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Title: Ormond, Volume I (of 3) - or, The Secret Witness
Author: Brown, Charles Brockden, 1771-1810
Language: English
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The Secret Witness.



Author of Wieland, or Transformation.

In Three Volumes.


"Sæpe intereunt aliis meditantes necem."


"Those who plot the destruction of others, very often fall,
themselves the victims."

Philadelphia  Printed,
London, Re-Printed for Henry Colburn,
English and Foreign Public Library,
Conduit-Street, Bond-Street.

       *       *       *       *       *




are respectfully inscribed,

by her Ladyship's

most obedient, and humble Servant,



_To I.E. Rosenberg._

You are anxious to obtain some knowledge of the history of Constantia
Dudley. I am well acquainted with your motives, and allow that they
justify your curiosity. I am willing to the utmost of my power to comply
with your request, and will now dedicate what leisure I have to the
composition of her story.

My narrative will have little of that merit which flows from unity of
design. You are desirous of hearing an authentic and not a fictitious
tale. It will therefore be my duty to relate events in no artificial or
elaborate order, and without that harmonious congruity and luminous
amplification, which might justly be displayed in a tale flowing merely
from invention. It will be little more than a biographical sketch, in
which the facts are distributed and amplified, not as a poetical taste
would prescribe, but as the materials afforded me, sometimes abundant
and sometimes scanty, would permit.

Constantia, like all the beings made known to us, not by fancy, but
experience, has numerous defects. You will readily perceive that her
tale is told by her friend; but I hope you will not discover many or
glaring proofs of a disposition to extenuate her errors or falsify her

Ormond will perhaps appear to you a contradictory or unintelligible
being. I pretend not to the infallibility of inspiration. He is not a
creature of fancy. It was not prudent to unfold _all_ the means by which
I gained a knowledge of his actions; but these means, though singularly
fortunate and accurate, could not be unerring and complete. I have shown
him to you as he appeared on different occasions, and at successive
periods to me. This is all that you will demand from a faithful

If you were not deeply interested in the fate of my friend, yet my
undertaking will not be useless, inasmuch as it will introduce you to
scenes to which you have been hitherto a stranger. The modes of life,
the influence of public events upon the character and happiness of
individuals in America, are new to you. The distinctions of birth, and
the artificial degrees of esteem or contempt which connect themselves
with different professions and ranks in your native country, are but
little known among us. Society and manners constitute your favourite
study, and I am willing to believe that my relation will supply you with
knowledge, on these heads, not to be otherwise obtained. If these
details be in that respect unsatisfactory, all that I can add, is my
counsel to go and examine for yourself.







Stephen Dudley was a native of New York. He was educated to the
profession of a painter. His father's trade was that of an apothecary.
But this son, manifesting an attachment to the pencil, he was resolved
that it should be gratified. For this end Stephen was sent at an early
age to Europe, and not only enjoyed the instructions of Fuzeli and
Bartolozzi, but spent a considerable period in Italy, in studying the
Augustan and Medicean monuments. It was intended that he should practise
his art in his native city, but the young man, though reconciled to
this scheme by deference to paternal authority, and by a sense of its
propriety, was willing as long as possible to postpone it. The
liberality of his father relieved him from all pecuniary cares. His
whole time was devoted to the improvement of his skill in his favourite
art, and the enriching of his mind with every valuable accomplishment.
He was endowed with a comprehensive genius and indefatigable industry.
His progress was proportionably rapid, and he passed his time without
much regard to futurity, being too well satisfied with the present to
anticipate a change. A change however was unavoidable, and he was
obliged at length to pay a reluctant obedience to his father's repeated
summons. The death of his wife had rendered his society still more
necessary to the old gentleman.

He married before his return. The woman whom he had selected was an
unportioned orphan, and was recommended merely by her moral qualities.
These, however, were eminent, and secured to her, till the end of her
life, the affection of her husband. Though painting was capable of fully
gratifying his taste as matter of amusement, he quickly found that, in
his new situation, it would not answer the ends of a profession. His
father supported himself by the profits of his shop, but with all his
industry he could do no more than procure a subsistence for himself and
his son.

Till his father's death young Dudley attached himself to painting. His
gains were slender, but he loved the art, and his father's profession
rendered his own exertions in a great degree superfluous. The death of
the elder Dudley introduced an important change in his situation. It
thenceforth became necessary to strike into some new path, to deny
himself the indulgence of his inclinations, and regulate his future
exertions by a view to nothing but gain. There was little room for
choice. His habits had disqualified him for mechanical employments. He
could not stoop to the imaginary indignity which attended them, nor
spare the time necessary to obtain the requisite degree of skill. His
father died in possession of some stock, and a sufficient portion of
credit to supply its annual decays. He lived at what they call a _good
stand_, and enjoyed a certain quantity of permanent custom. The
knowledge that was required was as easily obtained as the elements of
any other profession, and was not wholly unallied to the pursuits in
which he had sometimes engaged. Hence he could not hesitate long in
forming his resolution, but assumed the management of his father's
concerns with a cheerful and determined spirit.

The knowledge of his business was acquired in no long time; He was
stimulated to the acquisition by a sense of duty; he was inured to
habits of industry, and there were few things capable to resist a
strenuous exertion of his faculties. Knowledge of whatever kind afforded
a compensation to labour; but the task being finished, that which
remained, which in ordinary apprehensions would have been esteemed an
easy and smooth path, was to him insupportably disgustful. The drudgery
of a shop, where all the faculties were at a stand, and one day was an
unvaried repetition of the foregoing, was too incongenial to his
disposition not to be a source of discontent. This was an evil which it
was the tendency of time to increase rather than diminish. The longer he
endured it the less tolerable it became. He could not forbear comparing
his present situation with his former, and deriving from the contrast
perpetual food for melancholy.

The indulgence of his father had contributed to instil into him
prejudices, in consequence of which a certain species of disgrace was
annexed to every employment of which the only purpose was gain. His
present situation not only precluded all those pursuits which exalt and
harmonize the feelings, but was detested by him as something humiliating
and ignominious. His wife was of a pliant temper, and her condition less
influenced by this change than that of her husband. She was qualified to
be his comforter; but instead of dispelling his gloom by judicious
arguments, or a seasonable example of vivacity, she caught the infection
that preyed upon his mind, and augmented his anxieties by partaking in

By enlarging in some degree the foundation on which his father had
built, he had provided the means of a future secession, and might
console himself with the prospect of enjoying his darling ease at some
period of his life. This period was necessarily too remote for his
wishes; and had not certain occurrences taken place, by which he was
flattered with the immediate possession of ease, it is far from being
certain that he would not have fallen a victim to his growing

He was one morning engaged behind his counter as usual, when a youth
came into his shop, and, in terms that bespoke the union of fearlessness
and frankness, inquired whether he could be engaged as an apprentice. A
proposal of this kind could not be suddenly rejected or adopted. He
stood in need of assistance; the youth was manly and blooming, and
exhibited a modest and ingenuous aspect. It was possible that he was, in
every respect, qualified for the post for which he applied; but it was
previously necessary to ascertain these qualifications. For this end he
requested the youth to call at his house in the evening, when he should
be at leisure to converse with him, and furnished him with suitable

The youth came according to appointment. On being questioned as to his
birthplace and origin, he stated that he was a native of Wakefield, in
Yorkshire; that his family were honest, and his education not mean; that
he was the eldest, of many children, and having attained an age at which
he conceived it his duty to provide for himself, he had, with the
concurrence of his friends, come to America, in search of the means of
independent subsistence; that he had just arrived in a ship which he
named, and, his scanty stock of money being likely to be speedily
consumed, this had been the first effort he had made to procure

His tale was circumstantial and consistent, and his veracity appeared
liable to no doubt. He was master of his book and his pen, and had
acquired more than the rudiments of Latin. Mr. Dudley did not require
much time to deliberate. In a few days the youth was established as a
member of his family, and as a coadjutor in his shop, nothing but food,
clothing, and lodging being stipulated as the reward of his services.

The young man improved daily in the good opinion of his master. His
apprehension was quick, his sobriety invariable, and his application
incessant. Though by no means presumptuous or arrogant, he was not
wanting in a suitable degree of self-confidence. All his propensities
appeared to concentre in his occupation and the promotion of his
master's interest, from which he was drawn aside by no allurements of
sensual or intellectual pleasure. In a short time he was able to relieve
his master of most of the toils of his profession, and Mr. Dudley a
thousand times congratulated himself on possessing a servant equally
qualified by his talents and his probity. He gradually remitted his
attention to his own concerns, and placed more absolute reliance on the
fidelity of his dependant.

Young Craig, that was the name of the youth, maintained a punctual
correspondence with his family, and confided to his patron, not only
copies of all the letters which he himself wrote, but those which, from
time to time, he received. He had several correspondents, but the chief
of those were his mother and his eldest sister. The sentiments contained
in their letters breathed the most appropriate simplicity and,
tenderness, and flowed with the nicest propriety, from the different
relationships of mother and sister. The style, and even the penmanship,
were distinct and characteristical.

One of the first of these epistles was written by the mother to Mr.
Dudley, on being informed by her son of his present engagement. It was
dictated by that concern for the welfare of her child befitting the
maternal character. Gratitude, for the ready acceptance of the youth's
services, and for the benignity of his deportment towards him, a just
representation of which had been received by her from the boy himself,
was expressed with no inconsiderable elegance; as well as her earnest
wishes that Mr. Dudley should extend to him not only the indulgence, but
the moral superintendence of a parent.

To this Mr. Dudley conceived it incumbent upon him to return a
consenting answer, and letters were in this manner occasionally
interchanged between them.

Things remained in this situation for three years, during which period
every day enhanced the reputation of Craig, for stability and integrity.
A sort of provisional engagement had been made between the parents,
unattended however by any legal or formal act, that things should remain
on their present footing for three years. When this period terminated,
it seemed as if a new engagement had become necessary. Craig expressed
the utmost willingness to renew the former contract, but his master
began to think that the services of his pupil merited a higher
recompense. He ascribed the prosperity that had hitherto attended him to
the disinterested exertions of his apprentice. His social and literary
gratifications had been increased by the increase of his leisure. These
were capable of being still more enlarged. He had not yet acquired what
he deemed a sufficiency, and could not therefore wholly relieve himself
from the turmoils and humiliation of a professional life. He concluded
that he should at once consult his own interest, and perform no more
than an act of justice to a faithful servant, by making Craig his
partner, and allowing him a share of the profits, on condition of his
discharging all the duties of the trade.

When this scheme was proposed to Craig he professed unbounded gratitude,
considered all that he had done as amply rewarded by the pleasure of
performance, and as being nothing more than was prescribed by his duty.
He promised that this change in his situation should have no other
effect than to furnish new incitements to diligence and fidelity, in the
promotion of an interest, which would then become in a still higher
degree than formerly a common one. Mr. Dudley communicated his
intention to Craig's mother, who, in addition to many grateful
acknowledgments, stated that a kinsman of her son had enabled him, in
case of entering into partnership, to add a small sum to the common
stock, and that for this sum Craig was authorized to draw upon a London
banker. The proposed arrangement was speedily effected. Craig was
charged with the management of all affairs, and Mr. Dudley retired to
the enjoyment of still greater leisure. Two years elapsed, and nothing
occurred to interrupt the harmony that subsisted between the partners.
Mr. Dudley's condition might be esteemed prosperous. His wealth was
constantly accumulating. He had nearly attained all that he wished, and
his wishes still aimed at nothing less than splendid opulence. He had
annually increased the permanent sources of his revenue. His daughter
was the only survivor of many children who perished in their infancy,
before habit and maturity, had rendered the parental tie difficult to
break. This daughter had already exhibited proofs of a mind susceptible
of high improvement, and the loveliness of her person promised to keep
pace with her mental acquisitions. He charged himself with the care of
her education, and found no weariness or satiety in this task that might
not be amply relieved by the recreations of science and literature. He
flattered himself that his career, which had hitherto been exempt from
any considerable impediment, would terminate in tranquillity. Few men
might with more propriety have discarded all apprehensions respecting

Craig had several sisters, and one brother younger than himself. Mr.
Dudley, desirous of promoting the happiness of this family, proposed to
send for this brother and have him educated to his own profession,
insinuating to his partner that at the time when the boy should have
gained sufficient stability and knowledge, he himself might be disposed
to relinquish the profession altogether, on terms particularly
advantageous to the two brothers, who might thenceforth conduct their
business jointly. Craig had been eloquent in praise of this lad, and his
testimony had, from time to time, been confirmed by that of his mother
and sister. He had often expressed his wishes for the prosperity of the
lad; and, when his mother had expressed her doubts as to the best method
of disposing of him, modestly requested Mr. Dudley's advice on this
head. The proposal, therefore, might be supposed to be particularly
acceptable, and yet Craig expressed reluctance to concur with it. This
reluctance was accompanied with certain tokens which sufficiently
showed whence it arose. Craig appeared unwilling to increase those
obligations under which he already laboured; his sense of gratitude was
too acute to allow him to heighten it by the reception of new benefits.

It might be imagined that this objection would be easily removed; but
the obstinacy of Craig's opposition was invincible. Mr. Dudley could not
relinquish a scheme to which no stronger objection could be made; and,
since his partner could not be prevailed upon to make this proposal to
the friends of the lad, he was determined to do it himself. He
maintained an intercourse by letters with several of those friends which
he formed in his youth. One of them usually resided in London. From him
he received about this time a letter, in which, among other information,
the writer mentioned his intention of setting out on a tour through
Yorkshire and the Scottish highlands. Mr. Dudley thought this a
suitable opportunity for executing his design in favour of young Craig.
He entertained no doubts about the worth and condition of this family,
but was still desirous of obtaining some information on this head from
one who would pass through the town where they resided, who would
examine with his own eyes, and on whose discernment and integrity he
could place an implicit reliance. He concealed this intention from his
partner, and entrusted his letter to a friend who was just embarking for
Europe. In due season he received an answer, confirming, in all
respects, Craig's representations, but informing him that the lad had
been lately disposed of in a way not equally advantageous with that
which Mr. Dudley had proposed, but such as would not admit of change.

If doubts could possibly be entertained respecting the character and
views of Craig, this evidence would have dispelled them. But plans,
however skilfully contrived, if founded on imposture, cannot fail of
being sometimes detected. Craig had occasion to be absent from the city
for some weeks. Meanwhile a letter had been left at his lodgings by one
who merely inquired if that were the dwelling of Mr. Dudley, and being
answered by the servant in the affirmative, left the letter without
further parley. It was superscribed with a name unknown to any of the
family, and in a hand which its badness rendered almost illegible. The
servant placed it in a situation to be seen by his master.

Mr. Dudley allowed it to remain unopened for a considerable time. At
length, deeming it excusable to discover by any means the person to whom
it was addressed, he ventured to unseal it. It was dated at Portsmouth
in New-Hampshire. The signature was Mary Mansfield. It was addressed to
her son, and was a curious specimen of illiterateness. Mary herself was
unable to write, as she reminds her son, and had therefore procured the
assistance of Mrs. Dewitt, for whose family she washed. The amanuensis
was but little superior in the art of penmanship to her principal. The
contents of the epistle were made out with some difficulty. This was the
substance of it:--

Mary reproaches her son for deserting her, and letting five years pass
away without allowing her to hear from him. She informed him of her
distresses as they flowed from sickness and poverty, and were aggravated
by the loss of her son who was so handsome and promising a lad. She
related her marriage with Zekel Hackney, who first brought her tidings
of her boy. He was master, it seems, of a fishing smack, and voyaged
sometimes to New York. In one of his visits, to this city he met a
mighty spry young man, in whom he thought he recognized his wife's son.
He had traced him to the house of Mr. Dudley, and on inquiry discovered
that the lad resided here. On his return he communicated the tidings to
his spouse, who had now written to reproach him for his neglect of his
poor old mother, and to entreat his assistance to relieve her from the
necessity of drudging for her livelihood.

This letter was capable of an obvious construction. It was, no doubt,
founded in mistake, though it was to be acknowledged that the mistake
was singular. Such was the conclusion immediately formed by Mr. Dudley.
He quietly replaced the letter on the mantel-piece, where it had before
stood, and dismissed the affair from his thoughts.

Next day Craig returned from his journey. Mr. Dudley was employed in
examining some papers in a desk that stood behind the door in the
apartment in which the letter was placed. There was no other person in
the room when Craig entered it. He did not perceive Mr. Dudley, who was
screened from observation by his silence and by an open door. As soon as
he entered, Mr. Dudley looked at him, and made no haste to speak. The
letter, whose superscription was turned towards him, immediately
attracted Craig's attention. He seized it with some degree of eagerness,
and observing the broken seal, thrust it hastily into his pocket,
muttering at the same time, in a tone betokening a mixture of
consternation and anger, "Damn it!"--He immediately left the room, still
uninformed of the presence of Mr. Dudley, who began to muse with some
earnestness on what he had seen. Soon after, he left this room, and went
into another in which the family usually sat. In about twenty minutes
Craig made his appearance with his usual freedom and plausibility.
Complimentary and customary topics were discussed. Mrs. Dudley and her
daughter were likewise present. The uneasiness which the incident just
mentioned had occasioned in the mind of Mr. Dudley was at first
dispelled by the disembarrassed behaviour of his partner, but new matter
of suspicion was speedily afforded him. He observed that his partner
spoke of his present entrance as of the first since his arrival, and
that when the lady mentioned that he had been the subject of a curious
mistake, a letter being directed to him by a strange name, and left
there during his absence, he pretended total ignorance of the
circumstance. The young lady was immediately directed by her mother to
bring the letter, which lay, she said, on the mantle-tree in the next

During this scene Mr. Dudley was silent. He anticipated the
disappointment of the messenger, believing the letter to have been
removed. What then was his surprise when the messenger returned bearing
the letter in her hand! Craig examined and read it, and commented with
great mirth on the contents, acting all the while as if he had never
seen it before. These appearances were not qualified to quiet suspicion;
the more Dudley brooded over them the more dissatisfied he became. He
however concealed his thoughts, as well from Craig himself as his
family, impatiently waiting for some new occurrence to arise by which he
might square his future proceedings.

During Craig's absence Mrs. Dudley had thought this a proper occasion
for cleaning his apartment. The furniture, and among the rest, a large
chest strongly fastened, was removed into an adjoining room which was
otherwise unoccupied, and which was usually kept locked. When the
cleansing was finished, the furniture was replaced, except this trunk,
which its bulk, the indolence of the servant, and her opinion of its
uselessness, occasioned her to leave in the closet.

About a week after this, on a Saturday evening, Craig invited to sup
with him a friend who was to embark on the ensuing Monday for Jamaica.
During supper, at which the family were present, the discourse turned on
the voyage on which the guest was about to enter. In the course of talk
the stranger expressed how much he stood in need of a strong and
commodious chest, in which he might safely deposit his cloths and
papers. Not being apprized of the early departure of the vessel, he had
deferred till it was too late applying to an artizan.

Craig desired him to set himself at rest on that head, for that he had
in his possession just such a trunk as he described. It was of no use to
him, being long filled with nothing better than refuse and lumber, and
that, if he would, he might send for it the next morning. He turned to
Mrs. Dudley and observed, that the trunk to which he alluded was in her
possession, and he would thank her to direct its removal into his own
apartment, that he might empty it of its present contents, and prepare
it for the service of his friend. To this she readily assented.

There was nothing mysterious in this affair, but the mind of Mr. Dudley
was pained with doubts. He was now as prone to suspect as he was
formerly disposed to confidence. This evening he put the key of the
closet in his own pocket. When inquired for the next day, it was, of
course, missing. It could not be found on the most diligent search. The
occasion was not of such moment as to justify breaking the door. Mr.
Dudley imagined that he saw in Craig more uneasiness at this
disappointment than he was willing to express. There was no remedy. The
chest remained where it was, and next morning the ship departed on her

Craig accompanied his friend on board, was prevailed upon to go to sea
with him, designing to return with the pilot-boat, but when the pilot
was preparing to leave the vessel, such was this man's complaisance to
the wishes of his friend, that he concluded to perform the remainder of
the voyage in his company. The consequences are easily seen. Craig had
gone with a resolution of never returning. The unhappy Dudley was left
to deplore the total ruin of his fortune, which had fallen a prey to
the arts of a subtle imposture.

The chest was opened, and the part which Craig had been playing for some
years, with so much success, was perfectly explained. It appeared that
the sum which Craig had contributed to the common stock, when first
admitted into partnership, had been previously purloined from the daily
receipts of his shop, of which an exact register was kept. Craig had
been so indiscreet as to preserve this accusing record, and it was
discovered in this depository. He was the son of Mary Mansfield, and a
native of Portsmouth. The history of the Wakefield family, specious and
complicated as it was, was entirely fictitious. The letters had been
forged, and the correspondence supported by his own dexterity. Here was
found the letter which Mr. Dudley had written to his friend requesting
him to make certain inquiries at Wakefield, and which he imagined that
he had delivered with his own hands to a trusty bearer. Here was the
original draught of the answer he received. The manner in which this
stratagem had been accomplished came gradually to light. The letter
which was written to the Yorkshire traveller had been purloined, and
another with a similar superscription, in which the hand of Dudley was
exactly imitated, and containing only brief and general remarks, had
been placed in its stead. Craig must have suspected its contents, and by
this suspicion have been incited to the theft. The answer which the
Englishman had really written, and which sufficiently corresponded with
the forged letter, had been intercepted by Craig, and furnished him a
model from which he might construct an answer adapted to his own

This imposture had not been sustained for a trivial purpose. He had
embezzled a large share of the stock, and had employed the credit of the
house to procure extensive remittances to be made to an agent at a
distance, by whom the property was effectually secured. Craig had gone
to participate these spoils, while the whole estate of Mr. Dudley was
insufficient to pay the demands that were consequently made upon him.

It was his lot to fall into the grasp of men who squared their actions
by no other standard than law, and who esteemed every claim to be
incontestably just that could plead that sanction. They did not indeed
throw him into prison. When they had despoiled him of every remnant of
his property, they deemed themselves entitled to his gratitude for
leaving his person unmolested.


Thus in a moment was this man thrown from the summit of affluence to the
lowest indigence. He had been habituated to independence and ease. This
reverse, therefore, was the harder to bear. His present situation was
much worse than at his father's death. Then he was sanguine with youth
and glowing with health. He possessed a fund on which he could commence
his operations. Materials were at hand, and nothing was wanted but skill
to use them. Now he had advanced in life. His frame was not exempt from
infirmity. He had so long reposed on the bosom of opulence, and enjoyed
the respect attendant on wealth, that he felt himself totally
incapacitated for a new station. His misfortune had not been foreseen.
It was embittered by the consciousness of his own imprudence, and by
recollecting that the serpent which had stung him was nurtured in his
own bosom.

It was not merely frugal fare and a humble dwelling to which he was
condemned. The evils to be dreaded were beggary and contempt. Luxury and
leisure were not merely denied him. He must bend all his efforts to
procure clothing and food, to preserve his family from nakedness and
famine. His spirit would not brook dependence. To live upon charity, or
to take advantage of the compassion of his friends, was a destiny far
worse than any other. To this therefore he would not consent. However
irksome and painful it might prove, he determined to procure hit bread
by the labour of his hands.

But to what scene or kind of employment should he betake himself? He
could not endure to exhibit this reverse of fortune on the same theatre
which had witnessed his prosperity. One of his first measures was to
remove from New York to Philadelphia. How should he employ himself in
his new abode? Painting, the art in which he was expert, would not
afford him the means of subsistence. Though no despicable musician, he
did not esteem himself qualified to be a teacher of this art. This
profession, besides, was treated by his new neighbours with general,
though unmerited contempt. There were few things on which he prided
himself more than on the facilities and elegances of his penmanship. He
was besides well acquainted with arithmetic and accounting. He concluded
therefore to offer his services, as a writer in a public office. This
employment demanded little bodily exertion. He had spent much of his
time at the book and the desk: his new occupation, therefore, was
further recommended by its resemblance to his ancient modes of life.

The first situation of this kind for which he applied he obtained. The
duties were constant, but not otherwise toilsome or arduous. The
emoluments were slender, but my contracting, within limits as narrow as
possible, his expenses, they could be made subservient to the mere
purposes of subsistence. He hired a small house in the suburbs of the
city. It consisted of a room above and below, and a kitchen. His wife,
daughter, and one girl, composed its inhabitants.

As long as his mind was occupied in projecting and executing these
arrangements, it was diverted from uneasy contemplations. When his life
became uniform, and day followed day in monotonous succession, and the
novelty of his employment had disappeared, his cheerfulness began
likewise to fade, and was succeeded by unconquerable melancholy. His
present condition was in every respect the contrast of his former. His
servitude was intolerable. He was associated with sordid hirelings,
gross and uneducated, who treated his age with rude familiarity, and
insulted his ears with ribaldry and scurrilous jests. He was subject to
command, and had his portion of daily drudgery allotted to him, to be
performed for a pittance no more than would buy the bread which he daily
consumed. The task assigned him was technical and formal. He was
perpetually encumbered with the rubbish of law, and waded with laborious
steps through its endless tautologies, its impertinent circuities, its
lying assertions, and hateful artifices. Nothing occurred to relieve or
diversify the scene. It was one tedious round of scrawling and jargon; a
tissue made up of the shreds and remnants of barbarous antiquity,
polluted with the rust of ages, and patched by the stupidity of modern
workmen into new deformity.

When the day's task was finished, jaded spirits, and a body enfeebled by
reluctant application, were but little adapted to domestic enjoyments.
These indeed were incompatible with a temper like his, to whom the
privation of the comforts that attended his former condition was
equivalent to the loss of life. These privations were still more painful
to his wife, and her death added one more calamity to those tinder which
he already groaned. He had always loved her with the tenderest
affection, and he justly regarded this evil as surpassing all his former

But his destiny seemed never weary of persecuting him. It was not enough
that he should fall a victim to the most atrocious arts, that he should
wear out his days in solitude and drudgery, that he should feel not only
the personal restraints and hardships attendant upon indigence, but the
keener pangs that result from negligence and contumely. He was
imperfectly recovered from the shock occasioned by the death of his
wife, when his sight was invaded by a cataract. Its progress was rapid,
and terminated in total blindness.

He was now disabled from pursuing his usual occupation. He was shot out
from the light of heaven, and debarred of every human comfort. Condemned
to eternal darkness, and worse than the helplessness of infancy, he was
dependant for the meanest offices on the kindness of others; and he who
had formerly abounded in the gifts of fortune, thought only of ending
his days in a gaol or an almshouse.

His situation however was alleviated by one circumstance. He had a
daughter whom I have formerly mentioned, as the only survivor of many
children. She was sixteen years of age when the storm of adversity fell
upon her father's house. It may be thought that one educated as she had
been, in the gratification of all her wishes, and at an age of timidity
and inexperience, would have been less fitted than her father for
encountering misfortune; and yet when the task of comforter fell upon
her her strength was not found wanting. Her fortitude was immediately
put to the test. This reverse did not only affect her obliquely, and
through the medium of her family, but directly, and in one way usually
very distressful to female feelings.

Her fortune and character had attracted many admirers. One of them had
some reason to flatter himself with success. Miss Dudley's notions had
little in common with those around her. She had learned to square her
conduct, in a considerable degree, not by the hasty impulses of
inclination, but by the dictates of truth. She yielded nothing to
caprice or passion. Not that she was perfectly exempt from intervals of
weakness, or from the necessity of painful struggles, but these
intervals were transient, and these struggles always successful. She was
no stranger to the pleadings of love from the lips of others, and in her
own bosom; but its tumults were brief, and speedily gave place to quiet
thoughts and steadfast purposes.

She had listened to the solicitations of one not unworthy in himself,
and amply recommended by the circumstances of family and fortune. He was
young, and therefore impetuous. Of the good that he sought, he was not
willing to delay the acquisition for a moment. She had been taught a
very different lesson. Marriage included vows of irrevocable affection
and obedience. It was a contract to endure for life. To form this
connection in extreme youth, before time had unfolded and modelled the
characters of the parties, was, in her opinion, a proof of pernicious
and opprobrious temerity. Not to perceive the propriety of delay in this
case, or to be regardless of the motives that would enjoin upon us a
deliberate procedure, furnished an unanswerable objection to any man's
pretensions. She was sensible, however, that this, like other mistakes,
was curable. If her arguments failed to remove it, time, it was likely,
would effect this purpose. If she rejected a matrimonial proposal for
the present, it was for reasons that might not preclude her future
acceptance of it.

Her scruples, in the present case, did not relate to the temper or
person, or understanding of her lover; but to his age, to the
imperfectness of their acquaintance, and to the want of that permanence
of character, which can flow only from the progress of time and
knowledge. These objections, which so rarely exist, were conclusive
with her. There was no danger of her relinquishing them in compliance
with the remonstrances of her parents and the solicitations of her
lover; though the one and the other were urged with all the force of
authority and insinuation. The prescriptions of duty were too clear to
allow her to hesitate and waver; but the consciousness of rectitude
could not secure her from temporary vexations.

Her parents were blemished with some of the frailties of that character.
They held themselves entitled to prescribe in this article, but they
forbore to exert their power. They condescended to persuade, but it was
manifest that they regarded their own conduct as a relaxation of right;
and had not the lever's importunities suddenly ceased, it is not
possible to tell how far the happiness of Miss Dudley might have been
endangered. The misfortunes of her father were no sooner publicly
known, than the youth forbore his visits, and embarked on a voyage which
he had long projected, but which had been hitherto delayed by a superior
regard to the interests of his passion.

It must be allowed that the lady had not foreseen this event. She had
exercised her judgment upon his character, and had not been deceived.
Before this desertion, had it been clearly stated to her apprehension,
she would have readily admitted it to be probable. She knew the
fascination of wealth, and the delusiveness of self-confidence. She was
superior to the folly of supposing him exempt from sinister influences,
and deaf to the whispers of ambition; and yet the manner in which she
was affected by this event convinced her that her heart had a larger
share than her reason in dictating her expectations.

Yet it must not be supposed that she suffered any very acute distress on
this account. She was grieved less for her own sake than his. She had
no design of entering into marriage in less than seven years from this
period. Not a single hope, relative to her own condition, had been
frustrated. She had only been mistaken in her favourable conceptions of
another. He had exhibited less constancy and virtue than her heart had
taught her to expect.

With those opinions, she could devote herself with a single heart to the
alleviation of her parent's sorrows. This change in her condition she
treated lightly, and retained her cheerfulness unimpaired. This happened
because, in a rational estimate, and so far as it affected herself, the
misfortune was slight, and because her dejection would only tend to
augment the disconsolateness of her parents, while, on the other hand,
her serenity was calculated to infuse the same confidence into them. She
indulged herself in no fits of exclamation or moodiness. She listened
in silence to their invectives and laments, and seized every opportunity
that offered to inspire them with courage, to set before them the good
as well as the ill to which they were reserved, to suggest expedients
for improving their condition, and to soften the asperities of his new
mode of life, to her father, by every species of blandishment and

She refused no personal exertion to the common benefit. She incited her
father to diligence, as well by her example as by her exhortations;
suggested plans, and superintended or assisted in the execution of them.
The infirmities of sex and age vanished before the motives to courage
and activity, flowing from her new situation. When settled in his new
abode and profession, she began to deliberate what conduct was incumbent
on herself, how she might participate with her father the burden of the
common maintenance, and blunt the edge of this calamity by the resources
of a powerful and cultivated mind.

In the first place, she disposed of every superfluous garb and trinket
She reduced her wardrobe to the plainest and cheapest establishment. By
this means alone she supplied her father's necessities with a
considerable sum. Her music, and even her books were not spared,--not
from the slight esteem in which these were held by her, but because she
was thenceforth to become an economist of time as well as of money,
because musical instruments are not necessary to the practice of this
art in its highest perfection, and because books, when she could procure
leisure to read, or money to purchase them, might be obtained in a
cheaper and more commodious form, than those costly and splendid volumes
with which her father's munificence had formerly supplied her.

To make her expenses as limited as possible was her next care. For this
end she assumed the province of cook, the washing of house and clothes,
and the cleaning of furniture. Their house was small; the family
consisted of no more than four persons, and all formality and
expensiveness were studiously discarded; but her strength was unequal to
unavoidable tasks. A vigorous constitution could not supply the place of
laborious habits, and this part of her plan must have been changed for
one less frugal. The aid of a servant must have been hired, if it had
not been furnished by gratitude.

Some years before this misfortune, her mother had taken under her
protection a girl, the daughter of a poor woman, who subsisted by
labour, and who dying, left this child without friend or protector.
This girl possessed no very improvable capacity, and therefore could not
benefit by the benevolent exertions of her young mistress so much as the
latter desired; but her temper was artless and affectionate, and she
attached herself to Constantia with the most entire devotion. In this
change of fortune she would not consent to be separated; and Miss
Dudley, influenced by her affection for her Lucy, and reflecting that on
the whole it was most to her advantage to share with her at once her
kindness and her poverty, retained her as her companion. With this girl
she shared the domestic duties, scrupling not to divide with her the
meanest and most rugged, as well as the lightest offices.

This was not all. She in the next place considered whether her ability
extended no farther than to save. Could she not by the employment of her
hands increase the income as well as diminish the expense? Why should
she be precluded from all lucrative occupation? She soon came to a
resolution. She was mistress of her needle; and this skill she conceived
herself bound to employ for her own subsistence.

Clothing is one of the necessaries of human existence. The art of the
tailor is scarcely less use than that of the tiller of the ground! There
are few the gains of which are better merited, and less infurious to the
principles of human society. She resolved therefore to become a
workwoman, and to employ in this way the leisure she possessed from
household avocations. To this scheme she was obliged to reconcile not
only herself but her parents. The conquest of their prejudices was no
easy task, but her patience and skill finally succeeded, and she
procured needlework in sufficient quantity to enable her to enhance in
no trivial degree the common fund.

It is one thing barely to comply with the urgencies of the case, and to
do that which in necessitous circumstances is best. But to conform with
grace and cheerfulness, to yield no place to fruitless recriminations
and repinings, to contract the evils into as small a compass as
possible, and extract from our condition all possible good, is a task of
a different kind.

Mr. Dudley's situation required from him frugality and diligence. He was
regular and unintermitted in his application to his pen. He was frugal.
His slender income was administered agreeably to the maxims of his
daughter: but he was unhappy. He experienced in its full extent the
bitterness of disappointment.

He gave himself up for the most part to a listless melancholy. Sometimes
his impatience would produce effects less excusable, and conjure up an
accusing and irascible spirit. His wife, and even his daughter, he would
make the objects of peevish and absurd reproaches. These were moments
when her heart drooped indeed, and her tears could not be restrained
from flowing. These fits were transitory and rare, and when they had
passed, the father seldom failed to mingle tokens of contrition and
repentance with the tears of his daughter. Her arguments and soothings
were seldom disappointed of success. Her mother's disposition was soft
and pliant, but she could not accommodate herself to the necessity of
her husband's affairs. She was obliged to endure the want of some
indulgences, but she reserved to herself the liberty of complaining, and
to subdue this spirit in her was found utterly impracticable. She died a
victim to discontent.

This event deepened the gloom that shrouded the soul of her father, and
rendered the task of consolation still more difficult. She did not
despair. Her sweetness and patience was invincible by any thing that had
already happened, but her fortitude did not exceed the standard of
human nature. Evils now began to menace her, to which it is likely she
would have yielded, had not their approach been intercepted by an evil
of a different kind.

The pressure of grief is sometimes such as to prompt us to seek a refuge
in voluntary death. We must lay aside the burden which we cannot
sustain. If thought degenerate into a vehicle of pain, what remains but
to destroy that vehicle? For this end, death is the obvious, but not the
only, or morally speaking, the worst means. There is one method of
obtaining the bliss of forgetfulness, in comparison with which suicide
is innocent.

The strongest mind is swayed by circumstances. There is no firmness of
integrity, perhaps able to repel every species of temptation, which is
produced by the present constitution of human affairs, and yet
temptation is successful, chiefly by virtue of its gradual and
invisible approaches. We rush into danger, because we are not aware of
its existence, and have not therefore provided the means of safety, and
the dæmon that seizes us is hourly reinforced by habit. Our opposition
grows fainter in proportion as our adversary acquires new strength, and
the man becomes enslaved by the most sordid vices, whose fall would, at
a former period, have been deemed impossible, or who would have been
imagined liable to any species of depravity, more than to this.

Mr. Dudley's education had entailed upon him many errors, yet who would
have supposed it possible for him to be enslaved by a depraved appetite;
to be enamoured of low debauchery, and to grasp at the happiness that
intoxication had to bestow? This was a mournful period in Constantia's
history. My feelings will not suffer me to dwell upon it. I cannot
describe the manner in which she was affected by the first symptoms of
this depravity, the struggles which she made to counteract this dreadful
infatuation, and the grief which she experienced from the repeated
miscarriage of her efforts. I will not detail her various expedients for
this end, the appeals which she made to his understanding, to his sense
of honour and dread of infamy, to the gratitude to which she was
entitled, and to the injunctions of parental duty. I will not detail his
fits of remorse, his fruitless penitence end continual relapses, nor
depict the heart-breaking scenes of uproar, and violence, and foul
disgrace that accompanied his paroxysms of drunkenness.

The only intellectual amusement which this lady allowed herself was
writing. She enjoyed one distant friend, with whom she maintained an
uninterrupted correspondence, and to whom she confided a circumstantial
and copious relation of all these particulars. That friend is the writer
of these memoirs. It is not impossible but that these letters may be
communicated to the world, at some future period. The picture which they
exhibit is hourly exemplified and realized, though in the many-coloured
scenes of human life none surpasses it in disastrousness and horror. My
eyes almost wept themselves dry over this part of her tale.

In this state of things Mr. Dudley's blindness might justly be
accounted, even in its immediate effects, a fortunate event. It
dissolved the spell by which he was bound, and which it is probable
would never have been otherwise broken. It restored him to himself, and
showed him, with a distinctness which made him shudder, the gulf to
which he was hastening. But nothing can compensate to the sufferers the
evils of blindness. It was the business of Constantia's life to
alleviate those sufferings, to cherish and console her father, and to
rescue him by the labour of her hands from dependence on public
charity. For this end, her industry and solicitude were never at rest.
She was able, by that industry, to provide him and herself with
necessaries. Their portion was scanty, and if it sometimes exceeded the
standard of their wants, not less frequently fell short of it. For all
her toils and disquietudes she esteemed herself fully compensated by the
smiles of her father. He indeed could seldom be prompted to smile, or to
suppress the dictates of that despair which flowed from his sense of
this new calamity, and the aggravations of hardship which his recent
insobrieties had occasioned to his daughter.

She purchased what books her scanty stock would allow, and borrowed
others. These she read to him when her engagements would permit. At
other times she was accustomed to solace herself with her own music. The
lute which her father had purchased in Italy, and which had been
disposed of among the rest of his effects, at public sale, had been
gratuitously restored to him by the purchaser, on condition of his
retaining it in his possession. His blindness and inoccupation now broke
the long silence to which this instrument had been condemned, and
afforded an accompaniment to the young lady's voice.

Her chief employment was conversation. She resorted to this as the best
means of breaking the monotony of the scene; but this purpose was not
only accomplished, but other benefits of the highest value accrued from
it. The habits of a painter eminently tended to vivify and make exact
her father's conceptions and delineations of visible objects. The sphere
of his youthful observation comprised more ingredients of the
picturesque than any other sphere. The most precious materials of the
moral history of mankind are derived from the revolutions of Italy.
Italian features and landscape constitute the chosen field of the
artists. No one had more carefully explored this field than Mr. Dudley.
His time, when abroad, had been divided between residence at Rome, and
excursions to Calabria and Tuscany. Few impressions were effaced from
his capacious register, and these were now rendered by his eloquence
nearly as conspicuous to his companion as to himself.

She was imbued with an ardent thirst of knowledge, and by the acuteness
of her remarks, and the judiciousness of her inquiries, reflected back
upon his understanding as much improvement as she received. These
efforts to render his calamity tolerable, and inure him to the profiting
by his own resources, were aided by time, and when reconciled by habit
to unrespited gloom, he was sometimes visited by gleams of cheerfulness,
and drew advantageous comparisons between his present and former
situation. A stillness, not unakin to happiness, frequently diffused
itself over their winter evenings. Constantia enjoyed in their full
extent the felicities of health and self approbation. The genius and
eloquence of her father, nourished by perpetual exercise, and undiverted
from its purpose by the intrusion of visible objects, frequently
afforded her a delight in comparison with which all other pleasures were


This period of tranquillity was short. Poverty hovered at their
threshold, and in a state precarious as theirs could not be long
excluded. The lady was more accustomed to anticipate good than evil, but
she was not unconscious that the winter, which was hastening, would
bring with it numerous inconveniences. Wants during that season are
multiplied, while the means of supplying them either fail or are
diminished. Fuel is alone a cause of expense equal to all other articles
of subsistence. Her dwelling was old, crazy, and full of avenues to air.
It was evident that neither fire nor clothing would, in an habitation
like that, attemper the chilling blasts. Her scanty gains were equal to
their needs during summer, but would probably fall short during the
prevalence of cold.

These reflections could not fail sometimes to intrude. She indulged them
as long as they served, merely to suggest expedients and provisions for
the future, but laboured to call away her attention when they merely
produced anxiety. This she more easily effected, as some months of
summer were still to come, and her knowledge of the vicissitudes to
which human life is subject taught her to rely upon the occurrence of
some fortunate though unforeseen event.

Accident suggested an expedient of this kind. Passing through an alley
in the upper part of the town, her eye was caught by a label on the door
of a small house, signifying that it was to be let. It was smaller than
that she at present occupied, but it had an aspect of much greater
comfort and neatness. Its situation near the centre of the city, in a
quiet, cleanly, and well paved alley, was far preferable to that of her
present habitation in the suburbs, scarcely accessible in winter for
pools and gullies, and in a neighbourhood abounding with indigence and
profligacy. She likewise considered that the rent of this might be less,
and that the proprietor of this might have more forbearance and
benignity than she had hitherto met with.

Unconversant as she was with the world, imbued with the timidity of her
sex and her youth, many enterprises were arduous to her, which would, to
age and experience, have been easy. Her reluctances, however, when
required by necessity, were overcome, and all the measures which her
situation prescribed executed with address and dispatch. One, marking
her deportment, would have perceived nothing but dignity and courage. He
would have regarded these as the fruits of habitual independence and
exertion, whereas they were merely the results of clear perceptions and
inflexible resolves.

The proprietor of this mansion was immediately sought out, and a
bargain, favourable as she could reasonably desire, concluded.
Possession was to be taken in a week. For this end, carters and draymen
were to be engaged, household implements to be prepared for removal, and
negligence and knavery prevented by scrupulous attention. The duties of
superintendence and execution devolved upon her. Her father's blindness
rendered him powerless. His personal ease required no small portion of
care. Household and professional functions were not to be omitted. She
stood alone in the world; there was none whose services or counsel she
could claim. Tortured by a multiplicity of cares, shrinking from
exposure to rude eyes, and from contention with refractory and insolent
spirits, and overpowered with fatigue and disgust, she was yet compelled
to retain a cheerful tone in her father's presence, and to struggle
with his regrets and his peevishness.

O, my friend, methinks I now see thee encountering the sneers and
obstinacy of the meanest of mankind, subjecting that frame of thine, so
exquisitely delicate, and therefore so feeble, to the vilest drudgery. I
see thee leading thy unhappy father to his new dwelling, and stifling
the sighs produced by his fruitless repinings and unseasonable scruples.
Why was I not partaker of thy cares and labours? Why was I severed from
thee by the ocean, and kept in ignorance of thy state? I was not without
motives to anxiety, for I was friendless as thou, but how unlike to
thine was my condition! I reposed upon down and tissue, never moved but
with obsequious attendance and pompous equipage; painting and music were
consolations ever at hand, and my cabinet was stored with poetry and
science. These, indeed, were insufficient to exclude care; and with
regard to the past I have no wish but that I had shared with my friend
her toilsome and humiliating lot. However an erroneous world might
judge, thy life was full of dignity, and thy moments of happiness not
few, since happiness is only attendant on the performance of our duty.

A toilsome and sultry week was terminated by a Sabbath of repose. Her
new dwelling possessed indisputable advantages over her old. Not the
least of these benefits consisted in the vicinity of people, peaceable
and honest, though poor. She was no longer shocked by the clamours of
debauchery, and exposed, by her situation, to the danger of being
mistaken by the profligate of either sex for one of their own class. It
was reasonable to consider this change of abode as fortunate, and yet
circumstances quickly occurred which suggested a very different

She had no intercourse, which necessity did not prescribe, with the
rest of the world. She screened herself as much as possible from
intercourse with prying and loquacious neighbours. Her father's
inclinations in this respect coincided with her own, though their love
of seclusion was prompted by different motives. Visitants were hated by
the father, because his dignity was hurt by communication with the
vulgar. The daughter set too much value upon time willingly to waste it
upon trifles and triflers. She had no pride to subdue, and therefore
never escaped from well-meant importunity at the expense of politeness
and good humour. In her moments of leisure she betook herself to the
poet and the moralist for relief.

She could not at all times suppress the consciousness of the evils which
surrounded and threatened her; she could not but rightly estimate the
absorbing and brutifying nature of that toil to which she was condemned.
Literature had hitherto been regarded as her solace. She knew that
meditation and converse, as well as books and the pen, are instruments
of knowledge, but her musing thoughts were too often fixed upon her own
condition. Her father's soaring moods and luminous intervals grew less
frequent. Conversation was too rarely abstracted from personal
considerations, and strayed less often than before into the wilds of
fancy or the mazes of analysis.

These circumstances led her to reflect whether subsistence might not be
obtained by occupations purely intellectual. Instruction was needed by
the young of both sexes. Females frequently performed the office of
teachers. Was there no branch of her present knowledge which she might
claim wages for imparting to others? Was there no art within her reach
to acquire, convertible into means of gain? Women are generally limited
to what is sensual and ornamental: music and painting, and the Italian
and French languages, are bounds which they seldom pass. In these
pursuits it is not possible--nor is it expected--that they should arrive
at the skill of adepts. The education of Constantia had been regulated
by the peculiar views of her father, who sought to make her, not
alluring and voluptuous, but eloquent and wise. He therefore limited her
studies to Latin and English. Instead of familiarizing her with the
amorous effusions of Petrarcha and Racine, he made her thoroughly
conversant with Tacitus and Milton. Instead of making her a practical
musician or pencilist, he conducted her to the school of Newton and
Hartley, unveiled to her the mathematical properties of light and sound,
taught her as a metaphysician and anatomist the structure and power of
the senses, and discussed with her the principles and progress of human

These accomplishments tended to render her superior to the rest of
women but in no degree qualified her for the post of a female
instructor: she saw and lamented her deficiencies, and gradually formed
the resolution of supplying them. Her knowledge of the Latin tongue and
of grammatical principles rendered easy the acquisition of Italian and
French, these being merely Scions from the Roman stock.

Having had occasion, previous to her change of dwelling, to purchase
paper at a bookseller's, the man had offered her at a very low price a
second-hand copy of Veneroni's grammar: the offer had been declined, her
views at that time being otherwise directed. Now, however, this incident
was remembered, and a resolution instantly formed to purchase the book.
As soon as the light declined, and her daily task at the needle had
drawn to a close, she set out to execute this purpose. Arriving at the
house of the bookseller, she perceived that the doors and windows were
closed. Night having not yet arrived, the conjecture easily occurred
that some one had died in the house. She had always dealt with this man
for books and paper, and had always been treated with civility. Her
heart readily admitted some sympathy with his distress, and to remove
her doubts she turned to a person who stood at the entrance of the next
house, and who held a cloth steeped in vinegar to his nostrils. In
reply to her question the stranger said in a tone of the deepest
consternation--Mr. Watson do you mean? He is dead: he died last night of
the _yellow fever_.

The name of this disease was not absolutely new to her ears. She had
been apprized of its rapid and destructive progress in one quarter of
the city, but hitherto it had existed, with regard to her, chiefly in
the form of rumour. She had not realized the nature or probable extent
of the evil. She lived at no great distance from the seat of the malady,
but her neighbourhood had been hitherto exempt. So wholly unused was
she to contemplate pestilence, except at a distance, that its actual
existence in the bosom of this city was incredible.

Contagious diseases she well knew periodically visited and laid waste
the Greek and Egyptian cities. It constituted no small part of that mass
of evil, political and physical, by which that portion of the world has
been so long afflicted. That a pest equally malignant had assailed the
metropolis of her own country--a town famous for the salubrity of its
air and the perfection of its police--had something in it so wild and
uncouth that she could not reconcile herself to the possibility of such
an event.

The death of Watson, however, filled her mind with awful reflections.
The purpose of her walk was forgotten amidst more momentous
considerations. She bent her steps pensively homeward. She had now
leisure to remark the symptoms of terror with which all ranks appeared
to have been seized. The streets were as much frequented as ever, but
there were few passengers whose countenances did not betray alarm, and
who did not employ the imaginary antidote to infection--vinegar.

Having reached home, she quickly discovered in her father an unusual
solemnity and thoughtfulness. He had no power to conceal his emotions
from his daughter, when her efforts to discover them were earnestly
exerted. She learned that during her absence he had been visited by his
next neighbour--a thrifty, sober, and well meaning, but ignorant and
meddling person, by name Whiston. This person, being equally inquisitive
into other men's affairs, and communicative of his own, was always an
unwelcome visitant. On this occasion he had come to disburden on Mr.
Dudley his fears of disease and death. His tale of the origin and
progress of the epidemic, of the number and suddenness of recent deaths,
was delivered with endless prolixity. With this account he mingled
prognostics of the future, counselled Mr. Dudley to fly from the scene
of danger, and stated his own schemes and resolutions. After having
thoroughly affrighted and wearied his companion he took his leave.

Constantia endeavoured to remove the impression which had been thus
needlessly made. She urged her doubts as to the truth of Whiston's
representations, and endeavoured, in various ways, to extenuate the

"Nay, my child," said her father, "thou needest not reason on the
subject; I am not afraid; at least, on my own account, I fear nothing.
What is life to me that I should dread to lose it? If on any account I
should tremble it is on thine, my angelic girl. Thou dost not deserve
thus early to perish: and yet if my love for thee were rational, perhaps
I ought to wish it. An evil destiny will pursue thee to the close of thy
life, be it ever so long.

"I know that ignorance and folly breed the phantoms by which themselves
are perplexed and terrified, and that Whiston is a fool; but here the
truth is too plain to be disguised. This malady is pestilential. Havock
and despair will accompany its progress, and its progress will be rapid.
The tragedies of Marseilles and Messina will be reacted on this stage.

"For a time we in this quarter shall be exempt, but it will surely reach
us at last; and then, whither shall we fly? For the rich, the whole
world is a safe asylum, but for us, indigent and wretched, what fate is
reserved but to stay and perish? If the disease spare us, we must perish
by neglect and famine. Alarm will be far and wide diffused. Fear will
hinder those who supply the market from entering the city. The price of
food will become exorbitant. Our present source of subsistence,
ignominious and scanty as it is, will be cut off. Traffic and labour of
every kind will be at an end. We shall die, but not until we have
witnessed and endured horrors that surpass thy powers of conception.

"I know full well the enormity of this evil. I have been at Messina, and
talked with many who witnessed the state of that city in 1743. I will
not freeze thy blood with the recital. Anticipation has a tendency to
lessen or prevent some evils, but pestilence is not of that number.
Strange untowardness of destiny! That thou and I should be cast upon a
scene like this!"

Mr. Dudley joined with uncommon powers of discernment a species of
perverseness not easily accounted for. He acted as if the inevitable
evils of her lot were not sufficient for the trial of his daughter's
patience. Instead of comforter and counsellor he fostered impatience in
himself, and endeavoured, with the utmost diligence, to undermine her
fortitude and disconcert her schemes. The task was assigned to her, not
only of subduing her own fears, but of maintaining the contest with his
disastrous eloquence. In most cases she had not failed of success.
Hitherto their causes of anxiety her own observation had, in some
degree, enabled her to estimate at their just value. The rueful pictures
which his imagination was wont to portray affected her for a moment; but
deliberate scrutiny commonly enabled her to detect and demonstrate their
fallacy. Now, however, the theme was new. Panic and foreboding found
their way to her heart in defiance of her struggles. She had no
experience by which to counteract this impulse. All that remained was to
beguile her own and her father's cares by counterfeiting cheerfulness,
and introducing new topics.

This panic, stifled for a time, renewed its sway when she retired to her
chamber. Never did futurity wear, to her fancy, so dark a hue: never did
her condition appear to her in a light so dreary and forlorn. To fly
from the danger was impossible. How should accommodation at a distance
be procured? The means of subsistence were indissolubly connected with
her present residence, but the progress of this disease would cut off
these means, and leave her to be beset not only with pestilence but
famine. What provision could she make against an evil like this?


The terms on which she had been admitted into this house included the
advance of one quarter's rent and the monthly payment of subsequent
dues. The requisite sum had been with difficulty collected; the landlord
had twice called to remind her of her stipulation, and this day had been
fixed for the discharge of this debt. He had omitted, contrary to her
expectations and her wishes, to come. It was probable, however, that
they would meet on the ensuing day. If he should fail in this respect,
it appeared to be her duty to carry the money to his house, and this it
had been her resolution to perform.

Now, however, new views were suggested to her thoughts. By the payment
of this debt she would leave herself nearly destitute. The flight and
terror of the citizens would deprive her of employment. Want of food
was an immediate and inevitable evil which the payment of this sum would
produce. Was it just to incur this evil? To retain the means of
luxurious gratification would be wrong, but to bereave herself and her
father of bare subsistence was surely no dictate of duty.

It is true the penalty of non-payment was always in the landlord's
hands. He was empowered by the law to sell their movables end expel them
from his house. It was now no time for a penalty like this to be
incurred. But from this treatment it was reasonable to hope that his
lenity would save them. Was it not right to wait till the alternative of
expulsion or payment was imposed? Meanwhile, however, she was subjected
to the torments of suspense, and to the guilt of a broken promise. These
consequences were to be eluded only in one way: by visiting her
landlord, and stating her true condition, it was possible that his
compassion would remit claims which were in themselves unreasonable and
uncommon. The tender of the money, accompanied by representations
sufficiently earnest and pathetic, might possibly be declined.

These reflections were the next morning submitted to her father. Her
decision in this case was of less importance in his eyes than in those
of his daughter. Should the money be retained, it was in his opinion a
pittance too small to afford them effectual support. Supposing
provisions to be had at any price, which was itself improbable, that
price would be exorbitant. The general confusion would probably last for
months, and thirty dollars would be devoured in a few weeks, even in a
time of safety. To give or to keep was indifferent for another reason.
It was absurd for those to consult about means of subsistence for the
next month, when it was fixed that they should die to-morrow. The true
proceeding was obvious. The landlord's character was well known to him
by means of the plaints and invectives of their neighbours, most of whom
were tenants of the same man. If the money were offered his avarice
would receive it, in spite of all the pleas that she should urge. If it
were detained without leave, an officer of justice would quickly be
dispatched to claim it.

This statement was sufficient to take away from Constantia the hope that
she had fostered. "What then," said she, after a pause, "is my father's
advice? Shall I go forthwith and deliver the money?"

"No," said he, "stay till he sends for it. Have you forgotten that
Matthews resides in the very midst of this disease. There is no need to
thrust yourself within in its fangs. They will reach us time enough. It
is likely his messenger will be an agent of the law. No matter. The debt
will be merely increased by a few charges. In a state like ours, the
miserable remnant is not worth caring for."

This reasoning did not impart conviction to the lady. The danger flowing
from a tainted atmosphere was not small, but to incur that danger was
wiser than to exasperate their landlord, to augment the debt, and to
encounter the disgrace accruing from a constable's visits. The
conversation was dropped, and presently after she set out on a visit to

She fully estimated the importance to her happiness of the sum which she
was going to pay. The general panic had already, in some degree,
produced the effect she chiefly dreaded; the failure of employment for
her needle. Her father had, with his usual diligence at self-torment,
supplied her with sufficient proofs of the covetous and obdurate temper
of her creditor. Insupportable, however, as the evil of payment was, it
was better to incur it spontaneously, than by means of legal process.
The desperateness of this proceeding, therefore, did not prevent her
from adopting it, but it filled her heart with the bitterest sensations.
Absorbed, as she passed along, by these, she was nearly insensible to
the vacancy which now prevailed in a quarter which formerly resounded
with the din of voices and carriages.

As she approached the house to which she was going, her reluctance to
proceed increased. Frequently she paused to recollect the motives that
had prescribed this task, and to reinforce her purposes. At length she
arrived at the house. Now, for the first time, her attention was excited
by the silence and desolation that surrounded her. This evidence of fear
and of danger struck upon her heart. All appeared to have fled from the
presence of this unseen and terrible foe. The temerity of adventuring
thus into the jaws of the pest now appeared to her in glaring colours.

Appearances suggested a refection which had not previously occurred,
and which tended to console her. Was it not probable that Matthews had
likewise flown? His habits were calculated to endear to him his life: he
would scarcely be among the last to shun perils like these: The omission
of his promised visit on the preceding day might be owing to his absence
from the city, and thus, without subjection to any painful alternative,
she might be suffered to retain the money.

To give certainty to this hope, she cast her eye towards the house
opposite to which she now stood. Her heart drooped on perceiving proofs
that the dwelling was still inhabited. The door was open, and the
windows in the second and third story were raised. Near the entrance, in
the street, stood a cart. The horse attached to it, in its form and
furniture and attitude, was an emblem of torpor and decay. His gaunt
sides, motionless limbs, his gummy and dead eyes, and his head hanging
to the ground, were in unison with the craziness of the vehicle to which
he belonged, and the paltry and bedusted harness which covered him. No
attendant nor any human face was visible. The stillness, though at an
hour customarily busy, was uninterrupted except by the sound of wheels
moving at an almost indistinguishable distance.

She paused for a moment to contemplate this unwonted spectacle. Her
trepidations were mingled with emotions not unakin to sublimity, but the
consciousness of danger speedily prevailed, and she hastened to acquit
herself of her engagement. She approached the door for this purpose, but
before she could draw the bell, her motions were arrested by sounds from
within. The staircase was opposite the door. Two persons were now
discovered descending the stairs. They lifted between them a heavy mass,
which was presently discerned to be a coffin. Shocked by this discovery,
and trembling, she withdrew from the entrance.

At this moment a door on the opposite side of the street opened, and a
female came out. Constantia approached her involuntarily, and her
appearance not being unattractive, ventured more by gestures than by
words, to inquire whose obsequies were thus unceremoniously conducted.
The woman informed her that the dead was Matthews, who, two days before
was walking about, indifferent to and braving danger. She cut short the
narrative which her companion seemed willing to prolong, and to
embellish with all its circumstances, and hastened home with her utmost

The mind of Constantia was a stranger to pusillanimity. Death, as the
common lot of all, was regarded by her without perturbation. The value
of life, though no annihilated, was certainly diminished by adversity.
With whatever solemnity contemplated, it excited on her own account no
aversion or inquietude. For her father's sake only death was an evil to
be ardently deprecated. The nature of the prevalent disease, the limits
and modes of its influence, the risk that is incurred by approaching the
sick or the dead, or by breathing the surrounding element, were subjects
foreign to her education. She judged like the mass of mankind from the
most obvious appearances, and was subject like them to impulses which
disdained the control of her reason. With all her complacency for death,
and speculative resignation to the fate that governs the world, disquiet
and alarm pervaded her bosom on this occasion.

The deplorable state to which her father would be reduced by her death
was seen and lamented, but her tremulous sensations flowed not from this
source. They were, in some sort, inexplicable and mechanical. In spite
of recollection and reflection, they bewildered and harassed her, and
subsided only of their own accord.

The death of Matthews was productive of one desirable consequence. Till
the present tumult was passed, and his representatives had leisure to
inspect his affairs, his debtors would probably remain unmolested. He
likewise, who should succeed to the inheritance, might possess very
different qualities, and be as much, distinguished for equity as
Matthews had been for extortion. These reflections lightened her
footsteps as she hied homeward. The knowledge she had gained, she hoped,
would counterpoise, in her father's apprehension, the perils which
accompanied the acquisition of it.

She had scarcely passed her own threshold, when she was followed by
Whiston. This man pursued the occupation of a cooper. He performed
journeywork in a shop, which, unfortunately for him, was situated near
the water, and at a small distance from the scene of original infection.
This day his employer had dismissed his workmen, and Whiston was at
liberty to retire from the city,--a scheme which had been the theme of
deliberation and discussion during the preceding fortnight.

Hitherto his apprehensions seemed to have molested others more than
himself. The rumours and conjectures industriously collected during the
day, were, in the the evening, copiously detailed to his neighbours, and
his own mind appeared to be disburdened of its cares in proportion as he
filled others with terror and inquietude. The predictions of physicians,
the measure of precaution prescribed by the government, the progress of
the malady, and the history of the victims who were hourly destroyed by
it, were communicated with tormenting prolixity and terrifying

On these accounts, as well as on others, no one's visits were more
unwelcome than his. As his deportment was sober and honest, and his
intentions harmless, he was always treated by Constantia with
politeness, though his entrance always produced a momentary depression
of her spirits. On this evening she was less fitted than ever to repel
those anxieties which his conversation was qualified to produce. His
entrance, therefore, was observed with sincere regret.

Contrary, however, to her expectation, Whiston brought with him new
manners and a new expression of countenance. He was silent, abstracted,
his eye was full of inquietude, and wandered with perpetual
restlessness. On these tokens being remarked, he expressed, in faltering
accents, his belief that he had contracted this disease, and that now it
was too late for him to leave the city.

Mr. Dudley's education was somewhat medical. He was so far interested in
his guest as to inquire into his sensations. They were such as were
commonly the prelude to fever. Mr Dudley, while he endeavoured by
cheerful tones to banish his dejection, exhorted him to go home, and to
take some hot and wholesome draught, in consequence of which he might
rise to-morrow with his usual health. This advice was gratefully
received, and Whiston put a period to his visit much sooner than was

Mr. Dudley entertained no doubts that Whiston was seized with the
reigning disease, and extinguished the faint hope which his daughter had
cherished, that their district would escape. Whiston's habituation was
nearly opposite his own; but as they made no use of their front room,
they had seldom an opportunity of observing the transactions of their
neighbours. This distance and seclusion were congenial with her
feelings, and she derived pleasure from her father's confession, that
they contributed to personal security.

Constantia was accustomed to rise with the dawn, and traverse for an
hour the State-house Mall. As she took her walk the next morning, she
pondered with astonishment on the present situation of the city. The air
was bright and pure, and apparently salubrious. Security and silence
seemed to hover over the scene. She was only reminded of the true state
of things by the occasional appearance of carriages loaded with
household utensils tending towards the country, and by the odour of
vinegar by which every passenger was accompanied. The public walk was
cool and fragrant as formerly, skirted by verdure as bright, and shaded
by foliage as luxuriant, but it was no longer frequented by lively steps
and cheerful countenances. Its solitude was uninterrupted by any but

This day passed without furnishing any occasion to leave the house. She
was less sedulously employed than usual, as the clothes on which she was
engaged belonged to a family who had precipitately left the city. She
had leisure therefore to ruminate. She could not but feel some concern
in the fate of Whiston. He was a young man, who subsisted on the fruits
of his labour, and divided his gains with an only sister who lived with
him, and who performed every household office.

This girl was humble and innocent, and of a temper affectionate and
mild. Casual intercourse only had taken place between her and
Constantia. They were too dissimilar for any pleasure to arise from
communication, but the latter was sufficiently disposed to extend to her
harmless neighbour the sympathy and succour which she needed. Whiston
had come from a distant part of the country, and his sister was the only
person in the city with whom he was connected by ties of kindred. In
case of his sickness, therefore, their condition would be helpless and

Evening arrived, and Whiston failed to pay his customary visit. She
mentioned this omission to her father, and expressed her apprehension as
to the cause of it. He did not discountenance the inference which she
drew from this circumstance, and assented to the justice of the picture
which she drew of the calamitous state to which Whiston and his sister
would be reduced by the indisposition of either. She then ventured to
suggest the propriety of visiting the house, and of thus ascertaining
the truth.

To this proposal Mr. Dudley urged the most vehement objections. What
purpose could be served by entering their dwelling? What benefit would
flow but the gratification of a dangerous curiosity? Constantia was
disabled from furnishing pecuniary aid. She could not act the part of
physician or nurse. Her father stood in need of a thousand personal
services, and the drudgery of cleaning and cooking already exceeded the
bounds of her strength. The hazard of contracting the disease by
conversing with the sick was imminent. What services was she able to
render equivalent to the consequences of her own sickness and death?

These representations had temporary influence. They recalled her for a
moment from her purpose, but this purpose was speedily re-embraced. She
reflected that the evil to herself, formidable as it was, was barely
problematical. That converse with the sick would impart this disease was
by no means certain. Whiston might at least be visited. Perhaps she
would find him well. If sick, his disease might be unepidemical, or
curable by seasonable assistance. He might stand in need of a physician,
and she was more able than his sister to summon this aid.

Her father listened calmly to her reasonings. After a pause he gave his
consent. In doing this he was influenced not by the conviction that his
daughter's safety would be exposed to no hazard, but from a belief that,
though she might shun infection for the present, it would inevitably
seize her during some period of the progress of this pest.


It was now dusk, and she hastened to perform this duty. Whiston's
dwelling was wooden and of small dimensions. She lifted the latch softly
and entered. The lower room was unoccupied. She advanced to the foot of
a narrow staircase, and knocked and listened, but no answer was returned
to the summons. Hence there was reason to infer that no one was within,
but this, from other considerations, was extremely improbable. The truth
could be ascertained only by ascending the stairs. Some feminine
scruples were to be subdued before this proceeding could be adopted.

After some hesitation, she determined to ascend. The staircase was
terminated by a door, at which she again knocked for admission, but in
vain. She listened and presently heard the motion as of some one in
bed. This was succeeded by tokens of vehement exertions to vomit. These
signs convincing her that the house was not without a tenant, she could
not hesitate to enter the room.

Lying in a tattered bed, she now discovered Mary Whiston. Her face was
flushed and swelled, her eyes closed, and some power, appeared to have
laid a leaden hand upon her faculties. The floor was moistened and
stained by the effusion from her stomach. Constantia touched her hand,
and endeavoured to rouse her. It was with difficulty that her attention
was excited. Her languid eyes, were scarcely opened before they again
closed, and she sunk into forgetfulness.

Repeated efforts, however, at length recalled her to herself, and
extorted from her some account of her condition. On the day before, at
noon, her stomach became diseased, her head dizzy, and her limbs unable
to support her. Her brother was absent, and her drowsiness, interrupted
only by paroxysms of vomiting, continued till his return late in the
evening. He had then shown himself, for a few minutes, at her bedside,
had made some inquiries and precipitately retired, since when he had not

It was natural to imagine that Whiston had gone to procure medical
assistance. That he had not returned, during a day and a half, was
matter of surprise. His own indisposition was recollected, and his
absence could only be accounted for by supposing that sickness had
disabled him from regaining his own house. What was his real destiny it
was impossible to conjecture. It was not till some months after this
period that satisfactory intelligence was gained upon this head.

It appeared that Whiston had allowed his terrors to overpower the sense
of what was due to his sister and to humanity. On discovering the
condition of the unhappy girl, he left the houses and, instead of
seeking a physician, he turned his step towards the country. After
travelling some hours, being exhausted by want of food, by fatigue; and
by mental as well as bodily anguish, he laid himself down under the
shelter of a hayrick, in a vacant field. Here he was discovered in the
morning by the inhabitants of a neighbouring farm house. These people
had too much regard for their own safety to accommodate him under their
roof, or even to approach within fifty paces of his person.

A passenger whose attention and compassion had been excited by this
incident was endowed with more courage. He lifted the stranger in his
arms, and carried him from this unwholesome spot to a barn. This was the
only service which the passenger was able to perform. Whiston, deserted
by every human creature, burning with fever, tormented into madness by
thirst, spent three miserable days in agony. When dead, no one would
cover his body with earth, but he was suffered to decay by piecemeal.

The dwelling being at no great distance from the barn, could not be
wholly screened from the malignant vapour which a corpse thus neglected,
could not fail to produce.

The inhabitants were preparing, on this account, to change their abode,
but, on the eve of their departure, the master of the family became
sick. He was, in a short time, followed to the grave by his mother, his
wife, and four children.

They probably imbibed their disease from the tainted atmosphere around
them. The life of Whiston, and their own lives, might have been saved by
affording the wanderer an asylum and suitable treatment, or at least
their own deaths might have been avoided by interring his remains.

Meanwhile Constantia was occupied with reflecting on the scene before
her. Not only a physician but a nurse was wanting. The last province it
was more easy for her to supply than the former. She was acquainted with
the abode but of one physician. He lived at no small distance from this
spot. To him she immediately hastened; but he was absent, and his
numerous engagements left it wholly uncertain when he would return, and
whether he would consent to increase the number of his patients.
Direction was obtained to the residence of another, who was happily
disengaged; and who promised to attend immediately. Satisfied with this
assurance, she neglected to request directions; by which she might
regulate herself on his failing to come.

During her return her thoughts were painfully employed in considering
the mode proper for her to pursue in her present perplexing situation.
She was for the most part unacquainted with the character of those who
compelled her neighbourhood. That any would be willing to undertake the
attendance of this girl was by no means probable. As wives and mothers,
it would perhaps be unjust to require or permit it. As to herself, there
were labours and duties of her own sufficient to engross her faculties,
yet, by whatever foreign cares or tasks she was oppressed, she felt that
to desert this being was impossible.

In the absence of her friend, Mary's state exhibited no change.
Constantia, on regaining the house, lighted the remnant of a candle, and
resumed her place by the bed side of the sick girl. She impatiently
waited the arrival of the physician, but hour succeeded hour, and he
came not. All hope of his coming being extinguished, she bethought
herself that her father might be able to inform her of the best manner
of proceeding. It was likewise her duty to relieve him from the
suspense in which her absence would unavoidably plunge him.

On entering her own apartment, she found a stranger in company with Mr.
Dudley. The latter perceiving that she had returned, speedily acquainted
her with the view of their guest. His name was M'Crea; he was the nephew
of their landlord, and was now become, by reversion, the proprietor of
the house which they occupied. Matthews had been buried the preceding
day, and M'Crea, being well acquainted with the engagements which
subsisted between the deceased and Mr. Dudley, had come thus
unreasonably to demand the rent. He was not unconscious of the
inhumanity and sordidness of this proceeding, and therefore endeavoured
to disguise it by the usual pretences. All his funds were exhausted. He
came not only in his own name, but in that of Mrs. Matthews his aunt,
who was destitute of money to procure daily and indispensable
provision, and who was striving to collect a sufficient sum to enable
her and the remains of her family to fly from a spot where their lives
were in perpetual danger.

These excuses were abundantly fallacious, but Mr. Dudley was too proud
to solicit the forbearance of a man like this. He recollected that the
engagement on his part was voluntary and explicit, and he disdained to
urge his present exigences as reasons for retracting it. He expressed
the utmost readiness to comply with the demand, and merely desired him
to wait till Miss Dudley returned. From the inquietudes with which the
unusual duration of her absence had filled him, he was now relieved by
her entrance.

With an indignant and desponding heart, she complied with her father's
directions, and the money being reluctantly delivered, M'Crea took an
hasty leave. She was too deeply interested in the fate of Mary Whiston
to allow her thoughts to be diverted for the present into a new channel.
She described the desolate condition of the girl to her father, and
besought him to think of something suitable to her relief.

Mr. Dudley's humanity would not suffer him to disapprove of his
daughter's proceeding. He imagined that the symptoms of the patient
portended a fatal issue. There were certain complicated remedies which
might possibly be beneficial, but these were too costly, and the
application would demand more strength than his daughter could bestow.
He was unwilling, however, to leave any thing within his power untried.
Pharmacy had been his trade, and he had reserved, for domestic use some
of the most powerful evacuants. Constantia was supplied with some of
these, and he consented that she should spend the night with her patient
and watch their operation.

The unhappy Mary received whatever was offered, but her stomach refused
to retain it. The night was passed by Constantia without closing her
eyes. As soon as the day dawned, she prepared once more to summon the
physician, who had failed to comply with his promise. She had scarcely
left the house, however, before she met him. He pleaded his numerous
engagements in excuse for his last night's negligence, and desired her
to make haste to conduct him to the patient.

Having scrutinized her symptoms, he expressed his hopelessness of her
recovery. Being informed of the mode in which she had been treated, he
declared his approbation of it, but intimated, that these being
unsuccessful, all that remained was to furnish her with any liquid she
might choose to demand, and wait patiently for the event. During this
interview the physician surveyed the person and dress of Constantia with
an inquisitive eye. His countenance betrayed marks of curiosity and
compassion, and, had he made any approaches to confidence and
friendliness, Constantia would not have repelled them. His air was
benevolent and candid, and she estimated highly the usefulness of a
counsellor and friend in her present circumstances. Some motive,
however, hindered him from tendering his services, and in a few moments
he withdrew.

Mary's condition hourly grew worse. A corroded and gangrenous stomach
was quickly testified by the dark hue and poisonous malignity of the
matter which was frequently ejected from it. Her stuper gave place to
some degree of peevishness and restlessness. She drank the water that
was held to her lips with unspeakable avidity, and derived from this
source a momentary alleviation of her pangs. Fortunately for her
attendant her agonies were not of long duration. Constantia was absent
from her bedside as rarely and for periods as short as possible. On the
succeeding night the sufferings of the patient terminated in death.

This event took place at two o'clock, in the morning,--an hour whose
customary stillness was, if possible, increased tenfold by the
desolation of the city. The poverty of Mary and of her nurse; had
deprived the former of the benefits, resulting from the change of bed
and clothes. Every thing about her was in a condition noisome and
detestable. Her yellowish and haggard visage, conspicuous by a feeble
light, an atmosphere freighted with malignant vapours, and reminding
Constantia at every instant of the perils which encompassed her, the
consciousness of solitude and sensations of deadly sickness in her own
frame, were sufficient to intimidate a soul of firmer texture than hers.

She was sinking fast into helplessness, when a new train of reflections
showed her the necessity of perseverance. All that remained was to
consign the corpse to the grave. She knew that vehicles for this end
were provided at the public expense; that, notice being given of the
occasion there was for their attendance, at receptacle and carriage for
the dead would be instantly provided. Application at this hour, she
imagined, would be unseasonable: it must be deferred till the morning,
which was yet at some distance.

Meanwhile to remain at her present post was equally useless and
dangerous. She endeavoured to stifle the conviction that some mortal
sickness had seized upon her own frame. Her anxieties of head and
stomach she was willing to impute to extraordinary fatigue and
watchfulness, and hoped that they would be dissipated by an hour's
unmolested repose. She formed the resolution of seeking her own chamber.

At this moment, however, the universal silence underwent a slight
interruption. The sound was familiar to her ears. It was a signal
frequently repeated at the midnight hour during this season of calamity.
It was the slow movement of a hearse, apparently passing along the
street in which the alley where Mr. Dudley resided terminated. At first
this sound had no other effect than to aggravate the dreariness of all
around her. Presently it occurred to her that this vehicle might be
disengaged. She conceived herself bound to see the last offices
performed for the deceased Mary. The sooner so irksome a duty was
discharged the better: every hour might augment her incapacity for
exertion. Should she be unable when the morning arrived to go as far as
the City-Hall, and give the necessary information, the most shocking
consequences would ensue. Whiston's house and her own were opposite each
other, and not connected with any on the same side. A narrow space
divided them, and her own chamber was within the sphere of the
contagion which would flow, in consequence of such neglect, from that of
her neighbour.

Influenced by these considerations she passed into the street, and
gained the corner of the alley just as the carriage, whose movements she
had heard, arrived at the same spot. It was accompanied by two men,
negroes, who listened to her tale with respect. Having already a burden
of this kind, they could not immediately comply with this request. They
promised that, having disposed of their present charge, they would
return forthwith, and be ready to execute her orders.

Happily one of these persons was known to her. At other seasons his
occupation was that of _wood-carter_, and as such he had performed some
services for Mr. Dudley. His temper was gentle and obliging. The
character of Constantia had been viewed by him with reverence, and his
kindness had relieved her from many painful offices. His old occupation
being laid aside for a time, he had betaken himself like many others of
his colour and rank, to the conveyance and burial of the dead.

At Constantia's request, he accompanied her to Whiston's house, and
promised to bring with him such assistance as would render her further
exertions and attendance unnecessary. Glad to be absolved from any new
task, she now retired to her own chamber. In spite of her distempered
frame, she presently sunk into a sweet sleep. She awoke not till the day
had made considerable progress, and found herself invigorated and
refreshed. On re-entering Whiston's house, she discovered that her
humble friend had faithfully performed his promise, the dead body having
disappeared. She deemed it unsafe, as well as unnecessary, to examine
the clothes and other property remaining; but, leaving every thing in
the condition in which it had been found, she fastened the windows and
doors, and thenceforth kept as distant from the house as possible.


Constantia had now leisure to ruminate upon her own condition. Every day
added to the devastation and confusion of the city. The most populous
streets were deserted and silent. The greater number of inhabitants had
fled; and those who remained were occupied with no cares but those which
related to their own safety. The labours of the artisan and the
speculations of the merchant were suspended. All shops but those of the
apothecaries were shut. No carriage but the hearse was seen, and this
was employed night and day in the removal of the dead. The customary
sources of subsistence were cut off. Those whose fortunes enabled them
to leave the city, but who had deferred till now their retreat, were
denied an asylum by the terror which pervaded the adjacent country, and
by the cruel prohibitions which the neighbouring towns and cities
thought it necessary to adopt. Those who lived by the fruits of their
daily labour were subjected, in this total inactivity, to the
alternative of starving, or of subsisting upon public charity.

The meditations of Constantia suggested no alternative but this. The
exactions of M'Crea had reduced her whole fortune to five dollars. This
would rapidly decay, and her utmost ingenuity could discover no means of
procuring a new supply. All the habits of their life had combined to
fill both her father and herself with aversion to the acceptance of
charity. Yet this avenue, opprobrious and disgustful as it was, afforded
the only means of escaping from the worst extremes of famine.

In this state of mind it was obvious to consider in what way the sum
remaining might be most usefully expended. Every species of provision
was not equally nutritious or equally cheap. Her mind, active in the
pursuit of knowledge and fertile of resources, had lately been engaged,
in discussing with her father the best means of retaining health in a
time of pestilence. On occasions, when the malignity of contagious
diseases has been most signal, some individuals have escaped. For their
safety they were doubtless indebted to some peculiarities in their
constitution or habits. Their diet, their dress, their kind and degree
of exercise, must somewhat have contributed to their exemption from the
common destiny. These, perhaps, could be ascertained, and when known it
was surely proper to conform to them.

In discussing these ideas, Mr. Dudley introduced the mention of a
Benedictine of Messina, who, during the prevalence of the plague in that
city, was incessantly engaged in administering assistance to those who
needed. Notwithstanding his perpetual hazards he retained perfect
health, and was living thirty years after this event. During this period
he fostered a tranquil, fearless, and benevolent spirit, and restricted
his diet to water and polenta. Spices, and meats, and liquors, and all
complexities of cookery, were utterly discarded.

These facts now occurred to Constantia's reflections with new vividness,
and led to interesting consequences. Polenta and hasty-pudding, or samp,
are preparations of the same substance,--a substance which she needed
not the experience of others to convince her was no less grateful than
nutritive. Indian meal was procurable at ninety cents per bushel. By
recollecting former experiments she knew that this quantity, with no
accompaniment but salt, would supply wholesome and plentiful food for
four months to one person[1]. The inference was palpable.

Three persons were now to be supplied with food, and this supply could
be furnished during four months at the trivial expense of three dollars.
This expedient was at once so uncommon and so desirable, as to be
regarded with temporary disbelief. She was inclined to suspect some
latent error in her calculation. That a sum thus applied should suffice
for the subsistence of a year, which in ordinary cases is expended in a
few days, was scarcely credible. The more closely, however, the subject
was examined, the more incontestably did this inference flow. The mode
of preparation was simple and easy, and productive of the fewest toils
and inconveniences. The attention of her Lucy was sufficient to this
end, and the drudgery of marketing was wholly precluded.

[1] See this useful fact explained and demonstrated in Count
Rumford's Essays.

She easily obtained the concurrence of her father, and the scheme was
found as practicable and beneficial as her fondest expectations had
predicted. Infallible security was thus provided against hunger. This
was the only care that was urgent and immediate. While they had food and
were exempt from disease, they could live, and were not without their
portion of comfort. Her hands were unemployed, but her mind was kept in
continual activity. To seclude herself as much as possible from others
was the best means of avoiding infection. Spectacles of misery which she
was unable to relieve would merely tend to harass her with useless
disquietudes and make her frame more accessible to disease. Her father's
instructions were sufficient to give her a competent acquaintance with
the Italian and French languages. His dreary hours were beguiled by this
employment, and her mind was furnished with a species of knowledge which
she hoped, in future, to make subservient to a more respectable and
plentiful subsistence than she had hitherto enjoyed.

Meanwhile the season advanced, and the havock which this fatal malady
produced increased with portentous rapidity. In alleys and narrow
streets, in which the houses were smaller, the inhabitants more numerous
and indigent, and the air pent up within unwholesome limits, it raged
with greatest violence. Few of Constantia's neighbours possessed the
means of removing from the danger. The inhabitants of this alley
consisted of three hundred persons: of these eight or ten experienced no
interruption of their health. Of the rest two hundred were destroyed in
the course of three weeks. Among so many victims it may be supposed that
this disease assumed every terrific and agonizing shape.

It was impossible for Constantia to shut out every token of a calamity
thus enormous and thus near. Night was the season usually selected for
the removal of the dead. The sound of wheels thus employed was
incessant. This, and the images with which it was sure to be
accompanied, bereaved her of repose. The shrieks and lamentations of
survivors, who could not be prevented from attending the remains of a
husband or child to the place of interment, frequently struck her
senses. Sometimes urged by a furious delirium, the sick would break from
their attendants, rush into the street, and expire on the pavement,
amidst frantic outcries and gestures. By these she was often roused from
imperfect sleep, and called to reflect upon the fate which impended over
her father and herself.

To preserve health in an atmosphere thus infected, and to ward off
terror and dismay in a scene of horrors thus hourly accumulating, was
impossible. Constantia found it vain to contend against the inroads of
sadness. Amidst so dreadful a mortality it was irrational to cherish the
hope that she or her father would escape. Her sensations, in no long
time, seemed to justify her apprehensions. Her appetite forsook her, her
strength failed, the thirst and lassitude of fever invaded her, and the
grave seemed to open for her reception.

Lucy was assailed by the same symptoms at the same time. Household
offices were unavoidably neglected. Mr. Dudley retained his health, but
he was able only to prepare his scanty food, and supply the cravings of
child with water from the well. His imagination marked him out for the
next victim. He could not be blind to the consequences of his own
indisposition at a period so critical. Disabled from contributing to
each other's assistance, destitute of medicine and food; and even of
water to quench their tormenting thirst, unvisited, unknown and
perishing in frightful solitude! These images had a tendency to
prostrate the mind, and generate or ripen the seeds of this fatal
malady, which, no doubt at this period of its progress every one had

Contrary to all his fears, he awoke each morning free from pain, though
not without an increase of debility. Abstinence from food, and the
liberal use of cold water, seemed to have a medicinal operation on the
sick. Their pulse gradually resumed its healthy tenor, their strength
and their appetite slowly returned, and in ten days they were able to
congratulate each other on their restoration.

I will not recount that series of disastrous thoughts which occupied the
mind of Constantia during this period. Her lingering and sleepless hours
were regarded by her as preludes to death. Though at so immature an age,
she had gained large experience of the evils which are allotted to man.
Death, which in her prosperous state was peculiarly abhorrent to her
feelings, was now disrobed of terror. As an entrance into scenes of
lightsome and imperishable being it was the goal of all her wishes: as a
passage to oblivion it was still desirable, since forgetfulness was
better than the life which she had hitherto led, and which, should her
existence be prolonged, it was likely that she could continue to lead.

These gloomy meditations were derived from the languors of her frame:
when these disappeared, her cheerfulness and fortitude revived. She
regarded with astonishment and delight the continuance of her father's
health and her own restoration. That trial seemed to have been safely
undergone, to which the life of every one was subject. The air, which
till now had been arid and sultry, was changed into cool and moist. The
pestilence had reached its utmost height, and now symptoms of remission
and decline began to appear. Its declension was more rapid than its
progress and every day added vigour to hope.

When her strength was somewhat retrieved, Constantia called to mind a
good woman who lived in her former neighbourhood, and from whom she had
received many proofs of artless affection. This woman's name was Sarah
Baxter. She lived within a small distance of Constantia's former
dwelling. The trade of her husband was that of a porter, and she
pursued, in addition to the care of a numerous family, the business of a
laundress. The superior knowledge and address of Constantia had enabled
her to be serviceable to this woman in certain painful and perplexing

This service was repaid with the utmost gratitude. Sarah regarded her
benefactress with a species of devotion. She could not endure to behold
one, whom every accent and gesture proved to have once enjoyed affluence
and dignity, performing any servile office. In spite of her own
multiplied engagements, she compelled Constantia to accept her
assistance on many occasions, and could scarcely be prevailed upon to
receive any compensation for her labour. Washing clothes was her trade,
and from this task she insisted on relieving her lovely patroness.

Constantia's change of dwelling produced much regret in the kind Sarah.
She did not allow it to make any change in their previous arrangements,
but punctually visited the Dudleys once a week, and carried home with
her whatever stood in need of ablution. When the prevalence of disease
disabled Constantia from paying her the usual wages, she would by no
means consent to be absolved from this task. Her earnestness on this
head was not to be eluded; and Constantia, in consenting that her work
should, for the present, be performed gratuitously, solaced herself with
the prospect of being able, by some future change of fortune, amply to
reward her.

Sarah's abode was distant from danger, and her fears were turbulent. She
was nevertheless punctual in her visits to the Dudleys, and anxious for
their safety. In case of their sickness, she had declared her
resolution to be their attendant and nurse. Suddenly, however, her
visits ceased. The day on which her usual visit was paid was the same
with that on which Constantia sickened, but her coming was expected in
vain. Her absence was, on some accounts, regarded with pleasure, as it
probably secured her from the danger connected with the office of a
nurse; but it added to Constantia's cares, inasmuch as her own sickness,
or that of some of her family, was the only cause of her detention.

To remove her doubts, the first use which Constantia made of her
recovered strength was to visit her laundress. Sarah's house was a
theatre of suffering. Her husband was the first of his family assailed
by the reigning disease. Two daughters, nearly grown to womanhood,
well-disposed and modest girls, the pride and support of their mother,
and who lived at service, returned home, sick, at the same time, and
died in a few days. Her husband had struggled for eleven days with his
disease, and was seized, just before Constantia's arrival, with the
pangs of death.

Baxter was endowed with great robustness and activity. This disease did
not vanquish him but with tedious and painful struggles. His muscular
force now exhausted itself in ghastly contortions, and the house
resounded with his ravings. Sarah's courage had yielded to so rapid a
succession of evils. Constantia found her shut up in a chamber, distant
from that of her dying husband, in a paroxysm of grief, and surrounded
by her younger children.

Constantia's entrance was like that of an angelic comforter. Sarah was
unqualified for any office but that of complaint. With great difficulty
she was made to communicate the knowledge of her situation. Her visitant
then passed into Baxter's apartment. She forced herself to endure this
tremendous scene long enough to discover that it was hastening to a
close. She left the house, and hastening to the proper office, engaged
the immediate attendance of a hearse. Before the lapse of an hour,
Baxter's lifeless remains were placed in a coffin, and conveyed away.

Constantia now exerted herself to comfort and encourage the survivors.
Her remonstrances incited Sarah to perform with alacrity the measures
which prudence dictates on these occasions. The house was purified by
the admission of air and the sprinkling of vinegar. Constantia applied
her own hand to these tasks, and set her humble friend an example of
forethought and activity. Sarah would not consent to part with her till
a late hour in the evening.

These exertions had like to have been fatally injurious to Constantia.
Her health was not sufficiently confirmed to sustain offices so arduous.
In the course of the night her fatigue terminated in fever. In the
present more salubrious state of the atmosphere, it assumed no malignant
symptoms, and shortly disappeared. During her indisposition she was
attended by Sarah, in whose honest bosom no sentiment was more lively
than gratitude. Constantia having promised to renew her visit the next
day, had been impatiently expected, and Sarah had come to her dwelling
in the evening, full of foreboding and anxiety, to ascertain the cause
of her delay. Having gained the bedside of her patroness, no
consideration could induce her to retire from it.

Constantia's curiosity was naturally excited as to the causes of
Baxter's disease. The simple-hearted Sarah was prolix and minute in the
history of her own affairs. No theme was more congenial to her temper
than that which was now proposed. In spite of redundance and obscurity
in the style of the narrative, Constantia found in it powerful
excitements of her sympathy. The tale, on its own account, as well as
from the connection of some of its incidents with a subsequent part of
these memoirs, is worthy to be here inserted. However foreign the
destiny of Monrose may at present appear to the story of the Dudleys,
there will hereafter be discovered an intimate connection between them.


Adjacent to the house occupied by Baxter was an antique brick tenement.
It was one of the first erections made by the followers of William Penn.
It had the honour to be used as the temporary residence of that
venerable person. Its moss-grown penthouse, crumbling walls, and ruinous
porch, made it an interesting and picturesque object. Notwithstanding
its age, it was still tenable.

This house was occupied, during the preceding months, by a Frenchman:
his dress and demeanour were respectable: his mode of life was frugal
almost to penuriousness, and his only companion was a daughter. The lady
seemed not much less than thirty years of age, but was of a small and
delicate frame. It was she that performed every household office. She
brought water from the pump, and provisions from the market. Their house
had no visitants, and was almost always closed. Duly as the morning
returned a venerable figure was seen issuing from his door, dressed in
the same style of tarnished splendour and old-fashioned preciseness. At
the dinner-hour he as regularly returned. For the rest of the day he was

The habitations in this quarter are few and scattered. The pestilence
soon showed itself here, and the flight of most of the inhabitants
augmented its desolateness and dreariness. For some time, Monrose (that
was his name) made his usual appearance in the morning. At length the
neighbours remarked that he no longer came forth as usual. Baxter had a
notion that Frenchmen were exempt from this disease. He was, besides,
deeply and rancorously prejudiced against that nation. There will be no
difficulty in accounting for this, when it is known that he had been an
English grenadier at Dettingen and Minden. It must likewise be added,
that he was considerably timid, and had sickness in his own family.
Hence it was that the disappearance of Monrose excited in him no
inquisitiveness as to the cause. He did not even mention this
circumstance to others.

The lady was occasionally seen as usual in the street. There were always
remarkable peculiarities in her behaviour. In the midst of grave and
disconsolate looks, she never laid aside an air of solemn dignity. She
seemed to shrink from the observation of others, and her eyes were
always fixed upon the ground. One evening Baxter was passing the pump
while she was drawing water. The sadness which her looks betokened, and
a suspicion that her father might be sick, had a momentary effect upon
his feelings. He stopped and asked how her father was. She paid a polite
attention to his question and said something in French. This, and the
embarrassment of her air, convinced him that his words were not
understood. He said no more (what indeed could he say?) but passed on.

Two or three days after this, on returning in the evening to his family,
his wife expressed her surprise in not having seen Miss Monrose in the
street that day. She had not been at the pump, nor had she gone, as
usual, to market. This information gave him some disquiet; yet he could
form no resolution. As to entering the house and offering his aid, if
aid were needed, he had too much regard for his own safety, and too
little for that of a frog-eating Frenchman, to think seriously of that
expedient. His attention was speedily diverted by other objects, and
Monrose was, for the present, forgotten.

Baxter's profession was that of a porter. He was thrown out of
employment by the present state of things. The solicitude of the
guardians of the city was exerted on this occasion, not only in
opposing the progress of disease, and furnishing provisions to the
destitute, but in the preservation of property. For this end the number
of nightly watchmen was increased. Baxter entered himself in this
service. From nine till twelve o'clock at night it was his province to
occupy a certain post.

On this night he attended his post as usual: twelve o'clock arrived, and
he bent his steps homeward. It was necessary to pass by Monrose's door.
On approaching this house, the circumstance mentioned by his wife
recurred to him. Something like compassion was conjured up in his heart
by the figure of the lady, as he recollected to have lately seen it. It
was obvious to conclude that sickness was the cause of her seclusion.
The same, it might be, had confined her father. If this were true, how
deplorable might be their present condition! Without food, without
physician or friends, ignorant of the language of the country, and
thence unable to communicate their wants or solicit succour; fugitives
from their native land, neglected, solitary, and poor.

His heart was softened by these images. He stopped involuntarily when
opposite their door. He looked up at the house. The shutters were
closed, so that light, if it were within, was invisible. He stepped into
the porch, and put his eye to the key-hole. All was darksome and waste.
He listened, add imagined that he heard the aspirations of grief. The
sound was scarcely articulate, but had an electrical effect upon his
feelings. He retired to his home full of mournful reflections.

He was billing to do something for the relief of the sufferers, but
nothing could be done that night. Yet succour, if delayed till the
morning, might be ineffectual. But how, when the morning came, should he
proceed to effectuate his kind intentions? The guardians of the public
welfare at this crisis were distributed into those who counselled and
those who executed. A set of men, self-appointed to the generous office,
employed themselves in seeking out the destitute or sick, and imparting
relief. With this arrangement Baxter was acquainted. He was resolved to
carry tidings of what he had heard and seen to one of those persons
early the next day.

Baxter, after taking some refreshment, retired to rest. In no long time,
however, he was awakened by his wife, who desired him to notice a
certain glimmering on the ceiling. It seemed the feeble and flitting ray
of a distant and moving light, coming through the window. It did not
proceed from the street, for the chamber was lighted from the side, and
not from the front of the house. A lamp borne by a passenger, or the
attendants of a hearse, could not be discovered in this situation.
Besides, in the latter case, it would be accompanied by the sound of the
vehicle, and, probably by weeping and exclamations of despair. His
employment as the guardian of property, naturally suggested to him the
idea of robbery. He started from his bed, and went to the window.

His house stood at the distance of about fifty paces from that of
Monrose. There was annexed to the latter a small garden or yard, bounded
by a high wooden fence. Baxter's window overlooked this space. Before he
reached the window, the relative situation of the two habitations,
occurred to him. A conjecture was instantly formed that the glimmering
proceeded from this quarter. His eye, therefore, was immediately fixed
upon Monrose's back door. It caught a glimpse of a human figure passing
into the house through this door. The person had a candle in his hand.
This appeared by the light which streamed after him, and which was
perceived, though faintly, through a small window of the dwelling, after
the back-door was closed.

The person disappeared too quickly to allow him to say whether it was
male or female. This scrutiny confirmed rather than weakened the
apprehensions that first occurred. He reflected on the desolate and
helpless condition of this family. The father might be sick, and what
opposition could be made by the daughter to the stratagems of violence
of midnight plunderers? This was an evil which it was his duty, in an
extraordinary sense, to obviate. It is true, the hour of watching was
passed, and this was not the district assigned to him; but Baxter was,
on the whole, of a generous and intrepid spirit. In the present case,
therefore, he did not hesitate long in forming his resolution. He seized
a hanger that hung at his bedside, and which had hewn many an Hungarian
and French hussar to pieces. With this he descended to the street. He
cautiously approached Monrose's house. He listened at the door, but
heard nothing. The lower apartment, as he discovered through the
key-hole, was deserted and dark. These appearances could not be
accounted for. He was, as yet, unwilling to call or to knock. He was
solicitous to obtain some information by silent means, and without
alarming the persons within, who, if they were robbers, might thus be
put upon their guard, and enabled to escape. If none but the family were
there, they would not understand his signals, and might impute the
disturbance to the cause which he was desirous to obviate. What could he
do? Must he patiently wait till some incident should happen to regulate
his motions?

In this uncertainty, he bethought himself of going round to the back
part of the dwelling, and watching the door which had been closed. An
open space, filled with rubbish and weeds, adjoined the house and garden
on one side. Hither he repaired, and, raising his head above the fence,
at a point directly opposite the door, waited with considerable
impatience for some token or signal, by which he might be directed in
his choice of measures.

Human life abounds with mysterious appearances. A man perched on a fence
at midnight, mute and motionless, and gazing at a dark and dreary
dwelling, was an object calculated to rouse curiosity. When the muscular
form and rugged visage, scared and furrowed into something like
ferocity, were added,--when the nature of the calamity by which the city
was dispeopled was considered,--the motives to plunder, and the
insecurity of property arising from the pressure of new wants on the
poor, and the flight or disease of the rich, were attended to, an
observer would be apt to admit fearful conjectures.

We know not how long Baxter continued at this post. He remained here
because he could not, as he conceived, change it for a better. Before
his patience were exhausted, his attention was called by a noise within
the house. It proceeded from the lower room. The sound was that of
steps, but this was accompanied with other inexplicable tokens. The
kitchen door at length opened. The figure of Miss Monrose, pale,
emaciated, and haggard, presented itself. Within the door stood a
candle. It was placed on a chair within sight, and its rays streamed
directly against the face of Baxter, as it was reared above the top of
the fence. This illumination, faint as it was, bestowed a certain air of
wildness on the features which nature, and the sanguinary habits of a
soldier, had previously rendered, in an eminent degree, harsh and stern.
He was not aware of the danger of discovery in consequence of this
position of the candle. His attention was, for a few seconds, engrossed
by the object before him. At length he chanced to notice another object.

At a few yards' distance from the fence, and within it, some one
appeared to have been digging. An opening was made in the ground, but it
was shallow and irregular. The implement which seemed to have been used
was nothing more than a fire-shovel, for one of these he observed lying
near the spot. The lady had withdrawn from the door, though without
closing it. He had leisure, therefore, to attend to this new
circumstance, and to reflect upon the purpose for which this opening
might have been designed.

Death is familiar to the apprehensions of a soldier. Baxter had assisted
at the hasty interment of thousands, the victims of the sword or of
pestilence. Whether it was because this theatre of human calamity was
new to him, and death, in order to be viewed with his ancient unconcern,
must be accompanied in the ancient manner, with halberts and tents,
certain it is, that Baxter was irresolute and timid in every thing that
respected the yellow fever. The circumstances of the time suggested,
that this was a grave, to which some victim of this disease was to be
consigned. His teeth chattered when he reflected how near he might now
be to the source of infection: yet his curiosity retained him at his

He fixed his eyes once more upon the door. In a short time the lady
again appeared at it. She was in a stooping posture, and appeared to be
dragging something along the floor. His blood ran cold at this
spectacle. His fear instantly figured to itself a corpse, livid and
contagious. Still he had no power to move. The lady's strength,
enfeebled as it was by grief, and perhaps by the absence of nourishment,
seemed scarcely adequate to the task which she had assigned herself.

Her burden, whatever it was, was closely wrapped in a sheet. She drew it
forward a few paces, then desisted, and seated herself on the ground
apparently to recruit her strength, and give vent to the agony of her
thoughts in sighs. Her tears were either exhausted or refused to flow,
for none were shed by her. Presently she resumed her undertaking.
Baxter's horror increased in proportion as she drew nearer to the spot
where he stood; and yet it seemed as if some fascination had forbidden
him to recede.

At length the burden was drawn to the side of the opening in the earth.
Here it seemed as if the mournful task was finished. She threw herself
once more upon the earth. Her senses seemed for a time to have forsaken
her. She sat buried in reverie, her eyes scarcely open, and fixed upon
the ground, and every feature set to the genuine expression of sorrow.
Some disorder, occasioned by the circumstance of dragging, now took
place in the vestment of what he had rightly predicted to be a dead
body. The veil by accident was drawn aside, and exhibited, to the
startled eye of Baxter, the pale and ghastly visage of the unhappy

This incident determined him. Every joint in his frame trembled, and he
hastily withdrew from the fence. His first motion in doing this produced
a noise by which the lady was alarmed; she suddenly threw her eyes
upward, and gained a full view of Baxter's extraordinary countenance,
just before it disappeared. She manifested her terror by a piercing
shriek. Baxter did not stay to mark her subsequent conduct, to confirm
or to dissipate her fears, but retired in confusion to his own house.

Hitherto his caution had availed him. He had carefully avoided all
employments and places from which he imagined imminent danger was to be
dreaded. Now, through his own inadvertency, he had rushed, as he
believed, into the jaws of the pest. His senses had not been assailed by
any noisome effluvia. This was no implausible ground for imagining that
his death had some other cause than the yellow fever. This circumstance
did not occur to Baxter. He had been told that Frenchmen were not
susceptible of this contagion. He had hitherto believed this assertion,
but now regarded it as having been fully confuted. He forgot that
Frenchmen were undoubtedly mortal, and that there was no impossibility
in Monrose's dying, even at this time, of a malady different from that
which prevailed.

Before morning he began to feel very unpleasant symptoms. He related his
late adventure to his wife. She endeavoured, by what argument her
slender ingenuity suggested, to quiet his apprehensions, but in vain. He
hourly grew worse, and as soon as it was light, dispatched his wife for
a physician. On interrogating this messenger, the physician obtained
information of last night's occurrences, and this being communicated to
one of the dispensers of the public charity, they proceeded, early in
the morning, to Monrose's house. It was closed as usual. They knocked
and called, but no one answered. They examined every avenue to the
dwelling, but none of them were accessible. They passed into the garden,
and observed, on the spot marked out by Baxter, a heap of earth. A very
slight exertion was sufficient to remove it, and discover the body of
the unfortunate exile beneath.

After unsuccessfully trying various expedients for entering the house,
they deemed themselves authorised to break the door. They entered,
ascended the staircase, and searched every apartment in the house, but
no human being was discoverable. The furniture was wretched and scanty,
but there was no proof that Monrose had fallen a victim to the reigning
disease. It was certain that the lady had disappeared. It was
inconceivable whither she had gone.

Baxter suffered a long period of sickness. The prevailing malady
appeared upon him in its severest form. His strength of constitution,
and the careful attendance of his wife, were insufficient to rescue him
from the grave. His case may be quoted as an example of the force of
imagination. He had probably already received, through the medium of the
air, or by contact of which he was not conscious, the seeds of this
disease. They might have perhaps have lain dormant, had not this panic
occurred to endow them with activity.


Such were the facts circumstantially communicated by Sarah. They
afforded to Constantia a theme of ardent meditation. The similitude
between her own destiny and that of this unhappy exile could not fail to
be observed. Immersed in poverty, friendless, burdened with the
maintenance and nurture of her father, their circumstances were nearly
parallel. The catastrophe of her tale was the subject of endless but
unsatisfactory conjecture.

She had disappeared between the flight of Baxter and the dawn of day.
What path had she taken? Was she now alive? Was she still an inhabitant
of this city? Perhaps there was a coincidence of taste as well as
fortunes between them. The only friend that Constantia ever enjoyed,
congenial with her in principles, sex, and age, was at a distance that
forbade communication. She imagined that Ursula Monrose would prove
worthy of her love, and felt unspeakable regret at the improbability of
their ever meeting.

Meanwhile the dominion of cold began to be felt, and the contagious
fever entirely disappeared. The return of health was hailed with rapture
by all ranks of people. The streets were once more busy and frequented.
The sensation of present security seemed to shut out from all hearts the
memory of recent disasters. Public entertainments were thronged with
auditors. A new theatre had lately been constructed, and a company of
English Comedians had arrived during the prevalence of the malady. They
now began their exhibitions, and their audiences were overflowing.

Such is the motley and ambiguous condition of human society, such is the
complexity of all effects, from what cause soever they spring, that none
can tell whether this destructive pestilence was on, the whole,
productive of most pain or most pleasure. Those who had been sick and
had recovered found in this circumstance a source of exultation. Others
made haste by new marriages to supply the place of wives, husbands, and
children, whom the scarcely-extinguished pestilence had swept away.

Constantia, however, was permitted to take no share in the general
festivity. Such was the colour of her fate, that the yellow fever, by
affording her a respite from toil, supplying leisure for the acquisition
of a useful branch of knowledge, and leading her to the discovery of a
cheaper, more simple, and more wholesome method of subsistence, had been
friendly, instead of adverse to her happiness. Its disappearance,
instead of relieving her from suffering, was the signal for the approach
of new cares.

Of her ancient customers, some were dead, and others were slow in
resuming their ancient habitations, and their ordinary habits.
Meanwhile two wants were now created and were urgent. The season
demanded a supply of fuel, and her rent had accumulated beyond her power
to discharge. M'Crea no sooner returned from the country than he applied
to her for payment. Some proprietors, guided by humanity, had remitted
their dues, but M'Crea was not one of these. According to his own
representation, no man was poorer than himself, and the punctual payment
of all that was owing to him was no more than sufficient to afford him a
scanty subsistence.

He was aware of the indigence of the Dudleys, and was therefore
extremely importunate for payment, and could scarcely be prevailed upon
to allow them the interval of a day for the discovery of expedients.
This day was passed by Constantia in fruitless anxieties. The ensuing
evening had been fixed for a repetition of his visit. The hour arrived,
but her invention was exhausted in vain. M'Crea was punctual to the
minute. Constantia was allowed no option. She merely declared that the
money demanded she had not to give, nor could she foresee any period at
which her inability would be less than it then was.

These declarations were heard by her visitant with marks of unspeakable
vexation. He did not fail to expatiate on the equity of his demands, the
moderation and forbearance he had hitherto shown, notwithstanding the
extreme urgency of his own wants, and the inflexible rigour with which
he had been treated by _his_ creditors. This rhetoric was merely the
prelude to an intimation that he must avail himself of any lawful means,
by which he might gain possession of _his own_.

This insinuation was fully comprehended by Constantia, but it was heard
without any new emotions. Her knowledge of her landlord's character
taught her to expect but one consequence. He paused to observe what
effect would be produced by this indirect menace. She answered, without
any change of tone, that the loss of habitation and furniture, however
inconvenient at this season, must be patiently endured. If it were to be
prevented only by the payment of money, its prevention was impossible.

M'Crea renewed his regrets that there should be no other alternative.
The law sanctioned his claims, and justice to his family, which was
already large, and likely to increase, required that they should not be
relinquished; yet such was the mildness of his temper and his aversion
to proceed to this extremity, that he was willing to dispense with
immediate payment on two conditions. First, that they should leave his
house within a week, and secondly, that they should put into his hands
some trinket or movable, equal in value to the sum demanded, which
should be kept by him as a pledge.

This last hint suggested an expedient for obviating the present
distress. The lute with which Mr. Dudley was accustomed to solace his
solitude was, if possible, more essential to his happiness than shelter
or food. To his daughter it possessed little direct power to please. It
was inestimable merely for her father's sake. Its intrinsic value was at
least equal to the sum due, but to part with it was to bereave him of a
good which nothing else could supply. Besides, not being a popular and
saleable instrument, it would probably be contemptuously rejected by the
ignorance and avarice of M'Crea.

There was another article in her possession of some value in traffic,
and of a kind which M'Crea was far more likely to accept. It was the
miniature portrait of her friend, executed by a German artist, and set
in gold. This image was a precious though imperfect substitute for
sympathy and intercourse with the original. Habit had made this picture
a source of a species of idolatry. Its power over her sensations was
similar to that possessed by a beautiful Madonna over the heart of a
juvenile enthusiast. It was the mother of the only devotion which her
education had taught her to consider as beneficial or true.

She perceived the necessity of parting with it, on this occasion, with
the utmost clearness, but this necessity was thought upon with
indescribable repugnance. It seemed as if she had not thoroughly
conceived the extent of her calamity till now. It seemed as if she could
have endured the loss of eyes with less reluctance than the loss of this
inestimable relic. Bitter were the tears which she shed over it as she
took it from her bosom, and consigned it to those rapacious hands that
were stretched out to receive it. She derived some little consolation
from the promises of this man, that he would keep it safely till she was
able to redeem it.

The other condition--that of immediate removal from the house--seemed at
first sight impracticable. Some reflection, however, showed her that the
change might not only be possible but useful. Among other expedients for
diminishing expense, that of limiting her furniture and dwelling to the
cheapest standard had often occurred. She now remembered that the house
occupied by Monrose was tenantless; that its antiquity, its remote and
unpleasant situation, and its small dimensions, might induce M'Crea, to
whom it belonged, to let it at a much lower price than that which he now
exacted. M'Crea would have been better pleased if her choice had fallen
on a different house; but he had powerful though sordid reasons for
desiring the possession of this tenement. He assented therefore to her
proposal, provided her removal took place without delay.

In the present state of her funds this removal was impossible. Mere
shelter would not suffice during this inclement season. Without fuel,
neither cold could be excluded, nor hunger relieved. There was nothing
convertible into money but her lute. No sacrifice was more painful, but
an irresistible necessity demanded it.

Her interview with M'Crea took place while her father was absent from
the room. On his return she related what had happened, and urged the
necessity of parting with his favourite instrument. He listened to her
tale with a sigh. "Yes," said he, "do what thou wilt, my child. It is
unlikely that any one will purchase it. It is certain that no one will
give for it what I gave; but thou may'st try.

"It has been to me a faithful friend. I know not how I should have lived
without it. Its notes have cheered me with the sweet remembrances of old
times. It was, in some degree, a substitute for the eyes which I have
lost; but now let it go, and perform for me perhaps the dearest of its
services. It may help us to sustain the severities of this season."

There was no room for delay. She immediately set out in search of a
purchaser. Such a one was most likely to be found in the keeper of a
musical repository, who had lately arrived from Europe. She entertained
but slight hopes that an instrument scarcely known among her neighbours
would be bought at any price, however inconsiderable.

She found the keeper of the shop engaged in conversation with a lady,
whose person and face instantly arrested the attention of Constantia. A
less sagacious observer would have eyed the stranger with indifference.
But Constantia was ever busy in interpreting the language of features
and looks. Her sphere of observation had been narrow, but her habits of
examining, comparing, and deducing, had thoroughly exhausted that
sphere. These habits were eminently strong with relation to this class
of objects. She delighted to investigate the human countenance, and
treasured up numberless conclusions as to the coincidence between mental
and external qualities.

She had often been forcibly struck by forms that were accidentally seen,
and which abounded with this species of mute expression. They conveyed
at a single glance what could not be imparted by volumes. The features
and shape sunk, as it were, into perfect harmony with sentiments and
passions. Every atom of the frame was pregnant with significance. In
some, nothing was remarkable but this power of the outward figure to
exhibit the internal sentiments. In others, the intelligence thus
unveiled was remarkable for its heterogeneous or energetic qualities;
for its tendency to fill her heart with veneration or abhorrence, or to
involve her in endless perplexities.

The accuracy and vividness with which pictures of this kind presented
themselves to her imagination resembled the operations of a sixth sense.
It cannot be doubted, however, that much was owing to the enthusiastic
tenor of her own conceptions, and that her conviction of the truth of
the picture principally flowed from the distinctness and strength of its

The figure which she now examined was small, but of exquisite
proportions. Her complexion testified the influence of a torrid sun; but
the darkness veiled, without obscuring, the glowing tints of her cheek.
The shade was remarkably deep; but a deeper still was required to become
incompatible with beauty. Her features were irregular, but defects of
symmetry were amply supplied by eyes that anticipated speech and
positions which conveyed that to which language was inadequate.

It was not the chief tendency of her appearance to seduce or to melt.
Hers were the polished cheek and the mutability of muscle, which belong
to woman, but the genius conspicuous in her aspect was heroic and
contemplative. The female was absorbed, so to speak, in the rational
creature, and the emotions most apt to be excited in the gazer partook
less of love than of reverence.

Such is the portrait of this stranger, delineated by Constantia. I copy
it with greater willingness, because, if we substitute a nobler stature,
and a complexion less uniform and delicate, it is suited with the utmost
accuracy to herself. She was probably unconscious of this resemblance;
but this circumstance may be supposed to influence her in discovering
such attractive properties in a form thus vaguely seen. These
impressions, permanent and cogent as they were, were gained at a single
glance. The purpose which led her thither was too momentous to be long

"Why," said the master of the shop, "this is lucky. Here is a lady who
has just been inquiring for an instrument of this kind. Perhaps the one
you have will suit her. If you will bring it to me, I will examine it,
and, if it is complete, will make a bargain with you." He then turned to
the lady who had first entered, and a short dialogue in French ensued
between them. The man repeated his assurances to Constantia, who,
promising to hasten back with the instrument, took her leave. The lute,
in its structure and ornaments, has rarely been surpassed. When
scrutinised by this artist it proved to be complete, and the price
demanded for it was readily given.

By this means the Dudleys were enabled to change their habitation, and
to supply themselves with fuel. To obviate future exigences, Constantia
betook herself once more to the needle. They persisted in the use of
their simple fare, and endeavoured to contract their wants, and
methodize their occupations, by a standard as rigid as possible. She
had not relinquished her design of adopting a new and more liberal
profession, but though, when indistinctly and generally considered, it
seemed easily effected, yet the first steps which it would be proper to
take did not clearly or readily suggest themselves. For the present she
was contented to pursue the beaten track, but was prepared to benefit by
any occasion that time might furnish, suitable to the execution of her


It may be asked if a woman of this character did not attract the notice
of the world. Her station, no less than her modes of thinking, excluded
her from the concourse of the opulent and the gay. She kept herself in
privacy: her engagements confined her to her own fireside, and her
neighbours enjoyed no means of penetrating through that obscurity in
which she wrapt herself. There were, no doubt, persons of her own sex
capable of estimating her worth, and who could have hastened to raise so
much merit from the indigence to which it was condemned. She might, at
least, have found associates and friends justly entitled to her
affection. But whether she were peculiarly unfortunate in this respect,
or whether it arose from a jealous and unbending spirit that would
remit none of its claims to respect, and was backward in its overtures
to kindness and intimacy, it so happened that her hours were, for a long
period, enlivened by no companion but her father and her faithful Lucy.
The humbleness of her dwelling, her plain garb, and the meanness of her
occupation, were no passports to the favour of the rich and vain. These,
added to her youth and beauty, frequently exposed her to insults, from
which, though productive for a time of mortification and distress, she,
for the most part, extricated herself by her spirited carriage and
presence of mind.

One incident of this kind it will be necessary to mention. One evening
her engagements carried her abroad. She had proposed to return
immediately, finding by experience the danger that was to be dreaded by
a woman young and unprotected. Something occurred that unavoidably
lengthened her stay, and she set out on her return at a late hour. One
of the other sex offered her his guardianship; but this she declined,
and proceeded homeward alone.

Her way lay through streets but little inhabited, and whose few
inhabitants were of the profligate class. She was conscious of the
inconveniences to which she was exposed, and therefore tripped along
with all possible haste. She had not gone far before she perceived,
through the dusk, two men standing near a porch before her. She had gone
too far to recede or change her course without exciting observation, and
she flattered herself that the persons would behave with decency.
Encouraged by these reflections, and somewhat hastening her pace, she
went on. As soon as she came opposite the place where they stood, one of
them threw himself round, and caught her arm, exclaiming, in a broad
tone, "Whither so fast, my love, at this time of night?" The other, at
the same time, threw his arm round her waist, crying out, "A pretty
prize, by G--: just in the nick of time."

They were huge and brawny fellows, in whose grasp her feeble strength
was annihilated. Their motions were so sudden that she had not time to
escape by flight. Her struggles merely furnished them with a subject of
laughter. He that held her waist proceeded to pollute her cheeks with
his kisses, and drew her into the porch. He tore her from the grasp of
him who first seized her, who seemed to think his property invaded, and
said, in a surly tone, "What now, Jemmy? Damn your heart, d'ye think
I'll be fobbed? Have done with your slabbering, Jemmy. First come, first
served," and seemed disposed to assert his claims by force.

To this brutality Constantia had nothing to oppose but fruitless
struggles and shrieks for help. Succour was, fortunately, at hand. Her
exclamations were heard by a person across the street, who instantly
ran, and with some difficulty disengaged her from the grasp of the
ruffians. He accompanied her the rest of the way, bestowed on her every
polite attention, and, though pressed to enter the house, declined the
invitation. She had no opportunity of examining the appearance of her
new friend: this the darkness of the night, and her own panic,

Next day a person called upon her whom she instantly recognized to be
her late protector. He came with some message from his sister. His
manners were simple and unostentatious and breathed the genuine spirit
of civility. Having performed his commission, and once more received the
thanks which she poured forth with peculiar warmth for his last night's
interposition, he took his leave.

The name of this man was Balfour. He was middle-aged, of a figure
neither elegant nor ungainly, and an aspect that was mild and placid,
but betrayed few marks of intelligence. He was an adventurer from
Scotland, whom a strict adherence to the maxims of trade had rendered
opulent. He was governed by the principles of mercantile integrity in
all his dealings, and was affable and kind, without being generous, in
his treatment of inferiors. He was a stranger to violent emotions of any
kind, and his intellectual acquisitions were limited to his own

His demeanour was tranquil and uniform. He was sparing of words, and
these were uttered in the softest manner. In all his transactions he wad
sedate and considerate. In his dress and mode of living there were no
appearances of parsimony, but there were, likewise, as few traces of

His sister had shared in his prosperity. As soon as his affairs would
permit, he sent for her to Scotland, where she had lived in a state
little removed from penury, and had for some years been vested with the
superintendence of his household. There was a considerable resemblance
between them in person and character. Her profession, or those arts in
which her situation had compelled her to acquire skill, had not an equal
tendency to enlarge the mind as those of her brother, but the views of
each were limited to one set of objects. His superiority was owing, not
to any inherent difference, but to accident.

Balfour's life had been a model of chasteness and regularity,--though
this was owing more to constitutional coldness, and a frugal spirit,
than to virtuous forbearance; but, in his schemes for the future, he did
not exclude the circumstance of marriage. Having attained a situation
secure as the nature of human affairs will admit from the chances of
poverty, the way was sufficiently prepared for matrimony. His thoughts
had been for some time employed in the selection of a suitable
companion, when this rencounter happened with Miss Dudley.

Balfour was not destitute of those feelings which are called into play
by the sight of youth and beauty in distress. This incident was not
speedily forgotten. The emotions produced by it were new to him. He
reviewed them oftener, and with more complacency, than any which he had
before experienced. They afforded him so much satisfaction, that, in
order to preserve them undiminished, he resolved to repeat his visit.
Constantia treated him as one from whom she had received a considerable
benefit. Her sweetness and gentleness were uniform, and Balfour found
that her humble roof promised him more happiness than his own fireside,
or the society of his professional brethren.

He could not overlook, in the course of such reflections as these, the
question relative to marriage, and speedily determined to solicit the
honour of her hand. He had not decided without his usual foresight and
deliberation; nor had he been wanting in the accuracy of his
observations and inquiries. Those qualifications, indeed, which were of
chief value in his eyes, lay upon the surface. He was no judge of her
intellectual character, or of the loftiness of her morality. Not even
the graces of person, or features or manners, attracted much of his
attention. He remarked her admirable economy of time, and money, and
labour, the simplicity of her dress, her evenness of temper, and her
love of seclusion. These ware essential requisites of a wife, in his
apprehension. The insignificance of his own birth, the lowness of his
original fortune, and the efficacy of industry and temperance to confer
and maintain wealth, had taught him indifference as to birth or fortune
in his spouse. His moderate desires in this respect were gratified, and
he was anxious only for a partner that would aid him in preserving
rather than in enlarging his property. He esteemed himself eminently
fortunate in meeting with one in whom every matrimonial qualification

He was not deficient in modesty, but he fancied that, on this occasion,
there was no possibility of miscarriage. He held her capacity in deep
veneration, but this circumstance rendered him more secure of success.
He conceived this union to be even more eligible with regard to her than
to himself, and confided in the rectitude of her understanding for a
decision favourable to his wishes.

Before any express declaration was made, Constantia easily predicted the
event from the frequency of his visits; and the attentiveness of his
manners. It was no difficult task to ascertain this man's character. Her
modes of thinking were, in few respects, similar to those of her lover.
She was eager to investigate, in the first place, the attributes of his
mind. His professional and household maxims were not of inconsiderable
importance, but they were subordinate considerations. In the poverty of
his discourse and ideas she quickly found reasons for determining her

Marriage she had but little considered, as it is in itself. What are the
genuine principles of that relation, and what conduct with respect to it
is prescribed to rational beings by their duty, she had not hitherto
investigated. But she was not backward to inquire what are the precepts
of duty in her own particular case. She knew herself to be young; she
was sensible of the daily enlargement of her knowledge: every day
contributed to rectify some error, or confirm some truth. These benefits
she owed to her situation, which, whatever were its evils, gave her as
much freedom from restraint as is consistent with the state of human
affairs. Her poverty fettered her exertions, and circumscribed her
pleasures. Poverty, therefore, was an evil, and the reverse of poverty
was to be desired. But riches were not barren of constraint, and its
advantages might be purchased at too dear a rate.

Allowing that the wife is enriched by marriage, how humiliating were the
conditions annexed to it in the present case! The company of one with
whom we have no sympathy, nor sentiments in common, is, of all species
of solitude, the most loathsome and dreary. The nuptial life is attended
with peculiar aggravations, since the tie is infrangible, and the choice
of a more suitable companion, if such a one should offer, is for ever
precluded. The hardships of wealth are not incompensated by some
benefits; but these benefits, false and hollow as they are, cannot be
obtained by marriage. Her acceptance of Balfour would merely aggravate
her indigence.

Now she was at least mistress of the product of her own labour. Her
tasks were toilsome, but the profits, though slender, were sure, and
she administered her little property in what manner she pleased.
Marriage would annihilate this, power. Henceforth she would he bereft
even of personal freedom. So far from possessing property, she herself
would become the property of another.

She was not unaware of the consequences flowing from differences of
capacity, and that power, to whomsoever legally granted, will be
exercised by the most addressful; but she derived no encouragement from
these considerations. She would not stoop to gain her end by the hateful
arts of the sycophant, and was too wise to place an unbounded reliance
on the influence of truth. The character, likewise, of this man,
sufficiently exempted him from either of those influences.

She did not forget the nature of the altar-vows. To abdicate the use of
her own understanding was scarcely justifiable in any case; but to vow
an affection that was not felt, and could not be compelled, and to
promise obedience to one whose judgment was glaringly defective, were
acts atrociously criminal. Education, besides, had created in her an
insurmountable abhorrence of admitting to conjugal privileges the man
who had no claim upon her love. It could not be denied that a state of
abundant accommodation was better than the contrary; but this
consideration, though, in the most rational estimate, of some weight,
she was not so depraved and effeminate as to allow to overweigh the
opposite evils. Homely liberty was better than splendid servitude.

Her resolution was easily formed, but there were certain impediments in
the way of its execution. These chiefly arose from deference to the
opinion, and compassion for the infirmities of her father. He assumed no
control over her actions. His reflections in the present case were
rather understood than expressed. When uttered, it was with the
mildness of equality, and the modesty of persuasion. It was this
circumstance that conferred upon them all their force. His decision on
so delicate a topic was not wanting in sagacity and moderation; but, as
a man, he had his portion of defects, and his frame was enfeebled by
disease and care; yet he set no higher value on the ease and
independence of his former condition than any man of like experience. He
could not endure to exist on the fruits of his daughter's labour. He
ascribed her decision to a spirit of excessive refinement, and was, of
course, disposed to give little quarter to maiden scruples. They were
phantoms, he believed, which experience would dispel. His morality,
besides, was of a much more flexible kind; and the marriage vows were,
in his opinion, formal and unmeaning, and neither in themselves, nor in
the opinion of the world, accompanied with any rigorous obligation. He
drew more favourable omens from the known capacity of his daughter, and
the flexibility of her lover.

She demanded his opinion and advice. She listened to his reasonings, and
revolved them with candour and impartiality. She stated her objections
with simplicity; but the difference of age and sex was sufficient to
preclude agreement. Arguments were of no use but to prolong the debate;
but, happily, the magnanimity of Mr. Dudley would admit of no sacrifice.
Her opinions, it is true, were erroneous; but he was willing that she
should regulate her conduct by her own conceptions of right, and not by
those of another. To refuse Balfour's offers was an evil, but an evil
inexpressibly exceeded by that of accepting them contrary to her own
sense of propriety.

Difficulties, likewise, arose from the consideration of what was due to
the man who had already benefited her, and who, in this act, intended to
confer upon her further benefit. These, though the source of some
embarrassment, were not sufficient to shake her resolution. Balfour
could not understand her principal objections. They were of a size
altogether disproportioned to his capacity. Her moral speculations were
quite beyond the sphere of his reflections. She could not expatiate,
without a breach of civility, on the disparity of their minds, and yet
this was the only or principal ground on which she had erected her

Her father loved her too well not to be desirous of relieving her from a
painful task, though undertaken without necessity, and contrary to his
opinion. "Refer him to me," said he; "I will make the best of the
matter, and render your refusal as palatable as possible; but do you
authorize me to make it absolute, and without appeal."

"My dear father! how good you are! but that shall be my province. If I
err, let the consequences of my mistake be confined to myself. It would
be cruel indeed to make you the instrument in a transaction which your
judgment disapproves. My reluctance was a weak and foolish thing.
Strange, indeed, if the purity of my motives will not bear me out on
this, as it has done on many more arduous occasions."

"Well, be it so; that is best I believe. Ten to one but I, with my want
of eyes would blunder, while yours will be of no small use in a contest
with a lover. They will serve you to watch the transitions in his placid
physiognomy, and overpower his discontents."

She was aware of the inconveniences to which this resolution would
subject her; but since they were unavoidable, she armed herself with the
requisite patience. Her apprehensions were not without reason. More than
one conference was necessary to convince him of her meaning, and in
order to effect her purpose she was obliged to behave with so much
explicitness as to hazard giving him offence. This affair was
productive of no small vexation. He had put too much faith in the
validity of his pretensions, and the benefits of perseverance, to be
easily shaken off.

This decision was not borne by him with as much patience as she wished.
He deemed himself unjustly treated, and his resentment exceeded those
bounds of moderation which he prescribed to himself on all other
occasions. From his anger, however, there was not much to be dreaded;
but, unfortunately, his sister partook of his indignation and indulged
her petulance, which was enforced by every gossiping and tattling
propensity, to the irreparable disadvantage of Constantia.

She owed her support to her needle. She was dependent therefore on the
caprice of customers. This caprice was swayable by every breath, and
paid a merely subordinate regard, in the choice of workwomen, to the
circumstances of skill, cheapness and diligence. In consequence of
this, her usual sources of subsistence began to fail.

Indigence, as well as wealth, is comparative. He indeed must be
wretched, whose food, clothing, and shelter, are limited, both in kind
and quantity, by the standard of mere necessity; who, in the choice of
food, for example, is governed by no consideration but its cheapness,
and its capacity to sustain nature. Yet to this degree of wretchedness
was Miss Dudley reduced.

As her means of subsistence began to decay, she reflected on the change
of employment that might become necessary. She was mistress of no
lucrative art but that which now threatened to be useless. There was but
one avenue through which she could hope to escape from the pressure of
absolute want. This she regarded with an aversion that nothing but
extreme necessity, and the failure of every other expedient, would be
able to subdue. This was the hiring herself as a servant. Even that
could not answer all her purposes. If a subsistence were provided by it
for herself, whither should her father and her Lucy betake themselves
for support?

Hitherto her labour had been sufficient to shut out famine and the cold.
It is true she had been cut off from all the direct means of personal or
mental gratification; but her constitution had exempted her from the
insalutary effects of sedentary application. She could not tell how long
she could enjoy this exemption, but it was absurd to anticipate those
evils which might never arrive. Meanwhile, her situation was not
destitute of comfort. The indirect means of intellectual improvement in
conversation and reflection, the inexpensive amusement of singing, and,
above all, the consciousness of performing her duty, and maintaining her
independence inviolate, were still in her possession. Her lodging was
humble, and her fare frugal, but these temperance and a due regard to
the use of money would require from the most opulent.

Now retrenchments must be made even from this penurious provision. Her
exertions might somewhat defer, but could not prevent, the ruin of her
unhappy family. Their landlord was a severe exacter of his dues. The day
of quarterly payment was past, and he had not failed in his usual
punctuality. She was unable to satisfy his demands, and Mr. Dudley was
officially informed, that unless payment was made before a day fixed,
resort would be had to the law, in that case made and provided.

This seemed to be the completion of their misfortunes. It was not enough
to soften the implacability of their landlord. A respite might possibly
be obtained from this harsh sentence. Entreaties might prevail upon him
to allow of their remaining under this roof for some time longer; but
shelter at this inclement season was not enough. Without fire they must
perish with the cold; and fuel could be procured only for money, of
which the last shilling was expended. Food was no less indispensable;
and, their credit being gone, not a loaf could be extorted from the
avarice of the bakers in the neighbourhood.

The sensations produced by this accumulation of distress may be more
easily conceived than described. Mr. Dudley sunk into despair, when Lucy
informed him that the billet of wood she was putting on the fire was the
last. "Well," said he, "the game is up. Where is my daughter?" The
answer was, that she was up-stairs.

"Why, there she has been this hour. Tell her to come down and warm
herself. She must needs be cold, and here is a cheerful blaze. I feel it
myself. Like the lightning that precedes death, it beams thus brightly,
though in a few moments it will be extinguished forever. Let my darling
come and partake of its comforts before they expire."

Constantia had retired in order to review her situation and devise some
expedients that might alleviate it. It was a sore extremity to which she
was reduced. Things had come to a desperate pass, and the remedy
required must be no less desperate. It was impossible to see her father
perish. She herself would have died before she would have condescended
to beg. It was not worth prolonging a life which must subsist upon alms.
She would have wandered into the fields at dusk, have seated herself
upon an unfrequented bank, and serenely waited the approach of that
death which the rigours of the season would have rendered sure. But as
it was, it became her to act in a very different manner.

During her father's prosperity, some mercantile intercourse had taken
place between him and a merchant of this city. The latter on some
occasion had spent a few nights at her father's house. She was greatly
charmed with the humanity that shone forth in his conversation and
behaviour. From that time to this all intercourse had ceased. She was
acquainted with the place of his abode, and knew him to be affluent. To
him she determined to apply as a suppliant in behalf of her father. She
did not inform Mr. Dudley of this intention, conceiving it best to wait
till the event had been ascertained, for fear of exciting fallacious
expectations. She was further deterred by the apprehension of awakening
his pride, and bringing on herself an absolute prohibition.

She arrived at the door of Mr. Melbourne's house, and inquiring for the
master of it, was informed that he had gone out of town, and was not
expected to return for a week.

Her scheme, which was by no means unplausible, was thus completely
frustrated. There was but one other resource, on which she had already
deliberated, and to which she had determined to apply if that should
fail. That was to claim assistance from the superintendants of the poor.
She was employed in considering to which of them, and in what manner she
should make her application, when she turned the corner of Lombard and
Second Streets. That had scarcely been done, when casting her eyes
mournfully round her, she caught a glimpse of a person whom she
instantly recognized passing into the market-place. She followed him
with quick steps, and on a second examination found that she had not
been mistaken. This was no other than Thomas Craig, to whose malignity
and cunning all her misfortunes were imputable.

She was at first uncertain what use to make of this discovery. She
followed him instinctively, and saw him at length enter the Indian Queen
Tavern. Here she stopped. She entertained a confused conception that
some beneficial consequences might be extracted from this event. In the
present hurry of her thoughts she could form no satisfactory conclusion;
but it instantly occurred to her that it would at least be proper to
ascertain the place of his abode. She stept into the inn, and made the
suitable inquiries. She was informed that the gentleman had come from
Baltimore a month before, and had since resided at that house. How soon
he meant to leave the city her informant was unable to tell.

Having gained this intelligence, she returned home, and once more shut
herself in her chamber to meditate on this new posture of affairs.


Craig was indebted to her father. He had defrauded him by the most
atrocious and illicit arts. On either account he was liable to
prosecution; but her heart rejected the thought of being the author of
injury to any man. The dread of punishment, however, might induce him to
refund, uncoercively, the whole or some part of the stolen property.
Money was at this moment necessary to existence, and she conceived
herself justly entitled to that of which her father had been
perfidiously despoiled.

But the law was formal and circuitous. Money itself was necessary to
purchase its assistance. Besides, it could not act with unseen virtue
and instantaneous celerity. The co-operation of advocates and officers
was required. They must be visited, and harangued, and importuned. Was
she adequate to the task? Would the energy of her mind supply the place
of experience, and with a sort of miraculous efficacy, afford her the
knowledge of official processes and dues? As little on this occasion
could be expected from her father as from her. He was infirm and blind.
The spirit that animated his former days was flown. His heart's blood
was chilled by the rigours of his fortune. He had discarded his
indignation and his enmities, and together with them, hope itself had
perished in his bosom. He waited in tranquil despair, for that stroke
which would deliver him from life, and all the woes that it inherits.

But these considerations were superfluous. It was enough that justice
must be bought, and that she had not the equivalent. Legal proceedings
are encumbered with delay, and her necessities were urgent. Succour, if
withheld till the morrow, would be useless. Hunger and cold would not
be trifled with. What resource was there left in this her uttermost
distress? Must she yield, in imitation of her father, to the cowardly
suggestions of despair?

Craig might be rich: his coffers might be stuffed with thousands. All
that he had, according to the principles of social equity, was hers; yet
he, to whom nothing belonged, rioted in superfluity, while she, the
rightful claimant, was driven to the point of utmost need. The proper
instrument of her restoration was law, but its arm was powerless, for
she had not the means of bribing it into activity. But was law the only

Craig perhaps was accessible. Might she not, with propriety, demand an
interview, and lay before him the consequences of his baseness? He was
not divested of the last remains of humanity. It was impossible that he
should not relent at the picture of those distresses of which he was the
author. Menaces of legal prosecution she meant not to use, because she
was unalterably resolved against that remedy. She confided in the
efficacy of her pleadings to awaken his justice. This interview she was
determined immediately to seek. She was aware that by some accident her
purpose might be frustrated. Access to his person might, for the
present, be impossible, or might be denied. It was proper, therefore to
write him a letter, which might be substituted in place of an interview.
It behoved her to be expeditious, for the light was failing, and her
strength was nearly exhausted by the hurry of her spirits. Her fingers
likewise were benumbed with the cold. She performed her task, under
these disadvantages, with much difficulty. This was the purport of her


     "An hour ago I was in Second Street, and saw you. I followed you
     till you entered the Indian Queen Tavern. Knowing where you are, I
     am now preparing to demand an interview. I may he disappointed in
     this hope, and therefore write you this.

     "I do not come to upbraid you, to call you to a legal, or any other
     account for your actions. I presume not to weigh your merits. The
     God of equity be your judge. May he be as merciful in the hour of
     retribution as I am disposed to be!

     "It is only to inform you that my father is on the point of
     perishing with want. You know who it was that reduced him to this
     condition. I persuade myself I shall not appeal to your justice in
     vain. Learn of this justice to afford him instant succour.

     "You know who it was that took you in, an houseless wanderer,
     protected and fostered your youth, and shared with you his
     confidence and his fortune. It is he who now, blind and indigent,
     is threatened by an inexorable landlord to be thrust into the
     street, and who is, at this moment without fire and without bread.

     "He once did you some little service; now he looks to be
     compensated. All the retribution he asks is to be saved from
     perishing. Surely you will not spurn at his claims. Thomas Craig
     has done nothing that shows him deaf to the cries of distress. He
     would relieve a dog from such sufferings.

     "Forget that you have known my father in any character but that of
     a supplicant for bread. I promise you that on this condition I also
     will forget it. If you are so far just, you have nothing to fear.
     Your property and reputation shall both be safe. My father knows
     not of your being in this city. His enmities are extinct, and if
     you comply with this request, he shall know you only as a

     "C. DUDLEY."

Having finished and folded this epistle, she once more returned to the
tavern. A waiter informed her that Craig had lately been in, and was now
gone out to spend the evening. "Whither had he gone?" she asked.

"How was he to know where gentlemen eat their suppers? Did she take him
for a witch? What, in God's name, did she want with him at that hour?
Could she not wait, at least, till he had done his supper? He warranted
her pretty face would bring him home time enough."

Constantia was not disconcerted at the address. She knew that females
are subjected, through their own ignorance and cowardice, to a thousand
mortifications. She set its true value on base and low-minded treatment.
She disdained to notice this ribaldry, but turned away from the servant
to meditate on this disappointment.

A few moments after, a young fellow smartly dressed entered the
apartment. He was immediately addressed by the other, who said to him,
"Well, Tom, where's your master: there's a lady wants him," (pointing to
Constantia, and laying a grinning emphasis on the word "lady".) She
turned to the new-comer: "Friend, are you Mr. Craig's servant?"

The fellow seemed somewhat irritated at the bluntness of her
interrogatory. The appellation of servant sat uneasily, perhaps, on his
pride, especially as coming from a person of her appearance. He put on
an air of familiar ridicule, and surveyed her in silence. She resumed,
in an authoritative tone:--"Where does Mr. Craig spend this evening? I
have business with him of the highest importance, and that will not bear
delay. I must see him this night." He seemed preparing to make some
impertinent answer, but she anticipated it: "You had better answer me
with decency. If you do not, your master shall hear of it."

This menace was not ineffectual. He began in perceive himself in the
wrong, and surlily muttered, "Why, if you must know, he is gone to Mr.
Ormond's." And where lived Mr. Ormond? In Arch Street; he mentioned the
number on her questioning him to that effect.

Being furnished with this information, she left them. Her project was
not to be thwarted by slight impediments, and she forthwith proceeded to
Ormond's dwelling. "Who was this Ormond?" she inquired of herself as she
went along: "whence originated and of what nature is the connection
between him and Craig? Are they united by unison of designs and sympathy
of character, or is this stranger a new subject on whom Craig is
practising his arts? The last supposition is not impossible. Is it not
my duty to disconcert his machinations and save a new victim from his
treachery? But I ought to be sure before I act. He may now be honest, or
tending to honesty, and my interference may cast him backward, or
impede his progress."

The house to which she had been directed was spacious and magnificent.
She was answered by a servant, whose uniform was extremely singular and
fanciful, whose features and accents bespoke him to be English, with a
politeness to which she knew that the simplicity of her dress gave her
no title. Craig, he told her, was in the drawing-room above stairs. He
offered to carry him any message, and ushered her, meanwhile, into a
parlour. She was surprised at the splendour of the room. The ceiling was
painted with a gay design, the walls stuccoed in relief, and the floor
covered with a Persian carpet, with suitable accompaniments of mirrors,
tables, and sofas.

Craig had been seated at the window above. His suspicions were ever on
the watch. He suddenly espied a figure and face on the opposite side of
the street, which an alteration of garb and the improvements of time
could not conceal from his knowledge. He was startled at this incident,
without knowing the extent of its consequences. He saw her cross the way
opposite this house, and immediately after heard the bell ring. Still he
was not aware that he himself was the object of this visit, and waited
with some degree of impatience for the issue of this adventure.

Presently he was summoned to a person below, who wished to see him. The
servant shut the door as soon as he had delivered the message and

Craig was thrown into considerable perplexity. It was seldom that he was
wanting in presence of mind and dexterity, but the unexpectedness of
this incident made him pause. He had not forgotten the awful charms of
his summoner. He shrunk at the imagination of her rebukes. What purpose
could be answered by admitting her? It was undoubtedly safest to keep
at a distance; but what excuse should be given for refusing this
interview? He was roused from his reverie by a second and more urgent
summons. The person could not conveniently wait; her business was of the
utmost moment, and would detain him but a few minutes.

The anxiety which was thus expressed to see him only augmented his
solicitude to remain invisible. He had papers before him, which he had
been employed in examining. This suggested an excuse--"Tell her that I
am engaged just now, and cannot possibly attend to her. Let her leave
her business. If she has any message, you may bring it to me."

It was plain to Constantia that Craig suspected the purpose of her
visit. This might have come to his knowledge by means impossible for her
to divine. She now perceived the wisdom of the precaution she had taken.
She gave her letter to the servant with this message:--"Tell him I
shall wait here for an answer, and continue to wait till I receive one."

Her mind was powerfully affected by the criticalness of her situation.
She had gone thus far, and saw the necessity of persisting to the end.
The goal was within view, and she formed a sort of desperate
determination not to relinquish the pursuit. She could not overlook the
possibility that he might return no answer, or return an unsatisfactory
one. In either case, she was resolved to remain in the house till driven
from it by violence. What other resolution could she form? To return to
her desolate home, pennyless, was an idea not to be endured.

The letter was received, and perused. His conscience was touched, but
compunction was a guest whose importunities he had acquired a peculiar
facility of eluding. Here was a liberal offer. A price was set upon his
impunity. A small sum, perhaps, would secure him from all future
molestation.--"She spoke, to-be-sure, in a damned high tone. 'Twas a
pity that the old man should be hungry before supper-time. Blind too!
Harder still, when he cannot find his way to his mouth. Rent unpaid, and
a flinty-hearted landlord. A pretty pickle, to-be-sure. Instant payment,
she says. Won't part without it. Must come down with the stuff. I know
this girl. When her heart is once set upon a thing, all the devils will
not turn her out of her way. She promises silence. I can't pretend to
bargain with her. I'd as lief be ducked, as meet her face to face. I
know she'll do what she promises: that was always her grand failing. How
the little witch talks! Just the dreamer she ever was! Justice!
Compassion! Stupid fool! One would think she'd learned something of the
world by this time."

He took out his pocket-book. Among the notes it contained the lowest was
fifty dollars. This was too much, yet there was no alternative;
something must be given. She had detected his abode, and he knew it was
in the power of the Dudleys to ruin his reputation, and obstruct his
present schemes. It was probable that, if they should exert themselves,
their cause would find advocates and patrons. Still the gratuitous gift
of fifty dollars sat uneasily upon his avarice. One idea occurred to
reconcile him to the gift. There was a method he conceived of procuring
the repayment of it with interest: he enclosed the note in a blank piece
of paper, and sent it to her.

She received the paper, and opened it with trembling fingers: when she
saw what were its contents, her feelings amounted to rapture. A sum like
this was affluence to her in her present condition; at least it would
purchase present comfort and security. Her heart glowed with exultation,
and she seemed to tread with the lightness of air as she hied homeward.
The languor of a long fast, the numbness of the cold, were forgotten.
It is worthy of remark how much of human accommodation was comprised
within this small compass; and how sudden was this transition from the
verge of destruction to the summit of security.

Her first business was to call upon her landlord, and pay him his
demand. On her return she discharged the little debts she had been
obliged to contract, and purchased what was immediately necessary. Wood
she could borrow from her next neighbour, and this she was willing to
do, now that she had the prospect of repaying it.


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