The ships being again returned from N----, brought me letters from my mother and sisters, with the agreeable news, that my dearest Fanny was married to a gentleman of good fortune there; and that her husband, proposing to return to England in a few months, she and my mother would very soon have the satisfaction of meeting me again. When my joy, at the thoughts of seeing persons so dear to me, was a little moderated, I began to feel some surprise at not having another letter from Dumont. I passed some days in the most terrible uneasiness, being convinced that nothing but neglect could be the cause of my not hearing from him, as we had settled the conveyance of our letters to each other with the utmost security; so that I could not imagine it had, by any accident, missed me.
I was talking one day to Mrs. Dormer, upon the subject of my fears, when one of that lady's servants came into the room, and informed me there was a gentleman below, who inquired for Miss Harriot Stuart. Mrs. Dormer, imagining I should hear news of my lover, cast a pleasing smile upon me; and asked her servant, if he had strewn the gentleman into a room. Upon hearing he was in one of the parlors, I immediately went down stairs, with my heart trembling with expectation. But , my dear Amanda! guess my excess of transport and surprise, when, the servant opening the door, I saw my beloved Dumont himself advancing eagerly to meet me! I steps back a few paces, lost in astonishment at a sight I so little expected; when my transported lover, catching me in his arms, pressed me to his bosom with an ardent embrace; while I, reclining my head upon his breast, suffered the soft pressure of his glowing lips upon my face, which was covered with tears of joy.
We continued for some moments in this posture, while, he still grasping me closer in his arms, I had neither the strength or inclination to get loose. Recollecting myself at last, and blushing at the liberty I had indulged myself in, I sprung in an instant from the dear enclosure, and, obliging him to be seated, asked a hundred questions in a breath; while my lover, with a look of mingled tenderness and delight, sat gazing on me in a speechless transport, unable to give utterance to the flow of melting thoughts which seemed to crowd into his mind. I had now so well recovered myself from my first emotions, that I rallied, in a lively accent, the sublime silence with which he repaid my eager curiosity to hear all that had happened to him since I left N----. He spoke at last; but, for a long time, all he said was in the language of transport, sweet unintelligible discourse, which the soft melting eloquence of his eyes were only able to explain.
I understood at length, that he had concealed his change of religion, with the utmost care, from his father; who, if he had suspected it, would not have allowed him to come to England: that his relations here, believing he intended to fulfill his engagements with his cousin, had received him with great joy. He added, that that young lady was in a very weak state of health; and thoughhe had formerly reason to believe she had a very tender regard for him, yet she discovered so little sensibility at his coming, that he was convinced he might, with safety, acquaint her with the change in his principles; and, as she was generous and virtuous to excess, prevail upon her to let the dissolving their contract appear her own act; by which means he would not be obliged to forfeit the largest moiety of his fortune, which, in case of his refusal, would be insisted upon by her uncle.
"My delicacy, pursued my lover, suggested to me, that I ought not to see you 'till I could procure a certainty, that I should not bring an indigent wretch to your arms. But eager love could not be with-held by forms, since I may flatter myself with being still beloved by my adorable Harriot, though I should fail in my scheme of preserving my fortune; yet if she will not refuse the blessing of her hand, we shall still have enough to make us perfectly happy."
My lover concluding these words with a tender embrace, I gave him a short account of what had happened to me. And remembering, after a conversation of two hours, that Mrs. Dormer must necessarily be surprised at my long stay, I asked his permission to introduce him to this dear friend, to which he readily consented; and I ran up stairs immediately, in order to prepare her for receiving a visit from a person, whom I had already taught her to esteem.
I found her in her dressing-room; resolved, when she had finished dressing, out of an impatience to know if it was not my lover below with me, to step into the parlor before she went into her chair. I then told her, if her engagement abroad was not very urgent, I would beg her to allow me to introduce Mr. Dumont to her, who was really the person that had sent for me. "What, is he below still? said she. Let me see him, I beseech you: I am eager to know, if he is really worthy the possession of a heart like yours." I made her no answer, being convinced she would no sooner see him than she would be ready to confess, he exceeded the most lovely idea her imagination could form: and, indeed, the moment he appeared, and saluted her, with that irresistible grace which charmed all who beheld him, she turned to me with a speaking look, which seemed to say, she was agreeably surprised at the uncommon beauty of his person; and I had the pleasure to observe, she was no less struck with his lively wit, and the peculiar graces of his manner.
The conversation, in a little time, growing quite unreserved, Mrs. Dormer told my lover, with an obliging smile, That, as she was well acquainted with all our affairs, she expected he would visit me there with entire freedom. "And, till you rob me, pursued she, of my sweet friend, you must be contented that I share her conversation with you." Dumont replied with much complaisance to this obliging discourse, and, after a long visit, took his leave; telling Mrs. Dormer, he would use the liberty to call every day for the future, which she assured him would be highly agreeable to us both.
When he was gone, she did not give me time to ask her opinion of him; but, after telling me she thought his person the most lovely in the world, assured me, that she was no less pleased with the engaging qualities of his mind, which every look and word sufficiently declared.
My dear Dumont had promised to see me the next day, and I passed the tedious hours in a kind of sweet anxiety till he came I observed in his looks, the moment I saw him, a pensiveness that alarmed me; and, eagerly asking the cause, he told me, with some concern, that all his hopes of preserving the forfeiture of his estate was over. "I pursued my intention, said he, of making my cousin the confidant of my change, which seemed to affect her even less than I expected. She replied, that her uncle would not approve her marrying a Protestant; and frankly confessed, that the ill state of her health had weaned her thoughts from the world; and she hoped that I had, with the change of my religion, left also the sentiments I once had for her, and would freely consent to her living unmarried, which she was now firmly resolved to do.
You may be assured, my lovely Harriot, pursued my lover, that I did not attempt to alter her resolution. She pressed me to tell her, if my heart was not engaged to some young lady, who possibly was the first cause of my changing my principles: upon which I candidly related the history of our loves; and expressing my fears, lest her uncle should insist upon the moiety of my fortune, and reduce me to a state of indigence and necessity, I saw a tender sensibility in her eyes, which gave me hopes she would come into any measures, I could propose, to save me from this misfortune.
We had been so indiscreet to converse in this manner, without considering that the room where we were sitting was next to her uncle's writing-closet; from whence, if he was there, he might hear every word we had said. In effect, my angel, it really was so: he came out of the closet, with looks full of fury; and, as he is one of the most rigid Papists in the world, he thundered out the most dreadful denunciation of divine vengeance against me for my impious change, declaring that he would immediately write to my father, and pursue me to beggary, if possible. My cousin was so affected with the confusion this accident occasioned, that she fainted away; and I was too much concerned at the condition she was in, to be capable of calming the rage of her furious 'uncle. As soon as she was a little recovered, I hastened to you, my dearest Harriot, to unload my misfortunes on your dear bosom; and to conjure you to pardon my selfish passion, which makes me urge you to the performance of your promise to be mine, though I cannot place you in the situation your merit and birth deserve."
When I had tenderly chid my dear Dumont for the suspicion he seemed to entertain, that I could not be happy with him in any condition, I agreed to give him my hand in two or three weeks at farthest. Mrs. Dormer being consulted upon this occasion, she proposed to take me to her country-house, where the ceremony of our marriage might be performed with less noise; and she joining her reasons to the ardent entreaties of my lover, that I would not defer his happiness so long, I consented, at last, that we should be united in six days after. And, as soon as he left us, Mrs. Dormer gave orders to her servants to get every thing ready for our journey to Richmond the next morning.
As I had before agreed with my lover not to expect him till the day before our marriage, I was not surprised at my not seeing him; but in all that time I received no letter from him, which filled me with a mortal uneasiness. I struggled, however, with myself to conceal my disquiets, even from Mrs. Dormer, who sometimes expressed her surprise at his neglect. But the appointed day came, and my lover not appearing, I could no longer suppress my apprehensions. Mrs. Dormer, thoughexcessively alarmed, yet endeavored to compose my fears, by alleging, that, perhaps, some very extraordinary affairs detained him longer than he expected; and that, to-morrow being the day we had fixed for our marriage, he would certainly be with us early in the morning. "But why does he not write, madam? said I, (bursting into tears). Ah! you can never persuade me, that some fatal accident has not befallen him!"
Whatever arguments she could use to comfort me, were entirely fruit less. I passed the whole night in tears. When morning came, the agitations of my mind were so violent, that Mrs. Dormer proposed sending a servant to town, to go to his relation's house, which was in the midst of the city, and endeavor to give him a billet from me. I consented immediately to this expedient; and, having wrote a short letter to him, dispatched the servant away with it on horseback, with proper instructions to deliver the billet to none but Dumont himself. Mrs. Dormer, while he was away, endeavored to soften my anxious impatience, by telling me she hoped my lover would arrive before the servant returned. But, alas! the hours past away in vain expectation and racking fear! 'Twas late in the evening before the servant returned; while my heart, tortured with the most cruel anxiety, thought every moment an age. My friend was perpetually ringing the bell, to ask if her man was come back. At last, we were told he was just entered the house, and two moments after came into the room. Mrs. Dormer, observing I was not able to speak, asked the servant, hastily, if he had delivered the letter, "No, madam, said he, (holding it out to her) I could not see Mr. Dumont himself. His servant was called, and he told me his master was married the evening before; that he could not possibly speak to him, he being engaged in company: but that, if I would leave the letter with him, he would take an opportunity to deliver it. But as you commanded me, madam, to bring it back, if----" "Well, well, interrupted Mrs. Dormer, (seeing me ready to drop from my chair) you have done right: leave the room." Then, running to me, she held me up in her arms; and, forcing me to take some hartshorn, prevented me, with great difficulty, from falling into a swoon.
I will not trouble you, dear Amanda, with the complaints I made when I recovered the use of speech, which astonishment, grief, and despair, had for some time deprived me of. Mrs. Dormer knew too well, that to offer consolation, while my grief was yet new, would be in vain; she, therefore, contented herself with mingling her tears with mine, and echoing, with all the fervor of friendship, the epithets of base, perfidious, and ungrateful, with which I loaded the once dear Dumont. The torments I suffered this dreadful night, may be better imagined than described. That pride of spirit, which was natural to me when I received an affront, came however to my assistance on this cruel occasion; and, filling me with the sharpest resentment and disdain for the base infidelity of my lover, helped to fortify my heart against the first violent emotions of my grief. The resolution I had taken to see this betrayer once more, that I might upbraid him with his broken vows, gave me, in some intervals, a gloomy satisfaction. I eagerly longed for morning, that I might set out for London to execute this design; and, as soon as it appeared, I rose immediately, and, when I was drest, went into Mrs. Dormer's chamber to acquaint her with my intention. That lady, finding all the arguments she could use ineffectual to dissuade me, offered to bear me company; but this I absolutely refused. And, assuring her I would return the next day, she, with some reluctance, consented to my going; and gave orders for her chaise to be got ready. I left her so sensibly affected with this little parting, that I could not help expressing my surprise at it. Alas! I did not foresee that it would be long e're I should see her again, and that fortune was preparing the severest afflictions for me! I had ordered the servant to drive, with the utmost expedition, to town; but yet he went much too slow for my impatience. When we got to my friend's lodgings, the moment I alighted, one of the maid-servants informed me, that an elderly gentleman was inquiring for me, who said he brought some news from my mother. "Where is that gentleman? said I, (eagerly). Is he gone?" "No, miss, said she, (pointing to a person who stood in the hall, whom I had not observed before) that is the gentle man: he came in just before you." Upon this he advanced towards me, when, desiring him to follow me into a parlor, I asked him if he had any letters from my mother. "Don't be surprised, miss, said he, thoughyou should hear news you little expect. Your mother and youngest sister are now in London." "In London! cried I, (amazed). Can it be possible! Why, it is not a month ago since I heard from them, and they gave me no hopes I should see them so soon!" "Your mother, miss, replied he, embarked with your sister and her husband on board a ship, which sailed from N---- a few days after that which brought you the letters you speak of: your brother-in law having received some accounts from England, which obliged him to come away much sooner than he intended. I have the honor to be particularly acquainted with him and your sister, and came from N---- in the same ship with them. I left them all at the inn, where we arrived late last night; and, as I was obliged to be early in the morning at this end of the town, was desired to call here, and acquaint you with their arrival: and will, if you please, wait on you to the inn, where they impatiently expect you." I was so eager to see my mother and sister, that I did not hesitate a moment to comply with this offer. But resolving to defer sending a message to Dumont till an. other opportunity, congratulated myself on the prospect of having my dear Fanny to console me under this uneasiness; and stepping into the hackney-coach, which the gentleman came in, and which was still waiting at the door, we set forwards immediately for the place, to which my conductor ordered the coach-man to drive. As he seemed to be much in years, I was not surprised that he entreated me to let the windows, which were of wood, to be drawn up, complaining that the air was too cool for him; yet I did not like this situation with a stranger, and began to think our journey had lasted very long, when, the coach stopping of a sudden, my companion opened the door himself, and gave me his hand to help me down. I was so perfectly unacquainted with the town, that I did not take much notice that we were set down at a wharf near the bridge; but I followed the gentleman, still thinking the inn was somewhere thereabouts, when, all of a sudden, he lifted me up in his arms, and put me into a boat, that I had reason to imagine was expecting us. The watermen rowing immediately from the shore, e're my astonishment would give me leave to cry out for help, I found myself wholly abandoned to the power of the wretch who had betrayed me; and, not being able to imagine his reasons for thus imposing on me, I asked him, in a trembling voice, where he intended to carry me, and if it was true that he had been sent by my mother. I was surprised to hear him answer, in an authoritative tone, That I should know that presently; urging the watermen, at the same time, to make haste. "My God! cried I, what can this mean! Am I betrayed, then! Yet, alas! who can have any interest in thus trepanning me!" "Foolish girl, said the old man, hold thy peace: what I do is for your good." My amazement at this strange language, from a man who was perfectly unknown to me, filled me with a terror and confusion not easily to be described. I was pressing him, with tears, to unfold the mystery, when, our boat coming up close to a small vessel that was in the river, he, with the help of a man who stood at the side, forced me to ascend it, in spite of my loud cries and exclamations. I now gave myself over for lost; and, having too much reason to imagine that something fatal was designed against me, I resigned myself up to the most violent despair. The old man, who had exhorted me several times to patience, offered to lead me down stairs into the cabin, to avoid the sight of the men upon deck, who were taken up in gazing on us. "I know not, said I, (in an assured accent) for what purpose you have used this violence to me; but if, as I have too much reason to suspect, there is any design formed upon my honor, know, I am resolved to die in the defense of it." "Fear not, replied he, (in a low voice) that I would be accessory to such a villainous intention. I am no ruffian; and I admire the sentiment you have just now avowed: but I have very urgent reasons for getting your person in my power. The quiet of a whole family depended on it." Saying this, he gave me his hand to help me into the cabin; which I did not refuse, hoping I should prevail upon him to explain himself upon this dark affair. "I can't imagine, sir, said I, (when we were seated) how your seizing my person can promote the happiness of any people whatever; and before I pretend to expostulate with you, on the injustice of detaining me as your prisoner, and intention of conveying me far from my relations and country, I would fain know who those persons are, whose quiet I so innocently disturb, and to whom I am to be made a sacrifice?" "When you shall know, replied the old gentleman, that my name is Darcy, the uncle of that young lady to whom Mr. Dumont was engaged from his infancy, you will not be surprised that I have acted in this manner. Your artifices have seduced that young man to forsake the religion of his ancestors, in which he was bred, to espouse the doctrines of that heresy you profess, which must inevitably shut him out from salvation." "Ah! interrupted I, must my liberty be invaded upon the account of that perfidious man! Is he not married? What have you to fear from me?" "'Tis true, he is married, replied he; but it is to be feared, that the apprehensions of being a beggar made him consent to fulfill his engagement. And, since you have been the means of perverting his principles, and estranging his affections from her who had always a claim to them, it is fit you should be removed from his sight, that the endeavors of his wife and friends, to bring him back to the holy church he has forsaken, may have no obstructions from the fatal passion he had for you, and which your absence will not fail to extinguish." "Do you think, then, insolent as you are, said I, that I am capable of holding any correspondence with a married man; one who has betrayed me, and whom, for a thousand reasons, I am obliged to hate?" "I confess, miss, interrupted Mr. Darcy, that Dumont is unworthy of your esteem; for he has certainly deceived you, and there is no doubt but he has very dishonorable intentions towards you: therefore, in thus depriving him of the means of laying snares for your virtue, and giving any umbrage to his wife, I have taken the trouble to keep you out of his way for some time, till his affection for his wife is confirmed, and the heretical principles, he has imbibed by your means, eradicated." "And do you imagine, resumed I, that this action of yours would not subject you to some punishment, were it known? How dare you force me from my relations, and oblige me to abandon those upon whom my whole dependence was placed? Must my fame and happiness be sacrificed to your fears for your niece? Am I not as dear to my mother and sisters as she is to you? And must all my family be involved in misery, lest any jealousies should disturb her repose? But do not think, that I will quietly submit to this insolent treatment: I know not where you intend to carry me; but, depend upon it, the moment we land, I'll demand justice for the violence you have done me." "You are much deceived, said he, if you imagine I have taken my measures so ill, as to fear any clamors you can make. I will do nothing dishonorably by you: I am taking you to Paris, where I have a relation, who is prioress of a convent. 'Tis there I propose to place you; and will be at the expense of supporting you as a pensioner there, 'till your return to England may be effected without any ill consequences to my nephew. If you will submit patiently to this design, you shall be treated with all the respect you can desire; if not, take what measures you please: I am prepared against all you can do." Saying this, he went out of the cabin, leaving me at liberty to reflect on the strangeness of my misfortunes. The thoughts of being confined in a monastery, and tore from my relations, whom it was not probable I might see again in a long time, were, I confess, to my shame, but secondary causes of my affliction. The perfidy of Dumont sunk deep into my soul. Spite of my just resentment, I loved him still; and was not capable of forming a wish to hurt the quiet of him, whose infidelity had made me completely miserable. Mr. Darcy, after an absence of two hours, came again into the cabin, followed by the cabin boy, who laid the cloth, and served a cold collation to the table; of which Mr. Darcy entreated me, with much politeness, to partake of. I sat down to the table in a kind of sullen civility; but my grief was too violent to suffer me to eat much. When the things were removed, I again resumed my reproaches and threatenings; but, he continuing fixed in his resolution, I found there was no possibility of preventing his designs, which plunged me into the most frightful despair. I passed that night, and the following day, in ruminating on the most likely methods I could fall upon to get out of his hands; and I thought them all so improbable and hazardous, that I remained convinced I was doomed to be a prisoner as long as he should think it necessary. We did not arrive at Calais till about eleven o'clock the next night; an hour which favored my ravisher's designs. When we landed, he made me pass for his niece, whom he was carrying to a convent at Paris. As all passengers pass through a kind of examination at the governor's, whither we went for the same purpose, I determined to explain my situation, and claim redress. The governor could not be seen at that time of night; but, it seems, it was sufficient if any of his servants saw the strangers: and I was beginning to speak to a person, who seemed to be in some authority, when Darcy eagerly interrupting me, "This unhappy girl, said he, has had the misfortune to be corrupted by the Heretic who had the care of her education. Her false zeal for their destructive principles, makes her look upon the resolution I have taken, to place her for a time in a monastery, where she may be brought to detest her fatal change, as an insupportable tyranny." I would have answered this horrid falsehood; but I was not suffered to speak. These good Catholics, conceiving, in an instant, the unfavorable impression Darcy designed they should, commended the pious intention of my pretended uncle, and loaded me with reproaches.