncle will ſurrender up his underſtanding to that unworthy guide, can I help it? I have appointed my executor, and ſhall put into your hands a copy of my will, with full directions where to apply for the original, which I have lodg'd with Mr. G—, of Gray's Inn, a man in whoſe integrity the moſt ſacred truſt may be repos'd. But how far this change of opinion in Sir Roger Manſtock may affect his amiable daughter is a queſtion of very ſerious concern; for, if I underſtand his letter rightly, you are put under abſolute proſcription; nor do I expect ſhe will be allow'd to correſpond with me, unleſs my letters are ſubmitted to inſpection before they reach her hands; and as for her writing to me, I do not ſuppoſe ſhe will be ſuffer'd to do it on any account; you ſee, therefore, in what light you ſtand; and, according [Page 256] to your own feelings, muſt either prepare yourſelf for mortification and diſappointment, if you perſiſt in thinking of her; or, if you can let your judgment over-rule your paſſion, you will divert your thoughts from a purſuit that now ſeems hopeleſs; for to attempt at detaching Iſabella from the ſtrict obſervance of her father's commands is an undertaking as impracticable as it wou'd be diſhonourable."’
‘"That is an attempt,"’ replied Henry; ‘"I ſhall never make; for that wou'd be to ruin myſelf both in her eſteem and my own. Interdicted by her father, I am excluded from all hope; at the ſame time, if I know my own heart, I know that time can work no change in its affections; and if I am totally to deſpair of Iſabella, ſo long as it ſhall pleaſe Heaven to impoſe upon a wretched creature life bereft of all happineſs, ſo long I ſhall, with all the reſignation that becomes me, endure the diſpenſation; for it is not my nature to rebel againſt my Creator."’
‘"I perceive,"’ ſaid the mother, ‘"that your love, my dear Henry, lies deep, and is immoveable; haſty paſſions waſte themſelves in vehement aſſeverations; the flame burns [Page 257] out, and there's an end to them, but your's is fixt deliberate approbation, therefore I ſhall not argue againſt it; on the contrary, I muſt confeſs to you, that before I parted from Iſabella, I confided to her the ſecret of your birth; I own'd myſelf your mother, and diſclos'd to her the whole purport of thoſe papers, which I depoſited with her father, to be opened only on the event of my deceaſe. She knows you, therefore, for the ſon of Delapoer, the heir of my eſtate, and, perhaps, of his fortune, if he has returned, as I am inform'd, without connections, and in affluent circumſtances. In her heart, therefore, I ſhou'd flatter myſelf you will keep your place, unleſs my uncle ſhou'd extort from her any promiſe to your abſolute excluſion. In the mean time, I cou'd wiſh, before I die, to obtain, if poſſible, an interview with your father, who is unconſcious of your exiſtence, and which might have taken place but for the provoking overſight of honeſt Cawdle, who forgot to give you my note with the ring. Whilſt I was in London, I caus'd enquiry to be made after Delapoer; I was inform'd he remained unmarried, had preſerv'd an excellent character, and brought home a reſpectable [Page 258] fortune, very honourably acquir'd; he was not in town, nor was it exactly known where he was gone, for he had neither houſe nor ſervants in London, and the report was, that he was going out of England for the winter, to a warmer climate. It occurs to me, therefore, that if he has heard of my being order'd to Liſbon, he may poſſibly make that his point."’
‘"And ſhou'd you be well pleas'd if it was ſo?"’ demanded Henry.—‘"I confeſs to you, I ſhou'd not be ſorry,"’ replied the lady, ‘"for the reaſons I have already ſtated."’—‘"Then I may venture to inform you,"’ ſaid Henry, ‘"that he was with me in the chaiſe when I met you on the road."’ At theſe words the blood ruſhed into the cheeks of the feeble invalid, her eyes ſparkled with joy, and ſhe exclaimed with unuſual energy, ‘"How wonderful are the ways of Providence! What an unexpected bleſſing, that I am now permitted to be a happy inſtrument of a diſcovery like this! Let me ſee him without loſs of time; let me not poſtpone, even for an hour, a duty ſo important, an opportunity ſo graciouſly offered. I take for granted, you have not declared yourſelf to him."’ He aſſured her he had [Page 259] not. ‘"Then run for him,"’ ſhe cried; ‘"bring him to me this inſtant; nature ſtruggles at my heart, and will not be reſtrain'd."’
Henry was gone whilſt the words were on her lips: ſhe immediately gave orders to her ſervants to prevent interruption, and then began to collect her thoughts for the awful interview. Whilſt ſhe reflected on the extraordinary combination of events that had brought about this unexpected meeting, it inſpired her to hope, that Heaven had ſealed her pardon for the paſt offences of her youth, and brought her ſufferings to a period. When ſhe endeavoured to put her thoughts into ſome form of words, and prepare for the diſcovery ſhe had to make, ſhe found herſelf incapable of arranging her ideas, and gave up the attempt. ‘"It is in vain,"’ ſhe cried, ‘"to meditate on what I am to ſay; I muſt leave it to nature and the impulſe of the moment."’ And now the voice of Henry in the houſe warned her of his approach; and ſoon ſhe heard the ſteps of two men upon the ſtairs; when the door being opened, preſented to her view the ſickly and emaciated form of Delapoer, leaning on the arm of his conductor, trembling as he advanced towards her, and panting for breath [Page 260] through faintneſs and agitation. Henry inſtantly retired: not a word was uttered by either of the parties; ſhe made an effort to raiſe herſelf from her ſeat, but ſunk back, and, putting her hands before her face, burſt into tears. There was a chair beſide her, in which Delapoer ſate down. ‘"How ſhall I expreſs my thanks to you,"’ he ſaid, after a ſhort pauſe, ‘"for this indulgence? Providence ſeems to have brought us together, by the moſt extraordinary means, in the laſt ſcene of our life's ſad tragedy, that we may once more exchange a parting look upon the ruins of time before we ſeparate to our unchangeable deſtinations. Your lot, my ever-beloved lady, I am perſuaded will be bleſt; you have labour'd much, and will reap abundantly, I ſnatch'd a ſight of you at Crowbery; it was too much for an exhauſted frame; I have been ſinking ever ſince; for I heard you was unhappy, and my heart roſe againſt your tyrant, tho' diſcretion ſtopt my hand. I paſs'd ſeveral days about the purlieus of your caſtle, diſguiſing both my name and habit, leſt I might awaken the ſuſpicion of your gaoler: I met that excellent young man, who accompany'd me hither, and ſent you a pledge by [Page 261] his hands, which I thought you wou'd underſtand as a token I was yet alive. Ever ſince the inexorable decree that tore us from each other, I have been ſtruggling with my hard fortune, in the hope of earning, by my ſword and ſervices, a competency to enable me to return an independent man; but alas! a variety of croſſes and misfortunes bore ſo ſtrong upon me for a courſe of eighteen years, that, until the laſt few months of my abode in India, I was toiling againſt the ſtream of adverſity; at length, one lucky expedition, of which I had the conduct, preſented to me the alternative of enormous plunder with a guilty conſcience, or moderate earnings with a clear one; I choſe the latter, and am now return'd, affluent in circumſtances, and, I thank God, irreproachable in character. Never, during this tedious period, did the eye of beauty, Indian or Engliſh, draw aſide one thought, one wiſh, one, even the ſlighteſt, regard, from the center where firſt love, and the memory of my ever-ador'd Cecilia, had fixt it for life. The vow that I had made, ſo ſeal'd, ſo ſanctify'd, ſo rivetted into the very heart of honour, was to me a marriage vow—but, I perceive, I give you pain; let me not do that; my expreſſions, [Page 262] tho' ſtrong, were only binding on myſelf; you was not free; you had a father, whom you was forc'd to obey, and, I implore you to believe they were not pointed againſt your proceeding; I can well ſuppoſe your marriage with a wretch like Crowbery was a compulſory one."’
‘"It was, indeed,"’ replied ſhe, raiſing her eyes for the firſt time, and turning them upon him in the moſt affecting manner; ‘"it was impos'd upon me, not only as a command, which I cou'd not diſobey, but as an atonement for an offence, which I cou'd no otherwiſe expiate."’
‘"Gracious Heaven!"’ he exclaimed; ‘"and was my unhappy Cecilia made to atone for an offence, for which I, vile betrayer as I was, am alone reſponſible? It is I, then, who am the ſource of all your ſorrows; I, to whoſe unceaſing ſolicitations your kind heart at laſt reluctantly gave way; I have been the hateful cauſe of all your ſufferings, like the deceiver of our firſt parents, the father of all evil."’
[Page 263] ‘"What do you mean?"’ he exclaimed, in a tone of impatience and ſurpriſe. ‘"Speak to me, I beſeech you, without reſerve; lead me the ſtraiteſt way to truth, for you have ſtir'd a thought within my heart that will not bear evaſion or delay. Am I a father? anſwer me."’
As ſhe ſpoke theſe words, Delapoer's ſenſes ſeemed loſt in aſtoniſhment; he ſmote his hands together in a tranſport of joy, gazed upon her eagerly for a while, then caſt his eyes to Heaven; his lips moved, but no voice was heard; then throwing himſelf back in his chair, he ſeemed loſt in meditation, till, rouſed to ſudden recollection, he adjured her, in the moſt ſolemn terms, to confirm the truth of what ſhe had told him by an appeal to Heaven. ‘"I take Heaven to witneſs,"’ ſhe replied, ‘"to the truth of what I have ſaid; conſcious as I am that the Judge is at the door, in whoſe preſence I muſt ſoon appear, I repeat to you, at the peril of my ſoul, were I capable of deceit, that Henry is your ſon and mine."’—‘"I am ſatisfied,"’ cried Delapoer; and, dropping on his knees, broke forth into prayers and [Page 264] praiſes to the Supreme Diſpoſer of all events. She then imparted to him the purport of her will, and briefly related what had paſſed between her uncle and herſelf ſince her departure from Manſtock. When he found ſhe had confided the ſecret to no one but Iſabella, except Henry himſelf and Zachary, who was profeſſionally made privy to it, he pauſed for ſome time, and then demanded, why he alone might not ſtand forth to the world as the father of Henry, without committing her name in any future time. ‘"Let it remain a myſtery,"’ he ſaid; ‘"or, at moſt, a ſurmiſe. Why ſhou'd we give that triumph to the malice of Lord Crowbery? why ſhou'd we put to ſhame the family pride of Sir Roger Manſtock? I have fortune enough to beſtow upon my ſon; and the firſt lawyer that is capable of drawing a deed of gift ſhall ſecure the reverſion of my whole property to him. As for your paternal eſtate, bequeath it in it's natural courſe, ſo that no ſuſpicion reſt upon your memory."’
‘"Your ſuggeſtion,"’ ſaid the lady, ‘"is truly generous; but it is far too important to be adopted without due reflection: my uncle Manſtock has but one child, and ſhe a daughter; ſhe is already ſuperabundantly endow'd; [Page 265] and to accumulate eſtates upon the heireſs of that wealthy houſe, is mere ſupererogation; unleſs our Henry, who is maſter of her affections, was as much in favour with the father."’
‘"Cannot it be left conditionally, upon her marrying Henry?"’ ſaid Delapoer.—Lady Crowbery ſhook her head, and remarked, that this would little differ, in appearance to the world, from an abſolute bequeſt to him. ‘"Yet if I cou'd depend,"’ added ſhe, ‘"upon her attachment to Henry, or, rather, I ſhou'd ſay, upon her father's conſent, all might be well; and my ſon, thro' her medium, wou'd ſtill be my heir: but there is little reliance on my uncle, whilſt he is under influence hoſtile to my wiſhes."’
‘"Did you not ſay,"’ he rejoined, ‘"that Miſs Manſtock was privy to the ſecret of our Henry's birth? If ſo, it is to be preſum'd, you have perfect confidence in her honour; you alſo believe ſhe is attach'd to him, elſe you wou'd not have truſted her with an unneceſſary ſecret: how then can this young lady, knowing Henry to be your ſon, act otherwiſe by your eſtate than either ſhare it [Page 266] with him as his wife, or reſtore it to him as your heir?"’
‘"There is much argument,"’ ſhe replied, ‘"in what you ſay; and, I believe, more true honour does not exiſt in a human heart, than in my couſin Iſabella's; but, after all, we muſt talk with Henry."’ This was the moſt immediate wiſh of Delapoer's heart, who was longing to embrace a ſon juſtly ſo dear to him;—and now he recited to Lady Crowbery the whole narrative of the action, dwelling with rapture upon the bravery and humanity of our hero: the ſenſations it produced in a mother's heart need not be deſcribed, and it is well they need not, for I ſhould doubt if they can.
In ſhort, we hold our readers in too much reſpect to ſicken them with our deſcriptive powers, convinced that there is no incident ariſing from this hiſtory, or any other of the kind, which may not be referred to their feelings in natural language, without thoſe tedious circumlocutory embelliſhments, which only ſerve to load the page. I truſt they will not think the worſe of my females, if they are not drowned in floods of tears upon every occaſion, or fall [Page 267] into fainting fits with exceſs of ſenſibility; for to ſuch as are pleaſed with theſe tricks we do not write, contented to devote our labours to the friends of nature, and to them alone.
OUR readers need not be reminded, that the hero of this hiſtory knew Delapoer to be his father before he was called to a conference upon the propoſal ſtated in the preceding chapter. The meeting took place in Lady Crowbery's preſence; and the nameleſs foundling, whom adverſity had ſo lately cruſhed, now heard himſelf acknowledged, and felt the animating preſſure of a parental embrace, by turns beſtowed upon him, with praiſes, prayers and bleſſings, ſuperadded in abundance.
‘"Son,"’ cried Lady Crowbery, ‘"it has now pleas'd Heaven to let me ſee this hour, which cloſes every wiſh that my fond heart conceiv'd, and bleſſes me beyond what I have ever merited, or can compute. I have lived [Page 268] to place you in the protection of a father, I have ſurviv'd to behold you claſp'd in his embrace; and what can I ſay—but that the tranſport is unutterable? A term of life beyond what may ſuffice to execute the few maternal ties that are yet unfiniſhed, is what I dare not, what I do not pray for, Let us not therefore loiter, for the time is ſhort; let us work while it is day, for darkneſs and death are at hand. There is a buſineſs to be done, upon which I muſt conſult you. My paternal eſtate is, as you know, in my diſpoſal; it is your's: on whom but on my ſon can I beſtow it?"’—‘"Not ſo,"’ replied Henry; ‘"beſtowing it on me, you avow me as your ſon, and bequeath your name to detraction and diſgrace. Suppoſe (which Heaven forbid!) Lord Crowbery ſurvives you, what will he ſay? outrageous inſult to your memory will enſue: this may be repell'd, you'll ſay; but what can be oppos'd to Sir Roger Manſtock's diſcontent? If he will not ſuffer you to leave a paper in his hands, upon the ſuſpicion only of my name being found in it, how will he reſent a will, that is to make me the heir of your eſtate, to the excluſion of his family?"’—‘"And if Iſabella inherits it,"’ ſaid the mother, [Page 269] ‘"what then?"’—‘"Then ſhe who beſt deſerves it, has it,"’ replied Henry; ‘"and as no earthly bleſſing can accrue to me, but what originates with her, you put my fate into her hands, who is the miſtreſs of it, whether you ſo conſider her, or not. To her I am known; by her alone I can be made happy; if I have any intereſt dear to me upon earth, it is to recommend myſelf to her thoughts; and, therefore, what can beſt do that, is beſt for my intereſt: let the lovely Iſabella then poſſeſs what ſhe is entitled to, of which, if any ſhare devolves to me, let her beſtow it with herſelf: I cannot be too rich in fortune's gifts, with Iſabella to partake of them; without her I ſhall be beyond the reach of fortune, nothing can leſſen or augment my wretchedneſs."’
‘"Oh, my dear ſon,"’ cried Delapoer, ‘"how perfectly you ſpeak my ſentiments! I adopt your reaſoning, nay, rather, I anticipate it, for it is exactly what I recommended to your beloved mother. I have enough, and all I have is your's."’
The buſineſs was no further preſſed, for the conference had been long, and Lady Crowbery ſeemed exhauſted: ſhe was ſilent, but it [Page 270] was a ſilence that betokened acquieſcence. As the buſineſs could not be done to her ſatiſfaction without the preſence of her confidential lawyer Mr. G—, who was in poſſeſſion of papers, which, according to this plan, it behoved her to cancel, ſhe determined to write to him by expreſs, and requeſt him to come down to her, if his buſineſs admitted of it, in perſon, elſe to diſpatch ſome truſty and ſufficient proxy, who might act in his place: the intermediate time was not longer than ſeemed requiſite for her caſe, which now became more and more doubtful; for Zachary, who began to aſſume a very penſive aſpect, had taken a medical aſſeſſor into council, and both joined in pronouncing that unleſs ſome favourable and ſpeedy change took place, the project of embarking her for Liſbon muſt be abandoned. Delapoer and Henry ſaw theſe inauſpicious ſymptoms in the ſame melancholy light, and drew the moſt deſponding concluſions from them. One evening, when they were in anxious expectation of Mr. G—, Henry, perceiving that his mother would be glad to diſpenſe with Zachary's attendance, drew him aſide, and, walking down to the beach, began to queſtion him about his patient, expreſſing [Page 271] himſelf as without hope of her recovery, and under momentary terrors of her immediate diſſolution. To this Zachary replied, that although be ſaw that ſad event in approach, and, in his own judgment, regarded it as inevitable, yet he conjectured that ſhe would have a gradual and lingering diſmiſſion out of life, without pain or loſs of ſenſes; and that no rapid, or immediate, diſſolution was to be apprehended. ‘"I hope therefore,"’ added he, ‘"our dear lady will yet find time and capacity to ſettle her affairs to your ſatisfaction and advantage, and put you in a ſituation to propoſe for the lovelieſt girl in England, to whom, I perceive, you are very ſeriouſly attach'd."’ No anſwer being returned to this, he proceeded—‘"For my own part, I am perſuaded there is no love loſt between you, as the ſaying is; and if you have left your heart with Miſs Manſtock in pledge, you have taken her's away with you in poſſeſſion; for I am no indifferent phyſiognomiſt, and not apt to be out in my conjectures as to the human heart. I had a little private talk with the young lady during our halt at Manſtock Houſe; and, I believe, my friend, I did your cauſe no harm by what I ſaid on that occaſion."’—‘"The leſs [Page 272] you ſaid, the better,"’ Henry coldly replied.—‘"Come, come, young gentleman,"’ reſumed Zachary, ‘"you are too modeſt, too diffident; it is not the firſt time you have ſtood in your own light with the ladies: And that puts me in mind of my poor boozy dame, who has now, I ſuppoſe, drank up her drink, and ſleeps in peace. Alexander Kinloch writes me word, and I have this morning receiv'd his letter, that ſhe is abſolutely at death's door. Well! God's will be done; I muſt bear it with chriſtian patience; Mors omnibus communis."’—Here the Doctor took out his handkerchief, and, in conformity to cuſtom upon ſuch occaſions, applied it to his eyes; where, if there had been a tear, no doubt the aforeſaid handkerchief would have done its duty, and diſpoſed of it. ‘"But I muſt prepare myſelf to expect the worſt,"’ added he; ‘"for if death be at the door, and none but Sawney Kinloch to keep him out, why 'tis natural to conclude, that all is over with my poor dame. To be ſure ſhe had her failings, as who has not? but cuſtom familiariz'd me to them. She certainly made ſome trips in point of fidelity to my bed, but then ſhe was over-partial to the brandy-bottle, and that accounts for her [Page 273] incontinence, you know, very naturally. She was a little over-righteous, it muſt be own'd, and ſaddled me with the ſaints rather more than was agreeable; but then her religion was mere hypocriſy, ſo that I cou'd not quarrel with her on that account. She was ſomething of a termagant, I cannot deny; told a pretty many untruths, and bred a pretty many diſturbances in my family; but then ſhe did the ſame by all her neighbours as by me, ſo that I had no cauſe in particular to complain of her; and, upon the whole, have as much reaſon to regret the loſs of my wife, as moſt huſbands have to lament for their's."’
‘"Well, my good maſter,"’ ſaid Henry ſmiling, ‘"notwithſtanding all theſe good qualities which you have counted up, I am in hopes you'll hear your loſs with tolerable compoſure, and that your days to come will not paſs the leſs to your content becauſe you have no longer a wife in exiſtence, who anſwers to the deſcription you have been giving: At leaſt I hope life may be tolerable, tho' you have neither ſot, ſlut, nor ſhrew in your houſe, to entertain you: and as the time, I fear, is not far off, when you will have a real friend to lament, I foreſee that your profeſſional cares [Page 274] will not long ſurvive your domeſtic ones, and in that caſe you will have to look out for a ſucceſſor in your buſineſs. Shou'd that be the caſe, and ſhou'd Alexander Kinloch not be the man that anſwers to your wiſhes, I beg you will let me recommend to you a friend of mine, for whoſe ſufficiency, in all reſpects, I will make myſelf reſponſible: the perſon I ſpeak of is your quondam aſſiſtant, Mr. William Williams, at preſent Surgeon of Captain Carey's frigate, a man very highly to be eſteem'd for his private character, and of whoſe abilities, in every branch of his profeſſion, I am bold to promiſe, you may be furniſh'd with the ſtrongeſt teſtimonials."’—To this Zachary replied, that he had a very high opinion of Williams, and without heſitation ſhould prefer him to every other proponent, not only in reſpect to Henry's good wiſhes for him, but on the ſcore of his own merit: as for the old Scotchman, he proteſted againſt him in any other capacity than as a cheap drudge at the mortar, if Williams choſe to continue him there, which however he ſhould not be very forward to adviſe.
This matter being adjuſted to Henry's ſatisfaction, he now perceived a chaiſe and four [Page 275] ſtop at Lady Crowbery's door; and running to it, had the gratification of finding that Mr. G— himſelf had complied with that Lady's requeſt, and come down in perſon. A ſhort converſation with that excellent man ſoon opened to him a character, in which integrity is ſo prominent, that nature, in the formation of it, ſeemed determined ſo to place her work as that no one ſhould overlook or miſtake it. It will ſuffice therefore to ſay, that every thing was done, acording to the will of the teſtatrix, which method in buſineſs and correctneſs in form could effect: the ſame opportunity alſo ſerved for Mr. Delapoer to make his promiſed ſettlement on his ſon our hero; and this being done, our honeſt lawyer (and as ſuch we venture to pronounce him one of the worthieſt members of the community) returned to his ſtation in life; where we hope he will long abide, to protect the property of his clients, and enliven the ſociety of his friends.
A Few days had paſſed after the departure of Mr. G—, when the Lady Crowbery, perceiving her ſmall remains of ſtrength hourly on the decline, communicated to her friends her total abandonment of all hope of ſtirring from the ſpot ſhe was in; at the ſame time expreſſing her acquieſcence in the call of Providence, and the thankfulneſs with which ſhe ſhould obey the ſummons, in the preſence of thoſe who were deareſt to her in this world. She ſtill found ſtrength, by intervals, to write a farewell letter to her unworthy Lord, alſo one of a very affectionate caſt to her uncle Manſtock, both which ſhe committed to the poſt: to Iſabella ſhe likewiſe wrote, on a ſubject more important to her than that of taking leave for life, as it reſpected the future happineſs of her beloved ſon, and explained (in terms, however, the moſt delicate) her implied hopes and views in the diſpoſition ſhe had made of her eſtate; and this letter ſhe put [Page 277] into Henry's hands, referring it to his diſcretion in what manner, and at what period, to make uſe of it.
To Zachary Cawdle ſhe bequeathed an annuity of three hundred pounds a year, chargeable upon her eſtate, to be paid quarterly and punctually. In ſmall legacies to ſervants, and charitable donations, a further ſum was involved, for which due proviſion was made, and direction given. Of Henry no mention was to be found in her will; but both to him and his father ſhe gave, with her own hands, ſeveral little articles, valuable only as tokens of affection and pledges of remembrance. Every thing that perſonally belonged to her in Crowbery Caſtle, of which ſhe had many particulars, were left to the Lord of that manſion; the reſidue was bequeathed in truſt to Sir Roger Manſtock, for the uſe and benefit of Iſabella, without entail, and at her free diſpoſal, when ſhe ſhould attain the age of eighteen years, of which there yet remained ſome months only before her non-age ſhould expire.
Neither her ſenſes nor ſpirits ſeemed to yield at the approach of death; every morning ſhe was conveyed from her bed to a couch [Page 278] in her ſitting-room, which had a pleaſant view of the ſea and ſhore. Here ſhe was conſtantly attended by one or both of her beloved friends, whoſe tender aſſiduities cheared her to her lateſt moments; ſhe took particular delight in liſtening to Delapoer's narrative of his adventures in India, which he contrived to render both intereſting and entertaining to her, introducing it at ſuch times only as ſhe ſeemed to call for it, and in ſuch proportions as might not weary her attention, or too forcibly agitate her feelings.—She alſo, in her turn, had a ſtory to relate, which, though told with great mitigation towards Lord Crowbery, and with the ſuppreſſion of many cruel circumſtances in his conduct, and ſufferings on her part, was not always heard with the temper and patience that ſhe wiſhed to inſpire. Delapoer, in ſpite of all his caution, would ſometimes give way to the warmth of his natural character, and once or twice, to her ſenſible regret, broke forth into menaces and denunciations. Theſe ſhe would, with anxious ſolicitude, ſtrive to qualify and repreſs. ‘"If you love me, Delapoer,"’ ſhe would ſay, ‘"you will remember my words after death, and not diſgrace my memory, or diſturb my ſpirit in [Page 279] the grave, by a revengeful and violent proceeding towards Lord Crowbery. Had he been indulgent and kind to me, how ſeverely would my conſcience have reproach'd me; and if, on the contrary, he has been ſomewhat harſh and ungentle, cannot you recollect enough, both committed and omitted on my part, to extenuate, if not to warrant, his unkindneſs? You'll ſay my marriage was a compulſory one—'tis true it was ſo; but ſtill I was a party, tho' a moſt unwilling one, in the impoſition that was put upon him: in my heart he never cou'd obtain a place; I paid him obedience—I had no more to beſtow."’
The laſt converſation of this ſort ſhe had with Delapoer was on the evening preceding the day on which ſhe died: ſhe was fervent in prayer that her errors might be pardoned, and, in the moſt ſolemn manner, conjured him to conſpire with her in atonement, by giving double diligence to the performance of thoſe duties which their joint offence had entailed upon them in the perſon of their ſon. Whilſt ſhe was thus addreſſing him, Delapoer, who was ſupporting her as ſhe ſate erect on the couch, perceived a convulſive ſymptom in the muſcles about her mouth, which gave him inſtant alarm: and the eager look with which [Page 280] he purſued his obſervation, convinced her that ſome change had happened in her features to occaſion it.—‘"Ah! my dear friend,"’ ſhe ſaid, ‘"I underſtand your looks, I am dying; perhaps I am disfigur'd; if ſo, leave me, I implore you; do not let the laſt impreſſion of this face, which you once beheld with pleaſure, remain upon your memory with diſguſt and horror. If I am fit to be ſeen, let me thus expire, ſupported in your arms; if not, farewell for ever; let my ſervants be call'd, and let me not ſhock either you or my ſon with an object ſo diſtreſſing."’ As ſhe faintly uttered theſe words, ſhe put her hands before her face, which Delapoer gently claſped in his, aſſuring her, that her ſuſpicion was unfounded, and that her features indicated no ſuch ſymptoms as ſhe apprehended. He ſoon after rung the bell, when Henry entered haſtily, followed by Zachary and two female attendants: Henry threw himſelf on his knees by the ſide of her couch, and continued for ſome minutes enfolded in her arms, in ſpeechleſs agony; for he alſo perceived the change, and ſaw the hand of death was upon her. A convulſive tremor now ſeized her whole frame, and ſhe ſunk down on her couch inſenſible, while the Doctor [Page 281] exhorted them to leave her to the care of himſelf and the women. Through the remainder of the night ſhe doſed with ſhort intervals, in which ſhe appeared to have ſome degree of recollection, but never uttered a word or ſeemed to experience a pain; at an early hour of the morning, ſhe drew her laſt ſigh and expired. The father and the ſon were ſtanding by the ſide of the bed at that awful moment, and the ſmile, which love impreſſed upon her features, as her eyes caught a parting ſight of them, before they cloſed for ever, remained after death, as if to tell the beholders that her ſoul, unwilling to derange the beautiful frame in which it had been encaſed, had left its peace behind it, whilſt it conveyed itſelf away to the manſions of immortality and bliſs.
WE have now cloſed the hiſtory of the amiable but unhappy Lady Crowbery, and we would fain hope that ſuch of our readers [Page 282] as are parents, will think the moral of her fate not unworthy of their conſideration and reflection.
One of the firſt duties that devolved upon her afflicted friends, was to give information of the mournful event to her abſent connections. This buſineſs was undertaken by Doctor Zachary, who immediately penned a reſpectful epiſtle to Sir Roger Manſtock; and alſo one in like terms to the Lord Viſcount Crowbery, which were ſent off by expreſs.
Delapoer and his ſon determined upon ſtaying by the remains of their lamented friend, till orders ſhould be received from Lord Crowbery reſpecting the funeral; and Henry took an early opportunity of making his friend Captain Carey acquainted with the ſad event, that had now occaſioned him to decline all thoughts of rejoining the victorious frigate. The return of the poſt brought him the following anſwer from that gallant officer:—
My dear friend,
I loved and reſpected my relation Lady Crowbery, as much as I deſpiſe and abhor the wretch, who not only ſhortened but embittered her days; and I lament her ſad fate [Page 283] and your loſs, from the bottom of my heart. Bear up, however, my brave fellow, and when you are weary of the ſhore, remember you have a meſs-mate, who ſo long as he has a plank to float on, will be proud to approve himſelf your's on all occaſions, moſt ſincerely and affectionately,
Captain Crowbery was upon a viſit to a friend in a diſtant country, ſo that the ſociety of the caſtle was very much confined, and their harmony ſeldom if ever interrupted by the intruſion of unwelcome viſitors. Miſs Fanny poſſeſſed the apartment of the abſent lady, and had already made ſome arrangements in the diſpoſition and furniture of it, which ſhe aſſerted, and my Lord acknowledged, to be very ſtriking improvements. Two or three old domeſtics, who had conſidered themſelves as appertaining to the lady of the houſe, were now very naturally regarded [Page 285] as ſupernumeraries; and upon a principle of oeconomy, which the Reverend Mr. Claypole took all proper occaſions to inculcate, were paid off and diſmiſſed. One or two of theſe, who had belonged to Lady Crowbery's family from their youth, and were paſt the age of ſervice, were entertained by Sir Roger Manſtock, and charitably enrolled amongſt his band of penſioners; the others ſought their livelihood where they could find it. By an arrangement with the parſon of Crowbery, the Reverend Mr. Claypole took the duty of that pariſh upon himſelf, and transferred to him the ſervice of the church at Manſtock; to which Sir Roger very willingly accorded, from motives, that in candour we muſt acknowledge to have had ſome reſpect to his own eaſe and convenience, as well as to the aforeſaid Mr. Claypole's. No intercourſe whatever had in the mean time paſſed between the allied houſes of Crowbery and Manſtock; few ſouls were leſs akin than thoſe of their owners and their reſpective aſſociates.
No charge could be laid againſt Mother Nature, for having miſapplied her workmanſhip upon the mould in which ſhe had caſt the perſon of Lord Crowbery; nay, on the [Page 286] contrary, it ſhould ſeem ſhe had both tempered and modelled it with the moſt accurate attention, and harmonized it to the ſoul which it enveloped with the niceſt art. No man of common obſervation could receive a falſe impreſſion of his Lordſhip's character from the firſt glance of his exterior. Nature had not given to him the outward ſemblance of any one virtue, dignity or endowment, which he did not mentally poſſeſs; neither was there one moral failing or defect to be found in the journal of his life, which might not figuratively be ſaid to ſtand recorded in the title-page of that hiſtory: In ſhort, if he had had hypocriſy enough to affect the manners of a gentleman, nobody but a fool would have been capable of being duped by him.
This accompliſhed Peer, though not quite fitted in all particulars to fill up the vacancy which Henry had left in the ſoft heart of Miſs Fanny, nevertheleſs was encouraged by that young lady to believe that he was in abſolute poſſeſſion of it. To develope her motives for deceiving him into this opinion might be an unpleaſant inveſtigation; but when we have ſaid that ambition and revenge were of the party, it is not neceſſary to ſearch for others [Page 287] to make up the number. This young lady and his Lordſhip were juſt then engaged in converſation on a very intereſting topic, whilſt the Reverend Mr. Claypole had dropt aſleep on a ſopha that filled up a receſs in the room; when the ſervant arrived from Falmouth with the letter, which announced the death of Lady Crowbery. His Lordſhip read it with a countenance, that did not indicate any of thoſe weakneſſes, which human nature ſometimes is betrayed into upon a ſudden ſurprize. He peruſed it with a ſteady eye, folded it up again with a firm hand, and putting it into his pocket, in a tone of voice which abated nothing of its uſual energy, coolly obſerved, that the expected event was come to paſs—Lady Crowbery was dead.
Miſs Fanny ſtarted from her ſeat, with an exclamation very frequently applied by ladies of her faſhion, to expreſs either joy, ſorrow, ſurprize or any other paſſion, that attacks their gentle ſpirits unawares. At the ſame inſtant the reverend ſleeper ſprung from his couch, ready prepared to ſecond any emotion that his noble friend might be pleaſed to expreſs, either of joy or ſorrow: his noble friend did not as yet diſcover to which party he was diſpoſed [Page 288] to incline, therefore Mr. Claypole judiciouſly kept ſilence, and held his faculties ſuſpended in a neutral ſtate, till circumſtances ſhould determine them. ‘"I gueſs'd how this ſcheme to Liſbon wou'd end,"’ cried the Peer.—‘"Yes,"’ replied the Parſon, ‘"I ſuſpected it wou'd terminate as it has done, when that booby of an apothecary took upon him the charge of her ladyſhip's conſtitution."’—‘"A pretty fellow truly,"’ reſumed my Lord, ‘"to be travelling phyſician to a woman of quality! but I can underſtand nothing from his letter, but that his patient has ſlipp'd through his hands; therefore, with your leave, I ſhall ſtep into my library, and try what information may be gather'd from the meſſenger."’—This ſaid, he roſe from his chair, and calmly ſtalked out of the room.
The uncle and niece were now ſet free from all reſtraint, and ſoon began to let looſe their ſentiments upon this intereſting event, without reſerve:—‘"I judg'd her caſe to be deſperate,"’ cried the uncle; ‘"ſhe was a loſt woman when I ſaw her at Manſtock. I cannot ſay ſhe gave me any great reaſon to lament her loſs: if I ever had any obligations to her, ſhe cancel'd them all by her laſt haughty [Page 289] treatment of me, when I modeſtly made ſuit for the poor favour of ſucceeding Parſon Ratcliffe."’ To this the niece made no anſwer, nor indeed had ſhe paid any attention, as her mind was juſt then engaged in computing the period of a widower's firſt mourning; and as this meditation involved her in ſome dilemma, ſhe abruptly appealed to her uncle, whether it was totally out of form for his Lordſhip to be married, before he was out of weepers and black gloves: ‘"That is as it may be,"’ replied the uncle, ‘"ſome people judge in thoſe matters with more liberality and latitude than others; I am no great critic in forms, but this I know, that the ſooner you bring his Lordſhip to the point, my dear Fanny, the better;"’—‘"Why that is done already,"’ cried the Lady elect, ‘"the point is carried, and I have his honour in pledge; elſe can you ſuppoſe I wou'd admit?"’—‘"Certainly not,"’ cried Claypole, interrupting her; ‘"I cannot doubt but you know the ground you are upon, and therefore it is that I have never interpos'd my advice; but now that there is no longer any obſtacle, I ſhou'd recommend you to hold back, till he fulfils his engagements: a ſeaſonable reſerve may [Page 290] quicken deſire, too much kindneſs may chance to quell it."’—‘"I believe,"’ cried the niece, ‘"I am fully capable of conducting myſelf in this affair, without reſorting to an adviſer; where there is no paſſion at the heart, it is not likely there ſhou'd be any error in the judgment, and I flatter myſelf you do me juſtice to believe, I am not in love with the perſon of Lord Crowbery: he is not a Henry to catch the eye or engage the heart, but he is a Peer of England, has a good eſtate and a noble caſtle, which, when I am the miſtreſs of, I confeſs the triumph it will give me over that provoking chit Iſabella, whom I hate and deteſt at my heart, will not be amongſt the leaſt of my enjoyments."’
Lord Crowbery, in the meantime, having aſked a few trifling queſtions of the bearer of the letter, diſmiſſed him, and ſent for his agent lawyer Ferret, to whom he dictated the following lines, by way of anſwer to the queſtions referred to him in Zachary's diſpatch:
Mr. Cawdle, Sir,
I am commanded by the Lord Viſcount Crowbery to ſay, that he has receiv'd your's [Page 291] of the 19th ultimo, informing him of the death of your patient on the morning of that day. With reſpect to your further enquiries, touching the burial ceremonies, his Lordſhip bids me tell you he has no anſwer to give: the heir or heirs of the deceas'd, whoever they may be, will act as they ſee fit in the caſe: you have no inſtructions to expect from him.
I am, Sir, your humble ſervant, JOHN JEFFERY FERRET.
WHEN the meſſenger arrived at Manſtock Houſe, Sir Roger was juſt returned home from the county town, where he had been unanimouſly elected repreſentative in parliament. The mournful news cauſed deep affliction both to him and the ſenſitive Iſabella; the ſame ſervant was charged with a verbal meſſage from Lord Crowbery, ſignifying [Page 292] that he declined interfering with any wiſhes Sir Roger might have, reſpecting the place of burial and the diſpoſal of the remains; he added, that when the will was opened he preſumed he ſhould have notice. Sir Roger well underſtood the ſpirit of this meſſage, and properly felt both the inſult and the meanneſs it implied. The inſtant he could compoſe his thoughts ſufficiently for the purpoſe, he wrote to Zachary Cawdle, requiring him to tranſmit the body with all proper decorum and attendance, fitting the quality of the deceaſed, by eaſy ſtages to the family vault of her anceſtors, at her paternal ſeat of Hagley Hall, where himſelf and his daughter purpoſed to be in waiting to receive it, and to pay the laſt honours to the corpſe of his moſt dear and lamented niece. The buſineſs this involved him in, had probably the effect of occupying ſo much of his time and thoughts, that grief had the leſs opportunity of fixing upon him; but the tender Iſabella, who had not ſo full a ſhare of thoſe avocations, ſurrendered herſelf to melancholy and deſponding meditations. In her breaſt alſo there was lodged a ſecret of moſt ſerious import; and in the mean time ſhe had no inſtructions how [Page 293] to diſpoſe of it; theſe ſhe expected to receive by ſome hand or other, but what to wiſh ſhe knew not; whether they ſhould be to impart it to her father, or ſtill to conceal it from him, was an alternative that offered nothing to her reflection, but difficulties and diſtreſſes on both ſides: that Henry ſhould be left heir to his mother's eſtate, was naturally to be expected, but how he could be named or deſcribed in her will, without a diſcovery of his birth, was what ſhe could not comprehend: the papers that had been written for her father's inſpection after her couſin's death, ſhe knew had been deſtroyed, and that purpoſe revoked: ſhe apprehended, therefore, that ſome order would come to her for divulging it to Sir Roger; and this was a taſk which of all earthly undertakings was moſt dreadful to her: In the meantime the preparations were put forward for the journey, and ſervants were diſpatched beforehand to get the houſe in order to receive them, and to ſet on foot all the preliminary ceremonials for a reſpectable and ſplendid funeral.
In this interval arrived Mr. G— with the will, and his coming was moſt ſeaſonable, for it was on the very eve of Sir Roger's ſetting [Page 294] out on his journey. This event was immediately communicated to Lord Crowbery, and with the meſſenger, who carried Sir Roger's note to his Lordſhip, returned not the principal himſelf, but his repreſentative Mr. John Jeffery Ferret, attorney at law and agent to the noble Peer aforeſaid.
The arrival of this auguſt perſonage being announced, the Baronet with his fair daughter, and the reſpectable holder and maker of the will, aſſembled in the book-room, and were ſoon honoured with the preſence of Mr. Ferret, before whom the ſeals, after being ſubmitted to his inſpection, were ſolemnly broken open, and the will diſtinctly and audibly read by Mr. G—. The ſignatures, ſeals, dates, and every other particular, were minutely examined by the ſaid Mr. Ferret, who was aſked by Mr. G— if he was ſatisfied as to what he had ſeen and heard; to which, after due time for recollection, he gravely replied, ‘"In point of form I ſee nothing at preſent to object to, in point of eſſence I ſhall decline giving any anſwer till I have adviſed with counſel. This lady died in an obſcure and diſtant corner of the iſland, the will is alſo dated not many days previous to [Page 295] her deceaſe, it will be requiſite to aſcertain, that the teſtatrix was actually and bonâ fide of ſound mind and judgment at the time of her ſigning the ſaid will; underſtand me not, I pray you, as inſinuating any thing to the contrary, but being a profeſſional man yourſelf, you will admit the reaſonableneſs of what I ſay, which is no more than my duty to my principal requires of me;"’—‘"I believe your principal,"’ replied Mr. G—, ‘"received a letter from the teſtatrix, written throughout with her own hand, ſince the date of this will, which if he is not diſpoſed to refer to, Sir Roger Manſtock, I am perſuaded, has one of as late a date to produce, which will teſtify to her capacity, together with other proofs, which will be forth-coming whenever you are inſtructed to call for them: in ſhort, Sir, we ſhall be ready to meet you in any way you ſhall think fit to require of us."’
During this converſation Sir Roger ſate in ſilent aſtoniſhment to find the purport of the will ſo contrary to his expectations, inaſmuch as the name or deſcription of Henry was no where mentioned, nor any bequeſt whatever ſpecified, that could by any implication refer to him, whilſt the agitation it occaſioned in [Page 296] the boſom of Iſabella was ſuch, that unable to keep her ſeat, ſhe roſe and demanded of Mr. G— if ſhe might not be permitted to leave the room, which being anſwered in the affirmative, ſhe loſt no time to avail herſelf of, and haſtened away. ‘"I perceive,"’ ſaid lawyer Ferret, ‘"that my Lord Crowbery has no further intereſt in this will, than what reſpects a few perſonals appertaining to the deceas'd, left behind her in the caſtle, of which perhaps a query might be made as to her Ladyſhip's right of diſpoſal:"’—‘"That's a query,"’ cried M. G—, ‘"we have no concern with; it can only affect yourſelves, therefore you'll manage it in your own way."’—‘"I perceive alſo,"’ reſumed Ferret with ſome ſurprize, ‘"here is no mention made of a certain young man, whom we in theſe parts expected to find remembered by her Ladyſhip at her death, having ſeen him ſo much favour'd by her in her life time."’ Upon this Sir Roger roſe from his ſeat, and addreſſing himſelf to Mr. G— ſaid, ‘"I humbly conceive, Sir, if this gentleman has no legal obſervations to ſtate, we are not bound to liſten to any others, and may break up the meeting."’ Mr. G— having made ſign of aſſent, [Page 297] the Baronet departed without further ceremony, and lawyer Ferret having put in his claim for a copy of the will, called for his horſe and ſet forward on the ſpur, to report his proceedings at the place from whence he came.
This buſineſs being ended, Mr. G— joined the Baronet and the heireſs, who were expecting him in the adjoining room. Sir Roger began the converſation, by expreſſing himſelf very greatly ſurprized at the purport of his niece's bequeſt of her entire eſtate to his daughter: ‘"Nay, I muſt fairly declare to you,"’ added he, ‘"that I am at a loſs how to reconcile myſelf to the juſtice of it. The remark which that impertinent attorney made, upon the total ſilence obſerved towards a certain young man, who to my knowledge was encourag'd to expect a proviſion, was a very natural one in itſelf, though out of place in his mouth: and to ſay the truth, Sir, I cannot for the life of me comprehend how ſuch an omiſſion cou'd take place, after the promiſes and aſſurances I myſelf have been a witneſs to. May I aſk you to explain this, and how it came to paſs that either he forfeited her favour, or that ſhe forgot to make good her [Page 298] promiſe?"’ To this Mr. G— replied, that he could only anſwer that enquiry in part, by aſſuring him that the young gentleman in queſtion, had in no degree forfeited the favour and good opinion of the lady deceaſed.—‘"Then I am more than ever puzzled to find a cauſe of her neglect of him,"’ ſaid the Baronet: ‘"Permit me to aſk you if he ſaw my niece before her death:’—‘"He was with her Ladyſhip, as I believe, to the very hour of her death."’—‘"And was he privy to the will;"’ demanded Sir Roger? ‘"I doubt,"’ ſaid the worthy reſpondent, ‘"if I ought in ſtrictneſs to anſwer that queſtion, but in confidence I will venture to diſcloſe to you and this lady preſent, that he was not only perfectly made acquainted with the diſpoſition of Lady Crowbery's property, but alſo a very active party in the promotion of that meaſure:"’ ‘"Then upon my life,"’ exclaimed Sir Roger, ‘"that ſame myſterious unknown is without exception the moſt extraordinary and unaccountable young man now living: this is the ſecond time he has put fortune from him, and voluntarily preferred poverty to affluence."’—‘"I proteſt I do not ſee any myſtery [Page 299] in that,"’ ſaid the other, ‘"I clearly underſtand there are certain ſenſations he prefers to others, and certain things in this world which he loves better than his intereſt."’
At this moment Mr. G—, in taking his ſnuff-box from his pocket, dropped his glove upon the floor without perceiving it, which the lovely Iſabella immediately picked up and preſented to him with a grace peculiar to herſelf. An attention ſo flattering, naturally drew a return of excuſes and apologies from Mr. G— for his inattention in ſuffering her to condeſcend to ſuch an office; to which ſhe replied, whilſt bluſhes overſpread her cheeks, and gratitude gliſtened in her eyes;—‘"Any thing I can do to ſhew my reſpect for Mr. G—, will be an office I ſhall be proud of."’ This was pointed in ſo marked a manner, and introduced with a look ſo expreſſive, that it would have been impoſſible for any common obſerver, much leſs for that intelligent perſon himſelf, not to comprehend the motive of it; and though Sir Roger gave no ſign of his having regarded it otherwiſe than as an ordinary act of politeneſs, yet we may riſque a conjecture, that he argued from it in his own thoughts pretty much in [Page 300] the ſame way with the gentleman to whom it was addreſſed.
This little incident did not, however, altogether turn their diſcourſe from the topic they were upon: Iſabella ventured to enquire of Mr. G— if Henry was recovered from his wound, which queſtion, he conceiving it to allude to the action on board the frigate, drew him into a deſcription of that fight, as he had heard it from Mr. Delapoer. This was in itſelf an intereſting narrative, though not altogether new to the hearers of it, for Cary had written to his uncle ſince he came into port, and done juſtice to his brave volunteer; but the warmth of his heart, who had it now in narration, and the affection he had conceived for our amiable hero through the natural ſympathy of congenial ſouls, gave a brighter hue to the deſcription, and animated one at leaſt of his audience in ſo peculiar a manner, that, at the concluſion of it, ſhe was impelled to venture upon an inference, which in a more collected moment ſhe would hardly have riſqued, viz. ‘"That where ſo much courage and benevolence were united, it was no wonder if every action of ſuch a character, [Page 301] produced ſomething uncommonly noble and ſuperior to views of worldly minds."’
An apoſtrophe, ſo much above the pitch of Iſabella's natural diffidence, would hardly have paſſed without a comment from Sir Roger, had not Mr. G— been preſent, or, let us rather ſay, had it not been juſtly due to the merits of our hero.
‘"WHAT imprudence have I given way to,"’ ſaid Iſabella within herſelf, when ſhe retired to her ſolitary meditations in her own apartment; ‘"I ſhall certainly receive the rebuke which I have merited from my father: but Oh! that I might be ſuffer'd to give vent to my reſpect and gratitude for that charming man who ſpoke ſo warmly of my Henry; yes, yes, he is all that's good and generous, all that is brave and benevolent, all that is engaging, amiable, and excellent in human nature: and now I can interpret his proceeding, I can ſolve his motives for the ſacrifice he has made of his inheritance, to preſerve the memory of his mother [Page 302] from diſgrace and ſhame: glorious, unequalled generoſity, which throws him on my honour for reſtitution; and, thank Heaven, that honour glows within my breaſt as warmly as within his own. Let the conſequences be whatever they may, I ſwear to truth, I will not be a day in poſſeſſion of the power to do him juſtice, without ſeizing the opportunity for performing it: but is that enough? Is there not another hope at his heart? Is there not another wiſh in mine? May I not believe he loves me? Have I not heard him tenderly expreſs his feelings, his affections, and what anſwer did I make? Oh! ſuch an one it was as open'd my whole ſoul, without the feeble, the fallacious aid of words. My ſighs were vows, my parting tears were ſeals of love, more ſacred, more ſincere, than all the bonds that law or language can deviſe; and I will keep them faithfully in remembrance; yes, Henry, whilſt I have life my heart can never change; I may be wretched, falſe I will not be."’
Here Sir Roger entered the room; his plea was to enquire if ſhe was preparing for her journey on the next morning; but he ſate down, and entered into a diſcourſe that certainly [Page 303] was not calculated to forward thoſe preparations: he began by obſerving to her how much he had been ſurpriſed at the reading of his niece's will; and aſked her, with a ſmile, how ſhe felt herſelf affected by the ſudden acceſſion of ſo great a fortune; ‘"I fancy,"’ ſaid he, ‘"you did not expect, when we propoſed this mournful journey, that you was going to take poſſeſſion of your own eſtate; I can aſſure you, Iſabella, it is a very fine place, and, I am told, has been well kept up, tho' our poor friend never viſited it: I hope however it will not put you out of conceit with Manſtock Houſe."’—‘"So long as you inhabit it,"’ ſhe replied, ‘"no place can rival Manſtock in my thoughts."’—‘"But when you marry you may entertain other thoughts."’—‘"I will never marry any man capable of an attempt to detach me from a preference ſo natural, ſo unalterable."’—‘"Then you muſt not marry any man,"’ ſaid Sir Roger, ‘who has a predilection for his own family ſeat."’—‘"Having already one more than I want,"’ replied Iſabella, ſmiling, ‘"I hope you think there is no occaſion for me to add to it."’—‘"I underſtand you,"’ ſaid the father, in a tone of good-humour, ‘"the man to your mind muſt have no encumbrances of [Page 304] houſe or home: he muſt be without fortune."’ ‘"I confeſs,"’ anſwering quickly, ſaid Iſabella, ‘"I cou'd readily wave that, if he had virtue, courage, generoſity, good ſenſe, and diſcernment to reſpect and honour you; without theſe qualities I ſhou'd deſpiſe him, had he the wealth of worlds."’—‘"But you know no ſuch perſon, not you,"’ ſaid the Baronet, looking archly at her as he ſpoke; ‘"you have never met with any lover of this deſcription, and whilſt you perſiſt in ſo many unreaſonable demands upon his character, probably you never will."’—‘"Not above once in my life, I dare ſay,"’ anſwered Iſabella.—‘"And once is enough,"’ ſaid he, ‘"if you are ſure of your man: look ye, daughter, I love fair dealing and confeſſion; I fancy our friend G— and you are pretty much of the ſame opinion in this caſe, for I obſerve you ſeconded his encomiums on a certain perſon with uncommon ardour; now I conceive, when a young lady is ſo warm in the praiſes of a young man, and both parties are unmarried, it is a ſtrong preſumption that there is a liking in the caſe; if ſo, why not confeſs it? Seeing I have no other power over your mind, except by correcting your judgment where I think it errs, or confirming [Page 305] your choice where I think it is well plac'd."’
‘"Oh! my dear, dear Sir,"’ replied the grateful damſel, ‘"I ſhou'd be indeed unworthy of ſo much goodneſs, if I did not meet your candour with the ſincereſt expoſition of my heart and its affections. Yes, my ever-hononr'd father, I will confeſs to you, and I truſt I need not bluſh at the confeſſion, that I contemplate Henry's character with admiration and delight: I do believe it is a combination of all human virtues; and I ground my faith, not upon preſumptive partial conjecture, but upon proofs which will bear the ſtricteſt examination, which cannot be contraverted by malice itſelf, and to moſt of which you yourſelf can witneſs. Let his conduct be ſcrutiniz'd from the firſt moment that fortune threw him upon our mercy to the preſent inſtant; where can be found an example of ſuch patience, resignation, fortitude; of ſuch benevolence, bravery, generoſity? What has he not endur'd, what has he not forgiven? Who ever made ſuch diſintereſted ſacrifices to a principle of juſtice and honour, in the moſt refin'd, the moſt exalted ſenſe of thoſe virtues? Neither is he leſs to be admir'd for the purity of his morals [Page 306] than for the delicacy of his principles."’—‘"Well, well,"’ cried the Baronet, ‘"ſo far, ſo good; you have gone on briſkly with his mental qualities, and I don't know that you have ſaid a word too much; but what is it all, if that one thing ſhou'd be wanting, without which no young lady ever yielded more than her approbation to the bed of men? If the perſon in which all theſe virtues center is not agreeable to you, if the form is not elegant, the manners not engaging, the addreſs not captivating, why then, you know, there can be no love in the heart, and praiſe is all that poor Henry is ever to expect from your lips."’—‘"Ah! my beloved Sir,"’ cried Iſabella, bluſhing, yet with eyes that ſhewed it was the bluſh of joy: ‘"now you are rallying me becauſe I have forborne to ſpeak of what I dare ſay you ſuſpect was foremoſt in my thoughts; but in points of truth and fact there can be but one opinion, in matters of taſte there may be many: it appears to me that nature has been as partial to Henry in perſon as in mind; you may not ſee him with the ſame eyes."’—‘"Not exactly, perhaps,"’ he replied, ſmiling; ‘but yet I can ſee enough to comprehend why Fanny Claypole fell in love with him, why Suſan [Page 307] May was diſtracted for him, and why you, my dear Iſabella, do not abſolutely diſlike him."’—‘"Diſlike him,"’ echoed the fond damſel; ‘"Oh Heavens! I ſhou'd be a wretch inſenſible to the fineſt work of the Creator, if I cou'd diſlike him: ſurely, Sir, nothing in the human form can be more perfect than Henry."’—‘"Come, come!"’ reſumed Sir Roger, ‘"you have made up for all deficiencies at laſt; more need not be attempted, for more, I think, cannot be ſaid; and now, Iſabella, having heard your confeſſion, it is my turn to call upon your attention whilſt I make mine. In every thing your have ſaid of Henry I perfectly concur; greater proof I cannot give you of my very high opinion of his merit and accompliſhments, than by aſſuring you, that the reaſons I have hitherto had for oppoſing your attachment to him, are, by recent circumſtances, in a great degree removed; and as want of fortune alone wou'd in no inſtance have been my abſolute objection, I ſhall the leſs inſiſt upon it in the preſent caſe, foraſmuch as your means are now ſo great as to make any further augmentation of them by marriage an object not worth attending to. In the place therefore of ſeveral impediments, I now ſee but one remaining, [Page 308] and that is my ignorance of his birth and condition; I cannot diſpenſe with obſcurity or meanneſs. Now altho' the myſtery is not clear'd up by the melancholy event of your couſin's deceaſe, yet the terror of it is remov'd from my mind by the circmſtances of her will; for I ſhall now diſcloſe to you what I ſhou'd never have mention'd whilſt Lady Crowbery was living, that there was ſomething in her deportment towards your friend Henry that gave me great uneaſineſs and alarm: not that I entertain'd ſuſpicions of the ſort which her imperious huſband had, or affected to have, of their connection; no, that was not the nature of my terror; the thought was out of reach of probability; the character of the lady gave no countenance to it; on the contrary, there was ſuch an air of maternal tenderneſs in her regards, that I proteſt to you, Iſabella, I found myſelf haunted by an idea, that the idle rumour which was ſpread about the neighbourhood after my niece had elop'd with Mr. Delapoer might have been true, and that this ſame youth had been the unlawful iſſue of that connection: under the impreſſion of ſuch an idea, you can't wonder at the vehemence with which I interdicted [Page 309] your correſpondence with him; but now that I ſee him totally overlook'd in her will, I can no longer entertain any ſuſpicion of his ſtanding in ſo near a relation to her, and with that ſuſpicion of his being her ſon, I now diſmiſs my oppoſition to his pretenſions as your admirer."’
Had Sir Roger Manſtock waited for an anſwer to this ſpeech, it would have been impoſſible for Iſabella to have diſguiſed the ſenſations it produced, ſenſations as oppoſite to thoſe it was meant to convey as chilling diſappointment is to thankful joy! But he was gone as ſoon as he had uttered the concluding words, and gone in the perſuaſion that he had made a being happy, who was infinitely dear to him, whilſt ſhe was left to reflect upon a ſituation now rendered far more hopeleſs and diſtreſſing than it had been in the worſt of moments, when his oppoſition was more open and declared. Whilſt ſhe pondered upon this, her boſom heaved with ſighs, and her eyes ſtreamed with tears. All thoſe faſcinating ideas which her fond father's encouraging diſcourſe had raiſed in her mind were at once diſperſed, and ſucceeded by a preſs of thoughts that preſented nothing but deſpair and diſappointment [Page 310] to her imagination. What to do ſhe knew not, and how to ſhape her conduct in a dilemma ſo full of difficulties, ſhe was incapable of deciding; for if ſhe availed herſelf of her father's permiſſion for re-admitting him into the family, what conſequence could enſue from ſuch a fruitleſs indulgence but an aggravation of regret, which every hour of increaſing love and approbation would accumulate upon her? On the other hand, what would her father think, after the confeſſion ſhe had made, if ſhe was now to hold back, when ſhe had his leave to advance? What, but that ſhe was the moſt obſtinate and capricious coquette in nature, who was no longer pleaſed than whilſt ſhe was oppoſed, and had no wiſhes of her own when they were found to coincide with his? It was now, for the firſt time, ſhe lamented the confidence that had been repoſed in her by her deceaſed friend and benefactreſs; for being entruſted with the ſecret, ſhe could in no caſe violate her honour by betraying it; and being now made acquainted with her father's motives for proſcribing Henry whilſt he ſuſpected him to be the ſon of his niece, no temptation upon earth could overcome her abhorrence of duplicity [Page 311] or deceit, whilſt he ſhould retain a ſentiment ſo adverſe to that connection; and in this ſhe foreſaw no probability of change.