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Something there is more needful than expense,
THE family at Webberly House was the only one
in the neighbourhood of Deane, which lived in a style of ostentatious expense; its members vainly endeavouring to purchase respect by extravagance, and to transfer the ideas and hours of the beau monde to a place totally unfit for their reception. The only families within a distance of ten miles of their residence were-Sir Henry Seymour's, at Deane HallSquire Thornbull's, at Hunting Field, and Mr. Temple's, at the parsonage of Deane; all of whom lived in the most quiet manner. Beyond this distance, however, the country was more thickly inhabited, and the town of York, in the race and assize week, presented sufficient attractions to make a drive of thirty miles no impediment to the Webberlys visiting it at those times, though its allurements were not great enough to tempt their immediate neighbours from their homes. Mrs. Sullivan had purchased Webberly House, two years previous to the commencement of this narration, on the faith of an advertisement nearly as deceptious as the famous one of a celebrated auctioneer, that procured the sale of an estate on the strength of a "hanging-wood," which proved to be a gibbet on an adjoining common.
Webberly House-formerly called Simson's Follyhad been purposely tricked up for sale by a prodigal heir, when obliged to dispose of his paternal estate to discharge the debts his extravagance had incurred.
*When fools would avoid one extreme, they run into the other.
As a second dupe was not easily to be found, Mrs. Sullivan now vainly endeavoured to part with it, as neither she nor her children could reconcile themselves to living in so retired a part of the country.
Mrs. Sullivan was the only child of an extremely rich hosier in Cheapside, who perhaps had saved more money than he had made, and fully instructed his daughter in all the arts of frugality, limiting her knowledge of all other arts and sciences to considerable manual dexterity in making "a pudding and a shirt," which he considered the ultimatum of semale education. When Miss Leatherly was thus, according to long-established opinion, qualified formatrimony, her large fortune brought her in reward a West Indian planter as a husband, from whom she acquired those habits of ostentatious arrogance, which, united to her early imbibed parsimony, formed the principal traits of her character. By this marriage Mrs. Sullivan had one son and two daughters; and, fifteen years after the birth of the former, became a widow, with a large jointure, as well as all her father's riches, at her own disposal. She received the addresses of many fortune-hunters, but finally gave the preference to a handsome, good natured, dissipated Irishman, whose name she now bore. Mr. Sullivan at the period of his marriage was past the prime of life; he had long served in the Austrian armies, (for being a Catholic, he was incapacitated from holding any high rank in those of his native sovereign, and therefore preferred following another standard,) but his military career procuring him little except scars and honours, he gladly availed himself of the wealthy widow's evident partiality, and at first thought himself most fortunate in becoming the possessor of so large a fortune; yet soon found he had dearly purchased the affluence which inflicted on him, not only the disgusting illiberal vulgarity of his wife, but the petulant rudeness and self-sufficiency of her children. His only consolation was a daugh
ter Mrs. Sullivan had presented him with, in the first year of their marriage, and his happiness as a father, made him in some degree forget his miseries as a husband. His heart was completely wrapped up in the charming little Caroline, and bitterly did he repent on her account, that his former prodigality had obliged him to yield to his elder brother's desire of cutting off the entail of the family estate; which must otherwise have descended to her, being settled on the females, as well as males of their ancient house. Mr. and Mrs. Sullivan associated but little together; as she was never happy except when she accompanied her elder daughters to the most fashionable wateringplaces; whilst he, remaining at home, devoted most of his time to the little Caroline. But here, unfortunately, in the attempt to banish the uneasy feelings of his mind, he by degrees formed a habit of indulging the pleasures of the bottle, in a greater degree than strict propriety permits. About three months before his death, the little domestic comfort he had enjoyed was exchanged for the most complete disquietude, as at that time the jealousy of his wife was roused by his introducing Miss Wildenheim into his family as his ward. Notwithstanding his most solemn assurances, that this young lady was the daughter of a German baron, who had not only long been his commanding officer, but his most zealous friend, Mrs. Sullivan constantly asserted she was his natural child. Such a paternity was in her eyes an almost unpardonable crime; for considering her inferiority of rank and sex, she was still more unreasonable than Henry the Eighth, who made it high treason for those he sought as partners to his throne not to confess all the errors they had been guilty of in a state of celibacy. Perhaps nothing but the stipend received for Adelaide's maintenance could have reconciled Mrs. Sullivan to her residence at Webberly House, for she was too avaricious not to submit to a great deal for three hundred a year.
When Miss Wildenheim first appeared in Mr. Sullivan's family, she was in the deepest mourning for a parent, who his wife felt convinced was her mother. It must be confessed, the affection Mr. Sullivan showed Adelaide, and his distracted state of mind from the period of her arrival, gave a very plausible colour to his wife's suspicions. He avoided the society of his family, and giving himself up to his habit of drinking, it in a short time proved fatal; for returning late one night from squire Thornbull's in a state of intoxication, he was killed at his own gate by falling off his horse. Miss Wildenheim's consequent affliction, and dangerous illness, left no doubt in Mrs. Sullivan's mind, as to the justice of her surmises. Enraged by this apparent confirmation of her imagined wrongs, and urged by the envious hatred the Miss Webberlys showed of Adelaide's superior charms, she determined no longer to retain under her roof an object on these accounts so obnoxious; and, as a flattering unction to her soul, persuaded herself, that a girl with ten thousand pounds fortune could never be at any great loss for a home. But at length her darling passion, covetousness, prevailed over her resentment; as she recollected, that should the brother of her late husband ever hear of her treating in such a manner a girl Mr. Sullivan had left under her protection, and in whose fate (from whatever motive) he had shown so deep an interest, her unkindness might be construed into disrespect to his memory, and as such be resented with the warmth of family pride and affection, so natural to the Irish character; and perhaps prompt the offended brother to revenge the affront, by leaving his estate to a distant cousin, who had been dreaded by her husband as a rival to Caroline. These and other pecuniary considerations finally induced Mrs. Sullivan to accept the guardianship of Miss Wildenheim in conjunction with a Mr. Austin, who was trustee to her fortune, and was said to be an old and faithful friend of her father.
However Mrs. Sullivan had failed in the character of a wife, she had always been weakly indulgent as a mother, and was easily led by her children into every expensive folly. Her son's command of money had made him, on his first entrance into life, a very desirable acquaintance to some needy young men of fashion, who, in return for the pecuniary accommodation he afforded them, did him the favour to turn his head and corrupt his morals. As he became daily more ambitious to emulate his new associates in all their extravagance, he persuaded his mother to change her style of living, in order to imitate as closely as possible that of the relatives of his professed friends. At this critical period, he had unfortunately found Mr. Sullivan no less solicitous of joining those secondary circles of fashion, to which alone tbey could expect admittance, from his having long been accustomed to lead as a bachelor a life of gayety and dissipation; and the Miss Webberlys still more zealously promoted his wishes, being equally solicitous to reach the threshold of fashion, which had long been the unattained object of their highest hope. This was perhaps the only point in the chapter of possibilities, on which the whole family could agree.
Mrs. Sullivan reversed the order of nature, and followed the path her children traced for her, supposing them to be better instructed in such things than herself; for she knew they had received a superabundance of the means, and, poor woman! she had not sense to perceive they had missed the ends of education. In encouraging her children in the pursuit of fashionable follies, Mrs. Sullivan but followed the general example of wealthy parents, whom we so frequently behold acting like the worshippers of Moloch in elder days, making their sons and their daughters pass through the fires of dissipation, in the chance of drawing them forth from the ordeal with greater external brightness; but the