no previous Next next

 image pending 33


For the Weekly Magazine.

or , memoirs of the year 1793.

[Continued from page 11.]

AFTER viewing various parts of
the city; intruding into churches; and
diving into alleys, I returned. The
rest of the day I spent chiefly in my
chamber, reflecting on my new con-
dition; surveying my apartment, its
presses and closets; and conjecturing
the causes of appearances.

At dinner and supper I was alone.
Venturing to inquire of the servant
where his master and mistress were,
I was answered that they were en-
gaged. I did not question him as
to the nature of their engagement,
though it was a fertile source of

Next morning, at breakfast, I
again met Welbeck and the lady.
The incidents were nearly those of
the preceding morning, if it were
not that the lady exhibited tokens of
somewhat greater uneasiness. When
she left us Welbeck sank into appa-
rent meditation. I was at a loss
whether to retire or remain where I
was. At last, however, I was on
the point of leaving the room, when
he broke silence and began a conver-
sation with me.

He put questions to me, the ob-
vious scope of which was to know
my sentiments on moral topics. I
had no motives to conceal my opi-

nions, and therefore delivered them
with frankness. At length he intro-
duced allusions to my own history,
and made more particular inquiries
on that head. Here I was not
equally frank: yet I did not fain any
thing, but merely dealt in generals.
I had acquired notions of propriety
on this head, perhaps somewhat fas-
tidious. Minute details, respecting
our own concerns, are apt to weary
all but the narrator himself. I said
thus much and the truth of my re-
mark was eagerly assented to.

With some marks of hesitation and
after various preliminaries, my com-
panion hinted that my own interest,
as well as his, enjoined upon me
silence to all but himself, on the
subject of my birth and early adven-
tures. It was not likely, that while
in his service, my circle of acquain-
tance would be large or my inter-
course with the world frequent; but
in my communication with others he
requested me to speak rather of others
than of myself. This request, he
said, might appear singular to me,
but he had his reasons for making it,
which it was not necessary, at pre-
sent, to disclose, though, when I
should know them, I should readily
acknowledge their validity.

I scarcely knew what answer to
make. I was willing to oblige him.
I was far from expecting that any
exigence would occur, making dis-
closure my duty. The employment

 image pending 34

was productive of pain more than of
pleasure, and the curiosity that would
uselessly seek a knowledge of my past
life, was no less impertinent than
the loquacity that would uselessly
communicate that knowledge. I rea-
dily promised, therefore, to adhere to
his advice.

This assurance afforded him evident
satisfaction; yet it did not seem to
amount to quite as much as he wished.
He repeated, in stronger terms, the
necessity there was for caution. He
was far from suspecting me to possess
an impertinent and talkative disposi-
tion, or that in my eagerness to ex-
patiate on my own concerns, I should
overstep the limits of politeness: But
this was not enough. I was to govern
myself by a persuasion that the inter-
ests of my friend and myself would
be materially affected by my conduct.

Perhaps I ought to have allowed
these insinuations to breed suspicion
in my mind: but conscious as I was
of the benefits which I had received
from this man; prone, from my inex-
perience, to rely upon professions and
confide in appearances; and unaware
that I could be placed in any condi-
tion, in which mere silence respecting
myself could be injurious or criminal,
I made no scruple to promise compli-
ance with his wishes. Nay, I went
farther than this: I desired to be
accurately informed as to what it was
proper to conceal. He answered that
my silence might extend to every
thing anterior to my arrival in the
city, and my being incorporated with
his family. Here our conversation
ended and I retired to ruminate on
what had passed.

I derived little satisfaction from
my reflections. I began now to per-
ceive inconveniencies that might arise
from this precipitate promise. What-
ever should happen in consequence of
my being immured in the chamber,
and of the loss of my clothes and of
the portrait of my friend, I had bound
myself to silence. These inquietudes,
however, were transient. I trusted
that these events would operate auspi-

ciously; but my curiosity was now
awakened as to the motives which
Welbeck could have for exacting from
me this concealment? To act under
the guidance of another, and to wan-
der in the dark, ignorant whither my
path tended, and what effects might
flow from my agency was a new and
irksome situation.

From these thoughts I was recalled
by a message from Welbeck. He
gave me a folded paper which he re-
quested me to carry to No. .... South
Fourth Street. “Inquire,” said he,
“for Mrs. Wentworth, in order,
merely to ascertain the house, for you
need not ask to see her: merely give
the letter to the servant and retire.
Excuse me for imposing this service
upon you. It is of too great moment
to be trusted to a common messenger:
I usually perform it myself, but am
at present otherwise engaged.”

I took the letter and set out to deli-
ver it. This was a trifling circum-
stance, yet my mind was full of
reflections on the consequences that
might flow from it. I remembered
the directions that were given, but
construed them in a manner different,
perhaps, from Welbeck's expectations
or wishes. He had charged me to
leave the billet with the servant who
happened to answer my summons; but
had he not said that the message was
important, insomuch that it could not
be intrusted to common hands? He
had permitted, rather than enjoined,
me to dispense with seeing the lady,
and this permission I conceived to be
dictated merely by regard to my con-
venience. It was incumbent on me,
therefore, to take some pains to deli-
ver the script into her own hands.

I arrived at the house and knocked.
A female servant appeared. “Her
mistress was up stairs: she would tell
her if I wished to see her,” and mean-
while invited me to enter the parlour:
I did so; and the girl retired to inform
her mistress that one waited for her.
—I ought to mention that my depar-
ture from the directions which I had
received was, in some degree, owing

 image pending 35

to an inquisitive temper: I was eager
after knowledge, and was disposed to
profit by every opportunity to survey
the interior of dwellings and converse
with their inhabitants.

I scanned the walls, the furniture,
the pictures. Over the fire place was
a portrait in oil of a female. She
was elderly and matron-like. Perhaps
she was the mistress of this habitation
and the person to whom I should im-
mediately be introduced. Was it a
casual suggestion, or was there an
actual resemblance between the strokes
of the pencil which executed this por-
trait and that of Clavering? Howe-
ver that be, the sight of this picture
revived the memory of my friend and
called up a fugitive suspicion that this
was the production of his skill.

I was busily revolving this idea
when the lady herself entered. It
was the same whose portrait I had
been examining. She fixed scruti-
nizing and powerful eyes upon me.
She looked at the superscription of the
letter which I presented, and imme-
diately resumed her examination of
me. I was somewhat abashed by the
closeness of her observation and gave
tokens of this state of mind which
did not pass unobserved. They seemed
instantly to remind her that she be-
haved with too little regard to civility.
She recovered herself and began to
peruse the letter. Having done this,
her attention was once more fixed
upon me. She was evidently desirous
of entering into some conversation,
but seemed at a loss in what manner
to begin. This situation was new to
me and was productive of no small
embarrassment. I was preparing to
take my leave when she spoke, though
not without considerable hesitation.

“This letter is from Mr. Welbeck
—you are his friend—I presume—
perhaps—a relation?”

I was conscious that I had no claim
to either of these titles, and that I
was no more than his servant. My
pride would not allow me to acknow-
ledge this, and I merely said—“I
live with him at present Madam.”

I imagined that this answer did not
perfectly satisfy her; yet she received
it with a certain air of acquiescence.
She was silent for a few minutes,
and then, rising, said—“Excuse me,
Sir, for a few minutes. I will write
a few words to Mr. Welbeck.”—So
saying she withdrew.

I returned to the contemplation of
the picture. From this, however,
my attention was quickly diverted
by a paper that lay on the mantle.
A single glance was sufficient to put
my blood into motion. I started and
laid my hand upon the well-known
pacquet. It was that which inclosed
the portrait of Clavering!

I unfolded and examined it with
eagerness. By what miracle came it
hither? It was found, together with
my bundle, two nights before. I had
despaired of ever seeing it again, and
yet, here was the same portrait in-
closed in the self-same paper! I have
forborne to dwell upon the regret,
amounting to grief, with which I was
affected in consequence of the loss of
this precious relique. My joy on
thus speedily and unexpectedly re-
gaining it, is not easily described.

For a time I did not reflect that to
hold it thus in my hand was not suffi-
cient to intitle me to repossession. I
must acquaint this lady with the his-
tory of this picture, and convince her
of my ownership. But how was this
to be done? Was she connected in
any way, by friendship or by consan-
guinity, with that unfortunate youth.
If she were, some information as to
his destiny would be anxiously sought.
I did not, just then, perceive any im-
propriety in imparting it. If it came
into her hands by accident still it will
be necessary to relate the mode in
which it was lost in order to prove
my title to it.

I now heard her descending foot-
steps and hastily replaced the picture
on the mantle. She entered and,
presenting me a letter, desired me to
deliver it to Mr. Welbeck. I had
no pretext for deferring my departure;
but was unwilling to go without ob-

 image pending 36

taining possession of the portrait.
An interval of silence and irresolution
succeeded. I cast significant glances
at the spot where it lay and at length,
mustering up my strength of mind,
and pointing to the paper—“Madam,”
said I, “there is something which I
recognize to be mine—I know not
how it came into your possession, but
so lately as the day before yesterday,
it was in mine. I lost it by a strange
accident, and as I deem it of inestima-
ble value, I hope you will have no
objection to restore it.”—

During this speech the lady's coun-
tenance exhibited marks of the utmost
perturbation—“Your picture!” she
exclaimed, “You lost it! How?
Where? Did you know that person?
What has become of him?”—

“I knew him well,” said I. “That
picture was executed by himself. He
gave it to me with his own hands;
and, till the moment I unfortunately
lost it, it was my dear and perpetual

“Good Heaven!” she exclaimed
with increasing vehemence, “where
did you meet with him? What
has become of him? Is he dead or

These appearances sufficiently
shewed me that Clavering and this
lady were connected by some ties of
tenderness. I answered that he was
dead; that my mother and myself
were his attendants and nurses, and
that this portrait was his legacy to

This intelligence melted her into
tears, and it was some time before she
recovered strength enough to resume
the conversation. She then inquired
“When and where was it that he
died? How did you lose this portrait?
It was found wrapt in some coarse
clothes, lying in a stall in the market
house, on Saturday evening. Two
negro women, servants of one of my
friends, strolling through the market,
found it and brought it to their mis-
tress, who, recognizing the portrait,
sent it to her. To whom did that
bundle belong? Was it yours?”

These questions reminded me of
the painful predicament in which I
now stood. I had promised Welbeck
to conceal from every one my former
condition: but to explain in what
manner this bundle was lost, and how
my intercourse with Clavering had
taken place was to violate this pro-
mise. It was possible, perhaps, to
escape the confession of the truth by
equivocation. Falsehoods were easily
invented, and might lead her far away
from my true condition: but I was
wholly unused to equivocation. Never
yet had a lie polluted my lips. I was
not weak enough to be ashamed of my
origin. This lady had an interest in
the fate of Clavering, and might
justly claim all the information which
I was able to impart. Yet to forget
the compact which I had so lately
made, and an adherence to which
might possibly be in the highest de-
gree, beneficial to me and to Wel-
beck—I was willing to adhere to it,
provided falsehood could be avoided.

These thoughts rendered me silent.
The pain of my embarrassment amount-
ed almost to agony. I felt the keenest
regret at my own precipitation in
claiming the picture. Its value to
me was altogether imaginary. The
affection which this lady had borne
the original, whatever was the source
of that affection, would prompt her
to cherish the copy, and, however
precious it was in my eyes, I should
cheerfully resign it to her.

In the confusion of my thoughts an
expedient suggested itself sufficiently
inartificial and bold—“It is true,
Madam; what I have said. I saw
him breathe his last. This is his only
legacy. If you wish it I willingly
resign it; but this is all that I can
now disclose. I am placed in circum-
stances which render it improper to
say more.”

These words were uttered not very
distinctly, and the lady's vehemence
hindered her from noticing them.
She again repeated her interroga-
tions, to which I returned the same

 image pending 37

At first she expressed the utmost
surprise at my conduct. From this
she descended to some degree of aspe-
rity. She made rapid allusions to the
history of Clavering. He was the
son of the gentleman who owned the
house in which Welbeck resided. He
was the object of immeasurable fond-
ness and indulgence. He had sought
permission to travel, and this being
refused by the absurd timidity of his
parents, he had twice been frustrated
in attempting to embark for Europe
clandestinely. They ascribed his dis-
appearance to a third and successful
attempt of this kind, and had exercised
anxious and unwearied diligence in
endeavouring to trace his footsteps.
All their efforts had failed. One mo-
tive for their returning to Europe
was the hope of discovering some
traces of him, as they entertained no
doubt of his having crossed the ocean.
The vehemence of Mrs. Wentworth's
curiosity as to those particulars of his
life and death may be easily conceived.
My refusal only heightened this pas-

Finding me refractory to all her
efforts she at length dismissed me in

[To be Continued.]

no previous Next next