From The New-York mirror, and ladies’ literary gazette, Volume 4, 1827
Although the following little tale may apparently carry with it much of the air of fiction, yet it is all substantially correct, and but the bare recital of events that have actually transpired.
Near the close of the last century, Captain S., a native of New-England, who, at an early age was entrusted with the command of a mercantile vessel, made a voyage to one of the West-India islands. Having reached his destined port, disposed of his cargo, and made the necessary preparations for his return, one day as he was walking the streets of the large and flourishing port at which his vessel was anchored, he observed a well-dressed female walking near him and in the same direction. Her features, though bearing the evident marks of sorrow and dejection, were beautiful, and her whole appearance uncommonly interesting. Struck with her beauty and her prepossessing and dignified demeanor, Captain S. politely inquired whether she might be walking far in his direction, acquainting her at the same time with the house of his lodgings, to which he was then repairing. She assured him she was going directly to the same house he had mentioned. Captain S. then proffered his services in conveying a basket of considerable size, which she carried in her hand. She thanked him in a soft and tremulous tone of voice, and timidly delivered him the basket. Captain S. took the little burden from her hand, wholly unconscious of what it contained; and little dreaming what to his future life would be the consequences of the action of that moment. He observed, however, as he took the basket, that there was a singular hesitation in her manners, and that her. cheeks were crimsoned by a deep blush; but imputing it to no other cause than maiden timidity, he walked on in silence. The lady soon remarked, that she must make a call at the house then at hand, for a few moments, and, if he would convey the basket to his lodgings, she would soon be there to take charge of it herself. And throwing an anxious look on Captain S. and his charge, she immediately disappeared. Captain S. proceeded to his boardinghouse, and deposited the basket in the hall. He seated himself at the dinner table, and jovially related his adventure with the fair unknown. His host, better acquainted with the manners of the town, and the impositions which had sometimes been played off on strangers, smiled, and rallied him on the possibility of his basket’s containing something more than a dead weight, as he had humourously termed his burden. At this moment the cries of an infant were heard in the direction of the basket. Captain S. was astonished, and not a little chagrined at this sudden proof of what his host had just suggested. Unmoved, however, by the laugh which was now turned merrily upon him, he proceeded to the basket, and found it contained not a dead weight, but a living, healthy, and handsome looking female infant. No mother appeared to claim or offer it protection. Captain S. although incensed at the trick, and highly vexed with that credulous and honest simplicity in himself, which had thus rendered him the dupe of female artifice, was, not withstanding, endued with too much philanthropy, and too much humanity of feeling, to suffer his charge to be neglected. He procured a nurse for the present, and before he left the island made ample provision for the future support of the child. He now returned home, and did not visit the place till some years after, when he found his former helpless ward had become an interesting little prattler. He soon became much attached to her, and no longer regretted the incident which gave him, as he termed her, his adopted daughter. During the following twelve years Captain S. frequently visited the island, and always provided liberally for the support and education of the child that was thrown on his benevolence, without any of that regret, that drawback of feeling, which so often attends the ostensive generosity of the penurious, and destroys the merit of their charities. His heart was warmed by generous impulses, and required not the aid of arithmetical calculation to measure the bounds of its munificence. He always manifested toward her the affection and tenderness of a parent, and took a parent’s interest in her welfare. She had now arrived at the age of fourteen—an age, which, in that soft climate, confers all the maturity of womanhood, and more perfectly, perhaps, than any other period, opens the blossom of female beauty. She was esteemed as possessing an uncommon share of beauty and vivacity. And such was Captain S’s attachment that it was generally supposed that his was other than a parental affection, and it soon became rumoured in town that he was about to lead her to the hymeneal altar. Captain S. was at this time making preparations to return to New-England. One day as he stood on the wharf at which his vessel was moored, a billet was put into his hands by a person who immediately disappeared. He perused and found it a polite request of attendance to dine at a house in the city, which was particularized in the billet. The house and family who occupied it were to him perfectly unknown ; and so singular were all the circumstances attending the invitation, that he, for some time, hesitated whether it would be expedient to accept it. Curiosity, however, soon conquered his doubts, and he resolved to attend. At the appointed hour he arrived at the house, and was ushered into an elegant apartment by a lady who called him by name, and introduced herself by the name of Miss W., assuring him, at the same time, that the cause of his invitation should be the subject of a future explanation. Captain S. thought he had seen the countenance of his fair entertainer before; but he was unable to recall to mind when, or where, it might have happened ; and the hour which succeeded, spent in lively conversation on the leading topics of the day, brought nothing with it to assist his memory or allay his curiosity; and yet it brought along with it an increasing gratification, a pleasing interest which he had never before experienced. A happy dream of uncertainty, if the expression be allowed, was floating over his mind, and sensations were awakened in his bosom which he was conscious he had before, on some occasion or other, felt, and he knew that these sensations had been happy ones, and yet his memory was unable to identify them.