Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Wieland; or The Transformation, An American Tale by Charles Brockden Brown

Part 5 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"I was thus torn by conflicting fears and tumultuous regrets.
The night passed away in this state of confusion; and next
morning in the gazette left at my obscure lodging, I read a
description and an offer of reward for the apprehension of my
person. I was said to have escaped from an Irish prison, in
which I was confined as an offender convicted of enormous and
complicated crimes.

"This was the work of an enemy, who, by falsehood and
stratagem, had procured my condemnation. I was, indeed, a
prisoner, but escaped, by the exertion of my powers, the fate to
which I was doomed, but which I did not deserve. I had hoped
that the malice of my foe was exhausted; but I now perceived
that my precautions had been wise, for that the intervention of
an ocean was insufficient for my security.

"Let me not dwell on the sensations which this discovery
produced. I need not tell by what steps I was induced to seek
an interview with you, for the purpose of disclosing the truth,
and repairing, as far as possible, the effects of my misconduct.
It was unavoidable that this gazette would fall into your hands,
and that it would tend to confirm every erroneous impression.

"Having gained this interview, I purposed to seek some
retreat in the wilderness, inaccessible to your inquiry and to
the malice of my foe, where I might henceforth employ myself in
composing a faithful narrative of my actions. I designed it as
my vindication from the aspersions that had rested on my
character, and as a lesson to mankind on the evils of credulity
on the one hand, and of imposture on the other.

"I wrote you a billet, which was left at the house of your
friend, and which I knew would, by some means, speedily come to
your hands. I entertained a faint hope that my invitation would
be complied with. I knew not what use you would make of the
opportunity which this proposal afforded you of procuring the
seizure of my person; but this fate I was determined to avoid,
and I had no doubt but due circumspection, and the exercise of
the faculty which I possessed, would enable me to avoid it.

"I lurked, through the day, in the neighbourhood of
Mettingen: I approached your habitation at the appointed hour:
I entered it in silence, by a trap-door which led into the
cellar. This had formerly been bolted on the inside, but Judith
had, at an early period in our intercourse, removed this
impediment. I ascended to the first floor, but met with no one,
nor any thing that indicated the presence of an human being.

"I crept softly up stairs, and at length perceived your
chamber door to be opened, and a light to be within. It was of
moment to discover by whom this light was accompanied. I was
sensible of the inconveniencies to which my being discovered at
your chamber door by any one within would subject me; I
therefore called out in my own voice, but so modified that it
should appear to ascend from the court below, 'Who is in the
chamber? Is it Miss Wieland?"

"No answer was returned to this summons. I listened, but no
motion could be heard. After a pause I repeated my call, but no
less ineffectually.

"I now approached nearer the door, and adventured to look in.
A light stood on the table, but nothing human was discernible.
I entered cautiously, but all was solitude and stillness.

"I knew not what to conclude. If the house were inhabited,
my call would have been noticed; yet some suspicion insinuated
itself that silence was studiously kept by persons who intended
to surprize me. My approach had been wary, and the silence that
ensued my call had likewise preceded it; a circumstance that
tended to dissipate my fears.

"At length it occurred to me that Judith might possibly be in
her own room. I turned my steps thither; but she was not to be
found. I passed into other rooms, and was soon convinced that
the house was totally deserted. I returned to your chamber,
agitated by vain surmises and opposite conjectures. The
appointed hour had passed, and I dismissed the hope of an

"In this state of things I determined to leave a few lines on
your toilet, and prosecute my journey to the mountains.
Scarcely had I taken the pen when I laid it aside, uncertain in
what manner to address you. I rose from the table and walked
across the floor. A glance thrown upon the bed acquainted me
with a spectacle to which my conceptions of horror had not yet

"In the midst of shuddering and trepidation, the signal of
your presence in the court below recalled me to myself. The
deed was newly done: I only was in the house: what had lately
happened justified any suspicions, however enormous. It was
plain that this catastrophe was unknown to you: I thought upon
the wild commotion which the discovery would awaken in your
breast: I found the confusion of my own thoughts unconquerable,
and perceived that the end for which I sought an interview was
not now to be accomplished.

"In this state of things it was likewise expedient to conceal
my being within. I put out the light and hurried down stairs.
To my unspeakable surprize, notwithstanding every motive to
fear, you lighted a candle and proceeded to your chamber.

"I retired to that room below from which a door leads into
the cellar. This door concealed me from your view as you
passed. I thought upon the spectacle which was about to present
itself. In an exigence so abrupt and so little foreseen, I was
again subjected to the empire of mechanical and habitual
impulses. I dreaded the effects which this shocking exhibition,
bursting on your unprepared senses, might produce.

"Thus actuated, I stept swiftly to the door, and thrusting my
head forward, once more pronounced the mysterious interdiction.
At that moment, by some untoward fate, your eyes were cast back,
and you saw me in the very act of utterance. I fled through the
darksome avenue at which I entered, covered with the shame of
this detection.

"With diligence, stimulated by a thousand ineffable emotions,
I pursued my intended journey. I have a brother whose farm is
situated in the bosom of a fertile desert, near the sources of
the Leheigh, and thither I now repaired.

Chapter XXIV

"Deeply did I ruminate on the occurrences that had just
passed. Nothing excited my wonder so much as the means by which
you discovered my being in the closet. This discovery appeared
to be made at the moment when you attempted to open it. How
could you have otherwise remained so long in the chamber
apparently fearless and tranquil? And yet, having made this
discovery, how could you persist in dragging me forth: persist
in defiance of an interdiction so emphatical and solemn?

"But your sister's death was an event detestable and ominous.
She had been the victim of the most dreadful species of
assassination. How, in a state like yours, the murderous
intention could be generated, was wholly inconceivable.

"I did not relinquish my design of confessing to you the part
which I had sustained in your family, but I was willing to defer
it till the task which I had set myself was finished. That
being done, I resumed the resolution. The motives to incite me
to this continually acquired force. The more I revolved the
events happening at Mettingen, the more insupportable and
ominous my terrors became. My waking hours and my sleep were
vexed by dismal presages and frightful intimations.

"Catharine was dead by violence. Surely my malignant stars
had not made me the cause of her death; yet had I not rashly set
in motion a machine, over whose progress I had no controul, and
which experience had shewn me was infinite in power? Every day
might add to the catalogue of horrors of which this was the
source, and a seasonable disclosure of the truth might prevent
numberless ills.

"Fraught with this conception, I have turned my steps hither.
I find your brother's house desolate: the furniture removed,
and the walls stained with damps. Your own is in the same
situation. Your chamber is dismantled and dark, and you exhibit
an image of incurable grief, and of rapid decay.

"I have uttered the truth. This is the extent of my
offences. You tell me an horrid tale of Wieland being led to
the destruction of his wife and children, by some mysterious
agent. You charge me with the guilt of this agency; but I
repeat that the amount of my guilt has been truly stated. The
perpetrator of Catharine's death was unknown to me till now;
nay, it is still unknown to me."

At that moment, the closing of a door in the kitchen was
distinctly heard by us. Carwin started and paused. "There is
some one coming. I must not be found here by my enemies, and
need not, since my purpose is answered."

I had drunk in, with the most vehement attention, every word
that he had uttered. I had no breath to interrupt his tale by
interrogations or comments. The power that he spoke of was
hitherto unknown to me: its existence was incredible; it was
susceptible of no direct proof.

He owns that his were the voice and face which I heard and
saw. He attempts to give an human explanation of these
phantasms; but it is enough that he owns himself to be the
agent; his tale is a lie, and his nature devilish. As he
deceived me, he likewise deceived my brother, and now do I
behold the author of all our calamities!

Such were my thoughts when his pause allowed me to think. I
should have bad him begone if the silence had not been
interrupted; but now I feared no more for myself; and the
milkiness of my nature was curdled into hatred and rancour.
Some one was near, and this enemy of God and man might possibly
be brought to justice. I reflected not that the preternatural
power which he had hitherto exerted, would avail to rescue him
from any toils in which his feet might be entangled. Meanwhile,
looks, and not words of menace and abhorrence, were all that I
could bestow.

He did not depart. He seemed dubious, whether, by passing
out of the house, or by remaining somewhat longer where he was,
he should most endanger his safety. His confusion increased
when steps of one barefoot were heard upon the stairs. He threw
anxious glances sometimes at the closet, sometimes at the
window, and sometimes at the chamber door, yet he was detained
by some inexplicable fascination. He stood as if rooted to the

As to me, my soul was bursting with detestation and revenge.
I had no room for surmises and fears respecting him that
approached. It was doubtless a human being, and would befriend
me so far as to aid me in arresting this offender.

The stranger quickly entered the room. My eyes and the eyes
of Carwin were, at the same moment, darted upon him. A second
glance was not needed to inform us who he was. His locks were
tangled, and fell confusedly over his forehead and ears. His
shirt was of coarse stuff, and open at the neck and breast. His
coat was once of bright and fine texture, but now torn and
tarnished with dust. His feet, his legs, and his arms were
bare. His features were the seat of a wild and tranquil
solemnity, but his eyes bespoke inquietude and curiosity.

He advanced with firm step, and looking as in search of some
one. He saw me and stopped. He bent his sight on the floor,
and clenching his hands, appeared suddenly absorbed in
meditation. Such were the figure and deportment of Wieland!
Such, in his fallen state, were the aspect and guise of my

Carwin did not fail to recognize the visitant. Care for his
own safety was apparently swallowed up in the amazement which
this spectacle produced. His station was conspicuous, and he
could not have escaped the roving glances of Wieland; yet the
latter seemed totally unconscious of his presence.

Grief at this scene of ruin and blast was at first the only
sentiment of which I was conscious. A fearful stillness ensued.
At length Wieland, lifting his hands, which were locked in each
other, to his breast, exclaimed, "Father! I thank thee. This is
thy guidance. Hither thou hast led me, that I might perform thy
will: yet let me not err: let me hear again thy messenger!"

He stood for a minute as if listening; but recovering from
his attitude, he continued--"It is not needed. Dastardly
wretch! thus eternally questioning the behests of thy Maker!
weak in resolution! wayward in faith!"

He advanced to me, and, after another pause, resumed: "Poor
girl! a dismal fate has set its mark upon thee. Thy life is
demanded as a sacrifice. Prepare thee to die. Make not my
office difficult by fruitless opposition. Thy prayers might
subdue stones; but none but he who enjoined my purpose can shake

These words were a sufficient explication of the scene. The
nature of his phrenzy, as described by my uncle, was remembered.
I who had sought death, was now thrilled with horror because it
was near. Death in this form, death from the hand of a brother,
was thought upon with undescribable repugnance.

In a state thus verging upon madness, my eye glanced upon
Carwin. His astonishment appeared to have struck him motionless
and dumb. My life was in danger, and my brother's hand was
about to be embrued in my blood. I firmly believed that
Carwin's was the instigation. I could rescue me from this
abhorred fate; I could dissipate this tremendous illusion; I
could save my brother from the perpetration of new horrors, by
pointing out the devil who seduced him; to hesitate a moment was
to perish. These thoughts gave strength to my limbs, and energy
to my accents: I started on my feet.
"O brother! spare me, spare thyself: There is thy betrayer.
He counterfeited the voice and face of an angel, for the purpose
of destroying thee and me. He has this moment confessed it. He
is able to speak where he is not. He is leagued with hell, but
will not avow it; yet he confesses that the agency was his."

My brother turned slowly his eyes, and fixed them upon
Carwin. Every joint in the frame of the latter trembled. His
complexion was paler than a ghost's. His eye dared not meet
that of Wieland, but wandered with an air of distraction from
one space to another.

"Man," said my brother, in a voice totally unlike that which
he had used to me, "what art thou? The charge has been made.
Answer it. The visage--the voice--at the bottom of these
stairs--at the hour of eleven--To whom did they belong? To

Twice did Carwin attempt to speak, but his words died away
upon his lips. My brother resumed in a tone of greater

"Thou falterest; faltering is ominous; say yes or no: one
word will suffice; but beware of falsehood. Was it a stratagem
of hell to overthrow my family? Wast thou the agent?"

I now saw that the wrath which had been prepared for me was
to be heaped upon another. The tale that I heard from him, and
his present trepidations, were abundant testimonies of his
guilt. But what if Wieland should be undeceived! What if he
shall find his acts to have proceeded not from an heavenly
prompter, but from human treachery! Will not his rage mount
into whirlwind? Will not he tare limb from limb this devoted

Instinctively I recoiled from this image, but it gave place
to another. Carwin may be innocent, but the impetuosity of his
judge may misconstrue his answers into a confession of guilt.
Wieland knows not that mysterious voices and appearances were
likewise witnessed by me. Carwin may be ignorant of those which
misled my brother. Thus may his answers unwarily betray himself
to ruin.

Such might be the consequences of my frantic precipitation,
and these, it was necessary, if possible, to prevent. I
attempted to speak, but Wieland, turning suddenly upon me,
commanded silence, in a tone furious and terrible. My lips
closed, and my tongue refused its office.

"What art thou?" he resumed, addressing himself to Carwin.
"Answer me; whose form--whose voice--was it thy contrivance?
Answer me."

The answer was now given, but confusedly and scarcely
articulated. "I meant nothing--I intended no ill--if I
understand--if I do not mistake you--it is too true--I did
appear--in the entry--did speak. The contrivance was mine,

These words were no sooner uttered, than my brother ceased to
wear the same aspect. His eyes were downcast: he was
motionless: his respiration became hoarse, like that of a man
in the agonies of death. Carwin seemed unable to say more. He
might have easily escaped, but the thought which occupied him
related to what was horrid and unintelligible in this scene, and
not to his own danger.

Presently the faculties of Wieland, which, for a time, were
chained up, were seized with restlessness and trembling. He
broke silence. The stoutest heart would have been appalled by
the tone in which he spoke. He addressed himself to Carwin.

"Why art thou here? Who detains thee? Go and learn better.
I will meet thee, but it must be at the bar of thy Maker. There
shall I bear witness against thee."

Perceiving that Carwin did not obey, he continued; "Dost thou
wish me to complete the catalogue by thy death? Thy life is a
worthless thing. Tempt me no more. I am but a man, and thy
presence may awaken a fury which may spurn my controul.

Carwin, irresolute, striving in vain for utterance, his
complexion pallid as death, his knees beating one against
another, slowly obeyed the mandate and withdrew.

Chapter XXV

A few words more and I lay aside the pen for ever. Yet why
should I not relinquish it now? All that I have said is
preparatory to this scene, and my fingers, tremulous and cold as
my heart, refuse any further exertion. This must not be. Let
my last energies support me in the finishing of this task. Then
will I lay down my head in the lap of death. Hushed will be all
my murmurs in the sleep of the grave.

Every sentiment has perished in my bosom. Even friendship is
extinct. Your love for me has prompted me to this task; but I
would not have complied if it had not been a luxury thus to
feast upon my woes. I have justly calculated upon my remnant of
strength. When I lay down the pen the taper of life will
expire: my existence will terminate with my tale.

Now that I was left alone with Wieland, the perils of my
situation presented themselves to my mind. That this paroxysm
should terminate in havock and rage it was reasonable to
predict. The first suggestion of my fears had been disproved by
my experience. Carwin had acknowledged his offences, and yet
had escaped. The vengeance which I had harboured had not been
admitted by Wieland, and yet the evils which I had endured,
compared with those inflicted on my brother, were as nothing.
I thirsted for his blood, and was tormented with an insatiable
appetite for his destruction; yet my brother was unmoved, and
had dismissed him in safety. Surely thou wast more than man,
while I am sunk below the beasts.

Did I place a right construction on the conduct of Wieland?
Was the error that misled him so easily rectified? Were views
so vivid and faith so strenuous thus liable to fading and to
change? Was there not reason to doubt the accuracy of my
perceptions? With images like these was my mind thronged, till
the deportment of my brother called away my attention.

I saw his lips move and his eyes cast up to heaven. Then
would he listen and look back, as if in expectation of some
one's appearance. Thrice he repeated these gesticulations and
this inaudible prayer. Each time the mist of confusion and
doubt seemed to grow darker and to settle on his understanding.
I guessed at the meaning of these tokens. The words of Carwin
had shaken his belief, and he was employed in summoning the
messenger who had formerly communed with him, to attest the
value of those new doubts. In vain the summons was repeated,
for his eye met nothing but vacancy, and not a sound saluted his

He walked to the bed, gazed with eagerness at the pillow
which had sustained the head of the breathless Catharine, and
then returned to the place where I sat. I had no power to lift
my eyes to his face: I was dubious of his purpose: this
purpose might aim at my life.

Alas! nothing but subjection to danger, and exposure to
temptation, can show us what we are. By this test was I now
tried, and found to be cowardly and rash. Men can deliberately
untie the thread of life, and of this I had deemed myself
capable; yet now that I stood upon the brink of fate, that the
knife of the sacrificer was aimed at my heart, I shuddered and
betook myself to any means of escape, however monstrous.

Can I bear to think--can I endure to relate the outrage which
my heart meditated? Where were my means of safety? Resistance
was vain. Not even the energy of despair could set me on a
level with that strength which his terrific prompter had
bestowed upon Wieland. Terror enables us to perform incredible
feats; but terror was not then the state of my mind: where then
were my hopes of rescue?

Methinks it is too much. I stand aside, as it were, from
myself; I estimate my own deservings; a hatred, immortal and
inexorable, is my due. I listen to my own pleas, and find them
empty and false: yes, I acknowledge that my guilt surpasses
that of all mankind: I confess that the curses of a world, and
the frowns of a deity, are inadequate to my demerits. Is there
a thing in the world worthy of infinite abhorrence? It is I.
What shall I say! I was menaced, as I thought, with death,
and, to elude this evil, my hand was ready to inflict death upon
the menacer. In visiting my house, I had made provision against
the machinations of Carwin. In a fold of my dress an open
penknife was concealed. This I now seized and drew forth. It
lurked out of view: but I now see that my state of mind would
have rendered the deed inevitable if my brother had lifted his
hand. This instrument of my preservation would have been
plunged into his heart.

O, insupportable remembrance! hide thee from my view for a
time; hide it from me that my heart was black enough to meditate
the stabbing of a brother! a brother thus supreme in misery;
thus towering in virtue!

He was probably unconscious of my design, but presently drew
back. This interval was sufficient to restore me to myself.
The madness, the iniquity of that act which I had purposed
rushed upon my apprehension. For a moment I was breathless with
agony. At the next moment I recovered my strength, and threw
the knife with violence on the floor.

The sound awoke my brother from his reverie. He gazed
alternately at me and at the weapon. With a movement equally
solemn he stooped and took it up. He placed the blade in
different positions, scrutinizing it accurately, and
maintaining, at the same time, a profound silence.

Again he looked at me, but all that vehemence and loftiness
of spirit which had so lately characterized his features, were
flown. Fallen muscles, a forehead contracted into folds, eyes
dim with unbidden drops, and a ruefulness of aspect which no
words can describe, were now visible.

His looks touched into energy the same sympathies in me, and
I poured forth a flood of tears. This passion was quickly
checked by fear, which had now, no longer, my own, but his
safety for their object. I watched his deportment in silence.
At length he spoke:

"Sister," said he, in an accent mournful and mild, "I have
acted poorly my part in this world. What thinkest thou? Shall
I not do better in the next?"

I could make no answer. The mildness of his tone astonished
and encouraged me. I continued to regard him with wistful and
anxious looks.

"I think," resumed he, "I will try. My wife and my babes
have gone before. Happy wretches! I have sent you to repose,
and ought not to linger behind."

These words had a meaning sufficiently intelligible. I
looked at the open knife in his hand and shuddered, but knew not
how to prevent the deed which I dreaded. He quickly noticed my
fears, and comprehended them. Stretching towards me his hand,
with an air of increasing mildness: "Take it," said he: "Fear
not for thy own sake, nor for mine. The cup is gone by, and its
transient inebriation is succeeded by the soberness of truth.

"Thou angel whom I was wont to worship! fearest thou, my
sister, for thy life? Once it was the scope of my labours to
destroy thee, but I was prompted to the deed by heaven; such, at
least, was my belief. Thinkest thou that thy death was sought
to gratify malevolence? No. I am pure from all stain. I
believed that my God was my mover!

"Neither thee nor myself have I cause to injure. I have done
my duty, and surely there is merit in having sacrificed to that,
all that is dear to the heart of man. If a devil has deceived
me, he came in the habit of an angel. If I erred, it was not my
judgment that deceived me, but my senses. In thy sight, being
of beings! I am still pure. Still will I look for my reward in
thy justice!"

Did my ears truly report these sounds? If I did not err, my
brother was restored to just perceptions. He knew himself to
have been betrayed to the murder of his wife and children, to
have been the victim of infernal artifice; yet he found
consolation in the rectitude of his motives. He was not devoid
of sorrow, for this was written on his countenance; but his soul
was tranquil and sublime.

Perhaps this was merely a transition of his former madness
into a new shape. Perhaps he had not yet awakened to the memory
of the horrors which he had perpetrated. Infatuated wretch that
I was! To set myself up as a model by which to judge of my
heroic brother! My reason taught me that his conclusions were
right; but conscious of the impotence of reason over my own
conduct; conscious of my cowardly rashness and my criminal
despair, I doubted whether any one could be stedfast and wise.

Such was my weakness, that even in the midst of these
thoughts, my mind glided into abhorrence of Carwin, and I
uttered in a low voice, O! Carwin! Carwin! What hast thou to
answer for?

My brother immediately noticed the involuntary exclamation:
"Clara!" said he, "be thyself. Equity used to be a theme for
thy eloquence. Reduce its lessons to practice, and be just to
that unfortunate man. The instrument has done its work, and I
am satisfied.

"I thank thee, my God, for this last illumination! My enemy
is thine also. I deemed him to be man, the man with whom I have
often communed; but now thy goodness has unveiled to me his true
nature. As the performer of thy behests, he is my friend."

My heart began now to misgive me. His mournful aspect had
gradually yielded place to a serene brow. A new soul appeared
to actuate his frame, and his eyes to beam with preternatural
lustre. These symptoms did not abate, and he continued:

"Clara! I must not leave thee in doubt. I know not what
brought about thy interview with the being whom thou callest
Carwin. For a time, I was guilty of thy error, and deduced from
his incoherent confessions that I had been made the victim of
human malice. He left us at my bidding, and I put up a prayer
that my doubts should be removed. Thy eyes were shut, and thy
ears sealed to the vision that answered my prayer.

"I was indeed deceived. The form thou hast seen was the
incarnation of a daemon. The visage and voice which urged me to
the sacrifice of my family, were his. Now he personates a human
form: then he was invironed with the lustre of heaven.--

"Clara," he continued, advancing closer to me, "thy death
must come. This minister is evil, but he from whom his
commission was received is God. Submit then with all thy wonted
resignation to a decree that cannot be reversed or resisted.
Mark the clock. Three minutes are allowed to thee, in which to
call up thy fortitude, and prepare thee for thy doom." There he

Even now, when this scene exists only in memory, when life
and all its functions have sunk into torpor, my pulse throbs,
and my hairs uprise: my brows are knit, as then; and I gaze
around me in distraction. I was unconquerably averse to death;
but death, imminent and full of agony as that which was
threatened, was nothing. This was not the only or chief
inspirer of my fears.

For him, not for myself, was my soul tormented. I might die,
and no crime, surpassing the reach of mercy, would pursue me to
the presence of my Judge; but my assassin would survive to
contemplate his deed, and that assassin was Wieland!

Wings to bear me beyond his reach I had not. I could not
vanish with a thought. The door was open, but my murderer was
interposed between that and me. Of self-defence I was
incapable. The phrenzy that lately prompted me to blood was
gone; my state was desperate; my rescue was impossible.

The weight of these accumulated thoughts could not be borne.
My sight became confused; my limbs were seized with convulsion;
I spoke, but my words were half-formed:--

"Spare me, my brother! Look down, righteous Judge! snatch me
from this fate! take away this fury from him, or turn it

Such was the agony of my thoughts, that I noticed not steps
entering my apartment. Supplicating eyes were cast upward, but
when my prayer was breathed, I once more wildly gazed at the
door. A form met my sight: I shuddered as if the God whom I
invoked were present. It was Carwin that again intruded, and
who stood before me, erect in attitude, and stedfast in look!
The sight of him awakened new and rapid thoughts. His recent
tale was remembered: his magical transitions and mysterious
energy of voice: Whether he were infernal or miraculous, or
human, there was no power and no need to decide. Whether the
contriver or not of this spell, he was able to unbind it, and to
check the fury of my brother. He had ascribed to himself
intentions not malignant. Here now was afforded a test of his
truth. Let him interpose, as from above; revoke the savage
decree which the madness of Wieland has assigned to heaven, and
extinguish for ever this passion for blood!

My mind detected at a glance this avenue to safety. The
recommendations it possessed thronged as it were together, and
made but one impression on my intellect. Remoter effects and
collateral dangers I saw not. Perhaps the pause of an instant
had sufficed to call them up. The improbability that the
influence which governed Wieland was external or human; the
tendency of this stratagem to sanction so fatal an error, or
substitute a more destructive rage in place of this; the
sufficiency of Carwin's mere muscular forces to counteract the
efforts, and restrain the fury of Wieland, might, at a second
glance, have been discovered; but no second glance was allowed.
My first thought hurried me to action, and, fixing my eyes upon
Carwin I exclaimed--

"O wretch! once more hast thou come? Let it be to abjure thy
malice; to counterwork this hellish stratagem; to turn from me
and from my brother, this desolating rage!

"Testify thy innocence or thy remorse: exert the powers
which pertain to thee, whatever they be, to turn aside this
ruin. Thou art the author of these horrors! What have I done
to deserve thus to die? How have I merited this unrelenting
persecution? I adjure thee, by that God whose voice thou hast
dared to counterfeit, to save my life!

"Wilt thou then go? leave me! Succourless!"

Carwin listened to my intreaties unmoved, and turned from me.
He seemed to hesitate a moment: then glided through the door.
Rage and despair stifled my utterance. The interval of respite
was passed; the pangs reserved for me by Wieland, were not to be
endured; my thoughts rushed again into anarchy. Having received
the knife from his hand, I held it loosely and without regard;
but now it seized again my attention, and I grasped it with

He seemed to notice not the entrance or exit of Carwin. My
gesture and the murderous weapon appeared to have escaped his
notice. His silence was unbroken; his eye, fixed upon the clock
for a time, was now withdrawn; fury kindled in every feature;
all that was human in his face gave way to an expression
supernatural and tremendous. I felt my left arm within his

Even now I hesitated to strike. I shrunk from his assault,
but in vain.--

Here let me desist. Why should I rescue this event from
oblivion? Why should I paint this detestable conflict? Why not
terminate at once this series of horrors?--Hurry to the verge of
the precipice, and cast myself for ever beyond remembrance and
beyond hope?

Still I live: with this load upon my breast; with this
phantom to pursue my steps; with adders lodged in my bosom, and
stinging me to madness: still I consent to live!

Yes, I will rise above the sphere of mortal passions: I will
spurn at the cowardly remorse that bids me seek impunity in
silence, or comfort in forgetfulness. My nerves shall be new
strung to the task. Have I not resolved? I will die. The
gulph before me is inevitable and near. I will die, but then
only when my tale is at an end.

Chapter XXVI

My right hand, grasping the unseen knife, was still
disengaged. It was lifted to strike. All my strength was
exhausted, but what was sufficient to the performance of this
deed. Already was the energy awakened, and the impulse given,
that should bear the fatal steel to his heart, when--Wieland
shrunk back: his hand was withdrawn. Breathless with affright
and desperation, I stood, freed from his grasp; unassailed;

Thus long had the power which controuled the scene forborne
to interfere; but now his might was irresistible, and Wieland in
a moment was disarmed of all his purposes. A voice, louder than
human organs could produce, shriller than language can depict,
burst from the ceiling, and commanded him--TO HOLD!

Trouble and dismay succeeded to the stedfastness that had
lately been displayed in the looks of Wieland. His eyes roved
from one quarter to another, with an expression of doubt. He
seemed to wait for a further intimation.

Carwin's agency was here easily recognized. I had besought
him to interpose in my defence. He had flown. I had imagined
him deaf to my prayer, and resolute to see me perish: yet he
disappeared merely to devise and execute the means of my relief.

Why did he not forbear when this end was accomplished? Why
did his misjudging zeal and accursed precipitation overpass that
limit? Or meant he thus to crown the scene, and conduct his
inscrutable plots to this consummation?

Such ideas were the fruit of subsequent contemplation. This
moment was pregnant with fate. I had no power to reason. In
the career of my tempestuous thoughts, rent into pieces, as my
mind was, by accumulating horrors, Carwin was unseen and
unsuspected. I partook of Wieland's credulity, shook with his
amazement, and panted with his awe.

Silence took place for a moment; so much as allowed the
attention to recover its post. Then new sounds were uttered
from above.

"Man of errors! cease to cherish thy delusion: not heaven or
hell, but thy senses have misled thee to commit these acts.
Shake off thy phrenzy, and ascend into rational and human. Be
lunatic no longer."

My brother opened his lips to speak. His tone was terrific
and faint. He muttered an appeal to heaven. It was difficult
to comprehend the theme of his inquiries. They implied doubt as
to the nature of the impulse that hitherto had guided him, and
questioned whether he had acted in consequence of insane

To these interrogatories the voice, which now seemed to hover
at his shoulder, loudly answered in the affirmative. Then
uninterrupted silence ensued.

Fallen from his lofty and heroic station; now finally
restored to the perception of truth; weighed to earth by the
recollection of his own deeds; consoled no longer by a
consciousness of rectitude, for the loss of offspring and
wife--a loss for which he was indebted to his own misguided
hand; Wieland was transformed at once into the man OF SORROWS!

He reflected not that credit should be as reasonably denied
to the last, as to any former intimation; that one might as
justly be ascribed to erring or diseased senses as the other.
He saw not that this discovery in no degree affected the
integrity of his conduct; that his motives had lost none of
their claims to the homage of mankind; that the preference of
supreme good, and the boundless energy of duty, were
undiminished in his bosom.

It is not for me to pursue him through the ghastly changes of
his countenance. Words he had none. Now he sat upon the floor,
motionless in all his limbs, with his eyes glazed and fixed; a
monument of woe.

Anon a spirit of tempestuous but undesigning activity seized
him. He rose from his place and strode across the floor,
tottering and at random. His eyes were without moisture, and
gleamed with the fire that consumed his vitals. The muscles of
his face were agitated by convulsion. His lips moved, but no
sound escaped him.

That nature should long sustain this conflict was not to be
believed. My state was little different from that of my
brother. I entered, as it were, into his thought. My heart was
visited and rent by his pangs--Oh that thy phrenzy had never
been cured! that thy madness, with its blissful visions, would
return! or, if that must not be, that thy scene would hasten to
a close! that death would cover thee with his oblivion!

What can I wish for thee? Thou who hast vied with the great
preacher of thy faith in sanctity of motives, and in elevation
above sensual and selfish! Thou whom thy fate has changed into
paricide and savage! Can I wish for the continuance of thy
being? No.

For a time his movements seemed destitute of purpose. If he
walked; if he turned; if his fingers were entwined with each
other; if his hands were pressed against opposite sides of his
head with a force sufficient to crush it into pieces; it was to
tear his mind from self-contemplation; to waste his thoughts on
external objects.

Speedily this train was broken. A beam appeared to be darted
into his mind, which gave a purpose to his efforts. An avenue
to escape presented itself; and now he eagerly gazed about him:
when my thoughts became engaged by his demeanour, my fingers
were stretched as by a mechanical force, and the knife, no
longer heeded or of use, escaped from my grasp, and fell
unperceived on the floor. His eye now lighted upon it; he
seized it with the quickness of thought.

I shrieked aloud, but it was too late. He plunged it to the
hilt in his neck; and his life instantly escaped with the stream
that gushed from the wound. He was stretched at my feet; and my
hands were sprinkled with his blood as he fell.

Such was thy last deed, my brother! For a spectacle like
this was it my fate to be reserved! Thy eyes were closed--thy
face ghastly with death--thy arms, and the spot where thou
liedest, floated in thy life's blood! These images have not,
for a moment, forsaken me. Till I am breathless and cold, they
must continue to hover in my sight.

Carwin, as I said, had left the room, but he still lingered
in the house. My voice summoned him to my aid; but I scarcely
noticed his re-entrance, and now faintly recollect his terrified
looks, his broken exclamations, his vehement avowals of
innocence, the effusions of his pity for me, and his offers of

I did not listen--I answered him not--I ceased to upbraid or
accuse. His guilt was a point to which I was indifferent.
Ruffian or devil, black as hell or bright as angels, thenceforth
he was nothing to me. I was incapable of sparing a look or a
thought from the ruin that was spread at my feet.

When he left me, I was scarcely conscious of any variation in
the scene. He informed the inhabitants of the hut of what had
passed, and they flew to the spot. Careless of his own safety,
he hasted to the city to inform my friends of my condition.

My uncle speedily arrived at the house. The body of Wieland
was removed from my presence, and they supposed that I would
follow it; but no, my home is ascertained; here I have taken up
my rest, and never will I go hence, till, like Wieland, I am
borne to my grave.

Importunity was tried in vain: they threatened to remove me
by violence--nay, violence was used; but my soul prizes too
dearly this little roof to endure to be bereaved of it. Force
should not prevail when the hoary locks and supplicating tears
of my uncle were ineffectual. My repugnance to move gave birth
to ferociousness and phrenzy when force was employed, and they
were obliged to consent to my return.

They besought me--they remonstrated--they appealed to every
duty that connected me with him that made me, and with my
fellow-men--in vain. While I live I will not go hence. Have I
not fulfilled my destiny?

Why will ye torment me with your reasonings and reproofs?
Can ye restore to me the hope of my better days? Can ye give me
back Catharine and her babes? Can ye recall to life him who
died at my feet?

I will eat--I will drink--I will lie down and rise up at your
bidding--all I ask is the choice of my abode. What is there
unreasonable in this demand? Shortly will I be at peace. This
is the spot which I have chosen in which to breathe my last
sigh. Deny me not, I beseech you, so slight a boon.

Talk not to me, O my revered friend! of Carwin. He has told
thee his tale, and thou exculpatest him from all direct concern
in the fate of Wieland. This scene of havock was produced by an
illusion of the senses. Be it so: I care not from what source
these disasters have flowed; it suffices that they have
swallowed up our hopes and our existence.

What his agency began, his agency conducted to a close. He
intended, by the final effort of his power, to rescue me and to
banish his illusions from my brother. Such is his tale,
concerning the truth of which I care not. Henceforth I foster
but one wish--I ask only quick deliverance from life and all the
ills that attend it.--

Go wretch! torment me not with thy presence and thy
prayers.--Forgive thee? Will that avail thee when thy fateful
hour shall arrive? Be thou acquitted at thy own tribunal, and
thou needest not fear the verdict of others. If thy guilt be
capable of blacker hues, if hitherto thy conscience be without
stain, thy crime will be made more flagrant by thus violating my
retreat. Take thyself away from my sight if thou wouldest not
behold my death!

Thou are gone! murmuring and reluctant! And now my repose is
coming--my work is done!

Chapter XXVII

[Written three years after the foregoing, and dated at Montpellier.]

I imagined that I had forever laid aside the pen; and that I
should take up my abode in this part of the world, was of all
events the least probable. My destiny I believed to be
accomplished, and I looked forward to a speedy termination of my
life with the fullest confidence.

Surely I had reason to be weary of existence, to be impatient
of every tie which held me from the grave. I experienced this
impatience in its fullest extent. I was not only enamoured of
death, but conceived, from the condition of my frame, that to
shun it was impossible, even though I had ardently desired it;
yet here am I, a thousand leagues from my native soil, in full
possession of life and of health, and not destitute of

Such is man. Time will obliterate the deepest impressions.
Grief the most vehement and hopeless, will gradually decay and
wear itself out. Arguments may be employed in vain: every
moral prescription may be ineffectually tried: remonstrances,
however cogent or pathetic, shall have no power over the
attention, or shall be repelled with disdain; yet, as day
follows day, the turbulence of our emotions shall subside, and
our fluctuations be finally succeeded by a calm.

Perhaps, however, the conquest of despair was chiefly owing
to an accident which rendered my continuance in my own house
impossible. At the conclusion of my long, and, as I then
supposed, my last letter to you, I mentioned my resolution to
wait for death in the very spot which had been the principal
scene of my misfortunes. From this resolution my friends
exerted themselves with the utmost zeal and perseverance to make
me depart. They justly imagined that to be thus surrounded by
memorials of the fate of my family, would tend to foster my
disease. A swift succession of new objects, and the exclusion
of every thing calculated to remind me of my loss, was the only
method of cure.

I refused to listen to their exhortations. Great as my
calamity was, to be torn from this asylum was regarded by me as
an aggravation of it. By a perverse constitution of mind, he
was considered as my greatest enemy who sought to withdraw me
from a scene which supplied eternal food to my melancholy, and
kept my despair from languishing.

In relating the history of these disasters I derived a
similar species of gratification. My uncle earnestly dissuaded
me from this task; but his remonstrances were as fruitless on
this head as they had been on others. They would have withheld
from me the implements of writing; but they quickly perceived
that to withstand would be more injurious than to comply with my
wishes. Having finished my tale, it seemed as if the scene were
closing. A fever lurked in my veins, and my strength was gone.
Any exertion, however slight, was attended with difficulty, and,
at length, I refused to rise from my bed.

I now see the infatuation and injustice of my conduct in its
true colours. I reflect upon the sensations and reasonings of
that period with wonder and humiliation. That I should be
insensible to the claims and tears of my friends; that I should
overlook the suggestions of duty, and fly from that post in
which only I could be instrumental to the benefit of others;
that the exercise of the social and beneficent affections, the
contemplation of nature and the acquisition of wisdom should not
be seen to be means of happiness still within my reach, is, at
this time, scarcely credible.

It is true that I am now changed; but I have not the
consolation to reflect that my change was owing to my fortitude
or to my capacity for instruction. Better thoughts grew up in
my mind imperceptibly. I cannot but congratulate myself on the
change, though, perhaps, it merely argues a fickleness of
temper, and a defect of sensibility.

After my narrative was ended I betook myself to my bed, in
the full belief that my career in this world was on the point of
finishing. My uncle took up his abode with me, and performed
for me every office of nurse, physician and friend. One night,
after some hours of restlessness and pain, I sunk into deep
sleep. Its tranquillity, however, was of no long duration. My
fancy became suddenly distempered, and my brain was turned into
a theatre of uproar and confusion. It would not be easy to
describe the wild and phantastical incongruities that pestered
me. My uncle, Wieland, Pleyel and Carwin were successively and
momently discerned amidst the storm. Sometimes I was swallowed
up by whirlpools, or caught up in the air by half-seen and
gigantic forms, and thrown upon pointed rocks, or cast among the
billows. Sometimes gleams of light were shot into a dark abyss,
on the verge of which I was standing, and enabled me to
discover, for a moment, its enormous depth and hideous
precipices. Anon, I was transported to some ridge of AEtna, and
made a terrified spectator of its fiery torrents and its pillars
of smoke.

However strange it may seem, I was conscious, even during my
dream, of my real situation. I knew myself to be asleep, and
struggled to break the spell, by muscular exertions. These did
not avail, and I continued to suffer these abortive creations
till a loud voice, at my bed side, and some one shaking me with
violence, put an end to my reverie. My eyes were unsealed, and
I started from my pillow.

My chamber was filled with smoke, which, though in some
degree luminous, would permit me to see nothing, and by which I
was nearly suffocated. The crackling of flames, and the
deafening clamour of voices without, burst upon my ears.
Stunned as I was by this hubbub, scorched with heat, and nearly
choaked by the accumulating vapours, I was unable to think or
act for my own preservation; I was incapable, indeed, of
comprehending my danger.

I was caught up, in an instant, by a pair of sinewy arms,
borne to the window, and carried down a ladder which had been
placed there. My uncle stood at the bottom and received me. I
was not fully aware of my situation till I found myself
sheltered in the HUT, and surrounded by its inhabitants.

By neglect of the servant, some unextinguished embers had
been placed in a barrel in the cellar of the building. The
barrel had caught fire; this was communicated to the beams of
the lower floor, and thence to the upper part of the structure.
It was first discovered by some persons at a distance, who
hastened to the spot and alarmed my uncle and the servants. The
flames had already made considerable progress, and my condition
was overlooked till my escape was rendered nearly impossible.

My danger being known, and a ladder quickly procured, one of
the spectators ascended to my chamber, and effected my
deliverance in the manner before related.

This incident, disastrous as it may at first seem, had, in
reality, a beneficial effect upon my feelings. I was, in some
degree, roused from the stupor which had seized my faculties.
The monotonous and gloomy series of my thoughts was broken. My
habitation was levelled with the ground, and I was obliged to
seek a new one. A new train of images, disconnected with the
fate of my family, forced itself on my attention, and a belief
insensibly sprung up, that tranquillity, if not happiness, was
still within my reach. Notwithstanding the shocks which my
frame had endured, the anguish of my thoughts no sooner abated
than I recovered my health.

I now willingly listened to my uncle's solicitations to be
the companion of his voyage. Preparations were easily made, and
after a tedious passage, we set our feet on the shore of the
ancient world. The memory of the past did not forsake me; but
the melancholy which it generated, and the tears with which it
filled my eyes, were not unprofitable. My curiosity was
revived, and I contemplated, with ardour, the spectacle of
living manners and the monuments of past ages.

In proportion as my heart was reinstated in the possession of
its ancient tranquillity, the sentiment which I had cherished
with regard to Pleyel returned. In a short time he was united
to the Saxon woman, and made his residence in the neighbourhood
of Boston. I was glad that circumstances would not permit an
interview to take place between us. I could not desire their
misery; but I reaped no pleasure from reflecting on their
happiness. Time, and the exertions of my fortitude, cured me,
in some degree, of this folly. I continued to love him, but my
passion was disguised to myself; I considered it merely as a
more tender species of friendship, and cherished it without

Through my uncle's exertions a meeting was brought about
between Carwin and Pleyel, and explanations took place which
restored me at once to the good opinion of the latter. Though
separated so widely our correspondence was punctual and
frequent, and paved the way for that union which can only end
with the death of one of us.

In my letters to him I made no secret of my former
sentiments. This was a theme on which I could talk without
painful, though not without delicate emotions. That knowledge
which I should never have imparted to a lover, I felt little
scruple to communicate to a friend.

A year and an half elapsed when Theresa was snatched from him
by death, in the hour in which she gave him the first pledge of
their mutual affection. This event was borne by him with his
customary fortitude. It induced him, however, to make a change
in his plans. He disposed of his property in America, and
joined my uncle and me, who had terminated the wanderings of two
years at Montpellier, which will henceforth, I believe, be our
permanent abode.

If you reflect upon that entire confidence which had
subsisted from our infancy between Pleyel and myself; on the
passion that I had contracted, and which was merely smothered
for a time; and on the esteem which was mutual, you will not,
perhaps, be surprized that the renovation of our intercourse
should give birth to that union which at present subsists. When
the period had elapsed necessary to weaken the remembrance of
Theresa, to whom he had been bound by ties more of honor than of
love, he tendered his affections to me. I need not add that the
tender was eagerly accepted.

Perhaps you are somewhat interested in the fate of Carwin.
He saw, when too late, the danger of imposture. So much
affected was he by the catastrophe to which he was a witness,
that he laid aside all regard to his own safety. He sought my
uncle, and confided to him the tale which he had just related to
me. He found a more impartial and indulgent auditor in Mr.
Cambridge, who imputed to maniacal illusion the conduct of
Wieland, though he conceived the previous and unseen agency of
Carwin, to have indirectly but powerfully predisposed to this
deplorable perversion of mind.

It was easy for Carwin to elude the persecutions of Ludloe.
It was merely requisite to hide himself in a remote district of
Pennsylvania. This, when he parted from us, he determined to
do. He is now probably engaged in the harmless pursuits of
agriculture, and may come to think, without insupportable
remorse, on the evils to which his fatal talents have given
birth. The innocence and usefulness of his future life may, in
some degree, atone for the miseries so rashly or so
thoughtlessly inflicted.

More urgent considerations hindered me from mentioning, in
the course of my former mournful recital, any particulars
respecting the unfortunate father of Louisa Conway. That man
surely was reserved to be a monument of capricious fortune. His
southern journies being finished, he returned to Philadelphia.
Before he reached the city he left the highway, and alighted at
my brother's door. Contrary to his expectation, no one came
forth to welcome him, or hail his approach. He attempted to
enter the house, but bolted doors, barred windows, and a silence
broken only by unanswered calls, shewed him that the mansion was

He proceeded thence to my habitation, which he found, in like
manner, gloomy and tenantless. His surprize may be easily
conceived. The rustics who occupied the hut told him an
imperfect and incredible tale. He hasted to the city, and
extorted from Mrs. Baynton a full disclosure of late disasters.

He was inured to adversity, and recovered, after no long
time, from the shocks produced by this disappointment of his
darling scheme. Our intercourse did not terminate with his
departure from America. We have since met with him in France,
and light has at length been thrown upon the motives which
occasioned the disappearance of his wife, in the manner which I
formerly related to you.

I have dwelt upon the ardour of their conjugal attachment,
and mentioned that no suspicion had ever glanced upon her
purity. This, though the belief was long cherished, recent
discoveries have shewn to be questionable. No doubt her
integrity would have survived to the present moment, if an
extraordinary fate had not befallen her.

Major Stuart had been engaged, while in Germany, in a contest
of honor with an Aid de Camp of the Marquis of Granby. His
adversary had propagated a rumour injurious to his character.
A challenge was sent; a meeting ensued; and Stuart wounded and
disarmed the calumniator. The offence was atoned for, and his
life secured by suitable concessions.

Maxwell, that was his name, shortly after, in consequence of
succeeding to a rich inheritance, sold his commission and
returned to London. His fortune was speedily augmented by an
opulent marriage. Interest was his sole inducement to this
marriage, though the lady had been swayed by a credulous
affection. The true state of his heart was quickly discovered,
and a separation, by mutual consent, took place. The lady
withdrew to an estate in a distant county, and Maxwell continued
to consume his time and fortune in the dissipation of the

Maxwell, though deceitful and sensual, possessed great force
of mind and specious accomplishments. He contrived to mislead
the generous mind of Stuart, and to regain the esteem which his
misconduct, for a time, had forfeited. He was recommended by
her husband to the confidence of Mrs. Stuart. Maxwell was
stimulated by revenge, and by a lawless passion, to convert this
confidence into a source of guilt.

The education and capacity of this woman, the worth of her
husband, the pledge of their alliance which time had produced,
her maturity in age and knowledge of the world--all combined to
render this attempt hopeless. Maxwell, however, was not easily
discouraged. The most perfect being, he believed, must owe his
exemption from vice to the absence of temptation. The impulses
of love are so subtile, and the influence of false reasoning,
when enforced by eloquence and passion, so unbounded, that no
human virtue is secure from degeneracy. All arts being tried,
every temptation being summoned to his aid, dissimulation being
carried to its utmost bound, Maxwell, at length, nearly
accomplished his purpose. The lady's affections were withdrawn
from her husband and transferred to him. She could not, as yet,
be reconciled to dishonor. All efforts to induce her to elope
with him were ineffectual. She permitted herself to love, and
to avow her love; but at this limit she stopped, and was

Hence this revolution in her sentiments was productive only
of despair. Her rectitude of principle preserved her from
actual guilt, but could not restore to her her ancient
affection, or save her from being the prey of remorseful and
impracticable wishes. Her husband's absence produced a state of
suspense. This, however, approached to a period, and she
received tidings of his intended return. Maxwell, being
likewise apprized of this event, and having made a last and
unsuccessful effort to conquer her reluctance to accompany him
in a journey to Italy, whither he pretended an invincible
necessity of going, left her to pursue the measures which
despair might suggest. At the same time she received a letter
from the wife of Maxwell, unveiling the true character of this
man, and revealing facts which the artifices of her seducer had
hitherto concealed from her. Mrs. Maxwell had been prompted to
this disclosure by a knowledge of her husband's practices, with
which his own impetuosity had made her acquainted.

This discovery, joined to the delicacy of her scruples and
the anguish of remorse, induced her to abscond. This scheme was
adopted in haste, but effected with consummate prudence. She
fled, on the eve of her husband's arrival, in the disguise of a
boy, and embarked at Falmouth in a packet bound for America.

The history of her disastrous intercourse with Maxwell, the
motives inducing her to forsake her country, and the measures
she had taken to effect her design, were related to Mrs.
Maxwell, in reply to her communication. Between these women an
ancient intimacy and considerable similitude of character
subsisted. This disclosure was accompanied with solemn
injunctions of secrecy, and these injunctions were, for a long
time, faithfully observed.

Mrs. Maxwell's abode was situated on the banks of the Wey.
Stuart was her kinsman; their youth had been spent together; and
Maxwell was in some degree indebted to the man whom he betrayed,
for his alliance with this unfortunate lady. Her esteem for the
character of Stuart had never been diminished. A meeting
between them was occasioned by a tour which the latter had
undertaken, in the year after his return from America, to Wales
and the western counties. This interview produced pleasure and
regret in each. Their own transactions naturally became the
topics of their conversation; and the untimely fate of his wife
and daughter were related by the guest.

Mrs. Maxwell's regard for her friend, as well as for the
safety of her husband, persuaded her to concealment; but the
former being dead, and the latter being out of the kingdom, she
ventured to produce Mrs. Stuart's letter, and to communicate her
own knowledge of the treachery of Maxwell. She had previously
extorted from her guest a promise not to pursue any scheme of
vengeance; but this promise was made while ignorant of the full
extent of Maxwell's depravity, and his passion refused to adhere
to it.

At this time my uncle and I resided at Avignon. Among the
English resident there, and with whom we maintained a social
intercourse, was Maxwell. This man's talents and address
rendered him a favorite both with my uncle and myself. He had
even tendered me his hand in marriage; but this being refused,
he had sought and obtained permission to continue with us the
intercourse of friendship. Since a legal marriage was
impossible, no doubt, his views were flagitious. Whether he had
relinquished these views I was unable to judge.

He was one in a large circle at a villa in the environs, to
which I had likewise been invited, when Stuart abruptly entered
the apartment. He was recognized with genuine satisfaction by
me, and with seeming pleasure by Maxwell. In a short time, some
affair of moment being pleaded, which required an immediate and
exclusive interview, Maxwell and he withdrew together. Stuart
and my uncle had been known to each other in the German army;
and the purpose contemplated by the former in this long and
hasty journey, was confided to his old friend.

A defiance was given and received, and the banks of a
rivulet, about a league from the city, was selected as the scene
of this contest. My uncle, having exerted himself in vain to
prevent an hostile meeting, consented to attend them as a
surgeon.--Next morning, at sun-rise, was the time chosen.

I returned early in the evening to my lodgings.
Preliminaries being settled between the combatants, Stuart had
consented to spend the evening with us, and did not retire till
late. On the way to his hotel he was exposed to no molestation,
but just as he stepped within the portico, a swarthy and
malignant figure started from behind a column. and plunged a
stiletto into his body.

The author of this treason could not certainly be discovered;
but the details communicated by Stuart, respecting the history
of Maxwell, naturally pointed him out as an object of suspicion.
No one expressed more concern, on account of this disaster, than
he; and he pretended an ardent zeal to vindicate his character
from the aspersions that were cast upon it. Thenceforth,
however, I denied myself to his visits; and shortly after he
disappeared from this scene.

Few possessed more estimable qualities, and a better title to
happiness and the tranquil honors of long life, than the mother
and father of Louisa Conway: yet they were cut off in the bloom
of their days; and their destiny was thus accomplished by the
same hand. Maxwell was the instrument of their destruction,
though the instrument was applied to this end in so different a

I leave you to moralize on this tale. That virtue should
become the victim of treachery is, no doubt, a mournful
consideration; but it will not escape your notice, that the
evils of which Carwin and Maxwell were the authors, owed their
existence to the errors of the sufferers. All efforts would
have been ineffectual to subvert the happiness or shorten the
existence of the Stuarts, if their own frailty had not seconded
these efforts. If the lady had crushed her disastrous passion
in the bud, and driven the seducer from her presence, when the
tendency of his artifices was seen; if Stuart had not admitted
the spirit of absurd revenge, we should not have had to deplore
this catastrophe. If Wieland had framed juster notions of moral
duty, and of the divine attributes; or if I had been gifted with
ordinary equanimity or foresight, the double-tongued deceiver
would have been baffled and repelled.

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest