Графични страници
PDF файл

passion could furnish. Her answer is indelibly engraven upon the tablets of my memory. You, and I, sir, profess to believe in an overruling Providence; we have both access to the throne of our heavenly Father. Let us, sir, unbosom ourselves to our God; I shall, I do assure you; so, I am persuaded, will you; and if, after we have thus done, we obtain the sanction of the Most High, I trust I shall be resigned.'

We had now reached her habitation, the threshold of which, no professed follower of Whitefield was ever allowed to pass. I supplicated for permission to write to her; and, in the full confidence of christian amity, she acceded to the prayer of my petition. From this period, no week passed during which we did not exchange letters; and the pages we filled might have been submitted to the most rigid inspection. Mrs. Allen was our confidant, and every letter which passed between us was put into the hand of this discreet matron, without a seal. At the house of this lady we had frequent interviews, but never without witnesses, and our time was passed in singing hymns and in devout prayer. I now believed myself the happiest being in creation; I was certain of possessing a most inestimable treasure; and although the grandfather of my Eliza, upon whom rested her whole dependence, never saw me; and, if he had, never would have sanctioned our union, we cherished that hope, which so generally proves fallacious. The dear girl requested me to seek and obtain the explicit approbation of her brother, that she might at least insure his countenance; and upon my application to him, he unhesitatingly replied: 'I consider, dear sir, my sister as highly honored by your proposals.' But, sir, have we your consent? Undoubtedly, sir, and with my whole heart.' This was sufficient, and I was completely happy. But, alas! never did the course of true love run smooth.' We were on the verge of a most distressing calamity: this brother, in whom we had reposed unlimited confidence, became my inveterate foe, and writing an anonymous letter to his grandfather, he represented me as a fortune-hunter, who was secking to obtain the heart of his granddaughter, for the purpose of making a prey of her property! This letter produced the desired effect: the old gentleman was extremely irritated, and, sending for Eliza, he put the letter into her hand, and sternly asked her if she had entered into any engagement with a person by the name of Murray? when, receiving an answer in the affirmative, he gave full credit to all the rest; and being a man of violent passions, he threatened her with the loss of his favor, if she did not immediately promise to renounce me forever. He was well apprized, if he could obtain her promise, he had nothing further to apprehend. The firm, self-collected girl implored his pardon if she did not yield credence to the slanders contained in the despicable scrawl he had placed in her hand; she besought him to see me, to converse with me; promising, that if, upon a personal acquaintance, he continued to disapprove, she would endeavor to bend her mind to an acquiescence with his will. Her grandfather

was inexorable; he would admit no conditions; and ultimately assured the young lady, if she did not relinquish every thought of me, she might give up all idea of ever receiving a single penny of his property. He granted her three days for deliberation, during which period she was to consider herself a prisoner. Of this unexpected event I speedily gained_intelligence, and my soul was torn by apprehension. To Eliza I could have no access, and even the intercourse by letter was suspended! In this state of agonizing suspense, I remained, until, through the instrumentality of the chambermaid, a letter was brought to Mrs. Allen for me; which letter, while it gave a most affecting detail of her sufferings, contained the fullest assurance of her unbroken faith and steadfastness. She recommended it to me to apply to the same Source from whence she herself had derived consolation; to the Almighty Father of our spirits, who held in His hands all hearts: and, she added, that no power short of Omnipotence should ever prevail upon her to give her hand unaccompanied by her heart; and that in a few hours she should be so circumstanced as to prove the sincerity of my affection, for she was speedily to render hier final answer to her grandfather. She hoped for divine support during the arduous trial, to which she was called to submit ; and she most earnestly solicited my prayers in her behalf. A second letter was soon handed me, giving an account of the second interview. Well, my dear child,' said the old gentleman, 'what am I to expect? Am I to lose my daughter, the comfort of my declining life? Or will you have compassion upon my old age, and relinquish this interested designing man?' 'If, my dear sir, I had any reason for supposing the person of whom you speak, such as you believe him, the relinquishment which you require, would not cost an effort; but, sir, Mr. Murray is an honest man; he has a sincere affection for me; I have given him reason to hope, and, until I am convinced he is unworthy of my esteem, I cannot consent to treat him as if he were.' Here the passions of the old gentleman began to rise, when the dear girl besought him to be calm, assuring him it was neither her wish nor intention to leave him; nay, more, she would pledge her word never to leave him, while she could have the felicity of attending upon him, if he would not insist upon her violating her faith, tacitly given to me. But this would not do; she must abandon her lover or her fortune; and finding her determined, he arose from his chair, and seizing his will, in which he had bequeathed her one thousand pounds sterling, he furiously flung it into the flames, immediately causing another will to be written. in which he gave to her brother the portion designed for her; and thus did this young incendiary obtain the object for which he had labored, and to which he had most nefariously and darkly groped his way. I had now the felicity of learning that my Eliza had a stronger value for me than for her patrimony; and she observed to her grandfather that he had furnished her with an opportunity of proving the sincerity of my attachment. If,' said she, 'his views are such as

you have been taught to believe, he will shortly relinquish me, and thus have I, most opportunely, obtained a criterion.' Never did I receive a piece of intelligence productive of so much heart-felt pleasure as the certainty of that potent prepossession which could thus enable her, whom I esteemed the most perfect of human beings, to surrender up, without a sigh, the gifts of fortune. Words cannot delineate how greatly I conceived myself enriched by this blissful assurance. Still I met the brother of Eliza at the tabernacle, and occasionally at private societies, and still he wore the semblance of amity. Previous to this event, the elder Mr. Neale, who was always my friend, had become the head of a family: during a few weeks, we continued in that condition when my invidious calumniator requested me, by a written message, to give him a meeting at the house of his aunt, a lady who resided next door to his grandfather. I obeyed the summons, when, to my great astonishment, he informed me it was his sister's wish I would think of her no more: that there were many young ladies with whom I might form a connexion abundantly more advantageous; and that for herself she was weary of contending with her grandfather. During the whole of this studied harangue, the torture of my soul was scarcely to be endured. After a most distressing pause, I tremblingly interrogated: Tell me, sir, has Miss Neale really empowered you to act in her behalf? If you doubt it, here is a letter, written with her own hand, furnished me upon a presumption that I might not obtain a speedy opportunity of seeing you; and he put the letter into my hand. Mr. Neale knew not that I was in possession of many of his sister's letters; he knew not that she had ever written to me; if he had he would hardly have exhibited this scrawl as hers. The anguish of my soul was no more; yet I essayed to conceal my emotions, and contented myself with solemnly declaring that it was only from the lips of Miss Neale I would accept my dismission. 'You may,' said he, 'rest assured you will never, with her own consent, again see that young lady. Thus spake, thus acted the man, whom, the very next morning I met at Mr. Whitefield's communion. Leaving Mr. Neale, I returned to my lodgings, sat down and related to Eliza the whole business, enclosing the letter I had received as hers. The ensuing day gave me an assurance under her own hand, that the whole procedure was unknown to her; requesting that I would remain perfectly easy; that I would keep my mind entirely to myself, making application only to the wonderful Counsellor, and resting in full assurance of her fidelity. This was enough, and my fuil soul rejoiced in the consolation thus seasonably afforded me. Mr. Neale, supposing his arts had succeeded, brought forward proposals in favor of a gentleman educated by his grandfather, who had long loved my Eliza; but who, fearful of a rejection, had not disclosed his passion. Common fame soon wafted to my ear the report of these new pretensions; the gentleman was, in every respect, my superior, and he was declared a successful rival. I met the object of my

soul's affection at Mrs. Allen's; I communicated the lacerating intelligence I had received; she smiled, tacitly assured me I had not much to apprehend, and according to custom, added, Let us improve our opportunity in the best possible manner, let us devote it to prayer and to praise. Thus revolved days, weeks, and months; hoping, and fearing, joying, and sorrowing, while tny gentle, my amiable friend, painfully reciprocated every auxiety. It was supposed, by her connexions, that she had relinquished her purpose in my favor, and a succession of advantageous proposals were brought forward, all of which she decisively rejected. Once a week, she was permitted to visit, when she never forgot to call upon Mrs. Allen. She also allowed me to attend her every Sunday morning before day during the winter; and I considered myself supremely happy, in the privilege of presenting myself at her dwelling, on those holy days, by four o'clock, waiting her appearance; and often have I been eyed with suspicion by the watch, and, in fact, I was once taken up. Neither storms nor tempests arrested my steps; and sometimes I have tarried, until the dawning day compelled me to retire, when I was obliged to pass on, in melancholy solitude, to the tabernacle. Yet, between love and devotion, I was a very happy, very disconsolate being. I richly enjoyed the pleasures of anticipation, which are generally believed to exceed possession; yet my own experience is very far from acknowledging the justice of this hypothesis. 1 continued in this state more than a year, snatching enjoyments when I could, and placing confidence in futurity. In the course of this year, my insidious, although still professing friend, married a lady of some property-two thousand pounds sterling; his grandfather adding two thousand more, one of which he had designed as provision for his grand-daughter; and strange as it may appear, this angel girl uttered not, upon this occasion, a single reproach! The new alliance strengthened the family interest against me; the lady, without knowing me, was my inveterate foe. It was about this time discovered, that the attachment of Eliza remained in full force. Her grandfather imagined, that we cherished hope of a change in his sentiments, or that we should ultimate. ly, at least in the event of his death, come into possession of some part of his property; and, that he might effectually crush every expectation, he so managed, as to put his most valuable possessions out of his own power. The period at length arrived, which completed the minority of my tender friend; it was upon the eighteenth day of May, and this day, the elder Mr. Neale, who, as has been observed, had still continued my fast friend, determined to render a gala, by passing it with me in the country. With the early dawn we commenced our little excursion, when we beheld, at a distance, a young lady with a small parcel in her hand; we approached her, and, to our great astonishment, recognized in this young lady, the sister of my friend, the precious of object my most ardent love. Upon that memorable inorning she had quitted the house of her grand

father, and all she possessed, that had been his, leaving upon her writing-desk a letter, which lay there, until the family, alarmed at her not making her appearance at the breakfast table, entered her apartment, whence the lovely sufferer had so recently flown. The letter furnished an explanation; it was addressed to her grandfather, and it informed him, that the writer would ever acknowledge unreturnable obligations, for the many favors he had conferred upon her; that, if she could have been indulged with her wish of living with him, she should have been content; but, as the solicitations to enter into matrimonial engagements, by which she was persecuted, were unceasing, she was convinced she should not be allowed to give this testimony of her filial attachment; and being now of age, she begged leave to deliver up the keys, the sums of money, with which she had been entrusted, and whatever else had pertained to her grandfather; adding an assurance, that she should no more return. Her brother William immediately conducted her to his house, whither I attended them, and where, by her positive orders, we were obliged to leave her. Agreeably to her request, we proceeded on our proposed walk, and we learned on our return that repeated messengers had been dispatched by her grandfather, soliciting her again to become an inmate in his house, and that the lady of her youngest brother had been commissioned for this purpose; but that every entreaty had proved ineffectual. For me, fondly flattering myself, that I should immediately exchange my Vows with my amiable, my affianced friend, at the altar of our God, I was superlatively happy; but again my high-wrought expectations proved fallacious. This strong-minded woman was a votary of propriety, and she was determined it should not appear, that she had quitted a parent, for the purpose of throwing herself into the arms of a husband. She had bid adieu to the paternal roof, because she could not, while there, be allowed the exercise of her own judgment; because measures were taking to compel her to marry a man, she could never approve. Her eldest brother, her beloved William, she was confident would patronize, and protect her; and her needle was a resource, from which she could always derive a competency.


« ПредишнаНапред »