Part 8 out of 8
to guide you in the hour of trial?"
"Fear not, dear Clara," said I; "my own energies will always extricate
me from the dangers you apprehend."
"Alas! it is these very energies which I dread," said Clara; "but
I trust that all will be for the best. Accept," said she, "of this
little book from poor broken-hearted Clara; and, if you love her, look
at it sometimes."
I took the book, and embracing her affectionately, assured her, that
for her sake I would read it.
When I had completed my arrangements for my foreign tour, I determined
to take one last look at ---- Hall before I left England. I set off
unknown to my family; and contrived to be near the boundaries of the
park by dusk. I desired the postboy to stop half a mile from the
house, and to wait my return. I cleared the paling; and, avoiding the
direct road, came up to the house. The room usually occupied by the
family was on the ground floor, and I cautiously approached the
window. Mr Somerville and Emily were both there. He was reading aloud;
she sat at the table with a book before her: but her thoughts, it was
evident, were not there; she had inserted her taper fingers into
the ringlets of her hair, until the palms of her hand reached her
forehead; then, bending her head towards the table, she leaned on her
elbows, and seemed absorbed in the most melancholy reflections.
"This, too, is my work," said I; "this fair flower is blighted, and
withering by the contagious touch of my baneful hand. Good Heaven!
what a wretch am I! whoever loves me is rewarded by misery. And what
have I gained by this wide waste and devastation, which my wickedness
has spread around me? Happiness? no, no--that I have lost for ever.
Would that _my_ loss were all! would that comfort might visit the soul
of this fair creature and another. But I dare not--I cannot pray; I
am at enmity with God and man. Yet I will make an effort in favour of
this victim of my baseness. O God," continued I, "if the prayers of an
outcast like me can find acceptance, not for myself, but for her, I
ask that peace which the world cannot give; shower down thy blessings
upon her, alleviate her sorrows, and erase from her memory the
existence of such a being as myself. Let not my hateful image hang as
a blight upon her beauteous frame."
Emily resumed her book, when her father had ceased reading aloud; and
I saw her wipe a tear from her cheek.
The excitement occasioned by this scene, added to my previous illness,
from the effects of which I had not sufficiently recovered, caused a
faintness; I sat down under the window, in hopes that it would pass
off. It did not, however; for I fell, and lay on the turf in a state
of insensibility, which must have lasted nearly half an hour. I
afterwards learned from Clara, that Emily had opened the window, it
being a French one, to walk out and recover herself. By the bright
moon-light, she perceived me lying on the ground. Her first idea was,
that I had committed suicide; and, with this impression, she shut
the window, and tottering to the back part of the room, fainted. Her
father ran to her assistance, and she fell into his arms. She was
taken up to her room, and consigned to the care of her woman, who put
her to bed; but she was unable to give any account of herself, or the
cause of her disorder, until the following day.
For my own part, I gradually came to my senses, and with difficulty
regained my chaise, the driver of which told me I had been gone about
an hour. I drove off to town, wholly unaware that I had been observed
by any one, much less by Emily. When she related to her father what
she had seen, he either disbelieved or affected to disbelieve it, and
treated it as the effects of a distempered mind, the phantoms of a
disordered imagination; and she at length began to coincide with him.
I started for the continent a few days afterwards. Talbot, who had
seen little of Clara since my rejection by Emily, and subsequent
illness, offered my father to accompany me; and Clara was anxious that
he should go, as she was determined not to listen to any thing he
could say during my affliction; she could not, she said, be happy
while I was miserable, and gave him no opportunity of conversing with
her on the subject of their union.
We arrived at Paris; but so abstracted was I in thought, that I
neither saw nor heard any thing. Every attention of Talbot was lost
upon me. I continued in my sullen stupor, and forgot to read the
little book which dear Clara had given, and which, for her sake, I had
promised to read. I wrote to Eugenia on my arrival; and disburthened
my mind in some measure, by acknowledging my shameful treatment of
her. I implored her pardon; and, by return of post, received it.
Her answer was affectionate and consoling; but she stated that her
spirits, of course, were low, and her health but indifferent.
For many days my mind remained in a state, of listless inanity; and
Talbot applied, or suffered others to apply, the most pernicious
stimulant that could be thought of to rouse me to action. Taking
a quiet walk with him, we met some friends of his; and, at their
request, we agreed to go to the saloons of the Palais Royal. This was
a desperate remedy, and by a miracle only was I saved from utter and
irretrievable ruin. How many of my countrymen have fallen victims to
the arts practised in that horrible school of vice, I dare not say!
Happy should I be to think that the infection had not reached our own
shores, and found patrons among the great men of the land. They have,
however, both felt the consequences, and been forewarned of the
danger. _They_ have no excuse: _mine_ was, that I had been excluded
from the society of those I loved. Always living by excitement, was it
surprising that, when a gaming-table displayed its hoards before me, I
should have fallen at once into the snare?
For the first time since my illness, I became interested, and laid
down my money on those abhorred tables. My success was variable; but
I congratulated myself that at length I had found a stimulus; and I
anxiously awaited the return of the hour when the doors would again be
opened, and the rooms lighted up for the reception of company. I won
considerably; and night after night found me at the table--for avarice
is insatiable; but my good luck left me: and then the same motive
induced me to return, with the hope of winning back what I had lost.
Still fortune was unpropitious, and I lost very considerable sums. I
became desperate; and drew largely on my father. He wrote to beg that
I would be more moderate; as twice his income would not support such
an expenditure. He wrote also to Talbot, who informed him in
what manner the money had been expended; and that he had in vain
endeavoured to divert me from the fatal practice. Finding that no
limits were likely to be put to my folly, my father very properly
refused to honour any more of my bills.
Maddened with this intimation, for which I secretly blamed Talbot, I
drew upon Eugenia's banker bill after bill, until the sum amounted
to more than what my father had paid. At length a letter came from
Eugenia. It was but a few lines.
"I know too well, my dearest friend," said she, "what becomes of the
money you have received. If you want it all, I cannot refuse you; but
remember that you are throwing away the property of your child."
This letter did more to rouse me to a sense of my infamous conduct
than the advice of Talbot, or the admonitions of my father. I felt I
was acting like a scoundrel; and I resolved to leave off gaming. "One
night more," said I, "and then, if I lose, there is an end of it; I go
no more." Talbot attended me: he felt he was in some measure the cause
of my being first initiated in this pernicious amusement: and he
watched my motions with unceasing anxiety.
The game was _rouge et noir_. I threw a large sum on the red. I won,
left the stake, doubled, and won again. The heap of gold had increased
to a large size, and still remained to abide the chance of the card.
Again, again, and again, it was doubled. Seven times had the red card
been turned up; and seven times had my gold been doubled. Talbot, who
stood behind me, implored and begged me earnestly to leave off.
"What may be the consequence of one card against you? Trust no more to
fortune; be content with what you have got."
"That," muttered I, "Talbot, is of no use; I must have more."
Again came up the red, to the astonishment of the bystanders; and to
their still greater astonishment, my gold, which had increased to an
enormous heap, still remained on the table. Talbot again entreated me
not to tempt fortune foolishly.
"Folly," said I, "Talbot, has already been committed; and one more
card will do the business. It must be done."
The bankers knowing, after eight red cards had been turned up, how
great the chance was of regaining all their losses by a double or
quits, agreed to the ninth card. Talbot trembled like a leaf. The card
was turned; it came up red, and the bank was broke.
Here all play ceased for that night. The losers, of course, vented
their feelings in the most blasphemous execrations; while I quietly
collected all my winnings, and returned home in a _fiacre_, with
Talbot, who took the precaution of requesting the attendance of two
_gens d'armes_. These were each rewarded with a Napoleon.
"Now, Talbot," said I, "I solemnly swear, as I hope to go to heaven,
never to play again." And this promise I have most religiously kept.
My good fortune was one instance in ten thousand, among those who have
been ruined in that house. The next morning I refunded all I had drawn
upon Eugenia, and all my father had supplied me with, and there still
remained a considerable residue.
Determined not to continue in this vortex of dissipation any longer,
where my resolution was hourly put to the test, Talbot and myself
agreed to travel down to Brest, an arsenal we were both desirous of
_Pal_. Thou art a traitor, Arcite, and a fellow
False as thy title to her. Friendship, blood,
And all the ties between us, I disclaim.
_Arc_. You are mad.
_Pal_. I must be,
Till thou art worthy, Arcite; it concerns me!
And, in this madness, if I hazard thee
And take thy life, I deal but truly.
_Arc_. Fie, Sir!
_Two Noble Kimmen_.
We quitted Paris two days after; and a journey of three days, through
an uninteresting country, brought us to the little town of Granville,
on the sea-coast, in the channel. We remained at this delightful place
some days; and our letters being regularly forwarded to us, brought us
intelligence from England. My father expressed his astonishment at
my returning the money drawn for; and trusted, unaccountable as the
restitution appeared, that I was not offended, and would consider him
my banker, as far as his expenditure and style of living would permit
him to advance.
Eugenia, in her letters, reproached herself for having written to me;
and concluded that I had drawn so largely upon her, merely to prove
her sincerity. She assured me that her caution to me was not dictated
by selfishness, but from a consideration for the child.
Clara's letter informed me that every attempt, even to servility, had
been made, in order to induce Emily to alter her determination, but
without success; and that a coolness had, in consequence, taken
place, and almost an entire interruption of the intimacy between the
families. She also added, "I am afraid that your friend is even worse
than yourself; for I understand that he is engaged to another woman,
and has been so for years. Now, as I must consider that the great tie
of your intimacy is his supposed partiality to me, and as I conceive
you are under a false impression with respect to his sincerity,
I think it my duty to make you acquainted with all I know. It is
impossible that you can esteem the man who has trifled with the
feelings of your sister; and I sincerely hope that the next letter
from you will inform me of your having separated."
How little did poor Clara think, when she wrote this letter, of
the consequences likely to arise from it; that in thus venting her
complaints, she was exploding a mine which was to produce results ten
times more fatal than any thing which had yet befallen us?
I was at this period in a misanthropic state of mind, hating myself
and every one about me. The company of Talbot had long been endured,
not enjoyed; and I would gladly have availed myself of any plausible
excuse for a separation. True, he was my friend, had proved himself
so; but I was in no humour to acknowledge favours. Discarded by her I
loved, I discarded every one else. Talbot was a log and a chain, and I
thought I could not get rid of him too soon. This letter, therefore,
gave me a fair opportunity of venting my spleen; but instead of a cool
dismissal, as Clara requested, I determined to dismiss him or myself
to another world.
Having finished reading my letter, I laid it down, and made no
observation. Talbot, with his usual kind and benevolent countenance,
inquired if I had any news? "Yes," I replied, "I have discovered that
you are a villain!"
"That is news, indeed," said he; "and strange that the brother of
Clara should have been the messenger to convey it; but this is
language, Frank, which not even your unhappy state of mind can excuse.
Retract your words."
"I repeat them," said I. "You have trifled with my sister, and are a
villain." (Had this been true, it was no more than I had done myself;
but my victims had no brothers to avenge their wrongs.)
"The name of Clara," replied Talbot, "calms me; believe me, Frank,
you are mistaken. I love her, and have always had the most honourable
intentions towards her."
"Yes," said I, with a sarcastic sneer, "at the time that you have
been engaged to another woman for years. To one or the other you must
acknowledge yourself a scoundrel: I do not, therefore, withdraw my
appellation, but repeat it; and as you seem so very patient under
injuries, I inform you that you must either meet me on the sands this
evening, or consent to be stigmatised with another name still more
revolting to the feelings of an Englishman."
"Enough, enough, Frank," said Talbot, with a face, in which conscious
innocence and manly fortitude were blended; "you have said more than I
ever expected to have heard from you, and more than the customs of the
world will allow me to put up with. What must be, must; but I still
tell you, Frank, that you are wrong--that you are fatally deluded, and
that you will bitterly repent the follies of this day. It is yourself
with whom you are angry, and you are venting that anger on your
The words were thrown away on me. I felt a secret malignant pleasure,
which blindly impelled me forward, with the certainty of glutting my
revenge, by either destroying or being destroyed. My sole preparation
for this dreadful conflict was my pistols; no other did I think of,
not even the chances of sending my friend and fellow-mortal, or going
myself into the presence of an Almighty judge. My mind was absorbed in
secret pleasure, at the idea of that acute misery which Emily would
suffer if I fell by the hand of Talbot.
I repaired to the rendezvous, where I found Talbot waiting. He came up
to me, and again said,
"Frank, I call heaven to witness that you are mistaken. You are wrong.
Suspend your opinion, at least, if you will not recall your words."
Totally possessed by the devil, and not to be convinced, till too
late, I replied to his peaceful overture by the most insulting irony:
"You were not afraid to fire at a poor boy in the water," said I,
"though you do not like to stand a shot in return. Come, come, take
your ground, be a man, stand up, don't be afraid."
"For myself," said Talbot, with a firm and placid resignation of
countenance, "I have no fears; but for you, Frank, I have great cause
of alarm:" so saying, he snatched up the loaded pistol which I threw
down to him.
We had no seconds; nor was there any person in sight. It was a bright
moonlight, and we walked to the water's edge, where the reflux of the
tide had left the sand firm to the tread. Here we stood back to back.
The usual distance was fourteen paces. Talbot refused to measure his,
but stood perfectly still. I walked ten paces, and turned round,
"Ready," said I in a low voice.
We both raised our arms; but Talbot, instantly dropping the muzzle of
his pistol, said, "I cannot fire at the brother of Clara."
"I can at her insulter," answered I; and, taking deliberate aim,
fired, and my ball entered his side. He bounded, gave a half turn
round in the air, and fell on his face to the ground.
How sudden are the transitions of the human mind! how close does
remorse follow the gratification of revenge! The veil dropped from my
eyes; I saw in an instant the false medium, the deceitful vision which
had thus allured me into what the world calls "an affair of honour."
"Honour," good heaven! had made me a murderer, and the voice of my
brother's blood cried out for vengeance.
The manly and athletic form, which one minute before excited my most
malignant hatred, when now prostrate and speechless, became an object
of frantic affection. I ran to Talbot, and when it was too late
perceived the mischief I had done. Murder, cruelty, injustice, and,
above all, the most detestable ingratitude, flashed at once into
my overcrowded imagination. I turned the body round, and tried to
discover if there were any signs of life. A small stream of blood ran
from his side, and, about two feet from him, was lost in the absorbing
sand; while from the violence of his fall the sand had filled his
mouth and nostrils. I cleaned them out; and, staunching the wound with
my handkerchief, for the blood flowed copiously at every respiration,
I sat on the sea-shore by his side, supporting him in my arms. I only
exclaimed, "Would to God the shark, the poison, the sword of the
enemy, or the precipice of Trinidad had destroyed me before this fatal
Talbot opened his languid eyes, and fixed them on me with a glassy
stare; but he did not speak. Suddenly, recollection seemed for a
moment to return--he recognised me, and, O God, his look of kindness
pierced my heart. He made several efforts to speak, and at last said,
in broken accents, and at long and painful intervals,
"Look at letter--writing-desk--read all--explain--God bless--" His
head fell back, and he was dead.
Oh, how I envied him! Had he been ten thousand times more guilty than
I had ever supposed him, it would have given no comfort to my mind. I
had murdered him, and too late I acknowledged his innocence. I know
not why, and can scarcely tell how I did it, but I took off my
neckcloth, and bound it tightly round his waist, over the wound. The
blood ceased to flow. I left the body, and returned to our lodging, in
a state of mental prostration and misery, proportioned to the heat and
excitement with which I had quitted it.
My first object was to read the letters which my poor friend had
referred to. On my arrival, both our servants were up. My hands and
clothes were dyed with blood, and they looked at me with astonishment.
I ran hastily upstairs, to avoid them, and took the writing-desk, the
key of which I knew hung to his watch-chain. Seizing the poker, I
split it open, and took out the packet he mentioned. At this moment
his servant entered the room.
"_Et mon maitre, Monsieur, ou est-il_?"
"I have murdered him," said I, "and you will find him in the sands,
near the signal-post; and," continued I, "I am now robbing him!"
My appearance and actions seemed to prove the truth of my assertion.
The man flew out of the room; but I was regardless of everything, and
even wonder why I should have given my attention to the letters at
all, especially as I had now convinced myself of Talbot's innocence.
The packet, however, I did read; and it consisted of a series of
letters between Talbot and his father, who had engaged him to a young
lady of rank and fortune, without consulting him--_une mariage
de convenance_--which Talbot had resisted in consequence of his
attachment to Clara.
I have already stated that Talbot was of high aristocratic family; and
this marriage being wished for by the parents of both parties, they
had given it out as being finally settled to take place on the return
of Talbot to England. In the last letter, the father had yielded to
his entreaties in favour of Clara; only requesting him not to be
precipitate in offering himself, as he wished to find some excuse for
breaking off the match; and, above all, he fatally enjoined profound
secrecy till the affair was arranged. Here, then, was everything
explained. Indeed, before I had read these letters, my mind did not
need this damning proof of his innocence and my guilt.
Just as I had finished reading, _the gens d'armes_ entered my room,
and, with the officers of justice, led me away to prison. I walked
mechanically. I was conducted to a small building in the centre of a
square. This was a _cachot_, with an iron-grated window on each of
its four sides, but without glass. There was no bench, or table, or
anything but the bare walls and the pavement. The wind blew sharply
through. I had not even a great-coat; but I felt no cold or personal
inconvenience, for my mind was too much occupied by superior misery.
The door closed on me, and I heard the bolts turn. There was not an
observation made on either part, and I was left to myself.
"Well," said I, "Fate has now done its worst, and Fortune will be
weary at last of tormenting a wretch that she can sink no lower! Death
has no terrors for me; and, after death--!" But, even in my misery,
I scarcely gave a thought to what might happen in futurity. It
might occasionally have obtruded itself on my mind, but was quickly
dismissed: I had adopted the atheistical creed of the French
"Death is eternal sleep, and the sooner I go to sleep the better!"
thought I. The only point that pressed itself on my mind was the dread
of a public execution. This my pride revolted at; for pride had again
returned, and resumed its empire, even in my _cachot_.
As the day dawned, the noise of the carts and country people coming
into the square with their produce, roused me from my reverie, for I
had not slept. The prison was surrounded by all ages and all classes,
to get a sight of the English murderer; and the light and the air were
stopped out of each window by human faces pressed against the bars. I
was gazed at as a wild beast; and the children, as they sat on their
mothers' shoulders to look at me, received a moral lesson and a
warning at my expense.
As a tiger, in his cage, wearies the eye by incessantly walking and
turning, so I paced my den; and if I could have reached one of the
impertinent gazers, through the slanting aperture and three foot
wall, I should have throttled him. "All these people," said I, "and
thousands more, will witness my last moments on the scaffold!"
Stung with this dreadful thought, with rage I searched in my
pockets for my penknife, to relieve me at one from my torments and
apprehensions; and had I found it, I should certainly have committed
suicide. Fortunately I had left it at home, or it would have been
buried, in that moment of frenzy, in the carotid artery; for as well
as others, I knew exactly where to find it.
The crowd at length began to disperse; the windows were left, except
now and then an urchin of a boy showed his ragged head at the grille.
Worn out with bodily fatigue and mental suffering, I was going to
throw myself along upon the cold stones, when I saw the face of my own
servant, who advanced in haste to the window of the prison, exclaiming
"_Courage, mon cher maitre; Monsieur Talbot n'est pas mort_."
"Not dead!" exclaimed I (falling unconsciously on my knees, and
lifting up my clasped hands and haggard eyes to Heaven): "not dead!
God be praised. At least there is a hope that I may escape the crime
Before I could say more, the mayor entered my _cachot_ with the
officers of the police, and informed me that a _proces-verbal_ had
been held; that my friend had been able to give the clearest answers
to all their questions; and that it appeared from the evidence of
_Monsieur Talbot_ himself, that it was an affair _d'honneur_, fairly
decided; that the brace of pistols found in the water had confirmed
his assertions. "And therefore, _Monsieur_," continued the mayor,
"whether your friend lives or dies, _tout a ete fait en regle, et vous
So saying, he bowed very politely, and pointed to the door; nor was I
so ceremonious as to beg him to show me the way; out I ran, and flew
to the apartment of Talbot, who had sent my servant to say how much he
wished to see me. I found him in bed. As I entered, he held out his
hand to me, which I covered with kisses, and bathed with my tears.
"Oh, Talbot!" said I, "can you forgive me?"
He squeezed my hand, and from exhaustion let it fall. The surgeon led
me out of the room, saying, "All depends on his being kept quiet." I
then learned that he owed his life to two circumstances--the first
was, my having bound my neckcloth round the wound; the other was, that
the duel took place below high-water mark. The tide was rising when I
left him; and the cold waves, as they rippled against his body, had
restored him to animation. In this state he was found by his servant,
not many minutes before the flood would have covered him, for he had
not strength to remove out of its way. I ascertained also that the
ball had entered his liver, and had passed out without doing farther
I now dressed myself, and devoutly thanking God for his miraculous
preservation, took my seat by the bed-side of the patient, which
I never quitted until his perfect recovery. When this was happily
completed, I wrote to my father and to Clara, giving both an exact
account of the whole transaction. Clara, undeceived, made no scruple
of acknowledging her attachment. Talbot was requested by his father to
return home. I accompanied him as far as Calais, where we parted; and
in a few weeks after, I had the pleasure of hearing that my sister had
become his wife.
Left to myself, I returned slowly, and much depressed in spirits,
to Quillac's; where, ordering post-horses, I threw myself into my
travelling carriage, into which my valet had, by my orders, previously
placed my luggage.
"Where are you going to, Monsieur?" said the valet.
"_Au diable!_" said I.
"_Mais les passeports?_" said the man.
I felt that I had sufficient passports for the journey I had proposed;
but correcting myself, said, "to Switzerland." It was the first name
that came into my head; and I had heard that it was the resort of all
my countrymen whose heads, hearts, lungs, or finances were disordered.
But, during my journey, I neither saw nor heard any thing,
consequently took no notes, which my readers will rejoice at, because
they will be spared that inexhaustible supply to the trunk makers, "A
Tour through France and Switzerland." I travelled night and day; for
I could not sleep. The allegory of Io and the gad-fly, in the heathen
mythology, must surely have been intended to represent the being, who,
like myself, was tormented by a bad conscience. Like Io, I flew; and
like her, was I pursued by the eternal gad-fly, wherever I went, and
in vain did I try to escape it.
I passed the Great St Bernard on foot. This interested me as I
approached it. The mountains below, and the Alps above, were one mass
of snow and ice, and I looked down with contempt on the world below
me. I took up my abode in the convent for some time; my ample
contributions to the box in the chapel, made me a welcome sojourner
beyond the limited period allowed to travellers, and I felt less and
less inclined to quit the scene. My amusement was climbing the most
frightful precipices, followed by the large and faithful dogs, and
viewing nature in her wildest and most sublime attire. At other times,
when bodily fatigue required rest, I sat down, with morbid melancholy,
in the receptacle for the bodies of those unfortunate persons who had
perished in the snow. There would I remain for hours, musing on their
fate: the purity of the air admitted neither putrefaction, or even
decay, for a very considerable time; and they lay, to all appearance,
as if the breath had even then only quitted them, although, on
touching those who had been there for years, they would often crumble
Roman Catholics, we know, are ever anxious to make converts. The prior
asked me whether I was not a protestant? I replied, that I was of no
religion; which answer was, I believe, much nearer to the truth than
any other I could have given. The reply was far more favourable to the
hopes of the monks, than if I had said I was a heretic or a moslem.
They thought me much more likely to become a convert to _their_
religion, since I had none of my own to oppose to it. The monks
immediately arranged themselves in theological order, with the whole
armour of faith, and laid constant siege to me on all sides; but I was
not inclined to any religion, much less to the one I despised. I would
sooner have turned Turk.
I received a letter from poor unhappy Eugenia--it was the last she
ever wrote. It was to acquaint me with the death of her lovely boy,
who, having wandered from the house, had fallen into a trout-stream,
where he was found drowned some hours after. In her distracted
state of mind, she could add no more than her blessing, and a firm
conviction that we should never meet again in this world. Her letter
concluded incoherently; and although I should have said, in the
morning, that my mind had not room for another sorrow, yet the loss of
this sweet boy, and the state of his wretched mother, found a place in
my bosom for a time, to the total exclusion of all other cares. She
requested me to hasten to her without delay, if I wished to see her
before she died.
I took leave of the monks, and travelled with all speed to Paris, and
thence to Calais. Reaching Quillac's hotel, I received a shock which,
although I apprehended danger, I was not prepared for. It was a letter
from Eugenia's agent, announcing her death. She had been seized with
a brain fever, and had died at a small town in Norfolk, where she had
removed soon after our last unhappy interview. The agent concluded his
letter by saying, that Eugenia had bequeathed me all her property,
which was very considerable, and that her last rational words to him
were, that I was her first and her only love.
I was now callous to suffering. My feelings had been racked to
insensibility. Like a ship in a hurricane, the last tremendous sea had
swept everything from the decks--the vessel was a wreck, driving as
the storm might chance to direct. In the midst of this devastation,
I looked around me, and the only object which presented itself to my
mind, as worthy of contemplation, was the tomb which contained the
remains of Eugenia and her child. To that I resolved to repair.
With sorrow and repentance true,
Father, I trembling come to you.
I arrived at the town where poor Eugenia had breathed her last, and
near to which was the cemetery in which her remains were deposited.
I went to the inn, whence, after having dismissed my post-boy and
ordered my luggage to be taken up to my room, I proceeded on foot
towards the spot. I was informed that the path lay between the church
and the bishop's palace. I soon reached it; and, inquiring for the
sexton, who lived in a cottage hard by, requested he would lead me to
a certain grave, which I indicated by tokens too easily known.
"Oh, you mean the sweet young lady, as died of grief for the loss of
her little boy. There it is," continued he, pointing with his finger;
"the white peacock is now sitting on the headstone of the grave, and
the little boy is buried beside it."
I approached, while the humble sexton kindly withdrew, that I might,
without witnesses, indulge that grief which he saw was the burthen of
my aching heart. The bird remained, but without dressing its plumage,
without the usual air of surprise and vigilance evinced by domestic
fowls, when disturbed in their haunts. This poor creature was
moulting; its feathers were rumpled and disordered; its tail ragged.
There was no beauty in the animal, which was probably only kept as a
variety of the species; and it appeared to me as if it had been placed
there as a lesson to myself. In its modest attire, in its melancholy
and pensive attitude, it seemed, with its gaudy plumage, to have
dismissed the world and its vanities, while in mournful silence it
surveyed the crowded mementoes of eternity.
"This is my office, not thine," said I, apostrophising the bird,
which, alarmed at my near approach, quitted its position, and
disappeared among the surrounding tombs. I sat down, and fixing my
eyes on the name which the tablet bore, ran over, in a hurried manner,
all that part of my career which had been more immediately connected
with the history of Eugenia. I remembered her many virtues; her
self-devotion for my honour and happiness; her concealing herself
from me, that I might not blast my prospects in life by continuing
an intimacy which she saw would end in my ruin; her firmness of
character, her disinterested generosity, and the refinement of
attachment which made her prefer misery and solitude to her own
gratification in the society of the man she loved. She had, alas! but
one fault, and that fault was loving me. I could not drive from my
thoughts, that it was through my unfortunate and illicit connection
with her that I had lost all that made life dear to me.
At this moment (and not once since the morning I awoke from it) my
singular dream recurred to my mind. The thoughts which never had once
during my eventful voyage from the Bahamas to the Cape, and thence to
England, presented themselves in my waking hours, must certainly
have possessed my brain during sleep. Why else should it never have
occurred to my rational mind that the connection with Eugenia would
certainly endanger that intended with Emily? It was Eugenia that
placed Emily in mourning, out of my reach, and, as it were, on the top
of the Nine-Pin Rock.
Here, then, my dream was explained; and I now felt all the horrors of
that reality which I thought at the time was no more than the effect
of a disordered imagination. Yet I could not blame Eugenia; the poor
girl had fallen a victim to that deplorable and sensual education
which I had received in the cockpit of a man-of-war. I, I alone was
the culprit. She was friendless, and without a parent to guide her
youthful steps; she fell a victim to my ungoverned passions. Maddened
with anguish of head and heart, I threw myself violently on the grave:
I beat my miserable head against the tombstones; I called with frantic
exclamation on the name of Eugenia; and at length sank on the turf,
between the two graves, in a state of stupor and exhaustion, from
which a copious flood of tears in some measure relieved me.
I was aroused by the sound of wheels and the trampling of horses;
and, looking up, I perceived the bishop's carriage and four, with
out-riders, pass by. The livery and colour of the carriage were
certainly what is denominated quiet; but there was an appearance of
state which indicated that the owner had not entirely "renounced the
pomps and vanities of this wicked world," and my spleen was excited.
"Ay, sweep along," I bitterly muttered, "worthy type indeed of the
apostles! I like the pride that apes humility. Is that the way
you teach your flock to 'leave all, and follow me'?" I started up
suddenly, saying to myself, "I will seek this man in his palace, and
see whether I shall be kindly received and consoled, or be repulsed by
The thought was sudden, and, being conceived almost in a state of
frenzy, was instantly executed. "Let me try," said I, "whether a
bishop can 'administer to the mind diseased' as well as a country
I moved on with rapidity to the palace, more in a fit of desperation
than with a view of seeking peace of mind. I rang loudly and
vehemently at the gate, and asked whether the bishop was at home. An
elderly domestic, who seemed to regard me with astonishment, answered
in the affirmative, and desired me to walk into an ante-room, while he
announced me to his master.
I now began to recall my scattered senses, which had been wandering,
and to perceive the absurdity of my conduct; I was therefore about to
quit the palace, into which I had so rudely intruded, without waiting
for my audience, when the servant opened the door and requested me to
By what inscrutable means are the designs of Providence brought about!
While I thought I was blindly following the impulse of passion, I was,
in fact, guided by unerring Wisdom. A prey to desperate and irritated
feelings, I anticipated, with malignant pleasure, that I should detect
hypocrisy--that one who ought to set an example, should be weighed
by me, and found wanting; instead of which I stumbled on my own
salvation! Where I expected to meet with pride and scorn, I met with
humility and kindness. When I had looked around on the great circle
bounded by the visible horizon, and could perceive no friendly port in
which I might lay my shattered vessel, behold it was close at hand!
I followed the servant with a kind of stupid indifference, and was
ushered into the presence of a benevolent-looking old man, between
sixty and seventy years of age. His whole external appearance, as well
as his white hairs, commanded respect amounting almost to admiration.
I was not prepared to speak, which he perceived, and kindly began.
"As you are a stranger to me, I fear, from your careworn countenance,
that it is no common occurrence which has brought you here. Sit down:
you seem in distress; and if it is in my power to afford you relief,
you may be assured that I will do so."
There was in his manner and address an affectionate kindness which
overcame me. I could neither speak nor look at him; but, laying my
head on the table, and hiding my face with my hands, I wept bitterly.
The good bishop allowed me reasonable time to recover myself, and,
with extreme good breeding, mildly requested that, if it were
possible, I would confide to him the cause of my affliction.
"Be not afraid or ashamed, my good lad," said he, "to tell me your
sorrows. If we have temporal blessings, we do not forget that we are
but the almoners of the Lord: we endeavour to follow his example; but,
if I may judge from appearance, it is not pecuniary aid you have come
"No, no," replied I; "it is not money that I want:" but, choked with
excess of feeling, I could say no more.
"This is indeed a more important case than one of mere bodily want,"
said the good man. "_That_ we might very soon supply; but there seems
something in your condition which requires our more serious attention.
I thank the Almighty for selecting me to this service; and, with his
blessing, we shall not fail of success."
Then, going to the door, he called to a young lady, who I afterwards
found was his daughter; and, holding the door a-jar as he spoke, that
I might not be seen in my distress, said, "Caroline, my dear, write to
the duke, and beg him to excuse my dining with him to-day. Tell him
that I am kept at home by business of importance; and give orders that
I be not interrupted on any account."
He then turned the key in the door; and, drawing a chair close to
mine, begged me, in the most persuasive manner, to tell him every
thing without reserve, in order that he might apply such a remedy as
the case seemed to demand.
I first asked for a glass of wine, which was instantly brought; he
received it at the door, and gave it to me with his own hand.
Having drank it, I commenced the history of my life in a brief
outline, and ultimately told him all; nearly as much in detail as I
have related it to the reader. He listened to me with an intense and
painful interest, questioning me as to my feelings on many important
occasions; and having at length obtained from me an honest and candid
confession, without any extenuation,
"My young friend," said he, "your life has been one of peculiar
temptation and excess. Much to deplore, much to blame, and much to
repent of; but the state of feeling which induced you to come to me,
is a proof that you now only require that which, with God's help, I
trust I shall be able to supply. It is now late, and we both of us
require some refreshment. I will order in dinner, and you must send to
the inn for your portmanteau."
Perceiving that I was about to answer, "I must take no denial,"
resumed he. "You have placed yourself under my care as your physician,
and you must follow my prescriptions. My duty is as much more
important, compared to the doctor's, as the soul is to the body."
Dinner being served, he dismissed the servants as soon as possible,
and then asked me many questions relative to my family, all of which I
answered without reserve. He once mentioned Miss Somerville; but I was
so overcome, that he perceived my distress, and, filling me a glass of
wine, changed the subject.
If I thought that any words of mine could do justice to the persuasive
discourses of this worthy bishop, I would have benefited the world by
making them public; but I could not do this; and I trust that none of
my readers will have so much need of them as I had myself. I shall,
therefore, briefly state, that I remained in the palace ten days, in
the most perfect seclusion.
Every morning the good bishop dedicated two or three hours to my
instruction and improvement; he put into my hands one or two books
at a time, with marks in them, indicating the pages which I ought to
consult. He would have introduced me to his family; but this I begged,
for a time, to decline, being too much depressed and out of spirits;
and he indulged me in my request of being allowed to continue in the
apartments allotted to me.
On the seventh morning, he came to me, and after a short conversation,
informed me that business would require his absence for two or three
days, and that he would give me a task to employ me during the short
time he should be gone. He then put into my hand a work on the
sacrament. "This," said he, "I am sure you will read with particular
attention, so that on my return I may invite you to the feast." I
trembled as I opened the book. "Fear not, Mr Mildmay," said he; "I
tell you, from what I see of your symptoms, that the cure will be
Having said this, he gave me his blessing, and departed. He returned
exactly at the end of three days, and after a short examination, said
he would allow me to receive the sacrament, and that the holy ceremony
should take place in his own room privately, well knowing how much
affected I should be. He brought in the bread and wine; and having
consecrated and partaken of them himself, agreeably to the forms
prescribed, he made a short extempore prayer in my behalf.
When he had done this, he advanced towards me, and presented the
bread. My blood curdled as I took it in my mouth; and when I had
tasted the wine, the type of the blood of that Saviour, whose wounds
I had so often opened afresh in my guilty career, and yet upon the
merits of which I now relied for pardon, I felt a combined sensation
of love, gratitude and joy--a lightness and buoyancy of spirits, as if
I could have left the earth below me, disburthened of a weight
that had, till then, crushed me to the ground. I felt that I had
faith--that I was a new man--and that my sins were forgiven; and,
dropping my head on the side of the table, I remained some minutes in
grateful and fervent prayer.
The service being ended, I hastened to express my acknowledgments to
my venerable friend.
"I am but the humble instrument, my dear young friend," said the
bishop; "let us both give thanks to the almighty Searcher of hearts.
Let us hope that the work is perfect--for then, you will be the
occasion of 'joy in heaven.' And now," continued he, "let me ask you
one question. Do you feel in that state of mind that you could bear
any affliction which might befall you, without repining?"
"I trust, Sir," answered I, "that I could bear it, not only
cheerfully, but thankfully; and I now acknowledge that it is good for
me that I have been in trouble."
"Then all is right," said he; "and with such feelings I may venture to
give you this letter, which I promised the writer to deliver with my
As soon as my eye caught the superscription, "Gracious Heaven!"
exclaimed I; "it is from my Emily."
"Even so," said the bishop.
I tore it open. It contained only six lines, which were as follows:--
"Our mutual kind friend, the bishop, has proved to me how proud and
how foolish I have been. Forgive me, dear Frank, for I too have
suffered much; and come as soon as possible to your ever affectionate
This, then, was the object of the venerable bishop's absence. Bending
beneath age and infirmity, he had undertaken a journey of three
hundred miles, in order to ensure the temporal as well as eternal
welfare of a perfect stranger--to effect a reconciliation, without
which he saw that my worldly happiness was incomplete. I was
afterwards informed, that notwithstanding the weight of his character
and holy office, he had found Emily more decided in her rejection than
he had anticipated; and it was not until he had sharply rebuked her
for her pride and unforgiving temper, that she could be brought to
listen with patience to his arguments. But having at length convinced
her that the tenure of her own hopes depended on her forgiveness of
others, she relented, acknowledged the truth of his remarks, and her
undiminished affection for me. While she made this confession, she was
in the same position before the bishop, that I was when I received her
letter--on my knees, and in tears.
He gave me his hand, raised me up, "And, now, my young friend,"
said he, "let me give you one caution. I hope and I trust that your
repentance is sincere. If it be not, the guilt must rest on your head;
but I trust in God that all is as it should be. I will not, therefore,
detain you any longer: you must be impatient to be gone. Refreshment
is prepared for you: my horses will take you the first stage. Have you
funds sufficient to carry you through? for it is a long journey, as my
old bones can testify."
I assured him that I was sufficiently provided; and, expressing my
thanks for his kindness, wished that it was in my power to prove my
gratitude. "Put me to the test, my lord," said I, "if you possibly
"Well, then," replied he, "I will: when the day for your union with
Miss Somerville is fixed, allow me to have the pleasure of joining
your hands, should it please God to spare me so long. I have removed
the disease; but I must trust to somebody else to watch and prevent a
relapse. And believe me, my dear friend, however well-inclined a man
may be to keep in the straight path, he gains no little support from
the guidance and example of a lovely and virtuous woman."
I promised readily all he asked; and having finished a slight lunch,
again shook hands with the worthy prelate, jumped into my carriage,
and drove off. I travelled all night; and the next day was in the
society of those I loved, and who had ever loved me, in spite of all
my perverseness and folly.
A few weeks after, Emily and I were united by the venerable bishop,
who, with much emotion, gave us his benediction; and as the prayer of
the righteous man availeth much, I felt that it was recorded in our
favour in Heaven. Mr Somerville gave the bride away. My father, with
Talbot and Clara, were present; and the whole of us, after all my
strange vicissitudes, were deeply affected at this reconciliation and