Henry Brooke.

The fool of quality: or, The history of Henry, earl of Moreland (Volume 2) online

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While Harry was speaking, Ned saw a woman standing
before one of the windows ; and, looking earnestly at her,
he gave a sudden jump, and dancing about, cried — sir, sir!
my mammy, my mammy ! there's my mammy, as sure as

Run, Ned, instantly, cried Mr, Fenton, and call James to
me. James, yonder's the woman who stole Ned from his
parents ; have an eye to her, do not let her escape 1 Order
Frank to take a horse and go with all speed to Mr. and
Mrs. Fielding, that they may come and know, of a surety,
whether Ned is their child or not — Stay a moment ; as
soon as you have given Frank his orders, take the rest of
the servants and lay hold on this bad woman ; bring her
into the house by force, and confine her in one of the back
rooms till Mr. Fielding arrives. By all Ned's account, she
must be a very sad creature, and deserves no favour.

James went out with alacrity upon his commission ; and,
having executed matters with his accustomed punctuality,
he returned to the company.



O, sir I cried James, it is impossible that this woman
should be Ned's mammy, as he called her. This is some
unhappy decayed gentlewoman, as innocent of the fact, I
dare answer, as the child unborn. I am sorry, with all my
heart, that I had her used so roughly. Beside, sir, she is
so deaf that she can't answer to any thing of which she may
be accused.

When we took her in hand she was terribly frighted.
Come, says I, mistress, you must now give an account of
all your wickedness. — Ennis, says she, Ennis ? No, but
Enfield ; five miles beyond Enfield, Avith the Rev. Mr.
Catharines. — I know nothing, said I aloud, of your Enfields
or your Catharines ; but I tell you that you must now
answer for the life that you have led. — Dead, dead ! says
she, God forbid ! A dear and good master he was to me,
I am sure. I have lived with him these five years, and
he gave me money enough to bear my charges ; but I fell
sick at St. Alban's and spent all, and I have been these
three days creeping along, and begging wherewithal to keep
life in me on the way.

As you say, James, cried Mr. Fenton, this account seems
pretty feasible ; a deaf servant, however, is something
uncommon. Go to her yourself, Ned, and observe her
more exactly ; for if what she says has any truth in it, it is
impossible she should be your mammy.

Ned accordingly went, but returned under evident
confusion and diflficulty. — I don't know what to think, sir,
of this matter, cries Ned. When I look at the gentle-
woman's face, I could swear, twenty times over, to every
feature ; but, when I look at her dress and manners, I
could again almost swear against her face.

Ned's perplexity added greatly to Mr. Fenton's curiosity.
He got up in haste and went in person to inspect the
party. When he entered, he saw a young woman who
looked very pale and sickly, but of a genteel appearance,


and neatly though plainly dressed. She cast upon him a
sensible and penetrating look, and curtsying to him, with
downcast eyes — Sir, said she, your presence tells me that you
are master here. I know not for what offence your people
have confined me ; but if it is on any suspicion of mis-
behaviour, I have here the certificate of a worthy man and
a great saint, who vouches at least for the innocence of my
conduct. — Here she presented him with a paper that
contained the following words : —

" I certify that the bearer hath served me upwards of five
years, in quality of housekeeper and intendant of my
family ; and that she is a young woman of distinguished
piety and merit, and departs, at her own desire, on some
business to London. Given under my hand, &c.

" Marmaduke Catharines, CI."

On reading this Mr. Fenton bowed, and made a motion
with his hand for her to sit down. He then took a pen
and paper that lay beside him, and wrote to the purpose,
that he requested her to allow him to detain her certificate
for about an hour ; after which he would return it, and
endeavour to make her amends for the unbecoming treat-
ment which his people had given her.

On casting her eye over the paper, she made a low
curtsy, and said — I shall willingly attend, sir, during your
pleasure ; but hope, in the mean time, that your charity
will afford me a morsel or two of the fragments of your last

Mr. Fenton then pulled a bell, and having ordered some
cold meats and wine to be served, he bowed, and withdrew
to his company.

Ned, said he, as he entered, this woman is just as much
the empress of Russia as she is your mammy. Here, Mr.
Clement, look at this certificate; I have no reason to doubt


the truth of the character given in it, for her person and
manners are every way conformable. I am sorry at heart
that I sent in such a hurry for Mr. and Mrs. Fielding ; I
have thereby raised a sort of expectation in them, and it
may be very mortifying to have that expectation so
suddenly and so wholly defeated.

Some time after a coach and six frothing horses
drove up to the door, and Mr. and Mrs. Fielding alighted,
with a kind of impatience and trepidation apparent
in their countenance. As soon as Mr. Fenton had duly
received and seated them — My dear madam, says he to
Mrs. Fielding, I think myself very unhappy in having
given you a deal of unnecessary trouble. My poor Ned
here, has been utterly mistaken in the person of the woman
whom he took to be his mammy. The certificate of her
certain residence bears a date even previous to that in
which we found him ; and her deportment is more than a
thousand testimonies against her being of the wandering or
dissolute class of people. Be pleased, Mr. Fielding, to look
over this certificate; I think it has all the marks of its being

The moment that Mr. Fielding cast his eye on the paper,
A well-known character, indeed ! he exclaimed. It is the
hand of Mr. Catharines, my tutor, my friend ; the man of
the world, excepting yourself, Mr. Fenton, for whom I have
the dearest respect and affection. No question can be made
of any thing to which he sets his affirmative.

Alas ! cried Mrs. Fielding, then all the hopes we had
conceived must again be cast aside. Here comes our nurse,
too, poor woman, in great haste ; I sent her word that we
had found the person whom we suspected to have stolen
our child, and desired that she would meet me here

While Mrs. Fielding spoke, nurse entered panting, and
almost breathless; and, without saluting or taking any


notice of the company — Where, she hastily cried, where is
the boy, madam, whom you suppose to be your child ?

Ah, nurse ! said Mrs. Fielding, we were quite mistaken
in the womaa whom we suspected to be the kidnapper, and
so that affair is all over again.

I have nothing to say, cried nurse, to this Avoman or
t'other woman ; but you must not have another body's
child put upon you. If he is indeed your son, I shall know
him in an instant ; I should know him from all the chil-
dren that ever were born. — Why, nurse, cried Mrs. Fieldmg
eagerly, do you know of any natural mark, or mole, or
spot, by which you could guess at him? — He had no
such spot upon him, madam ; but, if he be a living boy,
he has a mark of my own making that never will out,
and that's the reason that I never dared to tell you of
it. — What mark, nurse, what mark ? tell me instantly, I
beg you.

Why, madam, you must know as how the weather was
very cold, it being twelfth day in Christmas holidays. So
you and my master were from home on visiting, and I had
a rousing fire down, and my child stood by my knee, being
just then twelve months nineteen days old, and as sturdy a
fellow of his age and inches as any could desire to see. So
the cat, all at once, threw down some crockery ware behind
me. Up I started, to be sure, and run to save the vessels ;
but, hearing my child scream, I turned much nimbler back
again, and found him fallen with his little neck against the
upper bar of the grate. It was well that I didn't die on
the spot, for then he must have died too. So I whipped him
up in my arms, but he shrieked and roared terribly. So I
got some softening cream and spread it over the burn, and
I put a plaster upon that again ; and I covered the place
from day to day so well with his cap, that neither you nor
my master knew any thing of the matter. But the shape of
his hurt went so deep into my heart and into my memory,


that, as I was saying, and still say, I should know him by
it again among all the children in all the world.

Go then, my dear nurse, cried Mrs. Fielding ; go immedi-
ately, and examine if this boy has your mark upon him. —
Is this the master, madam, whom you suspect to be your
son ? — It is, nurse, it is ; my heart took a liking to him the
first moment I saw him ; he too was stolen from his parents,
and may as well be my son as the son of another.

Here nurse made a hasty step or two toward Ned, but
suddenly stopping and turning pale — Ah, madam ! she cried,
I wish you would go and try yourself; the wound, if he has
it, is just under his right ear ; for if I should find, indeed,
that he is my very child, I shall certainly run mad on the
very spot for joy. — I dare not try, nurse, I dare not try for
the world, said Mrs. Fielding ; I am already all of a tremble,
I know not how.

Nurse, then plucking up a little resolution, stepped sud-
denly to Ned, and turned up his hair ; when, giving a loud
scream, she had just the power to cry out — My child, my
child, my child ! and dropped down in an anguishing fit of

Mrs. Finding, on hearing her nurse cry out, rose hastily
from her chair, and would have gone to embrace her son,
but falling instantly back she fainted away. The poor
nurse, however, was not so happy. She broke forth at
times into convulsive peals of laughter, that made the house
ring ; and again she fell into fits of weeping, so outrageous
and bitterly desolate, as no heart under the temper of
adamant could support.

While the family were all in bustle, applying remedies to
their patients, Mrs. Fielding recovered, and hearing the
cries of her nurse, she went and kneeled down by her, and
wept with her and over her, while her tears proved a sea-
sonable restorative to herself.

As soon as JMr. Fielding found that his lady was well


recovered, he turned to Ned, and lifting his hair, observed
the remarkable seam that the burn had made. It is, it is
my child ! he tenderly cried. my God ! how is this ?
wherein have I deserved thy smallest notice or regard, that
thou shouldest thus visit me with thy wonders, and by thy
mercies put me to confusion of face ?

Here Ned kneeled respectfully down for a blessing,
which his father silently called upon him with lifted hands
and eyes. He then raised him, and sitting down took him
fondly to his bosom. Thou art, thou art my son, my
beloved son, he cried ; my first and my last, the only off-
spring of my bowels ! Thou shalt no more be a wanderer,
no more be a beggar, my babe ! Thrice blessed be our
meeting, and tenfold blessed thy future fortune ! O that
our lives, my child, might be made one whole oblation to
him from whom this amazing salvation hath come !

By this time the nurse's distemper was greatly abated,
though she still continued extremely low and feeble, and
did not seem to recollect, except by faint glimmerings, any
matter that had passed. Mr. Fielding then proposed to
take her to town to the physicians, observing that there
was room enough for her and Ned in their carriage ; and, as
Mrs. Fielding made no exception, the coach was ordered to
turn directly to the door.

Poor Ned, during this time, was as a person who fluctu-
ated between the dread of leaving known and certain enjoy-
ments, and the hopes of possessing somewhat that he had
not yet tasted.

Mr. Fielding then stepped up, in a kind of quick rapture,
to Mr. Fenton. He caught him in his arms — My dearest
sir, he cried, I love, I respect, I revere you, even next to
my God ! What can I return you ? what shall I say to
you ? All that I am or have sinks out of sight from your
benefits. — I am blessed, my dear sir, I am blessed beyond
expression, replied Mr. Fenton, in being made an humble


instrument of happiness to a worthy man. — sir ! cried Mr.
Fielding, what events next to miraculous ! We came to your
door, but we were not permitted to pass ; our carriage broke
for the purpose ; you then told us of this foundling ; but
what likelihood that among millions he should happen to
be ours ? You then proposed an expedient for ascertaining
the persons from whom he was kidnapped. This expedient
failed. God, however, would discover him, and had' fore-
ordained the means. He set upon him an indubitable
mark for the purpose ; none knew of this but his nurse, and
she has revealed it. Had any one of these many circum-
stances been wanting, our child must have continued a stran-
ger to us forever. — Indeed, sir, said Mr. Fenton, they are all
concurring proofs that you are under the especial eye of
Providence. But sir, I fear we shall have a heavy loss of
our friend, Ned ; for, though he does not want his small
faults, he is a worthy-hearted child, and a very pleasant
companion. — O sir ! cried Mr. Fielding, you and Master
Fenton have a right to command both him and us at all
times. But come, Ned, take leave for the present of your
best friends.

Here Ned, with filling eyes, stepped respectfully to
Mr. Fenton, and, kneeling before him, took each of his
hands and kissed them, crying — My father .' my father !
whereupon Mr. Fenton tenderly raised him, and, pressing
him affectionately to his bosom, cried — God be good to you,
my son, and make you a blessing to your true parents, and
to all your kin !

Ned then turned to Harry, and taking him by both
hands, and looking him fondly in the face — O Master
Harry, Master Harry ! he cried ; I never shall be able to
say the word farewell to you, my Master Harry ! I was
hungry and you fed me, I was naked and you clothed me,
I was a stranger and you took me in ; the whole world to
me was fatherless and friendless, when you were father


and mother, and a whole world of friends to me, my true
lord and master, Harry I Are you not my owner? am I
not your property, your own hard bought bargain ? Did
you not purchase me with your stripes, and Avith your
precious blood, and will you suffer me to be taken away
from you, my heart's master ?

Here Harry, swallowing his passion as well as he was able,
clasped Ned in his arms and cried — My brother, my brother,
my friend and brother for ever ! Then turning to Mr. and
Mrs. Fielding, and wiping his eyes — I hope, madam, I hope,
sir, says he, that you will excuse my young friend here, for
his partiality to a family who have loved him long and very
dearly ; in a little time, to be sure, he will love and respect
you both, above all the world, though put altogether.
Though I grieve to part with him, I heartily rejoice at his
being found, and acknowledged to be the child of such
worthy parents ; and I hope, I say, that you will not be
offended at his concern for parting with his old friends.

No, my noble creature, cried Mr. Fielding, we are
delighted at the proof that he gives of his gratitude, and at
the strength of his attachment, where he has been so highly

Oh, sir ! Oh, madam ! says Ned (kissing the hands of
his parents), did you but know the value of what I lose,
when I leave, when I leave — and here he burst afresh
into tears.

Mrs. Fielding then took Ned in her arms, and tenderly
embracing him, cried — We do, my love, we do know the
value of the family that you leave ; and it is the first and
the dearest wish of my heart, that we should all become as
one family and as one household. This angel here, as you
say, is your rightful owner ; and we owe him more on that
account than our whole fortune can pay, and he shall have
you as long and as often as ever he pleases ; but for this
night, my darling, it would be very unkind not to go with


your good nurse, your true and loving mammy, who has
suffered so much for your sake ; and her case requires that
we should take her immediately to the doctor's.

Here Ned acquiesced ; and having taken a weeping leave
of all the family, not forgetting the meanest servant in the
house, he stepped slowly into the coach, sat down by his
nurse, and away they drove.

As soon as the family of the Fieldings were gone, Harry
withdrew to his chamber and locked himself in, while Mr.
Fenton went to enfranchise his late prisoner.

He first returned the certificate to her, and then present-
ing her with twenty guineas, he bowed and made a motion
with his hand to the door, intimatincj that she was at
liberty to depart when she thought proper.

Having looked several times, with silence and surprise,
now at Mr. Fenton, and again at the money — I should be
very ill deserving of your bounty, sir, she said, should I
attempt any longer to impose upon you. I am not deaf,
as you supposed ; it was only an artifice which I made use
of, when taken into custody, to avoid answering questions.
But you look so altogether the gentleman and the kind-
hearted Christian, that I think I ought to have no reserve
of any kind toward you.

Be pleased then, said Mr. Fenton, as far as prudence will
allow, to let me know who and what you are.

I hope, sir, she replied, that I am very far from being
what I was, otherwise I should be the very vilest of the
vile. Wherefore, if you will allow a weakly woman to sit,
I will tell you the whole of my short story, with the same
openness that I made confession of my sins to Him from
whom alone I can look for remission.

She then narrated to Mr. Fenton the substance of her his-
tory — it was a tale of sorrow, of passion, and of sin. She
had been under housekeeper in the Fielding family, where
she had formed an attachment to a worthless and profligate


young man in the neighbourhood, who had asked her in
marriage ; but this union Mr. Fielding had strenuously
opposed on account of the man's character being so very
bad ; and her lover soon married another. On this she left
her service full of ire and bent on vengeance ; she had fallen
into poverty through unhappiness and neglect of herself ;
and, hovering round the house whose master she conceived
liad so injured her, she kidnapped his child in the absence
of the nurse, who had left him on the lawn for a moment.
For two years she had subsisted by soliciting alms, and had
taught little Ned to assist in her evil trade of mendicancy :
till one day, the parish officers coming on her track, she
deserted the child near Mr. Fentou's gate, and escaped.
Shortly after, being taken ill near Enfield, she was carried
into the workhouse, where, during a long sickness, she had
been attended by the Rev. Mr. Catharines, an old and pious
clergyman, who first taught her to see the errors of her life,
and into whose service she passed on the recovery of her
health, an altered and a happier character in every respect.
To his house she had been now returning after a visit to
a friend near London, when she had suddenly fallen sick on
the way, and spent all her money, and in that condition she
had been seen and recognised by Ned, and brought into
Mr. Fenton's house.

Her story was an ample confirmation of the discovery
made by nurse ; and Mr. Fenton, having taken it all down
in a certified form, dismissed her, in a day or two after she
was rested and refreshed, in one of his own carriages, back
to her master, Mr. Catharines, to whom, as well as to the
Fieldinsfs, he wrote an account of the whole matter.

When he had folded and sealed his letters, he took bills
from his pocket to the amount of thirteen hundred pounds,
and on Harry's return from London presented them to him.
Here, my dear, said he, here is what will enable you to be
more than just to your engagements — it will enable you to


be generous also. And I desire, my Harry, in matters of
charity, that you may never stint the sweet emotions of
your heart, for we have enough, my child, and we are but
the stewards of the bounty of our God.

Here Harry's speech was stopped, but his silence was
more eloquent than a thousand harangues. He suddenly
threw his arms about his dear fatlier, and, hiding his face in
his bosom, he there vented the tears of that pleasure, love,
and gratitude, with which he found himself affected.

On the afternoon of the following day, Harry and
Arabella went to drink tea with the Widow Neighbourly,
who received them with a countenance that spoke an
uncommon welcome. Some other company had arrived
before them, and rose on their entrance. When all were
again seated Mrs. Neighbourly, very affectionately ques-
tioned Harry concerning his father.

On hearing the name of Master Fenton, an elderly gentle-
woman started. Pray madam, said she eagerly, is this
Master Fenton, the son of that noble gentleman who lives on
the hill ? — He is, madam, said Mrs. Neighbourly. — My God !
exclaimed the stranger, can this suckling be the father of
the orphan and the widow ? Is this he who goes about turn-
ing sorrow into joy ? who wipes the tears from the afflicted,
and heals the broken of heart? Permit me then, thou
beloved child of the Father which is in heaven, permit me
to approach and throw myself at the feet of my preserver 1

So saying, she rose with a rapturous motion, and dropping
at Harry's knees, she clasped his legs and kissed his feet,
before he could prevent her.

Poor Harry, much to be pitied, sat astonished, abashed,
and distressed to the last degree. At length, recollecting,
and disengaging himself with difficulty — My dear madam,
he cried, you hurt me greatly ; what have I done that
you should put me to so much pain ?

Babe of my heart, she cried, I am the wife of your


Vindex — your own Vinci ex — whom you redeemed from
beggary and slavery — whom you restored to his wretched
partner — whom you restored to his infant daughter — all
pining and perishing apart from each other, but now united
by you, my angel, in joy and thanksgiving !

Here her words were suffocated, and, throwing herself
back in the chair, she was not ashamed to give way to her
tears, and, putting her handkerchief to her face, she vented
her passion aloud.

Harry then rising, and going tenderly to her, put his
arms about her, and kissed her forehead, and then her lips.
— You owe me nothing, my dear Mrs. Vindex, said he, I am
still greatly in your debt I was the very naughty boy who
brought your misfortunes upon you. But I am willing to
make you amends, and that will do me a great pleasure,
instead of the punishment which I deserve.

The tea-table was now laid, and Mrs. Vindex grew more
composed when her husband entered, leading his daughter
by the hand, a very pretty little girl of about six years old.
Harry instantly sprung up, and running, and throwing him-
self with a great leap upon him, he hung about his neck,
crying — How glad I am to see you, my dear Mr. Vindex !
— Boy of boys, cried Vindex, am I so blessed as to have you
once more in my arms !

The company then rose and saluted Mr. Vindex, and con-
gratulated him on his return to his ancient habitation. But
Harry took him aside, and having cautioned him in a
whisper not to take any notice of what should pass, he stole
a bill for one hundred and sixty pounds into his hand, saying
softly — It is good first to be honest, so there is what I owe
you. And here also is a small matter for your daughter ; I
did not know till now that we had such a sweet little charge
in our family. So saying, he slipped to him another bill of
fifty pounds, and then, turning from him, stepped carelessly
to his seat, as though nothing had happened.

Online LibraryHenry BrookeThe fool of quality: or, The history of Henry, earl of Moreland (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 29)