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a proposition to me with regard to a fortune to become mine, saddled with a condition, which would inevitably destroy the hopes of comfort which I then anticipated with Miss Fanny, I made such a communication as induced you to leave me open to choose between the object of my affections and the mere worldly advantage to be derived from its abandonment. My conduct proved the strength of my attachment to your daughter, and I returned hastily and happily to the bosom of your family, in which I passed so many delightful hours, and I honestly confess that the reception I met with from Miss Fanny was most gratifying to me; although I must admit that I did not think the conduct of Mrs. Wells afforded any striking proof of her sympathy with the feelings of her daughter; indeed, on the contrary, it appeared to me that her manner towards me was considerably changed, and her bearing was such as to convey an impression to my mind that she imagined I ought not to have listened to my aunt's suggestion in the first instance. “Now, dear Sir, I should perhaps here mention that my Aunt, Miss Laura Pennefather, uniformly acts upon the highest principle, and that although her affection for me induced her to draw my attention to what she calls ‘worldly interests,’ (however highly she herself soars above such considerations,) the moment she found that it was impossible for me to overcome the affection which I confessed to her I felt for your amiable daughter, she made the arrangement which I subsequently communicated to you, by which she divided between myself and her protégé the sum which, independently of what she may otherwise leave, she had intended to bequeath entire for her fortune if she had married me. “Having conscientiously and upon principle fairly made the sacrifice—if sacrifice that can be considered which merely surrenders the world's goods, keeping the heart's feelings still secure, I returned to your house; and as I hoped, and I need not say wished, all seemed to go on well. I repeat, that Mrs. Wells's manner was not altogether agreeable: however, when a man really loves—and I appeal to you as one who has loved in the sense of the words in which I now use them—there are few obstacles which are invincible; and I resolved to bear up against whatever I felt irksome, and look forward to the consummation of my happiness in my approaching union with Miss Wells:—but I am sure you will forgive me, circumstances did occur, to which I have already alluded in conversation with Miss Wells, which gave me much pain.
“You have, during our acquaintance, and so indeed has your son-in-law, Mr. Gilbert Gurney, taken many opportunities of alluding in terms of a not very particularly qualified character to my political feelings and principles—to this there can be no possible objection—but it shows the animus, as it is called —and when, in addition to the intolerant political spirit which seems to govern your clerical conduct, I find in you and your family a disposition to ridicule what I consider the true course of religious feeling, and hear you indulging in a jocose manner upon topics which I have been taught never to touch without reverence, I begin to think that a connexion between us would lead to no favourable results.
“My Aunt, Miss, or as she now calls herself, Mrs. Pennefather, is one of those rigidly correct persons, whose feelings
are outraged by the slightest deviation from the strict path of
piety and rectitude—she has questioned me constantly and deeply on the subject of Miss Wells's religious principles, and I have always met her searching inquiries by the unanswerable—as I thought—answer, that she was the daughter of a clergyman of the Church of England. This to a certain extent satisfied her scruples, nice and delicate upon such points, as she is; but I think it only candid and right to say that the conversation which took place with regard to the bishop—and my aunt has always a suspicion of the episcopal character— who examined a candidate for orders in an antichristian author, has so completely alienated my mind from the respect due to the sacred profession which you pursue, as to render it impossible, consistently with my expectations of happiness, to fulfil the engagements with Miss Wells, which, at least, by implication, I have entered into. “It may be as well, dear Sir, to say that so far as our secular feelings are concerned, I have nothing to offer but unqualified praise of your abilities, and thanks for your unbounded hospitality; but taking higher views, for which I am sure you cannot blame me, I must beg leave, however painful the task, to decline all further communication with your family, with reference to any more particular connexion. I do not imagine it likely that you will be inclined to carry this matter further; but should you do so, I shall be happy to furnish you with the name of my attorney—for myself, I have been relieved from the recruiting service in England, and shall join my regiment in Spain in a few weeks. All I hope is, that you will favour me with a few lines to tell me that you are not offended with the course I have taken; and as for Miss Wells, I am sure she
is too implicit a follower of her mother's advice, and participates too much in her opinions, to regret the loss of, “Dear Sir, your faithful servant, “PHILIP MERMAN.”
“Well, Gilbert,” said Wells, when I had finished reading, —“now what do you think of that " The question was a very startling one. The letter was a most unprincipled attack, upon a ground perfectly untenable by the writer; and when this natural conclusion is come to, there must be added the fact, that, as far as I was concerned, I was delighted at the break off—my answer, if it were to be given in a purely independent spirit, was a puzzler. “Why”—said I, somewhat hesitatingly,–" it seems to me that this gentleman has some underground reason for backin out of what must be considered a settled engagement. He even hints at law—now that sort of husband-hunting would not be good for dear Fanny's reputation or respectability; and as for his morality or piety—the excuse is mere trash. The question in my mind is, how much Fanny will care for the loss of him, and what injury his defection will do her.” “None,” said Wells, “no injury whatever—you don't suppose that I care one farthing for what the world of Blissfold say—besides, they are not aware of the varying state of his affections—of his going off and coming on—we are not here like kings and queens, whose every-day transactions are recorded in the newspapers—he is gone—let him go—what say you, Gilbert?” - “I should say ‘Ditto to Mr. Burke,’” said I–" but again I ask, what will our Fanny say?” “Why, ‘Ditto to Mr. Gurney,' as I think,” said Wells. “She is a straight-forward, plane-sailing girl—naturally enough wishing to be married—you know my principles upon that point.—Well, and as long as every thing went smooth, and they were attached to each other, and all that—why, well and good—but I believe she is very much attached to me—and I believe that the mode in which he prepared for his retreat by assailing my character, has very much curdled the kindness she had all along felt towards him. The plea is ridiculous —the pretence absurd—rely upon it, Gilbert, you are right in thinking that there is more in this affair than the letter discloses or even admits. My opinion is, that as I mean of course to take no further steps to recall him, or force him into a marriage, far the best plan will be to leave his letter unWOL. II.
answered—to take no notice of him—but permit him to enjoy. his liberty and campaigning without interruption.” “In this scheme,” said I, “I perfectly agree;” and so I did, upon various grounds. I certainly thought the notion of suing such a man for a breach of promise of marriage, even if it could be brought home to him, would be—always taking Wells's principles upon matrimony into the question—ruinous to my poor sister-in-law. And as to any attempt at recalling him by fair means, I held that it would be beyond measure derogatory to the whole family, not to speak of its personal and particular annoyance to myself. “Well then,” said Wells, “shall I keep my counsel, and say nothing about the letter, but treat the fellow with silent contempt?” “That,” said I, “is the plan—he has behaved outrageously —and if you had a son, I suppose they would be opposite to each other twelve paces apart to-morrow morning; but as it is, let the thing drop—let him hear no more. Of course you will talk it over with Fanny, and unless Smiggs ferrets out the truth, the whole affair will die away in a week.” “I’ll take your advice,” said Wells—“never show your teeth, when you can't—or at least don't mean to bite. So let it be agreed—mum—I shall talk to Fan—but that is all— she won't break her heart, I know.” “But,” said I, thinking of my own perplexities, “what do you think of Mrs. Sniggs's coming here as deputy Brandyball, superseding all our authority, and proposing to take the girls out shopping 4” “Impossible,” said Wells. “So, from what I can gather, is the fact,” said I,-" and will you believe it!—you, who so well remember poor Tom, and his manner, and his face, and his nose, and all—they have sent me an inscription and epitaph for his tomb—will you look at it !—see—just read it—I assure you it is a curiosity.” Saying which, I produced the effusion which I had thrust into my pocket. Wells looked over the inscription—the eulogistic inscription to the memory of the lost, and laughed as loudly as any man professing his principles could be expected to laugh who had just lost a son-in-law. “What d'ye think of that?” said I. “Put this by for the present,” said Wells; doubling up the paper, “these things are for days to come. What's doing now! that's the point.”
“Why,” said I, “I am about the last person to ask: I declare myself wholly in the dark. We have got a new character on the stage now that Mrs. Sniggs has made her appearance.” “Where is Sniggs himself!” asked Wells. “I have not seen him since the day before yesterday,” said I; “he avoids me: he has smelt out where the influence in this family lies; and now, upon the authority of a letter from Bath, deputes his lady to supersede my wife in her arrangements with the young ladies about mourning.” “It is odd,” said Wells. “It is disgusting,” said I. “Well,” said my father-in-law, “if you agree with me, that silent contempt is the line with regard to the lieutenant, we need discuss that matter no further—say nothing to poor dear Harriet in the midst of her other vexations—I will have my talk over with Fan at home, and regulate my conduct according to the symptoms she discovers; but under no circumstances will I do any thing further without consulting you.” “You flatter me,” said I: “but is the Lieutenant gone, as they say, for good?” “Why,” said Wells, “I am not one of those who go hunting about, and ferreting out news; but I hear that he's gone “altogether and intirely out of this,' as my friend Colonel O'Flynn says, and who tells me that he has quitted the place in his military capacity—whether this be so or not, I do not pretend to say—but I do not think it likely he will show himself here again in a civil character.” “I should think not,” said I; “of one thing assure yourself, I am firm in my approval of the course you have now adopted, ; let us go to the breakfast-room and see what is going on ere.” And away we went; Wells very much calmed to find that I entertained a similar opinion to his own; and when we arrived in the hall, we found Jane Falwasser lingering—I dare say she had been listening—about the door of the library, evidently with the view of making some communication to me. “Well, Jane,” said I, “where is Kate 3 I suppose she will show me her letter, or at least tell me what my brother desires her to do.” “Kate is gone, uncle,” said Jane. “Gone where 4” asked I. “Gone with Mrs. Sniggs,” replied Jane; “she told her that she was to go with her to buy any thing she wanted at Twig and Dilberry's, and afterwards she is going home with Mrs. Sniggs to see her poor brother Tom in his coffin.”