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Wilson's Border Tales
Ellen Arundel

Ellen ArundelEllen Arundel was the only daughter of an officer in the British service, who, with his sword for his patrimony, had entered early into the profession of arms, as the means of maintenance; and he had, accordingly, pursued it with that enthusiastic spirit of honour, which is dictated by the considerations of family pride, the hope of fame, the dread of disgrace, and the most ardent love of glory.

The utmost height, however, to which he had risen, when he committed the folly of matrimony, by uniting his destiny to that of the portionless daughter of a venerable, respectable, unbeneticed clergyman, was that of lieutenant in a foot regiment. By dint of careful management, on the part of his wife, they contrived to live happily together; nor did the increase of their family—for Ellen made her appearance within the first year after their marriage—add to their difficulties.

In the care and superintendence of their darling daughter, did their years roll on in humble content. If they heaved a sigh, it was for their Ellen’s future welfare; if they breathed a wish, it was to see her placed in a situation which might guard her against the attacks of poverty, and the designs of iniquity. From the former, they were aware, beauty and accomplishments would prove no shield; and they trembled when they reflected that they might prove the most powerful incitement to the latter. The sweets of life are not to be enjoyed without its accompanying embitterments. The regiment in which Mr Arundel served received orders to embark for America, in transports already prepared for the reception of the British forces. On the communication of this intelligence, so subversive of their little plans of economy and felicity, Mrs Arundel earnestly entreated that she and Ellen might be the companions of his voyage. For a while Mr Arundel would not consent to this, from a fear of incurring expense which they were unable to support; but all the difficulties which the narrowness of their finances suggested, were obviated by a thousand little arrangements, the ingenious devices of love; and the command of a company, which was conferred upon him before the embarkation, relieved them from their anxiety.

Few events happened, either during their voyage or on their arrival at Boston, except that the assiduities of a young officer of another regiment, who accompanied them in the transport, seemed to have made some impression on the heart of Ellen Arundel. She listened to his tales of love, with the full sanction of her parents, and sighed out the confession that his passion was returned. Mr Meredith was formed on the model which Captain Arundel had, in idea, fixed on for the husband of his Ellen. To the qualifications of a soldier, he added those which most highly adorn private life; nor was his income limited, for he was the only son of a gentleman of fortune. But both Captain Arundel and Mr Meredith were too regardful of decency and propriety to hasten an event of so much importance till the father of the young gentleman had been made acquainted with the attachment; and letters from Captain Arundel and the lover were accordingly prepared, for the purpose of being despatched to Europe by the first ship that should sail.

But, alas! these precautions were soon rendered unnecessary, by events which dissolved the bonds of affection. On that day when the attack of Bunker’s Hill occasioned a carnage which thinned the British ranks, Captain Arundel and Mr Meredith stood foremost in the bloody contest. Accident had placed them in the same brigade: they fought and fell together. The body of the young officer was carried off by the Americans; and the mortally-wounded captain conveyed to the habitation of his wretched wife and daughter, where, shortly afterwards, he expired.

The keen and piercing anguish felt by Ellen and her mother, in consequence of this sorrowful event, had changed to silent and corroding melancholy, when they embarked for their native land, after having received every attention which the governor and garrison could offer as a tribute to the memory of the deceased. On their arrival in Britain, a pension was granted to Mrs Arundel, which, in the event of her death, was to be continued to her daughter; and with this they retired to a small village northward of the Scottish metropolis, where a maiden sister of Captain Arundel, who was remarkably fond of Ellen, resided.

But, as no retirement will conceal the charms of beauty, nor any circle, however confined, prevent the fame of accomplishments from spreading beyond its limit, Mr Newton, a widower of independent fortune, not much past the prime of life, having been told of Ellen, resolved to visit the Arundels. An opportunity soon presented itself. The house which the ladies inhabited was advertised for sale; and, under pretence of an intention to purchase, he wrote Mrs Arundel, desiring to know when it would be convenient for him to call. To which Mrs Arundel returned a polite answer, naming an early day.

Mr Newton went; and, after he had viewed the house and gardens with the air of an intending purchaser, Mrs Arundel, desirous of cultivating the acquaintance of so distinguished a neighbour, asked him to stay tea; which being unhesitatingly accepted, he was introduced to the fair, the amiable, the still mourning Ellen. Prepared by the universal voice to admire, love was the immediate consequence of a visit, which he requested leave to repeat, in terms with which civility could not refuse to comply; and a few weeks confirmed Mr Newton the ardent and the professed lover of Ellen. But her heart was still engaged; nor could she abandon even a hopeless passion. The character, the fortune, the unobjectionable person of Mr Newton, were urged to her, by her only friends, with such energy, but mildness of persuasion, that, enforced by the declarations of her admirer, she was prevailed upon to promise him her hand, though not her heart; and a day was named for the celebration of their nuptials.

The necessary preparations now engaged the attention of Mr Newton and the two matron ladies; whilst Ellen passively yielded to the assiduities of her friends, and suffered the adornments of her person, and the intended provisions of settlement, to be adjusted, without once interfering.

A few mornings before the appointed day, as Ellen was seated at breakfast with her mother and aunt, a note was put into her hands. She saw at a glance that it was from Mr Newton, and she immediately handed it across the table to Mrs Arundel, who read:—

"MADAM, —That your heart is not at all interested in the intended event, you have, with candour, frequently acknowledged to me. You will not, therefore, even wish to receive an apology for my releasing you from an unsuitable engagement.

"My long-lost son—my son, whom I had for years resigned to heaven, is restored to me; and Providence, which has bestowed on me this consummate happiness, will not permit me to add to it a wish which concerns myself. He is young; he is amiable; and more worthy of your regard than I am. It is my sincere wish that he should become your husband. I shall, therefore, take an early opportunity of introducing him to you.

"My real name is not what you have hitherto considered it to be. I changed it when, on the supposed death of my son, I retired from my usual place of residence to a distant part of the kingdom, to avoid the importunities of some worthless relations; but, until I have the honour of disclosing to you in person my real name, I beg to subscribe myself, madam,

"Yours very truly,


"To Miss Ellen Arundel"

When this most extraordinary epistle was read, Ellen turned deadly pale, and would certainly have fallen to the ground, had not a young man entered through the window which opened out on the lawn, and caught her in his arms. He was followed by Mr Newton.

"Ellen," exclaimed the latter, "behold my son!"

The sorrowing girl cast her eyes upon the form of him who held her.

"Meredith!" she cried, and threw herself, weeping, upon his shoulder. Her tears were tears of joy. Little more remains to tell. Ellen Arundel gave her hand to the son on the very day which had been appointed for her nuptials with the father.

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