Though my impatience to return home was a little checked by the remembrance of Maynard, yet my heart, exulting with pride at the proof I had given of the exactest obedience to my father's will, longed to receive the praises I thought I had so justly merited. I was, with some difficulty, persuaded to inform my friends where I was, and wait till they sent for me. At last I consented, and wrote to my brother an exact detail of all that had happened to me, entreating him to procure me a favorable reception, unmixed with any persecutions on Maynard's account. Mr. Vere dispatched away a messenger with this letter immediately, and four days after I had the pleasure of seeing my dear brother, who embraced me with inexpressible joy, and presenting me with a billet from my father, left me at liberty to read it, while he congratulated the doctor on his return to the world, as he called it. I opened my father's letter with a mixture of hope and fear, and read as follows:
It is not enough to tell you, my dear child, that I approve your conduct: I shall love and esteem you the better for it as long as I live. You may depend upon the promise I now give you, that you shall suffer no more uneasiness upon Mr. Maynard's account. I could wish, indeed, that gentleman was less disagreeable to you; but since you know so well how to maintain the honor of your family, I will wave the consideration of your interest, to leave your inclinations absolutely free.
When I had read this letter, I kissed the dear name at the bottom with the utmost reverence and affection; and running to my brother, embraced him a second time, for being the messenger of such good news. "It must be confessed, my dear Harriot, said he, (drawing me to a window) that you have acted with uncommon prudence, against the insolent attempts of your lover; and if you could be capable of refusing him, thoughoffered by the governor himself for your husband, I should be almost ready to worship that noble pride in you, that would exalt you so far above the rest of your sex." "I am afraid, replied I, (laughing) the governor will never put it in my power to merit the adoration you offer me; but, however that may be, I can assure you my heart is at present entirely easy with respect to captain Belmein." My brother, to whom this assurance was infinitely agreeable, told me we should set out for A---- early in the morning, having left orders for a chaise and pair to follow him to Fort H----. Accordingly, as soon as it was light, we rose, and, having breakfasted with the obliging miss Vere and her father, we prepared for our journey. My brother offered the doctor, who was going with us, a place in the chaise, on account of his late illness; but he very slightly refusing it, I made a sign to my brother not to press it any farther, and by that means had the pleasure of having him to myself the whole way. My brother having brought two servants with him, which, with the doctor and himself, made up a number sufficient to guard me, in case captain Belmein was mad enough to make any new attempt, I suffered no apprehensions upon that account. We arrived at A---- late at night. My father was in bed; but hearing I was come, he gave orders for me to come immediately into his chamber. I threw myself on my knees at his bed-side: he raised me up, and embracing me tenderly, gave the highest encomiums to my behavior, which he said had endeared me to him in a very particular manner. My mother also condescended to kiss me, and assured me she was quite satisfied with my conduct. I was going to acquaint them with some particulars that had not come to their knowledge, but my father insisted upon my retiring immediately to my own chamber, being apprehensive that I was greatly fatigued. I obeyed instantly, and got to my room time enough to prevent my dear Fanny from rising to meet me, who was just told that I was come: she hung upon my neck in a transport of joy, and bathed my face with her tears. My governess, who tenderly loved me, drew me out of my sister's arms to embrace me in her turn. As she was a woman of extreme good sense, she placed the merit of my behavior to my lover in so new a light, as quite charmed me; and, tired as I was, I could readily have listened to her all night upon so interesting a subject as my own praise. At last, however, I went to bed; and was scarce dressed next morning, when a servant came to tell me my mother expected me to breakfast. I inquired if there was any company with her, and being told Mr. Maynard and the doctor were there, I promised to attend her immediately. I did not fail, however, to consult the glass first several times, and was not displeased to find my charms had suffered no diminution from the fatigues I had gone through. How despicable, dear Amanda, have I since thought this vice, for which coquetry is too soft a name, that could make me take pleasure in appearing lovely to the eyes of a man whom I detested! Nothing but my strict regard to truth could induce me to confess how absolutely this folly engrossed me.
I went to my mother's apartment, full of that ill-natured pleasure which the consciousness of being able to give pain inspired. Mr. Maynard, the moment I appeared, turned pale; but recovering himself immediately, congratulated me on my safe return. I received his compliments with an indifference, which occasioned several significant frowns from my mother: however, she engaged the doctor in a conversation that left Maynard the liberty of entertaining me; and I was obliged to listen to several set-speeches, which I suppose had been studied the night before, that expressed the extreme joy he felt in seeing me again. When I was relieved from this uneasy situation I retired to my own chamber, not a little chagrined to find my mother absolutely bent to favor Mr. Maynard, in opposition to the generous promise my father had given me.
There was now great preparations making in A----, for the reception of the governor. My father, whatever cause he had to be dissatisfied with him, took care he should be received with all possible respect. Every one was solicitous to see the manner of his reception, but myself: pride and resentment kept me at home; and though I might have seen part of the pageantry from my window, yet I never once offered to look out. It was evening before the governor could disengage himself from the great number of gentlemen that came to compliment him upon his arrival, and because he would not be outdone by my father in politeness, he resolved to make him a visit before he went to bed. Accordingly he came up to the Fort, attended by several gentlemen who came with him from N----. My father, who was extremely surprised at this unexpected visit, had but just time to order the guard to draw out to receive him when he entered the gate. The moment the governor came into the hall I was passing through it, to retire into my own apartment, intending to avoid the sight of a person whom I could not choose but hate, for the mortifications he had occasioned me; but the old gallant, who had been a widower scarce two months, no sooner saw me hastily running by him than he crossed in my way, and, making a false step, his head fell directly on my neck. I blushed excessively at this accident; but he recovering himself, looked earnestly at me for a moment, and then took occasion to say some smart things upon the happy position in which he fell. My confusion had been so great, that I had all this time continued silent; when the governor taking my hand to lead me into a parlor, I accidentally turned my eyes upon some of the gentlemen who accompanied him, and, to my great amazement, saw Dumont among them, whose eyes were riveted upon my face; and when he had fixed my attention, gave me one of those expressive looks, which of all men in the world he had the greatest command of. The sight of this lovely youth gave me an emotion, which, I believe, was very visible in my countenance; for my vanity immediately considered myself as the cause of that tender melancholy I observed in his looks. I took the first opportunity of retiring from the company; and, when I was at liberty to reflect, could not help admiring the fantastical effects of my destiny, which had no sooner deprived me of one lover than it gave me another to repair the loss. However, I had not levity enough to triumph greatly at this adventure: Dumont was too dangerously lovely to make it safe to trifle with his affection; and the inevitable bar, his religion, and his engagement to another lady, put between us, prevented my indulging any thoughts of a serious inclination for him. All this time I heard nothing of Belmein; and thoughI earnestly wished to know upon what terms he stood with his father, my pride would not stoop to ask the doctor any questions about him, notwithstanding his interest with the governor assured me he could satisfy my curiosity. However, he relieved my anxiety by introducing a conversation one day about captain Belmein; and took occasion to say carelessly, that he had been in N---- some days, from whence he was to go to Jamaica with General B---- and make his first campaign in the quality of a volunteer. Though I had pretty well conquered my affection for Belmein, I could not hear that he was shortly to leave the province, with absolute indifference. The alteration this news made in my countenance did not escape the penetration of the doctor, who seemed to read my very soul. He was malicious enough to dwell upon the ungrateful subject, and I was obliged to quit him abruptly, in order to hide my concern. My brother met me as I was hastening to my own room, and seeing some tears steal down my cheeks, which I endeavored in vain to conceal, he asked me tenderly the cause; adding, that he supposed I had heard some news of Belmein. As nothing but the strongest necessity could ever force me to tell a falsehood, I immediately acknowledged my present uneasiness was owing to something the doctor had told me concerning captain Belmein. "Well, dear Harriot, said he, can you think this weakness you discover, for a man who has so unworthily forsaken you, pardonable?" "He is, indeed, gone to N----, replied I, (a little vexed at my brother's insinuation;) but there is no certainty that he has, or can be able to forsake me, as you call it." "What, answered my brother, has not the doctor told you that the governor showed him a letter from Belmein, in which he solemnly renounced all pretensions to you?" "Oh heavens! cried I, (lifting up my eyes) can there be so much perfidy in man!" "Alas, dear Harriot, said my brother, (smiling) there is nothing surprising in all this: these violent passions prey upon themselves. Your lover's flame burnt too fiercely to last; and, but for the opposition it met with, would have died of itself." My brother knew enough of my temper to be assured the certainty of my lover's infidelity would, by a natural effect of my pride, entirely erase him from my heart.
The governor, however, satisfied with having prevented his son's marriage, took all opportunities of expressing the highest admiration of me. My father having invited him, together with the gentlemen who came from N----, to dinner, he complained, in very gallant terms, of the disappointment it was to him that I did not appear at table; and being told by my mother, that I expected his excellency at the tea-table, as soon as dinner was over, he begged leave to wait on me, in my apartment. As I had too much reason to imagine he hated me in his heart, I was horribly vexed at his affectation of distinguishing me so particularly; and thoughI did not seem displeased with his seating himself near me, and endeavoring to engage me in a particular conversation, yet I could not avoid letting several satirical touches escape me: but this did not offend him. On the contrary, he seemed charmed with my wit; and, when he left me, told a gentleman who was near him, that I was certainly one of the finest girls in the world.
Dumont, who had watched for an opportunity of speaking to me, took the governor's place the moment he had left it. "I see, said he, (smiling) there is nothing impossible to a person of your merit; and the governor's advanced age will hardly defend him against the force of your attractions." "Would it were possible, returned I, (without minding his compliment) to make a conquest of that inexorable heart of his! I should take an infinite deal of pleasure in using him ill." "Ah, there is no one doubts it, interrupted Dumont: I am but too sensible of your abuse of power." According to the rules I had prescribed myself in my behavior to this gentleman, there was a necessity for seeming displeased at this insinuation. I frowned in so intelligible a manner, that he did not dare to explain it any other way than by some very deep sighs, a sort of eloquence in love which I very well understood, and was always pleased with, as it gave me an opportunity of triumphing in a passion I was at liberty to dissemble the knowledge of.
Mr. Maynard, whose love was less delicate, and who aimed more at the possession of my person than my heart, had never ceased employing all the influence he had with my mother and father to force me to be his wife. My father, however, positively declared against violent measures; and my brother contented himself with only representing to me, mildly, the advantages I lost by refusing Maynard. He had now received letters from England, which informed him he was appointed commander of a man of war. This news made him redouble his solicitations; and my father, at his and my mother's repeated instances, again press me to receive him for a husband. I assumed courage enough to tell my father, that I would rather die than consent to be the wife of Maynard; and, throwing myself all in tears at his feet, put him in mind of the promise he had given me never to lay any constraint upon my inclinations. He raised me with much tenderness, and assuring me he meant to keep his word, went to Mr. Maynard, who waited the result of our conversation in another room with my mother, and, relating the unalterable aversion I had to an union with him, declared he could resolve to press me no farther. My mother broke into the most violent expressions of rage against me; and Maynard, after complaining bitterly of my obstinacy, took his leave, and set out immediately for N , from whence he designed to embark for England. His absence, for some days, brought me very little relief. ThoughI was no longer seized with his importunities, yet my mother's ill-humor, which showed itself upon all occasions, left me but very little quiet. My father also seemed displeased with me; and my brother behaved with a reserve, that expressed his dissatisfaction at my conduct. The uneasiness this general resentment gave me, made me take no pleasure in the diversions that A---- was full of, during the governor's stay. I avoided going into company, where I was sure of meeting with severe looks, and distant reproaches, from my mother; and I kept my chamber so constantly, that Dumont had never any opportunity of seeing me. But as he attended the governor when he came to the Fort to pay his last visit, I could make no excuse for refusing to be present. The governor, keeping up the spirit of his admiration of me to the last, expressed himself in very respectful terms as he took his leave of me; but as I carefully avoided any discourse with Dumont, I could only understand by his looks how much my indifference affected him.
My whole care was now bent towards pleasing my father, and removing all traces of the resentment he might have conceived at my refusal of Maynard. I was so happy as to succeed in my endeavors, and he redoubled his fondness for me. But, alas, this felicity did not continue long! A short illness deprived me of the best of fathers, and the world of the best of men. He died universally lamented; but he left his family in a very unhappy situation. His death opened the door to those cruel adventures in which I have been since engaged, and from this fatal period my numberless misfortunes took their rise. Thoughmy father's allowance from the government had been very large, yet as his affairs were pretty much involved when he left England, and he had enjoyed his post in America but a short time, he had not been able to save much for our support. My mother, upon examining his accounts, found there was about four hundred pounds in the agent's hands, which was a very trifling addition to her pension, and not sufficient to support any remains of that affluence we had always been used to. She did not fail to remind me frequently of my folly and disobedience, in refusing a husband in Mr. Maynard's genteel circumstances; but her reproaches were not confined to him. The doctor, who had long indulged a passion for me, made no scruple, upon my father's death, to address me openly; and my mother, who once would have thought it great insolence in him to pretend to me, was now offended in the highest degree at my absolutely refusing to give him any encouragement.
Having discharged most part of her servants, she set out for N---- with my sister Fanny and me. My brother, thoughdetermined to return to Jamaica, could not think of leaving my mother, in the deep affliction in which she was involved. He accompanied us to N----, where we were received with all that politeness and humanity, which that place is distinguished for towards strangers. As there was no family in that city with whom we were so intimate as Dumont's, I saw myself exposed every day to his assiduities; but they were attended with such an unwearied tenderness, such a distant respect, as was amazing in a person who had been always the object of general admiration. He was so much the darling of the ladies in N----, that it seemed as if all their endeavors to charm were for him; and happy was she, who could boast of having made the slightest impression on his heart. 'Tis no wonder if, blest with every advantage that nature and fortune could bestow on him, his numberless successes with the fair should raise in him a conscious sense of his superior merit: but it was, indeed, surprising that this gay triumpher should so far forget his former pride, as to bear with the most servile patience all the froward , insolent humours of a girl, who possessed no visible advantage over many that secretly sighed for him. But Dumont had a native delicacy of soul, which made those easy conquests disgustful to him; and that haughty indifference I discovered, as it had all the charms of novelty, contributed more than any thing to increase the passion he felt for me. Thoughmy father's death had given my mind a melancholy turn, yet I was not insensible to the pleasure of being admired. My little poetical productions gained me an applause I was far from thinking I deserved: but my youth and sex stamped a kind of unquestionable merit on my writings, and procured me the addresses of all the wits; an incident that did not fail to increase my vanity. N---- was the seat of love and gallantry; the whole business of the ladies was to please, as that of the men to persuade them they did so. Thoughit is possible I had as much the principle of coquetry in me as any of them, I could not approve the gay liberties they indulged themselves in. While I aimed at inspiring a delicate and respectful passion, they gloried in giving birth to the most boundless wishes. To correct this false taste I wrote several little pieces, which, thoughthey missed the effect intended by them, produced a severe copy of verses on myself; and that you may have some notion of their satire, I'll insert them.
TO SAPPHO. Pr'ythee, poetic prude, give o'er Thy vestal airs; they'll cheat no more. Thy heart in each disguise we know; Thou'rt woman, and a frail one too. Thy eyes are honest, and reveal The native warmth thy arts conceal; And their fond languish what inspires But those internal hidden fires, Which the soft breath of love can raise Into a fierce and boundless blaze!
There is much more ill-nature than wit in these verses; but I had the satisfaction to find my friends eager to answer them in kind, and I was as amply revenged as I could desire. But I dwell too long upon these trifling incidents; and, indeed, I should not have mentioned them at all, were it not to give you some idea of the gallantry practiced at N----, and of that spirit of emulation and envy which prevails among the ladies there.