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Chapter 7

  • In no long time after the disclosure Mr. Falkland had made, Mr. Forester, hi_lder brother by the mother's side, came to reside for a short period in ou_amily. This was a circumstance peculiarly adverse to my patron's habits an_nclinations. He had broken off, as I have already said, all intercourse o_isiting with his neighbours. He debarred himself every kind of amusement an_elaxation. He shrunk from the society of his fellows, and thought he coul_ever be sufficiently buried in obscurity and solitude. This principle was, i_ost cases, of no difficult execution to a man of firmness. But Mr. Falklan_new not how to avoid the visit of Mr. Forester. This gentleman was jus_eturned from a residence of several years upon the continent; and his deman_f an apartment in the house of his half-brother, till his own house at th_istance of thirty miles should be prepared for his reception, was made wit_n air of confidence that scarcely admitted of a refusal. Mr. Falkland coul_nly allege, that the state of his health and spirits was such, that li_eared a residence at his house would be little agreeable to his kinsman; an_r. Forester conceived that this was a disqualification which would alway_ugment in proportion as it was tolerated, and hoped that his society, b_nducing Mr. Falkland to suspend his habits of seclusion, would be the mean_f essential benefit. Mr. Falkland opposed him no further. He would have bee_orry to be thought unkind to a kinsman for whom he had a particular esteem;
  • and the consciousness of not daring to assign the true reason, made hi_autious of adhering to his objection.
  • The character of Mr. Forester was, in many respects, the reverse of that of m_aster. His very appearance indicated the singularity of his disposition. Hi_igure was short and angular. His eyes were sunk far into his head, and wer_verhung with eye-brows, black, thick, and bushy. His complexion was swarthy,
  • and his lineaments hard. He had seen much of the world; but, to judge of hi_rom his appearance and manners, one would have thought that he had neve_oved from his fire-side.
  • His temper was acid, petulant, and harsh. He was easily offended by trifles,
  • respecting which, previously to the offence, the persons with whom he ha_ntercourse could have no suspicion of such a result. When offended, hi_ustomary behaviour was exceedingly rugged. He thought only of setting th_elinquent right, and humbling him for his error; and, in his eagerness to d_his, overlooked the sensibility of the sufferer, and the pains he inflicted.
  • Remonstrance in such a case he regarded as the offspring of cowardice, whic_as to be extirpated with a steady and unshrinking hand, and not soothed wit_isjudging kindness and indulgence. As is usual in human character, he ha_ormed a system of thinking to suit the current of his feelings. He held tha_he kindness we entertain for a man should be veiled and concealed, exerted i_ubstantial benefits, but not disclosed, lest an undue advantage should b_aken of it by its object.
  • With this rugged outside, Mr. Forester had a warm and generous heart. At firs_ight all men were deterred by his manner, and excited to give him an il_haracter. But the longer any one knew him, the more they approved him. Hi_arshness was then only considered as habit; and strong sense and activ_enevolence were uppermost in the recollection of his familiar acquaintance.
  • His conversation, when he condescended to lay aside his snappish, rude, an_brupt half-sentences, became flowing in diction, and uncommonly amusing wit_egard to its substance. He combined, with weightiness of expression, _ryness of characteristic humour, that demonstrated at once the vividness o_is observation, and the force of his understanding. The peculiarities of thi_entleman's character were not undisplayed in the scene to which he was no_ntroduced. Having much kindness in his disposition, he soon became deepl_nterested in the unhappiness of his relation. He did every thing in his powe_o remove it; but his attempts were rude and unskilful. With a mind s_ccomplished and a spirit so susceptible as that of Mr. Falkland, Mr. Foreste_id not venture to let loose his usual violence of manner; but, if h_arefully abstained from harshness, he was however wholly incapable of tha_weet and liquid eloquence of the soul, which would perhaps have stood th_airest chance of seducing Mr. Falkland for a moment to forget his anguish. H_xhorted his host to rouse up his spirit, and defy the foul fiend; but th_one of his exhortations found no sympathetic chord in the mind of my patron.
  • He had not the skill to carry conviction to an understanding so well fortifie_n error. In a word, after a thousand efforts of kindness to his entertainer,
  • he drew off his forces, growling and dissatisfied with his own impotence,
  • rather than angry at the obstinacy of Mr. Falkland. He felt no diminution o_is affection for him, and was sincerely grieved to find that he was so littl_apable of serving him. Both parties in this case did justice to the merits o_he other; at the same time that the disparity of their humours was such, a_o prevent the stranger from being in any degree a dangerous companion to th_aster of the house. They had scarcely one point of contact in thei_haracters. Mr. Forester was incapable of giving Mr. Falkland that degre_ither of pain or pleasure, which can raise the soul into a tumult, an_eprive it for a while of tranquillity and self-command.
  • Our visitor was a man, notwithstanding appearances, of a peculiarly sociabl_isposition, and, where he was neither interrupted nor contradicted,
  • considerably loquacious. He began to feel himself painfully out of his elemen_pon the present occasion. Mr. Falkland was devoted to contemplation an_olitude. He put upon himself some degree of restraint upon the arrival of hi_insman, though even then his darling habits would break out. But when the_ad seen each other a certain number of times, and it was sufficiently eviden_hat the society of either would be a burthen rather than a pleasure to th_ther, they consented, by a sort of silent compact, that each should be a_iberty to follow his own inclination. Mr. Falkland was, in a sense, th_reatest gainer by this. He returned to the habits of his choice, and acted,
  • as nearly as possible, just as he would have done if Mr. Forester had not bee_n existence. But the latter was wholly at a loss. He had all th_isadvantages of retirement, without being able, as he might have done at hi_ouse, to bring his own associates or his own amusements about him.
  • In this situation lie cast his eyes upon me. It was his principle to do ever_hing that his thoughts suggested, without caring for the forms of the world.
  • He saw no reason why a peasant, with certain advantages of education an_pportunity, might not be as eligible a companion as a lord; at the same tim_hat he was deeply impressed with the venerableness of old institutions.
  • Reduced as he was to a kind of last resort, he found me better qualified fo_is purpose than any other of Mr. Falkland's household.
  • The manner in which he began this sort of correspondence was sufficientl_haracteristical. It was abrupt; but it was strongly stamped with essentia_enevolence. It was blunt and humorous; but there was attractiveness,
  • especially in a case of unequal intercourse, in that very rusticity by whic_e levelled himself with the mass of his species. He had to reconcile himsel_s well as to invite me; not to reconcile himself to the postponing a_ristocratical vanity, for of that he had a very slender portion, but to th_rouble of invitation, for he loved his ease. All this produced som_rregularity and indecision in his own mind, and gave a whimsical impressio_o his behaviour.
  • On my part, I was by no means ungrateful for the distinction that was paid me.
  • My mind had been relaxed into temporary dejection, but my reserve had no allo_f moroseness or insensibility. It did not long hold out against th_ondescending attentions of Mr. Forester. I became gradually heedful,
  • encouraged, confiding. I had a most eager thirst for the knowledge of mankind;
  • and though no person perhaps ever purchased so dearly the instructions h_eceived in that school, the inclination was in no degree diminished. Mr.
  • Forester was the second man I had seen uncommonly worthy of my analysis, an_ho seemed to my thoughts, arrived as I was at the end of my first essay,
  • almost as much deserving to be studied as Mr. Falkland himself. I was glad t_scape from the uneasiness of my reflections; and, while engaged with this ne_riend, I forgot the criticalness of the evils with which I was hourl_enaced.
  • Stimulated by these feelings, I was what Mr. Forester wanted, a diligent an_ealous hearer, I was strongly susceptible of impression; and the alternat_mpressions my mind received, visibly displayed themselves in my countenanc_nd gestures. The observations Mr. Forester had made in his travels, the se_f opinions he had formed, all amused and interested me. His manner of tellin_ story, or explaining his thoughts, was forcible, perspicuous, and original:
  • his style in conversation had an uncommon zest. Every thing he had to relat_elighted me; while, in return, my sympathy, my eager curiosity, and m_nsophisticated passions, rendered me to Mr. Forester a most desirable hearer.
  • It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that every day rendered ou_ntercourse more intimate and cordial.
  • Mr. Falkland was destined to be for ever unhappy; and it seemed as if no ne_ncident could occur, from which he was not able to extract food for thi_mperious propensity. He was wearied with a perpetual repetition of simila_mpressions; and entertained an invincible disgust against all that was new.
  • The visit of Mr. Forester he regarded with antipathy. He was scarcely able t_ook at him without shuddering; an emotion which his guest perceived, an_itied as the result of habit and disease, rather than of judgment. None o_is actions passed unremarked; the most indifferent excited uneasiness an_pprehension. The first overtures of intimacy between me and Mr. Foreste_robably gave birth to sentiments of jealousy in the mind of my master. Th_rregular, variable character of his visitor tended to heighten them, b_roducing an appearance of inexplicableness and mystery. At this time h_ntimated to me that it was not agreeable to him, that there should be muc_ntercourse between me and this gentleman.
  • What could I do? Young as I was, could it be expected that I should play th_hilosopher, and put a perpetual curb upon my inclinations? Imprudent though _ad been, could I voluntarily subject myself to an eternal penance, an_strangement from human society? Could I discourage a frankness so perfectl_n consonance with my wishes, and receive in an ungracious way a kindness tha_tole away my heart?
  • Besides this, I was but ill prepared for the servile submission Mr. Falklan_emanded. In early life I had been accustomed to be much my own master. When _irst entered into Mr. Falkland's service, my personal habits were checked b_he novelty of my situation, and my affections were gained by the hig_ccomplishments of my patron. To novelty and its influence, curiosity ha_ucceeded: curiosity, so long as it lasted, was a principle stronger in m_osom than even the love of independence. To that I would have sacrificed m_iberty or my life; to gratify it, I would have submitted to the condition o_ West Indian negro, or to the tortures inflicted by North American savages.
  • But the turbulence of curiosity had now subsided.
  • As long as the threats of Mr. Falkland had been confined to generals, _ndured it. I was conscious of the unbecoming action I had committed, and thi_endered me humble. But, when he went further, and undertook to prescribe t_very article of my conduct, my patience was at an end. My mind, befor_ufficiently sensible to the unfortunate situation to which my imprudence ha_educed me, now took a nearer and a more alarming view of the circumstances o_he case. Mr. Falkland was not an old man; he had in him the principles o_igour, however they might seem to be shaken; he might live as long as _hould. I was his prisoner; and what a prisoner! All my actions observed; al_y gestures marked. I could move neither to the right nor the left, but th_ye of my keeper was upon me. He watched me; and his vigilance was a sicknes_o my heart. For me there was no more freedom, no more of hilarity, o_houghtlessness, or of youth. Was this the life upon which I had entered wit_uch warm and sanguine expectation? Were my days to be wasted in thi_heerless gloom; a galley-slave in the hands of the system of nature, who_eath only, the death of myself or my inexorable superior, could free?
  • I had been adventurous in the gratification of an infantine and unreasonabl_uriosity; and I resolved not to be less adventurous, if need were, in th_efence of every thing that can make life a blessing. I was prepared for a_micable adjustment of interests: I would undertake that Mr. Falkland shoul_ever sustain injury through my means; but I expected in return that I shoul_uffer no encroachment, but be left to the direction of my own understanding.
  • I went on, then, to seek Mr. Forester's society with eagerness; and it is th_ature of an intimacy that does not decline, progressively to increase. Mr.
  • Falkland observed these symptoms with visible perturbation. Whenever I wa_onscious of their being perceived by him, I betrayed tokens of confusion:
  • this did not tend to allay his uneasiness. One day he spoke to me alone; and,
  • with a look of mysterious but terrible import, expressed himself thus:—
  • "Young man, take warning! Perhaps this is the last time you shall have a_pportunity to take it! I will not always be the butt of your simplicity an_nexperience, nor suffer your weakness to triumph over my strength! Why do yo_rifle with me? You little suspect the extent of my power. At this moment yo_re enclosed with the snares of my vengeance unseen by you, and, at th_nstant that you flatter yourself you are already beyond their reach, the_ill close upon you. You might as well think of escaping from the power of th_mnipresent God, as from mine! If you could touch so much as my finger, yo_hould expiate it in hours and months and years of a torment, of which as ye_ou have not the remotest idea. Remember! I am not talking at random! I do no_tter a word, that, if you provoke me, shall not be executed to the severes_etter!"
  • It may be supposed that these menaces were not without their effect. _ithdrew in silence. My whole soul revolted against the treatment I endured,
  • and yet I could not utter a word. Why could not I speak the expostulations o_y heart, or propose the compromise I meditated? It was inexperience, and no_ant of strength, that awed me. Every act of Mr. Falkland contained somethin_ew, and I was unprepared to meet it. Perhaps it will be found that th_reatest hero owes the propriety of his conduct to the habit of encounterin_ifficulties, and calling out with promptness the energies of his mind.
  • I contemplated the proceedings of my patron with the deepest astonishment.
  • Humanity and general kindness were fundamental parts of his character; but i_elation to me they were sterile and inactive. His own interest required tha_e should purchase my kindness; but he preferred to govern me by terror, an_atch me with unceasing anxiety. I ruminated with the most mournful sensation_pon the nature of my calamity. I believed that no human being was ever place_n a situation so pitiable as mine. Every atom of my frame seemed to have _everal existence, and to crawl within me. I had but too much reason t_elieve that Mr. Falkland's threats were not empty words. I knew his ability;
  • I felt his ascendancy. If I encountered him, what chance had I of victory? I_ were defeated, what was the penalty I had to suffer? Well then, the rest o_y life must be devoted to slavish subjection. Miserable sentence! And, if i_ere, what security had I against the injustice of a man, vigilant,
  • capricious, and criminal? I envied the condemned wretch upon the scaffold; _nvied the victim of the inquisition in the midst of his torture. They kno_hat they have to suffer. I had only to imagine every thing terrible, and the_ay, "The fate reserved for me is worse than this!"
  • It was well for me that these sensations were transient: human nature coul_ot long support itself under what I then felt. By degrees my mind shook of_ts burthen. Indignation succeeded to emotions of terror. The hostility of Mr.
  • Falkland excited hostility in me. I determined I would never calumniate him i_atters of the most trivial import, much less betray the grand secret upo_hich every thing dear to him depended. But, totally abjuring the offensive, _esolved to stand firmly upon the defensive. The liberty of acting as _leased I would preserve, whatever might be the risk. If I were worsted in th_ontest, I would at least have the consolation of reflecting that I ha_xerted myself with energy. In proportion as I thus determined, I drew off m_orces from petty incursions, and felt the propriety of acting wit_remeditation and system. I ruminated incessantly upon plans of deliverance,
  • but I was anxious that my choice should not be precipitately made.
  • It was during this period of my deliberation and uncertainty that Mr. Foreste_erminated his visit. He observed a strange distance in my behaviour, and, i_is good-natured, rough way, reproached me for it. I could only answer with _loomy look of mysterious import, and a mournful and expressive silence. H_ought me for an explanation, but I was now as ingenious in avoiding as I ha_efore been ardent to seek him; and he quitted our house, as he afterward_old me, with an impression, that there was some ill destiny that hung ove_t, which seemed fated to make all its inhabitants miserable, without it_eing possible for a bystander to penetrate the reason.