As we are now nearly arrived at our destined port, I think it but my duty to inform you, my friends, that this lady, (taking her hand) has placed herself under my protection. I have seen and severely felt the anguish of her heart, and through every shade which cruelty or malice may throw over her, can discover the most amiable qualities. I thought it but necessary to mention my esteem for her before our disembarkation, as it is my fixed resolution, the morning after we land, to give her an undoubted title to my favor and protection by honorably uniting my fate to hers. I would wish every gentleman hence, therefore, to remember that her honor henceforth is mine; and, continued he, looking at Belcour, should any man presume to speak in the least disrespectfully of her, I shall not hesitate to pronounce him a scoundrel!
Belcour cast at him a smile of contempt, and bowing profoundly low, wished mademoiselle much joy in the proposed union; and assuring the colonel that he need not be in the least apprehensive of any one throwing the least odium on the character of his lady, shook him by the hand with ridiculous gravity, and left the cabin.
The inexperienced Charlotte was astonished at what she heard. She thought La Rue had, like herself, only been urged by the force of her attachment to Belcour, to quit her friends, and follow him to the seat of war: how wonderful, then, that she should resolve to marry another man! It was certainly extremely wrong. It was indelicate. She mentioned her thoughts to Montraville. He laughed at her simplicity, called her a little idiot, and patting her on the cheek, said she knew nothing of the world.
If the world sanctifies such things, tis a very bad world I think, said Charlotte. Why, I always understood they were to have been married when they arrived at New York. I am sure mademoiselle told me Belcour promised to marry her.
Charlotte looked at him attentively for a moment. A full sense of her own situation rushed upon her mind. She burst into tears, and remained silent. Montraville too well understood the cause of her tears. He kissed her cheek, and bidding her not make herself uneasy, unable to bear the silent but keen remonstrance, hastily left her.
The next morning by sunrise they found themselves at anchor before the city of New York. A boat was ordered to convey the ladies on shore. Crayton accompanied them; and they were shown to a house of public entertainment. Scarcely were they seated, when the door opened and the colonel found himself in the arms of his daughter, who had landed a few minutes before him. The first transport of meeting subsided, Crayton introduced his daughter to Mademoiselle La Rue as an old friend of her mothers, (for the artful Frenchwoman had really made it appear to the credulous colonel that she was in the same convent with his first wife, and tho much younger, had received many tokens of her esteem and regard).
Hush, my dear sir, replied Mrs. Beauchamp: I know my duty too well to scrutinize your conduct. Be assured, my dear father, your happiness is mine. I shall rejoice in it, and sincerely love the person who contributes to it. But tell me, continued she, turning to Charlotte, who is this lovely girl? Is she your sister, mademoiselle?
It is a young lady, replied the colonel, who came in the same vessel with us from England. He then drew his daughter aside and told her in a whisper, that Charlotte was the mistress of Montraville.
Charlotte caught the word pity. And am I already fallen so low? said she. A sigh escaped her, and a tear was ready to start, but Montraville appeared, and she checked the rising emotion. Mademoiselle went with the colonel and his daughter to another apartment. Charlotte remained with Montraville and Belcour. The next morning the colonel performed his promise, and La Rue became in due form Mrs. Crayton, exulted in her own good fortune, and dared to look with an eye of contempt on the unfortunate but far less guilty Charlotte.