Part 3 out of 3
both concluded she "wanted for nothing;" for to be poor, and too
delicate to complain, they deemed incompatible.
To heighten the sense of her degraded, friendless situation, she
knew that Henry had not been unmindful of his promise to her, but
that he had applied to his cousin in her and his child's behalf; for
he had acquainted her that William's answer was--"all obligations on
HIS part were now undertaken by his father; for that, Agnes having
chosen (in a fit of malignity upon his marriage) to apprise the dean
of their former intercourse, such conduct had for ever cancelled all
attention due from him to her, or to her child, beyond what its bare
In vain had Henry explained to him, by a second application, the
predicament in which poor Agnes was involved before she consented to
reveal her secret to his father. William was happy in an excuse to
rid himself of a burthen, and he seemed to believe, what he wished
to be true--that she had forfeited all claim to his farther notice.
Henry informed her of this unkind reception of his efforts in her
favour in as gentle terms as possible, for she excited his deepest
compassion. Perhaps our OWN misfortunes are the cause of our pity
for others, even more than THEIR ills; and Henry's present sorrows
had softened his heart to peculiar sympathy in woe. He had
unhappily found that the ardour which had hurried him to vindicate
the reputation of Rebecca was likely to deprive him of the blessing
of her ever becoming his proved an offender instead of his wife; for
the dean, chagrined that his son was at length nephew, submitted to
the temptation of punishing the latter, while he forgave the former.
He sent for Henry, and having coldly congratulated him on his and
Rebecca's innocence, represented to him the impropriety of marrying
the daughter of a poor curate, and laid his commands on him, "never
to harbour such an intention more." Henry found this restriction so
severe that he would not promise obedience; but on his next attempt
to visit Rebecca he met a positive repulse from her father, who
signified to him, "that the dean had forbidden him to permit their
farther acquaintance;" and the curate declared "that, for his own
part, he had no will, judgment, or faculties, but that he submitted
in all things to the superior clergy."
At the very time young Henry had received the proposal from Mr.
Rymer of his immediate union with his daughter, and the dean had
made no objection Henry waived the happiness for the time present,
and had given a reason why he wished it postponed. The reason he
then gave had its weight; but he had another concealed, of yet more
import. Much as he loved, and looked forward with rapture to that
time when every morning, every evening, and all the day, he should
have the delight of Rebecca's society, still there was one other
wish nearer his heart than this one desire which for years had been
foremost in his thoughts, and which not even love could eradicate.
He longed, he pined to know what fate had befallen his father.
Provided he were living, he could conceive no joy so great as that
of seeing him! If he were dead, he was anxious to pay the tribute
of filial piety he owed, by satisfying his affectionate curiosity in
every circumstance of the sad event.
While a boy he had frequently expressed these sentiments to both his
uncle and his cousin; sometimes they apprised him of the total
improbability of accomplishing his wishes; at other times, when they
saw the disappointment weigh heavy on his mind, they bade him "wait
till he was a man before he could hope to put his designs in
execution." He did wait. But on the very day he arrived at the age
of twenty-one, he made a vow--"that to gain intelligence of his
father should be the first important act of his free will."
Previously to this time he had made all the inquiries possible,
whether any new adventure to that part of Africa in which he was
bred was likely to be undertaken. Of this there appeared to be no
prospect till the intended expedition to Sierra Leone was announced,
and which favoured his hope of being able to procure a passage,
among those adventurers, so near to the island on which his father
was (or had been) prisoner, as to obtain an opportunity of visiting
it by stealth.
Fearing contention, or the being dissuaded from his plans if he
communicated them, he not only formed them in private, but he kept
them secretly; and, his imagination filled with the kindness, the
tenderness, the excess of fondness he had experienced from his
father, beyond any other person in the world, he had thought with
delight on the separation from all his other kindred, to pay his
duty to him, or to his revered memory. Of late, indeed, there had
been an object introduced to his acquaintance, from whom it was
bitter to part; but his designs had been planned and firmly fixed
before he knew Rebecca; nor could he have tasted contentment even
with her at the expense of his piety to his father.
In the last interview he had with the dean, Henry, perceiving that
his disposition towards him was not less harsh than when a few days
before he had ordered him on board a vessel, found this the proper
time to declare his intentions of accompanying the fleet to Sierra
Leone. His uncle expressed surprise, but immediately gave him a sum
of money in addition to that he had sent him before, and as much as
he thought might defray his expenses; and, as he gave it, by his
willingness, his look, and his accent, he seemed to say, "I foresee
this is the last you will ever require."
Young William, though a very dutiful son, was amazed when he heard
of Henry's project, as "the serious and settled resolution of a
Lady Clementina, Lord and Lady Bendham, and twenty others, "wished
him a successful voyage," and thought no more about him.
It was for Rebecca alone to feel the loss of Henry; it was for a
mind like hers alone to know his worth; nor did this last proof of
it, the quitting her for one who claimed by every tie a preference,
lessen him in her esteem. When, by a message from him, she became
acquainted with his design, much as it interfered with her
happiness, she valued him the more for this observance of his duty;
the more regretted his loss, and the more anxiously prayed for his
return--a return which he, in the following letter, written just
before his departure, taught her to hope for with augmented
"My Dear Rebecca,
"I do not tell you I am sorry to part from you--you know I am--and
you know all I have suffered since your father denied me permission
to see you.
"But perhaps you do not know the hopes I enjoy, and which bestow on
me a degree of peace; and those I am eager to tell you.
"I hope, Rebecca, to see you again; I hope to return to England, and
overcome every obstacle to our marriage; and then, in whatever
station we are placed, I shall consider myself as happy as it is
possible to be in this world. I feel a conviction that you would be
"Some persons, I know, estimate happiness by fine houses, gardens,
and parks; others by pictures, horses, money, and various things
wholly remote from their own species; but when I wish to ascertain
the real felicity of any rational man, I always inquire WHOM HE HAS
TO LOVE. If I find he has nobody, or does not love those he has,
even in the midst of all his profusion of finery and grandeur, I
pronounce him a being in deep adversity. In loving you, I am
happier than my cousin William; even though I am obliged to leave
you for a time.
"Do not be afraid you should grow old before I return; age can never
alter you in my regard. It is your gentle nature, your unaffected
manners, your easy cheerfulness, your clear understanding, the
sincerity of all your words and actions which have gained my heart;
and while you preserve charms like these, you will be dearer to me
with white hairs and a wrinkled face than any of your sex, who, not
possessing all these qualities, possess the form and features of
"You will esteem me, too, I trust, though I should return on
crutches with my poor father, whom I may be obliged to maintain by
"I shall employ all my time, during my absence, in the study of some
art which may enable me to support you both, provided Heaven will
bestow two such blessings on me. In the cheering thought that it
will be so, and in that only, I have the courage, my dear, dear
Rebecca, to say to you
"Farewell! H. NORWYNNE."
Before Henry could receive a reply to his letter, the fleet in which
he sailed put to sea.
By his absence, not only Rebecca was deprived of the friend she
loved, but poor Agnes lost a kind and compassionate adviser. The
loss of her parents, too, she had to mourn; for they both sickened,
and both died, in a short time after; and now wholly friendless in
her little exile, where she could only hope for toleration, not
being known, she was contending with suspicion, rebuffs,
disappointments, and various other ills, which might have made the
most rigorous of her Anfield persecutors feel compassion for her,
could they have witnessed the throbs of her heart, and all the deep
wounds there imprinted.
Still, there are few persons whom Providence afflicts beyond the
limits of ALL consolation; few cast so low as not to feel pride on
CERTAIN occasions; and Agnes felt a comfort and a dignity in the
thought, that she had both a mind and a body capable of sustaining
every hardship, which her destiny might inflict, rather than submit
to the disgrace of soliciting William's charity a second time.
This determination was put to a variety of trials. In vain she
offered herself to the strangers of the village in which she was
accidentally cast as a servant; her child, her dejected looks, her
broken sentences, a wildness in her eye, a kind of bold despair
which at times overspread her features, her imperfect story who and
what she was, prejudiced all those to whom she applied; and, after
thus travelling to several small towns and hamlets, the only
employer she could obtain was a farmer; and the only employment to
tend and feed his cattle while his men were in the harvest, tilling
the ground, or at some other labour which required at the time
Though Agnes was born of peasants, yet, having been the only child
of industrious parents, she had been nursed with a tenderness and
delicacy ill suited to her present occupation; but she endured it
with patience; and the most laborious part would have seemed light
could she have dismissed the reflection--what it was that had
reduced her to such a state.
Soon her tender hands became hard and rough, her fair skin burnt and
yellow; so that when, on a Sunday, she has looked in the glass, she
has started back as if it were some other face she saw instead of
her own. But this loss of beauty gave her no regret--while William
did not see her, it was indifferent to her, whether she were
beautiful or hideous. On the features of her child only, she now
looked with joy; there, she fancied she saw William at every glance,
and, in the fond imagination, felt at times every happiness short of
By herding with the brute creation, she and her child were allowed
to live together; and this was a state she preferred to the society
of human creatures, who would have separated her from what she loved
so tenderly. Anxious to retain a service in which she possessed
such a blessing, care and attention to her humble office caused her
master to prolong her stay through all the winter; then, during the
spring, she tended his yeaning sheep; in the summer, watched them as
they grazed; and thus season after season passed, till her young son
could afford her assistance in her daily work.
He now could charm her with his conversation as well as with his
looks: a thousand times in the transports of parental love she has
pressed him to her bosom, and thought, with an agony of horror, upon
her criminal, her mad intent to destroy what was now so dear, so
necessary to her existence.
Still the boy grew up more and more like his father. In one
resemblance alone he failed; he loved Agnes with an affection
totally distinct from the pitiful and childish gratification of his
own self-love; he never would quit her side for all the tempting
offers of toys or money; never would eat of rarities given to him
till Agnes took a part; never crossed her will, however
contradictory to his own; never saw her smile that he did not laugh;
nor did she ever weep, but he wept too.
From the mean subject of oxen, sheep, and peasants, we return to
personages; i.e., persons of rank and fortune. The bishop, who was
introduced in the foregoing pages, but who has occupied a very small
space there, is now mentioned again, merely that the reader may know
he is at present in the same state as his writings--dying; and that
his friend, the dean, is talked of as the most likely successor to
his dignified office.
The dean, most assuredly, had a strong friendship for the bishop,
and now, most assuredly, wished him to recover; and yet, when he
reflected on the success of his pamphlet a few years past, and of
many which he had written since on the very same subject, he could
not but think "that he had more righteous pretensions to fill the
vacant seat of his much beloved and reverend friend (should fate
ordain it to be vacated) than any other man;" and he knew that it
would not take one moment from that friend's remaining life, should
he exert himself, with all due management, to obtain the elevated
station when be should he no more.
In presupposing the death of a friend, the dean, like many other
virtuous men, "always supposed him going to a better place." With
perfect resignation, therefore, he waited whatever change might
happen to the bishop, ready to receive him with open arms if he
recovered, or equally ready, in case of his dissolution, to receive
Lady Clementina displayed her sensibility and feeling for the sick
prelate by the extravagance of hysteric fits; except at those times
when she talked seriously with her husband upon the injustice which
she thought would be done to him, and to his many pamphlets and
sermons, if he did not immediately rise to episcopal honour.
"Surely, dean," said she, "should you be disappointed upon this
occasion, you will write no more books for the good of your
"Yes, I will," he replied; "but the next book I write for the good
of my country shall be very different, nay the very reverse of those
I have already written."
"How, dean! would you show yourself changed?"
"No, but I will show that my country is changed."
"What! since you produced your last work; only six weeks ago!"
"Great changes may occur in six days," replied the dean, with a
threatening accent; "and if I find things HAVE taken a new and
improper turn, I will be the first to expose it."
"But before you act in this manner, my dear, surely you will wait--"
"I will wait until the see is disposed of to another," said he.
He did wait: the bishop died. The dean was promoted to the see of
* * *, and wrote a folio on the prosperity of our happy country.
While the bishop and his son were sailing before prosperous gales on
the ocean of life, young Henry was contending with adverse winds,
and many other perils, on the watery ocean; yet still, his
distresses and dangers were less than those which Agnes had to
encounter upon land. The sea threatens an untimely death; the shore
menaces calamities from which death is a refuge.
The affections she had already experienced could just admit of
aggravation: the addition occurred.
Had the good farmer, who made her the companion of his flocks and
herds, lived till now, till now she might have been secure from the
annoyance of human kind; but, thrown once more upon society, she was
unfit to sustain the conflict of decorum against depravity. Her
master, her patron, her preserver, was dead; and hardly as she had
earned the pittance she received from him, she found that it
surpassed her power to obtain the like again. Her doubtful
character, her capacious mind, her unmethodical manners, were still
badly suited to the nice precision of a country housewife; and as
the prudent mistress of a family sneered at her pretensions, she, in
her turn, scorned the narrow-minded mistress of a family.
In her inquiries how to gain her bread free from the cutting
reproaches of discretion, she was informed "that London was the only
private corner, where guilt could be secreted undisturbed; and the
only public place where, in open day, it might triumphantly stalk,
attended by a chain of audacious admirers."
There was a charm to the ear of Agnes in the name of London, which
thrilled through her soul. William lived in London; and she thought
that, while she retired to some dark cellar with her offences, he
probably would ride in state with his, and she at humble distance
might sometimes catch a glance at him.
As difficult as to eradicate insanity from a mind once possessed, so
difficult it is to erase from the lover's breast the deep impression
of a REAL affection. Coercion may prevail for a short interval,
still love will rage again. Not all the ignominy which Agnes
experienced in the place where she now was without a home--not the
hunger which she at times suffered, and even at times saw her child
endure--not every inducement for going to London, or motive for
quitting her present desolate station, had the weight to affect her
choice so much as--in London, she should live nearer William; in the
present spot she could never hope to see him again, but there she
might chance to pass him in the streets; she might pass his house
every day unobserved--might inquire about him of his inferior
neighbours, who would be unsuspicious of the cause of her curiosity.
For these gratifications, she should imbibe new fortitude; for these
she could bear all hardships which London threatened; and for these,
she at length undertook a three weeks' journey to that perilous town
on foot, cheering, as she walked along, her innocent and wearied
William--in your luxurious dwelling, possessed of coffers filled
with gold, relations, friends, clients, joyful around you, delicious
viands and rich wines upon your sumptuous board, voluptuousness
displayed in every apartment of your habitation--contemplate, for a
moment, Agnes, your first love, with her son, your first and only
child, walking through frost and snow to London, with a foreboding
fear on the mother that, when arrived, they both may perish for the
want of a friend.
But no sooner did Agnes find herself within the smoke of the
metropolis than the old charm was renewed; and scarcely had she
refreshed her child at the poor inn at which she stopped than she
inquired how far it was to that part of the town where William, she
She received for answer, "about two miles."
Upon this information, she thought that she would keep in reserve,
till some new sorrow befell her, the consolation of passing his door
(perchance of seeing him) which must ever be an alleviation of her
grief. It was not long before she had occasion for more substantial
comfort. She soon found she was not likely to obtain a service
here, more than in the country. Some objected that she could not
make caps and gowns; some that she could not preserve and pickle;
some, that she was too young; some, that she was too pretty; and all
declined accepting her, till at last a citizen's wife, on condition
of her receiving but half the wages usually given, took her as a
servant of all work.
In romances, and in some plays, there are scenes of dark and
unwholesome mines, wherein the labourer works, during the brightest
day, by the aid of artificial light. There are in London kitchens
equally dismal though not quite so much exposed to damp and noxious
vapours. In one of these, underground, hidden from the cheerful
light of the sun, poor Agnes was doomed to toil from morning till
night, subjected to the command of a dissatisfied mistress; who, not
estimating as she ought the misery incurred by serving her,
constantly threatened her servants "with a dismission;" at which the
unthinking wretches would tremble merely from the sound of the
words; for to have reflected--to have considered what their purport
was--"to be released from a dungeon, relieved from continual
upbraidings, and vile drudgery," must have been a subject of
rejoicing; and yet, because these good tidings were delivered as a
menace, custom had made the hearer fearful of the consequence. So,
death being described to children as a disaster, even poverty and
shame will start from it with affright; whereas, had it been
pictured with its benign aspect, it would have been feared but by
few, and many, many would welcome it with gladness.
All the care of Agnes to please, her fear of offending, her toilsome
days, her patience, her submission, could not prevail on her she
served to retain her one hour after, by chance, she had heard "that
she was the mother of a child; that she wished it should be kept a
secret; and that she stole out now and then to visit him."
Agnes, with swimming eyes and an almost breaking heart, left a
place--where to have lived one hour would have plunged any fine lady
in the deepest grief.
Agnes was driven from service to service--her deficiency in the
knowledge of a mere drudge, or her lost character, pursued her
wherever she went--at length, becoming wholly destitute, she gladly
accepted a place where the latter misfortune was not of the least
In one of these habitations, where continual misery is dressed in
continual smiles; where extreme of poverty is concealed by extreme
of finery; where wine dispenses mirth only by dispensing
forgetfulness; and where female beauty is so cheap, so complying,
that, while it inveigles, it disgusts the man of pleasure: in one
of those houses, to attend upon its wretched inhabitants, Agnes was
hired. Her feelings of rectitude submitted to those of hunger; her
principles of virtue (which the loss of virtue had not destroyed)
received a shock when she engaged to be the abettor of vice, from
which her delicacy, morality, and religion shrunk; but persons of
honour and of reputation would not employ her: was she then to
perish? That, perhaps, was easy to resolve; but she had a child to
leave behind! a child, from whom to part for a day was a torment.
Yet, before she submitted to a situation which filled her mind with
a kind of loathing horror, often she paced up and down the street in
which William lived, looked wistfully at his house, and sometimes,
lost to all her finer feelings of independent pride, thought of
sending a short petition to him; but, at the idea of a repulse, and
of that frowning brow which she knew William COULD dart on her
petitions, she preferred death, or the most degrading life, to the
It was long since that misfortune and dishonour had made her callous
to the good or ill opinion of all the world, except HIS; and the
fear of drawing upon her his increased contempt was still, at the
crisis of applying, so powerful, that she found she dared not hazard
a reproof from him even in the person of his father, whose rigour
she had already more than once experienced, in the frequent harsh
messages conveyed to her with the poor stipend for her boy.
Awed by the rigid and pious character of the new bishop, the growing
reputation, and rising honours of his son, she mistook the
appearance of moral excellence for moral excellence itself, and felt
her own unworthiness even to become the supplicant of those great
Day after day she watched those parts of the town through which
William's chariot was accustomed to drive; but to see the CARRIAGE
was all to which she aspired; a feeling, not to be described, forced
her to cast her eyes upon the earth as it drew near to her; and when
it had passed, she beat her breast, and wept that she had not seen
Impressed with the superiority of others, and her own abject and
disgustful state, she cried, "Let me herd with those who won't
despise me; let me only see faces whereon I can look without
confusion and terror; let me associate with wretches like myself,
rather than force my shame before those who are so good they can but
scorn and hate me."
With a mind thus languishing for sympathy in disgrace, she entered a
servant in the house just now described. There disregarding the
fatal proverb against "EVIL COMMUNICATIONS," she had not the
firmness to be an exception to the general rule. That pliant
disposition, which had yielded to the licentious love of William,
stooped to still baser prostitution in company still more depraved.
At first she shuddered at those practices she saw, at those
conversations she heard, and blest herself that poverty, not
inclination, had caused her to be a witness of such profligacy, and
had condemned her in this vile abode to be a servant, rather than in
the lower rank of mistress. Use softened those horrors every day;
at length self-defence, the fear of ridicule, and the hope of
favour, induced her to adopt that very conduct from which her heart
In her sorrowful countenance and fading charms there yet remained
attraction for many visitors; and she now submitted to the mercenary
profanations of love, more odious, as her mind had been subdued by
its most captivating, most endearing joys.
While incessant regret whispered to her "that she ought to have
endured every calamity rather than this," she thus questioned her
nice sense of wrong, "Why, why respect myself, since no other
respects me? Why set a value on my own feelings when no one else
Degraded in her own judgment, she doubted her own understanding when
it sometimes told her she had deserved better treatment; for she
felt herself a fool in comparison with her learned seducer and the
rest who despised her. "And why," she continued, "should I
ungratefully persist to contemn women who alone are so kind as to
accept me for a companion? Why refuse conformity to their customs,
since none of my sex besides will admit me to their society a
partaker of virtuous habits?"
In speculation these arguments appeared reasonable, and she pursued
their dictates; but in the practice of the life in which she plunged
she proved the fallacy of the system, and at times tore her hair
with frantic sorrow, that she had not continued in the mid-way of
guilt, and so preserved some portion of self-approbation, to
recompense her in a small degree, for the total loss of the esteem
of all the reputable world.
But she had gone too far to recede. Could she now have recalled her
innocence, even that remnant she brought with her to London,
experience would have taught her to have given up her child, lived
apart from him, and once more with the brute creation, rather than
to have mingled with her present society. Now, alas! the time for
flying was past; all prudent choice was over, even all reflection
was gone for ever, or only admitted on compulsion, when it
imperiously forced its way amidst the scenes of tumultuous mirth or
licentious passion, of distracted riot, shameless effrontery, and
wild intoxication, when it WOULD force its way, even through the
walls of a brothel.
Is there a reader so little experienced in the human heart, so
forgetful of his own, as not to feel the possibility of the
A series of uncommon calamities had been for many years the lot of
the elder Henry; a succession of prosperous events had fallen to the
share of his brother William. The one was the envy, while the other
had the compassion, of all who thought about them. For the last
twenty years, William had lived in affluence, bordering upon
splendour, his friends, his fame, his fortune, daily increasing,
while Henry throughout that very period had, by degrees, lost all he
loved on earth, and was now existing apart from civilised society;
and yet, during those twenty years, where William knew one happy
moment, Henry tasted hundreds.
That the state of the mind, and not outward circumstances, is the
nice point on which happiness depends is but a trite remark; but
that intellectual power should have the force to render a man
discontented in extraordinary prosperity, such as that of the
present bishop, or contented in his brother's extreme of adversity,
The first great affliction to Henry was his brother's ingratitude;
but reasoning on the frailty of man's nature, and the force of man's
temptations, he found excuses for William, which made him support
the treatment he had received with more tranquillity than William's
proud mind supported his brother's marriage.
Henry's indulgent disposition made him less angry with William than
William was with him.
The next affliction Henry suffered was the loss of his beloved wife.
That was a grief which time and change of objects gradually
alleviated; while William's wife was to him a permanent grief, her
puerile mind, her talking vanity, her affected virtues, soured his
domestic comfort, and, in time, he had suffered more painful moments
from her society than his brother had experienced, even from the
death of her he loved.
In their children, indeed, William was the happier; his son was a
pride and pleasure to him, while Henry never thought upon HIS
without lamenting his loss with bitterest anguish. But if the elder
brother had in one instance the advantage, still Henry had a
resource to overbalance this article. Henry, as he lay imprisoned
in his dungeon, and when, his punishment being remitted, he was
again allowed to wander, and seek his subsistence where he would, in
all his tedious walks and solitary resting-places, during all his
lonely days and mournful nights, had THIS RESOURCE to console him -
"I never did an injury to any one; never was harsh, severe, unkind,
deceitful. I did not merely confine myself to do my neighbour no
harm; I strove to do him service."
This was the resource that cheered his sinking heart amidst gloomy
deserts and a barbarous people, lulled him to peaceful slumber in
the hut of a savage hunter, and in the hearing of the lion's roar,
at times impressed him with a sense of happiness, and made him
contemplate with a longing hope the retribution of a future world.
The bishop, with all his comforts, had no comfort like this; he had
HIS solitary reflections too, but they were of a tendency the
reverse of these. "I used my brother ill," was a secret thought of
most powerful influence. It kept him waking upon his safe and
commodious bed; was sure to recur with every misfortune by which he
was threatened to make his fears still stronger, and came with
invidious stabs, upon every successful event, to take from him a
part of his joy. In a word, it was CONSCIENCE which made Henry's
years pass happier than William's.
But though, comparatively with his brother, William was the less
happy man, yet his self-reproach was not of such magnitude, for an
offence of that atrocious nature as to banish from his breast a
certain degree of happiness, a sensibility to the smiles of fortune;
nor was Henry's self-acquittal of such exquisite kind as to chase
away the feeling of his desolate condition.
As he fished or hunted for his daily dinner, many a time in full
view of his prey, a sudden burst of sorrow at his fate, a sudden
longing for some dear associate, for some friend to share his
thoughts, for some kind shoulder on which to lean his head, for some
companion to partake of his repast, would make him instantaneously
desist from his pursuit, cast him on the ground in a fit of anguish,
till a shower of tears and his CONSCIENCE came to his relief.
It was, after an exile of more than twenty-three years, when, on one
sultry morning, after pleasant dreams during the night, Henry had
waked with more than usual perception of his misery, that, sitting
upon the beach, his wishes and his looks all bent on the sea towards
his native land, he thought he saw a sail swelling before an
"Sure I am dreaming still!" he cried. "This is the very vessel I
last night saw in my sleep! Oh! what cruel mockery that my eyes
should so deceive me!"
Yet, though he doubted, he leaped upon his feet in transport, held
up his hands, stretched at their length, in a kind of ecstatic joy,
and, as the glorious sight approached, was near rushing into the sea
to hail and meet it.
For awhile hope and fear kept him in a state bordering on
Now he saw the ship making for the shore, and tears flowed for the
grateful prospect. Now it made for another point, and he vented
shrieks and groans from the disappointment.
It was at those moments, while hope and fear thus possessed him,
that the horrors of his abode appeared more than ever frightful.
Inevitable afflictions must be borne; but that calamity which admits
the expectation of relief, and then denies it, is insupportable.
After a few minutes passed in dreadful uncertainty, which enhanced
the wished-for happiness, the ship evidently drew near the land; a
boat was launched from her, and while Henry, now upon his knees,
wept and prayed fervently for the event, a youth sprang from the
barge on the strand, rushed towards him, and falling on his neck,
then at his feet, exclaimed, "My father! oh, my father!"
William! dean! bishop! what are your honours, what your riches, what
all your possessions, compared to the happiness, the transport
bestowed by this one sentence, on your poor brother Henry?
The crosses at land, and the perilous events at sea, had made it now
two years since young Henry first took the vow of a man no longer
dependent on the will of another, to seek his father. His fatigues,
his dangers, were well recompensed. Instead of weeping over a
silent grave, he had the inexpressible joy to receive a parent's
blessing for his labours. Yet, the elder Henry, though living, was
so changed in person, that his son would scarcely have known him in
any other than the favourite spot, which the younger (keeping in
memory every incident of his former life) knew his father had always
chosen for his morning contemplations; and where, previously to his
coming to England, he had many a time kept him company. It was to
that particular corner of the island that the captain of the ship
had generously ordered they should steer, out of the general route,
to gratify the filial tenderness he expressed. But scarcely had the
interview between the father and the son taken place, than a band of
natives, whom the appearance of the vessel had called from the woods
and hills, came to attack the invaders. The elder Henry had no
friend with whom he wished to shake hands at his departure; the old
negro servant who had assisted in young Henry's escape was dead; and
he experienced the excessive joy of bidding adieu to the place,
without one regret for all he left behind.
On the night of that day, whose morning had been marked by peculiar
sadness at the louring prospect of many exiled years to come, he
slept on board an English vessel, with Englishmen his companions,
and his son, his beloved son--who was still more dear to him for
that mind which had planned and executed his rescue--this son, his
attentive servant, and most affectionate friend.
Though many a year passed, and many a rough encounter was destined
to the lot of the two Henrys before they saw the shores of Europe,
yet to them, to live or to die together was happiness enough: even
young Henry for a time asked for no greater blessing--but, the first
glow of filial ardour over, he called to mind, "Rebecca lived in
England;" and every exertion which love, founded on the highest
reverence and esteem, could dictate, he employed to expedite a
voyage, the end of which would be crowned by the sight of her.
The contrast of the state of happiness between the two brothers was
nearly resembled by that of the two cousins--the riches of young
William did not render him happy, nor did the poverty of young Henry
doom him to misery. His affectionate heart, as he had described in
his letter to Rebecca, loved PERSONS rather than THINGS; and he
would not have exchanged the society of his father, nor the prospect
of her hand and heart, for all the wealth and splendour of which his
cousin William was the master.
He was right. Young William, though he viewed with contempt Henry's
inferior state, was far less happy than he. His marriage had been
the very counterpart of his father's; and having no child to create
affection to his home, his study was the only relief from that
domestic incumbrance called his wife; and though, by unremitting
application there (joined to the influence of the potent relations
of the woman he hated), he at length arrived at the summit of his
ambitious desires, still they poorly repaid him for the sacrifice he
had made in early life of every tender disposition.
Striding through a list of rapid advancements in the profession of
the law, at the age of thirty-eight he found himself raised to a
preferment such as rarely falls to the share of a man of his short
experience--he found himself invested with a judge's robe; and,
gratified by the exalted office, curbed more than ever that aversion
which her want of charms or sympathy had produced against the
partner of his honours.
While William had thus been daily rising in fortune's favour, poor
Agnes had been daily sinking deeper and deeper under fortune's
frowns: till at last she became a midnight wanderer through the
streets of London, soliciting, or rudely demanding, money of the
passing stranger. Sometimes, hunted by the watch, she affrighted
fled from street to street, from portico to portico; and once,
unknowing in her fear which way she hurried, she found her trembling
knees had sunk, and her wearied head was reclined against the
stately pillars that guarded William's door.
At the sudden recollection where she was, a swell of passion,
composed of horror, of anger, of despair, and love, gave reanimated
strength to her failing limbs; and, regardless of her pursuer's
steps, she ran to the centre of the street, and, looking up to the
windows of the mansion, cried, "Ah! there he sleeps in quiet, in
peace, in ease--he does not even dream of me--he does not care how
the cold pierces, or how the people persecute me! He does not thank
me for all the lavish love I have borne him and his child! His
heart is so hard, he does not even recollect that it was he who
brought me to ruin."
Had these miseries, common to the unhappy prostitute, been alone the
punishment of Agnes--had her crimes and sufferings ended in distress
like this, her story had not perhaps been selected for a public
recital; for it had been no other than the customary history of
thousands of her sex. But Agnes had a destiny yet more fatal.
Unhappily, she was endowed with a mind so sensibly alive to every
joy, and every sorrow, to every mark of kindness, every token of
severity, so liable to excess in passion, that, once perverted,
there was no degree of error from which it would revolt.
Taught by the conversation of the dissolute poor, with whom she now
associated, or by her own observation on the worldly reward of
elevated villainy, she began to suspect "that dishonesty was only
held a sin to secure the property of the rich; and that, to take
from those who did not want, by the art of stealing, was less guilt,
than to take from those who did want, by the power of the law."
By false yet seducing opinions such as these, her reason estranged
from every moral and religious tie, her necessities urgent, she
reluctantly accepted the proposal to mix with a band of practised
sharpers and robbers, and became an accomplice in negotiating bills
forged on a country banker.
But though ingenious in arguments to excuse the deed before its
commission, in the act she had ever the dread of some
incontrovertible statement on the other side of the question.
Intimidated by this apprehension, she was the veriest bungler in her
vile profession--and on the alarm of being detected, while every one
of her confederates escaped and absconded, she alone was seized--was
arrested for issuing notes they had fabricated, and committed to the
provincial jail, about fifty miles from London, where the crime had
been perpetrated, to take her trial for--life or death.
The day at length is come on which Agnes shall have a sight of her
beloved William! She who has watched for hours near his door, to
procure a glimpse of him going out, or returning home; who has
walked miles to see his chariot pass: she now will behold him, and
he will see her by command of the laws of their country. Those
laws, which will deal with rigour towards her, are in this one
instance still indulgent.
The time of the assizes, at the county town in which she is
imprisoned, is arrived--the prisoners are demanded at the shire-
hall--the jail doors are opened--they go in sad procession--the
trumpet sounds--it speaks the arrival of the judge--and that judge
The day previous to her trial, Agnes had read, in the printed
calendar of the prisoners, his name as the learned justice before
whom she was to appear. For a moment she forgot her perilous state
in the excess of joy which the still unconquerable love she bore to
him permitted her to taste even on the brink of the grave! After-
reflection made her check those worldly transports, as unfit for the
present solemn occasion. But alas! to her, earth and William were
so closely united that, till she forsook the one, she could never
cease to think, without the contending passions of hope, of fear, of
joy, of love, of shame, and of despair, on the other.
Now fear took place of her first immoderate joy--she feared that,
although much changed in person since he had seen her, and her real
name now added to many an ALIAS--yet she feared that same well-known
glance of the eye, turn of the action, or accent of speech, might
recall her to his remembrance; and at that idea shame overcame all
her other sensations--for still she retained pride, in respect to
HIS opinion, to wish him not to know Agnes was that wretch she felt
she was! Once a ray of hope beamed on her, "that if he knew her, he
recognised her, he might possibly befriend her cause;" and life
bestowed through William's friendship seemed a precious object! But
again, that rigorous honour she had often heard him boast, that
firmness to his word, of which she had fatal experience, taught her
to know, he would not for any unproper compassion, any unmanly
weakness, forfeit his oath of impartial justice.
In meditations such as these she passed the sleepless night. When,
in the morning, she was brought to the bar, and her guilty hand held
up before the righteous judgment seat of William--imagination could
not form two figures, or two situations more incompatible with the
existence of former familiarity, than the judge and the culprit--and
yet, these very persons had passed together the most blissful
moments that either ever tasted! Those hours of tender dalliance
were now present to HER mind. HIS thoughts were more nobly employed
in his high office; nor could the haggard face, hollow eye,
desponding countenance, and meagre person of the poor prisoner, once
call to his memory, though her name was uttered among a list of
others which she had assumed, his former youthful, lovely Agnes!
She heard herself arraigned with trembling limbs and downcast looks;
and many witnesses had appeared against her before she ventured to
lift her eyes up to her awful judge. She then gave one fearful
glance, and discovered William, unpitying but beloved William, in
every feature! It was a face she had been used to look on with
delight, and a kind of absent smile of gladness now beamed on her
poor wan visage.
When every witness on the part of the prosecutor had been examined,
the judge addressed himself to her--"What defence have you to make?"
It was William spoke to Agnes! The sound was sweet; the voice was
mild, was soft, compassionate, encouraging! It almost charmed her
to a love of life!--not such a voice as when William last addressed
her; when he left her undone and pregnant, vowing never to see or
speak to her more.
She could have hung upon the present words for ever! She did not
call to mind that this gentleness was the effect of practice, the
art of his occupation: which, at times, is but a copy, by the
unfeeling, from his benevolent brethren of the bench. In the
present judge, tenderness was not designed for the consolation of
the culprit, but for the approbation of the auditors.
There were no spectators, Agnes, by your side when last he parted
from you: if there had, the awful William had been awed to marks of
Stunned with the enchantment of that well-known tongue directed to
her, she stood like one just petrified--all vital power seemed
Again he put the question, and with these additional sentences,
tenderly and emphatically delivered--"Recollect yourself. Have you
no witnesses? No proof in your behalf?"
A dead silence followed these questions.
He then mildly, but forcibly, added--"What have you to say?"
Here a flood of tears burst from her eyes, which she fixed earnestly
upon him, as if pleading for mercy, while she faintly articulated,
"Nothing, my lord."
After a short pause, he asked her, in the same forcible but
benevolent tone -
"Have you no one to speak to your character?" The prisoner answered
A second gush of tears followed this reply, for she called to mind
by WHOM her character had first been blasted.
He summed up the evidence; and every time he was compelled to press
hard upon the proofs against her she shrunk, and seemed to stagger
with the deadly blow; writhed under the weight of HIS minute
justice, more than from the prospect of a shameful death.
The jury consulted but a few minutes. The verdict was -
She heard it with composure.
But when William placed the fatal velvet on his head, and rose to
pronounce her sentence, she started with a kind of convulsive
motion; retreated a step or two back, and, lifting up her hands,
with a scream exclaimed -
"Oh! not from YOU!"
The piercing shriek which accompanied these words prevented their
being heard by part of the audience; and those who heard them
thought little of their meaning, more than that they expressed her
fear of dying.
Serene and dignified, as if no such exclamation had been uttered,
William delivered the fatal speech, ending with, "Dead, dead, dead."
She fainted as he closed the period, and was carried back to prison
in a swoon; while he adjourned the court to go to dinner.
If, unaffected by the scene he had witnessed, William sat down to
dinner with an appetite, let not the reader conceive that the most
distant suspicion had struck his mind of his ever having seen, much
less familiarly known, the poor offender whom he had just condemned.
Still this forgetfulness did not proceed from the want of memory for
Agnes. In every peevish or heavy hour passed with his wife, he was
sure to think of her: yet it was self-love, rather than love of
HER, that gave rise to these thoughts: he felt the lack of female
sympathy and tenderness to soften the fatigue of studious labour; to
sooth a sullen, a morose disposition--he felt he wanted comfort for
himself, but never once considered what were the wants of Agnes.
In the chagrin of a barren bed, he sometimes thought, too, even on
the child that Agnes bore him; but whether it were male or female,
whether a beggar in the streets, or dead--various and important
public occupations forbade him to waste time to inquire. Yet the
poor, the widow, and the orphan, frequently shared William's
ostentatious bounty. He was the president of many excellent
charities, gave largely, and sometimes instituted benevolent
societies for the unhappy; for he delighted to load the poor with
obligations, and the rich with praise.
There are persons like him, who love to do every good but that which
their immediate duty requires. There are servants who will serve
every one more cheerfully than their masters; there are men who will
distribute money liberally to all except their creditors; and there
are wives who will love all mankind better than their husbands.
Duty is a familiar word which has little effect upon an ordinary
mind; and as ordinary minds make a vast majority, we have acts of
generosity, valour, self-denial, and bounty, where smaller pains
would constitute greater virtues. Had William followed the COMMON
dictates of charity; had he adopted private pity, instead of public
munificence; had he cast an eye at home before he sought abroad for
objects of compassion, Agnes had been preserved from an ignominious
death, and he had been preserved from--REMORSE--the tortures of
which he for the first time proved, on reading a printed sheet of
paper, accidentally thrown in his way, a few days after he had left
the town in which he had condemned her to die.
"March the 12th, 179-
"The last dying words, speech, and confession; birth, parentage, and
education; life, character, and behaviour, of Agnes Primrose, who
was executed this morning, between the hours of ten and twelve,
pursuant to the sentence passed upon her by the Honourable Justice
"Agnes Primrose was born of honest parents, in the village of
Anfield, in the county of--" [William started at the name of the
village and county]; "but being led astray by the arts and flattery
of seducing man, she fell from the paths of virtue, and took to bad
company, which instilled into her young heart all their evil ways,
and at length brought her to this untimely end. So she hopes her
death will be a warning to all young persons of her own sex, how
they listen to the praises and courtship of young men, especially of
those who are their betters; for they only court to deceive. But
the said Agnes freely forgives all persons who have done her injury,
or given her sorrow, from the young man who first won her heart to
the jury who found her guilty, and the judge who condemned her to
"And she acknowledges the justice of her sentence, not only in
respect of the crime for which she suffers, but in regard to many
other heinous sins of which she has been guilty, more especially
that of once attempting to commit a murder upon her own helpless
child, for which guilt she now considers the vengeance of God has
overtaken her, to which she is patiently resigned, and departs in
peace and charity with all the world, praying the Lord to have mercy
on her parting soul."
"POSTSCRIPT TO THE CONFESSION.
"So great was this unhappy woman's terror of death, and the awful
judgment that was to follow, that when sentence was pronounced upon
her, she fell into a swoon, from that into convulsions, from which
she never entirely recovered, but was delirious to the time of her
execution, except that short interval in which she made her
confession to the clergyman who attended her. She has left one
child, a youth about sixteen, who has never forsaken his mother
during all the time of her imprisonment, but waited on her with true
filial duty; and no sooner was her fatal sentence passed than he
began to droop, and now lies dangerously ill near the prison from
which she is released by death. During the loss of her senses, the
said Agnes Primrose raved continually on this child; and, asking for
pen, ink, and paper, wrote an incoherent petition to the judge
recommending the youth to his protection and mercy. But
notwithstanding this insanity, she behaved with composure and
resignation when the fatal morning arrived in which she was to be
launched into eternity. She prayed devoutly during the last hour,
and seemed to have her whole mind fixed on the world to which she
was going. A crowd of spectators followed her to the fatal spot,
most of whom returned weeping at the recollection of the fervency
with which she prayed, and the impression which her dreadful state
seemed to make upon her."
* * *
No sooner had the name of "Anfield" struck William than a thousand
reflections and remembrances flashed on his mind to give him full
conviction whom it was he had judged and sentenced. He recollected
the sad remains of Agnes, such as he once had known her; and now he
wondered how his thoughts could have been absent from an object so
pitiable, so worthy of his attention, as not to give him even a
suspicion who she was, either from her name, or from her person,
during the whole trial!
But wonder, astonishment, horror, and every other sensation was
absorbed by--REMORSE: --it wounded, it stabbed, it rent his hard
heart, as it would do a tender one. It havocked on his firm
inflexible mind, as it would on a weak and pliant brain! Spirit of
Agnes! look down, and behold all your wrongs revenged! William
A few momentary cessations from the pangs of a guilty conscience
were given to William, as soon as he had despatched a messenger to
the jail in which Agnes had been communed, to inquire after the son
she had left behind, and to give orders that immediate care should
be taken of him. He likewise charged the messenger to bring back
the petition she had addressed to him during her supposed insanity;
for he now experienced no trivial consolation in the thought that he
might possibly have it in his power to grant her a request.
The messenger returned with the written paper, which had been
considered by the persons to whom she had intrusted it, as the
distracted dictates of an insane mind; but proved to William, beyond
a doubt, that she was perfectly in her senses.
"TO LORD CHIEF JUSTICE NORWYNNE.
"My Lord,--I am Agnes Primrose, the daughter of John and Hannah
Primrose, of Anfield. My father and mother lived by the hill at the
side of the little brook where you used to fish, and so first saw
"Pray, my lord, have mercy on my sorrows; pity me for the first
time, and spare my life. I know I have done wrong. I know it is
presumption in me to dare to apply to you, such a wicked and mean
wretch as I am; but, my lord, you once condescended to take notice
of me; and though I have been very wicked since that time, yet if
you would be so merciful as to spare my life, I promise to amend it
for the future. But if you think it proper I should die, I will be
resigned; but then I hope, I beg, I supplicate, that you will grant
my other petition. Pray, pray, my lord, if you cannot pardon me, be
merciful to the child I leave behind. What he will do when I am
gone, I don't know, for I have been the only friend he has had ever
since he was born. He was born, my lord, about sixteen years ago,
at Anfield, one summer a morning, and carried by your cousin, Mr.
Henry Norwynne, to Mr. Rymer's, the curate there; and I swore whose
child he was before the dean, and I did not take a false oath.
Indeed, indeed, my lord, I did not.
"I will say no more for fear this should not come safe to your hand,
for the people treat me as if I were mad; so I will say no more,
only this, that, whether I live or die, I forgive everybody, and I
hope everybody will forgive me. And I pray that God will take pity
on my son, if you refuse; but I hope you will not refuse. "AGNES
William rejoiced, as he laid down the petition, that she had asked a
favour he could bestow; and hoped by his protection of the son to
redress, in some degree, the wrongs he had done the mother. He
instantly sent for the messenger into his apartment, and impatiently
asked, "If he had seen the boy, and given proper directions for his
"I have given directions, sir, for his funeral."
"How!" cried William.
"He pined away ever since his mother was confined, and died two days
after her execution."
Robbed, by this news, of his only gleam of consolation--in the
consciousness of having done a mortal injury for which he never now
by any means could atone, he saw all his honours, all his riches,
all his proud selfish triumphs fade before him! They seemed like
airy nothings, which in rapture he would exchange for the peace of a
He envied Agnes the death to which he first exposed, then condemned,
her. He envied her even the life she struggled through from his
neglect, and felt that his future days would be far less happy than
her former existence. He calculated with precision.
The progressive rise of William and fall of Agnes had now occupied
nearly the term of eighteen years. Added to these, another year
elapsed before the younger Henry completed the errand on which his
heart was fixed, and returned to England. Shipwreck, imprisonment,
and other ills to which the poor and unfriended traveller is
peculiarly exposed, detained the father and son in various remote
regions until the present period; and, for the last fifteen years,
denied them the means of all correspondence with their own country.
The elder Henry was now past sixty years of age, and the younger
almost beyond the prime of life. Still length of time had not
diminished, but rather had increased, their anxious longings for
their native home.
The sorrows, disappointments, and fatigues, which, throughout these
tedious years, were endured by the two Henrys, are of that dull
monotonous kind of suffering better omitted than described--mere
repetitions of the exile's woe, that shall give place to the
transporting joy of return from banishment! Yet, often as the
younger had reckoned, with impatient wishes, the hours which were
passed distant from her he loved, no sooner was his disastrous
voyage at an end, no sooner had his feet trod upon the shore of
Britain, than a thousand wounding fears made him almost doubt
whether it were happiness or misery he had obtained by his arrival.
If Rebecca were living, he knew it must be happiness; for his heart
dwelt with confidence on her faith, her unchanging sentiments. "But
death might possibly have ravished from his hopes what no mortal
power could have done." And thus the lover creates a rival in every
ill, rather than suffer his fears to remain inanimate.
The elder Henry had less to fear or to hope than his son; yet he
both feared and hoped with a sensibility that gave him great
anxiety. He hoped his brother would receive him with kindness,
after his long absence, and once more take his son cordially to his
favour. He longed impatiently to behold his brother; to see his
nephew; nay, in the ardour of the renewed affection he just now
felt, he thought even a distant view of Lady Clementina would be
grateful to his sight! But still, well remembering the pomp, the
state, the pride of William, he could not rely on HIS affection, so
much he knew that it depended on external circumstances to excite or
to extinguish his love. Not that he feared an absolute repulsion
from his brother; but he feared, what, to a delicate mind, is still
worse--reserved manners, cold looks, absent sentences, and all that
cruel retinue of indifference with which those who are beloved so
often wound the bosom that adores them.
By inquiring of their countrymen (whom they met as they approached
to the end of their voyage), concerning their relation the dean, the
two Henrys learned that he was well, and had for some years past
been exalted to the bishopric of--. This news gave them joy, while
it increased their fear of not receiving an affectionate welcome.
The younger Henry, on his landing, wrote immediately to his uncle,
acquainting him with his father's arrival in the most abject state
of poverty; he addressed his letter to the bishop's country
residence, where he knew, as it was the summer season, he would
certainly be. He and his father then set off on foot towards that
The bishop's palace was not situated above fifty miles from the port
where they had landed; and at a small inn about three miles from the
bishop's they proposed (as the letter to him intimated) to wait for
his answer before they intruded into his presence.
As they walked on their solitary journey, it was some small
consolation that no creature knew them.
"To be poor and ragged, father," the younger smilingly said, "is no
disgrace, no shame, thank Heaven, where the object is not known."
"True, my son," replied Henry; "and perhaps I feel myself much
happier now, unknowing and unknown to all but you, than I shall in
the presence of my fortunate brother and his family; for there,
confusion at my ill success through life may give me greater pain
than even my misfortunes have inflicted."
After uttering this reflection which had preyed upon his mind, he
sat down on the road side to rest his agitated limbs before he could
proceed farther. His son reasoned with him--gave him courage; and
now his hopes preponderated, till, after two days' journey, on
arriving at the inn where an answer from the bishop was expected, no
letter, no message had been left.
"He means to renounce us," said Henry, trembling, and whispering to
Without disclosing to the people of the house who they were, or from
whom the letter or the message they inquired for was to have come,
they retired, and consulted what steps they were now to pursue.
Previously to his writing to the bishop, the younger Henry's heart,
all his inclinations, had swayed him towards a visit to the village
in which was his uncle's former country-seat, the beloved village of
Anfield, but respect to him and duty to his father had made him
check those wishes; now they revived again, and, with the image of
Rebecca before his eyes, he warmly entreated his father to go with
him to Anfield, at present only thirty miles distant, and thence
write once more; then again wait the will of his uncle.
The father consented to this proposal, even glad to postpone the
visit to his dignified brother.
After a scanty repast, such as they had been long inured to, they
quitted the inn, and took the road towards Anfield.
It was about five in the afternoon of a summer's day, that Henry and
his son left the sign of the Mermaid to pursue their third day's
journey: the young man's spirits elated with the prospect of the
reception he should meet from Rebecca: the elder dejected at not
having received a speedy welcome from his brother.
The road which led to Anfield by the shortest course of necessity
took our travellers within sight of the bishop's palace. The
turrets appeared at a distance; and on the sudden turn round the
corner of a large plantation, the whole magnificent structure was at
once exhibited before his brother's astonished eyes. He was struck
with the grandeur of the habitation; and, totally forgetting all the
unkind, the contemptuous treatment he had ever received from its
owner (like the same Henry in his earlier years), smiled with a kind
of transport "that William was so great a man."
After this first joyous sensation was over, "Let us go a little
nearer, my son," said he; "no one will see us, I hope; or, if they
should, you can run and conceal yourself; and not a creature will
know me; even my brother would not know me thus altered; and I wish
to take a little farther view of his fine house, and all his
Young Henry, though impatient to be gone, would not object to his
father's desire. They walked forward between a shady grove and a
purling rivulet, snuffed in odours from the jessamine banks, and
listened to the melody of an adjoining aviary.
The allurements of the spot seemed to enchain the elder Henry, and
he at length sauntered to the very avenue of the dwelling; but, just
as he had set his daring yet trembling feet upon the turf which led
to the palace gates, he suddenly stopped, on hearing, as he thought,
the village clock strike seven, which reminded him that evening drew
on, and it was time to go. He listened again, when he and his son,
both together, said, "It is the toll of the bell before some
The signals of death, while they humble the rich, inspire the poor
with pride. The passing bell gave Henry a momentary sense of
equality; and he courageously stepped forward to the first winding
of the avenue.
He started back at the sight which presented itself.
A hearse--mourning coaches--mutes--plumed horses--with every other
token of the person's importance who was going to be committed to
Scarcely had his terrified eyes been thus unexpectedly struck, when
a coffin borne by six men issued from the gates, and was deposited
in the waiting receptacle; while gentlemen in mourning went into the
A standard-bearer now appeared with an escutcheon, on which the keys
and mitre were displayed. Young Henry, upon this, pathetically
exclaimed, "My uncle! it is my uncle's funeral!"
Henry, his father, burst into tears.
The procession moved along.
The two Henrys, the only real mourners in the train, followed at a
little distance--in rags, but in tears.
The elder Henry's heart was nearly bursting; he longed to clasp the
dear remains of his brother without the dread of being spurned for
his presumption. He now could no longer remember him either as the
dean or bishop; but, leaping over that whole interval of pride and
arrogance, called only to his memory William, such as he knew him
when they lived at home together, together walked to London, and
there together almost perished for want.
They arrived at the church; and, while the coffin was placing in the
dreary vault, the weeping brother crept slowly after to the hideous
spot. His reflections now fixed on a different point. "Is this
possible?" said he to himself. "Is this the dean, whom I ever
feared? Is this the bishop, of whom within the present hour I stood
in awe? Is this William, whose every glance struck me with his
superiority? Alas, my brother! and is this horrid abode the reward
for all your aspiring efforts? Are these sepulchral trappings the
only testimonies of your greatness which you exhibit to me on my
return? Did you foresee an end like this, while you treated me, and
many more of your youthful companions, with haughtiness and
contempt; while you thought it becoming of your dignity to shun and
despise us? Where is the difference now between my departed wife
and you? Or, if there be a difference, she, perchance, has the
advantage. Ah, my poor brother! for distinction in the other world,
I trust, some of your anxious labours have been employed; for you
are now of less importance in this than when you and I first left
our native town, and hoped for nothing greater than to be suffered
On their quitting the church, they inquired of the bystanders the
immediate cause of the bishop's death, and heard he had been
suddenly carried off by a raging fever.
Young Henry inquired "if Lady Clementina was at the palace, or Mr.
"The latter is there," he was answered by a poor woman; "but Lady
Clementina has been dead these four years."
"Dead! dead!" cried young Henry. "That worldly woman! quitted this
world for ever!"
"Yes," answered the stranger; "she caught cold by wearing a new-
fashioned dress that did not half cover her, wasted all away, and
died the miserablest object you ever heard of."
The person who gave this melancholy intelligence concluded it with a
hearty laugh, which would have surprised the two hearers if they had
not before observed that amongst all the village crowd that attended
to see this solemn show not one afflicted countenance appeared, not
one dejected look, not one watery eye. The pastor was scarcely
known to his flock; it was in London that his meridian lay, at the
levee of ministers, at the table of peers, at the drawing-rooms of
the great; and now his neglected parishioners paid his indifference
The ceremony over, and the mourning suite departed, the spectators
dispersed with gibes and jeering faces from the sad spot; while the
Henrys, with heavy hearts, retraced their steps back towards the
palace. In their way, at the crossing of a stile, they met a poor
labourer returning from his day's work, who, looking earnestly at
the throng of persons who were leaving the churchyard, said to the
elder Henry--"Pray, master, what are all them folk gathered together
about? What's the matter there?"
"There has been a funeral," replied Henry.
"Oh, zooks! what! a burying!--ay, now I see it is; and I warrant of
our old bishop--I heard he was main ill. It is he they have been
putting into the ground! is not it?"
"Yes," said Henry.
"Why, then, so much the better."
"The better!" cried Henry.
"Yes, master; though I should be loth to be where he is now."
Henry started--"He was your pastor, man!"
"Ha! ha! ha! I should be sorry that my master's sheep, that are
feeding yonder, should have no better pastor--the fox would soon get
"You surely did not know him!"
"Not much, I can't say I did; for he was above speaking to poor
folks, unless they did any mischief--and then he was sure to take
notice of them."
"I believe he meant well," said Henry.
"As to what he meant, God only knows; but I know what he DID."
"And what did he?"
"Nothing at all for the poor."
"If any of them applied to him, no doubt--"
"Oh! they knew better than all that comes to; for if they asked for
anything, he was sure to have them sent to Bridewell, or the
workhouse. He used to say, 'THE WORKHOUSE WAS A FINE PLACE FOR A
POOR MAN--THE FOOD GOOD ENOUGH, AND ENOUGH OF IT;' yet he kept a
dainty table himself. His dogs, too, fared better than we poor. He
was vastly tender and good to all his horses and dogs, I WILL say
that for him; and to all brute beasts: he would not suffer them to
be either starved or struck--but he had no compassion for his
"I am sensible you do him wrong."
"That HE is the best judge of by this time. He has sent many a poor
man to the house of correction; and now 'tis well if he has not got
a place there himself. Ha, ha, ha!"
The man was walking away, when Henry called to him--"Pray can you
tell me if the bishop's son be at the palace?"
"Oh, yes! you'll find master there treading in the old man's shoes,
as proud as Lucifer."
"Has he any children?"
"No, thank God! There's been enow of the name; and after the son is
gone, I hope we shall have no more of the breed."
"Is Mrs. Norwynne, the son's wife, at the palace?"
"What, master! did not you know what's become of her?"
"Ha, ha, ha! yes. I can't help laughing--why, master, she made a
mistake, and went to another man's bed--and so her husband and she
were parted--and she has married the other man."
"Indeed!" cried Henry, amazed.
"Ay, indeed; but if it had been my wife or yours, the bishop would
have made her do penance in a white sheet; but as it was a lady,
why, it was all very well--and any one of us, that had been known to
talk about it, would have been sent to Bridewell straight. But we
DID talk, notwithstanding."
The malicious joy with which the peasant told this story made Henry
believe (more than all the complaints the man uttered) that there
had been want of charity and Christian deportment in the whole
conduct of the bishop's family. He almost wished himself back on
his savage island, where brotherly love could not be less than it
appeared to be in this civilised country.
As Henry and his son, after parting from the poor labourer,
approached the late bishop's palace, all the charms of its
magnificence, its situation, which, but a few hours before, had
captivated the elder Henry's mind, were vanished; and, from the
mournful ceremony he had since been witness of, he now viewed this
noble edifice but as a heap of rubbish piled together to fascinate
weak understandings, and to make even the wise and religious man, at
times, forget why he was sent into this world.
Instead of presenting themselves to their nephew and cousin, they
both felt an unconquerable reluctance to enter under the superb, the
melancholy, roof. A bank, a hedge, a tree, a hill, seemed, at this
juncture, a pleasanter shelter, and each felt himself happy in being
a harmless wanderer on the face of the earth rather than living in
splendour, while the wants, the revilings of the hungry and the
naked were crying to Heaven for vengeance.
They gave a heartfelt sigh to the vanity of the rich and the
powerful; and pursued a path where they hoped to meet with virtue
They arrived at Anfield.
Possessed by apprehensions, which his uncle's funeral had served to
increase, young Henry, as he entered the well-known village, feared
every sound he heard would convey information of Rebecca's death.
He saw the parsonage house at a distance, but dreaded to approach
it, lest Rebecca should no longer be an inhabitant. His father
indulged him in the wish to take a short survey of the village, and
rather learn by indirect means, by observation, his fate, than hear
it all at once from the lips of some blunt relater.
Anfield had undergone great changes since Henry left it. He found
some cottages built where formerly there were none; and some were no
more where he had frequently called, and held short conversations
with the poor who dwelt in them. Amongst the latter number was the
house of the parents of Agnes--fallen to the ground! He wondered to
himself where that poor family had taken up their abode. Henry, in
a kinder world!
He once again cast a look at the old parsonage house: his
inquisitive eye informed him there no alteration had taken place
externally; but he feared what change might be within.
At length he obtained the courage to enter the churchyard in his way
to it. As he slowly and tremblingly moved along, he stopped to read
here and there a gravestone; as mild, instructive conveyers of
intelligence, to which he could attend with more resignation, than
to any other reporter.
The second stone he came to he found was erected To the memory of
the Reverend Thomas Rymer, Rebecca's father. He instantly called to
mind all that poor curate's quick sensibility of wrong towards
HIMSELF; his unbridled rage in consequence; and smiled to think; how
trivial now appeared all for which he gave way to such excess of
But, shocked at the death of one so near to her he loved, he now
feared to read on; and cast his eyes from the tombs accidentally to
the church. Through the window of the chancel, his sight was struck
with a tall monument of large dimensions, raised since his
departure, and adorned with the finest sculpture. His curiosity was
excited--he drew near, and he could distinguish (followed by elegant
poetic praise) "To the memory of John Lord Viscount Bendham."
Notwithstanding the solemn, melancholy, anxious bent of Henry's
mind, he could not read these words, and behold this costly fabric,
without indulging a momentary fit of indignant laughter.
"Are sculpture and poetry thus debased," he cried, "to perpetuate
the memory of a man whose best advantage is to be forgotten; whose
no one action merits record, but as an example to be shunned?"
An elderly woman, leaning on her staff, now passed along the lane by
the side of the church. The younger Henry accosted her, and
ventured to inquire "where the daughters of Mr. Rymer, since his
death, were gone to live?"
"We live," she returned, "in that small cottage across the clover
Henry looked again, and thought he had mistaken the word WE; for he
felt assured that he had no knowledge of the person to whom he
But she knew him, and, after a pause, cried--"Ah! Mr. Henry, you
are welcome back. I am heartily glad to see you, and my poor sister
Rebecca will go out of her wits with joy."
"Is Rebecca living, and will be glad to see me?" he eagerly asked,
while tears of rapture trickled down his face. "Father," he
continued in his ecstasy, "we are now come home to be completely
happy; and I feel as if all the years I have been away were but a
short week; and as if all the dangers I have passed had been light
as air. But is it possible," he cried to his kind informer, "that
you are one of Rebecca's sisters?"
Well might he ask; for, instead of the blooming woman of seven-and-
twenty he had left her, her colour was gone, her teeth impaired, her
voice broken. She was near fifty.
"Yes, I am one of Mr. Rymer's daughters," she replied.
"But which?" said Henry.
"The eldest, and once called the prettiest," she returned: "though
now people tell me I am altered; yet I cannot say I see it myself."
"And are you all living?" Henry inquired.
"All but one: she married and died. The other three, on my
father's death, agreed to live together, and knit or spin for our
support. So we took that small cottage, and furnished it with some
of the parsonage furniture, as you shall see; and kindly welcome I
am sure you will be to all it affords, though that is but little."
As she was saying this, she led him through the clover field towards
the cottage. His heart rebounded with joy that Rebecca was there:
yet, as he walked he shuddered at the impression which he feared the
first sight of her would make. He feared, what he imagined (till he
had seen this change in her sister) he should never heed. He feared
Rebecca would look no longer young. He was not yet so far master
over all his sensual propensities as, when the trial came, to think
he could behold her look like her sister, and not give some evidence
of his disappointment.
His fears were vain. On entering the gate of their little garden,
Rebecca rushed from the house to meet them: just the same Rebecca
It was her mind, which beaming on her face, and actuating her every
motion, had ever constituted all her charms: it was her mind which
had gained her Henry's affection. That mind had undergone no
change; and she was the self-same woman he had left her.
He was entranced with joy.
The fare which the Henrys partook at the cottage of the female
Rymers was such as the sister had described--mean, and even scanty;
but this did not in the least diminish the happiness they received
in meeting, for the first time since their arrival in England, human
beings who were glad to see them.
At a stinted repast of milk and vegetables, by the glimmering light
of a little brushwood on the hearth, they yet could feel themselves
comparatively blest, while they listened to the recital of
afflictions which had befallen persons around that very
neighbourhood, for whom every delicious viand had been procured to
gratify the taste, every art devised to delight the other senses.
It was by the side of this glimmering fire that Rebecca and her
sisters told the story of poor Agnes's fate, and of the thorn it had
for ever planted in William's bosom--of his reported sleepless,
perturbed nights; and his gloomy, or half-distracted days; when in
the fullness of REMORSE, he has complained--"of a guilty conscience!
of the weariness attached to a continued prosperity! the misery of
wanting an object of affection."
They told of Lord Bendham's death from the effects of intemperance;
from a mass of blood infected by high-seasoned dishes, mixed with
copious draughts of wine--repletion of food and liquor, not less
fatal to the existence of the rich than the want of common
sustenance to the lives of the poor.
They told of Lady Bendham's ruin, since her lord's death, by gaming.
They told, "that now she suffered beyond the pain of common
indigence by the cutting triumph of those whom she had formerly
They related (what has been told before) the divorce of William, and
the marriage of his wife with a libertine; the decease of Lady
Clementina, occasioned by that incorrigible vanity which even old
age could not subdue.
After numerous other examples had been recited of the dangers, the
evils that riches draw upon their owner; the elder Henry rose from
his chair, and embracing Rebecca and his son, said--"How much
indebted are we to Providence, my children, who, while it inflicts
poverty, bestows peace of mind; and in return for the trivial grief
we meet in this world, holds out to our longing hopes the reward of
Not only resigned, but happy in their station, with hearts made
cheerful rather than dejected by attentive meditation, Henry and his
son planned the means of their future support, independent of their
kinsman William--nor only of him, but of every person and thing but
their own industry.
"While I have health and strength," cried the old man, and his son's
looks acquiesced in all the father said, "I will not take from any
one in affluence what only belongs to the widow, the fatherless, and
the infirm; for to such alone, by Christian laws--however custom may
subvert them--the overplus of the rich is due."
By forming a humble scheme for their remaining life, a scheme
depending upon their OWN exertions alone, on no light promises of
pretended friends, and on no sanguine hopes of certain success, but
with prudent apprehension, with fortitude against disappointment,
Henry, his son, and Rebecca (now his daughter), found themselves, at
the end of one year, in the enjoyment of every comfort with such
distinguished minds knew how to taste.
Exempt both from patronage and from control--healthy--alive to every
fruition with which Nature blesses the world; dead to all out of
their power to attain, the works of art--susceptible of those
passions with endear human creatures one to another, insensible to
those which separate man from man--they found themselves the
thankful inhabitants of a small house, or hut, placed on the borders
of the sea.
Each morning wakes the father and the son to cheerful labour in
fishing, or the tending of a garden, the produce of which they carry
to the next market town. The evening sends them back to their home
in joy: where Rebecca meets them at the door, affectionately boasts
of the warm meal that is ready, and heightens the charm of
conversation with her taste and judgment.
It was after a supper of roots from their garden, poultry that
Rebecca's hand had reared, and a jug brewed by young Henry, that the
following discourse took place.
"My son," said the elder Henry, "where under Heaven shall three
persons be met together happy as we three are? It is the want of
industry, or the want of reflection, which makes the poor
dissatisfied. Labour gives a value to rest which the idle can never
taste; and reflection gives to the mind a degree of content which
the unthinking never can know."
"I once," replied the younger Henry, "considered poverty a curse;
but after my thoughts became enlarged, and I had associated for
years with the rich, and now mix with the poor, my opinion has
undergone a total change; for I have seen, and have enjoyed, more
real pleasure at work with my fellow-labourers, and in this cottage,
than ever I beheld, or experienced, during my abode at my uncle's;
during all my intercourse with the fashionable and the powerful of
"The worst is," said Rebecca, "the poor have not always enough."
"Who has enough?" asked her husband. "Had my uncle? No: he hoped
for more; and in all his writings sacrificed his duty to his
avarice. Had his son enough, when he yielded up his honour, his
domestic peace, to gratify his ambition? Had Lady Bendham enough,
when she staked all she had, in the hope of becoming richer? Were
we, my Rebecca, of discontented minds, we have now too little. But
conscious, from observation and experience, that the rich are not so
happy as ourselves, we rejoice in our lot."
The tear of joy which stole from her eye expressed, more than his
words, a state of happiness.
He continued: "I remember, when I first came a boy to England, the
poor excited my compassion; but now that my judgment is matured, I
pity the rich. I know that in this opulent kingdom there are nearly
as many persons perishing through intemperance as starving with
hunger; there are as many miserable in the lassitude of having
nothing to do as there are of those bowed down to the earth with
hard labour; there are more persons who draw upon themselves
calamity by following their own will than there are who experience
it by obeying the will of another. Add to this, that the rich are
so much afraid of dying they have no comfort in living."
"There the poor have another advantage," said Rebecca; "for they may
defy not only death, but every loss by sea or land, as they have
nothing to lose."
"Besides," added the elder Henry, "there is a certain joy of the
most gratifying kind that the human mind is capable of tasting,
peculiar to the poor, and of which the rich can but seldom
experience the delight."
"What can that be?" cried Rebecca.
"A kind word, a benevolent smile, one token of esteem from the
person whom we consider as our superior."
To which Rebecca replied, "And the rarity of obtaining such a token
is what increases the honour."
"Certainly," returned young Henry, "and yet those in poverty,
ungrateful as they are, murmur against that Government from which
they receive the blessing."
"But this is the fault of education, of early prejudice," said the
elder Henry. "Our children observe us pay respect, even reverence,
to the wealthy, while we slight or despise the poor. The impression
thus made on their minds in youth is indelible during the more
advanced periods of life; and they continue to pine after riches,
and lament under poverty: nor is the seeming folly wholly destitute
of reason; for human beings are not yet so deeply sunk in voluptuous
gratification, or childish vanity, as to place delight in any
attainment which has not for its end the love or admiration of their
"Let the poor, then," cried the younger Henry, "no more be their own
persecutors--no longer pay homage to wealth--instantaneously the
whole idolatrous worship will cease--the idol will be broken!"