The Adventures of Hugh Trevor
—'TIS SO PAT TO ALL THE TRIBE EACH SWEARS THAT WAS LEVELLED AT ME.
Every man of determined inquiry, who will ask, without the dread of discovering more than he dares believe, what is divinity? what is law? what is physic? what is war? and what is trade? will have great reason to doubt at some times of the virtue, and at others of the utility, of each of these different employments. What profession should a man of principle, who is anxiously desirous to promote individual and general happiness, chuse for his son? The question has perplexed many parents, and certainly deserves a serious examination. Is a novel a good mode for discussing it, or a proper vehicle for moral truth? Of this some perhaps will be inclined to doubt. Others, whose intellectual powers were indubitably of the first order, have considered the art of novel writing as very essentially connected with moral instruction. Of this opinion was the famous Turgot, who we are told affirmed that more grand moral truths had been promulgated by novel writers than by any other class of men.
But, though I consider the choice of a profession as the interesting question agitated in the following work, I have endeavoured to keep another important inquiry continually in view. This inquiry is, the growth of intellect. Philosophers have lately paid much attention to the progress of mind; the subject is with good reason become a favourite with them, and the more the individual and the general history of man is examined the more proofs do they discover in support of his perfectability. Man is continually impelled, by the vicissitudes of life, to great vicissitudes of opinion and conduct. He is a being necessarily subject to change; and the inquiry of wisdom ought continually to be, how may he change for the better? From individual facts, and from them alone, can general knowledge be obtained.
Two men of different opinions were once conversing. The one scoffed at innate ideas, instinctive principles, and occult causes: the other was a believer in natural gifts, and an active fabricator of suppositions. Suggest but the slightest hint and he would erect a hypothesis which no argument, at least none that he would listen to, could overthrow. So convinced was he of the force of intuitive powers, and natural propensities, as existing in himself, that, having proposed to write a treatise to prove that apple trees might bear oysters, or something equally true and equally important, he was determined he said to seek for no exterior aid or communication, from books, or things, or men; being convinced that the activity of his own mind would afford intuitive argument, of more worth than all the adulterated and suspicious facts that experience could afford.
To this his antagonist replied, he knew but of one mode of obtaining knowledge; which was by the senses. Whether this knowledge entered at the eye, the ear, the papillary nerves, the olfactory, or by that more general sense which we call feeling, was, he argued, of little consequence; but at some or all of these it must enter, for he had never discovered any other inlet. If however the system of his opponent were true, he could only say that, in all probability, his intended treatise would have been written in the highest perfection had he begun and ended it before he had been born.
If this reasoning be just, I think we may conclude that the man of forty will be somewhat more informed than the infant, who has but just seen the light. Deductions of a like kind will teach us that the collective knowledge of ages is superior to the rude dawning of the savage state; and if this be so, of which I find it difficult to doubt, it surely is not absolutely impossible but that men may continue thus to collect knowledge; and that ten thousand years hence, if this good world should last so long, they may possibly learn their alphabet in something less time than we do even now, in these enlightened days.
For these reasons, I have occasionally called the attention of the reader to the lessons received by the principal character of the following work, to the changes they produced in him, and to the progress of his understanding. I conclude with adding that in my opinion, all well written books, that discuss the actions of men, are in reality so many histories of the progress of mind; and, if what I now suppose be truth, it is highly advantageous to the reader to be aware of this truth.
My birth: Family dignity insulted: Resentment of my grandfather: Parental traits of character
There are moments in which every man is apt to imagine, that the history of his own life is the most important of all histories. The gloom and sunshine, with which my short existence has been chequered, lead me to suppose that a narrative of these vicissitudes may be interesting to others, as well as to myself.
In the opinion of some people, my misfortunes began before I was born. The rector of ***, my grandfather, was as vain of his ancestry, as a German baron: and perhaps with no less reason, being convinced that Adam himself was his great progenitor. My mother, not having the fear of her father before her eyes, forgetful of the family dignity, disgraced herself, and contaminated the blood of her offspring, by marrying a farmer's son. Had she married a gentleman, what that very different being, which a gentleman doubtless must have generated, might have been, is more than I, as I now am, can pretend to divine. As it is, however low it may sink me in the reader's opinion, truth obliges me to own, I am but of a mongrel breed.
The delinquency of my mother was aggravated by the daringness of her disobedience; for the rector, having a foresight of what was likely to happen, had laid his express command on her never to see Hugh Trevor, my father, more, on the very night that she eloped. Add to which, she had the example of an elder sister, to terrify her from such dereliction of duty; who, having married a rake, had been left a widow, poor, desolate, and helpless, and obliged to live an unhappy dependent on her offended father. 'I'll please my eye though I break my heart,' said my mother.
She kept her word. Young Hugh was an athletic, well proportioned, handsome man; of a sanguine temper, prone to pleasure, a frequenter of wakes and fairs, and much addicted to speculate; particularly in cards, cocking, and horse-racing.
Discarded by the rector, who was obstinately irreconcileable, my mother went with her husband to reside in the house of her father-in-law. Folly visits all orders of men. Farmers, as well as lords and rectors, can be proud of their families. The match was considered as an acquisition of dignity to the house of Trevor; and my mother, bringing such an addition of honour, was most graciously received.
Here she remained something more than a year; and here, ten months after the marriage, I was born. I had not openly assumed the form which the vanity of man has dignified with divine above a fortnight, before my grandfather, Trevor, died. He had been what is usually called a good father; had lived in reputation, and had brought up a large and expensive family. But as good in this sense usually signifies indulgent, not wise, he had rather afforded his children the means, and taught them the art, of spending money than of saving. His circumstances were suspected, the creditors were hasty to prefer their claims, and it soon appeared that he had died insolvent. The family was consequently dispersed, and I, thus early, was in danger of being turned, a poor, wailing, imbecil wanderer, on a world in which the sacred rights of meum and tuum daily suffer thousands to perish.
Fortunately, considering the exigence of the moment, my father, who was enterprising, adroit, and loquacious, prevailed on some friends to lend him money to stock the farm, of the lease of which he was now in possession. In this he succeeded the more easily, because he had already acquired the character of an excellent judge of agricultural affairs. He was known to be acute at driving bargains, could value sheep, heifers, steers, and bullocks better than a Leicestershire drover, was an excellent judge of horse flesh, and, during his father's life, had several times proved he knew the exact moment of striking earnest. Had fate sent him to a minister's levee instead of a market for quadrupeds, he would have been a great politician! He would have bought and sold with as much dexterity as any dealer in black cattle the kingdom can boast!
At the first approach of misfortune, my mother had felt great despondency; but when she saw her young husband so active, animated, and fruitful in resource, her hopes presently began to brighten. The parish where the rector resided was four miles from Trevor farm, and the desolate prospect that at first presented itself to the imagination of my mother had induced her to write, with no little contrition, and all the pathos she could collect, to implore pardon for her offence. But in vain. Her humiliation, intreaties, and dread of want, excited sensations of triumph and obduracy, but not of compassion, in the bosom of the man of God. The rector was implacable: his pride was wounded, his prejudices insulted, and his anger rouzed. He had, beside, his own money in his own pocket, and there he was willing it should remain. Now we all know that pride, prejudice, anger, and avarice, are four of the most perverse imps the dramatis personae of the passions can afford. The irreparable wrong done to the family dignity, and the proper vengeance it became parental authority to inflict, on such presumption as my father had been guilty of, and such derogatory meanness as that of my mother, were inexhaustible themes.
The severity of her father rendered the fortunate efforts of her husband tenfold delightful. They mutually exulted in that futurity that should enable them to set the unkind rector at defiance; and Hugh often boasted he would prove, though but a farmer, that the blood in his veins was as warm, and perhaps as pure, as that of any proud parson's in the kingdom.
These were pleasant and flourishing but fleeting days. My father, when he went to the fair to purchase his team, happened to see a fine hunter on sale. It was a beautiful beast. Who could forbear to prefer him and his noble form, high blood, and spirited action, to the slouching dull and clumsy cart-horse? Hugh Trevor was not a man so deficient in taste; he therefore, instead of a team of five, brought home three horses for the plough, and this high bred hunter for his pleasure. My mother herself, when she saw the animal, and heard her husband's encomiums, could not but admire; nay she had even some inclination to approve: especially when she listened to what follows.
'My dear Jane,' said my father to her, after alighting from the back of his hunter, which he had walked, trotted, and galloped, to convince her how perfect he was in all his paces, 'My dear Jane, we have an excellent farm; the land is in good condition, the fences sound, and the soil rich: no man in this county understands seeding, cropping, and marketing better than I do: we shall improve our stock and double our rent' (it was a hundred and fifty pounds per annum) 'the first year. I shall soon meet with a smart nag, fit for the side saddle, and shall easily make you a good horse woman; and then, when the seed is in the ground, we may be allowed to take a little pleasure. Perhaps we may ride by the rector's door, and if he should not ask us in we will not break our hearts. Who knows but, in time, we may have cause to be as purse proud as himself?'
My father, as it appears, was sanguine, high spirited, and not without resentment. My mother, though her fancy was not quite so active, did not think his reasoning much amiss; and recollected the jaunts they were to take between seed time and harvest with complacency.
Progress of my education, and conjectures on its consequences
Bold in his projects, lucky in his bargains, and fertile in resources, every thing, for a time, which my father undertook, seemed to prosper.
In the interim, I grew apace; and, according to the old phrase, was my father's pride and my mother's joy. His free humour, and the delight she took in exhibiting her boy, had occasioned me, in early infancy, to be handed from arm to arm, and so familiarized to a variety of countenances, as soon to be entirely exempted from the usual fears of children. My father's bargains and sales brought me continually acquainted with strange faces. He was vain of me, fond of having me with him, and, as he called it, of case-hardening me. I became full of prattle, inquisitive, had an incessant flow of spirits, and often put interrogatories so whimsical, or so uncommon, as to make myself remarkably amusing.
From inclination, indeed, and not from plan, my father took some trouble in my education; which I suspect was productive of unforeseen effects. He played with me as a cat does with her kitten, and taught me all the tricks of which he was master. They were chiefly indeed of a bodily kind; such as holding me over his head erect on the palm of his hand; putting me into various postures; making me tumble in as many ways as he could devise; pitching me on the back of his hunter, and accustoming me to sit on full trot; with abundance of other antics, at which he found me apt; yet, being accompanied with laughter and shouts, and now and then a hard knock, they tended, or I am mistaken, not only to give bodily activity, but to awaken some of the powers of mind; among which one of the foremost is fortitude. Insomuch that, since I have had the honour to become a philosopher, I have begun to doubt whether, hereafter, when the world shall be wiser, the art of tumbling may not possibly supercede the art of dancing? But this by the by.
Nor was my mother, on her part, altogether deficient in activity. Exclusive of providing me with a sister, who from some accident or other was but a puling, wrangling, rickety young lady, she initiated me in the mysteries and pleasures of the alphabet. The rector had taken some trouble to make his daughters good English scholars; and my mother, though she had retained much of his solemn song, could not only read currently, and articulate clearly, but made some attempts to understand what she read. It must be acknowledged, however, that her efforts were but feeble.
I know not how it happened that I very early became in love with this divine art, but such was the fact. I could spell boldly at two years and a half old, and in less than six months more could read the collects, epistles, and gospels, without being stopped by one word in twenty. Soon afterward I attacked the Bible, and in a few months the tenth chapter of Nehemiah himself could not terrify me. My father bought me many tragical ditties; such as Chevy Chace, the Children in the Wood, Death and the Lady, and, which were infinitely the richest gems in my library, Robin Hood's Garland, and the History of Jack the Giant-killer. To render these treasures more captivating, observing the delight it gave me, he used sometimes to sing the adventures of Robin Hood with me; whether to the right tunes, or to music of his own composing, is more than I know.
By accidents of this and the like kind, I became so much my father's play-thing, and toy, that, his affairs then going on prosperously, he put me in breeches before I was four years old, bought me a pony, which he christened Gray Bob, buckled me to the saddle for safety, and with a leading rein used frequently to take me with him to markets, fairs, and races.
But, before I proceed to relate more of my infantine adventures, it will be necessary to introduce a kinsman of mine to the reader's acquaintance; of whom, though the alliance were now of some standing, he has yet never heard.
Rational courtship, and prudent views of widowed lovers: A strange doubt hinted: The husband's code: Laws are quickly prescribed, and Yes is easily said
I have already mentioned my aunt, her imprudent first marriage, the rector's resentment, who used to pronounce himself the most unfortunate of men, in undutiful children, and her irksome dependence on his bounty. With this aunt Mr. Elford, a man of much worth, considerable knowledge, and great integrity of intention, became acquainted, and by a variety of motives was prompted to pay her his addresses.
No people are so certain of the happiness of a state of wedlock as a couple courting. Some difference however must be made, between lovers who have never married, and lovers who, having made the experiment, find it possible that a drop of gall may now and then embitter the cup of honey. My aunt's first husband had been a man of an easy disposition, and readily swayed to good or ill. She had seldom suffered contradiction from him, or heard reproach. A kind of good humoured indolence had accustomed him rather to ward off accusation with banter, or to be silent under it, than to contend. His extravagance had obliged her to study the strictest economy; she, therefore, was the ostensible person; she regulated, she corrected, she complained. She had a tincture of the rector in her composition, and her husband's follies afforded sufficient opportunities for the exercise of her office.
After his death, which happened early, the wrecks of his originally small fortune, scarcely afforded her subsistence for a year. By many humble but grating concessions on her part, and no less proud upbraidings on the part of her father, she was first allowed a trifling annuity, almost too scanty to afford the means of life, and, as it were in resentment to the unpardonable conduct of my mother, was afterward permitted to return to the parsonage house.
The state of subjection in which she was kept, the dissatisfaction this evidently created, the gloom that was visible in her countenance, and that seemed to oppress her heart, added to a disconsolate and habitual taciturnity, soon occasioned Mr. Elford to consider her with compassion: and the very question—can I not afford her relief? gave birth to ideas of a still more tender nature.
These were seconded by a retrospect to his own situation. He had lost a beloved wife, who had left him an infant daughter, in whose future felicity he was strongly interested. He had often considered the subject of education, and had become the determined enemy of boarding-schools, where every thing is taught and nothing understood; where airs, graces, mouth primming, shoulder-setting and elbow-holding are studied, and affectation, formality, hypocrisy, and pride are acquired; and where children the most promising are presently transformed into vain, pert misses, who imagine that to perk up their heads, turn out their toes, and exhibit the ostentatious opulence of their relations, in a tawdry ball night dress, is the summit of perfection.
Determined that his child should be sent to no such academy, he considered a second marriage as necessary. Though an excellent economist, he was utterly a stranger to avarice. My aunt was neither rich, nor handsome, nor young; being, according to the rector's account, on the debtor side of his books, of an adust complection, atrabilarious in look and temper, thirty-four, and two years older than Mr. Elford. But he imagined he could make her happy; or at least could relieve her from a state little less than miserable. He likewise supposed that she was well fitted to promote plans which he held to be wise. Errors in moral calculations frequently escape undetected, even by the most accurate.
But, as he was very sincere and honest in his intentions, he thought proper, while paying his court to her, to explain what his expectations were, and the reasons on which they were grounded. His system was, there must be government; and, if government, there must be governors. This by the by I believe to be a radical mistake in politics; though I likewise believe there is not one man in fifty thousand who would not scoff at me for the supposition. Proceeding in his hypothesis, he concluded that the strongest understanding had a prescriptive and inherent right to govern; and with great candour, thus laying down the law to my aunt, he undisguisedly avowed a conviction that his understanding was the strongest, and that to govern would be his inherent right.
His words were so powerful, his arguments so excellent, his statement of them so clear, and all his deductions so indubitable, that my aunt had not the least objection to offer. 'That must be allowed—that cannot be denied—nothing can be more reasonable'—were her continual answers. The consequence of all this was a marriage: and my aunt having been noted for her prudence, during the life of her first husband, (though not indeed in having made him her husband) and Mr. Elford's character, for propriety, rectitude and good intention, being still more permanently established, there was not the least doubt entertained, especially by the parties, but that this would be a happy match.
Having thus brought the reader and Mr. Elford together, I must now proceed to relate the manner in which I myself and my good uncle first became acquainted.
My curiosity leads me into danger, but introduces me to a friend, who discovers that he is my uncle
In the month of August, and the city of *****, a fair is annually held, in which, during those halcyon days of prosperity, my father was an active trafficker. Thither the neighbouring gentry, yeomanry, and dealers in general, repaired, as the best mart in the county, at which to expend their money. It was fifteen miles from Trevor farm.
Curiosity is an incessant impulse to youth. I intreated to go, and my petition was favourably received. When we were there, in consequence of some bargain or sale, it happened that my father had occasion to ride, with a farmer, to a place at some distance from the fair, and in the interim to leave me in the care of the bar-maid of the inn, at which we had put up.
He had not been long gone before I, eager to see what could be seen, broke loose from my keeper, who was too busy to pay much attention to me, and strolled into the throng. I wandered about, without any suspicion of danger, from place to place, I know not how long, to drink in all the knowledge that could enter at my eyes.
How I came there I cannot tell, but at last it appears I had rambled into a coffee-house, put questions to the guests, who found amusement in the novelty of my undaunted air, appearance, and prattle, and, having taken up a newspaper and begun to display my talent, was placed upon a table to read it aloud to the company.
The astonished farmers could scarcely believe their ears, so much was I, a four-year-old child, their superior in learning. Some of them were not certain that I was not an imp of Satan, so utterly did my performance exceed credibility. My beauty too at this age was uncommon; my limbs were straight and strong, my cheeks of the purest red and white, and my full flaxen hair hung in short ringlets down my neck. The mistress and bar-maid kissed me, the men gave me money, and they all eagerly enquired who I was, where I was going, and how I had come there.
In the height of this scene it happened that Mr. Elford came in, who, though two years married to my aunt, till that time had never seen me. Though his understanding prevented any stupid wonder, yet he felt uncommon emotion for a child, unknown to everybody, yet happy and fearless, and so attractive in manners, form, and intelligence. He asked, what was my name? I answered, little Hugh. From whence did I come? From home—Who brought me? Gray Bob.—Where was I going? To see the fair.
In the midst of these interrogatories, a beggar, with a child at her back, and another that she led, came into the coffee-room. In one hand I had a cake, given me by one of the company, which I had begun to eat; and in the other the money, that the kindness and amazement of my auditors had forced upon me. The woman intreated piteously for relief; and the landlord, angry that his guests should be disturbed, advanced to turn her out. She again intreated with great earnestness for charity. That she inspired me with some share of pity, seems certain for I held out my hand with the money to her, and said—Here!
Pleased with my promptness, Mr. Elford bade her take it, and she obeyed. The child at her back, seeing my cake, stretched out its arm; I understood its language, and was going to give it the cake, but checked myself, and said, No; you must not have all; your brother must have a bit; and broke it between them. Seized with one of those emotions, to which some few people are subject, Mr. Elford snatched me in his arms, kissed me, and exclaimed—My good boy, I prophecy thou wilt one day be a brave fellow!
Just as this was passing, the city bellman took his stand opposite the coffee-house door; and, with his O yes, gave notice that I was lost; concluding with a description of my age, dress, name, and place of abode.
Mr. Elford immediately conjectured his business, went to listen, was struck when he heard the particulars, and hastily returned to ask me if my name was Hugh Trevor? I answered, yes; little Hugh. He instantly ran after the bellman, told him the boy was found, and I was conducted by Mr. Elford and the bellman, with a crowd in their retinue, back to my terrified father; between whom and my uncle an acquaintance from this time commenced.
Benevolent stratagem of my uncle defeated by the unlucky and foolish triumph of my father: The anger and oath of the rector
Mr. Elford cultivated a small estate of his own, lying about ten miles from Trevor farm, and beyond that village of which my grandfather was the spiritual guide. The daughter for whose sake he had first been prompted to marry again was dead, and this perhaps was one cause that strengthened his affection for me. He frequently rode over to visit us, made himself my play-mate and favourite, encouraged a greater degree of intimacy between the sisters, who were not too cordially inclined toward each other, and soon obtained permission to take me home with him for a fortnight. The disposition he shewed to aid my father, and the possibility that I might one day be his heir, readily induced my parents to comply.
Mr. Elford, as his history will shew, was perhaps liable to greater mistakes than might have been expected from a man of so much understanding, ardour, and goodness of intention; but, though like other men occasionally blind to his own errors, he could not but feel pain at the obduracy of the rector's conduct toward my mother. For this reason, on my first visit to his house, he concerted a plan by which he hoped to effect a reconciliation. From the incidents that occurred, I think it probable that he would have accomplished his purpose, had it not been for a trick that my father played, by which this well meant scheme was rendered abortive.
Squire Mowbray, the lord of the manor in which lay the village where my grandfather lived, kept his coach and his post chariot. The rector, who had a secret enmity to him, or rather to that influence by which his own power was diminished, kept his coach and his post chariot too, lest he should openly avow inferiority, and his dignity be called in question. To add to these honours, he was drawn by a pair of bays.
It happened that one of these animals became unfit for service, was sold, and another was wanting as his successor. A neighbouring horse-breeder had one that was a good match, and for which the rector had bidden money, but not enough. My father, in the mean time, had purchased this and other horses of the owner; and the rector, when it was too late, sent to offer the man his own price.
The breeder made application to my father to have the horse again, with an allowance of profit; to which he consented, till he was accidentally told for whom the horse was designed. Flushed with temporary success and fallacious hopes, Hugh was happy to find an opportunity of shewing that he could resent as well as the rector, and exultingly swore he should not have the horse, if he would purchase him at his weight in gold.
The message, with a due increase of insulting aggravation, was conveyed to the divine; who was so exasperated by this audacious act of insolence and gratuitous rebellion, that he went down on his knees, and took a solemn oath never to forget or forgive the injury.
Whether this became an apostle of peace, or whether divines are all and unexceptionably apostles of peace, are questions which I do not here pretend to analyze.
Ignorant of this event, and glowing with the desire of affording me a grandfather's protection, Mr. Elford pursued his little plot. The rector had always wished for a male heir, the offspring of his own loins; but in this he had not been indulged, by those powers that regulate such matters. A son of his own being therefore past hope, Mr. Elford imagined he might perhaps find consolation in the succedaneum of a grandson.
Accordingly, a few days after my arrival at his house, where I was to stay a fortnight, he invited the rector, who had never yet seen me, to dinner. Without telling him who I was, my uncle made me so diverting, by the art with which he knew how to manage me, that the old gentleman, quite surprized, declared I was a very extraordinary child.
So fearless and free was my behaviour, that the rector and I presently became familiar. I shook hands with him, sat on his knee, felt in his pocket, gave him the history of Gray Bob, and asked for a penny to buy me a whip. My request being granted, I wanted immediately to have a horse saddled, that I might ride to market, and make my purchase; and the good humour with which I received the information, that this was a favour not to be obtained, further gained on the old theologian's heart. I asked if he had a horse. He answered, yes, he had many horses; and that if I would go home with him, he would let me ride them all. Come, let us go, said I, taking hold of his hand, and pulling him.
Mr. Elford, waiting for the proper moment, and interrupting me, asked my grandfather—'If you, Sir, had but such a little fellow of your own, what would you do with him?'—'Do!' exclaimed the rector: 'I would make a man of him. Oh that he had been mine twenty years ago!'—'And why not, O that he were mine now?' answered Mr. Elford—'I could be well contented that he were.' As he said this, the rector, strange to tell, sighed—'Your wishes then are gratified,' continued Mr. Elford: 'he is your own.'—'How?'—'Your grandson!'
The reverend pastor was taken by surprise. Certain associations had been set afloat, and the desire of realizing the vision had for a moment obliterated the recollection of revenge. 'Go, Hugh,' said Mr. Elford, 'and kiss your grandfather.' Without asking any questions, or shewing the least token of reluctance, I went up to him, as I was bidden, to give the kiss; but my good-humoured face, stretched out arms, and projecting chin, were presented in vain: the words Hugh and grandfather had conjured up the fiend, and the rector sat motionless.
Not accustomed to meet and therefore not expecting repulse, I climbed up his chair, stayed myself by the breast of his coat, and sat down on his knee. The recollection of his daughter's crime, his contaminated blood, and the insufferable insolence of my father, came strongly upon him. He scowled at me, seized me by the arms, flung me from him with something like violence, and walked hastily out of the house.
The tide of passion ran so high that he would not stay to dine, but departed, muttering anger at the conduct of Mr. Elford, and repeating asseverations of eternal resentment and maledictions against undutiful children.
Mr. Elford felt an emotion something stronger than grief, to see a pastor of the flock of Christ thus cherish the spirit of persecution. On me the scene made but little impression. I had no apprehension that the day was coming, when this inflexible guide of Christians would find his prayers effectual, and his prophecies of vengeance fulfilled. How could I know that there was so hateful a vice as malignity? The holy seer did not indeed indulge his wrath quite so far as Elisha, at least not openly; he did not curse me in the name of the Lord, nor did she-bears come out of the wood to devour me; but I soon enough had my share of misfortune. Preachers of peace, it appears, were always irritable: but to do them justice, I believe they are something less so now than they were of old.
My different preceptors and early propensities: I ride to hunt with my father, which is productive of a strange and terrible adventure
My father's affairs still continued to wear the appearance of success, and by the aid of Mr. Elford, he extended his speculations. For some few years my time passed merrily away. Under the tuition of my father, I gained health, strength, and intrepidity; and was taught to sip ale, eat hung beef, ride like a hero, climb trees, run, jump, and swim; that, as he said, I might face the world without fear. I grew strong of muscle, and my thews and sinews became alert and elastic in the execution of their office.
To my uncle I was indebted for hints and notions of a more refined and elevated nature. By familiar instances, he endeavoured to make me distinguish between resisting wrongs and revenging them; and to feel the pleasure, not only of aiding the weak, but of pardoning the vanquished.
From the books which I found in his house, I likewise early acquired a religious propensity, which was encouraged by my aunt with all her power, and seconded by my mother. Their education, and the dogmas they had heard from the rector, had given them very high notions of the dignity of the clerical character; in the superior presence of which, temporal things, laymen, and civil magistracy itself, sunk into insignificance. The perusal of Fox's Book of Martyrs, of which I was so fond that I would sit with my aunt for hours, before I was eight years old, and read it to her, aided their efforts: and this childhood bias, as will be seen, greatly influenced my first pursuits in life. We are all the creatures of the necessities under which we exist. The history of man is but the history of these necessities, and of the impulse, emotion, or mind, by them begotten. Of the incidents of my childhood, that which made the deepest impression upon me I am now going to relate.
The daring Hugh, my father, who feared no colours, had long been accustomed, whenever he could find time, and often indeed when he could not, to follow the fox hounds, and hunt with his landlord, the Squire himself. Among his other bargains, he had lately bought one of the Squire's brood mares, Bay Meg, that had been sold because she had twice cast her foal. On the eve of my ninth returning birth-day, being in a gay humour (he was seldom sad) he said to me, 'I shall go out to-morrow morning with Squire Mowbray's hounds, Hugh; will you get up and go with me?' My heart bounded at the proposal. 'Yes,' said I. 'Lord, husband,' exclaimed my mother, 'would you break the child's neck?' 'There is no fear,' retorted I. 'Well said, Hugh', continued my father; 'you shall ride Bay Meg; you are but a feather, she will carry you with ease, and will not run away with you.' 'Never fear that,' replied I, stoutly. My mother at first made some opposition, but my father laughed, and I coaxed, intreated, and teazed, till she complied; for this was by no means the first scene of the kind.
I went to bed with an overjoyed heart, and a head so full of the morrow that I was up dressed and ready the first in the house. The horses were brought out, my father and I mounted, we soon came up with the sportsmen, and away we went in quest of a fox.
We were at first unlucky, and it was late in the day before Reynard was found; but about noon the hounds opened, he started in view, and the sport began.
The chace happened to be long, heavy, and continued for many miles. My father was an eager sportsman. He valued himself both upon his hunter and his horsemanship; and who should be first in at the death was an honour that he would contend with the keenest sportsman in the kingdom, though it were the Squire himself. The running was so severe that Bay Meg became willing to lag. He looked behind, called after me to push on, and I obeyed, and laid on her with whip and heel, as lustily as I could. My father, anxious to keep sight of me yet not lose the hounds, pulled in a little, and the hunted animal, in hopes of finding cover, made toward a wood. Being prevented from entering it, he skirted along its sides, and turning the corner, the hindmost sportsmen followed by a short cut through the wood.
Keeping my eye on my father, I likewise struck into the wood, but, taking a wrong direction, was presently entangled among the trees and brambles, and entirely at a loss. I afterward learned that my father, having lost sight of me for some minutes, stopped, hoping I should come up; and then rode back to seek me, while I was spurring forward in a contrary line.
After many efforts, stoppages, and windings, I at last made my way through the wood, and came to the entrance of an extensive heath. The hounds, though at a great distance, were still in hearing, and Bay Meg, accustomed to the sport, erected her ears and listened after them with great attention. For some time longer she obeyed the whip, and increased her gallop, evidently with a desire to come up with them; but after a while, finding they were out of hearing, she grew sulky, slackened her pace, tired, and at last fairly stood still. I had been so much used to horses that, perceiving her humour, I had the sagacity to turn her head homeward, and she then went on again, though with a sullen and sluggish pace.
On looking round however, and considering, my alarm began. I was in the middle of an extensive heath, or moor, with no living creature, house, or object in sight, except here and there a scattered shrub and a few sheep. It was winter, and the day was far advanced: add to this the wind had risen, and when I turned about, was in my face, and blew a sharp sleet which then began to fall full in my eyes, half blinded me and the mare, and offended her nostrils so much that she once more wheeled about, and refused to proceed either one way or the other.
Not yet quite daunted, while I was making every effort to bring her round, a gust of wind blew off my hat. Forgetting that Bay Meg was tall and I short, and that there was neither gate nor mounting stone to be seen, I alighted to recover my hat. Being down, to get up again was impossible; my foot could not reach the stirrup.
The lowering sky, the approach of darkness, and the utter desert in which I found myself at length conjured up the full distress of the scene, which seized upon my imagination, and I burst into tears.
I continued sobbing, crying, and tugging at Bay Meg, till night had fairly overtaken us. At last I found myself beside some white railing, which was the boundary of a race course within the distance. This at first seemed to promise me relief: with great difficulty I coaxed Bay Meg up to it, climbed upon the railing, and hoped once more to mount. But in vain; the perverse animal set her face to me, nor could any language I was master of prevail on her to approach sideways; and if I lifted my whip, she did but run backward and pull me down.
This contest continued I know not how long, till quite hopeless I gave it up, and again proceeded to lead her, not knowing where or in what direction I was going. After a time the moon appeared, and a very indifferent afternoon was succeeded by a fine night. I continued sobbing, but still proceeded, as fast as I could prevail on Bay Meg to follow me, till propitious fortune brought me to a road, where the wheels had cut deep ruts, and the tread of horses had left the ridges high. Here I once again essayed to mount, and by the help of the stirrup succeeded!
Still I knew not where I was, nor what to do; except that my only chance was to go on.
I had not proceeded far before the traces of road began to diminish, and I struck into another path that seemed more beaten. This gradually disappeared, and I soon found myself on the level green-sward, without any marks of footing for my guide. To relieve this new distress I turned to the right, hoping again to recover the track I had lost; instead of which, after riding on I know not how far, I found the heath begin to grow marshy. Again I turned, but so unfortunately that every step the mare set sunk her deeper and deeper in a bog, till at last she could not drag herself out. My danger was extreme; but I rightly conjectured the bog would support me singly, better than it would me and the mare: I therefore jumped off, kept hold of the bridle, which I threw over her head, and by shifting my ground prevented myself from sinking very deep, while I continued my endeavours to relieve the mare. She made a lucky plunge, and I, turning her head in a different direction as much as possible, found myself in part released from this danger: though I was obliged to proceed every step with the utmost precaution.
Once more dismounted, wearied, and despairing, I had no resource but to wander I knew not whither, or lie down perishing with cold on a damp moor, while a severe frost was setting in. Great as my distress was, I had too much courage to sink under it, and I went on, giving some relief to my affliction by sobs and tears.
These various circumstances continued till the night began to be far advanced; but after two or three hours of most tedious and weary wandering I again came to a rising ground, by the help of which with great efforts I once more contrived to mount. I was no sooner in the saddle than I thought I saw a light at a distance, which sometimes seemed to glimmer and as often disappeared. Toward this however I determined to direct my course, and proceeded losing and recovering it till I could catch sight of it no more.
Continuing in the same direction for some time, I came to a barn. Benumbed, fatigued, and ready as I was to drop from the saddle, I entered it as joyfully as a shipwrecked sailor climbs a barren rock. I scarcely could dismount, and it was with great difficulty I could unbuckle and take off the bridle of Bay Meg: but my hands were so frost bitten and my perseverance so exhausted, that the saddle was beyond my ability. I therefore shut the door, and left her to feed on what she could find; while I went and laid myself down among some trusses of straw, that were heaped on one side.
The pain of my thawing hands would not immediately suffer me to go to sleep, and, just as it was beginning to decrease and I to slumber, the door opened and a woman came in. My fears were again alarmed, for as I listened I heard her weep bitterly. In no long time afterward a man leaned forward, through the door, and said—'Mary! Art thou there?'—To which she replied with a sob—'Yea, Tummas; I be here.'
My half frozen blood and my fears again afloat made me tremble through every limb; and there was something in the grief of the woman, and particularly in the voice of the man, which had no tendency to calm my agitation. I could see distinctly, for the moon shone full in at the door. He entered the barn, they sat down together, and after some trifling questions I heard the following dialogue.
'And so, Mary, thou say'st thou beest with child?'
'Yea, Tummas, that I too surely be; the more is my hard hap.'
'And what dost thou mean to do?'
'Nay, Tummas, what doon you mean to do?'
'No matter for that—Thou threatest me, last night, that thou wouldst swear thy bastard to me.'
'For shame, for shame, Tummas, to talk o'that'n! If it mun be a bastard, thou well knowest it is a bastard of thy own begetting.'
'I know better.'
'Oh Christ! Tummas: canst thou look in my face and tell me that?'
'Yea, I can.'
'Thou art a base false man, Tummas!'
'Don't call names.'
'Thou knowest thou art. What canst thou hope for, after swearing so wickedly as thou didst to be true to me and marry me, but that the devil should come for thee alive?'
'No matter for that. If I must go to the devil, it shall not be for nothing. But mayhap thou hadst a better a kept a good tongue in thy head.'
'Thou hadst a better a kept an honest one in thine, Tummas.'
'I'll make thee repent taunting me, as thou hast done, afore folks; and threaping and threating to lay thy bastard at my door.'
'Do thy worst! Thou hast brought me to shame and misery, and hast sworn thyself to the bottomless pit: what canst thou do more?'
'Thou shall see.'
As he said this, he deliberately drew a knife from his pocket, and began to whet it upon his shoe—I was breathless: my hair stood on end—The woman exclaimed:
'Jesus God! Tummas; What dost thou mean?'
'Say thy prayers!'
'Merciful Saviour! Why, thou wilt not murder me, Tummas?'
'Thou shalt never go alive out of this place.'
'Christ have mercy upon my sinful soul!'
'I'll do thy business.'
'For the gracious love of the merciful heaven, Tummas, bethink thyself!'
'I'll teach thee to swear thy ugly bastard brat to me!'
'I wunnot, Tummas; I wunnot! For Christ Jesus sake bethink thyself! Dunnot murder me, Tummas! Oh, dunnot murder me! I'll never trouble thee, Tummas, while I have breath; I'll never trouble thee! Indeed, indeed, I wunnot!'
'I know thee better: tomorrow thou would'st tell all; this and all.'
'Never, Tummas: as God shall pardon my sins, never, never, never!'
The poor creature screamed with agony, while the determined fellow kept whetting his knife. At last she made a sudden spring and endeavoured to seize his arm; but, missing her aim, he immediately struck her with his fist and began to stab her.
Unable to contain myself, I shrieked with no less horror and vociferation than the poor mangled creature. The mare herself took fright, and sprang, with the snorting of terror and clattering of hoofs, with her shoulder against the door, endeavouring to get out.
This unexpected noise, aiding his guilt, inspired the murdering wretch with instantaneous dread, and he immediately took to flight; leaving the woman weltering in her blood, groaning, and, as I supposed, expiring.
Impelled by my fears and the horror of the scene, I had no longer any feeling of cold, or sense of debility. I ran to the door, shut it, and finding a fork that stood beside it made as good a cross bar-fastening as I was able. I then resolutely set my own shoulder to it, and there remained, I know not how long, in momentary dread the murderer would return. The woman's groans seemed to diminish, as if she were dying; and I durst neither stir nor speak; for I feared to do any thing but listen.
The energy of my terror was so great that it was very very long before I was weary enough of my situation to be obliged to move. Fatigue, and a dead silence without, at length however induced me first to change my position, and after a time, gradually and with great caution, to open the door and look out. Neither hearing nor seeing any thing, I waited awhile, and then ventured so far as to walk round the barn; though in the utmost trepidation, and possessed by the most horrid fears, which were increased by a great increase of darkness; the moon being then either descending or hidden behind the clouds.
Having made no discoveries, except that every thing was quiet, I once more entered the barn, where all was still as death. The woman had ceased to groan; nor could I, though I listened with the most solicitous attention, hear her breathe. Horror returned in all its force, and I stood immoveable, unknowing what to resolve on or what to attempt. At length I took courage and exclaimed, 'In the name of God, if you are alive, speak!'
The very sound of my own voice inspired unutterable terror; which was augmented by a heavy and long confined groan, proceeding from the woman. She had retained her breath, fearing the return of the assassin. The answer that followed her groan was, 'If you are a Christian soul, get me some help.' I told her I was lost, benighted, and did not know where to go for any. She replied there was a town, not half a mile distant, at the back of the barn; and named the very place at which my aunt and uncle Elford lived.
As soon as surprise and joy would permit, I asked if she knew Mr. Elford. Her answer was, 'I am his servant; and this is his barn.'
Various recollections immediately crouded upon me, and the scene and the voice of poor Mary, to which a moment before I had been so utter a stranger, became familiar to me. 'It is I, Mary; little Hugh,' said I. 'Don't you know me?' A dismal 'Oh!' excited no doubt by the most painful associations, was her answer. I desired her to be quiet and patient, while I ran for aid; assuring her I would soon be back, for that I now knew where I was, and was perfectly acquainted with the road.
Accordingly away I ran, with all the speed I had, to my uncle's house; where, when I arrived, I knocked at the door, pelted the window, and called as vociferously as I could for them to rise. The house-dog barked violently, and my uncle was soon at the window, with my aunt at his back, demanding with surprise and dissatisfaction who I was, and what I wanted? I exclaimed, 'Come down, uncle! A man has been murdering your maid Mary! She will be dead if you do not make haste!' 'Good God!' cried my aunt, pressing forward; 'Child! Hugh Trevor! Nephew! Is it you?' 'Yes, yes, aunt,' answered I: 'make haste and try to save the poor creature's life!'
The astonishment excited by such a messenger, bringing such a message, and at such an hour, may well be imagined. Master, mistress, and servants, were immediately in motion, and the doors opened. Question succeeded question; exclamations were incessant; and my answers quickly communicated much of the terror I myself had felt.
Regulating his proceedings according to my account, Mr. Elford dispatched a servant to the surgeon; and, having prepared a hurdle by way of litter, went with me and two of his men to the barn.
My aunt was very loath I should return; but my spirits, by the various incidents of the night, were much too active to suffer me to feel either hunger, weariness, or want of sleep; and Mr. Elford recollected I might be useful, in preventing the terrors of poor Mary at our approach; for which reason he suffered me to run before, and inform her that help was coming.
When I came to the barn, the moment I set my foot over the threshold, my terrors of murder and of her having expired all returned. After a short pause, I called with a trembling voice, 'Mary! Are you alive?' and my heart bounded with joy to hear her, though dolefully, answer, 'yea.'
Mr. Elford and his attendants soon came up; and the remainder of the story of poor Mary was, that, being removed and put to bed, her wounds though deep and dangerous were found not to be mortal; that she recovered in a few weeks, and by the influence of Mr. Elford was retained in my aunt's service; to the great scandal of the place, where it was affirmed that such hussies and their bastards ought to be whipped from parish to parish, and so, as I suppose, whipped out of the world; that in two months time she was delivered of a fine boy, whom, when my uncle left the country, she maintained by her own hard earnings; and that in the extremity of her distress, when she thought herself at the point of death, she obstinately refused to declare who was her intended murderer; and though, by his having been known to be her sweetheart, and his flight from the country where he never more appeared, people were sufficiently convinced who the man was, yet her pertinacious theme was—she would never be his accuser: if God could pardon him, she could.
Mistakes and family quarrels of Mr. and Mrs. Elford: His departure, and exile: with the letters he wrote
And now the period approached when the pleasures of the days of childhood were to terminate, and when I was to experience an abundance of those rude disasters under which the poor, the friendless, and the fatherless, groan.
The first stroke which the malice of fortune aimed at me was the voluntary banishment of my uncle. Though I have forborne to interrupt my narrative by a recapitulation of the unhappy bickerings that took place between Mr. Elford and my aunt, soon after their marriage, yet these bickerings were very frequent, very bitter, and at last very fatal. Instead of the happiness which they and every body had thought so certain, they were completely wretched.
My youth had not prevented me lately from remarking, when at their house, the steady and severe silence which Mr. Elford endeavoured to preserve, and the fixed dissatisfaction and gloom of my aunt. Notwithstanding the efforts they made, especially Mr. Elford, not to suffer their unhappiness to extend beyond themselves, it became frequently painful, even for me, to be in their company. He indeed was often in part successful, in these efforts; but she seldom, or never.
Their mutual discontent was the more easily increased to misery, because it happened between people who each had the character of prudent; and whose partiality individually acquitted them of that disorder, which the want of good temper alone had produced.
In making an estimate of the probable conveniences and inconveniences, agreements and disagreements, that might happen between them, they had reciprocally been deceived.
Mr. Elford had endeavoured to provide against this, by a plain declaration of his sentiments and expectations; which Mrs. Elford had too inconsiderately concluded she should continue to think rational and just. She imagined there was no fear of violent quarrels, between a man of so much understanding as Mr. Elford and a woman so disposed to listen to reason as herself. She was ignorant of the power of habit over her temper. The rector had taught her pride, marriage had taught her misfortune, and pride and misfortune had made her fretful, melancholy and moody. She had suffered no opposition from her first husband; her will had been his law; and she knew not, till she had made the trial, how difficult it is to concede with a good grace. The least thing that offended her threw her into tears. The passions of Mr. Elford and my aunt were mutually too much inflamed for either of them to draw equitable and wise conclusions, and tears he held to be a false, insulting, and odious mode of proclaiming him a tyrant: it was to say, I dare not utter my complaints in words, but my tears I cannot restrain! Too angry to doubt of or examine his reasons, convinced of his own humanity, and his desire to see and make her happy, such an accusation he considered so violently unjust as to be unpardonable.
It must be owned, she did not confine her grief to weeping; she was often seized with fits of hysteric passion, in which the most outrageous and false accusations were indulged. To reply to them, or attempt to disprove what he knew to be so absurd, he thought derogatory to innocence; and the world half suspected him to be the tyrant he had been painted. This increased his sense of injury, and consequently did not diminish the affliction of my aunt.
Of the happiness, indeed, which was to result from this marriage, she had conceived romantic ideas; and when she found herself again involved in the cares of a family, liable to the control of a man who expected the utmost propriety and order, who looked with a strict eye over every department, and whose opinion did not always coincide with her own, she became constantly peevish, and her former gloom grew ten fold more gloomy. She pined after that connubial affection which their reciprocal conduct was calculated to destroy; and from the hasty decisions of passion convinced herself, that no part of the blame was justly her own. Mr. Elford was no less obstinate in the contrary opinion. Taking philosophy such as he found it, he like his neighbours too hastily concluded there were duties and affairs for which men were fitted, but of which women were incapable. Blending much truth with some falsehood, he thus argued:
'The leading features in the character of an amiable and good woman are mildness, complacency, and equanimity of temper. The man, if he be a provident and worthy husband, is immersed in a thousand cares: his mind is agitated, his memory loaded, and his body fatigued. He returns from the bustle of the world chagrined perhaps at disappointments, angry at indolent or perfidious people, and terrified lest his unavoidable connections with such people should make him appear to be indolent or perfidious himself. Is this a time for the wife of his bosom, his dearest most intimate friend, to add to his vexations and increase the fever of an overburthened mind, by a contumelious tongue or a discontented brow? Business, in its most prosperous state, is full of anxiety, labour, and turmoil. Oh! how dear to the memory of man is that wife who clothes her face in smiles; who uses gentle expressions, and who makes her lap soft to receive and hush his cares to rest. There is not in all nature so fascinating an object as a faithful, tender, and affectionate wife!'
Had he wished for a wife who, instead of indulging the caprice of indolence would have awakened him to energy, and have taught him to be just not captious, his desires would have been more rational: but, to a man who had formed a system of obedience to authority, and not to reason, the arguments he used were irrefragable. To a woman who imagined that obedience, in all cases, was the badge of abject slavery, they were absurd. Thus opposite in principle and in practice, their unhappy state of existence finally became so intolerable, to one of them at least, as to occasion the violent measure and the painful sensations described by Mr. Elford in the following letter.
'TO MRS. ELFORD,
'The bitterness of unjust reproach, the invectives of an ungoverned tongue, the rancorous accusations of a stubborn heart, these, wretched as they long have made me, to me are now no more. Forgetful man! No more? You I can forsake; but where shall I fly to rid myself of them? You have riveted them upon me, and while I have life they can never die. With you I have travelled through the vale of tears: you, like misery personified, have held the cup of sorrow; have fed me with affliction, strewed thorns beneath my feet by day, and wound adders round my pillow by night. Absence itself cannot afford a cure. Yes, reconcile it to your conscience how you may, you have given my peace a mortal wound.
'You cannot forget, when I first thought of you for a wife, the plainness and sincerity with which I acted. I carefully stated that my family was reputable but not rich, and that I was a younger brother; that my wealth was not great; but that it was sufficient, with industry and the character I had established, to gratify the desires of people whose hearts were not vitiated, and whose wants were bounded. I conscientiously repeated my ideas concerning the regulations and economy of a well governed family; and of the parts which it became the husband and the wife to take. That was the time in which you ought to have made your objections: but then every thing was just, every thing was rational; and from your ready acquiescence to my proposals and the admiration with which you seemed to receive them, I had no doubt of enjoying that serene that delightful state of connubial happiness, so often desired and so seldom obtained.
'On such conditions and with such views, I confidently entered with you into a partnership which unhappily cannot be dissolved. The irrevocable contract was scarcely ratified before it was violated. With a temper habitually gloomy and suspicious, and a mind incapable of bending to those inevitable little anxieties and vexations which occur in the most quiet families, you soon discovered your propensity to repel every thing that your jealous and fanciful temper deemed an infringement of your privileges.
'Let your own heart testify how long and how ardently I endeavoured, by mildness and the most simple and convincing reasons, to bring you back to your duty. But in vain: causes of disagreement became so frequent, and injury succeeded injury so fast, that I was obliged to proceed to those gentle severities which are all that a husband, who preserves a proper respect for himself, can inflict. And gentle they certainly were, when compared to the contumely by which they were provoked. I forbore those tender and endearing epithets, by which former affection should be continually revived. I then avoided and indeed refused to converse with you, except in the company of a third person or as far as necessity obliged me. Sorry am I to say that, instead of warning you to shun the rocks of mischief, my efforts did but aggravate your folly.
'It is true you had your hours of contrition, in which, with tears and prayers and unbounded acknowledgments of the absurdity of your conduct, together with solemn assurances of reformation, you have for a moment recalled my lost love, and made me hope you would acquire some power over the discordant passions that devoured you. But these promises were so often repeated, and so continually forgotten, that at length they afforded neither hope nor ease: they had only been gleams of sunshine, foreboding that the tempest would soon return with increasing violence. Yes, partial as I know you, and blind to your own errors, you cannot deny that at last you approached the fury, rather than the woman.
'To a man like me, of a delicate temper, quick at discovering errors and eager to redress them, even in cases where they do not personally affect myself but indefatigable where they do, this eternal discord, these quarrels and despicable brawls are become insupportable. I have endured the torture seven miserable years, and surely that is no slight trial: surely that is sufficient to prove I have not wanted patience or fortitude. To be a good husband and a provident father, and to protect those that depend on me from injury and want, are qualities which I believe the whole world will allow me, you alone excepted. You upbraid me with faults; you accuse me of crimes; you proclaim me a tyrant. When I am gone, when your passions have subsided, and when you feel the want of me, you will be more just. You will then lament that nothing, short of this desperate proof, could convince you of the criminality of your conduct.
'Where I shall seek, where find, or where endure existence, or to what hospitable or inhospitable shore I shall wander, I know not yet: I only know that in England it cannot, shall not be. We have lived long enough in misery; which, everlastingly to avoid, seas or death shall everlastingly divide us.
This letter, although it contained many marks of that impatience which had increased his family misfortunes, could only have been written by a man of virtue, whose very austerity had in it a preponderance of benevolent intention. Such was my uncle; whose memory, though but a child, I often had occasion to regret.
By various plausible pretexts, with the hope of forwarding a fortune that was to descend to me, Mr. Elford had been prevailed on to lend my father several sums of money, to the amount of seven hundred pounds. My uncle too had found other occasions for the exercise of his humanity. His property had been hastily sold, and therefore disadvantageously, so that the sum with which he went to seek his fortune on foreign shores was but small. He was enough acquainted with my father's affairs to know that of the money lent to him there was little hope.
To me he wrote a letter which will sufficiently shew how kind he would have been, had he possessed the power. It was inclosed in one to my father, with directions to suffer me to read it now, and that it should be preserved and given to me when age should have matured my understanding. The following were its contents.
'TO HUGH TREVOR.
'My dear boy: young as you are, I have conceived a friendship and affection for you, which perhaps inflict as severe a pang, at the present moment, as any one of the distressing circumstances that occasion my flight. Had I wealth to leave, I would endeavour to secure you from the baneful effects of poverty; as it is, accept all that I have to give, my best wishes, my dearest love, and a little good advice. Though your understanding is greatly above your years, yet you cannot have experience and knowledge enough of sorrow to conceive what my feelings are: but if hereafter you should remember me, and if at that most serious moment when you enter on the marriage state you should wish for a friend like me to advise with, let this letter supply my place. The miseries I have endured, by my mistakes on the subject, are so strongly imprinted on my mind, that I can think of nothing else; and, inapplicable as it may seem to your present course of thought, I cannot persuade myself but that it is the most interesting of all topics, upon which I could write to you.
'Of the wisdom of entering into the marriage state, and of the virtue of the institution, I have lately begun to entertain the most serious doubts. Whether they are well founded, or are the consequences of my own mistakes of conduct, I dare not at this moment determine: but, while the present forms of society exist, should you arrive at manhood the probability is that you will marry. If then you should ever think of marriage, think of it as a duty; and not merely as the means of self gratification, or the indulgence of some childish and irrational passion, which irrational people dignify with the name of love. Let the affection you conceive for woman be founded on the qualities of her mind.
'But above all things first examine yourself, whether you can endure opposition without anger; and next put the woman you intend to marry to the same test; for, unless you are mutually unshaken in your resolutions on this head, if you marry you are miserable. The task of man and wife is reciprocally arduous. She should be mild, good-humoured, cheerful and tender; he cool, rational, and vigilant; without acrimony, devoid of captiousness, and free from passion. It is mutually their duty to inspect and to expostulate, but to beware how they reprove. Where gentleness and equanimity of temper are wanting, happiness never can be obtained. Believe me, my dear boy, I have never stood so low in my own opinion as when I have caught myself betrayed into petulance, and descending to passion. The combats I have maintained to overcome this weakness are inconceivable.
'Whether it be constitutional in me or habitual I cannot determine'—[Had Mr. Elford been more a philosopher, he would have known that frequent anger is merely a habit.]—'but I suspect that to this I chiefly owe my present misfortunes, as I am half persuaded there is no woman that may not be moulded into what form her husband pleases, provided he possess a superior understanding and an entire command of his temper. But Oh! how severe the task to preserve a perfect equality in despite of the ill humour, caprice, or injustice of a woman for whom you undergo a thousand difficulties, encounter continual labours, and undauntedly expose yourself to every fatigue and danger!—I blush to think I have sunk beneath the trial.—But we have both gone too far to recede: we have mutually said and done what never can be forgotten.
'As good temper is the basis of connubial felicity, means must be taken by which it may be cultivated and preserved. From the first hour of marriage, beware of too much familiarity, and of encouraging or of taking liberties. Be as circumspect in your behaviour as if a stranger were present, and dread deviating from that respect which is due from man to woman, and from woman to man, in a single state. This does not imply coldness, or formality, but the cheerful intercourse of good sense. Behave as you would to a person from whom you are happy to receive a visit, and with whose company you are delighted. Should you indulge those ebullitions of passionate fondness which lose sight of these limits, it is impossible to foretell to what they may lead. A caress neglected, or supposed to be neglected, a kiss not returned with the like warmth, or a fond pressure not answered with equal ardour, may poison a mind which applauds itself for the delicacy of its sensations.
'Do not expect to find your wife all perfection. I know the romance of lovers: they read descriptions in which the imagination has been exhausted, to depict enamoured youth superior to every terrestrial being; and they are convinced that, above all others, the object of their own particular choice has never yet been equalled. Such fanciful and silly people, when time and experience have something allayed their ardour, will often find their dainty taste offended at discovering a mole on the bosom, or a yellow shade in the neck, or any other trifling bodily blemish, which was as visible before marriage as after, had they looked with the same scrutinizing eyes. Be resolute in repelling every emotion of anger or disgust. Never permit a choleric or bitter expression to escape you; for wedded love is but too often of a tender and perishable nature, and such rude potions are its poison.
'I look back at what I have been writing, and am astonished at the subject I have chosen. But the torrent of my thoughts is irresistible: they hurry me away, and persuade me that though young, it is yet possible you may hereafter remember me, and at a time when perhaps you shall have arrived at the exercise of many of those noble virtues which are now only in the bud. I have a great affection for you, my dear nephew, and should be glad that, if you then cannot think kindly, you should at least think justly; and that you should possess some faint picture of the present state of my feelings. Could you but know all the emotions of my heart, you would bear witness to its honesty; and would own that its efforts have been strenuous, unremitted, and sincere, though unfortunate.
'Years pass quickly away: yet a little while and you will be an actor in this busy world, of which at present your knowledge is small. I am doomed never to see you more; but, while I have life and memory, I shall never forget you.
My father becomes a bankrupt: Flies the country: Lists for an East India soldier, and dies on ship-board: Distress of my mother; and the beginning of my misfortunes: I am bound apprentice: Characteristic traits of my master: The dreadful sufferings I undergo; and my narrow escapes with life
Young as I was, I perfectly remember that the strange departure of my uncle Elford produced a very sensible effect upon me. It may well be imagined that, when my understanding was more mature, the perusal of this affectionate letter, and the recollection of his kindness to me in my days of childhood, excited no little emotion.
As for my aunt, prepared as she had been for some violent catastrophe to their quarrelling, she was either so struck by the letter and the remembrance of past follies, or so fearful of the comments and scrutiny of the neighbourhood, that within a month after he was missing she quitted the country, and went to reside at the city of ****, where in less than a year she died. Her departure was private, and the place of her retreat was not known till her last illness; when intelligence was sent to the rector, to whom she bequeathed such property as she possessed.
The absence of my uncle contributed to hasten the approach of that cloudy reverse at which I have already hinted. For some time the ruin of my father's affairs had been prevented by the sums which his eloquence had wrung from the well-meaning Mr. Elford. Hugh was no contemptible orator on these occasions. Hope seldom forsook him, and he built so securely on what he hoped might come to pass as sometimes to assert the thing had already happened. Such convenient mistakes are daily made. If indeed the good graces of fortune would but have kept pace with his expectations, England would not have afforded a more flourishing or gallant yeoman. But, like monopolizers in general, he was apt to speculate a little too deeply. Eager to enjoy, he was impatient to obtain the means of enjoyment. So that, at one time, the turning up of the jack at all fours was to make his fortune; but how provoking! it happened to be the ten: at another it depended on a duck-wing cock, which (who could have foreseen so strange an accident?) disgraced the best feeder in the kingdom, by running away: and it more than once did not want half a neck's length of being realized by a favourite horse; yet was lost, contrary to the most accurate calculations which, as the learned in these matters affirm, had been made from Wheatherby's Racing Calendar.
Thus to repeated disappointments in his bets and his bargains, and to his neglect of his farming affairs, it was owing that, in anno domini —— when I was nine years and a half old, after having expended the property with which he had been supplied, and incurred debts to the amount of little less than a thousand pounds, my father found it prudent to depart by night in the basket of the stage coach for London. And prudent it certainly was, for his effects had not only been seized in execution of a bond and judgment, but the bailiffs from all quarters were at his heels.
My mother at this time was pregnant; the sister I have mentioned was dead; but I had a fine healthy brother about three years old, and it was agreed that we should follow to the great city, as soon as he had found employment; which, according to his notions, was the most easy thing imaginable.
It so happened, however, that he had not been there a full month before the trifling sum he and my mother had collected for his immediate existence was lost, by the turn of a die; contrary to his certain conviction that he had discovered, at a hazard table, the ready way to repair all past mistakes.
To send for wife and children was now out of the question. Destitute of support, without the means of obtaining another shilling, after fasting a day and a half, his courage, that is his appetite, could hold out no longer, and he enlisted for an East-India soldier; having first convinced himself, by the soundest arguments, that he should immediately be made a serjeant; which perhaps was no improbable calculation; that he should then soon get a commission, and that he should undoubtedly return a commanding officer, or general in chief, to the surprise of his friends and the utter confusion of the rector, and all those whom he accounted his persecutors.
That these great events might not actually have happened who shall pretend to say? Miracles of old were plentiful; and even in these unbelieving days strange things have come to pass. But all his unbounded hopes, many of which he had stated in his last letter to my mother, were unexpectedly subverted, by an accident to which it appears men in general are subject. He caught a fever, while the ship in which he was to be a passenger lay waiting in the Downs for a wind; and, in spite of the surgeon and his whole chest of medicines, died: of all which events there was a circumstantial account, transmitted by one of his comrades to my mother.
The ruin of prospects so fair, the desolation of a house and homeless woman, with two orphan children, and pregnant of a third, and the loss of a husband, who at the worst of times had always kept hope alive, were sufficient causes of affliction to my mother. Tears were plentifully shed, and daily and nightly wailings were indulged.
Every resource was soon exhausted, and immediate relief became necessary. To whom could she apply? To whom, but the rector? She wrote to him in terms the most moving, the most humiliating, and indeed the most abject, that her imagination could suggest. But in vain: no prayers, no tears, no terrors, of this world or of the next, could move him. The father, and the divine, were equally inexorable. He pleaded his oath, but he remembered his revenge. After the first letter he would receive no more, and when she wrote again and again, with the direction in a different hand, and using other little stratagems, he returned no answer.
From this extreme distress, and from the intolerable disgrace, as my mother supposed it to be, of coming on the parish, we were relieved, to the best of her ability, by a poor widow woman with four children; who had formerly lived a servant in the Trevor family, and who, after her husband's death, maintained herself and her orphans with incredible industry, and with no other aid but the produce of a cow, that she fed chiefly on the common where her cottage stood. The active good sense with which she did every thing that was entrusted to her, was the cause that she never wanted employment; and she exerted her utmost attention to make her children, as they grew up, as useful as herself.
By this woman's advice and aid, my mother applied herself to spinning; and it was agreed that I should either drive the plough or be put apprentice, as soon as I could find a master.
For my own part, all my sources of pleasure and improvement were at once retrenched. That I had not horses to ride, a father to play with and caress me, and a kind uncle to instruct and delight me, were among the least of my misfortunes. Reading, that great field of enjoyment, which was daily opening more amply upon me, was totally cut off. My curiosity had been awakened, my memory praised, and my acuteness admired: in an instant, as it were, all these joys were vanished.
Previous to my uncle's departure, I had found another mode of obtaining knowledge, and applause. He was musical, and a few persons of the like turn, scattered through the neighbouring hamlets, used occasionally to meet at his house; where they exercised themselves in singing, from the works of Croft, Green, Boyce, Purcell, Handel, and such authors as they possessed. One of them played the bassoon, another the flute, and a third the violin, I had a quick ear, was attracted by their harmony, and began to join in their concerts. A treble voice was a great acquisition; I was apt and they encouraged me, by frequent praise and admiration. My uncle gave me Arnold's Psalmody, in which I eagerly studied the rudiments of the science: but this book, with the rest, was swept away in the general wreck; and I, after having had a glimpse of the enchanted land of knowledge, was cast back, apparently to perish in the gloomy deserts of ignorance. I had no source of information, except my mother; and her stores, at the best, were scanty: at present, labour left her but little leisure, and the little she had was spent in complaint.
The poor widow, indeed, willingly did me every kindness in her power; but that alas was small. With this honest-hearted creature I remained eight months, going out to a day's work whenever I could get one, to weed, drive the plough, set potatoes, or any thing else that they would put me to: till at last a farmer, finding me expert, agreed to take me as an apprentice; on condition that I should serve him till I was one and twenty. The offer was joyfully accepted by my mother, and I had spirit and understanding enough to be happy that I could thus provide for myself.
I had soon reason to repent; my master was the most passionate madman I ever beheld; and, when in a passion, the most mischievous. His cattle, his horses, his servants, his wife, his children, were each of them in turn the objects of his fury.
The accidents that happened from his ungovernable choler were continual, and his cruelty, when in these fits, was incredible; though at other times, strange to tell, he was remarkably compassionate. He one day beat out the eye of a calf, because it would not instantly take the milk he offered. Another time he pursued a goose, that ran away from him when he flung it oats; and was so enraged, by the efforts it made to escape, that he first tore off its wing and then twisted its neck round. On a third occasion he bit off a pig's ear, because it struggled and cried while he was ringing it. One of his children was lamed, and, though nobody knew how it happened, every body gave him credit for the accident. Yet he had his paroxysms of fondness for his children, and for the lame boy in particular. Indeed it was generally remarked that he was the most cruel to those for whom he had the greatest affection. The perception of his own absurdity did but increase his rage, till it was exhausted; after which he has sometimes been seen to burst into tears, at the recollection of his own madness and inhumanity.
One habit arising from his excessive vivacity was that, when he wanted any thing done, he expected the person nearest to him should not only instantly obey, but conceive what he meant from the pointing of his finger, the turn of his head, or the motion of his eye, without speaking a word; while the dread of his anger stupified and rendered the person against whom it was directed motionless.
I continued for an unexampled length of time to be his favourite. The family remarked, at first with surprise, and afterward either with a sense of injustice or of enmity, the restraint he put upon himself, and the great partiality with which he treated me. My superior quickness excited his admiration; he held me up as an example, and laid the flattering unction to his soul that he was no tyrant; on the contrary, when people had but common sense, nobody was more kind.
But old habits, though they may suffer a temporary disguise, are devils incarnate. The tide of passion at length broke loose, and with redoubled violence for having suffered constraint. To add to the misfortune, my thirst after knowledge was the cause, or at least the pretext, of this change. It happened that an old book of arithmetic fell in my way, and, as this was at that time the sole treasure of instruction within my reach, I made it my constant companion, carried it in my bosom, and pored over it whenever I could steal a moment to myself. In the heinous act of reading this book I was twice detected, by my moody master. The first time he cautioned me, with fire in his eyes, never to let him catch me idling my time in that manner again; and the second he snatched hold of my ear and gave me so sudden and violent a pull that he brought me to the ground. He did worse, he took away my book, and locked it up.
Hostilities having thus commenced, they soon grew hot, and were pursued with bitterness, tyranny, and malignity. Proceeding from bad to worse, after a while every thing I did was wrong. In proportion as his frenzy became hateful or rather terrible to his own imagination, his cruelty increased. He seemed, in my instance, to have the dread upon him of committing some injury so violent as perhaps to bring him to the gallows; and several times in his chafing fits declared his fear.
This idea haunted him so much that he adopted a new mode of conduct with me, and, instead of kicking me, knocking me down, or hurling the first thing that came to hand at me, gave himself time enough to take the horsewhip. Yet he could not always be thus cautious; and even when he was, such infernal discipline, though less dangerous, was more intolerable.
The scenes I went through with this man, the sufferings I endured, and the stupifying terrors that seized me if I saw but his shadow, I can never forget. Every thing I did was a motive for chastisement; one day it was for having turned the horses out to graze, and the very next for suffering them to stand in the stable. The cattle of his neighbour, for whom he had a mortal enmity, broke into his field during the night; and for this I was most unmercifully flogged the next morning. The pretence was my not having told him that the fence was defective. Rainy weather made him fret, and then I was sure of a beating. If it were fine, he was all hurry, anxiety, and impatience; and to escape the wicked itching of his fingers was impossible.
One effect that he produced might be thought remarkable, had we not the history of Sparta in its favour; and did we not occasionally observe the like in other boys, under tyrannical treatment. The efforts I was obliged to make, to endure the terrible punishment he inflicted and live, at last rendered me, to a certain degree, insensible of pain. They were powerfully aided indeed by the indignant detestation which I felt, and by the something like defiance with which it enabled me to treat him.
This on one occasion exasperated him so much that, seeing me support the lash without a tear and as if disdaining complaint, he franticly snatched up a pitch-fork, drove it at me, and, I luckily avoiding it, struck the prongs into the barn-door; with the exclamation, 'Damn your soul! I'll make you feel me!' The moment after he was seized with a sense of his own lunacy, turned as pale as death, and stood aghast with horror! My supposed crime was that I had eaten some milk, the last of which I myself had seen the dog lap. Perceiving the terror of his mind, I took courage and told him, 'Jowler eat the milk: I saw him, just as he had done. I would not tell you, because I knew if I had you would have hanged the poor dog.' This short sentence had such an effect upon him that he dropped on his knees, the tears rolling from his eyes, and cried out in an undescribable agony, 'Lord have mercy upon my sinful soul! I shall surely come to be hanged!'
The terror of this lesson remained longer than those who knew him would have expected; but it insensibly wore away.
The efforts I made in the interval to conciliate and avoid wakening the fiend were strenuous, but ineffectual. I shrunk from no labour, and the business with which he intrusted me shewed the confidence he placed in my activity and intelligence. At eleven years old I drove the loaded team, to market or elsewhere, without a superintendant. I was sent in every direction across the country, to bring home sheep, deliver calves to the butcher, fetch cattle, cart coals, or any thing else within my strength.
Various were the distresses in which these duties, and the distempered choler of my master, involved me. On one occasion a wicked boy set his dog at my sheep, and drove them into a turnip field; out of which I could not get them but with great difficulty and loss of time, of which my master demanded a severe account. A calf once broke from me and foolishly tumbled into a water-pit, from which I delivered it at the hazard of my life. Another time, when the roads were heavy, my waggon was set fast in a clay rut, where I was detained above an hour; two drivers refusing to give me a pull because they had both lived with my malicious master; and a third being only prevailed on, for this master of mine was generally hated, by my prayers and tears and the picture I drew of my own distress.
At length the violence of his temper recovered its full elasticity; which was a second time chiefly excited by my earnest longing after knowledge. Notwithstanding that my book was taken from me, my mind was often occupied with the arithmetic I had learned in better days, which had been strongly revived by its contents. At the employment this afforded me I was twice caught by my master; once multiplying and dividing with a nail against the paling, and the second time extracting the square root with chalk on the wall.
These misdemeanours were aggravated by another incident. I one morning happened to find, by good luck as I thought, a half-crown piece that was lying on the high road. The moment I was possessed of this treasure, I began to consider how it ought to be expended. I was in great want of shoes, stockings, and other things; but with those my master was bound to provide me; and, if I attempted to supply myself, the probability was that he would beat me, for not having given him the money.
After pondering again and again on the necessaries I might obtain, the luxuries in which I might indulge, and, what was infinitely more tempting, the stores of learning with which such a sum would furnish me, the recollection of my mother, brother, and sister, for so the young one proved to be, and their distress, with that of the benevolent poor creature who afforded them a shelter, seized me so strongly that I thought it would be wicked not to send my half-crown where it was so much wanted. But how to convey it thither? That was the difficulty. I had no means, no messenger, no soul in whom I durst confide. I therefore resolved for the present to conceal it by pinning it in the lining of my waistcoat; and this was one of those unforeseen events that are generally called lucky chances.
My master's devil was again let loose, and a most uncontrolable devil he was. I had overslept myself, a very uncommon accident with me, and had put him into one of his hateful humours. At breakfast, while eating his bread and cheese, I was set to watch the milk that stood on the fire to boil. By some accident I forgot my office; he saw it rise in the pipkin, looked toward me, could not catch my eye, and, seized with one of his unaccountably hellish fits, sprang forward just as the milk began to boil over, and struck at me with a clasped knife that he held in his hand!
Fortunately for me, the point found resistance, by the saving intervention of my half-crown! The clasp gave way with the violence of the blow, and shutting made a deep gash in his own hand.
Again he turned pale, and, as the blood smeared the floor, knew not I believe whether it was mine or his own. My dame trembling called out, 'Are you hurt, Hugh?' for she too saw the blood, and knew not whose it was. I answered, 'No:' but with a tremulous voice, being in dread of more blows. They soon descended upon me, after he had discovered his mistake, and it was with difficulty that I escaped being thrown behind the fire.
This was not the end of the history of my half-crown. I kept it above three months till I happened to be sent to the market town, with a load of hay. Here, in passing through the street, my eye as usual was attracted by the bookseller's window. I had not forgotten how rich I was, and could not resist. I went in, examined some of the stores the shop contained, and with great difficulty restrained myself to the purchase of the Seven Champions of Christendom, which cost me a shilling. The other eighteen pence I found an opportunity, it being market day, of sending by a neighbour to my mother; with an injunction that six-pence of it should be given to her poor hostess.
With what eagerness I read the valiant deeds of these valiant knights, as I rode home in my empty cart, I will leave the reader to divine: but he will probably pity me when I inform him that I was so deeply engaged in my book as not to perceive the arrival of the cart at my master's yard gate, and that he himself stood at the barn door, contemplating me in the profound negligence of my studies.
Riding in the cart, neglecting the team, having a new book, and reading in it, formed a catalogue of crimes too black to hope for pardon. Not the horse but the cart whip was the instrument of vengeance; and, after having tired himself and left weals of a finger's breadth on my body, arms, legs, and thighs, he completed his malice this time, not by locking up but by burning my book. I had already lived a year and a half under the tortures of this demon, till they became so intolerable that at last I determined to run away. I was confirmed in this resolution by another dangerous incident, which terrified me more even than any of the preceding, and convinced me that if I stayed any longer with this villainous savage I could not escape death.
I was one day driving the plough for him when a young horse, not half broken in, was the second in the team. I used my utmost endeavours but could not manage him, and the lunatic my master, who was as strong as he was ferocious, caught up a stone and aimed it at the colt (at least so from his manner at the moment I supposed) but struck me with it, and knocked me down immediately in the furrow, where the plough was coming. I saw the plough-share that in an instant was to cut me in two; but the madman, with an incredible effort, started it out of the earth and flung it fairly over me! Unable however to recover his balance, he trod upon my forehead with his hob-nailed shoe, and cut a deep gash just over my eye, and another in my skull: whether with the same foot or in what manner I do not know. My eye was presently closed up, and my hair steeped in the blood that flowed plentifully from both wounds.
There I lay, stunned for a moment, while he was obliged to attend to the frightened colt, which forced the other horses to run, and was become wholly unmanageable. When I recovered I heard him holloa, and saw him struggling with the horses at the farther end of the field; but the impression of the danger I had just escaped was so strong that my resolution of running away came upon me with irresistible force, and, perceiving him so thoroughly engaged, I immediately put it in execution.
I imagine it was some time before he missed me, and he then probably conjectured I was gone home. Be it as it will, I used my legs without molestation; and, committing myself to chance and the wide world, made the best of my way.
My flight: Desponding thoughts: Adventure with a stranger on the road: I am promised relief, but learn a fearful secret that again plunges me in doubt and anxiety: I reveal myself to a near relation: The struggles of passion
The animation that fear gave me was so great that, though I felt my shirt collar drenched in the blood that flowed from my wounds, I continued to run for at least four miles; and though my pace at length slackened into a walk I still hurried eagerly forward. The dread of again falling into his power, after an attempt so audacious as this, deprived me of any other sense of pain, afforded me strength, and made me forget the completely desolate state to which I had reduced myself. I had no money, no food, no friend in the world. I durst not return to my mother; she was the first person of whom the tyrant would enquire after me. To avoid him was the only plan I yet thought of, and thus impelled I pursued my road.
So long as I was acquainted with the country through which I travelled, I went on without hesitation; but as soon as I found myself entirely beyond my knowledge, I began to look about me. The questions—Where am I? Whither am I going? What am I to do?—inspired a succession of rising fears, which the joy of my deliverance could scarcely counterbalance. I regretted the rash haste with which I had parted with my half-crown. I had not a farthing on earth, I had nothing to sell, nothing to eat, no soul to give me a morsel. It was noon, when I fled from the ploughed field; I had been hard at work from three o'clock in the morning, had since travelled at least twelve or fourteen miles, wounded as I was, and began to feel myself excessively weary, stiff, and craving after food. Where I had got the notion, whether from father, mother, aunt, or uncle, I know not, but I had been taught that to beg was an indelible disgrace; and to steal every body had told me was the road to Tyburn. Starve or hang; that is the law. If I even asked for work, who wanted my service? Who would give me any? Who would not enquire where I came from, and to whom I belonged?