Had it been possible for me to lose the remembrance of Dumont, I might have thought myself extremely happy. My mother's tenderness for me was greatly increased; and my sister and her husband seemed to vie with each other, in giving me the most obliging testimonies of their affection.
The presence and endearments of these loved relations, softened, a little, my impatience for the return of Mrs. Dormer; who, by the account I had given of my obligations to her, was became dear to them all. I had the mortification to hear, from her housekeeper, that her lady had writ her word she was gone to Montpelier, for the recovery of an indisposition, which threatened her with a consumption. My concern, at this news, was equal to the friendship I bore her. Being informed, by her housekeeper, where to direct to her, I wrote immediately: but receiving no answer, my apprehensions were considerably increased, especially as I heard her family also were ignorant of the state of her health.
I passed the remainder of this winter in a constant attendance on my mother, who was much indisposed. The country air being judged necessary for the recovery of her health, we removed, early in the spring, to a beautiful retreat near Hampstead. Here I employed myself in my usual diversions, reading and writing. My mother having desired me to invite my engaging friend Mrs. Belville, with whom I preserved a constant correspondence, to pass a few days with us in the country, I sent her the following poetical invitation, which procured me, with her, a very unexpected visitor.
TO DELIA. Inviting her to a retreat in the country. Now spring, returning, decks the year, With all that's lovely, all that's fair; The fields in lively green array'd, With deeper glooms the silent shade: Soft descend the gentle show'rs, And wake to life the springing flow'rs: Hence ambrosial sweets exhale, And various colors paint the vale; Refreshing airs the zephyrs blow, The streams with pleasing murmurs flow, While nightly, 'midst the silent plain, Thy fav'rite bird renews her strain. Come then, my Delia, come and share My joys, and breathe a purer air: Together let us range the plains, Among the rustick nymphs and swains; In rural dress, devoid of care, Give to the winds our flowing hair And round the meadows gaily roam; For youth does sober mirth become. Now, straining up yon airy height, We'll entertain the wand'ring sight With flow'ry fields, and waving woods, Hills and dales, and falling floods: Or, to relieve the searching eyes, See distant spires and temples rise. Come now, my Delia, let us rove Together thro' the mazy grove; Here, while with gentle pace we walk, Beguile the time with pleasing talk: Here show thy melting eloquence, Thy sprightly wit, thy manly sense; Thy virtuous notions, void of art; And, while you charm, correct the heart. Or now, together careless laid, Beneath a cypress' spreading shade, Our thoughts to heav'nly numbers raise, Repeating Pope's harmonious lays: Now Homer's awful leaves turn o'er, Or graver history explore; Or study Plato's sacred page, Uncommon to our sex and age. Now, wand'ring by the moon's pale light, Amidst the silent shades of night, Where, on the late deserted plains, A pleasing melancholy reigns; Softly thro' the rustling trees, Sobs the sweetly dying breeze; The echoes catch the plaintive sound, And gentle murmurs breathe around. Now sing, my friend, and let thy strain Recount the arts of faithless man: Thy notes, sweet Philomel shall join, And mix her soft complaints with thine. But raise, my Delia, raise thy song, To friendship nobler strains belong. O, sing its tender chaste desires, Its equal, pure, and lasting fires; Such as in thy bosom burns, Such as my fond soul returns. Friendship is but love refin'd, Not weakens, but exalts the mind; And when its sacred pow'r we prove, We guess how heav'nly spirits love.
Mr. Belville, while he was at Jamaica, had contracted an acquaintance with Mr. Campbel, that generous lover I have often mentioned in the course of my history. Having met again in London, Mr. Belville introduced him to his lady; and he was then in her apartment, when my letter was brought to her. In the relation of my history to this lovely friend, I concealed the names both of this gentleman and his uncle, as well as some other persons I had occasion to mention; so that she was :...:. ', ignorant of our acquaintance. Upon receiving my letter, she read my poem aloud, telling him, it was the composition of a young lady; and asked his opinion of it. Mr. Campbel, knowing I sometimes amused myself in this way, eagerly inquired the name of the lady, which Mrs. Belville did not think proper to conceal: upon which my lover declared he had the honor to know me, and begged her permission to attend her in her visit to me.
You may imagine, my dear Amanda, that I was excessively surprised at seeing Mrs. Belville thus accompanied! My friendship for Mr. Campbel had not been lessened by his absence; and I introduced him to my mother and sister with a peculiar satisfaction. As I had before acquainted them with the nature of my obligations to this gentleman, they received him with the utmost esteem and respect. My brother-in-law and he soon became acquainted; and he, having received a general invitation, did not fail to visit us two or three times a week.
Mr. Campbel, who had frequent opportunities of talking to me alone, employed them in assuring me of the never-dying passion his heart still felt for me. When I reflected on the indifference with which I had repaid his tender sentiments, I could not help being surprised, that he still retained them. "Ah, how unlike my faithless Dumont, thought I, is this too generous lover! How happy should I be, could I transfer the affection, I once bore that ingrate, to him!"
My mother and sister, who soon discovered the ardent passion of Mr. Campbel, pressed me incessantly in his behalf. My reason aided their solicitations, and represented him so deserving of my utmost tenderness, that I accused myself of the basest ingratitude, for being so long insensible of his merit. With these favorable dispositions towards him, I listened, with an unusual complaisance, to his vows of unalterable love As I ardently wished to dispose my heart in his favor, my looks often wore a softness and sensibility, which filled him with the most agreeable hopes; and, e're I was aware, the change in my behavior convinced my transported lover, that my heart was wholly his.
But, while I was ignorant of this effect of my endeavors to answer his passion, guess my surprise, dear Amanda, to see him one day throw himself at my feet in an ecstasy, and conjure me no longer to defer his happiness, but name the day when I would bestow myself upon him "Oh, heavens! sir, cried I, (obliging him to rise) why do you talk to me in this manner! Have I given you any reason to think I have been able to take such a resolution? Alas, pursued I, (bursting into tears at the remembrance of Dumont) my heart is far from being in the disposition you wish it, and which perhaps I myself desire it should!" "What, miss, interrupted my lover, (with a countenance quite altered) have I then deceived myself with imaginary hopes of having been able to overcome your insensibility! And is it so impossible for you to cease hating me, that you acknowledge 'tis not in your power to do otherwise!" "Ah, do not wrong the sentiments I have for you, replied I, by such an injurious suspicion! I have all the esteem and friendship for you, that your uncommon merits deserve. I am sensible, the tenderness and delicacy of your passion may claim a still more grateful return; and I regret my incapacity to bestow it." "Well, miss, replied my lover, (with a voice interrupted with sighs) you now speak plain, indeed; and I comprehend the whole extent of my misfortunes. You love where you wish you did not, my dear, my adorable Harriot; and that heart, which to obtain is the first ambition of my soul, is bestowed upon one unworthy of its tenderness Ah! I am more unhappy by this knowledge, than when I left you, as I thought, to the possession of a beloved rival, who deserved you! Then I alone was miserable; and it was some alleviation of my grief, to think that you was happy." Was it possible to listen to sentiments so tender and generous, without being extremely moved! I acknowledged, without reserve, that he alone was worthy of my utmost tenderness; and, in order to acquaint him with the true state of my heart, I related to him exactly the history of my engagement with Dumont, concealing only his name, his base infidelity, and the stratagem of his uncle to prevent my ever seeing him more. I acknowledged, that my heart had not yet recovered its former tranquillity; and that, though I had ceased to love the ungrateful man, I could not yet entirely banish him from my remembrance. "Be assured, pursued I, (giving him my hand) that, when I am worthy of your affection, I will be yours. You are already possessed of my utmost esteem: I am not naturally ungrateful; and it is not improbable but time, and my own efforts to dispose my heart in your favor, will produce those sentiments you wish to inspire me with." I could not finish these words without blushing excessively; while my lover, keeping my hand pressed with inconceivable tenderness to his lips, was some moments incapable of answering me any otherwise than by a look, more intelligible than any language he could have used. "Is it possible, said he, (at last, lifting up his eyes) that there is on earth a wretch, who could forego the possession of so divine a creature, for any other advantage the world could offer him! Oh, Miss Harriot, thy story unfolds a thousand beauties in thy character I never knew before! Thy amiable sincerity, though it destroys my hopes, confirms my admiration! I foresee I never shall be so happy to possess your heart; but despair itself cannot hinder me from adoring you!"
The mutual confidence that was now established between Mr. Campbel and me, produced such a behavior to each other, as convinced my mother that I would-not refuse him my hand. My sister was transported to find I had gained such a conquest over myself. Her husband and she were perpetually talking of the amiable qualities Mr. Campbel possessed; and the satisfaction with which I listened to such discourses, persuaded them I grew every day more sensible of his merit.
In effect, my dear, if Mr. Campbel's faithful passion, the solicitations of my friends, and my own endeavors to be grateful, did not actually produce in me such sentiments as I wished; yet I no longer felt any repugnance to become his wife. I knew enough of my own temper, to be convinced, when once it became my duty to love him, my heart would quickly feel a disposition to do so, possessed as it was already with the most perfect esteem for his virtues. But, as I was determined to use no disguise in so important an affair, when I gave my ravished lover my promise to be his, I gave him a true description of the state of my heart. I acknowledged that the sentiments I felt for him did not yet merit the name of love; but that my soul, being wholly free from any passion for another, and penetrated with the utmost gratitude and friendship for him, I left it to his choice to take me now, and trust to my principles of religion and virtue to produce an affection worthy of his; or to wait till time, and his continued tenderness, had inspired me with still more grateful sentiments. My lover accepted my first proposition with inexpressible transports; and, impatient to have his happiness confirmed by the consent of my family, went immediately to acquaint my mother with the resolution I had taken. My mother received the news with the greatest satisfaction; and my sister and brother-in-law expressed the most tender joy, for an event they judged so fortunate for me.
My mother, at my lover's earnest request, determined to have our marriage delayed no longer than a fortnight; in which time, the necessary preparations for it might be easily made.
Mr. Campbel, besides his commission, was possessed of an estate of three hundred pounds a year; and his uncle, the captain, whom I have formerly mentioned, designed to leave him the bulk of his fortune, which was very large. That gentleman had always preserved a very tender esteem for me; and when Mr. Campbel asked his consent to our marriage, he gave it with a peculiar satisfaction, adding an elogium upon me; which, though it greatly exceeded my merits, was assented to with rapture by my lover.
The captain desiring to be introduced to my mother, upon the designed union of their families, he came in a very grand equipage to pay us a visit. 'Twas impossible for me to see him without some confusion, at the painful remembrance of what had past; but I composed my looks with the utmost care, that he might not observe the least trace of uneasiness upon my countenance. He assured my mother, in the politest manner, that he looked upon his nephew's marriage with me, as the utmost happiness that could befall him. "And, pursued he, (turning to Mr. Campbel) that this young lady, with all her other accomplishments, may also bring you a fortune worth your acceptance, upon the day of your marriage I shall present her with three thousand pounds; for which I expect you'll make her a suitable settlement."
I need not say, my dear Amanda, how much I was touched with this generous action! I believe you are convinced, I am extremely susceptible of grateful impressions. I expressed my acknowledgments in the strongest terms; while Mr. Campbel, with a silent rapture, kissed his hand, unable to express any otherwise, for a long time, his grateful sense of a favor, which, conferred on me, made it infinitely greater. My mother also joined in our thanks to the generous captain, who, soon after, took his leave, with repeated assurances of his esteem and regard.
There remained now but a few days before that on which I was to give my hand to Mr. Campbel, when I was surprised with a visit from Mrs. Dormer. Her equipage no sooner stops at the door, than, seized with a transport of joy, I hastily flew to receive her; and, just as she entered the house, met her with an eager embrace. My mother and sister welcomed her with the greatest expressions of respect; and Mr. Campbel, who was then present, expressed a joy, at seeing her, but little inferior to mine. When the first compliments were over, and I was at liberty to observe the looks and behavior of my dear friend, I thought there appeared in her somewhat of melancholy and restraint, which gave me an unusual disturbance. Mrs. Dormer frequently fixed her eyes upon Mr. Campbel, and then turned them upon me with a look so piercing that I was not able to sustain it. My heart fluttered with a painful anxiety! My thoughts were all alarmed, and I trembled, as if Some terrible misfortune was just going to befall me! Mrs. Dormer, after near an hour's general conversation, expressing a desire to walk, Mr. Campbel, my sister, and I, prepared to accompany her. When we were in the fields, she engaged me in a particular discourse; which Mr. Campbel and my sister observing, walked on without us, to leave us the liberty of conversing without being heard. "Well, Miss Harriot, said my friend, am I to wish you joy? Are you married yet to the gentleman who walks before us?" "Not yet, madam, replied I, (blushing); but the day is fixed, and I shall think myself inexpressibly happy to have you present at that sacred ceremony." "What, are you not married, then? interrupted Mrs. Dormer, (with a look and accent expressive of the greatest pleasure). Mrs. Belville, who acquainted me with all your affairs, informed me that it would be impossible I could arrive soon enough to prevent it; for she imagined the ceremony was already over. You having resolved to have it as private as possible, only your own family would know the day. Heaven be praised, you are not yet lost! Dumont may still be happy!" "What is it you say, madam, interrupted I, (with a faltering accent) did you name Dumont!" "Oh, my dear, cried my friend, I have been too rash! I see I have greatly alarmed you! Compose yourself: I have some very extraordinary things to tell you. How I repent of not explaining myself, when I wrote to you at the convent! All this would have been prevented!" "Alas, madam, cried I, (trembling) keep me no longer in suspense! Tell me, I conjure you, what am I to think of what you uttered concerning Dumont? How can my marriage affect him? Explain this mystery, which perplexes me with a thousand different inquietudes! Ah, I am not near that happy indifference, with which I so vainly flattered myself; since his very name is capable of giving me so much disturbance." "I have so much to say to you, replied Mrs. Dormer, that I must entreat you to give me an opportunity of being alone with you, when we return. I will not ask you to go with me to town, for fear of raising suspicions, which at this time must be avoided."