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deration, 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 returned not an answer to his sister's notification of his father's danger; but immediately set out for Calais, embarked, 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 the 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 post-chaise, the door was opened; he entered; 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 ripened 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, looked 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 had 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 reflections 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 turned 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 stairs' head. Sweet obligingness! Amiable sisters! In a quarter of an hour I seek your pre
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 selfdenier was your father!
The ladies retiring, Mr Grandison entered upon the circumstances of Sir Thomas's illness and death; which, he told his sisters, he touched 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 exclaimed 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 closet, 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 everything was designed for the best.
And then Mr Grandison, as he told the sis ters, 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 asked, if they had searched for or found a will?
Mr Grandison said, they had looked 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 father's 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 di
rections 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 fanguage 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, though a little about, carries him home in safety.
As soon as the solemnity was over, Sir Charles, leaving everything at Grandison 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 escritoirs 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 sisters, we shall have but one interest. It is for you to make 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; then locked them up. He found a bank note of 3501. in the private drawer of one of the bureaus in the apartment that was his father's. Be pleased, my sister, 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 farm-house) 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 the mistake of Miss Caroline's maid, the poor woman was shewn into the room where the two ladies were. She was in great confusion; curtseyed, wept, and sood, 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 shewn in to us.
I beg pardon; curtseying, and was for withdrawing; but stopt 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 asked her not to sit down, though 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 faulty, 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 Pollexfen?—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, though 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, considered as a housekeeper. All I have in the world is under the seals. I am at yours and your brother's mercy.
The sisters ordered 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 !
SIR CHARLES entered. 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 yourself; 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 reflections of this humane man, respecting his father, and her, at that moment!
He turned 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 stopt 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 properly 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, though half-concerned, 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 concerned, 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, though 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 delivered-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 concerned. 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 anybody'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 lessened it. That economy is all that concerns us in interest; and that is in her faIf any act of kindness to my sisters was wanting from the parent, they will rejoice, that they deserved what they hope 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 a 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 humble 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 concerned, 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
By this time Mrs Oldham returned; and, in an humble manner, offered 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 curtseyed, 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 farther 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 shew 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
Sir Charles allowed her request. Poor woman! said he how unhappily circumstanced is she, that she dares not, in this company, shew 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 wafered 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? asked he.
My father once shewed us this casket at Grandison-Hall, answered 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 futher.
He would not permit it to be opened 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, the ladies retired to open this casket.
They found three purses in it; in one of which was an India bond of 500l. enclosed in a paper, thus inscribed by Lady GrandisonFrom 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 3001.
The third purse was thus labelled, as Lady L-shewed me by a copy she had of it in her memorandum book:
"For my beloved son: In acknowledgment 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 shewn 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