Continuing the narrative that began here.
Letter the Thirty-Sixth
Sir George Purvis to Miss Amelia Purvis.
My dear Sister,—
Of all Men I am doubtless not the most miserable; yet of Misery I have more than I desire: a Misery compounded by Uncertainty. For I know not whether you shall read this Letter. Honoria is here—O foolish Girl!—and tells me she flew to my Side, like a Heroine in some wretched Romance, because neither you nor she has had any Communication from me since some Months ago. This is a great Mystery: For I have placed all my Letters in the Hands of the Man who brings Provisions, a Man whom Doctor Albertus regards as incorruptibly loyal. And now I know not what you know, and what you know not; so that, as you see, I know not what to say to you, and what to leave unsaid.
The Arrival of Honoria was itself a Page from Romance, and as great a Shock to me, as any Incident in the most implausible Fiction. You may picture to yourself the antient Pile of Grimthorne, dismal and grey, in the waning Light of Evening, when the World is illumined with a dismal Light as grey as the Stones of the Abbey itself: a Time when the House seems capable of producing any Wonder, and when antient Tales of Spectres and Monsters, Signs and Prodigies, might readily be taken for true Histories. At this Moment comes a Prodigy as marvelous as any in Romance: a Woman, young and handsome, but dressed in Tatters crusted with Mud, or perhaps in Mud o’ergrown with Tatters, for ’tis not an easy Thing to say which of the two predominates;—she makes such a Pounding at the Door, that even the Housekeeper, who is mostly deaf, is roused from her Revery, and very nearly opens the Door herself (which is a Thing that has not happened yet in all my Time at Grimthorne); the Door opens; on seeing me, the Traveler leaps into my Arms, with a windy Speech filled with such Sentiments as Scudery himself would blush to write; and this affecting Scene is played with Doctor Albertus as our Audience, for indeed he it was that opened the Door. Yet the Doctor displays no Surprise or Curiosity, but looks on impassive, as tho’ he either anticipated the Arrival of Honoria, or considered it Matter of no Moment.
Having explained to us the Manner of her Arrival here, Honoria retired for the Moment to make herself more presentable. —But if you should ask me wherefore I do not repeat her Narration at Length, I must confess that I recall very little of it: For she poured forth Words in such a Torrent, that I might not have heard the Half of them had I given her my complete and devoted Attention; but my Mind being filled with a thousand unsettled Reflections, no Room remained for the Matter of Honoria’s History. I know only that she came alone, and that her Father and Mother have no Knowledge of where she has gone: Which must be a great Misery to them, when they have done nothing to deserve such Treatment. O Amelia! If you should ever bear a Daughter, let Romances be banished from the House;—I had almost said, Let her be as ignorant of Letters as the remotest Savage.
My Mind, as I have said, is filled with such Notions as will give me not a Moment’s Ease. Honoria is here; foolish, but here; mad, perhaps, but here. Here she must remain, for a Day, or a Week, or—I know not how long; and, remaining, she must be introduced to the Automaton, or know why she cannot be introduced. Now, I am quite certain that Doctor Albertus will not keep the Automaton from her;—but the false, and not the true: And I must sit idle, and say nothing, and be complicit in a Deception, which seems the more unpardonable, as the one deceived is nearer to me. I have heard Doctor Albertus argue that ’tis no Deception: “For,” as he once said, “if this be Deception, then every Figure or Metaphor in Poetry is deception; every Fable or Allegory;—nay, every Verse of the Scriptures, which (as we are told on the Authority of St. Paul) are filled with Figures, representing Christ and the Church, under the Forms of the Persons of Hebrew History.” Thus he speaks, and makes Falsehood into Truth; and I do nearly believe him, when he exhibits the Automaton to the Fops and Beaux of London: Yet when it is Honoria who is deceived, then I call Deception by its Name, and find that I have not the Stomach for it. —But now Honoria returns, and we are called to Supper: Wherefore I shall interrupt my Writing for the Moment, and continue it when I shall be free of other Obligations.
* * *
I take up my Pen again, tho’ to what Avail, I know not; I cannot, like Luther, exorcise my Demons with an Ink-pot. Doctor Albertus has been such an Host to Honoria, as might lead an Observer, not acquainted with the true Histories of the Characters in our Scene, to conclude that she had come expressly to see him, and that he was desirous of repaying the Favor conferred upon him by her Visit. Honoria, for her Part, seems as charmed with the Doctor, as she is pleased by her own Accomplishment, in finding the Means to convey her hither. These Things would be good, and ease my Mind, but that the Doctor has seen fit to have our Supper served by the Automaton: Which is to say, by the Cockney Seamstress who impersonates the Automaton:—and I, unwilling to add my Voice to a Deception, which appears the more lamentable, in that its Victim is one to whom I must owe every Respect,—I must keep Silence. For I confess, That I see no reasonable Course ahead of me, but only Unreason and Madness. If I had but a Word from you, dearest Sister, whether of Consolation, or of Reproof, I might the more easily bear a Burden, which I have taken up all unawares, and which now presses upon me with a Weight I can scarce support. Wherefore I implore you, if you do receive this Letter, to believe me,
Your faithful Brother,