In the meantime, the particulars of the duel had found their way into the papers, with various comments, but none of them very flattering to me, and I received a note from Mr Masterton, who, deceived by the representations of that class of people who cater for newspapers, and who are but too glad to pull, if they possibly can, every one to their own level, strongly animadverted upon my conduct, and pointed out the folly of it; adding, that Lord Windermear wholly coincided with him in opinion, and had desired him to express his displeasure. He concluded by observing, “I consider this to be the most serious false step which you have hitherto made. Because you have been a party to deceiving the public, and because one individual, who had no objection to be intimate with a young man of fashion, station, and affluence, does not wish to continue the acquaintance with one of unknown birth and no fortune, you consider yourself justified in taking his life. Upon this principle, all society is at an end, all distinctions levelled, and the rule of the gladiator will only be overthrown by the stiletto of the assassin.”
I was but ill prepared to receive this letter. I had been deeply thinking upon the kind offers of Lord Windermear, and had felt that they would interfere with the primum mobile of my existence, and I was reflecting by what means I could evade their kind intentions, and be at liberty to follow my own inclinations, when this note arrived. To me it appeared to be the height of injustice. I had been arraigned and found guilty upon an ex parte statement. I forgot, at the time, that it was my duty to have immediately proceeded to Mr Masterton, and have fully explained the facts of the case; and that, by not having so done, I left the natural impression that I had no defence to offer. I forgot all this, still I was myself to blame—I only saw that the letter in itself was unkind and unjust—and my feelings were those of resentment. What right have Lord Windermear and Mr Masterton thus to school and to insult me? The right of obligations conferred. But is not Lord Windermear under obligations to me? Have I not preserved his secret? Yes; but how did I obtain possession of it? By so doing, I was only making reparation for an act of treachery. Well, then, at all events, I have a right to be independent of them, if I please—any one has a right to assert his independence if he chooses. Their offers of service only would shackle me, if I accepted of their assistance. I will have none of them. Such were my reflections; and the reader must perceive that I was influenced by a state of morbid irritability—a sense of abandonment which prostrated me. I felt that I was an isolated being without a tie in the whole world. I determined to spurn the world as it had spurned me. To Timothy I would hardly speak a word. I lay with an aching head, aching from increased circulation. I was mad, or nearly so. I opened the case of pistols, and thought of suicide—reflection alone restrained me. I could not abandon the search after my father.