Susanna Haswell Rowson (17621824). Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth. 1905.
A Mistake Discovered
JULIA FRANKLIN1 was the only child of a man of large property, who at the age of eighteen left her independent mistress of an unencumbered income of seven hundred a year; she was a girl of a lively disposition, and humane, susceptible heart; she resided in New York with an uncle who loved her too well, and had too high an opinion of her prudence, to scrutinize her actions so much as would have been necessary with many young ladies who were not blest with her discretion: she was, at the time Montraville arrived at New York, the life of society, and the universal toast. Montraville was introduced to her by the following accident.
One night when he was upon guard, a dreadful fire broke out near Mr. Franklins house, which in a few hours reduced that and several others to ashes; fortunately no lives were lost, and by the assiduity of the soldiers much valuable property was saved from the flames. In the midst of the confusion an old gentleman came up to Montraville, and putting a small box into his hands, criedKeep it, my good sir, till I come to you again; and then rushing again into the thickest of the crowd, Montraville saw him no more. He waited till the fire was quite extinguished, and the mob dispersed; but in vain: the old gentleman did not appear to claim his property; and Montraville, fearing to make any enquiry, lest he should meet with impostors who might lay claim without any legal right to the box, carried it to his lodgings, and locked it up: he naturally imagined, that the person who committed it to his care knew him, and would in a day or two reclaim it; but several weeks passed on, and no enquiry being made, he began to be uneasy, and resolved to examine the contents of the box, and if they were, as he supposed, valuable, to spare no pains to discover and restore them to the owner. Upon opening it, he found it contained jewels to a large amount, about two hundred pounds in money, and a miniature picture set for a bracelet. On examining the picture, he thought he had somewhere seen features very like it, but could not recollect where. A few days after, being at a public assembly, he saw Miss Franklin, and the likeness was too evident to be mistaken: he inquired among his brother officers if any of them knew her, and found one who was upon terms of intimacy in the family: then introduce me to her immediately, said he, for I am certain I can inform her of something which will give her peculiar pleasure.
He was immediately introduced, found she was the owner of the jewels, and was invited to breakfast the next morning, in order to their restoration. This whole evening Montraville was honored with Julias hand; the lively sallies of her wit, the elegance of her manner, powerfully charmed him: he forgot Charlotte, and indulged himself in saying everything that was polite and tender to Julia. But on retiring, recollection returned. What am I about? said he: tho I can not marry Charlotte, I can not be villain enough to forsake her, nor must I dare to trifle with the heart of Julia Franklin. I will return this box, said he, which has been the source of so much uneasiness already, and in the evening pay a visit to my poor, melancholy Charlotte, and endeavor to forget this fascinating Julia.
He arose, dressed himself, and taking the picture out, I will reserve this from the rest, said he, and by presenting it to her when she thinks it is lost, enhance the value of the obligation. He repaired to Mr. Franklins, and found Julia in the breakfast parlor alone.
How happy am I, madam, said he, that being the fortunate instrument of saving these jewels, has been the means of procuring me the acquaintance of so amiable a lady. There are the jewels and money all safe.
It is the portrait of my mother, said she, taking it from him: tis all that remains. She pressed it to her lips, and a tear trembled in her eyes. Montraville glanced his eye on her gray nightgown and black ribbon, and his own feelings prevented a reply.
Julia Franklin was the very reverse of Charlotte Temple: she was tall, elegantly shaped, and possessed much of the air and manner of a woman of fashion; her complexion was a clear brown, enlivened with the glow of health; her eyes, full, black, and sparkling, darted their intelligent glances through long silken lashes; her hair was shining brown, and her features regular and striking; there was an air of innocent gayety that played about her countenance where good humor sat triumphant.
I have been mistaken, said Montraville. I imagined I loved Charlotte: but, alas! I am now too late convinced my attachment to her was merely the impulse of the moment. I fear I have not only entailed lasting misery on that poor girl, but also thrown a barrier in the way of my own happiness which it will be impossible to surmount. I feel I love Julia Franklin with ardor and sincerity; yet, when in her presence, I am sensible of my own inability to offer a heart worthy her acceptance, and remain silent.
Full of these painful thoughts, Montraville walked out to see Charlotte: she saw him approach, and ran out to meet him: she banished from her countenance the air of discontent, which ever appeared when he was absent, and met him with a smile of joy.
Montraville was glad to retire, and by pretending to sleep, hide the agitation of his mind from her penetrating eye. Charlotte watched by him till a late hour, and then, lying softly down by his side, sunk into a profound sleep, from which she awoke not till late the next morning.
Note 1. Writers, not knowing that Colonel Montrésor in 1774 was already married to Miss Frances Tucker, have been led into taking Julia Franklin for a real person, identifying her with the family from which Franklin Square got its name. [back]