Page images
PDF
EPUB

too many of his companions, from competence to penury. Alas, alas, to him it left worse of its satellites behind it; it left the invader even of his misery—the seducer of his sacred and unspotted innocence. Mysterious Providence! was it not enough that sorrow robed the happy home in mourning—was it not enough that disappointment preyed upon its loveliest prospects—was it not enough that its little inmates cried in vain for bread, and heard no answer but the poor father's sigh, and drank no sustenance but the wretched mother's tears? Was this a time for passion, lawless, conscienceless, licentious passion, with its eye of lust, its heart of stone, its hand of rapine, to rush into the mournful sanctuary of misfortune, casting crime into the cup of wo, and rob the parents of thcir last wealth, their child, and rob the child of her only charm, her innocence! That this has been done I am instructed we shall prove: what requital it deserves, Gentlemen, you must prove to mankind.

The defendant's name I understand is TownSEND. He is of an age when every generous blossom of the spring should breathe an infant freshness round his heart; of a family which should inspire not only high but hereditary principles of honour; of a profession whose very essence is a stainless chivalry, and whose bought and bounden duty is the protection of the citizen. Such are the advantages with which he appears before you—fearful advantages, because they repel all possible suspicion ; but you will agree with me, most damning adversaries, if it shall appear that the generous ardour of his youth was chilled—that the noble inspiration of his birth was spurned—that the lofty impulse of his profession was despised—and that all that could grace, or animate, or ennoble, was used to his own discredit and his fellowcreature's misery.

It was upon the first of June last, that on the banks of the canal, near Portobello, Lieutenant Townsend first met the daughter of Mr. Creighton, a pretty, interesting girl, scarcely sixteen years of age. She was accompanied by her little sister, only four years old, with whom she was permitted to take a daily walk in that retired spot, the vicinity of her residence. The defendant was attracted by her appearance-he left his party, and attempted to converse with her; she repelled his advances—he immediately seized her infant sister by the hand, whom he held as a kind of hostage for an introduction to his victim. A prepossessing appearance, a modesty of deportment apparently quite incompatible with any evil design, gradually silenced her alarm, and she answered the common-place questions with which, on her way home, he addressed her. Gentlemen, I admit it was an innocent imprudence; the rigid rules of matured morality should have repelled such communication; yet, perhaps, judging even by that strict standard, you will rather condemn the familiarity of the intrusion in a designing adult, than the facility of access in a creature of her age and her innocence. They thus separated, as she naturally supposed, to meet no more. Not such, however, was the determination of her destroyer. From that hour until her ruin, he scarcely ever lost sight of her-he followed her as a shadow-he way-laid her in her walks—he interrupted her in her avocations—he haunted the street of her residence; if she refused to meet him, he paraded before her window at the hazard of exposing her first comparatively innocent imprudence to her unconscious parents. How happy would it have been had she conquered the timidity so natural to her age, and appealed at once to their pardon and their protection! Gentlemen, this daily persecution continued for three months-for three successive months, by every art, by every persuasion, by every appeal to her vanity and her passions, did he toil for the destruction of this unfortunate young creature. I leave you to guess how many during that interval might have yielded to the blandishments of manner, the fascinations of youth, the rarely resisted temptations of opportunity. For three long months she did resist them. She would have resisted them for ever, but for an expedient which is without a model—but for an exploit which I trust in God will be without an imitation. Oh, yes, he might have returned to his country, and did he but reflect, he would rather have rejoiced at the virtuous triumph of his victim, than mourn his own soul-redeeming defeat; he might have returned to his country, and told the cold blooded libellers of this land that their speculations upon Irish chastity were prejudiced and proofless; that in the wreck of all else we had retained our honour; that though the national luminary had descended for a season, the streaks of its loveliness still lingered on our horizon ; that the nurse of that genius, which abroad had redeemed the name, and dignified the nature of man, was to be found at home in the spirit without a stain, and the purity without a suspicion. He

a

might have told them truly that this did not result, as they would intimate, from the absence of passion or the want of civilization; that it was the combined consequence of education, of example, and of impulse! and that, though in all the revelry of enjoyment, the fair flowret of the Irish soil exhaled its fragrance and expanded its charms in the chaste and blessed beams of a virtuous affection, still it shrunk with an instinctive sensitiveness from the gross pollution of an unconsecrated contact !

Gentlemen, the common artifices of the seducer failed; the syren tones with which sensuality awakens appetite and lulls purity, had wasted themselves in air, and the intended victim, deaf to their fascination, moved along safe and untransformed. He soon saw, that young as she was, the vulgar expedients of vice were ineffectual; that the attractions of a glittering exterior failed; and that before she could be tempted to her sensual damnation, his tongue must learn, if not the words of wisdom, at least the speciousness of affected purity. He pretended an affection as virtuous as it was violent; he called God to witness the sincerity of his declarations; by all the vows which should for ever rivet the honourable, and could not fail to convince even the incredulous, he promised her marriage; over and over again he invoked the eternal denunciation, if he was perfidious. To her acknowledged want of fortune, his constant reply was, that he had an independence; that all he wanted was beauty and virtue; that he saw she had the one, that had proved she had the other. When she pleaded the obvious disparity of her birth, he answered, that he was himself only the son of an English farmer; that happiness was not the monopoly of rank or riches; that his parents would receive her as the child of their adoption; that he would cherish her as the charm of his existence. Specious as it was, even this did not succeed; she determined to await its avowal to those who had given her life, and who hoped to have made it immaculate by the education they had bestowed, and the example they had afforded. Some days after this he met her in her walks, for she could not pass her parental threshold without being intercepted. He asked where she was going ;-she said, a friend knowing her fondness for books, had promised her the loan of some, and she was going to receive them. He told her he had abundance, that they were just at his home, that he hoped after what had passed, she would

a

feel no impropriety in accepting them. She was persuaded to accompany him. Arrived, however, at the door of his lodgings, she positively refused to go any farther; all his former artifices were redoubled; he called God to witness he considered her as his wife, and her character as dear to him as that of one of his sisters; he affected mortification at any suspicion of his purity; he told her if she refused her confidence to his honourable affection, the little infant who accompanied her was an inviolable guarantee for her protection.

Gentlemen, this wretched child did suffer her credulity to repose on his professions. Her theory taught her to respect the honour of a soldier; her love repelled the imputation that debased its object; and her youthful innocence rendered her as incredulous as she was unconscious of criminality. At first bis behaviour corresponded with his professions; he welcomed her to the home of which he hoped she would soon become the inseparable companion; he painted the future joys of their domestic felicity, and dwelt with peculiar complacency on some heraldic ornament which hung over his chimney-piece, and which, he said, was the armorial ensign of his family! Oh! my Lord, how well would it have been had he but retraced the fountain of that document; had he recalled to mind the virtues it rewarded, the pure train of honours it associated, the line of spotless ancestry it distinguished, the high ambition its bequest inspired, the moral imitation it imperatively commanded! But when guilt once kindles within the human heart, all that is noble in our nature becomes parched and arid ; the blush of modesty fades before its glare, the sighs of virtue fan its lurid flame, and every divine essence of our being but swells and exasperates its infernal conflagration.

Gentlemen, I will not disgust this audience; I will not debase myself by any description of the scene that followed; I will not detail the arts, the excitements, the promises, the pledges with which deliberate lust inflamed the passions, and finally over. powered the struggles of innocence and of youth. It is too much to know that tears could not appease—that misery could not affect —that the presence and the prayers of an infant could not awe him; and that the wretched victim, between the ardour of passion and the repose of love, sunk at length, inflamed, exhausted, and confiding, beneath the heartless grasp of an unsympathizing sensuality.

The appetite of the hour thus satiated, at a temporal, perhaps an eternal hazard, he dismissed the sisters to their unconscious parents, not, however, without extorting a promise, that on the ensuing night Miss Creighton would desert her home for ever, for the arms of a fond, affectionate, and faithful husband. Faithful, alas! but only to his appetites, he did seduce her from that “sacred home," to deeper guilt, to more deliberate cruelty.

After a suspense, comparatively happy, her parents became acquainted with her irrevocable ruin. The miserable mother, supported by the mere strength of desperation, rushed half phrenzied to the castle, where Mr. Townsend was on duty. “Give me back my child!" was all she could articulate. The parental ruin struck the spoiler almost speechless. The few dreadful words, I have your child,” withered her heart up with the horrid joy that death denied its mercy, that her daughter lived, but lived, alas, to infamy. She could neither speak nor hear; she sunk down convulsed and powerless. As soon as she could recover to any thing of effort, naturally did she turn to the residence of Mr. Townsend ; his orders had anticipated her—the sentinel refused her entrance. She told her sad narration, she implored his pity; with the eloquence of grief she asked him, had he home, or wife or children. “Oh, Holy Nature ! thou didst not plead in vain !” even the rude soldier's heart relented. He admitted her by stealth, and she once more held within her arms the darling hope of many an anxious hour; duped, desolate, degraded it was true—but still—but still “ her child.Gentlemen, if the parental heart cannot suppose what followed, how little adequate am I to paint it. Home this wretched creature could not return; a seducer's mandate, and a father's anger equally forbade it. But she gave whatever consolation she was capable; she told the fatal tale of her undoing—the hopes, the promises, the studied specious arts that had seduced her; and with a desperate credulity still watched the light that, glimmering in the distant vista of her love, mocked her with hope, and was to leave her to the tempest. To all the prophecies of maternal anguish, she would still reply, “ Oh, no—in the eye of Heaven he is my husband; he took me from my home, my happiness, and you ; but still he pledged to me a soldier's honour-but he assured me with a Christian's conscience; for three long months I heard his vows of love; he is honourable and will not deceive; he is human ana

« PreviousContinue »