« PreviousContinue »
could, I believe, have enabled her to survive it, but her doating fondness for me. For thy sake, my beloved child, (said she), I must a little longer bear the load of life!' And to her it was indeed a load. I was at this period in my twelfth year, and I regretted my father as much as a girl at that age could do; but time soon reconciled me to my loss; not so my poor mother; her struggle with her feelings undermined her constitution, and though she lived for near¬ ly four years after this event, she never could be said to enjoy a day's health. "She devoted herself wholly to me; and as she could not bring herself to part with me, I had masters at home, and the care of my mind and morals was her only solace. I knew nothing of the world but from books and the conversation of my mother; for, after the death of my father, she never mixed with society. My natural disposition was open and unsuspecting, and I grew up in the belief, that to deserve friends
was the way to obtain them, and that I should everywhere meet with kindness and sincerity. Fatal, though innocent error, what misery do I not owe to thee!
"Before I had quite attained my sixteenth year, my mother died, and I was left under the guardianship of Mr. Wilmot, a man of, whom she knew little, but his character was excellent, and he had been under the greatest obligations to my father. My little fortune of four thousand pounds, my mother left at my own, disposal, as soon as I had attained my eighteenth year. Mr. Wilmot was a merchant, and appeared an amiable and benevolent man; he did not attempt to check the first exuberance of my grief; for he knew enough of human nature to know that, during the violence of sorrow, the voice of consolation is unheeded, or turned from with disgust; but he gradually weaned me from the contemplation of my irreparable loss, by pointing out to me the
happiness that was still within my reach. 'Friendship and benevolence offer their treasures to you, my dear ward (said he), in the duties of the one, as far as your limited fortune will afford you the means of fulfilling them, and the consolations of the other, you will soon recover peace.'
“He was right; I gradually regained my serenity, and my grief subsided into that sad but pleasing remembrance of my dear parent's virtues, that will, I trust, accompany me through life. I resided with Mr. Wilmot, whose sister kept his house. She was a plain good. woman, and behaved to me with great civility; I neither expected nor wished for more, since our dispositions were too. dissimilar for any degree of friendship to subsist between us.
"Frederic Wilmot, my guardian's only child, was soon considered by me as a brother; and I found that his father would not have been displeased to know that I was willing to exchange that
title for a tenderer one; but though my reason acknowledged that Frederic was amiable, my heart remained untouched, and I rejected his suit; but my doing so did not render us less friends, and I continued to be treated by Frederic as his sister, and by Mr. Wilmot as his daughter.
My guardian was visited, and on terms of intimacy with many people whose rank and fortune were superior to his own; amongst these was the family of Sir Charles Cheslyn; it consisted of three daughters, all amiable girls, at least so they appeared; Lady Cheslyn had been dead some years, and Sir Charles was likely to remain a widower. The Misses Cheslyn paid me particular attention, and Harriet, the eldest, professed for me the warmest friendship. We soon became inseparable, and the house of Sir Charles was as much my home as that of my guardian. When I was turned of seventeen, Mr. Wilmot died suddenly, and as I
did not think it would be proper to remain in the house of his son, I removed,
at their earnest invitation, to my friends the Cheslyns. Frederic Wilmot was our frequent visitor. As his father had died without any settlement having taken place of his affairs, Frederic had offered to pay my fortune into my own hands, but I declined receiving it. One morning he came, and said that he wanted to speak to me alone.
My dear Ellen (cried he), I have an opportunity of employing a sum of money in a way that cannot fail to double it. I shall embark a few thousands in this scheme; what say you, will you speculate with me??
"You know (replied I), that the little I can call my own is in your hands, but I would not rashly venture it in the hope of gaining more; that sum will always be to me a competence, but should I lose it, beggary awaits me; I must therefore decline your of fer, and I beg of you to be careful how