Susanna Haswell Rowson (17621824). Charlotte Temple: A Tale of Truth. 1905.
IN the meantime, Montraville having received orders to return to New York, arrived, and having still some remains of compassionate tenderness for the woman whom he regarded as brought to shame by himself he went out in search of Belcour, to inquire whether she was safe, and whether the child lived. He found him immersed in dissipation, and could gain no other intelligence than that Charlotte had left him, and that he knew not what was become of her.
I can not believe it possible, said Montraville, that a mind once so pure as Charlotte Temples should so suddenly become the mansion of vice. Beware, Belcour, continued he, beware if you have dared to behave either unjust or dishonorably to that poor girl, your life shall pay the forfeit:I will revenge her cause.
He immediately went into the country, to the house where he had left Charlotte. It was desolate. After much inquiry he at length found the servant girl who had lived with her. From her he learnt the misery Charlotte had endured from the complicated evils of illness, poverty, and a broken heart, and that she had set out on foot for New York on a cold winters evening; but she could inform him no further.
Tortured almost to madness by this shocking account, he returned to the city, but before he reached it, the evening was drawing to a close. In entering the town, he was obliged to pass several little huts,1 the residences of poor women, who supported themselves by washing the clothes of the officers and soldiers. It was nearly dark: he heard from a neighboring steeple a solemn toll that seemed to say, some poor mortal was going to their last mansion: the sound struck on the heart of Montraville, and he involuntarily stopped, when from one of the houses he saw the appearance of a funeral. Almost unknowing what he did, he followed at a small distance; and as they let the coffin into the grave, he inquired of a soldier, who stood by, and had just brushed off a tear that did honor to his heart, who it was that was just buried. An please your honor, said the man, tis a poor girl that was brought from her friends by a cruel man, who left her when she was big with child, and married another. Montraville stood motionless, and the man proceededI met her myself, not a fortnight since, one night, all wet and cold in the streets; she went to Madam Craytons, but she would not take her in and so the poor thing went raving mad. Montraville could bear no more; he struck his hands against his forehead with violence, and exclaiming, poor murdered Charlotte! ran with precipitation towards the place where they were heaping the earth on her remains. Holdhold! one moment, said he, close not the grave of the injured Charlotte Temple, till I have taken vengeance on her murderer.
Alas! said Mr. Temple, if thou wert the seducer of my child, thy own reflections be thy punishment. I wrest not the power from the hand of Omnipotence. Look on that little heap of earth; there hast thou buried the only joy of a fond father. Look at it often; and may thy heart feel such true sorrow as shall merit the mercy of Heaven. He turned from him, and Montraville, starting up from the ground where he had thrown himself, and at that instant remembering the perfidy of Belcour, flew like lightning to his lodgings. Belcour was intoxicated; Montraville impetuous; they fought, and the sword of the latter entered the heart of his adversary. He fell, and expired almost instantly. Montraville had received a slight wound; and, overcome with the agitation of his mind, and loss of blood, was carried in a state of insensibility to his distracted wife. A dangerous illness and obstinate delirium ensued, during which he raved incessantly for Charlotte: but a strong constitution and the tender assiduities of Julia, in time overcame the disorder. He recovered, but to the end of his life was subject to severe fits of melancholy, and while he remained at New York,2 frequently retired to the churchyard, where he would weep over the grave, and regret the untimely fate of the lovely Charlotte Temple.
Note 1. These stood upon the highway which was long known as Chatham Street. It is now that part of Park Row which extends from Brooklyn Bridge to Chatham Square. [back]
Note 2. Colonel Montrésor, it will be recalled, sailed from New York with his family in the autumn of 1778, never to return. Mrs. Rowson, in Lucy Temple, says Colonel Franklin (that is, Montraville) returned to his own country, which he had left nine years before a captain of artillery, with little besides his pay, an honorable descent, and fair character, to receive the thanks of royalty for his intrepidity [an honor which, as a matter of fact, Colonel Montrésor is known to have received], and to dash into the world of splendor and gaiety. Promoted to the rank of colonel of artillery, and having had the office of Chief Engineer during his service abroad [the exact office, be it remembered, which Colonel Montrésor held in America], he stood in an elevated rank and associated with the first personages in the kingdom. After Colonel Franklins early death, his widow, discontented in England, embarked for New York with the whole of her family, and later purchased a beautiful seat on the banks of the Delaware, where she continued to live in the enjoyment of all the happiness which was to be derived from the society of her family and the delightful serenity of nature. [back]