It was near a week after this, before they discovered land. Mr. Campbel, who never failed to visit us once a day, brought me the welcome news. My transports were so great, that I did not observe the extreme concern which was spread over his countenance; 'till, after venting some sighs, he began to deplore his misfortune, in being so soon to be deprived of the pleasure of seeing me. "I am too much obliged to you, sir, said I, (a little moved at the affecting manner in which he spoke) to be capable of refusing you any alleviation of this terrible misfortune, as you call it; and will venture to assure you, that my aunt, to whom I am going, will be glad in person to return you thanks for the services I have received from you. You are then at liberty to make me a visit in London as soon as you think proper, if it suits with your conveniency to come there." Mr. Campbel thanked me with an excess of transport for this permission, assuring me he should not fail to make use of it; and I could observe, by Mrs. Blandon's looks, that she was not displeased at this instance of my complaisance. It would be certainly paying my good-nature too great a compliment, to impute this condescension in Mr. Campbel's favor, entirely to its influence: my vanity found a very sensible gratification in the sighs of so respectful an adorer; and I could not resist the pleasure of indulging it, without considering the inconveniences it might produce.
In the morning we were informed by the servant who attended us, that, if we would walk into the gallery, we might see the white cliffs of Dover. I did not stay a moment after this, but flew to the place he mentioned, eager to satisfy my longing eyes with a view of my dear native country. While I stood for some time wrapped up in pleasing contemplation, my governess and Mr. Campbel came to me: "I have taken upon myself, said Mrs. Blandon to me, to deliver a commission, with which Mr. Campbel was charged, as he is under some apprehensions of disobliging you by it. The captain, it seems, penetrated with the deepest contrition for what is past, begs you will give him an opportunity to ask your pardon, before you leave his ship." At the mention of this hated name, my whole face was covered with a deep blush: "What, madam, said I, (glowing with resentment and shame) is the captain so insensible of the greatness of the insult he offered me, as to imagine I can endure to behold him after it! How has he dared to expect I can be guilty of such a meanness! What! make him a visit in his chamber, to hear him whine out a dissembled tale of penitence and sorrow! No: be it my pride to scorn and detest him still; and the more for this insolent attempt to impose upon my understanding. Was his penitence sincere, he would not make a request, which, to grant, I must descend so greatly beneath myself." "But, my dear, interrupted Mrs. Blandon, it's very possible the captain's concern is as great as he expresses it; and, it must be confessed, you have taken a very severe vengeance on him, thoughno more than he deserved: but you ought to remember, that while he was in the greatest danger, by the wound you gave him; yet he never spoke of you but in the most respectful terms, and acknowledged the justice of your revenge." "Is it your opinion then, madam, replied I, (with some emotion) that I ought to see the captain?" "By no means, returned she, I shall never consent to your making him a visit; but I would have you act consistent with yourself: and since you have discovered so much courage in the defense of your honor, assert the same greatness of mind in generously forgiving the injury that was intended you." "Well, madam, replied I, Mr. Campbel may let his uncle know, that I am satisfied with the assurances he has given, that he repents of having offered me so daring an insult; and that I shall carry away no farther resentment against him, than what will only incline me most heartily to pray, that I may never behold him again." "Ah, said my governess, (smiling) you are not so generous as I thought you. However, added she, (leaving me, to speak to Mr. Campbel who was at some distance) I shall take care not to recede from the severity of your answer."
Having signified our desire to be set on shore at Dover, Mr. Campbel, some time after, brought us word, that the captain had ordered the pinnace to carry us to land. When it was time to depart, my obliging lover led me upon deck, where I could not appear without an excess of confusion; the eyes of all being fastened upon me, which renewed the remembrance of my late terrible adventure: but I was no sooner in the boat than I was perfectly at ease, and I thanked heaven, with an ardent ejaculation, for my deliverance from that detested ship. Mr. Campbel, who was resolved to accompany us to land, seated himself near me; and, in the most melting tone of voice, asked me, if he was now at liberty to speak to me of the passion I had inspired him with. "Your delicacy, added he, has surely been satisfied with the cruel restraint you laid on me aboard; and you have no longer any reason to offer against my acquainting you with the tender sentiments of my heart." "You certainly, said I, (smiling) attribute too great a degree of complaisance to me, when you imagine I shall trouble myself to search for reasons to support my request. No, if you are determined to wear my chains, you must expect I shall be a most arbitrary monarch, and always take my own will for the reason of every thing I do." "Well, miss, replied he, (adopting the gaiety of my humor) from this moment I acknowledge you the absolute mistress of my fate, and promise you an everlasting fidelity; but if you are cruel enough to make my slavery harder than I can bear, you must expect I shall take the liberty to complain." "Oh, returned I, (laughing) I'll give you freedom the moment you demand it." "Will you? said he, (taking my hand, which he respectfully kissed;) alas, I shall never be in a condition to make such a request; and, if my bondage is to continue 'till I wish for freedom, I am likely to be your slave for ever."
This sort of conversation lasted till we got to shore. Mr. Campbel begged my governess would allow him to attend us to the inn, where we intended to stay till the stage-coach set out. She made no difficulty to grant his request, and left the choice of the house to him, as best acquainted with the place. As soon as we were settled in a chamber, he inquired when the stage set out for London, and brought us word it was to go in two days. This respite was extremely agreeable to us, as we had need of some little rest, after a voyage of five weeks.
My lover, preparing to take his leave, begged me to acquaint him at what place in London he might wait on me: upon which I gave him a direction to my aunt's house in Grosvenor-street. He then departed, leaving me, if not absolutely concerned for his absence, yet a good deal moved with the unaffected sorrow that he expressed both in his looks and words.
We immediately took places in the coach, and at the time appointed set out for London, with inexpressible satisfaction; having the good fortune to find very agreeable company in the coach. As soon as it stops at the house where we were to dine, a gentleman, who seemed to be waiting for its coming, ran from the window where he was sitting, and, as soon as the coach-door was opened, offered his hand to help the ladies out. I thought, when I looked at him at a distance, that he greatly resembled Mr. Campbel; but, to my infinite surprise, I found it was really he: and, far from being displeased at this meeting, I told him, smiling, as he led me into the house, that I hoped he was going to London, and would be our convoy on the road. "I have no other business, miss, said he, (whispering) than to attend you there. I had my uncle's permission to leave the ship for that purpose; but I would not acquaint you with it, lest, with your usual cruelty, you should deny me the pleasure of accompanying you." Mrs. Blandon, who was equally surprised at seeing Mr. Campbel, did not fail to acknowledge the favor he did us, in very respectful terms.
I will not trouble you, dear Amanda, with an exact relation of this journey, in which nothing happened worth recording. It will be sufficient to tell you, that it was a very agreeable one to a person of my temper, who could not but be pleased with the officious assiduities of a lover, whose whole care was to oblige me.
We came into London about five in the afternoon; and, leaving our trunks at the inn where we put up, ordered a hackney coach to be called to carry us to L---'s Mr. Campbel insisting upon seeing me safe at my aunt's, my governess consented to his going with us. As I had an exact direction in my pocket book, even to the very house, I could not help being surprised to find, when the coach-man stops, that the windows were all close shut; and, not being able to imagine my aunt was gone so soon into the country, I bid him inquire of some of the chair-men, who stood near, if that was not Lady L----'s house. The fellow, immediately drawing near the window of the coach, informed us that Lady L---- had not been in town the whole winter, and that the house was to be let. I was amazed my aunt had taken no measures to inform me she was in the country, as well as to hear she had entirely quitted her house, knowing that she never before had spent a whole winter out of town. Mrs. Blandon, finding it would be necessary to stay some time in London, ordered the coach man to drive to a house a few doors off, where there was a bill for lodgings, and hired a genteel apartment, which was immediately put in order for our reception that night; and, while it was getting ready, the landlady entreated us to favor her with our company.
Mr. Campbel, after asking leave to wait on us the next day, went away; and our talkative landlady, having observed the house our coach had first stops at, asked us who we were inquiring after there. My governess immediately told her, that we expected to find Lady L---- in town, and that was the house to which we had a direction. "It must needs be, said the landlady, that you are quite strangers in town, otherwise you would have known that that lady has not been here this great while; and they say that she has lost her senses, and is confined at M---- Hall, under the care of her brother-in-law, Sir Edward L----." "Oh my God! cried I, is my aunt mad? Alas, dear Mrs. Blandon, was there ever so cruel a misfortune!" "Hush, my dear, interrupted my governess, (observing my astonishment had deprived me of all caution) perhaps the gentlewoman may be mistaken: you must not suffer yourself to be too much alarmed." "What, madam, resumed she, is the young lady niece to Lady L----? I am sorry, indeed, that I should be the first to acquaint her with this ill news; but, if she is inclined to inquire farther of this affair, there is a lady lodges in my house, who was very intimate with Lady L----. I am persuaded she can inform her of every thing that relates to her misfortune." "Dear madam, replied I, (trembling with anxiety) introduce me immediately to that lady, if she is at home. I cannot rest 'till I know whether my dear aunt be really in that unhappy condition." "Compose yourself, miss, said she, I'll send up one of the lady's servants to know if she can be spoke with." Saying this, she went out, and returned in a few minutes, telling me, that Mrs. Dormer (for that it seems was the lodger's name) desired I would do her the favor to walk up to her apartment. I made no scruple to comply instantly with this invitation, notwithstanding I was still in my riding-habit, and was showed into a very grand drawing-room, where there was a large company assembled.
The unexpected sight of so many gentlemen and ladies, a little disconcerted me; and I told Mrs. Dormer, (blushing) that had I known she had been so much engaged, I would have suspended, for some time longer, my eager desire to inquire after my aunt. "I should have been sorry, miss, said the lady, (saluting me, and leading me to a chair) that any thing should have prevented me from the pleasure of seeing you. I had so great a regard for Lady L----, that I cannot choose but be extremely glad of an opportunity to be acquainted with a young lady, who stands in so near a relation to her. I have often heard her ladyship speak with uncommon tenderness of a niece she had abroad; and, if I am not mistaken, her name was Stuart. You answer so exactly to the description she gave of her, that I am persuaded you are the same young lady, of whom, from your aunt's character, I have conceived so high an idea." "Ah, madam, replied I, (being able to return her compliment no otherwise than by a bow) how extremely unhappy has the news I have lately heard of this dear aunt made me! I would fain flatter myself the report of her indisposition is without foundation, and yet I dread to know the truth." Spite of my endeavors to the contrary, a starting tear trembled in my eyes as I spoke these words, which considerably increased the confusion I felt at seeing myself the object of the whole company's attention.
Mrs. Dormer, affecting not to hear me, turned to a lady that sat next her; "Did you ever see, said she, a stronger resemblance than that between this young lady and her aunt! The same lovely eyes and complex ion! her elegance of shape! nay, the very tone of her voice!" The lady, observing I blushed excessively at these commendations, put an end to them, by asking me, how long I had been informed of the unhappy disorder into which my aunt had fallen. I told her in what manner I came to hear of it. "Was your aunt's indisposition a secret, miss, said Mrs. Dormer, I would not mention it with so much freedom as I do. It is publicly known, and I can ascribe your being unacquainted with it to nothing but your being just arrived in England; for I remember to have heard Lady L---- say she expected you. Your aunt, miss, pursued she, lost her only son about eight months ago, who died of a malignant fever. She was seized with it herself; and her excessive grief, together with the effects of that fatal distemper, deprived her of her senses. I am told too, that she has quite lost the use of her limbs, and is wheeled about her apartment in a chair. When I was in Essex, I would fain have paid her a visit; but her husband's relations allow no one to see her, but her own servants." Mrs. Dormer broke off abruptly here, observing, no doubt, the extreme concern that was visible in my countenance. Unable any longer to bear the painful restraint, which the presence of so many strangers laid on my grief, I rose up, and, begging Mrs. Dormer's permission to retire, I took leave of the company, who seemed greatly affected, and went down stairs.
Mrs. Blandon, hearing me, came out of the parlor, and led me to my own apartment. I was no sooner entered than, eagerly seizing her hands, and leaning my head on her bosom, I gave way to the gush of tears, which I had with difficulty restrained. All the misfortunes my aunt's unhappy situation would bring upon me, rose in an instant to my thoughts. I viewed my disappointment in its most aggravating colors; and my despair was considerably heightened by a tender reflection on her deplorable condition. Mrs. Blandon allowed some moments to the first violence of my grief; and then, obliging me to sit down, she placed herself near me, and endeavored to reconcile me to this melancholy accident, by all the arguments her reason could suggest. When I grew calmer, she represented to me, that if Sir Edward L---- had any sentiments of honor and humanity, thoughmy aunt was incapable of disposing of her fortune by will; yet he would consider how she would have disposed of it: and, since my mother and her children were the only relations she had, it was probable he would do them the same justice she had designed them. "You must, added she, go down to Essex, as soon as you have a little recovered yourself from the fatigue you have suffered. I am determined not to leave you, till I see your affairs happily settled; and, if there should be a necessity for your returning to your mother, I will bear you company in that voyage. For, my dear child, pursued she, (tenderly embracing me) my affection for you has been so confirmed by the surprising merit I have discovered in you, that my own interest is less dear to me than yours." "Ah, madam, answered I, (returning the affectionate embrace she gave me) how well has your tender care repaid the confidence my mother reposed in you! How happy ought I to think myself, in the midst of my cruel disappointments, that providence has given me a friend like you! But oh, Mrs. Blandon, cried I, (melting into tears) can you blame my too just grief on this melancholy occasion? My dear aunt, on whom my happiness depended, is not only incapable of affording me any, but languishes away her own days in a state of misery. I shall perhaps be obliged to return to my mother, loaded with disappointments and misfortunes; and, never being treated with any great degree of tenderness, shall I not see myself the perpetual object of her anger and reproaches!" "If you apprehend that, said Mrs. Blandon, (after a little pause) what hinders you from accepting Mr. Campbel for a husband? He has given you very convincing proofs of the purity of that passion he professes for you. His person and manners are unexceptionable, and his condition in life capable of making you happy. Listen then, my dear, to the dictates of your reason upon this occasion, and do not refuse the advantages that providence throws in your way. If your heart has not yet been sensible to the merit of Mr. Campbel, suffer it to make some impression on you now, when your situation renders such an offer of the greatest importance to you."
My affection for the dear Dumont was the only secret I preserved from Mrs. Blandon's knowledge; and thoughI foresaw I should be often pressed in Mr. Campbel's favor, yet I could not resolve to trust her with my weakness; knowing the severity of her virtue too well, to think she would not oppose, with the utmost warmth, a tenderness warranted by the weak hope of his changing his religion; and only to be indulged at the expense of breaking through his other engagement. I could no otherwise evade coming to some explanation, on this perplexing subject, than by entreating her to wave it for the present; which she immediately complied with, and changed the discourse to my journey to Essex, which was resolved on, in a few days.
You may well imagine, my dear Amanda, this night was far from being tranquilly spent. A thousand disagreeable reflections kept me waking till near morning. I did not rise till it was very late; and Mrs. Dormer had sent a message to inquire after my health, before I was in a condition to make any return to her compliment. My mother, having expected I should find my aunt in town, and that I should not be at any great expense, had only furnished me with a bill upon the agent for twenty pounds.
Mrs. Blandon was going to present this bill, and get payment for it, when Mr. Campbel came in. My mind had retained so much of the melancholy my first disappointment had inspired, as to produce the following little ode; which, upon seeing my lover, I would have concealed, had he not prevented me, by taking it up, and reading it aloud to Mrs. Blandon, who did not always take notice of my little scrawls, it being so often my custom to employ myself in writing.
I. Oppress'd with ev'ry anxious woe A mortal can sustain, While with the day my sorrows grow, And life wears out in pain; II. Where shall I ease, or comfort find, Oh! how relieve my care? What can preserve my tortur'd mind From sinking in despair? III. Thou canst, religion! whose bright beams O'er my benighted soul A smiling ray of comfort gleams, And all my fears controul. IV. From earth my boundless wishes soar, And thy bright tract pursue; The world's false joys can please no more, When heav'nly are in view. V. The frowns of partial fortune here The virtuous may despise; They're only happy who can fear, Not poverty, but vice.
When he had finished reading, he cast a tender glance at me; and, looking over the last verse again, "I hope, miss, said he, you will have no reason to make this affecting complaint. Fortune can never be so unjust as to make you feel any of her rigors." "Ah, how much are you deceived, sir, interrupted I, fortune has always been my enemy; and I have experienced the most cruel effects of her hate, almost from the very moment of my birth."
Mrs. Blandon, taking up the discourse, told him of the disagreeable news I had heard of my aunt's illness, and the loss of all my expectations. He listened attentively to her relation, with a countenance that expressed a generous sympathy in my afflictions: then, all of a sudden, brightening into a smile of pleasure, he fixed his eyes, sparkling with redoubled tenderness, upon me, "Pardon me, miss, said he, if I cannot enter so deeply into this misfortune as becomes a man to whom your happiness is dearer than his own. My passion draws a favorable omen from an event, which appears so unfortunate for you. I can now have an opportunity of laying my fortune at your feet, without being suspected of any sordid views; and can have the pleasure of convincing you, 'tis your lovely self alone that I seek the possession of, and in which all my desires are bounded."
As generous as this declaration was, I could not hear it without some uneasiness, as it seemed to lay me under a sort of necessity of declaring myself immediately. I found the passion Mr. Campbel had for me, was too ardent to allow me the ridiculous pleasure of trifling with his addresses; and, to avoid the imputation of a base deceiver, I ought either to accept his offers, or give him at once an absolute refusal. This, however, I could not yet resolve to do; and, for the present, I contented myself with acknowledging, thoughwith some reserve, the generosity and disinterestedness of his offers, assuring him, that I was extremely sensible of it. but added, my affliction was yet too recent to leave room for any thoughts of that nature, and begged he would press me no farther upon the subject at present. Then, assuming a more disengaged manner, I told him of my intention to go into Essex, in order to procure a sight of my aunt.
He was beginning to offer some reasons against this journey, when Mrs. Blandon happening to mention the affair she was going about, he told her, if she had no other business with the agent than to receive payment of a bill from him, he would transact that for her with great pleasure. She accepted his offer, and, giving him the order, he promised to go to him that afternoon, and wait on us again in the evening with the money. He took his leave soon after this; and, when dinner was over, our trunks being now come from the inn, I drest myself, in order to wait upon Mrs. Dormer, who had sent to entreat I would drink tea with her.
When I entered her apartment, I found no other company with her than an elderly clergyman) who, saluting me with an air of familiarity, told me, he had waited with impatience for the pleasure of seeing a young lady, of whose accomplishments Mrs. Dormer had given him the most delightful idea. After returning that lady my thanks, for the advantageous opinion she endeavored to inspire of me, we began to enter into a more general conversation, when we were joined by two ladies, and a colonel in the army, remarkable for his wit and the excessive politeness of his manners, and the only man who joined the extremes of foppery to an elevated understanding, and whose very foibles were capable of pleasing.
My youth, and the peculiar sprightliness of my air, struck him immediately. He directed most of his conversation to me; and, beginning to understand some particulars of my family and affairs, offered me his services and interest in my applications at court for a pension, which, he said, my father's birth and long services gave me a title to expect.
Mrs. Dormer, who seemed to have conceived a real friendship for me, was delighted with this prospect of retrieving my fortune: and telling me she had some relations at court, whose interest might be of use to me, promised to influence them in my favor, and persuaded me to defer my journey to Essex; adding, that a brother of Sir Edward L had a post in the war-office, and might be of great use to me; and, as she had some acquaintance with him, she would take it upon herself to send for him, and introduce me to him: for I had before informed her, that I was a perfect stranger to my uncle L----'s relations.
When the hour approached that I expected Mr. Campbel, I took leave of the company, extremely well pleased with the acquisition I had made of two acquaintance, who were likely to be of so much service to me. The colonel would wait on me to the door of my own apartment, and, taking leave of me with a thousand compliments, went up stairs the moment it was opened; yet Mr. Campbel, who was there with Mrs. Blandon, had a glimpse of him, as he advanced towards the door to receive me. "Is not that colonel F----, miss, said he, that parted from you just now?" Upon which I answered in the affirmative, asking him, at the same time, if he knew him: "I am not personally acquainted with him, replied he; but there are few people in London who have not heard of colonel F----. He has made a figure in the gay world a great many years; and his wit and gallantry have distinguished him in most of the polite courts in Europe. I dare say, miss, pursued my lover, (smiling) that you would find it difficult to believe that colonel F---- is married; and that heart, which he offers to almost every lady he sees, either is, or ought to be, wholly in the possession of his wife." "I am glad, interrupted I, to hear the colonel is married, since I can accept, with more decency, the services he offers me." I then related what had past, concerning my petitioning the government for a pension, which was frequently granted to the daughters of officers of note. Mrs. Blandon highly approved the design, as I was likely to have such good interest; for Mrs. Dormer was of one of the best families in England, and was very capable of recommending me to powerful friends.
Mr. Campbel did not seem to relish this new scheme, and was now rather inclined to favor my journey to Essex; but when I told him, that I expected to see a brother-in-law of my aunt's, he agreed that it would be better to defer going till I had consulted him. When my lover with drew, Mrs. Blandon, after discussing once more the affair of my applying for a pension, declared herself very well satisfied with the probability of its succeeding; but concluding with an ardent wish, that I would rather dispose my heart to return Mr. Campbel's generous affection, I put an end to such a perplexing discourse, by amusing myself with my pen till was time to go to bed.
I ought to have informed you, dear Amanda, that Mrs. Dormer having heard my aunt L---- mention my little talent in poetry, she had obliged me to put my small manuscripts into her hands, which she had not fled to show to both the colonel and the clergyman; who was, as he afterwards told me himself, a great critic in these matters. Upon my going into Mrs. Dormer's apartment the next evening, for we lived now l a perfect intimacy together, she told me, (smiling) that the colonel and Mr. E---- (so was the clergyman called) had read my poems, and l pressed great admiration of them. "See, pursued she, (giving me a paper) the colonel is no great poet, yet he made shift to write these lines extempore, upon reading your poems.
On reading the Poems of a very young lady. As tender lambkins in the morn Of life, presage the future horn; So in Florella's early strains, Amaz'd, we read the lover's pains: Her heart too young by passion to be fir'd, Proves plainly that her poetry's inspir'd.
I had scarce time to express my approbation of this compliment, when Mr. E---- came in. He had brought me a present of a very neat edition of Dryden's Virgil, being resolved to make me acquainted with his favorite poet; and took occasion to display his learning and criticism for a full hour, in expatiating on the beauties of Virgil, who was, he said, in his opinion, a much greater poet than Homer.
As Mr. E----, very often in the midst of his elaborate harangue, acknowledged himself, with great modesty, a very accurate critic; neither Mrs. Dormer or I thought proper to dissent from his judgment in matters he understood so well: and, therefore, concluding his argument, for want of opposition, he descended to talk of things of less importance; and told me, that Mrs. Dormer having favored him with my manuscript-poems, he had put them into the hands of a lady of great distinction about court, remarkable for the brilliancy of her wit, and her taste for the Belles-Lettres. "She is so pleased with them, added he, that she obliged me to promise I would bring her acquainted with you; and therefore, miss, I'll introduce you to her ladyship whatever day you please." "I fancy, said Mrs. Dormer, (smiling) it is Lady Cecilia you intend to introduce miss Stuart to. That lady, pursued she, (addressing herself to me) is very capable of doing you great service: she holds one of the first employments at court; and her generosity is so diffusive, that she is said to seek out persons, to whom her interest may be useful. I have heard of a number of people, who have had an entire dependence upon her." I did not, at that time, take any notice of the sarcastic turn of these words; but acknowledging myself obliged to Mr. E----, for the favor he intended me, he said he would wait upon Lady Cecilia that evening, and her ladyship should fix the day herself for my visit to her. When we had settled this point, I returned to my own apartment; and, finding Mrs. Blandon a little indisposed, I would not leave her the remainder of the day.
Next morning Mrs. Dormer sent to let me know, that Mr. L---- was with her, and desired I would come to her immediately. I found she had had some conversation with that gentleman concerning me; for, the moment I entered the room, he rose, and saluted me with much respect, declaring himself sensibly touched at the unfortunate disappointment I had met with. After relating to me the rise and progress of my aunt's fatal distemper, he added, that he would not have me think of going to Essex, as a sight of her in that melancholy condition would necessarily cause me a deep affliction; assuring me, at the same time, he would write to his brother, and acquaint him with the occasion of my coming to England. I thought I understood the meaning of these words, and was going to make him some reply, when, colonel F---- coming into the room, Mr. L---- immediately took his leave, telling me he would very soon wait on me again.
When he was gone, the colonel delivered an apology to me from Mr. E----, who was obliged to go out of town upon some very urgent occasion, and could not have the pleasure of attending me next morning to Lady Cecilia's: "And therefore, miss, added he, (bowing) I am to have the honor of introducing you. Her ladyship, pursued he, (laughing, and turning to Mrs. Dormer) has sent me a sort of challenge, which my profession, as a soldier, obliges me to comply with. She told Mr. E----, that she had often seen me in the drawing room, and, if I was not more afraid of her in her own apartment than at court, she would be glad to confirm our acquaintance there." "These ladies that are distinguished for their wit, replied Mrs. Dormer, may say and do any thing. Methinks there is something very new and agreeable in this gallant way of breaking through the little rules, that custom and decency have imposed on our sex." "Upon my word, said the colonel, (with an easy gaiety) you have so much of the prude in you, Mrs. Dormer, that I begin to hate you excessively. What a censorious speech have you made!" To say the truth, I did not know how to account for the strange manner in which Mrs. Dormer spoke of this lady; but time unraveled the mystery.
Mrs. Blandon's indisposition increasing every hour, she was obliged at last to take to her bed. The unfeigned grief which this accident occasioned me, received a most cruel addition when she told me, she was afraid her distemper was the small-pox. One of the landlady's children was then ill of it, and my dear governess caught the infection by accidentally going into the sick child's chamber. Mrs. Dormer, who came that afternoon to visit me, sent one of her servants for her own physician, who confirmed the truth of her apprehensions, by declaring she was seized with that dangerous disease. I past the greater part of that night by her bed-side, filled with the most painful anxiety; and could scarce prevail upon myself to leave her, to take a few hours rest, at her most earnest entreaties.
I found her so much worse in the morning, that I would, if possible, have avoided waiting on Lady Cecilia that day; but I knew my governess illness would not be taken as a sufficient excuse for disappointing her ladyship, and I therefore was drest at the hour the colonel was to call on me. He took occasion to remark, as he handed me into his chariot, that I was now beginning the work of dependence on a court, which possibly might not sit easy on a mind so exalted as mine: "But I flatter myself, miss, said he, that you will soon be settled in a condition suitable to your birth and merit. Lady Cecilia's interest is sufficient to procure you a very genteel establishment at court; and, from the accounts she has received of you, she is so greatly prepossessed in your favor, that she has assured Mr. E---- she will make use of all her power to serve you." These agreeable assurances contributed a little to raise my spirits, from the damp Mrs. Blandon's illness had given them.
When we came to Lady Cecilia's, we found her ladyship was not yet returned from chapel; but a servant ushered us into an elegant drawing-room, telling us that his lady would return in a few minutes. The colonel, like a man who had been used to that sort of dependence he had mentioned to me, told me, with a very significant look, and a peculiar gravity in his voice, that it was better to expect her ladyship a little, than make her wait for us; and was beginning to give me some account of her family and fortune, when a loud and continued rap at the door, informed us that her ladyship was coming. I thought however, a moment afterwards, that we had been mistaken; for the door was no sooner opened than the whole house echoed with the shrillness of a voice, that was uttering some very passionate exclamations, and chiding the chair men for some fault they had committed, in a language so extremely coarse, that I should never have suspected it was the lady herself, had not the door of the room been instantly flung open, and Lady Cecilia appeared at the entrance. The colonel and I immediately rose up, when her ladyship, speaking in the same loud key, which made me imagine it was the fashion at court, thanked the colonel for bringing her acquainted with such an ingenious young lady; and then saluting me, led us into her library, with which I was really prodigiously struck. The great number of books of which it was composed, gave me a very advantageous idea of a lady, who could be at such an expense to furnish herself with intellectual entertainments.
As soon as we were seated, Lady Cecilia throwing herself into a great chair, on one side of which was a large reading-desk, and before her a table covered with books, papers, and other materials for writing, took a full survey of my whole person, as I sat directly opposite to her. I could not help discovering some little confusion at her scrutinizing looks, which was so far from producing the effect I desired, that she gazed at me still with greater eagerness. At last, turning to the colonel, she entered into a conversation with him on the subject of my affairs; which being ended, she cast an obliging look at me, assuring me it should not be long before I should have no reason to regret the disappointment I had met with. "I take upon myself, miss, said she, the care of making your fortune; and you may depend upon the absolute promise I now give you, to procure you a genteel place about the princess." The colonel, upon this, told her, that he had resolved not to leave London till I was provided for; but, since her ladyship had taken me into her protection, there would be no occasion for his trifling interest.
There appeared something so singularly kind in this lady's generous offers, that, my heart glowing with the warmest gratitude, I expressed my acknowledgments in very ardent terms. When I took leave, she begged me to favor her often with my company; adding, with a smile, that I was now her charge, and she intended to assume the privilege of insisting upon my being often with her for the future. The colonel was just going to lead me to the door, when her ladyship recollecting that she had something to say to him, desired me to walk into her dressingroom for a moment, and he should wait on me immediately. Accordingly I complied; but, I believe, I waited near half an hour before the colonel came; and could not help being surprised at this intimacy, contracted so suddenly, and improved already to such a height.
I conceived so much resentment at being left alone so long, which I thought was an insupportable slight, that, when the colonel came, I was scarce able to hide my chagrin. As soon as we were seated in the chariot, he told me, her ladyship had expressed herself in very warm terms. "Of whom, sir?" interrupted I, (smiling). "Why, of you to be sure, miss, said he. We were talking of you all the while; and she is so charmed with you, that I am persuaded it will not be long before she convinces you, how greatly she interests herself in your happiness." The colonel added a great deal more to the same purpose; but I was by no means satisfied with the freedom that had been used with me. And I should have indulged the satirical humor I was in at her ladyship's expense, had I not been restrained by the remembrance of some part of her behavior to me, which had been in a particular manner obliging. When we got home, the colonel, having led me to my own apartment, went to pay a visit to Mrs. Dormer; and I flew into Mrs. Blandon's chamber, who, as ill as she was, listened with great pleasure to the account I gave her of Lady Cecilia's reception of me.
Her distemper coming to a height in a few days, the physician declared her in great danger. No words can express the affliction I felt: I hardly ever left her; and shared with the person who attended her, in the fatigue of watching by her almost every night, till my health was greatly impaired.
Mrs. Dormer, and the still adoring Campbel, used every method to draw me from her bed-side, where I sat continually weeping; and my dear governess herself, often entreated me to leave her. But, alas, my extreme anxiety never gave me a moment's rest, when I was absent from her! And still, rather hoping than expecting some favorable alteration, I past the melancholy hours in continually offering up my ardent petitions to heaven for her recovery. I had but just left her one night, and retired to my own chamber, when her sister, who was the only relation she had, and who had been with her for some days past, rapped at my door; which I no sooner opened than she told me, with a face covered with tears, that my governess was just expiring, and begged to see me once more. ThoughI had expected this fatal news for some time, yet I could not receive it now without the most terrible agonies.
Mrs. Dormer met me as I came out of my chamber, and, apprehensive that I should be greatly affected, had hastened to me, in order, by her presence, to calm the first transports of my grief: "Oh, madam, said I, (pressing her hand, and my eyes streaming with tears) how shall I support this loss!" She had no time to reply, I ran with such an eager haste into my governessroom. They had called up the physician; but, alas, his art was no longer of any use! I approached her bed-side in a speechless agony of grief! "My dear child, said she, (in a weak voice) farewell! I only wanted to see you once more, to tell you, I feel no other regret in dying, than the leaving you in this unsettled condition. What comfort would it give me, had I any hopes that you would marry Mr. Campbel! But heaven, I hope, will direct your choice, and protect your innocence and virtue. Once more, farewell, my dear! said she, (grasping my hand with a faint pressure). Let not my death afflict you: we shall meet again in a better world." Here her strength failing her, she desired to be left alone with the clergyman, who had attended her during her illness. Mrs. Dormer herself assisted in carrying me into my own room; and, half an hour afterwards, word was brought that she was dead. ThoughI had summoned all my strength of reason and reflection, to help me to support this cruel affliction; yet I no sooner heard that I had lost her for eves, her who had loved me with a parent's fondness, and who had taken such unwearied pains to form my mind to piety and virtue, than I resigned myself up to the most violent despair. "Ah, how wretched am I now! cried I, (raising my eyes all drowned in tears:) Exposed, at these early years, to the caprice of a world, into which I am cast helpless, and abandoned to all the injuries it may load me with! Who now shall direct my inexperienced youth! Whom shall I fly to, when dangers or disappointments threaten me! Alas, I am in the fullest sense an orphan! Not without parents alone, but have now neither friend or protector left!"