Charlotte Turner Smith.

Desmond : a novel, in two volumes (Volume 2) online

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nefs to the landfcape — Behind the houfe, the
country wears qui'e another afpe<Si — It rifes
abruptly into fmall knolls, too ftecp for the
plough, and, fiom the nature of the foil, not
much worth cultivation ; fince it is in the low-
er part a black mocr, and the nillocks are of
yellow fand, producing little but the heath and
the whortle-berr* t — The higher ridges, furze,
or thorn?, with here and there, in the hollows,
tufts of (Vlf-planted oaks.

From this rude tra6t of country, the garden
of this hnufe is divided, in fome parts, by an old
wall, in othtrs by a thick hedge of yew and
holly, the g'owth of centuries j for this is an
old manorial refidence ; and b fides the long row
of firs, of very ancient date, that fhade part of
the, garden, hdS many marks of having been once
the jbode of opulent pcfillTors, who ornar.ent-
ed it in the tafte of the diiys in V'luch they lived.
The hvft improvements in the houfe appear to
have been made in the time of Elizabeth and
James the Firrt j b. t thofe in the garden are
rather, perhaps, in the iiyk that was imported

• Peiraich.

-}■ V/bortle-terry, or huitj. Faainium MyrtilUs.


BF. SMdND. 17

from Holland by William, when he was fent
for to fecure the liberty of tnglifhmen, and tcarh
them to curtail that of their trees— I mean the
tafte which decorated our gardens with rows of
evergreens, formally planted, and cut into the
imagined fliapes of men, peacocks, ami fundiy
other forms —

" CorgoQS and Hydra?, and Chimeras dire,"

The lafl inhabitant of the houfe, wa? an old
and rich farmer, who had no relifh for thefc m,o-
numents of former elegance) but the wife of
him who now rents it, and of whom I hire my
apartments, told me, with great exultation, that
Jhe had caufed one of the men, at bis leifure
hours, to clip them into thtir former beauty^
and '< make them fit to be (een, all's one, a?
folks fay, they ufcd to be in the old Squire's
time." — Bur, as this ruftic fculptor, of vegeta-
bles is not very expert in his art, the box, the
holly, and the yew, have loft all refemblance to
themffclves, without finding any other — In the
borders beneath them, however, there are a great
many flowers, wliofe roots have furvived thofe
who planted them, and thefe are even fcaitered
over the rough parts of the enclofure, which is
given up to the culinary produdiions, or left
wholly uncultivated

** Along the wafte, where once the garden fmiled.
And where ftiJl many a garden flower giows wild.*"

And it is among thefe, which are now peeping
through the grafs, or blooming, unfeen, among

♦ Goldftnith.



the thyme, balm, and lavender, that I, in my
melancholy meditations, repeat

*• The tender rofe which fcems in winter dead,
Revives in Spring, and lift? it» dew) head :
But we — the great, the gloiious and tiie wife!
- When once the hand of deaih has clos'd cur eyes—*"

Or rather, the lighter comnDcnt of a very agree-
able French authorefs on this text, which con-
clues with

•' Mais hells !— pour voulcir tevivre,

La vie eft il on bien fi d'lux ?

Qoind nouk raimnns tant, fongeons nous

De combien de chagrins, i* ptita nous delivre?

EUe n*ett rju'un amas de craintes, de douleurs,
k. De travauK, de loucif, de peines.
^ Pour qui tonnoit les miferes humaines ;

Mourirn'tft pas le plus grands ces malheurs.'}'"

But 1 am getting again into refiedions, which
J biame myfclf for indulging, and moralizing,
when I undertook to give you a pidure of my

Thehoufe itfelf is very old j wide, projeiling
cafements, divided by heavy ftone work, a great
brick hall, and

" Paffages ihnt lead to n'Uhing."

May give you fomc idea, and perhaps a drepry
idea of the fort of houl'e. — The farmer, and
hi? family, inhabit the northern end of it, which
was once the fervants apartments, kitchen, and

* Myllitmof Mofclius on the death of Bion.
•|- Les fleurt, Idylle par Madair.e dcs-Houlieres.



buttery — The rooms, however, which I have
taken, are not To forlorn, as from the general
air of the houfe you would fuppofe — I have a -
parlour wainfcotted and carpetted — The chim-
ney, indeed, is very large, but, at this time of
the year, is

" With flowers, and fennel E*y,*"

And will I dare fiiy, look very well with a blaz-
ing wood fire in it — Above, I have a very good
bed-chamber for myfelf, nnd one, ftill better,
immediately adjoining, for my children j thefe
are papered, and though not in a very modern
ftyle, perhaps, they are clean, and warm — I have
defired fume great, old, family pi6iures, with
which both theie and the parlour were disfigured,
might be removed, and I {\iA\ fupply the places
of thefe heroes, who bled in the civil wars, (as
I guefs, by their wigs and their armour) and the
dames, whofe fimpering chaims rewarded their
prowefs, but whofe very names arc now forgot-
ten, (fad lefibn to human vanity !) with rude
brackets of wood, en which I (hall put flowers,
and between ihem fhelves for the books I have
broujiht with me — Thefe little arrangements
fcrve to occupy my mind ; and I forget the con-
vcniencics and luxuries of which 1 am deprived,
in contriving how I may ftill obtain thofe few,
which (perhaps, from Angularity of tafte) are
more neccflary to my content, than the fide-
board of plate, the elegant furniture, and haiid-
lome carriages, 1 have parted with.

I think more of their late thoughtltfs owner,
poor Verney! yet why do I fpeak of him m a
tone cf pity, when he is, probably, muchh^p-

* Gold mith. ■



pier than I am ?—■ I have had no other letter
from him fince our hafty parting in Lon^'on,
than that, wherein he very briefly i-ffenttd to
my propofed retirt-ment; and fai'd, though not
in direct terms, that if 1 did not embarrafi him
about money, I was at liberty to do with myfelf
and my children whatever I thought goc3^^ — I
will not comment on this — I wi!) ' rdeavour not
to think of it— I turn always with painful piea-
fures, X.0 fome other fubjedls ; but to one I think
with pieafure only. I am happy to hear Mr.
Bethel is at Bath, that you have fuch long and
pleafant Converfations with him, and that his
charming girl is fo much with you — He is a
man whom I have always regarded andefleemed
for his own fake, as well as becaufe he was fo
excellent a guardian, and is fo warm a fi end to
Mr. Defmond. — You hear that Defmond is at
St. Germain?, that place is, I fuppofe, the re-
fidence of A^Iadame de Boifl->p]ic, when fl:ie is
not with her brother. — But Mr. Bethel tells you
that Defmond is quite reftced to health, and
only occafionallv wears lu> arm in a fling — may
be foon lofeeven that recollediif.n of his painful
adventure! — 1 muft now, my Fanny, bid you
adieu ! my letter is very long, yet 1 have writ-
ten it all while my little William has been
ileeping, and my other charmers walking with
their maid in the fliade of <"ne of the woods,
which a ruliic bridge thrown acrofs the ri\er,
puts within cur re ch — It js now near their
hour of dinner, and I fee them from, n.y win-
dow crofling the mcadov/ } I go to meet them,
and help to bring them home, as I fee, by his
actions, tnat George complains of being tired,
and fclicits his Peggy to carry him as well as

h' >


his fifter. Jr,.will feal my letter on my return,
as it cannot go to the poft till to-morrow.

May 29th, Nine at Night.

I did not imagine, my Fanny, in leaving mj
letter unfealed this mornin.;, that I. ftiould have
to add to its contents, the hiftoryof acircum-
ftance that has furprifed me a good deal.

On my meeting my children in the field be-
low the houfe, their maid told me, that Mafter
George had tired himfelf fo by playing with a
gentleman whom they had met, and with a
great dog he had with him, that ihe could hard-
ly get him home. I enquired who the gentle-
man was ; and heard, that they bad feen him
reading in the wood, and that the dog, which
was a large water-fpaniel, having ran towards
the children, and fomewhat alarmed the little
girl, his mailer, who was, as Peggy defcribed
him, *' one of the molt handfome gentlemen
£he ever fet eyes upon," had come up to them,
and afked very eagerl)', whofe children thzy
were; and hearing that their names were Ver-
ney, he had taiven them both up and IcifTed
them — That the little boy looked earncftly at
him, and then returned his fondnefs ; and that
once, in playing with him, the genclcman,
called him George, as if he had known him
before — I deiired the maid to defcribe the hgure
of this genileman, that I might know If it were
any of my acquaintance — She faid, " that he
was a tall, and, (according to her phrafe) quite
a grand looking ynan^ though not lujly^ but rather
tbinnijh \ he had dark eyes, brighter than any
diamonds, and brown hair } but that he looked
a little pale, as if he was fickj and though he


22 D E S M O K D.

feemed in his way fomehow like an officer, that
he was left-handed." — Till now, I had formed,
I own, a vague, and yet a very uneafy idea, that
this rtranger, who knew the name of my little
boy fo well, might be Colonel Scarfdale ; but
this defcription did not at all anfwer his perfon ;
and then I recollected, that if it had been him,
George Vv'ould have known him, and indeed the
maid alfo, who has been fo lately accuftomed to
fee him every day — 1 then fuppofed it might be
fome of the neighbouring gentlemen, and bade
Peggy dcfcribe him to the farmer's wife and fer-
vants, which fhe has juft done, and tells me that
there is no fuch perfon in this country that they
know of, and that the nearefl: gentleman's feat is
above feven miles off — I have again been quef-
tioning Peggy, as this {granger's having fo much
noticed the children, has made a great impreffion
on my mind — She fays, {he is fure, from his
manner, that it is fome gentleman who had been
acquainted ia the tamily, becaufe he feemed To
fond of ihem, and '' fomehow glad to fee them,"
ajid that he afked George if he often v/alked in
that wood, and whether his mama ever walked
there ? — " And to be fure, Ma'am," remarks
Peggy, " itmuft be fomebody that knows you,
or how (liould he enquire after the children's
mama, for I never told him whether they had a
mama or a papa, or who belonging to them."

The more queftions 1 afk, the more I wifii
to know who th^s is, and whether it is really any
man whom 1 have formerly known who hap-
pens accidentally to be in this country ? — If it
is, he will, probably, fince he knows where 1 am,
call upon me ; and if it is not, of what importance
is the circumftance at all? — Thus I have en-
deavoured to reafon myfelf out of the refllefs
2 cuiiofuv


curiofity that hasdifturbed me, perhaps, foolifh-
ly enough the whole of the remaiiiiiig day — It
is now night — a calm, a lovely nighr, without
a moon indeed, but with the can(>py of heaven
illuminated with countlefs miriads of "planeta-
ry fires". — Such a night, my Fanny, as fome of
thofe in which we ufed, during the iirft year of
my marriage, to be induced by Defrnond to wan-
der in the coppice-walks and ihrubberie?, that
furrounded the Lawn at Linwell — Alcne,as I am
here, I muft not venture fo far from the houfe ;
but 1 may traverfe the grafs-plat before it, and
liften to the nightingales, of which numbers fa-
lute me every evening with their fong from the
oppofite woods ; their delicious notes, foftened
and prolonged by the echos from the bridge and
the water ; one only one, feems to have taken up
his lonely abode in the garden here — Alas! I
could be romantic enough to fancy it the fpirit of
fome folitary and deferted being like myfelf, that
comes fympathetically to hear and foothe my

Let me tell them then to this vifionary vifi-
tant, rather than to my Fanny, and now, in
wifhing her a good night, wilh too, that her
(lumbers may bring to her mind, without dif-
turbing it, the image of, her






6th June, 1791'

THE opportunities! have of fending tothe
poft are fo few, my dear fifter, that though I
write whenever I have any thing to fay, which I
imagine you wifli to hear, or whenever it re-
lieves my heavy heart, to pour out its fofrovvs to
you, yet I know my letters do not reach you
regularly, and I have, from the fame caufe, the
mortification of waiting fome days for your's,
after they arrive at the poft-office of the neigh-
bouring town.

You may, perhaps, be anxious to know if I
have again heard of the ftranger, whofe notie
of my children feemed fo extraordinary, and i
own, for the following day or two, gave me fome
uneafinefs — He was probably, however, only a
traveller of tafte, invited by the beauty of this
part of the country at this feafon, to make an
abode of a day or two at fome little neighbour^
ing public-houie, or cottage, a circnmftance
which, my landlord here, tells rae, is not unfre-



<qucnt — It was, perhaps, the lovelinefs of my
httle ones that attraCled his attention, and
not any previous acquaintance with their fa-
mily ; and for the famiHarity with which he
feemed to treat them, much of it poffibly ia
the mere fancy of Peggy, who, though a ve-
ry good girl, is as likely as any other, to add
to a ftory flie tells from a natural love of the
marvellous. — I fay thus much about this ad-
venture, lead what I told you in my lad let-
ter fhould raife any uneafy ideas in your mind i
for I know you have a hundred fancies about
Colonel Scarfdale, and fuppofc that he is a
fort of modern Lovelace ; but, believe m.e, my
Fanny, that character does not exift now ;
there is no modern man of fafhion, who would
take a hundredth part of the trouble that Rich-
ardfon makes Lovelace take, to obtain Helen
herfelf, if (he were to return to earth — And
Scarfdale is a man fo devoted to the acquifition
of fame in his own (lyle of life, that with my
change of fortune, Ais purfuit ends — It would
have added fomething to the glories he alrea-
dy boafls in the annals of gallantry, if he-
could have carried otTVerney's wife from her
huflnind, her children, and lier fame ; but
now that fl)e is baniihed from the circles where
file was talked of and followed — now, that flie
is forgotten by the idle fiutterers who furround-
ed her for a few months ; flie is too humble,
and too inconfiderable, to be any objedt to
fuch a man, and is, Ihe thanks lieaven, fhel-
tered by her obfcurity from his .nfolcnt pre-

I have little more to fay to-dny, but that my
•irecious William is better, and pry appre-

^^OL. n. C heulions


henfions about him fubfide aga:!i — I impatient-
ly wait to hear how my brother's love affair
proceeds, though, in my lad letter, I omitted
to mention his name, engaged, as I was, by
the multiplicity of trifles ; but this is not
owing to any indifPerence about him — I love
my brother, and Ihould rejoice in his being
happily married, thougli he feems to have for-
gotten that he has a filler, whole comfortlefs
defliny fliould, at leaft, fecure to her the com-
mon civilities of life from her own family, if
they cannot fpare her any fliare of their affec-
tions — Alas ! how eafily do common minds
make to themfelves excufes for forfaking and
forgetting the unhappy — Were I again to ap-
pear (which heaven forbid) in thofe focieties,
whofe members now think me funk below
them — what infulting pity ! — what contemptu-
ous condolences I fbould receive ! — In pro-
portion as I was once thought the obje(Sb of
envy, fnould I now be that of ill concealed tri-
umph, and malignant (corn, under the fem-
blance of fympathy and concern — When thefc
though.ts ariie, you cannot imagine how well
plcafci I am that I am here —

Are not thefe woods

More free from peril than the envious court ?*'*

And, as I hide myfelf in them, I regret no-
thing but your company, my filter, and yet, I
ought not to with you with me, when you
are where the young and happy ought to be,
amid that world which has, at your age, and
with your unbligh.ted profpeds, fo many



Farewell, for the prefent — it is a delicious
evening, and I will now venture to walk out
and enjoy it — How forcibly every fuch fcene
brings to my mind our morning walks, our
evening rambles in Kent, and the pleafaut lit-
tle trios we ufed to make with Mr. Dcfmond,
^A■ho has fo much tafte, and (o much genuine
euthufiafm — I wonder vi^hether he is as much
gratified by the charms of Spring at St. Ger-
mains, as he ufed to be in England ? I flioukl
rather fear not ; at leaft, that he is lefs likely
there to find companions vi'ho underfland him
and can participate his pleafure ; for the
French ladies in general have, I believe, ve-
ry little notion of that fpecies of delight, that
arifes from contemplating the fimple beauties
of nature — A few days v/ill foon make it a
twelvemonth fincc I law Defmond, and of time, he has facrificed more than half
to his difnitercfled frienddiip to my brother —
But I have repeated this fo often to myfelf,
that, perhaps, I have as often obtruded it up-
on your recollc£lion.

1 have found in the oppofite v/oods one of
the mofh fingular, and moft beautiful fpots
that I ever law — It is a little hill, or rather
three or four hills that fecm piled together,
though the inequality of their forms is ccn-
rcaled ami adorned by the variety of trees with
wJiich lliey are covered ; many of thefe are
ever-grecns, fuch as J-o11y and yew ; gnd juft
where their {l:adc is tiie dirkell, they fudden-
iy recede, and from a lloncy excavation,
burds forih ? ftrong and rapid dream of
pure and brilliant water, v.hicli pours dire-Tbly
down the precipice, and Is Ijft in the trees
C 2 that


that crowd over it A few paces hig/ier up

from a bare proje£lion of rock, darts forth
another current equally limpid, and having
made itfelf a little bafon, which it fills, ithai-
tcns over the rugged flones, that are thus
worn by its courfe, and dafliing down the hill
for fome time in a difl'erent dired^ion, meets
the former fl.ream ; united they make a confi-
derable brook, and haften to join the Wye ;
not, however, till two or three other little
wandering currents, that arife ftill nearer the
fummit of this rocky emintrnce, which feems
to abound in fprings, have found their way to
the fame courfe — Of thefe unexpe(fled gufties
of water, you hear the murmurs often with-
out feeing from whence they arife ; fo thick-
ly is the wood interwoven over the whole
furface of the wild liill j a narrow, and hard-
ly vifible path, however, winds around it,
quite to its fummit, which is lefs clothed
than the relt, and where, on two roots, that
the hand of time, rather than the art of man,
-has tv/ifted into a fort of grotefque, ruftic

chair, I fit and liltening to the foothing

founds of the water, as it either deals or rufli-

es beneath 1 can fee through the boughs

great part of the farm-houfe I inhabit, and
nearer, the grey fmcke of cottages without
, the wood, curling among the mingled foilagc
— It is, my dear filler, in this fcqueflered
nook, that 1 am going to wander, and to think
of )ou as the moil pleating contemplation, in
wliich I can indulge m) fcU" j oncemcre, then,
a good n'ght.

Gracious heaven ! — Am I in the delirium
of one of tliofo icvcrlfli viliouo, which, v iih


D E 5 M O N ». 29

Uttdefcrib.ible fenf.itions of pain, ph^afure
and wonder, reconcile, for a moment, impofri-
bilities, or am I really awake ? — I have feca
liim. — Defmond, whom I believed to be in
France! — Whom I had not the lead iclei of
meeting in this remote country f wiiom I even
doubted, wJiether I liiould ever fee attain !
Tliat I might fay, how truly fenHble I was of
the debt of gralituue I owed Idm ! — But I will
try to recoIle£l: rnyfelf enough to relate, inllead

of exclaiming .' -Yefccnlay evening, I had

finiiliea zs I believed, my letter to you, and
h?,d feen my children put to bed — It was not
yet eight o'clock, and the fun, though funk
beneath the oppofite hills, tinged the whole
landfcape with tjiat rofy light, wiiieh it is ini-
poflible to defcribe — I did not take a book with
me, as I ufually do, when I walk alone, be-
caufe it was fo late, tliat I meant, inllead of
faunterin'g, as I love to do, to take my walk
and return ; however, when I reached tlie wood,
I was tempted, by the perfeil; tranquillity cf
every thing avoiuui me — the fragrant feents
that floated in the air — the foothing fong of
intnnnerable birds, and the low murmurs of
the water, to gratify myfelf with a viewof my
favourite little hill, which I had nevxr yet feeu
in an evening — I reached the top; when
ilretched on the ground, his head reding on
his arm, (from which a book feemed to have
fallen) as it hung over the branch of the rude
chair I before defcribed to you, 1 faw a gen-
tleman who appeared to be fleeping — 'I had no
idea of his face, for his liat and his hair con-
cealed it, nor did I flay to fee if h recoUedled
his figure, but concluding that this was the



fame pcrfcn who had been met by the chikh'cri,
T was returning very haftily from an impulfe
that had more of fear in it than his general
appearance ougli: to have raifed ; when his
dog which lay by him, ran forward towards mc
at the fame moment, the gentleman raifed his
head — I faw Defmond leap from the ground,
and, though in as much confufon as I was, he
inilantly appioachcd me—" Mrs. Verney !"
was ail he faid, and even to tl:at I had nothing,
for a moment, to reply— till he added — "f
am afraid I have alarmed you'* — " you liave
indeed," anfwerc^l I-—" for to meet any one
here, was very unexpected — to meet you !" —
I did not know what I would fay — but he
feemed now to liave recovered himfelf, arid
finifiied the fentence for me — " v/as more un-
expefted ftill ?" — " It was . indeed, for I
thought you v^■ere in France."

He gave no anfwer to this, nor did he ac-
count for liis being- in a part of the country,
where I don*t remember to have heard he hail
any acquaintance or connexions, but fimply
begging of me to forgive the momentary alarm
he had involuntarily been tlie occafion of, he
faid, fnice I hnve had, however unexpectedly,
the happinefs of meeting you, Madam, vv'ill
you allow me to have the honour of atrcndmg
vou to your home V- — I hefitated — I know not
why, and then faid, •' certainly" — We began
flowiy to defeend the winding and ftecp path,
which is crofied by roots, and interrupted by
jvieces of rocks — It was now, from the latenefs
cf the hour, alfo obfcure ; and be, of courfe,
ciifcrcd line hi? ^rm^ which I accepted indeed,


n £ S M In D. tl

but notwitli thntcafv coiifulence I uf<'d to have
in our early rambles, three years ago — -It wii^
now, that I firil oblervcd a black crape rouiicir
his neck, in which he £ung his right arm,
while he alhileil me to liefcend with his left —
I fliuddercd, but I could make no remvirk oa
that, circumllance — He feemcd no mc-re ilif-
pofed to converfc than 1 was, and v.e were
filent till we reached the orchard, fuiTeunding
a cottage, through which the path leads, by a
IHle thorough the me-fulows .md over the brul-e
— He feemcd to know the way, as if he had
been long accudomed to i: — I then difengaged
my arm and lie went M\, but, in reaciiing
die other fide of the (lile, my foot fiippedj
and I fhould have fallen, but Defmond, who
had advanced three or four fteps, ilew back

and caught me- He trembled fo, tliat it

was impofiible to help remarking it — I
feared, that, in endeavouring to fave me, he
had hurt his. arm ; and I ulniofty involun-
tarily, .expreiTdd my anprelienfions — He
allured me he had not received the ilightell:
injury, and again ofi^ered me his loft arm,
on wliich I again leant, and with very little
converfatiyn, and tliat little confiding of
broken and incoherent fentences, we, at length
reached the houfe.

There 'w^re candles in my littk parlour;
and the table was prepared for my fimple
firpper ; 1 alked him, of courfe, to par-
take of it ; he replied, in a low voice, -that
lie feldom fuppcd at all, but could not re-
ufe to fit down — r*cggy came into wait, and
he placed himfelf oppofite to m e.


32 D E 9 M O N D.

It was then, and not till then, my Fanny
that I obt'eived the extraordinary alteration

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Online LibraryCharlotte Turner SmithDesmond : a novel, in two volumes (Volume 2) → online text (page 2 of 18)