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 XXV
Reception of a Letter
 
“AND where now is our poor Charlotte?” said Mr. Temple, one evening, as the cold blasts of autumn whistled rudely over the heath, and the yellow appearance of the distant wood, spoke the near approach of winter. In vain the cheerful fire blazed on the hearth, in vain was he surrounded by all the comforts of life; the parent was still alive in his heart, and when he thought that perhaps his once darling child was ere this exposed to all the miseries of want in a distant land, without a friend to soothe and comfort her, without the benignant look of compassion to cheer, or the angelic voice of pity to pour the balm of consolation on her wounded heart; when he thought of this, his whole soul dissolved in tenderness, and while he wiped the tear of anguish from the eye of his patient, uncomplaining Lucy, he struggled to suppress the sympathizing drop that started in his own. “Oh! my poor girl!” said Mrs. Temple, “how must she be altered, else surely she would have relieved our agonizing minds by one line to say she lived—to say she had not quite forgot the parents who almost idolized her.”  1
  “Gracious Heaven!” said Mr. Temple, starting from his seat, “who would wish to be a father to experience the agonizing pangs inflicted on a parent’s heart by the ingratitude of a child?” Mrs. Temple wept: her father took her hand. He would have said: “Be comforted, my child!” but the words died on his tongue. The sad silence that ensued was interrupted by a loud rap at the door. In a moment a servant entered with a letter in his hand.  2
  Mrs. Temple took it from him: she cast her eyes upon the superscription; she knew the writing. “’Tis Charlotte,” said she, eagerly breaking the seal, “she has not quite forgot us.” But before she had half gone through the contents, a sudden sickness seized her; she grew cold and giddy, and putting it into her husband’s hands, she cried—“Read it: I can not.” Mr. Temple attempted to read it aloud, but frequently paused to give vent to his tears. “My poor, deluded child!” said he, when he had finished.  3
  “Oh, shall we not forgive the dear penitent?” said Mrs. Temple. “We must, we will, my love; she is willing to return, and ’tis our duty to receive her.”  4
  “Father of mercy,” said Mr. Eldridge, raising his clasped hands, “let me but live once more to see the dear wanderer restored to her afflicted parents, and take me from this world of sorrow whenever it seemeth best to Thy wisdom.”  5
  “Yes, we will receive her,” said Mr. Temple; “we will endeavor to heal her wounded spirit, and speak peace and comfort to her agitated soul. I will write to her to return immediately.”  6
  “Oh!” said Mrs. Temple, “I would, if possible, fly to her, support and cheer the dear sufferer in the approaching hour of distress, and tell her how nearly penitence is allied to virtue. Can not we go and conduct her home, my love?” continued she, laying her hand on his arm. “My father will surely forgive our absence if we go to bring home his darling.”  7
  “You can not go, my Lucy,” said Mr. Temple: “the delicacy of your frame would but poorly sustain the fatigue of a long voyage; but I will go and bring the gentle penitent to your arms: we may still see many years of happiness.”  8
  The struggle in the bosom of Mrs. Temple between maternal and conjugal tenderness was long and painful. At length the former triumphed, and she consented that her husband should set forward to New York by the first opportunity: she wrote to her Charlotte in the tenderest, most consoling manner, and looked forward to the happy hour when she should again embrace her with the most animated hope.  9
 
 
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