You may perhaps think I am presuming on your patience when I lead you into a nursery, or a boarding school; but the life of Louisa Mancel was so early chequered with that various fate which gives this world the motley appearance of joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, that it is not in my power to pass over the events of her infancy. I shall, however, spare you all that is possible, and recommend her to your notice only when she attracted the observation of Mr Hintman. This gentleman hearing that a person who rented some land of him was come to London, and lodged at one of those public houses which by the landlord is called an inn, at the outskirts of London, on the Surrey side; and having some occasion to speak to him, he went thither. The people of the house called the man Mr Hintman enquired for, who immediately came downstairs, wiping tears from his eyes; the continuance of which he could hardly restrain. Mr Hintman asking the reason of those appearances of sorrow, the good-natured old man told him, his visit had called him from a scene which had shocked him excessively. ‘The first day I came here’ said he, ‘I was induced by the frequent groans which issued from the next chamber, to enquire who lodged there; I learnt, it was a gentlewoman, who arrived the day before, and was immediately taken so ill that they apprehended her life in danger; and, about two hours ago, the maid of the house ran into my room, begging me to come to her assistance, for the gentlewoman was in such strong fits, she was not able to hold her. I obeyed the summons, and found the poor woman in fits indeed; but what appeared to me the last agonies of a life which, near exhausted, lavishes away its small remains in strong convulsions.
‘By her bedside stood the most beautiful child I ever beheld, in appearance about ten years of age, crying as if its little heart would break; not with the rage of an infant, but with the settled grief of a person mature both in years and affliction. I asked her if the poor dying woman was her mother; she told me, no — she was only her aunt; but to her the same as a mother; and she did not know any one else that would take care of her.
‘After a time the poor woman’s convulsions left her; she just recovered sense enough to embrace the lovely girl, and cried out, Oh! my dear child, what will become of you! a friendless, helpless infant; and seeing me at her bedside, she lifted up her hands in a suppliant posture; and with eyes that petitioned in stronger terms than words could express, Oh! Sir, said she, though you are a stranger to me, yet I see you are not so to humanity; take pity on this forlorn child; her amiable disposition will repay you in this world, and the great Father of us all will reward you in the next, for your compassion on a wretched friendless girl! But why do I call her friendless? Her innocence has the best of friends in heaven; the Almighty is a parent she is not left to seek for; he is never absent; — Oh! blessed Lord! cried she, with a degree of ecstasy and confidence which most sensibly affected us all, to thy care I resign her; thy tender mercies are over all thy works, and thou, who carest for the smallest part of thy creation, will not deny her thy protection. Oh! Lord defend her innocence! Let her obtain a place in thy kingdom after death; and for all the rest I submit to thy providence; nor presumptuously pretend to dictate to supreme wisdom. Thou art a gracious father and the afflictions thou sendest are. . . . Here her voice failed her; but by her gestures we could perceive the continued praying, and, having before taken the child in her arms the little angel continued there for fear of disturbing her. By looks sometimes turned towards the poor infant, and sometimes with her hand on her own heart, and then her eyes lifted up as it were to heaven, we saw she mixed prayers for the little mourner, with intercessions for herself, till sense and motion seemed to fail her; she then fell into a convulsion, and expired.
‘The little girl perceived she was dead; and became almost as senseless as the lump of clay which had so lately been her only friend. We had but just taken her from the body, sir, when you came; and this was the occasion of the emotions you observed in me.’
‘The cause was indeed sufficient,’ replied Mr Hintman, ‘but I am glad your sorrow proceeded from nothing more immediately concerning yourself. Misery will strike its arrows into a humane heart; but the wounds it makes are not so lasting, as those which are impressed by passions that are more relative to ourselves.’ ‘Oh! sir,’ said the old man, ‘you cannot form an adequate idea of the effect this scene must have on every spectator, except you had seen the child! surely nature never formed so lovely a little creature!’ He continued his praises of Louisa, till at length he excited Mr Hintman’s curiosity; who expressing a desire of seeing this miracle, he was carried up into the good man’s room, to which they had removed her. She, who had cried most bitterly before the fatal stroke arrived, was now so oppressed, as not to be able to shed a tear. They had put her on the bed, where she lay sighing with a heart ready to break; her eyes fixed on one point, she neither saw nor heard.
Though her countenance expressed unutterable woe, yet she looked so extremely beautiful, that Mr Hintman, highly as his expectation had been raised, was struck with surprise. He allowed he never saw any thing so lovely; and the charms of which her melancholy might deprive her, were more than compensated in his imagination by so strong a proof of extreme sensibility, at an age when few children perceive half the dreadful consequences of such a misfortune.
He advised that she should be blooded, to prevent any ill effects from so severe a shock; for as she felt it as strongly as one of a more mature age, the same precautions should be used. In this he was obeyed; and it gave her such relief that she burst into a flood of tears; a change which appeared so salutary, that Mr Hintman would not immediately interrupt her. But his curiosity did not suffer him long to forbear asking her name, and many other particulars; several of which she could not answer; all the account she was able to give of herself was, that her name was Mancel, that the person for whom she grieved was her aunt; but had had the sole care of her from her earliest remembrance. This aunt, she said, had often told her she had a father and mother living; but when she enquired why she never saw or heard from them she could get no satisfactory answer, but was put off with being told they were not in England; and that she should know when she grew older.
This person had bred her up with the utmost tenderness, and employed the most assiduous care in her education; which was the principal object of her attention. They had lived in a neat cottage in the most retired part of Surrey from Miss Mancel’s earliest remembrance, till her aunt, after having been some time in a bad state of health, fell into a galloping consumption. As soon as she apprehended the danger with which her life was threatened, she prepared every thing for her removal to London; but as she did not expect ever to return, this took more time than the quickness of her decay could well allow. The hasty approach of her dissolution affected her extremely on the account of her little niece, and she often expressed her concern in terms intelligible to her who was the occasion of it, who gathered from the expressions which fell from her aunt, that the motive for the journey was to find out some of Miss Mancel’s relations, to whom she might deliver her before death had put a period to her own life; and where she might safely remain till the return of her parents into England.
In this resolution she discharged the only servant she kept, delivered up her house to her landlord, and after having settled all her pecuniary affairs, she set out on her journey with her little charge; but grew so ill on the road that she desired to be set down at the first inn; and her illness increased so fast she had no thought of removing; nor was she able to make any very exact enquiries after the persons of whom she came in search.
This account was interrupted with many tears, which served to render it more affecting, and Mr Hintman, as much touched as the good old man who was the occasion of his having heard it, agreed with him that it would be proper to examine into the effects of which the deceased was then possessed; and to see if they could find any paper which would in a degree clear up the mysterious part of this affair.
This was accordingly performed; but as to the latter intention without any success; for after all the examination they could make, they remained as much in the dark as ever.
They found in her trunk rather more money than was requisite to bury her in a manner becoming her rank; to defray the expenses of her sickness; and to reward those that had attended her.
The old man expressed a willingness to take the child. He said it was a legacy left him by one who had conceived some confidence in his humanity, and he could not in conscience disappoint an opinion which did him honour; though, having children of his own, he did not pretend to breed her up in the genteel manner to which she seemed by birth entitled.
Mr Hintman replied, that he should have great reason to reproach himself if with the ample fortune he enjoyed, and having no children or family to partake of it, he should suffer another to take that charge, to whom it could not be so convenient; he therefore would immediately receive her as his child; and see her educated in all accomplishments proper for a young person of fashion and fortune; as he should be able to supply all deficiency, if necessary, in the latter particular.
The old man was very glad to have the child better established than with him; though he had for some hours looked with so much pleasure on her as his adopted daughter, that no consideration, but the prospect of her greater advantage, could have reconciled him to parting with her.
In pursuance of the resolution Mr Hintman had taken, he carried Miss Mancel to a French boarding school which he had heard commended; very prudently judging that his house was not a proper place for education, having there no one fit to take care of a young person.
Louisa was so oppressed by the forlornness of her situation that she felt none of that reluctance to going amongst strangers, so usual with children of her age. All the world was equally unknown to her, therefore she was indifferent where she was carried, only she rather wished not to have been taken from the good old man whose venerable aspect, and compassionate behaviour, had in some degree attached her to him; but she felt the generosity of Mr Hintman’s declared intentions; and, young as she was, had too much delicacy to appear ungrateful by shewing an unwillingness to accompany him. Mademoiselle d’Avaux, the mistress of the school, was pleased with the appearance of her young scholar, whose tears had ceased for some time; and her face bore no disfiguring signs of sorrow; the dejection which overspread it giving charms equal to those of which it robbed it.
Mr Hintman desired Mademoiselle d’Avaux to take the trouble of providing Miss Mancel with all things requisite, and to put her in proper mourning; those minute feminine details being things of which he was too ignorant to acquit himself well; and gave strict charge that her mind should be cultivated with the greatest care, and no accomplishment omitted which she was capable of acquiring.
What contributed much towards gratifying this wish of Mr Hintman’s was Mademoiselle d’Avaux’s house being so full, that there was no room for Louisa, but a share of the apartment which Miss Melvyn had hitherto enjoyed alone, and of which she could not willingly have admitted any one to partake but the lovely child who was presented to her for this purpose. Her beautiful form prejudiced everyone in her favour; but the distress and sorrow which were impressed on her countenance, at an age generally too volatile and thoughtless to be deeply affected, could not fail of exciting a tender sensibility in the heart of a person of Miss Melvyn’s disposition.
This young lady was of a very peculiar turn of mind. She had been the darling daughter of Sir Charles and Lady Melvyn, whose attachment to her had appeared equal; but, in the former, it was rather the result of habit and compliance with Lady Melvyn’s behaviour than a deep-rooted affection, of which his heart was not very susceptible; while Lady Melvyn’s arose from that entire fondness which maternal love and the most distinguishing reason could excite in the warmest and tenderest of hearts.
Sir Charles was an easy-tempered, weak man who gave no proof of good sense but the secret deference he had to his wife’s judgement, whose very superior understanding was on nothing so assiduously employed as in giving consequence to the man with whom she was united, by the desire of her parents, contrary to her inclination. Their authority had been necessary to reduce her to compliance, not from any particular dislike to Sir Charles, who had deservedly the reputation of sobriety and great good nature and whose person was remarkably fine; but Lady Melvyn perceived the weakness of his understanding and, ignorant of the strength of her own, was unwilling to enter into life without a guide whose judgement was equal to the desire he might naturally be supposed to have to direct her right, through all the various paths in which she might be obliged to walk; an assistance she had always expected from a husband; and thought even a necessary part of that character. She was besides sensible of the difficulty of performing a promise so solemnly made, as that of honour and obedience to one who, though she knew not half her own excellence, she must be sensible was her inferior.
These reasons had deterred Lady Melvyn from marrying Sir Charles, but when she could no longer avoid it without violating her duty to her parents, she resolved to supply the apparent deficiencies in her husband’s understanding by a most respectful deference to his opinions, thus conferring distinction on him whom she wished everyone to esteem and honour; for as there was no affectation in this part of her conduct, any more than in the rest of her behaviour, all were convinced that the man who was respected by a woman of an understanding so superior to most of her own sex, and the greatest part of the other, must have great merit, though they could not perceive wherein it consisted.
In company Lady Melvyn always endeavoured to turn the conversation on such subjects as she know were best suited to Sir Charles’s capacity, more desirous that he should appear to advantage than to display her own talents. She contrived to make all her actions appear the result of his choice, and whatever he did by her instigation seemed even to himself to have been his own thought. As their way of life was in every circumstance consonant to reason, religion, and every virtue which could render them useful and respectable to others, Sir Charles acquired a character in the neighbourhood which Lady Melvyn thought a sufficient reward for the endeavours she used to secure it to him; and, for that purpose, fixed her abode entirely in the country, where his conduct might give him the respect which would not be so easily obtained in a gayer scene, where talents are in higher estimation than virtue.
Sir Charles and Lady Melvyn had no other child than the daughter I have mentioned, whose education was her mother’s great care; and she had the pleasure of seeing in her an uncommon capacity, with every virtue the fondest parent could wish; and which indeed she had by inheritance; but her mother’s humility made them appear to her as a peculiar gift of providence to her daughter.
Lady Melvyn soon began to instil all the principles of true religion into her daughter’s infant mind; and, by her judicious instructions, gave her knowledge far superior to her years; which was indeed the most delightful task of this fond parent; for her daughter’s uncommon docility and quick parts, continually stimulated by her tenderness for the best of mothers, made her improve even beyond Lady Melvyn’s expectation.
In this happy situation Miss Melvyn continued till near the end of her fourteenth year, when she had the misfortune to lose this excellent parent, nor was she the only sufferer by Lady Melvyn’s death; every poor person within her knowledge lost a benefactress; all who knew her, an excellent example; and, some, the best of friends; but her extraordinary merit was but imperfectly known till after her decease; for she had made Sir Charles appear so much the principal person, and director of all their affairs; that till the change in his conduct proved how great her influence had been, she had only shared the approbation, which, afterwards, became all her own.
Human nature cannot feel a deeper affliction than now overwhelmed Miss Melvyn; wherein Sir Charles bore as great a share, as the easiness of his nature was capable of; but his heart was not susceptible, either of strong or lasting impressions. He walked in the path Lady Melvyn had traced out for him; and suffered his daughter to imitate her mother in benevolent duties; and she had profited too much by the excellent pattern, whereby she had endeavoured to regulate her actions, not to acquit herself far beyond what could have been expected at her years.
Miss Melvyn was not long indulged in the only consolation her grief could receive — that of being permitted to aim at an imitation of her mother — for Sir Charles had not been a widower quite a year when he married a young lady in the neighbourhood who had designed him this honour from the hour of Lady Melvyn’s death; and to procure better opportunity for affecting her purpose had pretended a most affectionate compassion for Miss Melvyn’s deep affliction; she visited her continually; and appeared so tenderly attached to her that Miss Melvyn, who had neither experience nor any guile in her own heart to inspire her with suspicions of an attempt to deceive her, made that return of affection which she thought gratitude required; nor was she at all disturbed when she found she was soon to look on this lady in another light than that in which she had hitherto seen her; it was easy for her to respect one whom she before loved; and she had been taught so true a veneration for her father, that she felt no averseness to obey whomsoever he thought proper to give a title to her duty.
Miss Melvyn had but very little time to congratulate herself on having acquired for a mother a friend in whose conversation she hoped to enjoy great satisfaction and to feel the tenderness of an intimate changed into the fondness of a parent. She behaved to her with the same perfect respect, and all the humility of obedience, as if nature had placed her in that parental relation; fearing, if she gave way to the familiarity which had subsisted between them when they were on an equality, it might appear like a failure in the reverence due to her new situation.
But this behaviour, amiable as it was, could not make the new Lady Melvyn change the plan she had formed for her future conduct. She had not been married above a month before she began to intimate to Sir Charles that Miss Melvyn’s education had been very imperfect; that a young lady of her rank ought to be highly accomplished; but that after she had been so long indulged by her parents, if a step-mother were to pretend to direct her it might not only exasperate Miss Melvyn but prejudice the world against herself; as people are too apt to determine against persons in that relation, without examining the merits of the cause; and though, she said, she was little concerned about the opinion of the world in comparison with her tender regard for any one that belonged to him; yet she was much influenced by the other reasons she had alleged for not appearing to dictate to Miss Melvyn, being very desirous of keeping on affectionate terms with her; and she was already much mortified at perceiving that young lady had imbibed too many of the vulgar prejudices against a step-mother; though, for her part, she had endeavoured to behave with submission to her daughter, instead of pretending to assume any authority. The consequence and conclusion of all these insinuations was, that ‘it would be advisable to send Miss Melvyn to a boarding school.’
Sir Charles was soon prevailed with to comply with his lady’s request; and his daughter was acquainted with the determination which Lady Melvyn assured her, ‘was very contrary to her inclination, who should find a great loss of so agreeable a friend, but that Sir Charles had declared his intention in so peremptory a manner that she dared not contend.’
Miss Melvyn had before observed that marriage had made a great alteration in Lady Melvyn’s behaviour; but this was a stroke she did not expect and a very mortifying one to her who had long laid aside all childish amusements; had been taught to employ herself as rationally as if she had arrived at a maturer age, and been indulged in the exercise of a most benevolent disposition, having given such good proofs of the propriety with which she employed both her time and money, that she had been dispensed from all restraints; and now to commence a new infancy, and be confined to the society of children, was a very afflicting change; but it came from a hand she too much respected to make any resistance, though she easily perceived that it was entirely at her mother’s instigation; and knew her father too well to believe he could be peremptory on any occasion.
A very short time intervened between the declaration and execution of this design, and Miss Melvyn was introduced to Mademoiselle d’Avaux by her kind step-mother, who with some tears and many assurances of regret left her there. Miss Melvyn had been at this school three months when Louisa Mancel was brought thither, and though a separation from a father she sincerely loved, and the fear of the arts Lady Melvyn might use to alienate his affections from her, after having thus removed her from his presence, greatly affected her spirits and she found no companions fit to amuse her rational mind, yet she endeavoured to support her mortifications with all the cheerfulness she could assume; and received some satisfaction from the conversation of Mademoiselle d’Avaux, a woman of tolerable understanding, and who was much pleased with Miss Melvyn’s behaviour.
Miss Mancel’s dejected air prejudiced Miss Melvyn much in her favour, the usual consequence of a similitude of mind or manners; and when by a further knowledge of her, she perceived her uncommon share of understanding; her desire to learn; the strength of her application; the quickness of her apprehension; and her great sweetness of temper, she grew extremely fond of her; and as Miss Mancel’s melancholy rendered her little inclined to play with those of her own age, she was almost always with Miss Melvyn, who found great pleasure in endeavouring to instruct her; and grew to feel for her the tenderness of a mother, while Miss Mancel began to receive consolation from experiencing an affection quite maternal.
At the beginning of the winter, Lady Melvyn, who had less ambition to imitate the real merit of her predecessor than to exhibit her own imaginary perfections, brought Sir Charles to London, there to fix their residence for the ensuing half year. This made little alteration in Miss Melvyn’s way of life. Sir Charles and his lady would sometimes call upon her, the latter not choosing to trust Sir Charles alone with his daughter, lest she should represent to him how unworthily she was treated; but as he was not devoid of affection for her, he would sometimes visit her privately, concealing it from his lady, who endeavoured to prevent this, by telling him, that schoolmistresses were apt to take amiss a parent’s visiting his children too often, construing it as a distrust of their care; and therefore if he offended in that way, Mademoiselle d’Avaux’s disgust might affect her behaviour to Miss Melvyn, and render her residence there very disagreeable, which Lady Melvyn’s great tenderness made her ardently wish to avoid, as she was desirous every thing should be agreeable to her dear daughter. Sir Charles could not be entirely restrained by these kind admonitions from indulging himself with the sight of Miss Melvyn.
His lady had little reason to be afraid of these interviews, for her step-daughter had too strong a sense of filial obedience, and too delicate a regard for her father’s happiness, to suffer the least intimation of a fault in his wife to escape her lips, as a good opinion of her was so necessary to his ease; but as she soon found out these visits were made by stealth, they gave her great pleasure as a plain proof of his affection. Lady Melvyn thought her daughter’s coming abroad would be as hurtful as her being visited at home, and therefore very seldom sent for her to her house; and when she did, took care to have her carried home before the hour that she expected company, on pretence of preserving the regularity of hours, which she knew would be agreeable to Mademoiselle d’Avaux.
The true reason of this great caution was an unwillingness to be seen with one whose person all her vanity could not prevent her from being sensible was more attractive than her own. Miss Melvyn was very pretty, had an engaging sweetness in her countenance, and all the bloom which belongs to youth, though it does not always accompany it. Her person was elegant, and perfectly genteel.
Lady Melvyn was void of delicacy; she had a regular set of features but they wanted to be softened into effeminacy before they could have any just pretence to beauty. Her eyes were black and not void of vivacity, but they neither expressed penetration nor gentleness. Her person was well proportioned, but she was formed on too large a scale, and destitute of grace. She was not ill bred, but had none of that softness of manners which gives rise to all the sweet civilities of life. In short, Lady Melvyn was one who by herself and many others would be esteemed a fine woman, and by many more ranked only under the denomination of a shewey woman; like Mr Bayes’s hero, she was unamiable, but she was great; she excited the admiration of some, but pleased none.
As soon as she appeared in the world as Lady Melvyn, she began to exercise what she thought only lively coquetry; but her entire want of grace and delicacy often made that appear like boldness, which she designed for vivacity. As her ambition to charm was as great as if she had been better qualified for success, it is not strange that she did not choose to give opportunities of comparison between herself and a daughter who, though not so striking at first sight, was filled with attractions.
The contempt which her ladyship thought she must in justice to her own understanding shew for her husband’s, and the supercilious coldness with which she treated Miss Melvyn, made that young lady very glad that she was so seldom sent for to her father’s house. But she wished to learn such accomplishments as whilst she lived in the country were out of her power, and therefore intimated to Lady Melvyn her desire of being taught music and drawing, with the better hope of success, as the necessity of completing her education had been made the excuse for sending her to a boarding school; but this request was denied her on frivolous pretences, the real cause, when she perceived the very extravagant turn of her step-mother, she soon understood was to avoid expense.
She had flattered herself she might obtain permission to have her books sent to her; but upon enquiry found that Lady Melvyn had removed them to her dressing room, and intermixed them with china, in so ornamental a manner, so truly expressive of the turn of her mind, where a pretended love of reading was blended with a real fondness for trifles, that she had no chance for this indulgence.
While Miss Melvyn was suffering all these mortifications from a parent, Miss Mancel was receiving every proof of the most tender affection from one bound to her by no paternal ties. Mr Hintman, as soon as the season of the year brought him to town, visited his little charge, and was charmed with the vivacity which was now restored to her. He called upon her frequently, and seldom without some present, or a proposal of some pleasure. He would continually entreat her to make him some request, that he might have the pleasure of gratifying her. He frequently gave Mademoiselle d’Avaux tickets for the play and the opera, that the young Louisa might have somebody to accompany her; but as Miss Melvyn did not think it proper at her age to go often with only her schoolmistress, or, according to the language of schools, her governess, Miss Mancel frequently declined being of the party, rather than leave her amiable friend and instructor.
There was no one who shewed any particular civility to Miss Mancel, but received some return from Mr Hintman. Miss Melvyn was very deservedly the chief object of his gratitude; but as she declined accepting the presents he offered her, he chose a way more agreeable to himself, as it would make his little Louisa the rewarder of the favours she received. He therefore was lavish of his money to her, and intreated her to lay it out in such manner as would be most agreeable to herself and Miss Melvyn; at the same time asking her by what means she could most gratify that young lady.
Miss Mancel said she knew nothing that would be so acceptable to Miss Melvyn as books. To this Mr Hintman replied that since that was the case, he could very easily accommodate them, for he had by him a very pretty library left him by his sister about a year before, which he had never unpacked, having most of the same books in his own study.
This accordingly he sent to Miss Mancel, with proper bookcases to contain them, which they immediately put up in their apartments. This was the most agreeable acquisition imaginable; for Miss Hintman having been a very sensible young lady, the collection was extremely valuable.
Mr Hintman’s great indulgence could not fail of receiving from Miss Mancel the wished-for return of affection and gratitude; whenever he came she flew to him with delight, caressed him with all the fondness so enchanting at that age, and parted from him with the extremest reluctance. Her great obligations to him were the frequent subjects of her discourse with Miss Melvyn, who had the highest admiration of his generosity.
His allowance to Miss Mancel was sufficient to have defrayed all her expenses, but those were to be the care of Mademoiselle d’Avaux, for the money he gave Louisa was for no other purpose than her gratifications; necessity, or even usefulness, was out of the question; every thing of that kind being provided for her. Nor was he more sparing in what concerned her education, she learnt dancing, music, and drawing; besides other things generally taught at schools; but her greatest improvement was from reading with Miss Melvyn, who instructed her in geography, and in such parts of philosophy of which her age was capable: but above all, she was most attentive to inculcate into her mind the principles of true religion.
Thus her understanding opened in a surprising degree, and while the beauty and graces of her person, and her great progress in genteel accomplishments, charmed every eye, the nice discernment, and uncommon strength of reason which appeared in her conversation, astonished every judicious observer; but her most admirable qualities were her humility and modesty; which, notwithstanding her great internal and external excellencies, rendered her diffident, mild, bashful, and tractable; her heart seemed as free from defects as her understanding was from the follies which in a degree are incident to almost every other person.
Miss Melvyn and her little companion received a considerable increase of happiness from the present of books Mr Hintman had made them; the latter had no wish but that Miss Melvyn might receive equal indulgence from parents that she enjoyed from one who bore no relation to her. The first desire that occurred to her on Mr Hintman’s profuse presents of money was to treat her friend with masters for music and drawing, and such other things as she knew she had an inclination to learn; but as she was not unacquainted with her delicacy on that subject, as soon as Mr Hintman left her, she ran to Miss Melvyn with some of the impatience in her countenance, though she endeavoured to conceal it, with which her heart was filled, and tried every tender caress, every fond and humble petition, to obtain a promise from that young lady, that she would grant her a request she had to make. She hung round her neck, and endeavoured to prevail by a thousand engaging infantine arts; and when she found they would not succeed, she knelt down before her, and with all the grace and importunity of the most amiable suppliant, tried to win her to compliance. Nothing would avail, for Miss Melvyn was convinced by her earnestness that her design was to confer some favour; she knew the generosity of her youthful mind too well to believe she so ardently aimed at any thing that was for her own private gratification.
Thus Louisa found herself reduced to explain the use she intended to have made of the promise she wanted to obtain; and having acquainted Miss Melvyn with Mr Hintman’s generous allowance, and of the payment she had received of the first quarter, she in explicit terms told her, ‘Mr Hintman has indeed given me money, but it depends on you to make that money yield me pleasure, by suffering me to apply it to such uses as will procure me the inexpressible joy of contributing in some degree to the pleasure of one who renders my life so very happy.’
Miss Melvyn was so pleased with the generosity of her little pupil that she gave her as many caresses as the other had lavished on her in order to obtain the promise she so much wished for; but she could not be induced to grant her request. Miss Melvyn was void of that pride which often conceals itself under the name of spirit and greatness of soul; and makes people averse to receiving an obligation because they feel themselves too proud to be grateful, and think that to be obliged implies an inferiority which their pride cannot support. Had Louisa been of the same age with herself, she would have felt a kind of property in all she possessed; friendship, the tenure by which she held it; for where hearts are strictly united, she had no notion of any distinction in things of less importance, the adventitious goods of fortune. The boundaries and barriers raised by those two watchful and suspicious enemies, Meum and Tuum, were in her opinion broke down by true friendship; and all property laid in one undistinguished common; but to accept Miss Mancel’s money, especially in so great a proportion, appeared to her like taking advantage of her youth; and as she did not think her old enough to be a sufficient judge of the value of it, she did not look upon her as capable of being a party in so perfect a friendship, as was requisite to constitute that unity of property.
Poor Louisa by this disappointment of the first wish of her heart found what older people often experience, that her riches instead of pleasure procured her only mortification. She could scarcely refrain from tears at a refusal which she thought must arise from want of affection, and told Miss Melvyn she saw that she loved her but imperfectly; for, added she, ‘Could we change places, with how much pleasure should I have accepted it from you! And the satisfaction that learning these things now gives me would be turned into delight by reflecting on the gratification you would receive in having been the means of procuring them for me. I should not envy you the joy of giving, because I as receiver should not have the less share of that satisfaction, since by reflecting on yours I must partake of it, and so increase my own.’
Miss Melvyn could not forbear blushing at finding a superior degree of delicacy, and a generosity much more exalted, in one so young, than she had felt in herself. She plainly saw that the greatest proof of a noble mind is to feel a joy in gratitude; for those who know all the pleasures of conferring an obligation will be sensible that by accepting it they give the highest delight the human mind can feel, when employed on human objects; and therefore while they receive a benefit, they will taste not only the comforts arising from it to themselves, but share the gratification of a benefactor, from reflecting on the joy they give to those who have conferred it: thus the receiver of a favour from a truly generous person, ‘by owing owes not, and is at once indebted and discharged.’
As Miss Melvyn felt her little friend’s reproach, and saw that she had done her injustice in thinking her youth rendered her incapable of that perfection of friendship, which might justify the accepting of her offer; she acknowledged her error, and assured her she would comply if she had no other means of obtaining the instruction she proposed to purchase for her; but that was not the case, for she found she could very well learn from seeing the masters teach her, and practising in their absence.
Mr Hintman expressed a desire that Miss Mancel should learn Italian, if she had no objection to it; for he never dictated to her, but offered any advice he had to give, or any inclination which he chose to intimate, with the humility of a dependant, rather than the authority of a benefactor; and indeed it was sufficient; for the slightest hint that any thing would be agreeable to him, met with the most impatient desire in Miss Mancel to perform it: actuated by sincere affection, and the strongest gratitude, nothing made her so happy as an opportunity to shew him the readiness of her obedience.
But as they were at a loss for a master to teach her that language, Miss Melvyn told them she knew an Italian gentleman, who had been at Sir Charles’s house near two months before she had the misfortune of losing the best of mothers. Lady Melvyn had begun to teach her daughter Italian, but desirous that she should speak it with great propriety, she invited this gentleman to her house who was reduced to great distress of circumstances, and whose person, as well as his many virtues, she had known from her childhood. He had been a friend of her father’s and she was glad of this excuse for making him a handsome present, which otherwise it was not easy to induce him to accept.
Mr Hintman was not long before he procured this Italian master for Miss Mancel; nor did she delay making use of his instructions; but I shall not describe her progress in the acquisition of this, any more than her other accomplishments, in all of which she excelled to a surprising degree; nor did Miss Melvyn fall very short of her, though she was at such disadvantage in her method of learning many of them, not having the assistance of a master. Their time was so entirely engrossed by these employments, that they had little leisure, and still less desire, to keep company with the rest of the school; but they saved themselves from the dislike which might naturally have arisen in the minds of the other scholars, from being thus neglected, by little presents which Miss Mancel frequently made them.
These two young ladies were very early risers, and the time which was not taken up by Miss Mancel’s masters, and that wherein it was requisite to practise what they taught her, they employed in reading, wherein Mr d’Avora, their Italian master, often accompanied them.
Mr d’Avora was a man of excellent understanding, and had an incomparable heart. Misfortunes had softened common humanity into a most tender disposition; and had given him a thorough knowledge of mankind without lessening his benevolence for individuals; though such as learn it by adversity, the surest school for that science, seldom see them in an amiable light.
Mr d’Avora was not less acquainted with particular nations than with mankind in general; he had travelled through all the countries in Europe, some parts of Asia and Africa, and having traversed them with discernment and the curiosity of wisdom, not of impertinence, he received such improvement of understanding, as few travellers can boast.
He had an affection for Miss Melvyn, both for her own merits and the obligations he had to her family, and a very short acquaintance with Miss Mancel made him extremely fond of her. He took great pleasure in assisting them in the improvement they so industriously laboured for, and as he was a man of universal knowledge, he was capable of being very useful to them in that respect. For this purpose he often read with them, and by explaining many books on abstruse subjects, rendered several authors intelligible to them, who, without his assistance, would have been too obscure for persons of their age. He had very few scholars, therefore had much leisure, and with great satisfaction dedicated part of it to our young ladies, as he saw he thereby gave them a very sincere pleasure; and he was much gratified with thinking that by his care and instruction of Miss Melvyn, he made some return for the friendship he had received from her family; and that could her mother be sensible of his attendance on her much-loved and now neglected daughter, it would be highly agreeable to her.
In the manner I have mentioned, these two young ladies passed their time, till Miss Mancel reached her fifteenth year, with little alteration, except the increase of her charms, and her great improvement in every accomplishment. Her appearance began to grow womanly, she was indeed
‘In the bloom of beauty’s pride’.
Dazzlingly handsome at first view; but such numerous and various charms appeared on a more intimate acquaintance that people forgot how much they had been struck by the first sight of her, lost in wonder at her increasing attractions, to the force of which she was the only person that was insensible. Humble piety rendered her indifferent to circumstances which she looked upon rather as snares than blessings, and like a person on the brink of a precipice could not enjoy the beauty of the prospect, overawed by the dangers of her situation.
She had indeed too much of human nature in her not to feel sometimes a little flush of vanity on seeing herself admired; but she immediately corrected the foible, by reflecting that whatever advantages of mind or form had fallen to her share, they were given her by one who expected she should not suffer her thoughts or attention to be withdrawn thereby from him, who was the perfection of all excellence, while she at best could but flatter herself with being less imperfect than many of her fellow creatures.
She considered flattery and admiration as the rocks on which young people, who are at all superior to the multitude, are apt to be wrecked; deprived of quiet happiness in this world, and exalted felicity in the next; and as she was really convinced that she had only a few obvious external advantages over others, she opposed to the praises lavished on her reflections of her imperfections, which, though not apparent to any one but herself, she verily believed were uncommonly great, as she beheld them with very scrutinizing and rigid eyes, while she looked on those of others with the greatest lenity. But of all the means she used to preserve her humility, she was the most assiduous in praying to him who made her heart, to preserve it humble.
Though the degree of piety I mention may sound in the ears of many too grave for so young a person, yet it by no means rendered her so; she had great vivacity; a lively imagination; an uncommon share of wit; and a very happy manner of expressing herself. She had all the amiable gaiety of youth, without the least tendency to imprudence; and when she talked most, and, in appearance, let fancy assume the reins, said nothing to repent of. Her heart was all purity, universal benevolence and good-nature; and as out of its abundance her mouth spake, she was in little danger of offending with her tongue.
It is not strange that Mr Hintman’s fondness should increase with Miss Mancel’s excellencies, but the caresses which suited her earlier years were now become improper, and Mr Hintman, by appearing insensible of the necessary change of behaviour, reduced her to great difficulties; she could not reconcile herself to receiving them; and yet to inform him of the impropriety implied a forward consciousness which she was not able to assume.
She communicated the vexation of her mind to Miss Melvyn, who was still more alarmed as her superior age and experience rendered her more apprehensive; but she knew not what to advise.
In this dilemma Miss Melvyn had recourse to their good friend, whose knowledge of mankind, his integrity and prudence, rendered him the safest guide. Accordingly one day when Louisa was called from them to Mr Hintman, who came to make her a visit, Miss Melvyn informed Mr d’Avora of the reason why her friend obeyed the summons with less joy than he had observed in her on the like occasion the year before.
Mr d’Avora was much disturbed at this information; but not choosing to increase the uneasiness the young ladies seemed to be under till he had more certain foundation for his opinion, he only intimated, that customs were hard to break, but he should hope, that when Mr Hintman reflected on the impropriety of behaving to a young woman as if she was still a child, he would alter it, and if he was not immediately sensible of the difference a small addition of age makes, yet her behaviour would lead him to recollect it.
Although Mr d’Avora seemed to pay little regard to what Miss Melvyn said, yet it made great impression on him, and as soon as he left her, he took all proper measures to enquire into the character, and usual conduct of Mr Hintman.
This scrutiny did not turn out at all to his satisfaction, every account he received was the same; he had not the pleasure of finding what is usually asserted, that ‘all men have two characters’; for Mr Hintman had but one, and that the most alarming that could be for Miss Mancel. Every person told him that Mr Hintman had a very great fortune, which he spent entirely in the gratification of his favourite vice, the love of women; on whom his profuseness was boundless. That as he was easily captivated, so he was soon tired; and seldom kept a woman long after he had obtained the free possession of her; but generally was more bountiful than is customary with men of his debauched principles at parting with them.
This, Mr d’Avora was assured, was Mr Hintman’s only vice; that he was good-natured, and generous on all occasions. From this account he saw too great reason to fear, that all the care which had been taken to improve Miss Mancel arose only from a sort of epicurism in his predominant vice, but yet this was too doubtful a circumstance to be the ground-work of any plan of action. A man of acknowledged generosity and good-nature, however vicious, might do a noble action without having any criminal design. In this uncertainty of mind he knew not what to advise her, and was unwilling to excite such fears in the breasts of these two young friends, as might be groundless; but yet would entirely destroy their peace, therefore, he only told Miss Melvyn in general terms, that Mr Hintman’s character was such, as rendered it very necessary that Louisa should be much on her guard; but that whether more than prudent caution, and decent reserve were requisite, her own observation must discover, for no one else could determine that point, since he had the reputation of being generous as well as debauched; therefore his actions towards her might be, and he hoped were, the result of his greatest virtue, rather than of his predominant vice.
Miss Melvyn made a faithful report of what Mr d’Avora had said to her, which filled both herself and her friend with inexpressible uneasiness.
Louisa was in great difficulty how to act, between gratitude and affection on the one side, and necessary caution and reserve on the other. She was almost as much afraid of appearing ungrateful, as of being imprudent. She found little assistance from the advice of her friends, who declared them selves incapable of directing her, therefore she was obliged to lay aside all dependence on her own care, and to trust in that of heaven, convinced that her innocence would be guarded by that power who knew the integrity and purity of her heart; and that while she preserved it unblemished, even in thought and inclination, her prayers for his protection would not be unavailing.
The remainder of the winter passed like the former part, only that the increase of her apprehensions so far lessened her easy vivacity, that Mr Hintman observed the alteration, and complained of the constraint and awe which damped her conversation.
As the school broke up at Easter, he intreated her to accompany him that short time into the country, from which she would gladly have excused herself, both on account of her fears, and of her unwillingness to leave Miss Melvyn, of whose conversation she was now more particularly tenacious, as Lady Melvyn had determined to suffer her to return home in a short time, not knowing how to excuse her remaining longer at school, as she was entered into her one and twentieth year. Miss Melvyn would have been glad that her ladyship had not shewn this token of regard to popular opinion; for since she had enjoyed Miss Mancel’s company, and been in possession of so good a collection of books, she was grown perfectly contented with her situation.
Louisa, to make Mr Hintman desist from the request he urged with so much importunity, tried every means that did not appear like a total disinclination to accompany him, for any thing that bore the air of ingratitude could not be supported by her, whose heart was so void of it, and who thought she could never feel enough for her benefactor, if his designs were not so criminal as she feared, but scarcely could suffer herself to suspect.
Mr Hintman was too ardent in his purposes to give up his favourite scheme, and Louisa beheld with inexpressible concern the day approach, when she must either accompany him into the country, or disoblige him for ever, and make herself appear extremely ungrateful in the eyes of a man whom she loved and honoured like a father. Her addresses to heaven for protection now became more vehement and continual, and the greatest part of her time was spent on her knees in praying to that power in whom she trusted. Miss Melvyn and Mr d’Avora were scarcely less anxious, or under fewer apprehensions than herself, but could see no resource except in the protection of the Almighty, to whom we seldom apply with entire faith and resignation while we have any hopes in human assistance.
Two days before that fixed on for the purposed journey, when Louisa’s anxiety was risen to the utmost height, the schoolmistress entered the room, with a countenance so melancholy, as was more suitable to the situation of mind in which the two young friends were then in, than to any reason they apprehended she could have for an air of so much sorrow. She soon began a discourse, which they immediately apprehended was preparatory to the opening of some fatal event, and which, as is usual in such cases, was, if possible, more alarming than any misfortune it could precede. The ladies expressed their fears, and begged to be acquainted with what had befallen them. After considerable efforts to deliver her of the secret with which she was pregnant, they learnt that a gentleman was in the parlour, who came to inform Miss Mancel that Mr Hintman died the day before in a fit of an apoplexy.
All Louisa’s fears and suspicions vanished at once, and grief alone took possession of her heart. The shock so entirely overcame her, that she was not able to see the fatal messenger of such melancholy tidings as the death of her benefactor, and second father. Miss Melvyn was obliged to undertake this office, and learnt from the gentleman that Mr Hintman died without a will, and therefore left the poor Louisa as destitute, except being enriched by various accomplishments, as he found her, and at a much more dangerous time, when her beauty would scarcely suffer compassion to arise unaccompanied with softer sentiments. This gentleman proceeded to inform Miss Melvyn, that his father and another person of equal relation to Mr Hintman were heirs at law. He expressed great concern for Miss Mancel, and wished he had his father’s power of repairing Mr Hintman’s neglect, but that his influence extended no farther than to obtain a commission to pay the expenses of another year at that school, that the young lady might have time to recollect herself after so fatal a change, and determine at leisure on her future course of life.
Miss Melvyn was so sensibly touched at the prospect of the approaching distress with which her friend was threatened, that she burst into tears and uttered some exclamations concerning ‘the inconsistency of that affection, which could suffer a man to rest a moment without securing a provision in case of death, to a young woman he seemed to love with the greatest excess of tenderness’. ‘Believe me, madam,’ said the young gentleman, ‘Mr Hintman was capable of no love that was not entirely sensual, and consequently selfish; all who knew him lamented the fate of a young woman, who by every account is so superiorly lovely. Among his friends he made no secret of his designs in all he had done for her, and boasted frequently of the extraordinary charms which were ripening for his possession. It was but two days ago, that he was exulting in the presence of some of them, that the time was now approaching, when he should be rewarded for long expectation, and boundless expense; for he should then, he said, be sure of her person, and had long secured her heart. He knew he had strong prejudices and strange scruples to combat; but was prepared, and should not find them difficult to conquer; at worst, his steward in a parson’s habit would lull them all to sleep.’
‘Good heaven!’ cried Miss Melvyn, ‘could there be such a wretch, and were there men who would keep company with him, who would bear the disgrace of being called his friends?’
‘Your notions, madam,’ replied the gentleman, ‘are too refined for persons who live in the world: should a man insist on strict morals in all his acquaintance, he might enjoy a solitude in the most populous city; though, I confess, nothing but ties of kindred could have made me intimate with one of Mr Hintman’s character, which I should not thus have exposed to you, but as I imagined a better knowledge of the man might alleviate the affliction you seemed to feel for Miss Mancel’s having lost one whom you esteemed so sincere a friend. I should have been glad,’ continued he, ‘could I have seen the young lady, of whom Mr Hintman told such wonders; but I will not presume to press it, time may offer me some opportunity for satisfying my curiosity without paining her, I therefore take my leave, with only requesting your permission to remit the money of which I was made the bearer.’
Miss Melvyn was so much affected with her friend’s situation, that she took the paper the gentleman offered her, without having power to reflect whether she ought to accept it, or being able to make him any acknowledgement; and he retired directly. She was obliged to stay some time to compose her spirits before she went to her friend, that she might be the better able to comfort her. On examining the paper, she found it a bank-note of an hundred pounds, which was now become all Miss Mancel’s fortune.
Lamont could not forbear interrupting Mrs Maynard in this place, by some very severe reflections on Mr Hintman’s having neglected to make a provision for Miss Mancel in case of his death, which I believe was the part of his conduct that to Lamont appeared most inexcusable; for though he is too fashionable to think intriguing very criminal, yet he is naturally generous, as far as money is concerned. ‘I cannot think,’ replied my cousin, ‘that Mr Hintman’s behaviour in that particular can be much wondered at. Death to such a man must be so dreadful an event, that he will naturally endeavour to banish it from his mind, whenever it attempts to intrude, and when a person takes so little care to make provision for his own happiness after death, is it strange he should be unmindful of what shall befall another after that fatal period? When a man neglects his own soul, and deprives himself of all hope of everlasting felicity, can we expect he should take any trouble to provide for the temporal convenience of another person?
‘Besides, could he, who aimed at reducing an innocent and amiable young woman to guilt and infamy in this world, and eternal perdition in the next, be under any concern lest she should fall into the lesser miseries of poverty? It would have been an inconsistency in such a character.’
‘You see gallantry in a very serious light, madam,’ said Lamont.
‘I do indeed, sir,’ answered Mrs Maynard, ‘I look on it as the most dangerous of vices, it destroys truth, honour, humanity, it is directly contrary to the laws of God, is the destruction of society, and almost as inconsistent with morality as with religion.’
‘I beg pardon, madam,’ interrupted Lamont (who felt himself a little touched with what she said), ‘for breaking into your narrative, and must beg you will continue it.’
Miss Melvyn, resumed Mrs Maynard, was too well acquainted with the strength of Louisa’s mind to think it necessary to conceal from her any part of what had passed between herself and Mr Hintman’s relation.
Louisa, much affected by Mr Hintman’s dying, with a heart so unfit to appear at the tribunal before which he was so suddenly summoned, thought not immediately of herself; but when she reflected on the dangers she had escaped, she blessed her poverty, since it was the consequence of an event which delivered her from so much greater evils, and sent up many sincere and ardent thanksgivings to heaven, for so signal a preservation. These thoughts possessed our young friends for the first three or four days after Mr Hintman’s death; but then they began to think it requisite to consult with Mr d’Avora, on what course of life it was most advisable for Miss Mancel to enter. This was a difficult point to determine; though her understanding and attainments were far superior to her years, yet they were sensible her youth would be a great impediment to her in any undertaking. Mr d’Avora therefore advised that she should continue a little longer at the school, and then fix in the most private manner imaginable for three or four years, by which time he hoped to be able to establish her in some widow’s family, as governess to her children; for he told her she must not expect, while her person continued such as it then was, that a married woman would receive her in any capacity that fixed her in the same house with her husband.
As Miss Mancel had many jewels and trinkets of value, she had no doubt but that with economy she might support herself for the term Mr d’Avora mentioned, and even longer if requisite, as she could add to her little fund by the produce of her industry. As Miss Melvyn’s return home drew near, it was agreed that she should seek out some place in Sir Charles’s neighbourhood where Louisa might lodge cheaply and reputably; and in the mean time Mr d’Avora should dispose of whatever she had of value, except her books and her harpsichord; these she resolved not to part with till the produce of her other things, and the money she had by her, was spent, as they would not only amuse her in the country, but afford her the power of improving herself in those accomplishments which were to be her future provision.
This plan softened the pangs of separation when the time of Miss Melvyn’s departure arrived. It was not long before she found out an apartment at a reputable farmer’s, where Miss Mancel might lodge conveniently. Had it been a less tolerable place, its vicinity to Sir Charles’s house, from which it was but a quarter of a mile distant, would have made it a very delightful abode to her, and she soon repaired thither.
Great was the joy of the two friends at meeting. Miss Melvyn’s situation at home was rendered as irksome as possible by Lady Melvyn’s behaviour both to her and Sir Charles who, notwithstanding her ill treatment, was extremely fond of, and totally guided by her. His mind was so entirely enslaved that he beheld nothing but in the light wherein she pleased to represent it, and was so easy a dupe, that she could scarcely feel the joys of self triumph in her superior art, which was on no subject so constantly exerted, as in keeping up a coldness in Sir Charles towards his daughter; this she had with tolerable facility effected in her absence, and was assiduously careful to preserve now she was present. To those who know not the power an artful woman can obtain over a weak man, it would appear incredible that any father could be prejudiced against a daughter whose whole attention was to please him. She had so perfect a command over her temper that she never appeared to take offence at any thing Lady Melvyn said or did, though that lady endeavoured by every provocation to throw her off her guard. This behaviour only increased her hatred, which was not in the least abated by Miss Melvyn’s taking every opportunity of being serviceable to her half-brothers and sisters. Lady Melvyn persuaded Sir Charles that his daughter’s calmness was only assumed in his presence, and continually complained of her insolence when he was not by. If he ever appeared to doubt the truth of her report, she would burst into tears, complain of his want of love and little confidence in her, and sometimes thought proper to shew her grief at such treatment by a pretended hysteric fit, always ready at call to come to her assistance, though really so unnecessarily lavished on one easily duped without those laborious means, that it appeared a wantonness of cunning, which was thus exerted only for its own indulgence. She soon perceived that Miss Melvyn rather chose to submit to any aspersions, than to render her father unhappy by undeceiving him; and taking advantage of this generosity, would sometimes, to establish his opinion of her veracity, accuse Miss Melvyn to her face of offences which she had never committed, and things she had never said.
In such a situation the arrival of a friend, into whose sympathetic bosom she could pour all her griefs, and in whose delightful society she could forget them, was the highest blessing. But Lady Melvyn contrived to make her feel mortifications even in this tenderest particular, for though she was in her heart glad to have her out of the house, that she might not be witness of much improper behaviour, yet she would sometimes mortify herself in order to tease Miss Melvyn, by preventing her from going to her beloved friend; and continually alleged her spending so much time with Louisa as a proof of the aversion she had made Sir Charles believe Miss Melvyn had to her.
Louisa felt deeply her friend’s uneasiness, but when they were together they could not be unhappy. They seldom passed a day without seeing each other, but as Lady Melvyn had taken no notice of Louisa, she could not go to her house, therefore their meetings were at her lodgings, where they often read together, and at other times would apply to music to drive away melancholy reflections. As Louisa wished to remain near her friend as long as possible, she endeavoured, by taking in plain-work, to provide for some part of her current expenses, the less to diminish the little fund she had by her. She likewise employed part of her time in painting, having reason to hope that if she could find a means of offering her pictures to sale, she might from them raise a very convenient sum. While she was thus contriving to enable herself to enjoy for many years the conversation of her friend, Lady Melvyn was as industriously laying schemes that, if successful, must disappoint all the young ladies’ hopes.
Towards the end of the autumn, Mr Morgan, a man of fortune who had spent above half a year in a fruitless pursuit after health, made a visit to a gentleman in the neighbourhood. Unfortunately Miss Melvyn’s charms made a conquest of this gentleman, in whom age had not gained a victory over passion. Miss Melvyn’s humility occasioned her being the last person who perceived the impression she had made on his heart, and his age would scarcely suffer her to believe her senses when the symptoms became most apparent. A girl may find some amusement in a young lover, though she feels no disposition in herself to return his passion, her vanity is flattered by his addresses, and a woman must be very little disposed to be pleased, who receives no pleasure from one who is continually endeavouring to oblige and amuse her; but the most whimsical of the poets never fancied a grey-bearded Cupid, or represented Hymen with a torch in one hand, and a crutch in the other. I allow that
‘Oft the matrimonial Cupid,
Lash’d on by time grows tir’d and stupid,’
and does not always wear that blooming joyous countenance, which the painters give him; but should any capricious artist take the sickle out of the hand of old Time, and in its place put Hymen’s torch, the picture might be thought very unnatural, yet would represent a proper hymeneal Cupid to attend Mr Morgan to the altar.
Such a lover could excite no emotion in his mistress’s heart but disgust. Miss Melvyn’s principles were too delicate to suffer her to think she had any title to ridicule a man for his partiality to her, however ill-suited to himself; but no consideration could prevent his addresses from being extremely disagreeable: however, she could without any great difficulty have so far commanded herself, as to have treated him with complaisance, till he gave her an opportunity of rejecting his courtship, had she not been apprehensive that this affair would give Lady Melvyn a new subject for persecution. She was pretty certain that lady would be glad to settle her in another county; and that her averseness to so ill-suited a marriage would only serve as an additional recommendation to her mother. She was indeed determined in justice to Mr Morgan and compassion to herself, not to be induced by any solicitations to marry a man whom she could not hope that even the strongest attachment to duty could render so well as indifferent to her, but she dreaded the means that might be taken to oblige her to accept Mr Morgan’s proposal.
Little did she guess what those means would be. She expected to be attacked alternately with all the violence of passion, the affected softness of dissimulation, and every art that cunning could devise, to force Sir Charles to concur in her persecution. These indeed were employed as soon as Mr Morgan made his proposals; but her ladyship had too many resources in her fertile brain to persevere long in a course she found unavailing. The farmer where Miss Mancel lodged had a son, who was in treaty with Lady Melvyn for a farm, which at the end of the year would become vacant. This person she thought fit for her purpose, as Miss Melvyn’s going so frequently to Miss Mancel might give some colour to her invention. She therefore took care to be found by Sir Charles drowned in tears; he pressed to know the occasion of her grief, but she resisted his importunity in such a manner as could not fail to increase it, still she declared, that she loved him to that excess she could not communicate a secret which she knew must afflict him, even though the suppression and inward preyings of her sorrow should prove fatal to her life.
Sir Charles now on his knees intreated her to acquaint him with the misfortune she endeavoured to conceal, assuring her, that nothing could give him so much concern as seeing her in that condition. She told him she was sensible, that as his wife it was her duty to obey him (a duty newly discovered, or at least newly performed by her ladyship); but she feared she had not strength left to give it utterance. The endeavour threw her into a hysteric fit, which was succeeded by so many others that Sir Charles was almost frantic with his fears for so tender a wife, who was thus reduced to the last agonies by her affectionate apprehensions of giving him pain.
After rubbing her hands and feet till they were sore, suffocating her with burnt feathers, and half poisoning her with medicines, Sir Charles and her servants so far brought her to life that after sending her attendants out of the room, she had just power to tell him she had discovered an intrigue between his daughter and Simon the young farmer, and then immediately sunk into another fit, which however did not last so long; for as she had removed the heavy burden off her mind, she soon began to recover.
Sir Charles was very much shocked at what Lady Melvyn told him, but could not doubt the reality of the fact when he had seen the very violent effect it had had on his tender wife. He asked her advice how to proceed; and it was soon determined that it was necessary, either to oblige Miss Melvyn to marry Mr Morgan directly, or to disclaim her for ever, and remove the disgrace of so infamous a conduct as far from themselves as possible. With this resolution she was to be immediately acquainted.
Miss Melvyn was accordingly called in, and bitterly reproached by Sir Charles; to which my lady added frequent lamentations that she should so far forget herself, and disgrace so worthy a family, interspersing with them many expressions of the undeserved tenderness she had always had for her, and her great confidence in Miss Melvyn’s prudence and virtue, shedding tears for her having so unhappily swerved from them.
As all this passed for some time in general terms, Miss Melvyn was in doubt whether she or her parents had lost their senses; convinced there must be distraction on one side or the other. As soon as she could recover her surprise, she begged to know what crime she had committed. Her astonishment was still increased by the answer she received, which was an accusation of this strange intrigue; and her frequent visits to Miss Mancel were brought as proofs of it. The submissive and mild temper which had hitherto most strongly characterized her, vanished at so injurious a charge and she denied the fact with that true spirit which innocence inspires. She told Lady Melvyn, that though she had hitherto silently submitted to all her ill usage, yet it was her duty to repel an injury like this, and when her reputation was so cruelly aspersed, it would be criminal to suffer the vile inventors to pass unexposed. She insisted on being confronted with her accusers, a privilege allowed to the greatest criminals, and by the severest judges, therefore surely could not be refused by a father to a daughter, on a charge so highly improbable, and for which no lightness in her conduct ever gave the least ground.
As Mrs Maynard was in this part of her narrative a bell rang, which informed us that dinner was ready, and we were unwillingly obliged to postpone the continuation of the history of the two young friends, till a more convenient opportunity.
In the afternoon before we rose from table, four ladies came to drink tea with this admirable society. No addition was necessary to render the conversation amusing; but the strangers seemed to look on the ladies of the house with such gratitude and veneration, and were treated by them with so much friendly politeness, as gave me pleasure. I found by the various enquiries after different persons that these visitors likewise lived in a large society. When they rose up to take leave Miss Trentham proposed to walk part of the way home with them. No one objected to it, for the evening was inviting, and they had designed to spend it in the park, through which these ladies were to pass; for Lady Mary observed, that after having shewn us the beauties of the place, they ought to exhibit the riches of it.
The park is close to one side of the house; it is not quite three miles round; the inequality of the ground much increases its beauty, and the timber is remarkably fine. We could plainly perceive it had been many years in the possession of good economists, who unprompted by necessity, did not think the profit that might arise from the sale a sufficient inducement to deprive it of some fine trees, which are now decaying, but so happily placed, that they are made more venerable and not less beautiful by their declining age. This park is much ornamented by two or three fine pieces of water; one of them is a very noble canal, so artfully terminated by an elegant bridge, beyond which is a wood, that it there appears like a fine river vanishing from the eye.
Mrs Morgan stopped us in one spot, saying, from hence, as Lady Mary observed, you may behold our riches, that building (pointing to what we thought a pretty temple) which perhaps you imagine designed only for ornament or pleasure, is a very large pidgeon house, that affords a sufficient supply to our family, and many of our neighbours. That hill on your right-hand is a warren, prodigiously stocked with rabbits; this canal, and these other pieces of water, as well as the river you saw this morning, furnish our table with a great profusion of fish. You will easily believe from the great number of deer you see around us, that we have as much venison as we can use, either in presents to our friends, or our own family. Hares and all sorts of game likewise abound here; so that with the help of a good dairy, perhaps no situation ever more amply afforded all the necessaries of life. These are indeed our riches; here we have almost every thing we can want, for a very small proportion of that expense which others are at to procure them. ‘Such a situation,’ said I, ‘would be dangerous to many people, for if, as some have supposed, and, in regard to a great part of the world, I fear with truth, mutual wants are the great bands of society, a person thus placed, would be in danger of feeling himself so independent a being as might tempt him to disclaim all commerce with mankind, since he could not be benefited by them. He would look on himself in the light of a rich man gaming with sharpers, with a great probability of losing, and a certainty of never being a gainer.’
‘I do not think the danger,’ replied Lady Mary, ‘so great as you imagine, even though we allow that society arises from the motive you mention. However fortune may have set us above any bodily wants, the mind will still have many which would drive us into society. Reason wishes for communication and improvement; benevolence longs for objects on which to exert itself; the social comforts of friendship are so necessary to our happiness that it would be impossible not to endeavour to enjoy them. In sickness the langour of our minds makes us wish for the amusements of conversation; in health the vivacity of our spirits leads us to desire it. To avoid pain we seek after corporeal conveniencies, to procure pleasure we aim at mental enjoyments; and I believe, if we observe the general course of men’s actions, we shall see them at least as strongly actuated by the desire of pleasure, as by the fear of pain; though philosophers, who have formed their judgements more on reason than the knowledge of mankind, may have thought otherwise.’
‘I think,’ said Mrs Morgan, ‘somebody has asserted that he who could live without society must be more than a God, or less than a man; the latter part of this assertion would have held good had he carried it farther, and said lower than a brute, for there is no creature in the universe that is not linked into some society, except we allow the existence of that exploded and unsociable bird the Phoenix.’
‘I am surprised,’ interrupted Lamont, ‘to hear ladies, who seclude themselves from the world in this solitary though beautiful place, so strongly plead for society.’
‘Do you then,’ replied Miss Mancel, ‘mistake a crowd for society? I know not two things more opposite. How little society is there to be found in what you call the world? It might more properly be compared to that state of war, which Hobbes supposes the first condition of mankind. The same vanities, the same passions, the same ambition, reign in almost every breast; a constant desire to supplant, and a continual fear of being supplanted, keep the minds of those who have any views at all in a state of unremitted tumult and envy; and those who have no aim in their actions are too irrational to have a notion of social comforts. The love, as well as the pleasures, of society, is founded in reason, and cannot exist in those minds which are filled with irrational pursuits. Such indeed might claim a place in the society of birds and beasts, though few would deserve to be admitted amongst them, but that of reasonable beings must be founded in reason. What I understand by society is a state of mutual confidence, reciprocal services, and correspondent affections; where numbers are thus united, there will be a free communication of sentiments, and we shall then find speech, that peculiar blessing given to man, a valuable gift indeed; but when we see it restrained by suspicion, or contaminated by detraction, we rather wonder that so dangerous a power was trusted with a race of beings who seldom make a proper use of it.
‘You will pity us perhaps because we have no cards, no assemblies, no plays, no masquerades, in this solitary place. The first we might have if we chose it, nor are they totally disclaimed by us; but while we can with safety speak our own thoughts, and with pleasure read those of wiser persons, we are not likely to be often reduced to them. We wish not for large assemblies, because we do not desire to drown conversation in noise; the amusing fictions of dramatic writers are not necessary where nature affords us so many real delights; and as we are not afraid of shewing our hearts, we have no occasion to conceal our persons, in order to obtain either liberty of speech or action.’
‘What a serious world should we have, madam,’ replied Lamont, ‘if you were to regulate our conduct!’
‘By no means, sir,’ answered Miss Mancel, ‘I wish to make only these alterations, to change noise for real mirth, flutter for settled cheerfulness, affected wit for rational conversation; and would but have that degree of dissipation banished which deprives people of time for reflection on the motives for, and consequences of, their actions, that their pleasures may be real and permanent, and followed neither by repentance nor punishment. I would wish them to have leisure to consider by whom they were sent into the world, and for what purpose, and to learn that their happiness consists in fulfilling the design of their Maker, in providing for their own greatest felicity, and contributing all that is in their power to the convenience of others.’
‘You seem, madam,’ answered Lamont, ‘to choose to make us all slaves to each other.’
‘No, sir,’ replied Miss Mancel, ‘I would only make you friends. Those who are really such are continually endeavouring to serve and oblige each other; this reciprocal communication of benefits should be universal, and then we might with reason be fond of this world.’
‘But,’ said Lamont, ‘this reciprocal communication is impossible; what service can a poor man do me? I may relieve him, but how can he return the obligation?’
‘It is he,’ answered Miss Mancel, ‘who first conferred it, in giving you an opportunity of relieving him. The pleasure he has afforded you, is as far superior to the gratification you have procured him, as it is more blessed to give than to receive. You will perhaps say of him, as the apothecary in Romeo and Juliet does of himself and tell me that,
“His poverty and not his will consents.”
‘So let it be, and do you
“Pay his poverty and not his will.”
‘But certainly the highest satisfaction is on your side, and much obliged you are to that poverty, which enables you to obtain so great a gratification. But do not think the poor can make no adequate return. The greatest pleasure this world can give us is that of being beloved, but how should we expect to obtain love without deserving it? Did you ever see any one that was not fond of a dog that fondled him? Is it then possible to be insensible to the affection of a rational being?’
‘If Mr Lamont,’ said one of the visitors, ‘has not so high a sense of the pleasure of being gratefully loved and esteemed, we ought not to blame him; he, perhaps, like the greatest part of the world, has not sufficiently tried it, to be a proper judge; Miss Mancel is certainly very deep in this knowledge, and her opinion may be received as almost an infallible decision, since it is founded on long experience; and how nobly does she calm the eager wishes of impotent gratitude, in declaring herself to be the most benefited when she confers obligations.’
This was uttered with so much warmth, and accompanied by looks so expressive of affection and grateful sensibility, that I plainly saw it proceeded from something more than mere speculative approbation. Lamont declared, that he was well convinced of the justness of what Miss Mancel had said; at first it appeared rather a sentiment uttered in sport than an opinion which could be proved by argument; but that a little reflection on one’s own sensations would afford sufficient conviction of the truth of her assertion, and that the general errors in the conduct of mankind plainly evinced they were of the same opinion, though they often mistook the means; for what, continued he, do people ruin themselves by pomp and splendour, hazard their lives in the pursuits of ambition, and, as Shakespeare says,
‘Seek the bubble reputation even in the cannon’s mouth.’
But to gain popular applause and esteem? For what do others throw away their time in useless civilities, and politely flatter all they meet, but in hopes of pleasing? Even those who make it their business to slander merit, and exaggerate the faults of others, do it from a desire of raising themselves in the opinion of mankind, by lowering those who may be brought into comparison with them.
During this conversation we had advanced within a field of the house, and the ladies stopped to take their leave, saying, as the evening was too far advanced to suffer them to make any stay with their good friends, they would not disturb them by just entering their doors. But as some parley ensued, several ladies who had seen us from the windows ran out, just to pay their compliments to the worthy inhabitants of Millenium Hall. The pleasure of this short meeting seemed reciprocal, and both sides appeared unwilling to part, but the setting sun admonished us to return.
The house to which we had so nearly approached was a very large old mansion, and its inhabitants so numerous, that I was curious to know how so many became assembled together. Mrs Maynard said that if she did not satisfy my inquiries, I was in great danger of remaining ignorant of the nature of that society, as her friends would not be easily prevailed with to break silence on that subject.
‘These ladies,’ said she, ‘long beheld with compassion the wretched fate of those women, who from scantiness of fortune, and pride of family, are reduced to become dependent, and to bear all the insolence of wealth from such as will receive them into their families; these, though in some measure voluntary slaves, yet suffer all the evils of the severest servitude, and are, I believe, the most unhappy part of the creation. Sometimes they are unqualified to gain a maintenance, educated as is called, genteelly, or in other words idly, they are ignorant of every thing that might give them superior abilities to the lower rank of people, and their birth renders them less acceptable servants to many, who have not generosity enough to treat them as they ought, and yet do not choose while they are acting the mistress, perhaps too haughtily, to feel the secret reproaches of their own hearts. Possibly pride may still oftener reduce these indigent gentlewomen into this wretched state of dependence, and therefore the world is less inclined to pity them; but my friends see human weakness in another light.
‘They imagine themselves too far from perfection to have any title to expect it in others, and think that there are none in whom pride is so excusable as in the poor, for if there is the smallest spark of it in their compositions, and who is entirely free from it, the frequent neglects and indignities they meet with must keep it continually alive. If we are despised for casual deficiencies, we naturally seek in ourselves for some merit, to restore us to that dignity in our own eyes which those humiliating mortifications would otherwise debase. Thus we learn to set too great a value on what we still possess, whether advantages of birth, education, or natural talents; any thing will serve for a resource to mortified pride; and as every thing grows by opposition and persecution, we cannot wonder if the opinion of ourselves increases by the same means.
‘To persons in this way of thinking, the pride which reduces many to be, what is called with too little humanity, toad-eaters, does not render them unworthy of compassion. Therefore for the relief of this race they bought that large mansion.
‘They drew up several regulations, to secure the peace and good order of the society they designed to form, and sending a copy of it to all their acquaintance, told them that any gentleman’s daughter, whose character was unblemished, might, if she desired it, on those terms be received into that society.’
I begged, if it was not too much trouble, to know what the regulations were.
‘The first rule,’ continued Mrs Maynard, ‘was that whoever chose to take the benefit of this asylum, for such I may justly call it, should deposit in the hands of a person appointed for that purpose, whatever fortune she was mistress of, the security being approved by her and her friends, and remaining in her possession. Whenever she leaves the society, her fortune should be repaid her, the interest in the mean time being appropriated to the use of the community. The great design of this was to preserve an exact equality between them; for it was not expected that the interest of any of their fortunes should pay the allowance they were to have for their clothes. If any appeared to have secreted part of her fortune she should be expelled from the society.
‘Secondly, each person to have a bed-chamber to herself, but the eating-parlour and drawing-room in common.
‘Thirdly, all things for rational amusement shall be provided for the society; musical instruments, of whatever sort they shall choose, books, tents for work, and in short conveniences for every kind of employment.
‘Fourthly, they must conform to very regular hours.
‘Fifthly, a housekeeper will be appointed to manage the household affairs, and a sufficient number of servants provided.
‘Sixthly, each person shall alternately, a week at a time, preside at the table, and give what family orders may be requisite.
‘Seventhly, twenty-five pounds a year shall be allowed to each person for her clothes and pocket expenses.
‘Eighthly, their dress shall be quite plain and neat, but not particular nor uniform.
‘Ninthly, the expenses of sickness shall be discharged by the patronesses of this society.
‘Tenthly, if any one of the ladies behaves with imprudence she shall be dismissed, and her fortune returned; likewise if any should by turbulence or pettishness of temper disturb the society, it shall be in the power of the rest of them to expel her; a majority of three parts of the community being for the expulsion, and this to be performed by ballotting.
‘Eleventhly, a good table and every thing suitable to the convenience of a gentlewoman, shall be provided.
‘These were the principal articles; and in less than two months a dozen persons of different ages were established in the house, who seemed thoroughly delighted with their situation. At the request of one of them, who had a friend that wished to be admitted, an order was soon added, by the consent of all, that gave leave for any person who would conform exactly to the rules of the house, to board there for such length of time as should be agreeable to herself and the society, for the price of a hundred pounds a year, fifty for any child she might have, twenty for a maidservant, and thirty for a man.
‘The number of this society is now increased to thirty, four ladies board there, one of whom has two children, and there are five young ladies, the eldest not above twelve years old, whose mothers being dead, and their families related to some of the society, their kinswomen have undertaken their education; these likewise pay a hundred pounds a year each. It has frequently happened, that widow ladies have come into this society, till their year of deep mourning was expired.
‘With these assistances the society now subsists with the utmost plenty and convenience, without any additional expense to my good friends, except a communication of what this park affords; as our steward provides them with every thing, and has the entire direction of the household affairs, which he executes with the most sensible economy.’
I should imagine, said I, it were very difficult to preserve a comfortable harmony among so many persons, and consequently such variety of tempers?
‘Certainly,’ answered Mrs Maynard, ‘it is not without its difficulties. For the first year of this establishment my friends dedicated most of their time and attention to this new community, who were every day either at the hall, or these ladies with them, endeavouring to cultivate in this sisterhood that sort of disposition which is most productive of peace. By their example and suggestions (for it is difficult to give unreserved advice where you may be suspected of a design to dictate), by their examples and suggestions therefore, they led them to industry, and shewed it to be necessary to all stations, as the basis of almost every virtue. An idle mind, like fallow ground, is the soil for every weed to grow in; in it vice strengthens, the seed of every vanity flourishes unmolested and luxuriant; discontent, malignity, ill humour, spread far and wide, and the mind becomes a chaos which it is beyond human power to call into order and beauty. This therefore my good friends laboured to expel from their infant establishment. They taught them that it was the duty of every person to be of service to others. That those whose hands and minds were by the favours of fortune exempt from the necessary of labouring for their own support, ought to be employed for such as are destitute of these advantages. They got this sisterhood to join with them in working for the poor people, in visiting, in admonishing, in teaching them wherever their situations required these services. Where they found that any of these ladies had a taste for gardening, drawing, music, reading, or any manual or mental art, they cultivated it, assisted them in the pleasantest means, and by various little schemes have kept up these inclinations with all the spirit of pursuit which is requisite to preserve most minds from that state of languidness and inactivity whereby life is rendered wearisome to those who have never found it unfortunate.
‘By some regulations made as occasions occurred, all burdensome forms are expelled. The whole society indeed must assemble at morning and evening prayers, and at meals, if sickness does not prevent, but every other ceremonious dependence is banished; they form into different parties of amusement as best suit their inclinations, and sometimes when we go to spend the afternoon there, we shall find a party at cards in one room, in another some at work, while one is reading aloud, and in a separate chamber a set joining in a little concert, though none of them are great proficients in music; while two or three shall be retired into their own rooms, some go out to take the air, for it has seldom happened to them to have less than two boarders at a time who each keep an equipage; while others shall be amusing themselves in the garden, or walking in the very pleasant meadows which surround their house.
‘As no one is obliged to stay a minute longer in company than she chooses, she naturally retires as soon as it grows displeasing to her, and does not return till she is prompted by inclination, and consequently well disposed to amuse and be amused. They live in the very strict practice of all religious duties; and it is not to be imagined how much good they have done in the neighbourhood; how much by their care the manners of the poorer people are reformed, and their necessities relieved, though without the distribution of much money; I say much, because, small as their incomes are, there are many who impart out of that little to those who have much less.
‘Their visits to us are frequent, and we are on such a footing that they never impede any of our employments. My friends always insisted when they waited on the community, that not one of the sisterhood should discontinue whatever they found her engaged in; this gave them the hint to do the same by us, and it is a rule that no book is thrown aside, no pen laid down at their entrance. There are always some of us manually employed, who are at leisure to converse, and if the visit is not very short, part of it is generally spent in hearing one of the girls read aloud, who take it by turns through a great part of the day; the only difference made for this addition to the company is a change of books, that they may not hear only part of a subject, and begin by a broken thread. Thus they give no interruption, and therefore neither trouble us, nor are themselves scrupulous about coming, so that few days pass without our seeing some of them, though frequently only time enough to accompany us in our walks, or partake of our music.’
‘Have you not,’ said Lamont, ‘been obliged to expel many from the community? Since you do not allow petulancy of temper, nor any lightness of conduct, I should expect a continual revolution.’
‘By no means,’ answered Mrs Maynard, ‘since the establishment of the community there has been but one expelled; and one finding she was in danger of incurring the same sentence, and I believe inwardly disgusted with a country life, retired of her own free choice. Some more have rendered themselves so disagreeable, that the question has been put to the ballot; but the fear of being dismissed made them so diligent to get the majority on their side, before the hour appointed for decision arrived, that it has been determined in their favour, and the earnest desire not to be brought into the same hazard again has induced them to mend their tempers, and some of these are now the most amiable people in the whole community.
‘As for levity of conduct they are pretty well secured from it, by being exposed to few temptations in this retired place.
‘Some, as in the course of nature must happen, have died, and most of them bequeathed what little they had towards constituting a fund for the continuation of the community. More of them have married; some to persons who knew them before, others to gentlemen in the neighbourhood, or such as happened to come into it; to whom their admirable conduct recommended them.’
I could not help exclaiming, ‘In what a heaven do you live, thus surrounded by people who owe all their happiness to your goodness! This is, indeed, imitating your Creator, and in such proportion as your faculties will admit, partaking of his felicity, since you can no where cast your eyes without beholding numbers who derive every earthly good from your bounty and are indebted to your care and example for a reasonable hope of eternal happiness.’
‘I will not,’ said Mrs Maynard, ‘give up my share of the felicity you so justly imagine these ladies must enjoy, though I have no part in what occasions it. When I reflect on all the blessings they impart, and see how happiness flows, as it were, in an uninterrupted current from their hands and lips, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to the Almighty disposer of my fate, for having so mercifully thrown me into such a scene of felicity, where every hour yields true heart-felt joy, and fills me with thanksgiving to him who enables them thus to dispense innumerable blessings, and so greatly rewards them already by the joyful consciousness of having obeyed him.’
The ladies at this time were at too great a distance to hear our conversation, for not choosing to be present while their actions were the subjects of discourse, they had gradually strayed from us. Upon enquiring of my cousin whether the persons in the large community we had been talking of brought any fortunes with them, she told me that most of them had a trifle, some not more than a hundred pounds. That in general the ladies chose to admit those who had least, as their necessities were greatest, except where some particular circumstances rendered protection more requisite to others. That the house not being large enough to contain more than were already established in it, they have been obliged to refuse admission to many, and especially some young women of near two thousand pounds fortune, the expensive turn of the world now being such that no gentlewoman can live genteelly on the interest of that sum, and they prefer this society to a retirement in a country town. Some who wished to board, have likewise been refused. As the expenses of the first community fall so far short of their expectation, and the sums appropriated for that purpose, they determined to hazard another of the same kind, and have just concluded a treaty for a still larger mansion, at about three miles distance, and by the persons now waiting for it, they have reason to believe it will not be less successful than the other, nor more expensive, but should they be mistaken in that particular, they have laid aside a fund sufficient to discharge it. Their scheme I find is to have some of the ladies down to Millenium Hall as soon as they have made the purchase, and there they are to remain, while the necessary repairs and additions are making to the house designed for their habitation, which they imagine will not be completed in less than half a year. They hope, by having the first admitted part of the community thus in the house with them for so long a time, to compensate, in a good degree, for the disadvantages of being settled so much farther from them. The sisterhood of the other society, likewise, in pity to those who are exposed to the same sufferings from which they have been delivered, have offered to crowd themselves for a few months, to leave vacant rooms for some who are destined to the other house, till they can be there accommodated. These also will be fitted for their new way of life, and taught to aim at the happiness enjoyed in this community, by the same means that they have attained to it.
Our subject ended with our walk. Supper was served as soon as we entered the house, and general conversation concluded the evening.
Had I not been led by several facts to repeat already so many conversations, I should be induced not to bury all that passed at this time in silence; but though I have taken the liberty, when the relation of facts naturally led to it, to communicate such discourses as were pertinent to the subject, it would be presuming too far on your time to repeat conversations which did not serve to illustrate any particular actions, however worthy they maybe of recollection. I shall therefore only say that it was not with less reluctance I retired to my chamber, at the hour of bed-time, than the night before.
The next morning proved rainy, which prevented me from making any early excursion. But as it cleared up about eleven o’clock, Lamont and I went into the garden, to enjoy the fragrance which every herb and flower exhales at this time of the year, after the desirable refreshment of gentle showers. I conducted him to the flower garden, which had so much delighted me the morning before; and we had not paid due admiration to all the vegetable beauties there exhibited to our view when Mrs Maynard joined us.
I told her it was but a poor compliment to her conversation to say I longed for her company, since now my curiosity might occasion that impatience, which I should nevertheless have felt, had I not been left in painful suspense by the interruption we had received the day before, in the midst of her narrative.
‘It would be unnatural,’ said she, ‘for a woman to quarrel with curiosity; so far from complaining of yours, I am come merely with a design to gratify it, and only expect you will judge of my desire to oblige you by my readiness in obeying your commands; were I myself the subject, the motive for my obedience might be equivocal.’
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00