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Uncertainty of his future.
The conversation began with some comments on the behavior of his sister, Miss Grandison, concerning a suitor of hers, Lord G., which Sir Charles could not quite approve, and he said so. Harriet writes : “My spirits were not high ; I was forced to take out my handkerchief."
When he was ready for the main subject, he thus began :
"There seems," said he, “to be a mixture of generous concern and kind curiosity in one of the loveliest and most intelligent faces in the world. My sisters have in your presence expressed a great deal of the latter. Had I not been myself in a manner uncertain as to the event which must govern my future destiny, I would have gratified it; especially as my Lord L. has of late joined in it. The crisis, I told them, however, as perhaps you remember, was at hand.”
“I do remember you said so, sir.” And indeed, Lucy, it was more than perhaps. I had not thought of any words half so often since he spoke them.
“The crisis, madam, is at hand. If you will be so good as to indulge me, I will briefly lay before you a few of the difficulties of my situation and leave it to you to communicate them to my two sisters and Lord L."
At great length, thirty-three pages without a break, Sir Charles now entered upon and continued the narration of certain events during his sojourn on the Continent. Harriet listened breathless ; occasionally she was moved to tears, and once “he stopt—his handkerchief was of use to him as mine was to me—what a distress was here."
He began : At Bologna, and in the neighborhood of Urbino, are seated two branches of a noble family, marquises and counts of Porretta, which boasts its pedigree from Roman princes and has given to the church two cardinals ; one in the latter age, one in the beginning of this.
His sojourn on the Continent.
The Marchese della Porretta, who resides in Bologna, is a
The Porretta nobleman of great merit; his lady is illustrious by descent and family. still more for her goodness of heart, sweetness of temper, and prudence. They have three sons and a daughter.
“Ah, that daughter," thought Harriet. After describing them thus, Sir Charles continued : The sister is the favorite of them all. She is lovely in her person, gentle in her manners, pious, charitable, beneficent. Her father used to call her "the pride of his life,” her mother, “her other self, her own Clementina.”
It is evident that Clementina is the rival of Harriet Byron in the affections of Sir Charles Grandison.
The story briefly is this : Sir Charles rescued Jeronymo della Porretta, already his friend, from an attack of ruffians in a little thicket “in the Cremonese.' The young count was wounded severely, and Sir Charles procured a surgeon, attended him to Cremona, and watched over him there till he could be removed. His whole family came to the bedside of their beloved son and brother, and all joined to bless his preserver. Never was there a more grateful family. They urged him to visit them at their various seats. Meanwhile Sir Charles initiated them into the knowledge of the English tongue by reading and expounding Milton to them. He told Harriet :
Our Milton has deservedly a name among them from the friendship that subsisted between him and a learned nobleman of that country. Our lectures were usually held in the chamber of the wounded brother, in order to divert him. He also became my scholar. Clementina was seldom absent. She also called me her tutor, and she made a greater proficiency than either of her brothers.
Clementina had a suitor, favored by all her family ; she continually refused him, and upon being pressed and closely examined it became evident that she was in love with the English chevalier. Sir Charles, whose conduct was perfectly honorable in the matter, resolved to withdraw, and did so ; but after his departure she grew melancholy, and even out of her mind, expressing her desire
into a nunnery ; all was in vain, until a wise and judicious friend went to the bottom of the malady and advised the family thereupon. The tutor was sent for. This is Sir Charles's delicate manner of explaining what is coming :
“He arrived at Bologna. He was permitted to pay his compliments to Lady Clementina. Jeronymo called the happy man ‘brother.' The marquis was ready to recognize the fourth son in him. A great fortune additional to an estate bequeathed her by her two grandfathers was proposed. My father was to be invited over to grace the nuptials by his presence.
“But,” continued Sir Charles, “let me cut short the rest. The terms could not be complied with. For I was to make a Proposals of formal renunciation of my religion, and to settle in Italy ; only family. once in two or three years was allowed if I pleased for two or three months to go to England.” [It was here that his handkerchief was of use to him.]
He went on : 'Satisfied in my own faith, entirely satisfied ! Having insuperable objections to that I was wished to embrace! A lover of my country too. Were not my God and my country to be the sacrifice if I complied ! but I labored, I studied, for a compromise.”
But no compromise was to be had. Sir Charles was allowed, desired, to depart from Bologna; and shortly afterward, summoned by the death of his father, he returned to England, regarding this action as final.
England. But what was the consequence. In agitation he continues :
‘Unhappy Clementina! Now they wish me to make them one more visit to Bologna ! Unhappy Clementina! To what purpose!” He arose from his seat, "Allow me, madam, to thank you
for the favor of your ear. Pardon me for the trouble I see I have given to a heart that is capable of a sympathy so tender.”
And bowing low, he withdrew with precipitation,
There was endless discussion, in Richardson's coterie, whether Sir Charles was in love, or not, with Clementina
His return to
at this point. I have omitted nothing in the account of the interview just given which would give a clue to his feelings, and have read the whole episode through many times with great care to find some acknowledgment or denial of his ardor for the Italian lady. Some of his admirers thought that he returned with a bleeding heart, or a heart left behind ; others, on the contrary, that he was untouched by the pathetic charms of Clementina, and therefore heart-whole when he first beheld Miss Byron. Others imagine that the dazzling image of Miss Byron drove the fainter impression from its hold upon his affections. Then some people regard Sir Charles as a being so cold as to be incapable of an ardent attachment. I for my part believe he cared nothing at all for Clementina ; still, I am not sure that Richardson has not somewhere said that he did care for her; and he should know.
There was dismay in the circle of Harriet's friends when it was revealed that Sir Charles Grandison was not altogether free to lay himself at her feet. Her mind turns toward her home in the country, and she warns everybody that she is about to go back. .
Sir Charles was quietly winding up his affairs and preparing to depart for Italy, with the intention of taking with him an accomplished surgeon of his acquaintance, to examine the wounds of Jeronymo, which were still extremely troublesome. This is the nominal excuse for his return to Bologna, but every one feels that another wound requires his healing presence, in the heart of Clementina.
Just before leaving, Sir Charles sought another interview with Harriet.
He led me to my seat, and taking his by me, still holding my passive hand: “Ever since I have had the honor of Miss
Dismay of Harriet's friends.