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CHAPTER XIII.

What lets, but one may enter at her window.

Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders generally discover every body's face but their own, which is the chief reason for that reception it meets in the world, and that so very few are offended with it.

SWIFT.

IT became Middleton's first care to extend to others, as far as possible, the enjoyment of existence that now pervaded his own bosom.

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Happiness," he exclaimed, "is like riches: we are but the stewards of what is intrusted to us, and in both cases we are amply repaid for that which we distribute. Most true is the Latin adage, which tells us that the wealth we give away is the only property we are always sure of possessing and not less unquestionable is it that we double our own felicity by sharing it with others. Benevolence towards our fellow-creatures is the most acceptable gratitude we can evince towards God; and the prayer most sure of finding its way to heaven is, perhaps, that which is offered up for us by the lips of others."

In accordance with this feeling, he enlarged the sphere and increased the activity of his charities. On his first arrival at Brookshaw, he had founded a school, which, it is hardly necessary to add, was open to all without distinction of creed; for he held it not less unchristian to exclude a child from the benefits of education because its parents were

* "Solas, quas dederis, semper habebis opes."

Dissenters, than it would be to shut the doors of a public hospital against every patient who did not profess a particular doctrine. Considering it of more importance to cure ignorance, the disease of the mind, than any bodily ailment, and deeming the claim for education on the part of the poor the most sacred that they could urge, he was at a loss to reconcile uncharitable distinctions and exclusions either with the parable of the good Samaritan, the special injunction to do good to all men, or the all-embracing love that constitutes the very spirit and essence of Christianity. In connexion with the school, he had established a village library, not stocked with books only calculated to foster illiberal prejudices or instil some peculiar tenet, but with such works as combine rational entertainment with sound morality and enlarged religious views.

"This is not enough," he observed to his friend and active coadjutor, Hargrave: "we have taught every one of our parishioners to read, and we have provided them with books and newspapers, so far as our narrow means and the impolitic taxes upon knowledge allow us, in order that we may counteract the mischievous publications of the day; but the good folks of Brookshaw, like others, are fond of society; they like to discuss what they have read, and talk over the contents of the newspaper, for which purpose they have no place of rendezvous but the tap-room, where example, sympathy, and the necessity of moistening their arguments, should they happen to be dry, sometimes lead to excesses which they themselves are the first to deplore when they discover the shrunk state of their finances on the following morning. To prevent this evil, I would have a reading or club-room appended to our little library, where the subscribers might meet two or three nights in the week, and settle the affairs of the village, or of the nation, if they think proper, over such moderate and inflexibly restricted potations as might be agreed upon among themselves. By these means, in conjunction with the Temperance Society, to which many have already subscribed their names, we might wean them from the use of ardent spirits and the habitual haunting of the alehouse, without infringing upon that sociable conviviality and relaxation which they have quite as much right to enjoy as ourselves, and of which I should be the very last man to deprive them. Our humbler fellow-countrymen will now be generally educated; many of them, under the Reform Bill, will be entitled to the elective franchise; all will take a deeper interest in the

institutions of their country; and, while we are thus politically elevating a whole class, we should endeavour to raise them also in the moral scale, by alluring them as much as possible from coarse and degrading propensities, and giving them a taste for more refined and intellectual recreations than they have hitherto been accustomed to seek.”

Both friends being fully agreed upon these points, they set to work with a zeal and judgment that soon produced effects apparently incommensurate with the limited means employed; so true is it that good-will and good discretion will often create funds for themselves, and ensure success where much ampler finances, without such auxiliaries, would be almost sure to fail. Deeply, however, as Middleton's heart was engaged in these philanthropic operations, its scene of paramount attraction was Maple Hatch, whither he now betook himself almost daily, seizing every opportunity to draw Chritty into conversations similar to that which we detailed in our last chapter, and never leaving her without a more exalted impression of her talents as well as of her virtues. On his return he rarely failed to pay a visit to the parsonage-house, where the manifest felicity which his friend enjoyed in the society of the sprightly Lucy strengthened his own unsuccessful but ineradicable love for Chritty, and made him sigh with a daily increasing ardour for the conjugal delights so congenial to his affectionate temperament and domestic habits.

Upon this subject a new and sweet hope, welcomed with an avidity proportioned to the transport it excited, began to steal into his heart. By that occult free-masonry which enables lovers to discover their mutual attachment, either through the silent eloquence of the eyes, or by some other equally inscrutable medium, he flattered himself that he was by no means indifferent to her who had continued to possess his whole affections. These nascent hopes rapidly expanded as he referred to the letter in which she had rejected his suit, for he could not but feel that circumstances were now materially altered, and that some of the impediments to their union, which were then deemed insuperable, had been removed altogether, while others were considerably modified. Lucy was married, and her residence at Brookshaw now pleaded in his favour; the difficulties that bore reference to the father and aunt Patty were certainly not invincible, since he was most ready to receive them as inmates at the Lodge; and as to his gloomy superstitious VOL. II. 14

views on the subject of man's destiny, both here and hereafter, they were happily eradicated from his mind, which was henceforward open to a participation in her own enviable cheerfulness. Urged by these considerations, and by a daily and hourly increasing love, which told him that Chritty Norberry had now become absolutely indispensable to the permanent establishment of his happiness, he resolved upon again making her a tender of his hand, grounding his importunity on the changes to which we have referred. Natural diffidence, the awkwardness of presenting himself a second time as a suitor, and the fear of disturbing an intercourse in which he found so keen a delight, and which he might be assured of retaining if he would consent to sink the lover in the friend, withheld him from again formally declaring himself, until an occurrence took place which completely satisfied him as to the state of Chritty's affections, and brought affairs to an issue much more rapidly than he had anticipated.

As he was about to leave the house one morning he received the following letter by post:—

“Infatuated man, once more beware! Though you know it not, I have been watching your footsteps with the friendly intention of saving you from ruin. I find you have renewed your attentions to Miss Norberry, notwithstanding my former caution. Again do I warn you against her delusions. She is deceiving you, even as you were deceived at Cambridge; she is attached to another, with whom she has lately had several clandestine interviews. If you will not trust my assertions, believe at least the evidence of your own senses. Station yourself this night at the back of Maple Hatch, towards ten o'clock, and you will see her lover escape from the window of the little china-closet, which is their place of assignation. Seek not to discover the writer of this letter; he is your friend, but he is, and ever will be, "AN UNKNOWN."

On the perusal of the former calumnious attack upon Christiana, Middleton had burst into an indignant and un、 governable rage; but this second scrawl, though it advanced still graver and more circumstantial criminations against her, was read over with such a thorough conviction of its atrocious falsehood, that it only inspired him with a contemptuous loathing for the wretch who had penned it. His

faith in Chritty's truth and purity was too deeply rooted in his soul to be shaken even for an instant, and, however he might regret the confirmation that some secret villain was still conspiring both against her happiness and his own, he was not sorry that his charges had at length assumed a tangible shape, and that he had named the hour and the spot where, if he attempted to substantiate them, either by himself or his confederates, he might be detected, seized, and forced to confess the motives of his malignity. For this crisis and consummation Middleton had been longing with an intense curiosity, sharpened by a feeling of self-preservation; for, as he knew that some deadly enemy was plotting against his life, he was naturally anxious to free himself from a predicament which oppressed though it could not intimidate his heart. Hargrave had recommended him to go always armed, but this counsel he had rejected, observing that he had rather meet death at once, than die every day by living in the constant dread of it.

On comparing this letter with the previous one, it was found to be in a different hand-writing, though he had no doubt it had been dictated by the same party, as was indeed sufficiently intimated by its contents, and the reference to the love-affair at Cambridge. From the writer's confession that he had been watching his footsteps, he concluded him to be the person whom Hargrave and himself had chased in the plantations, circumstances which only whetted his anxiety to dispel the mystery that surrounded him, and terminate a state of suspense so painful to himself and his friends. Should he, or should he not, communicate to Hargrave the letter he had received? This was a question which kept him for some time irresolute, though he finally decided in the negative, from a lurking suspicion that the whole story might possibly have been trumped up for no other purpose than to decoy him into some ambush, to which he was too generous to expose a friend whose life was so precious, and whose profession exonerated him from sharing a night enterprise of this questionable character. With the jealousy of a lover he was, moreover, determined to have the sole merit of unmasking the villain who had dared to asperse his mistress, and of compelling him to retract his foul scandals, and confess the motives that had instigated him to their invention. He even rejoiced to think that the moment was at hand which, bringing his long concealed enemy to light, could scarcely pass over without leading to

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