Susanna Haswell Rowson (17621824). Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth. 1905.
When We Have Excited Curiosity, It Is but an Act of Good Nature to Gratify It
MONTRAVILLE was the youngest son of a gentleman of fortune, whose family being numerous, he was obliged to bring up his sons1 to genteel professions, by the exercise of which they might hope to raise themselves into notice.
My daughters, said he, have been educated like gentlewomen; and should I die before they are settled, they must have some provision made to place them above the snares and temptations which vice ever holds out to the elegant, accomplished female, when oppressed by the frowns of poverty and the sting of dependance: my boys, with only moderate incomes, when placed in the church, at the bar, or in the field, may exert their talents, make themselves friends, and raise their fortunes on the basis of merit.
When Montraville chose the profession of arms, his father presented him with a commission, and made him a handsome provision for his private purse. Now, my boy, said he; go! seek glory on the field of battle. You have received from me all I shall ever have it in my power to bestow: it is certain I have interest to gain your promotion; but be assured that interest shall never be exerted unless by your future conduct you deserve it. Remember, therefore, your success in life depends entirely on yourself. There is one thing I think it my duty to caution you against: the precipitancy with which young men frequently rush into matrimonial engagements, and by their thoughtlessness draw many a deserving woman into scenes of poverty and distress. A soldier has no business to think of a wife till his rank is such as to place him above the fear of bringing into the world a train of helpless innocents, heirs only to penury and affliction. If, indeed, a woman, whose fortune is sufficient to preserve you in that state of independence I would teach you to prize, should generously bestow herself on a young soldier, whose chief hope of future prosperity depended on his success in the fieldif such a woman should offerevery barrier is removed, and I should rejoice in an union which would promise so much felicity. But mark me, boy, if, on the contrary, you rush into a precipitate union with a girl of little or no fortune, take the poor creature from a comfortable home and kind friends, and plunge her into all the evils a narrow income and increasing family can inflict, I will leave you to enjoy the blessed fruits of your rashness; for, by all that is sacred, neither my interest or fortune shall ever be exerted in your favor. I am serious, continued he, therefore imprint this conversation on your memory, and let it influence your future conduct. Your happiness will always be dear to me; and I wish to warn you of a rock on which the peace of many an honest fellow has been wrecked; for, believe me, the difficulties and dangers of the longest winter campaign are much easier to be borne than the pangs that would seize your heart, when you beheld the woman of your choice, the children of your affection, involved in penury and distress, and reflected that it was your own folly and precipitancy had been the prime cause of their suffering.
As this conversation passed but a few hours before Montraville took leave of his father, it was deeply impressed on his mind: when, therefore, Belcour came with him to the place of assignation with Charlotte, he directed him to inquire of the Frenchwoman what were Miss Temples expectations in regard to fortune.
Mademoiselle informed him, that tho Charlottes father possessed a genteel independence, it was by no means probable that he could give his daughter more than a thousand pounds; and in case she did not marry to his liking, it was possible he might not give her a single sous [sic]; nor did it appear the least likely that Mr. Temple would agree to her union with a young man on the point of embarking for the feat of war.
Montraville therefore concluded it was impossible he should ever marry Charlotte Temple; and what end he proposed to himself by continuing the acquaintance he had commenced with her, he did not at that moment give himself time to inquire.
Note 1. Colonel James G. Montrésor, the father of Colonel John Montrésor, was thrice married, first to Johns mother, Mary Haswell. There were several sons by the first marriage, including, besides John, James, who was a lieutenant in the Navy, and Henry, who also followed a military or naval career. [back]