ANNA ST. IVES
Volume I Volume II Volume III Volume IV Volume V Volume VI VOLUME VII
ANNA ST. IVES
Anna Wenbourne St. Ives to Louisa Clifton
Here are we, my dear girl, in the very height of preparation. We begin our journey southward at five tomorrow morning. We shall make a short stay in London, and then proceed to Paris. Expectation is on tiptoe: my busy fancy has pictured to itself Calais, Montreuil, Abbeville, in short every place which the book of post roads enumerates, and some of which the divine Sterne has rendered so famous. I expect to find nothing but mirth, vivacity, fancy, and multitudes of people. I have read so much of the populousness of France, the gaiety of its inhabitants, the magnificence of its buildings, its fine climate, fertility, numerous cities, superb roads, rich plains, and teeming vineyards, that I already imagine myself journeying through an enchanted land.
I have another pleasure in prospect. Pray have you heard that your brother is soon to be at Paris, on his return from Italy?—My father surprised me by informing me we should probably meet him in that capital. I suspect Sir Arthur of an implication which his words perhaps will not authorize; but he asked me, rather significantly, if I had ever heard you talk of your brother; and in less than five minutes wished to know whether I had any objections to marriage.
My father is exceedingly busy with his head man, his plotter, his planner; giving directions concerning still further improvements that are to be made, in his grounds and park, during our absence. You know his mania. Improvement is his disease. I have before hinted to you that I do not like this factotum of his, this Abimelech Henley. The amiable qualities of his son more than compensate for the meanness of the father; whom I have long suspected to be and am indeed convinced that he is artful, selfish, and honest enough to seek his own profit, were it at the expence of his employer's ruin. He is continually insinuating new plans to my father, whom he Sir Arthurs, and Honours, and Nobles, at every word, and then persuades him the hints and thoughts are all his own. The illiterate fellow has a language peculiar to himself; energetic but half unintelligible; compounded of a few fine phrases, and an inundation of proverbial wisdom and uncouth cant terms. Of the scanty number of polite words, which he has endeavoured to catch, he is very bountiful to Sir Arthur. 'That's noble! That's great your noble honour! Well, by my truly, that's an elegunt ideer! But I always said your honour had more nobler and elegunter ideers than any other noble gentleman, knight, lord, or dooke, in every thing of what your honour calls the grand gusto.' Pshaw! It is ridiculous in me to imitate his language; the cunning nonsense of which evaporates upon paper, but is highly characteristic when delivered with all its attendant bows and cringes; which, like the accompaniments to a concerto, enforce the character of the composition, and give it full effect.
I am in the very midst of bandboxes, portmanteaus, packing-cases, and travelling trunks. I scarcely ever knew a mind so sluggish as not to feel a certain degree of rapture, at the thoughts of travelling. It should seem as if the imagination frequently journeyed so fast as to enjoy a species of ecstasy, when there are any hopes of dragging the cumbrous body after its flights.
I cannot banish the hints of Sir Arthur from my busy fancy.—I must not I ought not to practise disguise with any one, much less with my Louisa; and I cannot but own that his questions suggested a plan of future happiness to my mind, which if realized would be delightful. The brother of my dear Louisa, the chosen friend of my heart, is to be at Paris. I shall meet him there. He cannot but resemble his sister. He cannot but be all generosity, love, expansion, mind, soul! I am determined to have a very sincere friendship for him; nay I am in danger of falling in love with him at first sight! Louisa knows what I mean by falling in love. Ah, my dear friend, if he be but half equal to you, he is indeed a matchless youth! Our souls are too intimately related to need any nearer kindred; and yet, since marry I must, as you emphatically tell me it will some time be my duty to do, I could almost wish Sir Arthur's questions to have the meaning I suspect, and that it might be to the brother of my friend.
Do not call me romantic: if romance it be, it originates in the supreme satisfaction I have taken in contemplating the powers and beauties of my Louisa's mind. Our acquaintance has been but short, yet our friendship appears as if it had been eternal. Our hearts understand each other, and speak a language which, alas, we both have found to be unintelligible to the generality of the world.
Once more adieu. You shall hear from me again at London. Direct to me as usual in Grosvenor Street.
Ever and ever your
A. W. ST. IVES
P.S. I am sorry to see poor Frank Henley look so dejected. He has many good, nay I am well persuaded many great, qualities. Perhaps he is disappointed at not being allowed to go with us; for which I know he petitioned his father, but was refused; otherwise I could easily have prevailed on Sir Arthur to have consented.
I am determined to take King Pepin with me. It is surely the most intelligent of all animals; the unfeathered bipeds, as the French wits call us two-legged mortals, excepted. But no wonder it was my Louisa's gift; and, kissing her lips, imbibed a part of her spirit. Were I to leave it behind me, cats, and other good for nothing creatures, would teach it again to be shy, and suspicious; and the present charming exertion of its little faculties would decay. The development of mind, even in a bird, has something in it highly delightful.
[Footnote 1: A goldfinch which the young lady had so named.]
Why, my Louisa, my friend, my sister, ah, why are not you with me? Why do you not participate my pleasures, catch with me the rising ideas, and enjoy the raptures of novelty? But I will forbear. I have before in vain exhausted all my rhetoric. You must not, will not quit a languishing parent; and I am obliged to approve your determination, though I cannot but regret the consequence.
Louisa Clifton to Anna Wenbourne St. Ives
Health, joy, and novelty attend the steps of my ever dear and charming Anna! May the whirling of your chariot wheels bring a succession of thoughts as exhilarating as they are rapid! May gladness hail you through the day, and peace hush you to sleep at night! May the hills and valleys smile upon you, as you roll over and beside them; and may you meet festivity and fulness of content at every step!
I too have my regrets. My heart is one-half with you; nay my beloved, my generous mamma has endeavoured to persuade me to quit her, arguing that the inconvenience to her would be more than compensated by the benefit accruing to myself. The dear lady, I sincerely believe, loves you if possible better than she does me, and pleaded strenuously. But did she not know it was impossible she should prevail? She did. If my cares can prolong a life so precious but half an hour, is it not an age? Do not her virtues and her wisdom communicate themselves to all around her? Are not her resignation, her fortitude, and her cheerfulness in pain, lessons which I might traverse kingdoms and not find an opportunity like this of learning? And, affection out of the question, having such high duties to perform, must I fly from such an occasion, afflicting though it be? No! Anna St. Ives herself must not tempt me to that. She is indeed too noble seriously to form such a wish. Answer, is she not?
Oh that I may be deceived, but I fear you expect too much from my brother. Oh that he might be worthy of my Anna! Not for my own sake; for, as she truly says, we [That is our souls, for I know of no other we]. We cannot be more akin; but for his own. He is the son of my beloved mother, and most devoutly do I wish he might be found deserving of her and you. He would then be more deserving than any man, at least any young man, I have ever known. Though brother and sister, he and I may be said to have but little acquaintance. He has always been either at school, or at college, or in town, or on his travels, or in some place where I did not happen to be, except for short intervals. I have told you that his person is not displeasing, that his temper appears to be prompt and daring, but gay, and that his manners I doubt are of that free kind which our young gentlemen affect.
To say the truth however, I have heard much in favour of Coke Clifton; but then it has generally been either from persons whose good word was in my opinion no praise, or from others who evidently meant to be civil to me, or to the family, by speaking well of my brother. I believe him to have much pride, some ambition, a high sense of fashionable honour; that he spurns at threats, disdains reproof, and that he does not want generosity, or those accomplishments which would make him pass with the world for a man whose alliance would be desirable. But the husband of my Anna [you perceive I have caught your tone, and use the word husband as familiarly as if there were any serious intention of such an event, and as if it were any thing more than the sportive effusion of fancy, or rather the momentary expansion of friendship] the husband of my Anna ought to be more, infinitely more, than what the world understands by such phrases; if it can be said to understand anything. Forgive the jingle, but, to pair with her, he ought to be her peer. And yet if she wait till time shall send her such a one, and that one every way proper for her alliance, in her father's opinion as well as in her own, I am afraid her chance of marriage will be infinitely small.
Were I but assured that Coke Clifton would be as kind and as worthy a husband, to Anna St. Ives, as any other whom it were probable accident should ever throw in her way, I should then indeed seriously wish such a thought might be something more than the transient flight of fancy. But enough. You are on the wing to the city where you and he will probably meet. Examine him well; forget his sister; be true to yourself and your own judgment, and I have no fear that you should be deceived. If he prove better even than a sister's hopes, he will find in me more than a sister's love.
I like Sir Arthur's favourite, Abimelech Henley, still less than you do. My fears indeed are rather strong. When once a taste for improvement [I mean building and gardening improvement] becomes a passion, gaming itself is scarcely more ruinous. I have no doubt that Sir Arthur's fortune has suffered, and is suffering severely; and that while that miserly wretch, Abimelech, is destroying the fabric, he is purloining and carrying off the best of the materials. I doubt whether there be an acre of land in the occupation of Sir Arthur, which has not cost ten times its intrinsic value to make it better. It is astonishing how Sir Arthur can be [pardon the expression, my dear] such a dupe! I have before blamed, and must again blame you, for not exerting yourself sufficiently to shew him his folly. It concerns the family, it concerns yourself, nearly. Who can tell how far off the moment is when it may be too late? My mamma has just heard of a new mortgage, in procuring of which the worthy Abimelech acted, or pretended to act, as agent: for I assure you I suspect he was really the principal. During my last visit, if I do not mistake, I several times saw the pride of wealth betraying itself; and only subdued by the superior thirst of gain.
Poor Frank Henley! Is it not miraculous that such a father should have such a son? I am tempted to give utterance to a strange thought! Why should I not? What is the opinion of the world; what are its prejudices, in the presence of truth? Yet not to respect them is to entail upon ourselves I know not what load of acrimony, contempt, and misery! I must speak—I never yet met a youth whom I thought so deserving of Anna St. Ives as Frank Henley! The obstacles you will say are insurmountable. Alas! I fear they are. And therefore 'tis fortunate that the same thought has not more strongly occurred to you. Perhaps my caution would have been greater, but that I know your affections are free; and yet I confess I wonder that they are so. If it be the effect of your reason, the praise you merit is infinite: and I hope and believe it is; for, notwithstanding all the tales I have heard and read, my mind is convinced of nothing more firmly than that the passion of love is as capable of being repressed, and conquered, as any other passion whatever: and you know we have both agreed that the passions are all of them subject to reason, when reason is sufficiently determined to exert its power.
I have written a long letter; but, writing to you, I never know when to end.
Heaven bless my Anna St. Ives!
Frank Henley to Oliver Trenchard
Oliver, I am wretched! The feeble Frank Henley is a poor miserable being! The sun shines, the birds warble, the flowers spring, the buds are bursting into bloom, all nature rejoices; yet to me this mirth, this universal joy, seems mockery—Why is this? Why do I suffer my mind thus to be pervaded by melancholy? Why am I thus steeped in gloom?
She is going—Thursday morning is the time fixed—And what is that to me?—Madman that I am!—Who am I? Does she, can she, ought she to think of me?—And why not? Am I not a man; and is she more than mortal?—She is! She is!—Shew me the mortal who presumes to be her equal!
But what do I wish? What would I have? Is it my intention or my desire to make her wretched? What! Sink her whom I adore in the estimation of the world; and render her the scoff of the foolish, the vain, and the malignant?—I!—I make her wretched!—I!—
Oliver, she treats me with indifference—cold, calm, killing indifference! Yet kind, heavenly kind even in her coldness! Her cheerful eye never turns from me, nor ever seeks me. To her I am a statue—Would I were! Why does she not hate me? Openly and absolutely hate me!—And could I wish her to love? Do I love? Do I? Dare I? Have I the temerity so much as to suspect I love?—Who am I? The insignificant son of—!
And who is she? The daughter of a Baronet—Pshaw! What is a Baronet?—Away with such insolent, such ridiculous distinctions. She is herself! Let Folly and Inferiority keep their distance!
But I?—Low bred and vulgar let Pride and Error call me, but not villain! I the seducer of men's daughters! Noble men and still nobler daughters! I! Why, would I be so very vile a thing? Would I, if I could?
Yet who shall benumb the understanding, chain up the fancy, and freeze sensation? Can I command myself deaf when she sings, dead when she speaks, or rush into idiotism to avoid her enchantments?
Despise me, Oliver, if thou wilt, but the deep sense I have of my own folly does but increase the distemper of my brain. She herself pities me, yet does not suspect my disease. 'Tis evident she does not; for her soul is above artifice. She kindly asked—was I not well? I owned I was not quite so cheerful as I could wish to be; and [wouldst thou think it?] was presumptuous enough to hint that I thought the enlivening air of France might do me good. Thou seest how frantic I am! She answered with the utmost ease, and without the most distant suspicion of my selfish, my audacious motive, that she would speak to Sir Arthur. But I was obliged to request her to forbear, till I had first tried to gain my father's consent, of which indeed I had but feeble hopes.
Every way miserable, why am I obliged to think and speak of my father with so little respect? Indeed he is—Well, well!—He is my father—I am convinced he is become wealthy; nay indeed he gives me to understand as much, when he wishes to gain any purpose, by endeavouring to excite avarice in me, which he hopes is, and perhaps supposes must be, mine and every man's ruling passion. Yet, no; he cannot: his complaints of me for the want of it are too heartfelt, too bitter.
He has kept me in ignorance, as much as was in his power. Reading, writing, and arithmetic is his grand system of education; after which man has nothing more to learn, except to get and to hoard money. Had it not been for the few books I bought and the many I borrowed, together with the essential instruction which thy excellent father's learning and philanthropy enabled and induced him to give me, I should probably have been as illiterate as he could have wished. A son after his own heart! One of his most frequent and most passionate reproaches is 'the time I waste in reading.'
I scarcely need tell thee he was almost in a rage, at my request to accompany Sir Arthur to France; stating, as I did, that it ought to be and must be at his expence. Otherwise he cares but little where I go, being rather regarded by him as a spy on his actions than as his son. Thou canst not conceive the contempt with which he treats me, for my want of cunning. He despises my sense of philanthropy, honour, and that severe probity to which no laws extend. He spurns at the possibility of preferring the good of society to the good of self—But, once again, he is my father.
Prithee lend me thy Petrarch, and send it in return by Thomas. I had nothing to say, though I have written so much, except to ask for this book, and to burden thee with my complaints. Remember me kindly to thy most worthy father, and all the family. Thine,
Anna Wenbourne St. Ives to Louisa Clifton
London, Grosvenor Street
Oh, Louisa! I have such a narrative! Such accidents! Such—! But you shall hear.
We are arrived; and, thank God and good fortune, are all alive; which, every thing considered, is no small consolation. The chaise was at the door punctually at five on Thursday morning. Abimelech Henley had been very busy with Sir Arthur over night; and was in close conference with him again previous to our departure.
Frank too was there, as disconsolate and as attentive as ever; active and watchful that every thing was as it should be. How the difference between soul and soul discovers itself in such scenes! I very much fear his father treats him unkindly, and that he grieves more than he ought; nay more than a person of his youth, strong form, and still stronger mind, could be supposed to grieve. I understand he very much laments the loss of a college education, which the miser his father could very well have bestowed upon him, had not his heart been as contracted as the mouth of his purse.
Mr. Trenchard, luckily for Frank, early discovered his genius, and gratuitously aided him in his studies. Frank reveres him as a more than father, and loves his son Oliver like a brother. He is but too sensible that a true father feeds the mind, and that he who only provides for the body is no better than a step-father. I have some fear that there is another cause for his dissatisfaction, and that he has cherished some silly thoughts of an impossible nature. If so, an effort must be made which I hope will restore him to reason. And yet what right have I to conclude that he reasons erroneously? Have I sufficiently examined? This is a question which has several times lately forced itself upon my mind. I am not insensible of his high worth: it opens upon me daily. What I am going to relate will picture that worth better than any praise of mine. I will therefore continue my narrative.
Every thing being adjusted, off we went; I, Laura, and Sir Arthur, in the chaise, and one footman only with us, who was to ride before as our courier, and prepare horses.
I told you of my intention to take King Pepin with me; but the morning of our departure was all hurry, and it seldom happens that something is not forgotten, amid the tumult into which the passions seem to plunge as it were with delight, gratified with the confusion which themselves create. I must own I was vexed and offended with myself, when I found that the something overlooked on this occasion was the gift of my Louisa. Ingratitude with all its reproaches rose up to sting me; and I immediately resolved to punish myself, by informing my Louisa how unworthy I am of the gifts of such a friend. It was at the first stage where we changed horses that I made this discovery. One moment I was inclined to petition Sir Arthur to stay, while a messenger should be sent; but the next I determined that my fault should incur its due pains and penalties.
Every thing was ready; but just as we had seated ourselves in the chaise, and were again proceeding on our journey, one of the servants of the inn called to Sir Arthur to stop, for young Mr. Henley was coming up full speed on the bay mare. Frank and the bay mare are both famous through the whole country. My father immediately prognosticated some bad accident, and I began to be alarmed. Our fears however were soon dissipated, his only errand being to bring my charming favourite.
I confess I was not a little moved by this mark of attention, which indeed is but one among many, as well as by the peculiarity of the youth's manner in delivering the bird. He was fearful, visibly fearful, that his desire to oblige should be thought officious. He attempted to apologize, but knew not what to say. I thanked him very sincerely, and in the kindest manner I could; and, seeing him booted, the thought instantly struck me to request Sir Arthur's permission for him to accompany us to London, which I imagined might give him pleasure.
The request happened to coincide with some new project of alteration which Sir Arthur had conceived, and which, he said, after having further digested, he could better communicate to Frank than describe on paper. The mare is said to be one of the best travellers in the kingdom; and, as she was very capable of performing the journey, and the carriage being rather heavily loaded, he accordingly kept pace with us.
During the day we passed many delightful scenes, and enjoyed the charming prospects which the rich cultivation of England, and the road we travelled, afford. Frank Henley was scarcely ever out of sight, though he was rather watchfully assiduous than communicative.
Sir Arthur, for his part, did not forget to point out to us what a charming park such and such grounds might be turned into; how picturesque a temple, or a church steeple, would look in this place; what a fine effect a sheet of water would have in that bottom; and how nobly a clump of trees would embellish the hill by which it was overlooked.
I believe I am a sad wicked girl, Louisa! I was once strangely tempted to tell him I was much afraid his father had mistaken the trade to which his genius was best adapted, when he made him a baronet instead of a gardener. However I had the grace to bite my tongue and be silent. He might have had the retort courteous upon me, and have replied that gardening was much the most honourable trade of the two. But he would never have thought of that answer.
Thus the day, as I tell you, passed pleasantly and whimsically enough. But the night! Oh!—The night!—You shall hear.
It was the dusk of evening when we were at Maidenhead. We had then three stages to go, and Sir Arthur began to be alarmed by the rumours of depredations which had lately been committed on the road. I really do not know what to say to it; but there appears to be something deeper in the doctrine of sympathies than such silly girls as I can either account for or comprehend. I endeavoured with all my might to oppose the sensation, and yet I found my father's fears were catching. Frank Henley indeed begged of me, with great energy, not to be alarmed; for that he would die sooner than I should be insulted. Upon my honour, Louisa, he is a gallant youth!—You shall hear—But he is a brave, a gallant youth.
I cannot say but I wished I were a man; though I am convinced it was a foolish wish, and that it is a great mistake to suppose courage has any connexion with sex; if we except, as we ought, the influence of education and habit. My dear mother had not the bodily strength of Sir Arthur; but, with respect to cool courage and active presence of mind, I must say, Louisa, there was no comparison.
We set off, however, Frank having first provided himself with a hanger and a pair of pistols; and he now kept close to the chaise-door, without once quitting his station. I believe Sir Arthur was heartily glad at being thus provided with a guard, as it were unexpectedly, and without any foresight of his own. For, not to mention gold watches and trinkets, he had more money with him than he would have chosen to have lost, fright out of the question.
We proceeded thus without molestation as far as Brentford; but not without receiving fresh hints that it was very possible we might be visited; and then, though it began to be drawing toward midnight, Sir Arthur thought the danger chiefly over. As it happened he was mistaken. He was indeed, my dear! I assure you I could tremble now with the thoughts of it, but that my woman-hood forbids. I remember how valiant I have been in laughing at the pretty fears of pretty ladies, with their salts, hartshorn, fits, and burnt feathers. Beside, I would not have my Louisa think too meanly of me. Yet I assure you it was a terrible night.
We had just passed the broad part of Turnham Green, as Frank has since told me, and were near the end of a lane which strikes into the Uxbridge road, when the postillion was stopped by one highwayman, while almost at the same instant another dashed his pistol through the side-glass into the chaise, full in Sir Arthur's face.
Frank was on my side—Notwithstanding the length of the journey, he seemed to infuse his own ardour into the spirited animal on which he rode, and was round instantaneously—It was really dreadful!—The highwayman saw, or rather heard him coming, for it was prodigiously dark, and fired. Poor Frank was shot!—In the shoulder—But he says he did not feel it at first—He returned the fire; and the highwayman exclaimed, with a shocking oath, 'I am a dead man!' He rode away however full speed; and his associate, who stood to guard the post-boy, rode after him. Frank imagines that, owing to the darkness of the night, and his being so close under the chaise, they had not perceived him when they came to the attack.
But here let me tell you, for I am sure I ought, our protector, our hero is not dangerously wounded. He indeed makes very light of it; but I am persuaded he would do that if he had lost an arm. The moment the highwaymen were gone, he rode round to me to intreat me not to be alarmed, for that all was safe.
Imagine whether I did not thank him, and bless him; at least in ejaculation. Imagine what I felt, after what I had heard, at hearing him talk to me, and at being convinced that he was actually alive. I had not the least suspicion of his being wounded, he spoke so cheerfully; yet I naturally enquired if he were hurt. His answer was—'No no—Not hurt'—But he spoke with an emphasis that immediately raised my apprehensions. I repeated my question—'Are you sure you are not hurt; not wounded?' He could not say no to that, and therefore answered 'He believed he felt a slight contusion in the shoulder; but that he was convinced it was trifling.'
I was now seized with a fit of terror much greater, in effect, than my former panic. I fervently intreated Sir Arthur to let the servant take the bay mare, and ride for help! I begged, urgently, violently, for God's sake, that he would take my place in the chaise! I would mount the mare myself! I would do any thing! All the replies I could get were still more vehement intercessions from Frank Henley, that I would not be alarmed, assurances that there was not the least danger, the most obstinate determination not to quit his post, and, notwithstanding the pain which he could not but feel, a persisting to reload the discharged pistol, and then to proceed.
I know not myself how my fears were so far pacified as to yield to this, except that his energy seemed to overpower mine. Indeed I suffered dreadfully the rest of the way. I knew the youth's generous spirit, and my imagination was haunted with the idea, that the blood was flowing every foot of the road, and that he would rather drop from the horse than be subdued. It is impossible, indeed it is, to tell you what I felt.
At last we arrived in Grosvenor Street; and sure enough the poor fellow was faint with the loss of blood. 'My God!'—said I to Sir Arthur, when the light was brought, and I saw him—'Send for a surgeon! Good Heavens! Run! Somebody run for help!'—He still insisted he was but slightly hurt, and began to resume all his earnestness to quiet me. Sir Arthur did it more effectually by sending as I desired, and by telling me that, if I continued to agitate by contending with him so much, I might very possibly throw him into a fever, and make a wound, which most probably was not in itself dangerous, mortal.
I said not another word, except seriously and solemnly requesting him to calm his mind, for his own sake, if not for mine; for that, after being wounded in defence of me and my father, to die by my fault were dreadful indeed. He retired with more apparent satisfaction in his countenance than I think I ever saw before.
I was resolved however not to go to bed, till I had received some account from the surgeon. He came, the wound was examined, and word was immediately sent me, by the express command of Frank, who had been told I was sitting up for that purpose, that there was, as he had assured me, no danger. The surgeon indeed thought proper to qualify it with no great danger. It is an old remark that surgeons are not prone to speak too lightly of the miracles they perform. This short syllable, great, did not fail however to disturb me very considerably. I waited till the ball was extracted, and [Would you believe it?] brought us; for I insisted upon seeing it. Sir Arthur called me a mad girl, adding there was no ruling me. I persisted in questioning and cross-examining the surgeon, till I was convinced that, as he said, there was no great danger; and I then retired to rest: that is, I retired to the same swimming motion which the chaise had communicated to my nerves, or my brain, or I know not what, and to dreaming of swords, pistols, murdered men, and all the horrid ramblings of the fancy under such impressions.
To convince me how trifling the hurt was, the gallant Frank insisted the next day on coming down to dinner; though he was allowed to eat nothing but chicken broth, and a light pudding. I never saw him so lively. His only present danger of death, he said, was by famine; and complained jocularly of the hardship of fasting after a long journey. I could almost have persuaded him to eat, for indeed he is a brave, a noble youth.
I know I never need apologize to my Louisa for the length of my letters. How can we enjoy equal pleasure to that of thus conversing in despite of distance, and though separated by seas and mountains? Indeed it is a kind of privation to end; but end I must—therefore—Adieu.
A. W. ST. IVES
Frank Henley to Oliver Trenchard
London, Grosvenor Street
You did not expect, dear Oliver, to receive a letter from me dated at this distance. By the luckiest accident in the world, I have been allowed to accompany her thus far, have ridden all day with my eye fixed upon her, and at night have had the ecstatic pleasure to defend, to fight for her! Perhaps have saved her life! Have been wounded for her!—Would I had been killed! Was there ever so foolish, so wrong, so romantic a wish? And yet it has rushed involuntarily upon me fifty times. To die for her seems to be a bliss which mortal man cannot merit! Truth, severe truth, perhaps, will not justify these effusions. I will, I do, endeavour to resist them.—Indeed I am ashamed of myself, for I find I am very feeble. Yet let not thy fears be too violent for thy friend: he will not lightly desert his duty.
Let me tell thee, before I proceed, that my wound is slight.—We were stopped by a couple of highwaymen. Thou never wert a witness of such angelic sensibility as the divine creature discovered, when she found I had received some hurt. She alarmed me beyond description, by the excess of her feelings. Oh! She has a soul alive to all the throbs of humanity! It shoots and shivers in every vein!—Then too when we arrived, when candles were brought [I had bled somewhat freely, and I suppose looked rather pale] thou hast no conception of, it is impossible to conceive the energy with which she insisted on sending for the best and most immediate help.
We had another battle of sensibility; for I assure thee I was almost as much [Did I not know her I should say more.] alarmed for her as she could be for me.
Yet do not imagine I am fool enough to flatter myself with any false hopes. No: it was humanity; it was too deep a sense of a slight benefit received; it was totally distinct from love.—Oh no! Love, added to such strong, such acute sensations, surely, Oliver, it would have shrieked, would have fainted, would have died!—Her fears and feelings were powerful I grant, but they were all social, and would have been equally awakened for any creature whom she had known, and had equal cause to esteem. And she esteems all who have but the smallest claims to such respect; even me!—Did I tell thee it was she who petitioned Sir Arthur to lay his commands on me to attend them to London, knowing I wished it; and that this was in return for the trifling favour I had done her, in galloping after her with her favourite bird? Oh! She is all benignity! All grace! All angel!
Never did I feel such raptures as since I have received this fortunate, this happy wound!—Yet why?—Is not her heart exactly what it was? It is. I should be an idiot not to perceive it is. Strange contradiction! Hopeless yet happy!—But it is a felicity of short duration.
Would it were possible for me to accompany her to France! My restless foreboding imagination has persuaded me she will be in danger the moment she is from under my protection. Vain fool! Who, what am I?—Because a couple of dastardly highwaymen have galloped away at the first report of a pistol, my inflated fancy has been busy in persuading me that I am her hero!
Yet I wish I might go with her! Tell me, Oliver, wouldst not thou wish so too? Would not all the world wish the same? Didst thou ever in thy life behold her without feelings unusual, throbs, doubts, desires, and fears; wild, incoherent, yet deriving ecstasy from that divinity which irradiates her form and beams on every object around her?—Do!—Think me a poor, raving, lovesick blockhead! And yet it is true! All I have said of her, and infinitely more, is true! Thou nor the world cannot disprove it! Would I might go with her!
I have seen the fellow with whom I had the rencounter. His wound is much more severe than mine. Sir Arthur sent information to the office in Bow Street. Wouldst thou think a highwayman could be so foolish a coxcomb as to rob in a bright scarlet coat, and to ride a light grey horse? The bloodhunters [I am sorry that our absurd, our iniquitous laws oblige me to call them so] the bloodhunters soon discovered the wounded man. Forty pounds afforded a sufficient impulse. They were almost ready to quarrel with me, because I did not choose to swear as heartily as they thought proper to prompt. Thou knowest how I abhor the taking away the life of man, instead of seeking his reformation.
After persisting that it was impossible for me to identify the person of the highwayman, as indeed it really was, and luckily prevailing on Sir Arthur to do the same [though he, like most folks who have any thing to lose, was convinced it would be an excellent thing if all rogues could be instantly hanged, like dogs, out of the way] I paid the poor wretch a visit, privately, and gave him such a lecture as, I should hope, he would not easily forget. It was not all censure: soothing, reasoning, and menace were mingled. My greatest effort was to convince him of the folly of such crimes; he had received some proof of the danger. He was in great pain, and did not think his life quite secure. He promised reformation with all the apparent fervour of sincerity, prayed for me, blessed me very heartily, and praised me for my bravery. He says the Bow Street runners will leave nothing unattempted to secure the reward, and take away his life. I have therefore engaged to hire a lodging, and bring a hackney coach for him myself, at seven in the morning, the hour least likely for him to be watched or traced. I believe I was more earnest to prevent harm happening to him than he himself was; for, having met a man upon the stairs, whose physiognomy, dress and appearance led me to suspect him, I questioned my penitent, who owned it was his accomplice; a determined fellow, according to his account; an Irish gambler, whose daring character led him, after a run of ill luck, to this desperate resource. It was with some difficulty I could persuade him the fellow might betray him, and join the Bow Street people. The gambler, as he says, expects a supply, and has promised him money. But he has consented to leave his lodging; and I think I have convinced him of the folly, danger, and guilt of such connections.
I found he was poor, and, except a few shillings, left him the trifle of money which I had; endeavouring by every means to restore a lost wretch to virtue and society. The fellow was not flint. The tears gushed into his eyes, and I own I came away with hopes that my efforts had not been wholly ineffectual.
I have written by the first post, that you mayst know what is become of me. Farewell.
Louisa Clifton to Anna Wenbourne St. Ives
I have only time for a single line, but I cannot forbear to tell you how great the emotions have been which I felt, my dear Anna, at reading your last. Ten thousand thanks for your history; for so it may well be called. You have quite filled my mind with the pictures, incidents, and adventures of your journey.—Then your deliverer!—Such courage!—Such fortitude!—Such—!
I must not finish my sentence. I must not tell you all I think concerning him. There were two or three passages in your letter which raised doubts in my mind; but of these I was soon cured by recollecting a sentence at the beginning—'An effort must be made which will restore him to reason. Yet the question must be examined.'—Certainly—You could not be Anna St. Ives, and act or feel otherwise.
But I absolutely adore this youth, this Frank Henley!
The boy is waiting; he will be too late for the post. Be that my excuse for the briefness of this; but do not fail, my dear dear Anna, to write fully every thing that passes. Your last has both warmed my feelings, nay in some measure my fears, and excited my curiosity.
P.S. I will write more at length tomorrow.
Abimelech Henley to Sir Arthur St. Ives, Baronet
Most onnurable Sir, my ever onnurd Master,
The instructions you wus pleased to give me have bin kept in mind. Your onnur's commands is my duties; your precepts is my laws. For why? Your noble onnur knows how to command, and I knows how to obey.
[Footnote 1: The editor has sometimes found it very difficult to translate the letters of this correspondent, out of bad spelling into English. Had they been left as they were written, they would have been half unintelligible. The editor however has used his own judgment, in suffering various words to retain their primitive dress; the better to preserve what would otherwise have been too much unlike its author, had the orthography been rendered perfect. It would have been assassination to have omitted any of the dialectic or cant terms, in which this honest Abimelech takes so much delight: for which reason they have been carefully retained.]
The willow dell is fillin up; all hands is at work. I keeps 'em to it. The sloap of the grande kinal will be finisht and turft over in 3 wekes; and I have chosen the younk plants for the vardunt hall: nice wons they be too, your onnur!
But I have a bin ponderaitin on all these thinks, and sooth an trooth to say, your onnur, I doubt as how the bitt [I mean the kole, your onnur] witch your noble onnur has a bin pleesd to stipilate and lay by for these here improvements [And glorious improvements they will be, let me tell your onnur. I think I knows a sumthink of the matter; thos to be sure I must a say as how I am no more nur a chit, a kintlin, to your onnur, in matters of taste and the grande goosto, and all a that there; but I'll give your onnur my two ears if there be any think at all komparissuble or parallel to it in all England.] But as I wus a sayin to your noble onnur—I am afeard we shall want cash; and I am a sure that would be a ten m of pitties. Especially if your onnur thinks any think more of the vister, with another church steepil in prospekshun. And to be sure it was a noble thoft; I must say it would be a sin and a shame to let sitch an elegunt ideer a slip through your fingurs. And then, pardn me your onnur, but for what, and for why, and for wherefore?
Besides all witch, your onnur wus a menshinnin a willdurness, and a hermmutidge, and a grotto; all witch as your onnur said would conceal the dead flat anenst the 3 old okes. And would your onnur think of stoppin short, after havin a done all that your onnur has a done, to bring Wenbourne Hill into vogue an reppitaishun, and make it the talk of the hole kuntree? Nay, for the matter of that, it is a that already; that I must say. But then, as your onnur says, in answer, nothink is done till every think is done.
And so I have paradventerd umbelly to speak my foolish thofts, on this here business. For why? I knows a what your onnur will say. Your onnur will tell me, when your onnur comes back. Ay, honest Aby, I wish the shiners' that I a spent and a bamboozild in that there France had a bin strewed over these here grounds. For, over and above of what I a bin a menshinnin to your onnur, there is the tempel beside a the new plantation, of a witch your onnur has so long a bin talkin of a buildin of. And then there is the extenshun and ogmenshun of the new ruins. So that all together, I must say that if simple honest Aby might paradventer to put in my oar to so generous and so noble a gentleman, and moreover won of his majesty's baronets, why I would keep the money now I had a got it; since, as your onnur finds, money is not so easy to be a come at. Pray your onnur, I beesiege your onnur don't forget that; money is not so easy to be a come at.
And so I most umbelly rimmane, with the blessin of almighty mercifool praise, your onnur's most umbel and most obedient, very faithfool and very thankfool, kind sarvent to command,
P.S. I pray your onnur to think of the vister, and the willdurness, and the hermmutidge; I pray your onnur doo ee; not forrgettin the tempel. Think of the money your most dear gracious noble onnur; and think to what vantidge I could a lay it out for your onnur; that is, take me ritely your most exceptionable onnur, a savin and a sayin under your wise onnur's purtection, and currection, and every think of that there umbel and very submissive obedient kind. Bring me the man that a better knows how to lay-out his pound or his penni than myself; that is, always a savin and exceptin your noble onnur, as in rite and duty boundin. And then as to forin parts! Why, lawjus mighty! Your noble onnur has 'em at your fingur's ends. The temple will stand; blow or snow, a there it will be; I'll a answer for that; a shillin's worth for every shillin: but ast for the money a squitterd a here and a there in forin parts, what will your most noble onnur ever see for that? I most umbelly condysend to beg and beesiege your good and kind onnur's noble pardn for all this audacious interpolation, of and by witch any but your most disrespectfool onnur would say wus no better but so much mag: but I hopes and trusts your onnur, as you always have bin henceforth in times passt, is in the mind a well to take what a well is meant.
And so I wonce and again most perrumptallee beg leave, in all lowliness by the grace and blessin of God in his infinit goodness and mercy to superscribe meself.
Anna Wenbourne St. Ives to Louisa Clifton
London, Grosvenor Street
Frank Henley's accident has necessarily delayed our journey for a fortnight; nay, it was within an ace of being delayed for ever, and [Would you think it possible?] by the artful remonstrances of this Abimelech Henley. I have been obliged to exert all my influence, and all my rhetoric, upon Sir Arthur, or it would have been entirely given up. Rapacious and narrow in his own plans, this wretch, this honest Aby, as my father calls him, would not willingly suffer a guinea to be spent, except in improvements: that is, not a guinea which should not pass through his hands. A letter from him to Sir Arthur has been the cause of this contest.
I hope however, my dear, that Sir Arthur's affairs are not in so bad a train as your fears [expressed in your letter of the third] cause you to imagine. Should they be so, what will become of my brother? A mere man of fashion! Active in the whole etiquette of visiting, dressing, driving, riding, fencing, dancing, gaming, writing cards of compliment, and all the frivolous follies of what, by this class of people, is called the world; but indolent in, or more properly incapable of all useful duties.
I stand rather high in his opinion, and he has done me the honour to consult me lately on a family affair. The Edgemoor estate, of eight hundred per annum, is entailed on him, as the heir of St. Ives, by my grandfather's will; with right of possession at the age of twenty-four. Sir Arthur I suppose does not find it convenient to abridge his income so materially, and has been endeavouring to persuade him that it is his duty and interest not to insist upon possession; at least for the present. My brother is not pleased with the proposal, and has complaisantly written to ask my opinion, with an evident determination to follow his own, he having now almost completed his twenty-fourth year. My answer was an attempt [I fear a vain one] to call to his mind the true use of money; and, unless he should have found the art of employing it worthily, I advised him to shew his filial affection and oblige Sir Arthur.
I can prophesy however that he will have no forbearance. Not to mention debts, he has too many imaginary and impatient wants to submit to delay. Neither have I any great desire that he should; being convinced that the want of money is the only impediment that can put a stop to Sir Arthur's improvements.
But this honest Aby!—The same post that brought me your letter of the eleventh, brought one for Sir Arthur; and while I was meditating on the contents of yours, and not a little chagrined at the confirmation of your intelligence concerning the mortgage—[Chagrined that my father should be the instrument, the tool of such a fellow: chagrined that his family should be in danger, and himself made a jest]—while I was considering what were the best means, if there were any, of inducing Sir Arthur to abandon projects so foolish, and so fatal, Laura came running with the news that our journey to France was all over, that orders to that effect had been given, and that a chaise was to be at the door in an hour, to take Sir Arthur back to Wenbourne-Hill.
[Footnote 1: This and other letters are occasionally omitted, as not containing any new information.]
This incident, in my then temper of mind, produced its full effect. I knew Sir Arthur's way: I knew he would not willingly see me himself; and, immediately suspecting that his letter was from honest Aby, I determined if possible he should not escape me. He was in his own room; and how to draw him out? An hour would soon be gone! I therefore employed an artifice, which, on after recollection, I am convinced was wrong; very wrong! I went into the drawing-room, and bade the footman go to him and announce Miss Wenbourne. I have a maiden aunt of that name, whom I was christened after, who lives in London, and whom I believe you never saw. The trick succeeded, and Sir Arthur came into the drawing-room. He looked disconcerted at seeing me, and the following dialogue began.
Heydey, Anna! Where is your aunt?
Sir, I am afraid I have done an unjustifiable thing. [My conscience then first smote me, with a conviction that what I had persuaded myself was a defensible artifice was neither more nor less than a direct falsehood; which of all crimes, you know, I think one of the most mean, hateful, and pernicious. The just confusion I felt had nearly ruined my cause.]
Why!—What!—What do you mean?—Where is your aunt?
She is not here, sir. It was I who wished to speak to you.
You! And send in your aunt's name?
My name is Wenbourne, sir.
Your name is St. Ives, miss.
I feel, sir, how exceedingly culpable I am; and perhaps do not deserve that you should pardon me. [My father began to suspect the reason of my wishing to speak with him, and did not know whether good nature or ill would serve his cause the best. I perceived him cast an eye toward the door.]
This is extraordinary!—Very extraordinary, upon my soul!
[I saw it was time to recover my spirits.] I have heard something which I scarcely can believe to be true, sir.
What have you heard? What have you heard?
That you are going back to Wenbourne-Hill.
Well, what then?
And that you do not intend we should visit France.
Who told you so?
The servants have orders to that effect.
The servants are a parcel of busy blockheads!
What can have occasioned you, sir, to change your opinion so suddenly?
My affairs. [He looked again toward the door, but he felt it was too late; and that he must now either defend or abandon his cause.] The journey will be too expensive.
If, sir, the journey would in the least embarrass your affairs, and if I did not daily see you entering into expences so infinitely greater than this, I would not answer a word to such an argument. I think it my duty to be as careful of your property as you yourself could be; and for that reason have often wished I could prevail on you, in some measure, to alter your plans.
I have no doubt, miss, of your prodigious wisdom; you remind me of it daily. Your plans to be sure would, as you say, be infinitely better than mine. When you are married, or I am dead, you may do as you please; but, in the mean time, suffer me to act for myself. I do not choose to be under tutelage.
I am sorry, my dear papa, to see that I offend you; but indeed I mean the very reverse. Indeed I do! It is my zeal for your interest, my love of you, [I ventured to take his hand] that oblige me to speak—
And plainly to tell me you do not approve of my proceedings!
Plainly to tell you the truth, because I believe it to be my duty.
Upon my word! A very dutiful daughter! I thought the duty of children was to obey the wills of their parents.
Obedience—[Pardon my sincerity, sir.]—Obedience must have limits. Children should love and honour their parents for their virtues, and should cheerfully and zealously do whatever they require of them, which is not in itself wrong.
Of which children are to judge?
Yes, sir: of which children are to judge.
A fine system of obedience truly!
They cannot act without judging, more or less, be they obedient or disobedient: and the better they judge the better will they perform their duty. There may be and there have been mistaken parents, who have commanded their children to be guilty even of crimes.
And what is that to me? Upon my word, you are a very polite young lady! A very extraordinarily polite miss!
God forbid, my dear papa, that you should imagine I think you one of those parents.
I really don't know nor don't care, madam, what you think me.—My plans, indeed!—Disapproved by you!
If I saw any person under a dangerous mistake, misled, wronged, preyed upon by the self-interested, should I not be indolent or cowardly, nay should I not be criminal, if I did not endeavour to convince such a person of his error? And what should I be if this person were my father?
Upon my honour, miss, you take intolerable liberties! The license of your tongue is terrible!
It were better, sir, that I should subject myself to your displeasure, and make you think unkindly of me, than that others, who pretend to be your servants and your humble but friendly advisers, should injure—should—I know not what! We have often heard of stewards, who have acted the mortgagee to their own masters. [This hint was a thunder stroke. Sir Arthur was wholly disconcerted. His mind apparently made several attempts to recover itself; but they were all ineffectual.]
Well, well—I, I—I know what the meaning of all this is. You—You are vexed at being disappointed of your journey—But make yourself easy, child; you shall go: you shan't be disappointed.
'Tis true, sir, I wish to visit Paris; but not if it will be in the least inconvenient to you, in money affairs. Though I own I should indeed be vexed to see the small sum you had appropriated for this journey wrested from you, to throw up a hill, or build a fantastic temple in some place where its very situation would render it ridiculous.
Upon my word!—Was ever the like of this heard?—Don't I tell you, you shall go?
Indeed, sir, going is but a small part of the subject: there is another point, which, if I could but gain, would give me infinitely more pleasure.
Pshaw! Girl! I can't stay to argue points with you now! I tell you, you shall go. I give you my word you shall go; and so let's have no more of it.—Do you hear, Anna? I am too old to be schooled. I don't like it! Mind me! I don't like it!
I am very sorry, sir, that I cannot find words to speak the truth which would be less offensive.
I tell you again there is no truth to be spoken! Have not I promised you shall go? There's an end of the business. You shall go.
And away went Sir Arthur; apparently happy to get rid both of me and himself: that is, of the disagreeable ideas which, as he thought, I had so impertinently raised. You blamed me in your last for not exerting myself sufficiently, to shew him his folly. You see the sufficiently is still wanting. Perhaps I have not discovered the true mode of addressing myself to Sir Arthur's passions. For, though my remonstrances have often made him uneasy, I cannot perceive that they have ever produced conviction. And yet I should suppose that a certain degree of momentary conviction must be the result of such conversations. But the fortitude to cast off old habits, and assume new, is beyond the strength of common mortals.
Frank Henley is a favourite with you, and very deservedly. But, in answer to the surprise in your former, my dear, that he has never engaged my affections, as well as to the cautionary kind hints in your two last, for so I understand them, let me say that, had I imagined love to be that unconquerable fatality of which I have been speaking, I do not know what might have happened: but, having been early convinced that a union between him and me must be attended with I know not what scenes of wretchedness, in short, knowing the thing in a certain sense to be impossible, it has always been so considered by me, and therefore I have no reason to think myself in any danger. Doubts occasionally rise in my mind, but in general soon disappear. Should they return I will not conceal them.
I remember it was a remark of yours that 'Admiration is the mother of love.' So it is, of love such as I bear to my Louisa; and of such perhaps as angels might be supposed to bear to angels. I admire Frank Henley, greatly, ardently admire him; yet I certainly do not love: that is, I certainly do not permit myself to feel any of those anxieties, alarms, hopes, fears, perturbations, and endearments, which we are told are inseparable from that passion. I extinguish, I suffocate them in their birth.
I am called for: Adieu, my ever dear Louisa.
A. W. ST. IVES
Sir Arthur St. Ives to Abimelech Henley
London, Grosvenor Street
I have received your letter, good Abimelech, and own your reasoning has its force. Much is yet to be done to Wenbourne-Hill. Year after year I have said—'This shall be the last: we will now bring affairs to a finish.' But improvement is my delight; walking, talking, sitting, standing, or lying, waking or sleeping, I can think of nothing else. We live you know, honest Aby, only to amend: so that, instead of concluding, I find more things to do at present than ever.
I have the wilderness very much at heart: but the soil is excellent, and I scarcely know, Aby, how we shall make the land sufficiently barren. Yet it would have a fine effect! Yes, that it certainly would, and we will try our utmost. The hermitage too at the far end! The moss-grown cell, Aby! With a few scattered eglantines and wild roots! We will plant ivy round the three old oaks, and bring a colony of owls to breed! Then at the bottom of all a grotto: Oh! it will be delicious!
Shells will be expensive, for we are not within forty miles of the sea. But no matter: it must and it shall be done, for I have set my heart on it. Nay, from what you said to me, honest Aby, knowing you to be a careful thrifty fellow, full of foresight, I was so warm in the cause that I had determined to take your advice, and renounce or defer the journey to France; but the blabbing servants got a hint of the matter, and it came to my daughter's ears. So, for peace and quietness sake, I think I must e'en indulge her, and take her a short trip to the continent. But we will go no further than the neighbourhood of Paris. Beside I wish, for my own part, to see how the country is laid out. I am desirous to know whether all France has any thing to equal Wenbourne-Hill.
And yet, Aby, I find it is impossible to please every body. You know what continual improvements I have been making, for these last twenty years; for you have superintended them all. I have planted one year, and grubbed up the next; built, and pulled down; dug, and filled up again; removed hills, and sent them back to their old stations; and all from a determination to do whatever could be done. And now, I believe, there are no grounds in all England so wooded and shut in as those of Wenbourne-Hill; notwithstanding its situation on a very commanding eminence. We are surrounded by coppices, groves, espaliers, and plantations. We have excluded every vulgar view of distant hills, intervening meadows, and extensive fields; with their insignificant green herbage, yellow lands, and the wearisome eternal waving of standing corn.
And yet, Aby, after having done all this, comes me Sir Alexander Evergreen, and very freely tells me that we have spoiled Wenbourne-Hill, buried ourselves in gloom and darkness, and shut out the finest prospects in all England! Formerly the hall could be seen by travellers from the road, and we ourselves had the village church in view, all of which we have now planted out of sight! Very true: but, instead of the parish steeple, have we not steeples of our own in every direction? And, instead of the road, with the Gloucestershire hills and lessening clouds in perspective, have we not the cedar quincunx? Yet see the curse of obstinacy and want of taste! Would you think it, Aby? Of this Sir Alexander complains!
It is in vain to tell him that we are now all within ourselves; that every body is surprised to see how snug we are; and that nobody can suspect so many temples, and groves, and terraces, and ascents, and descents, and clumps, and shrubberies, and vistas, and glades, and dells, and canals, and statues, and rocks, and ruins are in existence, till they are in the very midst of them. And then! Oh how have I enjoyed their admiration! Nothing is so great a pleasure to me as to bring a gentleman of taste, who knows how to be struck with what he sees, and set him down in the middle of one of my great gravel walks! For all the world allows, Abimelech, that our gravel walks at Wenbourne-Hill are some of the broadest, the straightest, and the finest in the kingdom.
Yet observe how men differ, Abimelech. Sir Alexander wants me to turf them over! He says that, where you may have the smooth verdure, gravel walks are ridiculous; and are only tolerable in common pathways, where continual treading would wear away the greensward. But I know what has given him such a love for the soft grass. Sir Alexander is gouty, and loves to tread on velvet.
Beside he is a cynic. He blames all we have done, and says he would render one of the deserts of Arabia the garden of Eden, with the money we have wasted in improving Wenbourne-Hill; which he affirms, before we touched it, was one of the most beautiful spots in the three kingdoms.
I confess, Aby, that, if as I said I did not know him to be a cynic, I should be heartily vexed. But it either is, or at any rate it shall be, one of the most beautiful spots in the three kingdoms, ay or in the whole world! Of that I am resolved; so go on with your work, Abimelech. Do not be idle. The love of fame is a noble passion; and the name of Arthur St. Ives shall be remembered at Wenbourne-Hill, long after his remains are laid in their kindred clay, as the poet says.
I desired your son Frank to accompany us to London. He is a spirited young fellow, and behaved well on the road, where he had an affair with a highwayman, and got a slight wound; but he is in no danger. He is a fine fellow, a brave fellow, and an honour to you, honest Aby.
Some grounds which I saw on my journey, with water purling, meandering, and occasionally dashing down a steep declivity, or winding along a more gentle descent, as it happened to be, suggested an idea to me. It came into my mind that, as we lie high, if we had but a lake sufficiently large on the top of the hill, we could send the water down in rivulets on every side. But then the difficulty struck me how to get it up again. Perhaps it may be overcome. It would have a charming effect, and we will think of it hereafter.
When you have received my address at Paris, do not fail to let me know, once a week, how every thing proceeds. Be particular in your accounts, and do not be afraid of wearying me. My heart is in my grounds and my improvements; and the more places and things you name the more pleasure you will give me. Write to me too concerning my herd of deer, my Spanish sheep, my buffaloes, my Chinese pheasants, and all my foreign live stock.
I will make my journey as short as possible; it shall not be long before I will re-visit my Wenbourne-Hill. To own the truth, honest Aby, after reading your letter, I had ordered the chaise to the door to come down again; but Anna St. Ives would not hear of it, so I was obliged to yield. But, as I tell you, my heart is with you; Wenbourne-Hill is never out of my mind.
I could wish you to be cautious in your communications, Abimelech, concerning our money matters. My daughter gave me a hint about the last mortgage, which I did not half like. Children think they have a right to pry into a father's expences; and to curb and brow-beat him, if the money be not all spent in gratifying their whims. Be more close, Abimelech, if you would oblige me.
ARTHUR ST. IVES
Louisa Clifton to Anna Wenbourne St. Ives
I am excessively angry with myself, my dear Anna. I have not treated you with the open confidence which you deserve, because I have had improper fears of you. I have doubted lest an excess of friendship and generosity should lead you into mistake, and induce you to think well of my brother rather for my sake than for his own. But the more I reflect the more I am convinced that duplicity never can be virtue.
Your last letter has brought me to a sense of this. The noble sincerity with which you immediately accused yourself, for having practised an artifice [which I, like you, do not think was innocent, because artifice cannot be innocent] has taught me how I ought to act; and Sir Arthur's caprice is an additional incitement.
I have for some time known that it has been very much desired by my mamma to see you and Coke Clifton united. She mentioned her wish to Sir Arthur, and he seemed pleased with the idea. She did me the honour to consult me; and I opposed precipitate proceedings, and strenuously argued that all such events ought to take their natural course.
This was the origin of your present journey to Paris; and I consequently was enjoined secrecy, of the propriety of which I doubted at the moment. I am now convinced that secrets are always either foolish or pernicious things, and that there ought to be none.
The fickleness of Sir Arthur however, relative to this journey, both surprises and pains me. It shews his weakness as well as the power of his favourite, Abimelech, to be greater than even I imagined; and my former thoughts were not very favourable. After having concerted this plan with my mamma, and after preparing and proceeding a part of the way, I can scarcely imagine what excuse he would have made to her.
His mentioning my brother to you likewise surprised me. In conversing with my mamma, I had told her that, if such an event were to take place, it were desirable that you and my brother should become acquainted, before any hint or proposal ought to be made to you. I at present believe this to have been wrong and weak advice; but it prevailed, and the arrangement was that my mamma should write to Coke Clifton, to direct his route through Paris; that he should be there at a fixed time, to transact some pretended business for her; that Sir Arthur and you should make a journey thither on a party of pleasure, which we all knew would be agreeable to you; and that you and my brother should meet as if by accident. But it appears that Sir Arthur, when he has any favourite project in view, can scarcely forbear being communicative, not from principle but from incontinence.
With respect to my brother, having told you all that has passed, I have only to add, it is my earnest advice that you should be careful to put no deception on yourself, but to see him as he is. His being the brother of your friend cannot give him dignity of mind, if he have it not already. Were I a thousand times his sister, I could not wish him another wife so deserving as my Anna. But sister shall be no motive with me to make me desirous of seeing persons united whose sentiments and souls may be dissimilar. Had I not so much confidence in your discernment, and truth to yourself, I should not be without uneasiness. My opinion is that the parties should themselves reciprocally discover those qualities which ought mutually to fit them for the friendship of marriage. Is not that the very phrase, Anna; the friendship of marriage? Surely, if it be not friendship, according to the best and highest sense in which that word is used, marriage cannot but be something faulty and vicious.
I know how readily you will forgive the wrong I have done you by this concealment; because you will perceive I acted from well meant but mistaken sentiments. I have told my mamma my present thoughts, and have shewed her all the former part of this letter, which she approves. Her affection for me makes her delight in every effort of my mind to rise superior to the prejudices that bring misery into the world; and I often fear lest this affection should deprive her of that force, and acumen, which in other instances would be ready to detect error, whenever it should make its appearance.
I need not tell my Anna how tenderly she joins with me, in wishing her a safe and pleasant journey. All other matters she entirely commits to my Anna's penetration, and discretion.
P.S. My brother is not rich, but has great expectations. This as I imagine occasioned Sir Arthur to receive the proposal with pleasure; and my mamma tells me they had some talk of settlements. He was exceedingly warm and active, in contriving this journey, for a few days; after which I thought I observed his ardour abate. And the probability is that Abimelech, from the first, had opposed the excursion; but that further conversations with my mamma, and the pleasure which the projected journey had given you, kept Sir Arthur to his purpose. I own I began to suspect that, should such a match take place, the recollection of parting with money, which he would willingly have expended on improvements, had influenced his conduct; and it is some relief to hope that he was rather acted upon than acting, if he really did feel any wish to retract. How far he may be, or may have been, acted upon in other instances, as well as this, is still a further question.
I cannot shake off a doubt which hangs on my mind; though I have been debating all morning whether I ought to mention it or be silent. I suspect that you yourself have not solved it entirely to your own satisfaction. Frank Henley!—It is I think indubitable that he loves you.—He would make you happier than perhaps any other man could upon earth. Be not swayed by your affection for me: beware of any such weakness. That you could love him if you would permit yourself, nay that you are obliged to exert your whole force not to love him, I am convinced. You are conscious of it yourself.—Is your decision just?—Indeed it is a serious question. What is the magnitude of the evil which would result from such a union; and what the good? Enquire—I give no opinion. There is a mist before my eyes, and I dare not give any, till I can see more distinctly. Think, be just, and resolve. Your own judgment ought to determine you.
Frank Henley to Oliver Trenchard
Oliver, what are we? What is man? What is virtue? What is honour?—My pride has received a wound much more acute than that which the ball of the highwayman inflicted on my body—I have had money palmed upon me—Money!—A man cannot behave as he ought, and as it would be contemptible not to behave, but he must be paid! His vices are paid! His virtues are paid!—All is mercenary! I to be sure must be one of the number!—A twenty pound bank note, I tell thee, forced upon me by Sir Arthur!—No, no—Not by him—He never could have made me accept what I supposed [falsely, however; as fact and reflection have since led me to suspect] it was mean and degrading to accept. She only could prevail. She whose commands are irresistible, and who condescended to entreat!—Her eye glistening with a tear, which she with difficulty detained in its beauteous orbit, she entreated!—There was no opposing such intercession! Her eloquence was heavenly! God be praised that it was so! For, as it has happened, I am persuaded it has preserved a poor distressed creature from phrensy—Have patience, and I will tell thee.
I had removed my penitent, and had been taking a short airing in the park; and, as I was returning, I saw a crowd collected in a court. Led by curiosity to enquire what was the matter, I was told that two men had just been pursuing a third over the roofs of the neighbouring houses; and that, having been obliged to descend through a trap-door, they had followed him, where it was supposed he had at last been taken. I asked what his crime was, but nobody knew. Some believed him to be a thief, some thought it was a press-gang, and others conjectured they were bailiffs.
It was not long, however, before a decent, well-looking, and indeed handsome young woman, with a fine child in her arms, came running up the court, made her way through the crowd with terror in her countenance, and with the most piercing cries demanded—'Where is he?—Where is my dear Harry?—Who has seen him? Where is he?'
Some of the people pointed out the house. She knocked violently, continued her cries and lamentations, and at last gained admittance.
Her grief was so moving, so sympathetic, that it excited my compassion, and made me determine to follow her. Accordingly I elbowed my way, though I felt that I rather disturbed the surgeon's dressing; but that was a trifle. I followed her up stairs without ceremony. With respect to her, affection, 'masterless passion, had swayed her to its mood'—she was not to be repulsed.
The prisoner and his pursuers had descended to the second floor, in which the poor fugitive had endeavoured to seek refuge, but not soon enough to find protection from the bailiffs, as they proved and as he knew them to be. Never didst thou see terror so strong, nor affection so pathetic, as this excellent young woman, his wife, discovered. Excellent I am certain she is. She wrung her hands, she fell on her knees, she held up her babe; and, finding these were ineffectual, she screamed agonizing prayers to save her Harry. The idea she had conceived of the loss of liberty, and the miseries of a prison, must have been dreadful. But tears and prayers and cries were vain; she was pleading to the deaf, or at least to the obdurate.
As soon as the violence of her grief gave a momentary respite, I enquired what the sum was for which he was in thraldom, and found it to be sixteen pounds, beside costs. It was not a debt originally contracted by himself; it was for a note, in which he had joined to serve his wife's brother. It seemed they are a young couple, who by their industry have collected a trifling sum, with which they have taken a small shop. I did not ask of what kind. She serves her customers, and he follows his trade, as a journeyman carpenter. It did not a little please me to hear the young creature accuse her brother of being false to his friend; while the husband defended him, and affirmed it could be nothing but necessity. I could perceive however that she grieved to think her brother was not so good as she could have wished him to be.
The horrors of a jail were so impressed, so rooted in her fancy, that she was willing to sell any thing, every thing; she would give them all she had, so that her Harry might not be dragged to a damp, foul dungeon; to darkness, bread and water, and starving. Thou canst not imagine the volubility with which her passions flowed, and her terrors found utterance, from the hope that it was not possible for Christian hearts to know all this, and not be moved to pity.
I am well persuaded however that, had I not been there, those good Christians the bailiffs would have paid no other attention to her panic than to see how it might be turned to profit. The miscreants talked of five guineas, for the pretended risk they should run, in giving him a fortnight to sell his effects to the best advantage. They too could recommend a broker, a very honest fellow—By what strange gradations, Oliver, can the heart of man become thus corrupt? The harpies looked hatefully.
Luckily I happened to have the twenty pound note, which pride had bidden me reject with so much scorn, in my pocket. Thou, I am certain, wilt not ask what I did with it. I immediately tendered those same Christians I told thee of their money. The rascals were disappointed, and would have been surly; but a single look silenced their insolence. One of them was dispatched, according to form, to see that there were no detainers; and, being paid, they then set their prisoner free.
Now, if thou thinkest, Oliver, thou canst truly figure to thyself the overflowing gratitude of the kind young creature, the wife, thou art egregiously mistaken. She fell on her knees to me, she blessed me, prayed for me, and said I was an angel from heaven, sent to save her dear Harry from destruction; she kissed him, hugged, God blessed, and half smothered her heavenly infant, as she truly called it, with kisses; nay she kissed me—in spirit, Oliver—I could see she did: ay and in spirit I returned her chaste caresses.
She entreated me with so much humble love and gratitude to come and see her poor house, which I had saved, and to tell her my name, that she might pray for me the longest day she had to live, that I could not forbear gratifying her so far as to go with her. As for my name, I told her it was man. The quick hussey understood me, for she replied—No, it was angel.
I found her house, like her person, neat, and in order. What is still better, her Harry seems a kind good young man, and alive to as well as deserving of her affection.
Wouldst thou think it, Oliver?—The pleasure I had communicated had reverberated back upon myself; yet the sight of a couple thus happy gave birth to a thought of such exquisite pain that—! Something shot across my brain—I know not what—But it seemed to indicate I should never be so mated!
Still, this money, Oliver—Prithee be at the trouble to examine the question, and send me thy thoughts; for I have not been able to satisfy myself. What is the thing called property? What are meum and tuum? Under what circumstances may a man take money from another? I would not be proud; neither would I render myself despicable.
Thou seest how I delight to impart my joys and griefs to thee. Thou tellest me thou partakest them; and, judging by myself, I cannot but believe thee. Tell me when thou art weary of me; I have long and often been weary of myself.
Yet she is very kind to me, and so kind that I have lately been betrayed into hopes too flattering, too ecstatic to be true. Oh! Should she ever think of me! Were it only possible she ever should be mine!—The pleasure is too exquisite! It is insupportable!—Let me gaze and wonder at humble distance, in silence and in awe!—Do not call me abject—Yet, if I am so, do; tell me all that ought to be told. It is not before her rank that I bend and sink. Being for being I am her equal: but who is her equal in virtue?—Heavens! What a smile did she bestow on me, when I took the money I mentioned to thee! It has sunken deep, deep in my heart! Never can it be forgotten! Never! Never!
Peace be with thee.
Anna Wenbourne St. Ives to Louisa Clifton
Must I be silent? Must I not tell my Louisa how infinitely her candor and justice delight me? With the voice of a warning angel she bids me enquire, examine my heart, and resolve. I think I have resolved; and from reasons which I believe are not to be overcome. Yet I will confess my opinion, strong as it is, receives violent attacks; as, Louisa, you will be convinced, when you have read the whole of this letter.
My friend cautions me against being partial, even in favour of her brother. Such a friend is indeed worthy to advise, and I will remember her precepts. This brother may be a degenerate scion from a noble stock: yet I can hardly think the thing possible. That he may have fallen into many of the mistakes, common to the world in which he has lived, is indeed most likely. But the very qualities which you describe in him speak an active and perhaps a dignified nature.
We have duties to fulfil. Few opportunities present themselves to a woman, educated and restrained as women unfortunately are, of performing any thing eminently good. One of our most frequent and obvious tasks seems to be that of restoring a great mind, misled by error, to its proper rank. If the mind of Clifton should be such, shall I cowardly decline what I believe it to be incumbent on me to perform? Let him be only such as I expect, and let me be fortunate enough to gain his affections, and you shall see, Louisa, whether trifles shall make me desist.
What high proofs of courage, perseverance, and of suffering, do men continually give! And shall we wholly renounce the dignity of emulation, and willingly sign the unjust decree of prejudice, that mind likewise has its sex, and that women are destitute of energy and fortitude?
But Frank Henley!—Let me not hide a thought from my Louisa. He is indeed worthy of being loved, every day more worthy. I have a new story to tell, which will be more effectual praise than any words of mine. Like you I am persuaded he has some affection for me. I am not insensible to his worth and virtues: I ought not to be. Were I to indulge the reveries into which I could easily fall, I might be as much misled by passion as others, who are so ready to complain and pity themselves for being in love. But a wakeful sense of the consequences is my safeguard. It cannot be. I should render my father, my relations, and friends, miserable. I should set a bad example to my sex. I, who am at shewing them mind is superior to sex.
Such are the thoughts that protect me from the danger. His mental excellence perhaps I love as truly as heart could wish. But, as the lover who is to be the husband, no! I will not suffer my thoughts to glance in that direction. I might, but I will not. Nothing but a conviction that my principles are wrong shall ever make me; and that conviction I hold to be impossible.
Do not imagine I am guilty of the mistake of supposing myself his superior. Far the reverse. The tale which I am now about to relate will inform you better of the true state of my feelings.
You must know, my dear, that on our arrival in town, Sir Arthur, with my help, prevailed on Frank Henley to accept a twenty pound bill, that he might have the means of gratifying his inclinations, and enjoying the pleasures which at his age it is natural he should wish to enjoy. These means I had but too good reason to be convinced had been denied him by his father, which I suspected to be, and am now satisfied was, the true reason that Frank refused to attend us on our journey.
The youth has quite pride enough, my dear: he is desirous to confer, but not to accept obligations; is ready enough to give, but not to receive. As if he had not only a right to monopolize virtue, but to be exempt from the wants which are common to all, and to supply which men form themselves into societies. He seems to shrink with exquisite pain from the acceptance of money. However I was determined to conquer, and conquer I did. Nor can I say, considering them as I do, that I was sorry to offend the false feelings even of Frank Henley, for whom I have an infinite esteem.
After receiving this present, he accompanied me two or three times to those public places to which crowns and half guineas gain admittance; and, as you may imagine, was far from appearing insensible of the powers of poetry and music. Suddenly however he refused to be any more of such parties, for which I own I could divine no reason. I knew he had been educated in habits of oeconomy, and therefore could not suppose, generous though I knew him to be, that he had squandered away his pocket-money in so short a time. I endeavoured both to rally and to reason, but in vain; he was positive even to obstinacy; and I rightly conjectured there must be some cause for it which I had not discovered.
You have heard me speak, I believe, my dear, of Mrs. Clarke, as of a careful good woman, and a great favourite with my dear mamma, when living. She was then our housekeeper in the country, but has lately been left in the town house; because the furniture is too valuable to be entrusted to a less attentive person. This Mrs. Clarke had a sister whose name was Webb, and who left a son and a daughter, who are both married. The son, as you will soon hear, has been a wild and graceless fellow; but the daughter is one of the most agreeable and engaging young creatures I think I ever saw.
Yesterday my good Mrs. Clarke and her niece were shut up together in close conversation for a considerable time; and I perceived that their cheeks were swelled, their eyes red, and that they had been crying violently. I almost revere Mrs. Clarke as my mother, because of the excellence of her heart and the soundness of her understanding. I therefore could not forbear earnestly enquiring whether it were possible for me to remove her cause of grief; for grieved, I told her, I could plainly perceive she was. She burst into tears again on my questioning her, and endeavoured to express feelings that were too big for utterance. Turning to her niece she said—'I must inform my dear young lady.' 'For God's sake don't! For the Lord's sake don't!' cried the terrified creature. 'I must,' replied the aunt. 'It is proper.' 'He will have no mercy shewn him! He will be hanged!' exclaimed the other, in an agony. 'You do not know this lady,' said the aunt. 'Indeed she does not,' added I, 'if she supposes I would have any creature upon earth hanged.' 'Retire, Peggy,' said the aunt, 'while I relate the vile, the dreadful tale.' 'No, no! For mercy's sake no!' replied the niece. 'I must stay, and beg, and pray, and down on my knees for my brother! He is a wild and a wicked young man, but he is my brother.' 'Pray let her stay,' said I to the aunt. 'And fear nothing, my kind-hearted Peggy. Be assured I will not hurt a hair of your brother's head. I will do him good if I can, but no injury.' 'The God of Heaven bless and reward your angelic ladyship!' cried the half frantic grateful Peggy.
Mrs. Clarke attempted to begin her story. She was almost suffocated. I never heard so heart-rending a groan as she gave, when she came to the fatal sentence! Would you believe it, Louisa? This nephew of the worthy Mrs. Clarke, this brother of the good Peggy, is the very highwayman who shot Frank Henley!
His benevolent aunt has been with him, for he is still under the surgeon's hands; and he has confessed to her [I am angry with myself, Louisa, to find I wonder at it] he has confessed that the brave, the humane, the noble-minded Frank has visited him several times, and has set the folly of his wicked pursuits in so true and so strong a light, that the man protests, with the utmost vehemence, if he can but escape punishment for the faults he has committed, he will sooner perish than again be guilty of his former crimes.
The first time Frank visited him he gave the poor wretch a guinea; and went himself in search of another lodging for him, as well to remove him from the knowledge of his wicked companions as to protect him from the forty pound hunters. The man wants to escape over to the continent; and appears to be so sincere, in his resolves of reformation, that Frank has undertaken to furnish him with the means.
You cannot imagine, Louisa, the heart-felt praises which the worthy Mrs. Clarke bestowed on the youth. And Peggy said that she hoped she should some time or another live to see him, that she might fall down and kiss his footsteps! But, added she, with great ardor, I find indeed there are very good men in the world!
Still there appeared something enigmatical to me, between Frank and the money account. I could not conceive how he should want the means immediately to furnish such a sum as would have been sufficient for the poor fugitive. And this again reminded me how assiduously Frank had lately avoided every occasion of expence.
While we were in the midst of our discourse, who should enter the room but Frank! Never was I present at such a scene!—'Good God Almighty!' exclaimed Peggy, the moment she saw him. 'This is he! This is the very blessed, dear gentleman, that saved my poor Harry from those terrible jailors.'
'Is it possible?' cried Mrs. Clarke.
'It is, it is he! He himself!' said the full-hearted Peggy, falling down on her knees, and catching the flap of his coat, which she kissed with inconceivable enthusiasm.
Poor Frank did not know which way to look. Good deeds are so uncommon, and so much the cause of surprise, that virtue blushes at being detected almost as deeply as vice. I knew Frank had a noble heart; and I own, Louisa, I was not much amazed when Peggy, with abundance of kind expressions and a flow of simple eloquence, related the manner in which Frank had saved her husband from the bailiffs, by paying a debt which with costs amounted to upward of eighteen pounds.
I did not however forbear severely to reprove myself, for having dared so much as to imagine that a youth with such high virtues could not, in a city like London, find opportunities of expending so small a sum as twenty pounds in acts of benevolence. I ought at least to have supposed the thing probable; yet it never once entered my mind.
The thanks, blessings, and prayers of Peggy were endless. Finding him not only to be what she knew, the man who relieved her from the most poignant distress, but likewise the vanquisher and the saviour of her brother, she said and protested she was sure there was not such another angel upon earth! She was sure there was not! Frank was ashamed of and almost offended at her incessant praise. It was so natural and so proper for him to act as he did, that he is surprised to find it can be matter of wonder.
I must insist however upon seeing him reimbursed; and I persuade myself there is one thought which will make him submit to it quietly. I have but to remind him that the good of others requires that men, who so well know the use of it, should never be without money.
Adieu. I have not time to write more at present.—Yet I must, for I ought to add, that, though I thought myself so fully convinced when I began this letter, concerning Frank and the only right mode of acting, doubts have several times intruded themselves upon me, while I have been writing. I will think when the fancy is not so busy as at present; and when I have thought do not fear my resolution.
Ever most affectionately yours,
A. W. ST. IVES
Frank Henley to Oliver Trenchard
It is an intolerably strange thing, Oliver, that a man cannot perform the mere necessary duties of humanity, without being supposed almost a prodigy. Where is the common sense, I will not say delicacy, which should teach people that such suppositions are an insult, not only to the person but to all mankind? I am young, I grant, and know but little of the barbarity which it is pretended is universal. I cannot think the accusation true. Or, if it be, I am convinced it must be the result of some strange perversion of what may be called the natural propensities of man. I own I have seen children wrangle for and endeavour to purloin, or seize by force, each others apples and cherries; and this may be a beginning to future rapacity. But I know the obvious course of nature would be to correct, instead of to confirm, such mistakes. I know too that there are individual instances of cruelty, and insensibility. But these surely are the exceptions, and not the rule.
I visited a man whose vices, that is whose errors and passions were so violent as to be dangerous to society, and still more dangerous to himself. Was it not my duty? I thought myself certain of convincing him of his folly, and of bringing back a lost individual to the paths of utility and good sense. What should I have been, had I neglected such an opportunity? I have really no patience to think that a thing, which it would have been a crime to have left undone, should possibly be supposed a work of supererogation!
I saw an industrious rising family on the brink of ruin, and in the agonies of despair, which were the consequences of an act of virtue; and I was not selfish enough to prefer my own whims, which I might choose to call pleasures, to the preservation of this worthy, this really excellent little family. And for this I am to be adored! For no word is strong enough to express the fooleries that have been acted to me. They were well meant? True. They were the ebullitions of virtue? I do not deny it. But either they are an unjust satire upon the world in general, or it is a vile world. I half suspect, indeed, it is not quite what it ought to be.
In addition to all this, I have been obliged to receive a sum equal to that which I thought it my duty to bestow. This is the second time; and perhaps thou wilt tell me I am not difficult to persuade. Read the following dialogue, which passed between me and the most angelic of Heaven's creatures, and judge for thyself. She is really a prodigy! I never knew another mind of such uncommon powers! So clear, so collected, so certain of choosing the side of truth, and so secure of victory!
I am an ass! I am talking Arabic to thee. I ought to have begun with informing thee of a circumstance which is in itself odd enough. The highwayman and Peggy. [Pshaw! The woman whose husband was arrested.] They are not only brother and sister, but the nephew and niece of Mrs. Clarke. Think of that, Oliver! The nephew of so worthy a woman so audaciously wicked! Well might the distressed Peggy express anger which I could perceive was heartfelt, though she herself at that time knew not of this act. But to my dialogue. Listen to the voice of my charmer, and say whether she charm not wisely!
You have made a generous and a noble use, Frank, of the small sum which you were so very unwilling to accept. [She treats me with the most winning familiarity! What does she mean? Is it purposely to shew me how much she is at her ease with me; and how impossible it is that any thing but civility should exist between us? Or is it truly as kind as it seems? Can it be? Who can say? Is it out of nature? Wholly? Surely, surely not. These bursting gleams of hope beget suspense more intolerable than all the blackness of despair itself.]
I acted naturally, madam; and I confess it gives me some pain to find it the subject of so much wonder.
It is no subject of wonder to me. Your inferiors in understanding I know would not act like you; but the weak do not give law to the strong. I own that I have been dull enough, unjust enough, not to suspect your true motive for refusing, as you have done lately, to accompany us to public places. But this is a heavy penalty on you which an act of virtue ought not to incur.
If it be a penalty, madam, I am sure it is one which you have too much generosity to wish to deprive me of the pleasure of paying.
I understand your hint: but I am not so generous as you think me; for I am determined, and you know what a positive girl I am, to share both the penalty and the enjoyment with you.
I beg your pardon, madam, but that cannot be.
Oh! But, in spite of your serious and very emphatical air, it must be.
Excuse me, madam. I am certain you have too high a sense of justice to impose laws to which you yourself would not submit.
Very true. Prove me that and I am answered. Nay, so confident am I of the goodness of my cause, that I will not require you to take up this [Laying down another bank note, of equal value with the former.] unless I can on the contrary prove it to be nothing but false pride, or mistake, which can induce you to refuse. You perceive, Frank, I am not afraid of offending you by speaking the plain truth. Pray tell me, when you saw the worthy couple whom you relieved in distress, had you persisted in your refusal of the paltry bit of paper which I before prevailed on you to receive, what would you have said to yourself, what would have been your remorse, when you found yourself unable to succour the unfortunate, merely because you had been too proud to receive that which you wanted, and which therefore you had no right to refuse. [You see, Oliver, she snatched my own sword from my side, with which to dispatch me. If thou art too dull to understand me, consult my last letter.] You were ready to protect, though at the risk of your life, those very persons at whose favours, as they are falsely called, your spirit is so equally ready to revolt. Perhaps in defending us you did no more than you ought; but we cannot be ignorant how few are capable of doing so much. And, since you are thus prompt to perform all which the most austere morality can require, so long as it shall be apparent to the world that your motives are not selfish, proceed a step further; disregard the world, and every being in it; that is, disregard their mistakes; and, satisfied that your motives are pure, defy the false interpretations to which any right action may subject you. Neither, while you are actually discharging the highest offices of humanity, deny to others the right to fulfil some of the most trivial.
I could not act otherwise than I did, on both the occasions to which you allude, madam. I believe it is our duty always to be guided by circumstances; but not to be guilty of an impropriety, because it is possible such circumstances may again occur.
You are right. We only differ concerning the meaning of the word. Impropriety, or propriety, we shall come to presently. You have promised your wounded penitent money, to facilitate his escape, and you have none.
I have some trifling useless property, madam.
But you have a journey to make back to Wenbourne-Hill, according to your present intentions.
Do you imagine, madam, I cannot fast for a day?
Oh yes! I doubt it not; for a week, Frank, to effect any great, any laudable purpose. But I must be plain with you. It is ungenerous of you to wish to engross all virtue and sensibility. Beside, you have duties to perform to yourself, which are as pressing as any you owe to society, because they are to fit you for the social duties. [Hearken to the angel, Oliver!] It is as much my duty, at present, to afford you the means which you want, as it was yours to visit the wounded highwayman, or aid the distressed Peggy. You ought to suffer me to perform my duties, both for my sake and your own. You ought not to neglect, while you are in London, to seize on every opportunity which can tend to enlarge your faculties. You have no common part to act; and, that you may act it well, you should study the beings with whom you are to associate. You must not suffer any false feelings to unfit you for the high offices for the execution of which men like you are formed. [Didst thou ever hear such honeyed flattery, Oliver?] Something more—You must accompany us to France.