Susanna Haswell Rowson (17621824). Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth. 1905.
Sorrows of the Heart
WHEN Charlotte got home she endeavored to collect her thoughts, and took up a pen, in order to address those dear parents, whom, spite of her errors, she still loved with the utmost tenderness, but vain was every effort to write with the least coherence.
Her tears fell so fast, they almost blinded her; and as she proceeded to describe her unhappy situation, she became so agitated that she was obliged to give over the attempt, and retire to bed, where, overcome with the fatigue her mind had undergone, she fell into a slumber which greatly refreshed her, and she arose in the morning with spirits more adequate to the painful task she had to perform, and after several attempts, at length concluded the following letter to her mother:
TO MRS. TEMPLE:
Will my once kind, my ever-beloved mother, deign to receive a letter from her guilty, but repentant child? or has she, justly incensed at my ingratitude, driven the unhappy Charlotte from her remembrance? Alas! thou much injured mother, shouldst thou even disown me, I dare not complain, because I know I have deserved it: but yet, believe me, guilty as I am, and cruelly as I have disappointed the hopes of the fondest parents that ever girl had, even in the moment when, forgetful of my duty, I fled from you and happinesseven then I loved you most, and my heart bled at the thought of what you would suffer. Oh! nevernever! whilst I have existence, will the agony of that moment be erased from my memory. It seemed like the separation of soul and body. What can I plead in excuse for my conduct? Alas! nothing! That I loved my seducer is but too true! Yet, powerful as that passion is, when operating in a young heart glowing with sensibility, it never would have conquered my affection to you, my beloved parents, had I not been encouraged, nay, urged to take the fatally imprudent step by one of my own sex, who, under the mask of friendship, drew me on to ruin. Yet, think not your Charlotte was so lost as to voluntarily rush into a life of infamy; no, my dear mother, deceived by the specious appearance of my betrayer, and every suspicion lulled asleep by the most solemn promises of marriage, I thought not those promises would so easily be forgotten. I never once reflected that the man who could stoop to seduction, would not hesitate to forsake the wretched object of his passion, whenever his capricious heart grew weary of her tenderness. When we arrived at this place, I vainly expected him to fulfil his engagements; but was at last fatally convinced he never intended to make me his wife, or if he had once thought of it his mind was now altered. I scorned to claim from his humanity what I could not obtain from his love: I was conscious of having forfeited the only gem that could render me respectable in the eye of the world. I locked my sorrows in my own bosom, and bore my injuries in silence. But how shall I proceed? This man, this cruel Montraville, for whom I sacrificed honor, happiness, and the love of my friends, no longer looks on me with affection, but scorns the credulous girl whom his art has made miserable. Could you see me, my dear parents, without society, without friends, stung with remorse, and (I feel the burning blush of shame dye my cheeks while I write it) tortured with the pangs of disappointed love; cut to the soul by the indifference of him, who, having deprived me of every other comfort, no longer thinks it worth his while to soothe the heart where he has planted the thorn of never-ceasing regret! My daily employment is to think of you and weep, to pray for your happiness, and deplore my own folly: my nights are scarce more happy; for, if by chance I close my weary eyes, and hope some small forgetfulness of sorrow, some little time to pass in sweet oblivion, fancy, still waking, wafts me home to you: I see your beloved forms; I kneel and hear the blessed words of peace and pardon. Ecstatic joy pervades my soul; I reach my arms to catch your dear embraces; the motion chases the illusive dream; I wake to real misery. At other times I see my father, angry and frowning, point to horrid caves, where, on the cold, damp ground, in the agonies of death, I see my dear mother and my revered grandfather. I strive to raise you; you push me from you, and shrieking, cry: Charlotte, thou has murdered me! Horror and despair tear every tortured nerve; I start and leave my restless bed, weary and unrefreshed.
Shocking as these reflections are, I have yet one more dreadful than the rest. Mother, my dear mother! do not let me quite break your heart when I tell you, in a few months I shall bring into the world an innocent witness of my guilt. Oh! my bleeding heart, I shall bring a poor little helpless creature heir to infamy and shame.
This alone has urged me once more to address you, to interest you in behalf of this poor unborn, and beg you to extend your protection to the child of your lost Charlotte; for my own part, I have wrote so often, so frequently have pleaded for forgiveness, and entreated to be received once more beneath the paternal roof, that, having received no answer, not even one line, I much fear you have cast me from you forever.
But sure you can not refuse to protect my innocent infant: it partakes not of its mothers guilt. Oh! my father, oh! beloved mother, now do I feel the anguish I inflicted on your hearts recoiling with double force upon my own.
If my child should be a girl (which Heaven forbid), tell her the unhappy fate of her mother, and teach her to avoid my errors; if a boy, teach him to lament my miseries, but tell him not who inflicted them, lest, in wishing to revenge his mothers injuries, he should wound the peace of his father.
And now, dear friends of my soul, kind guardians of my infancy, farewell. I feel I never more must hope to see you; the anguish of my heart strikes at the strings of life, and in a short time I shall be at rest. Oh, could I but receive your blessing and forgiveness before I died, it would smooth my passage to the peaceful grave, and be a blessed foretaste of a happy eternity. I beseech you, curse me not, my adored parents; but let a tear of pity and pardon fall to the memory of your lost