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rooms, which were made of mahogany, sent as a present from a foreign correspondent, was brought into a habitable state about my fifth year. Thither we removed and the earliest event, I connect with it, was standing with others on a summer evening listening for the sound of wheels. My mother had been summoned by an express to meet my father, who had broken a blood vessel. • What did that mean?' It meant that a person was very ill and feeble. 'And would he die?' Perhaps he would; most people in cold climates did. The next incident I remember, was many months afterwards; my father had, in the interval, made extensive tours to warmer climates; he had visited Lisbon, next the Madeiras; and finally St. Kitt's, all to no purpose. He was now returning home to
die. For some weeks I remember being about him as he lay on a sofa surrounded with West India productions displayed for my amusement. I was aware by something peculiar in the look and aspect of the house, a depression visible on all faces, and a quiet tread, that some speedy catastrophe was approaching: and at length one morning I saw signs which sufficiently indicated that it was then at hand. Dead silence reigned in the house whispers only audible; and I saw all the women of the family weeping. Soon after, all of us, being then four, able to understand such a scene, were carried into the bed-room in which my father was at that moment dying. Whether he had asked for us, I know not: if so, his senses had left him before we came. He was delirious, and talked at intervals always on the same subject. He was ascending a mountain, and he had met with some great obstacle, which to him was insurmountable without help. This he called for from various people, naming them, and complaining of their desertion. The person who had gathered us together, raised my father's hand and laid it upon my head. We
left the room; and in less than two minutes we heard it announced that all was over.
My father's death made little or no change in the household economy, except that my mother ever afterwards kept a carriage; which my father, in effect, exacted upon his death-bed.
My father's death occurred in 1792. His funeral, at which I and my elder brother were chief mourners, was the first I had attended. Then first it was that the solemn farewell of the English burial-service, 'Dust to dust, ashes to ashes,' and the great eloquence of St. Paul in that matchless chapter of his epistle to the Corinthians, fell upon my ear; and, concurring with my whole previous feelings, for ever fixed that vast subject upon my mind.
I was then nearly seven years old. In the next four years, during which we continued to live at the same house, nothing remarkable occurred, except the visit of a most eccentric young woman, who, about ten years afterwards, made a great noise in the world, and drew the eyes of all England upon herself, by her unprincipled conduct in an affair affecting the life of two young Scottish gentlemen. At this time she was about twenty-two, with a Grecian contour of face, elegant in person, and highly accomplished. In particular, she astonished every person by her performances on the organ, and by her powers of disputation. But these she applied entirely to attacks upon Christianity; for she openly professed infidelity; and at my mother's table, she certainly proved more than a match for all the clergymen of the neighboring towns, some of whom (as the most intellectual persons of that neighborhood) were daily invited to meet her. It was a mere accident which had introduced her to my mother's house. Happening to hear from my sister's governess that she and her pupil were going on a visit to an old Cath
olic family in the county of Durham, (the family of Mr. Swinburne, the traveller in Spain, &c.,) she, whose Catholic education, in a French convent, had introduced her extensively to the knowledge of Catholic families in England, and who had herself an invitation to the same place, upon that wrote to offer the use of her carriage to convey all three to Mr. Swinburne's. This naturally drew forth an invitation from my mother, and she came. She must certainly, by what I saw of her ten years after, at the Oxford assizes, have been at this time a most striking creature; and her eloquence was astonishing. Even at that early age, she was already parted from her husband. On the imperial of her carriage, and elsewhere, she described herself as the Hon. Antonina Dashwood L——. But, in fact, as only the illegitimate daughter of Lord le D- she was not entitled to that designation. She had, however, received a large fortune from her father, not less than forty thousand pounds. At a very early age, she had married a young Oxonian, distinguished for nothing but a very handsome person: and from him she had speedily separated, on the agreement of dividing the fortune. My mother, agitated between the necessities of hospitality, on the one hand, and her horror, on the other hand, to meet a woman, for the first time in her life, openly professing infidelity, at length fell ill; and this hastened Mrs. L.'s departure; not, however, before I, a child of eight years old, had seen things which nobody else suspected. She admitted me to her bed-room; and more than once her footman, a man of figure,' according to the London term for such persons, upon frivolous pretexts, came to her dressing-room, which adjoined; more than once also I saw him snatch her hand, and kiss it—whilst she, on her part, blushed, and looked round in alarm. What this meant, I had not the least guess; but having always been
accustomed to see my mother keep her servants at a distance the most awful, I judged that it must be wrong, and I mentioned it to nobody. Afterwards, however, when the Oxford affair came on, I recollected the incident, and all became plain. Yet, when that also had passed over, and was forgotten, the lady published a book containing her views upon government; which, from many quarters, I heard of as no common performance. But, at that early period, in 1794, her talents, her beauty of face and figure, her fine execution on the organ, her scenical skill in sustaining through a short scene some grand dramatic character, like that of Lady Macbeth, her powers of disputation, and, finally, her application of them to so unfeminine a purpose as that of undisguised assaults upon Christianity, combined to leave an impression, as of some great enchantress or Medea, upon all who had been admitted to witness her displays.
Perhaps I may as well, at this point, anticipate the sequel of her history. In 1804, at the Lent Assizes for the county of Oxford, she appeared as principal witness against two brothers, L-ck-t G-d-n, and L-d-n G-d-n, on a capital charge of having forcibly carried her off from her own house in London, and afterwards of having, at some place in Oxfordshire, by collusion with each other and by terror, enabled one of the brothers to offer the last violence to her person. The accounts published at the time by the newspapers of the whole transaction, were of a nature to conciliate the public sympathy altogether to the prisoners; and the general belief accorded with what was, no doubt, the truth-that the lady had been driven into a false accusation by the urgent remonstrances of her friends, joined, in this instance, by her husband, although legally separated from her, all of whom were willing to believe that advantage had been taken of her little ac
quaintance with English manners. I was present at the trial; it began at eight o'clock in the morning, and went on, for some hours, occupied with preparatory evidence. At length Mrs. L. herself was summoned, and, with no little anxiety, I awaited the entrance of my early friend. Her beauty was yet visible, though affected greatly by the humiliating circumstances of her situation, and (as one would willingly hope) by the conflicts of her own conscience. However, she was not long exposed to the searching gaze of the court, and the trying embarrassments of her situation. A single question brought the whole investigation to an abrupt close. Mrs. L. had been sworn, of course. After a few questions, she was suddenly asked whether she believed in the Christian religion? Her answer was brief and peremptory, without distinction or circumlocution-No. Or, perhaps, not in God? Again she replied, sans phrase, No. Upon this the Judge interfered, and declared that he could not permit the trial to proceed. The jury had heard what the witness said; she only could give evidence upon the capital part of the charge; and she had openly incapacitated herself before the whole court. The jury instantly acquitted the prisoners. I left my name at Mrs. L.'s lodgings in the course of the day, but her servant assured me that she was too much agitated to see anybody till the evening. At the hour assigned I called again. It was dusk, and the mob had assembled. At the moment I came up to the door, a lady was issuing, muffled up, and in some measure disguised. It was Mrs. L. At the corner of an adjacent street a postchaise was drawn up. Towards this, under the protection of the attorney who had managed her case, she made her way as eagerly as possible. Before she could reach it, however, she was detected; a savage howl was raised, and a rush made to seize her. Fortunately a body of gowns