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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesArthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 40
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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 40 Post by :JayBeau Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Brockden Brown Date :May 2012 Read :3434

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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 40


I mounted the stage-coach at daybreak the next day, in company with a sallow Frenchman from St. Domingo, his fiddle-case, an ape, and two female blacks. The Frenchman, after passing the suburbs, took out his violin and amused himself with humming to his own _tweedle-tweedle_. The monkey now and then munched an apple, which was given to him from a basket by the blacks, who gazed with stupid wonder, and an exclamatory _La! La! upon the passing scenery, or chattered to each other in a sort of open-mouthed, half-articulate, monotonous, singsong jargon.

The man looked seldom either on this side or that; and spoke only to rebuke the frolics of the monkey, with a "Tenez! Dominique! Prenez garde! Diable noir!"

As to me, my thought was busy in a thousand ways. I sometimes gazed at the faces of my _four companions, and endeavoured to discern the differences and samenesses between them. I took an exact account of the features, proportions, looks, and gestures of the monkey, the Congolese, and the Creole Gaul. I compared them together, and examined them apart. I looked at them in a thousand different points of view, and pursued, untired and unsatiated, those trains of reflections which began at each change of tone, feature, and attitude.

I marked the country as it successively arose before me, and found endless employment in examining the shape and substance of the fence, the barn, and the cottage, the aspect of earth and of heaven. How great are the pleasures of health and of mental activity!

My chief occupation, however, related to the scenes into which I was about to enter. My imaginations were, of course, crude and inadequate; and I found an uncommon gratification in comparing realities, as they successively occurred, with the pictures which my wayward fancy had depicted.

I will not describe my dreams. My proper task is to relate the truth. Neither shall I dwell upon the images suggested by the condition of the country through which I passed. I will confine myself to mentioning the transactions connected with the purpose of my journey.

I reached Baltimore at night. I was not so fatigued but that I could ramble through the town. I intended, at present, merely the gratification of a stranger's curiosity. My visit to Mrs. Watson and her brother I designed should take place on the morrow. The evening of my arrival I deemed an unseasonable time.

While roving about, however, it occurred to me, that it might not be impolitic to find the way to their habitation even now. My purposes of general curiosity would equally be served whichever way my steps were bent; and to trace the path to their dwelling would save me the trouble of inquiries and interrogations to-morrow.

When I looked forward to an interview with the wife of Watson, and to the subject which would be necessarily discussed at that interview, I felt a trembling and misgiving at my heart. "Surely," thought I, "it will become me to exercise immeasurable circumspection and address; and yet how little are these adapted to the impetuosity and candour of my nature!

"How am I to introduce myself? What am I to tell her? That I was a sort of witness to the murder of her husband? That I received from the hand of his assassin the letter which I afterwards transmitted to her? and, from the same hands, the bills contained in his girdle?

"How will she start and look aghast! What suspicions will she harbour? What inquiries shall be made of me? How shall they be disarmed and eluded, or answered? Deep consideration will be necessary before I trust myself to such an interview. The coming night shall be devoted to reflection upon this subject."

From these thoughts I proceeded to inquiries for the street mentioned in the advertisement, where Mrs. Watson was said to reside. The street, and, at length, the habitation, was found. Having reached a station opposite, I paused and surveyed the mansion. It was a wooden edifice of two stories, humble, but neat. You ascended to the door by several stone steps. Of the two lower windows, the shutters of one were closed, but those of the other were open. Though late in the evening, there was no appearance of light or fire within.

Beside the house was a painted fence, through which was a gate leading to the back of the building. Guided by the impulse of the moment, I crossed the street to the gate, and, lifting the latch, entered the paved alley, on one side of which was a paled fence, and on the other the house, looking through two windows into the alley.

The first window was dark like those in front; but at the second a light was discernible. I approached it, and, looking through, beheld a plain but neat apartment, in which parlour, kitchen, and nursery seemed to be united. A fire burned cheerfully in the chimney, over which was a tea-kettle. On the hearth sat a smiling and playful cherub of a boy, tossing something to a black girl who sat opposite, and whose innocent and regular features wanted only a different hue to make them beautiful. Near it, in a rocking-chair, with a sleeping babe in her lap, sat a female figure in plain but neat and becoming attire. Her posture permitted half her face to be seen, and saved me from any danger of being observed.

This countenance was full of sweetness and benignity, but the sadness that veiled its lustre was profound. Her eyes were now fixed upon the fire and were moist with the tears of remembrance, while she sung, in low and scarcely-audible strains, an artless lullaby.

This spectacle exercised a strange power over my feelings. While occupied in meditating on the features of the mother, I was unaware of my conspicuous situation. The black girl, having occasion to change her situation, in order to reach the ball which was thrown at her, unluckily caught a glance of my figure through the glass. In a tone of half surprise and half terror, she cried out, "Oh! see dare! a man!"

I was tempted to draw suddenly back, but a second thought showed me the impropriety of departing thus abruptly and leaving behind me some alarm. I felt a sort of necessity for apologizing for my intrusion into these precincts, and hastened to a door that led into the same apartment. I knocked. A voice somewhat confused bade me enter. It was not till I opened the door and entered the room, that I fully saw in what embarrassments I had incautiously involved myself.

I could scarcely obtain sufficient courage to speak, and gave a confused assent to the question, "Have you business with me, sir?" She offered me a chair, and I sat down. She put the child, not yet awakened, into the arms of the black, who kissed it and rocked it in her arms with great satisfaction, and, resuming her seat, looked at me with inquisitiveness mingled with complacency.

After a moment's pause, I said, "I was directed to this house as the abode of Mr. Ephraim Williams. Can he be seen, madam?"

"He is not in town at present. If you will leave a message with me, I will punctually deliver it."

The thought suddenly occurred, whether any more was needful than merely to leave the bills suitably enclosed, as they already were, in a packet. Thus all painful explanations might be avoided, and I might have reason to congratulate myself on his seasonable absence. Actuated by these thoughts, I drew forth the packet, and put it into her hand, saying, "I will leave this in your possession, and must earnestly request you to keep it safe until you can deliver it into his own hands."

Scarcely had I said this before new suggestions occurred. Was it right to act in this clandestine and mysterious manner? Should I leave these persons in uncertainty respecting the fate of a husband and a brother? What perplexities, misunderstandings, and suspenses might not grow out of this uncertainty? and ought they not to be precluded at any hazard to my own safety or good name?

These sentiments made me involuntarily stretch forth my hand to retake the packet. This gesture, and other significances in my manners, joined to a trembling consciousness in herself, filled my companion with all the tokens of confusion and fear. She alternately looked at me and at the paper. Her trepidation increased, and she grew pale. These emotions were counteracted by a strong effort.

At length she said, falteringly, "I will take good care of them, and will give them to my brother."

She rose and placed them in a drawer, after which she resumed her seat.

On this occasion all my wariness forsook me. I cannot explain why my perplexity and the trouble of my thoughts were greater upon this than upon similar occasions. However it be, I was incapable of speaking, and fixed my eyes upon the floor. A sort of electrical sympathy pervaded my companion, and terror and anguish were strongly manifested in the glances which she sometimes stole at me. We seemed fully to understand each other without the aid of words.

This imbecility could not last long. I gradually recovered my composure, and collected my scattered thoughts. I looked at her with seriousness, and steadfastly spoke:--"Are you the wife of Amos Watson?"

She started:--"I am indeed. Why do you ask? Do you know any thing of----?" There her voice failed.

I replied with quickness, "Yes. I am fully acquainted with his destiny."

"Good God!" she exclaimed, in a paroxysm of surprise, and bending eagerly forward, "my husband is then alive! This packet is from him. Where is he? When have you seen him?"

"'Tis a long time since."

"But where, where is he now? Is he well? Will he return to me?"


"Merciful Heaven!" (looking upwards and clasping her hands,) "I thank thee at least for his life! But why has he forsaken me? Why will he not return?"

"For a good reason," said I, with augmented solemnity, "he will never return to thee. Long ago was he laid in the cold grave."

She shrieked; and, at the next moment, sunk in a swoon upon the floor. I was alarmed. The two children shrieked, and ran about the room terrified and unknowing what they did. I was overwhelmed with somewhat like terror, yet I involuntarily raised the mother in my arms, and cast about for the means of recalling her from this fit.

Time to effect this had not elapsed, when several persons, apparently Mrs. Watson's neighbours, and raised by the outcries of the girls, hastily entered the room. They looked at me with mingled surprise and suspicion; but my attitude, being not that of an injurer but helper; my countenance, which showed the pleasure their entrance, at this critical moment, afforded me; and my words, in which I besought their assistance, and explained, in some degree, and briefly, the cause of those appearances, removed their ill thoughts.

Presently, the unhappy woman, being carried by the new-comers into a bedroom adjoining, recovered her sensibility. I only waited for this. I had done my part. More information would be useless to her, and not to be given by me, at least in the present audience, without embarrassment and peril. I suddenly determined to withdraw, and this, the attention of the company being otherwise engaged, I did without notice. I returned to my inn, and shut myself up in my chamber. Such was the change which, undesigned, unforeseen, half an hour had wrought in my situation. My cautious projects had perished in their conception. That which I had deemed so arduous, to require such circumspect approaches, such well-concerted speeches, was done.

I had started up before this woman as if from the pores of the ground. I had vanished with the same celerity, but had left her in possession of proofs sufficient that I was neither spectre nor demon. "I will visit her," said I, "again. I will see her brother, and know the full effect of my disclosure. I will tell them all that I myself know. Ignorance would be no less injurious to them than to myself; but, first, I will see the Maurices."

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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 44 Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 44

Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 44
VOLUME II CHAPTER XLIVI now set about carrying my plan of life into effect. I began with ardent zeal and unwearied diligence the career of medical study. I bespoke the counsels and instructions of my friend; attended him on his professional visits, and acted, in all practicable cases, as his substitute. I found this application of time more pleasurable than I had imagined. My mind gladly expanded itself, as it were, for the reception of new ideas. My curiosity grew more eager in proportion as it was supplied with food, and every day added strength to the assurance that I was

Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 39 Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 39

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VOLUME II CHAPTER XXXIXI am glad, my friend, thy nimble pen has got so far upon its journey. What remains of my story may be despatched in a trice. I have just now some vacant hours, which might possibly be more usefully employed, but not in an easier manner or more pleasant. So, let me carry on thy thread. First, let me mention the resolutions I had formed at the time I parted with my friend. I had several objects in view. One was a conference with Mrs. Wentworth; another was an interview with her whom I met with at Villars's.