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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesArthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 1 - Chapter 10
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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 1 - Chapter 10 Post by :Veselin_Andreev Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Brockden Brown Date :May 2012 Read :725

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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 1 - Chapter 10

VOLUME I CHAPTER X

"Having ascertained my purpose, it was requisite to search out the means by which I might effect it. These were not clearly or readily suggested. The more I contemplated my project, the more numerous and arduous its difficulties appeared. I had no associates in my undertaking. A due regard to my safety, and the unextinguished sense of honour, deterred me from seeking auxiliaries and co-agents. The esteem of mankind was the spring of all my activity, the parent of all my virtue and all my vice. To preserve this, it was necessary that my guilty projects should have neither witness nor partaker.

"I quickly discovered that to execute this scheme demanded time, application, and money, none of which my present situation would permit me to devote to it. At first it appeared that an attainable degree of skill and circumspection would enable me to arrive, by means of counterfeit bills, to the pinnacle of affluence and honour. My error was detected by a closer scrutiny, and I finally saw nothing in this path but enormous perils and insurmountable impediments.

"Yet what alternative was offered me? To maintain myself by the labour of my hands, to perform any toilsome or prescribed task, was incompatible with my nature. My habits debarred me from country occupations. My pride regarded as vile and ignominious drudgery any employment which the town could afford. Meanwhile, my wants were as urgent as ever, and my funds were exhausted.

"There are few, perhaps, whose external situation resembled mine, who would have found in it any thing but incitements to industry and invention. A thousand methods of subsistence, honest but laborious, were at my command, but to these I entertained an irreconcilable aversion. Ease and the respect attendant upon opulence I was willing to purchase at the price of ever-wakeful suspicion and eternal remorse; but, even at this price, the purchase was impossible.

"The desperateness of my condition became hourly more apparent. The further I extended my view, the darker grew the clouds which hung over futurity. Anguish and infamy appeared to be the inseparable conditions of my existence. There was one mode of evading the evils that impended. To free myself from self-upbraiding and to shun the persecutions of my fortune was possible only by shaking off life itself.

"One evening, as I traversed the bank of the creek, these dismal meditations were uncommonly intense. They at length terminated in a resolution to throw myself into the stream. The first impulse was to rush instantly to my death; but the remembrance of papers, lying at my lodgings, which might unfold more than I desired to the curiosity of survivors, induced me to postpone this catastrophe till the next morning.

"My purpose being formed, I found my heart lightened of its usual weight. By you it will be thought strange, but it is nevertheless true, that I derived from this new prospect not only tranquillity but cheerfulness. I hastened home. As soon as I entered, my landlord informed me that a person had been searching for me in my absence. This was an unexampled incident, and foreboded me no good. I was strongly persuaded that my visitant had been led hither not by friendly but hostile purposes. This persuasion was confirmed by the description of the stranger's guise and demeanour given by my landlord. My fears instantly recognised the image of Watson, the man by whom I had been so eminently benefited, and whose kindness I had compensated by the ruin of his sister and the confusion of his family.

"An interview with this man was less to be endured than to look upon the face of an avenging deity. I was determined to avoid this interview, and, for this end, to execute my fatal purpose within the hour. My papers were collected with a tremulous hand, and consigned to the flames. I then bade my landlord inform all visitants that I should not return till the next day, and once more hastened towards the river.

"My way led past the inn where one of the stages from Baltimore was accustomed to stop. I was not unaware that Watson had possibly been brought in the coach which had recently arrived, and which now stood before the door of the inn. The danger of my being descried or encountered by him as I passed did not fail to occur. This was to be eluded by deviating from the main street.

"Scarcely had I turned a corner for this purpose when I was accosted by a young man whom I knew to be an inhabitant of the town, but with whom I had hitherto had no intercourse but what consisted in a transient salutation. He apologized for the liberty of addressing me, and, at the same time, inquired if I understood the French language.

"Being answered in the affirmative, he proceeded to tell me that in the stage, just arrived, had come a passenger, a youth who appeared to be French, who was wholly unacquainted with our language, and who had been seized with a violent disease.

"My informant had felt compassion for the forlorn condition of the stranger, and had just been seeking me at my lodgings, in hope that my knowledge of French would enable me to converse with the sick man, and obtain from him a knowledge of his situation and views.

"The apprehensions I had precipitately formed were thus removed, and I readily consented to perform this service. The youth was, indeed, in a deplorable condition. Besides the pains of his disease, he was overpowered by dejection. The innkeeper was extremely anxious for the removal of his guest. He was by no means willing to sustain the trouble and expense of a sick or a dying man, for which it was scarcely probable that he should ever be reimbursed. The traveller had no baggage, and his dress betokened the pressure of many wants.

"My compassion for this stranger was powerfully awakened. I was in possession of a suitable apartment, for which I had no power to pay the rent that was accruing; but my inability in this respect was unknown, and I might enjoy my lodgings unmolested for some weeks. The fate of this youth would be speedily decided, and I should be left at liberty to execute my first intentions before my embarrassments should be visibly increased.

"After a moment's pause, I conducted the stranger to my home, placed him in my own bed, and became his nurse. His malady was such as is known in the tropical islands by the name of the yellow or malignant fever, and the physician who was called speedily pronounced his case desperate.

"It was my duty to warn him of the death that was hastening, and to promise the fulfilment of any of his wishes not inconsistent with my present situation. He received my intelligence with fortitude, and appeared anxious to communicate some information respecting his own state. His pangs and his weakness scarcely allowed him to be intelligible. From his feeble efforts and broken narrative I collected thus much concerning his family and fortune.

"His father's name was Vincentio Lodi. From a merchant at Leghorn, he had changed himself into a planter in the island of Guadaloupe. His son had been sent, at an early age, for the benefits of education, to Europe. The young Vincentio was, at length, informed by his father, that, being weary of his present mode of existence, he had determined to sell his property and transport himself to the United States. The son was directed to hasten home, that he might embark, with his father, on this voyage.

"The summons was cheerfully obeyed. The youth, on his arrival at the island, found preparation making for the funeral of his father. It appeared that the elder Lodi had flattered one of his slaves with the prospect of his freedom, but had, nevertheless, included this slave in the sale that he had made of his estate. Actuated by revenge, the slave assassinated Lodi in the open street, and resigned himself, without a struggle, to the punishment which the law had provided for such a deed.

"The property had been recently transferred, and the price was now presented to young Vincentio by the purchaser. He was by no means inclined to adopt his father's project, and was impatient to return with his inheritance to France. Before this could be done, the conduct of his father had rendered a voyage to the Continent indispensable.

"Lodi had a daughter, whom, a few weeks previous to his death, he had intrusted to an American captain for whom he had contracted a friendship. The vessel was bound to Philadelphia; but the conduct she was to pursue, and the abode she was to select, on her arrival, were known only to the father, whose untimely death involved the son in considerable uncertainty with regard to his sister's fate. His anxiety on this account induced him to seize the first conveyance that offered. In a short time he landed at Baltimore.

"As soon as he recovered from the fatigues of his voyage, he prepared to go to Philadelphia. Thither his baggage was immediately sent under the protection of a passenger and countryman. His money consisted in Portuguese gold, which, in pursuance of advice, he had changed into bank-notes. He besought me, in pathetic terms, to search out his sister, whose youth and poverty, and ignorance of the language and manners of the country, might expose her to innumerable hardships. At the same time, he put a pocket-book and small volume into my hand, indicating, by his countenance and gestures, his desire that I would deliver them to his sister.

"His obsequies being decently performed, I had leisure to reflect upon the change in my condition which this incident had produced. In the pocket-book were found bills to the amount of twenty thousand dollars. The volume proved to be a manuscript, written by the elder Lodi in Italian, and contained memoirs of the ducal house of Visconti, from whom the writer believed himself to have lineally descended.

"Thus had I arrived, by an avenue so much beyond my foresight, at the possession of wealth. The evil which impelled me to the brink of suicide, and which was the source, though not of all, yet of the larger portion, of my anguish, was now removed. What claims to honour or to ease were consequent on riches were, by an extraordinary fortune, now conferred upon me.

"Such, for a time, were my new-born but transitory raptures. I forgot that this money was not mine. That it had been received, under every sanction of fidelity, for another's use. To retain it was equivalent to robbery. The sister of the deceased was the rightful claimant; it was my duty to search her out, and perform my tacit but sacred obligations, by putting the whole into her possession.

"This conclusion was too adverse to my wishes not to be strenuously combated. I asked what it was that gave man the power of ascertaining the successor to his property. During his life, he might transfer the actual possession; but, if vacant at his death, he into whose hands accident should cast it was the genuine proprietor. It is true, that the law had sometimes otherwise decreed, but in law there was no validity further than it was able, by investigation and punishment, to enforce its decrees: but would the law extort this money from me?

"It was rather by gesture than by words that the will of Lodi was imparted. It was the topic of remote inferences and vague conjecture rather than of explicit and unerring declarations. Besides, if the lady were found, would not prudence dictate the reservation of her fortune to be administered by me, for her benefit? Of this her age and education had disqualified herself. It was sufficient for the maintenance of both. She would regard me as her benefactor and protector. By supplying all her wants and watching over her safety without apprizing her of the means by which I shall be enabled to do this, I shall lay irresistible claims to her love and her gratitude.

"Such were the sophistries by which reason was seduced and my integrity annihilated. I hastened away from my present abode. I easily traced the baggage of the deceased to an inn, and gained possession of it. It contained nothing but clothes and books. I then instituted the most diligent search after the young lady. For a time, my exertions were fruitless.

"Meanwhile, the possessor of this house thought proper to embark with his family for Europe. The sum which he demanded for his furniture, though enormous, was precipitately paid by me. His servants were continued in their former stations, and in the day at which he relinquished the mansion, I entered on possession.

"There was no difficulty in persuading the world that Welbeck was a personage of opulence and rank. My birth and previous adventures it was proper to conceal. The facility with which mankind are misled in their estimate of characters, their proneness to multiply inferences and conjectures, will not be readily conceived by one destitute of my experience. My sudden appearance on the stage, my stately reserve, my splendid habitation, and my circumspect deportment, were sufficient to entitle me to homage. The artifices that were used to unveil the truth, and the guesses that were current respecting me, were adapted to gratify my ruling passion.

"I did not remit my diligence to discover the retreat of Mademoiselle Lodi. I found her, at length, in the family of a kinsman of the captain under whose care she had come to America. Her situation was irksome and perilous. She had already experienced the evils of being protectorless and indigent, and my seasonable interference snatched her from impending and less supportable ills.

"I could safely unfold all that I knew of her brother's history, except the legacy which he had left. I ascribed the diligence with which I had sought her to his death-bed injunctions, and prevailed upon her to accept from me the treatment which she would have received from her brother if he had continued to live, and if his power to benefit had been equal to my own.

"Though less can be said in praise of the understanding than of the sensibilities of this woman, she is one whom no one could refrain from loving, though placed in situations far less favourable to the generation of that sentiment than mine. In habits of domestic and incessant intercourse, in the perpetual contemplation of features animated by boundless gratitude and ineffable sympathies, it could not be expected that either she or I should escape enchantment.

"The poison was too sweet not to be swallowed with avidity by me. Too late I remembered that I was already enslaved by inextricable obligations. It was easy to have hidden this impediment from the eyes of my companion, but here my integrity refused to yield. I can, indeed, lay claim to little merit on account of this forbearance. If there had been no alternative between deceit and the frustration of my hopes, I should doubtless have dissembled the truth with as little scruple on this as on a different occasion; but I could not be blind to the weakness of her with whom I had to contend.

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VOLUME I CHAPTER IXWelbeck did not return, though hour succeeded hour till the clock struck ten. I inquired of the servants, who informed me that their master was not accustomed to stay out so late. I seated myself at a table, in a parlour, on which there stood a light, and listened for the signal of his coming, either by the sound of steps on the pavement without or by a peal from the bell. The silence was uninterrupted and profound, and each minute added to my sum of impatience and anxiety. To relieve myself from the heat of the weather,
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