I was dumb with astonishment, and I stared him in the face.
“Yes,” continued he, bursting into laughter, “such is the fact. You have thought, perhaps, that you were the only man of fashion who had ever been transformed into a Quaker; now you behold another, so no longer imagine yourself the Phoenix of your tribe.”
“I do certainly recollect that name,” replied I; “but although, as you must be acquainted with my history, it is very easy to conceive why I have joined the society, yet, upon what grounds you can have so done, is to me inexplicable.”
“Newland, it certainly does require explanation; it has been, I assert, my misfortune, and not my fault. Not that I am not happy. On the contrary, I feel that I am now in my proper situation. I ought to have been born of Quaker parents—at all events, I was born a Quaker in disposition; but I will come to-morrow early, and then, if you will give your man something to do out of the way, I will tell you my history. I know that you will keep my secret.”
The next morning he came, and as soon as we were alone he imparted to me what follows.
“I recollect well, Newland, when you were one of the leaders of fashion, I was then in the Dragoon Guards, and although not very intimate with you, had the honour of a recognition when we met at parties. I cannot help laughing, upon my soul, when I look at us both now; but never mind. I was of course a great deal with my regiment, and at the club. My father, as you may not perhaps be aware, was highly connected, and all the family have been brought up in the army; the question of profession has never been mooted by us, and every Talbot has turned out a soldier as naturally as a young duck takes to the water. Well, I entered the army, admired my uniform, and was admired by the young ladies. Before I received my lieutenant’s commission, my father, the old gentleman, died, and left me a younger brother’s fortune of four hundred per annum; but, as my uncle said, ’It was quite enough for a Talbot, who would push himself forward in his profession, as the Talbots had ever done before him.’ I soon found out that my income was not sufficient to enable me to continue in the Guards, and my uncle was very anxious that I should exchange into a regiment on service. I therefore, by purchase, obtained a company in the 23rd, ordered out to reduce the French colonies in the West Indies, and I sailed with all the expectation of covering myself with as much glory as the Talbots had done from time immemorial. We landed, and in a short time the bullets and grape were flying in all directions, and then I discovered, what I declare never for a moment came into my head before, to wit—that I had mistaken my profession.”
“How do you mean, Talbot?”
“Mean why, that I was deficient in a certain qualification, which never was before denied to a Talbot—courage.”
“And you never knew that before?”