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plan with readiness, though it grieved her to part with the little companion whose quickness enabled him to catch with facility every thing she taught him; but she was aware that a public school is indispensable towards acquiring manly habits, and that independence of ridicule which are necessary to all who walk the world, however retired be the path they choose.
It was evening, and she was alone when she took possession of two small rooms in Darton street. Dull and dreary was the
every thing. The window of the little sitting-room was close to a high stone wall, nor were light and beauty shut out from that entrance only. From her chamber window nothing could be discerned but a long range of warehouses. There was not even the sight or sound of labour to cheer the prospect. “A cobbler or a blacksmith would enliven the scene,” thought Elizabeth, “but I hope I shall not stay here long." Her first attempt to escape from her new dwelling was a letter to a lady with whom she had long been intimate. Her plan was to open a school, and she solicited Mrs. Graham's assistance, or rather patronage, without taking into consideration how little that lady had to bestow. She answered Elizabeth kindly, explaining to her that her influence was confined to five or six families, none of whom had it in their power to engage for their children an instructress whose accomplishments would entitle her to a higher salary than is given to those who teach the elementary parts of education.
Over this first disappointment Elizabeth did not long weep. Keeping a school is a very depressing prospect, and she felt almost relieved by Mrs. Graham's letter.
Her next application was to a lady who was desirous of procuring a governess for her daughters—one of those ladies whose beau ideal of a governess is that of a being with every talent and every virtue under heaven, combined with a degree of humility that will endure every insult that narrow minds bestow upon the unfortunate.
One lady objected to her because she could not teach velvet painting. It was in vain Elizabeth, who liked the mild tones of this amateur in footstools and sofa covers, urged the superiority of the higher branches of painting. "That might do for artists,” said the lady, and Elizabeth took her leave. Another expected her to teach embroidery and shoemaking to six daughters; but the most fatal bar to her success was the want of a knowledge of music.
After many failures she relinquished the hope of obtaining a situation, and turned her thoughts to her last resource. She determined with a heavy heart, to offer her services as a translator to a publisher whom she had often heard spoken of as a man of taste and liberality. Translating is a fatiguing and inglorious task, but she had no alternative. While she was hesitating whether to address him by letter or apply to him in person, Mr. Warren was announced. Elizabeth knew him well, for he had been a frequent visitor at Mr. Latimer's. He was remarkable only for his extreme dulness, and his desire of being thought a man of genius and learning. He picked up scraps from pocketbooks and newspapers, and wearied his friends by commonplace remarks, uttered in a tone of oracular wisdom. His address to Elizabeth was hesitating and confused. He proposed—and how infamous the proposal—that Elizabeth should write papers for him, of which he should appear as the sole author; and in the meanwhile left her to make up her mind.
"He has made me laugh at least," said Elizabeth, after his departure. “ I always thought him a fool, but never expected such an excess of folly from him; but it will cure me of attempting to set bounds to the folly of a foolish man.”
She then threw down her pen, and abandoned herself to despondency. By the time Warren returned, Elizabeth had so balanced the advantages of his scheme against its objections, as to give him the assent he expected. His presence revived the ridiculous ideas that his proposal had at first suggested. The tone of his voice was expressive of extreme dulness, and there was a stupidity about him that completely oppressed Elizabeth. She began to be ashamed of acceding to his plan, doubting, indeed, if any production, supposed to be his, would obtain a reading from the editor. However, a short time would decide her fate, and she resolved to make the experiment. She inquired beforehand what was to be the compensation for her trouble. He named the probable sum. " You rate intellectual labour very low,” said she; "but no wonder. However, that four or five times repeated, will be enough for my purpose. You are aware that you must furnish me with books. I must have a great many authorities to bring to the field. A man like you will be expected to be very accurate." He professed himself willing to be guided by her in every thing, begged her to try and catch his style, and urged her over and over to exert herself to the utmost, before he relieved her of his presence.
Though Elizabeth wrote with facility, she was obliged to refer to so many authorities, to correct and strike out so many redundancies, that she sat up a great part of the night previous to the latest day on which Warren was to call for her little essay. It was finished at last, and she committed it to its trial with a beating heart.
Great was the astonishment of the editor when Warren presented himself in his library with a manuscript of an imposing size in his hand.Greater still at sight of the subject; and it rose to its highest pitch after reading the first few sentences. He knew little of Warren, but he had always heard his name used as a synonyme with dulness, and he was betrayed into abruptly exclaiming, “ Mr. Warren! I had no idea-I mean I did not expect-Mr. Warren, is this yours?" The blush of guilt flew to poor Warren's face, but Mr. Leslie hastened to apologise. “Leave it with me for an hour or two,” said he, “and you shall hear from me to-mor. row."
Elizabeth had once before charmed Mr. Leslie by the playfulness of her conversation, and the occasional acutenes: of her remarks. There was a nameless something in her style that pleased him, and he accepted Warren's production without hesitation, determining, at the same time, to vindicate him from the charge of ignorance and stupidity.
As soon as Warren received what gave him a delight, he hastened, in a transport of generosity, to divide it with Elizabeth. It was more than she had hoped for, and the consciousness of possessing the means of contributing to her own support, gave an exhilaration to her spirits to which she had long been a stranger. She walked to the school where Louis was making a progress that repaid her for parting with him, and paid, with a thrill of delight, the first fruits of her industry to his master.
She continued to supply Warren with materials for the fame he was acquiring, though there were times when Mr. Leslie strongly doubted
his positive assertions that he was the author of the manuscripts. There was a taste, an elegance in their style, and a sensibility, that he felt never came from the coarse mind of Warren. However, he had no means of elucidating the point, and gave it up, hoping that accident might one day or other expose the deception.
In the meantime, Warren, who began to find the sums he received from Mr. Leslie extremely convenient for his own purposes, began to reduce Elizabeth's share to a third, and then a fourth of the whole. “She cannot want much," he argued with his conscience, “living in those little garrets. I don't see how she can possibly spend five dollars in six months, and always plainly dressed too. I really think I give her more than enough. I dare say she can manage a little to great advantage.”
People who are extravagant themselves are often wonderfully ingenious in devising plans of economy for others. Elizabeth was surprised at this falling off; but, in the simplicity of her heart, she never suspected him of such a pitiless fraud. “I have overrated my own productions,” said she, “and yet I certainly think I have improved. I have studied the rules of good writing; I read with a deeper spirit of observation; it is strange my pieces should appear of less value to the publishers in proportion as they seem to me more spirited and better finished. Perhaps they are thought studied. I myself find a sameness in them.”
A year passed on, and she found that she had just enough to defray Louis's school expenses, and nothing to lay by towards sending him to college. Her health, too, was impaired by constant application, and her spirits crushed by the unvaried sameness of her employment. She felt her health languish: her head ached incessantly; but still she went on for several months. On one occasion she called at Mrs. Graham's, where she expected to meet her early friend Mrs. Leslie, but was disappointed. In a conversation which ensued in her presence between Mrs. Graham and her husband, relative to the pieces she had written, and which were said to be by Warren, she overheard Mr. Graham remark, that Warren had boasted to him, in Mr. Leslie's library, of having made two hundred dollars in six months by his productions—a sum far greater than she had received.
It is impossible to describe Elizabeth's indignation at learning how she had been deceived. She did not hesitate a moment how to act. Warren was to call the next morning for some manuscripts that she had ready for him, and she determined to speak to him of the baseness of his conduct, and break with him at once. But there is something in the mere presence of a fool that blunts our most eloquent reproaches. It would be absurd, she thought, to talk to him of defrauding the orphan; it will be enough to tell him he has acted dishonestly, and that I will no longer “ lend him my pen."
Warren turned pale at her stern inquiry whether he had fulfilled his promise of giving her whatever he should receive from the editor. He solemnly declared that he had done so, but Elizabeth stopped him short by repeating, word for word, the conversation that had passed in Mr. Leslie's library. “Now, Mr. Warren, after this it is impossible that I can continue to give up time and health for you. You know the object of my labour; you know my anxiety to procure for Louis the advantages of a good education, and you have enriched yourself at my expense. Find
somewhere else a pen that will be at your service; mine writes not another word for you.” It was in vain Warren entreated, promised, swore. He even knelt to conjure her to retract. He offered to refund, most liberally; but she was inexorable, and he was obliged to depart, cursing his own folly for boasting.
And now, what was to become of Elizabeth? She thought of sending her papers to Mr. Leslie, but that would instantly betray Warren, and she had promised him to be silent. She was strongly tempted, but resisted. “He has behaved ill to me, certainly,” said she, " but I must not, on that account, forget my own principles. It is the spirit of retaliation that makes dishonesty travel on like a snowball. I must not think of such redress; but what am I to do? The Grahams have already proved their inability to assist me. However, “God tempers the wind to the shorn lamb,”— and, hurrying to her room, Elizabeth put on her bonnet, and set out for the publisher to offer herself as a translator. In this species of writing she had the good fortune to find some employment from Mr. Carlier, a bookseller. But her task proved tedious and difficult. Eighteen months of seclusion and application, uncheered by success, and rendered still more painful by the privations to which poverty is liable, had destroyed the vigour of her mind, and injured a frame that had never been robust. Her headaches were so frequent and so intense that she frequently spent whole days in correcting the mistakes of the preceding ones. The very attitude necessary for writing gave her pain, but she felt that she could not stop, and some days after the time appointed by Mr. Carlier she walked with a beating heart to his house with her translation. She was shown into a parlour at the back of the book-shop, where she sat absorbed in her own feelings, unconscious that she had drawn the attention of a gentleman who entered some moments after her, and who stood gazing with painful interest upon her anxious and excited countenance, which he was sure he had seen before, but could not recollect when or where. And, indeed, Elizabeth was changed since he had seen her last. The calm, high, meditative brow was now contracted by pain, and care had dug caves for those once placid eyes. She sat leaning her head upon her wasted hand, lost in her own anxious thoughts, till Mr. Carlier came in. “Ah! you have brought the translation. However, I have changed
I my mind since you were here last.” Elizabeth, who had learned to anticipate injustice, lost all self-command, and clasping her hands, burst into a passion of tears. "Nay, do not suppose,” said Mr. Carlier, distressed at his own abruptness, " that I have forgotten our agreement. I have no idea of depriving you of the price of your labours."
He unlocked a desk, and took out bills which he put into her hand, saying. “I only meant to tell you that I have deferred the publication of this work for a few months, as there are so many new books in the press.”
Elizabeth hardly heard him. All she thought of was to be at home, and alone. Yet still the future occurred to her. She offered her address to Mr. Carlier, saying in a voice of hopelessness, “Should you have occasion to employ any one in the drudgery of literature, in copying, correcting" —she paused, feeling as if she were soliciting charity. The card dropped from her fingers and she hurried away.
Mr. Leslie, for it was he who had been an unobserved spectator of Elizabeth's distress, took up the manuscripts that lay on the table. BA singular young person, that,” said the bookseller; “I must try and find her some employment. Yet I cannot understand how such an elegant and accomplished woman should be in such extreme distress. But what astonishes you?" for, as soon as Leslie had cast his eyes on the handwriting, he recognised that of Warren's manuscripts. Every thing was the same—the folding of the paper-the very silk with which it was fastened. There could be no doubt as to her being the charming writer he had so long wished to discover. “Latimer!” he exclaimed: "surely this must be the daughter of him who was involved in the ruin of B—and T-"
Upon making inquiries, Mr. Leslie found that she who was now struggling with poverty and neglect had once been among the favourites of fortune. He described to his wife the scene in Mr. Carlier's parlour, and she readily joined with him in the wish to serve Elizabeth. But it was too late to serve or save. She had returned to her lodgings, and, throwing herself upon her bed gave way to utter despondency. A low fever had been for some time hanging about her, and she now lay down, expecting to rise no more.
Elizabeth had not moved from the spot where she had first thrown herself, when her landlady announced Mr. Leslie. His name excited no emotion. She rose mechanically, and went down. Leslie had been examining the books which crowded her little apartment, and every thing he saw convinced him that he was right in his suspicions. He delicately stated to her his discovery, and expressed a wish to remove her to a station where her talents might procure for her competency and respect.The words sounded like mockery to Elizabeth. Her mind was in that state of abandonment and depression, that, had the honours and riches of the world been within her grasp, she would not have extended her hand.
Mr. Leslie proceeded to offer her the superintendence of the education of six young ladies, all of that age when a desire to learn saves the teacher an infinity of trouble. She was about to decline, but the thought of Louis roused her. She lifted her languid head, and attempted to thank Mr. Leslie. “Yet give me a short interval of rest before I begin any new employment. It will be but short, for now I feel as if the prospect of accomplishing the first wish of my heart will give me new life and spirits. It is not to contribute to my own necessities that I have struggled with misfortune; but I have a brother dependent upon me—a boy of such uncommon abilities, that I feel it would be neglecting one of Heaven's best gifts, were I to repress them by devoting him to an employment better suited to his circumstances." * This, indeed," thought Leslie, “is woman's
, love ! · This is woman's pure, self-sacrificing spirit! That which has supported the sage in his dungeon, the martyr at the stake, and many a misnamed hero, is not wanting here. She is satisfied with her motive, looking forward to a reward so uncertain as the promise of talent in boyhood a promise as deceitful as the winds or water.”
He left Elizabeth with excited hopes, that prevented her from feeling for some hours the fever that was preying upon her. But the hour of reaction came. All night the wild images of delirium danced before her tortured eyes; and on the morrow, when Mrs. Leslie called to invite her to her house, Elizabeth's ear was deaf to the soft voice that tried to awaken consciousness.