Fiction > Susanna Haswell Rowson > Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth
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Susanna Haswell Rowson (1762–1824).  Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth.  1905.
 
Chapter XXX
“Friendship a Name”
 
 And what is friendship but a name,
  A charm that lulls to sleep,
A shade that follows wealth and fame,
  But leaves the wretch to weep. 1

WHEN Charlotte was left to herself, she began to think what course she must take, or to whom she could apply, to prevent her perishing for want, or perhaps that very night falling a victim to the inclemency of the season. After many perplexed thoughts she at last determined to set out for New York and inquire out Mrs. Crayton, from whom she had no doubt but she should obtain immediate relief as soon as her distress was made known; she had no sooner formed this resolution than she resolved immediately to put it in execution: she therefore wrote the following little billet to Mrs. Crayton, thinking if she should have company with her, it would be better to send it in than to request to see her.

        “TO MRS. CRAYTON.
  “MADAM, When we left our native land, that dear happy land which now contains all that is dear to the wretched Charlotte, our prospects were the same; we both, pardon me, madam, if I say, we both too easily followed the impulse of our treacherous hearts, and trusted our happiness on a tempestuous ocean, where mine has been wrecked and lost forever; you have been more fortunate—you are united to a man of honor and humanity, united by the most sacred ties, respected, esteemed, and admired, and surrounded by innumerable blessings of which I am bereaved, enjoying those pleasures which have fled my bosom, never to return; alas! sorrow and deep regret have taken their place. Behold me, madam, a poor, forsaken wanderer, who has not where to lay her weary head, wherewith to supply the wants of nature, or to shield her from the inclemency of the weather. To you I sue, to you I look for pity and relief. I ask not to be received as an intimate or an equal; only for charity’s sweet sake, receive me into your hospitable mansion, allot me the meanest apartment in it, and let me breathe out my soul in prayers for your happiness; I can not, I feel I can not long bear up under the accumulated woes that pour in upon me; but oh! my dear madam, for the love of Heaven, suffer me not to expire in the street; and when I am at peace, as soon I shall be, extend your compassion to my helpless offspring, should it please Heaven that it should survive its unhappy mother. A gleam of joy breaks in on my benighted soul, while I reflect that you can not, will not, refuse your protection to the heart-broken.      CHARLOTTE.”
  1
  When Charlotte had finished this letter, late as it was in the afternoon, and tho the snow began to fall very fast, she tied up a few necessaries, which she had prepared against her expected confinement, and terrified lest she should be again exposed to the insults of her barbarous landlady, more dreadful to her wounded spirit than either storm or darkness, she set forward for New York. 2  2
  It may be asked by those who, in a work of this kind, love to cavil at every trifling omission, whether Charlotte did not possess any valuable of which she could have disposed, and by that means have supported herself till Mrs. Beauchamp’s return, when she would have been certain of receiving every tender attention which compassion and friendship could dictate: but let me entreat these wise, penetrating gentlemen to reflect, that when Charlotte left England, it was in such haste that there was no time to purchase anything more than what was wanted for immediate use on the voyage, and after her arrival at New York, Montraville’s affection soon began to decline, so that her whole wardrobe consisted of only necessaries; and as to baubles, with which fond lovers often load their mistresses, she possessed not one, except a plain gold locket of small value, which contained a lock of her mother’s hair, and which the greatest extremity of want could not have forced her to part with.  3
  I hope, sir, your prejudices are now removed in regard to the probability of my story? Oh, they are. Well, then, with your leave, I will proceed. The distance from the house which our suffering heroine occupied, to New York, was not very great; yet the snow fell so fast, and the cold so intense, that, being unable from her situation to walk quick, she found herself almost sinking with cold and fatigue before she reached the town; her garments, which were merely suitable to the summer season, being an undress robe of plain white muslin, were wet through; and a thin, black cloak and bonnet, very improper habiliments for such a climate, but poorly defended her from the cold. In this situation she reached the city, and inquired of a foot-soldier whom she met, the way to Colonel Crayton’s.  4
  “Bless you, my sweet lady,” said the soldier, with a voice and look of compassion, “I will show you the way with all my heart; but if you are going to make a petition to Madam Crayton, it is all to no purpose, I assure you: if you please, I will conduct you to Mr. Franklin’s: tho Miss Julia is married and gone now, yet the old gentleman is very good.”  5
  “Julia Franklin,” said Charlotte; “is she not married to Montraville?”  6
  “Yes,” replied the soldier, “and may God bless them, for a better officer never lived, he is so good to us all; and as to Miss Julia, all the poor folks almost worshiped her.”  7
  “Gracious Heaven!” cried Charlotte, “is Montraville unjust then to none but me?”  8
  The soldier now showed her Colonel Crayton’s door, and with a beating heart she knocked for admission. 3  9
 
Note 1. These lines are Goldsmith’s. [back]
Note 2. The identity of the house which Charlotte was now leaving with a house shown on the Ratzen map has already been referred to in the Introduction. It is interesting to note further than in Watson’s “Annals,” published in 1846, its location is given as what was then No. 24 Bowery, the edifice being described as “a low wooden house.” Watson gives Dr. John W. Francis, the author of “Old New York,” as his authority for the statement that Charlotte lived in this house. Dr. Francis, at the time when Watson wrote, was 57 years old, and had spent his life in New York, where he was born in 1789.
  The Bowery at that point is now accessible from the west, not only by Pell Street, but by another street, called Doyers, which turns northerly and soon enters Pell, thus making a small triangular block bounded by Doyers, Pell, and the Bowery. Within this enclosure originally stood the two houses shown on the Ratzen map, Charlotte’s house being subsequently removed to the northwest corner of Pell and the Bowery, where, as already stated, it was known as “The Old Tree House.” [back]
Note 3. In attempts heretofore made to establish the identity of this house, two famous Colonial homes have been brought into the discussion—the Franklin and the Walton. The former was perhaps first suggested in consequence of its name, but, as already pointed out, the Julia Franklin episode in “Charlotte Temple” never occurred in real life.
  The Franklin house stood at the northwest corner of Franklin Square and Cherry Street, the site being now overshadowed by one of the arches of the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge. It was built in 1770, and few, if any, private houses in America at that time, were more imposing. During Washington’s residence in New York as President, beginning in 1789, it was his first home.
  The Walton house, of which the Franklin house was a rival, stood a little further south on Pearl Street, near Franklin Square, and had been built twenty years earlier, when no home in America was quite its equal in architectural splendor or in furnishings. Its owner William Walton, was a commercial magnate who, in the late Colonial times, entertained with such exceptional munificence, that his expenditures were cited in Parliament as evidence of the ability of people in the Colonies to bear the burden of the Stamp Tax. [back]
 
 
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