Memoirs of Mrs. Margaret Leeson
To erring youth there's some compassion due,
But whilst with rigour, you their faults pursue,
What's their misfortune is a crime in you.
ALTHOUGH HAPPY and delighted with the company, and continued tenderness of my undoer, and charmed with the opening sweetness of my child, I yet, was far from possessing a tranquillity of mind. The thoughts of my father and relations would check any pleasure I could embrace; and damp my spirits even in the midst of gaiety. My eyes would frequently swim with tears, and sighs burst unbidden from my perturbed bosom. My lover perceived my uneasiness, which he was so far from condemning or thinking in the least unreasonable, that he even urged me to seek a reconciliation with my friends. This was my anxious wish, but how to effect it was the task. Shame kept me some time from making any effort; but at length I resolved to make the attempt.
The first necessary preliminary was to frame some plausible excuse for my long absence, which was indeed, very difficult to do. We had frequent consultations on this head, when at length, he suggested one. This was to tell my sister Smith (to whom he advised me first to address myself), that I had been on a visit to my cousin Drumgoold, at Drogheda. This idea took my fancy, and I resolved to put it into execution the next day.
Though there is nothing more common than deception, yet there is nothing more hard to carry on successfully. The most trifling circumstances frequently are sufficient to detect it; and in this case I might have easily imagined, that on the least suspicion of the truth, a line from my sister to Mrs. Drumgoold, would have demonstrated my falsehood. Indeed, there was no occasion for any application to my cousin, for she had been beforehand; and highly affronted with my breach of promise at Drogheda, she had soon after written a letter to me, full of reproaches, for my rudeness and ill behaviour. This epistle was directed to me at Mr. Smith's, where Mrs. Drumgoold conceived I was. The letter lay there for some time, but on my continuing absent, my sister opened it, and thereby discovered the route I had taken, though she knew not how far it had extended; and my incivility to my cousin at Drogheda.
Ignorant then of what had passed, and priding myself on the speciousness of the excuse I had ready to give, I went with some degree of confidence to Mrs. Smith; but alas! I was not admitted so far as the parlour, she immediately called me a vile wretch, bade me begone, and pushing me violently from the door, shut it in my face.
Had a thunder-bolt fallen on me, I think I should scarce have been more confounded. I stood for a while in a state of astonishment, uncertain what to do, or where to go. The disappointment of my hopes and expectations, however unjustly formed, struck me in the most forcible manner. However, in some minutes I recovered myself; and before I would totally abandon all thoughts of a reconciliation, I resolved to make a trial of my other sister. To Mrs. Brady, therefore, I instantly bent my course; but to my farther distress, from her I experienced, not merely a similar, but a more severe repulse.
Becoming more desperate by this second repulse, and resolved to leave no effort unessayed, I went to another relation Mr. H—P—, in High-street, but I was destined that day to a succession of rebukes, each rising above the other; I was driven from him with scorn and contempt, and he even threatened to beat me for having (as he said,) the impudence to come to his house, and scandalize it by my appearance.
I returned home agitated with a thousand contending passions and my breast torn, with rage, shame, sorrow, distress and repentance. I still remained in the lodgings Mr. Dardis had provided, but took a firm resolution to see him no more. Ah! had I wisely taken and kept that resolution some months before, I had not then been a prey to anxiety and remorse. I wept and lamented day and night, and had not one moment's peace of mind. I thought it in vain to try my sisters again. But I had yet a father, a tender, indulgent, offended father, my duty as well as my distresses urged me to write to him. With a trembling hand, and an aching heart, I penned my letter. I despaired of a reply, as I knew myself to be unworthy of his least regard—I owned, with the prodigal son, that 'I had sinned against Heaven and before him, and was no more worthy to be called his child.'—But tenderness and affection, had not abandoned the dear old man's heart, he wrote to me, and directed me to return to Killough, in the stage. I hesitated not a moment to obey his welcome summons, and I quitted the lodgings Mr. Dardis had taken for me and returned home, flattering myself that I should find an asylum in my father's house. But alas! he had no longer the command of it; when I arrived my brother Christopher, constant in evil, and born for my destruction, refused me admittance. I sat down on the step of the door weeping, till my dear father spoke to me from the window, whence he told me he had no power left him more than I saw; but he would write to my sisters to receive and board and lodge me. I acquainted him how they had treated me, and that it would be vain to apply to them. At length, my father prevailed on his son Christopher to let me in, which he did; but it was only to provide a man and horse to take me to Kinnegad; whence he ordered me to go back to Dublin, in the stage-coach, and gave me a solitary guinea. I then took a last leave of my father and my brother Garret. The dear parent wept bitterly, embraced me, blessed me—and I saw him no more—this parting scene was too distressing to be remembered without emotion, even at this distance of time.
I stayed that night at Kinnegad, and the next morning entered the stagecoach (for which I had nothing to pay) and arrived in the evening, with my guinea in my pocket, which, with my clothes and a few trinkets, was the whole fund on which a young girl with a child, had to build her future maintenance through life. And as I was determined to return no more to Mr. Dardis, I took a small lodging at five shillings a week, where I remained quite retired, and perfectly secluded from the world.