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For this child therefore, as was natural, he felt all the pride, and lavished on her all the fondness, of a father.
But here again the early notions which he had acquired were the ruin of his happiness. Her education was pursued in a style according rather with the imaginary dignity of his ancestors, than the reality of his situation, and the scantiness of his pecuniary means. He placed her at a fashionable school; for the daughter of Lieutenant M- must obtain, at any price, however enormous, all the useful knowledge, all the elegant accomplishments, which could fit her to adorn that sphere of society in which the ancient rank of her family entitled her to move. The consequence was, therefore, that, although he spent little or nothing upon himself, he became involved in increasing debt, and inextricable embarrassments. To what quarter should he turn for assistance ? Although his wife was dead, he scorned a reconciliation with those who had offended her whilst living. Nor had his own relatives the power, any more than the disposition, to relieve him from his distresses. His brothers, brought up with the same notions, steeped like himself in family pride, and high ideas of their consequence, and the lustre which was reflected upon them by the great names which ilourished in their domestic annals, had followed almost the same course, and were plunged in difficulties almost equal to his own.
He tried his only remaining chance. He came to London, and offered his military services to the commander-in-chief, in any climate, and in any employment, where they could be required. But he had little interest, and every vacancy was supplied. Still, however, no actual, no absolute refusal was returned to his application; he lived from week to week in the sickening misery of hope deferred,' and that melancholy and wasting hope was to close in final disappointment.
It was at this period that my acquaintance with him was most intimate, and I could not but guess at his circumstances from his appearance. How was he changed from the gáy, gallant young man, whom I had known not many years before! If age is to be reckoned simply by the number of years which have passed over our heads, he was still in the prime of life; he could not have reached his fortieth birth-day. But his face was furrowed by care, his figure was emaciated by disease; his form was bowed by infirmities, and the hand of death was evidently upon him. It is very difficult to be admitted to the confidence of such a man. I long attempted it in vain; I spoke to him frankly,--I wished to speak to him kindly; but he replied only by cool and general answers. There was, at times, indeed, a gloomy sternness in his manner which precluded any further conversation on subjects immediately interesting to himself. Above all things he shrunk from condolence, as if it carried with it, on the part of him who expressed it, something of superiority and condescension. It was a considerable time before I was informed of the place of his abode. His high spirit yielded at length, not to his personal necessities, but to his anxiety for his child; and he sent for me, on her account, when the illness, which had always hung about him, had increased so alarmingly as to confine him to his bed; and he felt, with a cold shudder as he reflected on her destitute situation, that he had not long to live.
I found him on the second floor of a decent house in London, in one of the streets which lead from the Strand down to the river. There was little furniture in the room, and it had altogether the appearance of indigent gentility. When I mentioned my hope that he would soon find himself better, he
shook his head with a languid smile, of which the sad and peculiar expression can never be effaced from my remembrance. He then requested me to sit down by his bed-side, and spoke at some length, in a faltering and hurried tone, without interruption, but not without apparent difficulty. The topics which he felt obliged to introduce, were evidently disagreeable to him, and his words as nearly as I can recollect, were as follows:
• I shall make no apology, my dear sir, for asking you to pay me this visit, nor even for the troublesome office which I am about to impose on you. The confidence which I repose in you is the best proof of my friendship and esteem for you; and the worthiest reward which you could receive for your kindness, will be the reflection, that you have done a service in their need to a dying father and a desolate child. But, I must be more explicit : it will be necessary to recur to some painful circumstances which have lately happened, in order to excuse myself in my own eyes, if not in yours. You know that I was never rich, but you can hardly know to what a degree I have been embarrassed and distressed; you can hardly know what privations I have undergone, and what anguish of soul I have endured. My endeavours to obtain a commission in any regiment have been completely frustrated. But their success or failure is now of little consequence. My campaigns are over; I have fought my last battle with Disease; and it has vanquished
Death must soun lay me low; and for myself I care not how soon! I bow with resignation to the will of Heaven! This dispensation, indeed, is the least part of my regret. My life has not been so happy that I should look with dread upon the loss of it.
• But I have a daughter; I need not say how entirely I have loved her. It would be idle to relate to you, what I have done and suffered for her sake. But take two instances at once of my affection and my distresses. Almost the whole amount of my pay has gone for the last three years to the charge of her education. I have lived, I can hardly tell you how. It is enough that I have contracted many debts, and that whatever was about my person, my watch, my rings, even part of my clothes, have been sold. Two things only remained—my wife's picture, and my sword. I still keep, indeed, the features of my poor Julia; but I have parted with the gold and jewels which surrounded them, in those younger and prouder days, when I first received the gift from her hands; and thought, in the fondness of my admiration, how little the miniature could express the beauty of the original. But why should I trouble you with such recollections as these ? How strange is it, that they should come across me even at this moment;-how strange that they should have power to console and to revive !-Yet so it is. But I beg your pardon. I will now proceed :
• My sword was now the only possession which I had saved amid the shipwreck of my fortunes ;-my sword, which I had ever imagined would only be wrested from me at the latest moment of my existence. But integrity, sir, is a nobler feeling than obstinate haughtiness ;-I neither could, nor would, live here without paying for my lodgings. This, then, was the only alternative. There is an actor, and a celebrated one, who lives on the first floor; he is, I firmly believe, as generous a man as ever figured in any profession. He had often made me offers of pecuniary assistance, but I had uniformly rejected them. At last, he pretended to have taken a fancy to my sword; he wanted it, he said, as a conspicuous ornament in his firstrate characters, and proposed to give me far more, I am certain, than he conceived it to be worth. I would not accept of the whole amount;—but, my sword is gone. You may smile, perhaps, at the melancholy earnestness
with which I speak on such a subject; but things must not be judged by their apparent value. Of all the painful incidents of my life, this is the one which has given me the sharpest pang. This seems the lowest depth of degradation to which my necessities have reduced me. My sword appeared to pierce my heart as I parted with it. It was like parting with my honour. Yet you may, perhaps, not enter into my feelings. The blade, which had been at my side throughout all my campaigns, with which I had encountered the enemies of my country; which had been my defence, my protection, my companion, and my friend,- was now to flourish in mock contests on the stage ;-was to be drawn with a spouting rant, and sheathed in bloodless imaginary triumph, amid the tears of sobbing girls, and the applauses of a greasy multitude;' and the end, it may be, of a soldier's sword, is to be hacked about in a farce or pantomime, or rust amid the wardrobe of a strolling player. No, no, sir, you cannot conceive half my humiliation.
But let us turn from this bitter subject. I have already dwelt too much upon it in secret for my own quiet. What I have further to say will not detain you long.
• In one word, I have a favour to request of you, which I would not, and dare not, ask of another man living. I am destitute; I am enfeebled; I am sinking; I feel that but few more suns will rise on me in this world. But I would see my daughter before I die. I would fain leave my benediction upon her, and breathe my last prayer in her presence. Will you, then, be my friend, as you have ever been? Will you fetch her to me now? Hereafter will you protect her? I trust to your age; I trust to your character; and when I place this precious deposit in your care, I know you will remember, that you, too, have been a parent !
Lieutenant M-here ended his communication ; he had exerted himself too much for his strength; he drew his breath with pain. I sent for a physician, who ordered such restoratives as his state demanded. I then told him that I had both time and money at command, and that he would confer a favour on me by availing himself of both. • For myself,' said he, it is too late; my daughter will thank you.' Having taken his directions about my journey, I promised to return with all possible expedition. “Do so,' he replied, faintly, or I shall not live to see her. He grasped my hand, and I departed.
I found the daughter of my friend a lovely, high-spirited girl of fourteen years of age; buoyant with health, and just budding into exquisite beauty. I merely told her, in the first instance, that her father was anxious to see her. She appeared to me, as I regarded her, as an innocent and spotless victim, pampered, adorned, and garlanded for the sacrifice. All that she had been taught conspired, if not to injure, to relax her principles, at least to lull them to sleep; if not to spoil or vitiate her mind, at least to soften and enervate it. She knew that she was descended from what is called a good family; she felt that the blood of nobles was in her veins; yet, in a few days, she would be absolutely friendless and pennyless. I thought on these things, and vowed, inwardly, that as long as I had life, the daughter of my friend should never be desolate and unprotected.
As we hurried back to London, I informed the poor girl of the melancholy state of her father's health, and even hinted at his pecuniary embarrassments. Poverty was new and strange; she had read of it in novels and romances, and, perhaps, wept over the imaginary privations of a sentimental heroine ; but she could form no conception of penury, as it exists in its dreadful and hideous reality. She thought only, that the life of him, who was dearest to her upon earth, was in imminent and immediate danger. Her gay questions were changed into anxious inquiries; and her whole soul was concentrated into one impatient desire to be clasped in her father's arms, and hear him speak to her and bless her once more.
Yet even this mournful pleasure was denied to her. On her arrival, Lieutenant M-was delirious. Who could exhibit to his child at once the wreck of manhood and the dethronement of reason ? I remained with him during the night, and towards the morning he awoke, calm and sensible, but rapidly declining to the grave. The physician gave me no hope, that he could live throughout the day.
It was then that I ventured to introduce his daughter. But who shall describe their meeting! I can only recall it to my own imagination. I almost fancy that I can yet see her soft blooming cheek joined to the pale, wrinkled, emaciated and burning visage of the sinking veteran. I almost seem to hear her plaintive voice, endeavouring to inspire comfort and hope, but choked by the bursting sobs which she vainly endeavoured to
Lieutenant M-felt himself dying ; he desired to be raised in his bed, and spoke his last injunctions with a voice which had death in its every tone-God bless you, my dearest child-God in heaven bless you! Your only earthly hope is in the friend who stands beside you.'
He then put his hand on her head, and once more solemnly blessed her. He would have placed her hand in mine, as a token of giving her into my protection, but at the very moment she fainted and fell to the ground. I carried her motionless form carefully from the chamber, and before she recovered her senses her father was no more.
I returned to my friend, who was now calm, composed, and perfectly resigned to his approaching fate. "The bitterness of death,' said he, ‘is past. As an Englishman and a soldier, I have learnt to look upon the extinction of life without terror.' • And as a Christian,' said I. Assuredly,' he replied, and bowed his head in submission--'My only wish to live was for the sake of my child, and you will be a better guardian to her than I could have been. I have your promise,' added he, looking stedfastly in my face, have I not?' My most solemn and irrevocable promise.' • Then I am contented. You will also settle my affairs and pay my debts, I would not have dishonour attach to my name after my death. I am asking too much,' he said, after a pause— but this is no time for pride or hesitation. If you see any of my family, say that I forgave them; and tell my dear, dear child, that my last earthly thought was a prayer for her happiness. For you,'—his voice had been growing gradually weaker and weaker, and he stopped. His hand had been placed upon mine; I felt it stiffen and grow cold. I looked at his features, but they were fixed; I felt his heart, but it no longer beat-his miseries were over!
Yes ! his last thought was his child's. Of all human attachments, the loveliest and holiest, perhaps, is the affection of a father for a daughter. There is not only parental fondness and protecting tenderness, but there is also the remembrance of early love ; refined, and chastened, and purified ; without passion, and without change.
I hope and trust that I did my duty to his daughter. It was fortunately in my power to settle upon her a small independence, and to reconcile her to part of her father's family,
She has since married a man of some fortune and distinction; and I have often letters from her, in all of which she expresses both her happiness and her gratitude.
THE FAREWELL OF SUMMER.
C. D. M: