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BY MRS. INCHBALD.
" When my occasions took me into France, towards the close of the late reign,
the clergy, under all their forms, engaged a considerable part of my curiosity.
“ Thoy seemed to me beyond the clerical character, liberal and cpen ; with the hearts of gentlemen, and men of honour. They seemed to me rather a superior class of men, amongst whom you would not be surprised to find a Fenelon."
GEO, DEARBORN, PUBLISHER.
A SIMPLE STORY.
BY MRS. INCHBALD.
DORRIFORTH, bred at St. Omer's in all the scholastic rigour of that college, was, by education and the solemn vows of his order, a Roman Catholic priest : but, nicely discriminating between the philosophical and the superstitious part of that character, he adopted the former only, and possessed qualities not unworthy of the first professors of Christianity. Every virtue which it was his vocation to preach, it was his care to practise ; nor was he in the class of those of the religious, who, by secluding themselves from the world, fly from the merit they might acquire in reforming mankind: he refused to shelter himself from the temptations of the layman by the walls of a cloister ; but sought for, and found that shelter within the centre of London, where he dwelt, in his own prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
He was about thirty, and had lived in the metropolis near five years, when a gentleman, above his own age, but with whom he had in his youth contracted a sincere friendship, died, and left him the sole guardian of his daughter, who was then eighteen.
The deceased Mr. Milner, on his approaching dissolution, perfectly sensible of his state, thus reasoned with himself before he made the nomination :-“I have formed no intimate friendship during my whole life, except one I can be said to know the heart of no man, except the heart of Dorriforth. After knowing his, I never sought acquaintance with another-I did not wish to lessen the exalted estimation of human nature which he had inspired. In this moment of trembling apprehension for every thought which darts across my mind, and more for every action which soon I must be called to answer for; all worldly views here thrown aside, I act as if that tribunal, before which I every moment expect to appear, were now sitting in judgment upon my purpose. The care of an only child is the great charge which in this tremendous crisis I have to execute. These earthly affections that bind me to her by custom, sym. pathy, or what I fondly call parental love, would direct me to consult her present happiness, and leave her to the care of those whom she thinks her dearest friends ; but they are friends only in the
sunshine of fortune ;--in the cold nipping frost of disappointment, sickness, or connubial strife, they will forsake the house of care, although the very fabric which they may have themselves erected.”
Here the excruciating anguish of the father overcame that of the dying man.
“In the moment of desertion,” continued he, “which I now picture to myself, where will my child find comfort? That heavenly aid which religion provides, and which now, amidst these agonizing tortures, cheers with humble hope my afflicted soul; that she will be denied."
It is in this place proper to remark, that Mr. Milner was a member of the church of Rome, but on his marriage with a lady of Protestant tenets, they mutually agreed their sons should be educated in the religious opinion of their father, and their daughters in that of their mother. One child only was the result of their union; the child whose future welfare now occupied the anxious thoughts of her expiring father. From him the care of her education had been withheld, as he kept inviolate his promise to her departed mother on the article of religion, and therefore consigned his daughter to a boarding school for Protestants, whence she returned with merely such ideas of piety as ladies of fashion, at herage, mostly imbibe. Her little heart, employed in all the endless pursuits of personal accomplishments, had left her mind without one ornament, except such as nature gave; and even they were not wholly preserved from the ravages made by its rival, Art.
While her father was in health he beheld, with extreme delight, his accomplished daughter, without one fault which taste or elegance could have imputed to her ; nor ever inquired what might be her other failings. But, cast on a bed of sickness, and upon the point of leaving her to her fate, thosc failings at once rushed on his thought-and all the pride, the fond enjoyment he had taken in beholding her open the ball, or delight her hearers with her wit or song, escaped his remembrance; or, not escaping it, were lamented with a sigh of compassion, or a contemptuous frown at such frivolous qualifications.
“ Something essential,” said he to himself, “must be considered—something to prepare her for an hour like this. Can I then leave her to the
charge of those who, themselves never remember such an hour will come ? Dorriforth is the only person I know, who, uniting the moral virtues to those of religion, and pious faith to native honour, will protect without controling, instruct without tyrannizing, comfort without flattering; and, perhaps in time, make good by choice, rather than by constraint, the tender object of his dying friend's sole care.”
Dorriforth, who came post from London to visit Mr. Milner in his illness, received a few moments before his death all his injunctions, and promised to fulfil them. But, in this last token of his friend's perfect esteem, he still was restrained from all authority to direct his ward in one religious opinion, contrary to those her mother had professed, and in which she herself had been educated.
“ Never perplex her mind with any opinions that may disturb, but cannot reform"-were his latest words; and Dorriforth’s reply gave him entire satisfaction.
Miss Milner was not with her father at this affecting period :—some delicately nervous friend, with whom she was on a visit at Bath, thought proper to conceal from her not only the danger of his death, but even his indisposition, lest it might alarm a mind she thought too susceptible. This refined tenderness gave poor Miss Milner the almost insupportable agony of hearing that her father was no more, even before she was told he was not in health. In the bitterest anguish she flew to pay her last duty to his remains, and performed it with the truest filial love,-while Dorriforth, upon important business, was obliged to return to town.
the ridicule, but even the appellation of an old maid.
In this house Dorriforth had lived before the death of Mr. Horton ; nor upon that event had he thought it necessary, notwithstanding his religious vow of celibacy, to fly the roof of two such innocent females as Mrs. Horton and her niece. On their part, they regarded him with all that respect and reverence which the most religious flock shows to its pastor ; and his friendly society they not only esteemed a spiritual, but a temporal advantage, as the liberal stipend he allowed for his apartments and board enabled them to continue in the large and commodious house which they had occupied during the life of Mr. Horton.
Here, upon Mr. Dorriforth's return from his journey, preparations were commenced for the reception of his ward; her father having made it his request that she might, for a time at least, reside in the same house with her guardian, receive the same visits, and cultivate the acquaintance of his companions and friends.
When the will of her father was made known to Miss Milner, she submitted, without the least reluctance, to all he had required. Her mind, at that time impressed with the most poignant sorrow for his loss, made no distinction of bappiness that was to come; and the day was appointed, with her silent acquiescence, when she was to arrive in London, and there take up her abode, with all the retinue of a rich heiress.
Mrs. Horton was delighted with the addition this acquisition to her family was likely to make to her annual income, and style of living. The good-natured Miss Woodley was overjoyed at the expectation of their new guest, yet she herself could not tell why—but the reason was, that her kind heart wanted a more ample field for its benevolence; and now her thoughts were all pleasingly employed how she should render, not only the lady herself, but even all her attendants, happy in their new situation.
The reflections of Dorriforth were less agreeably engaged-Cares, doubts, fears, possessed his mind and so forcibly possessed it that, upon every occasion which offered, he would inquisitively endeavour to gain intelligence of his ward's disposition before he saw her ; for he was, as yet, a stranger not only to the real propensities of her mind, but even to her person ; a constant round of visits having prevented his meeting her at her father's, the very few times he had been at his house since her final return from school. The first person whose opinion he, with all proper reserve, asked concerning Migs Milner, was Lady Evans, the widow of a baronet, who frequently visited at Mrs. Horton's.
But that the reader may be interested in what Dorriforth says and does, it is necessary to give some description of his person and manners, His figure was tall and elegant, but his face, ex
DORRIFORTH returned to London heavily afflicted for the loss of his friend ; and yet, perhaps, with his thoughts more engaged upon the trust which that friend had reposed in him. He knew the life Miss Milner had been accustomed to lead ; he dreaded the repulses his admonitions might possibly meet ; and feared he had undertaken a task he was too weak to execute—the protection of a young woman of fashion.
Mr. Dorriforth was nearly related to one of our first Catholic peers ; his income was by no means confined, but approaching to affluence ; yet such was his attention to those in poverty, and the moderation of his own desires, that he lived in all the careful plainness of economy. His habitation was in the house of a Mrs. Horton, an elderly gentlewoman, who had a maiden niece residing with her, not many years younger than herself. But although Miss Woodley was thirty-five, and in person exceedingly plain, yet she possessed such cheerfulness of temper, and such an inexhaustible fund of good nature, that she escaped not only
thing to happen just as she wished (for neither an excellent education, the best company, nor long experience had been able to cultivate or brighten this good lady's understanding,)“Nay,” said she, “I am sure, Mr. Dorriforth, you will soon convert her from all her evil ways.”
“Dear me,” returned Lady Evans, “I am sure I never meant to hint at any thing evil—and for what I have said, I will give you up my authors if you please ; for they were not observations of my own; all I do is to mention them again.”
The good-natured Miss Woodley, who sat working at the window, an humble, but an attentive listener to this discourse, ventured here to say exactly six words; “ Then don't mention them
cept a pair of dark bright eyes, a set of white teeth, and a graceful arrangement in his clerical curls of brown hair, had not one feature to excite admiration-yet such a gleam of sensibility was diffused over each, that many persons admired his visage as completely handsome, and all were more or less attracted by it. In a word, the charın, that is here meant to be described, is a countenance --on his you read the feelings of his heart-saw all its inmost workings—the quick pulses that beat with hope and fear, or the gentle ones that moved in a more equal course of patience and resignation. On this countenance his thoughts were portrayed ; and as his mind was enriched with every virtue that could make it valuable, so was his face adorned with every expression of those virtues ;-and they not only gave lustre to his aspect, but added an harmonious sound to all he utlered; it was persuasive, it was perfect eloquence; whilst in his looks you beheld his thoughts moving with his lips, and ever coinciding with what he said.
With one of those expressions of countenance, which revealed anxiety of heart, and yet with that graceful restraint of all gesticulation, for which he was remarkable, even in his most anxious concerns, he addressed Lady Evans, who had called on Mrs. Horton to hear and to request the news of the day : “Your ladyship was at Bath last spring-you know the young lady to whom I have the honour of being appointed guardian.Pray,”—
He was earnestly intent upon asking a question, but was prevented by the person interrogated.
“Dear Mr. Dorriforth, do not ask me any thing about Miss Milner-when I saw her she was very young: though indeed that is but three months ago, and she can't be much older now.”
She is eighteen,” answered Dorriforth, colouring with regret at the doubts which this lady had increased, but not inspired.
“And she is very beautiful, that I can assure you,” said Lady Evans.
“ Which I call no qualification,” said Dornforth, rising from his chair in evident uneasi
“Let us change the subject,” said Dorriforth.
“With all my heart,” cried Lady Evans ; " and I am sure it will be to the young lady's advantage.”
“ Is Miss Milner tall or short ?" asked Mrs. Horton, still wishing for farther information.
“Oh, tall enough of all conscience,” returned she; “ I tell you again that no fault can be found with her person."
“But if her mind is defective"-exclaimed Dorriforth, with a sigh
“That may be improved as well as the person,” cried Miss Woodley.
“No, my dear,” returned Lady Evans, “I never heard of a pad to make straight an ill shap en disposition.”
“Oh, yes,” answered Miss Woodley, "good company, good books, experience, and the misfor. tunes of others, may have more power to form the mind to virtue than”
Miss Woodley was not permitted to proceed, for Lady Evans rising hastily from her seat, cried, “I must be gone-I have a hundred people waiting for me at home-besides, were I inclined to hear a sermon, I should desire Mr. Dorriforth to preach, and not you."
Just then Mrs. Hillgrave was announced.“And here is Mrs. Hillgrave," continued shem Ó' I believe, Mrs. Hillgrave, you know Miss Milner, don't you? The young lady who has lately lost her father.”
Mrs. Hillgrave was the wife of a merchant who had met with severe losses: as soon as the name of Miss Milner was uttered, she lifted up her hands, and the tears started in her eyes.
“ There !" cried Lady Evans, “I desire you will give your opinion of her, and I am sorry I cannot stay to hear it.” Saying this, she curtsied and took her leave.
When Mrs. Hillgrave had been seated a few minutes, Mrs. Horton, who loved information equally with the most inquisitive of her sex, asked the new visitor—“If she might be permitted to know why, at the mention of Miss Milner, she had seemed so much affected ?" This question exciting the fears of Dorriforthy
But where there is nothing else, let me tell you, beauty is something.”
“Much worse than nothing, in my opinion,” returned Dorriforth.
“But now, Mr. Dorriforth, do not, from what I have said, frighten yourself, and imagine your ward worse than she really is. All I know of her, is merely, that she's young, idle, indiscreet, and giddy, with half a dozen lovers in her suite ; some coxcombs, others men of gallantry, some single, and others married."
Dorriforth started. “For the first time of my life,” cried he with a manly sorrow," I wish I had never known her father." “ Nay,” said Mrs. Horton, who expected every