Green Coat and Brown Coat.
This little Tale was written at the close of the American War, as may be collected from the subject of it.
From the facile naiveté of the narration, and the commanding pen with which the story is worked up, it might be supposed that the Author was practised in this species of composition; it was however her only production in mere prose.
Green Coat and Brown Coat.
Lead them to Piccadilly Gate said a young man in Green to his servant, as he came out of a house in Grosvenor Street. The servant was holding two horses, and the Master was equipped for Hyde Park. Go to Piccadilly Gate, I shall be there in less than an hour. The servant mounted his horse, and taking the bridle of the other in his hand, led him off through Bond Street.
His Master walked down Bond Street too. Stopped at Gray’s, admired some Plate, said he would consider about the watch for Harriet, and gave twelve guineas for a pair of buckles. In St. James’s Street he entered a fruit shop, eat half a dozen peaches, yawned, complained that the Town was empty, and the Street full of dust. Sat silent, pinched a Kitten, said it squalled like Signora ****, 350 Z7v 350 eat another peach, said How do you do seventeen times to as many persons, in whose health he took no interest, thought Lady G. looked better in white than in pink, set his watch by St. James’s, and then, after some Reflection, determined to see who was at Brookes’s.
In the Club room he found only one member. The Gentleman in Green was unlucky, played an hour and lost fifty Guineas, threw dice for double or quits, lost another fifty, gave a draft on Hammersley for an hundred, and walked out with an air of composure.
At the door he seized the arm of a gentleman in Brown—Will you ride this morning?— No, I have an engagement said Brown. An Assignation! retorted Green. Yes, replied the other, and with a sweet creature— will you go?—Go! what to your sweet creature!—Yes, to my sweet creature.—Dont deliberate, but come along.
He in Brown leant carelessly on the arm of him in Green, and they walked off. At Charing-Cross Brown-Coat stepped into a Coach, ordered where to drive, and Green-Coat seated himself by his side.— An odd street you ordered the fellow to! but I 351 Z8r 351 suppose you are able to prevail on your favorites to live cheap.—Yes, faith I cannot complain; the girl we are going to now has cost me but three guineas a week.—You are a lucky fellow,’ said Green; I wonder where you find such moderate damsels.— Oh! they are to be found in every Parish—if you will but open your eyes!
The friends soon arrived at a low house, in a dirty street. They ascended two pair of stairs; Brown- Coat tapt gently at a chamber door, and a little Girl apparently five years old opened it. Her long ringlets were flaxen, and her eyes were blue. A sensation of delight, when she beheld the visitor, severed her sweet lips, and revealed a Smile that was worthy of them.—Ah, said she, how happy my Mamma will be that you are come! The Gentleman took her hand in Silence, and, followed by the other, entered the apartment.
A beautiful spectre sat in a chair opposite the door, and endeavoured to rise as they approached. The Gentleman immediately prevented her, by seating himself with a respectful air at her side; whilst his friend, looking all astonishment, was obliged to find his seat at a distance. 352 Z8v 352
And how are you, Madam?—Oh Sir—much better! something has happened since yesterday that will lengthen my life a week.—Many weeks, I hope, replied the Gentleman, and months, and years; but pray tell it.
My husband’s relations, replied the Invalid, at length relent; they think my sufferings have been sufficient. They invite me to the Country to die with them, and have promised to provide for my child. Oh! my little Fanny! clasping her to her bosom, thou art preserved from ruin! when I have seen thee in the arms of thy natural protectors, I shall breathe my last sigh with Joy; but remember, ever, that it was this Gentleman who preserved thee from the grave when thy poor famished mother—
The Gentleman stopped her, and made his congratulations on the change in her Prospects! He enquired when she intended to begin her Journey, and how she wished to be accommodated. Ah, Sir, she said, your generous cares are concluded. See, presenting a Bank-note, what they have sent me! and besides this, the Rector of the parish is in town, and will protect us on our journey: he calls on me 353 AA1r 353 to morrow with a Post-chaise.—But oh, Sir! whilst I have mind to form a Prayer, and strength to articulate it, you will be its Object! My Gratitude—
My dear Madam, I must stop you! your feelings overvalue those acts of Duty which I have been fortunate enough to find an opportunity of performing. Believe me, I feel the obligation to be all on my side, for, amongst my happiest hours, I shall always account that which made me known to you.—You have now some preparations to make for the morning, I will therefore shorten my visit; but, I shall wait on you before the hour of your departure, and see you and your sweet daughter under the protection of the Clergyman who is to escort you.
He bowed to the Mother, and kissing Fanny, left the apartment, followed by the wonder-struck Green- Coat, whose eyes were the only organs of expression he had used since he entered it. They, indeed, had very freely spoken curiosity, wonder, and a sort of half-uneasiness, as though he felt himself taken in. —The frolic was not of his sort!
After they had walked about ten yards, he exclaimed— Why what the d—l is all this Harry? Why, as the d—l would have it, replied the other, the amiable creature you have seen made what is Vol. I. AA 354 AA1v 354 called a Love-match—that is, tempted by the Romance of the adventure, she left her Guardian’s house one dark night, and went into a Post-chaise with a cockaded young fellow, who had sworn she was the prettiest girl he had seen since his early youth, when he had been desperately in love with a young lady, her very counterpart.They returned, all Hope, from Gretna Green, and in about seven months received her fortune, on the day the law pronounced her to be discreet and wise! The fortune was no more than five thousand, and our married couple were people of Taste! The Youth’s relations having provided for him an old woman with twenty thousand, thought the election he had made a very silly one; and, as they refused to have any communication with him, the youth began to take up the same opinion, and treated his wife with neglect and brutality. He had at length the kindness to relieve her from his persecutions by quitting England; leaving her clear of the world, with a fortune—of seven pounds and a few shillings. The poor girl, then a Mother, applied to her relations; they were at first kind, then civil, then cold, then rude, and finally—hoped to be troubled with 355 AA2r 355 her no more, and advised her to take in needlework. She obeyed them; and by unremitting industry, and the most exact frugality, supported herself and infant for four years. But the constant wearing of Grief at length subdued her Constitution, and a rapid Decline ensued. Her Landlady having observed that the sewing business was at an end, and having received no money for several weeks, thought such idle husseys a Disgrace to her house, and ought to be made an Example of. She accordingly sent for a Constable, who, as he found his prisoner in bed, was so humane as to retreat whilst she put on her clothes; then, taking her arm, helped her down stairs, pale and speechless, followed by the shrieking Fanny. At this instant I happened to pass the door, it is not necessary to add what ensued. As I found her too ill to be removed, I was obliged to suffer her to return to the Beldam’s Apartment. Having in repeated visits satisfied myself of the Truth of her story, and learned the name of her Husband’s friends, I wrote to my Sister, whose house is happily in their neighbourhood. She represented the distresses and the merit of the amiable AA2 356 AA2v 356 sufferer, and being of Rank (for they have connected meanness with riches) she prevailed upon them to receive her as the Wife of their unworthy kinsman. An Uncle said, if she was a sober body, she should not want encouragement; and a maiden Aunt, that Girls ought not to be countenanced who had run away with young fellows, but that, if she was really dying, she might come down, and, if she behaved well, should be buried in the Family Vault. She is not apprized that it is in consequence of my application that these good people have sent for her. I am persuaded that, when my Sister’s attentions shall have secured their’s, and her mind is at peace, she will have a chance of sending Aunt Grissel to the Family-Vault before her.—You now know all that I can tell you, in answer to your—What the d—l.;;
It cost you a cool sum? A trifle—perhaps Forty. Green Coat remained silent; began to consider whether Hammersley was in Cash for his Draft for a Hundred, to feel that there were other methods besides Dice, of getting through a Morning by getting rid of superfluous money, and that rides in the Park might now and then be omitted, for the 357 AA3r 357 pleasure of a walk to the distressed.—But, he began soon to gape, and to think that all such melancholy subjects ought to be avoided as hurtful to the Spirits.—How could a man enjoy life, who was perpetually groping into scenes of Distress!—and then, really, one’s Health!—At that thought he turned suddenly round, and with a — Good Morning Harry! was darting across the way—
Hold! said his friend, here is doors off, whom I cannot omit calling upon, and, as you have begun the morning with me—My Horses are waiting for me! said Green Coat. So are mine, answered Brown; and I dine to-day twenty miles from Town, my visit therefore will not be a long one. At this instant, he knocked at the door of a house, of an appearance much like that they had quitted.
This is rather peremptory, thought Green Coat, with an air of half-pet. He thought it however not expedient to take to his heels, and there seemed no other possible method of getting rid of his conductor.
When an Italian Countess, in the Court of Mary de Medicis, was tried for having bewitched her royal 358 AA3v 358 mistress, she told her Judges that she never had employed any supernatural means to govern the mind of the Queen; nor had ever possessed any ascendant over it, except that which a strong mind must naturally have over a weak one.—This sort of Witchcraft Brown-Coat practised to such a degree, that there were few of his intimate companions who were ever hardy enough to maintain an opinion opposite to his own. But, not only they did not maintain a contradictory opinion, they insensibly changed their own, their sentiments, and their Wishes; emulous to be as nearly as possible what he was—whose Understanding was of the first order, whose Heart was pure, and who was so far from being puritanical, that his Taste lent Grace to Fashion, and subjected him to a passion for expense, which could only be corrected by his still stronger passion for Independence.
Such was he, who now entered the confined unwholesome chamber of an old man approaching fast to dissolution. The curtains of the bed were open, and disclosed the venerable object, supported by his nurse. His sand was running low; the pallid hue of Death had already taken possession of his cheek, and the living lustre of the eye began to be dimmed 359 AA4r 359 by the deep shade of its approaching night. His Faculties seemed yet vivid, and the voice of his Benefactor called up a faint flush, which struggled a moment on his pale cheek, and then—subsided for ever!
Ah! Sir, he said, you whose soul is so full of Benevolence! you to whom the tear that steals from the eye in Pity, is dearer than that which gushes thence in rapture—to You this moment will not be unwelcome!—I speak not for myself, for the final hour is arrived in which I shall cease to mourn; in which this wearied heart will render forth its last sigh, in Prayer to him whose will placed there a nerve to agonize.
Another child of sorrow will present herself to you. During this long sad night, in which my Soul has been departing to meet its God, the inhabitant of the next chamber has delayed its flight;—her voice has reached me midst the darkness of the night, and, by some indescribable power! has stayed my Spirit, and kept my languid pulse still beating.
The person to whom this was addressed, turned towards the Nurse for information. All he could learn was, that by her Patient’s order she had been 360 AA4v 360 several times into the adjacent room, to offer consolation and assistance to a person who seemed resolved to accept of neither. But you, perhaps Sir, added she, may be able to speak comfort to the poor thing.
A voice now issued from the apartment; for the partition was so thin, and its apertures so frequent, that every word was distinctly heard. Whoever you are, said the voice, come and receive my sad tale, whilst I have yet breath to utter it; in a few moments my lips will close for ever! This was articulated in a tone so faint, that there could be no doubt that the person who uttered it was indeed expiring, and the two friends in aweful Silence entered her Apartment.
A curtain prevented the gentle mourner’s seeing them, which the gentleman in Brown gently touched, to inform her that they were present, and it was immediately opened. But the youth in Green, who thought he had had quite enough of dying faces for one morning, had turned from the bed, and endeavoured to find more agreeable ones in the street, into which the solitary window looked.
The young woman found herself addressed in the softest accents, and every sentence of consolation administered to her.—Ah! said she, it is all, all too 361 AA5r 361363 late! the only comfort I can now receive, is the certainty that I cannot live, to profit by your goodness. —But, charge your memory with my woes; that if, in your progress through life, you should meet with the Author of them, he may know—her heart was broken who yielded it to him!
I am by birth an American; the only child of parents far advanced in life, and consequently the blessing of their existence. My Father was a planter, respected for his riches, and beloved for his Goodness. Ah, he was all Virtue!—and how unworthy have I been of such a parent!—My youth was passed beneath his eye, in which period I was instructed in all the accomplishments which are supposed to heighten the force of Beauty.
At the age of Eighteen my father gave me in marriage to a young gentleman of amiable manners, who loved me to excess.—I felt not a passion equal to his; but I loved no other, and my innocence made me believe that I felt for him all the tenderness a heart was capable of feeling.—Oh! why was I ever awakened from the happy error!
My father and my husband were both of the Loyalist party, and consequently the British Officers 362 AA5v 362 were in their houses treated with particular attention and favor. A few months after our marriage, towards the close of the war, a young Soldier, who was said to be of fashion and of great fortune in England, found admittance to our table. His Manners were so engaging, that, after a few visits, my husband requested him to reside with us entirely. The invitation was gracefully accepted, and he became one of our Family.
Oh, how did the hours glide in his society! Without, all was Anarchy, Distress, and War, but, within our walls, all was Elegance, and Taste, and Pleasure. My husband never wearied of praising his Guest; and my Heart fluttered, unconscious of its error, with Delight, at hearing those praises.— Alas, Sir! how shall I add the rest? By degrees that heart became sensible to its situation, and knew it loved—knew that it madly loved!
My husband was often absent; at those periods our Guest never. It cannot be that I should relate scenes of seduction and guilt—for seduction and guilt did indeed follow! and I became abandoned to my lover
Here tears and moans stopped the dying Penitent; 363 AA6r 363 who at length, with many an interruption, continued. —Think not that I became at once dead to honour and every consideration of Duty!—though sure, slow was my progress in the road of iniquity. Many were my self-upbraidings, numberless my resolutions, but at last, the voice of Duty died in my heart! and Love reigned there a ruinating spoiler!
I had retired one afternoon to a summer house in the farthest part of the garden. My Lover unexpectedly appeared there—I say unexpectedly. The suddenness of his approach, and the joy which accompanied my surprise, made me forgetful of every thing but him—and, whilst my arm familiarly reclined on his shoulder, my injured husband entered the apartment.
His cry of distraction was the first intimation we received of his presence. He viewed us without speaking, whilst we remained fixed like Statues where he first beheld us. His first action was towards his Sword; but, pausing, and viewing us awhile with mingled rage and grief, he uttered a prayer for fortitude to Heaven, and fled through the garden with the most desperate velocity. This was the last moment in which I ever saw him!364 AA6v 364
We remained long in the fatal summer-house, not knowing what conduct to pursue. The sense of my Guilt overpowered me—I felt that happiness had fled from me for ever! At length I ventured to return to the house. With my eyes I sought what was become of the Master, but, I dared not suffer my lips to articulate his name! The servants did not seem to be conscious that any extraordinary event had happened, and all things appeared in their usual state of composure. Thus the night passed, and three succeeding days and nights, in all which time I heard neither of my husband, nor of him who had caused my Guilt. This frightful calm was at length broken!
On the fourth morning, my father, my dear father! entered my apartment with a countenance that expressed the most dejected Sorrow. He took my hand, however, with the utmost tenderness, and, by the softness of his tones, removed the terror that had seized me. He told me he had a deep Affliction to prepare me for; and endeavoured to fortify my mind with every argument of religion and submission before he revealed it. In this dreadful suspense I uttered365 AA7r 365 tered not a word—my mind in fearful torturous expectation!
At length the impending ruin crushed me! He informed me that, three days before, my husband had joined the loyalist army, that an engagement had taken place, and that he was amongst the first victims of the battle! The effect this intelligence had on me was scarcely less than frenzy. Instead of weeping, I grew furious, calling myself my husband’s Murderer, demanded Justice on myself, and talked of circumstances which, though true, passed on those about me as the effect of Delirium. These violent perturbations ended in a Fever, from which—it was my Punishment to recover.
With deepest Shame I acknowledge, that, as I recovered, my passion revived. I now considered myself at Liberty, and had no doubt that my tender lover panted for the hour in which he could throw himself at my feet, and recompense all my Sufferings by uniting himself to me for ever!
The days and weeks wore on, and he appeared not. At first I considered him as sacrificing to Decorum; but, at the end of two months, I could no longer resist enquiring of a lady when she had seen 366 AA7v 366 the object of my thoughts. She answered, with great unconcern, that he had hardly been seen at all for the last month; for that he was so devoted to ******, that he seldom spent an hour out of her presence; that he spoke every where of his passion; and had told his friends that he doated on her to such distraction, that for her sake he had almost resolved to give up his profession and his country, and settle in America.
How long my friend continued this fatal detail I know not; my falling at length senseless at her feet shocked her into silence. She in some degree suspected the cause of so strong an emotion. Urged therefore either by Prudence or Curiosity, she called no assistance, but endeavoured to bring me to a recollection of my miseries by the common methods. On reviving from the fainting, I found my head reposed upon her bosom, and her tears bedewing my face. This tenderness unlocked my whole soul— my woes were too poignant to admit of concealment, and they were all unbosomed to her.
My failing spirits, said the agitated narrator, will not permit me to continue in full detail. I must pass over many Events, to tell you that this 367 AA8r 367 friend prevailed on me to accompany her to England. Her husband was a Loyalist, and had secured himself; mine had been so, and the rebels made this a pretext to rob me of all my possessions—too light a punishment for crimes so deep!
I left America without daring to mention such a design to my Father! I could not bear to rive his heart with such intelligence from my lips; and I could not exist on a spot—where every object kept my sense of dishonour and wretchedness alive. I wrote to him from the Port at which I landed, and confessed all my Criminality, with a view to make his mind yield to the propriety of my absence, and to lessen his regrets in losing a child whom he could no longer think worthy of his love!—Alas! I have since learned that, for having been observant of his oath of Allegiance to his King, he too has been doomed to be deprived of his all.
On our arrival in England, my friends carried me to a northern county, where I resided with them almost two years, in tolerable tranquillity. My tears frequently flowed before Heaven for my past offences, tears that always left me more peaceful and serene. This quiet state was at length interrupted, 368 AA8v 368 by the passion of the man in whose family I resided. My friend had, unwisely, informed her husband of my former guilt, intelligence which he received with malicious pleasure.
He considered that I had no right to defend myself against his addresses on principles of Honour having once outraged them, he daringly told me so. On my continuing to express horror at his taking upon himself the dreadful office of tempting me back again to Sin, he had the brutality to add that my affected niceness was an ungrateful return to his benevolence in having so long supported me, and that if I remained in so ungrateful a mood, it must be under some other roof.
His roof I instantly quitted, though a stranger in the kingdom, and known to no human being in it, out of the little village in which we resided. But, to remain there would have caused a hope that I did not wish to avoid him; and I owed it to his Wife to leave a situation in which I should be every hour exposed to his injurious visits.
A Stage that passed at the instant of these reflections suggested my relief. It was in winter, and there was no fellow-traveller; which gloomy circumstance369 BB1r 369 stance was to me a desirable one, for it gave me leisure to ponder over my sorrows, and to consider of my future fate. The produce of the few valuables I had been able to collect, from the wreck of my husband’s property, were now nearly expended. The torture of my reflections so overpowered me, that, when the coach arrived in London, I was so ill as to seem to the people of the Inn in a dying state—I am thankful they were right!
The Coachman recommended me to this house, kept by his relation as he informed me. I delivered my purse to the Mistress of it, who, for a few weeks, gave me some attendance; but, since that period she has left me, no unwilling prey to the disorder which will presently—
Unfeeling wretch! exclaimed the youth, who had till now seemed attentive to little but what passed in the street; though the restlessness of his motions, and now and then a heavy sigh, gave his friend room to suspect him of more tenderness and compassion than was thought to belong to his character.
The sudden force of this exclamation had a visible Vol. I. BB 370 BB1v 370 effect on the dying Lady—but, neither she, nor the gentleman who had been listening to her melancholy tale, had time to notice it, for the door instantaneously opened, and the venerable patient whom they had first visited was seen approaching. The Nurse tottered beneath his weight as with ghastly eyes he surveyed the lovely creature—already on the threshold of death. He stretched his arms towards her, uttered a deep cry, and, reaching the bed, fell on it, and expired!—
My Father—my Father!—exclaimed the Lady, with a wild look, and bending over the corse—but, I’ll join thee—my woes end!’ Yes, thy woes are over, said the youth, who now turned from the window—thy woes are over! —But, oh! Caroline, when will end the anguish which now seizes my soul! Behold the author of all thy afflictions!—thy husband’s murderer, thy murderer, and the murderer of thy Father!
The Lady started from her father’s corse, and, fixing her eyes on him for a moment with the most dreadful expression, essayed to speak—but, Death had already rendered rigid the organs of utterance— 371 BB2r 371 his chill hand was on her Heart—she struggled a moment—and then, without having uttered a sound, sunk dead on her pillow.
Pause here, and behold the two Friends!—Both young, both equally blessed with health and with fortune. They had arisen in the morning for the occupations of the day; it was before them—their actions were to be chosen. One of them, passed its opening hours in his usual routine of indolence, of folly, of vapidity, and of expense—the hour of noon beholds him a destroyer of lives, an accumulator of crimes, a wretch crushed by a sense of his Iniquities!
The other, began the day like a favorite son of Heaven, his heart was filled with Benevolence, wherever he trod, his progress, like that of the Sun with which he rose, gave life and joy.—Having cheered his mind with acts of beneficence, he retired from the woes he had contributed to lessen, to refine the Pleasures that lay before him, and to taste them with a Zest—of which the palled Libertine can form no idea! He is, indeed, an Epicure—a Voluptuary of the first order! Ye sons of Pleasure—be he henceforth your Model!