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“Well,” said Bramble, “praised be Heaven for all things; I expected to have lost my precious liberty for years, and I have only lost two shirts, one pair of trousers, and three pairs of worsted stockings."
We had nothing to eat or drink, but that we cared little for, as the wind was fair : about ten o'clock that night we landed at Cawsand Bay near Plymouth, where we sat down to a hearty supper ; and when we went to bed, I did not forget to thank Providence for my unexpected escape.
ANOTHER ESCAPE, MORE FORTUNATE THAN THE ONE RECORDED IN THE
From the time that I had passed my examination and worked as a pilot on my own account, until the period of our escape, which I have narrated in the preceding chapter, I had continued to live in the cottage with Bramble, without contributing any share to the
expenses. I had at first proposed it, but Bramble would not listen to any such arrangement; he considered me, he said, as his son, and who knowed, he added, but that the cottage would be mine after he was gone. The fact was, that Bramble ardently wished that Bessy and I should be united. He continually hinted at it, joked with Bessy about me; and I believe that, in consequence, Bessy's feelings towards me had taken the same bent. prepared for the issue; the regard naturally felt for me from her long intimacy, now that the indulgence of it was so openly sanctioned by him whom she considered as her father, was not checked on her part; indeed there was no doubt but that it had ripened into love. She showed it in every little way that her maiden modesty did not interfere with, and old Bramble would at times throw out such strong hints of our eventual union, as to make me feel very uncomfortable. They neither of them had any idea of my heart having been pre-engaged, and the strangeness of my manner was ascribed by Bramble to my feelings towards Bessy. Bessy, however, was not so easily deceived ; my conduct towards her appeared, to say the best of it, very inconsistent.
So often had I had opportunities, especially when I was at home and Bramble was away, of speaking on the subject; and so often had these opportunities been neglected, that it filled her mind with doubt and anxiety. After having accepted my addresses at first, Janet had once or twice written to me; latterly, however, she had not written herself--all her messages were through Virginia's letters, or, perhaps, she would add a little postscript. Had letters arrived
for me in any other hand-writing than that of Virginia, Bessy, after her suspicions were roused, might have easily guessed the truth; but it was the absence of any clue to guide her as to the state of my feelings which so much puzzled her. She was fully convinced that my heart was not hers, but she had no reason to suppose that it was in the possession of another. Thus did my passion for Janet Wilson in every way prove to me a source of anxiety. I knew that it was my duty to undeceive Bramble and Bessy, yet the task was too painful, and I could not make up my mind to make them unhappy. I felt that I had no right to remain under Bramble's roof and live at his expense, and, at the same time, I could not find an opportunity of telling him what my feelings and wishes were, the very mention of which would at once explain to him, that the desire of his old age would never be accomplished. I often accused myself of ingratitude, and felt as if it were my duty to make every sacrifice to one who had been so kind a protector; but I was bound by vows to Janet Wilson, and how was it possible that I could retract?
Virginia's letters were not satisfactory : at first she told me how much she had been annoyed by the attentions of the young nobleman, and how
mother had been in her conduct; eventually she informed me that she had been insulted by him, and that, upon complaining to my mother, the latter had, much to her surprise and indignation, not only laughed at his extreme forwardness, but pointed out to Virginia a line of conduct by which he might be entrapped into marriage; that her refusal to accede to such unworthy devices had created a serious breach between her mother and herself. She stated the young man to be extremely silly and weak, and that my mother had gained great influence over him ; and were it not that the presence of the tutor, who seldom quitted the house, had proved a check, that there was little doubt but, as far as the young man was concerned, the disproportionate match would be readily acceded to; that the only person she had ventured to consult was her dear friend Mrs. St. Felix, who had promised her, if the persecution did not cease, that she would make Mr. Sommerville the tutor aware of what was going
Virginia described the latter as an amiable modest young man, who did all in his power to instruct his pupil, but who was treated with any thing but deference in return.
Relative to Janet she said little, except that she generally called there every day to make inquiries after me: once or twice she did say that it was a pity that I was not able to come oftener to Greenwich, as Janet was not very steady ; indeed, considering how young she was, without a mother, and so little controlled by her father, it was not to be wondered at.
Such was the state of affairs when I made up my mind that I would speak to Bramble about my paying my share of the expenses, which I thought would open his eyes to the real state of my feeling towards Bessy : I did so; I pointed out to him that I was now earning money fast, and that I considered it but fair that I should support myself, and not put him to further expense; that, perhaps, it would be better that I should take a house for myself, as I must give a great deal of trouble to Bessy and Mrs. Maddox.
“ Well, Tom,” said Bramble,“ you've been at me about this before, and I believe it's a proper feeling, after all. It certainly does seem to me to be a matter of little consequence, as things stand ; however, I ca’n't consent to your leaving us. You have been with me ever since you were a lad, and I should feel like a fish out of water if I were to be without you or Bessy ; so pay just what you please I'll take it since you wish it; - and there's an end of the matter."
This was not the end to which I was driving; but Bramble's eyes would not be opened, and I could not help it.
He had never directly spoken to me about an union with Bessy, and therefore it was impossible for me to say any more. Bramble, however, did not fail to communicate what I had said to her; and one evening when we were standing on the shingle beach, she said to me: “ So Emerson has been convicted for smuggling, and sentenced beyond the seas."
“ I am sorry for it,” replied I.
“ His house is to be let now, Tom; would it not suit you? for my father told me that you wished to leave us.”
Why should I live upon you, when I am able to support myself?”
Certainly not. If it were not that I could not bear to see father miserable, I think it would be better if you did take Emerson's house; but it would vex him, poor good man.”
“ But not you, Bessy ; is it that you mean?”
“ Perhaps it is. Tell me yourself, Tom; would it not be better?”
I made no reply
“ Well," replied Bessy, “ think of me as you please ; I will speak now, Tom. I am not considering you, Tom, nor am I thinking of myself ; I am only induced so to do on account of my father. We have been brought up together as children, Tom, and, as children, we were great friends, and, I believe, sincerely attached to each other. I believe it to be very true that those who are brought up together as brothers and sisters do not change that affection for any other more serious in after life. It is therefore not our faults if we cannot feel as, you must know, Tom, my father wishes we should. Am I not right ? ”. “ You are, I believe, Bessy,” replied I.
My father, therefore, is deceiving himself with the hopes of what never can take place; but I know him even better than you do, Tom; it is the object of his daily thoughts — his only wish before he sinks into his grave. I cannot bear to undeceive him ; no more can you, if I have truly judged your feelings.”
“ You have judged right, Bessy.”
“ The very circumstance of our knowing his wishes, the hints which he throws out, his joking on the subject, have been a source of annoyance to both of us; and not only a source of annoyance, Tom; it has estranged us — we no longer feel that affection which we should feel for each other, that kindness as between brother and sister, which might exist ;-on the contrary, not being exactly aware of each other's feelings, we avoid each other, and fearful that the least kindness might be misconstrued, we do not really treat each as we otherwise would; in fact, it has destroyed our mutual confidence. Is it not so ?”