THE HISTORY OF
Volume II - Letter 21
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
My Lord repeated his request, that he might have Sir Thomas's consent to his nuptials, upon his own terms; and promised never to expect a single shilling in dowry, but to leave the whole of that to time, and to his own convenience and pleasure.
We know, said Sir Thomas, what all this means. You talk, my Lord, like a young man. You ought not to think (You once said it yourself) of involving a young woman you love, as well as yourself, in difficulties. I know the world, and what is best to be done, if you will think no more of my daughter. I hope she has discretion. First Love is generally first Folly. It is seldom fit to be encouraged. Your quality, my Lord, to say nothing of your merit, will procure you a rich wife from the city. And the city now is as genteel, as polite, as the court was formerly. The wives and daughters of citizens, poor fellows! are apes of us gentry; and succeed pretty well, as to outward appearance, in the mimicry. You will, by this means, shake off all your father's sins. I speak in the language of young fellows, who expect a father to live solely for them, and not for himself. Some sober young men of quality and fortune, affrighted at the gaiety and extravagance of the modern women, will find out my girls: Who, I hope, will have patience. If they have not, let them pursue their inclinations: Let them take their fill of Love, as Solomon says; and if they run their heads into an hedge, let them stick there by the horns, with all heart!
See, my dear, what a man a rakish father is!—O my good Lady Grandison, how might your choice have punished your children!
I pray to God, Sir Thomas, said my Lord, bowing, but angry; I pray to God, to continue me in a different way of thinking from yours, if this be yours. Give me leave to say, you are too young a gentleman to be a father of grown-up children. But I must love Miss Grandison; and still if possible, poor young Lady! more than ever, for what has passed in this conversation. And saying this he withdrew.
Sir Thomas was very angry at this spirited speech. He sent for his daughter and forbad her to receive my Lord's addresses. He order'd her never to think of him: And directing Miss Charlotte to be call'd in, repeated his commands before her; and threatened to turn them both out of his house, if they presumed to encourage any address, but with his knowledge. And don't think, said he, of going on to engage your affections, as a sensual forwardness is called, and then hope to take advantage of my weakness, to countenance your own. I know the world: I know your sex.—Your sister, I see Charlotte, is a whining fool: See how she whimpers! Begone from my presence, Caroline! And remember Charlotte (for I suppose this impertinent Lord's address to your sister will go near to set you agog) that I expect, whether absent or present, to know of any application that may be made to you, before your liking has taken root in Love, as it is called, and while my advice may have the weight that the permission or dissent of a father ought to have.
They both wept, curtsied, and withdrew.
At dinner, Miss Caroline begged to be excused attending her gay and arbitrary father, being excessively grieved, and unfit, as she desired her sister to say, to be seen. But he commanded her attendance.
Miss Charlotte Grandison told me what this wicked man [Shall I call Sir Charles Grandison's father so?] said on the occasion: "Women's tears are but, as the Poet says, the sweat of eyes. Caroline's eyes will not misbecome them. The more she is ashamed of herself, the less reason will she give me to be ashamed of her.—Let me see how the fool looks, now she is conscious of her folly. Her bashful behaviour will be an half-confession; and this is the first step to amendment. Tell her, that a woman's grief for not having been able to carry her point, has always been a pleasure to me. I will not be robbed of my pleasure. She owes it me for the pain she has given me."
Lord L. and she had parted. He had, on his knees, implored her hand. He would not, he said, either ask or expect a shilling of her father: His estate would and should work itself clear, without injury to his sisters, or postponing their marriage. Her prudence and generosity he built upon: They would enable him to be just to every one, and to preserve his own credit. He would not, he generously said, for the beloved daughter's sake, utter one reflecting word upon her father, after he had laid naked facts before her. Those, however, would too well justify him, if he did. And he again urged for her hand and for a private marriage. Can I bear to think with patience, my dearest Miss Grandison, added he, that you and your sister, according to Sir Thomas's scheme, shall be carried to town, with minds nobler than the minds of any women in it, as adventurers, or female fortune-hunters, to take the chance of attracting the eyes and hearts of men, whether worthy or unworthy, purely to save your father's pocket? No, madam: Believe me, I love you not for my own sake merely, tho' heaven knows you are dearer to me than my life, but for yours as well: And my whole future conduct shall convince you, that I do. My Love madam, has friendship for its basis; and your worthy brother, once, in an argument convinced me, that Love might be selfish; that friendship could not; and that in a pure flame they could not be disunited; and when they were, that Love was a cover only to a baseness of heart, which taught the pretender to it to seek to gratify his own passion, at the expense of the happiness or duty of the object pretended to be beloved.
See, my Lucy!—Did we Girls ever think of this nice, but just, distinction before? And is not friendship a nobler band than Love?—But is not Lord L. a good man? Don't you love him, Lucy?—Why have I not met with these notions before in the men I have known?
But Miss Caroline was not less generous than my Lord L. No scheme of my father's shall make me forget, said she the merits of Lord L. Your Lordship's affairs will be made easier by time. I will not embarrass you. Think not yourself under any obligation to me. Whenever any opportunity offers to make you easy all at once (for a mind so generous ought not to be laid under difficulties) embrace it: Only let me look upon you as my friend, till envy to an happier woman, or other unworthiness in Caroline Grandison, make me forfeit your good opinion.
Generous creature! said my Lord. Never will I think of any other wife while you are single. Yet will I not fetter her, who would leave me free—May I, madam, hope, if you will not bless me with your hand now, that my letters will be received?—Your father in forbidding my address to you, has forbidden me his house. He is, and ought to be, master in it.—May I hope, madam, a correspondence—
I am unhappy, said she, that, having such a brother as sister never had, I cannot consult him. The dear Charlotte is too partial to me, and too apt to think of what may be her own case. But my Lord, I depend upon your honour, which you have never given me reason to doubt, that you will not put me upon doing a wrong thing, either with regard to my duty to my father, or to my own character. Try me not with a view to see the power you have over me. That would be ungenerous. I own you have some: Indeed a great deal.
LA STORIA DI
Volume II - lettera 21
MISS BYRON. CONTINUA
Milord ripeté la sua richiesta, allo scopo di ottenere il consenso di Sir Thomas alle nozze, alle sue condizioni; e promise di non aspettarsi nemmeno uno scellino di dote, ma di lasciare quella faccenda al tempo, alla sua convenienza e al suo volere.
Sappiamo, disse Sir Thomas, cosa significhi tutto questo. Voi parlate, milord, come un giovanotto. Non dovreste pensare (l'avete detto voi stesso una volta) di coinvolgere una giovane che amate, e voi stesso, in delle difficoltà. Conosco il mondo, e che cosa sia meglio fare, se non penserete più a mia figlia. Spero che lei si comporti con discrezione. Il primo amore è generalmente la prima follia. Raramente è adatto a essere incoraggiato. La vostra scelta, milord, di non parlare dei vostri meriti, vi procurerà una ricca moglie in città. E la città ora è cortese, educata, come in precedenza lo era la corte. Le mogli e le figlie dei cittadini, poverette! imitano noi di rango più elevato, e ci riescono abbastanza bene, per quanto riguarda l'aspetto esteriore, e il sapersi mimetizzare. Potrete quindi scrollarvi di dosso tutti i peccati di vostro padre. Parlo nella lingua dei giovani, che si aspettano che un padre viva solo per loro, e non per se stesso. Alcuni assennati giovanotti con qualità personali e patrimonio, spaventati dall'allegria e dalla prodigalità delle donne moderne, scopriranno le mie ragazze, che, spero, avranno pazienza. Se non l'avranno, che seguano le loro inclinazioni, che si sentano colme d'amore, come dice Salomone, e se batteranno la testa al muro, che si scornino pure, compreso il cuore!
Vedi, mia cara, che uomo è un padre dissoluto! O mia buona Lady Grandison, come avrebbero potuto punire i vostri figli le scelte che avete fatto!
Prego Dio, Sir Thomas, disse milord, inchinandosi, ma in collera, prego Dio di farmi continuare a pensare in un modo diverso dal vostro, se questo è il vostro. Permettetemi di dire che siete un gentiluomo troppo giovane per essere padre di figli adulti. Ma io amo Miss Grandison, e, se possibile, povera ragazza!, più che mai per quello che è stato detto in questo colloquio. E dicendo così si è ritirato.
Sir Thomas era molto in collera per quelle parole focose. Mandò a chiamare sua figlia e le proibì di accettare gli approcci di milord. Le ordinò di non pensare più lui, e, dopo aver ordinato di chiamare Miss Charlotte, ripeté quegli ordini davanti a lei e minacciò di cacciarle entrambe da casa, se avessero osato incoraggiare qualsiasi approccio, se non col suo consenso. E non pensate, disse, di continuare a invocare i vostri sentimenti, come vengono chiamate delle sfacciate insolenze, e poi sperare di approfittare della mia debolezza per far tollerare la vostra. Conosco il mondo: conosco il vostro sesso. Vedo che tua sorella, Charlotte, è una sciocca lagnosa: guarda come piagnucola! Sparisci dalla mia presenza, Caroline! E ricordati Charlotte (perché suppongo che i discorsi di questo impertinente signore a tua sorella ti renderanno impaziente) che mi aspetto, assente o presente che io sia, di conoscere qualsiasi proposta che possa esserti fatta, prima che il tuo interesse sia diventato amore, come viene chiamato, e che il mio consiglio abbia il peso che il permesso o il dissenso di un padre dovrebbe avere.
Entrambe si misero a piangere, fecero un inchino e si ritirarono.
A cena, Miss Caroline pregò di essere esonerata dall'incontrare quel padre gaudente e dispotico, essendo troppo addolorata, e inadatta, come voleva che dicesse sua sorella, a partecipare. Ma egli ordinò la sua presenza.
Miss Charlotte Grandison mi ha raccontato ciò che quell'uomo malvagio [devo chiamare così il padre di Sir Charles Grandison?] ha detto in quell'occasione: "Le lacrime delle donne, come dice il poeta, sono solo sudore degli occhi. Gli occhi di Caroline non se le faranno mancare. Più si vergogna di se stessa, meno motivo mi darà per vergognarmi di lei. Fammi vedere come appare la sciocca, ora che è consapevole della propria follia. Il suo comportamento timido sarà una mezza confessione, e questo è il primo passo verso il pentimento. Dille che il dolore di una donna per non essere stata in grado di sostenere il suo punto di vista, è sempre stato un piacere per me. Non sarò derubato del mio piacere. Me lo deve per la pena che mi ha procurato".
Lord L* e lei si erano separati. Lui, in ginocchio, aveva implorato la sua mano. Disse che non avrebbe chiesto, né si sarebbe aspettato, nemmeno uno scellino dal padre di lei; la sua proprietà sarebbe bastata, senza danneggiare le sorelle, o posticipare il loro matrimonio. Contava sulla prudenza e sulla generosità di lei; gli avrebbero permesso di essere giusto con tutti e di preservare la propria reputazione. Disse con generosità che, per amore dell'amata figlia, non avrebbe pronunciato una sola parola su suo padre, dopo averle esposto i nudi fatti, che, tuttavia, lo assolverebbero fin troppo bene, se lo facesse. E di nuovo la esortò a concedergli la sua mano, con un matrimonio segreto. Posso sopportare di pensare con pazienza, mia carissima Miss Grandison, aggiunse, che, secondo il piano di Sir Thomas, voi e vostra sorella, menti più nobili di qualsiasi altra donna, siate condotte in città come avventuriere, o cacciatrici di patrimoni, per cogliere l'occasione di attirare gli sguardi e i cuori degli uomini, degni o indegni che siano, solo per salvare le tasche di vostro padre? No, signora, credetemi, non vi amo solo per amor mio, il cielo sa che mi siete più cara della mia vita, ma anche per amor vostro, e tutta la mia condotta futura ve ne convincerà. Il mio amore, signora, ha l'amicizia come base, e il vostro degno fratello, una volta, in una discussione, mi convinse che l'amore può essere egoista, che l'amicizia no; e che in una fiamma pura i due sentimenti non potevano essere disgiunti; e ove lo fossero, quell'amore sarebbe solo uno schermo per una meschinità del cuore, che porta chi finge di provarlo a cercare di gratificare la propria passione, a scapito della felicità o del dovere dell'oggetto che finge di amare.
Vedi, Lucia mia! Noi ragazze abbiamo mai pensato a questa delicata e giusta distinzione prima? E l'amicizia non è forse un legame più nobile dell'amore? Lord L* non è un brav'uomo? Non lo ami, Lucy? Perché non ho mai notato idee del genere negli uomini che ho conosciuto?
Ma Miss Caroline non era meno generosa del mio Lord L*. Nessun piano di mio padre, disse, mi farà dimenticare i meriti di Lord L*. I problemi di Vostra Signoria saranno mitigati dal tempo. Non vi metterò in imbarazzo. Non pensate di avere alcun obbligo nei miei confronti. Ogni volta che si presenta un'opportunità per rendervi tutto più facile (perché una mente così generosa non dovrebbe essere messa in difficoltà) coglietela; lasciate che vi consideri un amico, finché l'invidia per una donna più felice, o un'altra indegnità in Caroline Grandison, mi faranno perdere la vostra stima.
Creatura generosa! disse il milord. Non penserò mai a un'altra moglie finché sarete nubile. Ma non incatenerò colei che mi lascerebbe libero... posso, signora, sperare, se non mi benedirete ora con la vostra mano, che le mie lettere saranno accolte? Vostro padre, vietandomi di rivolgermi a voi, mi ha proibito la sua casa. Egli è, e dev'essere, padrone in essa. Posso sperare, signora, in una corrispondenza...
Mi rammarico, disse lei, che, avendo un fratello come una sorella non ha mai avuto, io non possa consultarlo. La cara Charlotte è troppo parziale con me, e troppo incline a pensare a ciò che farebbe lei in analoghe circostanze. Ma, milord, dipendo dal vostro onore, del quale non mi avete mai dato motivo di dubitare, affinché non mi facciate fare una cosa sbagliata, né per quanto riguarda i miei doveri verso mio padre, né per la mia reputazione. Non mettetemi alla prova per verificare l'ascendente che avete su di me. Sarebbe ingeneroso. Ammetto che un po' ne avete... in effetti davvero tantissimo.
Volume II - Letter 22
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
You may guess what were my Lord's assurances on this generous confidence in him. They agreed upon a private correspondence by letters.—Ah! Lady L. was this quite right, tho' it came out happily in the event? Does not concealment always imply somewhat wrong? Ought you not to have done your duty, whether your father did his or not? Were you not called upon, as I may say, to a trial of yours? And is not virtue to be proved by trial? Remember you not who says, "For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God."—But you, Lady L. had lost your excellent mother very early.
The worthy young Lady would not, however, be prevailed upon to consent to a private marriage; and my Lord took leave of her. Their parting was extremely tender; and the amiable Caroline, in the softness of her heart, overcome by my Lord's protestations of everlasting Love to her, in preference to all the women on earth, voluntarily assured him, that she never would receive any other proposal, while he was living, and single.
Sir Thomas show'd himself so much displeased with Lord L. for the freedom of his last speech, that my Lord chose not to desire another audience of him; and yet, being unwilling to widen the difference, he took polite leave of the angry Baronet in a letter, which was put into his hands just before he had commanded Miss Caroline to attend him at dinner, which she had begged to be excused doing.
Don't you pity the young Lady, Lucy, in this situation? Lord L. having but a little before taken leave of her, and set out for London.
Miss Charlotte told her sister, that, were it she, she should hardly have suffer'd Lord L. to go away by himself—Were it but to avoid an interview with a father who seem'd to have been too much used to women's tears to be moved by them; and who had such a satirical vein, and such odd notions of Love.
I was very earnest to know what passed at this dinner-time.
Miss Grandison said, It is best for me to answer Miss Byron's curiosity, I believe; as I was a stander-by, and only my father and sister were the players.
Players! repeated Lady L.—It was a cruel scene. And I believe, Miss Byron, it will make you not wonder, that I liked Lord L. much the better for being rather a man of understanding than a man of wit.
Miss Grandison began as follows:
I went up with my father's peremptory, as I may call it, to my sister.
O my dear mamma! said Caroline, when she found she must go down, on what a new occasion do I want your sweet mediation! But, Charlotte, I can neither walk nor stand—
You must then lean upon me, my dear, and creep: Love will creep, they say, where it cannot go.
Wicked girl! interrupted Lady L. I remember that was what she said.
I said it to make you smile, if I could, and take courage: But you know I was in tears for you, notwithstanding,
You thought of what might befall yourself, Charlotte.
So I did. We never, I believe, properly feel for others, what does not touch ourselves.
A compassionate heart, said I, is a blessing, though a painful one: And yet there would be no supporting life, if we felt quite as poignantly for others as we do for ourselves. How happy was it for my Charlotte, that she could smile, when the father's apprehended lecture was intended for the use of both!
I thank you for this, Harriet. You will not be long my creditor—But I will proceed.
Caroline took my advice. She leaned upon me; and creep, creep, creep, down she crept. A fresh stream of tears fell from her eyes, when she came to the dining-room door. Her tremblings were increased: And down she dropped upon a window-seat in the passage: I can go no further, said she.
Instantly a voice, that we knew must be observed, alarmed our ears—Where are you, Caroline! Charlotte? Girls! where are you? The housekeeper was in hearing, and ran to us: Ladies! Ladies! Your papa calls!—And we, in spite of the weakness of the one, and the unwillingness of the other, recovered our feet; and, after half a dozen creeping motions more, found ourselves within the door, and in our father's sight, my sister leaning upon my arm.
What devil's in the wind now! What tragedy-movements are here!—What measured steps!—In some cases, all women are natural actresses. But come, Caroline, the play is over, and you mistake your cue.
Good Sir!—Her hands held up—I wept for her; and for my own remoter case, if you will, Miss Byron.
The prologue is yours, Caroline, Charlotte, I doubt not, is ready with her epilogue. But come, come, it is time to close this farce—Take your places, girls; and don't be fools.—A pretty caution, thought I, said Miss Charlotte, when you make us both such!
However, the servants entering with dinner, we hemm'd, handkerchief'd, twinkled, took up our knives and forks, laid them down, and took them up again, when our father's eye was upon us; piddled, sipped; but were more busy with our elbows than with our teeth. As for poor sister Caroline, love stuck in her throat. She tried to swallow, as one in a quinsey; a wry face, and a strain'd neck, denoting her difficulty to get down but a lark's morsel—And what made her more awkward (I am sure it did me) was a pair of the sharpest eyes that ever were seen in a man's head, and the man a father (the poor things having no mother, no aunt, to support their spirits) cast first on the one, then on the other; and now-and-then an overclouded brow, adding to our awkwardness: Yet still more apprehensive of dinner-time being over, and the withdrawing of the servants.
The servants loved their young Ladies. They attended with very serious faces; and seemed glad when they were dismissed.
Then it was that Caroline arose from her seat, made her curtsy, awkwardly enough; with the air of a boarding-school Miss, her hands before her.
My father let her make her honours, and go to the door, I rising to attend her; but then called her back; I dare say, on purpose to enjoy her awkwardness, and to punish her.
Who bid you go? Whither are you going. Caroline? Come back, Charlotte.—But it will be always thus: A father's company is despised, when a girl gets a Lover into her head. Fine encouragement for a father to countenance a passion that shall give himself but a second or third place, who once had a first, in his children's affections! But I shall have reason to think myself fortunate, perhaps, if my children do not look upon me as their enemy.—Come back when I bid you.
We crept back more awkwardly than we went from table.
Sit down—We cross'd our hands, and stood like a couple of fools.
Sit down when I bid you. You are confoundedly humble. I want to talk with you.
Down sat the two simpletons, on the edge of their chairs; their faces and necks averted.
Miss Grandison then gave the following dialogue. She humorously, by her voice (an humble one for her sister, a less meek one for herself, an imperious one for Sir Thomas) marked the speakers. I will prefix their names.
Sir Thomas. What sort of leave has Lord L. taken of you, Caroline? He has sent me a Letter. Has he sent you one? I hope he did not think a personal leave due to the daughter, and not to the father.
Charlotte. He thought you were angry with him, Sir, said I [Poor Caroline's answer was not ready].
Sir Tho. And supposed that your sister was not. Very well! What leave did he take of you, girl? woman? What do you call yourself?
Char. Sir, my Lord L. I dare say, intended no disrespect to—
I might as well have been silent, Harriet.
Sir Tho. I like not your preface, girl, interrupted he—Tell me not what you dare say. I spoke to your sister.—Come, sit upright. None of your averted faces, and wry necks. A little more innocence in your hearts, and you'll have less shame in your countenances. I see what a league there is between you. A promising prospect before me, with you both! But tell me, Caroline, do you love Lord L.? Have you given him hope that you will be his, when you can get the cross father to change his mind; or, what is still better, out of your way for ever? All fathers are plaguy ill-natur'd, when they do not think of their girls fellows, as their foolish girls think of them! Answer me, Caroline?
Caroline (Weeping, at his severe speech). What can I say, Sir, and not displease you?
Sir Tho. What!—Why, that you are all obedience to your father. Cannot you say that? Sure you can say that.
Car. I hope, Sir—
Sir Tho. And I hope too. But it becomes you to be certain. Can't you answer for your own heart?
Car. I believe you think, Sir, that Lord L. is not an unworthy man.
Sir Tho. A man is not more worthy, for making my daughter forget herself, and behave like a fool to her father.
Car. I may behave like a fool, Sir, but not undutifully. You frighten me, Sir. I am unable to hold up my head before you, when you are angry with me.
Sir Tho. Tell me that you have broken with Lord L. as I have commanded you. Tell me, that you will never see him more, if you can avoid it. Tell me, that you will not write to him—
Car. Pardon me, Sir, for saying, that Lord L.'s behaviour to me has been ever uniformly respectful: He reveres my papa too: How can I treat him with disrespect?—
Sir Tho. So! I shall have it all out, presently,—Go on, girl—And do you, Charlotte, attend to the lesson set you by your elder sister.
Char. Indeed, Sir, I can answer for the goodness of my sister's heart, and for her duty to you.
Sir Tho. Well said! Now, Caroline, do you speak up for Charlotte's Heart: One good turn deserves another. But say what you will for each other, I will be my own judge of both your hearts; and facts shall be the test. Do you know, Caroline, whether Charlotte has any Lover that is to keep you in countenance with yours?
Car. I dare say, Sir, that my sister Charlotte will not disoblige you.
Sir Tho. I hope, Caroline, you can say as much for Charlotte's sister.
Car. I hope I can, Sir.
Sir Tho. Then you know my will.
Car. I presume, Sir, it is your pleasure, that I should always remain single.
Sir Tho. Hey-day!—But why, pray, does your ladyship suppose so?—Speak out.
Car. Because I think, forgive me to say it, that my Lord L.'s character and his quality are such, that a more creditable proposal cannot be expected.—Pray, Sir, forgive me. And she held up her hands, pray-fashion, thus—
Well said, Caroline! thought I—Pull up a courage, my dear!—What a deuce—
Sir Tho. His quality!—Gewgaw!—What is a Scottish peerage?—And does your silly heart beat after a coronet?—You want to be a Countess, do you?—But let me tell you, that if you have a true value for Lord L. you will not, encumbred as he is with sisters fortunes, wish him to marry you.
Car. As to title, Sir, that is of very little account with me, without the good character.—As to prudence; my Lord L. cannot see any-thing in me to forfeit his prudence for.
Well answered, Caroline! thought I. In such a laudable choice, all should not be left upon the poor Lov-yer!
Sir Tho. So the difficulty lies not with you, I find. You have no objection to Lord L. if he has none to you. You are an humbled and mortified girl, then. The woman must be indeed in Love, who once thinking well of herself, can give a preference against herself to her Lover.
What business had Sir Thomas to say this, my Lucy?
Sir Tho. Let me know, Caroline, what hopes you have given to Lord L.—Or rather, perhaps, what hopes he has given you?—Why are you silent? Answer me, girl.
Car. I hope, Sir, I shall not disgrace my father, in thinking well of Lord L.
Sir Tho. Nor will he disgrace himself, proud as are the Scottish beggars of their ancestry, in thinking well of a daughter of mine.
Car. Lord L. tho' not a beggar, Sir, would think it an honour, Sir—
Sir Tho. Well said! Go on: Go on. Why stops the girl?—And so he ought. But if Lord L. is not a beggar for my daughter, let not my daughter be a beggar for Lord L. But Lord L. would think it an honour, you say—To be what?—Your husband, I suppose. Answer my question; How stand matters between you and Lord L.?
Car. I cannot, such is my unhappiness! say anything that will please my father.
Sir Tho. How the girl evades my question!—Don't let me repeat it.
Car. It is not disgraceful, I hope, to own, that I had rather be—
There she stopped, and half-hid her face in her bosom. And I thought, said Miss Grandison, that she never look'd prettier in her life.
Sir Tho. Rather be Lord L.'s wife than my daughter—Well, Charlotte, tell me, when are you to begin to estrange me from your affections? When are you to begin to think your father stands in the way of your happiness? When do you cast your purveying eyes upon a mere stranger, and prefer him to your father?—I have done my part, I suppose: I have nothing to do but to allot you the fortunes that your Lovers, as they are called, will tell you are necessary to their affairs, and then to lie down and die. Your fellows then, with you, will dance over my grave; and I shall be no more remembered, than if I had never been—except by your brother.
I could not help speaking here, said Miss Grandison. O Sir! how you wound me!—Do all fathers—Forgive me, Sir—
I saw his brow begin to lour.
Sir Tho. I bear not impertinence. I bear not—There he stopped in wrath.—But why, Caroline, do you evade my question? You know it. Answer it.
Car. I should be unworthy of the affection of such a man as Lord L. is, if I disowned my esteem for him. Indeed, Sir, I have an esteem for Lord L. above any man I ever saw. You, Sir, did not always disesteem him—My brother—
Sir Tho. So! Now all is out!—You have the forwardness—What shall I call it?—But I did, and I do, esteem Lord L.—But as what?—Not as a son-in-law. He came to me as my son's friend. I invited him down in that character: He, at that time, knew nothing of you. But no sooner came a single man into a single woman's company, but you both wanted to make a match of it. You were dutiful: And he was prudent: Prudent for himself. I think you talk'd of his prudence a while ago. He made his application to you, or you to him, I know not which—[Then how poor Caroline wept! And I, said Miss Charlotte, could hardly forbear saying Barbarous!] And when he found himself sure of you, then was the fool the father to be consulted: And for what? Only to know what he would do for two people, who had left him no option in the case. And this is the trick of you all: And the poor father is to be passive, or else to be accounted a tyrant.
Car. Sir, I admitted not Lord L.'s address, but conditionally, as you should approve of it. Lord L. desired not my approbation upon other terms.
Sir Tho. What nonsense is this?—Have you left me any way to help myself?—Come, Caroline, let me try you. I intend to carry you up to town: A young man of quality has made overtures to me. I believe I shall approve of his proposals. I am sure you will, if you are not prepossessed. Tell me, are you, have you left yourself at liberty to give way to my recommendation?—Why don't you answer me?—You know, that you received Lord L.'s addresses but conditionally, as I should approve of them. And your spark desired not your approbation upon other terms. Come, what say you to this?—What! are you confounded?—Well you may, if you cannot answer me as I wish! If you can, why don't you?—You see, I put you but to your own test.
Car. Sir, it is not for me to argue with my father. Surely, I have not intended to be undutiful. Surely I have not disgraced my family, by admitting Lord L.'s conditional—
Sir Tho. Conditional!—Fool!—How conditional!—Is it not absolute, as to the exclusion of me, or of my option? But I have ever found, that the man who condescends to argue with a woman, especially on certain points, in which nature, and not reason, is concerned, must follow her through a thousand windings, and find himself farthest off when he imagines himself nearest; and at last must content himself, panting for breath, to sit down where he set out; while she gambols about, and is ready to lead him a new course.
Car. I hope—
Sir Tho. None of your hopes—I will have certainty. May I—Come, I'll bring you to a point, if I can, woman as you are—May I receive proposals for you from any other man? Answer me, Yes or No. Don't deal with me, as girls do with common fathers—Don't be disobedient, and then depend upon my weakness to forgive you. I am no common father. I know the world. I know your Sex. I have found more fools in it than I have made.—Indeed, no man makes, or needs to make, you fools. You have folly deep-rooted within you. That weed is a native of the soil. A very little watering will make it sprout, and chock the noble flowers that education has planted. I never knew a woman in my life, that was wise by the experience of other people. But answer me: Say—Can you receive a new proposal? or can you not?
Caroline answer'd only by her tears.
Sir Tho. Damnably constant, I suppose!—So you give up real virtue, give up duty to a father, for fidelity, for constancy, for a fictitious virtue, to a Lover! Come hither to me, girl!—Why don't you come to me when I bid you?—
Volume II - lettera 22
MISS BYRON. CONTINUA
Puoi immaginare quali furono le rassicurazioni di milord circa questa generosa fiducia in lui. Si accordarono per una corrispondenza epistolare segreta. Ah! Lady L* aveva perfettamente ragione, ma c'è stato un esito felice? L'occultamento non implica sempre qualcosa di sbagliato? Non si dovrebbe fare il proprio dovere, che lo faccia o no il proprio padre? Non ci si dovrebbe sentire, come posso dire, come l'imputato in un processo? E la virtù non dovrebbe essere messa alla prova in un processo? Non ci si ricorda di chi dice: "Che gloria sarebbe, se, una volta castigati per le vostre colpe, sopporterete con pazienza? Ma se, quando fate del bene, e per questo soffrite, lo sopportate con pazienza, questo è ben accetto da Dio". (1) Ma voi, Lady L* avete perso la vostra eccellente madre molto presto.
La degna giovane non avrebbe comunque acconsentito a un matrimonio segreto, e milord si congedò da lei. La separazione fu estremamente tenera, e l'amabile Carolina, nella dolcezza del suo cuore, sopraffatta dalle solenni dichiarazioni di amore eterno di milord, che affermava di preferirla a qualsiasi altra donna, gli assicurò spontaneamente che non avrebbe mai accettato nessun'altra proposta, mentre lui era vivo e celibe.
Sir Thomas si era mostrato così scontento di Lord L* per le libertà che si era preso nell'ultimo colloquio, che milord preferì di non chiedergli di nuovo udienza, ma, restio a inasprire il dissidio, si congedò educatamente dal baronetto in collera con una lettera, che gli fu consegnata poco prima di aver ordinato a Miss Caroline di accompagnarlo a cena, cosa della quale lei aveva chiesto di essere esentata.
Non hai compassione della giovane, Lucy, in questa situazione? Lord L* si era appena congedato da lei quando partì per Londra.
Miss Charlotte disse alla sorella che, se fosse stata lei, non avrebbe accettato di vedere Lord L* andarsene, solo per evitare un colloquio con un padre che sembrava essere stato troppo abituato alle lacrime delle donne per esserne commosso, e che aveva una tale vena sarcastica, e tali strane nozioni sull'amore.
Ero molto ansiosa di sapere cosa fosse successo all'ora di cena.
Miss Grandison disse: Credo sia meglio che sia io a soddisfare la curiosità di Miss Byron, dato che ero una spettatrice, e solo mio padre e mia sorella erano gli attori.
Attori? ripeté Lady L*. Era una scena crudele. E credo, Miss Byron, che non la meraviglierà sentire che Lord L* mi piaceva molto di più per essere un uomo più intelligente che spiritoso.
Miss Grandison iniziò in questo modo:
Salii da mia sorella con l'imperiosità di mio padre, se così posso chiamarla.
Oh, la mia cara mamma! disse Caroline, quando scoprì che doveva scendere, vorrei ancora avere la tua dolce mediazione! Ma, Charlotte, non riesco a camminare né a restare...
Allora devi appoggiarti a me, mia cara, e trascinarti; si dice che l'amore si trascina, se non riesce a procedere.
Perfida ragazza! mi interruppe Lady L*. Ricordo che fu quello che disse.
L'ho detto per cercare di farti sorridere, e farti coraggio, ma sai bene che ero in lacrime per te, nonostante tutto.
Hai pensato a cosa potrebbe succedere a te, Charlotte.
Sì, certo. Credo che non capiamo mai in modo corretto ciò che provano gli altri, se non tocca noi stessi.
Un cuore compassionevole, dissi io, è una benedizione, anche se dolorosa; eppure non ci sarebbe mai sostegno, se ci struggessimo per gli altri come facciamo per noi stessi. Com'era bello per la mia Charlotte poter sorridere, anche se la lezione del padre era destinata a entrambe!
Grazie per questo, Harriet. Non sarete a lungo mia creditrice... ma vado avanti.
Caroline seguì il mio consiglio. Si appoggiò a me, e si trascinò, si trascinò, si trascinò, si trascinò di sotto. Un nuovo flusso di lacrime le scese dagli occhi, una volta arrivata alla porta della sala da pranzo. Il tremito aumentò, e si lasciò cadere sul sedile di una finestra; non riesco ad andare oltre, disse.
Immediatamente una voce, che sapevamo dovesse essere obbedita, allarmò le nostre orecchie: Dove siete, Caroline! Charlotte? Ragazze! Dove siete? La governante era in ascolto, e corse da noi: Signore! Signore! Il vostro papà chiama! E noi, nonostante la debolezza dell'una e la riluttanza dell'altra, ci siamo rimesse in piedi; E, dopo una mezza dozzina di altri passi striscianti, ci trovammo dentro, sotto gli occhi di nostro padre, con mia sorella appoggiata al mio braccio.
Che diavolo c'è ora! Che cosa sono queste movenze da tragedia! Questi passi strascicati! In certi casi, tutte le donne sono attrici naturali. Ma vieni, Caroline, la recita è finita, e hai sbagliato la battuta.
Buon signore!... Ha alzato le mani... piangevo per lei, e anche per me, se volete, Miss Byron, anche se ero meno coinvolta.
Il prologo è tuo, Caroline, Charlotte, non ne dubito, è pronta per l'epilogo. Ma andiamo, andiamo, è ora di smetterla con questa farsa... prendete posto, ragazze, e non siate sciocche. Un grazioso ammonimento, pensai, disse Miss Charlotte, visto che ci ritenete entrambe tali!
Tuttavia, visto che i domestici stavano entrando con la cena, ci facevamo dei segnali, ci nascondevamo il volto, ci scambiavamo sguardi, prendevamo coltelli e forchette, li posavamo e li riprendevamo, quando gli occhi di nostro padre erano su di noi; facevamo finta di mangiare, prendevamo qualche sorso, ma eravamo più impegnate con i gomiti che con i denti. Per quanto riguarda la povera sorella Caroline, l'amore le si era bloccato in gola. Cercava di ingoiare, come qualcuno con il mal di gola; la faccia piegata, il collo storto, che mostravano la difficoltà a ingoiare più di un boccone da uccellino... e ciò che la metteva più in imbarazzo (di sicuro anche a me) erano due degli occhi più acuti che si fossero mai visti in un uomo, un uomo che era un padre (le poverine non hanno madre, non hanno zie a sostenerle), gettati prima sull'una, poi sull'altra, e di tanto in tanto una fronte accigliata, che aumentava il nostro imbarazzo, ancora più forte visto che stava per finire la cena e i domestici si stavano ritirando.
I domestici volevano bene alle signorine. Assistevano con facce molto serie, e sembrarono lieti di ritirarsi.
Fu allora che Caroline si alzò dal suo posto, fece un inchino, in modo piuttosto goffo, con l'aria di una signorina in collegio, con le mani avanti.
Mio padre lasciò che porgesse i suoi omaggi e si avviasse alla porta; io mi alzai per accompagnarla, ma poi la richiamò; credo proprio allo scopo di godere della sua goffaggine e punirla.
Chi ti ha permesso di andare? Dove stai andando, Caroline? Torna indietro, Charlotte. Ma sarà sempre così: la compagnia di un padre è disprezzata, quando una ragazza ha per la testa un innamorato. Un bell'incoraggiamento per un padre a coltivare un sentimento che gli concederà solo un secondo o terzo posto, rispetto a quello che una volta era il primo, nell'affetto dei suoi figli! Ma avrò ragione di ritenermi fortunato, forse, se i miei figli non mi considereranno loro nemico. Tornate indietro quando ve lo ordino.
Siamo sgusciate indietro più imbarazzate di quando ci eravamo alzate dalla tavola.
Sedete. Abbiamo incrociato le dita e siamo rimaste ferme come due sciocche.
Sedetevi quando ve lo ordino. Siete terribilmente dimesse. Voglio parlarvi.
Le due sempliciotte si sono sedute, sul bordo delle sedie, con volto e collo girati.
Miss Grandison ha poi fornito il dialogo che segue. Usando la voce con umorismo (umile per la sorella, meno mite per se stessa, imperiosa per Sir Thomas) ha mimato chi parlava. Metterò prima i loro nomi.
Sir Thomas. Che tipo di congedo ha preso Lord L. da te, Caroline? Mi ha mandato una lettera. Te ne ha mandata una? Spero che non abbia pensato a un congedo personale dovuto alla figlia, e non al padre.
Charlotte. Pensava che voi foste in collera con lui, signore, ho detto io [la risposta della povera Caroline non era pronta].
Sir Tho. E supponeva che tua sorella non lo fosse. Benissimo! Come si è congedato da te, ragazza? donna? Come ti definisci?
Char. Signore, credo proprio che Lord L* non intendesse mancare di rispetto a...
Avrei anche potuto restare il silenzio, Harriet.
Sir Tho. Non mi piace il tuo preambolo, ragazza, la interruppe lui... Non dirmi che cosa credi. Parlavo a tua sorella. Vieni, siediti diritta. Niente sguardi altrove e torcicolli. Un po' più di innocenza nei vostri cuori, e avreste meno vergogna in volto. Lo vedo che tipo di complicità c'è tra voi. Una prospettiva promettente per me, con entrambe! Ma dimmi, Caroline, ami Lord L*? Gli hai dato speranza che sarai sua, quando riuscirai a far cambiare idea al tuo bizzoso padre? oppure, meglio ancora, quando sarà fuori dai piedi per sempre? Tutti i padri sono bisbetici e scoccianti, quando non giudicano le loro figlie come le loro sciocche figlie giudicano loro! Mi rispondi, Caroline?
Caroline (Piangendo, a quel discorso cosi severo). Cosa posso dire, signore, senza recarvi dispiacere?
Sir Tho. Che cosa? Be', che siete tutti obbedienti a vostro padre. Non può dirlo? Certo che puoi dirlo.
Car. Spero, signore...
Sir Tho. E spero anch'io. Ma devi esserne certa. Non riesci a rispondere con il cuore?
Car. Credo che lei pensi, signore, che Lord L* non sia un uomo indegno.
Sir Tho. Un uomo non diventa più degno per aver fatto dimenticare se stessa a mia figlia e averla spinta a comportarsi come una sciocca con suo padre.
Car. Posso comportarmi come una sciocca, signore, ma non mancare di rispetto. Ho timore di voi, signore. Non riesco ad alzare lo sguardo quando siete in collera con me.
Sir Tho. Dimmi che hai rotto con Lord L* come ti ho ordinato di fare. Dimmi, che non lo vedrai mai più, se puoi evitarlo. Dimmi, che non gli scriverai...
Car. Perdonatemi, signore, per aver detto che il comportamento di Lord L* nei miei confronti è sempre stato perfettamente rispettoso; egli venera anche mio padre; come posso trattarlo con mancanza di rispetto?
Sir Tho. Bene! Ora sì che si ragiona... Vai avanti, ragazza... E tu, Charlotte, segui la lezione che ti dà la tua sorella maggiore.
Char. In effetti, signore, posso garantire per la bontà di cuore di mia sorella e per il suo senso del dovere verso di voi.
Sir Tho. Ben detto! Ora, Caroline, parla al cuore di Charlotte: un buon mutamento ne merita un altro. Ma dite quello che volete l'una dell'altra, io sarò il giudice di entrambi i vostri cuori, e i fatti ne saranno la prova. Sai, Caroline, se Charlotte ha qualche innamorato che sia paragonabile al tuo?
Car. Credo proprio, signore, che mia sorella Charlotte non le arrecherà alcun dispiacere.
Sir Tho. Spero, Caroline, che tu possa dire altrettanto per la sorella di Charlotte.
Car. Spero di poterlo fare, signore.
Sir Tho. Allora conoscete quale sia la mia volontà.
Car. Presumo, signore, che vi faccia piacere che io rimanga sempre nubile.
Sir Tho. Oh! Ma perché, vi prego, vostra signoria lo suppone? Dite pure.
Car. Perché penso, perdonatemi se lo dico, che il carattere e le qualità di Lord L* siano tali che non ci si possa aspettare una proposta più degna. Vi prego, signore, di perdonarmi. E alzò le mani, come in preghiera, in questo modo...
Ben detto, Caroline! ho pensato; fatti coraggio, mia cara! Che rilancio...
Sir Tho. Le sue qualità! Sciocchezze! Che cos'è un titolo scozzese? Il tuo sciocco cuore batte per uno stemma nobiliare? Vorresti essere una contessa, forse? Ma lascia che ti dica che se tieni in così gran conto Lord L*, non dovresti, gravato com'è dai doveri verso le sorelle, augurargli di sposare te.
Car. Quanto al titolo, signore, è di ben poca importanza per me, senza un buon carattere. Quanto alla prudenza, Lord L* non può vedere nulla in me per rinunciarvi.
Bella risposta, Caroline! ho pensato. In una scelta così lodevole, non tutto dovrebbe essere lasciato al povero innamorato!
Sir Tho. Quindi vedo che la difficoltà non riguarda te. Non hai obiezioni nei confronti di Lord L* se lui non ne ha nei tuoi. Sei una ragazza umile e pura, allora. Una donna deve essere davvero innamorata, se pur pensando bene di sé, dà la preferenza al suo innamorato rispetto a se stessa.
Che aveva in mente Sir Thomas per dire questo, Lucia mia?
Sir Tho. Fammi sapere, Caroline, quali speranze hai dato a Lord L*. O piuttosto, forse, quali speranze ti ha dato lui? Perché taci? Rispondimi, ragazza.
Car. Spero, signore, di non disonorare mio padre, pensando bene di Lord L*.
Sir Tho. Né disonorerà se stesso, orgogliosi come sono dei loro antenati gli scozzesi questuanti, nel pensare bene di mia figlia.
Car. Sebbene Lord L* non sia un questuante, signore, lo considererebbe un onore, signore...
Sir Tho. Ben detto! Vai avanti, vai avanti. Perché si ferma la ragazza? E così dovrebbe fare lui. Ma se Lord L* non è un questuante per mia figlia, che mia figlia non sia una questuante per Lord L*. Ma tu dici che Lord L* lo considererebbe un onore... essere cosa? Tuo marito, suppongo. Rispondi alla mia domanda, come stanno le cose tra te e Lord L*?
Car. Non posso, è questa la mia infelicità! dire qualsiasi cosa che possa far piacere a mio padre.
Sir Tho. Come elude la domanda la ragazza! Non farmelo ripetere.
Car. Non è una vergogna, spero, ammettere, che preferirei essere...
Lì si fermò, e nascose a metà il viso nel petto. E ho pensato, ha detto Miss Grandison, che non sarebbe mai stata più bella in vita sua.
Sir Tho. Più la moglie di Lord L* che mia figlia; be', Charlotte, dimmi, quando comincerai ad allontanarmi dal tuo affetto? Quando comincerai a pensare che tuo padre sia un ostacolo per la tua felicità? Quand'è che getterai il tuo sguardo avido su un semplice estraneo, preferendolo a tuo padre? Suppongo di aver fatto la mia parte; non ho altro da fare che assegnarti la dote che i tuoi innamorati, come vengono chiamati, ti diranno che sia necessaria ai loro affari, e poi sdraiarmi e morire. I tuoi simili, poi, insieme a te, danzeranno sulla mia tomba, e non sarò ricordato più di quanto lo sia mai stato, salvo da tuo fratello.
Non ho potuto fare a meno di dire la mia, a quel punto, ha detto Miss Grandison. Oh, signore! come mi ferite! Fate come tutti i padri... Perdonatemi, signore...
Ho visto che si stava accigliando.
Sir Tho. Non sopporto l'impertinenza. Non sopporto... Lì si fermò, in collera. Ma perché, Caroline, sfuggi alla mia domanda? Tu lo sai. Rispondi.
Car. Sarei indegna dell'affetto di un uomo come Lord L*, se rinnegassi la mia stima per lui. In effetti, signore, ho una stima per Lord L* superiore a quella per qualsiasi uomo che abbia mai conosciuto. Voi, signore, non lo avete sempre disprezzato... Mio fratello...
Sir Tho. Ecco! Ora viene fuori tutto! Hai la sfacciataggine... Come devo chiamarla? Ma io stimavo, e stimo ancora, Lord L*... Ma in quale ruolo? Non come genero. È venuto da me come amico di mio figlio. L'ho invitato in quella veste; lui, in quel momento, non sapeva nulla di te. Ma non appena un uomo celibe si è trovato in compagnia di una donna nubile, entrambi hanno pensato al matrimonio. Tu eri rispettosa, e lui era prudente; prudente verso se stesso. Mi pare che tu abbia parlato della sua prudenza qualche tempo fa. Lui si è dichiarato a te, o tu a lui, non so chi... [In quel momento quanto ha pianto la povera Caroline! E io, ha detto Miss Charlotte, a malapena ho evitato di usare la parola barbaro!] E quando si è sentito certo di te, allora è stato consultato quello sciocco del padre, e per che cosa? Solo per sapere cosa avrebbe fatto per due persone che non gli avevano lasciato altra scelta in quel frangente. E questo è il trucco di tutti voi, e il povero padre deve essere remissivo, altrimenti sarà considerato un tiranno.
Car. Signore, non avevo accettato la proposta di Lord L*, se non a patto che voi l'avreste approvata. Lord L* non ha chiesto la mia approvazione ad altre condizioni.
Sir Tho. Che assurdità è questa? Mi hai lasciato qualche possibilità di scelta? Vieni, Caroline, lascia che ti metta alla prova. Ho intenzione di portarti in città: un giovanotto di alto rango ha fatto degli approcci. Credo che approverò le sue proposte. Sono certo che lo farai anche tu, se non sei prevenuta. Dimmi, sei... ti sei lasciata la libertà di seguire i miei consigli? Perché non mi rispondi? Sai che hai accettato le proposte di Lord L* solo a determinate condizioni, dato che avrei dovuto approvarle. E il tuo innamorato non voleva la tua approvazione in altri termini. Andiamo, che ne dici di questo? Che cosa? Sei confusa? Be', puoi esserlo, se non puoi rispondermi come voglio! Se puoi, perché non lo fai? Vedi, ti metto solo alla prova di te stessa.
Car. Signore, non spetta a me discutere con mio padre. Di certo, non ho intenzione di essere irrispettosa. Di certo, non ho disonorato la mia famiglia, accettando la condizione di Lord L*...
Sir Tho. Condizione! Sciocca! Quale condizione! Non è assoluta, quanto all'escludere me o la mia alternativa? Ma ho sempre trovato che l'uomo che acconsente a discutere con una donna, specialmente su certi punti, in cui è coinvolta la natura e non la ragione, deve seguirla attraverso mille percorsi tortuosi, si ritrova lontanissimo quando si immagina più vicino, e alla fine deve accontentarsi di tornare, senza più fiato, nel punto da dove è partito, mentre lei saltella lì intorno ed è pronta a guidarlo in una nuova direzione.
Sir Tho. Su nessuna delle tue speranze... avrò certezze. Forse... Andiamo, ti porterò dritta al punto, se ci riesco, donna come sei... Posso accogliere proposte per te da qualsiasi altro uomo? Rispondimi, sì o no. Non trattare con me, come fanno le ragazze con i padri comuni... non essere disobbediente, per poi dipendere dalla mia debolezza per farti perdonare. Non sono un padre comune. Conosco il mondo. Conosco il tuo sesso. In esso ho trovato più stupidaggini di quante ne abbia fatte io. In verità, nessun uomo vi rende, o ha bisogno di rendervi, delle sciocche. Avete una stupidità profondamente radicata in voi. La gramigna è connaturata alla terra. Un po' di annaffiatura lo farà germogliare, e soffocherà i nobili fiori piantati dall'educazione. In vita mia non ho mai conosciuto una donna che fosse diventata saggia attraverso l'esperienza di altre persone. Ma rispondimi, dimmi... puoi accogliere una nuova proposta? o non puoi?
Caroline rispose solo con le lacrime.
Sir Tho. Dannatamente costante, suppongo! Quindi rinunci alla vera virtù, rinunci al dovere verso un padre, per fedeltà, per costanza, per una virtù fittizia verso un innamorato! Vieni qui, ragazza! Perché non vieni da me quando te lo chiedo?
(1) Prima lettera di Pietro, 2:20.
Volume II - Letter 23
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
Miss Caroline arose: Four creeping steps, her handkerchief at her eyes, brought her within her father's reach. He snatched her hand, quicken'd her pace, and brought her close to his knees. Poor sister Caroline! thought I: O the ty—And I had like at the time, to have added the syllable rant to myself.—He pulled the other hand from her eye. The handkerchief dropped: He might see that it was wet and heavy with her tears. Fain would she have turn'd her blubber'd eye from him. He held both her hands, and burst out into a laugh—
And what cries the girl for? Why, Caroline, you shall have a husband, I tell you. I will hasten with you to the London market. Will you be offer'd at Ranelagh market first? the concert or breakfasting?—Or shall I show you at the opera, or at the play? Ha, ha, hah!—Hold up your head, my amorous girl! You shall stick some of your mother's jewels in your hair, and in your bosom, to draw the eyes of fellows. You must strike at once, while your face is new; or you will be mingled with the herd of women, who prostitute their faces at every polite place. Sweet impatient soul!—Look at me, Caroline. Then he laughed again.
Car. Indeed, Sir, if you were not my father—
Well said, Caroline! thought I; and trod on her toe.
Sir Tho. Hey-day! But what then?
Car. I would say you are very cruel.
Sir Tho. And is that all you would say, poor soft thing! in such circumstances, to any other man? Well, but, all this time, you don't tell me (still holding her hands) whether any other man will not do as well as your Scotsman?
Car. I am not kindly used. Indeed, Sir, you don't use me kindly. I hope I am not an amorous creature, as you call me. I am not in haste to be married. I am willing to wait your time, your pleasure: But, as I presume, that there can be no objection to Lord L. I wish not to be carried to any London market.
Sir Tho. (Gravely). If I am disposed to rally you, Caroline; if I am willing to pass off, in a pleasant manner, a forwardness that I did not expect in my daughter; and for which, in my heart, I have despised the daughters of other men, tho' I have not told the wenches so; I will not be answered pertly. I will not have you forget yourself.
Car. (Curtsying). Good Sir, permit me to withdraw. I will recollect myself, and be sorry—
Sir Tho. And is it necessary for you to withdraw, to recollect your duty?—But you shall answer my question—How stand you and Lord L.? Are you resolved to have him, and none other?—Will you wait for him, will he wait for you, till death has numbered me with my ancestors?
Car. O Sir! And she look'd down after her dropped handkerchief. She wanted it; and would have withdrawn one of her hands to reach it; and when she could not, the big tears running down her cheeks [Yet she look'd pretty] down she dropped on her knees—Forgive me, Sir—I dread your displeasure—But must say, that I am not an amorous girl: And, to convince you that I am not, I will never marry any man living, if it be not Lord L.
I all this time was in agitations for my poor sister. I tired three chairs; and now look'd at her; now from her; then at my fingers ends, wishing them claws, and the man an husband, instead of a father. Indeed, Miss Byron, I could not but make Caroline's treatment my own; and, in fancy, not so very remote, as you imagin'd, Lady L. Once I said to myself, If some Lord L. tenders himself to me, and I like him, I will not stand all this. The first moon-light night, if he urge me heartily, and I am sure the parson is ready, I will be under another protection, despicably as I have always thought of runaway daughters!—Should I have done right, Miss Byron?
The example, Miss Grandison! replied I—Such a mamma as you were blessed with! The world that would have sat in judgment upon the flight of the daughter, would not have known the cruel treatment of the father. I believe, my dear, you are glad you had not the trial: And you see how Lady L. is rewarded for her patient duty.
That's my good Harriet! said Lady L. I love you for your answer. But, Sister, you leave me in too much distress. You must release me from my knees, and send me up to my chamber, as fast as you can.
A little patience, Lady L.—But what say my minutes?—Miss Byron seems all attention. This is a new subject to her. She never had any-body to control her.
I think I could have borne any-thing from a father or mother, said I, had it pleased God to continue to me so dear a blessing.
Fine talking, Harriet! said Miss Grandison. But let me say, that a witty father is not a desirable character—By the way, ours was as cruel (Shall I say it, Lady L.? You are upon your knees, you know) to two very worthy sisters of his own: One of them ran away from him to a relation in Yorkshire, where she lives still, and as worthy an old maid she is as any in the county: The other died before she could get her fortune paid, or she would have been married to a man she loved, and who loved her: But she left every shilling of her fortune to her maiden sister, and nothing to my father.
It is well my brother is not in hearing, said Lady L. He would not have borne the hundredth part of what we have said. But sufferers will complain. Remember, however, Charlotte, that I am still upon my knees.
See, my Lucy! Rakish men make not either good husbands, or good fathers; nor yet good brothers.—But, no wonder! The narrow-hearted creatures centre all their delight in themselves.—Finely do women choose, who, taken in by their specious airs, vows, protestations, become the abject properties of such wretches! Yet, a reformed rake, they say, makes the best husband—Against general experience this is said—But by whom? By the vulgar and the inconsiderate only, surely!
Miss Grandison proceeded.
Sir Tho. You will never marry any other man living!—And this is declared, in order to convince me that you are not amorous!—Quibbling nonsense!—Had you not been amorous, you had not put yourself into a situation, that should give you courage to say this to me. Bold fool! Begone!
Yet you shall not go, holding both her hands. And dare you thus declare yourself?—What option, I again ask you, is left me?—And yet Lord L. and you, as you pretended just now, were determined only on a conditional courtship as I should, or should not, approve of it! Confound your Sex! This ever was, and ever will be, the case. The blind god sets you out, where you mean the best, on a pacing beast; you amble, prance, parade, till your giddy heads turn round; and then you gallop over hedge and ditch; leap fences; and duty, decency, and discretion, are trodden under foot!
Poor Miss Caroline! said I, Lucy, to them both—I expected this cruel retort.
I foresaw it, replied Lady L. And this kept me off so long from declaring my preference of Lord L. to all the men in the world; as in justice to his merit, my heart several times bid me do without scruple.
Begone from my presence, said Sir Thomas, proceeded Miss Grandison—Yet he still held her hands—That little witch! I have been watching her eyes, and every working muscle of her saucy face [meaning poor me, said Miss Grandison]: She takes part with you in all your distresses—You are sorely distressed, are you not?—Am I not a tyrant with you both?—You want to be gone, both of you: Then shall I be the subject of your free discourses. All the resentment, that now you endeavour to confine, will then burst out: I shall be entitled to no more of your duty than is consistent with your narrow interest: Lord L. will be consulted in preference to me, and have the whole confidence of my daughters against me. I am now, from this hour, to be looked upon as your enemy, and not your father. But I will renounce you both; and permit your brother, the joy of my life, and the hope of my better days, to come over: And he shall renounce you, as I do, or I will renounce him: And, in that case, I shall be a father without a child; yet three living by the best of women. How would she—
I broke out here, said Miss Grandison, with an emotion that I could not suppress. O my dear mamma! How much do we miss you!—Were you to have become angel when we were infants, should we have missed you as we do now?—O my dear mamma! This, this, is the time that girls most want a mother!—
I was about to fly for it. I trembled at the sternness of my father's looks, on this apostrophe to my mother. He arose. Caroline, don't stir, said he; I have something more to say to you. Come-hither, Charlotte! and held out both his hands—You have burst out at last. I saw your assurance swelling to your throat—
I threw myself at his feet, and besought him to forgive me.
But taking both my hands in one of his, as I held them up folded—Curse me if I do! said he. I was willing you should be present, in hopes to make you take warning by your sister's folly and inconsistency. Lord L. has been a thief in my house. He has stolen my elder daughter's affections from me: Yet has drawn her in, as pretending that he desired not her favour, but as I approved of his addresses. I do not approve of them. I hope I may be allowed to be my own judge in this case. She however declares, she will have nobody else. And have I brought up my children till the years that they should be of use and comfort to me; and continued a widower myself for their sakes [So my father was pleased to say, said Miss Grandison]; and all for a man I approve not?—And do you, Charlotte, call your blessed mother from her peaceful tomb, to relieve you and your sister against a tyrant-father?—What comfort have I in prospect before me, from such daughters?—But leave me. Leave my house. Seek your fortunes where you will. Take your cloths: Take all that belongs to you: But nothing that was your mother's. I will give you each a draught on my banker for 500l. When that is gone, according to what I shall hear of your behaviour, you shall, or shall not, have more.
Dear Sir! said Caroline, flinging herself on her knees by me, forgive my sister!—Dear, good Sir! whatever becomes of me, forgive your Charlotte!
You are fearless of your destiny, Caroline. You will throw yourself into the arms of Lord L. I doubt not.—I will send for your brother. But you shall both leave this house. I will shut it up the moment you are gone. It shall never again be open'd while I live. When my ashes are mingled with those of your mother, then may you keep open house in it, and trample under foot the ashes of both.
I sobbed out, Dear Sir, forgive me! I meant not to reflect upon my father, when I wish'd for my mother. I wish'd for her for your sake, Sir, as well as for ours. She would have mediated.—She would have soften'd—
Sir Tho. My hard heart—I know what you mean, Charlotte!
And flung from us a few paces, walking about in wrath, leaving us kneeling at his vacant chair.
He then, ringing the bell, the door in his hand, ordered in the housekeeper. She enter'd. A very good woman she was. She trembled for her kneeling Ladies.
Sir Th. Beckford, do you assist these girls in getting up every thing that belongs to them. Give me an inventory of what they take. Their father's authority is grievous to them. They want to shake it off. They find themselves women grown. They want husbands—
Indeed, indeed, Beckford, we don't, said Caroline; interrupted by my father.
Do you give me the lie, bold-face?—
Pray your honour—Good your honour—intreated honest Beckford: never were modester young Ladies. They are noted all over the county for their modesty and goodness—
Woman, woman, argue not with me. Modesty never forgets duty. Caroline loves not her father. Lord L. has stolen away her affections from me. Charlotte is of her party: And so are you, I find. But take my commands in silence—A week longer they stay not in this house—
Beckford, throwing herself on her knees, repeated—Good your honour—
We both arose, and threw ourselves at his feet—
Forgive us! I beseech you, forgive us!—For my mamma's sake, forgive us!—said Caroline—
For my mamma's sake, for my brother's sake, dear Sir, forgive your daughters! cried I, in as rueful an accent.
And we each of us took hold of his open'd coat, both in tears; and Beckford keeping us company.
Unmoved he went on—I intend you a pleasure, girls. I know you want to be freed from my authority. You are women-grown. The man who has daughters knows not discomfort with them, till busy fellows bid them look out of their father's house for that happiness, which they hardly ever find but in it.
We are yours, my papa, said I—We are nobody's else—Do not, do not, expose your children to the censures of the world. Hitherto our reputations are unsullied—
Dear Sir, cried Caroline, throw us not upon the world, the wide world! Dear Sir, continue us in your protection. We want not to be in any other.
You shall try the experiment girls—I am not fit to be your counsellor. Lord L. has distanced me with the one: The other calls upon her departed mother to appear, to shield her from the cruelty of an unnatural father. And Lord L. has the insolence to tell me to my face, that I am too young a father to take upon me the management of women-grown daughters. And so I find it. Blubber not, Beckford; assist your young Ladies for their departure. A week is the longest time they have to stay in this house. I want to shut it up: Never more to enter its gates.
We continued our pleadings.
O Sir, said Caroline, turn not your children out of doors. We are daughters. We never more wanted a father's protection than now.
What have we done, Sir, cried I, to deserve being turned out of your doors?—For every offensive word we beg your pardon. You shall always have dutiful children of us. Permit me to write to my brother—
So, so! You mend the matter. You want to interest your brother in your favour—You want to appeal to him, do you? and to make a son sit in judgment upon his father!—Prate not, girls! Intreat not!—Get ready to be gone. I will shut up this house—
Wherever you are, Sir, intreated I, there let us be—Renounce not your children, your penitent children.
He proceeded. I suppose Lord L. will as soon find out your person, Caroline, as he has your inclinations; so contrary to my liking. As to you, Charlotte, you may go down to your old aunt Prue in Yorkshire: [He calls their aunt Eleanor so, from the word Prude—Yet we have seen, Lucy, it was owing to him that this Lady did not marry]: She will be able to instruct you, that patience is a virtue; and that you ought not to be in haste to take a first offer, for fear you should not have a second.
Poor sister Caroline! He look'd disdainfully at her.
You are my father, Sir, said she. All is welcome from you: But you shall have no cause to reproach me. I will not be in haste. And here on my knees, I promise, that I will never be Lord L.'s, without your consent. I only beg of you, Sir, not to propose to me any other man.
My father, partly relented [partly, Harriet]: I take you at your word: And I insist that you shall not correspond with him, nor see him.—You answer not to that. But you know my will. And once more, answer or not, I require your obedience. Beckford, you may go. Rise, Caroline.
And am I forgiven, Sir? said I—Dear Sir, forgive your Charlotte—[Yet, Miss Byron, what was my crime?]
Make the best use of the example before you, Charlotte: Not to imitate Caroline, in engaging your affections unknown to me—Remember that. She has her plagues in giving me plague. It is fit she should. Where you cannot in duty follow the example, take the warning.
Beckford was withdrawn. He graciously saluted each girl: And thus triumphantly made them express sorrow for—Do you know for what Harriet?
I wish thought I to myself, Lucy, that these boisterous spirits, either fathers or husbands, were not generally most observed.
But was Miss Grandison's spirit so easily subdued? thought I.
You smile, Harriet. What do you smile at?
Will you forgive me, if I tell you?
I don't know.
I depend on your good-nature. I smiled to think, Lady L. how finely Miss Grandison has got up since that time.
Miss Gr. O the sly girl!—Remember you not, that I was before your debtor?
A good hit, I protest! said Lady L. Yet Charlotte was always a pert girl out of her father's presence. But I will add a word or two to my sister's narrative.
My father kept us with him till he read Lord L.'s Letter, which he open'd not till then, and plainly, as I saw, to find some new fault with him and me on the occasion. But I came off better than I apprehended I should at the time; for I had not seen it. Here is a copy of it.
Lady L. allow'd me, Lucy, to take it up with me, when we parted for the night.
Permit me, Sir, by pen and ink, rather than in person, as I think it will be most acceptable to you, to thank you, as I most cordially do, for the kind and generous treatment I have received at your hands, during a whole month's residence at Grandison-hall, whither I came with intent to stay but three days.
I am afraid I suffer'd myself to be surprised into an undue warmth of expression, when I last went from your presence. I ask your pardon, if so. You have a right in your own child. God forbid that I should ever attempt to invade it! But what a happy man should I be, if my Love for Miss Grandison, and that right, could be made to coincide! I may have appeared to have acted wrong in your apprehension, in applying myself first to Miss Grandison: I beg, Sir, your pardon for that also.
But perhaps I have a still greater fault to atone for. I need not indeed acquaint you with it; but had rather entitle myself by my ingenuousness to your forgiveness, than wish to conceal any thing from you in any article of this high importance, whether you grant it me or not. I own then, that when I last departed from your angry presence, I directly went to Miss Grandison, and on my knees implored her hand. I presumed that an alliance with me was not a disgraceful one; and assured her, that my estate should work itself clear without any expectation from you; as it will, I hope, in a few years, by good management, to which I was sure she would contribute. But she refused me, and resolved to await the good pleasure of her father; yet giving me, I must honestly add, condescending hopes of her favour, could your consent be obtained.
Thus is the important affair circumstanced.
I never will marry any other woman, while there is the least shadow of hope, that she can be mine. The conversation of the best of young men, your son, for two months, in Italy, and one before that in some of the German courts, has made me ambitious of following such an example in every duty of life: And if I might obtain, by your favour, so dear a wife, and so worthy a brother, as well as so amiable a sister as Miss Charlotte, the happiest man in the world would then be, Sir, Your obliged and faithful servant,
Yet my father, said Lady L., called it an artful Letter; and observed, that Lord L. was very sure of me, or he had not offer'd to make a proposal to me, that deserved not to be excused. You were aiming at prudence, girl, in your refusal, I see that, said my father. You had no reason to doubt but Lord L. would hereafter like you the better for declining marriage in that clandestine manner, because the refusal would give him an opportunity to make things more convenient to himself. One half of a woman's virtue is pride, continued he [I hope not, truly, said Lady L.]; the other half, policy. If they were sure the man would not think the worse of them for it, they would not wait a second question. Had you had an independent fortune, Caroline, what wou'd you have done?—But go; you are a weak, and yet a cunning girl. Cunning is the wisdom of women. Women's weakness is man's strength. I am sorry that my daughters are not compounded of less brittle materials. I wonder that any man who knows the sex, marries.
Thus spoke the rakish, the keeping father, Lucy, endeavouring to justify his private vices by general reflexions on the sex. And thus are wickedness and libertinism called a knowledge of the world, a knowledge of human nature. Swift, for often painting a dunghill, and for his abominable Yahoe story, was complimented with this knowledge: But I hope, that the character of human nature, the character of creatures made in the image of the deity, is not to be taken from the overflowings of such dirty imaginations.
What company, my dear, must those men be supposed to have generally kept? How are we authorised to wish (only that good is often produced out of evil, as is instanced in two such daughters, and such a son) that a man of this cast had never had the honour to call a Lady Grandison by his name! And yet Sir Thomas's vices called forth, if they did not establish, her virtues. What shall we say?
—But purblind man
Sees but a part o'th' chain, the nearest link;
His eyes not carrying to that equal beam,
That poises all above.
I thought, my Lucy, that the conversation I have attempted to give, would not, tho' long, appear tedious to you; being upon a new subject, the behaviour of a free-liver of a father to his grown-up daughters, when they came to have expectations upon him, which he was not disposed to answer; and the rather, as it might serve to strengthen us, who have had in our family none but good men (tho' we have neighbours of a different character, who have wanted to be acquainted with us) in our resolution to reject the suits of libertine men by a stronger motive even than for our own sakes: And I therefore was glad of the opportunity of procuring it for you, and for our Nancy, now her recover'd health will allow her to look abroad more than she had of late been used to do. I am sure my grandmamma, and my aunt Selby, will be pleased with it; because it will be a good supplement to the lessons they have constantly inculcated upon us, against that narrow-hearted race of men, who live only for the gratification of their own lawless appetites, and consider all the rest of the world as made for themselves, the worst and most noxious reptiles in it.
Volume II - lettera 23
MISS BYRON. CONTINUA
Miss Caroline si alzò: quattro passi strascicati, il fazzoletto sugli occhi, la condussero alla portata del padre. Lui le afferrò la mano, le fece accelerare il passo e la portò vicina alle sue ginocchia. Povera sorella Caroline! pensai: Oh, il ti... e mi sarebbe piaciuto, in quel momento, di poter aggiungere ranno. Lui le tolse l'altra mano dall'occhio. Il fazzoletto cadde: poteva vedere che era bagnato e pregno di lacrime. Lei avrebbe di buon grado distolto gli occhi diventati rossi. Lui le prese entrambe le mani e scoppiò a ridere...
E per cosa piange la ragazza? Be', Caroline, ti dico che avrai un marito. Mi affretterò a portarti al mercato di Londra. Vuoi prima offrirti al mercato di Ranelagh? Concerto o colazione? O devo esibirti all'opera, o a teatro? Ah, ah, aha! Alza la testa, ragazza pronta a innamorarsi! Ti metterai dei gioielli di tua madre nei capelli e al collo per attirare gli occhi dei tuoi simili. Devi colpire subito, mentre il tuo volto è una novità, altrimenti ti mescolerai al branco di donne che vendono i loro volti in ogni posto appropriato. Dolce anima impaziente! Guardami, Caroline. Poi rise di nuovo.
Car. In realtà, signore, se non foste mio padre...
Ben detto, Caroline! pensavo io, e le ho calpestato un piede.
Sir Tho. Ma guarda! E allora?
Car. Direi che siete molto crudele.
Sir Tho. Ed è tutto quello che diresti, che tenerezza! In tali circostanze, a qualsiasi altro uomo? Be', ma, nel mentre, non mi dici ancora (tenendola ancora per mano) se qualche altro uomo non andrà bene quanto il tuo scozzese?
Car. Non sono trattata gentilmente. In effetti, signore, non mi trattate gentilmente. Spero di non essere una creatura pronta a innamorarsi, come dite voi. Non ho fretta di sposarmi. Sono disposto ad aspettare il vostro tempo, la vostra volontà; ma dato che presumo non ci possano essere obiezioni a Lord L*, allo stesso tempo non ho alcun desiderio di essere condotta in nessun mercato di Londra.
Sir Tho. (Gravemente). Se sono disposto a prenderti in giro, Caroline, se sono disposto a passar sopra in modo piacevole a una insolenza che non mi aspettavo in mia figlia, e per la quale, in cuor mio, ho disprezzato le figlie di altri, anche se non l'ho mai detto alle fanciulle, non voglio che mi sia data una risposta impertinente. Non voglio che ti dimentichi di chi sei.
Car. (Inchinandosi). Buon signore, permettetemi di ritirarmi. Mi ricorderò chi sono, e mi dispiacerà...
Sir Tho. Ed è necessario ritrarti, che ricordi il tuo dovere? Ma devi rispondere alla mia domanda. In che termini siete tu e Lord L*? Sei decisa ad avere lui, e nessun altro? Tu lo aspetterai, lui aspetterà te, finché la morte non mi avrà incluso tra i miei antenati?
Car. Oh signore! E guardò in basso verso il fazzoletto che era caduto. Lo voleva; e avrebbe voluto tirare indietro una mano per prenderlo; e quando non riuscì a farlo, con lacrime copiose che le bagnavano le guance [eppure era sempre bella] cadde in ginocchio. Perdonatemi, signore, ho paura di dispiacervi, ma ho il dovere di dirvi che non sono una ragazza pronta a innamorarsi, e, per convincervi che non lo sono, non sposerò mai nessun uomo, se non sarà Lord L*.
Per tutto questo tempo sono stata in agitazione per la mia povera sorella. Ho consumato tre sedie; la guardavo, poi mi guardava lei, poi mi guardavo la punta delle dita, e avrei voluto che fossero artigli, e quell'uomo un marito, invece di un padre. In effetti, Miss Byron, non potevo non immaginarmi trattata come Caroline; e, nella fantasia, non così remota, vedermi come Lady L*. Mi sono detta: "Se qualche Lord L* si offrisse a me, e mi piacesse, non sopporterò tutto questo". La prima notte di chiaro di luna, se me lo chiedesse con il cuore, e fossi sicura che il parroco è disponibile, mi metterei sotto un'altra protezione, per quanto abbia sempre pensato male delle figlie fuggitive! Avrei fatto bene, Miss Byron?
L'esempio, Miss Grandison! Ho risposto; Una mamma come quella con la quale siete stata benedetta! Gli stessi che avrebbero severamente giudicato la fuga della figlia, non avrebbero riconosciuto il trattamento crudele del padre. Credo, mia cara, che siate lieta di non aver dovuto superare la prova, e di poter vedere come Lady L* sia stata ricompensata per il suo paziente dovere.
Ecco la mia buona Harriet! ha detto Lady L*. Vi amo per questa risposta. Ma, sorella, mi hai riempita di angoscia. Devi farmi smettere di stare in ginocchio e mandarmi in camera mia il più presto possibile.
Un po' di pazienza, Lady L*. Ma cosa dicono i miei appunti? Miss Byron sembra molto attenta. Questo è un argomento nuovo per lei. Non ha mai avuto nessuno che la controllasse.
Penso che avrei potuto sopportare qualsiasi cosa da un padre o da una madre, ho detto, se a Dio fosse piaciuto continuare a donarmi una benedizione così cara.
Belle parole, Harriet! ha detto Miss Grandison. Ma lasciatemi dire che un padre spiritoso non è un personaggio desiderabile... a proposito, il nostro era stato crudele allo stesso modo (devo dirlo, Lady L*? Siete in ginocchio, sapete) con due sue sorelle molto degne; una di loro scappò da lui per andare da un parente nello Yorkshire, dove vive ancora, ed è una vecchia zitella rispettata come qualsiasi altra nella contea; l'altra è morta prima di ottenere il pagamento della sua dote, altrimenti si sarebbe sposata con un uomo che amava, e che amava lei. Ma lasciò ogni scellino della sua dote alla sorella nubile, e niente a mio padre.
È bene che mio fratello non stia ascoltando, ha detto Lady L*. Non avrebbe sopportato la centesima parte di ciò che abbiamo detto. Ma chi soffre si lamenta. Ricordati, però, Charlotte, che sono ancora in ginocchio.
Vedi, Lucy mia! Gli uomini dissoluti non sono buoni mariti, né buoni padri, e nemmeno buoni fratelli. Ma non c'è da stupirsi! Le creature dal cuore meschino concentrano tutto il loro piacere in se stesse. Scelgono con cura le donne che, prese al laccio da arie, giuramenti e dichiarazioni ingannevoli, diventano le indegne proprietà di tali miserabili! Eppure, dicono che un libertino pentito è il marito migliore... cosa che viene detta contro l'esperienza generale... ma da chi? Sicuramente solo dal volgare e dallo sconsiderato!
Miss Grandison ha proseguito.
Sir Tho. Non sposerai mai nessun altro uomo! E questo, sia chiaro, per convincermi che non sei pronta a innamorarti! Sciocche sottigliezze! Se non fossi stata pronta a innamorarti, non ti saresti messa in una situazione che ti ha dato il coraggio di dirmelo. Sciocca e sfacciata! Vattene!
Le si alzò.
No, non andare, tenendole entrambe le mani. E osi considerarti così? Quale opzione, te lo chiedo di nuovo, mi è rimasta? Eppure Lord L* e tu, come hai simulato poco fa, eravate decisi a portare avanti solo un corteggiamento vincolato alla condizione che io lo approvassi o meno! Sconvolgi il tuo sesso! È sempre stato, e sempre sarà, così. Tu vorresti il meglio, ma il dio cieco ti mette su una bestia con la sua andatura; tu cavalchi impettita, ti pavoneggi, finché non hai le vertigini, e poi galoppi su siepi e fossati, salti sulle staccionate, e il dovere, la decenza e la discrezione sono calpestati!
Povera Miss Caroline! Ho detto a entrambe, Lucy; mi aspettavo questa replica così crudele.
L'avevo previsto, ha risposto Lady L*. E questo mi ha impedito così a lungo di dichiarare la mia preferenza per Lord L* rispetto a qualsiasi altro uomo al mondo, così come, per rendere giustizia ai suoi meriti, il cuore mi ha più volte chiesto di fare senza esitazioni.
Allontanati dalla mia presenza, disse Sir Thomas, proseguì Miss Grandison, eppure le teneva ancora le mani. Questa piccola strega! Ho osservato i suoi occhi, e ogni muscolo del suo volto così impertinente [intendeva me, ha detto Miss Grandison]; partecipa a tutte le tue angosce; sei tanto angosciata, non è vero? Non sono forse un tiranno con entrambe? Volete andarvene, tutt'e due, per parlare liberamente di me. Allora tutto il risentimento, che ora cerchi di reprimere, esploderà; non avrò diritto a ricordarti il tuo dovere più di quanto sia compatibile con il tuo meschino interesse. Lord L* sarà consultato preferendolo a me, e godrà di tutta la fiducia delle mie figlie contro di me. Da questo momento in poi sarò considerato vostro nemico, e non vostro padre. Ma rinuncerò a entrambe e lascerò che venga vostro fratello, la gioia della mia vita e la speranza dei miei giorni migliori, e lui dovrà rinunciare a voi, come faccio io, oppure io rinuncerò a lui, e in questo caso sarò un padre senza nemmeno un figlio, nonostante i tre avuti dalla migliore delle donne. Lei avrebbe...
A quel punto, ha detto Miss Grandison, sono esplosa, con un'emozione che non sono riuscita a reprimere. Oh, mia cara mamma! Quanto ci manchi! Se fossi diventata un angelo quando eravamo bambine, avremmo sentito la tua mancanza come la sentiamo ora? O mia cara mamma! Questo, questo, è il momento in cui le ragazze hanno più bisogno di una madre!
Stavo per scappare via per questo. Tremavo per la severità degli sguardi di mio padre, dopo questo accenno a mia madre. Lui si alzò. Caroline, non agitarti, disse; ho ancora qualcosa da dirvi. Vieni, Charlotte! e tese entrambe le mani. Alla fine sei esplosa. Ho visto il tuo coraggio gonfiarsi in gola.
Mi sono gettata ai suoi piedi, supplicandolo di perdonarmi.
Ma prendendo entrambe le mie mani in una delle sue, mentre le tenevo piegate... maledicimi se lo faccio! ha detto. Volevo che tu fossi presente, nella speranza di metterti in guardia dalla follia e dall'incoerenza di tua sorella. Lord L* si è comportato da ladro in casa mia. Mi ha rubato l'affetto della mia figlia maggiore, e l'ha attirata fingendo di non volerla se io non avessi approvato i suoi approcci. Non li approvo. Spero di poter essere il giudice di me stesso in questo caso. Lei però dichiara che non avrà nessun altro. E ho dunque allevato i miei figli fino agli anni in cui dovrebbero essermi utili e di appoggio, ho continuato la vedovanza per amor loro [così mio padre si compiacque di dire, ha detto Miss Grandison], e tutto per un uomo che non approvo? E tu, Charlotte, chiami la tua beata madre dal suo eterno riposo per soccorrere te e tua sorella contro un padre tiranno? Quale conforto ho in prospettiva davanti a me, da tali figlie? Ma lasciatemi. Uscite da casa mia. Cercate fortuna dove volete. Prendete i vostri abiti, prendete tutto ciò che vi appartiene, ma niente che sia stato di vostra madre. Darò a entrambe un assegno sul mio banchiere per 500 sterline. Quando saranno finite, secondo quello che sentirò del vostro comportamento, avrete, o non avrete, di più.
Caro signore! disse Caroline, gettandosi in ginocchio accanto a me, perdonate mia sorella! Caro, buon signore! qualunque cosa accada a me, perdonate la vostra Charlotte!
Non temere per la tua sorte, Caroline. Ti getterai tra le braccia d i Lord L*, non ho alcun dubbio. Manderò a chiamare tuo fratello. Ma entrambe lascerete questa casa. La chiuderò nel momento in cui ve ne sarete andate. Non sarà mai più aperta finché vivrò. Quando le mie ceneri saranno mescolate a quelle di vostra madre, allora potrete tenere aperta la casa e calpestare le ceneri di tutt'e due.
Dissi singhiozzando, caro signore, perdonatemi! Non intendevo giudicare mio padre, quando ho evocato mia madre. L'ho evocata per voi, così come per noi. Avrebbe mediato... avrebbe mitigato...
Sir Tho. Il mio cuore duro... so cosa intendi, Charlotte!
E si allontanò da noi di qualche passo, camminando in collera, lasciandoci inginocchiate davanti alla sedia vuota.
Poi, con il campanello, una mano sulla porta, chiamò la governante. Lei è entrata. Era una donna molto buona. Tremava per le sue padrone inginocchiate.
Sir Th. Beckford, aiutate queste ragazze a radunare qualsiasi cosa sia loro. Fatemi un elenco di ciò che prendono. L'autorità del loro padre le affligge. Vogliono scrollarsela di dosso. Si sentono donne adulte. Vogliono dei mariti...
In realtà, in realtà, Beckford, non è così, disse Caroline, interrotta da mio padre.
Mi dai del bugiardo, sfacciata?
Vi prego vostro onore... siate benevolo vostro onore... implorò l'onesta Beckford; non ci sono mai state giovani donne più modeste. Sono note in tutta la contea per la loro modestia e bontà...
Donna, donna, non discutete con me. La modestia non dimentica mai il dovere. Caroline non ama suo padre. Lord L* mi ha rubato il suo affetto. Charlotte è dalla sua parte, e vedo che lo siete anche voi. Ma obbedite ai miei ordini in silenzio. Non resteranno una settimana in più in questa casa...
Beckford, mettendosi in ginocchio, ripeté, Siate benevolo vostro onore...
Ci alzammo entrambi e ci gettammo ai suoi piedi.
Perdonateci! Vi supplico, perdonateci! Per amore della mamma, perdonateci! – disse Caroline.
Per amore della mamma, per amore di nostro fratello, caro signore, perdonate le vostre figlie! gridai io, con un tono altrettanto mesto.
E tutte e due afferrammo le falde del suo cappotto aperto, entrambe in lacrime, con Beckford al nostro fianco.
Lui, impassibile, proseguì: vi voglio fare un piacere, ragazze. So che volete liberarvi della mia autorità. Siete donne adulte. L'uomo che ha delle figlie non ha problemi con loro, fino a quando dei tipi intriganti non le invitano a guardare fuori dalla casa del padre per quella felicità che non trovano quasi mai se non in essa.
Siamo vostre, papà mio, dissi io... Non siamo di nessun altro... Non esponete le vostre figlie alle censure del mondo. Finora la nostra reputazione è immacolata...
Caro signore, gridò Caroline, non gettateci nel mondo, nel vasto mondo! Caro signore, continuate a tenerci sotto la vostra protezione. Non vogliamo che lo faccia nessun altro.
Dovete provare a sperimentarlo ragazze, io non sono adatto a essere il vostro consigliere. Lord L* mi ha allontanato da una, l'altra invita la madre defunta a comparire, per proteggerla dalla crudeltà di un padre snaturato. E Lord L* ha l'insolenza di dirmi in faccia che sono un padre troppo giovane per assumermi la gestione di figlie adulte. E così la penso anch'io. Basta con i singhiozzi, Beckford; aiutate le vostre giovani donne a prepararsi per la partenza. Una settimana è il termine massimo che hanno per restare in questa casa. Voglio sbarrarne l'entrata, per non poter mai più varcarla.
Continuammo le nostre suppliche.
Oh, signore, disse Caroline, non mettete la vostra prole alla porta. Siamo figlie. Non abbiamo mai desiderato la protezione di un padre come adesso.
Che cosa abbiamo fatto, signore, gridò, per meritare di essere messe alla porta? Per ogni parola offensiva vi chiediamo perdono. In noi avrete sempre figlie rispettose. Permettetemi di scrivere a mio fratello...
Dunque così... così risolvi la questione! Vuoi coinvolgere tuo fratello a tuo favore... vuoi fare appello a lui, non è vero? e costringere un figlio a giudicare suo padre! Basta chiacchiere ragazze! Non supplicate! Preparatevi ad andarvene. Chiuderò questa casa...
Ovunque voi siate, signore, ho supplicato io, lasciateci restare, non rinunciate alle vostre figlie, alle vostre figlie pentite.
Lui andò avanti. Suppongo che Lord L* ti scoprirà presto, Caroline, poiché ha le tue stesse inclinazioni, così contrarie ai miei gusti. Quanto a te, Charlotte, puoi andare dalla tua vecchia zia Bigo nello Yorkshire: [chiama così la loro zia Eleanor, dalla parola bigotta. Eppure abbiamo visto, Lucy, come fu grazie a lui che questa signora non si sposò]. Lei sarà in grado di insegnarti che la pazienza è una virtù, e che non dovresti avere fretta di accettare una prima offerta, per paura di non averne una seconda.
Povera sorella Caroline! Lui la guardò con disprezzo.
Voi siete mio padre, signore, disse lei. Tutto da voi è benvenuto, ma non avrete motivo di rimproverarmi. Non avrò fretta. E qui in ginocchio, prometto che non sarò mai di Lord L*, senza il vostro consenso. Vi prego soltanto, signore, di non propormi nessun altro uomo.
Mio padre, in parte ha ceduto [in parte, Harriet]; Ti prendo in parola, e insisto sul fatto che non corrisponderai con lui, né lo vedrai. Non rispondere. E ancora una volta, risposta o no, voglio la tua obbedienza. Beckford, puoi andare. Alzati, Caroline.
E io sono perdonata, signore? Dissi io... caro signore, perdonate la vostra Charlotte [Eppure, Miss Byron, quale era stato il mio crimine?].
Fai l'uso migliore dell'esempio che hai davanti, Charlotte; non per imitare Caroline, impegnando i tuoi affetti senza mettermene a conoscenza. Ricordalo: lei soffre perché ha fatto soffrire me. È chiaro che sia così. Quando non devi seguire l'esempio, fai tesoro del monito.
Beckford si era ritirata. Egli salutò gentilmente le due ragazze, e con fare trionfale fece loro esprimere il proprio dolore per... sapete per che cosa Harriet?
Mi piacerebbe credere tra me e me, Lucy, che questi spiriti violenti, padri o mariti che siano, non fossero generalmente seguiti.
Ma lo spirito di Miss Grandison era stato sottomesso così facilmente? pensai.
Sorridete, Harriet. Per che cosa sorridete?
Mi perdonerete, se ve lo dico?
Non lo so.
Dipendo dalla vostra bontà. Sorridevo pensando, Lady L*, con quanta finezza Miss Grandison si è affrancata da allora.
Miss Gr. Oh, la furbetta! Non rammentate che ero davanti al vostro debitore?
Un bel colpo, protesto! ha detto Lady L*. Eppure Charlotte è sempre stata una ragazza impertinente, tranne che in presenza del padre. Ma aggiungerò una parola o due al racconto di mia sorella.
Mio padre ci tenne lì fino a quando non ebbe letto la lettera di Lord L*, che fino ad allora non aveva aperto, e chiaramente, come vidi, lo fece in quella occasione per trovare qualche nuovo difetto in lui e in me. Ma ne sono uscita meglio di quanto pensassi in quel momento, poiché non l'avevo vista. Eccone una copia.
Lady L* mi ha permesso, Lucy, di portarla con me, quando ci siamo separate per la notte.
Permettetemi, signore, con penna e inchiostro, piuttosto che di persona, come credo sia più accettabile per voi, di ringraziarvi, come faccio molto cordialmente, per il trattamento gentile e generoso che ho ricevuto da parte vostra, durante l'intero mese in cui sono stato a Grandison-hall, dove ero venuto con l'intenzione di restare solo tre giorni.
Temo di essere rimasto sorpreso anch'io da un inopportuno calore nell'esprimermi, quando mi sono congedato da voi l'ultima volta. Se è così, vi chiedo scusa. Avete tutti i diritti su vostra figlia. Dio non voglia che io tenti mai di invaderli! Ma che uomo felice sarei stato, se il mio amore per Miss Grandison e quei diritti avessero potuto coincidere! Nel vostro modo di vedere potrei aver dato l'impressione di aver agito male, rivolgendomi prima a Miss Grandison; vi prego, signore, di scusarmi anche per questo.
Ma forse ho un difetto ancora più grande da espiare. In effetti, non c'è bisogno che lo sappiate, ma preferisco che sia la mia ingenuità a darmi modo di chiedere il vostro perdono, piuttosto che volervi nascondere qualsiasi cosa in qualsiasi punto di così grande importanza, che me lo concediate o no. Ammetto quindi che l'ultima volta che mi sono allontanato dalla vostra presenza mentre eravate in collera, sono andato direttamente dalla signorina Grandison, e in ginocchio ho implorato la sua mano. Presumevo che un'unione con me non fosse disonorevole, e le assicurai che le mie proprietà sarebbero bastate senza doversi aspettare nulla da parte vostra, come sperò che sarà, in qualche anno, a seguito di una buona gestione, alla quale ero certo che lei avrebbe contribuito. Ma lei mi ha rifiutato e ha deciso di attendere il beneplacito di suo padre, pur dandomi, devo aggiungere per onestà, calorose speranze circa il suo favore, se fosse stato ottenuto il vostro consenso.
Sono questi i dettagli di questa faccenda così importante.
Non sposerò mai nessun'altra donna, mentre c'è la sia pur minima speranza che lei possa essere mia. La compagnia del migliore dei giovani, vostro figlio, per due mesi, in Italia, e uno in precedenza in alcune corti tedesche, ha fatto sorgere in me l'ambizione di seguire un tale esempio in ogni dovere della vita, e se potessi ottenere, con il vostro consenso, una moglie così cara, e un fratello così degno, così come una sorella così amabile come Miss Charlotte, l'uomo più felice del mondo sarebbe allora, signore, il vostro devoto e fedele servo,
Eppure mio padre, disse Lady L*, la definì una lettera ingannevole, e osservò che Lord L* era molto sicuro di me, oppure non si sarebbe offerto di farmi una proposta che non meritava di essere scusata. Stavi mirando alla prudenza, ragazza, nel tuo rifiuto, lo capisco, disse mio padre. Non avevi motivo di dubitare, ma Lord L* avrebbe poi gradito la tua rinuncia a un matrimonio clandestino, perché il rifiuto gli avrebbe dato l'opportunità di rendere le cose più convenienti per se stesso. Una metà della virtù di una donna è l'orgoglio, proseguì [spero proprio di no, disse Lady L*], l'altra metà, l'accortezza. Se fossero sicure che l'uomo non penserebbe male di loro per questo, non aspetterebbero una seconda domanda. Se avessi avuto un patrimonio indipendente, Caroline, cosa avresti fatto? Andiamo, sei una ragazza debole e tuttavia astuta. L'astuzia è la saggezza delle donne. La debolezza delle donne è la forza dell'uomo. Mi dispiace che le mie figlie non siano fatte di materiali meno fragili. Mi meraviglio che qualsiasi uomo che conosca il sesso debole, si sposi.
Così parlò quel padre libertino e dispotico, Lucy, cercando di giustificare i suoi vizi privati con riflessioni generali sul sesso debole. E così la malvagità e la dissolutezza sono chiamati conoscenza del mondo, conoscenza della natura umana. Swift, per aver spesso descritto un letamaio, e per la sua abominevole storia di Yahoo, ebbe i complimenti per questa conoscenza, ma spero che il carattere della natura umana, il carattere delle creature fatte a immagine della divinità, non sia preso dagli eccessi di tali immonde fantasie.
Quale compagnia, mia cara, si suppone che quegli uomini abbiano generalmente avuto? Siamo davvero autorizzate a desiderare (solo che il bene è spesso prodotto dal male, come è il caso in due di queste figlie, e di un tale figlio) che un uomo di questo stampo non abbia mai avuto l'onore di dare il suo nome a una Lady Grandison! Eppure i vizi di Sir Thomas sollecitavano, se non provocavano, le virtù di lei. Che dire?
—Ma l'uomo semicieco
Vede solo una parte della catena, l'anello più vicino;
I suoi occhi non arrivano a quella forte trave,
Che sorregge il tutto.
Ho pensato, Lucy mia, che la conversazione che ho tentato di descrivere, sia pure lunga, non ti sarebbe sembrata noiosa: esplorare un nuovo argomento, il comportamento di un padre gaudente verso le figlie adulte, quando arrivano ad avere aspettative su di lui, che egli non era disposto a soddisfare; ma anche perché può servire a rafforzare noi, che abbiamo avuto nella nostra famiglia nient'altro che uomini buoni (anche se abbiamo vicini con caratteri diversi, desiderosi di frequentarci), nell'intenzione di rifiutare gli approcci di uomini libertini per un motivo persino più forte anche del nostro bene. E quindi sono stata contenta dell'opportunità di descriverla per te, e per la nostra Nancy, ora la sua salute recuperata le permetterà di guardarsi intorno più di quanto non fosse abituata a fare negli ultimi tempi. Sono sicura che la nonna, e zia Selby, ne saranno contente, poiché sarà un buon complemento alle lezioni che ci hanno costantemente inculcato, contro quella razza di uomini meschini, che vivono solo per la gratificazione dei propri sregolati appetiti, e considerano tutto il resto del mondo come fatto per loro stessi, i rettili peggiori e più nocivi che vivono in esso.
(1) John Dryden e Nathaniel Lee, Oedipus: A Tragedy, Atto III.
Volume II - Letter 24
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
Thus far had the Ladies proceeded in their interesting story, when the Letters of my grandmamma and aunt were brought me by a man and horse from London. By my answer you will see how much I was affected by the contents. The Ladies saw my uneasiness, and were curious to know the cause. I told them from whence the Letters came, and what the subject was; and that my aunt was to give for me, next Saturday, an answer to Lady D. in person.
I then retired to write. When I had dispatched the messenger, the Ladies wished to know the resolution I had come to. I told them I had confirmed my negative.
Miss Grandison, with archness, held up her hands and eyes. I was vexed she did. Then, Charlotte, said I, spitefully, you would not have declined accepting this proposal.
She looked earnestly at me, and shook her head. Ah, Harriet, said she, you are an unaccountable girl! You will tell the truth; but not the whole truth.
I blushed, as I felt; and believe looked silly.
Ah, Harriet, repeated she; looking as if she would look me through.
Dear Miss Grandison! said I.
There is some Northamptonshire gentleman, of whom we have not yet heard.
I was a little easier then. But can this Lady mean any-thing particular? She cannot be so ungenerous, surely, as to play upon a poor girl, if she thought her entangled. All I am afraid of, is, that my temper will be utterly ruined. I am not so happy in myself, as I used to be. Don't you think, Lucy, that taking one thing with another, I am in a situation that is very teasing?—But let me find a better subject.
The Ladies, at my request, pursued their FAMILY-HISTORY.
Lord L. and Miss Caroline went on, hoping for a change in Sir Thomas's mind. He would, no doubt, they said have been overcome by the young Lady's duty, and my Lord L.'s generosity, had he not made it inconvenient to himself, to part with money.
He went to town, and carried his daughters with him; and, it is thought, would not have been sorry, had the Lovers married without his consent; for he prohibited anew, on their coming to town, my Lord's visits; so that they were obliged to their sister, as she pleasantly had told Lady L. for contriving to forward their interviews.
Mean time, my Lord's affairs growing urgent, by reason of his two sister's marrying, he gave way to the offers of a common friend of his and Lord W's, to engage that nobleman, who approved of the match, to talk to Sir Thomas on the subject.
Lord W. and the Baronet met. My Lord was earnest in the cause of the lovers. Sir Thomas was not pleased with his interfering in his family affairs. And indeed a more improper man could hardly have been applied to on the occasion: For Lord W. who is immensely rich, was always despised by Sir Thomas for his avarice; and he as much disliked Sir Thomas for what he called his profusion.
High words passed between them. They parted in passion; and Sir Thomas resenting Lord L's appeal to Lord W. the sisters were in a worse situation than before; for now, besides having incurred the indignation of their father, their uncle, who was always afraid that Sir Thomas's extravagance would reduce the children to the necessity of hoping for his assistance, made a pretence of their father's ill treatment of him, to disclaim all acts of kindness and relation to them.
What concern'd the sisters still more, was, my Lord's declared antipathy to their brother; and that for no other reason, but because his father (who, he was sure, he said, could neither love nor hate in a right place) doted on him.
In this sad situation were these Lovers, when overtures were made to Sir Thomas for his younger daughter: But tho' Miss Charlotte gave him no pretence to accuse her of beginning a Love-affair unknown to him; yet those overtures never came to her knowledge from him, tho' they did from others: And would you have wondered, Harriet, said she, with such treatment before my eyes as Caroline met with, if I had been provoked to take some rash step?
No provocation, reply'd I, from a father, can justify a rash step in a child. I am glad, and so, I dare say, are you, that your prudence was your safeguard, when you were deprived of that which so good a child might have expected from a father's indulgence, especially when a mother was not in being.
Miss Grandison coloured, and bit her lip. Why did she colour?
At last Sir Thomas took a resolution to look into and regulate his affairs, preparative to the leave he intended to give to his beloved son to come over. From his duty, discretion, and good management, he was sure, he said, he should be the happiest of men. But he was at a loss what to do with Mrs. Oldham and her two children. He doubted not, but his son had heard of his guilty commerce with her: Yet he cared not, that the young gentleman should find her living in a kind of wife-like state in one of the family-seats: And yet she had made too great a sacrifice to him, to be unhandsomely used; and he thought he ought to provide for his children by her.
While he was meditating this change of measures, that he might stand well with a son, whose character for virtue and prudence made his father half afraid of him, a proposal of marriage was made to him for his son by one of the first men in the kingdom, whose daughter, accompanying her brother and his wife, in a tour to France and Italy, saw and fell in Love with the young Gentleman at Florence: And her brother gave way to his sister's regard for him, for the sake of the character he bore among the people of prime consideration in Italy.
Sir Thomas had several meetings on this subject, both with the brother, and the Earl his father; and was so fond of bringing it to bear, that he had thoughts of reserving to himself an annuity, and making over the whole of his estate to his son, in favour of this match: And once he said, He should by this means do as Victor Amadeus of Savoy did, rid himself of many encumbrances; and being not a king, was sure of his son's duty to him.
The Ladies found a Letter of their brother's among Sir Thomas's loose papers, which showed that this offer had been actually made him. This is a copy of it.
Dear and ever-honoured Sir,
I am astonished at the contents of your last favour. If the proposal made in it, arose from the natural greatness of your mind, and an indulgence which I have so often experienced, what shall I say to it? I cannot bear it. If it proceed from proposals made to you, God forbid that I should give your name to a woman, how illustrious soever in her descent, and how high soever the circumstances of her family, whose friends could propose such conditions to my father.
I receive with inexpressible joy so near an hope of the long wished-for leave to throw myself at your feet in my native country. When I have this happiness granted me, I will unbosom my whole heart to my father. The credit of your name, and the knowledge every one has of your goodness to me, will be my recommendation whenever you shall wish me to enlarge the family connexions.
Till I have this honour, I beseech you, Sir, to discontinue the treaty already begun.
You are pleased to ask my opinion of the Lady, and whether I have any objection to her person. I remember, I thought her a very agreeable woman.
You mention, Sir, the high sense the Lady, as well as Lord and Lady N. have of the civilities they received from me. My long residence abroad gave me the power of doing little offices for those of my country, who visited France and Italy. Those services are too gratefully remember'd by my Lord and the Ladies.
I am extremely concern'd that you have reason to be displeased with any part of the conduct of my sisters. Can the daughters of such a mother as you had the happiness to give them, forget themselves? Their want of consideration shall receive no countenance from me. I shall let them know, that my Love, my esteem, if it be of consequence with them, is not founded on relation, but merit: And that, where duty to a parent is wanting, all other good qualities are to be suspected.
You ask my opinion of my Lord L. and whether he has sought to engage me to favour his address to your Caroline. He wrote to me on that subject: I inclose his Letter, and a copy of my answer. As to my opinion of him, I must say, that I have not met with any British man abroad, of whose discretion, sobriety, and good-nature, I think more highly than I do of Lord L.'s. Justice requires of me this testimony. But as to the affair between him and my sister, I shall be extremely sorry, if Lord L.'s first impropriety of behaviour were to you; and if my sister has suffer'd her heart to be engaged against her duty.
You have the goodness to say, that my return will be a strengthening of your hands: May my own be weaken'd; May I ever want the power to do good to myself, or to those I love, when I forget, or depart from, the duty owing to the most indulgent of fathers, by
His CHARLES GRANDISON.
What an excellent young man is this!—But observe, Lucy; he says he will on his return to England unbosom his whole heart to his father; and till then, he desires him to discontinue the begun treaty with Lord N.—Ah, my dear!—What has any new acquaintance to expect, were she to be entangled in a hopeless passion? But let us consider—Had Sir Charles been actually married, would his being so, have enabled a woman's reason to triumph over her passion?—If so, passion is surely conquerable: And did I know any-body that would allow it to be so in the one case, and not in the other, I would bid her take shame to herself, and, with deep humiliation, mourn her ungovernable folly.
The above Letter came not to the hands of the young Ladies till after their father's death, which happen'd within a month of his receiving it, and before he had actually given permission for the young gentleman's return. You may suppose they were excessively affected with the bad impressions their father had sought to make in their brother's heart, of their conduct; and when he died, were the more apprehensive of their force.
He had suspended the treaty of marriage for his son till the young gentleman should arrive. He had perplexed himself about his private affairs, which, by long neglect, became very intricate, and of consequence must be very irksome for such a man to look into. He was resolved therefore to leave it to each steward (having persuaded himself, against appearances, to have a good opinion of both) to examine the accounts of the other; not only as this would give the least trouble to himself, but as they had several items to charge, which he had no mind should be explained to his son. Nor were those gentlemen less solicitous to obtain discharges from him; for being apprised of his reason for looking into his affairs, they were afraid of the inspection of so good a manager as their young master was known to be.
Mr. Filmer, the steward for the Irish estate, came over, on this occasion, with his accounts: The two stewards acted in concert; and on the report of each, Sir Thomas examined totals only, and order'd releases to be drawn for his signing.
What a degrader even of high spirits, is vice! What meanness was there in Sir Thomas's pride! To be afraid of the eye of a son, of whose duty he was always boasting!
But who shall answer for the reformation of an habitual libertine, when a temptation offers? Observe what followed:
Mr. Filmer, knowing Sir Thomas's frailty, had brought over with him, and with a view to ensnare the unhappy man, a fine young creature, not more than sixteen, on pretence of visiting her aunt who lived in Pallmall, and who was a relation of his wife. She was innocent of actual crime: But her parents had no virtue, and had not made it a part of the young woman's education; but had, on the contrary, brought her up with a notion that her beauty would make her fortune; and she knew it was all the fortune they had to give her.
Mr. Filmer, in his attendances on Sir Thomas, was always praising the beauty of Miss Obrien; her genteel descent, as well as figure, her innocence [Innocence! the Attractive equally to the attempts of Rakes and Devils!] But the Baronet, intent upon pursuing his better schemes, for some time, only gave the artful man the hearing. At last, however (for curiosity-sake) he was prevailed upon to make the aunt a visit. The niece was not absent. She more than answered all that Filmer had said in her praise, as to the beauty of her person. Sir Thomas repeated his visits. The girl was well tutored; behaved with prudence, with reserve rather; and, in short, made such an impression on his heart, that he declared to Filmer that he could not live without her.
Advantage was endeavoured to be taken of his infatuation. He offered high terms: But for some time the aunt insisted upon his marrying her niece.
Sir Thomas had been too long a leader in the free world, to be so taken-in, as it is called. But at last, a proposal was made him, from no part of which, the aunt declared she would recede, tho' the poor girl, (who, it was pretended, loved him above all the men she had ever seen) were to break her heart for him. A fine piece of flattery, Lucy, to a man who numbered near three times her years; and who was still fond of making conquests.
The terms were: That he should settle upon the young woman 500 l. a year for her life; and on her father and mother, if they could be brought to consent to the (infamous) bargain, 200 l. a year for their joint and separate lives: That Miss Obrien should live at one of Sir Thomas's seats in England; be allowed genteel equipages, his livery; and even for her credit-sake, in the eye of her own relations, who were of figure, to be connived at in taking his name. The aunt left it to his generosity to reward her for the part she had taken, and was to take, to bring all this about with the parents and girl.
Sir Thomas thought these demands much too high: He stood out for some time; but artifice being used on all sides to draw him on, Love, as it is called (prostituted word!) obliged him to comply.
His whole concern was now, how to provide for this new expense, without robbing, as he called it, his son (daughters were but daughters, and no part of the question with him); and to find excuses for continuing the young gentleman abroad,
Mrs. Oldham had, for some time past, been uneasy herself, and made him so, by her compunction on their guilty commerce; and now lately, on Sir Thomas's communicating his intention to recall his son, had hinted her wishes to be allowed to quit the house in Essex, and to retire both from that and him; for fear of making the young gentleman as much her enemy, as the two sisters avowedly were.
Mrs. Oldham's proposal, now that he was acquainted with Miss Obrien, was better relished by Sir Thomas, than when it was first made. And before he actually signed and sealed with the aunt, for her niece, he thought it was best to sound that unhappy woman, whether she in earnest desired to retire; and if so, what were her expectations from him: Resolving, in order to provide for both expenses, to cut down timber, that, he said, groaned for the ax; but which hitherto he had let stand as a resource for his son, and to enable him to clear encumbrances that he had himself laid upon a part of his estate.
Accordingly, he set out for his seat in Essex.
There, while he was planning future schemes of living, and reckoning upon his savings in several articles, in order the better to support an expense so guiltily to be incurred; and had actually begun to treat with Mrs. Oldham; who agreed, at the first word, to retire; not knowing but his motive, (poor man!) as well as hers, was reformation. There was he attacked by a violent fever; which in three days deprived him of the use of that reason which he had so much abused.
Mr. Bever, his English steward, posted down, on the first news he had of his being taken ill, hoping to get him to sign the ready-drawn up releases. But the eagerness he showed to have this done, giving cause of suspicion to Mrs. Oldham, she would not let him see his master, tho' he arrived on the second day of Sir Thomas's illness, which was before the fever had seized his brain.
Mr. Filmer had been to meet, and conduct to London, Mrs. Obrien the mother of the girl, who came over to see the sale of the poor victim's honour completed [Could you have thought, Lucy, there was such a mother in the world?]; and it was not till the fifth day of the unhappy man's illness that he got to him, with his releases also ready drawn up, as well as the articles between him and the Obrians, in hopes to find him well enough to sign both. He was in a visible consternation when he found his master so ill. He would have stayed in the house to watch the event; but Mrs. Oldham not permitting him to do so, he put up at the next village, in hopes of a favourable turn of the distemper.
On the sixth day, the physicians giving no hopes of Sir Thomas's recovery, Mrs. Oldham sent to acquaint the two young Ladies with his danger; and they instantly set out to attend their father.
They could not be supposed to love Mrs. Oldham; and, taking Mr. Grandison's advice, who accompanied them, they let the unhappy gentlewoman know, that there was no farther occasion for her attendance on their father. She had prudently, before, that she might give the less offence to the two Ladies, removed her son by her former husband, and her two children by Sir Thomas; but insisted on continuing about him, and in the house, as well from motives of tenderness, as for her own security, lest she should be charged with embezzlements; for she expected not mercy from the family, if Sir Thomas died.
Poor woman! what a tenure was that by which she held!
Miss Caroline consented, and brought her sister to consent, that she should stay; absolutely against Mr. Grandison's advice; who, libertine as he was himself, was very zealous to punish a poor Magdalen, who, tho' faulty, was not so faulty as himself. Wicked people, I believe, my dear, are the severest punishers of those wicked people, who administer not to their own particular gratifications. Can mercy be expected from such? Mercy is a virtue.
It was shocking to the last degree to the worthy daughters to hear their raving father call upon nobody so often, as upon Miss Obrien; tho' they then knew nothing of the girl, nor of the treaty on foot for her; nor could Mrs. Oldham inform them, who or what she was. Sometimes, when the unhappy man was quietest, he would call upon his son, in words generally of kindness and Love. Once in particular, crying out—O save me! save me! my Grandison, by thy presence! I shall be consumed by the fire that is already lighted up in my boiling blood.
On the ninth day, no hope being left, and the physicians declaring him to be a dying man, they dispatched a Letter by a messenger to hasten over their brother, who (having left his ward, Miss Emily Jervois, at Florence in the protection of the worthy Dr. Bartlett) was come to Paris, as he had written, in expectation of receiving there his father's permission to return to England.
On the eleventh day of his illness, Sir Thomas came a little to himself. He knew his daughters. He wept over them. He wish'd he had been kinder to them. He was sensible of his danger. Several times he lifted up his feeble hands, and dying eyes, repeating, God is just. I am, I have been, very wicked! Repentance! Repentance! how hard a task! said he once to the minister who attended him, and whose prayers he desired.—And Mrs. Oldham once coming in his sight—O Mrs. Oldham! said he, what is this world now? What would I give—But repent, repent—Put your good resolutions in practice, lest I have more souls than my own to answer for.
Soon after this his delirium return'd; and he expired about eleven at night, in dreadful agonies. Unhappy man!—Join a tear with mine, my Lucy, on the awful exit of Sir Thomas Grandison, tho' we knew him not.
Poor man! in the pursuit—Poor man!—He lived not to see his beloved son!—
The two daughters, and Mr. Grandison, and Mrs. Oldham (for her own security) put their respective seals on every place, at that house, where papers, or any-thing of value were supposed to be deposited: And Mr. Grandison, assuming that part of the management; dismissed Mrs. Oldham from the house; and would not permit her to take with her more than one suit of cloths, besides those she had on. She wept bitterly, and complained of harsh treatment: But was not pitied; and was referred by Mr. Grandison to his absent cousin for still more rigorous justice.
She appealed to the ladies; but they reproach'd her with having lived a life of shame, against better knowledge; and said, That now she must take the consequence. Her punishment was but beginning. Their brother would do her strict justice, they doubted not: But a man of his virtue, they were sure, would abhor her. She had misled their father, they said. It was not in his temper to be cruel to his children. She had lived upon their fortunes; and now they had nothing but their brother's favour to depend upon.
Daughters so dutiful, my Lucy, did right to excuse their father all they could: But Mrs. Oldham suffer'd for all.
I am so much interested in this important history, that I have not the heart to break into it, to tell you how very agreeably I pass my time with these ladies, and Lord L. in those parts of the day, when we are all assembled. Miss Emily has a fine mind; gentle, delicate, innocently childish beyond her stature and womanly appearance; but not her years. The two Ladies are very good to her. Lord L. is an excellent man.
This is Friday morning: And no Sir Charles! Canterbury is surely a charming place. Was you ever at Canterbury, Lucy?
To-morrow, Lady D. is to visit my aunt. My letter to my aunt will be in time, I hope. I long to know—Yet why should I?—But Lady D. is so good a woman! I hope she will take kindly my denial, and look upon it as an absolute one.
I have a great deal more of the family-history to give you: I wish I could write as fast as we can talk. But, Lucy, concerning the Lady, with whose father Sir Thomas was in treaty for his son? Don't you want to know something more about her?—But, ah, my dear, be this as it may, there is a Lady, in whose favour both sisters interest themselves. I have found that out. Nor will it be long, I suppose, before I shall be informed who she is; and whether or not Sir Charles encourages the proposal.
Adieu, my Lucy! You will soon have another Letter from
Volume II - lettera 24
Volume II - Letter 25
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
You see, my dear, how many important matters depended on the conduct and determination of the young Baronet.
Lord I was at this time in Scotland, where he had seen married two of his three sisters; and was busying himself in putting his affairs in such a way, as should enable him to depend the less, either on the justice or generosity of Sir Thomas Grandison, whose beloved daughter he was impatient to call his.
Miss Charlotte was absolutely dependent upon her brother's generosity; and both sisters had reason to be the more uneasy, as it was now, in the worldly-wise way of thinking, become his interest to keep up the distance which their unhappy father had been solicitous to create between them, from a policy low, and entirely unworthy of him.
The unhappy Mrs. Oldham had already received a severe instance of the change of her fortune; and had no reason to doubt, but that the sisters, who had always, from the time she was set over them as their governess, look'd upon her with an evil eye; and afterwards had but too just a pretence for their aversion; would incense against her a brother, whose fortune had been lessen'd by his father's profusion. The few relations she had living, were people of honour, who renounced all correspondence with her, from the time she had thrown herself so absolutely into the power of Sir Thomas Grandison: And she had three sons to take care of.
Bever and Filmer, the English and Irish stewards, were attending Sir Charles's arrival with great impatience, in hopes he would sign those accounts of theirs; to which they had no reason to question but his father would have set his hand, had he not been taken so suddenly ill, and remained delirious almost to the end of his life.
Miss Obrien, her mother and aunt, I shall mention in another place.
Lord W. had a great dislike to his nephew, for no other reason, as I have said, than because he was his father's favourite. Yet were not his nieces likely to find their uncle more their friend for that. He was indeed almost entirely under the management of a woman, who had not either the birth, the education, the sense, or moderation of Mrs. Oldham, to put in the contrary scale against her lost virtue; but abounded, it seems, in a low selfish cunning, by which she never failed to carry every point she set her heart upon: For, as is usual, they say, with these keeping men, Lord W. would yield up, to avoid her teasing, what he would not have done to a wife of fortune and family, who might have been a credit to his own: But the real slave, imagined himself master of his liberty; and sat down satisfied with the sound of word.
The suspended treaty of marriage with Lord N.'s sister was also to be taken into consideration, either to be proceeded with, or broken off, as should be concluded by both parties.
This was the situation of affairs in the family, when Sir Charles arrived.
He return'd not an answer to his sister's notification of his father's danger; but immediately set out for Calais, and the same day arrived at the house of his late father in St. James's Square. His sisters concluded, that he would be in town nearly as soon as a Letter could come. They therefore every hour, for two days together, expected him.
Judge, my dear, from the foregoing circumstances (sisterly Love out of the question, which yet it could not be) how awful must be to them, after eight or nine years absence, the first appearance of a brother, on whom the whole of their fortunes depended; and to whom they had been accused by a father, now so lately departed, of want of duty; their brother's duty unquestionable!
In the same moment he alighted from his postchaise, the door was open'd; he enter'd; and his two sisters met him, in the hall.
The graceful youth of seventeen, with fine curling auburn locks waving upon his shoulders; delicate in complexion; intelligence sparkling in his fine free eyes; and good humour sweetening his lively features; they remembered: And, forgetting the womanly beauties into which their own features were ripen'd in the same space of time, they seemed not to expect that manly stature and air, and that equal vivacity and intrepidity, which every one who sees this brother, admires in his noble aspect: An aspect then appearing more solemn than usual; an unburied and beloved father in his thoughts.
O my brother! said Caroline, with open arms: But, shrinking from his embrace; May I say, my brother?—and was just fainting. He clasped her in his arms, to support her—Charlotte, surprised at her sister's emotion, and affected with his presence, ran back into the room they had both quitted, and threw herself upon a settee.
Her brother followed her into the room, his arm round Miss Caroline's waist, soothing her; and, with eyes of expectation, my Charlotte! said he, his inviting hand held out, and hastening towards the settee. She then found her feet; and, throwing her arms about his neck, he folded both sisters to his bosom: Receive, my dearest sisters, receive your brother, your friend; assure yourselves of my unabated Love.
That assurance, they said, was balm to their hearts; and when each was seated, he, sitting over against them, look'd first on one, then on the other; and taking each by the hand; Charming women! said he: How I admire my sisters! You must have minds answerable to your persons. What pleasure, what pride, shall I take in my sisters!
My dear Charlotte! said Miss Caroline, taking her sister's other hand, has not our brother, now we see him near, all the brother in his aspect? His goodness only looks stronger, and more perfect: What was I afraid of?
My heart also sunk, said Charlotte; I know not why. But we feared—Indeed, Sir, we both feared—O my brother!—Tears trickling down the cheeks of each—we meant not to be undutiful—
Love your brother, my sisters, as he will endeavour to deserve your Love. My mother's daughters could not be undutiful! Mistake only! Unhappy misapprehension! We have all something—Shades as well as lights there must be!—A kind, a dutiful veil—
He pressed the hand of each with his lips, arose, went to the window, and drew out his handkerchief.
What must he have in his thoughts! No doubt, but his father's unhappy turn, and recent departure! No wonder, that such a son could not, without pious emotion, bear the reflexions that must crowd into his mind, at that instant!
Then, turning towards them, permit me, my dear sisters, said he, to retire for a few moments. He turn'd his face from them. My father, said he, demands this tribute. I will not ask your excuse, my sisters.
They joined in the payment of it; and waited on him to his apartment, with silent respect. No ceremony, I hope, my Caroline, my Charlotte. We were true sisters and brother a few years ago. See your Charles as you saw him then. Let not absence which has increased my Love, lessen yours.
Each sister took a hand, and would have kissed it. He clasped his arms about them both, and saluted them.
He cast his eye on his father's and mother's pictures with some emotion, then on them; and again saluted each.
They withdrew. He waited on them to the stairhead. Sweet obligingness! Amiable sisters! In a quarter of an hour I seek your presence.
Tears of joy trickled down their cheeks. In half an hour he joined them in another dress, and re-saluted his sisters, with an air of tenderness, that banished fear, and left room for nothing but sisterly love.
Mr. Grandison came in soon after. That gentleman: who (as I believe I once before mentioned), had affected, in support of his own free way of life, to talk how he would laugh at his cousin Charles, when he came to England, on his pious turn, as he called it; and even to boast, that he would enter him into the town-diversions, and make a man of him; was struck with the dignity of his person, and yet charmed with the freedom of his behaviour. Good God! said he to the Ladies afterwards, what a fine young man is your brother!—What a self-denier was your father!—
The Ladies retiring, Mr. Grandison enter'd upon the circumstances of Sir Thomas's illness and death; which, he told the sisters, he touch'd tenderly: As tenderly, I suppose, as a man of his unfeeling heart could touch such a subject. He inveighed against Mrs. Oldham; and with some exultation over her, told his cousin what they had done as to her; and exclaim'd against her for the state she had lived in; and the difficulty she made to resign Sir Thomas to his daughters care in his illness; and particularly for presuming to insist upon putting her seal with theirs to the cabinets and closets, where they supposed were any valuables.
Sir Charles heard all this without saying one word, either of approbation or otherwise.
Are you not pleased with what we have done, as to this vile woman, Sir Charles?
I have no doubt, cousin, replied Sir Charles, that every thing was design'd for the best.
And then Mr. Grandison, as he told the sisters, ridiculed the unhappy woman on her grief, and mortified behaviour, when she was obliged to quit the house, where, he said, she had reigned so long Lady Paramount.
Sir Charles ask'd, If they had search'd for or found a will?
Mr. Grandison said. They had look'd in every probable place; but found none.
What I think to do, cousin, said Sir Charles, is, to inter the venerable remains (I must always speak in this dialect, Sir) with those of my mother. This I know, was his desire. I will have an elegant, but not sumptuous monument erected to the memory of both, with a modest inscription, that shall rather be matter of instruction to the living, than a panegyric on the departed. The funeral shall be decent, but not ostentatious. The difference in the expense shall be privately applied to relieve or assist distressed housekeepers, or some of my fathers poor tenants, who have large families, and have not been wanting in their honest endeavours to maintain them. My sisters, I hope, will not think themselves neglected, if I spare them the pain of conferring with them on a subject that must afflict them.
These sentiments were new to Mr. Grandison. He told the sisters what Sir Charles had said. I did not contradict him, said he: But as Sir Thomas had so magnificent a mind, and always lived up to it, I should have thought he ought to have been honoured with a magnificent funeral. But I cannot but own, however, that what your brother said, had something great and noble in it.
The two Ladies, on their brother's hinting his intentions to them, acquiesced with all he proposed; and all was performed according to directions which he himself wrote down. He allowed of his sisters compliance with the fashion: But he in person saw performed, with equal piety and decorum, the last offices.
Sir Charles is noted for his great dexterity in business. Were I to express myself in the language of Miss Grandison, I should say, that a sun-beam is not more penetrating. He goes to the bottom of an affair at once, and wants but to hear both sides of a question to determine; and when he determines, his execution can only be staid by perverse accidents, that lie out of the reach of human foresight: And when he finds that to be the case, yet the thing right to be done, he changes his methods of proceeding; as a man would do, who finding himself unable to pursue his journey by one road, because of a sudden inundation, takes another, which, tho'a little about, carries him home in safety.
As soon as the solemnity was over, Sir Charles, leaving every thing at Grandisor-hall as he found it, and the seals unbroken, came to town, and, in the presence of his sisters, broke the seals that had been affixed to the cabinets and escrutoires in the house there.
The Ladies told him, that their bills were ready for his inspection; and that they had a balance in their hands. His answer was, I hope my dear sisters, we shall have but one interest. It is for you to make the demands upon me, and for me to answer them as I shall be able.
He made memorandums of the contents of many papers, with surprising expedition; and then locked them up. He found a bank note of 350l. in the private drawer of one of the bureaus in the apartment that was his father's. Be pleased, my sisters, said he, presenting it to Miss Caroline, to add that to the money in your hands, to answer family calls.
He then went with his sisters to the house in Essex. When there, he told them, it was necessary for Mrs. Oldham (who had lodgings at a neighbouring farmhouse) to be present at the breaking of the seals, as she had hers affixed; and accordingly sent for her.
They desired to be excused seeing her.
It will be a concern to me, said he, to see her: But what ought to be done, must be done.
The poor woman came with fear and trembling.
You will not Lucy, be displeased with an account of what passed on the occasion. I was very attentive to it, as given by Miss Grandison, whose memory was aided by the recollection of her sister. And, as I am used to aim at giving affecting scenes in the very words of the persons, as near as I can, to make them appear lively and natural, you will expect, that I should attempt to do so in this case.
Sir Charles, not expecting Mrs. Oldham would be there so soon, was in his stud with his groom and coachman, looking upon his horses: For there were most of the hunters and racers, some of the finest beasts in the kingdom.
By mistake of Miss Caroline's maid, the poor woman was shown into the room where the two Ladies were. She was in great confusion; curtsied; wept; and stood, as well as she could stand; but leaned against the tapestry-hung wall.
How came this? said Miss Caroline to her maid. She was not to be shown in to us.
I beg pardon; curtsying, and was for withdrawing; but stopped on Charlotte's speech to her—My brother sent for you madam—Not we, I assure you—He says it is necessary, as you thought fit to put your seal with ours to the locked-up places, that you should be present at the breaking them. Yet he will see you with as much pain as you give us. Prepare yourself to see him. You seem mighty unfit—No wonder!
You have heard Lucy, that Charlotte attributes a great deal of alteration for the better in her temper, and even in her heart, to the example of her brother.
Indeed, I am unfit, very unfit, said the poor woman. Let me, Ladies, bespeak your generosity: A little of your pity: A little of your countenance. I am, indeed, an unhappy woman!
And so you deserve to be.
I am sure we are the sufferers, said Caroline.
Lord L. as she owned, was then in her head, as well as heart.
If I may withdraw without seeing Sir Charles I should take it for a favour. I find I cannot bear to see him. I insist not upon being present at the breaking the seals. I throw myself upon your mercy, Ladies, and upon his.
Cruel girls! shall I call them, Lucy? I think I will—Cruel girls! They ask'd her not to sit down, tho' they saw the terror she was in: And that she had the modesty to forbear sitting in their presence.
What an humbling thing is the consciousness of having lived faultily, when calamity seizes upon the heart!—But shall not virtue be appeased, when the hand of God is acknowledged in the words, countenance, and behaviour, of the offender? Yet, perhaps, it is hard for sufferers—Let me consider—Have I, from my heart, forgiven Sir Hargrave Polvexfen? I will examine into that another time.
And so you have put yourself into mourning, madam?
Shall I say, that Caroline said this, and what follows? Yet I am glad it was not Charlotte, methinks; for Caroline thought herself a sufferer by her, in an especial manner—However, I am sorry it was either.
Pretty deep too! Your weeds, I suppose, are at your lodgings—
You have been told, Lucy, that Mrs. Oldham by many was called Lady Grandison; and that her birth, her education, good sense, tho' all was not sufficient to support her virtue against necessity and temptation (poor woman!) might have given her a claim to the title.
Indeed, Ladies, I am a real mourner: But I never myself assumed a character, to which it was never in my thought to solicit a right.
Then, madam, the world does you injustice, madam, said Charlotte.
Here, Ladies are the keys of the stores; of the confectionary; of the wine-vaults: You demanded them not, when you dismissed me from this house. I thought to send them: But by the time I could provide myself with a lodging, you were gone; and left only two common servants, besides the groom and helpers: And I thought it was best to keep the keys, till I could deliver them to your order, or Sir Charles's. I have not been a bad manager, Ladies, consider'd as an housekeeper. All I have in the world is under the seals. I am at yours and your brother's mercy.
The sisters order'd their woman to take the keys, and bring them to the foot of their thrones. Dear Ladies, forgive me, if you should, by surprise, see this. I know that you think and act in a different manner now.
Here comes my brother! said Caroline.
You'll soon know, Madam, what you have to trust to from him, said Charlotte. The poor woman trembled, and turned pale. O how her heart must throb, I warrant!
Volume II - lettera 25
Volume II - Letter 26
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
Sir Charles enter'd. She was near the door. His sisters were at the other end of the room.
He bowed to her—Mrs. Oldham, I presume, said he—Pray, Madam, be seated. I sent to you, that you might see the seals—Pray, Madam, sit down.
He took her hand, and led her to a chair not far distant from them; and sat down in one between them and her.
His sisters owned, they were startled at his complaisance to her. Dear Ladies! they forgot, at that moment, that mercy and justice are sister-graces, and cannot be separated in a virtuous bosom.
Pray, madam, compose your self; looking upon her with eyes of anguish and pity mingled, as the Ladies said, they afterwards recollected with more approbation than at the time. What, my Lucy, must be the reflexions of this humane man, respecting his father, and her, at that moment!
He turn'd to his sisters, as if to give Mrs. Oldham time to recover herself. A flood of tears relieved her. She tried to suppress her audible sobs, and, most considerately, he would not hear them. Her emotions attracting the eyes of the Ladies, he took them off, by asking them something about a picture that hung on the other side of the room.
He then drew his chair nearer to her, and again taking her trembling hand—I am not a stranger to your melancholy story, Mrs. Oldham—Be not discomposed—
He stopped to give her a few moments time to recover herself—Resuming; See in me a friend, ready to thank you for all your past good offices, and to forget all mistaken ones.
She could not bear this. She threw herself at his feet. He raised her to her chair.
Poor Mr. Oldham, said he, was unhappily careless! Yet I have been told he loved you, and that you merited his Love—Your misfortunes threw you into the knowledge of our family. You have been a faithful manager of the affairs of this house—By written evidences I can justify you; evidences that no one here will, I am sure, dispute.
It was plain, that his father had written in her praise, as an economist; the only light in which this pious son was then willing to consider her.
Indeed, I have—And I would still have been—
No more of that, madam. Mr. Grandison, who is a good-natured man, but a little hasty, has told me that he treated you with unkindness. He owns you were patient under it. Patience never yet was a solitary virtue. He thought you wrong for insisting to put your seal: But he was mistaken. You did right, as to the thing; and I dare say, a woman of your prudence did not wrong in the manner. No one can judge of another, that cannot be that very other in imagination, when he takes the judgment-seat.
O my brother! O my brother!—said both Ladies at one time—half in admiration, tho' half-concern'd, at a goodness so eclipsing.
Bear with me my sisters. We have all something to be forgiven for.
They knew not how far they were concern'd, in his opinion, in the admonition, from what their father had written of them. They owned, that they were mortified: Yet knew not how to be angry with a brother, who, tho' more than an equal sufferer with them, could preserve his charity.
He then made a motion, dinner-time, as he said, not being near, for chocolate; and referred to Mrs. Oldham to direct it, as knowing best where everything was. She referred to the deliver'd-up keys. Caroline called in her servant, and gave them to her. Sir Charles desired Mrs. Oldham to be so good as to direct the maid.
The Ladies easily saw, that he intended by this, to relieve the poor woman by some little employment; and to take the opportunity of her absence, to endeavour to reconcile them to his intentions, as well as manner of behaving to her.
The moment she was gone out of the room, he thus addressed himself to the Ladies:
My dear sisters, let me beg of you to think favourably of me on this occasion. I would not disoblige you for the world. I consider not the case of this poor woman, on the foot of her own merits, with regard to us. Our father's memory, is concern'd. Was he accountable to us, was she, for what each did?—Neither of them was. She is entitled to justice, for its own sake: To generosity for ours: To kindness, for my father's. Mr. Grandison accused her of living in too much state, as he called it. Can that be said to be her fault? With regard to us, was it any-body's? My father's magnificent spirit is well known. He was often at this house. Wherever he was, he lived in the same taste. He praises to me Mrs. Oldham's economy in several of his Letters. He had a right to do what he would with his own fortune. It was not ours till now. Whatever he has left us, he might have still lessen'd it. That economy is all that concerns us in interest; and that is in her favour. If any act of kindness to my sisters was wanting from the parent, they will rejoice, that they deserved what they hoped to meet with from him: And where the parent had an option, they will be glad, that they acquiesced under it. He could have given Mrs. Oldham a title to a name that would have commanded our respect, if not our reverence. My sisters have enlarged minds: They are daughters of the most charitable, the most forgiving, of women. Mr. Grandison (it could not be you) has carried too severe an hand towards her. Yet he meant service to us all. I was willing, before I commended this poor woman to your mercy (since it was necessary to see her) to judge of her behaviour. Is she not humbled enough? From my soul I pity her. She loved my father; and I have no doubt but mourns for him in secret; yet dares not own, dares not plead, her love. I am willing to consider her only as one who has executed a principal office in this house: It becomes us so to behave to her, as that the world should think, we consider her in that light only. As to the living proofs (unhappy innocents!) I am concern'd, that what are the delight of other parents, are the disgrace of this. But let us not, by resentments, publish faults that could not be hers only—Need I say more?—It would pain me to be obliged to it. With pain have I said thus much—The circumstances of the case are such, that I cannot give it its full force. I ask it of you as a favour, not as a right (I should hate myself, were I capable of exerting to the utmost any power that may be devolved upon me) that you will be so good as to leave the conduct of this affair to me. You will greatly oblige me, if you can give me your cheerful acquiescence.
They answer'd by tears. They could not speak.
By this time Mrs. Oldham returned; and, in an humble manner, offer'd chocolate to each young lady. They bent their necks, not their bodies, with cold civility, as they owned; each extending her stately hand, as if she knew not whether she should put it out or not.
Methinks I see them. How could such gracious girls be so ungracious, after what Sir Charles had said?
Their brother, they saw, seemed displeased. He took the salver from Mrs. Oldham. Pray, madam, sit down, said he, offering her a dish, which she declined, and held the toasted bread to his sisters; who then were ready enough to take each some—And when they had drank their chocolate; Now, Mrs. Oldham, said he, I will attend you—Sisters, you will give me your company.
They arose to follow him. The poor woman curtsied, I warrant, and stood by while they passed: And methinks I see the dear girls bridle, and walk as stately and as upright, as duchesses may be supposed to do in a coronation-procession.
Miss Grandison acknowledged, that she grudged her brother's extraordinary complaisance to Mrs. Oldham; and said to her sister, as arm in arm they went out, Politeness is a charming thing, Caroline!
I don't quite understand it, replied the other.
They did not intend their brother should hear what they said: But he did; and turned back to them (Mrs. Oldham being at a distance, and on his speaking low, dropping still further behind them): Don't you, my sisters, do too little, and I will not do too much. She is a gentlewoman. She is unhappy from within. Thank God, you are not. And she is not now, nor ever was, your servant.
They reddened, and looked upon each other in some confusion.
He pressed each of their hands, as in Love. Don't let me give you concern, said he; only permit me to remind you, while it is yet in time, that you have an opportunity given you to show yourselves Grandisons.
When they came to the chamber in which Sir Thomas died, and which was his usual apartment, Mrs. Oldham turned pale, and begged to be excused attending them in it. She wept. You will find everything there, Sir, said she, to be as it ought. I am ready to answer all questions. Permit me to wait in the adjoining drawing-room.
Sir Charles allow'd her request.
Poor woman! said he: How unhappily circumstanced is she, that she dares not, in this company, show the tenderness, which is the glory, not only of the female, but of the human nature!
In one of the cabinets in that chamber they found a beautiful little casket, and a paper wafer'd upon the back of it; with these words written in Sir Thomas's hand, My wife's jewels, &c.
The key was tied to one of the silver handles.
Had you not my mother's jewels divided between you? ask'd he.
My father once show'd us this casket at Grandison-hall, answer'd Caroline. We thought it was still there.
My dear sisters, let me ask you: Did my father forbear presenting these to you, from any declared misapprehension of your want of duty to him?
No, replied Miss Caroline. But he told us, they should be ours when we married. You have heard, I dare say, that he was not fond of seeing us dressed.
It must have been misapprehension only, had it been so. You could not be undutiful to a father.
He would not permit it to be open'd before him: But, presenting it to them, Receive your right, my sisters. It is heavy. I hope there is more than jewels in it. I know that my mother used to deposit in it her little hoard. I am sure there can be no dispute between such affectionate sisters, on the partition of the contents of this casket.
While their brother was taking minutes of papers, &c. the ladies retired to open the casket.
They found three purses in it; in one of which was an India bond of 500 l. inclosed in a paper, thus inscribed by Lady Grandison—From my maiden money. 120 Caroluses were also in this purse in two papers; the one inscribed, From my aunt Molly; the other, From my aunt Kitty.
In the second purse were 115 Jacobuses in a paper, thus inscribed by the same Lady, Presents made at different times by my honoured mamma, Lady W. three bank notes and an India bond, to the amount of 300 l.
The third purse was thus labelled, as Lady L. showed me by a copy she had of it in her memorandum book.
"For my beloved son: In acknowledgement of his duty to his father and me from infancy to this hour Jan. 1. 17—Of his love to his sisters—Of the generosity of his temper; never once having taken advantage of the indulgence shown him by parents so fond of him, that, as the only son of an ancient family, he might have done what he pleased with them—Of his love of truth: And of his modesty, courage, benevolence, steadiness of mind, docility, and other great and amiable qualities, by which he gives a moral assurance of making A GOOD MAN.—GOD grant it. Amen!"
The Ladies immediately carried this purse, thus labelled, to their brother. He took it; read the label, turning his face from his sisters, as he read;—Excellent woman! said he, when he had read it, Being dead, she speaks. May her pious prayer be answer'd! looking up. Then opening the purse, he found five coronation-medals of different princes in it, and several others of value; a gold snuff-box, in which, wrapped in cotton, were three diamond rings; one signified to be his grandfather's; the two others, an uncle's and brother's of Lady Grandison: But what was more valuable to him than all the rest, the Ladies said, was a miniature picture of his mother, set in gold; an admirable likeness, they told me; and they would get their brother to let me see it.
Neglecting all the rest, he eagerly took it out of the shagreen case; gazed at it in silence; kissed it; a tear falling from his eye. He then put it to his heart: Withdrew for a few moments; and return'd with a cheerful aspect.
The Ladies told him what was in the other two purses. They said they made no scruple of accepting the jewels; but the bonds, the notes, and the money they offer'd to him.
He ask'd, If there were no particular direction upon either? They answer'd, No.
He took them; and emptying them upon the table, mingled the contents of both together: There may be a difference in the value of each: Thus mingled, you, my sisters, will equally divide them between you. This picture (putting his hand on his bosom, where it yet was,) is of infinite more value than all the three purses contained besides.
You will excuse these particularities, my dear friends. But if you do not, I can't help it. We are all apt, I believe, to pursue the subjects that most delight us. Don't grudge me my pleasure: Perhaps I shall pay for it. I admire this man more than I can express.
Saturday Night—And no Sir Charles Grandison. With all my heart!
Volume II - lettera 26
Volume II - Letter 27
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
A very handsome apartment upon my word!
How could Miss Grandison—She knew the situation the unhappy woman had been in: Mistress of that house.
Her brother look'd at her.
Mrs. Oldham showed them which of the furniture and pictures (some of the latter valuable ones) she had brought into the house, saved, as she said, from the wreck of her husband's fortune—But, said she, with the consent of creditors. I, for my part, did not wrong any-body.
In that closet, Sir, continued she, pointing to it, is all that I account myself worth in the world. Mr. Grandison was pleased to put his seal upon the door. I besought him to let me take 50l. out of it; having but very little money about me: But he would not: His refusal, besides the disgrace, has put me to some shifts. But, weeping, I throw myself upon your mercy, Sir.
The sisters frankly owned, that they harden'd each other by fault-finding. They whisper'd, that she expected no mercy from them, it was plain. O what a glory belongs to goodness, as well in its influences, as in itself! Not even these two amiable sisters, as Miss Charlotte once acknowledged, were so noble in themselves before their brother's arrival, as they are now.
Assure yourself of justice, madam, said Sir Charles. Mr. Grandison is hasty: But he would have done you justice, I dare say. He thought he was acting for a trust.—You may have letters, you may have things, here in this closet, that we have no business with—Then, breaking the seal; I leave it to you, to show us any-thing proper for us to take account of. The rest I wish not to see.
My Ladies, Sir—They will be pleased to—
YES, Mrs. Oldham, said Caroline: And was putting herself before her brother, and so was her sister, while Sir Charles was withdrawing from the closet: But he took each by her hand, interrupting Caroline—
NO, Mrs. Oldham—Do you lay out things as you please: We will step into the next apartment.
He accordingly led them both out.
You are very generous, Sir, said Miss Grandison.
I would be so, Charlotte. Ought not the private drawers of women to be sacred?
But such a creature, Sir—said Miss Caroline—
Every creature is entitled to justice—Can Ladies forget decorum? You see she was surprised by Mr. Grandison. She has suffer'd disgrace: Has been put to shifts.
Well, Sir, if she will do justice—
Remember (with looks of meaning) whose housekeeper she was.
They owned they were daunted [And so, dear Ladies, you ought to have been] but not convinced at that instant. It is generous to own this; because the acknowledgment makes not for your glory, Ladies.
Mrs. Oldham, with tears in her eyes, came curtsying to the Ladies and their brother, offering to conduct them into her closet. They found, that she had spread on her table in it, and in the two windows, and in the chairs, letters, papers, laces, fine linen, &c.
These papers, Sir, said she, belong to you. I was bid to keep them safe [Poor woman! she knew not how to say, by whom bid.] You will see, Sir, the seals are whole.
Perhaps a will; said he.
No, Sir, I believe not. I was told they belonged to the Irish estate. Alas! and she wiped her eyes, I have reason to think, there was not time for a will—
I suppose, Mrs. Oldham, you urged for a will—said Miss Charlotte.
Indeed, Ladies, I often did; I own it.
I don't doubt it, said Miss Caroline.
And very prudently, said Sir Charles. I myself have always had a will by me. I should think it a kind of presumption to be a week without one.
In this drawer, Sir, are the money and notes, and securities, that I have been getting together. I do assure you, Sir, very honestly—pulling out a drawer in the cabinet.
To what amount, Mrs. Oldham, if I may be so bold? ask'd Caroline.
No matter, sister Caroline, to what amount, said Sir Charles. You hear Mrs. Oldham say, they are honestly got together. I dare say, that my father's bounty enabled even his meanest servants to save money. I would not keep one, that I thought did not. I make no comparisons, Mrs. Oldham: You are a gentlewoman.
The two Ladies only whisper'd to each other, as they owned, So we think!—Were there ever such perverse girls? I am afraid my uncle will think himself justified by them on this occasion, when he asserts, that it is one of the most difficult things in the world to put a woman right, when she sets out wrong. If it be generally so with us, I am sure we ought to be very careful of prepossession.—And has he not said, Lucy, that the best women, when wrong, are most tenacious? It may be so: But then I hope, he will allow, that at the time they think themselves right.
I believe there is near 1200 l. said Mrs. Oldham, and look'd, the Ladies observed, as if she was afraid of their censures.
Near 1200 l. Mrs. Oldham! said Miss Charlotte.
—Lord, sister, how glad would we have been sometimes of as many shillings between us!
And what, Caroline, what Charlotte, young Ladies as you were, but growing up into women, and in your father's house, would you have done with more than current money? Now you have a claim to independency, I hope that 1200 l. will not be the sum of either of your stores.
They curtsied, they said; but yet thought 1200 l. a great saving—Dear Ladies! how could you forget, and what a pain would it have been for your brother to have reminded you, that Mrs. Oldham had two children; to say nothing of a third!
Trembling, as they owned, Here, said she, in this private drawer, are some presents—I disclaim them. If you believe me, Ladies, I never wish'd for them. I never was seen in them but once. I never shall wear them—offering to pull out the drawer.
Forbear, Mrs. Oldham. Presents are yours. The money in that drawer is yours. Never will I either disparage or diminish my father's bounty. He had a right to do as he pleased. Have not we to do as we please? Had he made a will, would they not have been yours?—If you, Mrs. Oldham, if you, my sisters, can tell me of any-thing he but intended or inclined to do by any one of his people, that intention will I execute with as much exactness, as if he had made a will, and it was part of it. Shall we do nothing but legal justice?—The law was not made for a man of conscience.
Lord bless me, my Lucy! what shall I do about this man?
Here (would you believe it?) I laid down my pen; ponder'd, and wept, for joy; I think, it was joy, that there is such a young man in the world; for what else could it be?—And now, with a watery eye, twinkle, twinkle, do I resume it.
His sisters owned, they were confounded; but that still the time was to come when they were to approve, from their hearts, of what he said and did.
Mrs. Oldham wept at his goodness. She wept, I make no doubt also, as a penitent.—If my Ladies, said she, will be pleased to—And seemed to be about making an offer to them—of the jewels, as I suppose.
My sisters, Mrs. Oldham, said Sir Charles, interrupting her are Grandisons. Pray, madam—holding in her hand, which was extended to the drawer—
She took out of another drawer 40 l. and some silver. This, Sir, is money that belongs to you. I received it in Sir Thomas's illness. I have some other moneys; and my accounts wanted but a few hours of being perfected, when I was dismissed. They shall be completed, and laid before you.
Let this money, Mrs. Oldham, be a part of those accounts; declining, then, to take it.
There are Letters, Sir, said she. I would withhold nothing from you. I know not, if, among some things, that I wish not any-body to see, there are not concerns, that you ought to be made acquainted with relating to persons and things, particularly to Mr. Bever and Mr. Filmer, and their accounts. I hope they are good men.—You must see these Letters, I believe.
Let me desire you, Mrs. Oldham, to make such extracts from those Letters, or any others, as you think will concern me; and as soon as you can: For those gentlemen have written to me to sign their accounts, which, they hint, had my father's approbation.
She then told Sir Charles (as I have already related) how earnest Mr. Bever was to get to the speech of Sir Thomas; and how mortified Mr. Filmer was to find him incapable of writing his name; which both said was all that was wanted.
An honest man, said Sir Charles, fears not inspection. They shall want no favour from me. I hope nothing but justice from them.
She then showed him some other papers; and while he was turning them over, the Ladies and she withdrew to another apartment, in which, in two mahogany chests, was her wardrobe. They owned they were curious to inspect it, as she had always made a great figure. She was intending to oblige them; and had actually open'd one of the chests, and, tho' reluctantly, taken out a gown, when Sir Charles enter'd.
He seemed displeased; and, taking his sisters aside, Tell me, said he, can what this poor woman seems to be about, proceed from her own motion? I beg of you to say, you put her upon it. I would not have reason to imagine, that any woman, in such circumstances, could make a display of her apparel.
Why, the motion is partly mine, I must needs say, answer'd Charlotte.
Wholly, I hope; and the compliance owing to the poor woman's mortified situation. You are young women. You may not have consider'd this matter. Do you imagine, that your curiosity will yield you pleasure? Don't you know what to expect from the magnificent and bountiful spirit of him, to whose memory you owe duty?
They recollected themselves, blushed, and desired Mrs. Oldham to lock up the chest. She did; and seemed pleased to be excused from the mortifying task.
Ah, my Lucy, one thing I am afraid of; and that is, that Sir Charles Grandison, politely as he behaves to us all, thinks us women in general very pitiable creatures. I wish I knew that he did; and that for two reasons: That I might have something to think him blameable for: And to have the pride of assuring myself, that he would be convinced of that fault, were he to be acquainted with my grandmamma, and aunt.
But, do you wonder, that the sisters, whose minds were thus open'd and enlarged by the example of such a brother, blazing upon them all at once, as I may say, in manly goodness, on his return from abroad, whither he set out a stripling, should, on all occasions, break out into raptures, whenever they mention THEIR brother?—Well may Miss Grandison despise her Lovers, when she thinks of him and of them at the same time.
Sunday. Sir Charles is in town we hear: Came thither but last night—Nay for that matter, his sisters are more vexed at him than I am.—But what pretence have I to be disturbed? But I say of him, as I do of Lady D.: He is so good, that one would be willing to stand well with him.—Then he is my Brother, you know.
Volume II - lettera 27
Volume II - Letter 28
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
After Sir Charles had inspected into everything in this house, and taken minutes of papers, letters, writings, &c. and lock'd up the plate, and other valuables, in one room, he order'd his servants to carry into Mrs. Oldham's apartment all that belonged to her; and gave her the key of that; and directed the house-keeper to be assisting to her in the removal of them, at her own time and pleasure, and to suffer her to come and go, at all times, with freedom and civility, as if she had never left the house, were his words.
How the poor woman curtsied and wept, I warrant! The dear girls, I am afraid, then envied her—and perhaps expressed a grudging spirit; for they said, This was their brother's address to them at that time:
You may look upon the justice I aim at doing to persons who can claim only justice from me, as an earnest, that I will do more than justice to my beloved sisters: And you should have been the first to have found the fruits of the love I bear you, had I not been afraid, that prudence would have narrowed my intentions. The moment I know what I can do, I will do it; and I request you to hope, largely: If I have ability, I will exceed your hopes.
My dear sisters, continued he, and took one hand of each, I am sorry, for your spirits sake, that you are left in my power. The best of women was always afraid it would be so. But the moment I can, I will give you an absolute independence on your brother, that your actions and conduct may be all your own.
Surely, Sir, said Caroline (and they both wept) we must think it the highest felicity, that we are in the power of such a brother. As to our spirits, Sir—
She would have said more; but could not; and Charlotte took it up where her sister left off: Best of brothers, said she—Our spirits shall, as much as possible (I can answer for both) be guided hereafter by yours. Forgive what you have seen amiss in us—But we desire to depend upon our good behaviour. We cannot, we will not, be independent of you.
We will talk of these matters, replied he, when we can do more than talk. I will ask you, Caroline, after your inclinations; and you, Charlotte, after yours, in the same hour that I know what I can do for you both, in the way of promoting them. Enter, mean time, upon your measures: Reckon upon my best assistance: Banish suspense. One of my first pleasures will be, to see you both happily married.
They did not say, when they related this to me, that they threw themselves at his feet, as to their better father, as well as brother: But I fancy they did.
He afterwards, at parting with Mrs. Oldham, said, I would be glad to know, madam, how you dispose of yourself: Every unhappy person has a right to the good offices of those who are less embarrass'd. When you are settled, pray let me know the manner: And if you acquaint me with the state of your affairs, and what you propose to do for and with those who are entitled to your first care, your confidence in me will not be misplaced.
And pray, and pray, ask'd I of the Ladies, what said Mrs. Oldham? How did she behave upon this?—
Our Harriet is strangely taken with Mrs. Oldham's story, said Miss Grandison—Why, she wept plentifully, you may be sure. She clasped her hands, and kneeled to pray to God to bless him, and all that—She could not do otherwise.
See, Lucy!—But am I, my grandmamma; am I, my aunt, to blame? Is it inconsistent with the strictest virtue to be charmed with such a story?—May not virtue itself pity the lapsed?—O yes, it may! I am sure, you, and Sir Charles Grandison, will say it may. A while ago, I thought my self a poor creature, compared to these two Ladies: But now I believe I am as good as they in some things.—But they had not such a grandmamma and aunt as I am bless'd with: They lost their excellent mother, while they were young; and their brother is but lately come over: And his superior excellence, like sunshine, breaking out on a sudden, finds out, and brings to sight, those spots and freckles, that were hardly before discoverable.
Sir Charles desired Mrs. Oldham would give in writing what she proposed to do for herself, and for those who were under her care. She did, at her first opportunity. It was, That she purposed going to London, for the sake of the young people's education: Of turning into money what jewels, cloths, and plate, she should think above her then situation in life: Of living retired in a little genteel house: And she gave in an estimate of her worth: To what amount the Ladies know not: but this they know, that their brother allows her an annuity, for the sake of her sons by his father: And they doubt not but he will be still kinder to them, when they are old enough to be put into the world.
This the Ladies think an encouragement to a guilty life. I will not dare to pronounce upon it, because I may be thought partial to the generous man: But should be glad of my uncle's opinion. This, however, may be said, That Sir Charles Grandison has no vices of his own to cover by the extensiveness of his charity and beneficence, and if it be not goodness in him to do thus, it is greatness; and this, if it be not praise-worthy, is the first instance that I have known goodness and greatness of soul separable.
The brother and sisters went down, after this, to Grandison-hall; and Sir Charles had reason to be pleased with the good order in which he found every-thing there.
Volume II - lettera 28
Volume II - Letter 29
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
The next thing the Ladies mentioned, was, Sir Charles's management with the two stewards.
I will not aim at being very particular in this part of the family-history.
When Sir Charles found that his father had left the inspection of each steward's account to the other, he enter'd into the examination of the whole himself, and tho' he allowed them several disputable and unproved charges, he brought them to acknowledge a much greater balance in his favour, than they had made themselves debtors for. This was the use he made of detecting them, to his sisters—You see, sisters, that my father was not so profuse as some people thought him. He had partners in his estate; and I have reason to think that he often paid interest for his own money.
On his settling with Filmer, the treaty with Miss Obrien came out. Mr. Filmer had, by surprise, brought that beautiful girl into Sir Charles's presence; and he owned to his sisters, that she was a very lovely creature.
But when the mother and aunt found, that he only admired her as a man would a fine picture, they insisted that Sir Thomas had promised to marry Miss Obrien privately; and produced two of his Letters to her, that seemed to give ground for such an expectation. Sir Charles was grieved for the sake of his father's memory, at this transaction; and much more on finding that the unhappy man went down to his seat in Essex, his head and heart full of this scheme, when he was struck with his last fatal illness.
A meeting was proposed by Filmer, between Sir Charles, the mother, the aunt, and himself, at the aunt's house in Pallmall. Sir Charles was very desirous to conceal his father's frailty from the world. He met them: But before he enter'd into discourse, made it his request to be allowed half an hour's conversation with Miss Obrien by herself; at the same time, praising, as it deserved, her beauty.
They were in hopes, that she would be able to make an impression on the heart of so young and so lively a man; and complied. Under pretence of preparing her for so unexpected a visit, her aunt gave her cue; But, instead of her captivating him, he brought her to such confessions, as sufficiently let him into the baseness of their views.
He returned to company, the young woman in his hand. He represented to the mother the wickedness of the part she had come over to act, in such strong terms, that she fell into a fit. The aunt was terrified. The young creature wept; and vowed that she would be honest.
Sir Charles told them, That if they would give him up his father's two Letters, and make a solemn promise never to open their lips on the affair, and would procure for her an honest husband, he would give her 1000l. on the day of marriage; and, if the made a good wife, would be further kind to her.
Filmer was very desirous to clear himself of having any hand in the blacker part of this plot. Sir Charles did not seem solicitous to detect and expose him: But left the whole upon his conscience. And having made before several objections to his account, which could not be so well obviated in England, he went over to Ireland with Filmer; and there very speedily settled every thing to his own satisfaction; and, dismissing him more genteelly than he deserved, took upon himself the management of that estate, directing several obvious improvements to be made, which are likely to turn to great account.
On his return, he heard that Miss Obrien was ill of the small-pox. He was not, for her own sake sorry for it. She suffer'd in her face, but still was pretty and genteel: And she is now the honest and happy wife of a tradesman near Golden-square who is very fond of her. Sir Charles gave with her the promised sum, and another 100 l. for wedding-cloths.
One part of her happiness and her husband's is, that her aunt, supposing she had disgraced herself by this match, never comes near her: And her mother is return'd to Ireland to her husband, greatly dissatisfied with her daughter on the same account.
While these matters were agitating, Sir Charles forgot not to enquire what steps had been taken with regard to the alliance proposed between himself and Lady Frances N.
He paid his first visit to the father and brother of that Lady.
All that the sisters know of this matter, is, that the treaty was, on this first visit, entirely broken off. Their brother, however, speaks of the Lady, and of the whole family, with great respect. The Lady is known to esteem him highly. Her father, her brother, speak of him every-where with great regard: Lord N. calls him the finest young gentleman in England. And so, Lucy, I believe he is. Sir Charles Grandison, Lord N. once said, knows better by non-compliance, how to create friendships, than most men do by compliance.
Lady L. and Miss Grandison, who, as I have before intimated, have another Lady whom they favour, once said to him, that the Earl and his son Lord N. were so constantly speaking in his praise, that they could not but think that it would at last be a match between him and Lady Frances. His answer was, The Lady is infinitely deserving: But it cannot be.
I am ready to wish, he would say, what can be, that we need not—Ah, Lucy!—I know not what I would say: But so it will always be with silly girls, that distinguish not between the would and the should. One of which, is
Your HARRIET BYRON.
Volume II - lettera 29
Volume II - Letter 30
MISS BYRON. IN CONTINUATION.
I will proceed with the family-history.
Sir Charles forgot not, on his arrival in England, to pay an early visit to Lord W. his mother's brother, who was then at his house near Windsor.
I have told you, that my Lord had conceived a dislike to him; and that for no other reason, but because his father loved him. Lord W. was laid up with the gout when he came: But he was instantly admitted to his stately presence. The first salutations, on one side, were respectful; on the other coldly civil. My Lord often survey'd his kinsman from head to foot, as he sat; as if he were loth to like him, I suppose; yet knew not how to help it. He found fault with Sir Thomas. Sir Charles told him, That it was a very ungrateful thing to him to hear his father spoken slightly of. He desired his Lordship to forbear reflections of that sort. My father, said he, is no more. I desire not to be made a party in any disputes that may have happen'd between him and your Lordship. I come to attend you as a duty which I owe to my mother's memory, and I hope this may be done without wounding that of my father.
You say well, said my Lord; but I am afraid, kinsman, by your air and manner, and speech too, that you want not your father's proud spirit.
I revere my father for his spirit, my Lord. It might not always be exerted as your Lordship, and his other relations, might wish: But he had a manly one. As to myself, I will help your Lordship to my character at once. I am, indeed, a very proud man. I cannot stoop to flatter, and, least of all men, the great and rich: Finding it difficult to restrain this fault, it is my whole study to direct it to laudable ends; and I hope, that I am too proud to do anything unworthy of my father's name, or of my mother's virtue.
Why, Sir, (and look'd at him again from head to foot) your father never in his whole life said so good a thing.
Your Lordship knew not my father as he deserved to be known. Where there are misunderstandings between two persons, tho' relations, the character of either is not to be taken from the other. But, my Lord, this is, as I said before, a visit of duty: I have nothing to ask of your Lordship, but your good opinion; and that no longer than I deserve it,
My Lord was displeased. "You have nothing to ask of me!"—repeated he. Let me tell you, independent Sir, that I like not your speech. You may leave me, if you please. And when I want to see you again, I will send for you.
Your servant, my Lord, and let me say, that I will not again attend you, till you do. But when you do, the summons of my mother's brother shall be cheerfully obeyed, when perhaps this unkind treatment of Lord W. might be remembered.
The very next day, my Lord hearing he was still at Windsor, viewing the curiosities of the place, sent to him: He directly went. My Lord expressed himself highly pleased with his readiness to come, and apologised to him for his behaviour of the day before. He called him nephew, and swore, that he was just such a young man as he had wish'd to see. Your mother used to say, proceeded he, that you could do what you would with her, should you even be unreasonable! And I beg of you to ask me no favour, but what is fit for me to grant, for fear I should grudge it after I had granted it; and call in question, what no man is willing to do, my own discretion.
He then ask'd him about the methods he intended to take with regard to his way of life. Sir Charles answered, That he was resolved to dispose of his racers, hunters, and dogs, as soon as he could: That he would take a survey of the timber upon his estate, and fell that which would be the worse for standing; and doubted not but that a part of it in Hampshire would turn to good account: But that he would plant an oakling for every oak he cut down, for the sake of posterity: He was determined, he said, to let the house in Essex; and even to sell the estate there, if it were necessary, to clear encumbrances; and to pay off the mortgage upon the Irish estate; which he had a notion was very improvable.
What did he propose to do for his sisters; who were left, he found, absolutely in his power?
Marry them, my Lord, as soon as I can. I have a good opinion of Lord L. My elder sister loves him. I will enquire what will make him easy: And easy I will make him, on his marriage with her, if it be in my power. I will endeavour to make the younger happy too. And when these two points are settled, but not before, because I will not deceive the family with which I may engage, I will think of myself.
Bravo! bravo! said my Lord; and his eyes, that were brimful some moments before, then ran over. As I hope to be saved, I had a good mind to—to—to—And there he stopped.
I ask only for your approbation, my Lord, or correction if wrong. My father has been very regardful of my interests. He knew my heart, or he would perhaps have been more solicitous for his daughters. I don't find that my circumstances will be very narrow: And if they are, I will live within compass, and even lay up. I endeavour to make a virtue of my pride, in this respect: I cannot live under obligation. I will endeavour to be just; and then, if I can, I will be generous. That is another species of my pride. I told your Lordship, that if I could not conquer it, I would endeavour to make it innocent at least.
Bravo! bravo! again cried my Lord—And threw his arms about his neck, and kissed his cheek, tho' he screamed out at the same time, having hurt his gouty knee with the effort.
And then, and then—said my Lord, you will marry yourself. And if you marry with discretion, good Lord, what a great man you will be!—And how I shall love you!—Have you any thoughts of marriage, kinsman?—Let me be consulted in your match,—and—and—and—you will vastly oblige me. Now I believe, I shall begin to think the name of Grandison has a very agreeable sound with it. What a fine thing it is, for a young man to be able to clear up his mother's prudence so many years after she is gone, and lessen his father's follies! Your father did not use me well; and I must be allowed sometimes to speak my mind of him.
That, my Lord, is the only point on which your Lordship and I can differ.
Well, well, we won't differ—Only one thing, my dear kinsman: If you sell, give me the preference. Your father told me, that he would mortgage to any man upon God's earth sooner than to me. I took that very heinously.
There was a misunderstanding between you, my Lord. My father had a noble spirit. He might think, that there would be a selfishness in the appearance, had he ask'd of your Lordship a favour. Little spirited men sometimes choose to be obliged to relations, in hopes that payment will be less rigorously exacted, than by a stranger.—
Ah kinsman! kinsman!—That's the white side of the business.
Indeed, my Lord, that would be a motive with me to avoid troubling your Lordship in an exigence, were it to happen. For mistrusts will arise from possibilities of being ungrateful, when perhaps there is no room, were the heart to be known, for the suspicion.
Well said, however. You are a young man that one need not be afraid to be acquainted with. But what would you do as a lender? Would you think hardly of a man that wanted to be obliged to you?
O no!—But in this case I would be determined by prudence. If my friend regarded himself as the first person in the friendship; me but as the second, in cases that might hurt my fortune, and disable me from acting up to my spirit, to other friends; I would then let him know, that he thought as meanly of my understanding as of my justice.
Lord W. was delighted with his nephew's notions. He over and over prophesied, That he would be a great man.
Sir Charles, with wonderful dispatch, executed those designs, which he had told Lord W. he would carry into effect. And the sale of the timber he cut down in Hampshire, and which lay convenient for water-carriage, for the use of the government, furnished him with a very considerable sum.
I have mentioned, that Sir Charles, on his setting out from Florence to Paris, to attend his father's leave for his coming to England, had left his ward Miss Jervois, at the former place, in the protection of good Dr. Bartlett. He soon sent for them both over, and placed the young Lady with a discreet widow-gentlewoman, who had three prudent daughters; sometimes indulging her with leave to visit his sisters, who are very fond of her, as you have heard. And now let me add, That she is an humble petitioner to me, to procure her the felicity, as she calls it, to be constantly resident with Miss Grandison. She will be she says, the best girl in the world, if she may be allowed this favour: And not one word of advice, either of her guardian, or of Miss Grandison, or of Lady L. shall be lost upon her—And besides, as good women, said she, as Mrs. Lane and her daughters are, what protection can women give me, were my unhappy mother to be troublesome, and resolve to have me, as she is continually threatening?
What a new world opens to me, my Lucy, from the acquaintance I am permitted to hold with this family! God grant that your poor Harriet pay not too dearly for her knowledge!—She would, I believe you think, were she to be entangled in an hopeless Love.
Volume II - lettera 30