We had been about ten days at sea, when the sailors, discovering a sail, threw us into the most dreadful apprehensions, by declaring, some time after, that it was a Spanish privateer. As the captain acknowledged he was incapable of making any defense, we saw no possibility of escaping the danger which threatened us. I will not pretend to describe the horrors with which I was seized: I fell on my knees, and, leaning my head on my governesslap, implored the protection of heaven, and resolved in that posture to expect my fate. Mrs. Blandon endeavored to calm my fears, by all the arguments her reason could suggest. But while she was thus employed, a horrid noise we heard upon deck so alarmed me, that, giving a loud shriek, I fainted away in the arms of my governess; and, when I recovered, found the cabin full of men, who by their appearance, and speaking a language I did not understand, made me immediately conclude we were now in the power of the Spaniards.
At this dreadful sight I closed my eyes again, and, clinging round Mrs. Blandon's neck, expressed the terror of my soul by my cries and exclamations. The commander of the privateer, moved at the condition I was in, came up to my governess, and desired her, in bad French, to tell the young lady not to fear any thing. The tone of this man's voice had something so gentle and soft, that I ventured to raise my head and look upon him; while my governess, in the most moving language, begged him to protect us from any ill usage. But the moment the Spanish captain beheld me, he started back; and, with an action that expressed some surprise, stood gazing on me attentively for two or three moments. I drew a good omen from the complaisance which appeared in his looks; and, as I spoke French pretty fluently, added my entreaties to those of my governess, that he would be pleased to treat us as favorably as our circumstances would permit. The captain, with a true Spanish politeness, after making me some romantic compliments on my youth and charms, which he said would render me absolute where-ever I was, gave me the most solemn assurances, that we should be treated with the greatest respect; and, ordering his men to leave every thing that belonged to us untouched, gave me his hand to lead me into his own ship. My tears, which his civility had suspended for a moment, flowed afresh at the mention of leaving the ship: however, I did not dare to refuse, but allowed him to help me into the privateer, which there was no great difficulty in doing, as we only passed over planks that were laid on each vessel. Every thing here had so dreadful an appearance, that I felt all my terrors renewed. The captain led my governess and me into a little place, which he called a cabin, as dismal as the lumber of war could make it: he caused it to be cleared a little, and told us, that all that was necessary for our lodging, &c. should be brought from our own ship; and that he would resign that little apartment entirely to us. I took courage to ask him where he intended to carry us; upon which he replied, that he would make directly for St. Sebastian, which he hoped reach in two or three days. I would fain have asked him, how he intended to dispose of us when we arrived there; but he was obliged to leave us immediately, only begging us, with a respectful bow, not to be under any uneasy apprehensions. When he was gone, Mrs. Blandon, fastening the door, took me in her arms, and embracing me tenderly, Do not afflict yourself, my dear child, said she: your virtue, I hope, is he care of heaven. This Spaniard's generous behavior is a happy earnest of the interposition of providence in our favor. We are made prisoners, 'tis true; but without any of those hardships which usually accompany such a misfortune. Your youth and merit will procure us a favorable treatment at St. Sebastian; and 'tis probable we shall not long languish under captivity." My governess touched but slightly on he subject of my fears, that I might not be too much alarmed. The angers to which my honor was exposed, amidst a crew of unlicensed retches, to whom I was a prisoner, filled my whole soul with the most violent disquiets. We passed some hours in a very melancholy situation, he tumultuous noise upon deck keeping our fears constantly awake. All of a sudden it increased in such a manner, that we were under the most terrible consternation. The sailors seemed to run to and fro with the utmost precipitation, hallowing at the same time with so frightful a noise, that, concluding we were in some imminent danger, we cast ourselves upon our knees, imploring, with the utmost fervor, the assistance of heaven. That instant the door of our cabin was burst open; he captain appeared, and hastily raising us from the ground, "This is no place for you now, ladies, said he; I must conduct you to one where you will be less in danger." "Ah, cried I, whither do you mean to take Is? I will not stir from this place, without you tell me your designs." 'Alas, replied the captain, you must not stay here to be exposed to the fire of the enemy. We shall be attacked immediately by a man of war of your own nation. Come, miss, continued he, (taking me up in his arms) whatever is the event of our engagement, you will be safe." Saying this, e carried me through a dismal dark place into a little cabin, where there were some candles lighted, and two men, who were busy in preparing plasters and bandages. He then opened a little door, which led to another of these miserable dwellings, and seating me upon a great chest, told Mrs. Blandon, who had followed us, that we were in no danger there from the firing; and, begging me to be composed, went away immediately.
He had not been gone many minutes, when, by the horrid noise of the guns, we found they were engaged. The agonies I was indeprived me of my senses: I fell into a swoon, which lasted so long that Mrs. Blandon thought me dead. When I recovered, I found the firing had ceased. My governess hearing me sigh, broke out in an exclamation of joy: "Be comforted, my dear, said she, we shall be freed from the power of these Spaniards: the ship is taken by the English." The sudden joy which rushed into my soul at this news, was very near depriving me again of life. Immediately the place was filled with the English sailors, who pressed in in the most tumultuous manner. As soon as they spied us, they gave a shout: "Here's a prize, cries one, (looking at me) well worth fighting for, i'faith." Mrs. Blandon, immediately rising, demanded, in an assured accent, to be led to their commander, telling them we were English, and made prisoners to the Spaniards but that morning. At these words, a gentleman, who seemed to have some authority over these fellows, advanced towards us: "I suppose, madam, said he to my governess, you were taken in that merchantman we have now recovered from the Spaniards. How fortunately has providence brought us to your relief, to prevent you and that charming young lady from suffering any longer the hardships of captivity! Permit me, ladies, continued he, to lead you out of this dismal place. My uncle, who commands the ship which has rescued you, will, I am persuaded, offer you all the service in his power." Saying this, he presented me his hand, and, begging Mrs. Blandon to follow us, led me upon deck, which was crowded with the officers and men belonging to the man of war, the Spaniards being all made prisoners, and removed to close quarters.
As soon as the lieutenant (for so we found he was) appeared, leading me by the hand, followed by my governess, the eyes of every one were turned upon us. He presented us to a gentleman, whom we presently knew to be the commander; and, relating what he had heard of our circumstances, begged him to receive us into his protection. The captain listened very attentively to his nephew's discourse, keeping, at the same time, his eyes constantly fixed on me. When the young gentleman had done speaking, he bowed to us very complaisantly, assuring us we might depend upon his doing every thing in his power to serve us. He then inquired of Mrs. Blandon, if I was her daughter; and, being told by her who I was, he renewed his offers of service, with more politeness than before; and ordered the young lieutenant, his nephew, to convey us to his ship. He seemed to accept of this commission with great pleasure; and, as soon as we got on board the man of war, led us into a magnificent apartment, entreating us to repose ourselves, after the fatigue and uneasiness we had suffered.
My governess, who was anxious to know what had become of our ship, inquired of this gentleman whether the captain was safe, and if he would not be at liberty to prosecute his voyage. "Madam, replied he, we came up with the privateer just as they had manned their prize, which it seems was the ship in which you were, with some of their own men, and were preparing to set sail. The captain and some of his crew were prisoners on board the privateer; but by this time, I imagine, he is restored to the command of his own ship; for the Spaniards on board surrendered it immediately. However, madam, continued he, we are returning to England ourselves, having been sent to convoy some ships to Jamaica; and, I hope, you will consent to finish your voyage with us, where you will be much safer than on board the ship from which you were taken." Mrs. Blandon replied to this no otherways than by a respectful bow with her head, and the young officer withdrew, leaving us at liberty to reflect on the offer he had made us.
As soon as we were alone, my governess, observing I was greatly indisposed, obliged me to lay myself down upon a couch that was in the room. She then told me, she had resolved to return to our own ship, alleging, that, as we might sail in company with the man of war, which would serve for a convoy to us, we should be as safe as if we continued on board. ThoughI did not see into Mrs. Blandon's reasons for taking this resolution, yet I would not pretend to oppose it. However, my illness increased every moment: the continual terrors I had suffered that whole day, worked so forcibly upon my constitution, that I had no longer any strength or spirits left. I was seized with faintings, which returned so frequently upon me, that they almost despaired of my life. The captain, in my intervals of sense, expressed the most obliging concern for my indisposition, and gave orders for his own chamber to be made ready for me. The surgeon having bled me before I was put to bed, and ordered me some proper medicines, I fell into a profound sleep; from which I did not awake till the next morning. I was so well recovered, that my governess was transported with joy: she assisted me to rise; and the doctor, coming in to make me a visit, was infinitely pleased to find his prescriptions had produced so advantageous a change in my health.
I was still too weak to venture out of my chamber; and Mrs. Blandon, upon that account, begged the captain, who had sent several times, to dispense with seeing me that day. Observing our trunks were placed in the room, I asked my governess if she had resolved to stay in this ship. She replied, that my illness had made it impossible to move me into our own; that as soon as the captain had settled every thing relating to the merchant-ship and the privateer, he had given orders to sail immediately: "So that, added she, we must be contented to let him carry us to England." "There is no great mortification in that, madam, interrupted I, (smiling): methinks we are much better situated here than in our own little paltry ship." "However, answered my governess, (gravely) I had much rather be there. We are under a necessity of seeing and conversing with a great many gentlemen here; and, as there is no other woman in the ship, besides ourselves, it must necessarily be very disagreeable." This thought, which had escaped me before, did not fail to make some impression on me now. But thoughI could have been very well satisfied to have had some of my own sex to converse with; yet the want of that satisfaction did not give me half so much pain, as the respect and assiduity, with which I was treated, gave me pleasure.
The captain, who sent almost every hour to inquire after my health, had ordered the greatest delicacies the ship afforded to be brought to our table. I reflected, with pleasure, on the agreeable manner in which I was like to finish my voyage: and the next day, being perfectly recovered, my governess informed me it would be proper to give the captain my company at table; a favor he had earnestly requested. I readily consented; and Mrs. Blandon, at my desire, went to entertain the captain, till I was ready to make my appearance. ThoughI was always solicitous enough about my dress, yet today I was at more than ordinary pains in adorning myself; pleased with the thoughts of extending my conquests, and indulging my vanity, by an anticipation of the triumphs I expected to enjoy. Unhappy error! which I cannot enough lament. Fatal source of all my misfortunes! how little did I foresee that the admiration I was so fond of gaining, would be productive of the most cruel events! When I had finished dressing, I took a full survey of myself in the glass; and, after indulging a few moments contemplation, remained perfectly satisfied with my figure.
In the midst of these pleasing sensations, my governess tapped at the door: "Bless me, said she, (when I had opened it) you are extremely fine, miss Harriot! But why this exact care in your dress? Do you think there is a necessity for being so particularly nice, because you are to be seen by two or three gentlemen? Upon this occasion, pursued she, you ought to have diligently avoided extremes, which may possibly subject you to very unfavorable censures." As Mrs. Blandon did not insist upon my altering my dress, I listened with much good humor to a long lecture she gave me on prudence and reserve; declaring, that althoughshe was absolutely convinced my virtue was proof to any temptation, yet my gay temper, and immoderate desire of pleasing, would insensibly lead me into errors. I was not, however, of my governessopinion in this point: I had confidence enough in my wit, to believe it would defend me against all the impertinence of gallantry, without being obliged to suppress the natural sprightliness of my disposition.
When we came into the dining-room, we found two or three gentlemen, besides the captain and his nephew. As I was a good deal used to company, I was not disconcerted at the compliments I received from them all, upon the recovery of my health; but took my place at table with an easy gaiety, which seemed to please them infinitely. After dinner, I took a full survey of the captain's person, which I had not much considered before. He seemed to be between forty and fifty, his complexion was dark, and his thick black eye-brows hung in a formidable manner over his eye-lids: his eyes had a certain wanton fierceness in them, more apt to create terror than love; however, he seemed to correct their natural ferocity, and softened them into a look most odiously languishing, which would not have failed of exciting my mirth, had I not been restrained by a certain timidity, for which I could not account, as well as by respect. The rest of his face was answerable to what I have already described; and as we are too often ready to receive impressions from external appearances, I found in myself a much stronger inclination to hate than esteem this gentleman.
The captain seemed so perfectly pleased with my company, that he never quitted me the whole day, making me many compliments on the happy chance, as he called it, that had procured him the pleasure of meeting me. I made slight but complaisant answers to all he said; not without observing, that thoughhis agreeable nephew scarce mixed in the conversation, yet his eyes spoke a great deal, and seemed to tell me, in very intelligible language, he sympathized with his uncle in the satisfaction my presence gave him.
The authority Mrs. Blandon assumed over my conduct, seemed to engage the attention of both the uncle and nephew. As they looked upon her as a person to whom I was entrusted, they treated her accordingly with the greatest complaisance. When evening approached, Mrs. Blandon insisted upon my returning to my chamber; alleging, that my late indisposition required that I should retire early to rest. The captain, after having, in vain, opposed our leaving him, led me to my apartment, with a profusion of compliments on my wit and charms. He took his leave at the door, with a most respectful bow; and a little time after sent his servant with several kinds of sweetmeats and preserved fruits. My governess, when we entered the room, had thrown herself into a chair in a pensive posture, when breaking at last a silence which she had kept for some minutes, "I could wish, said she, (with an air of perplexity) that we were treated with less respect and ceremony than I find we are: it would argue a more disinterested kindness." "Is it possible, madam, interrupted I, (surprised at the mysterious manner in which she spoke) that the civilities we receive, can give you any apprehensions?" "It is certain, my dear, replied she, that I am not quite satisfied with the captain's extreme assiduities. I think he takes too much notice of you, for a person wholly indifferent; and, since our situation gives him so many opportunities of conversing with you, I wish he may always behave with the respect and distance he ought." "I cannot agree with you, madam, replied I, in believing the captain has any particular esteem for me: but sure, if it was so, that esteem would only influence him to continue this respectful treatment of me." "I know not, said my governess, why you have given the name of esteem to those sentiments, which I suspect the captain entertains for you. In generous minds, love often produces the most noble effects; but, in brutal dispositions, it is to be feared that passion is often mistaken for one infinitely worse."
Mrs. Blandon's way of reasoning had thrown me into a train of thought, which engrossed me entirely the remainder of the evening. I went to bed, however, a lime dissatisfied with my governess unreasonable apprehensions, and not at all disposed to repent of the effects which I found my charms had produced, in the hearts of both the uncle and nephew. The rolling of the ship in the night had discomposed me so much, that Mrs. Blandon made that an excuse for not allowing me to leave my chamber, till the afternoon. Upon my going into the diningroom, I found only my governess and Mr. Campbel (so was the captain's nephew called): he came hastily up to me, and, with an obliging concern, inquired after my health. "Mrs. Blandon, miss, pursued he, informed us, that you rested extremely ill last night; but one would not imagine it, from the bloom which sits on your cheeks this moment." "Nay, this is flattery, indeed, answered I, (smiling, and casting my eyes at the same time on the glass) I never looked so ill in my life." "And yet you are but too lovely still, resumed Mr. Campbel, (with a sigh); at least, all those who have the misfortune of seeing you today, will say so." "You certainly design this as a compliment, returned I; but you have succeeded so ill in this your second attempt to flatter, that for the future I would have you confine yourself to plain simple truth." "Will you allow me then, miss, interrupted he, (hastily) to tell you a plain truth?" "Yes, replied I, (adjusting my hair) provided you will not be tedious." "But what a careless air you put on! resumed he, (smiling, and taking my hand) is it possible you can be this dear indifferent creature you seem." "I have met with no one yet to make me otherwise, resumed I, (snatching my hand from him) and 'tis probable my indifference will not be easily surmounted." "It is but too probable, indeed, said he, (sighing); and thoughI foresee I shall be unhappy, yet I cannot hinder myself from adoring you." "I did not expect these free declarations, interrupted I, (with some warmth); and the advantage you take of my present situation, gives me but an indifferent opinion of your generosity." With these words I turned scornfully from him. His uncle entering that moment, prevented his making me any reply; though, by the extreme concern that appeared in his eyes, it was easy to see my behavior had deeply affected him.
I took this opportunity to inquire after the captain of the Spanish privateer, acknowledging myself much obliged to him for his generous treatment of us, the short time we were his prisoners. The captain very gallantly replied, that, upon that consideration, he should always think himself also greatly obliged to him; and would take care the civilities I d received from him should be amply returned. Then, changing the scourge, he made me observe the extreme melancholy which appeared too plainly upon Mr. Campbel's countenance. "Certainly, continued he, (smiling) 'tis not difficult to guess the cause of this alteration in my nephew's looks and temper. You have merit enough, miss, to produce ranger effects than transforming a gay sprightly young gentleman into melancholy sighing lover." "Miss Harriot, interrupted my governess, I too young and inexperienced to be sensible of these alterations, or know herself the cause." "She cannot be ignorant of her own charms, id the captain; and thoughshe was so, yet the number of her votaries would make her but too sensible of the extent of her power." "I am confident, replied I, (smiling maliciously) were power in my hands, I should take an infinite delight in the abuse of it; and, knowing my own temper so well, I am very glad I have never found an object to exercise my severity upon." The captain continued to rally me upon my ill-natured principles, till it was time to retire: he would kiss my hand at parting; and, giving me a very intelligent look, declared he was interested in a particular manner in the cruel sentiments I had avowed. Mrs. Blandon insisting upon knowing what he had said to me softly, I repeated his words. "The aversion I have to this man, said she, is possibly very unjustifiable; yet I am not able to conquer it, or to think, without uneasiness, on the inclination he discovers for you." "Nay, madam, answered I, (smiling) he has certainly most reason to be uneasy; since, whatever inclinations he may have for me, I feel nothing for him but indifference or dislike."
My governess having brought it into a sort of custom not to dine out of our own chamber, I never saw the captain but in the afternoon, when we could not refuse making tea for him, at his earnest request. Mr. Campbel had been so much awed by the scorn with which I received this first declaration of love, that, for several days, he hardly dared to approach me. My heart triumphed with conscious pride at the respectful passion I saw painted in his eyes; nor could I deny myself the ill-natured pleasure of increasing his confusion, by all the little perplexing arts I was mistress of. Tired, at last, with indulging my triumph, I desired him to reach me a book from his uncle's book-case, that stood in the room. Having left the choice of it entirely to him, he took down a volume of Prior's works, and, opening it at the poem of Henry and Emma, presented it to me, slipping at the same time a letter, very dexterously, between the leaves. I observed this action; but, if I had really an inclination to return it, he prevented me, by leaving me so suddenly, that I was obliged to take the first opportunity of concealing it in my pocket.
When Mrs. Blandon and I retired, I immediately acquainted her with what had happened, and asked her permission to read my letter. "I wish, said she, you could have avoided taking it; but, since it is so, let us see what it contains. Mr. Campbel has a modesty and sweetness in his behavior, that makes it impossible for me to think he would say any thing in it to offend you." I obeyed her instantly, and, breaking the seal, found it as follows:
"You have commanded me to be silent on the subject of my love, and I am determined to obey you, notwithstanding the torments which this painful restraint occasions me: but do not, I beg you, wound me with the cruel thought, that, in the declaration I made you, I took advantage of your present situation. Ah, madam! how ill are you acquainted with the purity of my sentiments! and how little are you sensible of your own power! Forgive me for this last insinuation I will no more offend you on a theme so disagreeable. But not all your rigor can hinder me from soothing my soul, with the hope of one day convincing you of the sincerity and ardor of my passion; thoughat the expense of that life which I have devoted to you.
I am, with the truest respect,
Your faithfully devoted
"If there be any truth in man, said Mrs. Blandon, this gentleman certainly loves you. But though, for many reasons, I would not have you give him any encouragement while we are here; yet it will be necessary to treat him with respect, in case his pretensions are honorable." A sigh, which the remembrance of Dumont that moment forced from me, prevented me from answering for some time; when, recovering myself, "I shall not, madam, returned I, (with my usual vivacity) give myself the trouble to consider his pretensions: I never design to know what they are. I neither love him, nor hate him; but I cannot help owning, I feel a strange kind of pleasure in exercising a little tyranny over him." "What do you mean, child?" resumed she. "Why, madam, I replied, I think Mr. Campbel just cut out for a lover. He seems to possess a thousand old-fashioned amiable qualities, which would give a mistress such a charming advantage over him! How I could like to sport with the honest sincerity of his heart! Make him feel fear and hope, joy and grief, in such a swift vicissitude, that after loving, hating, soothing, and railing, by turns, fall into a languishing reverie for half a minute, gaze with a silent conviction of my power, and cry out in a rapture,
If to her share some female errors fall, Look on her face, and you'll forget them all."
"Very fine, said Mrs. Blandon, (endeavoring to stifle a laugh) a pretty picture of a coquette, this! But you are very young, miss, to have so much judgment in these matters; and a very bad opinion of my prudence, to think I would indulge you in such an unjustifiable conduct." "But sure, madam, returned I, you cannot blame me, if, filled with resentment for the injuries many of my sex have received from men, I embrace any opportunity that is offered me, to revenge their wrongs, and retaliate the pain they have given." "Ah! interrupted my governess, you cannot impose upon me by these excuses. Was revenge your only motive, you would never make choice of the best and sincerest of the sex to practice your cruelties upon. But, pray, do you mean to take any notice of Mr. Campbel's letter? If you can write a few lines, without being tainted with the spirit of coquetry, I think it will not be amiss to answer it. ThoughI am afraid, continued she, (after a little pause) that writing will be giving him rather too much encouragement." "Not as I'll manage it, madam," replied I. And, taking a pen, I wrote the following answer:
Though I would be far from allowing a correspondence of this nature, yet, for once, I will break through the rule I prescribe myself, to acquaint you with my sentiments. To be plain, then, I cannot help considering the free declaration of love, which you made me at a time when it was not in my power to avoid such liberties, as an insult offered both to my person and understanding; and this being my opinion, the resentment I discovered ought neither to be a matter of surprise or complaint to you. I never desire to receive any proofs of your passion, occasioned either by your danger or my own: and, while you continue to treat me with the respect which is due to my sex and years, you may always depend upon the esteem of
Mrs. Blandon, to whom I gave this billet as soon as I had finished it, conn'd over the word esteem. Then humming it over a second time to herself, paused for a minute, and at last declared it would do. Satisfied with her approbation, I sealed it; and, being told by her I might give it myself, I resolved to do so the first opportunity.