“Young gentleman,” said his friend on the other side of the table, “let me advise you to be a little more cautious for the future; and as for faces—you may look into them to know whether a man’s nose be a long or a short one.”
CHAPTER XXVIII—HE KEEPS HIS APPOINTMENT
The last night’s raillery of his companions was recalled to his remembrance when he awoke, and the colder homilies of prudence began to suggest some things which were nowise favourable for a performance of his promise to the unfortunate female he had met with before. He rose, uncertain of his purpose; but the torpor of such considerations was seldom prevalent over the warmth of his nature. He walked some turns backwards and forwards in his room; he recalled the languid form of the fainting wretch to his mind; he wept at the recollection of her tears. “Though I am the vilest of beings, I have not forgotten every virtue; gratitude, I hope, I shall still have left.”—He took a larger stride—“Powers of mercy that surround me!” cried he, “do ye not smile upon deeds like these? to calculate the chances of deception is too tedious a business for the life of man!”—The clock struck ten.—When he was got down-stairs, he found that he had forgot the note of her lodgings; he gnawed his lips at the delay: he was fairly on the pavement, when he recollected having left his purse; he did but just prevent himself from articulating an imprecation. He rushed a second time up into his chamber. “What a wretch I am!” said he; “ere this time, perhaps—” ’Twas a perhaps not to be borne;—two vibrations of a pendulum would have served him to lock his bureau; but they could not be spared.
When he reached the house, and inquired for Miss Atkins (for that was the lady’s name), he was shown up three pair of stairs, into a small room lighted by one narrow lattice, and patched round with shreds of different-coloured paper. In the darkest corner stood something like a bed, before which a tattered coverlet hung by way of curtain. He had not waited long when she appeared. Her face had the glister of new-washed tears on it. “I am ashamed, sir,” said she, “that you should have taken this fresh piece of trouble about one so little worthy of it; but, to the humane, I know there is a pleasure in goodness for its own sake: if you have patience for the recital of my story, it may palliate, though it cannot excuse, my faults.” Harley bowed, as a sign of assent; and she began as follows:-
“I am the daughter of an officer, whom a service of forty years had advanced no higher than the rank of captain. I have had hints from himself, and been informed by others, that it was in some measure owing to those principles of rigid honour, which it was his boast to possess, and which he early inculcated on me, that he had been able to arrive at no better station. My mother died when I was a child: old enough to grieve for her death, but incapable of