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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesArthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 38
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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 38 Post by :JayBeau Category :Long Stories Author :Charles Brockden Brown Date :May 2012 Read :1021

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Arthur Mervyn; Or, Memoirs Of The Year 1793 - Volume 2 - Chapter 38

VOLUME II CHAPTER XXXVIII

What other inquiries were to be resolved by our young friend, we were now, at this late hour, obliged to postpone till the morrow. I shall pass over the reflections which a story like this would naturally suggest, and hasten to our next interview.

After breakfast next morning, the subject of last night's conversation was renewed. I told him that something had occurred in his absence, in relation to Mrs. Wentworth and her nephew, that had perplexed us not a little. "My information is obtained," continued I, "from Wortley; and it is nothing less than that young Clavering, Mrs. Wentworth's nephew, is, at this time, actually alive."

Surprise, but none of the embarrassment of guilt, appeared in his countenance at these tidings. He looked at me as if desirous that I should proceed.

"It seems," added I, "that a letter was lately received by this lady from the father of Clavering, who is now in Europe. This letter reports that this son was lately met with in Charleston, and relates the means which old Mr. Clavering had used to prevail upon his son to return home; means, of the success of which he entertained well-grounded hopes. What think you?"

"I can only reject it," said he, after some pause, "as untrue. The father's correspondent may have been deceived. The father may have been deceived, or the father may conceive it necessary to deceive the aunt, or some other supposition as to the source of the error may be true; but an error it surely is. Clavering is not alive. I know the chamber where he died, and the withered pine under which he lies buried."

"If she be deceived," said I, "it will be impossible to rectify her error."

"I hope not. An honest front and a straight story will be sufficient."

"How do you mean to act?"

"Visit her, without doubt, and tell her the truth. My tale will be too circumstantial and consistent to permit her to disbelieve."

"She will not hearken to you. She is too strongly prepossessed against you to admit you even to a hearing."

"She cannot help it. Unless she lock her door against me, or stuff her ears with wool, she must hear me. Her prepossessions are reasonable, but are easily removed by telling the truth. Why does she suspect me of artifice? Because I seemed to be allied to Welbeck, and because I disguised the truth. That she thinks ill of me is not her fault, but my misfortune; and, happily for me, a misfortune easily removed."

"Then you will try to see her?"

"I will see her, and the sooner the better. I will see her to-day; this morning; as soon as I have seen Welbeck, whom I shall immediately visit in his prison."

"There are other embarrassments and dangers of which you are not aware. Welbeck is pursued by many persons whom he has defrauded of large sums. By these persons you are deemed an accomplice in his guilt, and a warrant is already in the hands of officers for arresting you wherever you are found."

"In what way," said Mervyn, sedately, "do they imagine me a partaker of his crime?"

"I know not. You lived with him. You fled with him. You aided and connived at his escape."

"Are these crimes?"

"I believe not, but they subject you to suspicion."

"To arrest and to punishment?"

"To detention for a while, perhaps. But these alone cannot expose you to punishment."

"I thought so. Then I have nothing to fear."

"You have imprisonment and obloquy, at least, to dread."

"True; but they cannot be avoided but by my exile and skulking out of sight,--evils infinitely more formidable. I shall, therefore, not avoid them. The sooner my conduct is subjected to scrutiny, the better. Will you go with me to Welbeck?"

"I will go with you."

Inquiring for Welbeck of the keeper of the prison, we were informed that he was in his own apartment, very sick. The physician attending the prison had been called, but the prisoner had preserved an obstinate and scornful silence; and had neither explained his condition, nor consented to accept any aid.

We now went alone into his apartment. His sensibility seemed fast ebbing, yet an emotion of joy was visible in his eyes at the appearance of Mervyn. He seemed likewise to recognise in me his late visitant, and made no objection to my entrance.

"How are you this morning?" said Arthur, seating himself on the bedside, and taking his hand. The sick man was scarcely able to articulate his reply:--"I shall soon be well. I have longed to see you. I want to leave with you a few words." He now cast his languid eyes on me. "You are his friend," he continued. "You know all. You may stay."

There now succeeded a long pause, during which he closed his eyes, and resigned himself as if to an oblivion of all thought. His pulse under my hand was scarcely perceptible. From this in some minutes he recovered, and, fixing his eyes on Mervyn, resumed, in a broken and feeble accent:--

"Clemenza! You have seen her. Weeks ago, I left her in an accursed house; yet she has not been mistreated. Neglected and abandoned indeed, but not mistreated. Save her, Mervyn. Comfort her. Awaken charity for her sake.

"I cannot tell you what has happened. The tale would be too long,--too mournful. Yet, in justice to the living, I must tell you something. My woes and my crimes will be buried with me. Some of them, but not all.

"Ere this, I should have been many leagues upon the ocean, had not a newspaper fallen into my hands while on the eve of embarkation. By that I learned that a treasure was buried with the remains of the ill-fated Watson. I was destitute. I was unjust enough to wish to make this treasure my own. Prone to think I was forgotten, or numbered with the victims of pestilence, I ventured to return under a careless disguise. I penetrated to the vaults of that deserted dwelling by night. I dug up the bones of my friend, and found the girdle and its valuable contents, according to the accurate description that I had read.

"I hastened back with my prize to Baltimore, but my evil destiny overtook me at last. I was recognised by emissaries of Jamieson, arrested and brought hither, and here shall I consummate my fate and defeat the rage of my creditors by death. But first----"

Here Welbeck stretched out his left hand to Mervyn, and, after some reluctance, showed a roll of lead.

"Receive this," said he. "In the use of it, be guided by your honesty and by the same advertisement that furnished me the clue by which to recover it. That being secured, the world and I will part forever. Withdraw, for your presence can help me nothing."

We were unwilling to comply with his injunction, and continued some longer time in his chamber; but our kind intent availed nothing. He quickly relapsed into insensibility, from which he recovered not again, but next day expired. Such, in the flower of his age, was the fate of Thomas Welbeck.

Whatever interest I might feel in accompanying the progress of my young friend, a sudden and unforeseen emergency compelled me again to leave the city. A kinsman, to whom I was bound by many obligations, was suffering a lingering disease, and, imagining, with some reason, his dissolution to be not far distant, he besought my company and my assistance, to soothe, at least, the agonies of his last hour. I was anxious to clear up the mysteries which Arthur's conduct had produced, and to shield him, if possible, from the evils which I feared awaited him. It was impossible, however, to decline the invitation of my kinsman, as his residence was not a day's journey from the city. I was obliged to content myself with occasional information, imparted by Mervyn's letters or those of my wife.

Meanwhile, on leaving the prison, I hasted to inform Mervyn of the true nature of the scene which had just passed. By this extraordinary occurrence, the property of the Maurices was now in honest hands. Welbeck, stimulated by selfish motives, had done that which any other person would have found encompassed with formidable dangers and difficulties. How this attempt was suggested or executed, he had not informed us, nor was it desirable to know. It was sufficient that the means of restoring their own to a destitute and meritorious family were now in our possession.

Having returned home, I unfolded to Mervyn all the particulars respecting Williams and the Maurices which I had lately learned from Wortley. He listened with deep attention, and, my story being finished, he said, "In this small compass, then, is the patrimony and subsistence of a numerous family. To restore it to them is the obvious proceeding--but how? Where do they abide?"

"Williams and Watson's wife live in Baltimore, and the Maurices live near that town. The advertisements alluded to by Wortley, and which are to be found in any newspaper, will inform us; but, first, are we sure that any or all of these bills are contained in this covering?"

The lead was now unrolled, and the bills which Williams had described were found enclosed. Nothing appeared to be deficient. Of this, however, we were scarcely qualified to judge. Those that were the property of Williams might not be entire, and what would be the consequence of presenting them to him, if any had been embezzled by Welbeck?

This difficulty was obviated by Mervyn, who observed that the advertisement describing these bills would afford us ample information on this head. "Having found out where the Maurices and Mrs. Watson live, nothing remains but to visit them, and put an end, as far as lies in my power, to their inquietudes."

"What! Would you go to Baltimore?"

"Certainly. Can any other expedient be proper? How shall I otherwise insure the safe conveyance of these papers?"

"You may send them by post."

"But why not go myself?"

"I can hardly tell, unless your appearance on such an errand may be suspected likely to involve you in embarrassments."

"What embarrassments? If they receive their own, ought they not to be satisfied?"

"The inquiry will naturally be made as to the manner of gaining possession of these papers. They were lately in the hands of Watson, but Watson has disappeared. Suspicions are awake respecting the cause of his disappearance. These suspicions are connected with Welbeck, and Welbeck's connection with you is not unknown."

"These are evils, but I see not how an ingenious and open conduct is adapted to increase these evils. If they come, I must endure them."

"I believe your decision is right. No one is so skilful an advocate in a cause, as he whose cause it is. I rely upon your skill and address, and shall leave you to pursue your own way. I must leave you for a time, but shall expect to be punctually informed of all that passes." With this agreement we parted, and I hastened to perform my intended journey.

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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.
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VOLUME II CHAPTER XXXVIIMervyn's auditors allowed no pause in their attention to this story. Having ended, a deep silence took place. The clock which stood upon the mantel had sounded twice the customary _larum_, but had not been heard by us. It was now struck a third time. It was _one_. Our guest appeared somewhat startled at this signal, and looked, with a mournful sort of earnestness, at the clock. There was an air of inquietude about him which I had never observed in an equal degree before. I was not without much curiosity respecting other incidents than those which had
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