University of Virginia Library


Page 3



“Ignomy in ransom, and free pardon,
Are of two houses.”

It is reasonable to suppose that the disclosures
which occurred in Sir Henry Clinton's library
would be immediately followed by their natural
sequences: that love declared by one party, and
betrayed by the other, would, according to the
common usages of society, soon issue in mutual
affiancing. But these were not the piping times
of peace, and the harmony of events was sadly
broken by the discords of the period.

The conflict of Mr. Linwood's political with his
natural affections, at his eventful meeting with his
son, was immediately followed by a frightful attack
of gout in the stomach—a case to verify the theories
of our eminent friend of the faculty, who locates
the sensibility in the mucous tissue of that organ.
Isabella, afflicted on all sides, and expecting her
father's death at every moment, never left his bedside.
In vain Meredith besieged the house, and sent
her message after message; not he, even, could
draw her from her post. “My life depends on you,


Page 4
Belle,” said her father: “the doctor says I must
keep tranquil—he might as well say so to a ship
in a squall—but my child, you are my polar star—
my loadstone—my sheet-anchor—my every thing;
don't quit me, Belle!” She did not, for an instant.

“Bless me! Mr. Meredith,” said Helen Ruthven,
on entering Mrs. Linwood's drawing-room,
and finding Meredith walking up and down, with
an expression of impatience and disappointment,
“what is the matter—is Mr. Linwood worse?”

“Not that I know.”

“How happens it that you are alone, then?”

“The family are with Mr. Linwood.”

“The family! the old lady surely can take care
of him; is Isabella invisible?—invisible to you?

“I have not seen her since her father's illness.”

“My heavens! is it possible! well, some people
are better than others.”

“I do not comprehend you, Miss Ruthven.”

“My meaning is simple enough; a woman must
be an icicle or an angel to hang over an old gouty
father, without allowing herself a precious five minutes
with her lover.”

“Miss Linwood is very dutiful!” said Meredith,
half sneeringly, for his vanity was touched.

“Dutiful!—she may be—she is undoubtedly—a
very, very sweet creature is Isabella Linwood; but
I should not have imagined her a person, if her
heart were really engaged, to deny its longings and
sit down patiently to play the dutiful daughter. I
judge others by myself. In her situation—precisely


Page 5
in hers,” she paused and looked at Meredith
with an expression fraught with meaning, “I should
know neither scruple nor duty.”

There was much in this artful speech of Helen
Ruthven to feed Meredith's bitter fancies when
he afterward pondered on it.—“If her heart were
engaged!” he said, “it is—I am sure of it—and yet,
if it were, she is not, as Helen Ruthven said, a
creature to be chained down by duty. If it were!
—it is—it shall be—her heart is the only one I have
invariably desired—the only one I have found unattainable.
I believe—I am almost sure, she loves
me; but there is something lacking—I do not come
up to her standard of ideal perfection!—others do
not find me deficient. There's poor Bessie, a sylvan
maiden she—but there's Helen Ruthven—the
love, the just appreciation of such a woman, so
full of genius, and sentiment, and knowledge of
the world, would be—flattering.”

These were after-thoughts of Meredith, for at
the time his interview with Miss Ruthven was interrupted
by Rose putting a note into his hand, addressed
to Sir Henry Clinton, and requesting him,
in Miss Linwood's name, to deliver it as soon as

“Pray let me see that!” said Miss Ruthven;
and after examining it closely on both sides, she returned
it, saying, “Strange! I thought to have found
somewhere, in pencil, some little expressive, world-full-of-meaning
word; as I said, some people are
very different from others!”


Page 6

Meredith bit his lips and hastened away with the
note. It contained a plain statement to Sir Henry
Clinton of the motives of Herbert's return, and
every fact attending it. The note was thus finished:—

“I have told you the unvarnished and unextenuated
truth, my dear Sir Henry. I think that
justice will dictate my brother's release, or, at least,
require that he be treated as a prisoner of war;
but if justice (justice perverted by artificial codes
and traditionary abuses) cannot interpose in his
behalf, I commend him to your mercy; think of
him as if he were your own son, and then mete
out to him, for the rashness of his filial affection,
such measure as a father would allot to such

“If my appeal is presuming, forgive me. My
father is suffering indescribably, and we are all
wretched. Send us, I beseech you, some kind
word of relief.”

Late in the afternoon, after many tedious hours,
the following reply was brought to Isabella, written
by Sir Henry's secretary:—

“Sir Henry Clinton directs me to present his
best regards to Miss Linwood, and inform her that
he regrets the impossibility of complying with her
wishes,—that he has no absolute power by which
he can remit, at pleasure, the offences of disloyal


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subjects. Sir Henry bids me add, that he is seriously
concerned at his friend Mr. Linwood's illness,
and that he shall continue to send his servant
daily to inquire about him.”

“Yes, no doubt,” said Isabella, in the bitterness
of her disappointment, throwing down the note,
“these empty courtesies will be strictly paid, while
not a finger is raised to save us from utter misery!”

“My dearest child!” said her mother, who had
picked up the note and reverently perused it,
“how you are hurried away by your feelings!
Sir Henry, or rather his secretary, which is the
same thing, says as much as to say, that Sir Henry
would aid us if he could; and I am sure I think
it is extremely attentive of him to send every day
to inquire after your poor father. I do wonder
a little that Sir Henry did not sign his name; it
would have seemed more polite, and Sir Henry is
so strictly polite! I am afraid, my dear, you were
not particular enough about your note. Was it
written on gilt paper and sealed with wax? Isabella,
do you hear me, child?”

“Indeed, mamma, I did not observe the paper,
and I forget whether I sealed it at all. `Remit at
pleasure the offences of disloyal subjects!' Herbert
has transferred his loyalty to his country, and
is no longer amenable to his sovereign in another

“Feminine reasoning!” interposed Meredith, who
entered at this moment. He stopped and gazed


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at Isabella, and thought he had never seen her so
perfectly lovely. Watching and anxiety had subdued
her brilliancy, and had given a depth of tenderness,
a softness to her expression, bordering on
feminine weakness. When a man has a dread,
however slight it may be, that a woman is superior
to him, her attractions are enhanced by whatever
indicates the gentleness and dependance of
her sex.

Meredith took her hand: his eyes expressed the
emotion she produced, and his lips all the sympathy
and none of the vexation he had felt for the
last few days; and then reverting to Sir Henry, he
said, “I trust the current of your feelings will
change when I tell you that I have obtained an
order for Herbert's release.”

“God bless you, Jasper!—Oh, mamma, do you

“Pray go, my dear madam,” added Meredith,
“and prepare Mr. Linwood for good news. You
interrupted me, Isabella,” he resumed, when Mrs.
Linwood had left the room; “your wishes always
fly over the means to the end—a moment's reflection
will show you that your brother's release cannot
be unconditional.”

“Well—the conditions are such as can in honour
be complied with?—Sir Henry would propose no

“Honour is a conventional term, Isabella.”

“The honour that I mean,” replied Miss Linwood,
“is not conventional, but synonymous with


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Meredith shook his head. He had an instinctive
dislike of definitions, as they in Scripture,
who loved darkness, had to the light. He was
fond of enveloping his meaning in shadowy analogies,
which, like the moon, often led astray, with
a beautiful but imperfect and illusive light.

“Even rectitude must depend somewhat on position,
Isabella,” he replied. “He who is under
the pressure of circumstances, and crowded on
every side, cannot, like him who is perfectly free,
stand upright and dispose his motions at pleasure.”

“Do not mystify, Jasper, but tell me at once
what the conditions are.”

Isabella's face and voice expressed even more
dissatisfaction than her words, and Meredith's reply
was in the tone of an injured man.

“Pardon me, Miss Linwood, if my anxiety to
prepare your mind by a winding approach has betrayed
me into awkwardness. Certainly, Herbert's
honour, the honour of your brother, cannot be
dearer to any one than to me.”

“You have always been his friend, I know,” replied
Isabella, evading Meredith's implication;
“watchful nights, and more anxious days, have
made me peevish—forgive me.”

Meredith kissed the hand she extended to him.
“You cannot imagine, Isabella, what it costs me
to infuse another bitter drop into the cup already
overflowing with accumulated anxieties. But your
aunt's disasters are followed with new trials. Do not
be alarmed—the threatening storm may pass over.”


Page 10

“Oh, tell me what it threatens!”

“Sir Henry has, within the last hour, received
a despatch from Washington, disclaiming all part
and lot in Herbert's return to the city, and expressing
his deep regret that the sanctity of a flag of
truce should be brought into question by one of
his own officers.”

“This was to be expected.”

“Of course. But we all know that Washington
has his resident spies in this city, and emissaries
continually passing to and fro, in various
disguises and under various pretences. However,
assuming that he is exempt from any participation
in this disastrous affair, common humanity would
have dictated some plea for a brave and faithful
officer,—some extenuation for a rash and generous
youth. But Washington is always governed by
this cold, selfish policy—”

“Is there not one word?”

“Not one!—There is, indeed, a private letter
from Eliot Lee, stating that the motives of Herbert's
return were wholly personal, and containing
the particulars you had previously stated; and a
very laboured appeal to Sir Henry, with a sort of
endorsement from Washington, that these statements
are entitled to whatever weight they might
derive from the unquestionable integrity of Captain

“Thank Heaven! Eliot Lee has proved a true

“Certainly, as far as writing a letter goes; but,


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as you must perceive, Isabella, Sir Henry cannot
act officially from the statements of a sister and
friend. He will do all he can. He has empowered
me to offer Herbert not only his release, but
favour and promotion, provided he will renounce
the bad cause to which he has too long adhered,
and expiate the sin of rebellion by active service
in the royal army.”

“Never, never; never shall Herbert do this!”

“You are hasty, Isabella—hear me. If I convince
Herbert that he has erred, why should he not
retrieve his error?”

“Ay, Jasper, if you can convince him—but the
mind cannot be convinced at pleasure—we cannot
believe as we would—I know it is impossible.”

Her voice faltered; she paused for a moment, a
moment of the most painful embarrassment, and
then proceeded with more firmness:—“I will
be frank with you, Jasper. Herbert is not—you
know him as well as I do—he is not of a temper
to suffer long and patiently. He is like a bird,
for ever singing and on the wing in sunshine, but
silent and shrinking when the sky is overcast. He
may—it breaks my heart to think it possible—but
he may—his spirit broken by imprisonment and
desertion, and stung by what will appear to him
his commander's indifference to his fate, he may
yield to the temptation you offer, and abandon a
cause that he still believes, in the recesses of his
heart, to be just and holy.”

Meredith fixed his piercing eyes on Isabella.


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It seemed that something new had been infused into
her mind. He forbore, however, from expressing
a suspicion, and merely said, “You place me in a
flattering light, Isabella,—as the tempter of your

“Oh no—you mistake me—you are only the
medium through which temptation comes to him.
But remember his infirmity—the infirmity of human
nature, and do not increase the force of the temptation—do
not make the worse appear the better
reason, Jasper. I know you will not—at least I
believe, I think, I hope—”

“For Heaven's sake, my dear friend,” interrupted
Meredith, “do not reduce your confidence
in my integrity to any thing weaker than a hope.
Now as I perceive that you would choose accurately
to limit and define my agency, I entreat you
to do so—my hope, my wish, my purpose, Isabella,
is to be in all things moulded and governed by your
will. Let us understand each other. I go to Herbert
the advocate of a cause in which I, at least,
have unwavering confidence—”

“Thank Heaven for that!” said Isabella, replying
courageously to the equivocal curl of Meredith's

He proceeded:—“I am permitted—am I not, to
communicate Sir Henry's generous offer?”

“His offer—but do not call it generous. Nothing
remitted—nothing forgiven. His oblivion of
the past, and his future favour, are to be dearly
paid for.”


Page 13

“Sir Henry's offer, then, without note or comment.”

Isabella nodded assent.

“I may report, à la lettre Washington's renunciation,
disclaimer, or whatever you may be pleased
to call it?”

“Literally, Jasper.”

“I may suggest to him—or do your primitive
notions prohibit this?—that Washington's communication
and Eliot's letter enable us to give
an interpretation to his return to the city that will
relieve him from the appearance of having been
forced by circumstances into our ranks. Indeed,
without any essential perversion, this return to the
path of duty may appear to have been his deliberate
intention in coming to the city. This, of course,
would very favourably affect his standing with his
fellow-officers—you hesitate. Isabella, forgive me
for quoting the vulgar proverb—be not `more
nice than wise.' Why should not Herbert avail
himself of a fortunate position—a favourable light?”

“Because it is a false light—a deceptive gloss.
Do not, Jasper, over-estimate the uncertain, imperfect,
and ignorant opinions of others—pray do not
be offended; but is it not folly to look for our own
image in other's minds, where, as in water, it may
be magnified, or, as in the turbid stream, clouded
and distorted, when in our own bosoms we have
an unerring mirror?”

“Your theory is right, undoubtedly, Isabella—
your sentiments lofty—no one can admire them


Page 14
more than I do; but what is the use of standing
on an eminence a hundred degrees above your
fellow-mortals with whom you are destined to act?
It is certain they will not come up to you, and as
certain that, unless you are willing to live in the
solitude of a hermit, useless and forgotten, it is
wisest to come down to them.” Meredith paused.
“We do not see eye to eye,” thought Isabella; but
she did not speak, and Meredith proceeded:—“ God
knows, Isabella, that it is my first wish to conform
my opinions, my mind and heart, to you; but we
must adapt ourselves to things as they are. Herbert
is in a most awkward and fearful predicament.
Sir Henry, like other public men, must be
governed by policy. If your father's fortune or
influence were important to the royal cause, Sir
Henry might make an exception to the usual proceedings
in similar cases in favour of his son; but,
as he remarked to me to-day, your father is injudicious
in his zeal, and such a friend often harms us
more than an enemy. He says, too, that he finds it
essential not to relax in severity towards the rebel
sons of royalists. Nothing is more common than for
families to divide in this way; their fathers remain
loyal, the sons join the rebels; and Sir Henry
deems it most politic to cut them off from all hope of
immunity on account of the fidelity of their fathers.
If Herbert does not accept Sir Henry's terms, it
will be particularly unfortunate for him that he
came into the city under the protection of a flag
of truce; for, as Sir Henry remarked to me, it behooves


Page 15
us to seize every occasion to abate the
country's confidence in Washington's integrity,
and certainly this is a tempting one.”

“Does Sir Henry believe that Washington was
privy to Herbert's coming to the city?”

“Oh, Lord—no!”

“And yet, he will be guilty of the falsehood and
meanness of infusing this opinion into other men's
minds, and call it policy!—Jasper, how is it that
the religious obligations of truth, which govern
man in his intercourse with his fellow—which
rule us in our homes and at our firesides, have
never presided in the councils of warriors nor in
the halls of statesmen?”

“For no other reason that I know, Isabella,
than that they would be exceedingly inconvenient
there. `Might makes right'—those that have the
power will use it.”

“Ah, Jasper,” said Isabella, without responding
to Meredith's simile; “the time is coming when
that base dogma will be reversed, and right will
make might. The Divinity is stirring within men,
and the policy and power of these false gods, who
fancy they have a chartered and transmitted right
to all the good things of this fair world, shall fall
before it, as Dagon fell prostrate before the ark of
the Lord.”

“I do not comprehend you, Isabella.”

“I simply mean, that the time is at hand when
the truth that all men are made in the image of
God, and therefore all have equal rights and


Page 16
equal duties, will not only be acknowledged in
our prayers and churchyards, but will be the basis
of government, and of public as well as of private

“When the sky falls'—these are odd speculations
for a young lady.”

“Speculations they are not. The hardest metals
are melted in the furnace, to be recast in
new forms; and old opinions and prejudices,
harder, Jasper, than any metal, may be subdued
and remoulded in these fiery times.”

“And does our aunt Archer furnish the mould
in which they are recast?—if she talks to you as
she has to me of the redoubtable knight-errantry
of the indomitable deliverer of her captive child,
I do not wonder at this sudden inspiration of republicanism.
It is rather a feminine mode, though,
of arriving at political abstractions through their
incarnation in a favourite hero.”

A deep glow, partly hurt pride, partly consciousness,
suffused Isabella's cheek. Her aunt's was
the only mind whose direct influence she felt.

“You are displeased,” he continued; “but you
must forgive me, for I am in that state when `trifles,
light as air,' disturb me. My destiny, or rather, I
should say, those hopes that shape destiny, seem
to be under the control of some strange fatality,
that I can neither evade nor understand. If I
dared retrace to you the history of these hopes,
from our childhood to this day, you would see
how many times, when they have been most assured,


Page 17
you have dashed them by some evident and
inexplicable alienation from me. At our last interview—”

“When was it—when was it?” asked Isabella,
in her nervousness and confusion, forgetting they
had not met since the day of the dinner at Sir
Henry Clinton's.

When—have you forgotten our last meeting?”

“Oh, no—no; but ages have passed since—ages
of anxiety and painful reflection.”

“And have these ages, compressed as they have
been into five days, changed your heart, Isabella?
—or was it folly and presumption to hope—I will
confess the whole extent of my presumption—to
believe, that that heart, the object of all my hopes—
that for which I only care to live, was—mine?” It
was well that Isabella covered her face, for it expressed
what she forbade her lips to speak.

“Any thing but this mysterious silence,” continued
Meredith, aware how near a suppressed agitation
was to the confession he expected. “Let
me, I beseech you, know my fate at once. It is
more important to us both that it should now be
decided than you can imagine.”

“Oh, not now—not now, Jasper!”

Meredith was too acute not to perceive how near
to a favourable decision was this “not now.”

“And why not now, Isabella? Surely I have
not seriously offended you. Think, for a moment,
that after passing the last five days between the
most anxious waiting at your door, and continued


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efforts for Herbert, when I at last get access to
you, you receive my plans for your brother coldly
and doubtingly; and I find that while I was burning
with impatience to see you, you had been occupied
with abstruse meditations upon the rights
of man! I was galled, I confess, Isabella; and
if I seemed merely to treat them with levity, I deserve
credit for mastery over stronger feelings.”
Isabella was half convinced that she had been
unjust and almost silly. “You have it in your
power,” continued Meredith, “to infuse what opinions
you will into my mind—to inspire my purpose
—to govern my affections—to fix my destiny for
time and eternity. Oh, Isabella! do not put me
off with this silence. Let this blessed moment
decide our fate. Speak but one word, and I am
bound to you for ever!”

That word of doom hovered on Isabella's lips;
her hand, which he had taken, was no longer cold
and passive, but returned the grasp of his;—doubt
and resolution were vanishing together; and the
balance that had been wavering for years was
rapidly descending in Meredith's favour, when the
door opened and Mrs. Linwood appeared. At first
starting back with delighted surprise, and then receiving
a fresh impulse from her husband's impatient
voice calling from his room, she said, “You
must come to your father, instantly, Isabella.”
Isabella gave one glance to Meredith and obeyed
the summons. Meredith felt as if some fiend had
dashed from his hand the sparkling cup just raised


Page 19
to his lips. His face, that expressed the conflict
of hope just assured, and of sudden disappointment,
was a curious contrast to Mrs. Linwood's, smiling
all over. She believed she at last saw the happy
issue of her long-indulged expectations. She
waited in vain for Meredith to speak; and finally
came to the conclusion, that there were occasions
in life when the best bred people forgot propriety.
“I am quite mortified that I intruded,” she said;
“but you know Mr. Linwood—he is so impatient,
and the gout you know is so teasing, and he
never can bear Isabella out of his sight, and he is
just on the sofa for the first time since this attack,
and I unluckily hurt his foot. You know the gout
has left his stomach and gone into his foot. It is
much less dangerous there, but I don't think he is
any more patient with it; and I happened just to
touch the tip end of his toe in putting under the
cushion, and he screamed out so for Isabella. He
thinks she can do every thing so much better than
anybody else. Indeed, she is a first-rate nurse—so
devoted, too—she has not left her father's bedside
till now for five days and nights; she seemed to
forget herself a little now (spoken in parenthesis
and significantly). Whatever man may think before
marriage, Mr. Meredith, he finds afterward,
especially if he is subject to the gout, good nursing
is every thing. I often say, All a woman need
know is how to take good care of her family and
of the sick. However, that and something more
Isabella knows.”


Page 20

“Madam?” said Meredith, waked from his
revery by Isabella's name, the only word of this
long speech, meant to be so effective and appropriate,
that he had heard. He slightly bowed and
left the house.

“How odd!—how very odd!” thought Mrs.
Linwood. “When Mr. Linwood declared himself,
he directly told my father and mother, and the wedding-day
and all was settled before he went out
of the house. I wish I knew just how matters
stand. Belle will not say a word to me unless it's
a fixed thing: so I shall find out one way or the
other. I am sure I used to tell my mother every
thing; but Belle don't take after me: however,
she is a dear girl, and I am sure I ought to be
satisfied with her.—If she should refuse Jasper

This last supposition of a tremendous possibility
was quite too much for a solitary meditation; and
the good lady started from her position at the window,
where she had stood gazing after Meredith,
and returned to her customary avocations.