페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

nt upon your favours. I scorn them. othing can keep Miss Wilmot's fortune or me, which, I thank her father's assiity, is pretty large. The articles and a >nd for her fortune are signed, and safe my possession. It was her fortune, not er person, that induced me to wish for his match; and, possessed of the one, let ho will take the other."

for once admit that happiness which courts your acceptance."

66

This was an alarming blow. Sir William vas sensible of the justice of his claims, for ie had been instrumental in drawing up the marriage articles himself. Miss Wilmot, therefore, perceiving that her fortune was iretrievably lost, turning to my son, asked if the loss of fortune could lessen her vase to him?" Though fortune," said she, "is out of my power, at least I have my hand to give.'

42

"And that, madam," cried her real lover, was indeed all that you ever had to give; at least all that I ever thought worth the ceptance. And I now protest, my Ara

by all that's happy, your want of farune this moment increases my pleasure, at serves to convince my sweet girl of sincerity."

|

Mr. Wilmot now entering, he seemed not atle pleased at the danger his daughter hai just escaped, and readily consented to tissolution of the match. But finding that her fortune, which was secured to Mr. Chill by bond, would not be given up, thing could exceed his disappointment. He now saw that his money must all go to anch one who had no fortune of his own. de could bear his being a rascal, but to want an equivalent to his daughter's fortune $25 wormwood. He sat, therefore, for The minutes employed in the most mortifyngspeculations, till Sir William attempted lessen his anxiety. "I must confess, sir," cred he, “that your present disappointrent does not entirely displease me. Your moderate passion for wealth is now justly punished. But though the young lady cannot be rich, she has still a competence ficient to give content. Here you see 27 honest young soldier, who is willing to take her without fortune: they have long loved each other; and, for the friendship, I bear his father, my interest shall not be wanting in his promotion. Leave, then, at ambition which disappoints you, and

Sir William," replied the old gentleman, "be assured I never yet forced her inclinations, nor will I now. If she still continues to love this young gentleman, let her have him, with all my heart. There is still, thank Heaven, some fortune left, and your promise will make it something more. Only let my old friend here" (meaning me) "give me a promise of settling six thousand pounds upon my girl if ever he should come to his fortune, and I am ready, this night, to be the first to join them together.'

As it now remained with me to make the young couple happy, I readily gave a promise of making the settlement he required; which, to one who had such little expectations as I, was no great favour. We had now, therefore, the satisfaction of seeing them fly into each other's arms in a transport. "After all my misfortunes," cried my son George, "to be thus rewarded! Sure this is more than I could ever have presumed to hope for. To be possessed of all that's good, and after such an interval of pain! My warmest wishes could never rise so high!"

66

66

'Yes, my George," returned his lovely bride, now let the wretch take my fortune; since you are happy without it, so am I. Oh, what an exchange have I made,

from the basest of men to the dearest, best! Let him enjoy our fortune, I can now be happy even in indigence.'

"And

I promise you," cried the Squire, with a malicious grin, " that I shall be very happy with what you despise."—" Hold, hold, sir," cried Jenkinson," there are two words to that bargain. As for that lady's fortune, sir, you shall never touch a single stiver of it. Pray, your honour," continued he to Sir William, can the Squire have this lady's fortune if he be married to another?"

66

How can you make such a simple demand?" replied the Baronet: "undoubtedly he cannot." "I am sorry for that," cried Jenkinson; "for as this gentleman and I have been old fellow-sporters, I have a friendship for him. But I must declare, well as I love him, that this contract is not worth a tobacco-stopper, for he is married already."-"You lie, like a rascal!" re

turned the Squire, who seemed roused by this insult; "I never was legally married to any woman."

33

66

Indeed, begging your honour's pardon," replied the other, "you were: and I hope you will show a proper return of friendship to your own honest Jenkinson, who brings you a wife; and if the company restrain their curiosity a few minutes, they shall see her." So saying, he went off, with his usual celerity, and left us all unable to form any probable conjecture to his design. Ay, let him go," cried the Squire; whatever else I may have done, I defy him there. I am too old now to be frightened with squibs.'

as

66

66

29

"I am surprised," said the Baronet, "what the fellow can intend by this. Some low piece of humour, I suppose."-"Perhaps, sir," replied I, “he may have a more serious meaning. For when we reflect on the various schemes this gentleman has laid to seduce innocence, perhaps some one more artful than the rest has been found able to deceive him. When we consider what numbers he has ruined, how many parents now feel, with anguish, the infamy and the contamination which he has brought into their families, it would not surprise me if some one of themAmazement! Do I see my lost daughter? Do I hold her? It is, it is my life, my happiness! I thought thee lost, my Ólivia, yet still I hold thee-and still thou shalt live to bless me." The warmest transports of the fondest lover were not greater than mine, when I saw him introduce my child, and held my daughter in my arms, whose silence only spoke her raptures.

"And art thou returned to me, my darling," cried I, "to be my comfort in age!"

That she is," cried Jenkinson; "and make much of her, for she is your own honourable child, and as honest a woman as any in the whole room, let the other be who she will. And as for you, Squire, as sure as you stand there, this young lady is your lawful wedded wife: and to convince you that I speak nothing but the truth, here is the licence by which you were married together." So saying, he put the licence into the Baronet's hands, who read it, and found it perfect in every respect. And now, gentlemen," con

"6

tinued he, "I find you are surprised at this; but a few words will explain : difficulty. That there Squire of renow for whom I have a great friendship ( that's between ourselves), has often e ployed me in doing odd little things: him. Among the rest, he commission me to procure him a false licence and false priest, in order to deceive this your lady. But as I was very much his frien what did I do, but went and got a tr licence and a true priest, and married the both as fast as the cloth could make then Perhaps you'll think it was generosity th made me do all this: but no: to my sham I confess it, my only design was to kee the licence, and let the Squire know tha I could prove it upon him whenever thought proper, and so make him com down whenever I wanted money.'" burst of pleasure now seemed to fill th whole apartment; our joy reached eve to the common room, where the prisoner themselves sympathised,

97

4

-And shook their chains In transport and rude harmony.

seeme

I

Happiness was expanded upon ever face, and even Olivia's cheek flushed with pleasure. To be thus re stored to reputation, to friends, and fortune at once, was a rapture sufficient to stop the progress of decay, and restore forme health and vivacity. But, perhaps, amon all, there was not one who felt sincerer pleasure than I. Still holding the dear loved child in my arms, I asked my heart if these transports were not delusion. "How could you," cried I, turning to Mr. Jenkinson, "how could you add to my miseries by the story of her death? But it matters not; my pleasure at finding her again is more than a recompense for the pain.'

39

"As to your question," replied Jenkinson, "that is easily answered. I thought the only probable means of freeing you from prison was by submitting to the Squire, and consenting to his marriage with the other young lady. But these you had vowed never to grant while your daughter was living: there was therefore no other method to bring things to bear, but by persuading you that she was dead.

"

an act of justice for me to do. You are sensible, sir," continued he, turning to me, "of the obligations we both owe to Mr. Jenkinson; and it is but just we should both reward him for it. Miss Sophia will, I am sure, make him very happy, and he shall have from me five hundred pounds as her fortune; and upon this I am sure they can live very comfortably together. Come, Miss Sophia, what say you to this match of my making? Will you have him?" My poor girl seemed almost sinking into her mother's arms at the hideous proposal. “Have him, sir!” cried she faintly: "No, sir, never!" "What!" cried he again," not have Mr. Jenkinson, your benefactor, a handsome young fellow, with five hundred pounds, and good expectations?"-"I beg, sir," returned she, scarce able to speak, "that you'll desist, and not make me so very wretched."Was ever such obstinacy known?” cried he again, "to refuse a man whom the family have such infinite obligations to, who has preserved your sister, and who has five hundred pounds! What! not have him!"-"No, sir, never!" replied she, angrily; "I'd sooner die first."—"If that be the case, then," cried he, "if you will not have him-I think I must have you myself." And, so saying, he caught her to his breast with ardour. "My loveliest, my most sensible of girls," cried he, "how could you ever think your own Burchell could deceive you, or that Sir William Thornhill could ever cease to admire a mistress that loved him for himself alone? I have for some years sought for a woman, who, a stranger to my fortune, could think that I had merit as a man. After having tried in vain, even amongst the pert and the ugly, how great at last must be my rapture to have made a conquest over such sense and such heavenly beauty." Then turning to Jenkinson: "As I cannot, sir, part with this young lady myself, for she has taken a fancy to the cut of my face, all the recompense I can make is to give you her fortune; and you may call upon my steward to-morrow for five hundred pounds." Thus we had all our compliments to repeat, and Lady Thornhill underwent the same round of ceremony that her sister had done before.

66

prevailed on your wife to join in the ceit, and we have not had a fit opporaity of undeceiving you till now. In the whole assembly now there apared only two faces that did not glow th transport. Mr. Thornhill's assurance d entirely forsaken him: he now saw e gulf of infamy and want before him, d trembled to take the plunge. He erefore fell on his knees before his uncle, ad in a voice of piercing misery implored >mpassion. Sir William was going to >urn him away, but at my request he Lised him, and, after pausing a few mo1ents, "Thy vices, crimes, and ingratiade," cried he, “deserve no tenderness; et thou shalt not be entirely forsaken,bare competence shall be supplied to upport the wants of life, but not its follies. This young lady, thy wife, shall be put in ossession of a third part of that fortune which once was thine, and from her tenlemess alone thou art to expect any exradinary supplies for the future." He vs going to express his gratitude for such cindness in a set speech; but the Baronet revented him, by bidding him not aggrarate his meanness, which was already but oo apparent. He ordered him at the ane time to be gone, and from all his orner domestics to choose one, such as he aid think proper, which was all that uld be granted to attend him. As soon as he left us, Sir William very poutely stepped up to his new niece with mile, and wished her joy. His example was followed by Miss Wilmot and her her. My wife, too, kissed her daughter much affection; as, to use her own pression, she was now made an honest han of. Sophia and Moses followed atarn; and even our benefactor Jenkinso desired to be admitted to that honour. satisfaction seemed scarcely capable f increase. Sir William, whose greatest lasare was in doing good, now looked Lad with a countenance open as the sun, dsaw nothing but joy in the looks of 1 except that of my daughter Sophia, da, for some reasons we could not commind, did not seem perfectly satisfied. I think now," cried he, with a smile, hat all the company except one or two em perfectly happy. There only remains

G

In the meantime Sir William's gentleman appeared to tell us that the equipages were ready to carry us to the inn, where every thing was prepared for our reception. My wife and I led the van, and left those gloomy mansions of sorrow. The generous Baronet ordered forty pounds to be distributed among the prisoners, and Mr. Wilmot, induced by his example, gave half that sum. We were received below by the shouts of the villagers, and I saw and shook by the hand two or three of my honest parishioners, who were among the number. They attended us to our inn, where a sumptuous entertainment was provided, and coarser provisions were distributed in great quantities among the populace.

After supper, as my spirits were exhausted by the alternation of pleasure and pain which they had sustained during the day, I asked permission to withdraw; and, leaving the company in the midst of their mirth, as soon as I found myself alone, I poured out my heart in gratitude to the Giver of joy as well as of sorrow, and then slept undisturbed till morning.

CHAPTER XXXII.

The Conclusion.

THE next morning, as soon as I awaked, I found my eldest son sitting by my bedside, who came to increase my joy with another turn of fortune in my favour. First having released me from the settlement that I had made the day before in his favour, he let me know that my merchant, who had failed in town, was arrested at Antwerp, and there had given up effects to a much greater amount than what was due to his creditors. My boy's generosity pleased me almost as much as this unlooked-for good fortune; but I had some doubts whether I ought, in justice, to accept his offer. While I was pondering upon this Sir William entered the room, to whom I communicated my doubts. His opinion was that, as my son was already possessed of a very affluent fortune by his marriage, I might accept his offer without any hesitation. His business, however, was to inform me, that as he had the night before sent for the licences, and expected them every hour, he hoped that I

would not refuse my assistance in mak all the company happy that morning. footman entered while we were speali to tell us that the messenger was retur and as I was by this time ready, I down, where I found the whole comp as merry as affluence and innocence c make them. However, as they were preparing for a very solemn ceremo their laughter entirely displeased me. told them of the grave, becoming, sublime deportment they should assu upon this mystical occasion, and read th two homilies, and a thesis of my own c posing, in order to prepare them. they still seemed perfectly refractory ungovernable. Even as we were go along to church, to which I led the w all gravity had quite forsaken them, a was often tempted to turn back in indig tion. In church a new dilemma ar which promised no easy solution. was, which couple should be married fi my son's bride warmly insisted that L Thornhill (that was to be) should take lead; but this the other refused with e ardour, protesting she would not be gu of such rudeness for the world. argument was supported for some t between both, with equal obstinacy good breeding. But, as I stood all time with my book ready, I was at quite tired of the contest; and, shutt it, “I perceive," cried I, that none you have a mind to be married, and I th we had as good go back again; for Is pose there will be no business done b to-day." This at once reduced them reason. The Baronet and his lady w first married, and then my son and lovely partner.

66

I had previously, that morning, gi orders that a coach should be sent for honest neighbour Flamborough and family; by which means, upon our ret to the inn, we had the pleasure of find the two Miss Flamboroughs alighted fore us. Mr. Jenkinson gave his hand the eldest, and my son Moses led up other (and I have since found, that has taken a real liking to the girl, and consent and bounty he shall have, wh ever he thinks proper to demand the We were no sooner returned to the i

but numbers of my parishioners, hearing of my success, came to congratulate me; but, among the rest, were those who rose to rescue me, and whom I formerly rebuked with such sharpness. I told the story to Sir William, my son-in-law, who went out and reproved them with great severity; but finding them quite disheartened by his harsh reproof, he gave them half a guinea apiece to drink his health, and raise their dejected spirits.

Soon after this we were called to a very genteel entertainment, which was dressed by Mr. Thornhill's cook.—And it may not be improper to observe with respect to that gentleman, that he now resides, in quality of companion, at a relation's house, bung very well liked, and seldom sitting at the side-table, except when there is no ren at the other; for they make no 'rranger of him. His time is pretty much then up in keeping his relation, who is a de melancholy, in spirits, and in learnto blow the French horn. My eldest ughter, however, still remembers him

regret; and she has even told me, tagh I make a great secret of it, that Then he reforms, she may be brought to Pent-But to return, for I am not apt Egress thus: when we were to sit down dinner our ceremonies were going to be ewed The question was, whether my test daughter, as being a matron, should tsit above the two young brides; but the ate was cut short by my son George,

[merged small][ocr errors]

""

who proposed that the company should sit indiscriminately, every gentleman by his lady. This was received with great ap probation by all, excepting my wife, who, I could perceive, was not perfectly satisfied, as she expected to have had the pleasure of sitting at the head of the table, and carving all the meat for all the company. But, notwithstanding this, it is impossible to describe our good humour. I can't say whether we had more wit among us now than usual; but I am certain we had more laughing, which answered the end as well. One jest I particularly remember: old Mr. Wilmot drinking to Moses, whose head was turned another way, my son replied, "Madam, I thank you.' Upon which the old gentleman, winking upon the rest of the company, observed that he was thinking of his mistress. At which jest I thought the two Miss Flamboroughs would have died with laughing. As soon as dinner was over, according to my old custom, I requested that the table might be taken away to have the pleasure of seeing all my family assembled once more by a cheerful fire-side. My two little ones sat upon each knee, the rest of the company by their partners. I had nothing now on this side of the grave to wish for all my cares were over; my pleasure was unspeakable. It now only remained, that my gratitude in good fortune should exceed my former submission in adversity.

END OF THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD.

« 이전계속 »