« PreviousContinue »
of such considerations was seldom prevalent lation ; his darling idol was the honour of a over the warmth of his nature. He walked some soldier, a term which he held in such reverence, turns backwards and forwards in his room ; he that he used it for his most sacred asseveration. recalled the languid form of the fainting wretch When my mother died, I was for some time to his mind; he wept at the recollection of her suffered to continue in those sentiments which tears. « Though I am the vilest of beings, I her instructions had produced ; but soon after, have not forgotten every virtue ; gratitude, I though from respect to her memory my father hope, I shall still have left."-He took a larger did not absolutely ridicule them, yet he shewed, stride—“ Powers of mercy that surround me !" in his discourse to others, so little regard to cried he,“ do ye not smile upon deeds like them, and at times suggested to me motives of these ? to calculate the chances of deception, is action so different, that I was soon weaned from too tedious a business for the life of man." opinions which I began to consider as the dreams The clock struck ten !- When he had got down of superstition, or the artful inventions of destairs, he found that he had forgot the note of signing hypocrisy. My mother's books were left her lodgings; he gnawed his lips at the delay: behind at the different quarters we removed to, he was fairly on the pavement, when he recol- and my reading was principally confined to lected having left his purse ; he did but just plays, novels, and those poetical descriptions of prevent himself from articulating an impreca- the beauty of virtue and honour which the cirtion. He rushed a second time up into his culating libraries easily afforded. chamber. “ What a wretch I am!” said he; “As I was generally reckoned handsome, and “ ere this time perhaps”—'Twas a perhaps not the quickness of my parts extolled by all our to be borne ;-two vibrations of a pendulum visitors, my father had a pride in shewing me would have served him to lock his bureau ; to the world. I was young, giddy, open to but they could not be spared.
adulation, and vain of those talents which acWhen he reached the house, and inquired quired it. for Miss Atkins, (for that was the lady's name,) “ After the last war, my father was reduced he was shewn up three pair of stairs into a small to half-pay; with which we retired to a village room lighted by one narrow lattice, and patched in the country, which the acquaintance of some round with shreds of different-coloured paper. genteel families who resided in it, and the cheapIn the darkest corner stood something like a ness of living, particularly recommended. My bed, before which a tattered coverlet hung by father rented a small house, with a piece of way of curtain. He had not waited long when ground sufficient to keep a horse for him, and 2 she appeared. Her face had the glister of new- cow for the benefit of his family. An old manwashed tears on it. “ I am ashamed, sir,” said servant managed his ground; while a maid, she, “ that you should have taken this fresh who had formerly been my mother's, and had piece of trouble about one so little worthy of it; since been mine, undertook the care of our little but, to the humane, I know there is a pleasure dairy: they were assisted in each of their proin goodness for its own sake: If you have pa- vinces by my father and me; and we passed tience for the recital of my story, it may palli- our time in a state of tranquillity, which he had ate, though it cannot excuse, my faults." Har- always talked of with delight, and which my ley bowed, as a sign of assent; and she began train of reading had taught me to admire. as follows:
“Though I had never seen the polite circles “I am the daughter of an officer, whom a of the metropolis, the company my father had service of forty years had advanced no higher introduced me into had given me a degree of than to the rank of captain. I have had hints good-breeding, which soon discovered a superifrom himself, and been informed by others, that ority over the young ladies of our village. I was it was in some measure owing to those principles quoted as an example of politeness, and my of rigid honour, which it was his boast to pos- company courted by most of the considerable sess, and which he early inculcated on me, that families in the neighbourhood. he had been able to arrive at no better station. My “ Amongst the houses to which I was fremother died when I was a child ; old enough to quently invited, was Sir George Winbrooke's. grieve for her death, but incapable of remember. He had two daughters nearly of my age, with ing her precepts. Though my father was doat- whom, though they had been bred up in those ingly fond of her, yet there were some senti maxims of vulgar doctrine, which my superior ments in which they materially differed. She understanding could not but despise, yet, as their had been bred from her infancy in the strictest good-nature led them to an imitation of my principles of religion, and took the morality of manners in every thing else, I cultivated a parher conduct from the motives which an adhe- ticular friendship. rence to those principles suggested. My father, “Some months after our first acquaintance, who had been in the army from his youth, af- Sir George's eldest son came home from his trafixed an idea of pusillanimity to that virtue, vels. His figure, his address, and conversation, which was forined by the doctrines, excited by were not unlike those warm ideas of an accomthe rewards, or guarded by the terrors of revc. plished man which my favourite novels had taught me to form ; and his sentiments on the relation, the catastrophe of which you will alarticle of religion were as liberal as my own. ready have imagined, I fell a prey to his artiWhen any of these happened to be the topic offices. He had not been able so thoroughly to our discourse, I, who before had been silent, convert me, that my conscience was silent on from a fear of being single in opposition, now the subject ; but he was so assiduous to give rekindled at the fire he raised, and defended our peated proofs of unabated affection, that I hushed mutual opinions with all the eloquence I was its suggestions as they rose. The world, howmistress of. He would be respectfully attentive ever, I knew, was not to be silenced ; and thereall the while ; and when I had ended, would fore I took occasion to express my uneasiness to raise his eyes from the ground, look at me with my seducer, and entreat him, as he valued the a gaze of admiration, and express his applause peace of one to whom he professed such attachin the highest strain of encomium. This was ment, to remove it by a marriage. He made an incense the more pleasing, as I seldom or excuses from his dependence on the will of his never had met with it before ; for the young father, but quieted my fears by the promise of gentlemen who visited Sir George were for the endeavouring to win his assent. most part of that common race of country squires, “My father had been some days absent on a the pleasure of whose lives is derived from foxvisit to a dying relation, from whom he had hunting: these are seldom solicitous to please considerable expectations. I was left at home, the women at all, or if they were, would never with no other company than my books : my think of applying their flattery to the mind. books I found were not now such companions
“ Mr Winbrooke observed the weakness of as they used to be; I was restless, melancholy, my soul, and took every occasion of improving unsatisfied with myself. But judge my situathe esteem he had gained. He asked my opi- tion when I received a billet from Mr Winnion of every author, of every sentiment, with brooke, informing me, that he had sounded Sir that submissive diffidence, which shewed an un- George on the subject we had talked of, and limited confidence in my understanding. I saw found him so averse to any match so unequal to myself revered, as a superior being, by one whose his own rank and fortune, that he was obliged, judgment iny vanity told me was not likely to with whatever reluctance, to bid adieu to a err; preferred by him to all the other visitors place, the remembrance of which should ever of my sex, whose fortunes and rank should have be dear to him. entitled them to a much higher degree of notice. “I read this letter a hundred times over. I saw their little jealousies at the distinguished Alone, helpless, conscious of guilt, and abanattention he paid me; it was gratitude, it was doned by every better thought, my mind was pride, it was love ! love, which had made too one motley scene of terror, confusion, and refatal a progress in my heart, before any decla- morse. A thousand expedients suggested themration on his part should have warranted a re- selves, and a thousand fears told me they would turn : but I interpreted every lock of attention, be vain : at last, in an agony of despair, I packed every expression of compliment, to the passion up a few clothes, took what money and trinkets I imagined him inspired with, and imputed to were in the house, and set out for London, whihis sensibility that silence which was the effect ther I understood he was gone; pretending to of art and design. At length, however, he took my maid, that I had received letters from my an opportunity of declaring his love: he now father requiring my immediate attendance. I expressed himself in such ardent terms, that had no other companion than a boy, a servant prudence might have suspected their sincerity: to the man from whom I hired my horses. I arbut prudence is rarely found in the situation I rived in London within an hour of Mr Winhad been unguardedly led into ; besides, that brooke, and accidentally alighted at the very inn the course of reading to which I had been ac- where he was. customed, did not lead me to conclude, that his . “He started and turned pale when he saw expressions could be too warm to be sincere: me; but recovered himself in time enough to nor was I even alarmed at the manner in which make many new protestations of regard, and he talked of marriage, a subjection, he often beg me to make myself easy under a disappointhinted, to which genuine love should scorn to ment which was equally afflicting to him. He be confined. The woman, he would often say, procured me lodgings, where I slept, or rather who had merit like mine to fix his affection, endeavoured to sleep, for that night. Next could easily command it for ever. That honour, morning I saw him again; he then mildly obtoo, which I revered, was often called in to en- served on the imprudence of my precipitate force his sentiments. I did not, however, ab- flight from the country, and proposed my resolutely assent to them ; but I found my regard moving to lodgings at another end of the town, for their opposites diminish by degrees. If it is to elude the search of my father, till he should dangerous to be convinced, it is dangerous to fall upon some method of excusing my conduct listen ; for our reason is so much of a machine, to him, and reconciling him to my return. We that it will not always be able to resist, when took a hackney-coach, and drove to the house the ear is perpetually assailed.
he mentioned. “In short, Mr Harley, (for I tire you with a “ It was situated in a dirty lane, furnished
with a tawdry affectation of finery, with some would have plunged it in my breast ; but the old family pictures hanging on walls which their monster prevented my purpose, and, smiling with own cobwebs would better have suited. I was a grin of barbarous insult, Madam,' said he, struck with a secret dread at entering ; nor was 'I confess you are too much in heroics for me: it lessened by the appearance of the landlady, I am sorry we should differ about trifles; but who had that look of selfish shrewdness, which, as I seem somehow to have offended you, I of all others, is the most hateful to those whose would willingly remedy it by taking my leave. feelings are untinctured with the world. A girl, You have been put to some foolish expense in who she told us was her niece, sat by her, play this journey on my account; allow me to reiming on a guitar, while herself was at work, with burse you.' So saying, he laid a bank-bill, of the assistance of spectacles, and had a prayer- what amount I had no patience to see, upon the book, with the leaves folded down in several table. Shame, grief, and indignation, choked places, lying on the table before her.-Perhaps, my utterance; unable to speak my wrongs, and sir, I tire you with my minuteness; but the unable to bear them in silence, I fell in a swoon place, and every circumstance about it, is so im- at his feet. pressed on my mind, that I shall never forget it. “What happened in the interval I cannot
“I dined that day with Mr Winbrooke alone. tell ; but when I came to myself, I was in the He lost by degrees that restraint which I per- arms of the landlady, with her niece chafing my ceived too well to hang about him before, and, temples, and doing all in her power for my rewith his former gaiety and good-humour, re- covery. She had much compassion in her coun· peated the filattering things, which, though they tenance: the old woman assumed the softest had once been fatal, I durst not now distrust. look she was capable of, and both endeavoured At last, taking my hand and kissing it, it is to bring me to comfort. They continued to thus,' said he,' that love will last, while free- shew me many civilities, and even the aunt bedom is preserved ; thus let us ever be blest, gan to be less disagreeable in my sight. To the without the galling thought that we are tied to wretched, to the forlorn, as I was, small offices a condition where we may cease to be so.' I of kindness are endearing. answered, “That the world thought otherwise; “ Mean time my money was far spent, nor that it had certain ideas of good fame, which it did I attempt to conceal my wants from their was impossible not to wish to maintain.'-'The knowledge. I had frequent thoughts of reworld,' said he, “is a tyrant; they are slaves turning to my father ; but the dread of a life of who obey it: let us be happy without the pale scorn is insurmountable. I avoided, therefore, of the world. To-morrow I shall leave this going abroad when I had a chance of being seen quarter of it, for one where the talkers of the by any former acquaintance, nor indeed did my world shall be foiled, and lose us. Could not health for a great while permit it; and suffered my Emily accompany me--my friend, my com- the old woman, at her own suggestion, to call panion, the mistress of my soul ?-Nay, do not me niece at home, where we now and then saw look so, Emily ! your father may grieve for a (when they could prevail on me to leave my while, but your father shall be taken care of; room) one or two other elder women, and somethis bank-bill I intend as the comfort for his times a grave, business-like man, who shewed daughter.'
great compassion for my indisposition, and made "I could contain myself no longer: 'Wretch! me very obligingly an offer of a room at his I exclaimed, “ dost thou imagine that my fa. country-house for the recovery of my health. ther's heart could brook dependence on the de- This offer I did not chuse to accept; but told stroyer of his child, and tamely accept of a base my landlady, that I should be glad to be emequivalent for her honour and his own?'-'Ho- ployed in any way of business which my skill nour, my Emily,' said he, " is the word of in needlework could recommend me to; confools, or of those wiser men who cheat them. fessing, at the same time, that I was afraid I 'Tis a fantastic bauble, that does not suit the should scarce be able to pay her what I already gravity of your father's age ; but, whatever it owed for board and lodging; and that for her is, I am afraid it can never be perfectly restored other good offices, I had nothing but thanks to to you : exchange the word then, and let plea- give her.' sure be your object now. At these words he “My dear child,' said she, do not talk of clasped me in his arms, and pressed his lips paying ; since I lost my own sweet girl, (here rudely to my bosom. I started from my seat. she wept,) your very picture she was, Miss • Perfidious villain !' said I, who dar'st in- Emily, I have nobody, except my niece, to sult the weakness thou hast undone ; were that whom I should leave any little thing I have father here, thy coward soul would shrink from been able to save: you shall live with me, my the vengeance of his honour !-Curst be that dear; and I have sometimes a little millinery wretch who has deprived him of it! oh! doubly work, in which, when you are inclined to it, curst, who has dragged on his hoary head the you may assist us. By the way, here are a infamy which should have crushed her own!' pair of ruffles we have just finished for that I snatched a knife which lay beside me, and gentleman you saw here at tea; a distant relation of mine, and a worthy man he is. 'Twas a sciousness which they cannot lose ; did they pity you refused the offer of an apartment at know, did they think of this, Mr Harley ! his country-house; my niece, you know, was to their censures are just; but their pity, perhaps, have accompanied you, and you might have might spare the wretches whom their justice fancied yourself at home: a most sweet place it should condemn. is, and but a short mile beyond Hampstead. “ Last night, but for an exertion of benevoWho knows, Miss Emily, what effect such a lence which the infection of our infamy previsit might have had ? if I had half your beauty, vents even in the humane, I had been thrust I should not waste it pining after e'er a worth- out from this miserable place which misfortune less fellow of them all. I felt my heart swell has yet left me; exposed to the brutal insults of at her words; I would have been angry if I drunkenness, or dragged by that justice which could; but I was in that stupid state which I could not bribe, to the punishment which may is not easily awakened to anger: when I would correct, but, alas! can never amend, the abanhave chid her, the reproof stuck in my throat ; doned objects of its terrors. From that, Mr I could only weep!
Harley, your goodness has relieved me.” “Her want of respect increased, as I had not He beckoned with his hand: he would have spirit to assert it; my work was now rather im- stopped the mention of his favours ; but he posed than offered, and I became a drudge for could not speak, had it been to beg a diadem. the bread I eat: but my dependance and servi- She saw his tears; her fortitude began to lity grew in proportion, and I was now in a si- fail at the sight, when the voice of some strantuation which could not make any extraordinary ger on the stairs awakened her attention. She exertions to disengage itself from cither; I listened for a moment; then starting up, exfound myself with child.
claimed, “ Merciful God ! my father's voice!" “ At last the wretch, who had thus trained She had scarce uttered the word, when the me to destruction, hinted the purpose for which door burst open, and a man entered in the garb those means had been used. I discovered her of an officer. When he discovered his daughter to be an artful procuress for the pleasures of and Harley, he started back a few paces; his those, who are men of decency to the world in look assumed a furious wildness; he laid his the midst of debauchery.
hand on his sword. The two objects of his “I roused every spark of courage within wrath did not utter a syllable. “Villain,” he me at the horrid proposal. She treated my cried, “ thou seest a father who had once a passion at first somewhat mildly; but when I daughter's honour to preserve ; blasted as it continued to exert it, she resented it with in- now is, behold him ready to avenge its loss !" sult, and told me plainly, That if I did not Harley had by this time some power of uttersoon comply with her desires, I should pay her ance. “Sir,” said he, “ if you will be a moevery farthing I owed, or rot in a jail for life. ment calm—" “ Infamous coward!” interruptI trembled at the thought ; still, however, I re- ed the other, “ dost thou preach calmness to sisted her importunities, and she put her threats wrongs like mine?” He drew his sword. “Sir," in execution. I was conveyed to prison, weak said Harley, “ let me tell you”—The blood ran from my condition, weaker from that struggle quicker to his cheek-his pulse beat one--no of grief and misery which for some time I more--and regained the temperament of humahad suffered. A miscarriage was the conse- nity.--" You are deceived, sir," said he, “ you quence.
are much deceived; but I forgive suspicions “ Amidst all the horrors of such a state, sur- which your misfortunes have justified: I would rounded with wretches totally callous, lost alike not wrong you, upon my soul I would not, for to humanity and to shame, think, Mr Harley, the dearest gratification of a thousand worlds ; think what I endured ; nor wonder that I at my heart bleeds for you!" last yielded to the solicitations of that miscreant His daughter was now prostrate at his feet, I had seen at her house, and sunk to the pros- “ Strike,” said she, “ strike here a wretch, titution which he tempted. But that was hap- whose misery cannot end but with that death piness compared to what I have suffered since. she deserves." Her hair had fallen on her He soon abandoned me to the common use of shoulders ; her look had the horrid calmness of the town, and I was cast among those misera- out-breathed despair! Her father would have ble beings in whose society I have since remain spoken; his lip quivered, his cheek grew pale ; ed.
his eyes lost the lightning of their fury! there “Oh! did the daughters of virtue know our was a reproach in them, but with a mingling of sufferings; did they see our hearts torn with pity! he turned them up to heaven-then on anguish amidst the affectation of gaiety which his daughter.--He laid his left hand on his our faces are obliged to assume; our bodies heart—the sword dropped from his right-heing tortured by discase, our minds with that con- burst into tears.
ley lodged, he was informed that the first floor
was then vacant, and that the gentleman and his CHAP. XXIX.
daughter might be accommodated there. While
he was upon this inquiry, Miss Atkins informed The Distresses of a Father.
her father more particularly what she owed to
his benevolence. When he returned into the Harley kneeled also at the side of the unfor- room where they were, Atkins ran and embratunate daughter. “ Allow me, sir," said he, ced him, begged him again to forgive the of“ to entreat your pardon for one whose offences fence he had given him, and made the warmest have been already so signally punished. I know, protestations of gratitude for his favours. We I feel, that those tears, wrung from the heart of would attempt to describe the joy which Harley a father, are more dreadful to her than all the felt on this occasion, did it not occur to us that punishments your sword could have inflicted. one half of the world could not understand it, Accept the contrition of a child whom Heaven though we did ; and the other half will, by this has restored to you."-" Is she not lost,” an- time, have understood it without any description swered he, “ irrecoverably lost ? Damnation ! at all. a common prostitute to the meanest ruffian !"- Miss Atkins now retired to her chamber to “ Calmly, my dear sir,” said Harley ; “ did take some rest from the violence of the emotions you know by what complicated misfortunes she she had suffered. When she was gone, her fahas fallen to that miserable state in which you ther, addressing himself to Harley, said, “You now behold her, I should have no need of words have a right, sir, to be informed of the present to excite your compassion. Think, sir, of what situation of one who owes so much to your comonce she was! Would you abandon her to the passion for his misfortunes. My daughter, I insults of an unfeeling world, deny her oppor. find, has informed you what that was at the fatunity for penitence, and cut off the little com- tal juncture when they began. Her distresses fort that still remains for your afflictions and you have heard, you have pitied as they deserher own !"-"Speak,” said he, addressing him- ved ; with mine, perhaps, I cannot so easily self to his daughter; “ speak, I will hear thee.” make you acquainted. You have a feeling heart, The desperation that supported her was lost ; Mr Harley ; I bless it that it has saved my child she fell to the ground, and bathed his feet with but you never were a father, a father torn by her tears!
that most dreadful of calamities—the dishonour Harley undertook her cause. He related the of a child he doated on! You have been already treacheries to which she had fallen a sacrifice, informed of some of the circumstances of her and again solicited the forgiveness of her father. elopement. I was then from bome, called by Ile looked on her for some time in silence; the the death of a relation, who, though he would pride of a soldier's honour checked, for a while, never advance me a shilling, on the utmost exithe yearnings of his heart; but nature at last gency, in his lifetime, left me all the gleanings prevailed, he fell on her neck, and mingled his of his frugality at his death. I would not write tears with hers.
this intelligence to my daughter, because I inHarley, who discovered from the dress of the tended to be the bearer myself; and, as soon as stranger that he was just arrived from a journey, my business would allow me, I set out on my begged that they would both remove to his lod- return, winged with all the haste of paternal afgings till he could procure others for them. At- fection. I fondly built those schemes of future kins looked at him with some marks of surprise. happiness which present prosperity is ever busy His daughter now first recovered the power of to suggest : My Emily was concerned in them speech :" Wretch as I am,” said she, “ yet all. As I approached our little dwelling, my there is some gratitude due to the preserver of heart throbbed with the anticipation of joy and your child. See him now before you. To him welcome. I imagined the cheering fire, the blissI owe my life, or at least the comfort of implo- ful contentment of a frugal meal, made luxu. ring your forgiveness before I die."-" Pardon rious by a daughter's smile. I painted to myme, young gentleman,” said Atkins, “I fear self her surprise at the tidings of our new-acmy passion wronged you."-". Never, never, quired riches, our fond disputes about the dissir," said Harley ; “ if it had, your reconcilia- posal of them. tion to your daughter were an atonement a “The road was shortened by the dreams of thousandfold.” He then repeated his request, happiness I enjoyed, and it began to be dark as that he might be allowed to conduct them to I reached the house ; 1 alighted from my horse, his lodgings, to which Mr Atkins at last con- and walked softly up stairs to the room we comsented. He took his daughter's arm. “ Come, monly sat in. I was somewhat disappointed at my Emily,” said he,“ we can never, never re- not finding my daughter there. I rung the bell ; cover that happiness we have lost! But time her maid appeared, and shewed no small signs may teach us to remember our misfortunes with of wonder at the summons. She blessed herself, patience."
as she entered the room ; I smiled at her surWhen they arrived at the house where Har- prise. “Where is Miss Emily, sir?' said she.