Elizabeth Helme, The Farmer of Inglewood Forest from Volume IV (1796)

Transcribed from Volume IV, pages 131-155 of the original 1796 publication of Elizabeth Helme'sThe Farmer of Inglewood Forest.

Scene Two: Villain repeats rape attempt and commits suicide when victim is rescued

Fitzmorris rose earlier than usual, his head aching from the last night's debauch. In order to reduce his spirits to some degree of calmness, he walked out into his garden, and was apparently lost in thought when Anna, leaning on Julia, crossing the path before him, and for a time banished his reverie:— "Abroad so early!" said he; "I am fortunate this morning!" at the same time offering to place her arm under his. "May I flatter myself you will breakfast with me?"

"I came merely to try my strength, Sir," returned Anna, withdrawing her hand, "as I propose going to town to see Mrs. Fitzmorris to-day."

"You jest surely!" answered he; "you cannot think of putting your health to so dangerous a hazard, or that I am so little sensible of the value of my charge as to permit so improper a step!"

"I was intrusted, Sir," replied Anna, "to Mrs. Fitzmorris's care; I am not afraid of fevers, and as Miss Editha is not here —"

"I will, on my honour, fetch her in two days," interrupted he; "but favour me, charming Anna, by dismissing your servant; I have something to communicate which requires your private ear."

"I hear no subject, Sir," replied Anna, "that needs concealment, and for myself would only entreat that you will permit one of your domestics to fetch me a chaise from Hounslow."

"And will you favour me with no answer to what I requested yesterday," said he, angrily, "since I must speak before this black devil?"

"You call devil black massa?" interrupted Julia. "Negro call devil white; me believe no colour, only bad heart make devil—wicked conscience hell."

"Damn you," exclaimed Fitzmorris, losing his temper; "I merit this for permitting you to torment me after what passed in Jamaica."

"Ah! much pass dere, massa; if you forget, your memory no so good as Julia's."

Fitzmorris raised his hand, and was only prevented from striking her by the presence of Anna.— "I see," said he, "I have nothing to expect, and shall act accordingly; yet let me inform you, Madam, that to Mrs. Palmer only will I resign you, she, perhaps, may be more sensible of my attention than you are."

With these words he turned away in a rage, and soon regained the house, leaving Anna astonished at his brutality, and shocked to find herself in the power of so bad a man.

Fitzmorris saw Anna in the afternoon in her own apartment; he attempted as before to send away Julia, but in vain, liberty had made her bold, and she now openly despised the tyrant, whose frown had heretofore made her tremble.

From Anna he was convinced he had no favour to expect; he saw he was detested, and anger, as much as love, stimulated him to revenge the affront. He had been particularly favoured by the ladies, and was enraged to find her blind to those attractions that had subdued so many, never considering that her heart might be pre-engaged, or that he was no longer so young, or possessed of so attractive a person as formerly, though, to confess the truth, his dissipated life, more than age, had caused the alteration.

"I have no time to lose," said he to his colleague in vice; "and it is but labour lost to try gentle means; force and fear can alone conquer so obstinate a spirit; she shall find I am not to be trifled with: 'Sdeath have I lived until now to be vanquished by a girl! beside, should I let her escape, she would but relate what has passed, and make me ridiculous. By Heaven I will bear her to France, and there, wife or mistress, her choice shall determine. I have nothing to fear in this case but the tongue of her mother, and that, until I can make all secure, I will keep at a distance. She has no heroic brothers, but if she had I care not; my arm never yet failed me, nor do I fear it now."

"I must confess," replied the valet, "I am not quite so sanguine in this business as I have been in some, here I have had the honour to serve you. Mrs. Palmer is rich, and will doubtless spare no pains or expense to discover her daughter."

"True, nor no expense to heal her reputation; for who will believe she was not consenting to the elopement? Besides, the young vixen herself will soon be glad to salve so desperate a case with the old remedy, matrimony. But enough of this; prepare me post-horses to-morrow night by nine o'clock; I shall settle all my business in the day. You must ride forward and obtain relays, and give out in case of question that I am conveying an imprudent daughter to France. We shall reach Dover early in the morning, and will go directly on shipboard to prevent all alarm."

"But what, Sir, do you mean to do with Julia?"

"Damn her, if it was not for her infernal yells on the road I would take her too, if it was only for the pleasure of putting her overboard into the sea. As it is, we will lock her up, and leave her under the charge of your sister, whom you must command as she values her place, not to release her until the next day."

"But Miss Editha, Sir, and your son?"

"Pish, if my sister gets well, the girl will naturally return to her, and I may make a merit hereafter of sending for her abroad. As for the boy he cannot be better than at school, therefore no more questions, but prepare to obey me."

"After so many proofs of my attachment, Sir," replied the man, "I shall not now forfeit your friendship."

"After so many proofs of my gratitude, I hope you will not," answered the master.

With these words the worthy pair separated for the night.

In the morning all was preparation for the intended expedition. Fitzmorris wrote to his sister who was yet in a very precarious state of health, that immediate business demanded his presence in a distant part of the kingdom, and entreated that, when it should be convenient, she would again take the care of Editha. To his son's preceptor he like sent, signifying his intention that he should remain at school until they heard farther from him. He also settled his domestic economy for the country with his housekeeper, who was the valet's sister, and remitted an order to his attorney to discharge his house in town, together with the domestics. Thus all was prepared, and Fitzmorris looked on his success as certain.

Julia, whose eyes and ears were attentive to all that passed, was not unmindful of the more than usual business that seemed in agitation, but which, perhaps, had made no material impression, had she not heard the valet and housekeeper in close conversation, the former with a bitter imprecation cursing the new folly that actuated his master, declaring it was the last he would be engaged in, concluding with saying, "The pitcher goes often to the well, but at last comes home broken. Never had man such devilish warnings and hair-breadth escapes; but it is all in vain, they only, I think, make him more daring, and for this attempt on Miss Palmer —"

His eye at that instant met the figure of Julia, who was standing in the doorway; but uncertain whether she had heard, and concluding that if she had, she could make nothing of it, he turned the discourse to common occurrences until her departure.

Julia had but just related to Anna what she had heard when Fitzmorris sent his compliments, and desired to be admitted. It was now afternoon, and he had been endeavouring to drown thought in wine, he therefore behaved with less caution than formerly, urging his suit with much vehemence, until at length seeing the trembling Anna terrified, and almost ready to faint, he desisted, and left her alone with Julia.

"Oh, my God, protect me!" cried Anna, "What can I do? Surely, if you love me, you will not deny my request. The attempt you heard them mention, and his behaviour, all conspire to show I have no time to lose; let us then this very night privately leave the house; I am strong, and can walk a great way; neither am I without money; Heaven will, I am sure, protect us, and we shall reach home in safety,"

"Wid all my heart," replied Julia. "Ah! me hope some friend come before now."

"It is impossible they could reach here, had they even come post, before to-morrow or the next day; and oh! Julia, what may not happen in that interval! No, I will brave the worst, sooner than remain longer under this hated roof."

They then determined, as soon as the house should be settled for the night, to endeavour to escape, and reach Hounslow on foot: — "From whence," said Anna, "we will, my faithful Julia, procure a chaise, and travel all the way post; by morning we shall be safe from pursuit, should we even be followed, but that I think improbable, as Fitzmorris will be uncertain of our route."

This resolution supported the spirits of Anna during the evening, in the course of which Julia made up a little bundle of necessary apparel, which she proposed to take with them.

At length the clock struck nine, and an instant after a chaise drove into the court. Anna scarcely breathed, though she thought it impossible it should bring any one from Inglewood; but all her hopes vanished, when a moment after Fitzmorris desired to be admitted. "I am sorry, charming Anna," said he, "to be the messenger of bad tidings; but Mrs. Palmer is taken ill at Derby, and has sent to require your immediate attendance."

"Preserve her, merciful Heaven!" exclaimed Anna, "I will fly to her; the fatigue she has undergone has killed her, and I shall be deprived of my dearest friend."

"I received the intelligence near an hour since," returned Fitzmorris, but could not assume courage to declare it to you: I, however, immediately ordered a chaise for your conveyance, and, with your permission, will accompany and deliver you safe to her."

"Julia will be sufficient," replied she, recoiling at his offer; "I have no fear but for my beloved mamma."

"Excuse me, I will not trust you alone to the dangers of the night, for I presume you will depart immediately. Julia can follow in the morning by the stage. Come, you lose time, all is prepared," concluded he, presenting his hand.

Anna drew back, and paused for a moment, while Julia replied — "No leave Missey, me run after coach sooner den be leave here behind."

"Has my dear mamma sent no letter, nor yet her servant to accompany me," demanded Anna, fixing her soft but inquiring eyes on Fitzmorris.

"No," replied he; "a horseman brought the message, and departed immediately for London."

"It is strange," answered Anna, pausing, "I should have thought that — but come, Julia, we will go, and I can but thank Mr. Fitzmorris for all his kindness."

"On my life," interrupted he, impatiently, "you shall not go unprotected."

"Heaven will protect me" replied Anna, raising her eyes: "No action of my past life has, I trust, made me forfeit that blessing."

"Doubtless not," answered Fitzmorris, with a sneer; "but in this case it delegates its power to me. Come—come—on my honour I will guide you in safety."

"Slender barrier!" said Anna, aside. The discourse which Julia had overheard recurring fresh to her memory; then turning to Fitzmorris, with as much firmness as she could assume, she added: "Pardon me, Sir, for declining your offer; but, indeed, I will not go without Julia."

"By my soul but you shall," returned he, losing his patience, and stamping with rage: "I wished to woo you to love and happiness, but will not be trifled with; and therefore now throw off the mask, and boldly tell you, that I am determined, all resistance is vain, you must, and shall accompany me."

"Oh, God! protect me!" cried Anna, trembling; "then, perhaps, my dear—dear friend is not ill."

"I neither know nor care," exclaimed he, rudely seizing her hand: "She is an old woman, and fit only for worms meat, while you glowing with youth and beauty...."

"Unhand me, monster!" screamed Anna, at the same time releasing herself and flying to Julia, who clenched her fists, and grinning horribly, placed herself before her, bearing no indifferent resemblance of a fury defending an angel.

"No, go widout like," sputtered Julia, almost inarticulate with passion: "Bad white man—wicked Christian....me die before let take away Missey."

"Die then and be d—d," exclaimed he, at the same time with unmanly brutality striking her over the face (which was instantly covered with blood) with such force as caused her to recoil several paces, and but for the timely succor of Anna she must have fallen to the ground.

"Monster! Villain!" screamed Anna, rending the air with her cries: "Murder us together for we will never separate."

"I have business for you living!" replied he, tauntingly; "resistance is useless." With these words, like a fell kite seizing a dove, he snatched up his prey, and in spite of her cries and resistance, bore her down the flight of stairs into the hall, covered as she was with the blood of Julia, who, from the blow, lay senseless on the ground.

"For Heaven's Sake, Sir!" exclaimed the valet, who was waiting in the hall, — "cover her with a cloak, it will not delay a moment. See, she has fainted." —And, indeed, Anna, exhausted with the exertion she had made, had suddenly became inanimate, and now lay motionless in Fitzmorris's arms.

The door of the hall had been opened in readiness, as Fitzmorris descended the staircase. At that instant William Godwin and Reuben arrived, and rushed in, having heard the screams as they alighted from their horses at the gate, there being no one to oppose their passage, the postillion alone being on the outside. The first object that presented was Anna covered with blood, and apparently dead in Fitzmorris's arms. Reuben, his eyes sparkling with rage, flew to him, and in a moment, with the vigorous arm of undebauched youth, snatched, in spite of resistance, the senseless Anna from his grasp, while his father seconded his efforts by knocking down the valet and seizing another villain, who came to the assistance of their infamous master.

Fitzmorris, whose fury knew no bounds, finding himself deprived of Anna, hastily drew a pistol from his pocket, and levelled it at William. At that instant their eyes met—they became fixed as statues, the guilty Fitzmorris recoiling a few steps, and dropping the pistol from his enervated hand.

"Is it possible," at length exclaimed William, "that my eyes do not deceive me? Doth the earth yet shudder with thy impious weight? Degenerate monster! guilty of every crime that disgraces human nature! The death of thy own daughter was alone wanting to complete the number! Oh, murdered, child of the sweet Agnes! I here devote myself to revenge; the ties of blood I tear from my heart, and even here on earth shall thy detested father pay the dues of offended justice."

Daring as Fitzmorris, or rather Edwin, was in vice, he appeared petrified with horror, rolling his haggard eyes around, and, gnashing his teeth with anguish.

"She is not dead, my father! she breathes, and will yet live to bless us," exclaimed Reuben, in a transport.

"For that Heaven be praised! But say," demanded William, turning indignantly towards his brother, "what does this mean? You cannot surely have been so abandoned of God as to have injured this innocent!"

"She at least has not been abandoned of God," replied Edwin; "her person is as uncontaminated as it is beautiful. But speak, for I have but little time to lose: Did not you say she was the child of Agnes?"

"I did," returned William. "In the horror of the moment prudence was lost, and I now will conceal the truth no longer; she is your own daughter, but build not upon that, for no human power shall snatch her from my protection; therefore attempt it not, I warn you, it will be in vain. As soon as she recovers we will be gone. You have my pity, and Heaven forgive you. Oh! will no warning move that obdurate heart? Surely, the meeting with Emma would have deterred any other but yourself from vice for ever, and made them penitent as she was."

"Well — well — well — you know that too; but enough. Answer me a few questions; and I will swear never to attempt removing the child of my Agnes from you."

"I ask no oath," replied William; "but propose your questions, Anna recovers, and I am in haste."

"And so am I," returned Edwin, frantically. "If Anna is the child of Agnes, whose infant did I see dead on her bosom?"

"Mine," answered his brother, "an unhappy innocent, who even in the womb fell a sacrifice to your offences by the anguish they caused its mother."

"Enough!" cried he, striking his forehead. "One more question, and then farewell for ever — Who is Mrs. Palmer? Oh! that subterfuge destroyed me!"

"The present owner of the estate upon the Forest, and a more than parent to Anna, whom she received from her dying mother."

"The mystery of the ring is then explained," said Edwin, without regarding his brother. "No warning, could, indeed awaken me!" Then turning towards Anna, who was almost recovered, but in silent terror clasping Reuben's neck, he viewed her with attention for some minutes; then, with a look of despair, rushed out of the room.