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They had asked a neighbouring ale-housekeeper, if there were not a long garden (belonging to the house they suspected) and a backdoor out of it to a dirty lane and fields. He answered in the affirmative. The front of this house faces the road.
They called for some hot liquors; and asked the landlord after the owners. He knew nothing of harm of them, he said. They had lived there near a twelvemonth in reputation. The family consisted of a widow, whose name is Awberry, her son, and two daughters. The son (a man of about thirty years of age) has a place in the custom-house, and only came down on a Saturday, and went up on Monday. But an odd circumstance, he said, had alarmed him that very morning.
He was at first a little shy of telling what it was. He loved, he said, to mind his own business; what other people did was nothing to him; but, at last, he told them, that about six o'clock in the morning he was waked by the trampling of horses; and, looking out of his window, saw a chariot and six, and three or four men on horseback, at the widow Awberry's door. He got up. The footmen and coachmen were very hush, not calling for a drop of liquor, though his doors were open: A rare instance, he said, where there were so many men-servants together, and a coachman one of them. This, he said, could not but give a greater edge to his curiosity.
About seven o'clock, one of the widow's daughters came to the door, with a lighted candle in her hand, and directed the chariot to drive up close to the house. The ale-house-keeper then slipt into an arbour-like porch, next door to the widow's; where he had not been three minutes before he saw two persons come to the door; the one a tall gentleman in laced clothes, who had his arms about the other, a person of middling stature, wrapt up in a scarlet cloak; and resisting, as one in great distress, the other's violence, and begging not to be put into the chariot, in a voice and accent that evidently shewed it was a woman.
The gentleman made vehement protestations of honour; but lifted the lady into the chariot. She struggled, and seemed to be in agonies of grief; and, on being lifted in, and the gentleman going in after her, she screamed out for help; and he observed in the struggling, that she had on, under her cloak, a silver-laced habit: the masquerade habit, no doubt! her screaming grew fainter and fainter, and her voice sounded to him as if her mouth were stopped; and the gentleman seemed to speak high, as if he threatened her.
Away drove the chariot. The servants rode
In about half an hour, a coach and four came to the widow's door; the widow and her two daughters went into it, and took the same road.
The ale-house-keeper had afterwards the curiosity to ask the maid-servant, an ignorant country wench, whither her mistress went so early in the morning? She answered, they were gone to Windsor, or that way, and would not return, she believed, in a week.
O this damned Sir Hargrave! He has a house upon the forest. I have no doubt but he is the villain. Who knows what injuries the dear creature might have sustained before she was forced into the chariot?-God give me patience! Dear soul! Her prayers! Her struggling! Her crying out for help! Her mouth stopt! Q the villain!
I have ordered as many men and horses as two of my friends can furnish me with, to be added to two of my own, (we shall be nine in all,) to get ready with all speed. I will pursue the villain to the world's end, but I will find him.
Our first course shall be to his house at Windsor. If we find him not there, we will proceed to that Bagenhall's, near Reading.
It would be but losing time were I to go now to Paddington. And when the vile widow and her daughters are gone from home, and only an ignorant wench left, what can we learn of her more than is already told to us?
I have, however, accepted Lady Betty's offer of her steward's going with the two chairmen, to get what farther intelligence he can from Paddington, against my return.
I shall take what I have written with me, to form from it a letter less hurrying, less alarming, for your perusal, than this that I have written at such snatches of time, and under such dreadful uncertainties, would be to you, were I to send it; that is to say, if I have time, and if I am able to write with any certainty-O that dreaded certainty!
At four in the morning the six men I borrow, and myself, and two of my servants, well armed, are to rendezvous at Hyde Park Corner. It is grievous that another night must pass. But so many people cannot be got together as two or three might.
My poor wife has made me promise to take the assistance of peace-officers, wherever I find either the villain, or the suffering angel.
Where the road parts, we shall divide, and inquire at every turnpike; and shall agree upon our places of meeting.
I am harassed to death; but my mind is the greatest sufferer.
O My dear Mr Selby! we have tidings-God be praised, we have tidings-Not so happy, indeed, as were to be wished; yet the dear creature is living, and in honourable hands-God be praised!
Read the enclosed letter, directed to me.
MISS BYRON is in safe and honourable hands. The first moment she could give any account of herself, she besought me to quiet your heart, and your lady's, with this information. She has been cruelly treated. Particulars, at present, she cannot give. She was many hours speechless.
But don't fright yourselves; her fits, though not less frequent, are weaker and weaker.
The bearer will acquaint you who my brother is; to whom you owe the preservation and safety of the loveliest woman in England; and he will direct you to a house where you will be welcome with your lady, (for Miss Byron cannot be removed,) to convince yourselves that all possible care is taken of her, by,
Your humble servant,
Friday, Feb. 17.
In fits!-Has been cruelly treated !-Many hours speechless!-Cannot be removed!-Her solicitude, though hardly herself, for our ease! -Dearest, dear creature!-But you will rejoice with me, my cousins, that she is in such honourable hands.
What I have written must now go. I have no time to transcribe.
I have sent to my two friends to let them know, that I shall not have occasion for their people's assistance.
She is at a nobleman's house, the Earl of L-, near Colnebrook.
My wife, harassed and fatigued in mind as she has been on this occasion, and poorly in health, wanted to go with me; but it is best first for me to see how the dear creature is.
I shall set out before day, on horseback. My servant shall carry with him a portmanteau of things, ordered by my wife. My cousin must have made a strange appearance, in her masquerade dress, to her deliverer.
The honest man who brought the letter, [he looks remarkably so; but had he a less agreeable countenance, he would have been received by us as an angel, for his happy tidings, was but just returned from Windsor, whither he had been sent early in the morning, to transact some business, when he was dispatched away to us with the welcome letter. He could not, therefore, be so particular as we wished him. What he gathered was from the housekeeper; the men-servants, who were in the fray, [a fray there was, being gone to town with their master. But what we learnt from him, is, briefly, as follows:
His master is Sir Charles Grandison; a gentleman who has not been long in England. I have often heard mention of his father, Sir Thomas,
who died not long ago. This honest man knew not when to stop in his master's praise. He gives his young lady also an excellent character.
Sir Charles was going to town in his chariotand-six when he met (most happily met!) our distressed cousin.
Sir Hargrave is the villain.
I am heartily sorry for suspecting Mr Gre ville.
Sir Charles had earnest business in town; and he proceeded thither, after he had rescued the dear creature, and committed her to the care of his sister.-God for ever bless him!
The vile Sir Hargrave, as the servant understood, was wounded. Sir Charles, it seems, was also hurt. Thank God it was so slightly, as not to hinder him from pursuing his journey to town after the glorious act.
I would have given the honest man a handsome gratuity; but he so earnestly besought me to excuse him, declaring that he was under an obligation to the most generous of masters to decline all gifts, that I was obliged to withdraw my hand.
I will speed this away by Richard Fennell. I will soon send you farther particulars by the post; not unhappy ones, I hope.
Excuse, meantime, all that is amiss in a letter, the greatest part of which was written in such a dreadful uncertainty, and believe, that I will be
MR REEVES TO GEORGE SELBY, ESQ.
Sat. Feb. 18.
I AM just returned from visiting my beloved cousin. You will be glad of every minute particular, as I can give it to you, relating to this shocking affair; and to her protector and his sister. There are not such another brother and sister in England.
I got to the hospitable mansion by nine this morning. I inquired after Miss Byron's health; and, on giving in my name, was shewn into a handsome parlour, elegantly furnished.
Immediately came down to me a very agreeable young lady; Miss Grandison. I gave her a thousand thanks for the honour of her letter, and the joyful information it had given me of the safety of one so deservedly dear to us.
She must be an excellent young lady, answered she. I have just left her-you must not see her yet
Ah, madam! said I, and looked surprised and grieved, I believe
Don't affright yourself, sir. Miss Byron will
do very well; but she must be kept quiet. She has had a happy deliverance-She
O, madam! interrupted I, your generous, your noble brother
Is the best of men, Mr Reeves; his delight is in doing good.-And, as to this adventure, it has made him, I am sure, a very happy
But is my cousin, madam, so ill, that I can not be allowed to see her for one moment?
She is but just come out of a fit. She fell into it in the relation she would have made of her story, on mentioning the villain's name by whom she has suffered. She could give only broken and imperfect accounts of herself all day yesterday, or you had heard from me sooner. When you see her, you must be very cautious of what you say to her. We have a skilful physician, by whose advice we proceed.
God for ever bless you, madam!
He has not long left her. He advises quiet. She has had a very bad night. Could she compose herself, could she get a little natural rest, the cure is performed. Have you breakfasted, sir?
Breakfasted, madam! My impatience to see my cousin allowed me not to think of breakfast.
You must breakfast with me, sir. And when that is over, if she is tolerable, we will acquaint her with your arrival, and go up together. I read your impatience, sir; we will make but a very short breakfasting. I was just going to breakfast.
She rang. It was brought in.
I longed, I said, as we sat at tea, to be acquainted with the particulars of the happy deliverance.
We avoid asking any questions that may affect her. I know very little of the particulars myself. My brother was in haste to get to town. The servants that were with him at the time, hardly dismounted; he doubted not but the lady (to whom he referred me for the gratifying my curiosity) would be able to tell me everything. But she fell into fits, and, as I told you, was so ill, on the recollection of what she had suffered
Good God! said I, what must the dear creature have suffered!
-That we thought fit to restrain our curiosity, and so must you, till we see Sir Charles. I expect him before noon.
I am told, madam, that there was a skirmish. I hope Sir Charles
I hope so, too, Mr Reeves, interrupted she. I long to see my brother as much as you can do to see your cousin-But, on my apprehensions, he assured me, upon his honour, that he was but very slightly hurt. Sir Charles is no qualifier, sir, when he stakes his honour, be the occasion either light or serious.
I said, I doubted not but she was very much
surprised at a lady's being brought in by Sir Charles, and in a dress so fantastic.
I was, sir. I had not left my chamber; but hastened down at the first word, to receive and welcome the stranger. My maid, out of breath, burst into my room-Sir Charles, madam, beseeches you this moment to come down. He has saved a lady from robbers, (that was her report,) a very fine lady! and is come back with her. He begs that you will come down this instant.
I was too much surprised at my brother's unexpected return, and too much affected with the lady's visible grief and terror, to attend to her dress, when I first went down. She was sitting, dreadfully trembling, and Sir Charles next her, in a very tender manner, assuring her of his and of his sister's kindest protection. I saluted her, continued the lady; welcome, welcome! thrice welcome, to this house, and to me!
She threw herself on one knee to me. Distress had too much humbled her. Sir Charles and I raised her to her seat. You see before you, madam, said she, a strange creature, and looked at her dress; but I hope you will believe I am an innocent one. This vile appearance was not my choice. Fie upon me! I must be thus dressed out for a masquerade; hated diversion! I never had a notion of it. Think not hardly, sir, turning to Sir Charles, her hands clasped and held up, of her whom you have so generously delivered. Think not hardly of me, madam, turning to me; I am not a bad creature. That vile, vile man!--She could say no more.
Charlotte, said my brother, you will make it your first care to raise the spirits of this injured beauty; your next, to take her directions, and inform her friends of her safety. Such an admirable young lady as this, cannot be missed an hour, without exciting the fears of all her friends for her. I repeat, madam, that you are in honourable hands. My sister will have pleasure in obliging you.
She wished to be conveyed to town; but looking at her dress, I offered her clothes of mine; and my brother said, if she were very earnest, and thought herself able to go, he would take horse, and leave the chariot, and he was sure that I would attend her thither.
But before she could declare her acceptance of this offer, as she seemed joyfully ready to do, her spirits failed her, and she sunk down at my
Sir Charles just staid to see her come to herself; and then-Sister, said he, the lady cannot be removed. Let Dr Holmes be sent for instantly. I know you will give her your best attendance. I will be with you before noon tomorrow. The lady is too low, and too weak, to be troubled with questions now. Johnson will be back from Windsor. Let him take her com
mands to any of her friends. Adieu, dear madam-Your cousin, sir, seemed likely to faint again-Support yourself. Repeating, You are in safe and honourable hands; bowing to her, as she bowed in return, but spoke not-Adieu, Charlotte; and away went the best of brothers.
And God Almighty bless him, said I, whereever he goes!
Miss Grandison then told me, that the house I was in belonged to the Earl of L, who had lately married her elder sister. About three months ago, they set out, she said, to pay a visit to my lord's estate and relations in Scotland, for the first time, and to settle some affairs there; they were expected back in a week or fortnight; she came down but last Tuesday, and that in order to give directions for everything to be prepared for their reception. It was happy for your cousin, said she, that I obtained the favour of my brother's company; and that he was obliged to be in town this morning. He intended to come back to carry me to town this evening. We are a family of love, Mr Reeves. We are true brothers and sisters-But why trouble I you with these things now? We shall be better acquainted. I am charmed with Miss Byron.
She was so good as to hurry the breakfast; and when it was over, conducted me up stairs. She bid me stay at the door, and stept gently to the bed-side, and opening the curtain, I heard the voice of our cousin.
Dear madam, what trouble do I give! were her words.
Still talk of trouble, Miss Byron? answered Miss Grandison, with an amiable familiarity; you will not forbear-Will you promise me not to be surprised at the arrival of your cousin Reeves?
I do promise-I shall rejoice to see him. Miss Grandison called to me. I approached; and catching my cousin's held-out hand, Thank God, thank God, best beloved of a hundred hearts! said I, that once more I behold you! that once more I see you in safe and honourable hands!-I will not tell you what we have all suffered.
No, don't, said she-You need not-But, O my cousin! I have fallen into the company of angels.
Forbear, gently patting her hand, forbear these high flights, said the kind lady, or I shall beat my charming patient. I shall not think you in a way to be quite well, till you descend. She whispered me, that the doctor had expressed fears for her head, if she were not kept quiet. Then raising her voice, Your cousin's gratitude, Mr Reeves, is excessive. You must allow me, smiling, to beat her. When she is well, she shall talk of angels, and of what she pleases.
But, my dear Mr Selby, we who know how
her heart overflows with sentiments of gratitude, on every common obligation, and even on but intentional ones, can easily account for the high sense she must have of those she lies under for such a deliverance from the brother, and of such kind treatment from the sister, both absolute strangers, till her distresses threw her into their protection.
I will only ask my dear Miss Byron one question, said I, (forgetting the caution given me below by Miss Grandison,) Whether this villain, by his violence-[meant marriage, I was going to say-But, interrupting me, You shall not, Mr Reeves, said Miss Grandison, smiling, ask half a question, that may revive disagreeable remembrances. Is she not alive, and here, and in a way to be well? Have patience till she is able to tell you all.
My cousin was going to speak. My dear, said the lady, you shall not answer Mr Reeves's question, if it be a question that will induce you to look backward. At present you must look only forward. And are you not in my care, and in Sir Charles Grandison's protection?
I have done, madam, said I, bowing-The desire of taking vengeance
Hush, Mr Reeves!-Surely !-Smiling, and holding her finger to her lip.
It is a patient's duty, said my cousin, to submit to the prescriptions of her kind physician; but were I ever to forgive the author of my distresses, it must be for his being the occasion of bringing me into the knowledge of such a lady; and yet to lie under the weight of obligations that I never can return-Here she stopt.
I took this as a happy indication that the last violence was not offered; if it had, she would not have mentioned forgiving the author of her distress.
As to what you say of obligation, Miss Byron, returned Miss Grandison, let your heart answer for mine, had you and I changed situation. And if, on such a supposition, you can think, that your humanity would have been so extraordinary a matter, then shall you be at liberty, when you are recovered, to say a thousand fine things; till when, pray be silent on this subject.
Then turning to me, See how much afraid your cousin Byron is of lying under obligations. I am afraid she has a proud heart; has she not a very proud heart, Mr Reeves?
She has a very grateful one, madam, replied I.
She turned to my cousin, Will you, Miss Byron, be easy under the obligations you talk of, or will you not?
I submit to your superiority, madam, in everything, replied my cousin, bowing her head.
She then asked me, If I had let her friends in the country know of this shocking affair?
I had suspected Mr Greville, I said, and had written in confidence to her uncle Selby.
O, my poor grandmamma-0, my good aunt Selby, and my Lucy-I hope
Miss Grandison interposed, humorously interrupting-I will have nothing said that begins with O. Indeed, Miss Byron, Mr Reeves, I will not trust you together-Cannot you have patience
We both asked her pardon. My cousin desired leave to rise-But these odious clothes, said she
If you are well enough, child, replied Miss Grandison, you shall rise, and have no need to see those odious clothes, as you call them. I told them Mrs Reeves had sent her some of her clothes. The portmanteau was ordered to be brought up.
Then Miss Grandison, sitting down on the bed by my cousin, took her hand; and, feeling her pulse, Are you sure, my patient, that you shall not suffer if you are permitted to rise? Will you be calm, serene, easy? Will you banish curiosity? Will you endeavour to avoid
I will do my endeavour, answered my cousin. Miss Grandison then rung, and a maid-servant coming up, Jenny, said she, pray give your best assistance to my lovely patient. But be sure don't let her hurry her spirits. I will lead Mr Reeves into my dressing-room. And when you are dressed, my dear, we will either return to you here, or expect you to join us there at your pleasure.
And then she obligingly conducted me into her dressing-room, and excused herself for refusing to let us talk of interesting subjects. I am rejoiced, said she, to find her more sedate and composed than hitherto she has been. Her head has been greatly in danger. Her talk, for some hours, when she did talk, was so wild and incoherent, and she was so full of terror, on every one's coming in her sight, that I would not suffer anybody to attend her but myself.
I left her not, continued Miss Grandison, till eleven; and the housekeeper, and my maid, sat up in her room all the rest of the night.
I arose before my usual time to attend her. I slept not well myself. I did nothing but dream of robbers, rescues, and murders; such an impression had the distresses of this young lady made on my mind.
They made me a poor report, proceeded she, of the night she had passed. And, as I told you, she fainted away this morning, a little before you came, on her endeavouring to give me some account of her affecting story.
Let me tell you, Mr Reeves, I am as curious as you can be, to know the whole of what has befallen her; but her heart is tender and delicate; her spirits are low; and we must not pull down with one hand, what we build up with the other; my brother also will expect a good account of my charge.
I blessed her for her goodness. And finding
her desirous of knowing all that I could tell her, of our cousin's character, family, and lovers, I gave her a brief history, which extremely pleased her. Good God! said she, what a happiness is it, that such a lady, in such distress, should meet with a man as excellent, and as much admired, as herself! My brother, Mr Reeves, can never marry but he must break half a score hearts. Forgive me, that I bring him in, whenever any good person, or thing, or action, is spoken of. Everybody, I believe, who is strongly possessed of a subject, makes everything seen, heard, or read of, that bears the least resemblance, turn into and serve to illustrate that subject.
But here I will conclude this letter, in order to send it by the post. Besides, I have been so much fatigued in body and mind, and my wife has also been so much disturbed in her mind, that I must give way to a call of rest.
I will pursue the subject, the now agreeable subject, in the morning; and perhaps shall dispatch what I shall farther write, as you must be impatient for it, by an especial messenger.
Sir Rowland was here twice yesterday, and once to-day. My wife caused him to be told, that Miss Byron, by a sudden call, has been obliged to go a little way out of town for two or three days.
He proposes to set out for Caermarthen the beginning of next week. He hoped he should not be denied taking his corporal leave of her.
If our cousin has a good day to-morrow, and no return of her fits, she proposes to be in town on Monday. I am to wait on her, and Sir Charles and his sister, at breakfast on Monday morning, and to attend her home; where there will be joy indeed, on her arrival.
Pray receive for yourself, and make for me to your lady, and all friends, my compliments of congratulation.
I have not had either leisure or inclination, to inquire after the villain, who has given us all this disturbance. Ever, ever yours!
FROM MR REEVES TO GEORGE SELBY, ESQ.
MISS GRANDISON went to my cousin, to see how she bore rising, supposing her near dressed.
She soon returned to me. The most charming woman, I think, said she, I ever saw! but she trembles so, that I have persuaded her to lie down. I answered for you, that you would stay dinner.