Laura was more shocked than afflicted by the death of a person whom she was unable to love, and had no reason to respect. She lost no time in conveying the news to Mrs Herbert, begging that she would herself come and give the necessary directions. Thinking it proper to remain at Walbourne till after her aunt's funeral, she refused Mrs De Courcy's invitation to spend at Norwood the time which intervened. De Courcy continued to recover fast; and Laura, thinking she night soon leave him without anxiety, again fixed an early day for her journey to Scotland.
Notwithstanding Laura's knowledge of the phlegmatic temperament of her cousin, she was surprised at the stoicism with which Mrs Herbert supported the death of her mother. She examined the dead body with a cold comment on its appearance; gave orders for the interment in an unfaltering voice; and neither seemed to feel nor to affect the slightest concern. Nor did her philosophy appear to fail her one jot, when, upon opening the will, she was found to be left without inheritance. The paper, which had been drawn up a few months before, evinced Lady Pelham's adherence to her scheme for her niece's advancement; and this, with her obstinate enmity to Mrs Herbert, furnished the only instances of her consistency or perseverance which were ever known to the world. Her whole property she bequeathed to Laura Montreville, and to her second son upon taking the name of Pelham, provided that Laura married Colonel Hargrave, or a peer, or the eldest son of a peer; but if she married a commoner, or remained unmarried, she was to inherit only ten thousand pounds, the bulk of the property going to a distant relation.
The very hour that this will was made public, Laura informed the contingent heir that he might possess himself of his inheritance, since she would certainly never perform the conditions which alone could destroy his claim. Not acquiescing in the justice of excluding Mrs Herbert from her natural rights, she would instantly have offered to share with her cousin the bequest of Lady Pelham; but considering that her engagement with De Courcy entitled him to decide on the disposal of whatever belonged to his future wife, she hastened to ask his sanction to her purpose. De Courcy, without hesitation, advised that the whole should be given up to its natural owner." We shall have enough for humble comfort, dear Laura," said he, "and have no need to grasp at a doubtful claim." Laura, however, differed from him in opinion. She thought she might, in strict justice, retain part of the bequest of so near a relation; and she felt pleased to think that she should enter the De Courcy family not altogether portionless. She therefore reserved £2000, giving up the rest unconditionally to Mrs Herbert.
These points being settled, nothing now remained to retard Laura's journey to Scotland. Mrs De Courcy, indeed, urged her to postpone it till Montague should, acquire a right to be her escort; but Laura objected that it was her wish to give a longer time to her old friend than she thought it proper to withdraw De Courcy from his business and his home. She reflected, too, with a light heart, that a protector in her journey was now less necessary, since her mad lover, as Harriet called Colonel Hargrave, had embarked for America. Laura had heard of his departure immediately after her aunt's death; and she gladly observed that favourable winds were speeding him across the Atlantic.
The day preceding that on which she meant to leave Walbourne, she spent with Mrs De Courcy and Montague; who, though not entirely recovered, was able to resume his station in the family-room. De Courcy, with the enthusiasm of youth and love, spoke of his happy prospects; his mother, with the sober eye of experience, looked forward to joys as substantial, though less dazzling; while feminine modesty suppressed the pleasure with which Laura felt that she was necessary to these schemes of bliss. With the confidence of mutual esteem they arranged their plan of life--a plan at once embracing usefulness and leisure, retirement and hospitality. Laura consented that one month, "one little month," should begin the accomplishment of these golden dreams; for she permitted De Courcy to follow her at the end of that time to Scotland. A few weeks they were to spend in wandering through the romantic scenes of her native land, and then join Mrs De Courcy at Norwood, which was to continue her permanent abode. Laura remained with her friends till the evening was closing; then, avoiding the solemnity of a farewell by a half promise of stopping as she passed the next day, she sprang into Mrs De Courcy's carriage, and drove off. Tears rushed to De Courcy's eyes as the carriage was lost to his sight. "I am still weak," thought he, as he dashed them away. "She will soon return to bring gladness to every heart, and double joy to mine. To-morrow, too, I shall see her," thought he; yet he continued depressed, and soon retired to his chamber.
Mrs De Courcy and her son met early the next morning, expecting that Laura would early begin her journey. Montague stationed himself at the window to watch for her appearance; half fearing that she would not keep her promise, yet every minute repeating that it was impossible she could go without bidding farewell. The breakfast hour arrived, and still Laura came not. De Courcy, impatient, forgot his weakness, and insisted upon walking to the gate that he might inquire whether a carriage had passed from Walbourne.
He had scarcely left the house when old John, with a face that boded evil, hastily came to beg that his lady would speak with a servant of Lady Pelham's. Mrs De Courcy, somewhat alarmed, desired that the servant might come in. "Please, madam," said he, "let me know where I may find Miss Montreville. The carriage has waited for her these three hours." "Good Heavens!" cried Mrs De Courcy, in consternation, "is Miss Montreville not at Walbourne?" "No, madam, she has not been there since yesterday morning." Mrs De Courcy, now in extreme alarm, summoned her coachman, and desired to know where he had left Miss Montreville the evening before. He answered, that, by Laura's desire, he had set her down at the gate of Walbourne; that he had seen her enter; and afterwards, in turning the carriage, had observed her walking along the avenue towards the house.
Inexpressibly shocked, Mrs De Courcy had yet the presence of mind to forbid alarming her son with these fearful tidings. As soon as she could recollect herself she dispatched old Wilson, on whose discretion she thought she might rely, to inform De Courcy that a message from Walbourne had made her cease to expect Laura's visit. Montague returned home, sad and disappointed. His melancholy questions and comments increased the distress of his mother. "Did she not even write one line?" said he. "Could you have believed that she would go without one farewell--that she could pass our very gate?" "She was willing to spare you the pain of a farewell," said Mrs De Courcy, checking the anguish of her heart. "She will write soon, I hope."
But day after day passed, and Laura did not write. Mrs De Courcy, still concealing from her son a misfortune which she thought him yet unequal to bear used every possible exertion to trace the fugitive. She offered high rewards to whoever could afford the smallest clue to discovery. She advertised in every news paper except that which De Courcy was accustomed to read. Her suspicions at first falling upon Hargrave she caused particular inquiry to be made whether any of his domestics had been left in England with orders to follow him; but she found that he with his whole suite had sailed from Europe more than a fortnight before Laura's disappearance. She employed emissaries to prosecute the search in almost every part of the kingdom. Judging the metropolis to be the most likely place of concealment, she made application to the officers of police for assistance in her inquiries there. All was in vain. No trace of Laura was to be found. For a while De Courcy amused himself from day to day with the hope of hearing from her; a hope which his mother had not the courage to destroy. He calculated that she would reach the end of her journey on the sixth day after that on which she left him. On the seventh she would certainly write; therefore, in four or five more he should undoubtedly hear from her. The expected day came, and passed as others had done, without bringing news of Laura. Another and another came, and ended only in disappointment. De Courcy was miserable. He knew not how to account for a silence so adverse to the considerate kindness of Laura's character, except by supposing that illness made her unable to write. This idea gathering strength in his mind, he resolved to follow her immediately to Scotland, tracing her through the route which he knew she intended to take. Mrs De Courcy in vain attempted to dissuade him from the prosecution of his design, and to soothe him with hopes which she too well knew would prove deceitful. He was resolute, and Mrs De Courcy was at last obliged to prevent his fruitless journey by unfolding the truth.
The utmost tenderness of caution was insufficient to prevent the effects of this blow on De Courcy's bodily frame. In a few hours, strong fever seized him; and his wound, which had hitherto worn a favourable appearance, gave alarming symptoms of inflammation. Three weeks did Mrs De Courcy watch by his bedside, in all the anguish of a mother's fears; forgetting, in her anxiety for his life, that he must for a time live only to sorrow. The balance long hung doubtful. At length the strength of his constitution, and his early habits of temperance, prevailed. By slow degrees his health was restored, though his spirits were still oppressed by a dejection which long withstood every effort of reason and of religion.
To divert his sorrow, rather than in the hope of removing its cause, he left his home and wandered through the most unfrequented parts of England, making anxious, yet almost hopeless, inquiries for his lost treasure. Sometimes, misled by false intelligence, he was hurried from place to place in all the eagerness of expectation, but bitter disappointment closed the pursuit; and the companion of his relaxation, his encouragement in study, his pattern in virtue, the friend, the mistress, almost the wife, was lost beyond recall.
While De Courcy was thus languishing on a sick-bed, or wandering restless and miserable, Laura too was a wanderer, a prey to care more deep, more hopeless.
From the unfortunate encounter in the summer-house, Hargrave retired in all the agonies of remorse. The companion of his youth, the man to whose courage he owed his life, had been murdered by his hand, had fallen unarmed and defenceless, had spent his almost expiring breath in providing for the safety of his assassin. The feelings of natural compunction were aided by a sense of disgrace, for to attack the unarmed was pronounced base even by the only code which Hargrave was accustomed to reverence. For a moment, abhorrence of his crime extended to all its incitements; and while he flew to procure assistance for his victim, he cursed a thousand times the fatal charms which had undone him, and a thousand times abjured the innocent girl upon whom he would fain have rested a share of his guilt. In the height of his desperation he refused to fly, and retired to await at Lambert's house the issue of his crime.
But among the many distinctions between natural remorse and true repentance, none is more striking than the difference of their duration. Hargrave's conscience, startled, not awakened, was soon restored to portentous quiet. His abjurations were forgotten. Laura's beauty regained its fascination, and Hargrave first shrank from the thought of its being appropriated by another, then renewed his wishes that it were his own, then his determination that it should be so.
The threats with which he had terrified Laura were not the mere ravings of phrensy. Aided by the more relentless, though not more unprincipled, Lambert, he had actually formed a scheme for withdrawing her from the protection of her friends; and to this scheme, forgotten gotten or detested in the hour of compunction, he again turned an approving eye, as pity and remorse subsided with De Courcy's danger. The ill fortune, however, which had attended all Hargrave's designs against Laura, once more pursued him. He received a peremptory order to join his regiment; and Lord Lincourt, alarmed by his nephew's increasing intimacy with Lambert, urged his departure in terms which could not be disregarded.
Had these remonstrances reached him in, the first moments of remorse, he would probably have yielded without resistance. But before they arrived, the paroxysm was past. De Courcy, no longer in danger, was again the detested rival; Laura, on the point of being lost, was again irresistible; and Hargrave, enraged at being thwarted in his designs, would, in defiance of all authority, have remained in England to pursue them, had he not been dissuaded from this temerity by Lambert, who, knowing how much his own interest was involved in the question, used all his influence to prevent his friend from disobliging Lord Lincourt. He insisted that Hargrave's presence was not necessary to the seizure of Laura's person, and that his departure would rather serve to avert any suspicion of his being concerned in her disappearance. He offered to conduct the execution of their project, and pledged himself for its success. In this success he had now an additional interest; for he had been informed of Lady Pelham's danger, and foresaw that her approaching death would put Laura in possession of a fortune from which he hoped to be speedily reimbursed for the sums which he had advanced to Hargrave. Lambert's arguments, his promises, his habitual ascendancy, prevailed. Hargrave consented to depart, and his adviser remained to watch his prey.
In the course of his degrading profession, the gamester had acquired associates fit for any deed of darkness, and influence over them beyond what even the prospect of gain could bestow, for he could work upon their fears of punishment. With the help of these assistants, he arranged his nefarious scheme, and, in conformity with his own inclination, as well as with the injunctions of Hargrave, he spared neither contrivance nor expense to render its success infallible. His arrangements completed, he only waited a favourable moment to effect his purpose. In hopes of finding the wished-for opportunity, he procured intelligence of all Laura's motions. He did not choose to hazard rescue or discovery, by seizing her in open day; and he was concerting the means of decoying her abroad alone at a late hour, when he was relieved from his difficulty by her parting visit to the De Courcys.
The soft shades of twilight were stealing on as she cast a last look back towards Norwood, and were deepening fast, as with a sigh, half pleasing, half melancholy, she surveyed the sheltering chestnut-tree where she had once parted from De Courcy. As she approached her home, the stars, coming forth, poured their silent language into the ear of piety. Never deaf to this holy call, Laura dismissed her attendants that she might meditate alone. She proceeded, slowly along till she came to the entrance of a woody lane, which branched off from the avenue. She stopped, half inclined to enter; a sensation of fear made her pause. The next moment the very consciousness of that sensation induced her to proceed. "This is mere childish superstition," said she, and entered the lane.
She had taken only a few steps, when she felt herself suddenly seized from behind; one person forcibly confining her arms, while another prevented her cries. Vainly struggling against masculine strength, she was hurried rapidly forward, till, her breath failing, she could resist no further. Her conductors, soon quitting the beaten path, dragged her on through a little wood that sheltered the lawn towards the east, till reaching a gap which appeared to have been purposely made in the park wall, Laura perceived a carriage in waiting. Again exerting the strength of desperation, she struggled wildly for freedom; but the unequal contest soon was closed; she was lifted into the carriage, one of the men took his place by her side, and they drove off with the speed of lightning.
From the moment when she recovered recollection, Laura had not a doubt that she owed this outrage to Hargrave. She was convinced that his pretence of leaving the kingdom had been merely intended to throw her off her guard, and that he was now waiting, at no distant place, the success of his daring villany. At this idea, a horrible dread seizing her, she threw herself back in the carriage, and wept in despair. Her attendant perceiving that she no longer struggled, with a coarse expression of pity released her from his grasp, and taking the handkerchief from her mouth, told her "she might cry as long as she pleased, for he knew it did a woman's heart good to cry." Laura now besought him to tell her whither she was going. "You'll know that by and bye," said he. "Let me alone. I am going to sleep; do you the same."
The bare mention of his purpose revived Laura's hopes. "Surely," thought she, "while he sleeps I may escape. In spite of this fearful speed I may spring out; and if I could gain but a few steps, in this darkness I should be safe." Full of this project, she remained still as the dead, fearing by the slightest sound or motion to retard the sleep of her guard. At last his breathing announced that he was asleep, and Laura began, with trembling hands, to attempt her escape. The blinds were drawn up; and if she could let down that on the side of the carriage where she sat, she might without difficulty open the door. She tried to stir the blind. It refused to yield. She used her utmost force, but it remained firm. She ventured, cautious and trembling, to attempt that on the other side. It dropt, and Laura thought she was free. It only remained to open the door of the chaise, and leap out. She tried it, but the door was immoveable, and, in despair, she shrank back. Again she started up, for it occurred to her that, though with more danger, she might escape by the window. Cautiously stepping across her guard, she leant out and placed her hands on the top of the carriage, that, trusting to her arms for supporting her weight, she might extricate herself, and drop from thence into the road. Raising herself upon the edge of the step, she fixed her hands more firmly. She paused a moment to listen whether her guard were undisturbed. He still slept soundly; and resting her limbs upon the window frame, she prepared to complete her escape.
A moment more and she had been free, when a horseman riding up, pushed her fiercely back, upbraiding, with tremendous oaths, the carelessness of his companion. The fellow, rousing himself, retorted upon the wretched Laura the abuse of his comrade, swearing that "since he saw she was so cunning, he would keep better watch upon her for the future."
The desponding Laura endured his reproaches in silence. Finding herself thus doubly guarded, she resigned all hope of escaping by her own unaided exertions; and mingling silent prayers with her fearful anticipations, she strove to reanimate her trust that she should not be wholly forsaken. Sometimes her habitual confidence prevailed, and she felt assured that she should not be left a prey to the wicked. Yet the dreadful threats, the fiery passions, of Hargrave, rose to her recollection, and she again shuddered in despair. She suddenly remembered Jessy Wilson. Starting, with an exclamation of horror and affright, she sought some weapon which might dispense to her a death less terrible; and instinctively grasping her penknife, hid it in her bosom. The next moment she shrank from her purpose, and doubted the lawfulness of such defence. "Will he dare his own death, too?" thought she. "Oh, Heaven! in mercy spare me the necessity of sending a wretch to his great account, with all his crimes unrepented on his head, or pardon him and me!"
She continued to commend herself to Heaven, till her terrors by degrees subsided. She began again to feel the steady trust which is acquired by all who are habituated to a grateful consideration of the care which they experience; a trust that even the most adverse events shall terminate in their real advantage; that the rugged and slippery ways of this dark wilderness shall, at the dawn of everlasting day, be owned as the fittest to conduct us to the house of our Father. She began, too, to regain the confidence which strong minds naturally put in their own exertions. She resolved not to be wanting to herself, nor by brooding over her terrors, to disable herself from taking advantage of any providential circumstance which might favour her escape.
Morning at length began to dawn; but the blinds being closely drawn up, Laura could make no observations on the country through which she was passing. She remarked that the furious speed with which she had at first been driven, had slackened to a slow pace, and she judged that the wearied cattle could not proceed much farther. She hoped that it would soon be necessary to stop; and that during the few minutes in which they halted to change horses, she might find means of appealing to the justice of her fellow-creatures. "Surely," said she, "some heart will be open to me."
After proceeding slowly for some time, the carriage stopped. Laura listened for the sounds of human voices, but all was silent. She heard the trampling of horses as if led close by the carriage. Some one was certainly near who had no interest in this base oppression. "Help! oh, help me!" cried Laura. "I am cruelly and wrongfully detained. I have friends that will reward you. Heaven will reward you! Help me! for kind mercy, help me!" "Heyday!" cried the fellow in the carriage, with something between a grin and a stare, "who is the girl speaking to? What! did you imagine we should be wise enough to bring you within holla of a whole yardful of stable-boys and piping chamber-maids? Reward, indeed! Set your heart at rest, miss; we shall be rewarded without your friends or Heaven either."
The carriage again proceeded with the same speed as at first, and Laura strove to support with composure this new blow to her hopes. Her companion, now producing a bottle of wine and some biscuits, advised her to share with him; and that she might not wilfully lavish her strength and spirits, she consented. Once more in the course of the day the travellers stopped to change horses, and Laura once more, though with feebler hopes, renewed her appeals to justice and to pity. No answer greeted her ear. Again she was hurried on her melancholy way.
The day, as it advanced, seemed rough and gloomy. The wind swept in gusts through the trees, and the rain beat upon the carriage. The evening was drawing on when Laura remarked that the motion was changed. The chaise proceeded slowly over soft uneven ground, and she guessed, with dismay, that it had quitted all frequented paths. In renewed alarm, she again besought her companion to tell her whither he meant to conduct her, and for what end she was thus cruelly forced from her home. "Why, how should I tell you what I do not know myself?" answered the man. "I shan't conduct you much farther, and a good riddance. As for the end, you'll see that when it comes."
About an hour after quitting the road, the carriage stopped, and the man letting down the blind, Laura perceived through the dusk that they were on a barren moor. Waste and level, it seemed to spread before her; but the darkness prevented her from distinguishing its features or its boundaries. Suddenly, as the gust died away, she fancied she heard the roar of waters. She listened, but the wind swelled again, and she heard only its howlings over the heath. The horseman, who had ridden away when the carriage stopped, now galloped back, and directed the postilion to proceed. They went on for a few hundred yards, and again they stopped. The roar of waters again burst on Laura's ear, now swelling loud, now sinking in a sullen murmur. She saw a light glimmer at a distance. It was tossed by the billows of the ocean. The door of the chaise was opened, and she was lifted from it. Gliding from the arms of the ruffian who held her, and clasping his knees, "Oh! if you have the heart of a man," she cried, "let me not be torn from my native land, let me not be cast on the merciless deep. Think what it is to be an exile--friendless in a strange land--the sport, the prey of a pitiless enemy. Oh! if you have need of mercy, have mercy upon me." "Holloa! Robert," shouted the ruffian, "take away this girl. She's enough to make a man play the fool and whimper." The other fellow now approaching, lifted Laura, more dead than alive, from the ground, and wrapping her in a large cloak, bore her towards the beach.
In a creek, sheltered by rocks from the breakers, lay a small boat. One man sat near the bow, roaring a hoarse sea-song. As the party approached, he rose, and pushing the boat ashore, received the half lifeless Laura in his brawny arms, cursing her with strange oaths for having made him wait so long. Then, on his uttering a discordant yell, two of his companions appeared; and after exchanging with Laura's guards a murmuring account of the trouble they had undergone, pushed off from the laud. The keel grated along the pebbles; the next moment it floated on the waves, and Laura, starting up, threw back the cloak from her face, and with strained eyes gazed on her parting native laud, till all behind was darkness.
A pang of anguish striking to her heart, she made once more a desperate effort to awaken pity. Stretching her clasped hands towards the man who sat near her, she cried, in the piercing voice of misery, "Oh, take pity on me! I am an orphan. I have heard that sailors have kindly hearts; have pity, then; land me on the wildest coast, and I will fall down there and pray for you!" The person to whom she spoke having eyed her a moment in silence, coolly drew in his oar; and rising, wrapped her close in the cloak, and laid her down in the bottom of the boat, advising her, with an oath, to "keep snug, or she would capsize them."
In despair she renounced all further effort. Silent and motionless she lay, the cold spray dashing over her unheeded; till wet, chilled, and miserable, she was lifted on board a small brig, which lay about half a mile from the shore. She was carried down to the cabin, which was more decent than is usual in vessels of that size. A clean-looking woman attended to undress her; night-clothes were in readiness for her; and every accommodation provided which her situation rendered possible. Everything served to convince her of the care and precaution with which this cruel scheme had been concerted, and to show her the depth of the snare into which she had fallen.
She was laid in her narrow crib, ere it occurred to her that Hargrave might be near to watch his prey. Exhausted as she was, sleep fled at the thought. She listened for his voice, for his footstep, amid the unwonted discord that disturbed her ear. Daylight returned, and no sound reached her more terrible than that of the gale rattling in the cordage, and dashing the waves against the vessel's side. Worn out with fatigue and suffering, she slept at length; and a mid-day sun glanced by fits through her grated window ere she awoke to a new sense of sorrow. She rose, and going upon deck, looked sadly back upon the way she had unconsciously passed. Behind, the blue mountains were sinking in the distance; on the left lay a coast unknown to her; before her stretched the boundless deep, unvaried save by the whitening surge.
Laura spent most of her time upon deck, the fresh air reviving her spirits. One male and one female attendant seemed appropriated to her, and served her with even officious assiduity. Hoping that some opportunity might occur of transmitting an account of her situation to England, she begged these obsequious attendants to supply her with writing materials; but was firmly though respectfully refused.
The third morning came, and Laura looked in vain for any object to vary the immeasurable waste. The sun rose from one unbending line, and sank again in naked majesty. She observed that the course of the vessel was in general directly west; and if she had before doubted, this circumstance would have convinced her of her destination. She once ventured to inquire whither the ship was bound, but was answered that "she should know that when she reached the port."
It was on the 4th of May that Laura began her ill-omened voyage. On the 12th of June, "Land! land!" was shouted in the voice of joyful triumph. All ran to gaze with glad eyes on what seemed a low cloud, faintly descried on the verge of the horizon--all but Laura, who looked sadly forward, as to the laud of exile, of degradation, of death. Day after day that dreaded land approached; till, by degrees, the boundless ocean was narrowed to a mighty river, and the unfrequent sail, almost too distant for sight, was multiplied to a busy fleet, plying in every direction their cheerful labours. At length a city appeared in view, rising like an amphitheatre, and flashing bright with a material unknown to European architecture. Laura inquired what town it was; and though refused all information, surmised that Quebec lay before her.
Opposite the town the ship hove to; a boat was launched, and Laura expected to be sent on shore. Nor did she unwillingly prepare to go. "Surely," thought she, "in this populous city some one will be found to listen to my tale, and wrest me from the arm of the oppressor." The boat, however, departed without her, carrying ashore the man who had hitherto attended her. After remaining on shore for several hours, the man returned, and the vessel again proceeded on her voyage. Laura now imagined that Montreal was her destined port; and again she strove to hope that among numbers she should find aid.
A still, cloudy evening had succeeded to a sultry day, when Laura observed an unusual bustle upon deck. It was growing dark, when, as she leant over the rail, to watch the fire-flies that flashed like stars in the air, the captain approaching her, told her that she must go ashore, and immediately lifted her into a boat which lay alongside. Her attendants and baggage were already there; the sailors had taken their oars; and roaring to their companions a rough "Good night," made towards the land. Instead, however, of gaining the nearest point, they rowed into what in the darkness seemed a creek; but Laura soon perceived that, having left the great river on which they had hitherto sailed, they were following the course of one of its tributary streams. The darkness prevented her from distinguishing objects on the banks, though now and then a light, glimmering from a casement, showed that the haunts of man were near. She could not even discern the countenances of the sailors; but she observed, that he who seemed to direct the others, spoke in a voice which was new to her ear.
All night the rowers toiled up the stream. The day dawned; and Laura perceived that, passing an open cultivated plain, she was pursuing her course towards woods impervious to the light. Dark and tangled they lowered over the stream, till they closed around, and every cheerful object was blotted from the scene.
This presentation of Self Control: A Novel, by Mary Brunton is Copyright 2003 by P.J. LaBrocca. It may not be copied, duplicated, stored or transmitted in any form without written permission. The text is in the public domain.