Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

of rage, which contempt had distorted with a smile; his lips quivered, and he told me, in a voice scarce articulate, that though I might well be frightened at having stumbled upon an acquaintance whom I doubted whether I could trust, yet I should not bave screamed so loud.' After this insult he quitted me with as much negligence as he could assume; and bowing obsequiously to Caprinus, told him, • he would leave me to his care.' Caprinus had not sufficient presence of mind to reply; nor had I power to make any attempt, either to pacify or retain Hilario.

• When he was gone I burst into tears, but was still unable to speak. From this agony Caprinus laboured to relieve me ; and I began to hope that he sincerely participated my distress : Caprinus, however, soon appeared to be chiefly solicitous tó improve what, with respect to himself, he began to think a fortunate mistake. He had no conception that I intended an assignation with my husband; but believed, like Hilario, that I had mistaken the person for whom my favours were intended: while he lamented my distress and disappointment, therefore, he pressed my hand with great ardour, wished that he had been thought worthy of my confidence and my

love; and, to facilitate his design upon the wife of his friend, declared himself a man of honour, and that he would maintain the character at the hazard of his life.

“ To such an address in such circumstances, what could I reply? Grief had disarmed my resentment, and the pride of suspected virtue had forsaken me.

I expressed myself, not in reproaches but complaints ; and abruptly disengaging myself from him, I adjured him to tell me how he had procured bis habit, and whether it had not been hired by Hilario ?' He seemed to be struck with the question, and the manner in which I urged it; • I hired it,' said he, ‘myself, at a warehouse in Tavistock Street; but when I came to demand it, I was told it had been the subject of much confusion and dispute.

When I made my agreement the master was absent; and the servant neglecting to acquaint him with it at his return, he afterwards, in the absence of the servant, made the same agreement with another; but I know not with whom ; and it was with great difficulty that he was brought to relinquish his claim, after he had been convinced of the mistake.'

I now clearly discovered the snare in which I had been taken, and could only lament that it was impossible to escape. Whether Caprinus began to conceive my design, or whether he was indeed touched at my distress, which all his attempts to alleviate increased, I know not; but he desisted from further protestations and importunity, and at my earnest request procured me a chair, and left me to my fortune.

I now reflected, with inconceivable anguish, upon the change which a few hours had made in my condition. I had left my house in the height of expectation, that in a few hours I should add to the dignity of an untainted reputation the felicity of conjugal endearments. I returned disappointed and degraded ; detected in all the circumstances of guilt, to which I had not approached even in thought; having justified the jealousy which I sought to remove, and forfeited the esteem which I hoped to improve to veneration. With these thoughts I once more entered my dressing-room, which was on the same floor with my chamber, and in less than half an hour I heard Hilario come in.

He went immediately to his chamber; and being told that I was in the next room, he locked

66

the door, but did not go to bed, for I could hear him, walk backward and forward all the night.

Early in the morning I sent a sealed billet to him by his valet; for I had not made a confidante, even of

my woman: it contained only a pressing entreaty to be heard, and a solemn asseveration of my innocence, which I hoped it would not be impossible to prove. He sent me a verbal answer, that I might come to him; to him, therefore, I went, not as a judge but a criminal; not to accuse him whom I knew to be guilty, but to justify myself, whom I knew to be innocent; and at this moment I would have given the world to have been restored to that state, which the day before I had thought intolerable.

"1 found him in great agitation, which yet he laboured to conceal. I therefore hasted to relate my project, the motive from which it was undertaken, and the means by which it had been disappointed. He heard me with calmness and attention, till I related the particular of the habit: this threw him into a new fit of jealousy, and starting from his seat, · What,' said he, have you paid for this intelligence? Of whom could you learn it, but the wretch with whom I left you ? Did he not, when he found you were disappointed of another, solicit for himself? Here he paused for my reply; and as I could not deny the fact, I was silent; my inviolable regard for truth was mistaken for the confusion of guilt, and equally prevented my justification. His passion returned with yet greater violence. •I know,' said he, that Čaprinus related this incident, only that you might be enabled to impose upon my credulity, and that he might obtain a participation of the favours which you lavished upon others: but I am not thus to be deceived by the concurrence of accident with cunning, nor recon

[merged small][ocr errors]

ciled to the infamy which you have brought upon my name.' With this injurious reproach he would have left me; but I caught hold of him, and entreated that he would go with me to the warehouse, where the testimony of persons, wholly disinterested, might convince him that I was there immediately after him, and inquired which dress he had chosen. To this request he replied, by asking me, in a peremptory tone, · Whether Caprinus had not told me where the habit was hired ? As I was struck with the suddenness and the design of the question, I had not fortitude to confess a truth which yet I disdained to deny. Hilario again triumphed in the successful detection of my artifices;- and told me, with a sneer of insupportable contempt and derision, that he who had so kindly directed me to find my witnesses was too able a solicitor not to acquaint them what testimony they were to give.'

Expostulation was now at an end, and I disdained to entreat any mercy under the imputation of guilt. All that remained, therefore, was still to hide my wretchedness in my bosom; and, if possible, to preserve that character abroad which I had lost at home. But this I soon found to be a vain attempt; it was immediately whispered as a secret, that * Hilario, who had long suspected me of a criminal correspondence, had at length traced me from the masquerade to a bagnio, and surprised me with a fellow. It was in vain for me to attempt the recovery

of

my character by giving another turn to this report, for the principal facts I could not deny; and those who appeared to be most my friends, after they had attended to what they called nice distinctions and minute circumstances, could only say that it was a dark affair, and they hoped I was not so guilty as was generally believed. I was avoided by my female acquaintance as infamous : if I went abroad, I was pointed out with a whisper and a nod: and if I stayed at home, I saw no face but my servant's. Those, whose levity I had silently censured by declining to practise it, now revenged themselves of the virtue by which they were condemned, and thanked God they had never yet picked up fellows, though they were not so squeamish as to refuse going to a ball. But this was not the worst: every libertine, whose fortune authorized the insolence, was now making me offers of protection in nameless scrawls, and feared not to solicit me to adultery; they dared to hope I should accept their proposal by directing to A. B. who declares, like Caprinus, that he is a man of honour, and will not scruple to run my husband through the body, who now, indeed, thought himself authorized to treat me with every species of cruelty but blows, at the same time that his house was a perpetual scene of lewdness and debauchery. .

Reiterated provocation and insult soon became intolerable: I therefore applied to a distant relation, who so far interested himself in my behalf as to obtain me a separate maintenance, with which I retired into the country, and in this world have no hope but to perpetuate my obscurity.

“In this obscurity, however, your paper is known : and I have communicated an adventure to the Adventurer, not merely to indulge complaint, or gratify curiosity, but because I think it confirms some principles which you have before illustrated.

“ Those who doubt of a future retribution may reflect that I have been involved in all the miseries of guilt, except the reproach of conscience and the fear of hell, by an attempt which was intended to reclaim another from vice, and obtain the reward of my own virtue.

My example may deter others from venturing to the verge of rectitude, and assuming the appearance

« FöregåendeFortsätt »