Chap. VIII.

   ———

         

     Mrs. Wycherly eagerly acceded to the request of her sister; her imagination warmed by the novelty of the picture presented to it, turned gladly from the gloomy present and agitated past: persuading herself, that she already felt all the pleasures so affectingly pourtrayed, she determined on an immediate departure.

         A chaise carried her in a few days to the village of ———: it stopped on a fine evening in June near a gate which led through a garden, glowing in a beauty and fragrant in sweets, to the rural habitation of Mr. Neville. Wishing to surprise her sister, [145] by replying to her letter in person, she had ordered the chaise to the back of the house, where she alighted without suffering herself to be announced. Proceeding hastily round a small verdant lawn, bordered with flowers and flowering shrubs, she reached a casement door, that stood open beneath a rustic viranda, round which the honey-suckle entwined with the rose.

         She recognized the little library described in a former letter of Ellen’s, and paused before she presented herself at its entrance. Softly putting aside a cluster of roses, and sheltering herself behind their stems, she could perceive, without being herself perceived, the interior of the room. On  a low couch, near the windows, Mr. Neville was reclining, but with no appearance of languor or sickness: one hand playfully repulsed a lovely little girl who was attempting to climb to his knees: the other encircled the waist of his wife, who sat beside him, a book half closed in her hand, in [146] which she seemed to have been reading to him, till broken in upon by the little intruder. Her dress was of plain materials but snowy white; her dark brown hair formed the only ornament of her head: her form had attained more roundness, and a livelier bloom blowed upon her cheek than it had in former periods been accustomed to wear. The countenance of Mr. Neville exhibited a ruddy tan, and his whole figure and aspect appeared animated and improved. 

         Breathing a deep drawn sigh, Charlotte drew back for a moment, and the next presented herself at the door. With a shriek of joy, her sister sprung forward, and they remained for some minutes folded in each others arms.

         Mutual gratulations and felicitations ensued: the evening passed swiftly away, amidst those sweet sensations, those affectionate greetings, enquiries and retrospections [147], which so endear the meeting of long parted friends. Charlotte remembered no more the fatigues of her journey, and retired late to the chamber allotted for her, where the repose so much needed by her frame was, for some hours, suspended by the blended pleasant and painful perturbations of her mind.

         Succeeding days, weeks, nay months glided agreeably away. Ellen, for the entertainment of her sister, relaxed, in some degree, from the regularity of her accustomed avocations. The introduction to the family of the baronet took place; and various little excursions, amidst the surrounding scenery of the country, were projected and executed.

         Autumn at length came on, the days closed in earlier; the animated season of harvest arrived and passed away; stubble fields succeeded to the waving of golden grain; the rich mingled tint of the foliage, [148] changed to a sicklier hue; the equinox brought heavy showers and gales; the dead leaves strewed the path; the atmosphere became chill. Ellen returned with cheerfulness to her domestic occupations, and to the duties which her family demanded. Charlotte was more frequently alone; she could no longer amuse herself with the garden, ramble through the meadows, or recline with a book in the shade. The library afforded but few works of imagination or of amusement; over more serious studies she but lightly skimmed; of the society which the village afforded she had become tired, and the county town was many miles distant. Wet and dark evenings even kept the little neighbourhood asunder[1]; and, through the long nights, the late autumnal blast; the gusty storm, frequently, by its loud howling, banished sleep. 

         Her sister, and her sister’s family, were not less dear to her; but the mind of Charlotte wanted a more powerful stimulant [149] than the circle at home, however endearing, could afford. She lost her gaiety, became absent, abstracted, incapable alike of giving or of receiving pleasure. The habits of her former life had, like inebriating potions to the wretch who has unhappily indulged in them, incapacitated her for the enjoyment of simple pleasures: novelty had only given to them a charm, a charm that had faded with those of the season; and which even returning spring would have failed to renew. She felt an imperious craving for stronger sensations, she had been used to look for resources without, and not within, and she had never been accustomed to submit her inclinations to controul.

         Her spirits sunk in contemplation of the winter before her; balls, routs, plays, and admiring crowds, were, in vivid colouring, presented to her recollection; yet, still ashamed to acknowledge even to herself all that passed in her mind, she tried [150] to persuade herself, that, taught by experience she could now enjoy, without abusing, the advantages offered by that more polished and varied society, which she believed herself fitted at once to delight in and to adorn. She had neither the duties, nor the avocations of her sister to fulfil; she was no longer a wife and had never been a mother; in the attentions paid her by Mr. and Mrs. Neville, and in their efforts made to entertain her, she felt herself as a restraint upon their employments, and interruption to their duties. She laboured to convince herself, that the benefit of others rendered her removal necessary, and, that, in resolving upon it, she should yield to reason and to principle, (so ingenious is self deception) rather than to her own weakness. This idea silenced the reproaches of her heart, and restored to her mind a temporary relief. 

         At this crisis, towards the middle of December, a letter from her brother was, as [151] she concluded her morning toilet, put into her hand. Its contents, though most acceptable, were brief. It stated, that he had, with his wife, for the purpose of disentangling themselves from a round of company, which their connections and facility had drawn about them (and which was found inconvenient to their finances) come to a resolution of retiring to the continent, on a plan of retrenchment and economy. Mrs. Seymour, who had all the feebleness and timidity which the habits of female education tend, if not to produce, to flatter and encrease, shrunk from the idea of such an expedition without a companion of her own sex. A project, that to prudential consideration added the attraction of novelty, was deemed likely to recommend itself to the young widow; who was, doubtless, by this time, fully prepared to exchange her scheme of rustication for one better suited to her tastes and time of life; and her society and lively talents could not [152] fail to be to the travellers a most desirable acquisition.

         With an animated glow on her faded cheek, and eyes beaming with the lustre of former days, Charlotte hastened to the breakfast table, to communicate the welcome contents of the letter which she bore in her hand, and the cordial remembrances which that letter contained to the owners of the peaceful habitation in which she was a guest and inmate. 

         Mr. and Mrs. Neville, who had too much penetration not to be aware of what had for some time been passing in the mind of their guest, received her communication with friendly interest and gratulation, though, on the part of the latter, not unmixed with concern. 

         The preparations of Charlotte, the spring of whose mind appears by the prospect before her to have regained its elasticity and [153] tone, were speedily made; and the real tenderness which mingled itself with her adieus to the amiable family she quitted, clouded her brow but for a moment; even with the tear that glistened on her cheek, a smile was blended. Her impression in favour of rural life and the domestic circle had been but as the morning dew, which the first beams of the sun exhale and dry up. A taste for simple pleasures can only be acquired by unvitiated minds. 

         With the friends she left behind her the winter passed tranquilly, and not unimproved away. Regular and successive occupation rendered still shorter its transient days; while separated till the approach of evening by their peculiar avocations, the hours that remained were, by the consciousness of duties performed, felt as a sweet recreation, which never palled, and to which confidence, useful studies, conversation, books, and the endearments of a chaste affection, combined to give a zest and a charm. On moonlight [154] nights an occasional friendly intercourse with the neighbouring families varied the scene, and rendered home still more dear. 

         Spring returned, bringing with it the youth and promise of the year: the lawn, the garden, the shrubbery, the plantations, every thing flourished beneath the fostering care, the judicious management with which all was ordered and executed. Several years thus glided placidly away, the family of Ellen had received encrease; and the growth and improvement of their children, and of all around them, only marked, to this happy and rational pair, the progress of time. Their days flowed on with —

 

                  “Content, retirement, rural quiet,

                  Ease and alternate labour, useful life, 

                  Progressive virtue, and approving heaven.

                  The seasons thus, as ceaseless round a 

                  Jarring world they rolled, still found 

                  ——— them happy[.]”


         During the first period of the separation of the sisters their correspondence had been [155] frequent: the letters of Charlotte were long, descriptive, animated; all was new, and in every thing a charm was found. It appeared, however, that Paris, Brussels, Dresden and Vienna, had more attraction for the travellers than the vine covered hills of the south, or the peaceful vallies of Switzerland.

         A taste for dissipation, and the fatal habit of living but to be amused, assumed the imposing character and name of a liberal curiosity: and economical arrangements were suspended. It is true, that, on many parts of the Continent, the means of living were, when compared with a residence in London, or in places of fashionable resort in England, found comparatively cheap and easy; but the expenses of constant motion, and of an exhibition in every circle of the great and the gay, had not been adequately appreciated by a party of which not one of the individuals who composed it was in the habit of calculation. [156] 

The letters of Charlotte to her rural friends became less lively, less frank, and more brief, and were written at longer intervals.

         Five years had now past away since the separation of the sisters; during the last not a single line had been received from abroad; and the affectionate Ellen, though in the bosom of virtuous felicity, became disquieted and solicitous respecting the fate of those endeared to her by habit and by blood. 

         A pacquet with a foreign post mark at length arrived, which was received and opened with mingled trepidation and joy. It was from Charlotte, and its date was from the Italian side of the Alps.

————

         “Alas my sister (it began) how shall I address you, or wound your affectionate bosom by a narrative of imprudence, of calamity, [157] that is, perhaps, already but too well anticipated both by yourself and by your worthy husband?

         “The good resolutions of our little party, wise to know and weak to execute; infirm of purpose, and without habits of self-government, yielded, I scarcely need to say, to the temptations by which they were every where assailed; and our projects of retrenchment and economy led but to the practice of encrease and lavish expenditure. ‘A rolling stone (says the homely proverb of my native country) gathers no moss.’ Those who would be prudent should remain at home, and not expose those wavering principles by which the rover is too frequently characterized, to the multiplied allurements which novel scenes are sure to afford. 

         “Our unhappy brother and myself are, among a thousand fellow sufferers, melancholy examples of this truth. Our fate has been well merited, though not on that account [158] felt with less severity: it is in the common course of cause and effect: such appears to be the moral government of the world. Would to heaven that I could submit with more meekness to the chastisement of my errors, and thus expiate them without daring to repine.

         “My brother is less guilty, yet more to be compassionated than myself, who, without the plea of strong passions, with a judgement clear, debased myself, and degraded the talents entrusted to me, by offering them up, a voluntary sacrifice, at the shrine of a cold and heartless vanity, that most contemptible, most pernicious and most universal of the vices. 

         “My jointure mortgaged, my affairs deranged, beyond all hope of retrieval, I have yielded to become what is most abhorrent to my nature, a dependent on the caprice of another. Yes, the high spirited Charlotte is now the humble companion of an [159] imperious and feeble minded woman of quality, whom, in evil hour, she consented to accompany beyond the alps.

         “Caressed at first, like every other novelty, my favour is, I perceive, already on the wane: I know not how to flatter and fawn, to amuse, when my spirit is writhing with anguish, to school my features to a complacent expression, when contempt or indignation agitates my heart; to veil my own real superiority under an affected humility, or to endure without resentment, or a too evident disgust, follies and weaknesses of which I am the victim. Never surely was any one less fitted to play the part I have undertaken,

 

                  ‘And just to move, and just to speak, with

                  Self reflecting art!’

 

         “But with my brother or his wife it was not possible longer to remain: on my Ellen and her virtuous husband I dared not become a burthen. Among the talents I [160] possessed, and of which I was so weakly vain, there was not one which I could render useful either to others or to myself. The wants of nature are imperious, and will not be evaded or denied: in a moment of almost desperation, Lady R—— presented herself with simulating smiles. I had known her in London; and estimated her, I believe, at her real value; and I persuaded myself, that my stronger mind would, without difficulty, acquire the ascendant over one so flimsy and weak. Select, amidst dissipation, in the associates with whom I had hitherto intimately conversed, experience had not taught me the impenetrable nature of folly; and that imbecility, exaction and tyranny, are ever, where the power is afforded inseparately allied. Sympathy cannot exist where there is no power of appreciation; and the mean triumph of the feeble is to subjugate the strong.

         “But, let me turn from the odious subject; deliverance is, perhaps, nearer at [161] hand than, even in my present mortified state, I dare to wish.

         “Alas! my Ellen, my truly wise, good and happy sister, your Charlotte is indeed greatly changed both in body and in mind. Dear and prophetic friend, too truly did you warn me, while yet in the first blossom and hope of youth, that onewrong step of importance, may, in fatal concatenation, decide the whole destiny of life. Vanity, on the one side, held out to me her inviting hand — virtue and reason on the other, exhorted me with a brow, that, to unreflecting youth, seemed too austere: I made my choice, my deliberate choice, and I suffer the full penalty. 

         “Yes; vanity has, through the portal of promised pleasure — promised, but never in a single instance truly realized — allured me into a wilderness, entangled with briars and beset with thorns, that now, on [162] every side, pierce through my too proudly, sensitive soul. 

         “But my Ellen, with truer wisdom, and a gentler nature, has, in an opposite direction, marked out by reason, and circumscribed by virtue, held her steadier way, and reaped her reward. 

         “‘Shall men gather grapes of thistles, or figs of thorns?’ — ‘As we sow, so (does the gospel tell us) we shall reap.’ How often is Providence, nature, fortune, accused for those sufferings of which we ourselves are the authors; those miseries which, with rash and frantic folly, we have pulled down on our own heads!

         “But deliverance is, I feel, at hand; my health weakened by the habits of earlier, and what I then considered more prosperous life, rapidly sinks beneath the perturbation of my mind. I am, in all things, but the shadow of my former self. [163] 

“Did I know how to sustain it, I would yet pray for longer life. I am no infidel; I would suffer here, rather than hereafter, the consequences and penalties of my faults. I would, if I knew how, make amends to those whom my giddy example may have misled, by a better use of those faculties which I have so much abused. 

         “But it will not be; and my only remaining hope is, that the sincerity of my contrition, the pangs I so keenly suffer, may, how short-soever their duration, be accepted by Him, who chastises but to correct, who searcheth the heart, and, in whose sight a thousand years are but as a day.

         “Of myself, and self-inflicted calamities, I will now, however, no longer speak; but use the strength which yet remains to me in stating to you the situation of our brother, whom you or your worthy Neville may yet, I fervently wish and pray, find means to rouse and save. [164] 

“As vanity has proved the bane of his less sensitive sister, so has the ruin of the brother been consummated by a spirit of chivalrous romance, untempered by reason; and a habit of yielding, unquestioned, to his sensations, and of following headlong the dictates of an ardent temperament and character. In the possession of every higher feeling and talent, these have, through the want of practical knowledge and sound judgement, that sagacity by which we are fitted to act with propriety the part allotted to us in the world, been rendered, both to himself and to those intimately connected with him, not merely useless but pernicious. Like myself, he, was, through various accidents separated, during the most important period of susceptible and teachable youth, from our excellent father, and absent from his paternal home. In these circumstances, the follies and errors by which he has been misled, not only took deep root, but sent forth vigorous [165] shoots in the rich and warm soil of his ardent mind. 

         “His patrimonial fortune, which he inherited too soon, has been lavished and scattered abroad, not in personal indulgences, in sensual or in self gratifications, but in thoughtless profusion, and in lavish and ill-judged generosity. His heart and his purse were open to every one who had speciousness or art to address themselves to either. Averse to calculation, and with a sovereign contempt for gain; ignorant of the value of that of which, though the generous tenderness of his father, he had never known the want, his prosperity was already melting fast away, when marriage compleated his indiscretions.

         “Had he, however, made a different selection, and consulted his judgement rather than his fancy; had he (a custom too common with that sex which arrogates to itself the title of the wiser) instead of chusing ‘a [166] wife for a month,’ selected a friend, a companion for life, a future mistress for his family, and mother for his offspring, every thing might yet have been retrieved. But a fair face, a fine person, shewy accomplishments, and a situation, that, by awakening his tenderness and calling forth his sympathy, was to a character such as his, still more prevailing and resistless, decided at once his choice and his fate. 

         “The temper and manners of his bride were sufficiently soft and tractable, and this only made the matter worse: she attempted but rarely, it is true, to lead; but she followed without question or demur. He was hospitable and ‘magnificent;’ she engaging, pretty and tasteful; their house and table were open to their friends, by whom they believed themselves encircled; and neither had forbearance sufficient to resist the allure too fashionably educated [167] to acquire any useful quality; she knew not how to handle a needle, she could not even dress herself, and of economy and domestic management she understood not the names. 

         “At this crisis, the prospect of an heir to the ruin, rather than to the fortune of this but too well matched pair, awakened in the mind of our brother, painful reflection. To cut the knot which could not be unravelled, to flee from habits he had not strength to relax or break, he determined on a residence abroad. Whether he acted wisely in inviting his sister to accompany them, I will not presume to decide; but this I will say, that your admirable example and conversation, which I had so recently contemplated and enjoyed, had not been altogether thrown away upon that sister. 

         “After a short stay in Paris, to behold the wonders of art and the novelties in that metropolis, our first plan was to proceed [168] southward, and there to remain stationary but a premature accouchement, on the part of Mrs. Seymour, stopped us on our progress, and a languishing state of health and spirits, into which she afterwards fell, alarming my brother for her life, he determined to endeavour to effect her restoration by frequent changes of air and a moving scene.

         “My remonstrances on this subject failed to convince; and it may be, that I too easily yielded to a plan, which, but for prudential considerations, would have accorded so well with my habits and tastes.

      “Indiscretions, like other evils, are rarely single; and reformation and retrenchment were ever in a perspective that still seemed retiring before us. 

         “How rare is decision of character, how easy and smooth the declining into wrong! He, who once sets his foot over the descent, [169] proceeds by scarcely sensible, yet accelerated, degrees, and finds himself at the bottom long ere he is aware.

         “Without resolution to look into his affairs, our brother, till remittances from England actually failed, neglected to consider seriously his situation. My finances, entangled before I left my native country, were in a condition but little better than were those of my fellow travellers, from whom I was on the point of separating myself, when destitution and ruin fell, as if unforeseen, like a bolt from heaven upon them. What was now to be done, where were resources to be found; all was consternation, terror, and a too late repentance.

         “The gaming-table offered a desperate and transitory relief: this, however, soon failed; and our unhappy sister-in-law, unable to contemplate steadily the evils that menaced her, or to endure the novel species [170] of misery thus fallen upon her, listened to the seductions of a foreign libertine of rank, and fled with him from the ruin of her husband.

         “He bore this stroke with more apparent calmness, than, from my knowledge of his ardent spirit and delicate honour, I could have believed possible —. ‘It is I (said he) who have destroyed her! she is too delicate for poverty. Why should I wish her to share my misery and thus to double it? God grant, that the man whom she has preferred to me, justly no doubt preferred, may shelter her from those evils which I had no longer the power to avert!’

“He groaned deeply as he finished speaking, and he mentioned her no more. A torpor now seemed to seize upon his faculties; he prowled through the country during the day, and returned every night, at a late hour, to a cheap and obscure lodging which he had hired. [171] 

“With the remnant of my effects, I retired to a convent, whence I accompanied my present lady patroness to Italy. Before my departure, I was so fortunate as to meet with an English friend of my brother’s, whom I had known in London. To him I related the particulars of what had occurred, to which he listened with friendly commiseration.  

“This gentleman, equally munificent and kind, sought out, with offers of service, his fallen friend, whom he endeavoured in vain to rouse from the stupor into which he had sunk. His feelings which his judgement had never been exerted to controul, seemed paralyzed by the rude shock which they had sustained. 

“All that can at present be done for him his friend has undertaken; that is, to support, till his faculties can be reanimated, by defraying his expences, his wretched life. This, however, will, by the almost [172] constant inebriation, which, unable to endure his own reflections, he, either by liquor or drugs, keeps up, soon be consumed, unless your influence, my Ellen, or that of your husband, be exerted to save him.

“Lose no time then in retiring to him; warm again his frozen affections; you he justly loves and admires; if you cannot prevail, he is for ever lost.

“Pity, pray for, still love if you can, a brother and sister whose relation to you and to your virtues, would, had they been worthy that relation, have proved heir happiness and glory, as it is now their condemnation and shame.

          “Charlotte.”

 

————

         

Ellen, on perusing this affecting letter, poured into the bosom of her husband the [173] first bitter tears she had ever shed. Touched by her grief, and by its occasion, Mr. Nevill[e] declared his determination of setting off immediately for the Continent, for the purpose of prevailing on Mr. Seymour to return with him; when, by assisting him in making some kind of arrangement in his disordered affairs, he trusted, that he might be enabled to divert his thoughts from the principal and most poignant source of his distress.

         Ellen, at the same time, addressed a letter to her sister; and, in the name of herself and her husband, urged her to come back to her country, and to the asylum, where she should be ever joyfully received, and which she had been so fatally induced to quit. By a few years retirement and frugality, much, she suggested, might yet be done to retrieve for her a decent and independent support: while still in the meridian of her days, rendered wise by the past, and wary for the future, events, it [174] was more than possible, might, in the vicissitudes of life, yet present themselves, to afford a compensation for an experience so dearly purchased.

         Hope cheered the spirits of Mrs. Neville on the first separation form a husband so worthy and so beloved; and she smiled gratefully through the tears that fell from her eyes.

         Mr. Neville reached the coast without allowing himself time for rest; a letter there met him that stopped his farther progress. It was from the friend of the unhappy man whom he was hastening to save. Mental and physical intemperance had, it informed him, produced on the organs they had deranged, a fatal injury. With amiable propensities, but the victim of ungoverned feelings, the feverish existence of the object of their mutual concern had terminated in a premature death. How, or by what immediate means, it was not [175] specified — perhaps in pity and respect to the tenderness and to the virtues of those to whom the information was addressed. The body had been decently interred, and all was concluded. The letter ended with some details respecting the pecuniary affairs of the deceased. 

         Mr. Neville, having no farther motive to continue his journey, returned deeply meditating, to his home.

         His presence, his countenance, rendered other explanations useless respecting the tydings of which he was the bearer; but virtuous sorrow, while it chastens, purifies the heart.

         Charlotte learned the fate of her brother, and received the tender letter of her sister, at the same instant. The mingled effect produced on her feelings was powerful unable to endure the humiliating reproaches of her own mind, her heart was corroded [176] rather than[2] softened by grief. It is much easier to pardon others than ourselves; even to stand in need of forgiveness from our fellow beings is a wound to our self-love.

         If Charlotte was affected by the tenderness of her sister, by the leniency and friendly earnestness expressed by the worthy husband of that sister, in a few lines which her letter enclosed, she shrunk, nevertheless from the idea of receiving from them obligation, of daily contrasting with their’s her own less estimable character, and the consequences which thence had flowed. She determined on avoiding dependence on any one, and on remaining an exile from her native land.

         A small pittance, from the sale of her valuable ornaments, remained to her; which by submitting to many privations, might, she deemed, in some obscure retreat, suffice [177] for the frugal support of what still remained of life. 

         She executed with resolution the plan she had meditated, and retired to a small village in a valley of Switzerland, carefully concealing from every one the place of her retreat.

         By the wounds of the affections the character is frequently ameliorated and improved; those of pride have a tendency to irritate and sour. Wilful grief, indulged regrets, are, though sometimes slow in their operations, yet sure destroyers of life.

         Charlotte had acquired a taste too decided for artificial pleasures to have any genuine relish for those of nature. The romantic scenery around her diverted for a time her thoughts; she even believed, in the transient excitement which it afforded, that it would never tire. But she deceived herself [178]. The charms of inanimate nature, how delightful, how sublime soever, uncheered with social gratification or endearment, become at length monotonous to the fancy and appalling to the heart.

         Charlotte had no sentiment, no idea, in-common with the simple people, and simple manners, by which she was surrounded. Her mind languished; its powers, no longer exercised, became gradually extinct: her temper, always unequal, was now reserved and unsocial, or querulous and severe. She excited fear rather than respect, was approached with unwillingness, and subjected to many neglects: disgust with life seized her and death often invoked, still delayed to strike.

         “It arrived at last and for a few days previous to the final blow, her mind seemed to recover a portion of its original vigour and powers. She wrote a last farewell to her sister; prepared herself with humility [179] to pay the universal debt; sent for the village pastor, a plain and pious man, and entreated him to unit with her’s his prayers. She then took leave of the humble family under whose roof she resided; divided among them the few effects she possessed; and asked their forgiveness for any unkindness which they might have received at her hands.

         “I have, I hope and trust, (said she) suffered here the chastisement of my many errors and faults. May this expiate! My Father and my God, into thy hands from which I received it, I resign, submissively, the mysterious gift of life! From Thee, again may I receive it in regions of unclouded mental light.

         She bowed her head meekly, and spake no more.

         Ellen mourned the fate of her sister, and cherished in her remembrance, as an affecting [180] lesson for her daughters, the events and catastrophe of her life. 

         Mr. and Mrs. Neville passed together many years of rational and virtuous happiness, as little overclouded as consists with that character of imperfection which belongs to human affairs. Always actively and usefully employed in duties, softened by affections; and by affections, in their turn chastened by duties, they experienced no satiety and felt no weariness. Grateful in prosperity to the Giver of all good, resigned under privation, thankful for the gift of life, yet ready, when required, to yield it up, a sound philosophy, a tender piety, at once strengthened and elevated their minds. Their precepts, their example, their lives, were to their children an impressive and habitual lesson.

         Rarely will any other than good qualities and good dispositions be developed, when neither provocation nor excitement is found [181] for those of a contrary nature. “Train up a child (said the wisest of men) in the way he should go, and he will not depart therefrom.” Man (we are told by an eloquent French writer) and we are told with truth is a bundle of habits, and very early does the formation of these habits begin.

         The children of Mr. and Mrs. Neville were never confined within a nursery, nor to the association with domestics; they were never sent from under the paternal roof; their play-mates and companions were carefully selected, and their faculties expanded under the eye and immediate direction, of those most interested in the results. The mild yet steady government of their parents was felt by them no otherwise as a yoke than that of a moral necessity to which they all must yield; and the character of parent and monitor so gradually gave place, in the progress of years, to those of counsellor and friend, that the limit was passed without being marked.[182] 

One lesson more, one trying and affecting lesson only remained: it was to learn how a christian, a reasonable, a virtuous, and a good man dies; and how a tender and susceptible woman sustains the loss of the husband, the supporter, the friend of her youth and of her life, the father of their mutual off-spring. Nature suffered, but piety, duty, virtue, were finally victorious!

         In seeking to supply a father’s irreparable loss, the mother seemed to acquire a new character; her mind assumed a more vigorous tone. That expression of softness, which to her varying countenance had once given its peculiar charm, gave place to a look more decided, — calm, however, but with a slight trait of sadness, which time softened into melancholy; and which by longer time, settled at length into that serene and cheerful seriousness, that becomes those who can, though conscious of many imperfections, look backward without self-reproach [183], and forward with hope, resting on the surest basis, a profound conviction of the existence and of the perfections of the Being, whose nature is love, and to whom all created excellence must be referred as to its source.

 



[1]assunder] 1817 text

[2]then] 1817 text