Forester, by Maria Edgeworth

A Summons

Whilst Forester was walking through the streets, with that energy which the hope of serving his fellow-creatures always excited in his generous mind, he even forgot a scheme which he had, in spite of his Stoical pride and his dread of being thought to give up his opinions from meanness, resolved in his imagination. He had formed the design of returning to his friends an altered being in his external appearance: he had ordered a fashionable suit of clothes, which were now ready. He had laid aside the dress and manners of a gentleman from the opinion that they were degrading to the character of a man: as soon as this prejudice had been conquered, he began to think he might resume them. Many were the pleasing anticipations in which he indulged himself: the looks of each of his friends, the generous approving eye of Henry, the benevolent countenance of Dr. Campbell, the arch smile of Flora, were all painted by his fancy; and lie invented every circumstance that was likely to happen — every word that would probably be said by each individual. We are sure that our readers will give our enthusiastic hero credit for his forgetting these pleasing reveries — for his forgetting himself, nay, even Flora Campbell — when humanity and justice called upon him for exertion.

When he found himself in George’s-square, within sight of Dr. Campbell’s house, his heart beat violently, and he suddenly stopped to recollect himself. He had scarcely stood a few instants, when a hard, stout-looking man came up to him, and asked him if his name were Forester: he started, and answered, “Yes, sir, what is your business with me?” The stranger replied by producing a paper, and desiring him to read it. The paper, which was half printed, half written, began with these words:—“You are hereby required to appear before me —”

“What is all this?” exclaimed our hero. “It is a summons,” replied the stranger: “I am a constable, and you will please to come with me before Mr. W——. This is not the first time you have been before him, I am told.” To this last insolent taunt Forester made no reply, but in a firm tone said that he was conscious of no crime, but that he was ready to follow the constable, and to appear before Mr. W—— or any other magistrate, who wished to inquire into his conduct. Though he summoned all his fortitude, and spoke with composure, he was much astonished by this proceeding; he could not help reflecting, that an individual in society who has friends, an established character, and a home, is in a more desirable situation than an unconnected being, who has no one to answer for his conduct — no one to rejoice in his success, or to sympathize in his misfortunes. “Ah, Dr. Campbell! happy father! in the midst of your own family, you have forgotten your imprudent ward!” said Forester to himself, while his mind revolted from seeking his friend’s assistance in this discreditable situation. “You do not know how near he is to you! you do not know that he was just returning to you! you do not see that he is, at this moment, perhaps, on the brink of disgrace!”

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Last updated Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 14:44