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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesArthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 1 - Chapter 6
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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 1 - Chapter 6 Post by :Veselin_Andreev Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Brockden Brown Date :May 2012 Read :1610

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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 1 - Chapter 6

VOLUME I CHAPTER VI

In a short time the lady retired. I naturally expected that some comments would be made on her behaviour, and that the cause of her surprise and distress on seeing me would be explained; but Welbeck said nothing on that subject. When she had gone, he went to the window and stood for some time occupied, as it seemed, with his own thoughts. Then he turned to me, and, calling me by my name, desired me to accompany him up-stairs. There was neither cheerfulness nor mildness in his address, but neither was there any thing domineering or arrogant.

We entered an apartment on the same floor with my chamber, but separated from it by a spacious entry. It was supplied with bureaus, cabinets, and bookcases. "This," said he, "is your room and mine; but we must enter it and leave it together. I mean to act not as your master but your friend. My maimed hand" (so saying, he showed me his right hand, the forefinger of which was wanting) "will not allow me to write accurately or copiously. For this reason I have required your aid, in a work of some moment. Much haste will not be requisite, and, as to the hours and duration of employment, these will be seasonable and short.

"Your present situation is new to you, and we will therefore defer entering on our business. Meanwhile you may amuse yourself in what manner you please. Consider this house as your home and make yourself familiar with it. Stay within or go out, be busy or be idle, as your fancy shall prompt: only you will conform to our domestic system as to eating and sleep; the servants will inform you of this. Next week we will enter on the task for which I designed you. You may now withdraw."

I obeyed this mandate with some awkwardness and hesitation. I went into my own chamber not displeased with an opportunity of loneliness. I threw myself on a chair and resigned myself to those thoughts which would naturally arise in this situation. I speculated on the character and views of Welbeck. I saw that he was embosomed in tranquillity and grandeur. Riches, therefore, were his; but in what did his opulence consist, and whence did it arise? What were the limits by which it was confined, and what its degree of permanence? I was unhabituated to ideas of floating or transferable wealth. The rent of houses and lands was the only species of property which was, as yet, perfectly intelligible. My previous ideas led me to regard Welbeck as the proprietor of this dwelling and of numerous houses and farms. By the same cause I was fain to suppose him enriched by inheritance, and that his life had been uniform.

I next adverted to his social condition. This mansion appeared to have but two inhabitants besides servants. Who was the nymph who had hovered for a moment in my sight? Had he not called her his daughter? The apparent difference in their ages would justify this relation; but her guise, her features, and her accents, were foreign. Her language I suspected strongly to be that of Italy. How should he be the father of an Italian? But were there not some foreign lineaments in his countenance?

This idea seemed to open a new world to my view. I had gained, from my books, confused ideas of European governments and manners. I knew that the present was a period of revolution and hostility. Might not these be illustrious fugitives from Provence or the Milanese? Their portable wealth, which may reasonably be supposed to be great, they have transported hither. Thus may be explained the sorrow that veils their countenance. The loss of estates and honours; the untimely death of kindred, and perhaps of his wife, may furnish eternal food for regrets. Welbeck's utterance, though rapid and distinct, partook, as I conceived, in some very slight degree of a foreign idiom.

Such was the dream that haunted my undisciplined and unenlightened imagination. The more I revolved it, the more plausible it seemed. On due supposition every appearance that I had witnessed was easily solved,--unless it were their treatment of me. This, at first, was a source of hopeless perplexity. Gradually, however, a clue seemed to be afforded. Welbeck had betrayed astonishment on my first appearance. The lady's wonder was mingled with distress. Perhaps they discovered a remarkable resemblance between me and one who stood in the relation of son to Welbeck, and of brother to the lady. This youth might have perished on the scaffold or in war. These, no doubt, were his clothes. This chamber might have been reserved for him, but his death left it to be appropriated to another.

I had hitherto been unable to guess at the reason why all this kindness had been lavished on me. Will not this conjecture sufficiently account for it? No wonder that this resemblance was enhanced by assuming his dress.

Taking all circumstances into view, these ideas were not, perhaps, destitute of probability. Appearances naturally suggested them to me. They were, also, powerfully enforced by inclination. They threw me into transports of wonder and hope. When I dwelt upon the incidents of my past life, and traced the chain of events, from the death of my mother to the present moment, I almost acquiesced in the notion that some beneficent and ruling genius had prepared my path for me. Events which, when foreseen, would most ardently have been deprecated, and when they happened were accounted in the highest degree luckless, were now seen to be propitious. Hence I inferred the infatuation of despair, and the folly of precipitate conclusions.

But what was the fate reserved for me? Perhaps Welbeck would adopt me for his own son. Wealth has ever been capriciously distributed. The mere physical relation of birth is all that entitles us to manors and thrones. Identity itself frequently depends upon a casual likeness or an old nurse's imposture. Nations have risen in arms, as in the case of the Stuarts, in the cause of one the genuineness of whose birth has been denied and can never be proved. But if the cause be trivial and fallacious, the effects are momentous and solid. It ascertains our portion of felicity and usefulness, and fixes our lot among peasants or princes.

Something may depend upon my own deportment. Will it not behoove me to cultivate all my virtues and eradicate all my defects? I see that the abilities of this man are venerable. Perhaps he will not lightly or hastily decide in my favour. He will be governed by the proofs that I shall give of discernment and integrity. I had always been exempt from temptation, and was therefore undepraved; but this view of things had a wonderful tendency to invigorate my virtuous resolutions. All within me was exhilaration and joy.

There was but one thing wanting to exalt me to a dizzy height and give me place among the stars of heaven. My resemblance to her brother had forcibly affected this lady; but I was not her brother. I was raised to a level with her and made a tenant of the same mansion. Some intercourse would take place between us. Time would lay level impediments and establish familiarity, and this intercourse might foster love and terminate in--_marriage_!

These images were of a nature too glowing and expansive to allow me to be longer inactive. I sallied forth into the open air. This tumult of delicious thoughts in some time subsided, and gave way to images relative to my present situation. My curiosity was awake. As yet I had seen little of the city, and this opportunity for observation was not to be neglected. I therefore coursed through several streets, attentively examining the objects that successively presented themselves.

At length, it occurred to me to search out the house in which I had lately been immured. I was not without hopes that at some future period I should be able to comprehend the allusions and brighten the obscurities that hung about the dialogue of last night.

The house was easily discovered. I reconnoitred the court and gate through which I had passed. The mansion was of the first order in magnitude and decoration. This was not the bound of my present discovery, for I was gifted with that confidence which would make me set on foot inquiries in the neighbourhood. I looked around for a suitable medium of intelligence. The opposite and adjoining houses were small, and apparently occupied by persons of an indigent class. At one of these was a sign denoting it to be the residence of a tailor. Seated on a bench at the door was a young man, with coarse uncombed locks, breeches knee-unbuttoned, stockings ungartered, shoes slipshod and unbuckled, and a face unwashed, gazing stupidly from hollow eyes. His aspect was embellished with good nature, though indicative of ignorance.

This was the only person in sight. He might be able to say something concerning his opulent neighbour. To him, therefore, I resolved to apply. I went up to him, and, pointing to the house in question, asked him who lived there.

He answered, "Mr. Matthews."

"What is his profession,--his way of life?"

"A gentleman. He does nothing but walk about."

"How long has he been married?"

"Married! He is not married as I know on. He never has been married. He is a bachelor."

This intelligence was unexpected. It made me pause to reflect whether I had not mistaken the house. This, however, seemed impossible. I renewed my questions.

"A bachelor, say you? Are you not mistaken?"

"No. It would be an odd thing if he was married. An old fellow, with one foot in the grave--Comical enough for him to _git a _vife_!"

"An old man? Does he live alone? What is his family?"

"No, he does not live alone. He has a niece that lives with him. She is married, and her husband lives there too."

"What is his name?"

"I don't know. I never heard it as I know on."

"What is his trade?"

"He's a merchant; he keeps a store somewhere or other; but I don't know where."

"How long has he been married?"

"About two years. They lost a child lately. The young woman was in a huge taking about it. They say she was quite crazy some days for the death of the child; and she is not quite out of _the dumps yet. To-be-sure, the child was a sweet little thing; but they need not make such a rout about it. I'll war'n' they'll have enough of them before they die."

"What is the character of the young man? Where was he born and educated? Has he parents or brothers?"

My companion was incapable of answering these questions, and I left him with little essential addition to the knowledge I already possessed.

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VOLUME I CHAPTER VIIAfter viewing various parts of the city, intruding into churches, and diving into alleys, I returned. The rest of the day I spent chiefly in my chamber, reflecting on my new condition; surveying my apartment, its presses and closets; and conjecturing the causes of appearances. At dinner and supper I was alone. Venturing to inquire of the servant where his master and mistress were, I was answered that they were engaged. I did not question him as to the nature of their engagement, though it was a fertile source of curiosity. Next morning, at breakfast, I again met
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VOLUME I CHAPTER VNow I was once more on public ground. By so many anxious efforts had I disengaged myself from the perilous precincts of private property. As many stratagems as are usually made to enter a house had been employed by me to get out of it. I was urged to the use of them by my fears; yet, so far from carrying off spoil, I had escaped with the loss of an essential part of my dress. I had now leisure to reflect. I seated myself on the ground and reviewed the scenes through which I had just passed.
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