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.