صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

tion 'I confess to you,' said she, that the discourse which Dr. Mac-Infidel yesterday held, has made me thoroughly unhappy; things which are above reason, I can readily suppose are mysteries, which I ought to admit as matter of faith in religion; but things contrary to reason, and facts which history confutes, how am I to believe? What am I to do in this care? Have you any thing to oppose to his argument? If you have, I should be happy to hear it: if you have not, I

pray you let us talk no more upon the subject.'-I then gave the paper into her hand, which I had prepared, and explaining to her the reasons I had for not taking up the dispute before our company yesterday, desired her to give my paper a serious reading ; if there was any thing in it that laid out of the course of her studies, I would gladly do my best to expound it, and would shew her the authorities to which it referred: she received my paper with the best grace in the world, and promised me that she would consider it with all the attention she was mistress of.

In our farther discourse, it chanced that I let drop some expressions in commendation of her understanding and talents, upon which I observed she gave me a very expressive look, and when I would have spoken of her poem, she shook her head, and, hastily interrupting me, desired I would spare her on that subject; she did not wish to be any more flattered in a folly she had too much cause to repent of; she had burnt the odious poem I was speaking of, and, bursting suddenly into a flood of tears, protested she would never be guilty of writing another line of poetry while she lived.

No words of mine can paint the look and action, which accompanied these expressions ; much less can I describe the stroke of pity and surprise, which her emotion gave me.

It was evident she alluded to

something that had occurred since the reading of the poem; I recollected she was absent all the latter part of the evening, and I felt an irresistible propensity to inquire into the cause of her affliction, though the shortness of our acquaintance gave me no right to be inquisitive; she saw my difficulty, for her intuition is

very great; after a short recollection, which I did not attempt to interrupt— I know not how it is,' says she, but something tells me I am speaking to a friend.'—Here she paused, as doubting whether she ought to proceed or not, and fixed her eyes upon the floor in evident embarrassment. It will readily be supposed I seized the opportunity to induce her to confide in me, if there was any service I could render towards alleviating the distress she was evidently suffering — I have no right to trouble you,' says she, but that fatal argument I heard last night has so weakened the resource, to which my mind in all afflictions would else have naturally applied, that I really know not how to support myself, nor where to look for confort, but by throwing myself upon your friendship for advice, as the most unhappy of all beings. You must know I have the honour to be the daughter of that gallant sea-officer Captain -> Here she named an officer, who will be ever dear to his country, ever deplored by it, and whose friendship is at once the joy and the affliction of my life. I started from my seat; the stroke I felt, when she pronounced a name so rooted in my heart, was like the shock of electricity; I clasped her hands in mine, and pressing them exclaimed - You have a father,'-here I stoppedthe recollection checked me from proceeding--for it was false.—'No, no, my child,' I said, you have no father! nor had he a friend, who can replace your loss; however, pray proceed.'— Implicitly,' replied Calliope (for by that name I still must beg

to call her, though that and poetry are both renounced for ever). • As you are the friend of my father, you must know that he lost my mother when I was an infant; two years are now passed since he perished; a miserable period it has been to me; I am now under the protection of a distant relation, who is an intimate of the lady of this house, and one whose ruinous flattery jointly with Lady Thimble's, has conspired to turn my wretched head, and blast the only hope of happiness I had in life: these learned ladies, as they would be thought, put me upon studies I was never fitted to, gave me this silly name Calliope, and never ceased inflaming my vanity, till they persuaded me I had a talent for poetry: in this they were assisted by Mac-Infidel, who lives in great intimacy with Lady Thimble; the adulation of a learned man (for that he surely is) intoxicated me with self-opinion, and the gravity of his character completed the folly and destruction of mine.'

What do I hear,' said I, interrupting her, the destruction of your character ?'— Have patience,' she replied : 'when I disclose the sorrows of my heart, you will own that my destruction is complete.'Melancholy as these words were, the deduction notwithstanding that I drew from them was a relief compared to what at first I apprehended.-- Alas! Sir,' resumed Calliope, 'I have lost the affections of the most amiable, the most beloved of men : he was my father's darling, and from a boy was educated by him in the profession of the sea;

he shared

every service with my father except the last fatal one, in which your friend unhappily was lost; Providence, that ordained the death of the one, has in the same period enriched the other; he is lately returned from the West Indies, and by his duty has been confined to the port he arrived in, so that we have not met since his return to England; here is the first letter



he wrote to me from Plymouth; read it, I beseech

and then compare it with the fatal one I received last night. Calliope put a letter into my hands, and I read as follows:- .

• MY DEAREST NANCY, • I have this instant brought my frigate to an anchor, and seize the first moment, that my duty permits, to tell the loveliest of her sex, that I have luckily come across a prize, that makes a man of me for life : a man did I say? Yes, and the happiest of men, if my dear girl is still true, and will consent to share the fortune of her faithful Henry.

• I cannot leave Plymouth this fortnight, therefore

pray write to me under cover to my friend the admiral. Yours ever,


When I had returned this letter to

lliope, she resumed her narrative in the following words :• The joy this letter gave me set my spirits in such a flow, that in the habit I was of writing verses, I could not bring my thoughts to run in humble prose, but giving the reins to my fancy filled at least six sides with rhapsodies in verse ; and not content with this, and foolishly conceiving that my poem would appear at least as charming to Henry, as the flattery of my own sex had persuaded me it was to them, I enclosed a fair copy and sent it to him in a packet by the stage coach : the next return of the post brought me this fatal letter I received last night.

MADAM, 'Though there cannot be in this world a task so painful to me, as what I am now about to perform, yet I think it an indispensable point of honour to inform my late most lovely and beloved Nancy, that

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

if I am to suppose her the author of that enormous bundle of verses I have received from her hand, it is the last favour that hand must bestow upon her unhappy Henry.

My education you know; for it was formed under your most excellent father; I served with him from a child, and he taught me, not indeed the knack of making verses, but what I hope has been as useful to my country, the duties of an officer. Being his daughter, I had flattered myself you would not like me the less for following his profession, or for being trained to it under his instruction. But, alas! Nancy, all these hopes are gone. My ignorance would only disgrace you, and your wit would make me contemptible; since you are turned poetess, how can my society be agreeable ? If those verses you have sent me are all your own making, you must have done little else since we parted, and if such are to be your studies and occupations, what is to become of all the comforts of a husband? How are you to fulfil the duties of a mother, or manage the concerns of a family? No, no; may heaven defend me from a learned wife! I am too proud to be the butt of my own table! too accustomed to command, to be easily induced to obey; let me ever live a single man, or let the wife I choose be modest, unpretending, simple, natural in her manners, plain in her understanding : let her be true as the compass I sail by, and (pardon the coarseness of the allusion) obedient to the helm as the ship I steer; then, Nancy, I will stand by my wife, as I will by my ship, to the latest moment I have to breathe. For God's sake what have women to do with learning ? But if they will step out of their own profession and write verses, do not let them step into ours to choose husbands; we shall prove coarse messmates to the Muses.

« السابقةمتابعة »