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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesArthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 29
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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 29 Post by :andre Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Brockden Brown Date :May 2012 Read :2510

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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 29


At parting with you, my purpose was to reach the abode of the Hadwins as speedily as possible. I travelled therefore with diligence. Setting out so early, I expected, though on foot, to reach the end of my journey before noon. The activity of muscles is no obstacle to thought. So far from being inconsistent with intense musing, it is, in my own case, propitious to that state of mind.

Probably no one had stronger motives for ardent meditation than I. My second journey to the city was prompted by reasons, and attended by incidents, that seemed to have a present existence. To think upon them was to view, more deliberately and thoroughly, objects and persons that still hovered in my sight. Instead of their attributes being already seen, and their consequences at an end, it seemed as if a series of numerous years and unintermitted contemplation were requisite to comprehend them fully, and bring into existence their most momentous effects.

If men be chiefly distinguished from each other by the modes in which attention is employed, either on external and sensible objects, or merely on abstract ideas and the creatures of reflection, I may justly claim to be enrolled in the second class. My existence is a series of thoughts rather than of motions. Ratiocination and deduction leave my senses unemployed. The fulness of my fancy renders my eye vacant and inactive. Sensations do not precede and suggest, but follow and are secondary to, the acts of my mind.

There was one motive, however, which made me less inattentive to the scene that was continually shifting before and without me than I am wont to be. The loveliest form which I had hitherto seen was that of Clemenza Lodi. I recalled her condition as I had witnessed it, as Welbeck had described, and as you had painted it. The past was without remedy; but the future was, in some degree, within our power to create and to fashion. Her state was probably dangerous. She might already be forlorn, beset with temptation or with anguish; or danger might only be approaching her, and the worst evils be impending ones.

I was ignorant of her state. Could I not remove this ignorance? Would not some benefit redound to her from beneficent and seasonable interposition?

You had mentioned that her abode had lately been with Mrs. Villars, and that this lady still resided in the country. The residence had been sufficiently described, and I perceived that I was now approaching it. In a short time I spied its painted roof and five chimneys through an avenue of _catalpas_.

When opposite the gate which led into this avenue, I paused. It seemed as if this moment were to decide upon the liberty and innocence of this being. In a moment I might place myself before her, ascertain her true condition, and point out to her the path of honour and safety. This opportunity might be the last. Longer delay might render interposition fruitless.

But how was I to interpose? I was a stranger to her language, and she was unacquainted with mine. To obtain access to her, it was necessary only to demand it. But how should I explain my views and state my wishes when an interview was gained? And what expedient was it in my power to propose?

"Now," said I, "I perceive the value of that wealth which I have been accustomed to despise. The power of eating and drinking, the nature and limits of existence and physical enjoyment, are not changed or enlarged by the increase of wealth. Our corporeal and intellectual wants are supplied at little expense; but our own wants are the wants of others, and that which remains, after our own necessities are obviated, it is always easy and just to employ in relieving the necessities of others.

"There are no superfluities in my store. It is not in my power to supply this unfortunate girl with decent raiment and honest bread. I have no house to which to conduct her. I have no means of securing her from famine and cold.

"Yet, though indigent and feeble, I am not destitute of friends and of home. Cannot she be admitted to the same asylum to which I am now going?" This thought was sudden and new. The more it was revolved, the more plausible it seemed. This was not merely the sole expedient, but the best that could have been suggested.

The Hadwins were friendly, hospitable, unsuspicious. Their board, though simple and uncouth, was wholesome and plenteous. Their residence was sequestered and obscure, and not obnoxious to impertinent inquiries and malignant animadversion. Their frank and ingenuous temper would make them easy of persuasion, and their sympathies were prompt and overflowing.

"I am nearly certain," continued I, "that they will instantly afford protection to this desolate girl. Why shall I not anticipate their consent, and present myself to their embraces and their welcomes in her company?"

Slight reflection showed me that this precipitation was improper. Whether Wallace had ever arrived at Malverton, whether Mr. Hadwin had escaped infection, whether his house were the abode of security and quiet, or a scene of desolation, were questions yet to be determined. The obvious and best proceeding was to hasten forward, to afford the Hadwins, if in distress, the feeble consolations of my friendship; or, if their state were happy, to procure their concurrence to my scheme respecting Clemenza.

Actuated by these considerations, I resumed my journey. Looking forward, I perceived a chaise and horse standing by the left-hand fence, at the distance of some hundred yards. This object was not uncommon or strange, and, therefore, it was scarcely noticed. When I came near, however, methought I recognised in this carriage the same in which my importunities had procured a seat for the languishing Wallace, in the manner which I have formerly related.

It was a crazy vehicle and old-fashioned. When once seen it could scarcely be mistaken or forgotten. The horse was held by his bridle to a post, but the seat was empty. My solicitude with regard to Wallace's destiny, of which he to whom the carriage belonged might possibly afford me some knowledge, made me stop and reflect on what measures it was proper to pursue.

The rider could not be at a great distance from this spot. His absence would probably be short. By lingering a few minutes an interview might be gained, and the uncertainty and suspense of some hours be thereby precluded. I therefore waited, and the same person whom I had formerly encountered made his appearance, in a short time, from under a copse that skirted the road.

He recognised me with more difficulty than attended my recognition of him. The circumstances, however, of our first meeting were easily recalled to his remembrance. I eagerly inquired when and where he had parted with the youth who had been, on that occasion, intrusted to his care.

He answered that, on leaving the city and inhaling the purer air of the fields and woods, Wallace had been, in a wonderful degree, invigorated and refreshed. An instantaneous and total change appeared to have been wrought in him. He no longer languished with fatigue or fear, but became full of gayety and talk.

The suddenness of this transition; the levity with which he related and commented on his recent dangers and evils, excited the astonishment of his companion, to whom he not only communicated the history of his disease, but imparted many anecdotes of a humorous kind. Some of these my companion repeated. I heard them with regret and dissatisfaction. They betokened a mind vitiated by intercourse with the thoughtless and depraved of both sexes, and particularly with infamous and profligate women.

My companion proceeded to mention that Wallace's exhilaration lasted but for a short time, and disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared. He was seized with deadly sickness, and insisted upon leaving the carriage, whose movements shocked his stomach and head to an insupportable degree. His companion was not void of apprehensions on his own account, but was unwilling to desert him, and endeavoured to encourage him. His efforts were vain. Though the nearest house was at the distance of some hundred yards, and though it was probable that the inhabitants of this house would refuse to accommodate one in his condition, yet Wallace could not be prevailed on to proceed; and, in spite of persuasion and remonstrance, left the carriage and threw himself on the grassy bank beside the road.

This person was not unmindful of the hazard which he incurred by contact with a sick man. He conceived himself to have performed all that was consistent with duty to himself and to his family; and Wallace, persisting in affirming that, by attempting to ride farther, he should merely hasten his death, was at length left to his own guidance.

These were unexpected and mournful tidings. I had fondly imagined that his safety was put beyond the reach of untoward accidents. Now, however, there was reason to suppose him to have perished by a lingering and painful disease, rendered fatal by the selfishness of mankind, by the want of seasonable remedies, and exposure to inclement airs. Some uncertainty, however, rested on his fate. It was my duty to remove it, and to carry to the Hadwins no mangled and defective tale. Where, I asked, had Wallace and his companion parted?

It was about three miles farther onward. The spot, and the house within view from the spot, were accurately described. In this house it was possible that Wallace had sought an asylum, and some intelligence respecting him might be gained from its inhabitants. My informant was journeying to the city, so that we were obliged to separate.

In consequence of this man's description of Wallace's deportment, and the proofs of a dissolute and thoughtless temper which he had given, I began to regard his death as an event less deplorable. Such a one was unworthy of a being so devoutly pure, so ardent in fidelity and tenderness, as Susan Hadwin. If he loved, it was probable that, in defiance of his vows, he would seek a different companion. If he adhered to his first engagements, his motives would be sordid, and the disclosure of his latent defects might produce more exquisite misery to his wife than his premature death or treacherous desertion.

The preservation of this man was my sole motive for entering the infected city, and subjecting my own life to the hazards from which my escape may almost be esteemed miraculous. Was not the end disproportioned to the means? Was there arrogance in believing my life a price too great to be given for his?

I was not, indeed, sorry for the past. My purpose was just, and the means which I selected were the best my limited knowledge supplied. My happiness should be drawn from reflecting on the equity of my intentions. That these intentions were frustrated by the ignorance of others, or my own, was the consequence of human frailty. Honest purposes, though they may not bestow happiness on others, will, at least, secure it to him who fosters them.

By these reflections my regrets were dissipated, and I prepared to rejoice alike, whether Wallace should be found to have escaped or to have perished. The house to which I had been directed was speedily brought into view. I inquired for the master or mistress of the mansion, and was conducted to a lady of a plain and housewifely appearance.

My curiosity was fully gratified. Wallace, whom my description easily identified, had made his appearance at her door on the evening of the day on which he left the city. The dread of _the fever was descanted on with copious and rude eloquence. I supposed her eloquence on this theme to be designed to apologize to me for her refusing entrance to the sick man. The peroration, however, was different. Wallace was admitted, and suitable attention paid to his wants.

Happily, the guest had nothing to struggle with but extreme weakness. Repose, nourishing diet, and salubrious airs restored him in a short time to health. He lingered under this roof for three weeks, and then, without any professions of gratitude, or offers of pecuniary remuneration, or information of the course which he determined to take, he left them.

These facts, added to that which I had previously known, threw no advantageous light upon the character of Wallace. It was obvious to conclude that he had gone to Malverton, and thither there was nothing to hinder me from following him.

Perhaps one of my grossest defects is a precipitate temper. I choose my path suddenly, and pursue it with impetuous expedition. In the present instance, my resolution was conceived with unhesitating zeal, and I walked the faster that I might the sooner execute it. Miss Hadwin deserved to be happy. Love was in her heart the all-absorbing sentiment. A disappointment there was a supreme calamity. Depravity and folly must assume the guise of virtue before it can claim her affection. This disguise might be maintained for a time, but its detection must inevitably come, and the sooner this detection takes place the more beneficial it must prove.

I resolved to unbosom myself, with equal and unbounded confidence, to Wallace and his mistress. I would choose for this end, not the moment when they were separate, but that in which they were together. My knowledge, and the sources of my knowledge, relative to Wallace, should be unfolded to the lady with simplicity and truth. The lover should be present, to confute, to extenuate, or to verify the charges.

During the rest of the day these images occupied the chief place in my thoughts. The road was miry and dark, and my journey proved to be more tedious and fatiguing than I expected. At length, just as the evening closed, the well-known habitation appeared in view. Since my departure, winter had visited the world, and the aspect of nature was desolate and dreary. All around this house was vacant, negligent, forlorn. The contrast between these appearances and those which I had noticed on my first approach to it, when the ground and the trees were decked with the luxuriance and vivacity of summer, was mournful, and seemed to foretoken ill. My spirits drooped as I noticed the general inactivity and silence.

I entered, without warning, the door that led into the parlour. No face was to be seen or voice heard. The chimney was ornamented, as in summer, with evergreen shrubs. Though it was now the second month of frost and snow, fire did not appear to have been lately kindled on this hearth.

This was a circumstance from which nothing good could be deduced. Had there been those to share its comforts who had shared them on former years, this was the place and hour at which they commonly assembled. A door on one side led, through a narrow entry, into the kitchen. I opened this door, and passed towards the kitchen.

No one was there but an old man, squatted in the chimney-corner. His face, though wrinkled, denoted undecayed health and an unbending spirit. A homespun coat, leathern breeches wrinkled with age, and blue yarn hose, were well suited to his lean and shrivelled form. On his right knee was a wooden bowl, which he had just replenished from a pipkin of hasty pudding still smoking on the coals; and in his left hand a spoon, which he had, at that moment, plunged into a bottle of molasses that stood beside him.

This action was suspended by my entrance. He looked up and exclaimed, "Heyday! who's this that comes into other people's houses without so much as saying 'by your leave'? What's thee business? Who's thee want?"

I had never seen this personage before. I supposed it to be some new domestic, and inquired for Mr. Hadwin.

"Ah!" replied he, with a sigh, "William Hadwin. Is it him thee wants? Poor man! He is gone to rest many days since."

My heart sunk within me at these tidings. "Dead!" said I; "do you mean that he is dead?"--This exclamation was uttered in a tone of some vehemence. It attracted the attention of some one who was standing without, who immediately entered the kitchen. It was Eliza Hadwin. The moment she beheld me she shrieked aloud, and, rushing into my arms, fainted away.

The old man dropped his bowl; and, starting from his seat, stared alternately at me and at the breathless girl. My emotion, made up of joy, and sorrow, and surprise, rendered me for a moment powerless as she. At length he said, "I understand this. I know who thee is, and will tell her thee's come." So saying, he hastily left the room.

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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 30 Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 30

Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 30
VOLUME II CHAPTER XXXIn a short time this gentle girl recovered her senses. She did not withdraw herself from my sustaining arm, but, leaning on my bosom, she resigned herself to passionate weeping. I did not endeavour to check this effusion, believing that its influence would be salutary. I had not forgotten the thrilling sensibility and artless graces of this girl. I had not forgotten the scruples which had formerly made me check a passion whose tendency was easily discovered. These new proofs of her affection were, at once, mournful and delightful. The untimely fate of her father and my friend

Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 28 Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 28

Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 28
VOLUME II CHAPTER XXVIIIIt was not in my power to release my friend by the payment of his debt; but, by contracting with the keeper of the prison for his board, I could save him from famine; and, by suitable exertions, could procure him lodging as convenient as the time would admit. I could promise to console and protect his sisters, and, by cheerful tones and frequent visits, dispel some part of the evil which encompassed him. After the first surprise had subsided, he inquired by what accident this meeting had been produced. Conscious of my incapacity to do him any