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in a jocular manner with Emilia; she answered me in a strain so serious, as convinced me of the danger of so romantic an attachment. Our discourse on the subject grew insensibly warm : Emilia at last burst into tears; and I apologised for having, I knew not how, offended her. From that day forth, though I continued her adviser, I found I had ceased to be her friend.
“That office was now Harriet’s alone; the tie only wanted some difficulty to rivet it closer, some secret to be intrusted with, some distress to alleviate. Of this an opportunity soon after presented itself. Harriet became enamoured of a young gentleman of the name of Marlow, an officer of dragoons, who had come to the country on a visit to her brother, with whom he had been acquainted at college. As she inherited several thousand pounds, independent of her expectations from her father, such a match was very
favourable one for a young man who possessed no revenue but his commission. But, for that very reason, the consent of the young lady's relations was not to be looked for. After some time, therefore, of secret and ardent attachment, of which
folks married without it, and trusted to the common relentings of parental affection, to forgive a fault which could not be remedied.. But the father of Harriet remained quite inexorable; nor was his resentment softened even by her husband's leaving the army ; a step, which, it was hoped, might have mitigated his anger, as he had often declared it principally to arise from his daughter's marrying a soldier.
“ After some fruitless attempts to reinstate themselves in the old gentleman's affections, they took up their residence in a provincial town, in a distant part of the kingdom : where, as Harriet described their situation to Emilia, they found every wish
gratified in the increasing tenderness of one another. Emilia, soon after, went to see them in their new abode : her description of their happiness, on her return, was warm to a degree of rapture. Her visit was repeated on occasion of Harriet's lying-in of her first child. This incident was a new source of delight to Emilia's friends, and of pleasure to her in their society. Harriet, whose recovery was slow, easily prevailed on her to stay till it was completed. She became a member of the family, and it was not without much regret, on both sides, that she left, at the end of six months, a house from which, as she told me, the world was secluded, where sentiment regulated the conduct, and happiness reward. ed it. All this while I was not without alarm, and could not conceal my uneasiness from Emilia ; I represented the situation in which her friend stood, whom prudent people must consider as having, at least, made a bold step, if not a blameable one.I was answered rather angrily, by a warm remonstrance against the inhumanity of parents, the unfeelingness of age, and the injustice of the world.
“ That happiness, which my niece had described as the inmate of Harriet's family, was not of long duration. Her husband, tired of the inactive scene into which his marriage had cast him, grew first discontented at home, and then sought for chat pleasure abroad which his own house could not afford him. His wife felt this change warmly, and could not restrain herself from expressing her feelings. Her complaints grew into reproaches, and rivetted her husband's dislike to her society, and his relish for the society of others. Emilia was, as usual, the confidant of her friend's distress; it was now increased to a lingering illness, which had succeeded the birth of a second girl. After informing me of those disagreeable circumstances in which her
Harriet was situated, Emilia told me she had formed the resolution of participating, at least, if she could not alleviate, her friend's distress, by going directly to reside in her house. Though I had now lost the affections of my niece, she had not yet forced me into indifference for her. Against this proposal I remonstrated in the strongest manner. You will easily guess my arguments; but Emilia would not allow them any force. In vain I urged the ties of duty, of prudence, and of character. They only produced an eulogium on generosity, on friendship, and on sentiment. I could not so far command my temper as to forbear some observa-, tions, which my niece interpreted into reflections upon her Harriet. She grew warm on the subject; my
affection for her would not suffer me to be cool. At last, in the enthusiasm of her friendship, she told me I had cancelled every bond of relationship between us; that she would instantly leave my house, and return to it no more. She left it accordingly, and set out for Harriet's that very evening.
There, as I learned, she found that lady in a situation truly deplorable; her health declined, her husband cruel, and the fortune she had brought him wasted among his companions at the tavern and the gaming-table. The last calamity the fortune of Emilia enabled her to relieve ; but the two first she could not cure, and her friend was fast sinking under them. She was at last seized with a disorder which her weak frame was unable to resist, and which, her physicians informed Emilia, would soon put a period to her life. This intelligence she communicated to the husband in a manner suited to wring his heart, for the treatment he had given his wife. In effect, Marlow was touched with that remorse which the consequences of profligate folly will sometimes produce in men more weak than
wicked. He too had been in use to talk of feeling and of sentiment. He was willing to be impelled by the passions, though not restrained by the principles of virtue, and to taste the pleasures of vice, while he thought he abhorred its depravity. His conversion was now as violent as sudden. Emilia believed it sincere, because confidence was natural to her, and the effects of sudden emotion her favourite system. By her means a thorough re-union took place between Mr. and Mrs. Marlow ; and the short while the latter survived, was passed in that luxury of reconcilement, which more than reinstates the injurer in our affection. Harriet died in the arms of her husband; and, by a solemn adjuration, left to Emilia the comfort of him, and the care of her children.
- There is in the communion of sorrow one of the strongest of all connexions; and the charge which Emilia had received from her dying friend of her daughters, necessarily produced the freest and most frequent intercourse with their father. Debts, which his former course of life had obliged him to contract, he was unable to pay ; and the demands of his creditors were the more peremptory, as, by the death of his wife, the hopes of any pecuniary assistance from her father were cut off. In the extremity of this distress, he communicated it to Emilia. Her generosity relieved him from the embarrassment, and gave him that further tie which is formed by the gratitude of those we oblige. Meanwhile, from the exertions of that generosity she suffered considerable inconvenience. The world was loud, and sometimes scurrilous, in its censure of her conduct. I tried once more, by a letter written with all the art I was master of, to recall her from the labyrinth in which this false sort of virtue had involved her. My endeavours were vain. I
found that sentiment, like religion, had its superstition and its martyrdom. Every hardship she suffered she accounted a trial, every censure she endured she considered as a testimony of her virtue. At last my poor deluded niece was so entangled in the toils which her own imagination, and the art of Marlow, had spread for her, that she gave to the dying charge of Harriet the romantic interpretation of becoming the wife of her widower, and the mother of her children. My heart bleeds, Mr. MirROR, while I foresee the consequences ! She will be wretched, with feelings ill accommodated to her wretchedness. Her sensibility will aggravate that ruin to which it has led her, and the world will not even afford their pity to distresses, which the prudent may blame, and the selfish will deride.
“ Let me warn at least where I cannot remedy. Tell your readers this story, Sir. Tell them, there are bounds beyond which virtuous feelings cease to be virtue : that the decisions of sentiment are subject to the control of prudence, and the ties of friendship subordinate to the obligations of duty.
“ I am," &c.