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I was still sitting, inquired after my health with his usual air of familiarity. “Sir," replied I, “ your present assurance only serves to aggravate the baseness of your character ; and there was a time when I would have chastised your insolence for presuming thus to appear before me. But now you are safe ; for age has cooled my passions, and my calling restrains them.”
I vow, my dear sir," returned he, “ I am amazed at all this ; nor can I understand what it means ! I hope you don't think your daughter's late excursion with me had any thing criminal in it?"
“Go,” cried I, “ thou art a wretch, a poor pitiful wretch, and every way a liar : but your meanness secures you from my anger! Yet, sir, I am descended from a family that would not have borne this! - And so, thou vile thing, to gratify a momentary passion, thou hast made one poor creature wretched for life, and polluted a family that had nothing but honour for their portion!”
“ If she or you,” returned he, “ are resolved to be miser. able I cannot help it. But you may still be happy ; and whatever opinion you may have formed of me, you shall ever find me ready to contribute to it. We can marry her to another in a short time; and, what is more, she may keep her lover beside ; for I protest I shall ever continue to have a true regard for her.”
I found all my passions alarmed at this new degrading proposal ; for though the mind may often be calm under great injuries, little villainy can at any time get within the soul, and sting it into rage.- :-“ Avoid my sight, thou reptile!" cried I, “nor continue to insult me with thy presence.Were my brave son at home he would not suffer this ; but I am old and disabled, and every way undone.”
“I find,” cried he, “ you are bent upon obliging me to talk in a harsher manner than I intended. But as I have shewn you be hoped from
friendship, it may not be improper to represent what may be the consequences of my resentment. My attorney, to whom your late bond has been transferred, threatens hard ; nor do I know how to prevent the course of justice, except by paying the money myself; which, as I have been at some expenses lately, previous to my intended marriage, is not so easy to be done. And then my steward talks of driving for the rent : it is certain he knows his duty ; for I never trouble myself with
affairs of that nature. Yet still I could wish to serve you, and even to have you and your daughter present at my marriage, which is shortly to be solemnized with Miss Wilmot ; it is even the request of my charming Arabella herself, whom I hope you will not refuse."
“ Mr Thornhill,” replied I, “hear me once for all : as to your marriage with any but my daughter, that I never will consent to ; and though your friendship could raise me to a throne, or your resentment sink me to the grave, yet would I despise both. Thou hast once wofully, irreparably deceived me. I reposed my heart
upon thine honour, and have found its baseness. Never more, therefore, expect friendship from me. Go, and possess what fortune has given thee-beauty, riches, health, and pleasure. Go, and leave me to want, infamy, disease, and sorrow. Yet, humbled as I am, shall my heart still vindicate its dignity ; and though thou hast my forgiveness, thou shalt ever have my contempt.”
“ If so,” returned he, “ depend upon it you shall feel the effects of this insolence ; and we shall shortly see which is the fittest object of scorn, you or me." Upon which he departed abruptly.
My wife and son, who were present at this interview, seemed terrified with apprehension. My daughters also finding that he was gone, came out to be informed of the result of our conference, which, when known, alarmed them not less than the rest. But as to myself, I desregarded the utmost stretch of his malevolence: he had already struck the blow, and now I stood prepared to repel every new effort, like one of those instruments used in the art of war, which, however thrown, still presents a point to receive the enemy.
We soon however found that he had not threatened in vain ; for the very next morning his steward came to demand my annual rent, which, by the train of accidents already related, I was unable to pay. The consequence of my incapacity was his driving my cattle that evening, and their being appraised and sold the next day for less than half their value. My wife and children now therefore entreated me to comply upon any terms, rather than incur certain destruction. They even begged of me to admit his visits once more, and used all their little eloquence to paint the calamities I was going to endure
- the terrors of a
prison in so rigorous a season as the present, with the danger that threatened my health from the late accident that happened by the fire. But I continued inflexible.
“ Why, my treasures,” cried I, “why will you thus attempt to persuade me to the thing that is not right? My duty has taught me to forgive him ; but my conscience will not permit me to approve. Would you have me applaud to the world what my heart must internally condemn ? Would
you have me tamely sit down and flatter our infamous betrayer ; and, to avoid a prison, continually suffer the more galling bonds of mental confinement ? No, never. are to be taken from this abode, only let us hold to the right; and wherever we are thrown, we can still retire to a charming apartment, when we can look round our own hearts with intrepidity and with pleasure !"
In this manner we spent that evening. Early the next morning, as the snow had fallen in great abundance in the night, my son was employed in clearing it away, and opening a passage before the door.
He had not been thus engaged long, when he came running in, with looks all pale, to tell us that two strangers, whom he knew to be officers of justice, were making towards the house.
Just as he spoke they came in, and approaching the bed where I lay, after previously informing me of their employment and business, made me their prisoner, bidding me prepare to go with them to the county jail
, which was eleven miles off.
My friends," said I, “ this is severe weather in which you have come to take me to a prison ; and it is particularly unfortunate at this time, as one of my arms has lately been burnt in a terrible manner, and it has thrown me into a slight fever, and I want clothes to cover me, and I am now too weak and old to walk far in such deep snow ; but, if it must be so
I then turned to my wife and children, and directed them to get together what few things were left us, and to prepare immediately for leaving this place. I entreated them to be expeditious; and desired my son to assist his eldest sister, who, from a consciousness that she was the cause of all our calamities, was fallen, and had lost anguish in insensibility. I encouraged my wife, who, pale and trembling, clasped our affrighted little ones in her arms, that clung to her bosom in silence, dreading to look round at the strangers. In the meantime my youngest daughter prepared for our departure, and as she received several hints to use despatch, in about an hour we were ready to depart.
NO SITUATION, HOWEVER WRETCHED IT SEEMS, BUT HAS SOME SORT
OF COMFORT ATTENDING IT
We set forward from this peaceful neighbourhood, and walked on slowly. My eldest daughter being enfeebled by a slow fever, which had begun for some days to undermine her constitution, one of the officers who had a horse, kindly took her behind him ; for even these men cannot entirely divest themselves of humanity: My son led one of the little ones by the hand, and my wife the other, while I leaned upon my youngest girl, whose tears fell, not for her own, but my distresses.
We were now got from my late dwelling about two miles, when we saw a crowd, running and shouting behind us, consisting of about fifty of my poorest parishioners. These, with dreadful imprecations, soon seized upon the two officers of justice, and swearing they would never see their minister go to jail while they had a drop of blood to shed in his defence, were going to use them with great severity. The consequence might have been fatal, had I not immediately interposed, and with some difficulty rescued the officers from the hands of the enraged 'multitude. My children, who looked upon my delivery now as certain, appeared transported with joy, and were incapable of containing their raptures. But they were soon undeceived, upon hearing me address the poor deluded people, who came, as they imagined, to do me service.
“ What! my friends,” cried I, “ and is this the way you love me? Is this the manner you obey the instructions I have given you from the pulpit ? Thus to fly in the face of justice, and bring down ruin on yourselves and me? Which is your ringleader? Shew me the man that has thus seduced you. As sure as he lives he shall feel my resentment.Alas!
dear deluded flock, return back to the duty you owe to God, to your country, and to me. I shall yet perhaps
one day see you in greater felicity here, and contribute to make your lives more happy. But, let it at least be my comfort, when I pen my fold for immortality, that not one here shall be wanting.'
They now seemed all repentance, and, melting into tears, came one after the other to bid me farewell. I shook each tenderly by the hand, and leaving them my blessing, proceeded forward without meeting any farther interruption. Some hours before night, we reached the town, or rather village, for it consisted but of a few mean houses, having lost all its former opulence, and retaining no marks of its ancient superiority but the jail
. Upon entering, we put up at the inn, where we had such refreshments as could most readily be procured, and I supped with my family with my usual cheerfulness.
After seeing them properly accommodated for that night, I next attended the sheriff's officers to the prison, which had formerly been built for the purposes of war, and consisted of one large apartment, strongly grated and paved with stone, common to both felons and debtors at certain hours in the four-andtwenty. Besides this, every prisoner had a separate cell, where he was locked in for the night.
I expected, upon my entrance to find nothing but lamentations and various sounds of misery ; but it was very different. The prisoners seemed all employed in one common design, that of forgetting thought in merriment or clainour. I was apprised of the usual perquisites required upon these occasions, and immediately complied with the demand, though the little money I had was very near being all exhausted. This was immediately sent away for liquor, and the whole prison soon was filled with riot, laughter, and profaneness.
“ How,” cried I to myself, “ shall men so very wicked be cheerful, and shall I be melancholy? I feel only the same confinement with them, and I think I have more reason to be happy."
With such reflections I laboured to become cheerful; but cheerfulness was never yet produced by effort, which is itself painful. As I was sitting, therefore, in a corner of the jail, in a pensive posture, one of my fellow prisoners came up, and, sitting by me, entered into conversation. It was my constant rule in life, never to avoid the conversation of any man who seemed to desire it:; for if good, I might profit by