Mrs. Dormer, in whom my passionate complaints had raised a most sensible concern, could not resolve to leave me in that affliction; and therefore entreated me to stay in her chamber that night. As I knew my excessive grief would not suffer me to take any rest, I declined this offer, fearing I should disturb her; but she declaring she would not leave me, I chose rather to go with her than suffer her to stay out of her own apartment. But I spent the night without being able to close my eyes; nor could I receive any consolation from the affecting arguments she used to assuage my grief. Mr. Campbel, who had never failed to visit me every day, and whose concern for my governess was near equal to mine, came early in the morning to my lodgings) and, understanding Mrs. Blandon was dead, had waited some time in expectation of seeing me. I stole out of bed from Mrs. Dormer, who was asleep; and, when I was drest, went down stairs, in order to indulge my grief in my own room. The sight of Mr. Campbel renewed all my affliction: I melted into tears, and we continued for some moments in a moving silence. “Oh, my adored Harriot, said he, (with a voice interrupted with sighs) how does the tears that fall from those lovely eyes give unutterable pangs to my heart! Could it be any consolation to my charming angel to tell her, that I feel her affliction with more force than my own, she should know the load of anguish which oppresses me this moment.” “I shall always think myself obliged to you, sir, replied I, for the interest you take in what concerns me. One in such a distressful situation as I am, can never set a sufficient value on a friend, who ——.” “Yes, miss, interrupted he, (eagerly) I glory in the title of your friend. My affection for you, tender and passionate as it is, takes in all the calmer qualities of friendship; and while I view your lovely person with the raptured eyes of a lover, as a friend your honor, your interest, and happiness, are dear to me as my own.”
I should have been at a loss to reply to these generous sentiments, as I was not capable of making all the return they merited; had not the tender Mrs. Dormer broke in upon our conversation, and spared me the confusion of appearing ungrateful. “I am glad, miss, said she, (seeing Mr. Campbel) to find you are not alone. I was coming to seek you, fearing you was indulging your melancholy reflections by yourself.” Mr. Campbel, to whom these instances of her friendly concern for me were highly acceptable, expressed the extreme pleasure it gave him in very obliging terms to Mrs. Dormer. She insisted upon my lover’s coming with me into her apartment, and gave orders to be denied to all company that day, resolving, as she said, to devote it entirely to me.
My dear governess had settled all her little affairs exactly before she died, and had bequeathed me a very genteel present for a ring. I went into mourning for her immediately; and, as soon as her funeral was over, accepted an invitation from Mrs. Dormer to spend some days with her at her country-house in Richmond.
Colonel F— — who now visited Lady Cecilia constantly, acquainted her with the death of my governess, and made my excuses for not waiting on her ladyship before I went out of town. As soon as I returned, I did not fail to pay my respects to her, and was received with the greatest testimonies of friendship. As I frequently spent whole days at her house, she took a pleasure in introducing me to her acquaintance; by which means I came to be generally known, and could have had an opportunity of strengthening my interest, by the addition of very powerful friends: but Lady Cecilia, resolving no one should interpose in an affair she had taken the management of, prevented any solicitations for a provision from the government for me, by declaring, in all companies, she would procure me an establishment herself.
I had wrote to my mother an account of all that had happened to me, and was expecting her answer, and another order upon the agent, which I began to want, when Mr. Campbel told me, he fancied it would be some time before I could receive another order from my mother; and, since the agent had so much money in his hands, he would not scruple to advance it, without having a bill drawn upon him; and begged I would allow him to call upon him, and make the request. I could not help blushing a little at his mentioning this affair, and would have gone myself to the agent; but he entreated so tenderly, that he might be allowed to manage this little business for me, that I suffered him to go alone, not without some fears that the gentleman would refuse to advance the money, and lay me under the necessity of applying to Lady Cecilia: for I had forgot to tell you, my dear Amanda, that she had frequently pressed me upon this subject, telling me, that she insisted upon furnishing me with what money I wanted, in case my remittances from my mother were too slow. Mr. Campbel, however, had received thirty pounds from the agent, and brought it to me, praising the politeness of that gentleman in very warm terms. I was startled at his receiving so large a sum, telling him, that as I expected a letter from my mother, in two months at farthest, much less would have done. And I was so apprehensive that my mother would be disobliged, that I mentioned some intention of going to the agent; but my lover begged me to be satisfied, acknowledging, after he had entreated my pardon for doing it without asking my leave, that he had given his note to the agent as a security, till he heard from N——.
I was inexpressibly confused at the thoughts of receiving such an obligation from a lover; and, when I reflected still more upon it, began to imagine there was some mystery concealed under Mr. Campbel’s officious services on this occasion. I was determined, however, to know the truth; and, when my lover went away, I ordered a chair to be called, and went directly to the agent. That gentleman, not knowing me, inquired if I had any commands for him; upon which I told him my name. “I believe, miss, said he, I paid a bill some months ago upon your mother’s order, and am sorry I can’t oblige you with any more till I hear again from her.” I had now discovered Mr. Campbel’s artifice, to make me accept of the money he had brought; but not caring to let the agent understand any thing of the matter, I concealed the real design of my visit, and took my leave, after expressing some little resentment at his extreme caution.
Though I could impute this conduct of Mr. Campbel’s to nothing but his anxiety, lest I should be straitened for money till I heard from my mother; yet I was absolutely determined not to accept of this obligation, whatever difficulties I might bring upon myself; and waited, with some impatience, for his next visit, that I might return the money. Mr. L—— had been with Mrs. Dormer while I was abroad; and, as soon as I returned, she sent to let me know she had some particular business with me. I went to her directly, and she gave me a letter with a smile of pleasure, telling me, that Mr. L—— had wrote it before her. I made an apology for breaking it open while I continued in the room, being impatient to know the contents, and found it as follows.
My brother begs leave you will accept of the enclosed bill for your present expenses; and, when your mother comes to England, he will settle all matters, relating to her expectations from her sister, entirely to her satisfaction. I am, &c.
In this laconic epistle there was enclosed a bank-bill for a hundred pounds, which was a very seasonable present, considering the resolution I had taken. Mrs. Dormer congratulated me on the prospect there was of Sir Edward’s doing justice to our family: and, when I saw Mr. Campbel, I did not fail to acquaint him with it, telling him at the same time, I would give him the trouble to go to the bank and receive payment for this bill. I did not mention any thing concerning the stratagem he had used, till he had executed this commission; and then I insisted upon his keeping back thirty pounds, acknowledging my sense of the favor he had designed me, and his genteel manner of doing it. My lover was a little disconcerted at first; but he was too polite to insist any longer upon my accepting a sum I had now no occasion for: but methought I read in his eyes a tender concern, that he had lost an opportunity of being necessary to me.
My mind was just beginning to resume the tranquillity, which the loss of my governess had interrupted, when I received letters from my mother and sister, which acquainted me with the death of my beloved brother. This news, which was more dreadful than the stroke of death could have been, occasioned me a fit of illness, that lasted near two months. The physicians absolutely despaired of my recovery: the poignancy of my grief added force to my distemper. But, alas! my afflictions were not yet to have a period! I lived to suffer still more misfortunes.
As soon as I was in a condition to be moved, Mrs. Dormer took me to her country-house; and as she was now convinced of the ardent passion Mr. Campbel had for me, by his behavior during my illness, which had almost bordered upon distraction, she allowed him to visit me sometimes there.
Notwithstanding the endeavors of this amiable lady to amuse me, and keep off the sad reflections which continually tortured my imagination, I indulged a gloomy melancholy, which rendered me insensible to all her obliging cares. My dearest brother was never one moment from my thoughts. I wept incessantly: I wished for death; and found no other consolation, but in the hope of shortly following him to the grave. That you may have some idea, my dear friend, of the melancholy state of my mind, I have inserted the following little pieces, which were wrote under too great a pressure of spirits to have any other merit, than that of giving a true picture of the anguish that consumed me.
Oh Death! thou gentle end of human pain,
Why is thy stroke so long delay’d;
Why to a wretch, who breathes but to complain,
Do’st thou refuse thy welcome aid?
Still wilt thou fly the plaintive voice of woe,
And where thou’rt dreaded only aim the blow?
Oh leave, fantastic tyrant! leave
The young, the gay, the happy, and the free;
On them bestow a short reprieve,
And bend thy fatal shafts at me:
The beauteous bride, or blooming heir,
Let thy resistless power spare;
And aim at this grief-wounded heart,
That springs half way to meet the welcome dart.
Still must I view, with streaming eyes,
Another, and another morn, arise?
Are my days lengthen’d to prolong my pain?
Enough of life’s distress I’ve seen;
A finish’d wretch in youth’s first bloom,
By early sorrow ripen’d for the tomb!
How swift the shades of ev’ning rise,
And intercept the wand’ring sight;
While still, with ardent gaze, my eyes
Pursue the last faint streaks of light!
Ah me! the still, the silent gloom,
Adds greater force to my despair;
With new disquiets fills my soul,
And wakens every terror there.
’Tis now deep contemplation’s hour;
The soul on reason’s wings may rise,
All nature’s boundless vast explore,
And, soaring, pierce beyond the skies.
Ah! by what heavy clogs confin’d,
Thus sinks my grov’ling thoughts to earth!
Why can’t my free capacious mind
Trace the great source that gave it birth?
Alas! no ray of beaming light
In my afflicted breast is found;
’Tis one continued endless night,
Dark as the awful gloom around.
Ought I not to blush, my dear Amanda, to own, that it was in the power of love to moderate an affliction so just, so reasonable, as mine? Alas! my heart was still enslaved by this enchanting passion; and what all the efforts of the most perfect friendship had failed to do, a letter from the dear Dumont produced in an instant. It had been left at my lodgings by a private hand, and sent by the post to Richmond. A gleam of joy darted through my soul at the sight of those welcome characters: I opened it with a trembling impatience! But, ah! my friend, how shall I describe the ecstasy which in a moment took possession of my whole soul, when the first words that met my eyes informed me my beloved Dumont was now a protestant! I threw down the letter, in order to indulge the swelling transport, the soft excess of almost painful joy!
It was some time before my strong sensations would give me leave to read it through. He related with the utmost exactness the rise and progress of this change; and acknowledged, that his first design being to strengthen himself with arguments, in order to overthrow my principles, since he was fixed in his own; he applied himself to reading, with the greatest industry, the most famous books of controversy upon our two religions: but, to his great amazement and confusion, found, as he advanced, his faith begin to stagger. New and unthought of doubts disturbed his mind: his eagerness to inquire more deeply redoubled; a ray of truth, something like conviction, dawned upon his soul. He studied the New Testament with the utmost care; and the fine reasoning of the learned Chillingworth completed the conquest. “Let it not, my lovely angel, said he, (concluding his affecting account) make me appear unfashionably grave in your opinion, if I tell you that, while my faith was thus fluctuating and unsettled, I continually offered up my most ardent petitions to heaven, to direct my choice to that religion that was best. I have reason to believe my prayers were heard, and though love was the first cause of my happy change, yet I am only a convert to reason and to truth.” He added, that he was preparing to come to England with the next ships which sailed from N——; and ended his dear epistle with a thousand vows of everlasting passion.
When the first emotions of my joy were over, the remembrance of my beloved brother, rushing again upon my soul, seemed to reproach me for the transitory pleasure I had tasted. The two passions of grief and joy divided my heart between them; but my transports by degrees subsiding, my grief also grew less intense: and the violent despair, which for some time had wholly possessed me, was now (such was the force of successful love!) changed to a gentle melancholy, which did not hinder me from sometimes feeling a tender transport at the thoughts of being united for ever to my beloved Dumont.
At my return to town I waited on Lady Cecilia, whose obliging behavior drew several poetical compliments from me; amongst which I have transcribed the following ode for your entertainment.
If, Flavia, in thy faultless form
All that is heav’nly fair we find;
If ev’ry grace conspires to charm,
And speaks the beauties of thy mind:
Why shouldst thou wonder, lovely maid,
At the soft passions you inspire?
Why those to hopeless love betray’d,
Or these feel friendship’s fire?
Heedless, thy charming eyes enslave,
Nor know the smiling deaths they dart;
Nought can the wretched gazer save,
Or rescue his devoted heart.
But, ah! to win the soul is more,
And friendship’s noble fires impart,
The work of some diviner po’er,
While reason wings th’ unerring dart.
Let thy adorers justly praise
The wond’rous beauties of thy face;
Extol thy charms a thousand ways,
And with thy name their numbers grace.
Friendship a nobler theme shall find,
And to the admiring world display
The graces that adorn thy mind,
A subject that will ne’er decay.
When thy bright eyes shall cease to wound,
And age thy fading charms embrace;
When in thy looks no trace is found,
Of what the lovely Flavia was:
The lasting beauties of thy mind
The Muse in gentle strains shall sing;
In thy fair soul new charms shall find,
To raise her voice, and prune her wings.
Lady Cecilia was so pleased with the incense that my gratitude, for the friendship she honored me with, induced me to offer her, that she loaded me with caresses, and read my poems to all her acquaintance. But though she herself had taken pains to force my little merit upon the observation of her friends, she began to grow uneasy at the flattering compliments that were paid me in her presence; and I could perceive an unusual coldness and constraint in her manner, which increased every visit I made her.
As she had for some time forbore to mention the settlement she had promised to procure for me at court, I began to think my expectations were but weakly grounded: but I was not capable of feeling much pain from this disappointment. The chief bar to my union with my dear Dumont being near removed, all my ambition was bounded within the single wish of becoming his. Lady Cecilia, however, had made so much noise about providing for me, that I could not imagine how she would excuse herself to the world. Alas! I was almost the only person in it, who was ignorant of this lady’s peculiar talent, in procuring dependents, by her affected benevolence, whom she never designed to serve, and raising hopes she never intended to gratify. Had she been contented with only imposing upon my credulity, and added me to the number of those whom she had deceived, I should not have had much reason to complain: but she was capable of meditating the blackest designs against me, and of endeavoring to sacrifice my fame, to give a sanction to her base desertion. After some weeks of coldness and reserve, she, of a sudden, assumed an air of the tenderest friendship; and assured me one day, that she soon expected a vacancy of a very genteel place about one of the princesses, and that she had recommended me to it; adding, that though I was rather too young for such a public life, yet she was persuaded my merit would render me very conspicuous.
I have before observed to you, my dear Amanda, that I was apt to be carried away with appearances, and incapable of suspecting, or by consequence guarding against any attempts to deceive me. My suspicions of Lady Cecilia’s sincerity vanished in a moment. She could, when she pleased, assume an air of so much sweetness and affability, as in one of her high rank carried a peculiar charm with it. “I am thinking, Miss Stuart, said she, (with inexpressible good humor) how to dispose of you agreeably for two or three months. My sister the countess of —— is just come from her country-seat: one of her daughters is exactly of your own age, and her mamma would be infinitely pleased to have a companion for her of your exalted understanding. I have promised to propose it to you, as I think it will be an agreeable establishment, till you are better provided for.” As this proposal appeared wholly calculated for my advantage, and I had naturally a fondness for living in the gaiety and hurry of the great world, I expressed my acknowledgments to Lady Cecilia for the favor she did me; and assured her I would, with great pleasure, accept of the offer she made me.
I was preparing to go some little time after this, when a servant came to inform Lady Cecilia that the countess was come. “I am extremely glad, said her ladyship to me, that my sister is here. I’ll introduce you, miss, to her immediately.” Saying this, she took me into the drawing-room, where the countess was; and, telling her I was that miss Stuart whom she heard her mention, this stately lady saluted me with more civility than I expected, from the harshness of her countenance and the extreme haughtiness of her air. I was surprised, however, in a few moments, to see her drop her supercilious behavior, and talk to me immediately in a style of the greatest familiarity and friendship. She repeated, in an obliging manner, the offers her sister had made me; and when I had assured her of my consent, was so impatient to have me come, that I could scarce prevail upon her to give me a few days to prepare myself. This time, however, was no more than necessary: I employed it in putting myself in a condition to make a very genteel appearance; and was at an expense upon that account, not at all proportioned to my present circumstances.
Mr. Campbel, to whom I had always preserved a distance in my behavior, which made him not dare to press me upon the subject of his passion, having indeed rightly conceived, that my sentiments for him did not exceed the bounds of friendship and esteem, no sooner heard of my design, than complaining, in very tender terms, to Mrs. Dormer, who interested herself greatly in his favor, he told her, he had now lost all hope of making any impression upon my heart; and frankly confessed, that he could not believe all the good-sense I was mistress of, could preserve me from being intoxicated with that life of grandeur and expense, into which I was going to be initiated.
Though a lover’s fears might be pardonable upon this occasion, yet, when Mrs. Dormer related this conversation to me, I could not forbear expressing some little resentment. “However, miss, said she, you have other friends beside Mr. Campbel, who do not foresee any great advantages for you in this offer. Lady Cecilia’s quality has not preserved her from very free reflections on her conduct. If one might believe the censorious world, she has had more than one intrigue. The countess does not escape; and, methinks, persons who lie under such unfavorable censures, are not very proper protectors for a young lady like you.”
Though I was convinced Mrs. Dormer’s friendship for me made her express herself thus freely, yet still I was inclined to believe her reflections were rather too severe. I will not pretend to say it was my good-nature alone, which dictated a contrary opinion of Lady Cecilia: we always find a great facility in believing what we wish; and it was at present so much my interest to think well of that lady, that I could not persuade myself to search for reasons to lessen my esteem.
Mrs. Dormer, when she saw me preparing to go into the chair, which I had ordered to be called to carry me to the countess’s, gave me a very affectionate embrace, telling me at the same time, that she feared I should repent taking this step. I thanked her for her generous concern; but was no farther affected with it, than as it gave me a stronger idea of her friendship.
I just came to the countess’s when Lady Cecilia was getting into her chair: as soon as she saw me, she cried out, with a sort of satisfaction in her looks and accent, “Oh, are you come, my dear! I am excessively glad I happened not to be gone: I’ll introduce you to my niece myself.” I followed her ladyship into the drawing-room, and was received by a young lady, who seemed to be about seventeen years of age. Her aspect had something so soft and agreeable in it, that I was immediately prepossessed in her favor. Lady Cecilia, having said all that was necessary to make us acquainted, hurried again into her chair; and the countess coming in a moment after, seemed excessively pleased to find me there.
I spent some weeks in a continual round of diversions, which could not fail of having charms for one of my gay temper. There being always deep play in the countess’s drawing-room two or three times a week, Lady Louisa, her daughter, who had a taste that way, was always engaged in cards: and as I never had any inclination for this amusement, I usually spent the evenings, that were devoted to it, in the nursery; where there were two young ladies, within a year or two as old as myself, and a little enchanting creature of six years old, who was a miracle of wit and beauty. The young viscount of — — the eldest son of this family, made one in our little parties above stairs; and I so insensibly accustomed myself to stay there, that, by degrees, I found myself totally forgotten, and looked upon as an inmate of the nursery. This surprising change in the behavior of the countess and Lady Cecilia, who, though she visited there every day, had left off even inquiring after me, gave me so sensible a mortification, that I was resolved to come away immediately; and acquainted Mrs. Dormer with my reasons for taking such a resolution. “I told you, miss, said she, that you would repent your going to the countess’s . I see plainly the scheme of Lady Cecilia and her sister: they want to give you some disgust, in order to force you to leave them abruptly. By this means Lady Cecilia will be freed from the obligation she has laid herself under to procure you a settlement at court, and have an opportunity of prejudicing you in the opinion of the world, who will be easily persuaded to think you have been very ungrateful to your benefactress. Let me advise you then, to stay the time you had at first intended, and disappoint the design they have certainly laid against you.” I was the more inclined to take Mrs. Dormer’s advice, as Lady Louisa and myself were in perfect good intelligence; and, besides, I had conceived so strong a resentment at Lady Cecilia’s ungenerous behavior, that I fancied to myself an extraordinary pleasure in breaking her measures, and forcing her to act without disguise.
You must not imagine, my dear Amanda, though I had but few opportunities of extending my conquests, that my eyes were entirely idle. During my short stay at the countess’s, I had numbered two adorers in my train, who, as inconsiderable as I thought them, were still capable of doing me a great deal of mischief. A young foreigner, with no other advantage than a very genteel figure, and a tolerable birth, had been received into the family in the quality of governor to the young viscount. I could never hear he had any other recommendation to her ladyship’s favor, than those accidental advantages I have mentioned, but the additional one of having fled his country for a murder: a circumstance, which, far from inspiring horror, had produced in the countess a great opinion of his bravery; and, possibly, was the cause of the respect and deference with which he was treated. As improbable as this may appear, yet it was only one of those whims, for which this great lady was eminently distinguished; and much of a piece with that which made her raise one of the lowest of her female domestics to a place in the house, of great trust and consequence, immediately after her lying-in of a base-born child. Mr. Repoli, for that was the name of the viscount’s governor, was vain of his personal accomplishments, even to insolence. He fancied no woman ever looked on him without being captivated, and, in consequence of this opinion, carried something so assuming and confident in his air, that it was easy to discover how much his attention was fixed upon his dear self, and that he was triumphing in the conscious pleasure of giving love to all that beheld him. This ridiculous fellow afforded me a good deal of diversion, as I had often opportunities of observing it in its full extent. The young viscount, who coated on his governor, brought him every evening into the young ladies apartment, where I generally was; and I very soon had the pleasure of making this Narcissus admire another face besides his own.
As it was never a part of my character to be offended with any homage that was paid to my charms, I suffered the ardent glances of Repoli without any appearance of dislike; and while he expressed his passion only by sighs and looks, and those little officious assiduities which newborn affection suggests, I contemplated with pleasure the effects of my power on a heart, which before had been only filled with the enchanting emotions of self admiration. But as it is the nature of love to inspire timidity and respect, the haughty Repoli, awed by the distance of my behavior, (for, in spite of his embroidery, I could consider him only in the character of an upper domestic) did not presume to acquaint me with his sentiments. And while his passion for me was the subject of conversation to almost every one in the house, I only, to avoid the mortification of such unworthy addresses, affected to be ignorant of it.
Fortune, or rather love, presented me at the same time another votary, in whom I had a very formidable rival: no less than the countess herself. You may imagine perhaps, my dear Amanda, that the lover I speak of was a nobleman of the first rank, and that the countess was a widow, and at liberty to avow her affection: however, nothing of this was the case. Her ladyship had a very fond husband, who had so perfect a complaisance for her, as never to oppose her will in any thing. Possibly, indeed, he acted wisely in this respect; for it was better to resign his authority tamely, than have it wrested out of his hands; her ladyship being, next to Lady Cecilia her sister, the highest-spirited woman of quality in England. The lover, then, which my unfortunate eyes procured me, and in whom her ladyship claimed a prior right, was no other than the chaplain, a young smooth-faced boy, who had been taken from Westminster-school to fill up this sacred office in the family, in which he was considered as one of the principal persons. My lord himself was so extremely fond of his company, that he would often drink, tête à tête, a bottle with him before he went to bed; and my lady would sit two or three hours alone with him afterwards, discoursing, no doubt, upon religious matters; for though the young chaplain had no great appearance of sanctity, yet her ladyship was fond of being reckoned very devout.
My temper was too much turned to gaiety, not to be excessively diverted with the absurd addresses of this young reverend. He had studied poetry and plays more than divinity; and was always repeating, with an affected emphasis, some rhapsody from the most celebrated dramatic performances. With this immoderate passion for theatrical flights, you may be sure the language of love was always bombast in his mouth, and therefore I was generally addressed in the stile of Alexander the Great. “Oh, my Statira! Oh, my angry Dear!” As I knew nothing mortified him more than to consider him in the light of a clergyman, I always affected to be more than ordinarily grave when he was with me, and generally turned the discourse upon religious subjects. Thus, when he as declaiming on some particular beauties in his favorite writings, poetry or plays, I assumed a serious air, and talked of sermons and homilies; and while he enlarged on the merit of Otway and Rowe, among the dramatic poets, to me, I recommended the study of Tilloton and Barrow, among the preachers, to him. He had too much penetration not to see that I diverted myself at his expense; and, finding my heart impenetrable to him, concluded it must be possessed by somebody else. In this, indeed, he was not mistaken. The united charms of the whole sex, would not have been able to rob my dear Dumont of one single wish: but why do I say the united charms! Was not the person of my Dumont loveliness itself? Alas! how little could I boast of my fidelity in preserving entire my tenderness for him, who had given me such exalted proofs of the sublimity of his passion!
The chaplain having observed the affection Repoli had for me, concluded I could not be insensible of his merit; and was so piqued at my fancied preference of this foreigner, that he would often rally me before him on my inclinations. My resentment at a suspicion, which my pride thought so injurious, discovered itself in strewing the utmost contempt for him. But Repoli, conceiving some hopes from the chaplain’s insinuations, which his vanity improved into a settled belief that I really loved him, began to wear less constraint in his behavior, and filled me with perpetual dread, lest he should take the liberty to declare himself.
Lady Louisa, as I have before observed, had conceived a very great esteem for me: we lived together in the utmost familiarity and friendship. She had an uncommon share of understanding, and so sprightly a temper, that I was quite charmed with her. Some of those evenings that she did not devote to cards, we spent together in her apartment with great satisfaction. But I now began to observe she had lost a great part of her vivacity: an unusual thoughtfulness seemed wholly to engross her; and her eyes had so melancholy and tender a cast, that I was very sensibly affected with it.
As she seemed to allow me some share in her confidence, I one day took occasion to observe the alteration in her humor, and complained of her reserve, in not acquainting me with the cause of her affliction. “Dear miss Harriot, said she, (blushing, and pressing my hand) you have no reason to reproach me. ’Tis true, I have concealed from you an affair, on which my happiness depended; but it was because I feared you would condemn my weakness. I have wished a thousand times, that you would give me an opportunity of unloading my heart to you. Alas, I am the most unhappy creature in the world!” Her tears interrupted her here, and had so great an effect upon me, that, for some moments, I had not power to beg her to explain herself. “Would you think it, my dear, resumed she, (abruptly) I am weak enough to suffer the most tormenting disquiets for a man, who has rendered himself unworthy of my tenderness: but, in order to make you comprehend my misfortune, I must trace it from its source.
About a year and a half ago, the young earl of L—— came from his travels. I had heard great talk of the fine accomplishments of this nobleman, and had a violent inclination to see him; but, as he did not visit in our family, I could only expect to have my curiosity gratified at public places, where I sought him out with an eagerness that seemed to presage something extraordinary. I was one night at the Opera, when a gentleman came into the opposite box, whose figure in a moment fixed my attention. I could not help fancying that it was the earl of L—— and was going to ask the ladies who were with me if they knew who he was, when I observed him bow to them, and immediately after come into our box. The countess of S— — who was with me, being very well acquainted with him, informed me, in a whisper, that it was the earl of L——. My face, in an instant, was covered with blushes; and I was so conscious of the unusual disturbance in my behavior, that I trembled lest it should be taken notice of. When the opera was ended, Lord L— — who had directed most of his discourse to me, handed me to my chair. As I wished for nothing more ardently than to be able to make some impression on his heart, I drew a favorable omen from the gallant turn of his expressions to me. And I now visited Lady S—— so constantly, that I had frequent opportunities of seeing the earl of L— — who was not long before he declared a passion for me. You may imagine, my dear, pursued Lady Louisa, that, prepossessed as I was in his favor, I could not refuse him all the encouragement that was consistent with decency. He made his pretensions known to my father and mother; and I received a command from them, in form, to admit his addresses. With persons of our quality, these sort of treaties are generally concluded in a short time. Our marriage was only to be deferred till the King’s return from Hanover, to which place my Lord L—— attended him. I thought myself happy beyond expression, when my lover, after an absence of six or seven months brought me back a heart, as he told me, filled with my idea.
The necessary preparations for our marriage were making, when my father informed me, that he insisted upon having five thousand pounds more with me than he had offered. This sordid behavior filled me with an excess of resentment at first; but my lover had the art to put such a gloss on it, that I insensibly restored him to my good opinion; or rather, my fatal tenderness made it impossible for me to quarrel with him However, our marriage was delayed upon this dispute, which happened just as you came here. Lord L—— visited us still frequently; but you never chanced to be with me when he came. Oh Harriot! had you ever seen this dear youth, you would allow my weakness has some excuse. About a week ago, he thought proper again to mention our marriage to my father; but he continuing still to refuse this fatal sum, my unworthy lover resigned his pretensions: and my father has given me orders to return all his letters and presents, and never to see him more.
Lady Louisa ended with a flood of tears; and then, bitterly exclaiming against the baseness of her lover, and lamenting as often the cruel obstinacy of her father, asked me, in a trembling accent, what she ought to do. “Shall I not see him once more, said she, to upbraid him with his infidelity, and treat him with the scorn and contempt he deserves?” “Ah, madam! said I, recollect yourself! The earl of L—— does not deserve that you should take the pains to reproach him. In my opinion, you ought to-treat him with the most perfect indifference, and send back his letters and presents, without giving him an opportunity to excuse his ungenerous behavior to you. If he still retains his former sentiments for you, this appearance of tranquillity on your side, will awaken his fears of losing your esteem, and force him to make some atonement for the injury he has offered your merit.”
“Do you think it would have that effect?” interrupted she eagerly. Then pausing a little, “Yes, my indifference must shock him excessively: how strangely he’ll be surprised, when he finds me return his trifles, without, as you observe, deigning to expostulate with him upon his falsehood. Oh, that I could, concealed, observe him! Dear miss Harriot, pursued she, (in a sudden transport) I have thought of a way how to convince myself of his perfidy. My lady has left it entirely to me to return his letters in what manner I please: suppose I send for him, and ——.” “Ah, Lady Louisa, interrupted I, have you already changed your resolution?” “No, no, said she, I am still determined to act by your advice. Hear what I propose: Lord L—— shall come here by my invitation; but I will not see him myself. You must not refuse, my dear, to serve me on this occasion. You shall deliver him, from me, the pledges of his false affection, without any instances of resentment; but let him imagine, that I obey, without reluctance, the commands of my father, never to see him more. I’ll conceal myself, in order to observe his behavior; and I promise you, if he receives your message with indifference, I’ll drive him from my heart for ever.”
As I had no aversion to the task Lady Louisa enjoined me, I promised to acquit myself of it with the utmost regard to her honor. She seemed, for some time, quite transported with her project, and dispatched away a sealed card to the earl of L— — desiring him to attend her at her father’s in the evening.
When the hour approached that we expected his lordship, we both went down into the drawing-room. The countess was engaged till ten o’clock, so that we were in no fear of interruption. Lady Louisa concealed herself in a little room, that led to a pair of back-stairs; but as she had a mind to observe the changes in her lover’s countenance, which she expected her message would occasion, she did not shut the door entirely: but, leaving it a little open, I placed a fire-screen before It, to prevent his getting the smallest glimpse of her, and to give her at the same time an opportunity of observing him with more ease.
She had just placed herself, when a servant opened the door, and the earl of L—— entered the room. He came forward at first with an air of tenderness and gaiety, supposing it was Lady Louisa; for I had my handkerchief that moment at my face, being sensible it was all covered with blushes, occasioned by the novelty of the part I was to act. His lordship, however, discovering his mistake upon his nearer approach, looked for a moment steadfastly upon me, and, starting back, discovered in his eyes the strongest indication of a surprise, which seized me also at the same moment; for, in the person of the earl of L— — I soon recollected the same Lord S—— I mentioned in the beginning of my history, who, by the service he had done me, while I was yet a child, had filled my young bosom with the first tender emotions it had ever felt.
Though my astonishment was not inferior to his, yet I sooner recollected myself; and fearing the consequence of renewing our acquaintance at so dangerous a juncture, when the concealed Lady Louisa would be racked with impatience to unravel the mystery, and possibly entertain some uneasy suspicions, I assumed an appearance of unconcern; and affecting not to have the least knowledge of him, “Your lordship, said I, (with a respectful air) no doubt, expected to see Lady Louisa here; but her ladyship has been pleased so far to favor me with her confidence, as to give me a commission to return these letters and jewels into your hands: and to tell your lordship, that, since it is her father’s commands she should see you no more, she hopes you will not be surprised if she is resolved to pay the exactest obedience to his will, by giving up all traces of a former correspondence between herself and your lordship.”
I might have gone on for half an hour in this strain, if I pleased, without interruption; for his lordship continued still in the same posture of astonishment, with his eyes fixed on my face; and, his silence giving me an opportunity to observe him with more attention, I thought I could discover much of the libertine in his looks and air, which, in my opinion, robbed him of great part of his agreeableness.
My Lord L—— had suffered me to lay the letters and jewels (which consisted of a very fine necklace and ear rings) upon the table, without offering to take them up; so much had his attention been engaged. “I don’t know, madam, said he, (at last) whether you have been able to recollect me; but I am sure I am not mistaken, when I believe you to be Miss Harriot Stuart.” I found it was in vain to hope I could dissemble my knowledge of him any longer; and, after a short pause, I told him, smiling, That it was true I remembered something of his lordship’s face; and his mentioning my name, convinced me I had seen him before. ‘‘Can you not remember where, miss?” said he, with an expressive look. “Yes, my lord, said I, (willing to let the listening anxious Lady Louisa know how our acquaintance began) though your title is different from that of my Lord S— — who assisted me, while I was yet a child, to escape from a very great danger at a little theatre in Westminster; yet I cannot help imagining you are the same nobleman, to whom I was so much obliged.” “My title, replied he, is only changed to that of my father’s, who has been dead these four years; and I am surprised you did not remember it: for I am certain, as you have often heard me mentioned here, you must recollect it belonged to the father of that happy youth, who had the good fortune to do you an inconsiderable service, which you have been so generous not to forget. But how, continued he, (while I trembled at the tone with which he had spoke these last words) how could you be so long in recollecting my person! If any thing could have kept yours from my knowledge, it would have been these thousand additional charms, with which a few years have adorned you. But yet, pursued he, (offering to take my hand) the sound of that enchanting voice would have brought you to my memory, had it been possible for me to forget you.”
You may easily imagine, dear Amanda, how unpleasing such discourse must be to poor Lady Louisa! As for myself, my confusion was inexpressible: I would have given, that moment, worlds, if I had had them, to have been relieved from this perplexing situation. I felt all Lady Louisa’s pains; and dreading, by this beginning, the continuance of a conversation, so torturing both to her and myself, I endeavored to put an end to it, by telling his lordship, that, since I had executed my commission, I must beg leave to retire.
“Is it possible, said he, that you are so extremely insensible of the pleasure I take in thus meeting you so unexpectedly, as to deny me a few moments conversation! Ah, miss Stuart, how unkind is this! But I am determined, pursued he, you shall not leave me till I have convinced you, that my heart, which was first devoted to you, burns this moment with an ardor infinitely greater than that those lovely eyes first kindled in it. How, beyond imagination, happy has this meeting made me!” “For heaven’s sake, my lord, interrupted I, (forcing my hand out of his, which he had all this while struggled to keep) do not oblige me to listen to such discourses as these! I will not stay a moment longer.” “Tell me only, replied he, when or where I shall see you, and I’ll leave you this moment. By heaven, I shall not enjoy any rest till I see you again.”
He had scarce uttered these words when I heard Lady Louisa sigh aloud, and immediately fall down, as I concluded, in a swoon. The earl of L—— starting at the noise, and possibly imagining the occasion, was running to the place from whence he heard it, when I stops him; eager to preserve the unfortunate Lady Louisa from being discovered in a situation, which would have convinced him of the undeserved affection she still felt for him. “Oh fly, my lord! said I. Will you ruin me by your stay!” “Heavens! cried he, what can you mean by these words! I ruin you, my lovely angel! Who is in this room? Why are you so much alarmed?” “Leave me now, my lord, said I; and I promise you, upon my honor, you shall see me to-morrow.” “Well, said he, (kissing my hand by force) I’ll obey you then, upon that condition: but remember to keep your word.” In saying this, he retired; and I eagerly ran to Lady Louisa, whom I found extended on the ground, in a fainting fit. I raised her immediately; and, after rubbing her temples with a little Hungary-water she came to herself.
I was in so much confusion at what had happened, that I could only ask how she did, without entering into the ungrateful subject of her lover’s behavior. However, I imagined that she seemed to expect I should first speak; for she continued silent, with her eyes fixed on the ground, for some minutes: at last, raising them, and observing the jewels and papers lying still upon the table, “What, said she, (sighing) did my Lord L—— refuse to take those things? But, now I remember, he was too much taken up with his meeting you, to trouble himself about slighter matters.” “You heard all that passed, madam, returned I, and must be sensible that I was no way accessory to this meeting.” “Why, miss Harriot, interrupted her ladyship, I hope you don’t imagine I am at all concerned in your meeting, or shall take the pains to reflect whether it was chance or design. I only know, that my Lord L—— has treated me with great contempt; and that I stumbled upon a very improper person to deliver my message to him. However, let us speak no more upon the subject: I shall fall upon another method to restore him these things.”
Saying this, she went up to her own apartment, to which I accompanied her. At the door she turned and made me a formal courtesy: I took the hint, and retired immediately, not a little mortified at the alteration in her behavior. But when I reflected on the too just cause she had for uneasiness, I was not capable of feeling any resentment for the unjustifiable suspicions she seemed to entertain of me.
I am afraid you’ll be apt to imagine, from what I have said of my prevailing foible, that the sentiments Lord L—— expressed for me, were not able to give me much concern, notwithstanding my friendship for Lady Louisa; and yet, I assure you, my friend, you are much mistaken. I conceived so great a dislike to him, for his sordid and ungenerous treatment of that young lady, that I could not prevail upon myself to believe he was capable of feeling a delicate passion for any one. Besides, as I have before observed, his every look and action had so much of the libertine, that I should have thought it highly imprudent to have conversed with him, upon any account. His rank and fortune made the sentiments he avowed for me, dangerous to my reputation; and I there fore determined, notwithstanding the promise which the necessity there was for sending him away extorted from me, to avoid all opportunities of seeing him.
In the morning Lady Louisa sent to let me know, that she expected me in her own apartment. As soon as I went in, she dismissed her woman, and asked me, with some appearance of confusion, if I could pardon the ill-humor she was in when we parted. “If you discovered any ill-humor to me, madam, replied I, you certainly thought I merited it; and, in that case, I am rather to clear myself of any disingenuity you suspect me of, than to expect an apology from your ladyship.” “But, dear miss, interrupted she, give me the satisfaction to know when, and in what manner, you became acquainted with the earl of L——. I can’t help being surprised, that you never acknowledged to me you knew him, when I mentioned him to you!” “I see, madam, answered I, that it will be difficult to persuade your ladyship that I might be acquainted with my Lord S—— before I went abroad, and yet have no knowledge of the earl of L——.” “’Tis strange, resumed she, that you should never have heard his father’s title!” “Possibly, madam, said I, I may have heard it; but ’tis certain, it was so entirely lost to my remembrance, that I never imagined Lord S— — with whom I had some acquaintance while I was a child, could be the earl of L— — whom you desired I should see. And your ladyship must be certain, from his behavior, that we had neither of us seen one another since my return to England.” “Well, miss, said she, I was not questioning you about that. His behavior, as you say, might have convinced me too, that, if you have not seen him since you came to England, you were, at least, very particularly acquainted before you left it.”
Though the peevish manner in which Lady Louisa spoke, assured me her mind was still tainted with suspicions to my prejudice; yet I assumed all the good-humor I was capable of, and related very exactly the occasion of my first knowing Lord L— — suppressing only some little circumstances, which, I feared, would give her pain. She paused, after I had ended my little narration, for a minute or two; and then asked me, what my lord said at parting, and if he had mentioned nothing of her. ’Twas here, my dear Amanda, that, affecting to act from prudent artifice, as I thought, and forsaking that simplicity that was natural to me, I drew upon myself a suspicion I did not deserve, which, nevertheless, I could never clear myself of.
Though my concern for Lady Louisa, and the fear of her being discovered, was the cause of my promising Lord L—— that I would see him again, in order to oblige him to go; yet I could not prevail upon myself to mention this circumstance to Lady Louisa, which I feared would increase her distrust of me, and possibly make her apprehend that I really designed to keep a correspondence with the earl of L——. I therefore took no notice of it; and we parted for that day, without any great appearances of resentment on Lady Louisa’s side: though I thought I could observe a certain coldness and reserve in her manner, which was very unusual.
This accident had contributed to increase my disgust against staying any longer in the countess’s house; and I was thinking how to excuse my leaving her before the winter was ended, when the insolent Repoli, finding me alone one day in a room, which I used frequently to visit, because they were working tapestry in it, made me a frank declaration of love: and, supposing I was too much charmed with his fine person to be able to deny him, seemed to expect that his offer would fill me with infinite satisfaction.
As much confounded as I was at first with this unexpected assurance, I recollected myself soon enough to damp his triumph, before he had much time to indulge it; and choosing to express my contempt of him rather by scorn than anger, I had the pleasure to see the haughty Swiss grow pale with rage and disappointment. He went out of the room, muttering some words I could not understand, just as an elderly gentlewoman, who taught the young ladies embroidery, entered it.
Mrs. Ellis, for that was her name, was a woman of good sense, and the most friendly disposition in the world. She discovered a particular fondness for me all the while I was in the house, having opportunities of conversing with me very often, as I delighted extremely in learning to embroider, which she took great pains to teach me. “Has Mr. Repoli been speaking to you, miss? said she. Can it be you that he is vowing vengeance against!” “What, replied I, (laughing) is the furious Swiss in a fighting humor? I have given him, indeed, a very severe affront; but, thank heaven, I run no danger of a challenge.” “Ah, my dear young lady, returned she, take care of yourself, I beseech you. Repoli is the most dangerous man in the world to quarrel with. His countrymen are remarkable for the keenness of their anger, and eager thirst of revenge. Repoli is distinguished for possessing those bad qualities in a very great degree. His temper is dark, cruel, and designing; and, from all that I can learn of his character, capable of the most daring acts of villainy to gratify his revenge, which is his predominant passion.”
“Why sure, Mrs. Ellis, replied I, (a little startled) you don’t think he’ll poison me, do you? I wonder the countess entertains a man of such dangerous principles in her house!” “The countess, said the old gentlewoman, is often apt to misplace her favors; and Mr. Repoli is not the only instance of it. Besides, the young viscount dotes upon him, and that is sufficient to make him almost absolute here. I know, miss, pursued she, that what I now say would cost me my place, if it came to the countess’s ear; but I love you, and think it my duty to put you upon your guard. My lady is your mortal enemy: she has been informed, that the chaplain is in love with you; and I am persuaded you’ll shortly find the effects of her resentment.”
The countess’s regard for her chaplain had been whispered about for some time, and no one in the house could possibly be ignorant of it, as her ladyship’s behavior to him was indeed very extraordinary. I had, therefore, no difficulty in comprehending Mrs. Ellis’ meaning; but as I had always treated that gentleman with great indifference, I thought I had no reason to apprehend any ill consequence from it. I would fain have persuaded Mrs. Ellis to tell me, how she came by her knowledge of her lady’s sentiments with regard to me; but in this she begged to be excused: “Not, added she, that I think you would make any ill use of it. My confidence in your generosity, forbids me to suspect you; and, to say the truth, miss, I am under no great terrors upon that account. Thank heaven, my dependence is not upon the countess’s favor: I do not pretend to that sort of merit, which entitles me to it. I cannot stoop to the grossest flattery and adulation. My behavior, ever since I came to the house, has been decent and respectful; but I have the ill fortune, if I may term it so, to be liked by no one in it, but my lord and the young ladies.”
The old gentlewoman being in a talking strain, continued to give me some very useful hints concerning my behavior, if I had intended to stay much longer in the house. She concluded her discourse with entreating me again to take care of Repoli, who, she assured me, was one of the most profligate fellows in the world. ’Twas easy to see, by Mrs. Ellis’ repeated cautions against him, that she thought him capable of forming some settled design against me: but, as she did not explain herself fully in this respect, I forbore to press her any farther; contenting myself with the resolution I had formed to leave this detested house, where I had been treated so unworthily. For I was now convinced, that Lady Cecilia had basely imposed upon me; and that my hopes of procuring any settlement by her means, which would put it in my power to make some addition to the small fortune of my Dumont, were no longer to be depended upon.
I was sitting alone in my chamber, a day or two after this, the family being all gone to the earl of O——’s, when, hearing somebody rap gently at the door, I rose and opened it; and seeing, to my great surprise, Repoli there, I was going to shut it again in a violent rage, when the villain rushed in, and, in an instant fastening it, immediately seized me in his arms: but before he had time to stop my mouth with his handkerchief, which he attempted to do, I had recovered from my astonishment, and cried out as loud as I possibly could. The infamous Repoli, hearing somebody run across the gallery, unfastened the door, and hurried away, having vented a dreadful execration; and two moments after Mrs. Ellis came in, to whom I related the astonishing insolence he had been guilty of. “Alas, dear miss, said she, I had a frightful presage of this from the principles I have heard the villain avow; but I could not imagine he would dare to make such an attempt here. You may judge, by this, of his influence.” “I am resolved, returned I, to be gone to-morrow: I will stay no longer in a house where such enormous vices are allowed. But, though the countess should resolve to protect this monster, ought I not to acquaint her with his infamous designs?” “I am of opinion, miss, said Mrs. Ellis, that you will find but little redress; and her ladyship will be apt to turn your complaint into ridicule, and possibly make some ill-natured reflections on you: for, I believe, she would not disoblige her darling son, by turning his favorite away, though he was to make such an attempt upon one of her relations.” I was determined, however, to quit the house the next day, and acquaint the countess, that that was one of my reasons for doing so.
Mrs. Ellis informed me in the morning, that Lady Cecilia had been with her lady in the dressing-room some time. She had scarce done speaking, when a footman came to tell me, that the countess desired to speak with me. I followed him instantly, not being able to imagine the meaning of this message; and was beginning to fancy Lady Cecilia had really done something in my affairs, when the countess, meeting me as I entered the room, threw the door after me, with a force that almost shook the house: and while my astonishment at this action, and the fury which sat upon her face, kept me silent, she loaded me with the most injurious expressions, calling me jilt, prostitute, and all the names that infamy could deserve.
“Can it be possible, madam, said I, (recovering from my surprise) that it is to me you direct this language!” “Yes, interrupted she, ’tis to you I speak! You who, at these early years, have dishonored yourself and your family, and have dared to make even my house the scene of your guilt.” “Oh my God! cried I, (almost beside myself with rage) what can this mean! Who has dared to asperse me in this barbarous manner? If you have any sense of justice and humanity, tell me, madam, I charge you, who are my accusers. Bring them before me: let them mention to my face, this guilt you reproach me with.” “No, interrupted the cruel countess, (with a scornful smile) you shall never have that satisfaction.” “What, resumed I, shall I hear myself charged with the vilest of crimes, and not know who accuses me! Hear me, madam, pursued I, (throwing myself, in a transport of grief, upon the ground, and catching hold of her gown, while she was endeavoring to get from me) either bring the wretches that have fixed this scandal on me before my face, or I shall think you have invented it yourself, for some private ends. I condescend to ask it on my knees, do justice to an unhappy young creature, whose character is all her dependence! Suffer me to clear myself! I ask no more! Bring the wretch before me!”
I had scarce breath to utter these last words; grief and indignation worked so forcibly upon my spirits, that I was no longer able to support the shock. I quitted my hold, and sunk almost breathless upon the floor; and, had I not been relieved by a deluge of tears, I believe the strong emotions of my soul would have been fatal to me. The countess rung her bell, upon which the housekeeper entered the room: the same person who had acquired her favor by being, in reality, what she desired I should be thought to be. “Take up that young dissembler, said she to this chaste person; don’t let her grovel in the ground, with her tragic airs. Who would believe, continued she, (addressing herself still to the housekeeper) that all that innocence in her countenance is feigned! Would not one be almost persuaded she could not be guilty!”
“How dare you, madam, replied I, (pushing away the housekeeper, and rising in a rage) how dare you continue to load me thus with scandalous reproaches, yet deny what I have so ardently begged, the knowledge of my accusers! But your inhuman malice is too plain: I know the cause; and I am tempted to believe you sent the horrid ruffian into my chamber, to make me guilty indeed. But know, madam, whatever force your high rank and fortune may give to your base aspersions on my fame, truth and innocence will still be too hard for you. My past conduct has been not only irreproachable, but worthy praise: and, to your everlasting confusion, my future behavior shall prove the falsehood of your censures. And since I am sensible the greatest revenge I can possibly take, for the wrong you do me, is to prove myself innocent, I will not be content with the private testimony of an unblameable life and a clear conscience; I will, for once, affect ostentation, to make that virtue remarkable, which you will endeavor, in vain, to blemish.”
The countess, who seemed ready to expire with rage at the freedom of my language, was going to reply, when her lord came into the room. “What is the matter, for heaven’s sake, madam? said he to his lady. What means all this noise and confusion, miss Harriot! pursued he to me. Will you not tell me the occasion of it?” “No, my lord, answered I, her ladyship can best inform you. I am going this moment out of your house, where I have reason to repent I ever came.” Saying this, I flung out of the room, and went up to my own chamber; desiring a servant who was in waiting in one of the outer rooms, to get me a coach to the door. A minute or two afterwards, Lady Louisa’s woman brought me a billet, which was as follows:
You cannot wonder, miss, that I have not appeared in your cause, at a time when my friendship might possibly have been of some service. The treacherous part you acted by me, justifies the most unfavorable censures that can be made on you. Read the enclosed, and blush, if you are able.
I had opened this billet with so much precipitation, that I never minded a paper which fell out of it; but, having read it through, I hastily looked on the ground, and seeing a letter directed to me in an unknown hand, upon my opening it, and casting my eyes at the bottom, I saw it signed L——. My face was, in an instant, covered with blushes! My Lord L— — in the first lines, reproached me with breaking my promise, in not giving him an opportunity of seeing me the next day: complained of the cruel disappointment; and, in the most ardent terms imaginable, begged me to let him know where he could see me. I would scarce give myself time to finish this letter: I again read over Lady Louisa’s injurious billet; and, wholly engrossed by my resentment for the reproaches it contained, I threw away both the letters with an air of disdain. And being told that instant, that the coach waited, I went immediately down stairs, leaving the woman to carry the letters back again to her lady, if she pleased; for I saw her take them up.
I ordered the coachman to drive to Lady Cecilia’s; resolved to try whether I could prevail upon her to explain herself upon this dark affair. I had the good fortune to hear she was alone, and, upon sending in my name, was admitted immediately. “Well, miss, said she, (putting on a severe countenance) what is your business with me?” “I am afraid, madam, replied I, that your ladyship will think my business very impertinent; but, however trifling it may appear to you, ’tis certainly of some consequence to me. I would fain be informed, madam, what reason the countess has for fixing the most barbarous aspersion upon me, which, if believed, must inevitably ruin my character, and make me despised by all who have any pretensions to virtue and modesty.”
“The countess, replied her ladyship, has very sufficient reasons for thinking you lost to every principle of honor. Can a girl, like you, pretend to either modesty or virtue, who could invite a young fellow into her chamber, fasten the door upon him, and make him the most indecent advances? Certainly, child, if you are not yet a prostitute, you bid fair for being one in a very little time. You begin early, indeed, to run the race of infamy.” “Then it should seem, madam, answered I, (very calmly) that my accuser is that very young fellow, who had the grace to slight the advances I made him!” “Yes, interrupted she, he has done us the favor to discover the wicked inclinations which lie hid under that appearance of innocence and virtue, and make me ashamed of having taken such a one under my protection.” “But, madam, answered I, such an accusation from the mouth of Repoli, (for I think it can be no other than him you mean) would find difficulty in meeting with belief from persons less severely virtuous than the countess and your ladyship. Such instances of sublime chastity in young men, in this degenerate age, are very rare!” “He did not like you, interrupted her ladyship, (blushing with anger at the sarcastic manner in which I spoke) and he had too great a respect for my sister to dishonor a person under her protection. But, pursued she, (lowering her voice, as if conscious of the dignity of the person of whom she spoke) there was some one else, whom you had spread your impudent snares for.” “I know what your ladyship means, madam, said I, (smiling maliciously:) and since there was a necessity for producing a Joseph in the house, in order to fix a guilt, something resembling Potipher’s wife, upon me, methinks it would have sat better upon the reverend gentleman your ladyship hints at, than a young abandoned libertine like Repoli; whose aversion to me did not commence, till I had discovered the utmost contempt and scorn for the insolent addresses he presumed to make me, and which hardly any one in the house is ignorant of. As for the rest, madam, I refer your ladyship to Mrs. Ellis, who can inform you of the villainous attempt this mirror of chastity made on my honor. But I beg your ladyship’s pardon, for supposing you will give yourself any further trouble to come at the truth of this affair. The story is mighty consistent, and will meet, no doubt, with great credit. But your ladyship, indeed, will draw some advantage from believing and propagating it; as it will free you from a person, whom your ladyship, no doubt, considers as a troublesome dependent, and silence any reflections that might otherwise be made, on the breaking a promise I never solicited the performance of.” Saying this, I left the room immediately; not without having first observed the tempest of rage which was gathering on her brow, and which would have possibly vented itself in something more cruel and injurious than what I had yet heard.
As soon as I got into the coach, I made it hurry me to my dear Mrs. Dormer’s; to whom I related all that had happened, with a flood of tears. “Indeed, my dear, said she, did not your affliction give me a very sensible concern, I should be tempted to laugh at the strange and unaccountable Story they have raised against you. Methinks Lady Cecilia’s wit, and peculiar genius for scandal, might have invented something more probable, to ruin the reputation of a young lady, whom it was necessary she should quarrel with. What, does she think any body will believe an impudent libertine, like this Repoli, could be capable of slighting the advances of a young lovely creature, for whom he avowed a passion? Such a self-denial might appear consistent in the character of a mortified anchorite; but it will be very difficult to persuade any one, who has common sense, that a rake could be capable of acting in this manner.” Mrs. Dormer added many other reasons to persuade me, that this scandal must necessarily fall of itself; but the eloquence of a Cicero, on this occasion, would have had less influence upon me than the silent testimony of my own conscience. Secure in my own untainted innocence, I could look down with scorn on the mean attempts of vice and infamy to degrade me to an equality with itself; and conscious virtue alone, enabled me to triumph over the base arts of my powerful accusers.
Mrs. Dormer, to whom my misfortunes had but the more endeared me, would not suffer me to lodge out of the house. My apartment having been let while I was at the countess’s, she obliged me to stay with her. The friendship with which she favored me, made me repose an entire confidence in her. I related all the accidents of my life, and did not conceal even my engagement with Dumont. The generosity of her soul inclined her to pity the unsuccessful passion of Mr. Campbel; yet she could not refuse her esteem to the character I gave of my beloved Dumont, and confessed that he merited the preference I gave him.
“I am so much obliged to you, my dear, said she one day, for the unlimited trust you have favored me with, that I can do no less than return it in kind, and acquaint you with the history of my life. I have been unfortunate both in love and marriage; a maid, a widow, and a wife, at the same time. A strange paradox, you’ll say; but the sequel of my story will convince you, that in my person was united the extremes of wretchedness, which all these characters could sustain.”
My father, who was born to a very large paternal estate, possessed also some of the most eminent dignities in the law. I was the eldest of three children, and favored with a peculiar indulgence from my father and mother, as I was the only daughter. In these early years of my life, pursued Mrs. Dormer, (with a smile) I was reckoned tolerably handsome. The reputation of my charms, joined to the fortune my father was able to give me, brought me a number of adorers; some of whom, for their rank and fortune, were highly acceptable to my father and mother. But my heart felt no tender emotions for any of them: and so great was my father’s indulgence, that, in talking to me on the subject of my marriage, he always expressed himself like a tender friend, solicitous for my happiness, without ever mixing the authority of a parent, or giving the least hint that he expected, in such an affair, a negative voice should not be allowed me.
Alas, how ill did I repay this excess of goodness! The only man in the world whom my father would have forbidden me to think of, became the object of my love. The father of this young gentleman had formerly addressed my mother, at the same time that mine was courting her. This laid a foundation for that enmity between them, which my father’s success in marrying the lady, for whom they contended, increased. Mr. Wilmot, after this, took all occasions to discover the deep aversion he had for my father; and it was with great difficulty that they were prevented from sealing their resentment in each other’s blood.
The son of this gentleman happened to meet me at a visit to a young lady of my acquaintance. He had just come from making the tour of Europe; and appeared so agreeable in my eyes, notwithstanding he was the son of an enemy, that I could not refuse him my esteem. I soon found I had made some impression on his heart: he scarce ever took his eyes off my face while I staid; and, when I took leave, handed me to my chair, making me some very obliging compliments on the happiness my company had afforded him.
My thoughts were engrossed by this agreeable youth all night: I found so much sweetness in the hope of being beloved by him, that I never considered the enmity of our two fathers. The soft passion, which was kindling in my heart, inspired only the most flattering ideas; and representing the young Wilmot in every favorable and engaging light, assured me, that my father, won by the merit of his sacrificing his hereditary hatred to the affection he bore me, would not oppose our mutual happiness. I reasoned in this manner, from a perfect conviction that my eyes had inevitably wounded this too lovely enemy; and my heart was exulting with the most pleasing hopes, when my maid, entering my chamber, delivered me a letter from Mr. Wilmot, which contained a most passionate declaration of love. My mother came into the room, just as I had finished reading this welcome confirmation of the hopes with which I flattered myself: at sight of her I blushed, and would have concealed my lover’s letter in my pocket; but she, holding my hand, asked me, with a smile, what paper it was I was so earnest to hide. As I could possibly make no evasion, that would secure me from some suspicion, I gave her the letter, telling her at the same time, that, as I had never seen the writer of it but once, and had given him no sort of encouragement to address me in that manner, I hoped, if it was a crime, she would not think me accessory to it. “You are certainly guilty of no crime, said she, (with an air of good humor) in having, as I find by this letter, forced the son of your father’s enemy to acknowledge the power of your charms. You have now a good opportunity to revenge the injuries Mr. Dormer complains of, in the person of a man who can’t but be hateful to him, as descended from his old enemy and rival.”
My mother looked earnestly in my face as she pronounced these words I blushed excessively, and was pierced to the heart by the cruel disappointment they gave me; for, from her, at least, I expected less reluctance to an alliance, which would reconcile our houses, and which, in point of fortune, greatly exceeded the most sanguine hopes they could entertain for me. I therefore continued silent, with my eyes fixed on the ground. My mother, observing the changes in my countenance, asked me, if any thing she had said disturbed me. “I am almost tempted to believe, Polly, said she, that this young Wilmot is but too agreeable to you. However, don’t be afraid to discover your sentiments: I promise you I will not acquaint your father with any thing that may draw his anger upon you.” Since you are so good, madam, replied I, (blushing still more than before) to allow me to declare myself freely, I must confess, that I do not hate this young gentleman; and, if my father could be brought to approve his addresses, it might be the happy means of reconciling him to Mr. Wilmot, and free you from any future alarms upon the account of that resentment, which subsists between them.” “You have spoke my thoughts, replied my mother, (embracing me). I rejoice sincerely at this event. If Mr. Wilmot can bring his father to consent to your union, I doubt not but my influence with Mr. Dormer will prevail upon him to remit the long hatred he has bore him. Your father cannot be insensible to the advantages of such an offer.” “What answer, then, madam, interrupted I, shall I send to this letter?” “Let me see, child, said she, (looking over it again) he desires you would condescend to see him at the same young lady’s today. Well, you may go; but take care not to own, that you have mentioned this matter to me. I would not have him imagine, there will be less difficulty in gaining us over than his father.”
You may be assured, miss, pursued Mrs. Dormer, that my mother’s approbation was highly agreeable to me. I went to the house of my friend, whom I found Mr. Wilmot had engaged to speak in his behalf. She kept me a long while from the sight of my lover, who was in another parlor, enumerating the many advantages that would arise from our mutual affection. At last, finishing a discourse, which I could not then help thinking tedious, she led me into the room where Mr. Wilmot was.
The excessive joy which my complying with his request, in meeting him, spread over his countenance, relieved me, by a pleasing sensation, from the confusion that had dyed my cheeks with a deep blush. I found myself, in a little time, quite reassured; and the few minutes private conversation I had with him, so effectually convinced me that his passion was perfectly sincere, that I made no scruple to own the effect his merit had wrought in my heart. We parted with a thousand assurances of mutual fidelity; and I went home to give my mother an account of what had passed. She permitted me, in a few weeks after, to acknowledge to him, that I had acquainted her with his passion; and that she had promised to use her good offices with my father, provided Mr. Wilmot could prevail upon his to make the first proposal of a marriage between us.
My lover confessed, that he had not ventured yet to acquaint his father with his affection; but that he would, very soon, solicit his consent to our alliance, as the only means of making him happy. My mother, in the mean time, hinted the affair to my father, who replied at first with much heat; but at last, by her artful reasoning, was brought to say, that, if Mr. Wilmot would condescend to mention the affair first to him, he would consider of it.
I easily foresaw, that my lover’s father would insist upon the same punctilio, and looked upon this declaration as a bar to all our hopes. However, I was much deceived in supposing that he was, in the least, inclined to favor his son’s passion. My lover, after having for some time evaded the repeated requests I made to him to speak to his father, at last confessed, with the deepest concern, that he had threatened him with his eternal displeasure, if ever he dared to mention such a proposal again. “Yet, my dearest angel, pursued my lover, the cruel opposition my father makes to my union with you, can never prevail upon me to renounce my title to your heart. I never will be any other than yours; and, if you will consent to give me your hand privately, we’ll put it out of the power of fate to part us.”
This proposal, at first, filled me with horror; but love, more powerful than all the ties of duty, made me consent to it. I trembled, lest I should lose him for ever, if I refused to give him this instance of my affection; and desired a few days to consider of it. In which time my lover informed me, that he was going to spend a few months in Paris, having some affairs of consequence to manage there; and that he did not dare to refuse the absolute commands of his father, who, he believed, would have taken this journey himself, but that he feared his son still held a correspondence with me, and, by his absence, would be at liberty to prosecute it with more freedom.
There needed no more to make me come to a resolution. The idea of parting with him, e’re I had fixed him mine, was not to be born! In that moment, forgetting all I owed to duty, and the indulgence of a father, who had suffered, without any marks of displeasure, my refusal of several matches that he had approved, I listened only to the dictates of my tenderness, and promised to marry him before he went away. As I had no reason to imagine my mother would approve of such a precipitate step, I resolved not to ask her consent; and only in the presence of the young lady, at whose house I first saw Mr. Wilmot, and my own maid, was joined to my lover, by, as I thought, the most indissoluble ties. Alas! heaven, who beheld this act of disobedience with horror, made my fatal marriage the source of the most cruel misfortunes.
When the ceremony was over, I went home, filled with a thousand perplexing inquietudes. I could not see my dear father, whose tenderness I had so abused, without feeling a painful remorse. My husband insisted upon visiting me in the evening; and, as my maid was privy to the secret, I could find no presence for refusing him: he therefore came privately to my chamber. My mother, who had allowed him to see me there, was not surprised that he came to take his leave; for he was to set out for Paris the next day. But as I knew his intention was to stay all night, which I was positively resolved to prevent, I made a sign to my mother not to leave the room. She, who thought I had some very urgent reason for this caution, never offered to stir. It grew late: my father was expected in every moment, and would be surprised to find her out of her chamber; she, therefore, put Mr. Wilmot in mind that it was time to retire. She was obliged to repeat this hint several times, before he thought proper to take any notice of it. At last, he rose from his chair, and, saluting my mother, took a cold leave of me; giving me, at the same time, a look that expressed how much he was disobliged at my behavior.
When he was gone, my mother asked me, if he had ever treated me in a manner unbecoming the respect he owed me, that I was afraid to trust myself alone with him. I evaded this question as well as I was able, by telling her I was afraid, if we had parted in private, my tenderness might have betrayed me into too great weakness. She appeared satisfied with this answer; and lamented, with some warmth, the obstinacy of both our fathers, who seemed determined to prevent our union. Her affection for me, made her wish nothing more ardently than to see me married to a man she thought so deserving my tenderness, and whose fortune was so greatly above what mine entitled me to.
When my mother left me, and I was at liberty to reflect on the reproachful look my dear Wilmot gave me, I found something so painful in the fear of having offended him, that I passed the whole night in tears; and did not enjoy a moment’s rest till I had a letter, which, as it was wrote in the warmest stile of tenderness, convinced me my innocent fraud was forgiven, and that I was still passionately beloved. For two months he continued to write constantly to me by every post; but I could not help observing, that he carefully avoided the stile of a husband, and never once acknowledged, by the most distant hint, that I was his wife. Upon my first making this reflection, I was extremely uneasy; but imagining that he thought this reserve necessary, for fear of a discovery, or that he designed I should show these letters to my mother, who approved of our mutual tenderness, I silenced any suspicions to the prejudice of his love, and waited with a tender impatience for his return; he having now greatly exceeded the time in which he proposed to see me again.
While I was torturing my imagination to find reasons for his stay, I accidentally heard that he was gone to Italy; and that his father had given him leave to spend some years abroad, which he had earnestly requested. The affliction this news occasioned me, was but too visible in my looks and behavior; yet none in the family, but my mother, could guess the cause. She indeed rightly concluded, that Wilmot’s absence was the ground of my uneasiness; but she did not imagine that I was lamenting the cruel perfidy of a husband, and not the indifference of a lover.
I now never heard from him at all: I knew not where to direct to him; and my resentment at his treachery, helped to free my heart from the torturing passion I had felt for him. All my care was to conceal my unfortunate marriage from my father. I loaded my maid with presents; but I had no reason to bribe her to be faithful: she continued so till her death, which happened two years after the departure of my faithless husband. Fate seemed resolved to put it out of my power to claim him; for the clergyman who married me, and the young lady my friend, the other witness of my unhappy nuptials, both died within a few months of each other.
My mother, who extremely resented the indifference I complained of in Mr. Wilmot, pressed me incessantly to drive him from my heart. I was still solicited and addressed by a number of lovers. My father often told me, he expected I would fix my choice; and filled me with inexpressible terror, when he threatened to abandon me for ever, if he found my aversion for marriage proceeded from any secret hope of being united to the son of his enemy. Who would imagine, that a heart, filled with the deepest resentment against the sex, for the base usage I had received from one man, should ever again become a victim to love!
As I have always considered every misfortune that has befallen me, in consequence of my marriage, as a just punishment for the crime of it, I am inclined to believe that providence permitted this fatal weakness, to make my sufferings more poignant.
A young gentleman named Clayton, who possessed every grace of mind and person, and who was master of a very large fortune, asked my father’s permission to make his addresses to me. I had often viewed him with a particular delight; yet I only fancied I paid the same tribute of admiration to his merit, which it exacted from all who knew him. When my father mentioned his proposal to me, an involuntary transport, for a moment, took possession of my heart: but, recollecting my unhappy situation, a sigh unwillingly escaped me; and when I declined receiving a visit from him, in the quality of a lover, my face was overspread with blushes.
My father, observing my confusion, attributed it to what really was the cause, a secret liking of this young gentleman: but, a little offended at the disingenuity of my answer, he told me, with some sternness, that he would allow me to trifle no longer; and that Mr. Clayton was he, of all who had addressed me, whom he approved of most, and, therefore, he expected I should accustom myself to think of him with esteem. I saw my father expected I would now explain myself, which, to avoid, I begged for a few days to consider of what he had said; and retired to my room, oppressed with inconceivable affliction.
My heart had been too well acquainted with the soft emotions of love, to be any longer ignorant that I felt for Mr. Clayton all that passion could inspire; but my virtue took the alarm at this discovery. Mr. Wilmot, though he disclaimed the title, was still my husband. Could I rob him of any part of my affection, without an injury to my honor? I could find many instances, among my acquaintance, of wives who preserved an unblemished tenderness for husbands that loaded them with affronts; and it was not impossible but Mr. Wilmot might return to a sense of honor and justice, and restore me to the place I ought to hold in his affection. With this sort of reasoning I endeavored to vanquish the flame that consumed me: but, alas! it increased by opposition; and all I could do, was to preserve the secret in my own breast. And, convinced that my father would never force me to marry against my inclination, I resolved to declare I had an unalterable aversion for Mr. Clayton. Alas! what pain did it not give me to dissemble in this manner! but my honor demanded this cruel sacrifice of me. And, amidst the severest pangs of my own heart, I would reflect, with a gloomy kind of pleasure, that this fatal love justly revenged the disobedience I had been guilty of; and, considering my sufferings in that light, I resolved to support them with submission and fortitude.
My father, amazed at the dislike I expressed for Mr. Clayton, discovered his displeasure in harsher terms than ever he had used to me; and declaring, that he expected I should endeavor to change my sentiments, permitted Mr. Clayton to have frequent opportunities of conversing with me alone. The respectful passion, the lively ardor of this too dangerous lover, put all my constancy to proof. I was cruel to the best and faithfullest of men, to preserve myself just to one of the worst. Severe necessity! fatal law! which my too rigid virtue imposed on me.
I had so well counterfeited a fixed indifference, or rather dislike, for Mr. Clayton, that my father began to despair of ever seeing me in a disposition to obey him willingly; when one night, as we were sitting at upper, a servant of Mr. Clayton’s came to inform us, that his master, who had been that day at Richmond with another gentleman, had fallen Off his horse coming home, and was so much hurt that his life was despaired of My senses immediately forsaking me, at this terrible news, I fell back in my chair, after breathing a deep sigh; and continued so long in a swoon, that the whole family was greatly alarmed. My affection for my Clayton could now be no longer a secret; and my obstinate refusal of him was matter of surprise, to all who knew any thing of the affair.
I was put to bed extremely ill; and, conscious of the fatal discovery I had made, my disorder was increased by the terrible apprehensions with which I was tortured. My lover, however, in a few days was declared out of danger. In spite of myself, my eyes betrayed the transport I felt at the prospect of his recovery. My mother took occasion to question me upon this strange contradiction in my behavior; but, though I could easily evade her inquiries, I could not, with the same facility, satisfy my father. He declared, that, as I was past the power of denying my affection for Mr. Clayton, the reluctance I expressed for marrying him must arise from some cause I was afraid to own; and he left it to my choice, either to marry him as soon as he was recovered, or disclose the reasons I had for refusing to accept, for a husband, the man whom I had given convincing proofs that I passionately loved. I saw it was impossible to avoid either inevitable ruin, or shame and infamy, but by applying to the generosity of my lover.
When he was able to leave his room, he came to pay me a visit; and, having heard something of my extraordinary concern for his illness, his looks and words expressed the most tender transport. As I was going to require him to make a sacrifice of his passion, to the cruel necessity my engagement with Mr. Wilmot laid me under, to banish him for ever, I made it a point of honor to acquaint him with the true state of my heart: I related to him succinctly the whole affair of my marriage with Mr. Wilmot, his base perfidy, and the resentment it had filled me with; and acknowledged, blushing, that my sense of his merit was so great, that, if my situation could have permitted it, I would never have been any other than his; but as I could never consider myself as freed from my engagements to Mr. Wilmot, by his ungenerous usage of me, the quality of his wife made it highly injurious to my honor to hear the language of love from any other man; and, whatever pain it would cost me, I was determined to avoid his sight. “But, added I, (melting into tears) ’tis from your generosity alone that I can expect to conceal my fatal marriage from my father; which, if known, would deprive me for ever of his affection. Let our parting seem wholly your fault: invent some presence for proceeding no farther in your addresses, and, by this generous action, force me to confess that you, of all men in the world, deserve my affection best.”
“Yes, madam, said my lover, (looking on me with eyes, in which surprise and grief were visibly painted) I will undertake this hard task to serve you, since you command it. You shall suffer no reproaches from Mr. Dormer upon my account.” “There needs not, sir, said my father (coming out of a closet, where he had hid himself to hear our discourse) there needs not this generous artifice to shield this degenerate girl from my indignation, unworthy as she is of my blood and name. From this moment I disclaim her! Fly, wretch! (pursued he to me, with a voice full of fury) fly from my sight, lest my just rage urge me to wash away my dishonor in thy blood. Go to that infamous husband who disclaims thee, and never hope that I will acknowledge thee for my child, or behold thee more while I have life.” Saying this, he rushed out of the room.
My lover following him, to endeavor if possible to appease him, I remained for some moments so astonished with the greatness of my misfortune, that I lost even the power of reflecting upon my unhappy condition. My mother’s woman, coming into the room, told me, with tears, that her lady desired to let me know, that I had involved her also in my father’s displeasure; and that there was a necessity for my quitting the house immediately; for my father had sworn that I should not stay a moment longer. “Where did my mother order me to go, Bell?” said I, with my heart almost breaking with affliction. “I am ordered, madam, said she, to attend you to my sister’s, whose house, as she is the widow of a clergyman, and lives in a private manner, her ladyship thinks will be the most proper to take an apartment in for you, till my master can be brought to see you.” “Let me go, then, Bell, said I, (rising, my eyes all drowned in tears) let me go where I may be at liberty to indulge my sorrows. I was born to be miserable, and must fulfill my destiny.” Saying this, I went down stairs, and steps into a hackney coach, that was waiting at the door; for my father would not allow me to use his upon this occasion. Bell, who accompanied me, ordered the coachman, in a whisper, to drive to Mrs. Waller’s in Jermyn-street, where we soon arrived.
I had never seen this gentlewoman before; but her looks were so friendly and benevolent, that my affliction was soothed at her sight. My mother’s woman acquainted her sister with what was necessary she should know of my situation, and agreed for my board and lodging with her; she having a very genteel apartment to let, which was the only one in which she received any lodger. I was not permitted to have my own maid to attend me, that had lived with me at my father’s; but one was hired that knew nothing of my affairs.
The friendly Mrs. Waller omitted no consolations, in her power to offer me. Alas! in my distressed condition, what comfort could I admit of! abandoned for ever by a once indulgent father, tortured with a despairing passion for the most generous of men, and doomed to bear the worst of indignities from another, to whom I had sacrificed all my hopes of happiness! I resigned myself up to the most piercing grief; and had no other hope, but that death would shortly free me from all my calamities.
Three weeks after my being placed with this worthy widow, I had the satisfaction to have a letter from my mother, which acquainted me, that she was reconciled to my father; but it was upon the hard condition of never seeing or speaking to me. However, she gave me hopes that she would not deny either me or herself that comfort, when she could, with safety, make me a visit. I also heard, at the same time, that Mr. Wilmot’s father was dead; and the generous Clayton was waiting with impatience for the return of my husband, who was expected soon in England, to force him to do me justice, and acknowledge me for his wife.
This striking instance of the purest and most disinterested passion, that ever man was capable of feeling, afforded me only subject for complaint against the cruelty of my fortune, which had deprived me of the power of answering so shining an example of unfeigned affection. I trembled for the resolution he had taken, to force my unworthy husband to own me; and fearing every thing from a man, who could be capable of acting in so base a manner as Mr. Wilmot had done, my thoughts were continually filled with the most frightful apprehensions.
I had so accustomed myself to think of all the horrors, which might necessarily arise from a meeting between my lover and my husband, ‘that when my mother’s woman came to me, and, with a look of consternation and melancholy, told me, that my husband and Mr. Clayton had come to some explanation about the affair of my marriage, “Ah! replied I, (screaming) then one of them is dead!” “You have guessed too truly, madam, said Bell, one of them is dead, indeed; but ’tis he who deserved to fall, your perfidious husband, who, to the last moment of his life, persisted in disowning you.” She had scarce uttered these dreadful words, when I fell into a fainting fit; and was no sooner recovered from that, than another followed: and I continued the whole day in such a deplorable condition, that my mother, alarmed by her woman’s account of the danger to which my despair had reduced me, came to my lodgings, and, weeping over me with an excess of tenderness, conjured me to sacrifice my affliction, for the death of an unworthy husband, to the hope of being restored to my father’s affection, which she did not despair of soon accomplishing.
“Ah, madam, said I, base as Mr. Wilmot was, yet still he was my husband; and though even the strictest laws of duty might dispense with my grieving for his death, who treated me so injuriously; yet my nature tender and susceptible of melancholy impressions, starts with horror at the thoughts of murder. Will not his blood cry out for vengeance on me, who was the fatal cause that it was shed!” “Speak not so injuriously interrupted my mother, of that justice which brought him to his end The generous Mr. Clayton expostulated first mildly with your betrayer and urged him to vindicate your injured honor, and fulfill your engage meets, by owning you for his wife. He answered, that you had basely deceived him; and, having never returned the affection he once had for you, meant only to make him a convenient property. He added many other barbarous invectives. A quarrel ensued, and ——.” “Ah, madam, cried I, (bursting into tears) spare the shocking repetition. Poor, unfortunate Wilmot! Can I choose but lament thy death! And ought I not to give some tears to the misfortune of him, who, perhaps, must die to expiate the guilt of thy fate!” “No, interrupted my mother, Mr. Clayton is resolved to stand a trial; and though he had not such powerful friends as his own merit, and your father’s interest is able to procure him, yet the justice of his cause would free him.”
In effect dear miss, pursued Mrs. Dormer (whose eyes had for some time been bathed in tears, as well as my own) Mr. Clayton stood his trial, and was honorably acquitted: and this affair being the talk of the whole town, every one agreed that I ought to give him my hand, being the only recompense by which a love so faithful could be repaid. My father condescended to write to me upon this subject; and made it the only condition, by which his pardon could be obtained, to marry Mr. Clayton. My affection for this dear lover, put it past a doubt that I should gladly embrace this offer; but I could never persuade myself, that it was consistent with my religion, my virtue, or reputation, to marry the man that had killed my husband, though, by that act, he had only justly punished his crime in disowning me.
I will not pretend to give you any idea of the painful conflicts I suffered in my soul, while my excessive tenderness for Mr. Clayton, and regard to the memory of my unhappy husband, held the balance between love and duty. However, I did not waver long; but determined to fall a victim to the severe rules I had prescribed myself. I wrote an answer to my father’s letter, full of submission and remorse for having offended him by my fatal marriage; explained my reasons for declining to accept Mr. Clayton for a husband; and concluded with most earnest entreaties for his pardon) and a request that he would inform Mr. Clayton of my resolution, and absolute promise, that, since I could not be his, I never would be another’s . My father was pleased to say, when he had read my letter that he was so struck with the uncommon greatness of my mind, that he pardoned me from that instant, and restored me to the place I had formerly possessed in his affection. I was immediately sent for home, where I fell at his feet, and embraced them with tears of joy, sorrow, and contrition which, from all these motives, flowed from my eyes.
My lover, being acquainted with my resolution, did not attempt to Oppose it; but only entreated to see me once more, being determined, as he said, to go abroad, and endeavor to bury the remembrance of his unfortunate passion. All that was touching and mournful, on both sides, passed at this interview. I repeated to him, with tears, what I had before vowed to my father, that, since it was impossible I could be his, I would never be another’s . And he likewise protested, that he would faithfully preserve my image in his heart; and changing, if possible, the ardent passion, he now felt for me, into a tender friendship, return and pass the rest of his life in that delightful commerce, which this calmer affection would yield.
When he was gone, my father and mother omitted nothing in their power to remove the painful grief which still engrossed me. Their endeavors, in time, produced the effect they desired: I recovered part of my usual gaiety; but still continued firm in my resolution never to marry, which nothing yet has been able to change. My father died two years after the departure of my lover; of whose death also I had an account, while I was still lamenting the loss of my father. He had divided his whole fortune equally between his two sisters and me, which made a very considerable addition to that my father left me.
During the life of my mother, I remained constantly with herd but her death plunging me into all my former disquiets, to soften them, in some measure, by a variety of new objects and the hurry of travel, I went to Paris; and, after seeing all that was remarkable in that court, I visited Italy, Holland, and the German Spa. And continuing a considerable time in these places, I returned to England, having acquired strength of mind enough to reflect on my misfortunes with calmness and resignation, and to pass the rest of my life in ease and tranquillity.”
Mrs. Dormer here ended her story, leaving me in the most perfect admiration of her virtue and fortitude, which I expressed in terms equal to that esteem she had inspired me with. “No, miss, said she, (modestly interrupting me) I do not deserve the praises you load me with. My misfortunes had their rise from disobedience first. How differently, in that respect, have I behaved from you, who, at the most tender age, was capable of sacrificing your passion to duty.” Mrs. Dormer accompanied these words with an affectionate look, which convinced me what she said was not a mere compliment of form; and I was prevented from replying, by the arrival of Mr. Campbel, who had received orders from his uncle to go on board his ship immediately, they being to sail upon a cruise.
My lover, when he informed me that he was come to take his leave, discovered so much despair in his looks and words, that I was deeply affected. “How happy, sir, said I, should I think myself, if, instead of that fatal passion which disturbs your quiet, you would only favor me with such sentiments as I have it in my power to return. Whatever the most sincere friendship can demand, my heart is disposed to pay. Your merit, and the obligations you have laid on me, claim this; but if I appear ungrateful to your love, be assured that ——.” I would have proceeded; but my confusion was so great, at having, unawares, engaged myself almost into a confession of my attachment to another, that I held down my head, while my face was in an instant covered with blushes.
“Ah miss! replied Mr. Campbel, (who had earnestly gazed on me for some moments) I have no right to expect you should throw yourself into any embarrassment, to excuse your insensibility to me! My unhappiness, in being absolutely indifferent to you, has been long known to me. If that knowledge could have made me love you less, I should, e’re this, have been at ease. However, I beg you to believe, that, as I prefer your happiness greatly to my own, my despair in losing you will be somewhat alleviated by the assurance that your felicity demanded me to be the sacrifice. ”
Mrs. Dormer, who sat at the other end of the room, observing my extreme confusion at the discourse Mr. Campbel held with me, joined us, in order to introduce a more general conversation. Upon which my lover, shortening his visit, took his leave of us with tears in his eyes; and left me so excessively moved, with the tenderness and generosity of his sentiments, that it was a long time before I was capable of reassuming my usual gaiety.
The ships being again returned from N— — brought me letters from my mother and sisters, with the agreeable news, that my dearest Fanny was married to a gentleman of good fortune there; and that her husband, proposing to return to England in a few months, she and my mother would very soon have the satisfaction of meeting me again. When my joy, at the thoughts of seeing persons so dear to me, was a little moderated, I began to feel some surprise at not having another letter from Dumont. I passed some days in the most terrible uneasiness, being convinced that nothing but neglect could be the cause of my not hearing from him, as we had settled the conveyance of our letters to each other with the utmost security; so that I could not imagine it had, by any accident, missed me.
I was talking one day to Mrs. Dormer, upon the subject of my fears, when one of that lady’s servants came into the room, and informed me there was a gentleman below, who inquired for miss Harriot Stuart. Mrs. Dormer, imagining I should hear news of my lover, cast a pleasing smile upon me; and asked her servant, if he had strewn the gentleman into a room. Upon hearing he was in one of the parlors, I immediately went down stairs, with my heart trembling with expectation. But, my dear Amanda! guess my excess of transport and surprise, when, the servant opening the door, I saw my beloved Dumont himself advancing eagerly to meet me! I steps back a few paces, lost in astonishment at a sight I so little expected; when my transported lover, catching me in his arms, pressed me to his bosom with an ardent embrace; while I, reclining my head upon his breast, suffered the soft pressure of his glowing lips upon my face, which was covered with tears of joy.
We continued for some moments in this posture, while, he still grasping me closer in his arms, I had neither the strength or inclination to get loose. Recollecting myself at last, and blushing at the liberty I had indulged myself in, I sprung in an instant from the dear enclosure, and, obliging him to be seated, asked a hundred questions in a breath; while my lover, with a look of mingled tenderness and delight, sat gazing on me in a speechless transport, unable to give utterance to the flow of melting thoughts which seemed to crowd into his mind. I had now so well recovered myself from my first emotions, that I rallied, in a lively accent, the sublime silence with which he repaid my eager curiosity to hear all that had happened to him since I left N——. He spoke at last; but, for a long time, all he said was in the language of transport, sweet unintelligible discourse, which the soft melting eloquence of his eyes were only able to explain.
I understood at length, that he had concealed his change of religion, with the utmost care, from his father; who, if he had suspected it, would not have allowed him to come to England: that his relations here, believing he intended to fulfill his engagements with his cousin, had received him with great joy. He added, that that young lady was in a very weak state of health; and though he had formerly reason to believe she had a very tender regard for him, yet she discovered so little sensibility at his coming, that he was convinced he might, with safety, acquaint her with the change in his principles; and, as she was generous and virtuous to excess, prevail upon her to let the dissolving their contract appear her own act; by which means he would not be obliged to forfeit the largest moiety of his fortune, which, in case of his refusal, would be insisted upon by her uncle.
“My delicacy, pursued my lover, suggested to me, that I ought not to see you ‘till I could procure a certainty, that I should not bring an indigent wretch to your arms. But eager love could not be with-held by forms, since I may flatter myself with being still beloved by my adorable Harriot, though I should fail in my scheme of preserving my fortune; yet if she will not refuse the blessing of her hand, we shall still have enough to make us perfectly happy.”
My lover concluding these words with a tender embrace, I gave him a short account of what had happened to me. And remembering, after a conversation of two hours, that Mrs. Dormer must necessarily be surprised at my long stay, I asked his permission to introduce him to this dear friend, to which he readily consented; and I ran up stairs immediately, in order to prepare her for receiving a visit from a person, whom I had already taught her to esteem.
I found her in her dressing-room; resolved, when she had finished dressing, out of an impatience to know if it was not my lover below with me, to step into the parlor before she went into her chair. I then told her, if her engagement abroad was not very urgent, I would beg her to allow me to introduce Mr. Dumont to her, who was really the person that had sent for me. “What, is he below still? said she. Let me see him, I beseech you: I am eager to know, if he is really worthy the possession of a heart like yours.” I made her no answer, being convinced she would no sooner see him than she would be ready to confess, he exceeded the most lovely idea her imagination could form: and, indeed, the moment he appeared, and saluted her, with that irresistible grace which charmed all who beheld him, she turned to me with a speaking look, which seemed to say, she was agreeably surprised at the uncommon beauty of his person; and I had the pleasure to observe, she was no less struck with his lively wit, and the peculiar graces of his manner.
The conversation, in a little time, growing quite unreserved, Mrs. Dormer told my lover, with an obliging smile, That, as she was well acquainted with all our affairs, she expected he would visit me there with entire freedom. “And, till you rob me, pursued she, of my sweet friend, you must be contented that I share her conversation with you.” Dumont replied with much complaisance to this obliging discourse, and, after a long visit, took his leave; telling Mrs. Dormer, he would use the liberty to call every day for the future, which she assured him would be highly agreeable to us both.
When he was gone, she did not give me time to ask her opinion of him; but, after telling me she thought his person the most lovely in the world, assured me, that she was no less pleased with the engaging qualities of his mind, which every look and word sufficiently declared.
My dear Dumont had promised to see me the next day, and I passed the tedious hours in a kind of sweet anxiety till he came I observed in his looks, the moment I saw him, a pensiveness that alarmed me; and, eagerly asking the cause, he told me, with some concern, that all his hopes of preserving the forfeiture of his estate was over. “I pursued my intention, said he, of making my cousin the confidant of my change, which seemed to affect her even less than I expected. She replied, that her uncle would not approve her marrying a Protestant; and frankly confessed, that the ill state of her health had weaned her thoughts from the world; and she hoped that I had, with the change of my religion, left also the sentiments I once had for her, and would freely consent to her living unmarried, which she was now firmly resolved to do.
You may be assured, my lovely Harriot, pursued my lover, that I did not attempt to alter her resolution. She pressed me to tell her, if my heart was not engaged to some young lady, who possibly was the first cause of my changing my principles: upon which I candidly related the history of our loves; and expressing my fears, lest her uncle should insist upon the moiety of my fortune, and reduce me to a state of indigence and necessity, I saw a tender sensibility in her eyes, which gave me hopes she would come into any measures, I could propose, to save me from this misfortune.
We had been so indiscreet to converse in this manner, without considering that the room where we were sitting was next to her uncle’s writing-closet; from whence, if he was there, he might hear every word we had said. In effect, my angel, it really was so: he came out of the closet, with looks full of fury; and, as he is one of the most rigid Papists in the world, he thundered out the most dreadful denunciation of divine vengeance against me for my impious change, declaring that he would immediately write to my father, and pursue me to beggary, if possible. My cousin was so affected with the confusion this accident occasioned, that she fainted away; and I was too much concerned at the condition she was in, to be capable of calming the rage of her furious ‘uncle. As soon as she was a little recovered, I hastened to you, my dearest Harriot, to unload my misfortunes on your dear bosom; and to conjure you to pardon my selfish passion, which makes me urge you to the performance of your promise to be mine, though I cannot place you in the situation your merit and birth deserve.”
When I had tenderly chid my dear Dumont for the suspicion he seemed to entertain, that I could not be happy with him in any condition, I agreed to give him my hand in two or three weeks at farthest. Mrs. Dormer being consulted upon this occasion, she proposed to take me to her country-house, where the ceremony of our marriage might be performed with less noise; and she joining her reasons to the ardent entreaties of my lover, that I would not defer his happiness so long, I consented, at last, that we should be united in six days after. And, as soon as he left us, Mrs. Dormer gave orders to her servants to get every thing ready for our journey to Richmond the next morning.
As I had before agreed with my lover not to expect him till the day before our marriage, I was not surprised at my not seeing him; but in all that time I received no letter from him, which filled me with a mortal uneasiness. I struggled, however, with myself to conceal my disquiets, even from Mrs. Dormer, who sometimes expressed her surprise at his neglect. But the appointed day came, and my lover not appearing, I could no longer suppress my apprehensions. Mrs. Dormer, though excessively alarmed, yet endeavored to compose my fears, by alleging, that, perhaps, some very extraordinary affairs detained him longer than he expected; and that, to-morrow being the day we had fixed for our marriage, he would certainly be with us early in the morning. “But why does he not write, madam? said I, (bursting into tears). Ah! you can never persuade me, that some fatal accident has not befallen him!”
Whatever arguments she could use to comfort me, were entirely fruit less. I passed the whole night in tears. When morning came, the agitations of my mind were so violent, that Mrs. Dormer proposed sending a servant to town, to go to his relation’s house, which was in the midst of the city, and endeavor to give him a billet from me. I consented immediately to this expedient; and, having wrote a short letter to him, dispatched the servant away with it on horseback, with proper instructions to deliver the billet to none but Dumont himself. Mrs. Dormer, while he was away, endeavored to soften my anxious impatience, by telling me she hoped my lover would arrive before the servant returned. But, alas! the hours past away in vain expectation and racking fear! ’Twas late in the evening before the servant returned; while my heart, tortured with the most cruel anxiety, thought every moment an age. My friend was perpetually ringing the bell, to ask if her man was come back. At last, we were told he was just entered the house, and two moments after came into the room. Mrs. Dormer, observing I was not able to speak, asked the servant, hastily, if he had delivered the letter, “No, madam, said he, (holding it out to her) I could not see Mr. Dumont himself. His servant was called, and he told me his master was married the evening before; that he could not possibly speak to him, he being engaged in company: but that, if I would leave the letter with him, he would take an opportunity to deliver it. But as you commanded me, madam, to bring it back, if ——” “Well, well, interrupted Mrs. Dormer, (seeing me ready to drop from my chair) you have done right: leave the room.” Then, running to me, she held me up in her arms; and, forcing me to take some hartshorn, prevented me, with great difficulty, from falling into a swoon.
I will not trouble you, dear Amanda, with the complaints I made when I recovered the use of speech, which astonishment, grief, and despair, had for some time deprived me of. Mrs. Dormer knew too well, that to offer consolation, while my grief was yet new, would be in vain; she, therefore, contented herself with mingling her tears with mine, and echoing, with all the fervor of friendship, the epithets of base, perfidious, and ungrateful, with which I loaded the once dear Dumont. The torments I suffered this dreadful night, may be better imagined than described. That pride of spirit, which was natural to me when I received an affront, came however to my assistance on this cruel occasion; and, filling me with the sharpest resentment and disdain for the base infidelity of my lover, helped to fortify my heart against the first violent emotions of my grief. The resolution I had taken to see this betrayer once more, that I might upbraid him with his broken vows, gave me, in some intervals, a gloomy satisfaction. I eagerly longed for morning, that I might set out for London to execute this design; and, as soon as it appeared, I rose immediately, and, when I was drest, went into Mrs. Dormer’s chamber to acquaint her with my intention. That lady, finding all the arguments she could use ineffectual to dissuade me, offered to bear me company; but this I absolutely refused. And, assuring her I would return the next day, she, with some reluctance, consented to my going; and gave orders for her chaise to be got ready. I left her so sensibly affected with this little parting, that I could not help expressing my surprise at it. Alas! I did not foresee that it would be long e’re I should see her again, and that fortune was preparing the severest afflictions for me! I had ordered the servant to drive, with the utmost expedition, to town; but yet he went much too slow for my impatience. When we got to my friend’s lodgings, the moment I alighted, one of the maid-servants informed me, that an elderly gentleman was inquiring for me, who said he brought some news from my mother. “Where is that gentleman? said I, (eagerly). Is he gone?” “No, miss, said she, (pointing to a person who stood in the hall, whom I had not observed before) that is the gentle man: he came in just before you.” Upon this he advanced towards me, when, desiring him to follow me into a parlor, I asked him if he had any letters from my mother. “Don’t be surprised, miss, said he, though you should hear news you little expect. Your mother and youngest sister are now in London.” “In London! cried I, (amazed). Can it be possible! Why, it is not a month ago since I heard from them, and they gave me no hopes I should see them so soon!” “Your mother, miss, replied he, embarked with your sister and her husband on board a ship, which sailed from N——a few days after that which brought you the letters you speak of: your brother-in law having received some accounts from England, which obliged him to come away much sooner than he intended. I have the honor to be particularly acquainted with him and your sister, and came from N—— in the same ship with them. I left them all at the inn, where we arrived late last night; and, as I was obliged to be early in the morning at this end of the town, was desired to call here, and acquaint you with their arrival: and will, if you please, wait on you to the inn, where they impatiently expect you.” I was so eager to see my mother and sister, that I did not hesitate a moment to comply with this offer. But resolving to defer sending a message to Dumont till an. other opportunity, congratulated myself on the prospect of having my dear Fanny to console me under this uneasiness; and stepping into the hackney-coach, which the gentleman came in, and which was still waiting at the door, we set forwards immediately for the place, to which my conductor ordered the coach-man to drive. As he seemed to be much in years, I was not surprised that he entreated me to let the windows, which were of wood, to be drawn up, complaining that the air was too cool for him; yet I did not like this situation with a stranger, and began to think our journey had lasted very long, when, the coach stopping of a sudden, my companion opened the door himself, and gave me his hand to help me down. I was so perfectly unacquainted with the town, that I did not take much notice that we were set down at a wharf near the bridge; but I followed the gentleman, still thinking the inn was somewhere thereabouts, when, all of a sudden, he lifted me up in his arms, and put me into a boat, that I had reason to imagine was expecting us. The watermen rowing immediately from the shore, e’re my astonishment would give me leave to cry out for help, I found myself wholly abandoned to the power of the wretch who had betrayed me; and, not being able to imagine his reasons for thus imposing on me, I asked him, in a trembling voice, where he intended to carry me, and if it was true that he had been sent by my mother. I was surprised to hear him answer, in an authoritative tone, That I should know that presently; urging the watermen, at the same time, to make haste. “My God! cried I, what can this mean! Am I betrayed, then! Yet, alas! who can have any interest in thus trepanning me!” “Foolish girl, said the old man, hold thy peace: what I do is for your good.” My amazement at this strange language, from a man who was perfectly unknown to me, filled me with a terror and confusion not easily to be described. I was pressing him, with tears, to unfold the mystery, when, our boat coming up close to a small vessel that was in the river, he, with the help of a man who stood at the side, forced me to ascend it, in spite of my loud cries and exclamations. I now gave myself over for lost; and, having too much reason to imagine that something fatal was designed against me, I resigned myself up to the most violent despair. The old man, who had exhorted me several times to patience, offered to lead me down stairs into the cabin, to avoid the sight of the men upon deck, who were taken up in gazing on us. “I know not, said I, (in an assured accent) for what purpose you have used this violence to me; but if, as I have too much reason to suspect, there is any design formed upon my honor, know, I am resolved to die in the defense of it.” “Fear not, replied he, (in a low voice) that I would be accessory to such a villainous intention. I am no ruffian; and I admire the sentiment you have just now avowed: but I have very urgent reasons for getting your person in my power. The quiet of a whole family depended on it.” Saying this, he gave me his hand to help me into the cabin; which I did not refuse, hoping I should prevail upon him to explain himself upon this dark affair. “I can’t imagine, sir, said I, (when we were seated) how your seizing my person can promote the happiness of any people whatever; and before I pretend to expostulate with you, on the injustice of detaining me as your prisoner, and intention of conveying me far from my relations and country, I would fain know who those persons are, whose quiet I so innocently disturb, and to whom I am to be made a sacrifice?” “When you shall know, replied the old gentleman, that my name is Darcy, the uncle of that young lady to whom Mr. Dumont was engaged from his infancy, you will not be surprised that I have acted in this manner. Your artifices have seduced that young man to forsake the religion of his ancestors, in which he was bred, to espouse the doctrines of that heresy you profess, which must inevitably shut him out from salvation.” “Ah! interrupted I, must my liberty be invaded upon the account of that perfidious man! Is he not married? What have you to fear from me?” “’Tis true, he is married, replied he; but it is to be feared, that the apprehensions of being a beggar made him consent to fulfill his engagement. And, since you have been the means of perverting his principles, and estranging his affections from her who had always a claim to them, it is fit you should be removed from his sight, that the endeavors of his wife and friends, to bring him back to the holy church he has forsaken, may have no obstructions from the fatal passion he had for you, and which your absence will not fail to extinguish.” “Do you think, then, insolent as you are, said I, that I am capable of holding any correspondence with a married man; one who has betrayed me, and whom, for a thousand reasons, I am obliged to hate?” “I confess, miss, interrupted Mr. Darcy, that Dumont is unworthy of your esteem; for he has certainly deceived you, and there is no doubt but he has very dishonorable intentions towards you: therefore, in thus depriving him of the means of laying snares for your virtue, and giving any umbrage to his wife, I have taken the trouble to keep you out of his way for some time, till his affection for his wife is confirmed, and the heretical principles, he has imbibed by your means, eradicated.” “And do you imagine, resumed I, that this action of yours would not subject you to some punishment, were it known? How dare you force me from my relations, and oblige me to abandon those upon whom my whole dependence was placed? Must my fame and happiness be sacrificed to your fears for your niece? Am I not as dear to my mother and sisters as she is to you? And must all my family be involved in misery, lest any jealousies should disturb her repose? But do not think, that I will quietly submit to this insolent treatment: I know not where you intend to carry me; but, depend upon it, the moment we land, I’ll demand justice for the violence you have done me.” “You are much deceived, said he, if you imagine I have taken my measures so ill, as to fear any clamors you can make. I will do nothing dishonorably by you: I am taking you to Paris, where I have a relation, who is prioress of a convent. ’Tis there I propose to place you; and will be at the expense of supporting you as a pensioner there, ‘till your return to England may be effected without any ill consequences to my nephew. If you will submit patiently to this design, you shall be treated with all the respect you can desire; if not, take what measures you please: I am prepared against all you can do.” Saying this, he went out of the cabin, leaving me at liberty to reflect on the strangeness of my misfortunes. The thoughts of being confined in a monastery, and tore from my relations, whom it was not probable I might see again in a long time, were, I confess, to my shame, but secondary causes of my affliction. The perfidy of Dumont sunk deep into my soul. Spite of my just resentment, I loved him still; and was not capable of forming a wish to hurt the quiet of him, whose infidelity had made me completely miserable. Mr. Darcy, after an absence of two hours, came again into the cabin, followed by the cabin boy, who laid the cloth, and served a cold collation to the table; of which Mr. Darcy entreated me, with much politeness, to partake of. I sat down to the table in a kind of sullen civility; but my grief was too violent to suffer me to eat much. When the things were removed, I again resumed my reproaches and threatenings; but, he continuing fixed in his resolution, I found there was no possibility of preventing his designs, which plunged me into the most frightful despair. I passed that night, and the following day, in ruminating on the most likely methods I could fall upon to get out of his hands; and I thought them all so improbable and hazardous, that I remained convinced I was doomed to be a prisoner as long as he should think it necessary. We did not arrive at Calais till about eleven o’clock the next night; an hour which favored my ravisher’s designs. When we landed, he made me pass for his niece, whom he was carrying to a convent at Paris. As all passengers pass through a kind of examination at the governor’s, whither we went for the same purpose, I determined to explain my situation, and claim redress. The governor could not be seen at that time of night; but, it seems, it was sufficient if any of his servants saw the strangers: and I was beginning to speak to a person, who seemed to be in some authority, when Darcy eagerly interrupting me, “This unhappy girl, said he, has had the misfortune to be corrupted by the Heretic who had the care of her education. Her false zeal for their destructive principles, makes her look upon the resolution I have taken, to place her for a time in a monastery, where she may be brought to detest her fatal change, as an insupportable tyranny.” I would have answered this horrid falsehood; but I was not suffered to speak. These good Catholics, conceiving, in an instant, the unfavorable impression Darcy designed they should, commended the pious intention of my pretended uncle, and loaded me with reproaches.
We performed our journey to Paris in two days and a half, Mr. Darcy telling the same story to every one whom we were obliged to speak to. The post-chaise we traveled in, set us down at the very gate of the convent. We were strewn into the parlor, and, in a few minutes, the prioress appeared. I was so taken up with observing objects so new and strange to me, that this lady and Mr. Darcy conversed softly together for a quarter of an hour, before I could recollect myself well enough to be able to speak. “Madam, (said I, at last, to this old Nun) I cannot imagine, as you are Mr. Darcy’s relation, and, no doubt, entitled to his confidence, that he will attempt to impose upon you in the same manner he has done others, since I came into his power. You can’t but know that I am not his niece, and that he has no right to confine me in this place, which he proposes to do. If I meet with no redress from you, madam, I am to believe that you join in the unjust violence which is offered me, and give the sanction of your approbation to the most cruel artifice that ever was practiced.” “Bless me, cousin, said the prioress, (affecting an air of astonishment) has this young creature lost her senses, that she talks in this manner? What am I to think of the incoherent stuff she has uttered! She denies that you have any right to interest yourself in her affairs, and complains of violence and artifice. What artifice, child! Is not this gentleman your uncle?” “Dear madam, interrupted Mr. Darcy, don’t trouble yourself to ask her any questions. The foolish girl is distractedly in love; and she would disown her parents, were they alive, to be at liberty to indulge her infamous passion for the heretic that has helped to ruin her principles.” “Pray, cousin, resumed the prioress, (with a starched gravity) be not in such heat. Permit me to examine a little what she has advanced: I will not give this child the least reason to accuse me of partiality and injustice: heaven forbid. What a scandal to our holy order! No, I will deal uprightly in this affair. Well, miss, you persist in saying you are not this gentleman’s niece?” “Yes, madam, answered I, (eagerly) and I can easily put you in a method to be convinced that what I say is truth. I have relations in England of some rank; let them be wrote to.” “Hold, hold, interrupted the prioress, (frowning) you talk too fast. Relations in England of rank! Who doubts it? My cousin Darcy’s family is a very wealthy and opulent one. You are very artful, indeed! Very artful! Oh these abominable heretics! How they contaminate the mind! Alas! They have quite ruined this poor child! I almost despair of bringing her back to salvation! But I will not be wanting in my most zealous endeavors to reclaim her. I will continually solicit the Holy Virgin in her behalf, that she would be pleased to assist my pious labors in restoring this lost sheep to the flock of Christ. Cousin, you may depend upon my care and fidelity: I will be answerable for her safety, and, I hope, conversion to the bosom of that holy church from which she hath strayed.” “Sure, madam, replied I, (lost in astonishment at her impious artifice) you forget that you have not suffered me to explain the cruel treatment I have met with. From the beginning of your speech, I hoped you would do me justice; but, I find, I am most miserably mistaken. But heaven, that sees how basely I am betrayed, will, I hope, find out the means of deliverance for me.” “Alas! said the prioress, (lifting up her eyes) she is quite incorrigible!” Saying this, she rung a bell; upon which a middle-aged nun appeared: “Sister Martha, said the prioress, I shall entrust this young lady to your care. She is delivered to me by her uncle, who informs me, she has been persuaded to forsake the holy Catholic religion, in which she was bred, through a prevailing passion she has for a heretic, who would undo her.” At these words, the grate being opened, I was led into that fatal enclosure. “Oh, my God! cried I, (with an ardent tone of voice) protect and deliver me!” “Go, miss, said the prioress, follow that sister; she will conduct you to your chamber.” I made no reply, but followed the nun; who, strewing me into a small chamber neatly furnished, desired me, very civilly, to sit down and compose myself; for, by this time, my face was all covered with tears. I threw myself into a chair; and, not being restrained by the presence of the nun, I gave way to the excess of anguish which oppressed me, and bewailed my fate in a deluge of tears. The nun, who had observed me heedfully, and, no doubt, made her own reflections upon the reproaches I had uttered, in the intervals of my weeping, against those who had betrayed me, asked me, in an obliging tone, Why I was so much afflicted; begged me to have patience; and observed to me, that my condition might not be so bad as my imagination represented it. As I had often heard very unpleasing accounts of the inquisitive and insincere temper of the women in these religious communities, I resolved to be very cautious and reserved. The behavior of the prioress had given me such an idea of holy hypocrisy, as would have inclined me to suspect the greatest appearance of piety to be a cheat. Possessed with these unfavorable opinions of the whole convent, it is not to be wondered at, that I could not resolve to place any confidence in her, under whose direction I was placed: I, therefore, contented myself with making civil replies to her offers of service; and answered her inquiries into my affairs, with only general complaints of the treachery and violence I had suffered. Near an hour was passed in this sort of conversation, when a young person, whom I afterwards found was called a lay-sister, opening the door, told the nun, that the prioress had called for her. After a short stay, sister Martha, returning, desired I would follow her to the prioress, which I immediately did; and being come into that lady’s apartment, the nun withdrew, leaving me alone with her. When she had desired me, very civilly, to be seated, she began to question me about my affairs, keeping up the appearance of believing me Mr. Darcy’s niece: and, notwithstanding all my protestations to the contrary, she seemed to persist in thinking I wanted to impose on her. I easily saw through her design. She would persuade me, by thus obstinately continuing in her error, that, in complying with the injunctions of Mr. Darcy, she only did her duty. It was, therefore, to no purpose to attempt to reason her out of a thing she was determined to believe, or rather to affect she did; and, for the remainder of the time I staid with her, I observed a sullen silence, without taking the trouble to answer the monastic cant in which she talked to me. “I find, pursued she, that I must be obliged to treat you with more severity than I at first intended; and that it will be necessary to keep you from any conversation with the ladies in this convent, lest you should attempt to impose upon them with your idle tales. You must, therefore, be contented to eat alone in your chamber; and when your behavior and repentance convince me I may trust you with any of the pensioners in my convent, you shall be at liberty to enjoy their company, and mix in their amusements.” Saying this, she ordered sister Martha to take me back again to my room, where I found the cloth laid, and my dinner served up, which consisted of some soup, and some other dish which I did not taste. I passed a great me with tears in her eyes. “It must be confessed, miss, said she, that your story is very moving; and, considering your extreme youth, full of very extraordinary incidents. I am surprised at your courage and constancy, and, indeed, your last misfortune requires it all. You are not the first unhappy young creature, who have been betrayed into these places through the artful contrivances of people, for whose interest it was they should be confined. There are two or three young ladies here at present, whose stories are still more melancholy than yours: they have been the prey of designing villains, who, after they had, by a mock marriage possessed themselves of their persons and fortunes, brought them here where they are entirely secluded from all conversation with the world and deprived for ever of the means of redress.” “And does the prioress, resumed I, know of this injustice?” “You may judge of that, said she, by her behavior to you. There is generally a handsome reward in these cases; and she holds herself obliged to believe whatever the betrayers of these innocent victims advance, and follows their orders strictly.” “Alas, replied I, is there no hopes that I shall ever be freed from my confine meet! Must I pass the rest of my days here, and never more see those dear relations, whom the loss of me will plunge into the most cruel distress?” “I see no probability, resumed the nun, of your release, unless your friends can discover where you are, which will be a very difficult matter. However, by your account of the occasion of your being brought here, I cannot think you will be confined long. Perhaps your disappearing thus, all of a sudden, was necessary to answer some present purpose of Mr. Darcy’s . I is a mighty mysterious affair; and, if there is nothing more in it than what he told me, your stay may not be very long. But I can’t flatter you, by saying, that there is any hopes of your escaping by any other means than those by which you were brought here.” This lady, who now sincerely pitied the melancholy life I led, endeavored to soften it by all the good offices in her power. She spent as much of her time with me as she had to spare from the duties of her calling; and, despairing to work any change in my principles, she dispensed with my constantly reading the books the prioress put into my hands; and borrowed, from some of the young ladies who were pensioners in the convent, some others more calculated to divert me. She went so far as to advise me to seem more reconciled to my situation, when I discoursed with the prioress, which would be the only way of procuring the liberty of conversing with some of the young ladies. I was prevailed upon, by the extreme desire I had for society, to dissemble in the manner she hinted; and the prioress, having exacted a promise from me to take care, that I would throw no reflections on the character of her relation Mr. Darcy, permitted me to see some of the sisterhood, and one or two of the pensioners. Among the last who visited me, there was one who expressed a more than ordinary inclination to serve me. She was a native of England, and had been in the convent but six months when I came. She was but eighteen years of age; and joined to a sparkling and elegant wit, a beauty so soft and touching, and withal so exquisitely alluring, that it was impossible to look upon any thing else when she was present. I felt myself, by a powerful sympathy, obliged to love this charming young creature; and we soon contracted a friendship, which entirely banished all reserve between us. My adventures, which I related at her request, drew a thousand tears from her lovely eyes. She owned my misfortunes had been very great: “But, alas, dear miss, said she, (pressing my hand) my afflictions have been infinitely greater than yours! The few years I have lived, have been crowded with a variety of wretchedness; yet my weakness and irresolution was possibly the first cause of my unhappiness. Never was there a temper so formed to give its owner pain; tender and fearful to excess; susceptible of every melting impression; and so incapable of resenting injuries, that I could never preserve a sense of them long enough, so as to be able to answer them with that spirit which is becoming innocence and truth.
In the relation of my history, I am obliged to speak, without disguise, of the faults of an only sister, who is now no more. Ah! ought I not rather to hide them for ever in oblivion! Poor undone Maria! Shall I disturb thy ashes with a painful enumeration of the miseries thy fatal conduct brought on me! Alas! my fortune was so twisted with hers, that, in relating my distresses, I give, in effect, her history, whose actions were the only source from whence they sprung. My father, who was a very considerable merchant in London, had been married to two wives successively of great families; and though they brought him no fortune, yet he found himself obliged to support them in a manner suitable to the dignity of their birth: by which fatal compliance he insensibly involved his circumstances into irreparable ruin. The last of these ladies was mother to my sister Maria and me, who were the only children my father ever had. Maria, who was born fifteen years before me, was the darling both of my father and mother: they indulged her in every wish she could frame; and, though her behavior had been ever so unexceptionable, it could hardly have repaid the unlimited confidence they reposed in her.
I am very unskillful, dear Miss Stuart, in drawing characters; yet I will endeavor to give you some notion of my sister’s, which, indeed, requires a much abler painter. Let me begin then, with her person. She was of the middle size, and had what is called a true shape; that is, she was perfectly strait, had a good neck and small waist. But she had none of that delicacy of composure, that genteel negligence and gracefulness of motion, which constitutes an elegant person. These defects, however, were in a great measure concealed by the extraordinary richness of her clothes; for finery certainly affords great advantages to a tolerable figure, and hers, observed with a critical eye, could not be allowed any greater praise. Her face might have the same objections made to it, as her person; that is, it was neither striking nor genteel. She had a good complexion, and might be said to have tolerable features; but her mouth was too large, and her eyes too small. In short, her face was so equivocal, that it would have been hard to have called it handsome or disagreeable. Her eyes were not animated with any thing but motion, and they might more properly be said to see than to look. It will not be difficult to guess from this, that she was very deficient in her understanding. It was remarked by a very great author, that no woman could ever look well, that did not think well. I am of the same opinion; and it was to the want of thinking well, that I ascribed those unmeaning glances of my sister’s, which spread an air of stupidity over her face. Yet this barrenness of wit was not so easily discovered in her as in many others: she seldom attempted to talk on any subjects out of her sphere of comprehension; and her silence, upon those occasions, was not very remarkable. She possessed an infinite share of cunning, and what by some people is called prudence; which means no more than a settled habit of masking one’s own sentiments, always speaking in disguise, and taking all advantages of the openness and sincerity of others. This, indeed, was her peculiar talent: never woman was more capable of assuming the appearance of modesty and virtue. My father, who believed her a miracle of chastity, never controlled any of her actions; but gave her an entire liberty to see what company, and frequent what diversions, she pleased. And I have often heard her say, she should think herself the basest of all creatures in the world, if she abused the generous confidence her parents put in her conduct. And yet, dear miss, my sister, even in the life of my father, allowed herself very scandalous liberties; and what, if known, would have been sufficient to ruin her reputation for virtue.
My father and mother died within a few months of each other. It was thought the bad condition of his affairs threw him into a melancholy, which brought on the fatal illness which deprived us of him. I was but fourteen when, by the death of both my parents, I was left entirely to the care of my sister Maria, with no more than five hundred pounds, to which she was left sole executrix, and which was to be divided between us. Most of our relations of any quality and fortune living in France, (for my mother was a native of this country) it was expected my sister would go there; but she, not finding they were very warm in their solicitations for that purpose, chose to remain in London; where she continued to maintain as much of the same elegance of living, as if my father had been still alive, and able to afford it. It may easily be imagined, that so poor a sum as five hundred pounds would be soon diminished at the rate we lived. People were at a loss to know what my sister designed by making so gay an appearance, when it was well known the rifle we had to depend upon. I have not yet touched upon my sister’s distinguishing foible which was vanity to such excess, that she did not ink there was a woman upon earth who excelled her in beauty.
I am afraid, indeed, you may suspect my having handled her character with too much satire; but I cannot possibly avoid mentioning those defects in it, to which she owed her ruin. With this advantageous opinion of her person, which the adulation of a few lovers had helped to increase, she continued the gay life she had been used to, in hopes of making her fortune by marriage. Any one, less infatuated with vanity, would not have engaged their whole dependence in so hopeless a scheme; she being no longer in that bloom of youth, in which beauty is in its full lustre. And the world, which was pretty free in its censures on her conduct, insinuated that she aimed at being kept by some man of fortune, who could afford to settle a considerable allowance on her. I was sensible my sister had made two or three slips in her conduct, which might, with reason, have subjected her to great censure; yet I had too good an opinion of her, to believe any thing in the world could prevail upon her to forfeit her virtue: and looked upon the liberties she had allowed herself, to be the effects of an inordinate fondness for seeing herself the object of love. This desire in her, not being managed with that delicate art, which a coquette, who has wit, always uses, and which prevents any assuming confidence in the lover she would seem to favor, she was forced to submit to lower artifices, and grant very blamable favors, for the sake of hearing the language of love. This being my sense of those faults she was guilty of, it was not strange that my partial tenderness for her, which her surprising art in disguising the true bent of her inclinations confirmed, should so far influence my opinion, as to make me perfectly secure of her virtue. I was too young to be capable of reflecting seriously on the waste of our little fortune; and had been so used to reverence and obey my sister, who, by reason of her great advantage over me in years, I considered almost in the character of a mother, that I could hardly think any thing amiss she did. Some months had elapsed since the death of my mother, without my sister making the hoped for market of her charms; for, in short, her admirers seldom went farther than a few superficial compliments, which, had her vanity given her leave to judge rightly of, was no great proof of their passion. Her own heart, however, was more sensible of the extent of that passion she aimed to inspire: she became in love with a gentleman, famous for the devastation his person had made among the inexperienced of our sex; and she no sooner resigned her heart, than she made a sacrifice of her fame, her honor, and her happiness. This shocking affair could not be long concealed from me. Maria, whose prudence once avoided the least occasion of censure, now made no scruple to lie out of our lodgings two or three times a week. Her temper was naturally violent; and she often treated me with most insupportable tyranny, if ever I dared to contradict her. I, therefore, durst only express my dislike of her conduct by distant hints, which she would not seem to understand. Her staying from me all night, shocked me beyond expression; for I was not only terribly afraid of lying alone, but was ready to die with the apprehension that her lying out would be discovered. For this reason I could not have the maid, who lived with us, to sleep with me; and was forced to hide myself under the bed-clothes, for fear of specters, while my sister stole down stairs, and went to her lover. As she was sure to return before our maid entered the chamber, who was used never to rise till she was called, her intrigue remained a secret to her; and the people with whom we lodged, were also entirely ignorant of her ever lying abroad, as they carried on great business, and, being always employed in their shop, had no opportunities of observing who went out or in at the other door, which was for the use of their lodgers.
Thus secure was the unhappy Maria in the practice of her guilt, to which I was doomed to be the victim. Young as I then was, I was capable of foreseeing some part of the misfortunes her ill conduct would bring upon us both. I lamented her crime with tears: I endeavored to make her sensible of the fatal step she had taken; but she would silence me with the most insolent expressions of rage and contempt. And telling me, she never thought the laws of marriage binding, any farther than inclination gave them force, she looked upon herself as much married to Mr. Dalmere, while she continued constant to him, as if the priest had joined their hands.
By the way, dear miss, this sentiment was not her own; she had read or heard it somewhere, and applied it immediately to her own case, as she did several other things, which favored her scheme of free and unrestrained love. l loved her with such tenderness, that I was easily persuaded to believe it was excess of love which occasioned her fault; and the first instance of indifference from her betrayer, would make her return to a sense of her duty, and give her a higher relish of a virtuous life for the future.
She still wore in her countenance and behavior such an appearance of modesty and reserve, that no one could be capable of imagining she had been guilty of any offense to virtue. In the mean time, our money was almost spent. My sister, in the disposal of her person, consulted nothing but her inclinations. She scorned, she would say, to have any mercenary views, like wretches who sold themselves for gain: it was nobler, in her opinion, to be the victim of love. A prude would have said perhaps, it was a filthy pride to value themselves upon falling a sacrifice to gross inclinations. Maria saw things in another light: she valued herself upon her nice taste in love; and would scorn to mix any mean, sordid views of interest with her gratifications in an unlawful passion. Maria, who was the most humble, creeping mistress that ever man had, was capable of exerting the violence of her temper only against me Her profound dissimulation made her seize all opportunities, in public, of expressing an uncommon tenderness and care of me; while, in private, she indulged herself in the most tyrannical treatment. Unhappily for her, she had no relations in England, who thought themselves near enough in blood to her, to assume a right of censuring her conduct: she, therefore, contracted all the insolence of unreproved vice; and dared not only justify her actions, but load me with the most injurious language, if I dared to insinuate the least dislike to the base principles she avowed.
Here, miss, I know you will condemn me for not leaving her immediately. Alas! I am sensible ’twas what I ought to have done! But, with all that native softness of constitution, that blamable tenderness, which somebody very rightly terms a milkiness of blood; how could I resolve to cast off, for ever, an only sister! Disclaim the endearing ties of nature! and, publishing her infamy by my abandoning her, destroy the reputation she still generally preserved of virtue! I could have sooner died than have consented to do this! I could not bear to wound her with the most distant hint, that it was necessary I should leave her, to preserve my own reputation. It never seemed to enter into her thoughts, that I might suffer from her guilt. My youth and innocence, confided to her care by a mother, who believed no temptation upon earth could win her from virtue, were so little the objects of her concern, that the superiority my virtue gave me over her, even in her own reflections, made me, perhaps, often be exposed to the violence of her temper, from a cause I could not guess; and which her pride, ’tis probable, would not allow her to confess even to herself. But she was now with child; and though this glaring proof of her guilt sent unutterable pangs to my heart, yet the severity of my reflections were so softened by a consideration of the danger of her condition, that I could only silently lament her shame and misery; which she seemed so entirely insensible of herself, that I could impute it to nothing else than an excess of stupidity, which rendered her wholly incapable of reflection.
Her lover now gave her so many marks of indifference, that she was convinced her charms, powerful as she thought them, had lost their influence on his heart. On this occasion, indeed, she discovered some reflection she mourned this misfortune with a gloomy kind of melancholy, which made her so excessively ill-natured, thee I hardly dared to speak to her. What uneasy days have I spent with her, while her condition obliged her to keep her chamber, lest she should be remarked. Her resentment against Dalmere would show itself in such frantic humors, that I never enjoyed a moment’s peace. Then, if it happened that her lover would condescend to dissemble a return of tenderness for her, she would grow so insolent and over-bearing upon it, that I was sure to suffer as much from the tyrannic exultings of her joy, as I did before from her rage and grief. Now, if I did any thing to displease her, Mr. Dalmere should know it; she would complain of my impertinence to Mr. Dalmere; he would not suffer her to be treated in this manner. This way of threatening me with her gallant’s resentment, would sometimes throw me into violent fits of rage. Then I would resolve to leave her, and implore the protection of some of my relations: haughty as they were, I would conjure them to shelter me from her infamy and ill-usage. But these emotions of my anger died almost as soon as born; and the least expression of concern from her, soothed me again into a perfect calm.
My sister, who, in the pursuit of her amour, suffered no thought of future want to intrude upon her mind, wholly engrossed by her fondness for her undoer, now found difficulties crowd upon her apace. Her lover very sparingly afforded her some assistance; and, but for some very considerable presents I received from my godmother, who was very fond of me, she must, in her affecting condition, have wanted the necessaries of life. Her lover, who had been bred to the law, had the management of a little lawsuit for us, which, if ended in our favor, would afford us but a very trifling assistance. But my relations here in France having wrote to invite me over, I determined, as soon as my sister was freed from her shameful burthen, to go to them; for my heart died within me, when I reflected that her life was perhaps drawing near a period, and that my leaving her in such a distressed condition, might have the most cruel effects. I therefore applied my godmother’s bounty wholly to her assistance, which was designed to send me in a genteel manner to France; by which I laid myself under a necessity of depending upon the event of this little affair, which Dalmere was transacting.
In the mean time, my sister’s unfortunate situation began to be suspected by some persons, who would not fail to whisper it about. I was aware of the ill consequences of such a report; but Maria, to stifle any reproaches she conceived I might make her, if her story became public, had the detestable art to throw all the blame of a discovery upon me. She said, my continual uneasiness at her leaving me for any time, made her choose rather to stay in her lodgings with me, than consent to remain in a private manner in the country till her delivery; her lover having offered to be at all the expenses of her retreat.
This, in fact, dear miss, was absolutely false; for Mr. Dalmere, either too indigent or too covetous, never made her such an offer; or, if he had, could I have been capable of expressing any dislike to it, as it was the only means of concealing her crime. I, indeed, often showed an extreme concern at her lying out of her lodgings of nights; both because it was highly scandalous, and laid me under the necessity of sleeping alone, which I could not do, without feeling unaccountable fears and apprehensions; the effects of a disturbed imagination, and those tales of spirits and hobgoblins I had heard in my childhood. And, therefore, whenever she was going, I always burst into tears and complaints; partly through disgust at the indecency, and horror at being left to my terrible apprehensions. My sister would always rave at me, for thus opposing her going out, with a most surprising assurance; and make me as severe reproaches, as if the design of her leaving me was the most innocent and justifiable imaginable. Upon this she grounded her accusation of me, as the cause of her continuing in town, during her being with child; though I never heard a word of her intention to leave it, or the most distant expectation that her lover would propose it to her. However, Maria said it so often, that, I am of opinion, she at last persuaded herself it was true; for I could no otherwise account for those gusts of rage with which she would terrify me, whenever I contradicted so false an assertion. As she drew nearer the time of her delivery, the palpable indifference of her lover seemed more to affect her. I took this opportunity, to endeavor to wean her mind from the fatal passion that had ruined her. My arguments, at last, worked so forcibly upon her passions, that, when she was seized with the pangs of labor, and a coach was waiting at the door, to carry her to the place designed for her privately lying-in, I dictated a letter to her, which she sent to her betrayer, in which she bid him an eternal farewell, and solemnly vowed she would never see him more; wishing, that, in her present dangerous circumstances, her life or death might be determined by the sincerity and faithful performance of the resolution she had taken. Alas, I vainly flattered myself, that a returning sense of virtue, and remorse for her past guilt, aided my remonstrances, and disposed her to this favorable change. But resentment and despair inspired these sentiments; and, during the whole time of her illness, she was agitated by no other emotions than what his still-continued indifference made her feel.
As I could never discover in the unhappy Maria any sentiments of piety, or dependence on providence, for which last she insinuated an absolute contempt, I despaired of ever reclaiming her from motives of religion, which I had often attempted in vain. I grounded, therefore, all my hopes upon that resentment and disdain which his behavior had inspired her with, and the solemn engagement she had made to give up all correspondence with him for the future. Yet this devoted girl was returned home to me but one day, before a message from her lover made her pass the next guilty night with him! Struck with inexpressible horror and grief, at seeing her thus abandoned to infamy, I gave her over for lost: and, eager now to preserve myself from the fatal contagion of her almost ruined character, I pressed her to hasten her lover in the prosecution of that little law-suit, that I might be furnished with the means of departing. Mr. Dalmere advising her to make up the affair, upon the consideration of receiving a small premium, which we had immediate occasion for, I also gladly consented, that I might no longer be kept from the asylum that was offered me. Accordingly all matters were amicably settled, and Maria went to receive the sum. I had already bespoke several things, which were necessary to my making a genteel appearance when I went to my relations; and hoped to leave England, in a few weeks, for ever: when my sister, returning, informed me, that Mr. Dalmere had stops most of the money which had been paid, to discharge what she was indebted to him.
It will be impossible, dear miss, to give you a just idea of my astonishment at this account! How a man, who had possessed himself of her honor and reputation, at a time that her distresses were arrived to the last pitch, could be capable of acting the part of a merciless creditor; and, seizing all her little dependence, leave her to struggle with want and misery! How any man, I say, could do this, struck me with such amazement and horror, that I remained for some moments unable to utter a word. At last, a sense of my own helpless state made me burst into tears. Oh, my God! cried I, I am ruined! I am undone! Maria, whose thoughts had been wholly engrossed by rage, at this proof of her lover’s small regard for her, loaded me with reproaches for making this pathetic complaint, and not rather pitying her greater misery, who had been deceived by the faithless vows of such a wretch. My ruin was little, it seems, in comparison of the injury offered to the affection she had born him. I could not, indeed, refuse her my pity; for she was truly miserable., and I therefore ceased my complaints immediately, and applied myself to think on some proper methods to extricate myself from the difficulties, into which I was likely to be involved.
My father, when he died, had a balance of a hundred and forty pounds due to him from a gentleman, with whom he had had large dealings; but, through some errors in settling the accounts, the payment of the money was disputed. My sister, having other business upon her hands, had neglected this affair; but the pressing occasion we had for money, made me entreat an intimate friend of my father’s to take it in hand. Accordingly he promised to procure payment of the debt; and I began to compose myself with the hopes of being enabled to leave my sister, from whom I designed to take no more than what was necessary for some little fineries, and the expenses of my journey.
In the mean time, we continued in the same fine lodgings; and my sister not being able to conform to her circumstances, our manner of living was not altered from what it had formerly been. Maria, who would not have been sorry if I had espoused the same principles with herself, would frequently hint to me, that, as I had several lovers who would make very advantageous settlements upon me, I had no reason to fear being reduced to any extremities. Whether she desired I should sacrifice myself to these views, I know not; but ’tis certain, she took no care to preserve either my virtue or reputation. She was now with child a second time; and the sight of her in this condition, filled me with perpetual disgust and inquietude; for sure, if there can be any extenuations found for the first fault of that kind, no partiality can excuse the second. However, she thought it necessary to provide for her own security; and leaving me to answer for all the debts we had contracted, while we lived together, went off to her lover, and remained concealed in his lodgings.
I believe, miss, few people could have forgiven an action, which, considering all its aggravating circumstances, could hardly be paralleled by any thing which I have yet heard. My sister, after first neglecting to provide for our future subsistence, by a proper application of the trifle we had left; after engaging in a scandalous intrigue, by which she exposed her own character and my innocence to inevitable ruin; after being the cause of my not seeking the protection of my relations, and reducing me to a precarious dependence upon what might never be obtained; left me, at last, at the most early years, to struggle with all the miseries her infamy had brought upon me!
Figure to yourself, my dear, a young creature, not yet seventeen, who, for near three years, had led a most disagreeable life with a sister, who had been almost all that time plunged in a criminal intrigue! left, at last, to encounter all the miseries of want, and the reproaches of the world, for the bad conduct of the nearest relation she had; and restrained from seeking assistance and relief, by the fear of exposing the crimes of a sister, who was still dear to her! This was my unhappy situation! I was ordered by Maria to tell every person, who inquired for her, that she was in the country: and though I obeyed my instructions exactly, as well for her sake as my own; yet my sister was the first to prove me an accomplice in her guilt, by receiving company in her lover’s apartments, and being known to all his acquaintance: and was so infatuated, that she believed she could appear there with all imaginable freedom, and yet be thought only a visitant; and, great as she was with child, that no one could observe it.
As she sometimes ventured out of an evening to see me, I endeavored to expostulate with her on this strange proceeding: but my daring to suppose there was a possibility of her being discovered by these means threw her into such violent rages, that I was forced to be silent; for Maria had a way of silencing reason and conviction by the thunder of her voice. And she would pronounce a negative with a force, that might have been heard over all the house; for she knew I would rather give up the argument than expose her, by speaking loud enough to be heard amidst the echoes of her own voice, on so infamous a subject.
I lived thus for about three months by myself, in continual expectation that Mr. W— — so was that friend of my father’s called, would, by his interest and management, get this money I mentioned to you paid. The distresses I was reduced to, in this time, were almost greater than I could well support: I was teased with constant demands for money; and my sister’s disappearing, giving cause for suspicion that they were designed to be imposed upon, made me often obliged to suffer very disagreeable reflections. I have sat in my own chamber for a week together, without tasting any thing, but tea, in all that timed till I was brought so extremely low, that I was hardly able to stir. It is not with any design to give you a high idea of my virtue, that I tell you, that, in this scene of distress, I had the alternative of affluence and splendor proposed to me, if I could have been capable of preferring wealthy infamy to indigent chastity and innocence. In those moments, when present misery, heightened by the expectation of greater, most disturbed me, I was sometimes tempted to think, that I had done all that virtue could demand of me; and that, if severe necessity forced me to resign my honor, fortune only could be to blame, which had reduced me to such terrible extremities. But this false reasoning made but little impression on my mind: I started at the thoughts of guilt, and dreaded my own weakness in trials so severe. I implored assistance from that power, who alone was able to afford it.
It cannot, dear miss, be imagined by any, who have not felt the same emotions, the heart-felt joy, the inward peace and conscious triumphs of my soul, when, by these ardent ejaculations, I found my wavering resolutions more confirmed, and virtue taking deeper root in my heart. I indulged the pleasing, (may I add) justifiable pride, which glowed in every thought that represented me suffering in so glorious a cause; and, thus supported, bore afflictions which my youth, and the delicacy of my constitution, rendered far more hard for me to suffer than many others.
I had dismissed the servant who attended us, as soon as my sister left me; and having little other entertainment than a few books, which, by frequent reading, grew tasteless, I resigned myself up to a melancholy and despair, which, every moment increasing, threatened me with some very dangerous illness. I don’t know whether I have told you, that my sister. when she went away, left me with whom we lodged. This man, alarmed at my sister’s disappearing all Of a sudden, made me so extremely uneasy about the money that was due to him, that I acquainted Mr. W—— with his behavior) and pressed him, if he really could do any thing in the affair he had undertaken, to do it as soon as possible. This gentleman, who was always profuse in his promises of service, assured me, he did not doubt but that he should settle that matter to our satisfaction: but added, that he was going out of town for a little time; and, for fear the landlord should make me uneasy, he would speak to him, and engage him to wait till he returned, when he was sure he could get our money paid.
Mr. W—— was a man of a large fortune; and, if I had seemed willing to accept of an obligation from him, there is no doubt but he would have offered to have paid this money himself: but I knew the danger of accepting favors of this kind. And Mr. W— — having too great a regard for my dear father, to attempt any thing against the honor of his child, made no offers of an assistance, for which he neither expected or desired any return. He, however, did as much as I could with decency accept: when he came to take his leave of me, he desired Mr. C— — the landlord, might walk up to my dining-room; and then, telling him the situation of my affairs, and that he had undertaken to get me a considerable sum paid, which was a debt due to my father, asked him, if he would be contented to wait for three months, which was the time he proposed staying in the country; and that, when he came to town, he would take care to see him discharged. Mr. C—— could have no objection to so reasonable a proposal; and assured Mr. W— — that he would give the young lady no uneasiness till that time was expired. Upon which Mr. W—— went away, and left me very well satisfied with the ease he had procured me.
The wretched Maria was now near her time. Her lover had removed her to an obscure apartment in a house, with no creature in it but herself. Here she spent the melancholy hours: I will not say, tortured with remorse for her guilt; but almost distracted with the anguish that her lover’s now more than indifference (for it was risen to disgust) gave her. I could not behold her in this affecting condition, without a heart bleeding with a sense of her distress. I went to see her two or three times a week; for I was in no danger of meeting Mr. Dalmere. He hardly ever saw her, and only sent his servant once or twice a day with what things were necessary for her subsistence. The thoughts of her being left alone in that helpless state, when she expected every moment to be taken ill, used to give me such terrible apprehensions upon her account, that I was miserable to excess. She was so lowly in her behavior to her lover, that she resolved to bear any inconveniency rather than press him to place her in a properer place: and he, never troubling himself with any reflections about her condition, suffered her to remain in a house, as I said before, without any human creature but herself in it At last, a place being pitched upon, where she was to remove in a few days, my heart was a little at rest; but, dreading lest she should be indisposed in the night, and no one near her, I could not prevail upon myself to leave her alone, but passed the two or three last nights, that she staid in this house, with her.
I returned home the same evening she was removed; and I was Sitting at my desk reading, when I heard a man’s step coming hastily up the stairs. The house being very large, and no one on the same floor with me, I was a little startled, reflecting that I had left the door of my apartment open. I was just going to rise, when a tall ill-looking man entered the room, and advanced with a slow step towards me. The dining-room being very large, and having only one candle, which was placed on the desk where I was reading, it afforded but a glimmering light to the rest of the room; and made the solemn stalking of the man, who approached me in a profound silence, appear so tremendous, that I sat immovable with terror, keeping my eyes fixed on his motions. At last, when he had got close up to me, he showed a bit of paper he held in his hand, told me it was a writ, and that it empowered him to seize my person. The astonishment and terror with which I was seized, hindered me from replying; when Mr. C—— came in, “Miss, said he, you can’t be surprised that I have taken this method to get my money. Your sister’s leaving the house, without taking any notice of the debt, with reason alarmed me. A few weeks ago, when I happened to see her, as she came from you, I sent after her, to beg she would allow me to speak to her; upon which she replied, that she was going about a little business, and would call upon me in half an hour. I never saw her from that day. Could she expect that such a palpable falsehood would not give me suspicions, that she did not mean to do me justice! And, since she has left you to answer for all, ’tis fit I should secure myself, and force you to pay.” “But, replied I, (very innocently) I can’t give you what I have not; and besides, you promised Mr. W—— to wait his coming to town. You know I have no other expectations but from that money he has promised to get paid. What is it you mean to do with me?” “To be plain with you, miss, said Mr. C— — I am resolved to have my money, get it as you will. I know you can be at no difficulty, were it twenty times as much: you have friends who would be glad to oblige you.” “I know of no friends, replied I, that I would accept such an obligation from; and, if you have grounded your hopes of immediate payment, upon my application to any one, you will find yourself much deceived.” “Then you must go with me, miss,” (said the terrible man that stood by me). “Yet be advised, miss, said Mr. C——. If you’ll condescend to acquaint any person with your situation, my son here waits to carry the message; and you shall be at liberty to stay in your apartment all night, if you don’t receive an answer before morning.” “No, no, sir, said I, (rising) I see your design. Never imagine, that any extremity can force me to an action that may endanger my virtue. I am willing to suffer all the effects of your cruelty: do me the favor only to let your servant go for miss Granger, who is the only person I shall send to, upon this occasion; and I should be obliged to you too, if you would inform me whither I am to go?” “That honest man, miss, replied Mr. C— — will take you to his house. He has a wife and family, and you may remain there a week, if you please; and consider, in that time, whether it will be better to apply to your friends, or be confined in a worse place.” “’Tis very well, sir, replied I, (not at all daunted;) but since I am going away for some time, I hope you’ll leave me at liberty to put up some linen that I may have occasion for.” At this they both withdrew; and, as soon as I had tied up some clean linen, I told the man, who was waiting at the door, that I was ready. “I would give ten pounds, miss, said he, (taking my bundle, which he would not allow me to carry down stairs myself) that I had not been employed in this affair: I was never so much shocked in my life.” I thanked him for his civility; and, by his advice, locking up the doors of my apartment, and taking the keys, went down stairs. “I think, miss, said he, it will be better to walk to my house, which is but two streets off, rather than take a coach, which, as it is quite dark, will be unnecessary.” I readily agreed; for I was by no means willing to trust myself alone in a coach with him. Just as I was stepping out of the house, Mr. C—— asked me, if I was still determined not to send for any friend, but miss Granger: to which I answered with a negative full of scorn, and was conducted by the officer to his house.
I had scarce entered it, when Mr. C——’s daughter came; and telling me, with tears in her eyes, that as she could not bear to let me be alone till Miss Granger came to me, she had ventured out unknown to her father. I expressed myself greatly obliged to her, for this instance of her friendship; when the officer’s wife, moved to some respect by my dress, conducted us to a genteel enough chamber; and, upon the arrival of my friend, Miss C—— immediately withdrew. As soon as Miss Granger and I were by ourselves, I gave free vent to my tears, which pride and indignation had hitherto restrained. She kept me company a long time, endeavoring to calm my affliction: and, being perfectly well acquainted with my affairs, confessed, that she saw no remedy for my present misfortunes, but by applying for the assistance of some of those persons, who, she knew, avowed a passion for me. “I see no harm, said she, in soliciting so trifling a service, which you have almost a certainty of repaying, without endangering your honor or reputation.” “Ah, miss! interrupted I, say no more of it! I will never expose myself to the pain of being I obliged to any man, who has a dishonorable design upon me. Besides, I ’tis probable, that the money I expect may never be received. The person, in whose hands the papers were lodged, says he lost them in removing from one house to another; and, I am afraid, the most I can expect, from even Mr. W——’s interposition, is some trifling consideration from the person who owes the money, and that rather as a present than an acknowledgment of the debt.” “What do you resolve to do then?” said miss Granger. “I am resolved, replied I, to let Mr. C—— be convinced, by my staying here, that I have no expectations but from Mr. W——’s coming to town; and, probably, he will be prevailed upon to change his measures, when he finds that what he has done has failed of procuring the effect he desired. Or, if not, I will rather be confined in a prison, as he says I must, than lay myself under such dreadful obligations.” “Alas, returned miss Granger, you know not what you say! Compose yourself, if possible, tonight; and I’ll come again in the morning, and consult upon some methods less disagreeable to you.” Saying this, she took leave of me, and the woman of the house very obligingly helped me to undress.
I went to bed, and passed that night in a distraction of mind not easily to be described. I was but just risen in the morning, when the maid let me know, that a young gentleman, named Belville, inquired for me, having some message to deliver from miss Granger. This gentle man I had seen a few months before: he was an intimate acquaintance of miss Granger’s, and, from the first moment of his seeing me, had declared a very tender friendship for me. I call it friendship, though I was but too sensible that he really loved me passionately: but I had been so tired with hearing the language of love, which had only aimed hitherto at my ruin, that I made it a condition of our acquaintance, that Mr. Belville should never presume to talk to me in any other stile than that of a disinterested friend. As he seemed to dread nothing so much as displeasing me, he obeyed these injunctions very exactly; and concealing the ardent lover under the appearance of the tender friend, insensibly won my esteem and confidence.
As I found by this visit, that miss Granger had laid open my situation to him, I could not refuse to see him; and understanding they had strewn him into a parlor, I at last assumed courage to go down to him. The sight of me, oppressed as I was with inconceivable anguish, had so deep an effect on the heart of the tender Belville, that, for some moments, he was unable to utter a word. He cast himself at my feet in a transport of sorrow; and taking my hand, which I could not refuse him, bathed it with tears: and showed in his actions such an excess of affliction and despair, that I was obliged to chide him for a weakness, which represented my own sufferings in so aggravating a light.
As soon as he was composed enough to talk upon my affairs, he told me, that he had already been with Mr. C— — and offered him his note, which he had refused. “I am so unfortunate, miss, said he, (melting again into tears) as not to be able, at present, to raise the sum for which you are detained. I am wholly dependent upon a relation, who loves money better than even health and life.” “Sure, sir, said I, (blushing) you don’t imagine that I will accept of freedom from any one, but those from whom I have a right to desire it. I have a considerable sum due to me; and, if Mr. C—— will not be persuaded to wait till I can pay him conveniently, I am determined he shall not force me to be obliged to any one: and you have greatly offended me, by making any overtures to Mr. C— — without consulting me.”
Miss Granger coming in that moment, and hearing my last words, sharply reproved me for the severity of my behavior. “Do not think, miss, said she, that I would advise you to any thing inconsistent with your honor. There is a necessity for your accepting an obligation for once; and I cannot believe any one would take an ungenerous advantage of this occasion of serving you.” “Dear miss Granger, interrupted Belville, (eagerly) do not press your lovely friend to accept of assistance from any one, she has reason to apprehend will make an ill use of the favor she confers on him by it. Since she disapproves of every other method, but persuading Mr. C—— to have patience, suffer me to talk with him again: perhaps I may be able to prevail with him. Take no resolution, I conjure you, till I return.” Saying this, he hurried out of the room, after giving me a look full of inexpressible tenderness and anxiety. Miss Granger continued with me the remainder of the day; and, indeed, I had every alleviation that such circumstances as mine could possibly admit of. I was treated with the greatest respect and tenderness by the woman of the house, who would not suffer her maid to attend me; but served me herself with as much submission, as I could have expected from a servant of my own. In the evening Mr. Belville returned, bringing with him the person who had arrested me, who told me, with a bow, that I was now at liberty, and might leave his house whenever I pleased. When he had said this, he withdrew immediately, to leave me at liberty to ask how this affair was composed. Mr. Belville would not explain any thing to me till I had quitted the house; but I positively refused to stir, till I knew how my freedom had been obtained. “’Tis so difficult a matter, miss, said he, to satisfy your delicacy, that I know not whether I shall not incur your resentment by what I have done. Mr. C—— was perfectly inexorable to all the reasons I could urge, to move him to withdraw your arrest. He insisted upon your finding him security; and the only person from whom I thought you would consent to accept it, was the gentleman to whom, by your orders, I had given your deceased father’s manuscripts, which he was to publish This circumstance, together with his being a married man, left no room for any scruples; and he showed such a readiness to serve you, upon this occasion, that I shall think myself obliged to him while I live.” “I should be very unhappy, returned I, in receiving this obligation from any other and since I have a certainty of the money being paid, when Mr. W—— comes to town, I hope he will run no danger by his good-nature.” Alas how little did I foresee, that this generous action would be attended with numberless inquietudes, and precipitate me, if possible, into still greater evils! As soon as I left this house, I went immediately to a distant relation’s, a widow, who had a large family, and, having but a very small income, lived quite private. Here I proposed to stay till my affairs were settled, and I was in a condition to leave England. Belville, whose late services claimed the first place in my friendship, was the only visitor I saw, next to my most intimate female friend. I listened with unusual complaisance to the ardent passion he professed for me. Gratitude for the obligations he had laid on me, won him my esteem and affection. He told me, he must be miserable to the last degree, unless I gave him my hand. Could I see him wretched, to whom I owed more than my life! When I found all the reasons I urged against our union ineffectual, I consented to marry him; and as his whole dependence was on the interest of some persons of distinction here, who had promised to provide for him, we proposed to keep our marriage a secret, till that was effected. I continued still to stay at the house of my relation, and Mr. Belville at his own lodgings; yet our marriage was not concealed a week. All his and my acquaintance knew it; and the union of two young people, so dependent in their circumstances, furnished sufficient matter for discourse, on the extravagance of that passion which had formed it. Our marriage being now publicly known, Mr. Belville remained in the lodgings with me, continuing his solicitations for a provision with more ardor than before.
The time drew nigh when C——’s bill was to be paid. Mr. W—— not coming to town, I trembled lest Mr. Belville’s friend should suffer upon my account; and sent every day for a fortnight to Mr. W——’s lodgings, but could hear no accounts of him. The horrors I suffered are not to be expressed! ’Twas from his influence alone, that I could ever hope to recover that money I depended upon. I employed other measures in vain. I had nothing to show for the debt: and while I was racked with fruitless expectation, Mr. Belville’s friend was obliged to pay the bill. From that moment my unfortunate husband was loaded with the most cruel censures. It was generally reported and believed, that he had drawn his friend into this scrape, only to marry me with the more security. could any thing more effectually ruin a young man, whose whole dependence was upon the good offices of his friends, than to have the character of villain stamped upon him, at his first setting out in the world! In effect, my dear miss, it absolutely ruined us. Mr. Belville met with nothing but reproaches where-ever he went, the story was told with such aggravating circumstances: and his friend’s distress heightened the general odium. Mr. W——‘s interposition, at first, in the affair being thought only a falsehood, invented by Mr. Belville and me; every thing that was cruel and malicious, was said of us both. While we groaned under the oppressive load of calumny thus laid on us, Mr. W—— came to town; but had so entirely forgot his promise, that he never went to Mr. C—— to inquire after me. ’Tis probable, indeed, that, hearing I was married, he thought I had no occasion for his assistance. As Mr. C—— had the villainy to deny Mr. W——’s having promised to see him paid, we had no means left of justifying ourselves but by calling upon Mr. W— — by a public advertisement, to acknowledge the part he acted in this affair. However, considering the fortune and interest of that gentleman, it was thought a dangerous expedient.
I will not pretend to tell you the difficulties we sustained for a long time, under the pressure of want and calumny: yet love, more powerful than all our misfortunes, enabled us to bear them cheerfully; and the never-dying affection of my dear Belville, in the midst of horrors, afforded me real happiness. His relations, at last, condescending to take notice of our situation, consented to do something for our support, upon the hard condition of parting us for two years. They sent him upon a trading voyage to Jamaica; and, till his return, I was determined to shut myself up in a monastery. At my request, he accompanied me here, where I remain as a pensioner; but am, in reality, as much secluded from the world as any of the nuns. What relations I have in this country living in Languedoc, I see no one but the ladies in the convent; and have never been out of these walls since I first entered them, which is now near a year. The absence of my dear Belville renews all my afflictions, and makes life almost insupportable.”
Thus did the lovely mademoiselle Belville conclude her affecting history. My eyes had flowed with sympathizing tears, during the sad recital of so many cruel misfortunes. I embraced her with an excess of tenderness, and promised her an eternal friendship; and was charmed with the graceful and engaging manner in which she returned the protestations I made her.
I had been about two months in the convent, when I began to grow into some reputation for wit; and though ladies are seldom heard to praise each other’s beauty, yet ’tis certain, those who saw me gave a very advantageous account of my person. My mind, which was still filled with the idea of Dumont, faithless and ungrateful as he was, suggested only the most passionate complaints, and love was still the favorite subject of my Muse. These pieces, however, I carefully concealed from sight; but my engaging friend, mademoiselle Belville, among other books, having lent me Hutchinson on the Passions, when I returned it to her, I sent the following copy of verses with it; which I have inserted, because they were the first cause of the perplexing adventures in which I was afterwards engaged.
Thou who thro’ Nature’s various faults can rove,
And show what springs the eager passions move;
Teach us to combat anger, grief, and fear,
Recal the sigh, and stop the falling tear.
O! be thy soft philosophy address,
To the untroubled ear, and tranquil breast:
To these be all thy peaceful maxims taught,
Who idly rove amidst a calm of thought;
Whose souls by love or hate were ne’er possest,
Who ne’er were wretched, and who ne’er were blest:
Whose fainter wishes, pleasures, fears remain,
Dreams but of bliss, and shadows but of pain;
Serenely stupid. So some shallow stream
Flows thro’ the winding vallies still the same;
Whom no rude wind can ever discompose,
Who fears no winter rain, or falling snows;
But slowly down its flow’ry border creeps,
While the soft zephyr on its bosom sleeps.
O! couldst thou teach the tortur’d soul to know,
With patience, each extreme of human woe!
To bear with ills, and unrepining prove
The frowns of fortune, and the racks of love!
Still shou’d my breast some quiet moments share,
Still rise superior to each threat’ning care!
Nor fear approaching ills, or distant woes,
But in Philander’s absence find repose.
My friend, coming to see me a few hours after, told me, she had broke through the promise I had extorted from her, never to show any of my little compositions to any person whatever. “But, miss, pursued she, I had really a secret view in disobeying you this time. I have possibly procured you a powerful acquaintance, whose assistance may be of use to you, in freeing you from your present confinement. I am intimately acquainted with a young nun, lately professed, who is niece to the marchioness de —— This lady is a remarkable lover of the Muses: she has traveled, and read a great deal. As she understands English perfectly well, I took an opportunity to show your poem to her today, when she came to see her niece, who is a little indisposed. She read it, and (after expressing her surprise, that one so young, as I told her ladyship you was, should be able to write so well) she begged I would allow her to keep the poem, till she could take a copy of it; to which I immediately consented. When the marchioness went away, she told me, she was resolved to see you the next visit she made to the convent. I know this lady has great power with the prioress, and, I am persuaded, she will readily interest herself in your affairs, if you think proper to acquaint her with your story.” Mademoiselle Belville seemed so delighted with the probability of my being released, by the marchioness’s interposition, that I was not willing to throw a damp upon a thought which gave her so much pleasure, by expressing the little confidence I was capable of placing in the promises of the great. The behavior of the countess and Lady Cecilia had taught me to fear, rather than hope for, the friendship of persons of high rank; yet I thanked my obliging friend, for her care of my interests. And two or three weeks passing before we heard any more of the marchioness, I concluded she would never think more of the affair. However, in this I was mistaken. One day, when I least expected it, sister Martha told me, the prioress desired I would walk down to the parlor, where she expected me, accompanied with a lady of quality, who had desired to see me. As soon as I had a little adjusted my dress, I followed the nun, who, after introducing me into the parlor, retired. The marchioness de —— (for I understood immediately it was her) rose up, upon my appearing, and saluted me very civilly; and, after having eagerly surveyed me for the space of two or three minutes, turned to the prioress, as if she seemed to expect the continuation of a discourse, which my coming had interrupted. “Yes, madam, (pursued that pious lady) I have been greatly afflicted to find all the pains and labor I have bestowed, to bring this poor child back to salvation, ineffectual. I fear, indeed, she is quite lost; and I don’t know what to make of her obstinately persisting to deny, that she is the niece of that gentleman who brought her hither! I am loath to suspect he could be guilty of so unjustifiable an action. The reasons he gave me for doing it, were not only just, but highly meritorious; yet there seems to be some mystery in the affair, which greatly perplexes me.” I easily perceived, that the artful prioress designed to persuade the marchioness she had been imposed on herself, with regard to me; but, though I detested her profound dissimulation, I thought it highly imprudent to make her more my enemy by exposing her, while I was in her power. “’Tis easy, madam, (said I to the prioress to disprove the fiction Mr. Darcy has made use of. If you’ll allow me to write to a friend in England, I am certain, in a very little time, you’ll be convinced I am no relation at all to Mr. Darcy.” “Really replied the marchioness, this seems to be a very reasonable request Come, madam, permit the young lady to write to her friends. I suppose; miss, (pursued her ladyship, turning to me) you will not refuse to show the prioress your letter!” “No, madam, answered I, I shall be glad if the prioress will take the trouble to read it. I am persuaded, it will help to convince her that Mr. Darcy has imposed upon her.” The prioress, who did not expect my answer would have favored her views so much seemed quite pleased with my moderation) and giving me a more obliging look than I had ever yet received from her, told the marchioness, that I should be allowed to write, upon the condition her ladyship had prescribed, that of strewing the letter. And making, at the same time, a merit of this condescension with the marchioness, by assuring me it was to her request I owed this extraordinary favor, I did not fail to express my acknowledgments to that lady in very grateful terms; and also to thank the prioress, with much submission, for granting me this favor, as she called it: though, in reality, it was no more than a piece of justice she owed both me and herself.
The marchioness, upon this, changing the conversation, talked of the extreme pleasure she had received from the perusal of the poem mademoiselle Belville had given her. “I flatter myself, said her ladyship, (with an obliging air) that, when we are better acquainted, you will not refuse to let me read the rest of your performances. If I thought I had interest enough with you now, to procure myself that favor, I would ask it immediately.” It was impossible, after this, to deny the marchioness a sight of my papers; and, after acknowledging the honor she did me, I went to my chamber immediately, and returned with my manuscript, which I presented to her. The marchioness, receiving it with a profusion of compliments, took her leave, after promising to see me soon; and added, that she would take the care of my letter upon herself, desiring me to write as soon as she left me, and she would send a servant to the convent for it in the morning.
The moment I left the parlor, I retired to my chamber; and choosing to address myself rather to my dear Mrs. Dormer, than any other friend in London, I wrote her a large account of all that had happened to me, from the time I left her at Richmond; and, relying entirely upon her prudence, entreated her to take what measures she judged most proper to procure my deliverance from the monastery, and to invalidate the false accounts Mr. Darcy had given of me. When I had finished this letter, I went immediately and showed it to the prioress; who, after reading it, told me, there was nothing in it which contradicted any of the facts I had urged against Mr. Darcy. She then desired I would direct it before her, and allow her to seal it with her own seal, to which I made no objection.
My heart being now more at ease, with the prospect of my liberty, I loaded mademoiselle Belville with embraces, for being the cause of so much happiness to me. That generous girl seemed charmed with my success; and greatly commended the reserve with which I had spoke, as to the part the prioress had acted in the affair. In the morning, the prioress sent to let me know that one of the marchioness’s servants attended for my letter; upon which I went down to the parlor, and, finding the prioress there, I thought proper to let her see her own seal upon it, that she might be convinced I had not changed the letter, which was certainly her design in sealing it herself.
As I was now much less restrained than formerly, the prioress allowing me to see any company that came with the marchioness, I indulged the gaiety of my temper among persons, whose sprightliness was perfectly agreeable to me. The marchioness, still more prepossessed in my favor, brought several of her acquaintance with her to the convent, to have the pleasure, she said, of conversing with me. Among these a nobleman, called the count de R— — distinguished me in a very particular manner; and I, who was ever fond of any gallantry which proved the influence of my charms, did not fail to improve the count’s admiration of me, by every little ensnaring art I possessed.
By the marchioness’s order, I had desired Mrs. Dormer to direct her letter, under cover, to her. That lady did me the favor to bring it herself to the convent. My transports were inexpressible when I opened this dear letter, to find my friend was resolved to come herself to Paris, to procure my liberty. Her letter was filled with the most ardent assurances of tenderness and regard; but I knew not what to imagine from a postscript, in which she added, that she had a most agreeable piece of news in reserve to acquaint me with, which she was resolved to have the pleasure of telling me herself. My imagination, perpetually filled with the dear idea of Dumont, immediately suggested, that what she had to say was concerning him. “Some misfortune has happened to him, said I to myself; and Mrs. Dormer, knowing the injuries I have received from him, thinks the news will give me pleasure. Alas, how ill does she judge of the state of my heart! Dumont, false as he is, will be for ever dear to me; and I can never rejoice at any thing which afflicts him.” The prioress, to whom I showed Mrs. Dormer’s letter, appeared quite satisfied with the contents. “I am almost persuaded, said she, that I have been imposed on; yet I can never believe Mr. Darcy had any bad design in bringing you here. He has attempted to bring about some good intention, by perhaps unjustifiable measures. Alas, good man! we are all liable to be deceived! Well, miss, when your friend comes, you shall be at liberty to depart. I must hear what she has to say. You see, she desires you to stay here till she comes, which is really very prudent: I commend her for it.” “I assure you, madam, replied I, I have no reluctance at staying here. The thoughts of being confined, indeed, sat a little uneasily upon me; but since it is left to my own choice, I can consent to it very gladly.” The good lady expressed great satisfaction at this complaisance and we parted that day upon very good terms with each other. The marchioness congratulated me, in a very obliging manner, upon my approaching liberty. And the count de R— — who had been acquainted with my story, assured me, it would give him a very sensible pleasure to be able to see me, without a grate between us.
Mrs. Dormer had promised to be at Paris within a month at farthest: three weeks of that time was expired) and I was impatiently expecting the happiness of seeing her, when I was alarmed by a message from the marchioness, which informed me, that the prioress was secretly forming some design with Mr. Darcy, to remove me to a convent in some distant province. This news filled me with the most dreadful apprehensions; and I should have been incapable of any comfort, had not that generous lady also added, that she would think of some means for my deliverance. I passed the rest of this day distracted between fear and hope; and not having an opportunity of seeing mademoiselle Belville, to whom I communicated all my uneasiness, I never found solitude more disagree able in my life. A message in the evening from the prioress, to attend her in the parlor, threw me into a mortal fear, lest she was going to execute her cruel intentions. But as I could not imagine she could be able to force me away, without alarming the whole convent, I was too well prepared, to be deceived by any artifice she could use. Upon my entering the room, I was surprised to hear her ask me, if I distrusted her good intentions, and the arrival of my friend, that I had procured interest to be taken out of the convent, by an order from court. At these words lifting up my eyes, I suddenly met those of the count de R— — whom I had not perceived to be at the grate. He gave me a significant look, by which I immediately comprehended the whole mystery: and judging the marchioness had fallen upon this way to procure my release, I told the prioress, that I had my own reasons for wishing to be out of the convent immediately; and, since it was now no longer in her power to detain me, I might venture to own, I did not think myself yet secure from any further attempts of Mr. Darcy. “Oh, mighty well, miss, said the prioress, (with a malicious smile) it is not hard to guess your reasons for acting thus. You may go when you please.” The count, upon this, begged I would suffer him to convey me in his coach to the place where I chose to go. I accordingly complied, not doubting but he meant to carry me to the marchioness, from whom I imagined he was sent. Alas! my easy folly betrayed me a second time; and, for my punishment, I was going to be plunged into new misfortunes.
I took leave of the prioress immediately, and could not help expressing my transport to the count the moment I was out of those dreadful walls. The count, when he handed me into his coach, told me, that the marchioness was at a house of hers a few miles distance from Paris, and that she expected me there. I was a little uneasy at being obliged to make this journey alone with a nobleman, whom I was but slightly acquainted with: but there was no remedy; I must submit. I would have engaged him to let me know how the marchioness happened to be acquainted with the designs of the prioress against me; but he very gallantly evaded satisfying my curiosity, by telling me, the marchioness best knew the whole affair; and that he could not consent to waste the present agreeable moments in any discourse, that was not expressive of the passion I had inspired him with. As he had never spoke so plainly before, I was a little embarrassed how to answer him; but ascribing the compliments he entertained me with, to the peculiar genius of his country, absolutely refused to make any particular application of them. We very soon came to the house. The count having handed me into a room, I expected, with some impatience, when the marchioness would appear. I thought it strange, after staying a quarter of an hour, to find I was still alone with the count, who seemed greatly perplexed. “Am I not to see the marchioness, my lord? said I, at last. Does her ladyship know I am here?” “Alas, miss, replied the count, you are deceived! I have not brought you to the marchioness, but to one who has an infinitely greater interest in you. ’Tis the earl of L—— whom you will shortly see.” “The earl of L——! interrupted I. Is he in Paris? Have you betrayed me then, my lord, into the hands of a man, whose designs upon me can only be injurious to my honor? For heaven’s sake, explain this mystery! How unfortunate am I, and how very cruel are you, to bring me into this situation!” “Is it possible, mademoiselle, returned the count, that you can be sincere! Do you really wish not to see the earl?” “Certainly, my lord, said I, I would avoid seeing that nobleman. My acquaintance with him is but very small, and I have no inclination to improve it; but if he has been capable of engaging your lordship in this stratagem to get me out of the convent, I have reason to apprehend he has some very unjustifiable views, and must therefore think it a great unhappiness to be thus betrayed into his power.” “No, charming mademoiselle, (replied the count, in a rapture) do not fear that I will betray you into the hands of a man you would avoid. The sentiments you have discovered, have made me inexpressibly happy! Pardon the artifice I have used, to find whether you really loved the earl of L——. But, alas, ought I not to fear the action I have been guilty of, will draw your resentment upon me! Yet a tender passion, and anxious concern lest I should lose You forced me to this expedient. Suspend your reproaches, till I have explained my motives for this conduct, and do not condemn me unheard I am intimately acquainted with the earl of L— — and, libertine as he is, I found some amiable qualities in him, which forced my esteem. Our acquaintance began while he was yet a youth, and sent to Paris under the care of a governor. As he is very fond of passing some of his time here, he generally comes once a year, which has improved our acquaintance to a great degree of intimacy. A fortnight ago he arrived in Paris: I had introduced him to the acquaintance of the marchioness de —— and he happened to be there, when that lady mentioning you, asked him, if he had ever heard of you before. I observed an alteration in his countenance at the mention of your name: he inquired eagerly into the circumstances of your being brought here, which the marchioness related very exactly. As we came home together, he pressed my hand, and cried, “Dear count, it is in your power to do me a very considerable service. This dear girl, that the marchioness speaks of, I have loved from my childhood; but she has got that whim of virtue in her head, and I cannot prevail upon her to listen to my proposals. But, if I can but get her out of that convent into my own power, I do not despair of accomplishing my designs. You must, my dear count, procure me a lettre de cachet, by which I may oblige the prioress immediately to give her liberty.” “But, said I, does your lordship think she will consent to receive it from you?” “Ah! as for that, replied he, we will contrive afterwards how to engage her consent. If you will procure the order, I’ll invent some means to make her comply with it.” This, pursued the count, was the scheme the earl proposed, from which I would have dissuaded him; but he continued obstinately bent to prosecute it. I therefore frankly confessed, I would have no hand in it, and we parted with mutual dissatisfaction. It immediately occurred to me, that the earl did not want acquaintance here, who had interest enough to procure him the order he wanted: I, therefore, resolved to prevent him; and, having got a lettre de cachet myself, I sent a message, as if from the marchioness, to warn you of some danger; imagining, with reason, that, upon that information, you would not refuse to consent to any measures, by which we might procure your liberty. The event has answered my expectation; and, if you will be persuaded to pardon the innocent deceit I have practiced for your safety, my happiness will be complete.” “Then, it seems, my lord, answered I, that I am not in the marchioness’s house, and that lady has had no hand in this affair! ’Tis certain, that I have reason to rejoice the earl of L—— has been prevented from executing his unjustifiable designs; but the manner of my deliverance gives me great pain, as it must subject me to very unfavorable censures. What will people think of my leaving the convent with your lordship! Will not the marchioness herself explain this affair to my disadvantage? Ah, my lord, I beseech you, let me return immediately to Paris, and implore that lady’s protection. Since I am not safe at the convent, I must conceal myself till my friend arrives.” “And where, interrupted his lordship, can you be so well concealed as in this house! None of my servants know you, and you may remain here in perfect security.” “Certainly, replied I, (with some resentment) your lordship imagines I have very little regard for my character, if you can think to persuade me it will be decent for me to stay in your lordship’s house! I am determined to return to Paris directly; and, if I am not so happy to find out the marchioness, I’ll rather go back to the convent again, than hazard the loss of my reputation by staying here.” “Indeed, but you must not, my charmer,” said the count, (with an ironical air). “How, my lord, answered I, must not! What do you mean?” “I tell you, interrupted he, I love you passionately! Your wit, your youth, and beauty, have made an absolute conquest of my heart. I have been an idolizer of your sex in general, but never felt the true force of love till I saw you. Judge if, with these sentiments, I could think with patience of my rival’s designs! I have been obliged to encroach upon the respect I owe you, to secure you to myself. You shall be mistress of my heart and fortune; nor do I desire the possession of your person, till the tender passion I hope to inspire, shall make you bestow it willingly upon me. In the mean time, you shall have an absolute authority here. My servants are instructed in my intentions, and will treat you, in all respects, as their mistress. For myself, I’ll return to Paris immediately, and declare at the convent, that I have left you at the marchioness’s . As that lady is really not in town, no one can discover the falsehood: and, as to her, I’ll acquaint her, when I see her, with the earl’s intentions; and assure her, I only assisted you in getting out of the convent, and sent one of my servants with you to Calais, from whence you proposed to go immediately to England. See, my charmer, how I have provided for your reputation! There are none in this house but two or three servants, whose fidelity I am assured of. Farewell, mademoiselle, said he, (rising) I am going this moment to Paris, to leave you free from apprehensions.”
Saying this, he made me a low bow, and hurried out of the room. Confounded as I was, with surprise and grief, at this speech, I retained presence of mind enough to run to the window, which fronted the court before the house, to see if he really went away. It being now night, the flambeaux about the coach, which stood still at the door, gave me a plain view of the count, who stepping into the coach, it immediately drove away. I was a little re- assured at this sight; but beginning to reflect on my situation, I accused myself as being the first cause of this kind of misfortunes. Has not my fatal fondness for admiration, thought I, betrayed my virtue into numberless dangers! Shall I never grow weary of this folly, till it has undone me! Ah! let me profit by these accidents and, for the future, spare myself such vexatious adventures!
I was lost in this sort of reasoning, when a middle aged gentlewoman entered the room, and, with a great deal of troublesome ceremony invited me to go into another room, where the cloth was laid for supper “Sit down, madam, said I, (with a great deal of good-humor) and do me the favor to inform me where I am; for, I assure you, I am quite a stranger in your country.” “What, mademoiselle, replied she, was you never at St. Dennis before? ’Tis but a mighty little way from Paris’, The woman, being as talkative as I could wish, gave me information enough to carry me to Paris, if I could find means of getting out of the house. I endeavored to discover by what name and character the count had introduced me here; but either she was absolutely unacquainted with both those circumstances, or affected to be so: and all I could gather from her was, that the count was a man of intrigue, and I had reason to believe I was in very dangerous hands.
Madam Diserre, (for that was her name) as soon as supper was ended, showed me into a bed-chamber, and then left me to my repose. I spent most part of the night in considering how I should get a letter conveyed to mademoiselle Belville at the convent. I judged it the most prudent way to get the marchioness, by her means, acquainted with the count’s stratagem, and the place of my concealment, from which she was best able to procure my liberty. The thoughts of escaping from the house, and going to Paris, first presented themselves to my imagination; but, upon deeper reflection, I held that a more unsafe way than waiting a little for the assistance of my friends. Though it had been possible to get out of the house, without being perceived by that woman, who, I had reason to imagine, was to watch me continually, where could I go, to be safe, when I was got to Paris? If I went to the convent, I was in danger of being forced out by Lord L——; for I was convinced, the count could not have invented the story of him: for how, unless that young nobleman had entrusted him with it, should he know of his inclination for me! ’Twas possible, indeed, the marchioness might be in town, and the count have his reasons for denying it. This supposition having escaped me at first, I began again to think I had best try to make my escape; for it was full as hazardous to attempt corrupting a servant to get a letter delivered, as to endeavor to leave the house. The perplexity I was in, hindered me from resolving on any thing. What I most apprehended was, that the count might take it into his head to confine me in a convent, in some distant province, to force me, by those harsh means, to comply with his desires. Unhappy state of youth and beauty! left unprotected, to the dangerous snares which powerful vice is ever ready to lay for them! The most solid virtue is not always a sufficient defense against the artifices of men, whose rank and fortune supply them with various means for the ruin of unsuspecting innocence. All I could do in this perplexing situation, was to dissemble my discontent; and, by making my spies secure of my willingness to stay, expect some favorable opportunity, by their neglect, to steal out of the house. Madam Diserre, entering my chamber early in the morning, assisted me to rise; and Observing that she had brought me a very rich undress, together with other necessaries suitable to it, I remained a few moments in suspense, whether I ought to accept them. As there was a necessity for my appearing perfectly satisfied, I could not refuse these things, without bringing a contrary suspicion upon myself: I, therefore, suffered the officious Frenchwoman to dress me as she pleased, excepting only to the vermilion, with which she would have daubed my cheeks. When I was dressed, and had drank my chocolate, madam Diserre proposed walking in the gardens, which belonged to the house. “I would rather, replied I, take a view of the town. Shall we go together, and divert ourselves a little?” “Not for the world, mademoiselle! said she, (hastily). My lord left strict orders to the contrary. He desired that you might not even look out of a window, for fear of being seen.” “Well, resumed I, (smiling) I only tried your discretion: I have no inclination to stir abroad, till your lord thinks proper. I suppose you know his reasons.” “No, really, mademoiselle, replied she, (with a simplicity I know not whether to call real or affected). My lord never explains himself, on any private affairs, to his servants. I have had the management of this little retreat a great many years. My lord seldom stays long here: he is only fond of it for its near neighborhood to the city, from whence he often comes with a few select friends to divert himself.” “I am persuaded, interrupted I, that my lord is too secure of your fidelity, not to tell you his motives for this uncommon care of me. Are you really ignorant who I am?” “I see, mademoiselle, said she, (smiling) you have a mind to tempt my curiosity; but you shall find me so discreet, that I will not presume to ask you to disclose yourself.”
I found there was nothing to be made of this woman; and so I put an end to the conversation, by desiring to see the gardens she talked of. As they were of no very large extent, I walked round them several times, meditating the means of getting out, by a door, which I observed led into a small field, and was but slightly fastened. I fixed my eyes eagerly on this door; and sensible that it was the company of this woman only, that hindered me from escaping immediately, I thought of several stratagems to get rid of her; but all proved ineffectual. The rage I was in, at being thus hindered from procuring my liberty, took off all restraint: “What, cried I, (frowning) am I not to be left a moment to myself! Are you directed to watch my steps in this manner? Sure I may be allowed to walk here alone, if I please!” “Pardon me, mademoiselle, replied she, I dare not disobey my lord, who ordered me to attend you continually. You may walk here as long as you please; but I must wait upon you.” “Really, interrupted I, (beginning to recollect myself) I could spare this needless piece of ceremony: I am fond of solitude, and love nothing so much as the liberty of indulging my own reflections sometimes.!, I had scarce finished these words, when I saw the count, at the end of the same alley in which we were walking. As he advanced nearer, madam Diserre struck into another walk, when the count, hastily running towards me, snatched my hand, which he kissed several times, in spice of my efforts to draw it away. “How cruel are you, mademoiselle, said he, (with a languishing air, when I had forced my hand from him) to deny me so small a favor! Methinks a passion, so tender and respectful as mine, merits a kinder return.” “Certainly, my lord, replied I, you think me an ill judge of a respectful passion, to imagine I can mistake yours for such! You have got me into your power by a stratagem, not at all advantageous to my character, and treat me as if I was your prisoner. Why am I not allowed the liberty of retiring to any other place, more consistent with my honor? Have you any right to detain me here?” “My regard for your safety, answered the count, obliges me to entreat you will remain here, till the earl goes from Paris: I saw him but this morning; and my refusing to assist his designs of getting you out of the convent, has enraged him violently. He swears he will find out some means of forcing you away, be the attempt ever so difficult. It was very happy, that the marchioness, in relating your story, never mentioned the particular convent in which you was confined; so that, ’tis probable, it will be some time before he knows of your being removed. You see the necessity of concealing yourself, mademoiselle! I know the earl of L— — when he is resolutely bent to accomplish any design, is most indefatigable in his pursuit; and, if you wish to avoid him, ’tis only here you can be safe.” “Were you only a disinterested friend, my lord, replied I, there might be some excuse for accepting the asylum you offer me for a few days; but, since you expect I should look on you as a lover, it is not so decent to lay myself under an obligation.” “You shall regard me in what light you please, resumed his lordship, provided you will but consent to stay here. Possibly you will be disposed to listen to the offers my love will force me to make you. I would make myself master of your heart, before I solicited the possession of your person; and, by the sincerity of my love, oblige you to confess I deserve you.” As I could not imagine the count had any honorable views in the passion he professed for me, the more he endeavored to convince me of the truth of it, the more I was alarmed.
The only prospect of deliverance I could foresee, at present, was by applying to the marchioness, which, if I could get a letter conveyed to mademoiselle Belville, might be easily effected. I dissembled the uneasiness I was under to the count; and, willing to oblige him to leave me more at liberty, I gave him hopes I would not think of leaving his house, till I might do it with safety. The count seemed overjoyed at having brought me to this point; and it being near the hour when he was to be at the Louvre, as he told me, he took his leave, after first leading me into the house.
I had observed, while I was in the garden, a young man, who was employed in it; and concluded, if I could meet with an opportunity of speaking to him alone, I might prevail upon him, with a bribe, to get a letter delivered to my friend at Paris. As soon, therefore, as dinner was over, I retired to my chamber, and wrote a long letter to mademoiselle Belville; in which I related all that happened to me, and conjured her to let the marchioness know immediately where I was, and implore her assistance to get me out of the count’s hands. I also begged her to see Mrs. Dormer, if she came to the convent before I was at liberty; but charged her to recommend it to this dear friend, to be very secret in her attempts to rescue me: for I was apprehensive, if the count heard that the place of my retreat was discovered, he would send me to some other place, where I could receive no assistance.
I waited several days, without any opportunity offering of speaking to the young man, though I walked every morning and evening in the garden, where I saw him constantly employed: but madam Diserre being always at my elbow, I never could execute my design. One evening, after two or three unsuccessful stratagems to elude the vigilance of madam Diserre, I retired to my chamber, more affected with my condition than I had yet been; and after having, for two or three hours, been taken up in forming different projects for my escape, which all, upon greater reflection, appeared impracticable, I burst into a flood of tears, deploring the misery into which my fatal credulity, and the count’s ungenerous arts, had plunged me.
While I was thus employed, from a large closet in the room, a young man, very richly dressed, rushed out, and, preventing my crying out by holding his hand upon my mouth, told me, at the same time, not to be alarmed; for he was come to do me service. These words, and the tone of his voice, which was inexpressibly soft and insinuating, a little reassured me, and gave me spirits enough to ask his intention in concealing himself in my chamber. “Speak softly, mademoiselle, replied the youth; your watchful spy, madam Diserre, is but in the next chamber. If she discovers me, it will be impossible for me to give you liberty, which is what I intend; and, to calm the fears which I see you still labor under know, I am a woman, and have only taken this disguise in order to accomplish my design.” Saying this, she discovered her bosom, which entirely banished my apprehensions. “Is it possible, said I, (quite transported) that in a stranger I should find so much friendship! Tell me, I beseech you, madam, who you are, that I may know to whom I am so greatly obliged!” As I spoke this, I looked earnestly in the face of the pretended youth, who was now seated by me, and thought I had never beheld any thing more beautiful. “My story, mademoiselle, said she, is too long to relate, in our present dangerous circumstances. For your satisfaction, I shall inform you that my name is Danville. The count de R—— courted me, while I was yet very young, and under the guardian ship of an uncle, my parents being both dead. I was charmed with his person; and, too young to be sensible of the danger of his addresses, (his quality rendering him a husband I could never, with reason, expect) I suffered myself to be seduced by his artifices, and followed him to Paris, where I have remained near three years, in absolute possession, as I thought, of his heart. The count, sensible that I had forsaken every thing for him, has always treated me with uncommon tenderness; and ’tis but within a very little while that I have suspected a change in his inclinations. From the first moment that I entertained this doubt, I lost all repose; and determined, if possible, to find out if my lover had any new engagement upon his hands. I have had him watched to every place he went, and intelligence brought me of the most trifling of his actions. It was not long before I was informed, that the count had a young lady in this house, and also of the restraint in which you was kept. I could not conceive it possible, that you was here contrary to your inclinations; and resolving to be convinced, I took the disguise you see, and was, by my faithful informer, introduced privately into the house and your closet. I saw your tears, I heard your complaints, and must confess I admire your virtue, and wish my own had been equal to it. I should not, then, be a despised, abandoned mistress; for, whatever false raptures our lovers may utter, ’tis what all must come to, who fall a sacrifice to a guilty passion.” This sentiment, notwithstanding I was prepossessed against this lady, from her story, restored her to some part of my good opinion; and I pressed her, earnestly, to put me in a method to make my escape. “I am afraid, replied the lady, there will be some difficulty in effecting it. La Valere the valet, who has served me thus far, will hardly consent to your stealing away; and, indeed, I never made this proposal to the fellow, as it would inevitably ruin him with his master. My only design, I told him, was to satisfy my curiosity, by seeing you.” “Alas, madam, interrupted I, have you only flattered me then, with a vain hope of procuring my liberty? How unfortunate am I!” “Hold, mademoiselle, said she, do not despair. Do you think I am not greatly interested in your getting out of the count’s power? I have thought of an expedient, if you have courage enough to put it in execution. La Valere is provided with a false key to your closet-door, by which he introduced me: I expect he will be at the door in an hour at farthest, to conduct me out. It will not be so light but he may easily mistake you for me, when you are dressed in the clothes I have on. Will you consent to be thus disguised? I’ll stay in your stead, and, when the count comes, shall have an Opportunity of upbraiding him with his infidelity. Madam Diserre cannot know any thing of the matter, till you are quite out of danger; and I’ll take care she shall send no one after you. She knows me very well, and will not dare to contradict me. Come, continued she, if you cannot resolve to do this, I shall not scruple to think you have a greater inclination to stay here than accept your liberty.” “No, madam, replied I, (vexed at her insinuation) you shall find I am ready to run any hazard, to escape from the count; and, considering I am an absolute stranger both to this place and Paris also, it will be no mean enterprise to venture abroad in man’s clothes, at so early an hour, without knowing where to go.” “Sure, mademoiselle, said the count’s mistress, (in a softer accent) you do not imagine I would provide so ill for your safety! La Valere will conduct you to a house at a small distance, where my woman attends me with other apparel; for I dressed myself for this adventure there, the mistress of the house being a person with whom I have a strict friendship. As soon as you are entered, deliver this ring, which I will give you for that purpose, either to her or my woman, and tell them the artifice we have used. I ordered the coach to come for me very early in the morning; and, when you have changed your dress, you may be at Paris before madam Diserre will be risen: so that you need not fear any pursuit, or that the count should be soon informed of your flight. You may, if you please, conceal yourself at my house, till you have resolved what to do; and my woman may attend you there. It will be the last place in the world, where the count will expect to find you; and there is no probability that he will come to pay me a visit, as he informed me, that he was going to Versailles for three weeks: a presence he invented to conceal his new affections, which engrossed all his moments.” “Ah, madam, interrupted I, let us haste to change clothes! I am convinced there will be no difficulty in this affair; and I only tremble now, lest this Valere should come too soon.” Madam Danville, smiling at my impatience, began to undress; and, as soon as she had slipped on my gown, took a great deal of pains in dressing me in her man’s clothes. As we were almost of an equal height, and not much different in shape, they fitted me near as well as her: but I thought myself so extremely awkward in this habit, that I was apprehensive the valet would never mistake me for his lady. As soon as I was thus metamorphosed, madam Danville pulled off a rich diamond from her finger, and gave it me for a passport: “Valere, said she, will just conduct you to the door; and, if you can avoid speaking much to him, by holding a handkerchief up to your face you’ll effectually conceal yourself from his knowledge.”
She had just finished her instructions, when we heard the key turn in the door; upon which madam Danville hastily put out the candle, and I went into the closet with a trembling heart. “Come, madam, said the valet, (hearing me enter) ’tis almost light.” I gave him my hand and he led me down a little pair of stairs, and a-cross two or three rooms, till we came to the hall. “What a villain am I, said he, (in a muttering voice) to betray my master in this manner, who confides so greatly in me! But your ladyship is so good, and so generous, ’tis impossible to deny you any thing. Well, madam, what do you think of this young girl my master has stolen? Is she handsome?” “Yes, answered I, (in a whisper).” “Not half so handsome as your ladyship though, said the valet. Well, your curiosity was certainly wound up to a high pitch, that you could patiently suffer so long a confinement for a sight of your rival. This jealousy is a terrible passion: thank heaven, ’tis only you great folks that are plagued with it. Such as we, love after another fashion.” It was happy for me, that this fellow loved to hear himself talk. I found myself under no necessity of speaking to him; for he continued his harangue, without interruption, till we got to the house.
As soon as he had knocked at the door, I bid him leave me, in a muttering voice; which, had I not accompanied with a wave of my hand, ’tis probable he would not have understood. He had just turned from me, when the door was opened by a woman, who, having a candle in her hand, by which she plainly saw my face, “Oh heavens! cried she, this is not my lady!” “Shut the door, said I, and compose yourself. Do you know what your lady’s errand was at the count de R——‘s?” “Yes, I do,” replied she. “Well, resumed I, I am the person of whom she entertained a jealousy; but, having discovered that I had no inclination to stay at the count’s, she changed dresses with me, to facilitate my escape, and remains there in my stead. To convince you this is truth, here is a ring she bid me give you.” “Ah, mademoiselle, said the waiting woman, (receiving the ring) pardon me, if I entertained some doubts, at first seeing you in my lady’s habit. Well, sure this is the strangest adventure! So, my lady will stay till the count comes! There will be a sad quarrel between them, I fear. But, really, mademoiselle, ’twas a generous action of yours, to resign the count to your rival. I think my lady is greatly obliged to you.” “I have no interest in the count, I assure you, answered I; and I am more obliged to your lady, for assisting me to get out of that house, than she is to me for quitting it. But, if you’ll help me to change my dress, you do me a favor; for I must not stay here long.” Madam de Danville’s woman, asking my pardon for keeping me so long in the entry, immediately showed me into a chamber; and, having helped to disrobe me, dressed me anew in her lady’s clothes, which were extremely elegant, and fitted me exactly. The woman, who understood the duties of her place perfectly well, loaded me with compliments all the while she was assisting me to dress. “I protest, mademoiselle, said she, I never saw a more lovely face and shape in my life. How graceful is your air! What eyes! What a complexion is there! But, permit me to tell you, you want a little red. There is a certain languid sweetness in the pale color of the English ladies, which is very becoming perhaps in that country, but here it is too remarkable.”
She was going on in this manner, when the mistress of the house entered the room: “What, madam, said she, (with a familiar air) you are out of your masculine habit, I see: but I long to know the particulars of this whimsical expedition.” Upon this, I turned towards her; for, as I was still at the toilet, she had only seen my back. “Bless me, resumed she, (starting back) who is this? Toinet, where is your lady? How has this metamorphosis happened?” Toinet, as she called her, having ended a violent fit of laughter, satisfied her curiosity by repeating all I had told her; to which I added something, which let her into the whole affair. “It highly concerns me, madam, pursued I, to leave this place as soon as possible; and, if madam de Danville’s coach is come, I would set out for Paris immediately.” “It will be here in half an hour, replied the lady, (looking on her watch); and in the mean time, mademoiselle, you may drink some chocolate, which I’ll order in an instant.” I accepted this invitation, and followed her to a parlor: and the coach being come, soon after we had breakfasted, I told Toinet she might go to Paris with me; for her lady did not desire her attendance there any longer, as she was uncertain when she should want her.
As soon as we began our little journey, I debated with myself, whether it would be proper to go to madam de Danville’s house, or endeavor to find out the marchioness, and implore her protection; for I was determined never to go near that fatal convent, though I passionately longed to see mademoiselle Belville. As I was extremely apprehensive of seeing the count, or the earl of L— — I thought it the safest way to let the coach set me down at madam de Danville’s, where I might stay till I had wrote to the marchioness, and sent to the convent to know if Mrs. Dormer had been there. Accordingly I resolved upon this last expedient; and, being now come into Paris, I drew up the windows, lest I should be seen. The inquisitive woman, observing this action, asked me, if I had any particular reasons for keeping myself concealed, beside the fear of being seen by the count. I replied, that, indeed, was my principal motive for desiring not to be seen; but that I had also some other reasons, which made it necessary: and asked her, if she thought I could pass unobserved into the house. “Depend upon it, mademoiselle, said she, no one, that sees you just step out of the coach, will take you for any other than my lady; and none of our servants dare to mention any thing that passes here. Besides, you are a stranger to them: they don’t know your name, and it is impossible they should make any discovery.’, “Well”, answered I, I’ll venture to stay there a couple of hours, till I have taken some necessary precautions to secure myself.” “You may depend upon my fidelity, said the officious Toinet: I shall be glad of an opportunity to serve you. ”
We had now reached the house; and the door being opened, I went in as quick as possible. Toinet followed me, and showed me into her lady’s room. I had just seated myself, when somebody rapping loud at the door, threw me into a terrible consternation; and I earnestly conjured Toinet to see who it was, before any of the other servants could answer them. Accordingly she ran down stairs, and left me in the most cruel anxiety till her return. “Who would have thought, said she, (when she entered the room) that you could be so soon discovered! There is a gentleman below, who asks to see the young lady that just now came in a coach to this house.” “What sort of man?” cried I, (quite alarmed). “He is young, and appears to be some Englishman of distinction,” replied she. I had at first imagined it might be Mr. Darcy; but this description made me immediately conclude, that it was no other than the earl of L——. “For heaven’s sake, said I, persist that it was your lady whom he saw; and, if you can bring me off at this dangerous juncture, you may depend upon my gratitude.” Toinet, who perfectly understood my meaning, assured me she would do her best. “He asked me, pursued she, if you did not live here; and I told him that you did: upon which he desired to see you. Now, mademoiselle, if you please, you may, for a little while, assume the character of mistress of this house, and send him word that you are engaged, and can’t possibly see him.” “Say what you will, said I, so you can get him away.” Toinet immediately hurried down stairs; but staid so long this time, that I began to fear he was resolved not to stir till he saw me. My perplexity increased every moment. Toinet relieved me, at last, from part of my fears: “I have sent him away, madam, said she; but I have been forced to tell a hundred falsehoods.” “Why, what have you said?” answered I, (smiling). “Why, mademoiselle, said she, I told him, that you could not possibly be the lady he took you for; that you was not acquainted with any foreigner, and was at present engaged. He replied, that he could not be mistaken) he knew your face perfectly well. Do me the favor only, said he, to tell me whether your lady receives the visits of the count of R——. Yes, yes, sir, answered I; and what then: I find you know something of her then. How came you to imagine she is the person you asked for. He seemed at this to be in a great disturbance; and, after asking me when the count de R—- was expected here, which I did not think proper to tell him, he went away.” “Alas, Toinet, said I, (putting a guinea into her hand) I fear we have fallen upon a bad stratagem! If that gentleman insisted that he saw my face plainly, he’ll carry away the notion that I am really the count de R——’s mistress. I would have passed for madam Danville, if I could; but, since he was convinced he knew me, I have, by this means, only assumed her character, without her name. However, if I can contrive to get safe out of the house, he may soon be convinced of his mistake; for he’ll certainly call again. In the mean time, favor me with some paper and pens, that I may write a letter or two, and procure me a messenger to dispatch away with them.” Toinet immediately furnished me with what I wanted; and, while she went to seek for a proper messenger, I wrote a short billet to the marchioness and mademoiselle Belville. In each, I gave some little account of my being carried away; and entreated the marchioness to afford me her protection, till I could leave Paris with safety. I had just finished these two letters, when Toinet introduced a person to me, who, she said, would deliver them faithfully. As he was perfectly well acquainted with the town, he immediately knew in what quarter of it the marchioness de —— lived, and where the convent —— of the stood. I gave him my letters, charging him to wait for answers, and to return as soon as possible.
He came back, indeed, soon enough; but brought me most afflicting news: the marchioness was not in town, and mademoiselle Belville had left the convent five days before. I ordered him to go back again to the convent, and get information from the prioress, whether an English lady, called Mrs. Dormer, had been there; directing him, at the same time, not to own from what place he was sent; and, to bribe his fidelity, promised to reward him handsomely. This message was as unsuccessful as the former: the prioress would not give any answer to the question, till she was told who and where the person was, who had sent him. In this distracting dilemma, I knew not what to resolve on. It was absolutely unsafe for me to remain any longer in madam Danville’s house; and I deferred all reflections upon what course I should pursue, till I was in a less dangerous place.
Toinet, who saw my perplexity, offered to go to a milliner’s, who lived a few streets from that, and hire an apartment for me; and, to prevent my being known, advised me to change my name. I consented to this Proposal immediately; for I was in the utmost uneasiness while I staid in this house. And as soon as every thing was agreed on between us, I went in a chair to my new lodgings.
As I observed the house was very large, I asked the mistress of it, if she had any more lodgers in it beside myself, and what they were: upon which she informed me, that her best apartments were let to an English gentleman and his lady, who were to set out shortly for Calais, upon their return to England. “I should be glad to know their name,’, replied I. “’Tis Belville, mademoiselle, said the milliner. Perhaps you know them!” “Yes, cried I, (in a transport) I am very intimately acquainted with the lady you speak of! This is the most fortunate accident! I’ll make her a visit immediately, if she is at home.” The milliner, upon this, called a servant of madam Belville’s, whom I ordered to tell his lady, that an English lady of her acquaintance desired to see her. Madam Belville followed the messenger out, eager to see who it was; but the moment she cast her eyes on me, they lost some part of the pleasing surprise they expressed before; yet she saluted me with an engaging air, though more reserved than I expected, and led me into her apartment. During some moments, madam Belville maintained a distant behavior, which so surprised me, that I sat silent, looking on her with a perplexed air, at a loss in what manner to begin a conversation, which I foresaw would have nothing of that openness and friendship in it which all our others had. At length, no longer able to continue in a restraint, which seemed so extremely painful to her, the tender madam Belville took my hand, and pressing it with much affection, “Oh, miss Stuart! said she, how difficult is it to behold you, and entertain suspicions to your prejudice! But why do I say suspicions! Is it not certain, that you left the convent with the count de R——? Could I ever have thought that my dear friend would have acted so inconsistent with that virtue, of which her story gave me so high an idea?”
Had any one but madam Belville talked to me in this manner, I should have been excessively disobliged; but there was so much sweet sincerity in her looks, such engaging softness in her accent, that I thought of nothing but drawing her out of the mistake she was in, without conceiving any resentment at the injury it did me. As I had had no opportunity of seeing her, after the alarming message I received, as I imagined, from the marchioness, I related it to her now, together with the count de R——’s continued artifice, and my escape, by the interposition of his mistress. Madam Belville would hardly allow me to finish my story, her eagerness to atone for the injury her suspicion had done me, made her interrupt me with a tender embrace; asking me pardon, at the same time, with tears, for the harsh language she had used to me. “Ought I to expect, said she, (with inexpressible tenderness) that my dearest miss Harriot will restore me to that friendship and esteem I have forfeited, by the unworthy suspicions I have suffered myself to entertain of her?” “Ah, say no more, dear madam! cried I, (embracing her): appearances were against me, and, till I had an opportunity of justifying my conduct, your censure was not only pardonable, but just. But before I ask you by what happy means Mr. Belville is restored to you sooner than you expected, inform me if Mrs. Dormer was at the convent to inquire for me before you left it?” “I never heard of that lady’s calling, replied my friend; but there was a young English gentleman, who, they say, appeared to be of distinction, that inquired for you; to whom the prioress related the manner of your going away with the count de R——.” “Did you see this gentleman?” interrupted I. “No, answered madam Belville; but, by the grief and rage that he expressed at what the prioress told him concerning you, ’tis believed in the convent, that it was some lover of yours: and I am inclined to think it was the same person, who, you say, saw you enter madam Danville’s house.” “Ah, undoubtedly it was the same, answered I, it can be no other than the earl of L——. How unhappy am I, in being so often the object of libertine pursuits!” Either he or the count de R—— will certainly discover me, notwithstanding all my precautions; and in a country like this, where orders, signed by the king, are so easily procured, and prostituted to the basest designs, how can I think myself secure from the attempts of two men, who seem absolutely determined to accomplish my ruin.” “I am of opinion, said madam Belville, that you ought to quit France immediately. Let Mr. Belville and I have the pleasure of conducting you safe to England. We shall leave Paris to-morrow. Don’t let me have the mortification of going without you: your society is all I want to make my happiness complete. My dear Mr. Belville received, while he was abroad, news of the death of an uncle; to whose estate, which is very considerable, he succeeds. This brought him immediately from the place of his banishment: he came with a lover’s haste to take me from the monastery; and our affairs requiring us to be in England as soon as possible, we have determined to set out for Calais to morrow. It will be dangerous for you to stay here, expecting Mrs. Dormer: we may chance to meet her in our journey, if she is not yet come; and, that you may be satisfied as to that point, I’ll go myself this evening to the convent, and inquire if she has been there since I left it. If she has not, you can have no occasion to expose yourself to any further stratagems, by staying here; and, I believe, you will not find it difficult to be ready for going to-morrow.” As I had reason to be perfectly satisfied with my friend’s proposal, I did not hesitate a moment to comply with it, provided I could be assured Mrs. Dormer had not yet been at the convent.
Madam Belville was just preparing to go, in order to deliver me from my uncertainty, when Mr. Belville came in; to whom she introduced me, with a thousand expressions of the tenderest friendship. And this young gentleman, who, to praise him sufficiently, I need only say was worthy to possess my lovely friend, assured me, in the politest manner of his esteem and respect. Madam Belville, having informed him of her intended visit to the convent, entreated him to bear me company till she returned; but my impatience was so great, to hear news of my dearest Mrs. Dormer, that I begged leave to retire to my own chamber, in order to conceal my anxiety. Here I revolved a thousand painful tender ideas; and the expectation of seeing this amiable friend, renewed my affliction for the infidelity of Dumont, and brought back every soft remembrance of his once tender passion for me, heightening the cruel contrast which his perfidious change had made, and doubling my grief by reflections I was not able to suppress.
Madam Belville, when she came back, found me in tears: “Alas, my dear, said she, I wish I had any news to tell you, that would banish your uneasiness. Mrs. Dormer has not been at the convent; and you have no reason to think she is in Paris.” “Well then, madam, replied I, I am determined to set out with you to morrow. Mrs. Dormer, no doubt, has been prevented by some misfortune from performing her promise; or, perhaps, I am no longer happy in her affection. Whatever is the cause of her disappointing me, I shall languish with impatience till I know it. But I am too much inured to misery, to be surprised at any new misfortune that can befall me.” Madam Belville endeavored, by the most obliging tenderness, to dispel the melancholy reflections which en grossed me.
We spent the rest of the day in making preparations for our journey. As I had a riding-dress, and other necessaries, to provide, my friend entreated me to make use of her purse for that purpose, if I was straitened for money: but this not being the case, as I had a considerable sum in my purse when Mr. Darcy took me away, I declined this generous offer, with the grateful acknowledgments it merited.
We left Paris early the next morning in a coach and four, and reached Calais in three days; and, after resting there one night, went on board a packet-boat next morning: but, having contrary winds, we had a very tedious passage. My heart was oppressed with inconceivable disquiet the moment I was landed in England. ’Tis here, thought I, where I shall be continually exposed to the torturing remembrance of Dumont! or, perhaps, have the mortification of seeing him enjoying his triumph over my peace and happiness! I accompanied Mrs. Belville, at her earnest entreaty, to the lodgings her husband had provided for her in Hanover square; and, having just waited on her to her apartment, I took leave of her, to visit Mrs. Dormer, who lived very near. Mrs. Belville and her husband would not let me go, till I had promised them, in case Mrs. Dormer was not in town, to return and stay with them, they having a spare chamber to accommodate me with. I made no scruple to promise them I would comply with this obliging proposal, if I should be so unfortunate as not to meet with my friend. I then steps into a chair, and was carried to the house where Mrs. Dormer lodged; but was in- she had left those lodgings, and now lived in the very square. I was so impatient to see her, that I could not prevail upon myself to stay a moment with my old landlady, who was transported to see me again; but hurried immediately to the house, to which she had directed me.
Mrs. Dormer having only remained in this woman’s lodgings till her house was fitted up, I was not surprised to hear she- was moved; but was quite elated with the hopes of seeing her, when a servant, having opened the door, informed me his lady had set out for Paris three days before. This cruel disappointment determined me to return to Mrs. Belville, to whom I related my misfortune in missing my friend. She was beginning to comfort me for this accident, when a servant, coming in, told me, that a young lady was below, who inquired for me, as he supposed, by the name of miss Stuart. I immediately ran down stairs into a parlor, where I was told she was, and was received with an eager embrace by my dear sister Fanny; for it was she herself, who had sent for me: “Oh, heavens! cried I, (with a mixture of surprise and joy) can it be you, my dearest Fanny, that I see so unexpectedly! How long have you been in town, and how came you to know I was here?” “I have not been in town a week, said my lovely sister; and I was visiting a relation of my husband’s, who lives in this square, when I saw you, from the window where I sat, pass by in a chair. I knew you immediately; and was so surprised, that I had like to have fainted away: for I was informed, by the person where you lodged, of the strange manner in which you were taken away but yesterday, the direction you gave me being mislaid; so that I knew not, for some time, where to find you, and was just distracted at the accident which kept me so long from seeing you. Guess my affliction then, my dear Harriot, at the news I heard of your disappearing by such strange means, as convinced me you was in the power of some villain! And my surprise, at such a sudden sight of you, was pretty near as fatal; for I could not, for some moments, utter a word: at last, I hastily threw up the window, and had another glimpse of you, just as you came out of the chair into this house. Upon which I told the company the occasion of my surprise, and came directly to you myself; for I could not be persuaded to stay, as they would have had me, till I sent a servant to inquire if you was really here.” I embraced the tender Fanny a second time; and acknowledging the goodness of providence, for sending me such unexpected comforts, at a time when I so greatly needed them, I beeped my sister to finish her visit immediately, that I might be no longer kept from paying my duty to my mother. She then left me, to go and excuse herself to her company, promising to call and take me up in her way home.
This interval I employed in relating to Mrs. Belville our happy meeting, and in taking leave of this obliging friend, who would wait on me to the door of my sister’s coach, in order to pay her compliments to one so dear to me.
As soon as we drove away, my sister eagerly inquired after my affairs. I gave her a short sketch of my history, which filled her with the most tender concern. She wept almost all the time I was relating it. “Alas, my dear, said she, what dangerous trials have you had! How nobly have you maintained the honor of your family! Doubt not, my dearest sister, but your uncommon virtue and fortitude will one day meet with a large reward. In the mean time, I conjure you to banish the base Dumont from your remembrance; and let not such an unworthy wretch have the power of disturbing your tranquillity.” I could only answer by a sigh to this affecting advice. My soul, though filled with resentment, was not yet capable of hating Dumont; but my pride hid part of my weakness even from myself: and I often attributed the emotions which agitated my heart, when he rose to my remembrance, to scorn and rage, which, in reality, were the effects of a too tender and lasting passion for this lovely deceiver.
As my sister lived in St. James’s -street, we had opportunity for a long conversation before I saw my mother; and being told by Fanny, that she was entirely ignorant of any engagement between Dumont and myself, there being no talk of it at N—— when they came away, I was freed from some part of my uneasiness; for I did not doubt but the news had reached the father of Dumont, who would not fail to spread it about. And as I expected many reproaches from my mother, my sister thought it prudent to prepare her for seeing me, lest the too great surprise might affect her; and though I thought this caution needless, as my mother never discovered any extraordinary sensations of tenderness for me; yet I did not oppose her, and waited in a parlor she conducted me into; till it was proper I should appear.
I was greatly surprised, a little time afterwards, to find my mother come hastily into the room. It seems, her impatience to see me would not suffer her to wait till I was sent for to her apartment. This condescension transported me with an excess of filial joy: I cast myself at her knees, and, while she stooped to embrace me, bathed her loved face with my tears, unable to utter a word. At last, my mother obliged me to rise; and, after having satisfied her curiosity with telling her the most important things which had happened to me since I left her, my sister Fanny desired leave to introduce a brother-in-law to me, who was impatient to see me. “Come, child, said my mother, (taking my hand) Mr. S—— is in my apartment: I will have the pleasure of presenting you to this worthy son, who, in some measure, repairs the loss of your dear brother.” I followed my mother, with my eyes flowing at the mention Of my dearest brother; and could scarce compose myself well enough to be able to receive, as I ought, the affectionate compliments Mr. S—— paid me. When our first congratulations were over, my mother made me repeat my adventures in some order; and, when I had ended my little history, she embraced me several times, assuring me, my conduct had given her the highest satisfaction.
Had it been possible for me to lose the remembrance of Dumont, I might have thought myself extremely happy. My mother’s tenderness for me was greatly increased; and my sister and her husband seemed to vie with each other, in giving me the most obliging testimonies of their affection.
The presence and endearments of these loved relations, softened, a little, my impatience for the return of Mrs. Dormer; who, by the account I had given of my obligations to her, was became dear to them all. I had the mortification to hear, from her housekeeper, that her lady had writ her word she was gone to Montpelier, for the recovery of an indisposition, which threatened her with a consumption. My concern, at this news, was equal to the friendship I bore her. Being informed, by her housekeeper, where to direct to her, I wrote immediately: but receiving no answer, my apprehensions were considerably increased, especially as I heard her family also were ignorant of the state of her health.
I passed the remainder of this winter in a constant attendance on my mother, who was much indisposed. The country air being judged necessary for the recovery of her health, we removed, early in the spring, to a beautiful retreat near Hampstead. Here I employed myself in my usual diversions, reading and writing. My mother having desired me to invite my engaging friend Mrs. Belville, with whom I preserved a constant correspondence, to pass a few days with us in the country, I sent her the following poetical invitation, which procured me, with her, a very unexpected visitor.
Now spring, returning, decks the year,
With all that’s lovely, all that’s fair;
The fields in lively green array’d,
With deeper glooms the silent shade:
Soft descend the gentle show’rs,
And wake to life the springing flow’rs:
Hence ambrosial sweets exhale,
And various colors paint the vale;
Refreshing airs the zephyrs blow,
The streams with pleasing murmurs flow,
While nightly, ‘midst the silent plain,
Thy fav’rite bird renews her strain.
Come then, my Delia, come and share
My joys, and breathe a purer air:
Together let us range the plains,
Among the rustick nymphs and swains;
In rural dress, devoid of care,
Give to the winds our flowing hair
And round the meadows gaily roam;
For youth does sober mirth become.
Now, straining up yon airy height,
We’ll entertain the wand’ring sight
With flow’ry fields, and waving woods,
Hills and dales, and falling floods:
Or, to relieve the searching eyes,
See distant spires and temples rise.
Come now, my Delia, let us rove
Together thro’ the mazy grove;
Here, while with gentle pace we walk,
Beguile the time with pleasing talk:
Here show thy melting eloquence,
Thy sprightly wit, thy manly sense;
Thy virtuous notions, void of art;
And, while you charm, correct the heart.
Or now, together careless laid,
Beneath a cypress’ spreading shade,
Our thoughts to heav’nly numbers raise,
Repeating Pope’s harmonious lays:
Now Homer’s awful leaves turn o’er,
Or graver history explore;
Or study Plato’s sacred page,
Uncommon to our sex and age.
Now, wand’ring by the moon’s pale light,
Amidst the silent shades of night,
Where, on the late deserted plains,
A pleasing melancholy reigns;
Softly thro’ the rustling trees,
Sobs the sweetly dying breeze;
The echoes catch the plaintive sound,
And gentle murmurs breathe around.
Now sing, my friend, and let thy strain
Recount the arts of faithless man:
Thy notes, sweet Philomel shall join,
And mix her soft complaints with thine.
But raise, my Delia, raise thy song,
To friendship nobler strains belong.
O, sing its tender chaste desires,
Its equal, pure, and lasting fires;
Such as in thy bosom burns,
Such as my fond soul returns.
Friendship is but love refin’d,
Not weakens, but exalts the mind;
And when its sacred pow’r we prove,
We guess how heav’nly spirits love.
Mr. Belville, while he was at Jamaica, had contracted an acquaintance with Mr. Campbel, that generous lover I have often mentioned in the course of my history. Having met again in London, Mr. Belville introduced him to his lady; and he was then in her apartment, when my letter was brought to her. In the relation of my history to this lovely friend, I concealed the names both of this gentleman and his uncle, as well as some other persons I had occasion to mention; so that she was ignorant of our acquaintance. Upon receiving my letter, she read my poem aloud, telling him, it was the composition of a young lady; and asked his opinion of it. Mr. Campbel, knowing I sometimes amused myself in this way, eagerly inquired the name of the lady, which Mrs. Belville did not think proper to conceal: upon which my lover declared he had the honor to know me, and begged her permission to attend her in her visit to me.
You may imagine, my dear Amanda, that I was excessively surprised at seeing Mrs. Belville thus accompanied! My friendship for Mr. Campbel had not been lessened by his absence; and I introduced him to my mother and sister with a peculiar satisfaction. As I had before acquainted them with the nature of my obligations to this gentleman, they received him with the utmost esteem and respect. My brother-in-law and he soon became acquainted; and he, having received a general invitation, did not fail to visit us two or three times a week.
Mr. Campbel, who had frequent opportunities of talking to me alone, employed them in assuring me of the never-dying passion his heart still felt for me. When I reflected on the indifference with which I had repaid his tender sentiments, I could not help being surprised, that he still retained them. “Ah, how unlike my faithless Dumont, thought I, is this too generous lover! How happy should I be, could I transfer the affection, I once bore that ingrate, to him!”
My mother and sister, who soon discovered the ardent passion of Mr. Campbel, pressed me incessantly in his behalf. My reason aided their solicitations, and represented him so deserving of my utmost tenderness, that I accused myself of the basest ingratitude, for being so long insensible of his merit. With these favorable dispositions towards him, I listened, with an unusual complaisance, to his vows of unalterable love As I ardently wished to dispose my heart in his favor, my looks often wore a softness and sensibility, which filled him with the most agreeable hopes; and, e’re I was aware, the change in my behavior convinced my transported lover, that my heart was wholly his.
But, while I was ignorant of this effect of my endeavors to answer his passion, guess my surprise, dear Amanda, to see him one day throw himself at my feet in an ecstasy, and conjure me no longer to defer his happiness, but name the day when I would bestow myself upon him “Oh, heavens! sir, cried I, (obliging him to rise) why do you talk to me in this manner! Have I given you any reason to think I have been able to take such a resolution? Alas, pursued I, (bursting into tears at the remembrance of Dumont) my heart is far from being in the disposition you wish it, and which perhaps I myself desire it should!” “What, miss, interrupted my lover, (with a countenance quite altered) have I then deceived myself with imaginary hopes of having been able to overcome your insensibility! And is it so impossible for you to cease hating me, that you acknowledge ’tis not in your power to do otherwise!” “Ah, do not wrong the sentiments I have for you, replied I, by such an injurious suspicion! I have all the esteem and friendship for you, that your uncommon merits deserve. I am sensible, the tenderness and delicacy of your passion may claim a still more grateful return; and I regret my incapacity to bestow it.” “Well, miss, replied my lover, (with a voice interrupted with sighs) you now speak plain, indeed; and I comprehend the whole extent of my misfortunes. You love where you wish you did not, my dear, my adorable Harriot; and that heart, which to obtain is the first ambition of my soul, is bestowed upon one unworthy of its tenderness Ah! I am more unhappy by this knowledge, than when I left you, as I thought, to the possession of a beloved rival, who deserved you! Then I alone was miserable; and it was some alleviation of my grief, to think that you was happy.” Was it possible to listen to sentiments so tender and generous, without being extremely moved! I acknowledged, without reserve, that he alone was worthy of my utmost tenderness; and, in order to acquaint him with the true state of my heart, I related to him exactly the history of my engagement with Dumont, concealing only his name, his base infidelity, and the stratagem of his uncle to prevent my ever seeing him more. I acknowledged, that my heart had not yet recovered its former tranquillity; and that, though I had ceased to love the ungrateful man, I could not yet entirely banish him from my remembrance. “Be assured, pursued I, (giving him my hand) that, when I am worthy of your affection, I will be yours. You are already possessed of my utmost esteem: I am not naturally ungrateful; and it is not improbable but time, and my own efforts to dispose my heart in your favor, will produce those sentiments you wish to inspire me with.” I could not finish these words without blushing excessively; while my lover, keeping my hand pressed with inconceivable tenderness to his lips, was some moments incapable of answering me any otherwise than by a look, more intelligible than any language he could have used. “Is it possible, said he, (at last, lifting up his eyes) that there is on earth a wretch, who could forego the possession of so divine a creature, for any other advantage the world could offer him! Oh, miss Harriot, thy story unfolds a thousand beauties in thy character I never knew before! Thy amiable sincerity, though it destroys my hopes, confirms my admiration! I foresee I never shall be so happy to possess your heart; but despair itself cannot hinder me from adoring you!”
The mutual confidence that was now established between Mr. Campbel and me, produced such a behavior to each other, as convinced my mother that I would-not refuse him my hand. My sister was transported to find I had gained such a conquest over myself. Her husband and she were perpetually talking of the amiable qualities Mr. Campbel possessed; and the satisfaction with which I listened to such discourses, persuaded them I grew every day more sensible of his merit.
In effect, my dear, if Mr. Campbel’s faithful passion, the solicitations of my friends, and my own endeavors to be grateful, did not actually produce in me such sentiments as I wished; yet I no longer felt any repugnance to become his wife. I knew enough of my own temper, to be convinced, when once it became my duty to love him, my heart would quickly feel a disposition to do so, possessed as it was already with the most perfect esteem for his virtues. But, as I was determined to use no disguise in so important an affair, when I gave my ravished lover my promise to be his, I gave him a true description of the state of my heart. I acknowledged that the sentiments I felt for him did not yet merit the name of love; but that my soul, being wholly free from any passion for another, and penetrated with the utmost gratitude and friendship for him, I left it to his choice to take me now, and trust to my principles of religion and virtue to produce an affection worthy of his; or to wait till time, and his continued tenderness, had inspired me with still more grateful sentiments. My lover accepted my first proposition with inexpressible transports; and, impatient to have his happiness confirmed by the consent of my family, went immediately to acquaint my mother with the resolution I had taken. My mother received the news with the greatest satisfaction; and my sister and brother-in-law expressed the most tender joy, for an event they judged so fortunate for me.
My mother, at my lover’s earnest request, determined to have our marriage delayed no longer than a fortnight; in which time, the necessary preparations for it might be easily made.
Mr. Campbel, besides his commission, was possessed of an estate of three hundred pounds a year; and his uncle, the captain, whom I have formerly mentioned, designed to leave him the bulk of his fortune, which was very large. That gentleman had always preserved a very tender esteem for me; and when Mr. Campbel asked his consent to our marriage, he gave it with a peculiar satisfaction, adding an elogium upon me; which, though it greatly exceeded my merits, was assented to with rapture by my lover.
The captain desiring to be introduced to my mother, upon the designed union of their families, he came in a very grand equipage to pay us a visit. ’Twas impossible for me to see him without some confusion, at the painful remembrance of what had past; but I composed my looks with the utmost care, that he might not observe the least trace of uneasiness upon my countenance. He assured my mother, in the politest manner, that he looked upon his nephew’s marriage with me, as the utmost happiness that could befall him. “And, pursued he, (turning to Mr. Campbel) that this young lady, with all her other accomplishments, may also bring you a fortune worth your acceptance, upon the day of your marriage I shall present her with three thousand pounds; for which I expect you’ll make her a suitable settlement.”
I need not say, my dear Amanda, how much I was touched with this generous action! I believe you are convinced, I am extremely susceptible of grateful impressions. I expressed my acknowledgments in the strongest terms; while Mr. Campbel, with a silent rapture, kissed his hand, unable to express any otherwise, for a long time, his grateful sense of a favor, which, conferred on me, made it infinitely greater. My mother also joined in our thanks to the generous captain, who, soon after, took his leave, with repeated assurances of his esteem and regard.
There remained now but a few days before that on which I was to give my hand to Mr. Campbel, when I was surprised with a visit from Mrs. Dormer. Her equipage no sooner stops at the door, than, seized with a transport of joy, I hastily flew to receive her; and, just as she entered the house, met her with an eager embrace. My mother and sister welcomed her with the greatest expressions of respect; and Mr. Campbel, who was then present, expressed a joy, at seeing her, but little inferior to mine. When the first compliments were over, and I was at liberty to observe the looks and behavior of my dear friend, I thought there appeared in her somewhat of melancholy and restraint, which gave me an unusual disturbance. Mrs. Dormer frequently fixed her eyes upon Mr. Campbel, and then turned them upon me with a look so piercing that I was not able to sustain it. My heart fluttered with a painful anxiety! My thoughts were all alarmed, and I trembled, as if Some terrible misfortune was just going to befall me! Mrs. Dormer, after near an hour’s general conversation, expressing a desire to walk, Mr. Campbel, my sister, and I, prepared to accompany her. When we were in the fields, she engaged me in a particular discourse; which Mr. Campbel and my sister observing, walked on without us, to leave us the liberty of conversing without being heard. “Well, miss Harriot, said my friend, am I to wish you joy? Are you married yet to the gentleman who walks before us?” “Not yet, madam, replied I, (blushing); but the day is fixed, and I shall think myself inexpressibly happy to have you present at that sacred ceremony.” “What, are you not married, then? interrupted Mrs. Dormer, (with a look and accent expressive of the greatest pleasure). Mrs. Belville, who acquainted me with all your affairs, informed me that it would be impossible I could arrive soon enough to prevent it; for she imagined the ceremony was already over. You having resolved to have it as private as possible, only your own family would know the day. Heaven be praised, you are not yet lost! Dumont may still be happy!” “What is it you say, madam, interrupted I, (with a faltering accent) did you name Dumont!” “Oh, my dear, cried my friend, I have been too rash! I see I have greatly alarmed you! Compose yourself: I have some very extraordinary things to tell you. How I repent of not explaining myself, when I wrote to you at the convent! All this would have been prevented!” “Alas, madam, cried I, (trembling) keep me no longer in suspense! Tell me, I conjure you, what am I to think of what you uttered concerning Dumont? How can my marriage affect him? Explain this mystery, which perplexes me with a thousand different inquietudes! Ah, I am not near that happy indifference, with which I so vainly flattered myself; since his very name is capable of giving me so much disturbance.” “I have so much to say to you, replied Mrs. Dormer, that I must entreat you to give me an opportunity of being alone with you, when we return. I will not ask you to go with me to town, for fear of raising suspicions, which at this time must be avoided.”
My impatience to hear what Mrs. Dormer had to say to me, made me immediately propose returning to the house; where we were no Sooner entered, than I took her to my chamber. The friendship which subsisted between us, made it not surprising that we should desire to be alone, after so long an absence. “I cannot persuade myself, said Mrs. Dormer, that any thing but a firm belief of Mr. Dumont’s infidelity could make you think yourself at liberty to marry any man but himself And yet, my dear miss, in spite of appearances, this has not been the case: your Dumont has ever been faithful to you; and ’tis owing to a train of unlucky circumstances, as well as the basest artifice, that You have been thus long deceived.”
Mrs. Dormer stops here, observing I was greatly affected with so unexpected a discovery. “Proceed, madam, said I: I will listen very composedly to your relation. Do not apprehend any weaknesses from me: I have been the sport of fortune ever since I was born, and ought not to be surprised at any of her changes.” “I will tell my story in order, said Mrs. Dormer; and must therefore begin with my surprise at seeing my chaise return to Richmond, the same evening, without you. But when the man informed me of the occasion, and that you was gone to meet your mother and sister, I was excessively pleased with the news; imagining, with reason, their presence would greatly alleviate your affliction. The next morning, when I was in expectation either of seeing or hearing from you, word was brought me that Mr. Dumont was come. I hastily ordered his admittance, not without an extreme surprise at what might be the occasion of his visit, which was increased by observing him in deep mourning. “This is an ill-omened dress for a happy bridegroom, madam, said he; but though gratitude obliges me to wear it for a little time, yet my heart can be only sensible to the greatest excess of joy. But where is my lovely angel? Pardon me, madam: my impatience to see her, makes me neglect the exact rules of ceremony; and I must beg you to let her know I am here.” ’Tis hardly possible to conceive the resentment with which I was filled, at a speech so extremely insulting, as I thought it: to own, at the same time that he asked for you, that he was a happy bridegroom, seemed such an excess of insolence, that, for some moments, I was not able to reply. “For heaven’s sake, madam, resumed he, tell me if any accident has happened to my dearest Harriot! Why do I not see her? What does this alarming silence mean?” The distraction which appeared in his looks and accent, spite of myself, disarmed part of my anger. “Sure, sir, replied I, you do not mean to triumph in the uneasiness your infidelity has given that young lady, that you desire to see her. But whatever are your motives for such an inconsistent behavior, it is not here that you can find miss Harriot, since she is not at present in my house.” “Good God, madam! interrupted your lover, what infidelity is this you accuse me of! What crime have I committed? I thought I explained, in my letter to my angel, the reasons that would hinder me from coming at the day appointed. Can she be so unjust as to believe any thing to the prejudice of my love for her? Tell me, madam, I beg you, where she is, that I may fly to her immediately! I cannot bear the thought of her accusing me with neglect!” These words, pursued Mrs. Dormer, convinced me we both labored under some strange mistake. I desired him to sit down, and hear me patiently; and then related to him our surprise at his not coming according to his promise; the message you had sent to his uncle’s, and the account his servant had given of his marriage with his cousin. I had no time to add any thing concerning the affliction this news had given you: he interrupted me with a furious exclamation) and striking his breast with a vehement action, “Oh, my adored Harriot, cried he, (lifting up his eyes) what a wretch am I, this moment, in thy opinion! But, madam, pursued he, will you not tell me where she is, that I may haste and undeceive her?” I then told him, that my servant had informed me you was gone to meet your mother and sister, who were just arrived from N—— that you had met the messenger at my lodgings, and was gone to the inn, where they expected you. I pressed him, therefore, to compose himself, and stay some time at my house, being assured I should very soon either see or hear from you. I also added, that I should not be able to acquit him in my own thoughts, till I knew what affairs had detained him beyond the time he proposed to be with us; and how the report of his marriage had been spread among the servants in his uncle’s house. ’Twas with some difficulty, that I could prevail upon him to stay, he was so eager to go and justify himself to you. But when I represented the improbability of his being able to find you, as you was now with your mother; and the certainty of his missing you, in case you came to Richmond, which I imagined, with reason, that you would; he consented to stay some time, in expectation of your coming.
I was still, pursued Mrs. Dormer, impatient to have him unfold the mystery of his stay; but, for a long time, all I could get from him was sighs and complaints. “I know not, madam, said he to me, (with a most melancholy air) whether I ought to suffer myself to be depress with the sad presages I have, that this cruel mistake my Harriot labors under, will deprive me of her for ever. My soul is distracted with a thousand different apprehensions!” “I cannot give you any comfort, answered I, till I am certain of your innocence. For aught I know, you may be really married, notwithstanding all this grimace.” This raillery, pursued my friend, forced a smile from your afflicted lover.
“I suppose, madam, said he, my lovely Harriot told you, that I had left my cousin extremely indisposed with my uncle’s unexpected appearance, and his menaces against me. When I returned, I found her in a high fever: the physicians were sent for, who pronounced her in great danger; she being so extremely weak before she was seized with this illness, that they thought it impossible for her to struggle with the violence of the distemper. My concern at this accident was considerably heightened, when I considered how great a share I had in causing her indisposition: my thoughts were so perplexed, that I was incapable of considering of measures to prevent my uncle from executing his threats of ruining me, which I knew was in his power. My cousin in the mean time grew worse; her life was despaired of, and she was given over by the doctors. The evening before I proposed to set out for Richmond, as it would have been highly indecent for me to leave the house while she continued alive, I wrote to miss Harriot, to acquaint her with the reasons of my not coming the day I proposed. As I did not care to trust my own servant to carry this letter, I ordered a porter to be called, and directed him to leave the letter at your lodgings, madam, in town, knowing it would be immediately sent to you; for I would not direct it to Richmond myself, lest if any accident happened, such as the messenger being watched, or asked any questions, the place where my Harriot was might not be known; for I dreaded the extravagant sallies of my uncle’s temper. I had just dispatched this messenger, when my cousin’s woman came to call me to her lady. When I came into the room, she desired me to sit down by her bed-side, those who attended her retiring to a little distance. “Cousin, said she, I am sensible I have but a few hours to live, and this short period will be disturbed by the thoughts of what uneasiness our fatal contract will produce you: my uncle, I know, will be very severe, and render you unhappy if he can. Are you yet married?” Here she paused, while my affliction, at observing the difficulty with which she pronounced these few words, that seemed to exhaust the little strength she had left, kept me for some moments silent; at last I answered in the negative. “Then, resumed she, our engagement is not yet broke. If you will condescend to defer your marriage, and conceal your intentions, till I am no more, I shall be justified in leaving you, as my designed husband, the best part of my fortune. Do you promise me, Mr. Dumont, to marry no one while I am alive?” “Yes, dearest cousin,” said I, stooping, and pressing my lips to her hand, while my eyes flowed with involuntary tears. “’Tis enough, interrupted she, faintly; my honor is satisfied. Retire now, and let me employ my few remaining moments as I ought.” I left this generous lady, pursued your lover, with my heart penetrated with the most lively sentiments of sorrow, gratitude, and admiration. I passed that night in her anti-chamber; but saw her no more. She was seized with convulsions, and died about eleven o’clock the next morning. Her will was opened in the presence of her relations, in which she had declared the promise I made her, to keep our contract, while she lived, inviolable; and, as her designed husband, she had bequeathed me thirty thousand pounds: and the remainder of her fortune was to be disposed of to charitable uses, except some few legacies for rings to her relations, who were all too rich to need any thing she had left from them. This disposition of her fortune was resented by none of her relations, but her uncle, who alone doubted of my intentions to fulfill our engagements. He contented himself, however, with only giving me some furious looks. The death of my cousin, upon the very day I proposed being with you at Richmond, obliged me, through decency, to deny myself the happiness of seeing my Harriot; and, as I never doubted but she had received my letter, I thought she would easily imagine the cause of my not coming. The thoughts of being able now to place her in the situation she merited, filled me with a transport, which the tender remembrance of my departed cousin could scarce moderate.
My uncle, I was informed, kept his chamber, and had left to some of his friends the care of my cousin’s funeral, which I resolved should be very magnificent, and gave orders for her lying in state. But I could not suppress, any longer, my eager desire to see my dearest Harriot: and giving directions to my servant, this morning, to tell any one, who inquired for me, that I would not be seen, I stole out by a back-door; and mounting my horse, which my man had ready for me at a little distance, I hastened here, in order to have a moment’s sight of my angel, and inform her of what had passed; not doubting but I should be back, e’re it was suspected I had been abroad. But this disappointment of not meeting her and the knowledge of the fatal deception she is in, so distracts me, that I can no longer behave with any decorum. Though my cousin is unburied, I cannot return till I have seen her!” This, pursued Mrs. Dormer, was what your lover said to me, and easily accounted for the words he had uttered when he came in, which had increased my indignation. Had you not been so precipitate, my dear, how many miseries would you have spared yourself?”
“Ah, madam, interrupted I, who would have thought it possible my Dumont was innocent! What injustice have I been guilty of! continued I, (melting into tears.) I have not only endeavored to drive him from my heart, but I have even engaged to marry his rival! Alas, dear Mrs. Dormer, how shall I draw myself out of this cruel perplexity? My faith! engaged to both! My whole soul devoted to one! Can I give myself to my dear Dumont, without fearing the fatal consequences of Mr. Campbel’s resentment?? My relations too will interpose in his favor, and strengthen his claim. Ah, madam, had you been pleased to explain yourself, when you wrote to me at the convent, I had now been happy!” “’Tis true, my dear, replied Mrs. Dormer; but I did not think it quite safe to trust such an important discovery to a letter, which I believed you would be obliged to show the prioress; and which, notwithstanding her promises, l might have been the means of protracting your release. Besides, I proposed being with you soon; and was willing to have the pleasure of unfolding the mystery myself.” “But, madam, answered I, you have not yet told me how the report of Mr. Dumont’s marriage came to be believed among the servants.” “It was all a contrivance of Mr. Darcy replied my friend: he was bent upon parting you. He had corrupted his nephew’s servant, who informed him of the letter he had seen his master deliver to a porter; who, for a bribe, was prevailed upon to betray his trust. By this letter Mr. Darcy discovered where you lodged; and it was he who ordered Mr. Dumont’s servant to tell your messenger his master was married, which he expected would produce some mistakes between you, that might forward his designs. Mr. Dumont’s servant, struck with remorse at the agonies he saw his master in, at the news I sent him, that you could not be found, confessed what he knew of the affair; and assured your lover, that Mr. Darcy was not gone to his country-house, as he had given out; but that he feared the young lady was in his power, the questions he had asked him concerning the condition of her family at N— — making it probable that he had some design to ensnare her. I will not, continued Mrs. Dormer, pretend to describe the distraction Mr. Dumont was in, when, comparing circumstances, we found that he was certainly the person who had carried you away. All that prudence, impelled by the most tender passion, could suggest, your lover did, to discover where his uncle had carried you; for his not being at his country house, put it past a doubt that you was in his power.
Upon Mr. Darcy’s return, he refused to see your lover, or have any conversation with him; nor was it to be supposed, that all Mr. Dumont’s remonstrances could prevail upon him to tell where you was. The continual anxiety which preyed upon his spirits, threw him into a fever, which threatened his life. While he lay in this dangerous condition, I received your letter; but the physicians being absolutely against my acquainting him with any thing that might surprise him, I contented myself with writing to you; resolving to attend your lover’s recovery, that we might set out together to free you. Though I used all imaginable caution in letting him know where you was, yet the excessive joy threw him into a delirium, which had like to have caused his death, and kept him near three weeks longer in bed. His impatience at being prevented from going to you, contributed to retard his recovery. And though he was still too weak to venture, with safety, out of his chamber; yet he resolved to defer no longer his journey to Paris. I was prevented from going with him by a little vexatious law suit, that made my presence necessary some time longer in London; but I promised to meet you both at Paris, Mr. Dumont having determined to spend some time there, to give you the diversions of the place. Accordingly, as soon as I had dispatched this affair, I set out for Paris, and was met at —— Mr. Dumont; who filled me with inconceivable surprise and affliction, by the relation he gave me of your leaving the convent with the count de R——. I saw him too much affected with this accident, to increase his distraction by my own reflections, which, I must confess, were greatly to your disadvantage. I endeavored to persuade him, there might be some mistake in all this; that the prioress had possibly imposed upon him; and that, to be better convinced of the truth of what she had affirmed, it would be necessary to see the marchioness de — — who might possibly know more of the affair. As soon, therefore, as I came to Paris, and was a little recovered from the fatigues of my journey, I sent to the marchioness to acquaint her with my intention of waiting on her; but her lady ship was not in town. They sent word, however, that she was expected the next day; and I resolved to defer going to the convent, till I had seen her. Mr. Dumont, who was wholly employed in endeavoring to discover where you was, came to me, just as I returned from paying a visit to the marchioness, who knew no more of your leaving the convent than what the prioress had told her, having not yet seen the count de R——; and told me, with the most violent transports of rage and grief, that he had seen you come out of a coach, and enter a house in the street ——; that, inquiring who lived in that house, he was informed it was a lady that was mistress to a certain French nobleman, whom they would not name. Upon which he immediately went to the house; but being absolutely refused admittance to you, and finding you was resolved not to own who you was, he inquired if it was not the count de R—— who visited there, and was answered in the affirmative.”
“Oh heavens! cried I, (interrupting Mrs. Dormer) was it then Dumont from whom I was so solicitous to conceal myself! Alas, I thought it was the earl of L——! Was there ever so cruel an accident!” “Can you wonder, my dear, pursued Mrs. Dormer, if I was now convinced of what at first I could only suspect; notwithstanding the many circumstances which appeared to condemn you. I thought of you now with the deepest indignation, and counseled your enraged lover to drive you from his remembrance. I drew but an ill omen from his silence, which had a gloomy thoughtfulness in it, that made me imagine he meditated some designs of revenge against the count de R——. I would have been glad to have consulted the marchioness upon this occasion; and, as she knew the count, prevail upon her to question him concerning the part he had acted. But that lady, who had only staid in Paris a few hours, was again gone to her house at Versailles, and I was wholly at a loss what to do. Mr. Dumont went away in an agony of grief, which all his endeavors could not conceal. In the evening I had a letter from him, in which he informed me that he had left Paris, and entreated my pardon for not seeing me before he went, urging his extreme uneasiness as the cause, which he would not increase by a melancholy farewell. I was greatly surprised at this sudden resolution, continued my friend: but I deter mined, if possible, to see you before I left France, and sent a message to the house Mr. Dumont had mentioned, to be delivered to you; but my servant brought me word, there was no such person, as the lady he inquired for, there. I saw it was in vain to expect you would discover yourself, and was preparing to return to England, when I found myself seized with an indisposition; for which the physicians recommended the air of Montpelier. I set out for that place, where I staid some months before my recovery was perfected. But even then I could not resolve to leave France, till I made another effort to see you; for it was not yet in my power to forget you. I returned, therefore, to Paris; and, with a view of seeing the count de R— — paid a visit to the marchioness, who told me, with a very sensible pleasure, the whole stratagem of the count to get you out of the convent; your generous refusal of his offers, and your escape from him, by the assistance of a lady, who pretended a claim: and the count had related this to the marchioness himself, in order to do justice to your character, of which he is still a passionate admirer. You may imagine, my dear, pursued Mrs. Dormer, how agreeable this discovery was to me! Madam Danville’s woman having told where you had lodged, I learned the name of the lady with whom you came to England. Upon my return, I inquired of my servants if they had seen you, and was told that you had called at my house, and had also got a direction where to write to me; but I never received any letter. My servants knowing where Mrs. Belville lodged, to whom, it seems, you had desired they would send notice when I arrived; I sent to desire that young lady would see me, and from her I learned your intended marriage; to which, as I believed nothing but a firm belief of your Dumont’s infidelity could persuade you to consent, I hastened to you immediately, to prevent an action, which the knowledge of his innocence would make you for ever repent.”
During Mrs. Dormer’s discourse, I listened with an anxious impatience for a further account of Dumont; but finding she left off speaking, “Ah, madam, said I, (trembling) have you no more to say? What is become of Dumont? Does he still continue to think me the count de R——’s mistress? But, alas, you told me he left Paris in despair! Ah, without doubt, I shall never see him more!” “Why should you wish to see him! interrupted Mrs. Dormer. You are not yet resolved whether you ought to keep to your first engagement. Do you think Mr. Dumont would find much greater happiness in seeing you the wife of Mr. Campbel, than suspecting you to be the mistress of the count de R——?” “Do not imagine, interrupted I, that I am capable of so perfidious an action! No, since I am so unfortunately circumstanced, that I cannot fulfill my engagements to Dumont, without the deepest reproaches from Mr. Campbel, who may pretend an equal claim to my hand, I will be the wife of neither; and, like you, madam, disclaim marriage for ever.” “Ah, returned Mrs. Dormer, (smiling) you will not be able to keep this resolution when you see Dumont, and know what he has suffered for you. To keep you no longer in suspense, pursued she, your lover is in London He knows not yet of your intended marriage: I leave it to him to acquaint you with his adventure in France, when he sees you. In the mean time, my dear, let me advise you to acquaint Mr. Campbel with the truth of this affair: he has too much honor to expect you will break a prior engagement, to be his. It shall be my care to prevent Mr. Dumont from coming to the knowledge of any thing that has happened; but I must insist upon hearing from you to-morrow. ’Twill be impossible, any longer, to keep your lover from seeing you.”
The confusion and perplexity of my mind, divided between joy and grief, fear and anxiety, made it impossible for me to thank, as I ought to do, the generous Mrs. Dormer, for the interest she took in my affairs: that lady, at length, took her leave of me with a tender embrace; and having staid, some little time, with my mother and sister, returned home. My mother observing that I was more than ordinary melancholy, asked me the cause; as I had concealed from her every thing relating to Dumont, I evaded giving her an answer; but, retiring with my sister, related to her all that Mrs. Dormer had told me; my sister, who was extremely sprightly, and so little capable of laying things to heart, that she was often accused of insensibility, rallied me in a lively manner upon the affliction I discovered at the news of my lover’s fidelity. “Though I should have been glad, said she, to have seen you married to Mr. Campbell, while I believed Mr. Dumont had betrayed you; yet, now I hear he is innocent, I shall be much better pleased to see you the wife of Dumont; I know you love him, and I am persuaded he deserves you; therefore, I advise you to follow your inclinations, and never fear that Mr. Campbell will have recourse to either a sword or pistol to dispatch himself for your loss.”
Mr. Campbell, that moment entering the room, heard my sister pronounce these words, which the gaiety of her accent might, probably, have hindered his suspecting, had he not cast his eyes on my face, at the same time, and read in my eyes a trouble and confusion, which was very uncommon: he paused for a moment, while a languid paleness overspread his face; when fixing a melancholy look upon me: “Is it not true, miss, said he, that I am the most wretched of men, and that Mrs. Dormer’s arrival has confirmed me so?” “I know not, Sir, replied I, melting into tears, how to acquaint you with the news Mrs. Dormer has brought me, since your unmerited tenderness for me, will make it a Source of affliction to you, which I have it not in my power to alleviate: tis certain, that I am no longer at liberty to give you my hand, since by a discovery of Mr. Dumont’s innocence, my first engagement continues in force.” I then related, succinctly, by what unfortunate circumstances I had been led to believe, that Mr. Dumont had betrayed me and concluded with an assurance, that though this discovery had restored him all my affection; yet, I would take no resolution in his favor, to which he would not consent. Is it possible, miss said Mr. Campbell, that I hear you tell me of the innocence of a lover tenderly beloved, and yet see you dissolved in tears; and do you also resolve to sacrifice this mutual passion to my repose? this unexampled generosity teaches me what to do; you shall find, miss, that I prize your happiness infinitely beyond my own; I resign you from this moment to the deserving Dumont; and, that your tranquillity may not be disturbed by the knowledge of my unhappiness, I will remove myself from your sight, till I am able to behold you with more constancy.” With these words he kissed my hand respectfully, and hastened out of the room. I was so deeply affected with the behavior of this generous man, that I burst into a violent transport of tears, when he left me; and Fanny, insensible as she was thought, confessed she was greatly moved. My mother having met Mr. Campbell in the disorder in which he left us, came into the chamber in a great hurry, to know the cause; and seeing me incapable to speak, commanded my sister to unfold the mystery which so perplex” her. My sister accordingly took the story from the beginning, and acquainted my mother with the whole history of Dumont’s passion. My mother, who was greatly struck with the circumstance of his having changed his religion for my sake, as she said; and being satisfied by my sister of the large fortune he was in possession of, seemed truly convinced of his superior claim to Campbell. Upon which my sister told her of the whimsical resolution I had taken to marry neither of my lovers. “How, said my mother, in a passion, will the foolish girl, because she has the choice of two very advantageous matches, accept of neither.” “It seldom happens, interrupted my sister smiling, that a parent’s authority is necessary to oblige a young lady to marry the man she loves; but Harriot is an extraordinary girl, and every thing that concerns her must be out of the common way; so, mamma, I hope you will compel her to marry Dumont, whom she loves so much.” My sister’s gaiety had not the power to divert me from the concern I felt for Campbell. I entreated her to send some one to his lodgings, to know if he was still in Hampstead: and, in the mean time, listened to a long discourse of my mother’s, upon the merits of my two lovers) and must confess, I was not a little pleased to hear her decide in favor of Dumont, who had won her heart entirely by his conversion to the Protestant religion.
My sister, at her return, having told us that Mr. Campbel had certainly left Hampstead, increased my uneasiness upon his account: when, late in the evening, my brother-in-law was informed, that Mr. Campbel had been attacked by foot pads in the road to London, and was brought home by a gentleman, who had rescued him, dangerously wounded.
This terrible news filled me with the deepest affliction: I went with my mother and sister immediately to visit him. The surgeon, who had dressed his wound, informed us, that it was not mortal; which considerably lessened our fears. But what was my surprise, when, upon entering his chamber, I saw a gentleman standing by his bed-side; the first glimpse of whom convinced me it was Dumont. I stood for a moment motionless, when my sister, observing the change of my countenance, and being now sensible of the cause, hurried me into another room, which I no sooner entered than I fainted away. Upon my recovery I saw Dumont at my side, who held one of my hands, which he bathed with his tears. Our transports, at this meeting, may be better imagined than described; nor could even the presence of my mother put any restraint on them. My curiosity, at length, to hear what had happened to him, made me put an end to the rapturous expressions of his joy, that he might satisfy this desire.
“Mrs. Dormer told me, said I, (smiling) you suffered some great miseries upon my account. If they were caused by any thing else than absence, I insist upon your relating them.” “’Tis certain, my lovely angel, said Dumont, (in the same tone) that I endured a painful confinement in the Bastille for some months, which yet was a less misfortune than the belief at you loved the count. And Mrs. Dormer, I suppose, informed you I wrote her word I would leave Paris, which was not really my mention. I was determined to be revenged on the count de R— — for robbing me of your affections; and, for that purpose, I concealed myself here, in order to have an opportunity of meeting him. Being informed hat he had a house at St. Dennis, I went there, and wrote him a challenge from the house where I had lodged; which I was so indiscreet to send by a porter the people provided me with. My design being suspected, my letter was examined: and the laws against dueling being very severe in France, I was seized by half a dozen archers, while I as composedly waiting an answer from the count, and hurried to the Bastille. I will not afflict you with a recital of what I suffered here, from he despair and rage with which I was agitated. I was released when I east expected it; and this welcome news was brought me, together with message from Mrs. Dormer. The moment I was at liberty, I flew to the place where she expected me. I found the count de R—— with her, by whose interposition, and that of the marchioness de — — my liberty was obtained. The count asked my pardon for the violence he had offered you; related the whole contrivance of your escape, and congratulated me on the prospect I had of having you restored to me. I attended Mrs. Dormer to England; and, while I was employed in seeking out Mrs. Belville, I heard that Mrs. Dormer was set out for Hampstead. Surprised that she had left me no orders to follow her, (for I concluded she had heard you was here) I followed her, late as it was in the evening; and came up with that gentleman in the next chamber, while he was struggling with two villains, one of whom had already wounded him. I had the good fortune to rescue him, and, by that, have been blest with the sight of my adored Harriot, where I so little expected that happiness.
Thus did the dear Dumont end his little relation. My brother-in-law insisting upon his staying that night at his house, we all returned home together; where my mother confirmed the mutual engagement between me and Dumont, by the sanction of her consent, which she gave him with the most obliging expressions of esteem.
Mr. Campbel being acquainted, by those about him, with the name of his deliverer, sent for him the next day; and, after returning him thanks, in the most grateful manner, for the assistance he had afforded him, promised him, in case he lived, to preserve an inviolable friendship for him. He then desired to see me, and entreated me no longer to defer my marriage with Dumont; assuring me, that the certainty of my happiness would contribute more than any thing to his cure.
Not all his remonstrances, however, could prevail upon me to consent to give my hand to Dumont, till his health was perfectly restored; and I had the pleasure to see him assist at that sacred ceremony, which united me for ever to my beloved Dumont, with a serenity in his countenance, which persuaded me his heart was entirely at ease.
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Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:11