As soon as I got into the coach, I made it hurry me to my dear Mrs. Dormer's; to whom I related all that had happened, with a flood of tears. "Indeed, my dear, said she, did not your affliction give me a very sensible concernI should be tempted to laugh at the strange and unaccountable Story they have raised against you. Methinks Lady Cecilia's wit, and peculiar genius for scandal, might have invented something more probable, to ruin the reputation of a young lady, whom it was necessary she should quarrel with. What, does she think any body will believe an impudent libertine, like this Repoli, could be capable of slighting the advances of a young lovely creature, for whom he avowed a passion? Such a self-denial might appear consistent in the character of a mortified anchorite; but it will be very difficult to persuade any one, who has common sense, that a rake could be capable of acting in this manner." Mrs. Dormer added many other reasons to persuade me, that this scandal must necessarily fall of itself; but the eloquence of a Cicero, on this occasion, would have had less influence upon me than the silent testimony of my own conscience. Secure in my own untainted innocence, I could look down with scorn on the mean attempts of vice and infamy to degrade me to an equality with itself; and conscious virtue alone, enabled me to triumph over the base arts of my powerful accusers.
Mrs. Dormer, to whom my misfortunes had but the more endeared me, would not suffer me to lodge out of the house. My apartment having been let while I was at the countess's, she obliged me to stay with her. The friendship with which she favored me, made me repose an entire confidence in her. I related all the accidents of my life, and did not conceal even my engagement with Dumont. The generosity of her soul inclined her to pity the unsuccessful passion of Mr. Campbel; yet she could not refuse her esteem to the character I gave of my beloved Dumont, and confessed that he merited the preference I gave him.
"I am so much obliged to you, my dear, said she one day, for the unlimited trust you have favored me with, that I can do no less than return it in kind, and acquaint you with the history of my life. I have been unfortunate both in love and marriage; a maid, a widow, and a wife, at the same time. A strange paradox, you'll say; but the sequel of my story will convince you, that in my person was united the extremes of wretchedness, which all these characters could sustain."
My father, who was born to a very large paternal estate, possessed also some of the most eminent dignities in the law. I was the eldest of three children, and favored with a peculiar indulgence from my father and mother, as I was the only daughter. In these early years of my life, pursued Mrs. Dormer, (with a smile) I was reckoned tolerably handsome. The reputation of my charms, joined to the fortune my father was able to give me, brought me a number of adorers; some of whom, for their rank and fortune, were highly acceptable to my father and mother. But my heart felt no tender emotions for any of them: and so great was my father's indulgence, that, in talking to me on the subject of my marriage, he always expressed himself like a tender friend, solicitous for my happiness, without ever mixing the authority of a parent, or giving the least hint that he expected, in such an affair, a negative voice should not be allowed me.
Alas, how ill did I repay this excess of goodness! The only man in the world whom my father would have forbidden me to think of, became the object of my love. The father of this young gentleman had formerly addressed my mother, at the same time that mine was courting her. This laid a foundation for that enmity between them, which my father's success in marrying the lady, for whom they contended, increased. Mr. Wilmot, after this, took all occasions to discover the deep aversion he had for my father; and it was with great difficulty that they were prevented from sealing their resentment in each other's blood.
The son of this gentleman happened to meet me at a visit to a young lady of my acquaintance. He had just come from making the tour of Europe ; and appeared so agreeable in my eyes, notwithstanding he was the son of an enemy, that I could not refuse him my esteem. I soon found I had made some impression on his heart: he scarce ever took his eyes off my face while I staid; and, when I took leave, handed me to my chair, making me some very obliging compliments on the happiness my company had afforded him.
My thoughts were engrossed by this agreeable youth all night: I found so much sweetness in the hope of being beloved by him, that I never considered the enmity of our two fathers. The soft passion, which was kindling in my heart, inspired only the most flattering ideas; and representing the young Wilmot in every favorable and engaging light, assured me, that my father, won by the merit of his sacrificing his hereditary hatred to the affection he bore me, would not oppose our mutual happiness. I reasoned in this manner, from a perfect conviction that my eyes had inevitably wounded this too lovely enemy; and my heart was exulting with the most pleasing hopes, when my maid, entering my chamber, delivered me a letter from Mr. Wilmot, which contained a most passionate declaration of love. My mother came into the room, just as I had finished reading this welcome confirmation of the hopes with which I flattered myself: at sight of her I blushed, and would have concealed my lover's letter in my pocket; but she, holding my hand, asked me, with a smile, what paper it was I was so earnest to hide. As I could possibly make no evasion, that would secure me from some suspicion, I gave her the letter, telling her at the same time, that, as I had never seen the writer of it but once, and had given him no sort of encouragement to address me in that manner, I hoped, if it was a crime, she would not think me accessory to it. "You are certainly guilty of no crime, said she, (with an air of good humor) in having, as I find by this letter, forced the son of your father's enemy to acknowledge the power of your charms. You have now a good opportunity to revenge the injuries Mr. Dormer complains of, in the person of a man who can't but be hateful to him, as descended from his old enemy and rival."
My mother looked earnestly in my face as she pronounced these words I blushed excessively, and was pierced to the heart by the cruel disappointment they gave me; for, from her, at least, I expected less reluctance to an alliance, which would reconcile our houses, and which, in point of fortune, greatly exceeded the most sanguine hopes they could entertain for me. I therefore continued silent, with my eyes fixed on the ground. My mother, observing the changes in my countenance, asked me, if any thing she had said disturbed me. "I am almost tempted to believe, Polly, said she, that this young Wilmot is but too agreeable to you. However, don't be afraid to discover your sentiments: I promise you I will not acquaint your father with any thing that may draw his anger upon you." Since you are so good, madam, replied I, (blushing still more than before) to allow me to declare myself freely, I must confess, that I do not hate this young gentleman; and, if my father could be brought to approve his addresses, it might be the happy means of reconciling him to Mr. Wilmot, and free you from any future alarms upon the account of that resentment, which subsists between them." "You have spoke my thoughts, replied my mother, (embracing me). I rejoice sincerely at this event. If Mr. Wilmot can bring his father to consent to your union, I doubt not but my influence with Mr. Dormer will prevail upon him to remit the long hatred he has bore him. Your father cannot be insensible to the advantages of such an offer." "What answer, then, madam, interrupted I, shall I send to this letter?" "Let me see, child, said she, (looking over it again) he desires you would condescend to see him at the same young lady's today. Well, you may go; but take care not to own, that you have mentioned this matter to me. I would not have him imagine, there will be less difficulty in gaining us over than his father."
You may be assured, miss, pursued Mrs. Dormer, that my mother's approbation was highly agreeable to me. I went to the house of my friend, whom I found Mr. Wilmot had engaged to speak in his behalf. She kept me a long while from the sight of my lover, who was in another parlor, enumerating the many advantages that would arise from our mutual affection. At last, finishing a discourse, which I could not then help thinking tedious, she led me into the room where Mr. Wilmot was.
The excessive joy which my complying with his request, in meeting him, spread over his countenance, relieved me, by a pleasing sensation, from the confusion that had dyed my cheeks with a deep blush. I found myself, in a little time, quite reassured; and the few minutes private conversation I had with him, so effectually convinced me that his passion was perfectly sincere, that I made no scruple to own the effect his merit had wrought in my heart. We parted with a thousand assurances of mutual fidelity; and I went home to give my mother an account of what had passed. She permitted me, in a few weeks after, to acknowledge to him, that I had acquainted her with his passion; and that she had promised to use her good offices with my father, provided Mr. Wilmot could prevail upon his to make the first proposal of a marriage between us.
My lover confessed, that he had not ventured yet to acquaint his father with his affection; but that he would, very soon, solicit his consent to our alliance, as the only means of making him happy. My mother, in the mean time, hinted the affair to my father, who replied at first with much heat; but at last, by her artful reasoning, was brought to say, that, if Mr. Wilmot would condescend to mention the affair first to him, he would consider of it.
I easily foresaw, that my lover's father would insist upon the same punctilio, and looked upon this declaration as a bar to all our hopes. However, I was much deceived in supposing that he was, in the least, inclined to favor his son's passion. My lover, after having for some time evaded the repeated requests I made to him to speak to his father, at last confessed, with the deepest concern, that he had threatened him with his eternal displeasure, if ever he dared to mention such a proposal again. "Yet, my dearest angel, pursued my lover, the cruel opposition my father makes to my union with you, can never prevail upon me to renounce my title to your heart. I never will be any other than yours; and, if you will consent to give me your hand privately, we'll put it out of the power of fate to part us."
This proposal, at first, filled me with horror; but love, more powerful than all the ties of duty, made me consent to it. I trembled, lest I should lose him for ever, if I refused to give him this instance of my affection; and desired a few days to consider of it. In which time my lover informed me, that he was going to spend a few months in Paris, having some affairs of consequence to manage there; and that he did not dare to refuse the absolute commands of his father, who, he believed, would have taken this journey himself, but that he feared his son still held a correspondence with me, and, by his absence, would be at liberty to prosecute it with more freedom.
There needed no more to make me come to a resolution. The idea of parting with him, e're I had fixed him mine, was not to be born! In that moment, forgetting all I owed to duty, and the indulgence of a father, who had suffered, without any marks of displeasure, my refusal of several matches that he had approved, I listened only to the dictates of my tenderness, and promised to marry him before he went away. As I had no reason to imagine my mother would approve of such a precipitate step, I resolved not to ask her consent; and only in the presence of the young lady, at whose house I first saw Mr. Wilmot, and my own maid, was joined to my lover, by, as I thought, the most indissoluble ties. Alas! heaven, who beheld this act of disobedience with horror, made my fatal marriage the source of the most cruel misfortunes.
When the ceremony was over, I went home, filled with a thousand perplexing inquietudes. I could not see my dear father, whose tenderness I had so abused, without feeling a painful remorse. My husband insisted upon visiting me in the evening; and, as my maid was privy to the secret, I could find no presence for refusing him: he therefore came privately to my chamber. My mother, who had allowed him to see me there, was not surprised that he came to take his leave; for he was to set out for Paris the next day. But as I knew his intention was to stay all night, which I was positively resolved to prevent, I made a sign to my mother not to leave the room. She, who thought I had some very urgent reason for this caution, never offered to stir. It grew late: my father was expected in every moment, and would be surprised to find her out of her chamber; she, therefore, put Mr. Wilmot in mind that it was time to retire. She was obliged to repeat this hint several times, before he thought proper to take any notice of it. At last, he rose from his chair, and, saluting my mother, took a cold leave of me; giving me, at the same time, a look that expressed how much he was disobliged at my behavior.
When he was gone, my mother asked me, if he had ever treated me in a manner unbecoming the respect he owed me, that I was afraid to trust myself alone with him. I evaded this question as well as I was able, by telling her I was afraid, if we had parted in private, my tenderness might have betrayed me into too great weakness. She appeared satisfied with this answer; and lamented, with some warmth, the obstinacy of both our fathers, who seemed determined to prevent our union. Her affection for me, made her wish nothing more ardently than to see me married to a man she thought so deserving my tenderness, and whose fortune was so greatly above what mine entitled me to.
When my mother left me, and I was at liberty to reflect on the reproachful look my dear Wilmot gave me, I found something so painful in the fear of having offended him, that I passed the whole night in tears; and did not enjoy a moment's rest till I had a letter, which, as it was wrote in the warmest stile of tenderness, convinced me my innocent fraud was forgiven, and that I was still passionately beloved. For two months he continued to write constantly to me by every post; but I could not help observing, that he carefully avoided the stile of a husband, and never once acknowledged, by the most distant hint, that I was his wife. Upon my first making this reflection, I was extremely uneasy; but imagining that he thought this reserve necessary, for fear of a discovery, or that he designed I should show these letters to my mother, who approved of our mutual tenderness, I silenced any suspicions to the prejudice of his love, and waited with a tender impatience for his return; he having now greatly exceeded the time in which he proposed to see me again.
While I was torturing my imagination to find reasons for his stay, I accidentally heard that he was gone to Italy; and that his father had given him leave to spend some years abroad, which he had earnestly requested. The affliction this news occasioned me, was but too visible in my looks and behavior; yet none in the family, but my mother, could guess the cause. She indeed rightly concluded, that Wilmot's absence was the ground of my uneasiness; but she did not imagine that I was lamenting the cruel perfidy of a husband, and not the indifference of a lover.
I now never heard from him at all: I knew not where to direct to him; and my resentment at his treachery, helped to free my heart from the torturing passion I had felt for him. All my care was to conceal my unfortunate marriage from my father. I loaded my maid with presents; but I had no reason to bribe her to be faithful: she continued so till her death, which happened two years after the departure of my faithless husband. Fate seemed resolved to put it out of my power to claim him; for the clergyman who married me, and the young lady my friend, the other witness of my unhappy nuptials, both died within a few months of each other.
My mother, who extremely resented the indifference I complained of in Mr. Wilmot, pressed me incessantly to drive him from my heart. I was still solicited and addressed by a number of lovers. My father often told me, he expected I would fix my choice; and filled me with inexpressible terror, when he threatened to abandon me for ever, if he found my aversion for marriage proceeded from any secret hope of being united to the son of his enemy. Who would imagine, that a heart, filled with the deepest resentment against the sex, for the base usage I had received from one man, should ever again become a victim to love!
As I have always considered every misfortune that has befallen me, in consequence of my marriage, as a just punishment for the crime of it, I am inclined to believe that providence permitted this fatal weakness, to make my sufferings more poignant.
A young gentleman named Clayton, who possessed every grace of mind and person, and who was master of a very large fortune, asked my father's permission to make his addresses to me. I had often viewed him with a particular delight; yet I only fancied I paid the same tribute of admiration to his merit, which it exacted from all who knew him. When my father mentioned his proposal to me, an involuntary transport, for a moment, took possession of my heart: but, recollecting my unhappy situation, a sigh unwillingly escaped me; and when I declined receiving a visit from him, in the quality of a lover, my face was overspread with blushes.
My father, observing my confusion, attributed it to what really was the cause, a secret liking of this young gentleman: but, a little offended at the disingenuity of my answer, he told me, with some sternness, that he would allow me to trifle no longer; and that Mr. Clayton was he, of all who had addressed me, whom he approved of most, and, therefore, he expected I should accustom myself to think of him with esteem. I saw my father expected I would now explain myself, which, to avoid, I begged for a few days to consider of what he had said; and retired to my room, oppressed with inconceivable affliction.
My heart had been too well acquainted with the soft emotions of love, to be any longer ignorant that I felt for Mr. Clayton all that passion could inspire; but my virtue took the alarm at this discovery. Mr. Wilmot, though he disclaimed the title, was still my husband. Could I rob him of any part of my affection, without an injury to my honor? I could find many instances, among my acquaintance, of wives who preserved an unblemished tenderness for husbands that loaded them with affronts; and it was not impossible but Mr. Wilmot might return to a sense of honor and justice, and restore me to the place I ought to hold in his affection. With this sort of reasoning I endeavored to vanquish the flame that consumed me: but, alas! it increased by opposition; and all I could do, was to preserve the secret in my own breast. And, convinced that my father would never force me to marry against my inclination, I resolved to declare I had an unalterable aversion for Mr. Clayton. Alas! what pain did it not give me to dissemble in this manner! but my honor demanded this cruel sacrifice of me. And, amidst the severest pangs of my own heart, I would reflect, with a gloomy kind of pleasure, that this fatal love justly revenged the disobedience I had been guilty of; and, considering my sufferings in that light, I resolved to support them with submission and fortitude.
My father, amazed at the dislike I expressed for Mr. Clayton, discovered his displeasure in harsher terms than ever he had used to me; and declaring, that he expected I should endeavor to change my sentiments, permitted Mr. Clayton to have frequent opportunities of conversing with me alone. The respectful passion, the lively ardor of this too dangerous lover, put all my constancy to proof. I was cruel to the best and faithfullest of men, to preserve myself just to one of the worst. Severe necessity! fatal law! which my too rigid virtue imposed on me.
I had so well counterfeited a fixed indifference, or rather dislike, for Mr. Clayton, that my father began to despair of ever seeing me in a disposition to obey him willingly; when one night, as we were sitting at upper, a servant of Mr. Clayton's came to inform us, that his master, who had been that day at Richmond with another gentleman, had fallen Off his horse coming home, and was so much hurt that his life was despaired of My senses immediately forsaking me, at this terrible news, I fell back in my chair, after breathing a deep sigh; and continued so long in a swoon, that the whole family was greatly alarmed. My affection for my Clayton could now be no longer a secret; and my obstinate refusal of him was matter of surprise, to all who knew any thing of the affair.
I was put to bed extremely ill; and, conscious of the fatal discovery I had made, my disorder was increased by the terrible apprehensions with which I was tortured. My lover, however, in a few days was declared out of danger. In spite of myself, my eyes betrayed the transport I felt at the prospect of his recovery. My mother took occasion to question me upon this strange contradiction in my behavior; but, though I could easily evade her inquiries, I could not, with the same facility, satisfy my father. He declared, that, as I was past the power of denying my affection for Mr. Clayton, the reluctance I expressed for marrying him must arise from some cause I was afraid to own; and he left it to my choice, either to marry him as soon as he was recovered, or disclose the reasons I had for refusing to accept, for a husband, the man whom I had given convincing proofs that I passionately loved. I saw it was impossible to avoid either inevitable ruin, or shame and infamy, but by applying to the generosity of my lover.
When he was able to leave his room, he came to pay me a visit; and, having heard something of my extraordinary concern for his illness, his looks and words expressed the most tender transport. As I was going to require him to make a sacrifice of his passion, to the cruel necessity my engagement with Mr. Wilmot laid me under, to banish him for ever, I made it a point of honor to acquaint him with the true state of my heart: I related to him succinctly the whole affair of my marriage with Mr. Wilmot, his base perfidy, and the resentment it had filled me with; and acknowledged, blushing, that my sense of his merit was so great, that, if my situation could have permitted it, I would never have been any other than his; but as I could never consider myself as freed from my engagements to Mr. Wilmot, by his ungenerous usage of me, the quality of his wife made it highly injurious to my honor to hear the language of love from any other man; and, whatever pain it would cost me, I was determined to avoid his sight. "But, added I, (melting into tears) 'tis from your generosity alone that I can expect to conceal my fatal marriage from my father; which, if known, would deprive me for ever of his affection. Let our parting seem wholly your fault: invent some presence for proceeding no farther in your addresses, and, by this generous action, force me to confess that you, of all men in the world, deserve my affection best."
"Yes, madam, said my lover, (looking on me with eyes, in which surprise and grief were visibly painted) I will undertake this hard task to serve you, since you command it. You shall suffer no reproaches from Mr. Dormer upon my account." "There needs not, sir, said my father (coming out of a closet, where he had hid himself to hear our discourse) there needs not this generous artifice to shield this degenerate girl from my indignation, unworthy as she is of my blood and name. From this moment I disclaim her! Fly, wretch! (pursued he to me, with a voice full of fury) fly from my sight, lest my just rage urge me to wash away my dishonor in thy blood. Go to that infamous husband who disclaims thee, and never hope that I will acknowledge thee for my child, or behold thee more while I have life." Saying this, he rushed out of the room.
My lover following him, to endeavor if possible to appease him, I remained for some moments so astonished with the greatness of my misfortune, that I lost even the power of reflecting upon my unhappy condition. My mother's woman, coming into the room, told me, with tears, that her lady desired to let me know, that I had involved her also in my father's displeasure; and that there was a necessity for my quitting the house immediately; for my father had sworn that I should not stay a moment longer. "Where did my mother order me to go, Bell?" said I, with my heart almost breaking with affliction. "I am ordered, madam, said she, to attend you to my sister's, whose house, as she is the widow of a clergyman, and lives in a private manner, her ladyship thinks will be the most proper to take an apartment in for you, till my master can be brought to see you." "Let me go, then, Bell, said I, (rising, my eyes all drowned in tears) let me go where I may be at liberty to indulge my sorrows. I was born to be miserable, and must fulfill my destiny." Saying this, I went down stairs, and steps into a hackney coach, that was waiting at the door; for my father would not allow me to use his upon this occasion. Bell, who accompanied me, ordered the coachman, in a whisper, to drive to Mrs. Waller's in Jermyn-street, where we soon arrived.
I had never seen this gentlewoman before; but her looks were so friendly and benevolent, that my affliction was soothed at her sight. My mother's woman acquainted her sister with what was necessary she should know of my situation, and agreed for my board and lodging with her; she having a very genteel apartment to let, which was the only one in which she received any lodger. I was not permitted to have my own maid to attend me, that had lived with me at my father's; but one was hired that knew nothing of my affairs.
The friendly Mrs. Waller omitted no consolations, in her power to offer me. Alas! in my distressed condition, what comfort could I admit of! abandoned for ever by a once indulgent father, tortured with a despairing passion for the most generous of men, and doomed to bear the worst of indignities from another, to whom I had sacrificed all my hopes of happiness! I resigned myself up to the most piercing grief; and had no other hope, but that death would shortly free me from all my calamities.
Three weeks after my being placed with this worthy widow, I had the satisfaction to have a letter from my mother, which acquainted me, that she was reconciled to my father; but it was upon the hard condition of never seeing or speaking to me. However, she gave me hopes that she would not deny either me or herself that comfort, when she could, with safety, make me a visit. I also heard, at the same time, that Mr. Wilmot's father was dead; and the generous Clayton was waiting with impatience for the return of my husband, who was expected soon in England, to force him to do me justice, and acknowledge me for his wife.
This striking instance of the purest and most disinterested passion, that ever man was capable of feeling, afforded me only subject for complaint against the cruelty of my fortune, which had deprived me of the power of answering so shining an example of unfeigned affection. I trembled for the resolution he had taken, to force my unworthy husband to own me; and fearing every thing from a man, who could be capable of acting in so base a manner as Mr. Wilmot had done, my thoughts were continually filled with the most frightful apprehensions.
I had so accustomed myself to think of all the horrors, which might necessarily arise from a meeting between my lover and my husband, 'that when my mother's woman came to me, and, with a look of consternation and melancholy, told me, that my husband and Mr. Clayton had come to some explanation about the affair of my marriage, "Ah! replied I, (screaming) then one of them is dead!" "You have guessed too truly, madam, said Bell, one of them is dead, indeed; but 'tis he who deserved to fall, your perfidious husband, who, to the last moment of his life, persisted in disowning you." She had scarce uttered these dreadful words, when I fell into a fainting fit; and was no sooner recovered from that, than another followed: and I continued the whole day in such a deplorable condition, that my mother, alarmed by her woman's account of the danger to which my despair had reduced me, came to my lodgings, and, weeping over me with an excess of tenderness, conjured me to sacrifice my affliction, for the death of an unworthy husband, to the hope of being restored to my father's affection, which she did not despair of soon accomplishing.
"Ah, madam, said I, base as Mr. Wilmot was, yet still he was my husband; and thougheven the strictest laws of duty might dispense with my grieving for his death, who treated me so injuriously; yet my nature tender and susceptible of melancholy impressions, starts with horror at the thoughts of murder. Will not his blood cry out for vengeance on me, who was the fatal cause that it was shed!" "Speak not so injuriously interrupted my mother, of that justice which brought him to his end The generous Mr. Clayton expostulated first mildly with your betrayer and urged him to vindicate your injured honor, and fulfill your engage meets, by owning you for his wife. He answered, that you had basely deceived him; and, having never returned the affection he once had for you, meant only to make him a convenient property. He added many other barbarous invectives. A quarrel ensued, and ----." "Ah, madamcried I, (bursting into tears) spare the shocking repetition. Poor, unfortunate Wilmot! Can I choose but lament thy death! And ought I not to give some tears to the misfortune of him, who, perhaps, must die to expiate the guilt of thy fate!" "No, interrupted my mother, Mr. Clayton is resolved to stand a trial; and thoughhe had not such powerful friends as his own merit, and your father's interest is able to procure him, yet the justice of his cause would free him."
In effect dear miss, pursued Mrs. Dormer (whose eyes had for some time been bathed in tears, as well as my own) Mr. Clayton stood his trial, and was honorably acquitted: and this affair being the talk of the whole town, every one agreed that I ought to give him my hand, being the only recompense by which a love so faithful could be repaid. My father condescended to write to me upon this subject; and made it the only condition, by which his pardon could be obtained, to marry Mr. Clayton. My affection for this dear lover, put it past a doubt that I should gladly embrace this offer; but I could never persuade myself, that it was consistent with my religion, my virtue, or reputation, to marry the man that had killed my husband, though, by that act, he had only justly punished his crime in disowning me.
I will not pretend to give you any idea of the painful conflicts I suffered in my soul, while my excessive tenderness for Mr. Clayton, and regard to the memory of my unhappy husband, held the balance between love and duty. However, I did not waver long; but determined to fall a victim to the severe rules I had prescribed myself. I wrote an answer to my father's letter, full of submission and remorse for having offended him by my fatal marriage; explained my reasons for declining to accept Mr. Clayton for a husband; and concluded with most earnest entreaties for his pardon) and a request that he would inform Mr. Clayton of my resolution, and absolute promise, that, since I could not be his, I never would be another's. My father was pleased to say, when he had read my letter that he was so struck with the uncommon greatness of my mind, that he pardoned me from that instant, and restored me to the place I had formerly possessed in his affection. I was immediately sent for home, where I fell at his feet, and embraced them with tears of joy, sorrow, and contritionwhich, from all these motives, flowed from my eyes.
My lover, being acquainted with my resolution, did not attempt to Oppose it; but only entreated to see me once more, being determined, as he said, to go abroad, and endeavor to bury the remembrance of his unfortunate passion. All that was touching and mournful, on both sides, passed at this interview. I repeated to him, with tears, what I had before vowed to my father, that, since it was impossible I could be his, I would never be another's. And he likewise protested, that he would faithfully preserve my image in his heart; and changing, if possible, the ardent passion, he now felt for me, into a tender friendship, return and pass the rest of his life in that delightful commerce, which this calmer affection would yield.
When he was gone, my father and mother omitted nothing in their power to remove the painful grief which still engrossed me. Their endeavors, in time, produced the effect they desired: I recovered part of my usual gaiety; but still continued firm in my resolution never to marry, which nothing yet has been able to change. My father died two years after the departure of my lover; of whose death also I had an account, while I was still lamenting the loss of my father. He had divided his whole fortune equally between his two sisters and me, which made a very considerable addition to that my father left me.
During the life of my mother, I remained constantly with herd but her death plunging me into all my former disquiets, to soften them, in some measure, by a variety of new objects and the hurry of travel, I went to Paris; and, after seeing all that was remarkable in that court, I visited Italy, Holland, and the German Spa. And continuing a considerable time in these places, I returned to England, having acquired strength of mind enough to reflect on my misfortunes with calmness and resignation, and to pass the rest of my life in ease and tranquillity."
Mrs. Dormer here ended her story, leaving me in the most perfect admiration of her virtue and fortitude, which I expressed in terms equal to that esteem she had inspired me with. "No, miss, said she, (modestly interrupting me) I do not deserve the praises you load me with. My misfortunes had their rise from disobedience first. How differently, in that respect, have I behaved from you, who, at the most tender age, was capable of sacrificing your passion to duty." Mrs. Dormer accompanied these words with an affectionate look, which convinced me what she said was not a mere compliment of form; and I was prevented from replying, by the arrival of Mr. Campbel, who had received orders from his uncle to go on board his ship immediately, they being to sail upon a cruise.
My lover, when he informed me that he was come to take his leave, discovered so much despair in his looks and words, that I was deeply affected. "How happy, sir, said I, should I think myself, if, instead of that fatal passion which disturbs your quiet, you would only favor me with such sentiments as I have it in my power to return. Whatever the most sincere friendship can demand, my heart is disposed to pay. Your merit, and the obligations you have laid on me, claim this; but if I appear ungrateful to your love, be assured that ----." I would have proceeded; but my confusion was so great, at having, unawares, engaged myself almost into a confession of my attachment to another, that I held down my head, while my face was in an instant covered with blushes.
"Ah miss! replied Mr. Campbel, (who had earnestly gazed on me for some moments) I have no right to expect you should throw yourself into any embarrassment, to excuse your insensibility to me! My unhappiness, in being absolutely indifferent to you, has been long known to me. If that knowledge could have made me love you less, I should, e're this, have been at ease. However, I beg you to believe, that, as I prefer your happiness greatly to my own, my despair in losing you will be somewhat alleviated by the assurance that your felicity demanded me to be the sacrifice. "
Mrs. Dormer, who sat at the other end of the room, observing my extreme confusion at the discourse Mr. Campbel held with me, joined us, in order to introduce a more general conversation. Upon which my lover, shortening his visit, took his leave of us with tears in his eyes; and left me so excessively moved, with the tenderness and generosity of his sentiments, that it was a long time before I was capable of reassuming my usual gaiety.