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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesArthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 26
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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 26 Post by :andre Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Brockden Brown Date :May 2012 Read :3418

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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 26


This conversation was interrupted by a messenger from my wife, who desired my return immediately. I had some hopes of meeting with Mervyn, some days having now elapsed since his parting from us, and not being conscious of any extraordinary motives for delay. It was Wortley, however, and not Mervyn, to whom I was called.

My friend came to share with me his suspicions and inquietudes respecting Welbeck and Mervyn. An accident had newly happened which had awakened these suspicions afresh. He desired a patient audience while he explained them to me. These were his words:--

"To-day a person presented me a letter from a mercantile friend at Baltimore. I easily discerned the bearer to be a sea-captain. He was a man of sensible and pleasing aspect, and was recommended to my friendship and counsel in the letter which he brought. The letter stated, that a man, by name Amos Watson, by profession a mariner, and a resident at Baltimore, had disappeared in the summer of last year, in a mysterious and incomprehensible manner. He was known to have arrived in this city from Jamaica, and to have intended an immediate journey to his family, who lived at Baltimore; but he never arrived there, and no trace of his existence has since been discovered. The bearer had come to investigate, if possible, the secret of his fate, and I was earnestly entreated to afford him all the assistance and advice in my power, in the prosecution of his search. I expressed my willingness to serve the stranger, whose name was Williams; and, after offering him entertainment at my house, which was thankfully accepted, he proceeded to unfold to me the particulars of this affair. His story was this.

"'On the 20th of last June, I arrived,' said he, 'from the West Indies, in company with Captain Watson. I commanded the ship in which he came as a passenger, his own ship being taken and confiscated by the English. We had long lived in habits of strict friendship, and I loved him for his own sake, as well as because he had married my sister. We landed in the morning, and went to dine with Mr. Keysler, since dead, but who then lived in Water Street. He was extremely anxious to visit his family, and, having a few commissions to perform in the city, which would not demand more than a couple of hours, he determined to set out next morning in the stage. Meanwhile, I had engagements which required me to repair with the utmost expedition to New York. I was scarcely less anxious than my brother to reach Baltimore, where my friends also reside; but there was an absolute necessity of going eastward. I expected, however, to return hither in three days, and then to follow Watson home. Shortly after dinner we parted; he to execute his commissions, and I to embark in the mail-stage.

"'In the time prefixed I returned. I arrived early in the morning, and prepared to depart again at noon. Meanwhile, I called at Keysler's. This is an old acquaintance of Watson's and mine; and, in the course of talk, he expressed some surprise that Watson had so precipitately deserted his house. I stated the necessity there was for Watson's immediate departure _southward_, and added, that no doubt my brother had explained this necessity.

"'Why, (said Keysler,) it is true, Captain Watson mentioned his intention of leaving town early next day; but then he gave me reason to expect that he would sup and lodge with me that night, whereas he has not made his appearance since. Besides, his trunk was brought to my house. This, no doubt, he intended to carry home with him, but here it remains still. It is not likely that in the hurry of departure his baggage was forgotten. Hence, I inferred that he was still in town, and have been puzzling myself these three days with conjectures as to what is become of him. What surprises me more is, that, on inquiring among the few friends which he has in this city, I find them as ignorant of his motions as myself. I have not, indeed, been wholly without apprehensions that some accident or other has befallen him.'

"'I was not a little alarmed by this intimation. I went myself, agreeably to Keysler's directions, to Watson's friends, and made anxious inquiries, but none of them had seen my brother since his arrival. I endeavoured to recollect the commissions which he designed to execute, and, if possible, to trace him to the spot where he last appeared. He had several packets to deliver, one of which was addressed to Walter Thetford. Him, after some inquiry, I found out, but unluckily he chanced to be in the country. I found, by questioning a clerk, who transacted his business in his absence, that a person, who answered the minute description which I gave of Watson, had been there on the day on which I parted with him, and had left papers relative to the capture of one of Thetford's vessels by the English. This was the sum of the information he was able to afford me.

"'I then applied to three merchants for whom my brother had letters. They all acknowledged the receipt of these letters, but they were delivered through the medium of the post-office.

"'I was extremely anxious to reach home. Urgent engagements compelled me to go on without delay. I had already exhausted all the means of inquiry within my reach, and was obliged to acquiesce in the belief that Watson had proceeded homeward at the time appointed, and left, by forgetfulness or accident, his trunk behind him. On examining the books kept at the stage-offices, his name nowhere appeared, and no conveyance by water had occurred during the last week. Still, the only conjecture I could form was that he had gone homeward.

"'Arriving at Baltimore, I found that Watson had not yet made his appearance. His wife produced a letter, which, by the postmark, appeared to have been put into the office at Philadelphia, on the morning after our arrival, and on which he had designed to commence his journey. This letter had been written by my brother, in my presence, but I had dissuaded him from sending it, since the same coach that should bear the letter was likewise to carry himself. I had seen him put it unwafered in his pocket-book, but this letter, unaltered in any part, and containing money which he had at first intended to enclose in it, was now conveyed to his wife's hand. In this letter he mentioned his design of setting out for Baltimore on the _twenty-first_, yet on that day the letter itself had been put into the office.

"'We hoped that a short time would clear up this mystery, and bring the fugitive home; but, from that day till the present, no atom of intelligence has been received concerning him. The yellow fever, which quickly followed, in this city, and my own engagements, have hindered me, till now, from coming hither and resuming the search.

"'My brother was one of the most excellent of men. His wife loved him to distraction, and, together with his children, depended for subsistence upon his efforts. You will not, therefore, be surprised that his disappearance excited, in us, the deepest consternation and distress; but I have other and peculiar reasons for wishing to know his fate. I gave him several bills of exchange on merchants of Baltimore, which I had received in payment of my cargo, in order that they might, as soon as possible, be presented and accepted. These have disappeared with the bearer. There is likewise another circumstance that makes his existence of no small value.

"'There is an English family, who formerly resided in Jamaica, and possessed an estate of great value, but who, for some years, have lived in the neighbourhood of Baltimore. The head of this family died a year ago, and left a widow and three daughters. The lady thought it eligible to sell her husband's property in Jamaica, the island becoming hourly more exposed to the chances of war and revolution, and transfer it to the United States, where she purposes henceforth to reside. Watson had been her husband's friend, and, his probity and disinterestedness being well known, she intrusted him with legal powers to sell this estate. This commission was punctually performed, and the purchase-money was received. In order to confer on it the utmost possible security, he rolled up four bills of exchange, drawn upon opulent, merchants of London, in a thin sheet of lead, and, depositing this roll in a leathern girdle, fastened it round his waist, and under his clothes; a second set he gave to me, and a third he despatched to Mr. Keysler, by a vessel which sailed a few days before him. On our arrival in this city, we found that Keysler had received those transmitted to him, and which he had been charged to keep till our arrival. They were now produced, and, together with those which I had carried, were delivered to Watson. By him they were joined to those in the girdle, which he still wore, conceiving this method of conveyance to be safer than any other, and, at the same time, imagining it needless, in so short a journey as remained to be performed, to resort to other expedients.

"'The sum which he thus bore about him was no less than ten thousand pounds sterling. It constituted the whole patrimony of a worthy and excellent family, and the loss of it reduces them to beggary. It is gone with Watson, and whither Watson has gone it is impossible even to guess.

"'You may now easily conceive, sir, the dreadful disasters which may be connected with this man's fate, and with what immeasurable anxiety his family and friends have regarded his disappearance. That he is alive can scarcely be believed; for in what situation could he be placed in which he would not be able and willing to communicate some tidings of his fate to his family?

"'Our grief has been unspeakably aggravated by the suspicions which Mrs. Maurice and her friends have allowed themselves to admit. They do not scruple to insinuate that Watson, tempted by so great a prize, has secretly embarked for England, in order to obtain payment for these bills and retain the money for his own use.

"'No man was more impatient of poverty than Watson, but no man's honesty was more inflexible. He murmured at the destiny that compelled him to sacrifice his ease, and risk his life upon the ocean in order to procure the means of subsistence; and all the property which he had spent the best part of his life in collecting had just been ravished away from him by the English; but, if he had yielded to this temptation at any time, it would have been on receiving these bills at Jamaica. Instead of coming hither, it would have been infinitely more easy and convenient to have embarked directly for London; but none who thoroughly knew him can, for a moment, harbour a suspicion of his truth.

"'If he be dead, and if the bills are not to be recovered, yet to ascertain this will, at least, serve to vindicate his character. As long as his fate is unknown, his fame will be loaded with the most flagrant imputations, and, if these bills be ever paid in London, these imputations will appear to be justified. If he has been robbed, the robber will make haste to secure the payment, and the Maurices may not unreasonably conclude that the robber was Watson himself.' Many other particulars were added by the stranger, to show the extent of the evils flowing from the death of his brother, and the loss of the papers which he carried with him.

"I was greatly at a loss," continued Wortley, "what directions or advice to afford this man. Keysler, as you know, died early of the pestilence; but Keysler was the only resident in this city with whom Williams had any acquaintance. On mentioning the propriety of preventing the sale of these bills in America, by some public notice, he told me that this caution had been early taken; and I now remembered seeing the advertisement, in which the bills had been represented as having been lost or stolen in this city, and a reward of a thousand dollars was offered to any one who should restore them. This caution had been published in September, in all the trading-towns from Portsmouth to Savannah, but had produced no satisfaction.

"I accompanied Williams to the mayor's office, in hopes of finding in the records of his proceedings, during the last six months, some traces of Watson; but neither these records nor the memory of the magistrate afforded us any satisfaction. Watson's friends had drawn up, likewise, a description of the person and dress of the fugitive, an account of the incidents attending his disappearance, and of the papers which he had in his possession, with the manner in which these papers had been secured. These had been already published in the Southern newspapers, and have been just reprinted in our own. As the former notice had availed nothing, this second expedient was thought necessary to be employed.

"After some reflection, it occurred to me that it might be proper to renew the attempt which Williams had made to trace the footsteps of his friend to the moment of his final disappearance. He had pursued Watson to Thetford's; but Thetford himself had not been seen, and he had been contented with the vague information of his clerk. Thetford and his family, including his clerk, had perished, and it seemed as if this source of information was dried up. It was possible, however, that old Thetford might have some knowledge of his nephew's transactions, by which some light might chance to be thrown upon this obscurity. I therefore called on him, but found him utterly unable to afford me the light that I wished. My mention of the packet which Watson had brought to Thetford, containing documents respecting the capture of a certain ship, reminded him of the injuries which he had received from Welbeck, and excited him to renew his menaces and imputations on that wretch. Having somewhat exhausted this rhetoric, he proceeded to tell me what connection there was between the remembrance of his injuries and the capture of this vessel.

"This vessel and its cargo were, in fact, the property of Welbeck. They had been sent to a good market, and had been secured by an adequate insurance. The value of this ship and cargo, and the validity of the policy, he had taken care to ascertain by means of his two nephews, one of whom had gone out supercargo. This had formed his inducement to lend his three notes to Welbeck, in exchange for three other notes, the whole amount of which included the _equitable interest of _five per cent. per month on his own loan. For the payment of these notes he by no means relied, as the world foolishly imagined, on the seeming opulence and secret funds of Welbeck. These were illusions too gross to have any influence on him. He was too old a bird to be decoyed into the net by _such chaff. No; his nephew, the supercargo, would of course receive the produce of the voyage, and so much of this produce as would pay his debt he had procured the owner's authority to intercept its passage from the pocket of his nephew to that of Welbeck. In case of loss, he had obtained a similar security upon the policy. Jamieson's proceedings had been the same with his own, and no affair in which he had ever engaged had appeared to be more free from hazard than this. Their calculations, however, though plausible, were defeated. The ship was taken and condemned, for a cause which rendered the insurance ineffectual.

"I bestowed no time in reflecting on this tissue of extortions and frauds, and on that course of events which so often disconcerts the stratagems of cunning. The names of Welbeck and Watson were thus associated together, and filled my thoughts with restlessness and suspicion. Welbeck was capable of any weakness. It was possible an interview had happened between these men, and that the fugitive had been someway instrumental in Watson's fate. These thoughts were mentioned to Williams, whom the name of Welbeck threw into the utmost perturbation. On finding that one of this name had dwelt in this city, and that he had proved a villain, he instantly admitted the most dreary forebodings.

"'I have heard,' said Williams, 'the history of this Welbeck a score of times from my brother. There formerly subsisted a very intimate connection between them. My brother had conferred, upon one whom he thought honest, innumerable benefits; but all his benefits had been repaid by the blackest treachery. Welbeck's character and guilt had often been made the subject of talk between us, but, on these occasions, my brother's placid and patient temper forsook him. His grief for the calamities which had sprung from this man, and his desire of revenge, burst all bounds, and transported him to a pitch of temporary frenzy. I often inquired in what manner he intended to act if a meeting should take place between them. He answered, that doubtless he should act like a maniac, in defiance of his sober principles, and of the duty which he owed his family.

"'What! (said I,) would you stab or pistol him?

"'No. I was not born for an assassin. I would upbraid him in such terms as the furious moment might suggest, and then challenge him to a meeting, from which either he or I should not part with life. I would allow time for him to make his peace with Heaven, and for me to blast his reputation upon earth, and to make such provision for my possible death as duty and discretion would prescribe.

"'Now, nothing is more probable than that Welbeck and my brother have met. Thetford would of course mention his name and interest in the captured ship, and hence the residence of this detested being in this city would be made known. Their meeting could not take place without some dreadful consequence. I am fearful that to that meeting we must impute the disappearance of my brother.'

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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 27 Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 27

Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 27
VOLUME II CHAPTER XXVII"Here was new light thrown upon the character of Welbeck, and new food administered to my suspicions. No conclusion could be more plausible than that which Williams had drawn; but how should it be rendered certain? Walter Thetford, or some of his family, had possibly been witnesses of something, which, added to our previous knowledge, might strengthen or prolong that clue, one end of which seemed now to be put into our hands; but Thetford's father-in-law was the only one of his family, who, by seasonable flight from the city, had escaped the pestilence. To him, who still

Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 25 Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 25

Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 25
VOLUME II CHAPTER XXVWhile musing upon these facts, I could not but reflect with astonishment on the narrow escapes which Mervyn's virtue had experienced. I was by no means certain that his fame or his life was exempt from all danger, or that the suspicions which had already been formed respecting him could possibly be wiped away. Nothing but his own narrative, repeated with that simple but nervous eloquence which we had witnessed, could rescue him from the most heinous charges. Was there any tribunal that would not acquit him on merely hearing his defence? Surely the youth was honest. His