A SIMPLE STORY
WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY
G. L. STRACHEY
LONDON HENRY FROWDE 1908
OXFORD: HORACE HART PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY
VOLUME I I-CHAPTER I 5 I-CHAPTER II 8 I-CHAPTER III 13 I-CHAPTER IV 14 I-CHAPTER V 17 I-CHAPTER VI 22 I-CHAPTER VII 25 I-CHAPTER VIII 31 I-CHAPTER IX 34 I-CHAPTER X 38 I-CHAPTER XI 42 I-CHAPTER XII 47 I-CHAPTER XIII 53 I-CHAPTER XIV 57 I-CHAPTER XV 63 I-CHAPTER XVI 69 I-CHAPTER XVII 78
VOLUME II II-CHAPTER I 85 II-CHAPTER II 90 II-CHAPTER III 94 II-CHAPTER IV 102 II-CHAPTER V 112 II-CHAPTER VI 117 II-CHAPTER VII 121 II-CHAPTER VIII 131 II-CHAPTER IX 138 II-CHAPTER X 146 II-CHAPTER XI 153 II-CHAPTER XII 164
VOLUME III III-CHAPTER I 173 III-CHAPTER II 177 III-CHAPTER III 179 III-CHAPTER IV 187 III-CHAPTER V 188 III-CHAPTER VI 194 III-CHAPTER VII 201 III-CHAPTER VIII 204 III-CHAPTER IX 205 III-CHAPTER X 214 III-CHAPTER XI 218 III-CHAPTER XII 227 III-CHAPTER XIII 233 III-CHAPTER XIV 244
VOLUME IV IV-CHAPTER I 247 IV-CHAPTER II 250 IV-CHAPTER III 255 IV-CHAPTER IV 261 IV-CHAPTER V 266 IV-CHAPTER VI 270 IV-CHAPTER VII 277 IV-CHAPTER VIII 283 IV-CHAPTER IX 285 IV-CHAPTER X 288 IV-CHAPTER XI 291 IV-CHAPTER XII 293
A Simple Story is one of those books which, for some reason or other, have failed to come down to us, as they deserved, along the current of time, but have drifted into a literary backwater where only the professional critic or the curious discoverer can find them out. "The iniquity of oblivion blindly scattereth her poppy;" and nowhere more blindly than in the republic of letters. If we were to inquire how it has happened that the true value of Mrs. Inchbald's achievement has passed out of general recognition, perhaps the answer to our question would be found to lie in the extreme difficulty with which the mass of readers detect and appreciate mere quality in literature. Their judgment is swayed by a hundred side-considerations which have nothing to do with art, but happen easily to impress the imagination, or to fit in with the fashion of the hour. The reputation of Mrs. Inchbald's contemporary, Fanny Burney, is a case in point. Every one has heard of Fanny Burney's novels, and Evelina is still widely read. Yet it is impossible to doubt that, so far as quality alone is concerned, Evelina deserves to be ranked considerably below A Simple Story. But its writer was the familiar friend of the greatest spirits of her age; she was the author of one of the best of diaries; and her work was immediately and immensely popular. Thus it has happened that the name of Fanny Burney has maintained its place upon the roll of English novelists, while that of Mrs. Inchbald is forgotten.
But the obscurity of Mrs. Inchbald's career has not, of course, been the only reason for the neglect of her work. The merits of A Simple Story are of a kind peculiarly calculated to escape the notice of a generation of readers brought up on the fiction of the nineteenth century. That fiction, infinitely various as it is, possesses at least one characteristic common to the whole of it—a breadth of outlook upon life, which can be paralleled by no other body of literature in the world save that of the Elizabethans. But the comprehensiveness of view shared by Dickens and Tolstoy, by Balzac and George Eliot, finds no place in Mrs. Inchbald's work. Compared with A Simple Story even the narrow canvases of Jane Austen seem spacious pictures of diversified life. Mrs. Inchbald's novel is not concerned with the world at large, or with any section of society, hardly even with the family; its subject is a group of two or three individuals whose interaction forms the whole business of the book. There is no local colour in it, no complexity of detail nor violence of contrast; the atmosphere is vague and neutral, the action passes among ill-defined sitting-rooms, and the most poignant scene in the story takes place upon a staircase which has never been described. Thus the reader of modern novels is inevitably struck, in A Simple Story, by a sense of emptiness and thinness, which may well blind him to high intrinsic merits. The spirit of the eighteenth century is certainly present in the book, but it is the eighteenth century of France rather than of England. Mrs. Inchbald no doubt owed much to Richardson; her view of life is the indoor sentimental view of the great author of Clarissa; but her treatment of it has very little in common with his method of microscopic analysis and vast accumulation. If she belongs to any school, it is among the followers of the French classical tradition that she must be placed. A Simple Story is, in its small way, a descendant of the Tragedies of Racine; and Miss Milner may claim relationship with Madame de Cleves.
Besides her narrowness of vision, Mrs. Inchbald possesses another quality, no less characteristic of her French predecessors, and no less rare among the novelists of England. She is essentially a stylist—a writer whose whole conception of her art is dominated by stylistic intention. Her style, it is true, is on the whole poor; it is often heavy and pompous, sometimes clumsy and indistinct; compared with the style of such a master as Thackeray it sinks at once into insignificance. But the interest of her style does not lie in its intrinsic merit so much as in the use to which she puts it. Thackeray's style is mere ornament, existing independently of what he has to say; Mrs. Inchbald's is part and parcel of her matter. The result is that when, in moments of inspiration, she rises to the height of her opportunity, when, mastering her material, she invests her expression with the whole intensity of her feeling and her thought, then she achieves effects of the rarest beauty—effects of a kind for which one may search through Thackeray in vain. The most triumphant of these passages is the scene on the staircase of Elmwood House—a passage which would be spoilt by quotation and which no one who has ever read it could forget. But the same quality is to be found throughout her work. "Oh, Miss Woodley!" exclaims Miss Milner, forced at last to confess to her friend what she feels towards Dorriforth, "I love him with all the passion of a mistress, and with all the tenderness of a wife." No young lady, even in the eighteenth century, ever gave utterance to such a sentence as that. It is the sentence, not of a speaker, but of a writer; and yet, for that very reason, it is delightful, and comes to us charged with a curious sense of emotion, which is none the less real for its elaboration. In Nature and Art, Mrs. Inchbald's second novel, the climax of the story is told in a series of short paragraphs, which, for bitterness and concentration of style, are almost reminiscent of Stendhal:
The jury consulted for a few minutes. The verdict was "Guilty".
She heard it with composure.
But when William placed the fatal velvet on his head and rose to pronounce sentence, she started with a kind of convulsive motion, retreated a step or two back, and, lifting up her hands with a scream, exclaimed—
"Oh, not from you!"
The piercing shriek which accompanied these words prevented their being heard by part of the audience; and those who heard them thought little of their meaning, more than that they expressed her fear of dying.
Serene and dignified, as if no such exclamation had been uttered, William delivered the fatal speech, ending with "Dead, dead, dead".
She fainted as he closed the period, and was carried back to prison in a swoon; while he adjourned the court to go to dinner.
Here, no doubt, there is a touch of melodrama; but it is the melodrama of a rhetorician, and, in that fine "She heard it with composure", genius has brushed aside the forced and the obvious, to express, with supreme directness, the anguish of a soul.
For, in spite of Mrs. Inchbald's artificialities, in spite of her lack of that kind of realistic description which seems to modern readers the very blood and breath of a good story, she has the power of doing what, after all, only a very few indeed of her fellow craftsmen have ever been able to do—she can bring into her pages the living pressure of a human passion, she can invest, if not with realism, with something greater than realism—with the sense of reality itself—the pains, the triumphs, and the agitations of the human heart. "The heart," to use the old-fashioned phrase—there is Mrs. Inchbald's empire, there is the sphere of her glory and her command. Outside of it, her powers are weak and fluctuating. She has no firm grasp of the masculine elements in character: she wishes to draw a rough man, Sandford, and she draws a rude one; she tries her hand at a hero, Rushbrook, and she turns out a prig. Her humour is not faulty, but it is exceedingly slight. What an immortal figure the dim Mrs. Horton would have become in the hands of Jane Austen! In Nature and Art, her attempts at social satire are superficial and overstrained. But weaknesses of this kind—and it would be easy to prolong the list—are what every reader of the following pages will notice without difficulty, and what no wise one will regard. "Il ne faut point juger des hommes par ce qu'ils ignorent, mais par ce qu'ils savent;" and Mrs. Inchbald's knowledge was as profound as it was limited. Her Miss Milner is an original and brilliant creation, compact of charm and life. She is a flirt, and a flirt not only adorable, but worthy of adoration. Did Mrs. Inchbald take the suggestion of a heroine with imperfections from the little masterpiece which, on more sides than one, closely touches her's—Manon Lescaut? Perhaps; and yet, if this was so, the borrowing was of the slightest, for it is only in the fact that she is imperfect that Miss Milner bears to Manon any resemblance at all. In every other respect, the English heroine is the precise contrary of the French one: she is a creature of fiery will, of high bearing, of noble disposition; and her shortcomings are born, not of weakness, but of excess of strength. Mrs. Inchbald has taken this character, she has thrown it under the influence of a violent and absorbing passion, and, upon that theme, she has written her delicate, sympathetic, and artificial book.
As one reads it, one cannot but feel that it is, if not directly and circumstantially, at least in essence, autobiographical. One finds oneself speculating over the author, wondering what was her history, and how much of it was Miss Milner's. Unfortunately the greater part of what we should most like to know of Mrs. Inchbald's life has vanished beyond recovery. She wrote her Memoirs, and she burnt them; and who can tell whether even there we should have found a self-revelation? Confessions are sometimes curiously discreet, and, in the case of Mrs. Inchbald, we may be sure that it is only what was indiscreet that would really be worth the hearing. Yet her life is not devoid of interest. A brief sketch of it may be welcome to her readers.
Elizabeth Inchbald was born on the 15th of October, 1753, at Standingfield, near Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk; one of the numerous offspring of John and Mary Simpson. The Simpsons, who were Roman Catholics, held a moderate farm in Standingfield, and ranked among the gentry of the neighbourhood. In Elizabeth's eighth year, her father died; but the family continued at the farm, the elder daughters marrying and settling in London, while Elizabeth grew up into a beautiful and charming girl. One misfortune, however, interfered with her happiness—a defect of utterance which during her early years rendered her speech so indistinct as to be unintelligible to strangers. She devoted herself to reading and to dreams of the great world. At thirteen, she declared she would rather die than live longer without seeing the world; she longed to go to London; she longed to go upon the stage. When, in 1770, one of her brothers became an actor at Norwich, she wrote secretly to his manager, Mr. Griffith, begging for an engagement. Mr. Griffith was encouraging, and, though no definite steps were taken, she was sufficiently charmed with him to write out his name at length in her diary, with the inscription "Each dear letter of thy name is harmony." Was Mr. Griffith the hero of the company as well as its manager? That, at any rate, was clearly Miss Simpson's opinion; but she soon had other distractions. In the following year she paid a visit to her married sisters in London, where she met another actor, Mr. Inchbald, who seems immediately to have fallen in love with her, and to have proposed. She remained cool. "In spite of your eloquent pen," she wrote to him, with a touch of that sharp and almost bitter sense that was always hers, "matrimony still appears to me with less charms than terrors: the bliss arising from it, I doubt not, is superior to any other—but best not to be ventured for (in my opinion), till some little time have proved the emptiness of all other; which it seldom fails to do." Nevertheless, the correspondence continued, and, early in 1772, some entries in her diary give a glimpse of her state of mind:—
Jan. 22. Saw Mr. Griffith's picture.
Jan. 28. Stole it.
Jan. 29. Rather disappointed at not receiving a letter from Mr. Inchbald.
A few months later she did the great deed of her life: she stepped secretly into the Norwich coach, and went to London. The days that followed were full of hazard and adventure, but the details of them are uncertain. She was a girl of eighteen, absolutely alone, and astonishingly attractive—"tall," we are told, "slender, straight, of the purest complexion, and most beautiful features; her hair of a golden auburn, her eyes full at once of spirit and sweetness;" and it was only to be expected that, in such circumstances, romance and daring would soon give place to discomfort and alarm. She attempted in vain to obtain a theatrical engagement; she found herself, more than once, obliged to shift her lodging; and at last, after ten days of trepidation, she was reduced to apply for help to her married sisters. This put an end to her difficulties, but, in spite of her efforts to avoid notice, her beauty had already attracted attention, and she had received a letter from a stranger, with whom she immediately entered into correspondence. She had all the boldness of innocence, and, in addition, a force of character which brought her safely through the risks she ran. While she was still in her solitary lodging, a theatrical manager, named Dodd, attempted to use his position as a cover for seduction. She had several interviews with him alone, and the story goes that, in the last, she snatched up a basin of hot water and dashed it in his face. But she was not to go unprotected for long; for within two months of her arrival in London she had married Mr. Inchbald.
The next twelve years of Mrs. Inchbald's life were passed amid the rough and tumble of the eighteenth-century stage. Her husband was thirty-seven when she married him, a Roman Catholic like herself, and an actor who depended for his living upon ill-paid and uncertain provincial engagements. Mrs. Inchbald conquered her infirmity of speech and threw herself into her husband's profession. She accompanied him to Bristol, to Scotland, to Liverpool, to Birmingham, appearing in a great variety of roles, but never with any very conspicuous success. The record of these journeys throws an interesting light upon the conditions of the provincial companies of those days. Mrs. Inchbald and her companions would set out to walk from one Scotch town to another; they would think themselves lucky if they could climb on to a passing cart, to arrive at last, drenched with rain perhaps, at some wretched hostelry. But this kind of barbarism did not stand in the way of an almost childish gaiety. In Yorkshire, we find the Inchbalds, the Siddonses, and Kemble retiring to the moors, in the intervals of business, to play blindman's buff or puss in the corner. Such were the pastimes of Mrs. Siddons before the days of her fame. No doubt this kind of lightheartedness was the best antidote to the experience of being "saluted with volleys of potatoes and broken bottles", as the Siddonses were by the citizens of Liverpool, for having ventured to appear on their stage without having ever played before the King. On this occasion, the audience, according to a letter from Kemble to Mrs. Inchbald, "extinguished all the lights round the house; then jumped upon the stage; brushed every lamp out with their hats; took back their money; left the theatre, and determined themselves to repeat this till they have another company." These adventures were diversified by a journey to Paris, undertaken in the hope that Mr. Inchbald, who found himself without engagements, might pick up a livelihood as a painter of miniatures. The scheme came to nothing, and the Inchbalds eventually went to Hull, where they returned to their old profession. Here, in 1779, suddenly and somewhat mysteriously, Mr. Inchbald died. To his widow the week that followed was one of "grief, horror, and almost despair"; but soon, with her old pertinacity, she was back at her work, settling at last in London, and becoming a member of the Covent Garden company. Here, for the next five years, she earned for herself a meagre living, until, quite unexpectedly, deliverance came. In her moments of leisure she had been trying her hand upon dramatic composition; she had written some farces, and, in 1784, one of them, A Mogul Tale, was accepted, acted, and obtained a great success. This was the turning-point of her career. She followed up her farce with a series of plays, either original or adapted, which, almost without exception, were well received, so that she was soon able to retire from the stage with a comfortable competence. She had succeeded in life; she was happy, respected, free.
Mrs. Inchbald's plays are so bad that it is difficult to believe that they brought her a fortune. But no doubt it was their faults that made them popular—their sentimentalities, their melodramatic absurdities, their strangely false and high-pitched moral tone. They are written in a jargon which resembles, if it resembles anything, an execrable prose translation from very flat French verse. "Ah, Manuel!" exclaims one of her heroines, "I am now amply punished by the Marquis for all my cruelty to Duke Cordunna—he to whom my father in my infancy betrothed me, and to whom I willingly pledged my faith, hoping to wed; till Romono, the Marquis of Romono, came from the field of glory, and with superior claims of person as of fame, seized on my heart by force, and perforce made me feel I had never loved till then." Which is the more surprising—that actors could be found to utter such speeches, or that audiences could be collected to applaud them? Perhaps, for us, the most memorable fact about Mrs. Inchbald's dramatic work is that one of her adaptations (from the German of Kotzebue) was no other than that Lovers' Vows which, as every one knows, was rehearsed so brilliantly at Ecclesford, the seat of the Right Hon. Lord Ravenshaw, in Cornwall, and which, after all, was not performed at Sir Thomas Bertram's. But that is an interest sub specie aeternitatis; and, from the temporal point of view, Mrs. Inchbald's plays must be regarded merely as means—means towards her own enfranchisement, and that condition of things which made possible A Simple Story. That novel had been sketched as early as 1777; but it was not completely written until 1790, and not published until the following year. A second edition was printed immediately, and several more followed; the present reprint is taken from the fourth, published in 1799—but with the addition of the characteristic preface, which, after the second edition, was dropped. The four small volumes of these early editions, with their large type, their ample spacing, their charming flavour of antiquity, delicacy, and rest—may be met with often enough in secluded corners of secondhand bookshops, or on some neglected shelf in the library of a country house. For their own generation, they represented a distinguished title to fame. Mrs. Inchbald—to use the expression of her biographer—"was ascertained to be one of the greatest ornaments of her sex." She was painted by Lawrence, she was eulogized by Miss Edgeworth, she was complimented by Madame de Stael herself. She had, indeed, won for herself a position which can hardly be paralleled among the women of the eighteenth century—a position of independence and honour, based upon talent, and upon talent alone. In 1796 she published Nature and Art, and ten years later appeared her last work—a series of biographical and critical notices prefixed to a large collection of acting plays. During the greater part of the intervening period she lived in lodgings in Leicester Square—or "Leicester Fields" as the place was still often called—in a house opposite that of Sir Joshua Reynolds. The oeconomy which she had learnt in her early days she continued to practise; dressing with extraordinary plainness, and often going without a fire in winter; so that she was able, through her self-sacrifice, to keep from want a large band of poor relatives and friends. The society she mixed with was various, but, for the most part, obscure. There were occasional visits from the now triumphant Mrs. Siddons; there were incessant propositions—but alas! they were equivocal—from Sir Charles Bunbury; for the rest, she passed her life among actor-managers and humble playwrights and unremembered medical men. One of her friends was William Godwin, who described her to Mrs. Shelley as a "piquante mixture between a lady and a milkmaid", and who, it is said, suggested part of the plot of A Simple Story. But she quarreled with him when he married Mary Wollstonecraft, after whose death she wrote to him thus—"With the most sincere sympathy in all you have suffered—with the most perfect forgiveness of all you have said to me, there must nevertheless be an end to our acquaintance for ever. I respect your prejudices, but I also respect my own." Far more intimate were her relations with Dr. Gisborne—a mysterious figure, with whom, in some tragic manner that we can only just discern, was enacted her final romance. His name—often in company with that of another physician, Dr. Warren, for whom, too, she had a passionate affection—occurs frequently among her papers; and her diary for December 17, 1794, has this entry:—"Dr. Gisborne drank tea here, and staid very late: he talked seriously of marrying—but not me." Many years later, one September, she amused herself by making out a list of all the Septembers since her marriage, with brief notes as to her state of mind during each. The list has fortunately survived, and some of the later entries are as follows:—
1791. London; after my novel, Simple Story ... very happy.
1792. London; in Leicester Square ... cheerful, content, and sometimes rather happy....
1794. Extremely happy, but for poor Debby's death.
1795. My brother George's death, and an intimate acquaintance with Dr. Gisborne—not happy....
1797. After an alteration in my teeth, and the death of Dr. Warren—yet far from unhappy.
1798. Happy, but for suspicion amounting almost to certainty of a rapid appearance of age in my face....
1802. After feeling wholly indifferent about Dr. Gisborne—very happy but for ill health, ill looks, &c.
1803. After quitting Leicester Square probably for ever—after caring scarce at all or thinking of Dr. Gisborne ... very happy....
1806.... After the death of Dr. Gisborne, too, often very unhappy, yet mostly cheerful, and on my return to London nearly happy.
The record, with all its quaintness, produces a curious impression of stoicism—of a certain grim acceptance of the facts of life. It would have been a pleasure, certainly, but an alarming pleasure, to have known Mrs. Inchbald.
In the early years of the century, she gradually withdrew from London, establishing herself in suburban boarding-houses, often among sisters of charity, and devoting her days to the practice of her religion. In her early and middle life she had been an indifferent Catholic: "Sunday. Rose late, dressed, and read in the Bible about David, &c."—this is one of the very few references in her diary to anything approaching a religious observance during many years. But, in her old age, her views changed; her devotions increased with her retirement; and her retirement was at last complete. She died, in an obscure Kensington boarding-house, on August 1, 1821. She was buried in Kensington churchyard. But, if her ghost lingers anywhere, it is not in Kensington: it is in the heart of the London that she had always loved. Yet, even there, how much now would she find to recognize? Mrs. Inchbald's world has passed away from us for ever; and, as we walk there to-day amid the press of the living, it is hard to believe that she too was familiar with Leicester Square.
G. L. STRACHEY.
 The following account is based upon the Memoirs of Mrs. Inchbald, including her familiar correspondence with the most distinguished persons of her time, edited by James Boaden, Esq.—a discursive, vague, and not unamusing book.
IN FOUR VOLUMES,
THE FOURTH EDITION.
Printed for G. G. and J. ROBINSON, PATERNOSTER ROW.
It is said, a book should be read with the same spirit with which it has been written. In that case, fatal must be the reception of this—for the writer frankly avows, that during the time she has been writing it, she has suffered every quality and degree of weariness and lassitude, into which no other employment could have betrayed her.
It has been the destiny of the writer of this Story to be occupied throughout her life, in what has the least suited either her inclination or capacity—with an invincible impediment in her speech, it was her lot for thirteen years to gain a subsistence by public speaking—and, with the utmost detestation to the fatigue of inventing, a constitution suffering under a sedentary life, and an education confined to the narrow boundaries prescribed her sex, it has been her fate to devote a tedious seven years to the unremitting labour of literary productions—whilst a taste for authors of the first rank has been an additional punishment, forbidding her one moment of those self-approving reflections, which are assuredly due to the industrious. But, alas! in the exercise of the arts, industry scarce bears the name of merit. What then is to be substituted in the place of genius? GOOD FORTUNE. And if these volumes should be attended by the good fortune that has accompanied her other writings, to that divinity, and that alone, she shall attribute their success.
Yet, there is a first cause still, to whom I cannot here forbear to mention my obligations.
The Muses, I trust, will pardon me, that to them I do not feel myself obliged—for, in justice to their heavenly inspirations, I believe they have never yet favoured me with one visitation; but sent in their disguise NECESSITY, who, being the mother of Invention, gave me all mine—while FORTUNE kindly smiled, and was accessory to the cheat.
But this important secret I long wished, and endeavoured to conceal; yet one unlucky moment candidly, though unwittingly, divulged it—I frankly owned, "That Fortune having chased away Necessity, there remained no other incitement to stimulate me to a labour I abhorred." It happened to be in the power of the person to whom I confided this secret, to send NECESSITY once more. Once more, then, bowing to its empire, I submit to the task it enjoins.
This case has something similar to a theatrical anecdote told (I think) by Colly Cibber:
"A performer of a very mean salary, played the Apothecary in Romeo and Juliet so exactly to the satisfaction of the audience, that this little part, independent of the other characters, drew immense houses whenever the play was performed. The manager in consequence, thought it but justice to advance the actor's salary; on which the poor man (who, like the character he represented, had been half starved before) began to live so comfortably, he became too plump for the part; and being of no importance in any thing else, the manager of course now wholly discharged him—and thus, actually reducing him to the want of a piece of bread, in a short time he became a proper figure for the part again."
Welcome, then, thou all-powerful principle, NECESSITY! THOU, who art the instigator of so many bad authors and actors—THOU, who from my infancy seldom hast forsaken me, still abide with me. I will not complain of any hardship thy commands require, so thou dost not urge my pen to prostitution. In all thy rigour, oh! do not force my toil to libels—or what is equally pernicious—panegyric on the unworthy!
A SIMPLE STORY.
Dorriforth, bred at St. Omer's in all the scholastic rigour of that college, was, by education, and the solemn vows of his order, a Roman Catholic priest—but nicely discriminating between the philosophical and the superstitious part of that character, and adopting the former only, he possessed qualities not unworthy the first professors of Christianity. Every virtue which it was his vocation to preach, it was his care to practise; nor was he in the class of those of the religious, who, by secluding themselves from the world, fly the merit they might have in reforming mankind. He refused to shelter himself from the temptations of the layman by the walls of a cloister, but sought for, and found that shelter in the centre of London, where he dwelt, in his own prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
He was about thirty, and had lived in the metropolis near five years, when a gentleman above his own age, but with whom he had from his youth contracted a most sincere friendship, died, and left him the sole guardian of his daughter, who was then eighteen.
The deceased Mr. Milner, on his approaching dissolution, perfectly sensible of his state, thus reasoned with himself before he made the nomination:—"I have formed no intimate friendship during my whole life, except one—I can be said to know the heart of no man, except the heart of Dorriforth. After knowing his, I never sought acquaintance with another—I did not wish to lessen the exalted estimation of human nature which he had inspired. In this moment of trembling apprehension for every thought which darts across my mind, and more for every action which I must soon be called to answer for; all worldly views here thrown aside, I act as if that tribunal, before which I every moment expect to appear, were now sitting in judgment upon my purpose. The care of an only child is the great charge that in this tremendous crisis I have to execute. These earthly affections that bind me to her by custom, sympathy, or what I fondly call parental love, would direct me to study her present happiness, and leave her to the care of those whom she thinks her dearest friends; but they are friends only in the sunshine of fortune; in the cold nipping frost of disappointment, sickness, or connubial strife, they will forsake the house of care, although the very house which they may have themselves built."
Here the excruciating anguish of the father, overcame that of the dying man.
"In the moment of desertion," continued he, "which I now picture to myself, where will my child find comfort? That heavenly aid which religion gives, and which now, amidst these agonizing tortures, cheers with humbler hope my afflicted soul; that, she will be denied."
It is in this place proper to remark, that Mr. Milner was a member of the church of Rome, but on his marriage with a lady of Protestant tenets, they mutually agreed their sons should be educated in the religious opinion of their father, and their daughters in that of their mother. One child only was the result of their union, the child whose future welfare now occupied the anxious thoughts of her expiring father. From him the care of her education had been with-held, as he kept inviolate his promise to her departed mother on the article of religion, and therefore consigned his daughter to a boarding-school for Protestants, whence she returned with merely such ideas of religion as ladies of fashion at her age mostly imbibe. Her little heart employed in all the endless pursuits of personal accomplishments, had left her mind without one ornament, except such as nature gave; and even they were not wholly preserved from the ravages made by its rival, Art.
While her father was in health he beheld, with extreme delight, his accomplished daughter, without one fault which taste or elegance could have imputed to her; nor ever enquired what might be her other failings. But, cast on a bed of sickness, and upon the point of leaving her to her fate, those failings at once rushed on his thought—and all the pride, the fond enjoyment he had taken in beholding her open the ball, or delight her hearers with her wit, escaped his remembrance; or, not escaping it, were lamented with a sigh of compassion, or a contemptuous frown, at such frivolous qualifications.
"Something essential," said he to himself, "must be considered—something to prepare her for an hour like this. Can I then leave her to the charge of those who themselves never remember such an hour will come? Dorriforth is the only person I know, who, uniting the moral virtues to those of religion, and pious faith to native honour, will protect, without controlling, instruct, without tyrannizing, comfort, without flattering; and, perhaps in time, make good by choice, rather than by constraint, the dear object of his dying friend's sole care."
Dorriforth, who came post from London to visit Mr. Milner in his illness, received a few moments before his death all his injunctions, and promised to fulfil them. But, in this last token of his friend's esteem, he still was restrained from all authority to direct his ward in one religious opinion, contrary to those her mother had professed, and in which she herself had been educated.
"Never perplex her mind with an idea that may disturb, but cannot reform"—were his latest words; and Dorriforth's reply gave him entire satisfaction.
Miss Milner was not with her father at this affecting period—some delicately nervous friend, with whom she was on a visit at Bath, thought proper to conceal from her not only the danger of his death, but even his indisposition, lest it might alarm a mind she thought too susceptible. This refined tenderness gave poor Miss Milner the almost insupportable agony of hearing that her father was no more, even before she was told he was not in health. In the bitterest anguish she flew to pay her last duty to his remains, and performed it with the truest filial love, while Dorriforth, upon important business, was obliged to return to town.
Dorriforth returned to London heavily afflicted for the loss of his friend; and yet, perhaps, with his thoughts more engaged upon the trust which that friend had reposed in him. He knew the life Miss Milner had been accustomed to lead; he dreaded the repulses his admonitions might possibly meet; and feared he had undertaken a task he was too weak to execute—the protection of a young woman of fashion.
Mr. Dorriforth was nearly related to one of our first Catholic Peers; his income was by no means confined, but approaching to affluence; yet such was his attention to those in poverty, and the moderation of his own desires, that he lived in all the careful plainness of oeconomy. His habitation was in the house of a Mrs. Horton, an elderly gentlewoman, who had a maiden niece residing with her, not many years younger than herself. But although Miss Woodley was thirty-five, and in person exceedingly plain, yet she possessed such an extreme cheerfulness of temper, and such an inexhaustible fund of good nature, that she escaped not only the ridicule, but even the appellation of an old maid.
In this house Dorriforth had lived before the death of Mr. Horton; nor upon that event had he thought it necessary, notwithstanding his religious vow of celibacy, to fly the roof of two such innocent females as Mrs. Horton and her niece. On their part, they regarded him with all that respect and reverence which the most religious flock shews to its pastor; and his friendly society they not only esteemed a spiritual, but a temporal advantage, as the liberal stipend he allowed for his apartments and board, enabled them to continue in the large and commodious house which they had occupied during the life of Mr. Horton.
Here, upon Mr. Dorriforth's return from his journey, preparations were made for the reception of his ward; her father having made it his request that she might, for a time at least, reside in the same house with her guardian, receive the same visits, and cultivate the acquaintance of his companions and friends.
When the will of her father was made known to Miss Milner, she submitted, without the least reluctance, to all he had required. Her mind, at that time impressed with the most poignant sorrow for his loss, made no distinction of happiness that was to come; and the day was appointed, with her silent acquiescence, when she was to arrive in London, and there take up her abode, with all the retinue of a rich heiress.
Mrs. Horton was delighted with the addition this acquisition to her family was likely to make to her annual income, and style of living. The good-natured Miss Woodley was overjoyed at the expectation of their new guest, yet she herself could not tell why—but the reason was, that her kind heart wanted a more ample field for its benevolence; and now her thoughts were all pleasingly employed how she should render, not only the lady herself, but even all her attendants, happy in their new situation.
The reflections of Dorriforth were less agreeably engaged—Cares, doubts, fears, possessed his mind—and so forcibly possessed it, that upon every occasion which offered, he would inquisitively endeavour to gain intelligence of his ward's disposition before he saw her; for he was, as yet, a stranger not only to the real propensities of her mind, but even to her person; a constant round of visits having prevented his meeting her at her father's, the very few times he had been at his house, since her final return from school. The first person whose opinion he, with all proper reserve, asked concerning Miss Milner, was Lady Evans, the widow of a Baronet, who frequently visited at Mrs. Horton's.
But that the reader may be interested in what Dorriforth says and does, it is necessary to give some description of his person and manners. His figure was tall and elegant, but his face, except a pair of dark bright eyes, a set of white teeth, and a graceful fall in his clerical curls of brown hair, had not one feature to excite admiration—yet such a gleam of sensibility was diffused over each, that many people mistook his face for handsome, and all were more or less attracted by it—in a word, the charm, that is here meant to be described, is a countenance—on his you read the feelings of his heart—saw all its inmost workings—the quick pulses that beat with hope and fear, or the gentle ones that moved in a more equal course of patience and resignation. On this countenance his thoughts were pourtrayed; and as his mind was enriched with every virtue that could make it valuable, so was his face adorned with every expression of those virtues—and they not only gave a lustre to his aspect, but added a harmonious sound to all he uttered; it was persuasive, it was perfect eloquence; whilst in his looks you beheld his thoughts moving with his lips, and ever coinciding with what he said.
With one of those interesting looks which revealed the anxiety of his heart, and yet with that graceful restraint of all gesticulation, for which he was remarkable, even in his most anxious concerns, he addressed Lady Evans, who had called on Mrs. Horton to hear and to request the news of the day: "Your Ladyship was at Bath last spring—you know the young lady to whom I have the honour of being appointed guardian. Pray,"—
He was earnestly intent upon asking a question, but was prevented by the person interrogated.
"Dear Mr. Dorriforth, do not ask me any thing about Miss Milner—when I saw her she was very young: though indeed that is but three months ago, and she can't be much older now."
"She is eighteen," answered Dorriforth, colouring with regret at the doubts which this lady had increased, but not inspired.
"And she is very beautiful, that I can assure you," said Lady Evans.
"Which I call no qualification," said Dorriforth, rising from his chair in evident uneasiness.
"But where there is nothing else, let me tell you, beauty is something."
"Much worse than nothing, in my opinion," returned Dorriforth.
"But now, Mr. Dorriforth, do not from what I have said, frighten yourself, and imagine your ward worse than she really is—all I know of her, is merely, that she's young, idle, indiscreet, and giddy, with half a dozen lovers in her suite; some coxcombs, others men of gallantry, some single, and others married."
Dorriforth started. "For the first time of my life," cried he with a manly sorrow, "I wish I had never known her father."
"Nay," said Mrs. Horton, who expected every thing to happen just as she wished, (for neither an excellent education, the best company, or long experience had been able to cultivate or brighten this good lady's understanding,) "Nay," said she, "I am sure, Mr. Dorriforth, you will soon convert her from all her evil ways."
"Dear me," returned Lady Evans, "I am sure I never meant to hint at any thing evil—and for what I have said, I will give you up my authors if you please; for they were not observations of my own; all I do is to mention them again."
The good-natured Miss Woodley, who sat working at the window, an humble, but an attentive listener to this discourse, ventured here to say exactly six words: "Then don't mention them any more."
"Let us change the subject," said Dorriforth.
"With all my heart," cried Lady Evans; "and I am sure it will be to the young lady's advantage."
"Is Miss Milner tall or short?" asked Mrs. Horton, still wishing for farther information.
"Oh, tall enough of all conscience," returned she; "I tell you again that no fault can be found with her person."
"But if her mind is defective"—exclaimed Dorriforth, with a sigh——
"That may be improved as well as the person," cried Miss Woodley.
"No, my dear," returned Lady Evans, "I never heard of a pad to make straight an ill-shapen disposition."
"Oh, yes," answered Miss Woodley, "good company, good books, experience, and the misfortunes of others, may have more power to form the mind to virtue, than"——
Miss Woodley was not permitted to proceed, for Lady Evans rising hastily from her seat, cried, "I must be gone—I have an hundred people waiting for me at home—besides, were I inclined to hear a sermon, I should desire Mr. Dorriforth to preach, and not you."
Just then Mrs. Hillgrave was announced. "And here is Mrs. Hillgrave," continued she—"I believe, Mrs. Hillgrave, you know Miss Milner, don't you? The young lady who has lately lost her father."
Mrs. Hillgrave was the wife of a merchant who had met with severe losses: as soon as the name of Miss Milner was uttered, she lifted up her hands, and the tears started in her eyes.
"There!" cried Lady Evans, "I desire you will give your opinion of her, and I am sorry I cannot stay to hear it." Saying this, she curtsied and took her leave.
When Mrs. Hillgrave had been seated a few minutes, Mrs. Horton, who loved information equally with the most inquisitive of her sex, asked the new visitor—"If she might be permitted to know, why, at the mention of Miss Milner, she had seemed so much affected?"
This question exciting the fears of Dorriforth, he turned anxiously round, attentive to the reply.
"Miss Milner," answered she, "has been my benefactress and the best I ever had." As she spoke, she took out her handkerchief and wiped away the tears that ran down her face.
"How so?" cried Dorriforth eagerly, with his own eyes moistened with joy, nearly as much as her's were with gratitude.
"My husband, at the commencement of his distresses," replied Mrs. Hillgrave, "owed a sum of money to her father, and from repeated provocations, Mr. Milner was determined to seize upon all our effects—his daughter, however, by her intercessions, procured us time, in order to discharge the debt; and when she found that time was insufficient, and her father no longer to be dissuaded from his intention, she secretly sold some of her most valuable ornaments to satisfy his demand, and screen us from its consequences."
Dorriforth, pleased at this recital, took Mrs. Hillgrave by the hand, and told her, "she should never want a friend."
"Is Miss Milner tall, or short?" again asked Mrs. Horton, fearing, from the sudden pause which had ensued, the subject should be dropped.
"I don't know," answered Mrs. Hillgrave.
"Is she handsome, or ugly?"
"I really can't tell."
"It is very strange you should not take notice!"
"I did take notice, but I cannot depend upon my own judgment—to me she appeared beautiful as an angel; but perhaps I was deceived by the beauties of her disposition."
This gentlewoman's visit inspired Mr. Dorriforth with some confidence in the principles and character of his ward. The day arrived on which she was to leave her late father's seat, and fix her abode at Mrs. Horton's; and her guardian, accompanied by Miss Woodley, went in his carriage to meet her, and waited at an inn on the road for her reception.
After many a sigh paid to the memory of her father, Miss Milner, upon the tenth of November, arrived at the place, half-way on her journey to town, where Dorriforth and Miss Woodley were expecting her. Besides attendants, she had with her a gentleman and lady, distant relations of her mother's, who thought it but a proper testimony of their civility to attend her part of the way, but who so much envied her guardian the trust Mr. Milner had reposed in him, that as soon as they had delivered her safe into his care, they returned.
When the carriage, which brought Miss Milner, stopped at the inn gate, and her name was announced to Dorriforth, he turned pale—something like a foreboding of disaster trembled at his heart, and consequently spread a gloom over all his face. Miss Woodley was even obliged to rouse him from the dejection into which he was cast, or he would have sunk beneath it: she was obliged also to be the first to welcome his lovely charge.—Lovely beyond description.
But the natural vivacity, the gaiety which report had given to Miss Milner, were softened by her recent sorrow to a meek sadness—and that haughty display of charms, imputed to her manners, was changed to a pensive demeanor. The instant Dorriforth was introduced to her by Miss Woodley as her "Guardian, and her deceased father's most beloved friend," she burst into tears, knelt down to him for a moment, and promised ever to obey him as her father. He had his handkerchief to his face at the time, or she would have beheld the agitation—the remotest sensations of his heart.
This affecting introduction being over, after some minutes passed in general conversation, the carriages were again ordered; and, bidding farewell to the relations who had accompanied her, Miss Milner, her guardian, and Miss Woodley departed for town; the two ladies in Miss Milner's carriage, and Dorriforth in that in which he came.
Miss Woodley, as they rode along, made no attempts to ingratiate herself with Miss Milner; though, perhaps, such an honour might constitute one of her first wishes—she behaved to her but as she constantly behaved to every other human creature—that, was sufficient to gain the esteem of a person possessed of an understanding equal to Miss Milner's—she had penetration to discover Miss Woodley's unaffected worth, and was soon induced to reward it with the warmest friendship.
After a night's rest in London, less violently impressed with the loss of her father, reconciled, if not already attached to her new acquaintance, her thoughts pleasingly occupied with the reflection that she was in that gay metropolis—a wild and rapturous picture of which her active fancy had often formed—Miss Milner waked from a peaceful and refreshing sleep, with much of that vivacity, and with all those airy charms, which for a while had yielded their transcendent power to the weaker influence of her filial sorrow.
Beautiful as she had appeared to Miss Woodley and to Dorriforth on the preceding day, when she joined them this morning at breakfast, re-possessed of her lively elegance and dignified simplicity, they gazed at her, and at each other alternately, with astonishment!—and Mrs. Horton, as she sat at the head of her tea-table, felt herself but as a menial servant: such command has beauty if united with sense and virtue. In Miss Milner it was so united. Yet let not our over-scrupulous readers be misled, and extend their idea of her virtue so as to magnify it beyond that which frail mortals commonly possess; nor must they cavil, if, on a nearer view, they find it less—but let them consider, that if she had more faults than generally belong to others, she had likewise more temptations.
From her infancy she had been indulged in all her wishes to the extreme of folly, and started habitually at the unpleasant voice of control. She was beautiful; she had been too frequently told the high value of that beauty, and thought every moment passed in wasteful idleness during which she was not gaining some new conquest. She had a quick sensibility, which too frequently discovered itself in the immediate resentment of injuries or neglect. She had, besides, acquired the dangerous character of a wit; but to which she had no real pretensions, although the most discerning critic, hearing her converse, might fall into this mistake. Her replies had all the effect of repartee, not because she possessed those qualities which can properly be called wit, but that what she said was delivered with an energy, an instantaneous and powerful conception of the sentiment, joined with a real or a well-counterfeited simplicity, a quick turn of the eye, and an arch smile. Her words were but the words of others, and, like those of others, put into common sentences; but the delivery made them pass for wit, as grace in an ill-proportioned figure will often make it pass for symmetry.
And now—leaving description—the reader must form a judgment of her by her actions; by all the round of great or trivial circumstances that shall be related.
At breakfast, which had just begun at the commencement of this chapter, the conversation was lively on the part of Miss Milner, wise on the part of Dorriforth, good on the part of Miss Woodley, and an endeavour at all three on the part of Mrs. Horton. The discourse at length drew from Mr. Dorriforth this observation:
"You have a greater resemblance of your father, Miss Milner, than I imagined you had from report: I did not expect to find you so like him."
"Nor did I, Mr. Dorriforth, expect to find you any thing like what you are."
"No?—pray what did you expect to find me?"
"I expected to find you an elderly man, and a plain man."
This was spoken in an artless manner, but in a tone which obviously declared she thought her guardian young and handsome. He replied, but not without some little embarrassment, "A plain man you shall find me in all my actions."
"Then your actions are to contradict your appearance."
For in what she said, Miss Milner had the quality peculiar to wits, of hazarding the thought that first occurs, which thought, is generally truth. On this, he paid her a compliment in return.
"You, Miss Milner, I should suppose, must be a very bad judge of what is plain, and what is not."
"Because I am sure you will readily own you do not think yourself handsome; and allowing that, you instantly want judgment."
"And I would rather want judgment than beauty," she replied, "and so I give up the one for the other."
With a serious face, as if proposing a very serious question, Dorriforth continued, "And you really believe you are not handsome?"
"I should, if I consulted my own opinion, believe that I was not; but in some respects I am like Roman Catholics; I don't believe upon my own understanding, but from what other people tell me."
"And let this convince you," replied Dorriforth, "that what we teach is truth; for you find you would be deceived did you not trust to persons who know better than yourself. But, my dear Miss Milner, we will talk upon some other topic, and never resume this again—we differ in opinion, I dare say, on one subject only, and this difference I hope will never extend itself to any other. Therefore, let not religion be named between us; for as I have resolved never to persecute you, in pity be grateful, and do not persecute me."
Miss Milner looked with surprise that any thing so lightly said, should be so seriously received. The kind Miss Woodley ejaculated a short prayer to herself, that heaven would forgive her young friend the involuntary sin of religious ignorance—while Mrs. Horton, unperceived, as she imagined, made the sign of the cross upon her forehead as a guard against the infectious taint of heretical opinions. This pious ceremony Miss Milner by chance observed, and now shewed such an evident propensity to burst into a fit of laughter, that the good lady of the house could no longer contain her resentment, but exclaimed, "God forgive you," with a severity so different from the idea which the words conveyed, that the object of her anger was, on this, obliged freely to indulge that impulse which she had in vain been struggling to suppress; and no longer suffering under the agony of restraint, she gave way to her humour, and laughed with a liberty so uncontrolled, that soon left her in the room with none but the tender-hearted Miss Woodley a witness of her folly.
"My dear Miss Woodley," (then cried Miss Milner, after recovering herself) "I am afraid you will not forgive me."
"No, indeed I will not," returned Miss Woodley.
But how unimportant, how weak, how ineffectual are words in conversation—looks and manners alone express—for Miss Woodley, with her charitable face and mild accents, saying she would not forgive, implied only forgiveness—while Mrs. Horton, with her enraged voice and aspect, begging heaven to pardon the offender, palpably said, she thought her unworthy of all pardon.
Six weeks have now elapsed since Miss Milner has been in London partaking with delight all its pleasures, while Dorriforth has been sighing with apprehension, attending to her with precaution, and praying with zealous fervour for her safety. Her own and her guardian's acquaintance, and, added to them, the new friendships (to use the unmeaning language of the world) which she was continually forming, crowded so perpetually to the house, that seldom had Dorriforth even a moment left him from her visits or visitors, to warn her of her danger:—yet when a moment offered, he caught it eagerly—pressed the necessity of "Time not always passed in society; of reflection; of reading; of thoughts for a future state; and of virtues acquired to make old age supportable." That forcible power of genuine feeling, which directs the tongue to eloquence, had its effect while she listened to him, and she sometimes put on the looks and gesture of assent—sometimes even spoke the language of conviction; but this the first call of dissipation would change to ill-timed raillery, or peevish remonstrance, at being limited in delights her birth and fortune entitled her to enjoy.
Among the many visitors who attended at her levees, and followed her wherever she went, there was one who seemed, even when absent from her, to share her thoughts. This was Lord Frederick Lawnly, the younger son of a Duke, and the avowed favourite of all the most discerning women of taste.
He was not more than twenty-three; animated, elegant, extremely handsome, and possessed of every accomplishment that would captivate a heart less susceptible of love than Miss Milner's was supposed to be. With these allurements, no wonder if she took pleasure in his company—no wonder if she took pride in having it known that he was among the number of her devoted admirers. Dorriforth beheld this growing intimacy with alternate pain and pleasure—he wished to see Miss Milner married, to see his charge in the protection of another, rather than of himself; yet under the care of a young nobleman, immersed in all the vices of the town, without one moral excellence, but such as might result eventually from the influence of the moment—under such care he trembled for her happiness—yet trembled more lest her heart should be purloined without even the authority of matrimonial views.
With sentiments like these, Dorriforth could never disguise his uneasiness at the sight of Lord Frederick, nor could the latter help discerning the suspicion of the guardian, and consequently each was embarrassed in the presence of the other. Miss Milner observed, but observed with indifference, the sensations of both—there was but one passion which then held a place in her bosom, and that was vanity; vanity defined into all the species of pride, vain-glory, self-approbation—an inordinate desire of admiration, and an immoderate enjoyment of the art of pleasing, for her own individual happiness, and not for the happiness of others. Still had she a heart inclined, and oftentimes affected by tendencies less unworthy; but those approaches to what was estimable, were in their first impulse too frequently met and intercepted by some darling folly.
Miss Woodley (who could easily discover a virtue, although of the most diminutive kind, and scarce through the magnifying glass of calumny could ever perceive a fault) was Miss Milner's inseparable companion at home, and her zealous advocate with Dorriforth, whenever, during her absence, she became the subject of discourse. He listened with hope to the praises of her friend, but saw with despair how little they were merited. Sometimes he struggled to subdue his anger, but oftener strove to suppress tears of pity for her hapless state.
By this time all her acquaintance had given Lord Frederick to her as a lover; the servants whispered it, and some of the public prints had even fixed the day of marriage;—but as no explanation had taken place on his part, Dorriforth's uneasiness was increased, and he seriously told his ward, he thought it would be indispensably prudent in her to entreat Lord Frederick to discontinue his visits. She smiled with ridicule at the caution, but finding it repeated, and in a manner that indicated authority, she promised not only to make, but to enforce the request. The next time he came she did so, assuring him it was by her guardian's desire; "Who, from motives of delicacy, had permitted her to solicit as a favour, what he could himself make a demand." Lord Frederick reddened with anger—he loved Miss Milner; but he doubted whether, from the frequent proofs he had experienced of his own inconstancy, he should continue to love—and this interference of her guardian threatened an explanation or a dismission, before he became thoroughly acquainted with his own heart.—Alarmed, confounded, and provoked, he replied,
"By heaven, I believe Mr. Dorriforth loves you himself, and it is jealousy that makes him treat me in this manner."
"For shame, my Lord!" cried Miss Woodley, who was present, and who trembled with horror at the sacrilegious idea.
"Nay, shame to him if he is not in love"—answered his Lordship, "for who but a savage could behold beauty like her's without owning its power?"
"Habit," replied Miss Milner, "is every thing—Mr. Dorriforth sees and converses with beauty, but from habit he does not fall in love; as you, my Lord, from habit, so often do."
"Then you believe that love is not in my nature?"
"No more of it, my Lord, than habit could very soon extinguish."
"But I would not have it extinguished—I would rather it should mount to a flame, for I think it a crime to be insensible of the divine blessings love can bestow."
"Then you indulge the passion to avoid a sin?—this very motive deters Mr. Dorriforth from that indulgence."
"It ought to deter him, for the sake of his oaths—but monastick vows, like those of marriage, were made to be broken—and surely when your guardian looks at you, his wishes"——
"Are never less pure," she replied eagerly, "than those which dwell in the bosom of my celestial guardian."
At that instant Dorriforth entered the room. The colour had mounted into Miss Milner's face from the warmth with which she had delivered her opinion, and his accidental entrance at the very moment this praise had been conferred upon him in his absence, heightened the blush to a deep glow on every feature—confusion and earnestness caused even her lips to tremble and her whole frame to shake.
"What's the matter?" cried Dorriforth, looking with concern on her discomposure.
"A compliment paid by herself to you, Sir," replied Lord Frederick, "has affected your ward in the manner you have seen."
"As if she blushed at the untruth," said Dorriforth.
"Nay, that is unkind," cried Miss Woodley; "for if you had been here"——
"—I would not have said what I did," replied Miss Milner, "but left him to vindicate himself."
"Is it possible that I can want any vindication? Who would think it worth their while to slander so unimportant a person as I am?"
"The man who has the charge of Miss Milner," replied Lord Frederick, "derives a consequence from her."
"No ill consequence, I hope, my Lord?" said Dorriforth, with a firmness in his voice, and with an eye so fixed, that his antagonist hesitated for a moment in want of a reply—and Miss Milner softly whispering to him, as her guardian turned his head, to avoid an argument, he bowed acquiescence. And then, as if in compliment to her, he changed the subject;—with an air of ridicule he cried,
"I wish, Mr. Dorriforth, you would give me absolution of all my sins, for I confess they are many, and manifold."
"Hold, my Lord," exclaimed Dorriforth, "do not confess before the ladies, lest, in order to excite their compassion, you should be tempted to accuse yourself of sins you have never yet committed."
At this Miss Milner laughed, seemingly so well pleased, that Lord Frederick, with a sarcastic sneer, repeated,
"From Abelard it came, And Eloisa still must love the name."
Whether from an inattention to the quotation, or from a consciousness it was wholly inapplicable, Dorriforth heard it without one emotion of shame or of anger—while Miss Milner seemed shocked at the implication; her pleasantry was immediately suppressed, and she threw open the sash and held her head out at the window, to conceal the embarrassment these lines had occasioned.
The Earl of Elmwood was at that juncture announced—a Catholic nobleman, just come of age, and on the eve of marriage. His visit was to his cousin, Mr. Dorriforth, but as all ceremonious visits were alike received by Dorriforth, Miss Milner, and Mrs. Horton's family, in one common apartment, Lord Elmwood was ushered into this, and of course directed the conversation to a different subject.
With an anxious desire that the affection, or acquaintance, between Lord Frederick and Miss Milner might be finally dissolved, her guardian received with infinite satisfaction, overtures of marriage from Sir Edward Ashton. Sir Edward was not young or handsome; old or ugly; but immensely rich, and possessed of qualities that made him worthy of the happiness to which he aspired. He was the man whom Dorriforth would have chosen before any other for the husband of his ward, and his wishes made him sometimes hope, against his cooler judgment, that Sir Edward would not be rejected—he was resolved, at all events, to try the force of his own power in the strongest recommendation of him.
Notwithstanding that dissimilarity of opinion which, in almost every instance, subsisted between Miss Milner and her guardian, there was in general the most punctilious observance of good manners from each towards the other—on the part of Dorriforth more especially; for his politeness would sometimes appear even like the result of a system which he had marked out for himself, as the only means to keep his ward restrained within the same limitations. Whenever he addressed her there was an unusual reserve upon his countenance, and more than usual gentleness in the tone of his voice; this appeared the effect of sentiments which her birth and situation inspired, joined to a studied mode of respect, best calculated to enforce the same from her. The wished-for consequence was produced—for though there was an instinctive rectitude in the understanding of Miss Milner that would have taught her, without other instruction, what manners to observe towards her deputed father; yet, from some volatile thought, or some quick sense of feeling, which she had not been accustomed to subdue, she was perpetually on the verge of treating him with levity; but he would immediately recall her recollection by a reserve too awful, and a gentleness too sacred for her to violate. The distinction which both required, was thus, by his skilful management alone, preserved.
One morning he took an opportunity, before her and Miss Woodley, to introduce and press the subject of Sir Edward Ashton's hopes. He first spoke warmly in his praise, then plainly said that he believed she possessed the power of making so deserving a man happy to the summit of his wishes. A laugh of ridicule was the only answer; but a sudden frown from Dorriforth having put an end to it, he resumed his usual politeness, and said,
"I wish you would shew a better taste, than thus pointedly to disapprove of Sir Edward."
"How, Mr. Dorriforth, can you expect me to give proofs of a good taste, when Sir Edward, whom you consider with such high esteem, has given so bad an example of his, in approving me?"
Dorriforth wished not to flatter her by a compliment she seemed to have sought for, and for a moment hesitated what answer to make.
"Reply, Sir, to that question," she said.
"Why then, Madam," returned he, "it is my opinion, that supposing what your humility has advanced be just, yet Sir Edward will not suffer by the suggestion; for in cases where the heart is so immediately concerned, as I believe Sir Edward's to be, taste, or rather reason, has no power to act."
"You are in the right, Mr. Dorriforth; this is a proper justification of Sir Edward—and when I fall in love, I beg that you will make the same excuse for me."
"Then," said he earnestly, "before your heart is in that state which I have described, exert your reason."
"I shall," answered she, "and not consent to marry a man whom I could never love."
"Unless your heart is already given away, Miss Milner, what can make you speak with such a degree of certainty?"
He thought on Lord Frederick when he said this, and he riveted his eyes upon her as if to penetrate her sentiments, and yet trembled for what he should find there. She blushed, and her looks would have confirmed her guilty, if the unembarrassed and free tone of her voice, more than her words, had not preserved her from that sentence.
"No," she replied, "my heart is not given away; and yet I can venture to declare, Sir Edward will never possess an atom of it."
"I am sorry, for both your sakes, that these are your sentiments," he replied. "But as your heart is still your own," (and he seemed rejoiced to find it was) "permit me to warn you how you part with a thing so precious—the dangers, the sorrows you hazard in bestowing it, are greater than you may be aware of. The heart once gone, our thoughts, our actions, are no more our own, than that is." He seemed forcing himself to utter all this, and yet broke off as if he could have said much more, if the extreme delicacy of the subject had not prevented him.
When he left the room, and she heard the door shut after him, she said, with an inquisitive thoughtfulness, "What can make good people so skilled in all the weaknesses of the bad? Mr. Dorriforth, with all those prudent admonitions, appears rather like a man who has passed his life in the gay world, experienced all its dangerous allurements, all its repentant sorrows; than like one who has lived his whole time secluded in a monastery, or in his own study. Then he speaks with such exquisite sensibility on the subject of love, that he commends the very thing which he attempts to depreciate. I do not think my Lord Frederick would make the passion appear in more pleasing colours by painting its delights, than Mr. Dorriforth could in describing its sorrows—and if he talks to me frequently in this manner, I shall certainly take pity on Lord Frederick, for the sake of his adversary's eloquence."
Miss Woodley, who heard the conclusion of this speech with the tenderest concern, cried, "Alas! you then think seriously of Lord Frederick!"
"Suppose I do, wherefore that alas! Miss Woodley?"
"Because I fear you will never be happy with him."
"That is plainly telling me he will not be happy with me."
"I do not know—I cannot speak of marriage from experience," answered Miss Woodley, "but I think I can guess what it is."
"Nor can I speak of love from experience," replied Miss Milner, "but I think I can guess what it is."
"But do not fall in love, my dear," (cried Miss Woodley, with her accustomed simplicity of heart, as if she had been asking a favour that depended upon the will of the person entreated,) "pray do not fall in love without the approbation of your guardian."
Her young friend smiled at the inefficacious prayer, but promised to do all she could to oblige her.
Sir Edward, not wholly discouraged by the denial with which Dorriforth had, with delicacy, acquainted him, still hoped for a kind reception, and was so often at the house of Mrs. Horton, that Lord Frederick's jealousy was excited, and the tortures he suffered in consequence, convinced him, beyond a doubt, of the sincerity of his affection. Every time he beheld the object of his passion, (for he still continued his visits, though not so frequently as heretofore) he pleaded his cause with such ardour, that Miss Woodley, who was sometimes present, and ever compassionate, could not resist wishing him success. He now unequivocally offered marriage, and entreated that he might lay his proposals before Mr. Dorriforth, but this was positively forbidden.
Her reluctance he imputed, however, more to the known partiality of her guardian for the addresses of Sir Edward, than to any motive which depended upon herself; and to Mr. Dorriforth he conceived a greater dislike than ever; believing that through his interposition, in spite of his ward's attachment, he might yet be deprived of her. But Miss Milner declared both to him and to her friend, that love had, at present, gained no influence over her mind. Yet did the watchful Miss Woodley oftentimes hear a sigh escape from her unknown to herself, till she was reminded of it, and then a sudden blush would instantly overspread her face. This seeming struggle with her passion, endeared her more than ever to Miss Woodley, and she would even risk the displeasure of Dorriforth by her compliance with every new pursuit that might amuse the time, which else her friend passed in heaviness of heart.
Balls, plays, incessant company, at length roused her guardian from that mildness with which he had been accustomed to treat her. Night after night his sleep had been disturbed by fears for her when abroad; morning after morning it had been broken by the clamour of her return. He therefore gravely said to her one forenoon as he met her accidentally upon the staircase,
"I hope, Miss Milner, you pass this evening at home?"
Unprepared for the sudden question, she blushed and replied, "Yes."—Though she knew she was engaged to a brilliant assembly, for which her milliner had been consulted a whole week.
She, however, flattered herself that what she had said might be excused as a mistake, the lapse of memory, or some other trifling fault, when he should know the truth. The truth was earlier divulged than she expected—for just as dinner was removed, her footman delivered a message to her from her milliner concerning a new dress for the evening—the present evening particularly marked. Her guardian looked astonished.
"I thought, Miss Milner, you gave me your word that you would pass this evening at home?"
"I mistook—for I had before given my word that I should pass it abroad."
"Indeed!" cried he.
"Yes, indeed; and I believe it is right that I should keep my first promise; is it not?"
"The promise you gave me then, you do not think of any consequence?"
"Yes, certainly, if you do."
"And mean, perhaps, to make it of more consequence than it deserves, by being offended."
"Whether or not, I am offended—you shall find I am." And he looked so.
She caught his piercing eyes—her's were immediately cast down; and she trembled—either with shame or with resentment.
Mrs. Horton rose from her seat—moved the decanters and fruit round the table—stirred the fire—and came back to her seat again, before another word was uttered. Nor had this good woman's officious labours taken the least from the awkwardness of the silence, which, as soon as the bustle she had made was over, returned in its full force.
At last, Miss Milner rising with alacrity, was preparing to go out of the room, when Dorriforth raised his voice, and in a tone of authority said,
"Miss Milner, you shall not leave the house this evening."
"Sir!" she exclaimed with a kind of doubt of what she had heard—a surprise, which fixed her hand on the door she had half opened, but which now she shewed herself irresolute whether to open wide in defiance, or to shut submissively. Before she could resolve, he rose from his chair, and said, with a force and warmth she had never heard him use before,
"I command you to stay at home this evening." And he walked immediately out of the apartment by another door.
Her hand fell motionless from that which she held—she appeared motionless herself—till Mrs. Horton, "Beseeching her not to be uneasy at the treatment she had received," made her tears flow as if her heart was breaking.
Miss Woodley would have said something to comfort her, but she had caught the infection, and could not utter a word. It was not from any real cause of grief that she wept; but there was a magnetic quality in tears, which always attracted her's.
Mrs. Horton secretly enjoyed this scene, though the real well meaning of her heart, and ease of her conscience, did not suffer her to think so. She, however, declared she had "long prognosticated it would come to this;" and she "only thanked heaven it was no worse."
"What could be worse, Madam?" cried Miss Milner; "am not I disappointed of the ball?"
"You don't mean to go then?" said Mrs. Horton; "I commend your prudence; and I dare say it is more than your guardian gives you credit for."
"Do you think I would go," answered Miss Milner, with an eagerness that for a time suppressed her tears, "in contradiction to his will?"
"It is not the first time, I believe, you have acted contrary to that, Miss Milner," replied Mrs. Horton, and affected a tenderness of voice, to soften the harshness of her words.
"If you think so, Madam, I see nothing that should prevent me now." And she flung out of the room as if she had resolved to disobey him. This alarmed poor Miss Woodley.
"My dear aunt," she cried to Mrs. Horton, "follow and prevail upon Miss Milner to give up her design; she means to be at the ball in opposition to her guardian's will."
"Then," said Mrs. Horton, "I'll not be instrumental in detering her—if she does it may be for the best; it may give Mr. Dorriforth a clearer knowledge what means are proper to convert her from evil."
"But, my dear Madam, she must be preserved from the evil of disobedience; and as you tempted, you will be the most likely to dissuade her. But if you will not, I must endeavour."
Miss Woodley was leaving the room to perform this good work, when Mrs. Horton, in imitation of the example given her by Dorriforth, cried,
"Niece, I command you not to stir out of this room this evening."
Miss Woodley obediently sat down—and though her thoughts and heart were in the chamber of her friend, she never marked by one impertinent word, or by one line of her face, the restraint she suffered.
At the usual hour, Mr. Dorriforth and his ward were summoned to tea:—he entered with a countenance which evinced the remains of anger; his eye gave testimony of his absent thoughts; and though he took up a pamphlet affecting to read, it was plain to discern that he scarcely knew he held it in his hand.
Mrs. Horton began to make tea with a mind as intent upon something else as Dorriforth's—she longed for the event of this misunderstanding; and though she wished no ill to Miss Milner, yet with an inclination bent upon seeing something new—without the fatigue of going out of her own house—she was not over scrupulous what that novelty might be. But for fear she should have the imprudence to speak a word upon the subject which employed her thoughts, or even to look as if she thought of it at all; she pinched her lips close together, and cast her eyes on vacancy, lest their significant regards might expose her to detection. And for fear any noise should intercept even the sound of what might happen, she walked across the room more softly than usual, and more softly touched every thing she was obliged to lay her hand on.
Miss Woodley thought it her duty to be mute; and now the gingle of a tea spoon was like a deep-toned bell, all was so quiet.
Mrs. Horton, too, in the self-approving reflection that she was not in a quarrel or altercation of any kind, felt herself at this moment remarkably peaceful and charitable. Miss Woodley did not recollect herself so, but was so in reality—in her, peace and charity were instinctive virtues, accident could not increase them.
The tea had scarce been made, when a servant came with Miss Milner's compliments, and she "did not mean to have any tea." The pamphlet shook in Dorriforth's hand while this message was delivered—he believed her to be dressing for her evening's entertainment, and now studied in what manner he should prevent, or resent her disobedience to his commands. He coughed—drank his tea—endeavoured to talk, but found it difficult—sometimes read—and in this manner near two hours were passed away, when Miss Milner came into the room.—Not dressed for a ball, but as she had risen from dinner. Dorriforth read on, and seemed afraid of looking up, lest he should see what he could not have pardoned. She drew a chair and sat at the table by the side of her delighted friend.
After a few minutes' pause, and some little embarrassment on the part of Mrs. Horton, at the disappointment she had to encounter from this unexpected dutiful conduct, she asked Miss Milner, "if she would now have any tea?" She replied, "No, I thank you, Ma'am," in a voice so languid, compared with her usual one, that Dorriforth lifted up his eyes from the book; and seeing her in the same dress that she had worn all the day, turned them hastily away from her again—not with a look of triumph, but of confusion.
Whatever he might have suffered if he had seen her decorated, and prepared to bid defiance to his commands, yet even upon that trial, he would not have endured half the painful sensations he now for a moment felt—he felt himself to blame.
He feared that he had treated her with too much severity—he admired her condescension, accused himself for having exacted it—he longed to ask her pardon—he did not know how.
A cheerful reply from her, to a question of Miss Woodley's, embarrassed him still more—he wished that she had been sullen, he then would have had a temptation, or pretence, to have been sullen too.
With all these sentiments crowding fast upon his heart, he still read, or seemed to read, as if he took no notice of what was passing; till a servant came into the room and asked Miss Milner at what time she should want the carriage? to which she replied, "I don't go out to-night." Dorriforth then laid the book out of his hand, and by the time the servant had left the room, thus began:
"Miss Milner, I give you, I fear, some unkind proofs of my regard. It is often the ungrateful task of a friend to be troublesome—sometimes unmannerly. Forgive the duties of my office, and believe that no one is half so much concerned if it robs you of any degree of happiness, as I myself am."
What he said, he looked with so much sincerity, that had she been burning with rage at his late behaviour, she must have forgiven him, for the regret which he so forcibly exprest. She was going to reply, but found she could not, without accompanying her words with tears, therefore, after the first attempt, she desisted.
On this he rose from his chair, and going to her, said, "Once more shew your submission by obeying me a second time to-day. Keep your appointment, and be assured that I shall issue my commands with more circumspection for the future, as I find how strictly they are complied with."
Miss Milner, the gay, the vain, the dissipated, the haughty Miss Milner, sunk underneath this kindness, and wept with a gentleness and patience, which did not give more surprise than it gave joy to Dorriforth. He was charmed to find her disposition so tractable—prophesied to himself the future success of his guardianship, and her eternal as well as temporal happiness from this specimen.
Although Dorriforth was the good man that he has been described, there were in his nature shades of evil—there was an obstinacy which he himself, and his friends termed firmness of mind; but had not religion and some opposite virtues weighed heavily in the balance, it would frequently have degenerated into implacable stubbornness.
The child of a sister once beloved, who married a young officer against her brother's consent, was at the age of three years left an orphan, destitute of all support but from his uncle's generosity: but though Dorriforth maintained, he would never see him. Miss Milner, whose heart was a receptacle for the unfortunate, no sooner was told the melancholy history of Mr. and Mrs. Rushbrook, the parents of the child, than she longed to behold the innocent inheritor of her guardian's resentment, and took Miss Woodley with her to see the boy. He was at a farm house a few miles from town; and his extreme beauty and engaging manners, wanted not the sorrows to which he had been born, to give him farther recommendation to the kindness of her, who had come to visit him. She looked at him with admiration and pity, and having endeared herself to him by the most affectionate words and caresses, on her bidding him farewell, he cried most pitiously to go along with her. Unused at any time to resist temptations, whether to reprehensible, or to laudable actions, she yielded to his supplications, and having overcome a few scruples of Miss Woodley's, determined to take young Rushbrook to town, and present him to his uncle. This idea was no sooner formed than executed. By making a present to the nurse, she readily gained her consent to part with him for a day or two, and the signs of joy denoted by the child on being put into the carriage, repaid her beforehand for every reproof she might receive from her guardian, for the liberty she had taken.
"Besides," said she to Miss Woodley, who had still her fears, "do you not wish his uncle should have a warmer interest in his care than duty?—it is duty alone which induces Mr. Dorriforth to provide for him; but it is proper that affection should have some share in his benevolence—and how, hereafter, will he be so fit an object of the love which compassion excites, as he is at present?"
Miss Woodley acquiesced. But before they arrived at their own door it came into Miss Milner's remembrance, that there was a grave sternness in the manners of her guardian when provoked, the recollection of which made her a little apprehensive for what she had done—her friend, who knew him better than she did, was more so. They both became silent as they approached the street where they lived—for Miss Woodley having once represented her fears, and having suppressed them in resignation to Miss Milner's better judgment, would not repeat them—and Miss Milner would not confess they were now troubling her.
Just, however, as the coach stopped at the door, she had the forecast and the humility to say, "We will not tell Mr. Dorriforth the child is his nephew, unless he should appear fond, and pleased with him, and then I think we may venture without any danger."
This was agreed; and when Dorriforth entered the room just before dinner, poor Harry Rushbrook was introduced as the son of a lady who frequently visited there. The deception passed—his uncle shook hands with him, and at length highly pleased with his engaging manner, and applicable replies, took him on his knee, and kissed him with affection. Miss Milner could scarce restrain the joy it gave her; but unluckily, Dorriforth said soon after to the child, "And now tell me your name."
"Harry Rushbrook," replied he, with force and clearness of voice.
Dorriforth was holding him fondly round the waist as he stood with his feet upon his knees; and at this reply he did not throw him from him—but he removed his hands, which had supported him, so suddenly, that the child, to prevent falling on the floor, threw himself about his uncle's neck. Miss Milner and Miss Woodley turned aside to conceal their tears. "I had like to have been down," cried Harry, fearing no other danger. But his uncle took hold of each hand which had twined around him, and placed him immediately on the ground. The dinner being that instant served, he gave no greater marks of his resentment than calling for his hat, and walking instantly out of the house.
Miss Milner cried for anger; yet she did not shew less kindness to the object of this vexatious circumstance: she held him in her arms while she sat at table, and repeatedly said to him, (though he had not the sense to thank her) "That she would always be his friend."
The first emotions of resentment against Dorriforth being passed, she returned with her little charge to the farm house, before it was likely his uncle should come back; another instance of obedience, which Miss Woodley was impatient her guardian should know; she therefore enquired where he was, and sent him a note for the sole purpose of acquainting him with it, offering at the same time an apology for what had happened. He returned in the evening seemingly reconciled, nor was a word mentioned of the incident which had occurred in the former part of the day; yet in his countenance remained a perfect remembrance of it, without one trait of compassion for his helpless nephew.
There are few things so mortifying to a proud spirit as to suffer by immediate comparison—men can hardly bear it, but to women the punishment is intolerable; and Miss Milner now laboured under this humiliation to a degree which gave her no small inquietude.
Miss Fenton, young, of exquisite beauty, elegant manners, gentle disposition, and discreet conduct, was introduced to Miss Milner's acquaintance by her guardian, and frequently, sometimes inadvertently, held up by him as a pattern for her to follow—for when he did not say this in direct terms, it was insinuated by the warmth of his panegyric on those virtues in which Miss Fenton excelled, and in which his ward was obviously deficient. Conscious of her own inferiority in these subjects of her guardian's praise, Miss Milner, instead of being inspired to emulation, was provoked to envy.
Not to admire Miss Fenton was impossible—to find one fault with her person or sentiments was equally impossible—and yet to love her was unlikely.
That serenity of mind which kept her features in a continual placid form, though enchanting at the first glance, upon a second or third, fatigued the sight for want of variety; and to have seen her distorted with rage, convulsed with mirth, or in deep dejection, had been to her advantage. But her superior soul appeared above those emotions, and there was more inducement to worship her as a saint than to love her as a woman. Yet Dorriforth, whose heart was not formed (at least not educated) for love, regarding her in the light of friendship only, beheld her as the most perfect model for her sex. Lord Frederick on first seeing her was struck with her beauty, and Miss Milner apprehended she had introduced a rival; but he had not seen her three times, before he called her "The most insufferable of Heaven's creatures," and vowed there was more charming variation in the plain features of Miss Woodley.
Miss Milner had a heart affectionate to her own sex, even where she saw them in possession of superior charms; but whether from the spirit of contradiction, from feeling herself more than ordinarily offended by her guardian's praise of this lady, or that there was a reserve in Miss Fenton that did not accord with her own frank and ingenuous disposition, so as to engage her esteem, certain it is that she took infinite satisfaction in hearing her beauty and virtues depreciated or turned into ridicule, particularly if Mr. Dorriforth was present. This was painful to him upon many accounts; perhaps an anxiety for his ward's conduct was not among the least; and whenever the circumstance occurred, he could with difficulty restrain his anger. Miss Fenton was not only a person whose amiable qualities he admired, but she was soon to be allied to him by her marriage with his nearest relation, Lord Elmwood, a young nobleman whom he sincerely loved.
Lord Elmwood had discovered all that beauty in Miss Fenton which every common observer could not but see. The charms of her mind and of her fortune had been pointed out by his tutor; and the utility of the marriage, in perfect submission to his precepts, he never permitted himself to question.
This preceptor held with a magisterial power the government of his pupil's passions; nay, governed them so entirely, that no one could perceive (nor did the young Lord himself know) that he had any.
This rigid monitor and friend was a Mr. Sandford, bred a Jesuit in the same college at which Dorriforth had since been educated, but before his time the order was compelled to take another name. Sandford had been the tutor of Dorriforth as well as of his cousin, Lord Elmwood, and by this double tie seemed now entailed upon the family. As a Jesuit, he was consequently a man of learning; possessed of steadiness to accomplish the end of any design once meditated, and of sagacity to direct the conduct of men more powerful, but less ingenious, than himself. The young Earl, accustomed in his infancy to fear him as his master, in his youthful manhood received every new indulgence with gratitude, and at length loved him as a father—nor had Dorriforth as yet shaken off similar sensations.
Mr. Sandford perfectly knew how to influence the sentiments and sensations of all human kind, but yet he had the forbearance not to "draw all hearts towards him." There were some whose hatred he thought not unworthy of his pious labours; and in that pursuit he was more rapid in his success than even in procuring esteem. It was an enterprise in which he succeeded with Miss Milner even beyond his most sanguine wish.
She had been educated at an English boarding school, and had no idea of the superior and subordinate state of characters in a foreign seminary—besides, as a woman, she was privileged to say any thing she pleased; and as a beautiful woman, she had a right to expect that whatever she pleased to say, should be admired.
Sandford knew the hearts of women, as well as those of men, though he had passed little of his time in their society—he saw Miss Milner's heart at the first view of her person; and beholding in that little circumference a weight of folly that he wished to eradicate, he began to toil in the vineyard, eagerly courting her detestation of him, in the hope he could also make her abominate herself. In the mortifications of slight he was expert; and being a man of talents, whom all companies, especially her friends, respected, he did not begin by wasting that reverence so highly valued upon ineffectual remonstrances, of which he could foresee the reception, but wakened her attention by his neglect of her. He spoke of her in her presence as of an indifferent person, sometimes forgetting even to name her when the subject required it; then would ask her pardon, and say that he "Really did not recollect her," with such seeming sorrow for his fault, that she could not think the offence intended, and of course felt the affront more acutely.
While, with every other person she was the principle, the cause upon whom a whole party depended for conversation, cards, musick, or dancing, with Mr. Sandford she found that she was of no importance. Sometimes she tried to consider this disregard of her as merely the effect of ill-breeding; but he was not an ill-bred man: he was a gentleman by birth, and one who had kept the best company—a man of sense and learning. "And such a man slights me without knowing it," she said—for she had not dived so deeply into the powers of simulation, as to suspect that such careless manners were the result of art.
This behaviour of Mr. Sandford had its desired effect—it humbled her in her own opinion more than a thousand sermons would have done preached on the vanity of youth and beauty. She felt an inward shame at the insignificance of these qualities that she never knew before, and would have been cured of all her pride, had she not possessed a degree of spirit beyond the generality of her sex—such a degree as even Mr. Sandford, with all his penetration, did not expect. She determined to resent his treatment; and, entering the lists as his declared enemy, give to the world a reason why he did not acknowledge her sovereignty, as well as the rest of her devoted subjects.
She now commenced hostilities against all his arguments, his learning, and his favourite axioms; and by a happy talent of ridicule, in want of other weapons for this warfare, she threw in the way of the holy Father as great trials of his patience, as any that his order could have substituted in penance. Many things he bore like a martyr—at others, his fortitude would forsake him, and he would call on her guardian, his former pupil, to interpose with his authority: she would then declare that she only had acted thus "to try the good man's temper, and that if he had combated with his fretfulness a few moments longer, she would have acknowledged his claim to canonization; but that having yielded to the sallies of his anger, he must now go through numerous other probations."