Chapter 22 Offences are Easily Pardoned Where There is Love at Bottom.
THE next morning I took my daughter behind me, and set out on my return home.
As we travelled along, I strove by every persuasion to calm her sorrows an_ears, and to arm her with resolution to bear the presence of her offende_other. I took every opportunity, from the prospect of a fine country, throug_hich we passed, to observe how much kinder Heaven was to us, than we to eac_ther, and that the misfortunes of nature's making were very few. I assure_er that she should never perceive any change in my affections, and tha_uring my life, which yet might be long, she might depend upon a guardian an_n instructor. I armed her against the censures of the world; showed her tha_ooks were sweet, unreproaching companions to the miserable, and that if the_ould not bring us to enjoy life, they would at least teach us to endure it.
The hired horse that we rode was to be put up that night at an inn by the way,
within about five miles from my house; and as I was willing to prepare m_amily for my daughter's reception, I determined to leave her that night a_he inn, and I to return for her, accompanied by my daughter Sophia, early th_ext morning. It was night before we reached our appointed stage; however,
after seeing her provided with a decent apartment, and having ordered th_ostess to prepare proper refreshments, I kissed her, and proceeded toward_ome. And now my heart caught new sensations of pleasure the nearer _pproached that peaceful mansion. As a bird that had been frightened f rom it_est, my affections outwent my haste, and hovered round my little firesid_ith all the rapture of expectation. I called up the many fond things I had t_ay, and anticipated the welcome I was to receive. I already felt my wife'_ender embrace, and smiled at the joy of my little ones. As I walked bu_lowly, the night waned apace. The laborers of the day were all retired t_est; the lights were out in every cottage; no sounds were heard but of th_hrilling cock, and the deep-mouthed watch-dog at hollow distance. _pproached my little abode of pleasure, and before I was within a furlong o_he place, our honest mastiff came running to welcome me.
It was now near midnight that I came to knock at my door; all was still an_ilent; my heart dilated with unutterable happiness; when, to my amazement, _aw the house bursting out in a blaze of fire, and every aperture red wit_onflagration! I gave a loud convulsive outcry, and fell upon the pavemen_nsensible. This alarmed my son, who had till this been asleep, and h_erceiving the flames instantly waked my wife and daughter, and all runnin_ut naked and wild with apprehension, recalled me to life with their anguish.
But it was only to objects of new terror; for the flames had by this tim_aught the roof of our dwelling, part after part continuing to fall in, whil_he family stood with silent agony looking on as if they enjoyed the blaze. _azed upon them and upon it by turns, and then looked round me for my tw_ittle ones; but they were not to be seen. 0 misery! "Where," cried I, "wher_re my little ones?"-"They are burnt to death in the flames," says my wife,
calmly, "and I will die with them." That moment I heard the cry of the babe_ithin, who were just awaked by the fire, and nothing could have stopped me.
"Where, where are my children?" cried I, rushing through the flames, an_ursting the door of the chamber in which they were confined. "Where are m_ittle ones?"-"Here, dear papa, here we are," cried they, together, while th_lames were just catching the bed where they lay. I caught them both in m_rms. and snatching them ran through the fire as fast as possible, while jus_s I was got out, the roof sunk in. "-Now," cried I, holding up my children,
"now let the flames burn on, and all my possessions perish. Here they are; _ave saved my treasure. Here, my dearest, here are our treasures, and we shal_et be happy." We kissed our little darlings a thousand times, they clasped u_ound the neck, and seemed to share our transports, while their mother laughe_nd wept by turns.
I now stood a calm spectator of the flames, and after some time began t_erceive that my arm to the shoulder was scorched in a terrible manner. I_as, therefore, out of my power to give my son any assistance, either i_ttempting to save our goods, or preventing the flames spreading to our corn.
By this time the neighbors were alarmed, and came running to our assistance;
but all they could do was to stand, like us, spectators of the calamity. M_oods, among which were the notes I had reserved for my daughters' fortunes,
were entirely consumed, except a box with some papers that stood in th_itchen, and two or three things more of little consequence, which my so_rought away in the beginning. The neighbors contributed, however, what the_ould to lighten our distress. They brought us clothes, and furnished one o_ur outhouses with kitchen utensils; so that by daylight we had another,
though a wretched dwelling, to retire to. My honest next neighbor and hi_hildren were not the least assiduous in providing us with everythin_ecessary, and offering whatever consolation untutored benevolence coul_uggest.
When the fears of my family had subsided, curiosity to know the cause of m_ong stay began to take place; having, therefore, informed them of ever_articular, I proceeded to prepare them for the reception of our lost one, an_hough we had nothing but wretchedness now to impart, I was willing to procur_er a welcome to what we had. This task would have been more difficult but fo_ur recent calamity, which had humbled my wife's pride and blunted it by mor_oignant afflictions. Being unable to go for my poor child myself, as my ar_rew very painful, I sent my son and daughter, who soon returned, supportin_he wretched delinquent, who had not the courage to look up at her mother,
whom no instructions of mine could persuade to a perfect reconciliation; fo_omen have a much stronger sense of female error than men. "Ah, madam," crie_er mother, "this is but a poor place you have come to after so much finery.
My daughter Sophy and I can afford but little entertainment to persons wh_ave kept company only with people of distinction. Yes, Miss Livy, your poo_ather and I have suffered very much of late; but I hope Heaven will forgiv_ou." During this reception the unhappy victim stood pale and trembling,
unable to weep or to reply; but I could not continue a silent spectator of he_istress; wherefore assuming a degree of severity in my voice and manner,
which was ever followed with instant submission: "I entreat, woman, that m_ords may be now marked once for all; I have here brought you back a poo_eluded wanderer: her return to duty demands the revival of our tenderness.
The real hardships of life are now coming fast upon us; let us not, therefore,
increase them by dissension among each other. If we live harmoniousl_ogether, we may yet be contented, as there are enough of us to shut out th_ensuring world and keep each other in countenance. The kindness of Heaven i_romised to the penitent, and let ours be directed by the example. Heaven, w_re assured, is much more pleased to view a repentant sinner, than ninety-nin_ersons who have supported a course of undeviating rectitude. And this i_ight; for that single effort by which we stop short in the downhill path t_erdition, is itself a greater exertion of virtue than a hundred acts o_ustice."