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“ I am all attention, Mr. Harcourt,” replied I, bowing politely.
“ It was to say, Mr. Newland, that I should have taken the earliest opportunity after my recovery, had you not disappeared so strangely, to have expressed my sorrow for my conduct towards you, and to have acknowledged that I had been deservedly punished; more perhaps by my own feelings of remorse, than the dangerous wound I had received by your hand. I take even this opportunity, although not apparently a favourable one, of expressing what I consider it my duty, as a gentleman who has wronged another, to express. I certainly was going to add more, but there is so little chance of its being well received, that I had better defer it to some future opportunity. The time may come, and I certainly trust it will come, when I may be allowed to prove to you that I am not deserving of the coolness with which I am now received. Mr. Newland, with every wish for your happiness, I will now take my leave; but I must say, it is with painful feelings, as I feel that the result of this interview will be the cause of great distress to those who are bound to you, not only by gratitude, but sincere regard."
Harcourt then bowed, and quitted the room. “It's all very well,” muttered I, “but I know the world, and am not to be soothed down by a few fine words. I trust that they will be sorry for their conduct, but see me again inside of their doors they will not," and I sat down, trying to feel satisfied with myself—but I was not; I felt that I had acted harshly, to say no more. I ought to have listened to an explanation'sent' by Cecilia and her mother, after her coming down stairs to me to expostulate. They were under great obligations to me, and by my quick resentment, I rendered the obligations more onerous. It was unkind of me and I wished that Harcourt had not left the room. As for his conduct, I tried to find fault with it, but could not. It was gentlemanly and feeling. The fact was, I was in a very bad humour, and could not, at the time, discover the reason, which was neither more nor less than that I was more jealous of finding Harcourt so intimate at Lady de Clare's, than I was at the unpalatable reception which I had met with. The waiter came in, and brought me a note from Mr. Masterton.
“ I have this morning received a summons from your father, who returned, it appears, two days ago, and is now at the Adelphi Hotel. I am sorry to say, that stepping out of his carriage when travelling, he missed his footing, and has snapped his tendon Achilles. He is laid up on a couch, and as you may suppose, his amiability is not increased by the accident, and the pain attending it. As he has requested me to bring forward immediate evidence as to your identity, and the presence of Mr. Cophagus is necessary, I propose that we shall start for Reading to-morrow at nine o'clock. I have a curiosity to go down there, and having a leisure day or two, it will be a relaxation. I wish to see my old acquaintance, Timothy, and your shop. Answer by bearer.
“ J. Masterton."
I wrote a few lines, informing Mr. Masterton that I would be with him at the appointed, hour, and then sat down to my solitary meal. How different from when I was last at this hotel ! Now I knew nobody, I had to regain my footing in society, and that could only be accomplished by being acknowledged by my father; and, as soon as that was done, I would call upon Lord Windermear, who would quickly effect what I desired. The next morning I was ready at nine o'clock, and set off with post horses, with Mr. Masterton, in his own carriage. I told him what had occurred the day before, and how disgusted I was at my reception.
“ Upon my word, Japhet, I think you are wrong," replied the old gentleman; “and if you had not told me of your affection for Miss Temple, to see whom, by-the-bye, I confess to be one of the chief motives of my going down with you, I should almost suppose that you were blinded by jealousy. Does it not occur to you, that if Mr. Harcourt was admitted to the ladies at such an early hour, there is preference shown him in that quarter? And now I recollect that I heard something about it. Harcourt's elder brother died, and he's come into the property, and I heard somebody say that he would in all probability succeed in gaining the handsomest girl in London, with a large fortune—that it was said to be a match. Now, if such is the case, and you broke in upon a quiet reunion between two young people about to be united, almost without announcement, and so unexpectedly, after a lapse of so long a time, surely you cannot be surprised at there being a degree of confusion and restraint-more especially after what had passed between Harcourt and you. Depend upon it that was the cause of it. Had Lady de Clare and her daughter been alone, your reception would have been very different ; indeed, Cecilia's following you down stairs, proves that it was not from coolness towards you; and Harcourt calling upon you, and the conversation which took place, is another proof that you have been mistaken."
“I never viewed it in that light, certainly, sir," observed I. "I merely perceived that I was considered intrusive, and finding in the company one who had treated me ill, and had been my antagonist in the field, I naturally supposed that he had prejudiced them against me. I hope I may be wrong; but I have seen so much of the world, young as I am, that I have become very suspicious.”
“ Then discard suspicion as fast as you can, it will only make you unhappy, and not prevent your being deceived. If you are suspicious, you will have the constant fear of deception hanging over you, which poisons existence." • After these remarks I remained silent for some time; I was analyzing my own feelings, and I felt that I had acted in a very absurd manner. The fact was, that one of my castle buildings had been, that I was to marry Fleta as soon as I had found my own father, and this it was which had actuated me, almost without my knowing it. I felt jealous of Harcourt, and that, without being in love with Miss de Clare, but actually passionately fond of another person ; I felt as if I could have married her without loving her, and that I could give up Susannah Temple, whom I did love, rather than that a being whom I considered as almost of my own creation, should herself presume to fall in love, or that another should dare to love her, until I had made up
my mind whether I should take her myself: and this after so long an absence, and their having given up all hopes of ever seeing me again. The reader may smile at the absurdity, still more at the selfishness of this feeling ; so did I, when I had reflected upon it, and I despised myself for my vanity and folly.
“What are you thinking of, Japhet?” observed Mr. Masterton, tired with my long abstraction.
“ That I have been making a most egregious fool of myself, sir," replied I, “ with respect to the De Clares."
“ I did not say so, Japhet; but, to tell you the truth, I thought something very like it. Now tell me, were you not jealous at finding her in company with Harcourt ?".
“ Exactly so, sir."
“ I'll teli Susannah Temple when I see her, that she may form some idea of your constancy,” replied Mr. Masterton, smiling. “Why, what a dog in the manger you must be--you can't marry them both. Still, under the circumstances, I can analyze the feeling—it is natural, but all that is natural is not always creditable to human nature. Let us talk a little about Susannah, and then all these vagaries will be dispersed. How old is she ?"
Mr. Masterton plied me with so many questions relative to Susannah, that her image alone soon filled my mind, and I recovered my spirits. “I don't know what she will say to my being in this dress, sir," observed I. “ Had I not better change it on my arrival ?"
“ By no means ; I'll fight your battle-I know her character pretty well, thanks to your raving about her.”
We arrived in good time at Reading, and as soon as we alighted at the inn, we ordered dinner, and then walked down to the shop, where we found Timothy very busy tying down and labelling. He was delighted to see Mr. Masterton, and perceiving that I had laid aside the Quaker's dress, made no scruple of indulging in his humour, making a long face, and thee-ing and thou-ing Mr. Masterton in a very absurd manner. We desired him to go to Mr. Cophagus, and beg that he would allow me to bring Mr. Masterton to drink tea, and to call at the inn and give us the answer. We then returned to our dinner.
“ Whether they will ever make a Quaker of you, Japhet, I am very doubtful," observed Mr. Masterton, as we walked back; “ but as for making one of that fellow Timothy, I'll defy them.”
“ He laughs at every thing," replied I; “ and views every thing in a ridiculous light—at all events, they never will make him serious.”
In the evening we adjourned to the house of Mr. Cophagus, having received a message of welcome. I entered the room first. Susannah came forward to welcome me, and then drew back, when she perceived the alteration in my apparel, colouring deeply. I passed her, and took the hand of Mrs. Cophagus and her husband, and then introduced Mr. Masterton.
“ We hardly knew thee, Japhet,” mildly observed Mrs. Cophagus.
“ I did not think that outward garments would disguise me from my friends,” replied I ; " but so it appeareth, for your sister hath not even greeted me in welcome.”
“ I greet thee in all kindness, and all sincerity, Japhet Newland," replied Susannah, holding out her hand. “ Yet did I not imagine that, in so short a time, thou wouldst have dismissed the apparel of our persuasion, neither do I find it seemly."
“ Miss Temple,” interposed Mr. Masterton, “it is to oblige those who are his sincere friends, that Mr. Newland has laid aside his dress. I quarrel with no creed-every one has a right to choose for himself, and Mr. Newland has perhaps not chosen badly, in embracing your tenets. Let him continue stedfast in them. But, fair young lady, there is no creed which is perfect, and even in yours we find imperfection. Our religion preaches humility, and therefore we do object to his wearing the garb of pride.”
“ Of pride, sayest thou? hath he not rather put off the garb of humility, and now appeareth in the garb of pride ?"
“ Not so, young madam: when we dress as all the world dress, we wear not the garb of pride ; but when we put on a dress different from others, that distinguishes us from others, then we show our pride, and the worst of pride, for it is the hypocritical pride which apes humility. It is the Pharisee of the Scriptures who preaches in high places, and sounds forth his charity to the poor; not the humility of the Publican, who says, “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.' Your apparel of pretended humility is the garb of pride, and for that reason have we insisted that he discards it, when with us. His tenets we interfere not with. There can be no religion in dress; and that must indeed be weak in itself, which requires dress for its support."
Susannah was astonished at this new feature of the case, so aptly put by the old lawyer. Mrs. Cophagus looked at her husband, and Cophagus pinched my arm, evidently agreeing with him. When Mr. Masterton had finished speaking, Susannah waited a few seconds, and then replied, “It becomes not one so young and weak as I am, to argue with thee, who art so much my senior. I cannot cavil at opinions which, if not correct, at least are founded on the holy writings; but I have been otherwise instructed.”
“ Then let us drop the argument, Miss Susannah, and let me tell you, that Japhet wished to resume his Quaker's dress, and I would not permit him. If there is any blame, it is to be laid to me; and it's no use being angry with an old man like myself."
“ I have no right to be angry with any one," replied Susannah. “ But you were angry with me, Susannah," interrupted I.
“ I cannot say that it was anger, Japhet Newland, I hardly know what the feeling might have been; but I was wrong, and I must request thy forgiveness ;” and Susannah held out her hand.
“ Now you must forgive me too, Miss Temple,” said old Masterton, and Susannah laughed against her wishes.
The conversation then became general. Mr. Masterton explained to Mr. Cophagus what he required of him, and Mr. Cophagus immediately acceded. It was arranged that he should go to town by the mail the next day. Mr. Masterton talked a great deal about my father, and gave his character in its true light, as he considered it would be advantageous to me so to do. He then entered into conversation upon a variety of topics, and was certainly very amusing. Susannah laughed
very heartily before the evening was over, and Mr. Masterton retired to the hotel, for I had resolved to sleep in my own bed.
I walked home with Mr. Masterton: I then returned to the house, and found them all in the parlour. Mrs. Cophagus was expressing her delight at the amusement she had received, when I entered with a grave face. “I wish that I had not left you," said I to Mrs. Cophagus; “ I am afraid to meet my father; he will exact the most implicit obedience. What am I to do? Must not I obey him ?”
“ In all things lawful,” replied Susannah, “ most certainly, Japhet.”
* In all things lawful, Susannah ! now tell me, in the very case of my apparel : Mr. Masterton says, that he never will permit me to wear the dress. What am I to do ?”
“ Thou hast thy religion and thy Bible for thy guide, Japhet.”
“ I have; and in the Bible I find written on tablets of stone by the prophet of God, · Honour thy father and thy mother;' there is a positive commandment: but I find no commandment to wear this or that dress. What think you ?" continued I, appealing to them all.
“I should bid thee honour thy father, Japhet,” replied Mrs. Cophagus, “and you, Susannah " ... I shall bid thee good night, Japhet.”
At this reply we all laughed, and I perceived there was a smile on Susannah's face as she walked away. Mrs. Cophagus followed her, laughing as she went, and Cophagus and I were alone.
« Well, Japhet—see old gentleman-kiss-shake hands-and blessing-and so on."
Yes, sir," replied I, “but if he treats me ill, I shall probably come down here again. I am afraid that Susannah is not very well pleased with me.”
“ Pooh, nonsense—wife knows all—die for you—Japhet, do as you please—dress yourself—dress her—any dress—no dress like Eve -sly puss—won't lose you—all right-and so on."
I pressed Mr. Cophagus to tell me all he knew, and I found from him that his wife had questioned Susannah soon after my departure, had found her weeping, and that she had gained from her her ardent affection for me. This was all I wanted, and I wished him good night, and went to bed happy. I had an interview with Susannah Temple before I left the next morning, and although I never mentioned love, had every reason to be satisfied. She was kind and affectionate ; spoke to me in her usual serious manner, warned me against the world, acknowledged that I should have great difficulties to surmount, and even made much allowance for my peculiar situation. She dared not advise, but she would pray for me. There was a greater show of interest and confidence towards me than I had ever yet received from her: when I parted from her, I said, “ Dear Susannah, whatever change may take place in my fortunes or in my dress, believe me, my heart shall not be changed, and I shall ever adhere to those principles which have been instilled into me since I have been in your company.”
This was a phrase which admitted of a double meaning, and she replied, “ I should wish to see thee perfect, Japhet; but there is no perfection now on earth: be therefore as perfect as you can."