« PreviousContinue »
At this moment, a letter was brought him from his new son-in-law, who desired his leave to wait upon him, and im. plore his forgiveness. He owned he had been shopman to a haberdasher; but, thinking his person and talents ought not to be thrown away upon trade, and being also a little behindhand, he had taken to the stage, with a view of making his fortune; that he had married Miss Bragwell entirely for love, and was sorry to mention so paltry a thing as money, which he despised, but that his wants were pressing ; his landlord, to whom he was in debt, having been so vulgar as to threaten to send him to prison. He ended with saying,
"I have been obliged to shock your daughter's delicacy, by confessing my unlucky real name; I believe I owe part of my success with her to my having assumed that of Augustus Frederick Theodosius. She is inconsolable at this confession, which, as you are now my father, I must also make to you, and subscribe myself, with many blushes, by the vulgar name of your dutiful son,
“O!” cried the afflicted father, as he tore the letter in a rage, “Miss Bragwell married to a strolling actor! How shall I bear it?" "Why, I would not bear it at all," cried the enraged mother; “I would never see her; I would never forgive her; I would let her starve at one corner of the barn, while that rascal, with all those pagan, popish names, was ranting away at the other.” “Nay," said Miss Betsy, “if he is only a shopman, and if his name be really Timothy Incle, I would never forgive her neither. But who would have thought it by his looks, and by his monstrous genteel behavior ? No, he never can have so vulgar a name."
“Come, come,” said Mr. Worthy, “were he really an honest haberdasher, I should think there was no other harm done, except the disobedience of the thing. Mr. Bragwell, this is no time to blame you, or hardly to reason with you. I feel for you sincerely. I ought not, perhaps, just at present, to reproach you for the mistaken manner in which you have bred up your daughters, as your error has brought its punishment along with it. You now see, because you now feel, the evil of a false education. It has ruined your daughter; your whole plan unavoidably led to some such end. The large sums you spent to qualify them, as you thought, for a high station, only served to make them despise their own, and could do them nothing but harm, while your habits of life properly confined them to company of a lower class. While they were better dressed than the daughters of the first gentry, they were worse taught, as to real knowledge, than the daughters of your ploughmen. Their vanity has been raised by excessive finery, and kept alive by excessive flattery. Every evil temper has been fostered by indulgence. Their pride has never been controlled; their self-will has never been subdued; their idleness has laid them open to every temptation, and their abundance has enabled them to gratify every desire; their time, that precious talent, has been entirely wasted. Every thing they have been taught to do is of no use, while they are utterly unacquainted with all which they ought to have known. I deplore Miss Polly's false step. That she should have married a runaway shopman, turned stroller, I truly lament. But for what better husband was she qualified ? For the wife of a farmer, she was too idle ; for the wife of a tradesman, she was too expensive; for the wife of a gentleman, she was too ignorant. You yourself was most to blame. You expected her to act wisely, though you never taught her that ' fear of God which is the beginning of wisdom. I owe it to you, as a friend, and to my: self, as a Christian, to declare, that your practices in the common transactions of life, as well as your present misfor. tune, are almost the natural consequences of those false principles which I protested against when you were at my house."*
Mrs. Bragwell attempted several times to interrupt Mr. Worthy, but her husband would not permit it. He felt the force of all his friend said, and encouraged him to proceed. Mr. Worthy thus went on: “It grieves me to say how much your own indiscretion has contributed even to bring on your present misfortune. You gave your countenance to this very company of strollers, though you knew they are acting in defiance to the laws of the land, to say no worse. They go from town to town, and from barn to barn, stripping the poor of their money, the young of their innocence, and all of their time. Do you remember with how much pride you told me that you had bespoke The Bold Stroke for a Wife, for the benefit of this very Mr. Frederick Theodosius ? To this pernicious ribaldry you not only carried your own family, but wasted I know not how much money in treating your workmen's wives and children, in these hard times too, when they have scarcely bread to eat, or a shoe on their feet; and all this only that you might have the absurd pleasure of seeing those flattering words, By Desire of Mr. Bragwell, stuck up
* See Part II.
in print at the public house, on the blacksmith's shed, at the turnpike-gate, and on the barn-door.”
Mr. Bragwell acknowledged that his friend's rebuke was but too just, and he looked so very contrite as to raise the pity of Mr. Worthy, who, in a mild voice, thus went on : ir What I have said is not so much to reproach you with the ruin of one daughter, as from a desire to save the other. Let Miss Betsy go home with me. I do not undertake to be her gaoler, but I will be her friend. She will find in my daughters kind companions, and in my wife a prudent guide. I know she will dislike us at first, but I do not despair in time of convincing her that a sober, humble, useful, pious life, is as necessary to make us happy on earth, as it is to fit us for heaven.”
Poor Miss Betsy, though she declared it would be frightful dull, and monstrous vulgar, and dismal melancholy, yet was she so terrified at the discontent and grumbling which she would have to endure at home, that she sullenly consented. She had none of that filial tenderness which led her to wish to stay and soothe and comfort her afflicted father. All she thought about was, to get out of the way of her mother's ill humor, and to carry so much finery with her as to fill the Miss Worthys with envy and respect. Poor girl! she did not know that envy was a feeling they never indulged; and that fine clothes were the last thing to draw their respect.
Mr. Worthy took her home next day. When they reached his house, they found there young Wilson, Miss Betsy's old admirer. She was much pleased at this, and resolved to treat him well. But her good or ill treatment now signified but little. This young grazier reverenced Mr. Worthy's character, and, ever since he had met him at the Lion, had been thinking what a happiness it would be to marry a young woman bred up by such a father. He had heard much of the modesty and discretion of both the daughters, but his inclination now determined him in favor of the elder.
Mr. Worthy, who knew him to be a young man of good sense and sound principles, allowed him to become a visitor at his house, but deferred his consent to the marriage till he knew him more thoroughly. Mr. Wilson, from what he saw of the domestic piety of this family, improved daily, both in the knowledge and practice of religion; and Mr. Worthy soon formed him into a most valuable character. During this time, Miss Bragwell's hopes had revived; but though she appeared in a new dress almost every day, she had the mortification of being beheld with great indifference by one whom she had always secretly liked. Mr. Wilson married before her face a girl who was greatly her inferior in fortune, person, and appearance; but who was humble, frugal, meek, and pious. Miss Bragwell now strongly felt the truth of what Mr. Wilson had once told her, that a woman may make an excellent partner for a dance, who would make a very bad companion for life.
Hitherto Mr. Bragwell and his daughters had only learnt to regret their folly and vanity, as it had produced them mortification in this life; whether they were ever brought to a more serious sense of their errors, may be seen in a future part of this history.
MR. BRAGWELL was so much afflicted at the disgraceful marriage of his daughter, who ran off with Timothy Incle, the strolling player, that he never fully recovered his spirits. His cheerfulness, which had arisen from a high opinion of himself, had been confirmed by a constant flow of uninterrupted success; and that is a sort of cheerfulness which is very liable to be impaired, because it lies at the mercy of every accident and cross event in life. But though his pride was now disappointed, his misfortunes had not taught him any humility, because he had not discovered that they were caused by his own fault; nor had he acquired any patience or submission, because he had not learnt that all afflictions come from the hand of God, to awaken us to a deep sense of our sins, and to draw off our hearts from the perishing vanities of this life. Besides, Mr. Bragwell was one of those people, who, even if they would be thought to bear with tolerable submission such trials as appear to be sent more immediately from Providence, yet think they have a sort of right to rebel at every misfortune which befalls them through the fault of a fellow-creature ; as if our fellow-creatures were not the agents and instruments by which Providence often sees fit to try or to punish us.
În answer to his heavy complaints, Mr. Worthy wrote him a letter, in which he expatiated on the injustice of our impatience, and on the folly of our vindicating ourselves from
guilt in the distinctions we make between those trials which seem to come more immediately from God, and those which proceed directly from the faults of our fellow-creatures. “ Sickness, losses, and death, we think," continued he, “we dare not openly rebel against; while we fancy we are quite justified in giving a loose to our violence when we suffer by the hand of the oppressor, the unkindness of the friend, or the disobedience of the child. But this is one of the delusions of our blinded hearts. Ingratitude, unkindness, calumny, are permitted to assail us, by the same Power who cuts off the desire of our eyes at a stroke.' The friend who betrays us, and the daughter who deceives us, are instruments for our chastisement, sent by the same purifying Hand who orders a fit of sickness to weaken our bodies, or a storm to destroy our crop, or a fire to burn down our house. And we must look for the same remedy in the one case as in the other; I mean prayer, and a deep submission to the will of God. We must leave off looking at second causes, and look more at Him who sets them in action. We must try to find out the meaning of the providence; and hardly dare pray to be delivered from it till it has accomplished in us the end for which it was sent.”
His imprudent daughter, Bragwell would not be brought to see or forgive; nor was the degrading name of Mrs. Incle ever allowed to be pronounced in his hearing. He had loved her with an excessive and undue affection; and while she gratified his vanity by her beauty and finery, he deemed her faults of little consequence; but when she disappointed his ambition by a disgraceful marriage, all his natural affection only served to increase his resentment. Yet, though he regretted her crime less than his own mortification, he never ceased in secret to lament her loss. She soon found out she was undone, and wrote in a strain of bitter repentance to ask his forgiveness. She owned that her husband, whom she had supposed to be a man of fashion in disguise, was a low person in distressed circumstances. She implored that her father, though he refused to give her husband that fortune for which alone it was now too plain he had married her, would at least allow her some subsistence; for that Mr. Incle was much in debt, and, she feared, in danger of a gaol.
The father's heart was half melted at this account, and his affection was for a time awakened. But Mrs. Bragwell opposed his sending her any assistance. She always made it a point of duty never to forgive; for she said it only encouraged those who had done wrong once to do worse next time. For her part, she had never yet been guilty of so