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.
Dinner was now announced, and he was soon seated at a table loaded with all the delicacies that the climate afforded, served up with the utmost taste and elegance. The hour of dinner was past with the same pleasure on the part of Captain S., and with the same ease and sprightliness on the part of his fascinating hostess. The company soon withdrew, and left Captain S. and the lady alone. ” And now, Captain S.,” said she, addressing him with a confidence which was inspired, perhaps, by the consciousness of the favourable impression which she had made—” and now for our promised explanation, which permit me to commence, by inquiring how fares your adopted daughter 1″—” Well, madam, very well, I believe,” replied Captain S., somewhat surprised at the question.—” And it is rumoured, sir,” said the lady, ” that you are about to change the title of father for one of a different nature.” “Rumour often speaks vaguely,” replied Captain S., still uncertain whither her remarks tended.— Nobody could be better entitled to that privilege, Sir,” continued she—” but what grade, alas ! what grade, in the scale of your censures have you assigned to her seemingly unnatural mother.”—” Of that, madam,”” replied Captain S., ” I am but ill qualified to judge. Perhaps that mother might have had reasons to justify her conduct—and without knowing the circumstances under which she acted, I could never feel to condemn her, who, in the short moment I beheld her, awakened so extraordinary a interest in my bosom.” ” Yes, sir,” rejoined the lady, in melancholy and touching tones, ” that mother had reasons for her conduct—conduct, which she knew the world would, and had a right to condemn as base and unnatural; but think you, she parted with the infant of her bosom without a pang T without one tear of motherly affection 1 Oh ! could you have known the anguish of that moment—that distraction of feeling which rent her bleeding bosom, when she relinquished the subject of her affection, the only object on earth for which she breathed a wish to live, or even endured her then hated existence, every feeling of censure would have been lost in commiseration for her sufferings. One year before, and all that heart could wish was hers; all the advantages that rank and opulence could confer, all that is splendid and dazzling in the eyes of the world, and gives distinction in social life, was courting her acceptance; but her the art was not there; she had formed an attachment for a young officer, poor, indeed, but honourable, and who she knew would never be recognised as her suitor by her proud parents, who viewed wealth as the only ground of distinction in society. She was induced, therefore, to contract a clandestine marriage. The intercourse which followed was soon discovered; her husband was snatched from life by an unexpected casualty; her incensed parents would listen to no extenuation ; at the best her transgression was considered unpardonable, and she was driven from home in their resentment, with a limited pecuniary allowance, and told to seek protection where she could find it; she was now thrown on the world a wretched wanderer, without a friend or protector; she, who never dreamed that the world was made for aught but her and happiness; she came to this city for a shelter, and here remained in obscurity till that period which made her a mother had exhausted her small resources; she was then compelled to go forth helpless and pennyless with, as she thought, no other alternative before her but suicide or beggary; at this crisis she met with you; your character was known, the thought occurred to her to tax your benevolence with the charge of her offspring. Her opinion of you was not ill founded; she had the pleasure to behold her infant child fall into the hands of a generous benefactor; and she has bad the pleasure, too, to behold his goodness and protection continued to that daughter, who was, as you perhaps may justly deem, so meanly thrown on your generosity.—” Such,” replied Captain S., were never my feelings; I thought not so ; and I am amply repaid for my protection by the grateful feelings and interesting society of the lovely girl I protected.” ” And there is another, sir, replied the lady, who is by no means ungrateful to you, and who now stands ready to remunerate you for your benevolence to the amount of whatever you may please to accept.” ” I shall accept of none,” said Captain S.” Should a remuneration of another kind be acceptable, sir,” replied she, ” perhaps you will allow me, authorized, to award it—report says you intend marrying the daughter—I will give you even a greater liberty—I will give you the choice of marrying either mother or daughter.” Suffice it to say, that long before this Captain S. had discovered with whom he was conversing, and that he was not a little gratified and interested in the conference. A few days brought him to the conclusion that he should accept one of these offsets. The daughter had always looked on him as a father, and now more than ever he looked upon her as a daughter; he was not displeased, moreover, as it appears, with the mother; and on inquiry, he found, in addition to what she had already told him, that, whatever stains had once been thought to sully her character, they had been removed, and that her parents, though now dead, had forgiven, and bequeathed her a competence; on these grounds, together with his prepossessions in her favour, Captain S., in a few days, married Miss W., and with his adopted daughter, set sail for New-England, in one of the smiling villages of which he settled, and now lives with his family, in the bosom of contentment and social happiness.