* * * “But as to the higher part of education, Mr. Harley, the culture of the mind - let the feelings be awakened, let the heart be brought forth to its object, placed in the light in which nature would have it stand, and its decisions will ever be just. The world
Will smile, and smile, and be a villain;
and the youth, who does not suspect its deceit, will be content to smile with it. Men will put on the most forbidding aspect in nature, and tell him of the beauty of virtue.
“I have not, under these grey hairs, forgotten that I was once a young man, warm in the pursuit of pleasure, but meaning to be honest as well as happy. I had ideas of virtue, of honour, of benevolence, which I had never been at the pains to define; but I felt my bosom heave at the thoughts of them, and I made the most delightful soliloquies. It is impossible, said I, that there can be half so many rogues as are imagined.
“I travelled, because it is the fashion for young men of my fortune to travel. I had a travelling tutor, which is the fashion too; but my tutor was a gentleman, which it is not always the fashion for tutors to be. His gentility, indeed, was all he had from his father, whose prodigality had not left him a shilling to support it.
“‘I have a favour to ask of you, my dear Mountford,’ said my father, ‘which I will not be refused. You have travelled as became a man; neither France nor Italy have made anything of Mountford, which Mountford, before he left England, would have been ashamed of. My son Edward goes abroad, would you take him under your protection?’
“He blushed; my father’s face was scarlet. He pressed his hand to his bosom, as if he had said, my heart does not mean to offend you. Mountford sighed twice.
“‘I am a proud fool,’ said he, ‘and you will pardon it. There! (he sighed again) I can hear of dependance, since it is dependance on my Sedley.’
“‘Dependance!’ answered my father; ‘there can be no such word between us. What is there in £9,000 a year that should make me unworthy of Mountford’s friendship?’
“They embraced; and soon after I set out on my travels, with Mountford for my guardian.
“We were at Milan, where my father happened to have an Italian friend, to whom he had been of some service in England. The count, for he was of quality, was solicitous to return the obligation by a particular attention to his son. We lived in his palace, visited with his family, were caressed by his friends, and I began to be so well pleased with my entertainment, that I thought of England as of some foreign country.
“The count had a son not much older than myself. At that age a friend is an easy acquisition; we were friends the first night of our acquaintance.
“He introduced me into the company of a set of young gentlemen, whose fortunes gave them the command of pleasure, and whose inclinations incited them to the purchase. After having spent some joyous evenings in their society, it became a sort of habit which I could not miss without uneasiness, and our meetings, which before were frequent, were now stated and regular.
“Sometimes, in the pauses of our mirth, gaming was introduced as an amusement. It was an art in which I was a novice. I received instruction, as other novices do, by losing pretty largely to my teachers. Nor was this the only evil which Mountford foresaw would arise from the connection I had formed; but a lecture of sour injunctions was not his method of reclaiming. He sometimes asked me questions about the company, but they were such as the curiosity of any indifferent man might have prompted. I told him of their wit, their eloquence, their warmth of friendship, and their sensibility of heart. ‘And their honour,’ said I, laying my hand on my breast, ‘is unquestionable.’ Mountford seemed to rejoice at my good fortune, and begged that I would introduce him to their acquaintance. At the next meeting I introduced him accordingly.
“The conversation was as animated as usual. They displayed all that sprightliness and good-humour which my praises had led Mountford to expect; subjects, too, of sentiment occurred, and their speeches, particularly those of our friend the son of Count Respino, glowed with the warmth of honour, and softened into the tenderness of feeling. Mountford was charmed with his companions. When we parted, he made the highest eulogiums upon them. ‘When shall we see them again?’ said he. I was delighted with the demand, and promised to reconduct him on the morrow.
“In going to their place of rendezvous, he took me a little out of the road, to see, as he told me, the performances of a young statuary. When we were near the house in which Mountford said he lived, a boy of about seven years old crossed us in the street. At sight of Mountford he stopped, and grasping his hand,
“‘My dearest sir,’ said he, ‘my father is likely to do well. He will live to pray for you, and to bless you. Yes, he will bless you, though you are an Englishman, and some other hard word that the monk talked of this morning, which I have forgot, but it meant that you should not go to heaven; but he shall go to heaven, said I, for he has saved my father. Come and see him, sir, that we may be happy.’
“‘My dear, I am engaged at present with this gentleman.’
“‘But he shall come along with you; he is an Englishman, too, I fancy. He shall come and learn how an Englishman may go to heaven.’
“Mountford smiled, and we followed the boy together.
“After crossing the next street, we arrived at the gate of a prison. I seemed surprised at the sight; our little conductor observed it.
“‘Are you afraid, sir?’ said he. ‘I was afraid once too, but my father and mother are here, and I am never afraid when I am with them.’
“He took my hand, and led me through a dark passage that fronted the gate. When we came to a little door at the end, he tapped. A boy, still younger than himself, opened it to receive us. Mountford entered with a look in which was pictured the benign assurance of a superior being. I followed in silence and amazement.
“On something like a bed, lay a man, with a face seemingly emaciated with sickness, and a look of patient dejection. A bundle of dirty shreds served him for a pillow, but he had a better support - the arm of a female who kneeled beside him, beautiful as an angel, but with a fading languor in her countenance, the still life of melancholy, that seemed to borrow its shade from the object on which she gazed. There was a tear in her eye - the sick man kissed it off in its bud, smiling through the dimness of his own - when she saw Mountford, she crawled forward on the ground, and clasped his knees. He raised her from the floor; she threw her arms round his neck, and sobbed out a speech of thankfulness, eloquent beyond the power of language.
“‘Compose yourself, my love,’ said the man on the bed; ‘but he, whose goodness has caused that emotion, will pardon its effects.’
“‘How is this, Mountford?’ said I; ‘what do I see? What must I do?’
“‘You see,’ replied the stranger, ‘a wretch, sunk in poverty, starving in prison, stretched on a sick bed. But that is little. There are his wife and children wanting the bread which he has not to give them! Yet you cannot easily imagine the conscious serenity of his mind. In the gripe of affliction, his heart swells with the pride of virtue; it can even look down with pity on the man whose cruelty has wrung it almost to bursting. You are, I fancy, a friend of Mr. Mountford’s. Come nearer, and I’ll tell you, for, short as my story is, I can hardly command breath enough for a recital. The son of Count Respino (I started, as if I had trod on a viper) has long had a criminal passion for my wife. This her prudence had concealed from me; but he had lately the boldness to declare it to myself. He promised me affluence in exchange for honour, and threatened misery as its attendant if I kept it. I treated him with the contempt he deserved; the consequence was, that he hired a couple of bravoes (for I am persuaded they acted under his direction), who attempted to assassinate me in the street; but I made such a defence as obliged them to fly, after having given me two or three stabs, none of which, however, were mortal. But his revenge was not thus to be disappointed. In the little dealings of my trade I had contracted some debts, of which he had made himself master for my ruin. I was confined here at his suit, when not yet recovered from the wounds I had received; the dear woman, and these two boys, followed me, that we might starve together; but Providence interposed, and sent Mr. Mountford to our support. He has relieved my family from the gnawings of hunger, and rescued me from death, to which a fever, consequent on my wounds and increased by the want of every necessary, had almost reduced me.’
“‘Inhuman villain!’ I exclaimed, lifting up my eyes to heaven.
“‘Inhuman indeed!’ said the lovely woman who stood at my side. ‘Alas! sir, what had we done to offend him? what had these little ones done, that they should perish in the toils of his vengeance?’
“I reached a pen which stood in the inkstand dish at the bed-side.
“‘May I ask what is the amount of the sum for which you are imprisoned?’
“‘I was able,’ he replied, ‘to pay all but five hundred crowns.’
“I wrote a draft on the banker with whom I had a credit from my father for 2,500, and presenting it to the stranger’s wife,
“‘You will receive, madam, on presenting this note, a sum more than sufficient for your husband’s discharge; the remainder I leave for his industry to improve.’
“I would have left the room. Each of them laid hold of one of my hands, the children clung to my coat. Oh! Mr. Harley, methinks I feel their gentle violence at this moment; it beats here with delight inexpressible.
“‘Stay, sir,’ said he, ‘I do not mean attempting to thank you’ (he took a pocket-book from under his pillow), ‘let me but know what name I shall place here next to Mr. Mountford!’
“He writ it down.
“‘An Englishman too, I presume.’
“‘He shall go to heaven, notwithstanding;’ said the boy who had been our guide.
“It began to be too much for me. I squeezed his hand that was clasped in mine, his wife’s I pressed to my lips, and burst from the place, to give vent to the feelings that laboured within me.
“‘Oh, Mountford!’ said I, when he had overtaken me at the door.
“‘It is time,’ replied he, ‘that we should think of our appointment; young Respino and his friends are waiting us.’
“‘Damn him, damn him!’ said I. ‘Let us leave Milan instantly; but soft - I will be calm; Mountford, your pencil.’ I wrote on a slip of paper,
“‘To Signor RESPINO.
“‘When you receive this, I am at a distance from Milan. Accept of my thanks for the civilities I have received from you and your family. As to the friendship with which you were pleased to honour me, the prison, which I have just left, has exhibited a scene to cancel it for ever. You may possibly be merry with your companions at my weakness, as I suppose you will term it. I give you leave for derision. You may affect a triumph, I shall feel it.
“‘You may send this if you will,’ said Mountford, coolly, ‘but still Respino is a man of honour; the world will continue to call him so.’
“‘It is probable,’ I answered, ‘they may; I envy not the appellation. If this is the world’s honour, if these men are the guides of its manners - ’
“‘Tut!’ said Mountford, ‘do you eat macaroni - ’”
* * *
[At this place had the greatest depredations of the curate begun. There were so very few connected passages of the subsequent chapters remaining, that even the partiality of an editor could not offer them to the public. I discovered, from some scattered sentences, that they were of much the same tenor with the preceding; recitals of little adventures, in which the dispositions of a man, sensible to judge, and still more warm to feel, had room to unfold themselves. Some instruction, and some example, I make no doubt they contained; but it is likely that many of those, whom chance has led to a perusal of what I have already presented, may have read it with little pleasure, and will feel no disappointment from the want of those parts which I have been unable to procure. To such as may have expected the intricacies of a novel, a few incidents in a life undistinguished, except by some features of the heart, cannot have afforded much entertainment.
Harley’s own story, from the mutilated passages I have mentioned, as well as from some inquiries I was at the trouble of making in the country, I found to have been simple to excess. His mistress, I could perceive, was not married to Sir Harry Benson; but it would seem, by one of the following chapters, which is still entire, that Harley had not profited on the occasion by making any declaration of his own passion, after those of the other had been unsuccessful. The state of his health, for some part of this period, appears to have been such as to forbid any thoughts of that kind: he had been seized with a very dangerous fever, caught by attending old Edwards in one of an infectious kind. From this he had recovered but imperfectly, and though he had no formed complaint, his health was manifestly on the decline.
It appears that the sagacity of some friend had at length pointed out to his aunt a cause from which this might be supposed to proceed, to wit, his hopeless love for Miss Walton; for, according to the conceptions of the world, the love of a man of Harley’s fortune for the heiress of £4,000 a year is indeed desperate. Whether it was so in this case may be gathered from the next chapter, which, with the two subsequent, concluding the performance, have escaped those accidents that proved fatal to the rest.]