« VorigeDoorgaan »
'morning that you are a fool. If I should accept ་ your challenge, I should myself be both. I owe a duty to God and to my country, which I deem it infamous to violate; and I am intrusted with a life which I think cannot without folly be staked against C yours. I believe you have ruined, but you cannot degrade me. You may possibly, while you sneer over this letter, secretly exult in your own safety; but remember, that to prevent assassination I have a sword, and to chastise insolence a cane.'
With this letter, the captain returned to Ventosus, who read it with all the extravagancies of rage and disdain: the captain, however, endeavoured to soothe and encourage him; he represented Eugenio as a poltroon and a beggar, whom he ought no otherwise to punish than by removing him from the rank into which he had intruded; and this, he said, would be very easily accomplished. Ventosus at length asquiesced in the sentiments of his friend; and it was soon industriously reported, that Eugenio had struck a person of high rank, and refused him the satisfaction of a gentleman, which he had condescended to ask. For not accepting a challenge, Eugenio could not be legally punished because it was made his duty as a soldier by the articles of war; but it drew upon him the contempt of his
*Such is the necessary imperfection of human laws, that many private injuries are perpetrated of which they take no cognizance: but if these were allowed to be punished by the individual against whom they are committed, every man would be judge and execu tioner in his own cause, and universal anarchy would immediately follow. The laws, therefore, by which this practice is prohibited, ought to be held more sacred than any other: and the violation of them is so far from being necessary to prevent an imputation of cowardice, that they are enforced, even among those in whom cowardice is punished with death, by the following clause in the nineteenth Article of War:
"Nor shall any officer or soldier upbraid another for refusing a "challenge: since, according to these our orders they do but the du"ty of soldiers, who ought to subject themselves to discipline; and "we do acquit and discharge all men who have quarrels offered, or "challenges sent to them, of all disgrace or opinion of disadvantage in their obedience hereunto: and whoever shall upbraid them, or
superior officers, and made them very solicitous to find some pretence to dismiss him. The friends of Ventosus immediately intimated, that the act of violence to which Eugenio had been provoked, was committed within the verge of the court, and was, therefore, a sufficient cause to break him; as for that offence he was liable to be punished with the loss of his hand, by a law, which, though disused, was still in force. This expedient was eagerly adopted, and Eugenio was accordingly deprived of his commission.
He had concealed his quarrel with Ventosus from his father, who was then at the family-seat about twenty miles from London, because he was not willing to acquaint him with the cause: but the effect was such as could not be hidden; and it was now become necessary that he should anticipate the report of others. He, therefore, set out immediately for the country; but his father about the same time arrived in London: some imperfect account had been sent him of the proceedings against Eugenio; and though he concluded from his silence that he had been guilty of some indiscretion, yet he did not suspect an imputation of cowardice; and hoped by his interest to support him against private resentment. When he found that he had missed Eugenio in some of the avenues to town, he went immediately to the gentleman who had procured his commission, from whom he learned all the circumstances of the affair. The moment he heard that his son had refused a challenge, he was seized with rage so violent, that it had the appearance of distraction: he uttered innumerable oaths and execrations in a voice that was scarce human, declared his son to be unworthy of his name, and solemny renounced him for ever. Eugenio returned to London the same day, but it "offend in this case, shall be punished as a challenger."
It is to be presumed, that of this clause no gentlemen in the army is ignorant; and those, who by the arrogance of their folly labour to render it ineffectual, should, as enemies to their country, be driven out of it with detestation and contempt.
was late before he arrived. The servant that opened the door told him, with tears in his eyes, that his father was gone to bed much disordered, and had commanded that he should no more be admitted into that house. He stood motionless a few moments; and than departing without reply, came directly to me; his looks were wild, his countenance pale, and his eyes swimming in tears: the moment he saw me, he threw himself into a chair; and putting a copy of his answer to Ventosus's challenge into my hand, anticipated my enquiries by relating all that had happened." After having administered such consolation as I could, I prevailed upon him with much difficulty to go to bed. I sat up the rest of the night, devising various arguments to convince Orgilio, that his son had added new dignity to his character. In the morning I went to his house; and after much solicitation was admitted to his chamber. I found him in bed, where he had lain awake all the night; and it was easy to see that his mind was in great agitation. I hoped that this tumult was produced by the struggles of paternal tenderness: but the moment I mentioned his son, he fell into an agony of rage that rendered him speechless; and I came away, convinced the eloquence of an angel upon the same subject would have been without effect. I did not, however, relate these discouraging circumstances to Eugenio: I told him that it would be proper to wait a few days before any farther application was made; not only because his father's resentment would probably subside, but because he was now indisposed. Eugenio, when he heard that his father was ill, changed colour and burst into tears. He went every evening and knocking softly at the servant's window, enquired how he did; and when he found that his fever was become dangerous, he intreated me to go yet once more and intercede for him, that he might at least be permitted to see his father, if he might not hope to be forgiven. 1 went; but when
Orgilio heard my name, he fell into a fresh transport of rage, which ended in a delirium. The effect which this incident produced upon Eugenio, who waited at the end of the street for my return, cannot be described: I prevailed upon him to go back to my house, where he sometimes hastily traversed the room, and sometimes sat fixed in a kind of stupid insensibility upon the floor. While he was in one of these fits, news was brought that his father was dead and had the morning after he was taken ill disinherited him, declaring that by the infamy of his conduct he had broke his heart. Eugenio heard this account without any apparent surprise or emotion, but could not be persuaded to change his posture or receive any food; till his spirits being quite exhausted, sleep relieved him a few hours from the agony of his mind.
The night on which his father was buried, he wrapped himself up in a horseman's coat that belonged to my servant, and followed the procession at a distance on foot. When the ceremony was over, and the company departed, he threw himself on the grave; and hiding his face in the dust, wept over it in silence that was interrupted only by groans. I, who had followed him unperceived, did not think it prudent to intrude upon the solemnity of his sorrow, till the morning dawned: he was surprised, and I thought somewhat confounded to see me; he suffered me, however to lead him away, but neither of us uttered a word. He told me the next day, that he would trouble me a few nights longer for a lodging, and in the mean time think of some means by which he might obtain a subsistence; he was, indeed, totally destitute, without money and without a profession; but he made no complaint, and obstinately refused all pecuniary assistance.
In less than a
week afterwards, having converted his watch, his sword, a snuff-box, and ring, into money, he engaged as a common sailor in a private undertaking to discover
the north-west passage to India. When he communicated this desperate enterprize, he appeared perfectly composed. My dear friend,' said he, it has been always my point of honour to obey the commands of GOD, the prime author of my being and the ultimate object of my hope, at whatever risque; and I do not repent that I have steadily adhered to this principle at the expence of all that is valuable · upon earth: I have suffered the loss of fortune, of love, and of fame; but I have preserved my integ'rity, and I know that I shall not lose my reward. To these I would, indeed, add the esteem, though 'not the love of Amelia. She will hear of me as de· graded and disinherited, a coward, a vagabond, and a fugitive; and her esteem, I think, I have sufficient 'reason to give up: grief will wound her deeper than contempt; it is, therefore, best that she should de'spise me. Some of those, by whom she is addressed, deserve her; and I ought not to withhold a fel'icity which I cannot enjoy. I shall embark to morrow; and your friendly embrace is all the good that 'I expect to receive from this country, when I de· part in search of others which are unknown.'
To this address I was not in a condition to reply; and perceiving that I was overwhelmed with grief, he left me, perhaps, lest his purpose should be shaken, and my weakness should prove contagious.
On the morrow I attended him to the ship. He talked to me of indifferent things; and when we parted wrung my hand, and turned from me abruptly without speaking. I hasted into the boat which waited to bring me on shore, and would not again feel the pangs of yesterday for all the kingdoms of the world.
Such is the friend I have lost! such is the man, whom the world has disgraced for refusing a challenge! but none who are touched with pity at his misfortunes, wish that he had avoided them by another conduct; and not to pity Eugenio, is surely to