THE HISTORY OF LADY BARTON.

VOL. III.

THE HISTORY OF LADY BARTON, A NOVEL, IN LETTERS,

BY MRS. GRIFFITH.

IN THREE VOLUMES.

VOL III.

Quibus pretium faceret ipsa fragilitas. PLIN. de Crystallo.

LONDON, Printed for T. DAVIES, in Russel-street, Covent-garden; and T. CADELL, in the Strand. MDCCLXXI.

[Page] THE HISTORY OF LADY BARTON.

LETTER LVII.
Lady BARTON to Miss CLEVELAND.

THE moment I had laid down my pen, Harriet flew into my room, to express her surprise at Lord Lucan's arrival; but joy was much more predomi­nant than wonder, in her artless eyes—Lu­cy came into my chamber, soon after, to assure me that she did not know of his Lordship's coming, or even that he was an acquaintance of Sir Harry's, till he in­troduced him to her, that instant, below stairs. Harriet replied, with unusual [Page 2] vivacity, ‘"Surely, Miss Leister, you need not make an apology for such an agreeable addition to our society, as Lord Lucan?"’ The moment these words had escaped her, her face was co­vered with blushes.

I took not the least notice of her emo­tion, though it struck me strongly, when contrasted with the different sensations of fear and anxiety that affected my heart. A thousand disagreeable thoughts rushed at once into my mind; I determined, however, to act with the utmost circum­spection, and carefully to avoid any par­ticular interview or conversation with his Lordship.

I did not quit my chamber till dinner was served;—I spent the intermediate [Page 3] hour extremely ill, in forming set speeches, and fashioning my conduct to impos­sible rules, which all vanished out of my thoughts, like a dream, the moment I beheld Lord Lucan; and I suppose that no creature could ever have appeared more completely embarrassed upon any occasion.

His countenance, upon seeing me, was expressive of the sincerest delight; there was a brilliancy in his eye, and a liveli­ness in his complexion, which would have made the homeliest features pleas­ing—Alas! his wanted not this adventi­tious aid.—

My confusion soon became contagious, and seemed to throw a general damp up­on the spirits of the whole company— [Page 4] Even the happy Creswel abated of his chearfulness, and often sent forth a look of inquiry, to try if he could discover the cause of his own change, in Lucy's now altered countenance.

I could not help perceiving the gloom I had spread, and endeavoured, but in vain, to rally my spirits:—they were sunk too low to be recalled.—I would have retired, but that would have been an ad­dition to my friend's distress—We made a dull and silent meal, and I quitted the table the moment it was possible.

I withdrew immediately to my cham­ber, and begged to be left alone—I was indulged by Lucy, though unwillingly. I tried to account to myself for the un­common heaviness which oppressed my [Page 5] heart.—The weakness of my past con­duct appeared in the most glaring light to me; and, from the agonies of remorse which I then felt, I concluded myself the most guilty of wretches.—

Yet my reason revolted against this opinion, but was still utterly unable to banish it, or to account for the sudden change in my sentiments upon this sub­ject, as no alteration had happened, ei­ther in Lord Lucan's conduct, or my si­tuation, from the time that I had consi­dered my attachment to him as perfectly innocent, because it was absolutely invo­luntary—I became almost distracted with my doubts; and, traversing my chamber with hasty steps, I exclaimed, how poor, how insufficient is human reason, either [Page 6] to direct our actions, or restrain our passions!

O Thou, that stillest the raging of the sea! and calmest the fury of the winds! abate this conflict in thy creature's breast! and point the way in which my feet should tread to find the paths of peace!—A sudden gush of tears followed this ejaculation, my mind grew calm, and I thought I could at that instant have ta­ken an everlasting leave of Lord Lucan, with the most perfect resignation.

I continued musing upon the subject of my future conduct, for a long time; and at last determined, that I would endea­vour to assume as much chearfulness as possible, while I remained at Elm-grove; that, in a very few days after the wedd­ing, [Page 7] I would return to Southfield, but, before I went, write a letter to Lord Lu­can, fully expressive of the change in my sentiments with regard to him, or rather myself, enjoining him to make no reply, nor attempt ever to see me more.

Soon after I had formed this resolu­tion, Lucy tapped softly at my chamber-door.—She saw I had been weeping, but as I smiled, and held out my hand on her approach, she said my face might be compared to an April day, but as sunshine seemed now to prevail she hoped there would be no more showers—we joined the company, and I with pleasure per­ceived that I was much less constrained in my manner to Lord Lucan, and every body else, than I had been at dinner.

[Page 8]A little flight of Sir Harry's, at the time that the gentlemen were to leave us, and return to town, threw me into a second embarrassment—he insisted upon his being permitted to salute all the la­dies, as he should never be another night a bachelor; and that Lord Lucan, and a young gentleman, whose name is Wes­ton, and was then present, should salute Miss Leister, as she should not chuse to spare them one of her kisses, when he should have an exclusive right to the sole property of them.

Young Weston, who, perhaps, mis­takes vivacity for good breeding, pro­posed this folly's becoming general, and it was impossible to object seriously to a matter that appeared so very trifling; especially upon such an occasion as this [Page 9] —Once at a wedding, you know, is a proverb.

Yet neither you, nor any of that com­pany, will, I hope, ever know the pangs I felt at receiving a kiss from Lord Lu­can.—It seemed to cost him almost as much pain as it did me, for he trembl­ed as if he had been seized with an ague-fit.—The consent of my heart shocked me with a consciousness of guilt.—I am sorry the foolish affair hap­pened—but I will think no more of it.

It is now near two o' clock in the morning of Lucy's wedding-day; and as I suppose I shall not have much leisure, for some time to come, I would not omit, before I lay me down to rest, if that may be, acquainting my dear con­fessor [Page 10] and counsellor with the state of that heart, which, while it beats, will ever re­tain the tenderest affection for her.

Every good wish attends my brother; and I hope I may by this time add, his amiable wife.—My Fanny's claim to that title, is, I think and hope, not far distant.

The renewal of Lord Hume's connec­tions with Sir George might have been merely accidental; but his continuing them in the manner he has done, even to the incumbrance of my brother, in his present circumstances, speaks the revival of his attachment to you much strong­er than the most direct and formal propo­sition could possibly have done.—His at­torney might perform the one, but his [Page 11] passion only could be capable of the other.

Lord Hume has his merits as well as his faults; and the mild eye of my sister's charity is ever more open to the former than the latter; and, if the union I have hinted at should take place, I trust they will become every day more conspicuous.

Adieu, my Fanny.
L. BARTON.

P.S. Eight o' clock in the morn­ing.—I have passed a miserable night—disturbed slumbers, and terrifying dreams—If I were superstitious, I should ima­gine some ill fate awaits me—Alas! how totally unfit am I for the festivity of a bridal day!

LETTER LVIII.
Lady BARTON to Miss CLEVELAND.

OUR wedding, my Fanny, was conducted with the greatest pro­priety and elegance; there were eighteen persons present, the eldest of whom, Mrs. Layton excepted, was not eight and twen­ty.—Pleasure sat smiling on every placid brow; even I endeavoured to assume an air of chearfulness, but thought myself, like Lucifer in heaven, unblessed amidst the blessed!

It is said that every woman looks bet­ter on her wedding-day, than any other of her life.—I confess I never saw Lady Creswel appear so beautiful; there was a sort of serene happiness in her counte­nance, [Page 13] which I know not how to de­scribe; her clear brown complexion ap­peared almost transparent, yet was often heightened to the most becoming blush, by the fond looks of her enamoured bridegroom.

The dress of all brides is nearly the same;—you may therefore conclude, that Lady Creswel wore white and sil­ver.—The bride-maids were dressed ex­actly alike, par hazard, in pale pink and silver.—My cloaths were—Gracious heaven! how can I write about such trifling matters, while my heart is break­ing?—I must fly, my Fanny! for ever fly from the sight of one, who becomes every hour more dangerous to my re­pose!

[Page 14]We have now been three days toge­ther under the same roof, yet have I been lucky enough to avoid any particu­lar conversation with Lord Lucan.—He perceives my caution; his vanity is doubtless flattered by it, yet he affects to appear unhappy; his looks are ex­pressive of the tenderest sorrow, and he sometimes gazes on me till he seems to have lost himself.

Poor Harriet watches his eyes—alas! they are but seldom turned on her! If he is really as wretched as he seems, he is to the full as much to be pitied as my­self.—Why did we ever meet? or, why not sooner? That heart which, in spite of the restraint of duty, is but too much devoted to him now, had it been free, my sister—I fear 'tis criminal to in­dulge [Page 15] this fond idea—I will suppress it then.

I have not had leisure to begin the let­ter I intend to write to him; but to mor­row, or the next day—in short, before I seal this, I will.—And yet, what can I say to him?—Have I ought to complain of in his conduct, that can warrant an ever­lasting breach between us?—Has he not kept within the bounds prescribed by me? Has he even presumed to hint he thinks them too severe? Unless involuntary sighs and tender looks are construed in­to crimes, Lucan has not offended!—Yet, yet I will break off this—I know not what to call it—improper, at least, as well as painful connection!—I am al­most distracted.

I have this moment received a letter from Lord Lucan.—I am glad of it.— [Page 16] This is encroaching.—I have now some pretence for my intended breach.—Yet read it, Fanny.—I will copy it, if my fast-streaming tears don't wash the lines away.

To Lady BARTON.

IF, as I hoped, the most profound sub­mission to her will, whom my mind worships, and my eyes adore, could have preserved me her esteem, never had the unhappy Lucan infringed Lady Barton's command, nor even dared to repine at being forbidden to express his hopeless passion, by speech or letter to her.

But, alas! Madam, though love is blind, lovers are quick sighted; and I but too clearly perceive, that I have lost that [Page 17] portion of your regard, with which I had, perhaps, too vainly flattered myself.

I mean not, Madam, to reproach you with this cruel change, but humbly to implore you to inform me, if I have—tho' unwittingly, heaven knows!—been so unfortunate as to have offended you, even in the slightest article of my con­duct.

If my appearing before you, at this time, without permission, be imputed to me, give me leave to transfer the blame upon chance, which led me hi­ther, without knowing that you had in­tended to have honoured Lady Creswel's wedding with your presence. The trans­ports I was sensible of, on meeting you so unexpectedly here, cannot surely be [Page 18] deemed a crime; and yet the misery I have since sustained, has made me al­ready sufficiently atone for it, as if it had been one.

Even my present presumption bears its own apology along with it, as your cru­elty and my justification required it. The unhappy, but unoffending suppliant, may expostulate even with Heaven itself, with­out impiety.

I shall trespass no farther on you, Ma­dam, than just to assure you, that I find I belong no longer to myself, and that, in spite both of you and me,

I am, and shall remain, ever yours, LUCAN.

[Page 19]What shall I say to him, my sis­ter? What answer shall I make to lines so full of tenderness and submission? Can I be unjust enough to reproach or condemn him, while he is guiltless of any offence towards me? Yet, if I acquit him, do I not criminate myself? Must he not think me unworthy of his regards, if female caprice alone should appear the motive of my altered conduct?—I will not enter on the subject, but coldly tell him, that I first repented, then con­quered my past weakness, and bid him try to follow my example.—O, Fanny! I shall break his gentle heart! If but my own would burst, I should be happy!

How inconsistent is this letter with my last!—Why can I not again recover that [Page 20] calmness, which even a transient devotion had inspired?—Alas! because my piety was but temporary, and transitory!—Like the ungrateful Israelites, I sought the Lord in my trouble.—But has he not pro­mised to be nigh to all those who call upon him?—His mercy is not limited, and in that hope will I confide.

More than half the night is elapsed; but I will not close my eyes till I have written to Lord Lucan.—Should I defer it till to-morrow, his supplicating eye and te [...]der looks may change my unfirm purpose.—Would to heaven I had not come here!—Never was any creature so altered in the time.—Sir William will certainly perceive the change; and how shall I account for it?

[Page 21]It is done, my sister! I have taken an everlasting leave of Lord Lucan!—I will copy what I have written—How infinite­ly short does it fall of what I wished to say!

To Lord LUCAN.

My Lord,

PERFECTLY sensible, as I am, of the faultiness of my conduct, both to­wards you and myself, I submit, without repining, to the censure implied in your letter—But, alas! my Lord, the crime I am there charged with, is not the source of my self-condemnation.—That you may be perfectly convinced of my sinceri­ty, I will confess that I saw your grow­ing passion, from its earliest infancy, and, at the same time, beheld you in the most favourable light;—yet I vainly [Page 22] hoped, that, situated as I then was, my virtue would have been proof, even against your merit, and my sense of it;—and that the knowing my heart ought to be devoted to another, was sufficient to render it so.—How have I since blushed at that presumption, which was founded, not in strength, but weak­ness.

From the moment that the accidental circumstance of the picture, at South­field, had brought on a confession of our mutual sentiments, peace has been a stranger to my breast! a consciousness of the irrevocable injury I had been guilty of, towards a person I dare not even name, at present, has haunted me ever since.

[Page 23]The constant perturbation of my mind, with other mortifications arising from the same source, brought on a dan­gerous illness, which led me a willing victim almost to the grave. I now rejoice that what I then most ardently de­sired, was not the consequence of the joint disorder, both of heart, and mind, and body.

Yes, my Lord, I wish to live, that my future conduct may atone for my past folly; and that the example of the weakest of the weaker sex, may enable you to conquer a passion, which, if in­dulged, must be productive of misery only, both to yourself, and its unhappy object.

I will not boast, my Lord, that I have already accomplished this arduous task. [Page 24] —My nature is sincere;—but, as a proof, that I mean seriously to succeed in the at­tempt, I, from this moment, interdict my­self from ever corresponding or conversing with your Lordship more; and do here de­clare, that I will never pardon your at­tempting either to see, or write to me, on any future occasion of our lives.

I shall ever retain the sincerest wishes for your Lordship's happiness, though this is the last time that I shall ever sub­scribe myself,

Your affectionate friend, L. B.

I will not comment on this hateful letter: surely I never wrote so bad a one!—But is that wonderful?—Is not [Page 25] the heart, our best inspirer?—And can I say that mine dictated this severe decree?—Yet I trust my dear Fanny will ap­prove it.—It has afforded my mind too a temporary relief.

I mean to order my coach as soon as I rise in the morning, to send this letter to Lord Lucan, before I appear at break­fast, and set out directly after for South­field, without giving him time to recover enough from his surprize, so as to at­tempt an expostulation.

I am tempted to leave Harriet with La­dy Creswel, that I may perform the journey alone.—What a journey will it be!—

Adieu, adieu.
L. BARTON.

LETTER LIX.
Miss CLEVELAND to Lady BARTON.

INDEED, my ever dear Louisa, your letters have been a heavy alloy to the happiness that I ought now to par­take of;—but, like Joseph, when sur­rounded with all the magnificence and delights of the Egyptian court, I weep upon the neck of my Benjamin—Yet let me flatter myself, that good, and not ill fate awaits my sister; as I may now believe the conflict's past, and that her own reason and virtue have triumphed over a weakness, which, as she justly ob­serves, could only be productive of mise­ry—Of misery, perhaps, in the extreme.—Yes, my sister, I do most truly applaud both your letter, and your conduct to­wards [Page 27] Lord Lucan; and, what is of infi­nitely more consequence, you will your­self approve it.—You will again enjoy ‘"That peace, which goodness bosoms ever."’—And even feel an higher de­gree of exultation in your mind, at hav­ing recovered the lost path, than those who have never strayed, can possibly be sensible of.

With this prophecy I will close the subject of your late letters, and shall be impatient till I find it verified by the calm chearfulness which will, I hope, diffuse itself through all your future correspon­dence.

I have much to tell you, both of my­self and our dear brother.—We have had a wedding, as well as you, but 'twas [Page 28] a very private one:—Yet surely I may say with Fitzosborne,

" What tho' in silence sacred Hymen trod,
" Nor lyre proclaim'd, nor garland crown'd the God:
" What tho' nor feast, nor revel dance was there,
" (Vain pomp of joy, the happy well may spare!)
" Yet love unfeign'd, and conscious honour led
" The spotless virgin to the bridal bed.
" All Heav'n, and every friendly pow'r,
" Approv'd the vow, and bless'd the hour.'

But, to proceed regularly—In my last I told you that we should quit St. Omer's in a few days.—Do not be shocked, Louisa, when I tell you that we were all very near remaining there for ever!

As Delia recovered her health, Sir George's spirits returned; and, after pas­sing a very chearful evening, this day three weeks, we retired rather before midnight to our chambers.—I want [Page 29] words to express the terror I felt, when I was awaked, about four o' clock in the morning, by people screaming out fire, and beating at my door, in order to force it open.—I found myself involved in so thick a smoke, that I could not find the passage out of my chamber, and con­cluded that I must inevitably perish.

Amidst the variety of voices that re­peatedly called upon me to pull up the bolt, I thought I distinguished Lord Hume's—Perhaps this circumstance ad­ded to my confusion.—On a sudden the voice ceased, and I found myself, as it were, left alone in the midst of the flames, which then burst into one side of the room.

At that moment a ladder was fixed against one of my windows, and Lord [Page 30] Hume entering by it, caught me in his arms, and carried me I know not how, but totally devoid of sense, to his apart­ment on the other side of the street.

When I had recovered my reason, I had the happiness of finding my brother and Delia sitting by me, and my cham­pion kneeling before me, and pouring lavender water on my hands and face, with a look of such tender solicitude, as if his life depended upon mine.

The emotion of my gratitude, or call it what you please, was too strong for my spirits—I fainted a second time.—I was put to bed in this situation, and a sur­geon had opened a vein in my arm, be­fore I opened my eyes again.

Never can I forget the expressive look of sorrow which appeared in Lord [Page 31] Hume's countenance!—I confess it, Louisa, it in one moment obliterated all his past offences, and he became even dearer to my heart than he had ever been before.—His saving my life, even at the hazard of his own, was only a proof of his spirit and humanity, which he ought to have exerted for any other woman, in the same dreadful situation:—But the tender anxiety he shewed towards me af­terwards, spoke the fond lover; and the delicacy of his behaviour from that event, has strengthened his claim to that title.

As soon as my arm was bound up, I tried to express my gratitude to Lord Hume, but could not—Tears stopped my utterance, but relieved the oppres­sion of my heart.—He seemed as little able himself to speak as I, but, in an in­coherent [Page 32] manner, said, he was the hap­piest man alive, and kissed my hand in transport.—Sir George then made every person withdraw, except my maid, and left me for some hours to compose my­self.

I found, upon enquiry, that the fire which had consumed three houses, began at a sugar baker's, who lived next door to us, and that it was not discovered till a part of our house was in flames.—An old servant of Lord Hume's was the first person who saw the blaze;—The poor man happened not to be well, and could not sleep:—To his sickness, under Pro­vidence, are we indebted for our lives, and he shall never more feel the fatigue of servitude or labour, his lord and my brother having rendered him inde­pendent for life.

[Page 33]This accident, you may suppose, re­tarded our setting out.—Delia, who suf­fered less than I from the fright, was an equal loser by the fire.—In short, neither we nor our servants had been able to save any of our cloaths from the flames.—You may conclude, that the dear good Wal­ter supplied us with every necessary till we could get them made.

I fear the apprehension she felt on our account, before she knew that we were safe, has hurt her much.—She looked so very delicate when we parted, that I scarce dare flatter myself with the hopes of ever seeing her more.

While we were delayed at St. Omer's, a second courier arrived from Mrs. Col­ville, with a letter to St. George, ack­nowledging [Page 34] her passion for him, plead­ing that in her excuse, and imploring him in the most abject terms, not to ex­pose her weakness, by carrying on the suit against her; and assuring him of her full consent to his marriage with her daughter.

In order to avoid being brought to England by the chancellor's messenger, she has retired privately from Toulouse, and has placed herself in a convent, but where we know not, nor shall ever en­quire.—I hope she will remain, wherever she is, for life, as I really believe, that the bare sight of her would shock our poor Delia more than the fire had done.

She has sent back the small trunk which belonged to the person who died [Page 35] at Amiens, and has desired that Sir George may open it, in order to forward the papers in it, to the party for whom they are designed; if this can be disco­vered from the initials, which is the only address they have.—My brother has as­signed this commission to me, and as soon as I have a moment's leisure, I will exe­cute it faithfully.

If I continue to write so circumstanti­ally, there will be no end of this letter; you must therefore take leave of St. Omer's, and suffer yourself to be instant­ly transported across the water with me, as if you were reading one of Shakespeare's plays, and conclude us now safely arrived in London, whence I am now writing to you.

After my brother had waited on the chancellor, and shewn him Mrs. Colville's [Page 36] letters, he most readily gave his consent to Delia's marriage, and said if he were a bachelor, he should be very proud of such an help-mate, as the fair lady,—meaning me, Louisa,—who had acted with so much prudence in the conduct of this ex­traordinary affair.

As both the parties were very well in­clined to enter into the holy state of ma­trimony, they readily dispensed with the parade of a public wedding; and on Sa­turday last, my brother had the happiness of receiving his well-beloved wife, from the hands of my beloved husband, that is to be—For we shall take more state and form upon us than they have done, I assure you.

Joy to my Louisa!—The happy pair set out next day for Cleveland-hall, whi­ther [Page 37] I shall follow them in a very few days.—Mary Granville and Lord Hume are to accompany me; and the moment I know my Louisa's heart is at peace, I shall give Lord Hume a legal claim to mine, but not till then; for indeed, my sister, I cannot taste of joy, while you are wretched!

Lord Hume and my brother have complained much of the dejection of my spirits since we came from France;—I have attributed the change in me to that of the climate; but I think they don't acquiesce in that opinion, and suspect a hidden cause of sorrow, though they know not from whence it can arise—O, be happy, my Louisa! and make me so!

Lord Hume's chariot stops at the door—A lawyer with him—How tremen­dous! [Page 38] and not a creature with me!—Run, Robert, for Miss Granville—Horrid parchments!—Shocking deeds!—My hand trembles—I can never sign them—How did you!

Adieu, adieu, my sister!
F. CLEVELAND.

LETTER LX.
Lord HUME to Lord LUCAN.

IF you are not absolutely dwindled in­to a state of vegetation, and fixed like a plant to one peculiar spot, I conjure you, by all the powers of friendship, my dear Lucan, to set out on the receipt of this, to be witness to that happiness, which I confess beyond either my expec­tation [Page 39] or deserts, and which I can hardly believe to be real.

Listen—Fanny Cleveland's lovely hand,—what a contrast to her cheek! then blushing like the rosy morn, has signed our marriage articles, and I now only wait for that short passport to hap­piness, which is contained in a few mysti­cal words, that, I suppose, are to hold us inchanted for the rest of our lives.

For my own part, I acknowledge the spell already.—Could all the arguments of philosophy ever have convinced me, without my own experience, that the slightest touch of Cleveland's hand, should communicate a richer transport to my soul, than the closest embrace of Marga­rita.—In one case I feel myself a man, in the other, but a brute. In the first instance, I [Page 40] am sensible of the union of mind and bo­dy; in the second, my sensations were to­tally devoid of all sentiment whatever.—Is not this charming enthusiasm?—I mistook my transports, before—Took giddiness for frolic, extravagance for spi­rit, folly for fondness, and appetite for passion.

On my honour, Lucan! my Fanny is ten thousand times more lovely than when I left England.—In short, I did not know her then, or I could never have been so infatuated as I was, to a creature so every way her inferior—But come, my friend, come, I again intreat you, and see this earthly paragon.

You say you are at an immense distance from the object of your affection—What signifies then a thousand miles, more or [Page 41] less, since you are deprived of the plea­sure of seeing her?—I begin to think she must be some unnatural, manufactured prude.—Don't be angry, Lucan, I have no reason to abuse her, but on your ac­count,—Not even to permit your writ­ing to her!—Perhaps your quitting the kingdom where she is, may bring her to better temper.—I am but a bad judge in these romantic matters, though I am certain that no man living is at this mo­ment more sincerely in love than I am.

Sir George Cleveland was married last week, and I had the honour of giving the bride away.—She is a charming girl, I confess, but nothing to be compared to my Cleveland.—But they have beauty enough between them to stock a seraglio.

[Page 42]I do most sincerely wish to have you at my wedding, Lucan; but I shall not wait an hour for your coming; nor should I think of your being present at the cere­mony, but that my Fanny has declared she will not bestow her hand, without the concurrence of a sister who lives in Ire­land, a Lady Barton.—Do you know her, Lucan? she was a charming girl before she married, though not quite as hand­some as my Fanny.

You see then you have no time to lose; for I must not suppose that her Ladyship, however matronly she may have become since her marriage, can possibly object now to a connection which she seemed once to encourage and approve. Give the reins to your horses, and away, my friend, to

yours, most truly, HUME.
[Page 44]

P.S. If you should not find me in London, post off to Cleveland-hall.—I long to introduce you to Sir George and his lady, but more particularly to my dear Fanny.

LETTER LXI.
Lady BARTON to Miss CLEVELAND.

DO not, I conjure you, my dear Louisa, add to my misery, by de­laying your own happiness—The first has already reached its zenith,—O may the latter do so too!

I will not enter into any further ex­planation, nor mention a single particu­lar relative to myself, till I know that you are married. If, therefore, you are anxious about the most interesting events [Page 43] of my life, I shall shortly receive a let­ter, from Lady Hume, which will then entitle her to a confidence now with-held from my beloved Fanny Cleveland, by her

ever affectionate sister, LOUISA BARTON.

LETTER LXII.
Miss CLEVELAND to Lady BARTON.

I HAVE hesitated, for some time, dear Louisa, whether, in your present de­jected state of mind, I should venture to communicate to you a story of much woe, which was contained in the papers of the unhappy young woman who died at Amiens.

[Page 45]The diverting of any current must ne­cessarily abate its force, and whatever can awaken our sensibility for the misfor­tunes of others, must, at least for the time, render us insensible to our own.

I believe too, that comparison weighs much in our estimation of good and evil; and though a generous heart, even la­bouring under the severest calamities, may be incapable of forming a wish for relief, at the expence of another's hap­piness, yet I am persuaded, that there is a sort of alleviation to be found, in re­flecting that there are, or rather, that there have been, others much more wretched than ourselves.

Upon this principle then I shall send you this melancholy story, which I should never have been mistress of, had [Page 46] the papers in which it was contained, though unsealed, been properly address­ed; but as they were only superscribed with initials, I was obliged to look in­to the contents, in order to forward them to the person for whom they were designed; and I hope my tak­ing a copy of them, for you, and you on­ly, will not be considered as a breach of trust, either to the living, or the dead.

As soon as my brother and sister went out of town, which was the first moment I had leisure, I opened the little trunk which Mrs. Colville's last messenger brought to St. Omer's, and which may properly enough be called the lachrymal urn, of the unfortunate Maria; for in it was the tearful narrative of a life of sor­rows, deposited; and though she is now [Page 47] removed from a possibility of feeling them, they still retain the magnetic power of living grief, and must attract the sigh of pity from every tender, every feeling heart.

The STORY of MARIA.

To Mr. EDWARD S—.

Will the most tender and affectionate of brothers, with patience, condescend to read the sad confession of a dying wretch, who owns herself unworthy of his kindness,—Yet, trembling on the verge of life, solicits to obtain his pardon and pity!—Alas! my Edward, they will never reach me!—No friendly voice can ever sooth my ear, or speak peace to my perturbed heart! for soon the motion of its pulse shall cease, and this poor shat­tered frame return to dust.—Drop then [Page 48] one fond forgiving tear upon these pa­ges:—'Tis all I now can ask, or you, e'er long, can grant.

The story of my misconduct and mis­fortunes, perhaps, will reach you, before this letter.—How does my heart now bleed for that indignant grief your gene­rous mind must feel, for a beloved sis­ter's infamy!

I do not mean to extenuate my faults;—Alas! they will not bear extenuation!—And, conscious as I am of my ap­proach to that tribunal, before which we must all e'er long appear, deceit or fals­hood would be as weak as wicked.—Then hear the faithful story of my heart, and judge me as one erring mortal should another.

[Page 49]In less than a year after you sailed for Bengal, our dear father died—What an irreparable loss was mine!—I need not tell you that as he was in the church, we were at once deprived of the principal part of his fortune, with his life, and that there did not remain above an hundred pounds a year, being a life annuity, pur­chased for my mother with her own por­tion, to support her and me.

The altered countenances and behavi­our of those we had formerly called friends, at Gloucester, made my mother determine on quitting a place where, from her want of knowing the world, she con­sidered herself as particularly ill treated.—She was then first taught, that prosperity is the cement of modern friendship; and when that fails, the tottering structure sinks into decay.

[Page 50]She condescended to consult me upon our future scheme of life; though, as I was not then fifteen, I was but ill quali­fied for an adviser; however, I had heard that Bath was a cheap place of residence, for those who settle them­selves as inhabitants there; and as I also believed it to be an agreeable lively scene, I had often wished to go thither, during my father's life; and therefore used all my little rhetoric with my mo­ther, to fix us there.

I prevailed; and the first year we spent in it, was by many degrees the happiest of my life.—We lived in a small house, near the Cross-bath, with the greatest oeconomy.—My mother did not go much into public, but we met with many for­mer acquaintances, who were so obliging [Page 51] to matronize me to the rooms, play­house, and walks, as often as it was thought proper to let me appear abroad.

You cannot, my Edward, have forgot­ten my face and person, and may suppose that I was not without admirers, in the midst of so many gay flutterers as abound at Bath.—There are, I believe, fewer se­rious engagements made there, than at any place where such a concourse of young people continually meet.—Whe­ther this is owing to the perpetual dissi­pation they live in, or to the constant ro­tation of new faces that appear there dai­ly, is not to me material.—My heart, alas! was but too susceptible of a tender impression; and Captain L—, son to Sir Richard L—, first inspired my art­less bosom with love.

[Page 52]During the first three months of our acquaintance, we saw each other every day; nor did the idea of parting, or any other painful thought, obtrude upon our minds, to interrupt the pleasing delirium of our mutual fondness.

Our happiness was then most certainly too great to last.—A letter from Sir Richard L— to his son, acquainting him that he was promoted to the rank of Captain, in a regiment which was then sta­tioned in Ireland, with a peremptory command to set out thither immediately, was the first, and we then thought the se­verest shock, that fate could inflict on us.

Though my mother was extremely in­dulgent to me, yet, from a delicacy natu­ral to young minds, I had never ven­tured [Page 53] to acquaint her with my attachment to Captain L—. To this small, but fatal error, I, perhaps, owe most of the subsequent miseries of my life.

The most intimate acquaintance I then had, was a young married lady, about three and twenty, who seemed to have the greatest friendship for my lover, and tenderness for me, imaginable—Her name is —, but I will not expose her, for the sake of a respectable family to whom she is allied—though she has brought infamy and sorrows upon me and mine.

I will call her Matilda—To her then I disclosed the anguish of my heart, at the sad thought of parting with my lover, and wept upon her bosom—She seemed [Page 54] to consider my distress as trifling:—Told me I had too much sensibility to be hap­py, and advised me to conquer it;—then added, laughing, these first passions are always troublesome, but you will not be so much affected at parting with your next lover. I was offended and disgust­ed at her speech—The very idea had profligacy in it—She quickly perceived my resentment, and had address enough to change her stile, and soothe me into the most perfect confidence.

During the short time that Captain L— remained at Bath, after his father's summons, we three were inseparable.—He would have married me, at that in­terval; but, as he was not of age, being then but just turned of twenty, he could get no clergyman to perform the cere­mony [Page 55] for us.—At length the fatal hour of separation arrived—Happiness and he were one, in my estimation—They fled, alas! together.

From his letters I received the sole consolation that could alleviate the pangs of absence.—They were frequent and tender; yet I thought latterly, that I sometimes discovered a little tendency towards jealousy in them; but, uncon­scious as I was of having given the slightest ground for suspicion, by my conduct, I thought it beneath me to en­ter into a particular defence against a ge­neral charge; and therefore suffered eve­ry hint upon this subject to pass unno­ticed.

We had lived now above a year at Bath, and my mother began to find her­self [Page 56] extremely straitened in her circum­stances—You had it not then in your power, my dear and generous Edward, to relieve her distress; and I am certain that one of the severest, which she herself felt, was her not being able to assist you, in the first dawnings of your then infant fortunes.

My mother, though past the prime of life, was still handsome; and, at such a crisis, dress is of much more consequence to a woman, than at an earlier aera; she had been used to elegance and affluence, yet she chearfully resigned them all, and continued to wear deep mourning, in or­der to ornament me with the remains of her former paraphernalia, and every little addition that she could make to it.

[Page 57]Matilda used to take me with her fre­quently to the rooms, and generally in­vited me to private parties, at her own apartments;—sometimes with my mo­ther, but oftener without.—She al­ways played high, and seemed solicitous to possess me with the same passion.—I resisted the temptation, for some time, on account of the danger and indecorum of such a course of life.—To which she replied, that as cards were now become the bon ton of all civilized nations, the latter of my objections was sufficiently obviated; and that, in order to guard against the former, the earlier I began to practise, the better.—For, as I should soon be a person of rank and fortune, by the death of Sir Richard L—, I could not think of living like a housewife, in such an improved and en­lightened [Page 58] age, as the present; and that, as high play had now became the gene­ral amusement and occupation of all people intitled to associate in polite life, the sooner I was initiated into the arts and sciences of gaming, the safer it would be for my husband's fortune, or my own.

She would sometimes make me hold her cards, while she sat by, and instruct­ed me how to play them; then she would make me join in the stake, and at last led me in to adventure for myself, on her promise to lend me what money I might lose, till I should be in a condition of repaying her.

I am convinced that there is but one step easy to avoid, in vice, and that is the first.—The fear and disgust with which I [Page 59] had engaged at play, at the begin­ning, wore off by degrees; and habit had seduced my mind into such a passion for cards, in a short time, that I regret­ted the Sundays that my mother con­fined me at home, after the church service was over, to read proper discourses, and listen to her most excellent instructions.

Mr. W—, an elderly gentleman of fortune, used generally to be of our par­ties.—He seemed to distinguish me, in a particular manner, and used to favour me at play; which, as soon as I discover­ed, I immediately resented, and declared I would lay down my cards, if he should ever again attempt to pay me the least compliment of the kind, to the disad­vantage, either of himself, or any of the rest of the company.—This pro­per [Page 60] reproof of mine obliged him to re­strain his too indelicate galantry towards me for the future.

My card-accompt preserved itself pret­ty even for some time, without giving me occasion to trespass on the credit which my friend Matilda had made me so voluntary a proffer of; till one night that I happened to be led in by her, to engage at loo, which was a game I had never played at before, and knew so lit­tle of, as not to be aware how deeply I might be involved, upon a turn of luck against me.—The stakes were not high, but, as the sorfeits were unlimited, I found myself indebted to Mr. W—, in the sum of thirty guineas, when the party broke up.

I applied to my friend for the money, but she put me off at that time, by say­ing [Page 61] that I should try my fortune again, the next evening, at her apartments; and that she would then put whatever bal­lance should appear against me on a pro­per footing for payment.—I was tempted to venture on a second essay at the same game, and concluded the night with doubling the debt to the same person. I then claimed Matilda's promise; but she answered me with great coldness, and a constrained smile, that my creditor was a gentleman of large fortune, and, as he had made her a confidant of his partiali­ty in my favour, she should think it a breach of honour to take me out of his hands, by releasing me from so trifling an obligation as this was.

The surprise and alarm I felt upon this occasion is not to be expressed—It was [Page 62] too surely a presage of all my future mi­series!—I began to find that I had been most treacherously dealt by—I retired to my chamber, without speaking even to my mother, and passed the night in walking about distractedly, and crying out, How shall I be ever able to discharge this dangerous debt! or how render a justifiable account of my conduct, either to my mother, to the world, but more especially to my dear Captain L—!

I confined myself at home for seve­ral days after this adventure, during which time Matilda came often to solicit my returning into the world again, and affected to ridicule my prudery, in being rendered so unea­sy about so insignificant a circum­stance, which, she assured me was [Page 63] but one of the common events of life. However, I continued resolute in keep­ing myself retired, and remained incon­solable, on this unhappy incident, till I received a letter from Captain L—, which I opened with transport, hoping it would calm my mind, and restore my peace again.—Alas! what an aggrava­tion to my misfortune and distress, did I meet with there!

He told me that his regiment was or­dered to America, and that he should embark with it in less than ten days, which time was elapsed at the moment I received his letter.—He added, that my conduct had convinced him, that, if he should never return to England, I would be easily consoled for his loss, though he should never cease to regret mine—Wish­ed [Page 64] me every happiness that a life of dis­sipation could yield, and bad me fare­well—For ever!

My mind already disturbed and agi­tated, this cruel letter almost unhinged my reason, and sunk me into the most pitiable state of dejection.—My mother, who was ignorant of the real cause of my disturbance, apprehended some heavy disorder to be falling upon me, and at­tended me night and day, with the fond­est anxiety imaginable.

For some time I continued in a state of the profoundest melancholy;—at length the voice of nature waked my reason.—The tears and sighs of a fond parent, by sympathetic force attracted mine, and called forth all my gratitude—I strove to [Page 65] hide my anguish, even in smiles, but it still preyed upon my tortured heart.

The shame of having carried on a clandestine correspondence, with a lover, who had now so plainly cast me off, pre­vented my revealing to my mother any circumstance of a connection, which I then considered as disgraceful to me.—But I flew directly to Matilda, who had been my only confidant in this secret, and communicated the letter to her.—She re­ceived me coldly, as she had done before, on my former difficulty—told me that this too was but another of the common events of life—That the most constant lovers were not to be considered more than perennials; but that Bath passions never lasted, beyond the season—that [Page 66] they were inspired by the heat of the wa­ters, and cooled as they did.

What makes girls so woe-begone, said she, upon such disappointments, is the overweaning conceit they are too apt to frame of their own consequence; but they must abate considerably of their ro­mantic self-sufficience, before they will find themselves in the station where na­ture has designed them.—A toy, a rattle, which ten will play with, for one who will think of becoming a serious purchaser.

Such maxims as these, whether true or false, were not likely to assuage my grief, and I returned home the most un­happy creature breathing.—I accused Captain L— of falsehood, of perjury, [Page 67] a thousand times, alas! in vain, did I vow to cast him from my heart and memory for ever.—Pardon, thou dear departed shade, these and all other injuries I have unwittingly been the sad occasion of to you!

During my confinement, Mr. W— made the most constant and obliging inquiries about me, and in the most friendly manner offered my mother a house he had near the Hot-wells at Bris­tol, with the use of his carriage, ser­vants, &c.—As I continued in a very low and languid state, even after my re­covery, change of air was judged neces­sary for me, particularly as the physi­cian who attended me, apprehended my falling into a consumption.

[Page 68]I had however, a very strong objec­tion to accepting Mr. W—'s obliging offer, from an unwillingness to receiving farther favours from one, to whom I was already too much indebted.

But this difficulty was a good deal ob­viated, by his declaring that he was en­gaged on a party, for two months, to visit Paris; and during that time, both his house and carriage must be entirely useless to him.

At my mother's intreaty, and not op­posed by me, Matilda consented to ac­company us; and I own I felt a gleam of joy, at removing from a place, where every object reminded me of my unhap­piness: I did not then reflect that I could not fly from myself, and that neither hap­piness or misery are local.

[Page 69]Mr. W— accompanied us to Bris­tol, and put us into possession of a very elegant house, in which he left four ser­vants to attend us, at board wages—There was an ample supply of tea, wine, sweet-meats, and every elegance, which he insisted on our using, as if they were our own, and took his leave, in the politest manner, earnestly requesting that he might find us there at his return.

The waters and the change of scene certainly conduced to the recovery of my health; but peace and chearfulness were both estranged from my sad bosom, and the only moments I enjoyed, were those in which I could prevail on Matilda to listen to my griefs.—I soon discovered that she grew weary of the painful office; she was totally immersed in gaiety, and [Page 70] used oftener to rally, than soothe my af­fliction.

Under all the disadvantages, which the gloomy veil of sorrow had cast ar­round me, a Yorkshire baronet, Sir James D—, saw, and liked me; he immediately addressed himself to my mo­ther, and was by her most favourably received. She was overjoyed at the pro­spect, of what she called my happiness, and spoke to me of Sir James's proposal with transport.

This was the second outrage, if I may so call it, that my heart had suffered—I fell into an agony of grief, and before I could recollect myself, or she prevent me, I vowed to heaven, in the most so­lemn manner, that I would never be Sir James's wife.

[Page 71]Even at this moment, Edward, I be­hold the figure of my astonished, my of­fended mother! She had however, so much reason at command, as not to urge my madness farther, but quitted the room, with a look of indignation, mingled with surprise and sorrow.

In a few minutes I followed her into her chamber, and found her in tears; I could not bear them, Edward! I fell upon my knees before her, implored her pardon, and offered even to sacrifice my­self by marrying Sir James D—, ra­ther than render her wretched.

She answered with the utmost calm­ness, I fear, Maria, it is out of your power to prevent my being so; you are unhappy, my child, and I must suffer [Page 72] with you—I hoped—but it is over—For be assured that after the vow you have so rashly made, no power on earth should force me to consent to my child's perjury. Sir James shall have his answer.

But let me now inform you of a secret I wished to have concealed for ever from you—Penury and want surround us, and we shall soon be given up a prey to them—We must return to Bath, no more. I will mortgage our little income, to pay our debts; in some obscure corner we must labour for our bread, help to sup­port ourselves in honest indigence, and strive to humble our minds to our con­ditions.

I do not condemn you, my child—Af­fections are not to be forced—I flattered [Page 73] myself that your youth and beauty might have obtained an advantageous match, which would have been a support to me, and an establishment to yourself. Sir James D—'s proposal was beyond my hopes, but I do not wish to render you a victim for my sake; nor shall this sub­ject ever be mentioned more between us.

O, my brother! think what I suffered while my mother spoke—I would at that moment have died a thousand deaths to have made her happy; yet even then I inwardly rejoiced at being relieved from my apprehensions of marrying a man I could not love.

You may suppose I uttered all that gratitude could dictate, for my mother's kindness, and promised, for my future [Page 74] life, to know no will but hers—Talked of contented poverty; preferred an hum­ble lot with peace of mind, to splendid misery; and strove in vain to combat with her sorrows.

On this occasion, I not only assumed, but felt a degree of chearfulness, to which my heart had long been a stranger. I triumphed over Captain L—'s unjust suspicions; in the midst of poverty, I re­jected an advantageous settlement, and despised a title which must be bought at the expence of love.

I expected Matilda would have ap­plauded my heroism, but was disappoint­ed—She disapproved my conduct, called me romantic and absurd, condemned my mother's want of spirit, and said that [Page 75] had she been in her place she would have compelled me to marry Sir James D—, and made me happy in spite of my own folly.—

In about four days after this event, Mr W—, whom we had imagined to be in France, returned to Bristol—As I was sensible of the highest gratitude to­wards him, I confess I felt a degree of pleasure at his arrival, and received him with all the marks of regard due to a friend.

There was a vacant apartment in the house, which he asked my mother's leave to occupy—she certainly had not a right to refuse, yet I could perceive that she was vastly embarrassed by the request.—The next morning she told me that she [Page 76] was determined to quit Bristol, immedi­ately, though she knew not where to bend her course, as she did not think it proper to remain longer in Mr. W—'s house.

As this person was near fifty years of age, I had never considered him in any other light than as a father; however, the impropriety of living under his roof, any longer, struck me as soon as it was mentioned—I told her I was ready to at­tend her, when and wherever she pleas­ed.—She burst into tears, and said, ‘"Alas, my child, who will receive the friendless widow, and her helpless or­phan!"’

At that instant Mr. W—, who had overheard our discourse, came into the [Page 77] room, and taking my mother's hand, said, ‘"Behold in me, Madam, a pro­tector, and a son, who will think him­self happy in making you so."’

The first emotion of my heart, at this declaration, was gratitude—Modesty alone restrained me from embracing Mr. W—; I cried out, in an extasy, ‘"O Sir! you are too good, too generous! how shall we ever be able to make you an amends?"’

He instantly replied, ‘"It is in your power, Madam, to overpay all my ser­vices; I ask no more than that fair hand can give; but then your heart, as well as person must be mine; without the first, the latter would be worthless—I will not at this moment expect your an­swer, you are fully apprised of your [Page 78] mother's sentiments and situation, and you alone can tell whether you chuse or not to dry her tears."’

He quitted the room directly, but he might have remained there, and talked for an hour, without hazarding any in­terruption from me; I was absolutely petrified with horror and surprise—Be­fore I could recover myself, my mother, with her eyes still streaming, threw her­self on her knees before me, and pressing my hand to her heart, said, ‘"I do not ask you, my beloved child, to sacri­fice yourself for me—but, O consider, my Maria! to what insults and misfor­tunes your innocence and youth must be exposed, when you shall lose even the poor support you have in me—I know I cannot long endure distress, [Page 79] my death must leave you a prey to every ill, to every danger. You will then reflect, with grief and shame, on that false delicacy that actuates you now, and vainly lament the loss of a fond parent, whom you have suffered to sink with sorrow to the grave."’

I could bear no more—I fell on my knees before her, I clasped her in my arms, and bathed her bosom with my flowing tears, while I cried out, ‘"O take me, sacrifice me, do what you will with me, I will not be a parricide! But give me time to conquer this poor heart, and tear my L—'s much loved image from my breast."’

At the name of L— my mother start­ed up, and raised me with her; then [Page 80] looking at me with unutterable anguish, said it must not be, if your heart feels a passion for another object, I will much sooner die than make you wretched.—But who is Mr. L—, and how has he deserved Maria's love?—Shame kept me silent; but when my mother repeated her question, I replied, do not press me far­ther, Madam; Matilda can inform you both of my weakness and misfortune.

As I wished to retire upon the instant, I opened a door that led by a few steps into the garden,—In my confusion I miss­ed my footing, and fell from the top to the bottom.—My mother flew to my assistance, but could not raise me; she called for help, and when Matilda and Mr. W—, who were in the garden, lift­ed me from the ground, I could not [Page 81] stand.—I was carried into the house, and a surgeon sent for, who acquainted them that I had dislocated my right ancle.

In the midst of the pain I suffered, even during the action of setting my an­cle, I secretly rejoiced in this accident, as it must, at least for some days, retard an event to me more horrible than death.—My heart was overflowing still with fondness for the faithless L—, and I was sensible of too much respect for Mr. W—, to love him.

The second day of my confinement, my mother told me that Matilda had in­formed her of every particular relative to the attachment between Captain L— and me; that tho' she considered it as a childish and romantic affair on my side, [Page 82] and a mere matter of galantry on his; yet her tenderness for me, had made her consent to Matilda's writing to him, and acquainting him with every particular of my present situation; and if, in answer to that letter, he should declare a serious and honourable passion for me, she so­lemnly promised never to oppose my in­clination, but chearfully wait his return, and yield her consent to our union, but if, on the contrary—

Stop there, my dearest mother, I ex­claimed, you have outgone my wishes; for if Captain L— should hesitate a moment to receive me as his wife, not only [...]y hand, but my heart shall then be free; and gratitude to the best of pa­rents shall enable me to bestow them, unreluctantly, on any person whom her prudence shall select.

[Page 83]My mother embraced me, and bathed my cheeks with tears of fondness. At that moment I thought myself the happiest of mortals.—Matilda joined us, and read the letter she had written to Captain L—. I did not think that it suf­ficiently described either my affection or my distress; but as my mother approved of it, I did not presume to make any ob­jection, but only engaged her promise to add a defence of my conduct, from the misapprehensions or misrepresenta­tations he seemed to have conceived or received before, with regard to it.

You know, my Edward, that my mother was integrity itself; she could not therefore bear to be guilty of the smallest deceit; and though Mr. W— had not pressed for any answer to his pro­posal, [Page 84] on account of the accident that had happened to me, she resolved to tell him that there was a friend in America, without whose consent I was determined never to marry; that this person had been written to, and that he should be in­formed of his answer, the moment it arrived.

Mr. W— received this information with a very ill grace, but acquiesced so far as to say, that he could have no doubt of this unheard of guardian's consent to such an offer as his; and as an answer might arrive before I was perfectly re­stored to my health, there was no great harm in asking it; but he did not sup­pose that we should be weak enough to refuse his alliance, even though this par­ticular friend might not approve of it.

[Page 85]My mother, though extremely dis­gusted at the roughness of his reply, concealed the coarseness of his expres­sion from me, and I considered myself extremely obliged to him for not per­secuting me any further, for the present, with his ungracious and unwelcome passion.

Matilda was obliged to return to her house at Bath; and as my mother spent most of her time in my chamber, and that Mr. W— was not permitted to make long visits to me, on pretence of the necessity of my being kept quiet, he grew weary of passing his domestic hours alone, and to my very great joy, set out for London.

* * * * * *
* * * * * *
* * * * * *

[Page 86]I have written so long, my dear Lou­isa, that I am scarce able to hold the pen, but I could not possibly stop in this interesting narrative, such I hope you will think it, till I came to what may properly be called a resting place—For though we do not leave Maria happy, her hopes and fears are held in equi­poise, and this perhaps may not be one of the least eligible situations in human life.

Since I wrote to you I have had a let­ter from Mrs. Walter, my apprehen­sions for her life are increased by it; they more than preponderate against my hopes, my spirits sink with them—But I am in a gloomy mood, at present; I will try to shake it off; Lord Hume will assist me, I hear him coming up stairs—Till to-morrow, farewell, my loved Louisa.

F. CLEVELAND.

LETTER LXIII.
Miss CLEVELAND to Lady BARTON.

I Shall proceed in my task of copying, like a clerk in an office, without at­tending to any thing but the draft before me, and indeed, my Louisa, I find it sufficiently interesting to engross all my attention.—If it can exclude those pleas­ing sentiments which my present hap­piness ought, and does inspire, may I not reasonably hope that it will be able to suspend, at least during the time of reading it, that heavy weight which seems to press upon my sisters heart? Yes, I am persuaded that it may, and un­der this belief, I reassume the pen.

[Page 88] The STORY of MARIA, continued.

In less than a month, I was able to walk, with a little help, and most earn­estly wished to quit Mr. W—'s house; as I had reason to hope from the justifi­cation of my character, which Matilda as­sured me she had undertaken, that there would be an end of all connection be­tween us, the moment I should receive a letter from Captain L—; and that an interview, on such an occasion, must be painful to us both.

I therefore pressed my mother to try to borrow the money she wanted, at Bristol, and return to Bath.—She complied with my request, and judged it necessary to take up a larger sum, on her annuity, than she at first intended, as either my marriage with Mr. W—, or my wait­ing Captain L—'s return to England, must be attended with expence.

[Page 89]In short, on such terms as the poor borrow, and the rich lend, she obtained two hundred pounds, which I then thought an immense sum; but did not consider that we owed more than half of it already, including my debt to Mr. W—

I am thus circumstantial with you, my dear Edward, that you may be perfectly able to judge of the motives which im­pelled me to my ruin—O would to hea­ven, that I alone had been to suffer the so much dreaded ills of poverty! I would have braved them all; but a beloved, and tender parent, whose fondness to­wards me had involved her in distress! It was not to be born.

My mother wrote a very polite letter to Mr. W—, thanking him for all his [Page 90] civilities, and acquainting him with our return to Bath, where he joined us in a few days—He brought some very hand­some jewels, and other presents, from London, for me, which I absolutely re­fused, and even felt my delicacy offended at his offering them, as it seemed to hint at a certainty of my becoming his wife.

As the time approached when we might expect an answer from Captain L—, I counted the hours, and rejoi­ced in their flight; the anxiety of sus­pence was visible in my looks and words; I started at every sound, and minutely inquired the business of every person who rapped at the door. At length the fatal moment arrived that was to change a state of fond hope into the utmost despair.

[Page 91]Matilda came to our house one morn­ing, and requested to see my mother alone; the gloom which sat on her brow, announced the tidings which she brought, and though scarce able to utter a syllable, I cried out, ‘"I will not leave the room, I know the worst already, he is dead!"’ She answered coldly, no! and reached a letter to me—the contents whereof were as follows—

To MATILDA.

Dear Madam,

Honoured as I am by the favour of your letter, and happy in hearing of your health, will you not think me ungrate­ful if I repine at your wasting so much of your time and paper, in relating par­ticulars of a person, who now only lives in my memory, from the bare recollec­tion [Page 92] of having sometimes seen her with you?

But as all preferences are flattering, I should be unpolite not to thank miss S—, for an offer, which I must how­ever decline. I heartily wish her happi­ness with Sir James D—, Mr. W—, or whomsoever else she shall think pro­per to honour with her fair hand, except­ing, Madam, your

most obedient servant, T. L.

My faculties were all suspended, for several minutes, after reading this insult­ing letter—

" No sigh to rise, no tear had power to flow."

I felt like one that had been stunned by a severe stroke—At length recovering [Page 93] myself, I flung the hated paper from me, and taking my mother's hand, said, with an effort of calmness, ‘"How poor, Madam, is the sacrifice that I can now make to duty—A rejected hand, and heart! but dispose of them as you please, and do it quickly, while my reason holds."’

My mother was more alarmed at my behaviour than she would have been had I fallen into a passion, either of grief or rage—She wept abundantly, for my distress, and expressed every sentiment of parental fondness—her kindness would have transformed me to a Niobe at any other time, but the sorrow that had then taken possession of my heart, was of too powerful a nature to be softened by her tears, or dissipated by my own—'Twas grief unutterable.

[Page 94]My mother kindly indulged me, for several days, by allowing me to keep my chamber, on pretence of a sore throat—this prevented my seeing Mr. W—, and gave me time to reflect upon my own situation.—I considered myself as an offer­ing that was to be sacrificed, and deter­mined to support the rôle that fate had allotted me, with becoming fortitude.

Mr. W— expressed the utmost im­patience for our marriage, and in about six weeks after the receipt of Captain L—'s letter, I was led to the altar, and became the wretched wife of Mr. W—.

In vain did I endeavour to assume an air of chearfulness, with a breaking heart; unused to deceit or artifice, the veil [Page 95] which I put on could not conceal the gloomy tints which sorrow had engraven upon my mind. I was hourly reproached by my husband with ill-temper and in­gratitude, and my mother was accused of having drawn him into a match, so much against his interest, and so little conducive to his happiness.

For her dear sake, I exerted my utmost powers to please, but they sel­dom met with success; and I, with un­speakable grief, now saw that she was rendered infinitely more wretched by my marriage, than she could have been in any other situation.

Mr. W—'s estate was in Devon­shire; he had an old family seat there, where I most earnestly wished to spend [Page 96] my days in solitude and peace; but as he often told me, that he did not think we should make a pleasant tête-a-tête together there, he disposed of his house at Bristol, and hired one at Bath, from which he frequently made excursions to London, or else-where, for a month or six weeks at a time.

During his absence, I seldom stirred abroad, unless to church, to pay some visit of ceremony, or to pass an hour, or perhaps an evening, with Matilda.

From the moment I was married I had never mentioned the name of Cap­tain L— to my mother, Matilda, or any other person—This was a sacrifice I thought due to my husband; I would have done more, had it been in my [Page 97] power, and banished him for ever from my thoughts.

One evening, while Mr. W— was away, I was prevailed upon, by Matilda and my mother, to go to the Rooms, on a ball-night—I found my spirits strongly affected with a scene that reminded me of happier days; and became so much absorbed in my own reflections, that I scarce heard the sound of the music, or observed the motion of the dancers, though Matilda was among then.

I was sitting on one of the benches, opposite the door of the room, and had continued a considerable time in my re­verie, when my eyes were accidentally caught by the figure of a person, who was speaking to a lady that sat just be­fore [Page 98] me—My mind hesitated, but my heart admitted not a doubt that it was Captain L—

Had I ever screamed out in my life, I should have done so then—So unex­pected a view had the same effect on me that is generally produced by thunder and lightning; it dimmed my sight, and gave me such a sickness in my stomach that I could not long support; a sudden chilness succeeded this emotion, and my head reclined insensibly on the shoulder of the lady who sat next to me.

What passed while I remained in that state, I know not, but when my senses returned, I found myself at home, my mother weeping by me, and Mr. W— storming about the room like a mad­man [Page 99] —not at my illness, but at the cause he imputed it to—for he declared, be­fore the surgeon who had just then bled me, that he had detected me in an in­trigue; and that on his sudden and unex­pected appearance, in the Rooms, at the moment I was conferring with my ga­lant, the various passions of love, hatred, and fear, had overpowered my spirits, and occasioned my fainting.

What an infatuated distemper is jea­lousy! it realises chimeras, and draws conclusions, without premises—I was holding no conference with Captain L— he was only speaking to a person who sat before me, nor did I see my husband, till I opened my eyes in my own chamber. However I suffered him to pour forth his whole stock of causeless abuse with­out [Page 100] the least interruption; till at length, not meeting with resistance, his rage was exhausted, and the surgeon and he retired together.

I was put into bed, and determined, as soon as I was left alone, to tear the bandage off my arm, and suffer myself to bleed to death; but before I could put my resolution in practice, a thou­sand reasons pressed forward to restrain my trembling hand—What had I done to merit death? Would not the desperate deed confirm the slander of my tyrant's tongue? And could I leave my mother at once oppressed with her own grief, and my infamy!

Perhaps the love of life pleaded, though silently, even stronger than these [Page 101] motives, and with-held me from my first attempt towards guilt—Yet, O for­give me, Edward, that I now lament I did not perpetrate the fatal deed! I might have hoped for pardon of my first crime, but can accumulated sins find mercy! Yet if contrition may avail a wretch, I still will dare to hope.

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* * * * * *
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Here, my Louisa, I must again break off my melancholy narrative, as I have been so much broken in upon, all day, by company, that I find it impossible to conclude it by this post; but as the mails to Ireland are sometimes delayed by contrary winds, for several days, nay weeks, as I am told, you may possibly receive the whole story at once—I will [Page 102] not therefore create a further interrup­tion by talking on any other subject, but conclude as usual,

most affectionately yours, F. CLEVELAND.

LETTER LXVI.
Miss CLEVELAND to Lady BARTON.

ONCE more, my sister, I return to the sad task of relating Maria's woes; I have not ventured to make any comment on her story, nor do I mean to attempt it: my Louisa can reason far better than I, and deduce effects from their causes.

* * * * * *
* * * * * *
* * * * * *

[Page 103]The agitation of my spirits had redu­ced my mind to a state of the lowest weakness; I wept the whole night through, and when my mother eame to my bed-side, in the morning, I was scarce able to answer her tender inquiries after my health.

She told me that Mr. W— was per­fectly well acquainted with my former attachment to Captain L—, though he had never given the most distant hint of it before—She suspected Matilda for having supplied him with this infor­mation—That by some chance he had heard of his being at Bath, and came post from London, directly; but when he arrived at his house, and heard that I was at the Rooms, he flew into the most violent passion, and said every thing [Page 104] against me that rage and mistake could dictate.

My poor mother thought to qualify his fury, by assuring him that this was the first night I had gone into the Rooms, since his absence—Perhaps this might have confirmed his suspicion, as it looked the more like an assignation. He hurried on his cloaths, flew immediately to the assembly, and happened unlucki­ly, it seems, just to enter the door as Captain L— had walked up to the place where I sat.

He construed every thing against me, both appearances and surmises—‘"Tri­fles light as air,"’ &c. In fine I was condemned, without further examin­ation, he declared his full determination [Page 105] not to live with me any longer, and commanded me to set out immediately for his house in Devonshire, where he would take care that I should not ex­pose myself, or dishonour him, any more for the future

Surely never was reprieve more wel­come to a sentenced wretch, than the latter part of this discourse to me—I had languished for solitude, before my hus­band's error had rendered me infamous; and earnestly wished to fly from society, before I had reason to apprehend that I should be abandoned by the world—But in my present situation, both of mind and circumstance, the idea of retirement, nay absolute seclusion from the whole universe, except my mother, was doubly dear to my sad heart.

[Page 106]I started up with all the alacrity of health, and chearfulness, and cried, I am ready to obey Mr. W—; let us be gone this moment, do not delay, my dearest mother, but let us fly for ever from this hated place, this scene of all my misery!

She answered with a sigh, ‘"Your husband has refused to let me go with you, or be a witness of the treatment, which you are too likely to receive un­der his tyranny—I shall behold you, or your, miseries no more, but they will prey for ever on my heart—for I have caused them all—Your filial duty, more than your own ambition, was the sole motive which has rendered you a victim to this unequal match—I respected the opinions of the world, more than the [Page 107] philosophy of nature, and the sin of the parent is now severely visited on the unoffending child!"’—We wept in each other's bosom.

The thought of being separated from this virtuous, this tender parent, quite overpowered me, and I sunk almost sense­less upon my pillow—I knew that she had not now even the means of subsist­ence, when torn from me, and I had not the least reason to expect that Mr. W— would have generosity or huma­nity sufficient to relieve her distress, or assuage her grief.

During the few days I remained at Bath, after this event, I never stirred out of my bed-chamber, nor saw any crea­ture, except my dear mother and a maid [Page 108] servant, who had been hired upon this occasion, to watch, rather than attend me, and was appointed, as one may well suppose, to be a spy upon all my actions during my exilement in Devonshire.

The only favourable circumstance that I remember, in this unhappy situation, was that Mr. W—, for I will no longer stile him husband, no more dis­tressed me with his loathsome presence, or his foul reproaches, while I continued under his roof.

Matilda never once came near me all this while; but this was not the first instance that gave me reason to suspect her of insincerity and double dealing. I feared she had been the sole cause of the breach between Captain L— [Page 109] and me, and this idea not only inspired me with my former passion for him, but added a tenderness and compassion to my sentiments, that rendered me infi­nitely more wretched than I was before: the brutality of Mr. W— still fur­ther strengthened my affections towards him, and the state of divorce to which his violence had now reduced me, dis­solved that solemn and honourable tie, which would otherwise have restrained the wanderings of my heart, and ever preserved my duty faithful to him.

It would be impossible to describe the pangs I felt, when the hour arrived in which I was to be torn from a fond mo­ther's converse—she was all the world to me, at least she was all that I then thought truly loved me, in the world— [Page 110] We parted—and at her most earnest en­treaty, I promised to write to Mr. W—, as soon as my mind should be sufficiently composed, and to enter into a proper vin­dication of my hitherto irreproachable conduct.

More dead than alive, my duenna and I arrived at my destined prison—The house was old, large, and gloomy, ex­tremely out of repair; the furniture as antique as the building, which was situ­ated on a bleak and barren shore, op­posite the Irish coast.—For the first ten or twelve days that I passed in this dis­mal mansion, I was delighted with the stillness and solitude that surrounded me—the family was composed of only three maids, and an old gardener; and I have sometimes passed a dozen hours [Page 111] without hearing any sound, except the roaring of the sea, the croaking of the ravens, or howling of a mastiff.

But when the agitation of my mind began a little to subside, I grew sensible to the horrors of my situation, and would have preferred a dungeon, with any hu­man creature I could converse with, to the liberty of stalking through an unin­habited range of chambers, in silence and solitude.

Monasteries afford society, and goals are not destitute of companions, which are a solace even in misery; but here I was both wretched, and alone—I used often to consider myself as a delin­quent entombed alive, secluded from the universe, and only conscious of ex­istence from continued regret.

[Page 112]I sought for amusement in books, and found none that were capable of afford­ing me any; the few volumes that I met with, were meant to inspire devo­tion, but as they were written on fanatical principles, they were either so ridiculous­ly absurd as to create disgust, or so ex­tremely rigid as to induce despair.

In conformity to my promise, I had written to Mr. W—, but received no answer, and, what was infinitely more grievous to me, I had not the happiness of hearing once from my mother, or any one else, though eight months had lag­ged with leaden steps along, since the first day of my confinement.

When the weather permitted, I some­times walked by the sea side, and have [Page 113] frequently poured forth my sorrows to the deaf, unpitying waves.—Often, my Edward, have I sighed out your name, and sent forth ardent prayers for your return, to comfort and support our hap­less mother! Yet I will own that the loved sound of L—, still oftener passed my lips—Was this a crime? My affec­tions were thrown back upon my hands, and this methought gave me a right to transfer them.

In this situation I had remained in my exile for a tedious interval, when one fine evening, having indulged my reveries by the sea side longer than usual, the twilight coming on warned me of re­turning home, when I saw two men, at a small distance, walking slowly behind me—a sight so unusual, joined to an ap­prehension [Page 114] that they might have over­heard my soliloquy, put my spirits into a flutter; though from their pace and manner, they did not seem as if they in­tended to pursue me—I was seized with an universal tremor, my limbs could scarce support me, and I could march but slowly on.

Before I was able to recover myself, and mend my speed, one of the persons came up to me, while the other retired, as if for fear of alarming me—I did not venture even to look at him, and began to mend my pace; but sight was useless, when his well known voice uttered these words, ‘"O fear no injury from me, my dear deceived, unhappy, and still ador­ed Maria!"’

[Page 115]Surprise, terror, hope, fear, love, an­ger, grief, and joy—in short every pas­sion of the human heart, hatred alone excepted, rushed through my mind, and totally deprived me of the power of ut­terance, while he—need I write his name?—taking advantage of my silence, pro­ceeded thus.

‘"I have long sought this opportunity of speaking to you; but my tender­ness, my delicacy, and respect, for the only woman I ever did, or can love, have prevented my attempting it hi­therto, in any way that might reflect upon the character of Mr. W—'s wife, and by that means countenance and justify the calumny with which he has aspersed your reputation—The lucky moment I have so long watched [Page 116] for in private, has at length arrived, and if you ever loved me, my Maria, you will not now refuse to hear me, for a moment, while I tell you that you have been most cruelly deceived."’

‘"I know, it Sir, I replied; you need not now inform me of your own per­fidy—to you alone I owe the miseries I suffer, and Mr. W— himself is innocent, when compared with you—Then let me go this moment, for how­ever my duty to him may have been dissolved, by his unkindness, that which I owe myself, forbids my ever holding converse with you more."’

I attempted to break from him, but he held me fast, and vowed most solemn­ly, that he would never quit me, unless [Page 117] I promised to meet him, the next even­ing, on the beach, and allow him to exculpate himself of the infidelity I char­ged him with, and which he then denied with the strongest asseverations; adding, that Matilda had betrayed us both, and was the vilest being upon earth—Then promised, if I would but hear him once, he would never importune me more.

Almost distracted with contending passions, and terrified lest his imprudence might involve me in farther difficulties, I promised to comply with his request, provided he would leave me on the in­stant, as I heard the sound of voices, which I knew to be the servants coming in quest of me, as they must necessarily be alarmed at my unusual st [...]y—He pres­sed my hand to his lips, and withdrew directly.

[Page 118]With trembling steps I pursued my way homewards, and met my maid, with the gardener, coming in search of me—The agitation of my mind, was too vi­sible in my countenance to pass un­noticed, and they naturally inquired if I had met with any fright or accident? I told them that the night had fallen upon me sooner than I had expected it, that I had been then alarmed at the loneliness of my situation, and the haste I was obliged to make homewards had hur­ried my spirits a little—I desired a glass of water, and pretended to retire to rest.

As soon as I was left alone, I began to reflect upon the extraordinariness of my adventure with Captain L— upon the strand, and on my own weakness in having consented again to meet a per­son [Page 119] who had despised and rejected me with the utmost insolence and inhumanity.

It was however, still easier to account for my conduct, on this occasion, than for his; passion, self-love, and curiosity, all conspired to render me desirous of finding a clue to that labyrinth in which I was involved. But wherefore should he seek to distress me farther? Or why pursue a wretch, who, already intirely se­cluded from the world, had neither inclination or power to disturb his hap­piness, or oppose his views in any scheme of life?

The hints he had dropped about Ma­tilda, puzzled me still farther—Was she not the companion of my youth, the friend of my heart, the confidant of all [Page 120] my joys and sorrows—Some instances of her levity and unkindness I did indeed recollect—But could she betray me! im­possible! Nature could not produce so vile a monster!

Or grant there could be such a fiend cloathed in a female form—Yet still why unprovoked should she exert her malice against me, who never had offended her, without a view to her own interest or advantage? And how could she be pro­fited by my destruction?

The more I considered what Captain L— had said, on this last subject, the less credit it gained with me; and I per­suaded myself that he had only named Ma­tilda as a lure to my curiosity.—The night passed away insensibly, without my being able either to form any ra­tional [Page 121] conjecture, with regard to the motives of his behaviour, or any reso­lution relative to my own—A thousand times I determined not to keep my ap­pointment with him, and as often chan­ged my resolves.

It would be endless to repeat the num­less arguments for, and against this meet­ing, that my love and reason suggested, and set in opposition to each other.—At length my evil genius prevailed, and de­termined me, for once, to hear what Cap­tain L— could say.

About six o'clock in the morning, I lay down on my bed, in order to make my maid believe that I had slept in it as usual; I had lain but a short time, when I found my harrassed mind inclined [Page 122] to rest, and I fell into a slumber; out of which I was soon awakened by a dream, which affected my mind as much as a vision would have done my senses.

I thought that my father stood before me, under the same sickly and emaciated appearance, with which that true di­vine conferred his last blessing on me—I threw myself on my knees, and endea­voured to embrace his; but with his face averse he flitted fast away—I rose and pursued him to the brink of a precipice, when he turned quick upon me, caught me up in his arms, and plunged with me directly into the gulph.

I awakened with a loud scream, thought I was still falling, and was for some time in doubt whether it was the reverie of a [Page 123] disturbed brain, or an apparition that had occurred to me; and only determined it to have been the former, by finding myself in the same place I had laid down to rest.

I rose up and walked about the room, till I had exhausted my strength, endea­vouring to shake off the kind of horror which had taken possession of my mind and body, from this shocking dream; but it clung still about me, like a win­try cloud, and chilled my nerves to numbness.

At length, towards evening, I began to recover myself again—I am not super­stitious; besides, what crime had I ever committed, that might conjure up spec­tres from the grave! My life had been [Page 124] innocent, though unhappy, and my mind continued pure, though injured and provoked.

The reflections which this incident stirred up in my thoughts, more par­ticularly at this time, with regard to my dear father's goodness and virtue, served principally to compose my spirits to peace—He was indeed a perfect christian, both in faith and works; his character and conversation were of a piece; his ex­ample was precept, he urged no borrow­ed morals, but preached the very prac­tice of his life—his doctrines were strict, yet indulgent; charitable, though se­vere—his austerity was only in his ma­xims and his mind; his mildness in his censures and his heart.

[Page 125]These pious thoughts wrought me up to an enthusiasm of devotion; I fell on my knees to thank Heaven for having been derived from two such pure sources, as my father and mother, and prayed most fervently, that I might never be guilty of any thought or deed, which should render me unworthy of such faultless originals.

As the hour approached when I was to meet Captain L—, the terrors of my mind increased; yet I found myself so strongly impelled, from the motives already mentioned, joined to a curiosity to know where the blame lay, between Matilda and him, that I could not resist the temptation of hazarding the interview. I went softly down the back stairs, which led from a closet within my apartment, [Page 126] and found my way out, unseen by any of the family.

The agitation of my spirits was so violent, that I scarce knew what I did; I sometimes ran towards the shore, as if I had been pursued by wild beasts; then stopped, and stood motionless, as if my faculties had ceased.—At length, I perceived Captain L—, at some dis­tance; he flew to me, and caught me in his arms; I burst into a passion of tears, and was incapable of utterance.

As soon as I could recover my speech, I assumed all the dignity of resentment, and told him that he was no longer to consider me as the weak tender Maria S—, but as an injured and offended judge, who came to hear the poor de­fence [Page 127] which he could make, for having so ungenerously wronged, and so cruelly injured her.

Again he pressed me to his bosom, and exclaimed, ‘"O could I but repair the wrongs you have suffered, as easily as I can prove I never was the author of them, my loved Maria should be mine and happy—and it shall still be so—Victims of artifice and fraud, shall we continue to be wretched, because Ma­tilda and your husband have concur­red to render us so."’

‘"That fatal name of husband, I replied, has fixed an everlasting bar, between happiness and me; but were there no such person in the world, you cannot think of me so meanly, to suppose that [Page 128] I would condescend to accept of one, who had rejected and despised me!—No blandishments, no arts, can ever soothe my tortured mind into forget­fulness of your contempt."’

He then begged that I would hear him justify himself, and began by informing me, that about a year before my arrival at Bath, he had gone there, as most young people do, in quest of amusement; that he happened to lodge in the same house with Matilda, and her husband, who both sought and cultivated his acquaint­ance; and as he had no particular attach­ment to any other persons there, he de­voted himself intirely to them, was of all their parties, and never absent from them.

He confessed that he liked Matilda, better than any woman then at Bath, and [Page 129] that he began to flatter himself he was not disagreeable to her; from the levity of her manners, he had reason to believe she was not overstrict in her morals, and on her husband's being obliged to go to London, for a few days, she convinced him that he had not been mistaken.

Their guilty commerce lasted but a short time; it began without passion, and of course terminated in indifference, at least on his side. He quitted Bath without any design of ever returning, though Matilda and her husband had ta­ken a house, and determined to fix their residence there.

Some months after, he was attacked with a violent bilious complaint, and ordered to Bath by his physicians; and [Page 130] was just recovering from this disorder, when my mother and I happened to bend our course thither—What passed between us, on our first acquaintance, I have al­ready told you, except Matilda's ma­chinations to break off our intercourse, and recall him to his former attachment.

When she found her arts were unsuc­cessful, she changed her battery, and pretended to conceive a particular friend­ship for me, and became our mutual confidant; but at the same time, from her superior regard for Captain L—, used often to remonstrate to him, how much his family would be offended at his marrying a girl without rank or fortune.

But all these arts and insinuations he vowed had not the least manner of effect [Page 131] upon his mind, or heart; his passion was too firmly founded, on admiration and esteem, to be so easily shaken, and he declared that at the sad moment of our parting, his whole affections and sole purpose in life, were pointed to­wards our mutual happiness and honour together.

He confessed, however, that during the unlucky interval of absence, the hints and representations of Matilda had wrought by degrees, the malicious ef­fect intended by them; for she had framed a novel against me, with so much ad­dress and ingenuity, so guarded at all points, that each part of it seemed to vouch the truth of the rest.

Even the indiscretion of my having been led into play, by her own artifice, [Page 132] she most wickedly represented to him as a vice of mine, and reported the cir­cumstances of my debt to Mr. W—, which she also exaggerated, with such reflections as placed me in the shocking light of a girl who was resolved to make the most of her youth and beauty, with­out any further regard to morals or character.

In fine, he acknowledged that the plausible manner in which she gave him these advices, from time to time, with the tender and compassionate expres­sions she affected now and then to let drop, upon the unhappiness of my con­duct, had at length so intirely injured me in his esteem, that it occasioned his writing me the letter, before mentioned, when he was going to set sail for America.

[Page 133]What a recital was this for me to listen to, in my then unfortunate circum­stances! his justification but increased my misery—I had never imagined there was so much vileness in human nature, as the base Matilda appeared now to be capable of, and was shocked to think that I was of the same species with such a mon­ster in wickedness—I wept—We both of us wept, while he thus went on with his story.

‘"When I quitted Europe, con­tinued he, the poison of Matilda's correspondence ceased its operations, my passion and reflection had liberty to exert themselves, and I began to doubt the authenticity of the extraordinary accounts I had re­ceived about you—Your bloom [Page 134] and beauty presented themselves to my fond imagination, in the warmest co­lours—Your candour, innocence, and ingenuousness of manners, occurred then strongly to my mind—Could such a character become so quickly abandoned, said I to my heart—It must be unnatural; and what is contrary to nature, must be improbable at least, if not impossible."’

‘"Thus did I often plead your cause, my ever loved Maria, against the foul charges of your enemy, whom I un­happily, however, did not look upon then in that light, but merely as an unfortunate woman, who having been guilty of vice herself, was, as too generally is the case, apt to construe every action of others into the worst [Page 135] sense, that the appearances or circum­stances of it can bear."’

‘"Upon this fair discussion of the point, I wrote once more to Matilda, expressing my doubts, not of her sin­cerity, but about her misapprehen­sions only, of your conduct—Said that general charges, suspicions and hearsays, were but insufficient evi­dences where so choice a jewel as cha­racter was at stake; and called upon her for some facts of more public noto­riety, to support her slanders."’

‘"As all correspondence had been broken off between you and me, said he, she ventured now to speak out more boldly, and without the least equivocation in her terms, assured me [Page 136] that you lived publicly with Mr. W—, and privately intrigued with Sir James D—; that the extravagance of your dress, pleasures, and other ex­pences, was supported between them; that you had kept them both attached to you, by raising a spirit of rivalship between them; and used also to ren­der each of the galants jealous, in their turns, by alarming them with me."’

‘"With the letter she wrote, as she said by your desire, from Bristol, she sent me another, in which she told me that you had at length brought Mr. W—, to consent to marry you, on account of your being with child, and that the letter was framed with a view either of duping me into a mar­riage, which she believed you would [Page 137] prefer, or of paying Mr. W— the compliment of sacrificing me to him, if I should return a favourable answer."’

‘"There is no describing the height of resentment to which I was affected upon this occasion, and I should have replied to the proposal in the most outrageous terms imaginable, if my love and fondness for you, which still remained, though my esteem was flown, had not restrained my hand, and dic­tated those cool, but not violent lines, I sent her in answer."’

He told me, that when he returned to England, upon his father's illness, he felt himself impelled by a strong desire of seeking some proper opportunity of re­proaching me for my infidelity, and of [Page 138] covering me with the utmost confusion, by expressing the detestation and con­tempt, that even a man, and a soldier, was capable of conceiving at the breach of honour or virtue in a woman that he loved.

He mentioned this purpose, he said, in a letter to Matilda, and she most stre­nuously opposed it; she told him that such a sentiment was no good sign of a recovery from his infatuated passion, for she feared much that ‘"All the malice of his heart was love."’ That this would be but affording me the triumph of thinking him still my slave, and might put it in my power to involve him, perhaps, in a duel with Mr. W—, whom she represented as extremely jea­lous, from very conscious reasons, if, as [Page 139] it was more than probable, I should be willing to exchange my wedding-gar­ment for a widow's weed.

However all these arguments not being sufficient to deter him from coming to Bath, he wrote her word that he would be there on such a day, and has had reason to suppose, since, that she must have advised Mr. W— of this par­ticular, by his coming so critically from London, on the same day, and meeting him in the Rooms that fatal night which I have before mentioned to you.

I need not now, my dear brother, re­capitulate what passed, in consequence of this vile woman's malice; you have hitherto seen me the innocent victim of her cruelty—Too happy should I now deem myself, had I still remained so.

[Page 140]My fainting in the Rooms, at the sight of Captain L—, awakened his former tenderness for me; and the inhumanity with which Mr. W— treat­ed me, on that occasion, for the sur­geon had made the story public, seemed to demand his pity for a wretch doomed to be punished for an involuntary and guiltless act.

He would have gone in person, the next morning, to Mr. W—, in order to have justified my character, as far as it related to the scandal then cast upon it, with regard to him, but was restrained from the attempt by Matilda's saying that this would only make the matter worse, in all probability; that the inter­fering between man and wife was a dan­gerous measure in any person whatso­ever, [Page 141] but that the lover, the very cause of the contention, must certainly be the most improper mediator in their recon­cilement, that could possibly be imagined.

She, therefore, advised him to wait with patience, till passion, on the hus­band's part, might become calm enough to listen to reason, and that resentment peculiarly natural to a wife, suspected in the wrong place, (this was her expression) should have somewhat subsided, and then promised him to undertake the inter­position herself, at the proper crisis, probably to better effect than it could be engaged in, even by her, during the pre­sent violence of the parties.

He stayed at Bath while I remained there, and suffered an anxiety which in­creased [Page 142] more and more, every day, a [...] by mixing with the company at th [...] Rooms, but more particularly with th [...] residents of the place, among whom m [...] late adventure was publicly talked o [...] he heard every one take my part, an [...] vindicate my innocence, from their former knowledge and general good opinion of my character and conduct, eve [...] since I had first become an inhabitan [...] of that city.

In fine, he heard it agreed upon, o [...] all sides, that Mr. W— could have n [...] other foundation for his jealousy of m [...] except that sort of suspicion which is naturally apt to arise from too great a di [...] parity in years, especially in the breast o [...] a man, who had had but little acquain [...] ance with any women, except those of [...] profligate character.

[Page 143]These fair reports in my favour, he said, began soon to convince him of Ma­tilda's treachery, and he reproached her with it warmly one day; when with the greatest sang froid imaginable, she an­swered him in these very words, ‘"There is no such thing as eleemosynary wis­dom in this life, let philosophers and pedagogues say what they will—ex­perience must be purchased at our own proper cost, and not at the expence of others—From this warning you will be taught sufficient sense to know, for the future, that to make a woman the confidant of her rival, is appointing a wolf to be the shepherd of a lamb—I forget whether this maxim be taken notice of in Ovid's Art of Love; if not, his precepts are imper­fect."’

[Page 144]He assured me that, on this reply, his sight and reason forsook him, for a time, and only returned to enable him to view the hag, as she then appeared to him, with the greater horror, and to possess him with a rage that fell but little short of madness. ‘"What would I have given, at that instant, cried he out, to have exchanged her sex, into a dozen armed men!"’ and then concluded the sen­tence with this expression—‘"But I could not exert such resentment against her, as she deserved, because she was in my power."’

He did every thing he could to find out the place of my banishment, but could not discover it—He did not know of my being moved from Bath till after I had been sent away, or he would have [Page 145] employed some trusty person or other, to have watched me to the place of my destination—The surmises were various, upon this occasion; some said I was to be carried over to France, and forced into a convent; some, that I was to be locked up in Mr. W—'s house, in London; and others, that I was to be be­trayed into a private mad-house, and confined there for life.

During the uncertainty of all these several reports, Captain L— received an account of his father's illness, and im­mediately repaired to London, to at­tend on him. His filial duty claimed his first regard, and the exercise of that virtue served to restrain his impatience, and ballance his anxiety on my account, for several months, while Sir Richard L— lingered before his death.

[Page 146]Captain L—, now become Sir Thomas L—, with a large patrimony, being at length released from any further restraint upon his time and actions, be­gan to turn his whole thoughts towards the unhappiness of my situation, and considered himself bound, not as a knight-errant merely, but as a man of honour, to rescue me from that distress which he had been the innocent cause of, through the treachery of one per­son, and the too hasty sentence and un­warrantable severity of another.—He re­turned immediately to Bath, in order to get what information he could, about me; and hearing that my dear mother had retired to a village in Flintshire, took the resolution of going to wait upon her there.

[Page 147]As soon as he had informed her who he was, she began to reproach him in the manner it was natural for her to have done, from the circumstances of his conduct towards me, in the light it had hitherto appeared to her. But when he had disclosed the scene of villainy and deceit to which he had likewise fallen a victim, her affections softened, and she could not help looking upon him then as a third sufferer in our complicated misfortune.

He contrived artfully to draw from her the secret of my abode, but without suffering the least hint to escape him, of any purpose to seek me there. Then, taking her hand, and kneeling before her, vowed an attachment to me, during life; said he would ever pay her the [Page 148] respect and duty of a son-in-law, attend­ing till death, or some more speedy ven­geance, might remove Mr. W— out of the way of his happiness; and offered her an affluent support out of his fortune, becoming the honourable connection which he had then declared between them.

My dear unhappy mother returned him the most grateful thanks for the kindness and generosity of his offer, but her spirit and delicacy made her decline the acceptance of it. She confessed her­self alarmed, even at his visit, and urg­ed him to depart instantly, without suf­fering himself to be known, lest this circumstance, though accidental and in­nocent in itself, might possibly, in the train of our misfortunes, happen to be [Page 149] made an additional article of suspicion against us all. She plained the distress and difficulty of our situations—They embraced, and he retired immediately out of the town.

On his route to Devonshire Bath lay in his way, where he happened to meet with Captain R—, who had been an officer in the same corps with him, in America. There had always subsisted a particular intimacy between them; and as friendship is apt to inspire a confi­dence, and that his heart was full, he imparted the whole secret of our loves and disappointments to him.

He also informed him, at the same time, of his resolve to go and conceal him­self somewhere near the place of my re­tirement, [Page 150] till he might meet with a fa­vourable opportunity, without hazard to my reputation, of seeing me even for a minute, in order to vindicate himself from the unjust opinion I must necessarily have conceived of his infidelity and baseness; declaring also, that he thought it a duty incumbent on him to watch over my destiny, and at the expence of his for­tune, and the sacrifice of his life, to defend me from any injury or violence that might ever be attempted against me.

Captain R— approved his motives, and commended his purpose, and said that as it was a service of danger, he had a right to claim the privilege of a friend and a comrade, in sharing it with him—Sir Thomas readily accepted of his company, and they set out the next [Page 151] morning for Hartland, which is with­in a mile of the castle where I resided. They were attended only by two ser­vants, and a couple of pointers, on pre­tence of going into that country merely as unconnected idle travelling sportsmen.

Sir Thomas did not acquaint his friend with my name, nor where I was con­cealed, and used every morning and even­ing to wander alone round the place of my confinement, in hopes of seeing me, as I should walk abroad, and of speaking to me unobserved; which, after about a fortnight's attendance, he hap­pened to meet with.

In this sweet, but dangerous converse, did we pass the minute, for to us it ap­peared no more, of our assignation; and [Page 152] now judge me, Edward, with your wont­ed candor, nor blame this foolish heart, if every tender, every fond sensation it had ever felt, returned with double force! Remember that I had never loved an­other, and that I still loved him, even when I thought him false! What must my transports be, to find him true!

When, in my turn, I told him the in­human arts that had been practised to betray me, and estrange our mutual con­fidence, his passions rose almost to mad­ness, and he a thousand times exclaimed that I was still his wife, that our hearts were joined by heaven, and that no power on earth, should ever part us more!

Too eagerly I listened to his ravings, and suffered the enchantment of his voice [Page 153] to lull asleep my prudence, and my rea­son—I felt as if there were but us alone of all our species, existing in this world, and all other connection, obligation, or regard, appeared to me then but me­taphysical speculation—Our sad atten­tion to each other's woes, had so intirely engrossed our thoughts, that night stole on us, almost unperceived; tears had quite dimmed my sight, and my weak trembling limbs needed assistance to sup­port my weight—I could not then re­fuse his kind sustaining arm, to help me on toward the mansion of my sor­rows, the dungeon of my misery.

While we were on our way, a sudden storm arose, and the clouds burst forth in horrid thunder and lightning. By the time we had come within sight of the [Page 154] back-door, through which I had that evening stolen out; a violent shower came on, which obliged me to hasten my speed—I intreated him to leave me, but he held me fast by the arm, till we came to the house, which he en­tered along with me.

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Here drop the curtain, Edward! and let this first false step of my whole life, stand as a mark for the innocent and un­wary to shun—Let them restrain the first encroachments of a favoured lover, nor vainly fancy when once they yield the reins, that they can after check the ardent courser's speed.

[Page 155]Till that unhappy night, guilt was a stranger to my suffering heart, and there­fore I had never known remorse, or fear—It was impossible to soothe my tortured soul to peace—The fond delu­sion of his prior right, both to my person and my heart—My former arguments, of dissolved tie, and transferred [...]ffections, appeared all but self-deceit, in my pre­sent circumstances; the wretched so­phistry vanished like a phantom, from me, and in its room the priest, the al­tar, all the awful scene, where I had bound myself by solemn vows to be another's wife, now rushed upon me; and in the anguish of my heart, I bit­terly exclaimed against him, as the prime source of all my misery, and bad him fly, for ever, from my sight.

[Page 156]Sir Thomas said every thing that ho­nour could dictate, or love inspire, to temper my emotions of grief and rage; threw himself at my feet, intreated my forgiveness, called me his wife, his be­trothed before heaven, vowed eternal faith and constancy to me, and offered to fly with me to any part of the globe. At length, seeing that nothing could calm my distraction, he started up, laid his hand to his sword, and declared that he would instantly put an end to that existence, which my resentment had now rendered miserable to him.

His violence suspended for a time, my agitations, by adding terror to my other feelings—I caught hold of his arm, and now became a suppliant, in my turn, begging that he would not further in­jure [Page 157] me by such an horrid outrage, and promising to compose my mind by pe­nitence and prayer, as soon as I was left alone; but upon this condition only, that he should never attempt to see me again, till it was possible for us to meet, for life, without a crime. We parted, mutually wretched, in agony and despair.

The horror with which I was seized, the moment he had quitted me, is not to be conceived, without guilt. I lost that firmness now, which had hitherto born up my spirits under all my suffer­ings. Purity, the only resource in afflic­tion, was now fled for ever from my breast—I felt the full weight of all my ills; and what appeared before oppres­sion on my innocence, seemed now but justice on my crime. I rejoiced I had [Page 158] no sister! I thought of you, my brother, of my dear mother too, and with a shower of tears, took leave of these fond names, for ever.

I stood in life alone, severed from all connection! The sustaining hope of being again restored to honour and society, like the fair fruit that sprang in Pandae­monium, now turned to bitter ashes. What had I further to do with the world? Alas, I had already forfeited all protection! My last night's dream—say rather vision—stared me full in the face, and upbraid­ed me with the recollection of a maxim I had often heard my parent saint de­liver, that ‘"we should ever consider those persons we had a respect for, as present, when absent, and as living, when dead."’ I kneeled down, and [Page 159] strove to pray, but could not; I felt myself in a state of reprobation, and was almost fallen into despair—I had no stay, no support, no resource, in store—In all the other ills of life, heaven suffers us not to be afflicted, beyond our strength; but wretchedness, with guilt, exceeds the scheme of Providence.

I then endeavoured to rise, but was not able to stand—my exhausted spirits failed me, and I sunk down again upon the floor, where I continued some time, in a state of stupidity; till my maid's opening the door of the ante-chamber, warned me to disguise my disturbance—I concealed my distraction as well as I could, by keeping my face turned from her as much as possible, and for the first time felt what an irksome thing it is to have any thing to hide.

[Page 160]The storm continued all the night, with extreme violence; but the thunder and lightning did not alarm me as they had done on the evening before—I had now a louder monitor in my breast than the one, and with what open arms and welcome greetings, should I then have embraced the other!

How long Sir Thomas staid at Hart­land I cannot tell, for I never ventured abroad, from that time, even to take a walk in the gardens, and he behaved with so much honour as to obey my last injunction to him, by not seeking any further opportunity, as far as I could learn, of seeing me again, or even of at­tempting to write a line to me, lest it might, as it certainly would, have been intercepted. So that I began soon to re­concile [Page 161] myself to my present situation, by making that solitude and confine­ment a voluntary penance, which I had hitherto looked upon as the severest in­fliction; considering it but as a convent within the sequestered walls of which I should then most assuredly have concealed myself from the world, had I been at liberty to have chosen my situation.

I conformed myself intirely to a true monastic state, for a time, by spending my days in fasts, in contrition, and in prayer, hoping that my sorrows would ere long have ended with my life; but I was, alas! too soon convinced that fate had not yet emptied all its quiver against me; for I had the inexpressible shock to find that I was likely to bring an inno­cent being into the world, at once to prove, and share my infamy.

[Page 162]I shall not attempt to describe the agonies of my mind, upon this dis­covery—I must live to have endeavoured still to solicit that death, which my des­pair had tempted me to wish so ardently for before, while it related only to my­self, would have been a double guilt, in my present circumstances—I must therefore submit to become more miser­able, in order to render myself less criminal.

In such a miserable and forlorn situ­ation, what measure was left me to pur­sue! There was indeed, but one; and let the fatal necessity of it, plead my excuse—I had refused to fly with Sir Thomas, when he begged it on his knees; I could not yield deliberate con­sent to vice, or think of delivering my­self [Page 163] over to a life of profligacy. But I must now temporize with guilt—I must now extricate myself from my present difficulty, shame, and danger, at any ex­pence; though with a determined pur­pose to cover my head, immediately after, in some severe convent, there to endure the harshest penances, and hide me from the world for ever.

In the confusion and distraction I was in at that time, I could not frame any certain scheme for my relief; besides, that point depended on the concur­rence of another; I therefore wrote a letter to Sir Thomas, entreating the fa­vour of him to come to me directly, upon a business of consequence to us both, and in which something more than my own life, was the object of my anxiety.

[Page 164]I did not know where Sir Thomas then was, but ventured to direct it to him according to my former address from Bath, to his father's house in Bloomsbury square.

But when I had sealed this billet, a new difficulty occured to me, how I could possibly get it conveyed to him—All connection between me and the world had been cut off, from the moment of my commitment. My duenna had, at first, refused to let a letter from me, even to my mother, be carried to the post; and told me frankly then, that any directed to me were ordered to be returned from thence, unopened, to Mr. W—

The danger pressed, and some at­tempt must be hazarded. I recollected [Page 165] that there was a labourer who gene­rally worked in the garden, and appear­ed to be a person of rational intelligence; I therefore went out to him, and gave the letter into his hands, with a bribe of five guineas, which fee I promised to double for him, on his return with an answer, and hinted to him all proper cautions, with regard to the secrecy of his commission.

I instructed the messenger to make some pretence or other, of private busi­ness, for absenting himself from his ser­vice, and desired him not to attempt to deliver the answer of my letter to me, till he should meet me alone in the gar­den—I had a full view of it from the windows of my apartment, and watched with the utmost impatience, for his ap­pearance [Page 166] again, from the moment that I thought it possible for him to have re­turned. How much did I envy, during this anxious interval, the infinitely pre­ferable state of the meanest peasant I heard whistling carelessly across the de­mesne, who enjoyed peace and compe­tence, without a consciousness of guilt, or the fear of detection!

At length I had the satisfaction to see my courier arrive, and waiting till I perceived the coast clear, I stole out to him, and had the pleasure to receive a letter from Sir Thomas, filled with the tenderest professions of love, and the fullest assurances of honour. He pro­mised to be with me that very evening, just at night fall, and desired I would meet him at the end of the grove, near the house.

[Page 167]I was punctual to time and place, and found him also exact to his appointment.

He was full of transport at the sight of me, but I was not in a fit disposition of mind to attend to his extasies—I begged he would compose himself while I looked about through every avenue, to see that no prying eye was near, to ob­serve our motions; then led him with fearful hands, and trembling steps, into the house, and we retired up stairs to­gether, to my apartment.

As I had not used myself to eat suppers, ever since my confinement in this place, I always dismissed my atten­dant as soon as she had left candles lighted on my table, chusing to sit up alone, most part of the nights, employed [Page 168] in reading, musing, and working; so that I was under no sort of apprehension, of being at any time interrupted in my privacy.

As soon as we had got into the room, Sir Thomas attempted to catch me in his arms, but I started from his em­brace—I told him that we were neither of us in time, place, or circumstances, to admit of unwarrantable liberties; that I had desired this meeting to implore the assistance of his friendship and ho­nour only, not to receive his love; the least overture of which, as I had de­clared to him before, I was firmly resolved to oppose, till such a time, if ever that happy aera should arrive, as might intitle him to ask, and me to grant, the unreserved completion of his [Page 169] wishes—With true humanity and gene­rous acquiescence he immediately de­sisted from all further importunity.

As he guessed the situation I was in, from the hint in my letter, and there­fore concluded what the purport of my summons tended to, he had the tender­ness and politeness not to wait for any further explanation of the matter; but immediately proposed to me that we should directly abscond together to some distant part of the kingdom, from whence we might sail over to the continent, and there secrete ourselves for life, in some retired spot, safe from pursuit or inquiry; adding that he should not look upon this retreat to be an exile, to him­self, as he might well be said to carry his country along with him, while he [Page 170] was in possession of all he loved or va­lued in it.

I had no other resource left me now; and the choice is soon made, where there remains but one option—I rendered the most grateful acknowledgments to him for the generosity of his offer, which I readily accepted of; told him that I, from that moment, resigned my fate into his hands, and that he should thence-forward be the sole arbiter of my destiny, ac­countable to himself alone for all my future weal or woe—He kneeled, took my hand, kissed and bathed it with his tears.

You do not, I hope, my dear bro­ther, imagine me so devoid of sensibility, as not to suppose that I then felt the dis­grace [Page 171] which my misconduct must en­tail upon an honoured parent; nor were you absent, Edward, from my thoughts. But let me say this in my excuse, that I then flattered myself my flight, or ra­ther the motives for it, might remain for ever secret, and that living in a fo­reign land, under a feigned name, my person might possibly never be dis [...]over­ed—and in that case, those dear con­nections could be as little involved in my reproach, as they were concerned in my guilt.

Here end all the reflections I shall ever make—The following part of my unhappy story, while I relate it, har­rows up my soul, congeals my faculties, and impels me to wild distraction, or to reprobate despair.

[Page 172]When we had thus settled the ar­ticle of our flight together, we agreed further upon the manner and circum­stances of it: Sir Thomas was to retire immediately to his inn, before my gar­rison should be shut up for the night, and send off an express to Exeter, for a post-chaise, with relays of horses, to be ready, the next evening, at the further end of the grove, where I promised to meet him at the close of day, from thence to launch into a world unknown, without a ma­tron, without a guardian—for I had lost my innocence.

Just as I was rising up to convey him out of the house, I heard some hasty steps passing through the antechamber, the door of my room was suddenly burst open, and I saw Mr. W— enter, with [Page 173] a pistol in each hand. Sir Thomas laid hold of his sword, but before he could draw it, received a bullet in his breast—He fell—and, do I survive to tell it! I heard his last groan, and saw him ex­p [...] at my feet—I heard, nor saw, no more, bu [...] falling senseless on his lifeless bosom, was for a while released from agonies too great [...]

But my miseries were not so soon to have an end. I was dragged back again to life, by the still cruel hands of Mr. W—, who assisted my maid to raise me from the floor, and lay me on the bed—The first use I made of my return­ing sense, was to rise upon my knees, and, with uplifted hands, implore his mercy to terminate my misfortunes and my life together—He looked as if he [Page 174] would do so, but turning from me, cried, ‘"No, thou shalt be reserved for more ex­emplary vengeance;"’ and walked im­mediately out of the room, taking the maid along with him, but leaving the discharged pistol by me, on the bed

With my reason, my ho [...] returned—Let compassion but reflect on my situ­ation! Barbarity itself must soften into humanity, at the thought.—Loaded with infamy, encompassed with misery, entombed, as it were alive, with the dead! and gazing horribly, without the relief even of tears, on the sad victim of my ill-starred destiny! At length, fran­tic with grief, with terror and despair, unknowing what I did, and without any purposed end, I rushed down the back­staris, and issued through the private door, from that accursed mansion.

[Page 175]Fear gave wings to my speed, yet at the same time retarded my flight; for though I ran as fast as it was possible, I frequently stopped, for several minutes, to listen to every sound I heard; and sometimes clambered over high ditches, and laid myself flat on the ground, to prevent my being seen, in case I was pursued; though the night was so dark, that I could almost feel an object be­fore I saw it.

My haste was urged by instinct mere­ly, determined to no point, but like a frightened animal I fled from danger without direction in my course—My mind was all the while in the state of a dream—I knew of no asylum, I could frame no purpose—At length, exhausted by fatigue, and oppressed with sorrow, [Page 176] I sat myself down in the corner of a field, surrounded by a little coppice, just high enough to conceal me from the view of passengers—Here nature, till now re­strained, still active for its own relief, began to release the utterances of grief, and at the very moment that I felt my heart going to burst asunder, my tears broke forth, and I found myself at libery to express my sufferings, in moanings and exclamations.

This gave me ease, at first, and I therefore indulged it, for a while, till I began to apprehend, towards day, that the loudness of my complaints might possibly reach the ear of some traveller or villager, and betray the situation of my concealment, and the particular cir­cumstances of my story—But yet I could [Page 177] not silence my cries and lamentations; I became desperate of all human succour, and thought that even the hands of cruelty might relieve me from the ef­fects of my own distraction, by putting an end to my life, without any additional guilt of mine.

At length my voice was heard, and answered by one who came rustling through the coppice, and in a soft slen­der tone, cried out, Where are you, who are you, and what ails you? The sound at first, alarmed me, till I was struck with the appearance of a beautiful boy, of about seven years old, at a little dis­tance, who, as soon as he spied me, came running up and told me, that his mamma had been awakened in bed with my cries, had rung her bell, and ordered her ser­vant [Page 178] to go seek the person in grief, but that he got out of the house before him, was glad he had sound me first, and begged I would go home along with him, directly, out of that nasty cold place, to make his mamma's mind easy.

The prettiness of the child's person, with the good-natured impatience and anxiety it expressed about my situation, charmed me in that instant of distress and woe, till he came up close to me; when I felt a sudden shock, at the sight of him—He seemed to be a son of Mr. W—'s; he had every feature of his face—I started and trembled—however, I soon recovered myself, concluding that such an idea must be owing merely to the strong impression which his coun­tenance had made on my mind, at our [Page 179] last interview, and which a terrified im­magination might possibly have trans­ferred a likeness of, to any object viewed in the uncertain light of a just opening dawn—I therefore embraced the lovely child, and walked away with him, leaning on the servant's arm, who was then come up, to a neat cottage, which was but a few yards from the spot I had been found in.

I was received at the door of the house, by a lady of a genteeler appear­ance than one could naturally expect to have met with, under so mean a roof, who with a voice of sweetness welcomed me to what hospitality her circumstances could afford, and taking me by the hand, led me into her best apartment—I sat down on the first chair I could reach, [Page 180] and begged for a glass of water, to pre­vent my fainting, which I apprehended, from my feelings, might probably soon happen.

The room we were in was soon light­ed up with fire and candles, the blaze of which offended my tender sight, al­ready dimmed by the darkness of the fore­going night, and weakened by my tears, which prevented me from being able to view objects distinctly enough, at first; but when the agitation of my spirits had been somewhat abated, and that my eyes had recovered their strength a little, I perceived the lady to be a person of about four and twenty years of age, and extremely handsome, but seeming much impaired in her appearance, by grief, or sickness.

[Page 181]Here I began to shudder again; for the resemblance between her and Mr. W—, struck me more forcibly than it had done before, in the child—There could be no equivocation, in this in­stance—her features marked the likeness stronger, and the clear light, I had then an opportunity of viewing her by, put the similitude beyond a doubt—This mystery alarmed me—I feared I had fallen into dangerous hands; but it would have been doubly improper to have asked for a solution of this riddle, on account either of the seeming to pry into her secret, or the hazard of betraying my own.

I therefore concealed my surprise, though I could not avoid shewing my uneasiness; which she perceiving, but [Page 182] without suspecting the cause, and imput­ing solely to my misfortunes and fa­tigue, which she seemed to think were sufferings I had not been much accus­tomed to, intreated me to repose myself on the bed that was in the chamber, as long as I pleased, without fear of inter­ruption, till I should be inclined to ac­cept of any other kind of comfort or refreshment, that might be within the compass of her poor means to afford me.

The voice of kindness to an oppressed heart, at once soothes, and gives vent to its sufferings. I answered only with my tears; she rose, and taking her child by the hand, said that she was too well ac­quainted with sorrow to attempt to re­strain its course, or think it capable of any other relief, than time and prayer; [Page 183] adding, that I need be under no man­ner of apprehension that any curiosity of her's should prompt her to inquire into my story, as the measure of her own misfortunes was too full already to ad­mit the addition of another's grief, with­out the power of alleviating it. She retired immediately without waiting for a reply.

Being now sheltered from all outward ills and violences, the distraction of my mind began to feel itself under the less controul; despair and phrenzy now triumphed over my reason and religion; I looked about for some instrument of destruction, to put an end to my miser­able existence, and snatching at a sword that hung unsheathed over the chimney, I had just set the hilt of it to the ground, [Page 182] [...] [Page 183] [...] [Page 184] when my guardian hostess, attentive to my motions, running into the room to see what had occasioned my disturbance, had just time enough to strike the point aside, so that I fell unhurt upon the floor.—

‘"O stop the hand of rashness! she exclaimed, nor dare to limit mercy! He who severely tries, as amply can re­ward the patient sufferer; let thy proud heart bow to his high decrees, and learn to bear thy burthen with sub­mission."’

While thus she spoke, I gazed upon her with a silent awe, and thought her more than human—She raised me from the ground, with looks of tenderness, and thus proceeded—‘"That sorrow has [Page 185] beset, and has subdued you, I can well perceive—Alas! what is your strength or mine, opposed to its rude grasp! But wherefore then should we rely upon ourselves, when offered aid bends from high heaven for our acceptance, and bids our weak humanity be strong in its almighty power!"’

I sunk again upon my knees before her, and cried out, ‘"I have no hope in heaven or earth! Thou messenger of grace, thy proffered aid is vain! I am an out-cast from society, nor would even your charity extend itself to such a wretch as me, were you to know my crimes."’

‘"I will not hear them then, she answer­ed quick, but sure there is no guilt, ex­cept [Page 186] despair, that may not hope for pardon—Remove that gloomy vice from your sad heart, and penitence shall heal the wounds of your offenc [...], and bid your bleeding bosom be at peace."’

By slow degrees this more than wo­man, this heaven-instructed comforter, calmed my distracted soul, and reasoned down my frenzy—I passed my word to her not to attempt my life, and I have kept it; have waited till the lingering, though sure bane of human health, un­ceasing sorrow, shall release my promise, and lay me gently in the silent grave.

As soon as my mind had become some­what more composed, I began to reflect upon the circumstances of my late mis­fortune [Page 187] —I thought with horror on the impiety [...] neglecting a duty toward the manes, of the unhappy sacrifice of my wayward destiny; I felt like an ac­complice in the guilt, if I should not en­deavour to rescue the remains of that dear and unfortunate object, from the still continued barbarity of his mur­derer, and attempt to procure it the rites of christian, at least of human, sepulture.

The idea that first occured to me, upon this occasion, was to fly off directly to the inn at Hart [...]nd, to Captain R—, for Sir Thomas had told me that his friend and confident had accompanied him now, as before—and to have ac­qu [...]inted him with the fatal catastrophé of my story—But how to appear before a [Page 188] stranger, or indeed any person whatso­ever, under the sensation of [...]onscious guilt, and public infamy! Besides, mig [...] I not happen to be detected there, and possibly have involved a third person in my complicated misfortune! However, I contrived to qualify these scruples, by the subterfuge of writing a note to him, containing only these few words.

‘"Your friend is, alas, no more! he lies murdered at Castle W—. I do not mean by this notice to call even for justice against his assassin, but only hope that your humanity and friendship may be able to defend his hapless corse from any further indignity or outrage."’

To this billet I did not subscribe any name, but got my kind hostess to send [Page 189] it off immediately to the inn, by one of the villagers, who was instructed not to say from whence he came, nor to await an answer.

This most excellent woman, so far from desiring to dive into the secret of my distress, made it a point rather, that I should not reveal it, whenever she heard me begin to mourn; but in order, as she said, to convince me that mine was not a partial lot, and that she had herself severely tasted of the bitter cup, she would relate some of those very un­common misfortunes which had attend­ed her through life, and which might, perhaps, in some measure, reconcile me to my own.

But first she insisted that I should en­deavour to recruit my strength and [Page 190] spirits with food and rest, as the preserv­ing the proper temperament of the body, was certainly one requisite towards restoring the health of the mind—I ac­cepted her hospitality, and breakfasted on tea, but could not eat—She did not press me—She was reasonable in all things; entreaty, in my situation, would have but added to my fatigue, and increased my disgust. She thought that sleep might, for a time, better supply the place of food; she therefore obliged me to undress my­self and go into bed; where after having closed the windows, as it was now full day, and removed every implement of mischief out of the room, she left me to repose myself—if possible.

I did what I could, for that purpose—I owed that duty to the infant yet un­born, [Page 191] and was solicitous to preserve that part of myself, at least, that was inno­cent. But my sorrows kept me long awake, till nature, taking advantage of my weakness, at length delivered my body over to sleep, though without composing my mind; for my disturbed imagination pursued me still throughout my slumber, presenting visions of slaughter, gibbets, and executions, to my tortured fancy, all the while; which instead of yielding me any manner of refreshment, by fre­quent starts awoke me; adding the pains of labour to my other ills, which brought on a miscarriage, towards the evening.

My humane hostess attended on me with the kindness and tenderness of a sister, supplied me with cordials, kept every thing quiet about me, and would [Page 192] sit up all night, by my bed-side, notwith­standing every opposition I could make to it. The next morning she prevailed on me to take some sustenance, after which I claimed her promise of letting me into the history of her life; which however, I did not do to satisfy an idle curiosity, but thought that the circum­stances of her recital, might perhaps amuse my mind from too fixed an atten­tion to my own sorrows, and that the gentle murmurs of her voice, with the monotony of narrative, might possibly have conduced to slumber.

But judge of my amazement when she began by telling me that she was the daughter, the only child of Mr. W—! I was near betraying myself—I could not conceal my surprise, but cried out, ‘"It [Page 193] is impossible! you cannot be his off­spring!"’ She calmly answered, ‘"You know him then;"’ and without inquir­ing further, thus proceeded.

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But as the unhappy Maria is come now to a pause in her misfortunes, let us, my dear sister, take this opportunity of resting a little ourselves, after the fatigue and horror of her story, before we enter upon an other. I confess, that when I came to this part of it, I rejoiced to think she was dead? my humanity felt less from the reflection that her sufferings were at an end. As we are affected more by the distress we see, than by what we only hear of, so is our compassion always [Page 194] stronger for the living sorrow, than the dead one—Yet one must still weep for Hecuba.

The wind is become fair for this nar­rative, but my anxiety has been in­creased at not hearing from you before it changed.

Adieu,
F. CLEVELAND.

LETTER LXVI.
Miss CLEVELAND to Lady BARTON.

THE following episode of the fair Cottager, though short, will be some relief to us both, before we pro­ceed to the catastrophe of the main action, and conclude the History of the unfor­tunate Maria, whose peculiar fate suf­fered [Page 195] not her indignities to terminate with her life, but afterwards delivered over her corse into the clutches of the brute Colville, to be carried in the pro­cession of a mock funeral, at Amiens.

The STORY of Mrs. N—.

My mother was the only child of Cap­tain H—, a younger brother of a dis­tinguished family; her ill fortune brought her acquainted, very young, with Mr. W—, while he was a student at Ox­ford, and under age—They saw, liked, and wedded, without the consent of pa­rents on either side—Captain H— was afterwards made acquainted with the marriage, but died before my other grandfather, from whom it was thought prudent to keep it still a secret, as my dear mother inherited but a very incon­siderable [Page 196] portion. This was made a pretence for keeping their union con­cealed, during the life of his father; and my mother, who tenderly loved her husband, consented to let their connec­tion still wear the veil of mystery, ra­ther than injure his interest, or offend his father.

The doubtfulness of her situation by degrees detached her own friends in­tirely from her, and, for some years be­fore the death of his father, she lived in perfect solitude, hardly ever seeing any person but her husband and me, her only child, who were the sole objects of her care and affection.

I was about seven years old when my grandfather W— died, and I am [Page 197] persuaded that if my mother felt any joy upon that occasion, it was for my sake only, as she wished to have my legitimacy acknowledged, and my edu­cation properly attended to—A long ha­bit of retirement had weaned her from the world, and though of an age to re­lish all its pleasures, being then but four and twenty, she thought of return­ing into it rather with disgust than delight.

Upon various pretences my father declined owning his marriage, for about two years, and the gentleness of my mo­ther's temper prevented her from im­portuning him, on this or any subject; but when so long an interval had elapsed, since his father's death, and that she per­ceived a visible alteration in his beha­viour [Page 198] towards her, she with the utmost mildness expressed her wishes to live with him publicly as his wife—He strove for near a year more, to evade her request; but when her apprehen­sions began to be alarmed by his conduct, and that she ventured so far as to press him on the subject, he slew into a rage, and utterly denied his having ever been married to her.

Tears and prayers were all the wea­pons with with she attempted to assert her rights—They had, alas! no power on his obdurate heart—Grief preyed upon her tender frame, and when I had just entered my tenth year, she fell into a consumption—she was sensible of her approaching fate, and though she had remitted her own claim to my father's [Page 199] rank or fortune, she determined not to leave me in the power of a man who had abandoned her to unmerited infamy, but immediately to set about proving her marriage, and by that means entitling me both to his name, and a proper pro­vision from his fortune.

She soon found out that Doctor N—, the clergyman who had married her, lived in the parish of —, in this shire; and that my grandfather, old Mr. W—, had presented him to that living, which was incumbent on some part of my fa­ther's estate—She took me with her, and set out immediately for his house; which expedition she could easily make with­out her husband's knowledge, as they had seldom lived under the same roof to­gether for some time past.

[Page 200]It is impossible to express this worthy man's surprise at the sight of my mother and me, as my father had informed him that she was dead above three years before, left no child, and earnest­ly requested him never to mention his having been married to her, as it could answer no end to her then, would cer­tainly disoblige some of his relations, through whose assistance, he said, he had conceived reasonable hopes of strength­ening his interest in the shire, and of im­proving his fortune.

As soon as my mother had acquainted him with her story, the good old man promised her to pay a visit, the next day, to my father, who had been his pupil at the university, and endeavour to influence him, by gentle means, to [Page 201] do her the justice he owed her, rather than reduce her to the irksome neces­sity of exposing him and herself, by an appeal to some higher and more legal tribunal; assuring her, at the same time, that if his mediation should not be at­tended with that success which he wished, and had reason to expect from it, he would no longer hesitate a moment about proving the marriage, through all the forms of law.

My dear unhappy mother wept and thanked him, and the doctor, accord­ing to his promise, proceeded the next day to Castle W—, which is about ten miles from this village, being the mansion seat where my father then resided. It happened that he was from home, at the time the doctor went to his house; [Page 202] and in the fullness of his zeal, he wrote him an admonitory letter upon this interesting subject, and returned much disappointed at not having seen him.

In a few days after this event, my father came to doctor N—'s, and en­deavoured to make my mother's mind easy upon the equivocal appearances of his conduct towards her, imputing it all to the prudential reasons he had before mentioned to the doctor, in which he said that the future welfare of herself and family were equally interested; adding, that their living together in England could not be long concealed, but that he was ready to retire with her to any part of Flanders, upon pretence of his going to travel for a few years, till the schemes he had in agitation might be [Page 203] brought to bear, when they might re­turn home again and enjoy the remain­der of their lives in happiness and ho­nour together.

My dear mother, as was natural to an unsuspecting and ingenuous mind, was fondly amused with this artifice, and wept with transport, at his mock pro­fessions; the doctor too blessed his pu­pil, with tears of joy, and my father re­turned back to Castle W—, the next day, in order to prepare every thing ne­cessary towards our departure for the continent, without any further delay.

But this delusion did not long con­tinue, for the morning after he had left us, Mr. N—, a young ensign, and nephew to Doctor N—, happened to [Page 204] come from Exeter, where he was then stationed, to pay a visit to his uncle; and among other articles of news, told him that his landlord and patron, as he stiled my father, was soon to be mar­ried to a young lady of family and for­tune, in the city he came from, and that he supposed the doctor would be then called upon to perform the ceremony.

The young man had never heard any thing of our story, and only men­tioned this particular among some other indifferent circumstances of the time—His uncle did not open his mind to him upon the subject, but retired immediately to my mother's apartment, who happened luckily not to be by when this matter was related, and after endeavouring to prepare her as much as [Page 205] possible for the shock, acquainted her with the intelligence he had just re­ceived.

To you, dear Madam, who seem to have known affliction, it must be need­less to describe the emotions of my un­happy mother, upon this occasion—The humane doctor N— said every thing he could think of, to asswage her distraction, and repeated the promise he had made her before, of concurring with her in an immediate vindication of her rights, seeing there was now no time to lose, and that it was sufficiently apparent Mr. W— meant to take advantage of her too long acquiescence under the concealment of her marriage, and, by this new and more public engagement, to bar her claim forever.

[Page 206]He confessed, that notwithstanding his plausible professions to them both, at part­ing, his mind could not help still har­bouring some doubts with regard to the sincerity of them—For however, said he, my christianity may incline me to a perfect faith in the efficacy of divine grace, one is naturally apt to suspect your extempore converts, especially where the reformation seems, as in this case, to have been brought about by the necessity of some present urgency.

He concluded then, that my father's scheme, in carrying my mother and me out of the kingdom, must be to sepa­rate us from the advice or assistance of whatever friends we might have here, and that being bereft of the protection of English laws, he meant to shut us up [Page 207] in a convent together, for life, upon some forged pretence or other; which would leave him at liberty to return in triumph home again, and complete his base purpose with his new mistress at Exeter.

That very day doctor N— gave my mother a regular certificate of her marriage, signed by himself, as the clergyman who had performed the cere­mony, referring to the page of the parish registry, where that transaction was en­tered; at the bottom of which he put a memorandum of the names of the two witnesses who were present, one of which is still alive, if that were an article of any manner of consequence to me now.

The next day my father came to the house, with a carriage to convey us off [Page 208] privately, through the country, to Wey­mouth, where he told us he had pre­pared a ship to sail over directly to the continent. My mother made no reply, but wept, and quitted the room, to leave Dr. N— at liberty to explain the rea­son of her silence and sorrow.

Their conversation was warm, but short—The doctor made remonstrances to him upon his behaviour, both from religion, morals, and the laws; which my father resented with the highest in­temperance, declaring that he had happily one way still left, to screen himself from persecution and prosecu­tion both, and then rushed out of the house; which expression was, soon af­ter, more fully explained, by hearing that he had gone off to France, whither no legal process could pursue him,

[Page 209]These transactions were kept a perfect secret from me for several years—My fond mother thought it too soon for me to become acquainted with affliction, and our worthy protector had also conceived a certain delicate idea, about me, with regard to vice—His opinion was cer­tainly just, that the longer young people are kept ignorant of it, the safer for their morals—Purity of thought, and inno­cence of action, should be suffered to gain strength by habit, before they know that there is such a thing as wickedness in human nature—The shock and ab­horrence will be the greater on the first instance, and the danger of example less.

Doctor N— kept us with him, and supported us out of his own fortune, while my poor mother lived, or rather [Page 210] languished, which she did for about two years, and then expired of a broken heart. The doctor was so generous as to make her last moments easy, by pro­mising to take care of me, till he could force my father, by law, to make a pro­vision for me, as his legitimate child; saying, that he thought it his duty to pay the debt of gratitude he owed to my grandfather, to the only part of his family now that deserved it.

My father's emissaries soon informed him of my mother's death, and he re­turned to his seat, a joyful widower—The doctor immediately applied to him on my behalf, but so far from being softened by his intercession, he loaded him with abuse, and threatened him with ruin if he did not instantly consent to [Page 211] my being sent to a convent abroad, and solemnly swear never to mention his mar­riage with my mother, nor again inter­fere in his domestic affairs, upon any occasion or pretence. What became of his Exeter amour, I know not, having never heard a word about it, since.

Faithful to his promise, the doctor re­fused to give him the satisfaction he re­quired, nor would he consent to my going into a convent, upon any terms. Conscious of the purity of his life and actions, he disregarded my father's threats, and continued to treat me with the same kindness as if I had been his daughter.

My Father, who was lord of the ma­nor, stirred up most of the doctor's pari­shioners to non-payment of tithes, and [Page 212] supported them in every kind of insolence and injustice against him. This excellent divine, who was really a believer and follower of the doctrine which he taught, suffered those who had taken his cloak to take his coat also, and having no ac­tivity in him, but for others, in a very short time was deprived of the means of support, either for himself or family—But why should I dwell longer on those miseries, of which I was the unhappy, though innocent cause!

This best of men breathed his last sigh in a prison, about three years after my mother's death, and must latterly have wanted even the common necessaries of life, but for the duty and affection of his nephew, who was now become a captain, and more than shared his little income [Page 213] with him and me, who, from the time that my dear guardian was thrown into confinement, had been placed by him to board and lodge with the wife of his parish-clerk.

During all the sufferings of this true divine, he was never prompted to revile the cruel author of them; nor to repine at the wretched state to which he was re­duced; and even to his last moments comforted and exhorted both me, and his fellow prisoners, to bear their crosses with resignation, with chearfulness, and with forgiveness to their persecutors and oppressors.

While the doctor was able to keep house, captain N— used often to vi­sit there, and stay sometimes whole [Page 214] months together, with us; and after his uncle's misfortune, which separated us, he came frequently to see me, at my new lodgings. He was a very worthy agreeable young man, we had insensibly conceived a liking for each other, and just before his uncle's death, he asked his consent to offer his hand and heart to me.

The good man confessed himself much pleased at this overture, and upon men­tioning it to me, said, that when I should no longer have a protector in him, I must be either thrown upon the world, to get my bread in a state of servitude, which he thought both dangerous, and improper for me, or obliged to sue to my father for a support, which he feared he would refuse, unless he were to confine me in a convent, which he most earnestly [Page 215] entreated me not to consent to, but to persevere in suffering for the faith wherein I had been bred.

And with regard to his nephew, he paid me the compliment to think I was capable of rendering him happy, and that eventually I might turn out a good for­tune to him, either by my father's death, or reformation. I received the proposal, I confess, with pleasure, and readily pro­nounced that consent with my lips, which my heart had given before—My more than father! my guardian! my pro­tector! now saw his desire accomplished in our union—With his dying hands he joined ours, and then slept in peace.

For three whole years I was the hap­piest of human kind; my husband was [Page 216] all that my fondest wishes could have framed; that child you saw, was his delight and mine; no frown e'er clouded either of our brows, or slightest con­tradiction passed our lips: I was—I was too blest! till heaven reclaimed its best its dearest gift, and took him early, to reward his virtues.

Tho' bred with such a shining pattern as doctor N— before me, and long nurtured as I had been, in the school of adversity, yet this trial was too much for my weak mind, which sunk op­pressed into lethargic woe—The voice of reason is not heard by grief, religion only reaches the sad heart—Cheered by the boundless hope of passing an eternity of bliss with him I now lamented, I raised my drooping eye lids from the [Page 217] grave, and turned my views to heaven, implored its grace to bend my stubborn soul, to its high will, and soothe my war­ring passions to submission—My prayer was heard; no murmurs, no complain­ings, from that pious moment of re­flection, have issued from my lips; in humble confidence, without impatience, I wait for my dismission from this vale of sorrow.

Yet let me own that were there not a weight thrown in that scale that ties me down to earth, my resignation would have had more merit. My dear, my much loved boy, abates my ardor for the land of bliss, and makes me fear that while his fate is doubtful, I should even shudder on the brink of my long wished-for voyage.

[Page 218]In a heart rightly formed there cannot be a void—Maternal fondness now fills the place of chaste connubial love, and in this soft exercise of my affections, no griefs distract, no transports rend my soul.

This place I live in, is a freehold that Captain H—, my grandfather had purchased, soon after I was born, for the term of three lives; his own, my mother's, and mine—His wife had been dead, some years before. It consists of this cottage, a small plough-land, a close for pasture, and a little garden; at an in­considerable rent—Here I have lived all my life, except while I was sheltered under the protection of the good doctor N—; during which interval the farm was let to a tenant at will, till I was mar­ried, when my dear husband and I came to [Page 219] reside here, as much as his military duty would permit; and here he left me, when he was ordered with the regiment abroad, last war; in the first campaign of which he was killed.

The produce of this small demesne, with my pension as a Captain's widow, is all I have to maintain my child and me, and require the closest attention and oeconomy to render them sufficient—And even these pittances depend upon the precarious tenure of my life—but I will not doubt the goodness of Provi­dence, and trust it will raise him up a support, when it shall think proper to withdraw mine.

Now judge, unhappy stranger, she con­tinued, if I have not a right to speak of [Page 220] patience, of resignation and religion, as the surest balm of sorrow! Philosophy and faith concur in this, there is a hope beyond the grave, and nought but vice, unatoned by penitence and piety, need ever urge despair!

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I had hung with mute attention on her story, my tears had flowed with her's, and while she spoke, her griefs suspended mine; admiration of her virtue now suc­ceeded, and kept me silent still, but there, alas! our sympathy must end, she might rejoice in her afflictions past, whilst I must mourn for ever!

I passed six days with this uncanon­ized saint, this living Patience, of whom [Page 221] Shakespear's image was but a prototype*. She knew me not, all the while, and I could not reveal myself, nor had the par­ticulars of my sad story yet reached her incurious ears, to have given her the least cause of suspecting who I was.

By various methods, and slow degrees, I pursued my journey towards Flintshire. As I drew nearer to my mother's peace­ful cottage, I anticipated the misery and horror she would feel, when she should know my situation, and considered my­self as a wretch who was going to com­municate an incurable disease, to the fond bosom that had nursed and cherished it—Prophetic were my thoughts!

[Page 222]The first emotions she felt on seeing me, were those of love and joy; she strained me to her honest breast, with true maternal tenderness, and exclaimed, ‘"Mr. W— has at last relented, and blessed me with a sight of my Maria!"’ Whilst I, o'erwhelmed with her unmerited kindness, sunk speechless to the earth—Tears were the sole return that I could make to her caresses and inquiries.

My mother was alarmed; ‘"Sorrow, she said, my child, we both have known, but sure that should not seal your lips to those who wish to share and soothe your griefs, or render you insensible to love like mine."’

I grasped her honoured hand, pressed it to my heart, and vainly strove to ar­ticulate a sound—For several hours I re­mained [Page 223] in this situation—At length my speech returned, and throwing myself on my knees before her, I could not be prevailed on to forsake that posture, till I had recounted to her the whole of that horrid tale, which you have just now read.

I will not wound your heart, my bro­ther, with attempting to describe the agonies she suffered, during the sad recital of my story, yet this truly virtuous, this scarce erring woman, pitied the crimes which she herself detested, and spoke of peace and pardon to my afflict­ed soul! even to the latest moment of her life—for she is dead!—She strove to hide her anguish, and to lessen mine.

The night I got there, after I had been in bed, and just falling into a slum­ber, [Page 224] from the fatigue of my journey and the waste of my spirits, I was alarmed by the noise of some persons, who knocked loudly at the door of the house, and de­manded admittance—The people with whom we lodged refused them entrance, unless they would first declare the pur­pose of their errand—This they refused, but sending for a sledge, soon battered down all opposition, and rushed in.

My mother and I had but just time to hurry on our cloaths, when an ill looking fellow, with a candle in one hand, and a pistol in the other, came into our cham­ber, attended by two other ruffians.—Upon their appearance we instantly of­fered to surrender all our effects, and promised neither to make resistance nor pursuit. They seemed highly to resent [Page 225] our manner of reception, and replied, that they scorned to use any manner of vio­lence that might not be justified by the law.

The principal of the men then told me that he was steward to Mr. W—, and had been dispatched by him with a war­rant to apprehend me, for the murder of Sir Thomas L—, early the next morn­ing after the fact, and my flight for the same, with directions to come and look for me in that place, as it was natural to suppose that I should have flown to my mother for refuge, after my crime—He said that he had examined and inquired for me, all along the road, and had con­cealed his business in that village, for several days, lying in wait for my ar­rival.

[Page 226]Horror and amazement seized both my unhappy mother and me—I pitied her more than myself—I was hardened to sufferings, I wished to die, though not with ignominy, and felt disappointed at finding the purpose of these house­breakers had ended with so little violence to my life—I apprehended no danger from the prosecution; but to think of an arraignment and a public trial, was distraction! I reflected deeply on the di­vine and sustaining sentiments of the amiable Mrs. N—, and her precepts and example had a salutary effect on my mind.

The steward then returned to the inn, to send off to Chester for a chaise to carry me to Exeter, the county town of De­vonshire, to take my trial at the next [Page 227] assizes, which were immediately to be held there; but left his two guards in the house, to prevent my escape—My afflicted mother, who had fallen upon the bed when she heard the shocking sentence pronounced, lay silent for a minute, then turning to me, who was standing speechless, and motionless, be­fore her, with a look of wildness and des­pair, cried out, ‘"I'll go with you, I'll die with you, we never shall be parted more."’ I threw myself down by her, we embraced and lay folded in each other's arms, till we were summoned, the next morning, to begin our journey.

We travelled with all the expedition that our conductors were pleased to make, and suffered every indignity and inso­lence of office, all the way, that mean [Page 228] persons are apt to inflict on those above them, whenever they happen to gain an authority over them.—All this I felt not but as I sympathized with my unhappy mother, for as to myself I welcomed every mortification and distress I met with, and even wished them still more severe.

We were at length relieved from this oppression by arriving at Exeter, where we were carried directly to the sheriff's house, and delivered over into his cus­tody; for my dear mother would not quit me, but said that the same prison, or the same grave, should receive us both—This humane person behaved with the utmost tenderness and polite­ness toward us, offered us every refresh­ment and accommodation that his hospi­tality [Page 229] could afford, and told me that he would impose no other restraint on me than an earnest request that I would accept of the best apartment in his house, and prevail on my mother to share the same comforts and conveniences with me—He then bowed and retired.

He returned soon after, to introduce a gentleman to us, who he said had some affair of business to communicate to me, and then withdrew again. But how was I overwhelmed with confusion, when the person announced his name to be Captain R—! The confidant of my shame, stood before me—My trial was began, already—I felt as if I was at the bar.

This gentleman behaved with great good-breeding and compassion to me, on [Page 230] that occasion; he scarcely looked at me, but going up directly to my mother, whom he saw in tears, assured her that she need not suffer the least uneasiness on account of her daughter, as he had already made her innocence appear so fully to the Justice, that she was not to be arraigned, on the trial, and might now consider herself perfectly free from her arrest.—He prevented us, he would not listen to our acknowledgments, but di­recting his discourse to me, though with­out turning his eyes towards me, thus proceeded.

‘"In order to make you acquainted with the present situation of this un­happy business, it is necessary for me, Madam, to recount the regular pro­cess of it, from the moment I had [Page 231] been informed of the event, by an anonymous billet, to this time. I soon guessed the writer, and as quickly sus­pected the author of the tragedy—Upon these hints, I immediately ap­plied to a magistrate in the neighbour­hood, and after having given in my depositions, according to the notice I had received, I became armed with proper force and authority, and rode directly to Castle W—.’

‘"I was not denied admission, and upon opening my commission, Mr. W— charged you, Madam, directly with the fact; said you had absconded immediately after the murder, and that he had just then issued a warrant, and dispatched a pursuit after you, in order to have you apprehended and [Page 232] delivered over into the hands of jus­tice—Then, by way of supporting his assertion by circumstances, led me up stairs into the room where the corpse lay extended on the ground, shewed me the discharged pistol lying on the bed, and pointed to the blood, with which the coverlet had been stained in many places.’

‘"I wept over the body of my dear friend,"’ said he, ‘"then turning to Mr. W—, shewed him the note I had received, and asked him if he knew the hand? Yes (he replied quick) it is my wife's, and one line in it I think sufficiently certifies against her—I do not mean by this notice to call even for justice against his assassin. Whose danger, I pray you, do you imagine she should be so tender of? Would [Page 233] she not have named the assassin, if that might have been done, with safety to herself?’

‘"Sir, I replied, you will now give me leave to reason upon the circum­stances relative to this melancholy affair, in turn. It cannot be difficult, considering the several parties, both separately and connected, to suppose the motive of Sir Thomas's errand hither; and whether it were most na­tural for the fond mistress, or the jealous husband, to have been the murderer, is a question sitter to be ar­gued in a court, than discussed here. For which reason, (concluded I) I shall pretend to act but ministerially upon this occasion, and therefore I do now, in the name of justice, arrest you and your whole houshold, in [Page 234] order to take your trials, jointly and severally, for this murder.’

‘"Mr. W— seemed startled at this discourse, but talked highly, and began to put himself into a posture of defence; upon which I presented a pistol to his breast, and pointing to the mangled corpse, cried, There, Sir, is your exam­ple, should you attempt to resist. He then surrendered himself a prisoner, the rest of his family did the same; and after I had got the body laid with decency on the bed, left the servants of the de­ceased to attend it, and given charge of the funeral to the clergyman of the pa­rish, I escorted my captives to the goal in this city, where they have remained ever since.’

‘"Upon their examination before a ma­gistrate in this town, (continued he) the [Page 235] maid servant, who said she had attended on you, Madam, turned evidence, to save her life, and charged her master with the murder. She said that he had come to the house, in the evening, pri­vately, and desired her to conceal his arrival from her mistress. That he told her there was an assignation fixed for that night, between Sir Thomas L— and his wife; and about the time that he thought they might have put out the candles, he took her with him to the room, to be a witness of what he said would intitle him to a divorce; but that being disappointed in that circumstance, and alarmed at seeing Sir Thomas put­ting his hand to his sword, he discharged the pistol, and killed him on the spot.’

‘"Mr. W— did not make any man­ner of interruption or reply to this wo­man's [Page 236] deposition, while it was going on, saying only, after it was over, that he thought himself sufficiently justified in the action, both from law and con­science; and that justice without fa­vour, was all he should desire, to in­demnify him on the day of trial.’

‘"Thus situated is this unhappy affair at present; and with regard to your arrest, Madam, I have had that super­seded already, before you arrived in town, as the warrant was only founded on surmise; and I have myself given bail for your appearance on the trial, just to corroborate the servant maid's testimony."’

I had hitherto lain reclined on my arm, hiding my face, tears, and blushes, [Page 237] with my hand; but when he came to the last expression, I forgot all reserve, and starting up, ‘"No, sir, said I, it can­not, shall not be—I will never appear in evidence against Mr. W—: you may drag me before the court, but no violence shall make me speak there. Justice I acknowledge to be a duty, but there are situations which may exempt one from the observance of it. Duties cannot contradict duties, and I have already too far erred against mine to him, to think of adding a further injury—And if my death is to be the consequence of my silence, I am willing to pay that forfeit, to redeem his."’

Captain R— seemed struck with my sentiments on so difficult an occasion, and told me that he would consult his [Page 238] lawyers that night, whether my evi­dence might be dispensed with; and would wait on me again, the next morn­ing—He then took his leave, and left my poor mother and me to pass an an­xious, sleepless night, in mourning the distress of our present situation.

The next day he came to us, and said that his counsel had told him, that as he was the prosecutor, he might excuse what­ever witness he pleased, especially as the servant maid's testimony was full enough to the point already—We thanked him extremely for his humanity and polite­ness, and the instant he retired we hired a chaise, and drove out of the town, on our road back to Flintshire, flying as fast as possible from a scene of so much horror.

[Page 239]The anxiety of mind and fatigue of body which my dear mother had laboured under, all this while, had brought on a fever that confined her in bed, from the moment we reached her habitation in Flintshire. I wept, prayed, and at­tended on her, during her illness, till her last moment—She blessed her children—even me she blessed, and prayed for peace and pardon to my polluted soul! she expired in my fainting arms—leave­ing me friendless, in a world alone!

But fate had not yet done with me! I was not yet unhappy enough! About two days after her death, I received a letter from Captain R—, who had found out the place of my residence, from Mr. W—'s steward, which brought me the following account from Exeter.

[Page 240] ‘"The facts and arguments upon which Mr. W— grounded his de­fence, were these—When Mrs. W— had given her letter for Sir Thomas to the messenger, he mentioned it to the gardener, and he communicated his intelligence to her maid, who had been appointed a spy over all her ac­tions—She took it from the man, in­closed it to her master, and sent him off directly with it to London.’

‘"As soon as he received it, he broke it open, and took a copy, which he made his own man compare, and wit­ness, then sealed and sent off the ori­ginal to Sir Thomas, by a special mes­senger, who pretended he had come from Castle W—, not caring to in­trust the fellow who had brought it, lest he [Page 241] should have betrayed him, as he had before deceived Mrs. W—. The answer he proceeded with in the same manner, and then dispatched the first carrier with it to Mrs W—.’

‘"This state of the case Mr. W— had sent up to London, along with the attested copies of the letters, for the opinion of an eminent counsel, to know whether, upon such a certainty of the fact, and finding the adulterer in such an improper situation with his wife, the laws did not grant some indul­gence to the transports and resentment of a provoked and injured husband?’

‘"The lawyer's reply was, that such considerations had, indeed, been some­times permitted to be laid before a [Page 242] jury, in alleviation of the crime he had been guilty of, but that it was only in cases where no premeditation had ap­peared in the matter: and that his was a very different situation, as he had confessed his having been apprised of the assignation, assisted in forwarding the appointment, and had travelled above an hundred miles, with a malice praepense to take Sir Thomas L— at an unfair advantage. From all which circumstances he concluded that the laws would not consider him as a pro­voked husband, but a deliberate as­sassin.’

‘"This answer deprived him of all hope, and drove him to distraction—Could the articles mentioned in the state of his case have been prevented [Page 243] from coming before the court, he might, perhaps, have had some chance of escaping, but the messenger of the two letters was among the persons that had been taken up for the murder, had made a deposition in his own defence, and was to be produced on the trial. This particular confirmed his despair, and in a transport of madness the un­happy man put an end to his life, in the prison, the day before the assizes began."’

Prepared though I was to expect an account of Mr. W—'s death, the manner of it, however, filled my soul with horror, and had a more immediate effect upon my constitution, than any of the shocks I had received before. From that sad hour, when no kind prop [Page 244] remained to stay my overburdened heart, I have sunk beneath its weight; my wasting form and slackened nerves give hopes of my release, and with this heavy task, which now draws near an end, I trust my woes shall cease.

The first thing that occurred to my mind, upon this tragical event, was the benefit that my humane and hospitable friend of the cottage, and her lovely child, might possibly receive from it; and I had the satisfaction, before I left the kingdom, to hear that Mrs. N— had sufficiently proved her mother's marriage, by the certificate and witness, and taken possession of castle W—, as sole heiress to her father's estate and fortune, which were very considerable.

[Page 245]I did not make myself known to her, as under our different circumstances no manner of connection could ever pro­perly have subsisted between us; but, as I was entitled to a jointure of four hundred pounds a year, by marriage settlement, I put the deed, which had been left in my mother's possession, into the hands of an attorney at Chester, to claim my rights, which were not denied; and on receipt of the first payment I quitted England, for ever, and came over here to France, with a purpose of retiring immediately into a convent, for life.

I began my narrative of woe, before I left England, and have completed it since I came over, and shall put it into the India House for you, at Paris, if I [Page 246] may have life enough to carry me thi­ther, as I design to fix my residence in some of the distant provinces beyond it. But I have been confined here, these two days, not being able to proceed further, from the failure of my strength, and the dejection of my spirits.

Adieu, my dearest brother! may watchful angels hover round you, and guard and guide your footsteps in the paths of virtue! I feel myself growing weaker, every line I write, and think that here my journey and my cares will shortly end together. With my last sigh I pray to be forgiven by Heaven and you! and now, once more, adieu, I hope, for ever.

MARIA.

LETTER LXVII.
Lady BARTON to Miss CLEVELAND.

In answer to Letter LXII.

YES, Fanny, your remark is just—The tears which flow for foreign griefs, help somewhat to soften the poig­nancy of home felt sorrows. I sympa­thized throughout every circumstance of the ill-fated Maria's distress, and was rejoiced at her lucky escape from the desperate guilt of suicide.

It is intolerance not intolerability, impatience not suffering, that ever im­pels to such an act. For it requires no further argument than this, that God is just, to evince that our strength of mind and body must be equally balanced by [Page 248] nature; so that the one may be suffici­ently able to bear, whatever can be in­flicted on the other, until death, with­out precipitation, necessarily comes to the relief of the overburdened sufferer. For pain or grief are able to do their own business, without the assistance of a crime.

From whence I argue, that resolution may last as long as life, and that a vir­tuous soul may be sooner separated than subdued.—I have endeavoured to ex­press myself upon this subject, with all the energy I could—I feel an interest in this reasoning, at present, and shall repose my trust in it.

Maria was certainly more wretched, than I am, by the addition of one cir­cumstance, [Page 249] which alone was sufficient to have rendered her so; but surely we may hope, without offence to the most rigid virtue, that penitence and sufferings, such as hers, may have atoned for her transgression, and that she now is happy—It is to be innocent, to be unhappy—Whilst I must still subscribe myself your unhappy, but affectionate sister.

L. BARTON.

LETTER LXVIII
Lady HUME to Lady BARTON.

In answer to letter LXI.

YOUR Fanny, my Louisa, has obeyed your kind command, and now claims the sad indulgence promised in your last—I long, yet dread to know [Page 250] what those events can be, which you deem more interesting, than any of those extraordinary circumstances, which have already happened to you!

I cannot express the mixed sensation which my heart is at present sensible of! While I give it up to that joy, which hap­piness like mine should inspire, I fancy I defraud you of that portion of sorrow which is due to your distress; and while I tenderly reflect upon your sufferings, and busy my imagination in trying to discover those additional woes you hint at, the big drop which steals down my cheek, silently reproaches me with in­gratitude to my dear brother, to his amiable wife, to my reclaimed prodigal, to Providence! and when, as it some­times happens, my melancholy becomes [Page 251] contagious, and that I see a gloomy look of inquiry spread over those countenances, which should be lighted up with smiles, I strive, forgive me, my Louisa! to forget your sorrows, and dispel the cloud I have created, by affected efforts of chearfulness.

But I will no longer, like Miss Howe in Clarissa, content myself with poorly lamenting the unhappiness of my friend—I can have no doubt of Lord Hume's indulgence, I will request his permission to see and embrace my sister—Her sighs and tears shall flow upon my bosom! and I will try to pour the balm of comfort into her's.

You did not date your last letter, so so that I cannot even guess where you are, [Page 252] at present; but I shall direct this to South­field, and impatiently wait for the ex­planation of that gloomy mystery in which you seem involved.—All here salute you with the tenderest affection, for as I now consider myself accountable to lord Hume, for every moment of my time, I proclaimed my intention of writing to you, before I retired from the drawing-room; and shall try to return to it with as chearful a countenance as I can possibly assume; but be assured, that my heart will never be truly at ease, till I know that your's is so—As I shall never cease to be your faithfully affectionate

friend and sister, F. HUME.

LETTER LXIX.
Lady BARTON to Lady HUME.

THE knowing that my Fanny is happy, is certainly a reason for my being less wretched than when I wrote last; but then the cruel thought of in­terrupting her felicity, must add to my distress—And can it bear addition! O yes! yes! the torturing suspence which I now feel, too surely informs me that there yet remains many arrows in the quiver of adversity, which may still be pointed at my sad heart, and yet not pierce it through.

O Fanny, it is very difficult to die! at least I find it so—Death sports with human misery, and would rather increase, than end them—‘"'Tis his delight to bid [Page 254] the wretch survive the fortunate! the feeble wrap the athletic in his shroud, and weeping parents build their chil­dren's tombs!"’

Excuse this rhapsody—I will try to collect myself, and acquaint you with the particulars of my present distress.

The morning after I had written to you, from Elm-grove, I ordered my car­riage, as I had intended, and at breakfast acquainted Lady Creswell with my design of setting out for Southfield.—Every argument that friendship or po­liteness could urge, were used, to pre­vail on me to stay with them, for a few days longer; but I continued firm to my purpose.

I told Harriet, that she might remain with lady Creswell till she came to re­turn [Page 255] my visit, which both she and Sir Harry promised should be in ten days, or a fortnight—Harriet declined my in­dulgence, and entreated me, with un­common earnestness, to take her with me—I considered her refusal as the ef­fect of her attention and complaisance to me, till with a very solemn air she said to me, when we were alone, ‘"If you, Madam, think it necessary to quit Elm-grove, I am sure I ought to do so too."’ I acquiesced in her opinion, and desired her to get ready immediately.

Lord Lucan, to my great satisfaction, did not appear at breakfast—when he was inquired for, the servants said he had rode out, very early in the morning. I took my friend lady Creswell aside, and requested her, not without some con­fusion, [Page 256] to deliver my letter to his lord­ship, as soon as he returned from riding. Almost at that instant, a servant of Sir William's galloped into the court-yard, and presented the following billet to me.

To Lady BARTON.

The infamy of your late conduct has for some time made me balance whe­ther I should by the bearer command your immediate return to my house, or forbid your ever entering it. My re­spect for your family has so far turned the scale in your favour, as to make me, though unwillingly, condescend to re­ceive you under my roof, till they shall be acquainted with your vileness, and either find you out a proper asylum, or join in abandoning you, with your highly injured husband,

W. BARTON.

[Page 257]I have already told you that Lady Creswell was with me, when I received this shocking sentence—Amazement suspended all my powers, while I read it! my sight forsook me, the paper dropped out of my hand, and I fell al­most senseless, upon a couch! When I recovered my speech, I bid her read it, and tell me what it meant?

She quickly saw through the detested villainy, and at once exclaimed, ‘"your husband is abused! that wicked Co­lonel Walter has deceived him—My aunt, unhappy and infatuated woman! corresponds with him, and has doubt­less transmitted an account of Lord Lucan's being here."’

Her surmise was equal to conviction, and I that moment beheld myself the [Page 258] victim of that wretch's disappointed passion—O could my heart have told me I was an innocent one, how slightly should I have regarded the utmost ma­lice of this fiend!

I need not attempt to describe the distraction of my mind, during the jour­ney. Harriet was so visibly affected with my grief, though unknowing of the cause, that I would, if possible, have con­cealed it from her; and even accused myself for making her heart so early ac­quainted with sorrow.

When we arrived at Southfield, Ben­son, with tears in her eyes, informed me, that Sir William was dangerously ill; the vein in his lungs, which had been closed, for some time, had opened, and the physician who attended him, had but [Page 259] very faint hopes of his life—The agony which this account threw me into, I shall leave to your own sensibility to im­agine—I fell upon my knees, and in an heart felt extasy, cried out, ‘"Gracious God! have pity on me! spare my husband's life! and let not his murderer triumph over him and me, at once!"’

Harriet and Benson raised me from the ground, with a mingled expression of pity and horror in their looks—they thought me mad—I was, alas! too sen­sible, at least to misery!—When I became a little more calm, Harriet asked me if I would not go to see Sir William? I started up at the question, and would have flown that moment to his bed-side, had not Benson interposed, by telling me he was just fallen into a slumber, and that the doctor had given orders he should not be disturbed.

[Page 260]The idea that his mind was at rest afforded a little ease to my own; the tears ran silent and plenteous down my cheeks, while my heart offered up the most fer­vent petitions to the fountain of life, for his recovery!—By degrees I became composed, and, at Harriet's entreaty, I tried to eat, and retired to rest.

In the morning, doctor Hartford, who attends Sir William, desired to see me—He told me that the sudden and violent return of his patient's disorder had proceeded from some perturbation of mind, and that the only chance he had for his life, was the being kept in a state of apathy, as much as possible, and advised my not seeing him, for some days yet, as even the most pleasing emo­tion might be productive of fatal con­sequences.

[Page 261]I told him I would not attempt any thing that should injure his health, though I most earnestly wished to see him.—He said he had taken the liberty of preventing two letters from being delivered to him, for the reasons he had then given me—He presented them to me; I saw that one of them was the letter I had sent, by the servant, the other was from Colonel Walter.

Surely, if a breach of trust could ever be deemed pardonable, the peculiarity of my situation might have furnished an excuse for reading this letter! but my heart revolted at the mean idea—I gave both of them to Harriet, and bid her keep them till her uncle should be able to read them himself.

[Page 262]About an hour after this, Sir Wil­liam sent for Harriet; the moment he saw her, he cried out, ‘"Where is she?"’ ‘"In her chamber, Sir, weeping your illness, and praying for your recovery‘For my death, you mean."’ ‘"Indeed you wrong her, Sir; I never saw any person so truly concerned for another."’‘"Where is lord Lucan? Why do you blush, at that question? what then! art thou become the confident, the vile accomplice, of your aunt's infamy."’ ‘"Believe me, Sir, I never heard, or saw, a word or action of her's, that should be called so—She is the best of women,"’‘"If that be true, the whole sex are past redemption—But where is Lord Lu­can?"’ ‘"We left him at Elm-grove—My dear, dear uncle! let me entreat you to compose yourself; indeed you wrong my aunt most cruelly."’

[Page 263]She fell on her knees at his bedside, and kissed his hand.—‘"O Harriet! I am but too well convinced that your expression refers more justly to her—It is she has wronged herself, and me too—But perhaps I have de­served to lose her affection, though mine was true to her.—Yet for her own sake, for the honour of her fa­mily, I did not think she would have been abandoned—But d—n d—n her!"’ He wept, while he pronounced these horrid words!

Harriet described the strong emotion she had seen me feel, on hearing of his illness; he wept again, yet called me an hyena; and then cried out, ‘"Why does she not appear before me? O, she is conscious of her crime, and [Page 264] dare not look upon me!"’ Harriet then acquainted him of the restraint his phy­sician had imposed on me. ‘"It is very true, he replied, the sight of her would kill me! but let her write, if she has any thing to say in her defence."’

She then gave him my letter—He seemed much agitated while he read it; then said he was too weak to bear these painful conflicts, and bad her tell me he would receive me, as soon as he was able, but only to confront me with such proofs, as were indubitable, and never, from that moment, see me more.

Alas! my sister, what will now be­come of me! grant it were possible I could be able to undeceive Sir William, [Page 265] and remove even the shadow of suspicion from his thoughts, must I not always live in fear? a fear which my own con­sciousness will still create! That mutual band of conjugal felicity, a perfect con­fidence! is now for ever broken—The gloomy reflections that dwell within my bosom will still appear, and raise up fresh disquiets and alarms within my husband's breast: though he conceals his doubts, my heart will feel them, and secretly repine that even the sacrifice of my unhappy passion has not been able to procure his peace! yet this is the sole prospect, this the compounding hope, of such a wretch as I!

Harriet has seen her uncle every day; and, in consequence of their conversa­tions, I have written to him twice—He [Page 266] seems much affected while he reads my letters, and yet returns again to his unjust suspicions—Colonel Walter's let­ter has been delivered to him; he in­quired whether I knew who it came from, and upon Harriet's telling him I did, he replied, that has more weight with me than all that she has protested under her hand—There is, yet at least, some virtue in her.

Indeed, my sister, were I not convin­ced it is my duty to calm Sir William's mind, I could, with the utmost compo­sure, submit to, and sink under, the cruel calumny thrown out against me—The world, and all that it contains, seems to recede from my now feeble grasp—The dejection of my spirits has diffused an universal languor through [Page 267] my whole frame, and some blessed in­telligence whispers me, that soon, very soon, this poor torn heart will be at peace! surely, my Fanny, you will, you ought, I mean, rejoice, at my deli­verance!

I am glad of your happiness, of my brother's, and of every one's; I could at this moment rejoice in a cer­tainty of my being the only wretched creature upon earth.—I wish I could prevent your sending a thought, or a sigh, this way! your sorrow for my mi­sery can but increase it—Strive to forget it, then, perhaps I may yet do so too—But never shall I cease to remember, that I am

your truly affectionate sister. L. BARTON.

LETTER LXX.
Lord HUME to Lord LUCAN.

WOULD you believe it, Lucan, I am become a philosopher! and that by the worst of all possible means, ex­perience—I find there is no such thing as permanent happiness, for in the very moment that I looked down with pity upon kings, my cup has been dashed with a good smart dose of coloquintida.

For some time before my marriage, both Sir George Cleveland and I observ­ed that my dear Fanny was frequently dejected, and melancholy; but whenever we seemed to take notice of this indispo­sition of mind, she attributed it to the change of climate, and immediately as­sumed an air of chearfulness.

[Page 269]For my own part, I sometimes thought that her uneasiness might pro­ceed from a recollection of my former conduct, and therefore endeavoured to dissipate her suspicions, by every mark of the sincerest attachment—I flattered myself I had succeeded, as she had gi­ven me her hand without the least affec­tation of reluctance, which young la­dies sometimes assume the appearance of, in order to enhance the value of the gift.

I think there never was a blither bridegroom than myself—indeed I felt myself most truly happy—Yet my Fanny's fits of melancholy frequently returned, and I have sometimes surpris­ed her in tears! I used to kiss them off, and begged to know the cause; she constantly evaded my request, but with [Page 270] so much tenderness and delicacy, that I could not insist on her compliance, or even let her see that I was unhappy my­self, lest it should render her more so.

In this kind of mortal state we passed several weeks; but a letter that was de­livered to her lately, has unravelled the mystery.—We were alone in her dres­sing-room when it was brought to her—While she read it her countenance changed so visibly, that I could not avoid taken notice of it to her; she burst into tears, and exclaimed, my unhappy sister! What! is she dead? I asked—Not yet, she answered, and sunk back as if near fainting in her chair—By Heaven, Lucan, I would not go through such another moment, for the diamond eyes of the Indian idol—I forget his name—that are computed to be worth a million and a half!

[Page 271]As soon as she had recovered, she en­treated me not to mention what had happened, to Sir George, or his lady; then told me that Lady Barton was the most miserable being upon earth, from the villainy of a vile fellow who lives in their neighbourhood, and was himself in love with her, who, by a false accusa­tion of her to her husband, has rendered him so outrageously jealous, as almost to endanger Sir William's life; that, from her sister's letters, she had reason to believe that she also was dying, and implored me to set out for Ireland with her imme­diately, in order to rescue lady Barton, if possible, by removing her from that scene of misery and distress.

I readily acquiesced in her desire, discovering still new charms in her ten­der [Page 272] and generous affection for her un­happy sister, which has been the sole source of her melancholy—She gave me many prudent reasons for not acquaint­ing her brother with this affair; so that our scheme was mentioned at dinner, as a sudden thought, and every thing was fixed for our setting out in two days—But pity me, Lucan, when I tell you that my whole of life, my heart's dear Fanny, was taken ill that night, the next day grew much worse, and on the third, the physicians pronounced her disorder to be a miliary fever. She is now, thank Heaven! out of danger, but weak, low, and in her bed. I did not know how truly, how fondly, I loved her, Lucan! till now—I am not ashamed of the blot a tear has just made.

[Page 273]Her impatience to set out for your country is unabated, but I fear it will be some time before her strength will be equal to the journey. She has com­manded me to write a few lines, in gay­eté de coeur, to lady Barton, as if jealous of the correspondence between them, and saying that I will only allow her to answer her letters, in person—This is meant to excuse her silence, without alarming her about her illness—How tender, how considerate!

I hope to see you soon in Dublin, and that we shall return to England to­gether; if Lady Barton should come with us, we shall be a good melange enough for a parte quarré—I am resolved to be gay; my wife will, I hope, be chearful, when she has rescued her sister [Page 274] from the green-eyed monster—You will be polite, and agreeable, at least; and I think lady Barton will have no great cause to be sorrowful at leaving a hus­band, with whom she has never been happy, as Fanny has now confessed to me, on this occasion.

In my next, I hope I shall be able to fix the day of our setting out—Till we meet, adieu, my dear Lucan,

yours, HUME.

LETTER LXXI.
Lady BARTON to Lady HUME.

IT is over, my dear sister! my trial and condemnation are past, and I now sink under the weight of his censure, from [Page 275] which I neither ought, nor desire to ap­peal—Yesterday Sir William desired to see me; I instantly obeyed his summons, and approached him pale and trem­bling—But my wanness was the effect of ill health, and my tremor arose from weakness—Yet he perhaps might have attributed these symptoms to guilt, or fear; for a person arraigned, is generally half condemned.

I dreaded his flying into a rage at seeing me, but, to do him justice, he was unusually calm—As I entered the cham­ber, he said, ‘"I am sorry, Madam, that we should meet thus"’—I told him I was sincerely grieved for having been the innocent cause of so much uneasiness to him—He repeated the word innocent, and then launched out into the most cruel, [Page 276] and I am happy to say, false accusation, that ever was uttered.

Wretched! wretched man! my heart this moment feels for what his must one day suffer! He was violently agitated, while he proceeded in his accusation; and I sometimes thought that he appeared to doubt the improbabilities he uttered, till he produced lord Lucan's picture, which seemed like a visible miracle to corroborate the whole legend.

I offered not the least interruption, while he spoke; but when he had ended, I threw myself upon my knees before him, and in the most solemn manner assured him, that I had never been guilty of an act of dishonour, though I con­fessed that my affections had not been in­violably [Page 277] restrained to him; perhaps from the harshness of his manners, perhaps from my own weakness.

He was variously affected whilst I spoke, and often broke out into extrava­gant exclamations, denying the truth of what I said, by recurring to the charge against me—At other times he appeared softened, for an instant; but then the picture, like Othello's handkerchief, still turned his heart to stone.

Why was I not at liberty to unravel that mystery? But my word was long since passed to keep it secret, and never shall that bond be forfeited; nor shall my innocence ever be justified by disho­nour. Besides, this was but a circum­stance, and that equivocal, at most.

[Page 278]He then said, that as my family, all but myself, were truly respectable, he would, for their sakes, take some time to consider how he should act, before he branded me with infamy; and that I might remain a prisoner in his house, till he had determined on my sentence—But from that moment interdicted me from quitting my apartment; and, what was still much more severe, from seeing or conversing with my sole comfort, the tender, the affectionate, the amiable Harriet.

I wept, but it was in silence, and yielded to this hard decree without a murmur—He might have been more cruel to me—Benson is still permitted to attend me; nor has he yet forbidden me the melancholy pleasure of writing to my [Page 279] sister! I thank him, most sincerely, for these two indulgencies, and most de­voutly hope I shall not want them long.

While I live, I shall never cease to lament my being the fatal and sole source of sorrow to my beloved sister—O, dry your tears, my Fanny, and turn your eyes to happier views—See an adoring husband, and a tender brother court you to happiness—Forget the wretch that mars your present bliss, and renders you ungrateful for Heaven's bounty.

My heart sinks in me—My friend, my little Harriet, is just sent away! I hear the wheels that carry her from hence—they roll upon my heart! pro­tecting angels guard her innocence! and soothe the sorrows of her tender mind! [Page 280] I know it, Benson, she was drowned in tears—I feel them stream this moment on my breast—Alas! my Fanny, my head turns round, I cannot write another line,

Adieu, adieu!
L. BARTON.

LETTER LXXII.
Lady BARTON to Lady HUME.

DID you not think I was completely wretched when I last wrote to you? I thought so then, but find my error now—There is no bounds to miseries like mine; the swelling waves rise upon one another, and overwhelm me—Why does this feeble bark struggle so long, why not sink down at once to dark oblivion! But I will silence this repining heart, nor murmur at my sufferings.

[Page 281]About eight o'clock, this morning, there arrived a messenger from Walters­burgh, and in a few minutes after, Sir William rushed into my room, with an appearance of frenzy in his air and countenance.—‘"Vilest of women!’ cried he out, ‘"you have now completed your wickedness—But think not that either you, or your accomplice, shall escape—That pity, which pleaded in my weak heart, even for an adultress, will but increase my rage against the murderess of my friend."’ He then quitted me abruptly, as if bent upon some horrid purpose.

Yes, Fanny, I have heard my name traduced by the two vilest terms that ever disgraced human nature, and yet I neither sighed nor shed a tear—I be­came [Page 282] petrified with horror, and fixed my eyes in stupid silence on the door at which Sir William issued, till Benson opened it some minutes after, and found me quite immoveable.

I blame him not for his intemperate wrath; he thinks he has just cause—There has been a duel—Lord Lucan is in fault—he was the challenger—He has destroyed my fame and peace of mind, for ever! It is but just it should be so, that he who caused my weakness, should punish it.

I hear that he is dangerously wounded, and Colonel Walter mortally—O could I hope my prayers might reach the throne of mercy! But am I not, as Sir William stiles me, a murderess? too [Page 283] surely so! I am the fatal cause of all these crimes—forgive me, gracious Heaven! No words can paint my agonies! death only can relieve them.

A note from Sir William! it has broke my heart—I fear I cannot see to copy it.

MADAM,

I know not how to plead the pardon, either of myself, or the unhappy Co­lonel Walter! But if the strongest re­morse for the injuries he has done you, added to the loss of life, which is now ebbing fast from his wound, may be thought an atonement, you will comply with his request, and grant him your forgiveness.

As to myself, I can only say that I have been most cruelly deceived, and [Page 284] nothing but Colonel Walter's present situation, confession, and contrition, could ever have induced me to forgive his having been the cause of so much un­happiness to you—I forgive him mine, because he has repaired it—My own of­fence, my own failings have rendered me charitable to his—But if Heaven shall spare my life, it shall be spent in peni­tence for the wrongs I have done you.

Colonel Walter entreats you will let him know, where his wife and child now are? Judge my surprise at hearing him acknowlege such connections! But there is now no time for reflections, as doctor Hartford and the surgeon both say he has not long to live. Death will be ease from the agonies he now en­dures in his tortured mind; and I trust [Page 285] in Heaven's mercy, that they will ensure his future peace!

Be speedy, my much injured Louisa, in affording some relief to the most un­happy wretch I ever yet beheld, and in his pardon include that of your abused, and much afflicted husband,

W. BARTON.

P.S. Lord Lucan's wound is not dangerous—I will write for Harriet to return immediately to Southfield.

I wrote upon the instant, but even at this short interval cannot recollect what I said—My sensations were too much diversified, too rapid, to leave strong traces on the memory—What did I not feel! horror! pity! grief! and even a gleam of joy! joy that my name [Page 286] shall not disgrace my family, nor make it hateful, when I shall be but dust!

Sir William's kindness in restoring Harriet to me is the most pleasing proof that he could give of his returning confidence—I know that it will make her happy, and therefore do I doubly thank him—All other marks of his regard must come too late—We cannot live together—Yet I feel that death alone will part us—His approaches have long been welcomed by me; I have thought his harbingers were slow, and chid their tardy, though sure progress—Yet would I now delay their lingering steps, till I could sold my sister to my heart, then bid it cease to beat—This is a cruel but a natural wish—I will not press for the indulgence of it.

[Page 287]I am most truly thankful that Lord Lucan's life is safe, but cannot form the least conjecture why he should hazard it, as he has done—It is impossible that he should know the injuries I have sus­tained from Colonel Walter—To you alone have I revealed my sufferings. Even Harriet was a stranger to the cause of my distress, till Sir William's violence informed her of his suspicions; and sure I am, she would not publish my disgrace. This is a point that I could wish was cleared—Yet of what moment is it to me now?

I have just received a letter from Lord Hume—excuse my silence to him, and assure him of my affectionate regards—My truest tenderest love awaits my bro­ther—and I charge you, Fanny, never [Page 288] to let him know what I have suffered—it would wound his peace, when I shall be at rest.

Another note from Sir William, con­taining unbounded thanks for what he calls my condescending goodness—Can there be any merit in the forgiveness of one frail and erring being, to another! I will try if I can rest—good-night, my dearest sister,

L. BARTON.

LETTER LXXIII.
Lady BARTON to Lady HUME.

SIR William returned, about ten o'clock this morning, from Walters­burgh, and I was not up—I used to be an early riser, Fanny—But may now say with Anna, in Douglas—

[Page 289]
" Thy votaries, Grief, great nature's orders break,
" And change the midnight to the moon-tide hour."

It was near eleven before I rang my bell; and though Sir William expressed the greatest impatience to see me, he would not suffer Benson to disturb me—Why do these petits soins appear too late for him or me to profit from! As soon as she informed me that he was in the house, I rose and dressed me with the utmost expedition; then sent to let him know that I was ready to receive his commands—I found my mind infinitely more agitated than when he had sum­moned me to appear before him; yet I did not tremble as I then had done, but my heart beat quicker.

He approached me with a look of tender anxiety, which I had never seen [Page 290] him wear; I arose as he entered, he caught my hand and dropped upon one knee, ‘"Lady Barton, said he, it is im­possible for words to express my feel­ings; could you be sensible of what they are, you would both pardon and pity me!"’ I made the strongest ef­fort in my power to raise him from the ground, but both my strength and speech forsook me, and I sunk motion­less within his arms.

When I recovered, I found myself re­clining upon Benson's bosom, and Sir William walking about the room, like a distracted person, exclaiming, ‘"She is lost! is gone for ever! and I have killed her! I am the murderer, now!"’

The moment I could speak, I said every thing in my power to calm his [Page 291] mind, but he continued to accuse him­self much more severely than he could deserve; and when he looked upon my altered face, tears streamed from his sad eyes—Indeed I am much changed from what I was—I think you scarce could know me.

Colonel Walter is no more—Though I have no faith in the efficacy of prayers for the dead, yet I cannot refrain from offering up mine—For religion, prompt­ed by misfortunes, is apt to exceed to superstition. But enough, or rather say too much, of this sad subject.

Harriet is returned—She started at seeing me—It is amazing what a visible alteration a few days has made in my ap­pearance; I do not myself perceive any [Page 292] great internal change; an encreasing weakness is all that I am sensible of—Death seems to be grateful for the ar­dent wishes I have so often made for him, and approaches me with the gen­tleness of a friend—The variety of ter­rors I have gone through, have disarmed him of his, and though they at present seem to be passed, (pardon me, my sis­ter!) I cannot help considering my dis­solution as a deliverance.

As soon as Harriet arrived, Sir Wil­liam brought her by the hand, and pre­senting her to me, said, ‘"I am happy, my dear niece, to restore you again to the protection of the best, and most in­jured woman breathing—My future conduct to her, joined to your care and assiduity, will, I hope, restore her health, and make us all happy, once more."’

[Page 293]I bowed assent to Sir William's impos­sible wish, and embraced my beloved Harriet with all the fondness of a mo­ther—I shall be a loss to her, Fanny; my heart melts at the idea of her distress—I am not able to hold the pen longer, at present, I will reassume it to-morrow.

I hope that contrary winds are the sole cause of my not hearing from you—The agitation of my mind, for some time past, has prevented my thinking too deeply on your silence—I flatter myself that the next post-day will prevent my future anxiety.

Adieu,
L. BARTON.

LETTER LXXIV.
Lady BARTON to Lady HUME.

MY illness, or rather languor, en­creases so fast upon me, that it is with much difficulty I can support myself in my chair, for an hour together; yet they talk of carrying me to Lisbon—How absurd! as if a long journey could cure a broken heart—Mine is the gentlest of decays; the marks of my ap­proaching dissolution are almost as visible in the faces that surround me, as in my own—Sir William is the very statue of grief; no pen or pencil can describe the tender expression of concern and solicitude that appears in Harriet's face—Benson is become a spectre; and doc­tor [Page 295] Hartford, though long used to look on the approaches of death, seems startled and affected by them now.

The unhappy affair of the duel has not yet been explained; but I have nei­ther curiosity or concern about that, or any thing else, now left—Even my un­happy passion have I long since sacrificed to my duty—Be witness, for me, Hea­ven! that from the moment of Sir Wil­liam's danger, the fond delirium vanish­ed from my heart, and left not even one tainted trace behind!—You have known all the conflicts of my soul, and were there ought that could disturb it now, to you I would confess the painful per­turbation, as to Heaven—but all is calm, my sister!

[Page 296]
" Still as the sea, e're winds were taught to blow,
" Or moving spirit bad the waters flow,
" Soft as the slumbers of a saint forgiven,
" And mild, as opening gleams of promised Heaven."

May the last lines be prophetic! Amen! Adieu! I will not yet say a last one, to my beloved sister.

L. BARTON.

P.S. You are at liberty to acquaint my brother with my situation—No stain will now reflect on him, from me. My memory will still be dear to those I love, to him, to you, my sister—This thought will smooth my passage to the grave, and I shall rest in peace.

LETTER LXXV.
Lord LUCAN to Lord HUME.

Dear Hume,

YOUR last letter has brought about a fatal event. I shall make no merit of letting you into a secret, which is now at an end for ever! Lady Barton was the charming woman, to whom my heart had dedicated my life. Her beau­ty, purity, and frankness, sure never yet were equalled! My attentions and regards, I fear, were too much marked towards her, for it seems they were ta­ken notice of by a gentleman, Colonel Walter, who likewise visited at her house.

[Page 298]This happened unfortunately to excite some jealousy in his breast. Though how was it possible for such a being as her to inspire a love without honour! He gave hints of his suspicion, though they then appeared to be of no conse­quence; but upon reading your letter, my mind quickly referred to the persons in question, though you neither men­tioned his name, or mine.

I was shocked at the falshood and vil­lainy of the story—Had Lady Barton been an object of the utmost indifference to me, honour and humanity must have excited me to exculpate both her and myself, from so vile a slander—But, adoring her as I do! mere justice was too lukewarm a principle of action—I added resentment to it.

[Page 299]I set out immediately for his house, and charged him with his perfidy—He denied it at first, but when I had pro­duced my voucher, he attempted to ex­cuse himself, by saying, ‘"that as the la­dy had herself acknowledged a passion for me, to him, it required no great reach of philosophy to deduce the na­tural conclusion he had drawn from such premises."’

‘"I shall then render myself worthy of such a confession, said I, by chastis­ing your breach of honour in repeat­ing it."’—I had come prepared, and told him so, desiring him to follow me to the end of a grove near the place, which he soon did—We were both wounded, but he mortally. I took care of him home—He seemed sensible and sorry [Page 300] for his crime, and said he would repair it—He is since dead.

Lady Barton is now languishing in the last stage of a consumption—And I am the most wretched being upon earth—I would fly out of the kingdom this moment, but that I must stay to take my trial here—Alas! of what use would flight be to me—Can I leave the remem­brance of my sorrows behind! Let me see you as soon as you arrive, and be­ [...]ieve me

your unhappy friend, LUCAN.

LETTER LXXVI.
Lady HUME to Lady BARTON.

IN what terms shall I express the feel­ings of my heart, for my more than amiable, my unhappy sister! her suffer­ings have brought me near the brink of the grave, and now that they are past, why does she cruelly refuse her own as­sent to life, and happiness? Live, my Louisa! and do not doom me for ever to lament that I was blessed with such a friend!

I am scarce recovered from a dan­gerous fever, and yet have got so far on my way, to assist your recovery, un­mindful of my own—Let not my fond attention be thrown away, I conjure you! [Page 302] but in pity to Sir William, to the gen­tle Harriet, and to me at least, exert a wish to live—I ask no more! the rest may be expected from your youth, and the unceasing assiduity of such tender friends.

I have not strength to undertake a journey through Wales; besides it must delay our meeting—I shall sail this night from Pargate—My dear lord trembles for what I may suffer from sea sickness—I can feel no ills but your's—the moment we land, I shall set out for Southfield; I hope I shall be there before this let­ter—I am incapable of writing, my fears distract me, yet I will strive to hope.

I acquainted my brother with every particular of your story, the moment I [Page 303] had received your permission, which was the very hour before we parted—He wept, and would have accompanied me, if his Delia had been in a condition for travelling.

The tenderest of husband's joins me in the most fervent prayers and wishes for your recovery—O live to be a witness of the happiness I experience from his kindness, and that happiness will be then complete—Adieu, my dearest sister!

F. HUME.

LETTER LXXVII.
Lady HUME to Sir GEORGE CLEVELAND.

YES, my dear brother, I have seen her! but fear I shall not long enjoy that blessing—Death lies in ambush on her lovely cheek, and lurks beneath the dimples of her smiles.

My lord said she never looked so beau­tiful as now—I think so, too! Why must those beauties perish in the grave? She was transported at seeing me, joy over­powered her feeble frame, she became quite exhausted, and was obliged to re­tire to her chamber, very early.

The next morning she sent for Sir William and me, into her dressing-room; [Page 305] She appeared more animated than I had ever seen her, when she addressed him thus—‘"Heaven has indulged my ut­most wish, in granting me the happi­ness of seeing my beloved sister; but I should be unworthy of this blessing, if I did not endeavour that you also should be a gainer by it—Here, Sir William, pointing to me, here is the witness of my weakness and my virtue, every movement of my heart has been laid open to her view, and to her I dare appeal, to justify its purity, while with myself, she must condemn its frailty—If there yet needs a farther proof to satisfy you, I will entreat my Fanny to submit the letters which have passed between us, to your perusal—There you will see the conflicts of a weak, not wicked mind; and for the [Page 306] single trespass of my heart, though an involuntary one, I now upon my knees implore your pardon."’

Sir William caught her in his arms, before she could kneel, and bathed her face with his fast flowing tears—His voice was inarticulate, and he could scarce pro­nounce, ‘"'Tis I that ought to kneel, and sue for pardon, my angel! my Louisa! O spare yourself and me these strong emotions! I, only I, have been to blame! And could I now restore your life and happiness, by parting with my own, I should not think my punishment severe—But O, to lose you thus! is misery extreme."’

How severely do I now reproach my­self for not sooner acquainting you with the unhappy situation of our dear sister! [Page 307] Perhaps you might have rendered it more easy, and saved her precious life! But it was at her request that I concealed it till Colonel Walter's dying confession had cleared her innocence.

I cannot write more, my heart is breaking! soon, too soon! shall I, I fear, subscribe myself your only and

affectionate sister, F. HUME.

LETTER LXXVIII.
Lady HUME to Sir GEORGE CLEVELAND.

SHE is gone, for ever! I shall no more behold her! her gentle spirit took its flight to heaven, while these fond arms in vain endeavoured to sup­port [Page 308] the feeble frame from whence it parted—She sunk upon my bosom, and expired! nor sigh nor groan gave warn­ing of her death, she closed her eyes, and slept for ever!

No words can paint the grief and dis­traction, of her unhappy husband, the tender sorrow of the gentle Harriet, or the heart-felt anguish of your

afflicted sister, F. HUME.
THE END.

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