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man to drive back to Colnebrook. In accents of kindness, he told me, that he had there at present the most virtuous and prudent of sisters, to whose care he would commit me, and then proceed on his journey to town.
How irresistibly welcome to me was his supporting arm, thrown round me, as we flew back, compared to that of the vile Sir Hargrave!
Mr Reeves has given you an account from the angelic sister-O my Lucy! they are a pair of angels!
I have written a long, long letter, or rather five letters in one, of my distresses, of my deliverance: and, when my heart is stronger, I will say more of the persons, as well as minds, of this excellent brother and sister.
But what shall I do with my gratitude? O my dear, I am overwhelmed with my gratitude! I can only express it in silence before them. Every look, if it be honest to my heart, however, tells it: reverence mingles with my gratitude-yet there is so much ease, so much sweetness, in the behaviour of both-O my Lucy! Did I not find that my veneration of both is equal; did I not, on examination, find, that the amiable sister is as dear to me, from her experienced tenderness, as her brother from his remembered bravery, (which must needs mingle awe with my esteem); in short, that I love the sister, and revere the brother; I should be afraid of my gratitude.
I have over-written myself. I am tired. O my grandmamma! you have never yet, while I have been in London, sent me your ever-valued blessing under your own hand: yet, I am sure I had it; and your blessings, my dear uncle and aunt Selby; and your prayers, my Lucy, my Nancy, and all my loves; else my deliverance had not perhaps followed my presumptuous folly, in going dressed out, like the fantastic wretch I appeared to be, at a vile, a foolish masquerade. How often, throughout the several stages of my distress, and even in my deliverance, did I turn my eye to myself, and from myself, with the disgust that made a part, and that not a light one, of my punishment!
And so much, my Lucy, for masquerades, and masquerade-dresses, for ever!
Pray, let not anybody unnecessarily be acquainted with this shocking affair: particularly neither Mr Greville nor Mr Fenwick. It is very probable, that they (especially Mr Greville) would be for challenging Sir Hargrave, were it only on a supposition that it would give him an interest in me in the eye of the world. You know that Mr Greville watches for all opportunities to give himself consequence with me.
Were any farther mischief to happen to anybody, I should be grieved beyond measure. Hitherto I have reason to think, that a transaction so shocking is not very unhappily concluded. May the vile man sit himself down satis
THE enclosed long letter is just now brought to me. I pretend not to judge of the writer's. penitence. Yet his confessions seem ingenuous; and he was not under any obligation to put them on paper.
As I presume that you will not think it advisable to make the ineffectual attempt upon Miss Byron public by a prosecution, perhaps your condescending to let the man's sister know, that her brother, if in earnest, may securely pursue the honest purposes he mentions, may save the poor wretch from taking such courses as might be fatal, not only to himself, but to innocent persons, who otherwise may suffer by his being made desperate.
The man, as you will see by his letter, if you had not a still stronger proof, has abilities to do mischief. He has been in bad hands, as he tells us, from his youth upwards, or he might have been an useful member of society. He is a young man; and if yet he could be made so, his reformation will take from the number of the profligate, and add to that of the hopeful; and who knows how wide the circle of his acquaintance is, and how many of them may be influenced by his example either way? If he marry the not-dishonest young woman, to whom he seems to be contracted, may not your lenity be a means of securing a whole future family on the side of moral honesty?
His crime, as the attempt was frustrated, is not capital: and, not to mention the service of such an evidence as this, should Sir Hargrave seek for a legal redress, as he sometimes weakly threatens, my hope makes me see a farther good that may be brought about by this man's reformation. Wicked masters cannot execute their base views upon the persons of the innocent, without the assistance of wicked servants. What a nest of vipers may be crushed at once, or, at
least, rendered unhurtful, by depriving the three monsters he names of the aid of such an agent! Men who want to save appearances, and have estates to forfeit, will sometimes be honest of necessity, rather than put themselves into the power of untried villains.
You will be so good as to make my compliments to your lady, and to our lovely ward. You see, sir, that I join myself with you in the honour of that agreeable relation.
I hope the dear lady has perfectly recovered her health and spirits. I am, good Mr Reeves, Your most faithful and obedient servant, CHARLES GRANDISON.
TO THE HON. SIR CHARLES GRANDISON, BART.
Saturday, Feb. 18.
In what an odious light must that wretch appear before the worthiest of men, who cannot but abhor himself!
I am the unhappy man who was hired into the service of the best of young ladies; whom I was the means of betraying into the power of Sir Hargrave Pollexfen, from the ball in the Hay-market on Thursday night last.
Your honour has made yourself an interest in Miss Byron's fate, as I may say, by your powerful protection. Pardon me if I give you some account of myself, and of transactions which perhaps will otherwise never be known; and this in justice to all round.
My parentage was honest; my education was above my parentage. I set out with good principles; but I fell into bad service. I was young and of a good natural disposition; but had not virtue enough to resist a temptation; I could not say no, to an unlawful thing, when my principals commanded my assent.
I was, at first setting out, by favour of friends, taken as clerk to a merchant. In process of time I transacted his business at the customhouse. He taught me to make light of oaths of office; and this by degrees made me think light of all moral obligations, and laid the foundation of my ruin.
My master's name was Bagenhall. He died; and I was to seek. His brother succeeded to his fortune, which was very large; he was brought up to no business; he was a gentleman; his seat is near Reading. I was recommended by him to the service of a gentleman who was nominated to go abroad on a foreign embassy. I will name his name, lest your honour should imagine I have any design to evade the strictest truth; Sir Christopher Lucas; I was to be this gentleman's master of the horse abroad.
The first service my new master employed me in, was to try to get for him the pretty daughter of an honest farmer.
I had been out of place for a twelvemonth. Had I had twenty shillings aforehand in the world, I would, I think, have said No. Nevertheless, I consulted, in confidence, my late master's brother upon it. The advice he gave me, was, not to boggle at it; but if, he said, I could manage the matter so as to cheat Sir Christopher, and get the girl for him, and keep the secret, he would give me 50%. I abhorred the double treachery of young Mr Bagenhall; but undertook to serve Sir Christopher; and carried on a treaty with the farmer for his daughter; as if she were to be the wife of Sir Christopher; but not to be owned till he returned from abroad; no, not even if she should prove with child.
I found, in the course of my visits at the farmer's so much honesty both in father and mother, and so much innocence in the daughter, that my heart relented; and I took an opportunity to reveal Sir Christopher's base design to them; for the girl was designed to be ruined the very first moment that Sir Christopher could be alone with her. Your honour may believe, that I enjoined all three strict secrecy.
Nevertheless, this contriving devil of a master found a way to get the young woman by other means; and, in amorous dalliance, she told him to whom he was obliged for not succeeding before.
In rage he turned me out of his service, in the most disgraceful manner; but without giving any other reasons, than that he knew me to be a villain; and that I knew myself to be one; nor would he give me a character; so I was quite reduced; and but for the kindness of a sister, who keeps an inn in Smithfield, I should have starved, or been obliged to do
I should have told your honour, that the poor farmer and his wife both died of grief in half a year. An honest young man, who dearly loved the young woman, was found drowned soon after; it is feared he was his own executioner. Sir Christopher went not on his embassy. His preparations for it, and his expensive way of life, before and after, reduced him; and he has been long a beggar, as I may say. The poor young woman is now, if living, on the town. I saw her about half a year ago in St Martin's roundhouse, taken up as a common prostitute, and charged with picking a pocket. She was a pretty creature, and had a very pious turn, when I knew her first. Her father had gone beyond himself in her education; and this was the fruit. What has such a man as Sir Christopher to answer for !-But it is come home to him. I rejoice that this wickedness was not added to my score.
But heavy scenes I had enough afterwards. Being utterly destitute, except what my sister did for me, and not enduring to be a burden to her, I threw myself upon my master Bagenhall. He employed me in mean offices, till his
pander died; (he is a very profligate man, sir!) and then he promoted me to a still meaner.
In this way, I grew a shameless contriver. He introduced me to Sir Hargrave Pollexfen, and to Mr Merceda, a Portuguese Jew. In the service of these three masters, good Heaven forgive me! what villainies was I not the means of perpetrating! Yet I never was so hardened, but I had temporary remorses. But these three gentlemen would never let me rest from wickedness; yet they kept me poor and necessitous, as the only means to keep me what they called honest; for they had often reason to think, that had I had any other means of subsistence, I would have been really honest.
I was now Mr Bagenhall's constant servant. Sir Hargrave and Mr Merceda used to borrow me; but I must say, Sir Hargrave is an innocent man to the other two. They caressed me, I speak it to my shame, as a man fit for their turn. I had contrivance; temper; I knew something of everybody. But my sister knows my frequent compunctions; and that I hated the vile course I was in. She used to lecture me enough. She is a good woman.
Will your honour have patience with me a little longer?
Sir Hargrave on the seventh of this month came to my master Bagenhall at Reading, with whom he had double business; one was to take a bond and judgment of him; (Sir Hargrave is no better than an usurer;) Mr Bagenhall has lived a most extravagant life; the other was to borrow me. Mr Merceda had a scheme on foot at the same time, which he was earnest to engage me in; but it was too shocking; and Mr Bagenhall came into Sir Hargrave's.
Sir Hargrave told them he designed nothing more than a violation, if he could get my assistance, of the most beautiful woman in the world. And, sir, to see the villainy of the other two; they both, unknown to each other, made proposals to me to trick Sir IIargrave, and to get the lady, each for himself.
But to me, Sir Hargrave swore, that he was fully resolved to leave this wicked course of life. Bagenhall and Merceda, he said, were devils; and he would marry, and have no more to say to them. All that was in his view was honest marriage. He said he had never been in the lady's company but once, and that was the day before at Lady Betty Williams's. He said he went thither, knowing she was to be there; for having for some time had it in his head to marry, this was the lady he had pitched upon in his mind, from the character he had of her from every mouth at the Northampton races.
Now, said he, I shall have some difficulty to obtain her, notwithstanding my fortune is so great; for every one who sees her is in love with her; and he named several gentlemen who laid close siege to her.
She brought a servant up with her, said he,
who hones after the country, and is actually gone, or soon will. Her cousin inquires of every one after a proper servant for her. You, Wilson, said he, are handsome and genteel; he was pleased to say so. You have a modest humble look; you know all the duties of a servant; get yourself entertained, and your fortune is made for life, if by your means I obtain the lady. I have already tendered myself, said he. Perhaps she will have me in a few days. I don't expect to be denied, if she be disengaged, as it is said she is. If you can get into her service, you will find out everything. That is all that is to be done; but you must never mention my name, nor ever know anything of me, as I go and come.
Sir Hargrave declared, that his heart was burnt up with the love of the lady; and if he succeeded, (as he had little doubt, even without my help, had I been actually in Merceda's service,) you will, said he, as my lady's servant, be mine of course; you shall never wear a livery; and you shall be my gentleman, till I can get a place for you in the customs. This, may it please your honour, he knew I had long aimed at; and it had been often promised by himself, and my other two masters; and was their first promise when they wanted to engage me in any of their schemes, though they never thought more of it when the service was over. If I got but myself engaged, I was, on the day I entered into my lady's service, to have as an earnest ten guineas.
Encouraged by such promises, (and the project being an honester one than ever Sir Hargrave, or either of the other two, had sought to engage me in,) I offered my service to my lady; and, on Mr Bagenhall's writing a good character of me, was accepted.
I could have been happy in the service of this lady all the days of my life. She is all goodness; all the servants, everybody, gentle and simple, adored her; but she, unexpectedly, refusing to have Sir Hargrave, and he being afraid that one of her three or four lovers would cut him out, he resolved to take more violent measures than he had at first intended.
If any man was ever mad in love, it was Sir Hargrave. But then he was as mad with anger to be refused. Sir Hargrave was ever thought to be one of the proudest men in England; and he complained that my lady used him worse than she did anybody else. But it was not her way to use anybody ill, I saw that.
Nevertheless he was resolved to strike a bold stroke for a wife, as were his words, from the title of a play; and between us we settled the matter in one night; for I had found means to get out unknown to the family.
It would be trespassing too much upon your honour's patience, to be very particular in our contrivance. I will be as brief as possible.
My lady was to go to a masquerade. I got
into the knowledge of everything how and about it. The maids were as full of the matter as their master and mistresses.
It was agreed to make the chairmen fuddled. Two of Mr Merceda's footmen were to undertake the task. Brandy was put into their liquor, to hasten them.
They were soon overcome. The weather was cold; they drank briskly, and were laid up safe. I then hired two chance chairmen, and gave them orders, as had been contrived.
I had twenty guineas given me in hand for my encouragement; in which were included the promised ten.
I had, when I was my first master Bagenhall's clerk, made acquaintance with several clerks of the custom-house, particularly with one Awberry, a sober, modest man, who has two sisters; to one of whom I am contracted, and always, for two years past, intended to make my wife, as soon as I should be in any way to maintain her. The mother is a widow. All of them are very honest people.
Mr Awberry, the brother, being assured by me, (and I was well assured of it myself, and had no doubt about it,) that marriage was intended; and knowing Sir Hargrave's great estate, (and having, indeed, seen Sir Hargrave on the occasion, and received his protestations on honour,) engaged his mother and sisters in it; and the result, as to them and me, was, that I was to receive, as soon as the knot was tied, a hundred guineas besides the twenty; and, moreover, an absolute promise of a place; and twenty pounds a-year till I got it; and then my marriage with young Mrs Awberry was to follow.
The widow has an annuity of thirty pounds, which, with her son's salary, keeps them above
She lives at Paddington. There is a backdoor and garden, as it happens, convenient to bring anybody in, or carry anybody out, secretly; and hither it was resolved, if possible, that the lady should be brought, and a Fleet parson and his clerk ready stationed, to perform the ceremony; and then all that the bridegroom wished was to follow of course.
Sir Hargrave doubted not, (though he was fruitful in contrivances, and put many others in practice,) but he should be detected if he carried the lady to his own house. And as he was afraid that the chairmen, (notwithstanding several other artful contrivances,) would be able to find out the place they carried her to, he had ordered his chariot and six to be at the widow Awberry's by six in the morning, with three servants on horseback, armed, and a horse and pistols besides. After marriage and consummation, he was resolved to go to his house on the forest, but not to stay there; but to go to Mr Merceda's house near Newbury, where he doubt ed not but he should be secret till he thought
fit to produce the lady, as Lady Pollexfen; and often, very often, did he triumph on the victory he should obtain over her other lovers, and over her own proud heart, as he would have it to be.
The parson, sir, came; the clerk was there; but what with fits, prayers, tears, and one thing or other, (at one time the lady being thought irrecoverable, having received some unintended hurt in her struggling to get out of a door, as I heard it was,) Sir Hargrave in terror dismissed the parson; and resolved to carry the lady (who by that time was recovered,) in the chariot to his seat at Windsor; and then, staying there only to marry, go to Newbury; and from thence break out by degrees, as the matter should be taken.
My lady screamed, resisted, and did all that woman could do, to get free; and more than once, people who heard her cry out for help, were put on a wrong scent; and had we not met with your honour, (who would see with your own eyes, and hear with your own ears,) the affair had been all over in the way Sir Hargrave wished, and was at so much pains and expense to effect. For, sir, the chariot generally drove so fast, that before passengers could have resolved whether to interfere or not, we should have been out of sight or reach.
Sir Hargrave is in the greatest rage with us all, because we stood not better by him. He refuses any favour to me, and threatens to pistol me the moment he sees me. That's to be my reward.
We were four at setting out from Paddington; but one of the servants was dispatched to prepossess an old servant of Sir Hargrave's mother, at Colnebrook, who keeps there a kind of haberdashery shop; and where he proposed to get some refreshment for the lady, if he could make her take any. For my part, I wonder how she kept out of fits on the road. She had enow of them at Paddington.
The two servants who staid about Sir Hargrave, are discharged with all the marks of indignation that a master incensed by such a disappointment could express; and, as I said before, he is resolved to pistol me the moment he sees me. Yet I too well served him for the peace of my conscience.
A coach and four was ordered to carry the widow and her two daughters to Reading, to the New Inn there, where they were to reside for a week or so, till all was blown over; and that they might be out of the way of answering questions and my brother Awberry, as I call him, and hope to make him, (for he is a very honest man,) was to go to them there.
And there, in all probability, had Sir Hargrave succeeded, and been as good as his word, should I have been the husband of as tender
hearted a young woman as any in the parish she lives in.
Here is a very long letter, may it please you, sir. I have shortened it, however, as much as I could; but in hatred to myself, and the vile ways I have, by excess of good nature, and by meeting with wicked masters, been drawn into-For the clearing of my sister's character, who lives in credit among her neighbours, and of every other person who might otherwise have been suspected-In justice to Mrs Awberry's, and her two daughters', and her son's characters-And in justice so far to Sir Hargrave's, as that he intended marriage, (and had he not, he would have found no friends in his designs at Paddington;) and so far as to clear him of having not offered the least incivility to my lady-Had he intended, or been provoked so to do, he was too well watched by the widow, and her daughters, to have been permitted; and that by my own request, which was, that they should be ready to run in whenever they heard her cry out, and that they would not leave Sir Hargrave alone with my lady for six minutes, till their hands were joined in wedlock] -In justice, I say, to all these persons, I thought proper thus to give you, sir, all that I knew relating to this wicked transaction. And if, may it please your honour, I were to be taken up, I could say no more before a magistrate; except this, which I had like to have forgot; which is, that had it not been for me, some mischief might have been done between Sir Hargrave's servants and yours, if not to your honour's person.
All that I most humbly beg, is, the pardon of so sweet a lady. I have chosen, ever-to-be-honoured sir, to write to you, whose goodness is so generally talked of, and who have so nobly redeemed and protected her. Mr Reeves, I know, has suffered too much in his mind to forgive
He is a worthy gentleman. I am sorry for the disturbance I have given him. I have hopes given me, that I shall get employment on the quays, or as a tide-waiter extraordinary. Please the Lord, I will never, never more, be the tool of wicked masters. All I wish for, is, to be able to do justice to the love of an honest young woman; and I am resolved, whether so enabled or not, to starve rather than to go any more, no, not for a single hour, into the service of the iniquitous gentlemen I have so often named in this long letter.
If I might be assured, that I may pursue, unmolested, any honest calling, so as that I may not be tempted or driven into unhappy courses, my heart would be at rest.
There might have been murder in this affair; that shocks me to think of. O sir! good, excellent, brave, and the most worthy of gentlemen, you have given to me as great a deliverance, as you have to the lady; yea, greater; for mine may be a deliverance, if I make a proper use of it, of soul as well as body. Which
God grant, as also your honour's health and prosperity, to the prayers of Your honour's ever-devoted humble servant, WILLIAM WILSON.
I thought I had something else to say; something it is of high importance; your life is threatened, sir; God preserve your precious life. Amen!
MISS BYRON TO MISS SELBY.
Friday, February 24. My cousin Reeves has given assurance to the sister of that Wilson, that he may, unmolested by any of us, pursue the best means he can fall upon for the obtaining an honest livelihood.
In everything it is determined to follow the advice of my deliverer.
What a letter is that fellow's! What men are there in the world!
Of such we have read; but I hoped, that I might have escaped suffering by any such.
We are extremely disturbed at the fellow's postscript; and the more, as we are told by several people, that Sir Hargrave will not sit down quietly; but threatens vengeance upon Sir Charles. I wish I had not come to London.
I hope my grandmamma's spirits are not affected by what she knows of the matter. It was very good of my aunt Selby to take the measures she did, in softening every circumstance, and not to let her know anything till the danger was over. But, indeed, it was but the natural effect of that prudence which regulates all the actions of my honoured aunt.
My grandmamma has such strength of mind, that now she knows I am safe, and not unhappy, I dare say she will by degrees bear to hear my narrations read. She will be more uneasy if she thinks anything is kept from her.
Yet I know that her tenderness and her love for her Harriet will cost her some anguish, some sighs, some tears, as she reads, or hears read, the cruelty her girl has been treated with; who, so tenderly brought up, so greatly indulged, never before knew what harshness was. But then she will have more joy, I hope, in my deliverance, than she will have pain in my sufferings. And pray, let her know, that I am every day less and less sensible of the pain in my stomach, of which I was so apprehensive, as really, at the time, to think it a mortal blow. My grandmamma has told us girls, you know, my Lucy, twenty and twenty frightful stories of the vile enterprizes of men against innocent creatures; and will therefore call to mind stories