Eliza Fowler Haywood.

Life's Progress Through The Passions Or, The Adventures of Natura online

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manner you can.'

Fain would he have obtained a farther explanation of words, which
seemed to him to contain some mystery, as indeed they did; but she was
no less inflexible to his intreaties on that score, than she had been
to those of his love; and perceiving his presence gave her only pain,
he went out of the house with an aking and agitated heart, but
resolved to do as she desired and he had promised, whatever pangs it
cost him.

He had not gone above an hundred paces on his way home, before he was
accosted by a man who seemed like an upper-servant in a gentleman's
family, and who, with a low bow, delivered him a letter, which, on
seeing directed to himself, he hastily opened, and found contained
these lines:

Sir,

"If you have any thing in you of the gallantry, generosity, or
gratitude, for which your country is famed, come where the bearer
will conduct you, to a woman, who has suffered much on your
account, and can be extricated from an unhappy affair only by your
advice."

Natura was little in a humour to pursue an adventure of the kind this
seemed to be; but curiosity got the better of his spleen, and he bad
the fellow lead the way, and he would follow; which he accordingly
did, till they were out of the town, and from the sight of all the
houses.

Being come into a field which was a kind of an inclosure, and a
theatre proper enough for the tragedy intended to be acted on it, the
fellow turned back, and drew a pistol, which he instantly discharged
at the head of Natura, crying at the same time, 'Maria sends you
this.' - Heaven so directed the bullets, that the one passed by his
ear, and the other only grazed upon his shoulder, without doing any
farther damage, than taking away a small piece of his sleeve. It is
easy to judge of his surprize, yet was it not so great as to disable
him from drawing his sword in order to revenge himself on the
assassin; but the wretch, in case his fire-arms should miscarry, had
provided a falchion concealed under his coat, with which, the same
instant, he ran furiously on Natura, and had certainly cleft him down,
tho' perhaps in doing so, he might have received his own death's wound
at the same time from the sword of his antagonist; but both these
events were happily prevented by the peculiar interposition of Divine
Providence: some reapers, who had lain asleep under an adjacent hedge,
being roused with the noise of the pistol, ran to the combatants, and
with their hooks beat down both their weapons; while at the same
fortunate crisis, two gentlemen attended by three servants, who
happening to cross a road which had a full prospect over the field,
had seen, at a distance, all that had passed, and came galloping up to
the assistance of Natura, who was then beginning to interrogate the
villain on the occasion of this attempt; but he refused to give any
satisfactory answer to what he said, so was dragged by the countrymen,
and others, who by this time were gathered together, back into the
town, and carried immediately before a magistrate, who, on his
obstinately refusing to make any confession, committed him to prison.

Natura, who imagined nothing more certain, than that Maria had set
this fellow on to murder him, as the surest way to get rid of his
addresses, went directly to the house where she lodged, full of a
resentment equal to the detestable crime of which he thought her
guilty; - he found her in the room with her father and mother, of whom
he took little notice, but stepped forwards to the place where she was
sitting; and seeing her a little surprized, which indeed was
occasioned only by his sudden return, and the abrupt manner in which
he entered: - 'You find, madam,' said he, with a voice broke with rage,
'your plot has miscarried; - Natura still lives, though it must be
owned your emissary did all could be expected to obey your commands,
for my destruction.'

It is hard to say, whether Maria, or her parents, were in the greatest
consternation at these words; but he soon unravelled the mystery, by
relating the whole story, not omitting what the assassin said in
presenting the pistol, and then as a confirmation throwed the letter
he had received into Maria's lap, and at the same time shewed the
passage one of the bullets had made through the sleeve of his
coat: - the young lady no sooner cast her eyes upon the letter, than
she gave a great shriek, and crying out, 'O Humphry, Humphry! every
way my ruin!' immediately fell fainting on the floor; her father,
without regarding the condition she was in, snatched up the paper, the
hand-writing of which he presently recollected, as having, it seems,
intercepted several wrote by the same person; - 'Abandoned, infamous
creature,' cried he; - 'shame of thy sex and family,' added the mother,
striking her breast in the utmost agony: - in fine, never was such a
scene of distraction and despair! - Natura, injured as he had been,
could not behold it without compassion; - he ran by turns to Maria,
endeavouring to raise her, - then to her parents, beseeching them to
moderate their passion, - then to her again: - 'You are too generous,'
said the father, 'let her die, happy had it been if she had perished
in the cradle': - Just as he spoke these words she revived, and lifting
up her eyes, 'O, I am no murd'ress,' cried she, 'guilty as I am, in
this Heaven knows my innocence.' - 'It is false, it is false,' said the
father; 'but were it true, canst thou deny, thou most abandoned
wretch, that thou wert also ignorant that the villain who wrote this
letter had followed us to Spaw, and bring a second shame upon
us?' - She answered to this only with her tears, which assuring him she
had no defence to make on this article, his rage grew more inflamed;
he loaded her with curses, and could not keep himself from spurning
her with his feet, as she still lay groveling on the ground, and might
perhaps have proceeded to greater violences, had not Natura, by main
force, with-held him, while her mother, tho' little less incensed
against her, dragged her in a manner out of the room, more dead than
alive.

The unhappy object removed from his sight, the provoked father grew
somewhat more calm, and turning to Natura, 'You see now, sir,' said
he, 'how unworthy this wretched girl is of that affection with which
you once honoured her; but how shall I obtain your pardon for what the
too great tenderness for an only child has made me guilty of to
you; - all I can say is, that I hoped she had been reclaimed, and so
far from even a wish to repeat her crimes, that she had only an utter
detestation for the villain that had seduced her.'

Natura knew very well how he ought to judge of this affair; but as he
had an aversion to dissimulation, and was unwilling to add any thing
to the affliction he was witness to, he said little in answer to the
other's apology, but that he was extremely sorry for Maria, and the
misfortunes she had brought on the family; and then took his leave as
soon as decency would permit; but with a firm resolution to hold no
farther conversation, wherever they should hereafter happen to meet,
with persons who had all of them, in their several capacities, used
him so ill.

The assassin was soon after brought to a public trial, where tortures
making him confess the truth, he acknowledged, that having been a
servant in the family, the beauty of Maria had inspired him with
desires, unbefitting the disparity between them; - that emboldened by
an extraordinary goodness she shewed to him, he had declared his
passion, and met with all the returns he wished; - that she became
pregnant by him, and had made a vow to keep herself single, till the
death of her father should leave her at liberty to marry him; but that
an unlucky accident having discovered their amour, he was turned out
of the house, and the grief Maria conceived at it occasioned an
abortion; but that after her recovery she contrived means to meet him
privately, and to support him with money, that he might not be obliged
to go to service any more; that she had acquainted him with their
coming to the Spa, and not only knew of his following them in disguise
to that place, but contrived a rendezvous where they saw each other
often, and he learned from her the addresses of Natura, and the
positive commands laid on her by her parents of marrying him, in order
to retrieve her honour and reputation; that as besides the extreme
love he had for her, his own interest obliged him to hinder the match,
if by any means he could; and finding no other than the death of his
rival, he had attempted it by the way already mentioned: but cleared
Maria, however, of all guilt on this score, who, he assured the court,
knew nothing of his intentions of murder.

The sentence passed on him was, to be hanged in chains, which was
accordingly executed in a few days; though Natura, pitying his case,
in consideration of the greatness of the temptation, laboured for a
mitigation of his doom. - He never saw the unfortunate Maria
afterwards, but heard she was in a condition little different from
madness, which making her parents think it improper she should return
to England, they conveyed her to Liege, where they placed her as a
pensioner in the convent of English nuns, there to remain till time
and reflection should make a change in her, fit to appear again in the
world; which proceeding in them shewed, that whatever aversion some
people have to _this_, or _that_ form of religion, they can
countenance, nay, pretend to approve it, when it happens to prove for
their convenience to do so.

Natura was now intirely cured of his passion, but could not avoid
feeling a very tender commiseration for her, who had been the unhappy
object of it; he found also, on meditating on every passage of this
adventure, that she was infinitely less to blame, in regard to him,
than her parents had been; and that what he had accused, as cruel in
her, was much more kind than the favour they had pretended for
him. - When he reflected on the gulph of misery he had so narrowly
escaped, he was filled with the most grateful sentiments to that
Providence which had protected him; and also made sensible, that what
we often pray for, as the greatest of blessings, would, if obtained,
prove the severest curse: - a reflection highly necessary for all who
desire any thing with too much ardency.




CHAP. V.

Shews that there is no one human advantage to which all others
should be sacrificed: - the force of ambition, and the folly of
suffering it to gain too great an ascendant over us; - public
grandeur little capable of atoning for private discontent; among
which jealousy, whether of love or honour, is the most tormenting.


The desire of being well settled in the world is both natural and
laudable; but then great care ought to be taken to moderate this
passion, in order to prevent it from engrossing the mind too much; for
it is the nature of ambition, not only to stop at nothing that tends
to its gratification, but also to be ever craving new acquisitions,
ever unsatisfied with the former. - One favourite point is no sooner
gained, than another appears in view, and is pursued with the same
eagerness: - what we once thought the _summum bonum_ of our happiness,
seems nothing when we have attained to the possession of it, while
that which is unaccomplished, fires us with impatience, and robs us of
every enjoyment we might take in life.

Natura having now been absent two years, thought the idle rumours
concerning him, as to his principles in party-matters, would be pretty
much silenced, so began to think of returning to England; he was the
more encouraged to do so, as he found by his letters, that those in
the ministry, who had appeared with most virulence against him, had
been removed themselves, and that a considerable change in public
affairs had happened. Accordingly, he set forward with all the
expedition he could, feeling not the least regret for leaving a
country he had never liked, nor where he had ever enjoyed any real
satisfaction, and had been so near being plunged into the worst of
misfortunes, that of an unhappy marriage: - no ill accident
intervening, he arrived in England, and proceeded directly to London,
where he was received with an infinity of joy by his father and
sister, who happened at that time to come to town with her spouse, in
order to place a young son they had at Westminster school.

The better genius of Natura now took its turn, and prevailed over his
ill one: the person whose turbulent zeal had occasioned his late
misfortune, had since, being detected in some mal practice in other
affairs, been cashiered from an office he held under the government,
and was in the utmost disgrace himself: every body was now assured,
that Natura had done no more than what became any man of spirit and
honour; and those who before had condemned, now applauded his
behaviour: in fine, every thing happened according to his wishes, and,
to crown his happiness, he married about ten months after his arrival,
a young beautiful lady, of his father's recommendation, and who had
indeed all the qualifications that can render the conjugal state
desirable.

The promotion of a member of parliament to the house of peers for that
county in which their estate lay, happening soon after, he stood for
the vacant seat, and easily obtained it: - nothing now seemed wanting
to compleat his perfect happiness, yet so restless is the heart of
man, that gaining much, it yet craves for more; Natura had always a
great passion for the court, meerly because it was a court, and gave
an air of dignity to all belonging to it; he longed to make one among
the shining throng; he was continually solliciting it, with an anxiety
which deprived him of any true enjoyment of the blessings of his life;
nor could all the arguments his father used to convince him of the
vanity of his desires, nor the soft society of a most endearing and
accomplished wife, render him easy under the many disappointments he
received in the prosecution of this favourite aim.

The death of his father soon after, however, filled his bosom with
emotions which he had never felt before in any painful degree; he was
for some time scarce able to support the thoughts of having lost so
tender and affectionate a parent: but as nothing is so soon forgot as
death, especially when alleviated by the enjoyment of a greater
affluence of fortune, his grief wore off by pretty swift degrees, and
he was beginning to renew his pursuits after preferment, with the same
assiduity and ardency as ever, when his wife died in bringing into the
world a son. This second subject of sorrow struck indeed much more to
his heart than the former had done, as he now wanted that comforter he
had found in her. - All the consolation he had was in that little
pledge of their mutual affection she had left behind; and it was for
the sake of that dear boy, at least he imagined it so, that his
ambition of making a great figure in the world again, revived in him,
if possible, with greater energy than ever.

As he was now in possession of a very fine estate, had an agreeable
person, rendered yet more so by all the advantages of education and
travel, and not quite six-and-thirty, when he became a widower, his
year of mourning was scarce expired, before all his friends and
acquaintance began to talk to him of another wife, and few days past
without proposals of that nature being made; but either the memory of
the former amiable partner of his bed, or the experience he had in his
own family of the ill effects that second marriages sometimes produce,
made him deaf, for a long time, to any discourses on that head, though
urged by those who, in other matters, had the greatest ascendant over
him.

Though he was far from being arrived at those years which render a man
insensible of beauty, yet he was past those which had made him look on
the enjoyment of it as the supremest bliss: - the fond desires that
once engrossed him, had for some time given way to the more potent
ardors of ambition; - he now made not love his _business_ but
_amusement_; the amours he had were only transient, and merely to fill
the vacancy of an idle hour: his thoughts were so wholly taken up with
advancing himself, and becoming a man of consequence in the world,
that it may be reasonably supposed, by his behaviour, and the manner
in which he rejected all the offers made to him, that had he met with
a woman, in whom all the perfections of the sex were centered, she
would not have been able either to engage him to a serious attachment,
or to have quitted those more darling pursuits, which the desire of
greatness fired him with.

Thus fortified by his present inclinations against all the charms of
youth, of wit, of beauty, there was but one temptation he had not the
power of withstanding, and that one his ill fate at length presented
to him. A certain great person, who at that time was at the head of
public affairs, had a neice, who for many private reasons, he found it
necessary to dispose of in marriage: Natura was the man he happened to
pitch upon, as one who seemed to him a very proper person, and
accordingly made him the offer, accompanied with a promise of getting
him into a great post, which he knew he had been for a long time, and
was still, solliciting, though without any prospect of success,
without his assistance.

The young lady was not ugly, yet far from being mistress of charms
capable of captivating a heart which had been filled with so many
images of different beauties; but, as I have already said, love was
not now the reigning passion of Natura's soul, and had she been much
less amiable, the dowery she was to bring, sufficiently compensated
for all other deficiencies, according to his present way of judging.

He hesitated not a moment to accept the minister's proposal; and a
long courtship, as things were ordered between them, being needless,
he became again a husband, in a very few days, after the first mention
had been made of it, and at the same time was put in possession of
what was much more welcome to him than his bride, even tho' she had
been endowed with every virtue, every grace.

All for a time went smoothly on: - he saw himself in a rank and
precedence, his birth could never have expected: - his wife's uncle
loaded him with favours; he procured a commission of lieutenant in the
guards for his younger brother by his mother-in-law, whom, in spite of
the ill usage, with which both himself and his father had been treated
by her, he had a very great affection for; - he also got employments
for several others of his kindred; - his house was the rendezvous of
the gay and titled world; - his friendship was courted by all his
acquaintance, and his interest at court created him so many
dependants, that his levee was little inferior to that of the minister
himself.

This full attainment of all he wished, and even more than he had ever
dared to indulge the hope of, might well render him extremely
contented; - he was indeed pleased to excess, but the gladness of his
heart was so far a virtue in him, as it prevented him at first from
shewing any tokens of that pride, which a sudden variation of fortune
frequently excites.

It is certain, his behaviour was such as gained him an equal share of
love and respect; and he had this addition to his other blessings, of
not having his advancement envied; a thing pretty rare about a court,
where there are so many gaping after every office that falls.

They say ambition is a lust that is never quenched; and that the
enjoyment of much brings with it only an impatience for more; that
fresh objects, and new acquisitions, still presenting themselves, the
mind is ever restless, ever anxious in the endless pursuit. - It is
very likely this maxim might indeed have been verified in the mind of
Natura, after the hurry of transport for what he had already obtained
had been a little worn off, and made way for other aims; but he had
scarce given over congratulating himself on his success, before a
strange alteration, and such as he had least dreaded of, happened in
his humour, and rendered him wholly incapable of retaining the least
relish for all the blessings he possessed, and in which he so lately
placed the ultimate of his wishes.

The compliments paid to him on his promotion and marriage, the giving
and receiving visits from all his kindred and friends, together with
the duties of his post, so much engrossed him for the first two or
three months, that he had not time to give any attention to his
domestic affairs, and happy would it have been for his peace if he had
always continued in a total negligence in this point, as the fatal
inspection plunged him into such distractions, as required many long
years to compose.

In fine, he now discovered such dispositions to gallantry in his wife,
as inflamed him with jealousy, to such a degree as it would be
impossible to describe; - not that he had ever been possessed of any
extraordinary love or fondness on her account; but the injury which he
imagined was offered to his honour, by the freedoms with which she
entertained several of those young courtiers which frequented his
house, made him in a short time become the most discontented man
alive.

Utterly impossible was it for him to conceal his disquiets; though the
fears he had of displeasing the minister made him attempt it, as much
as possible, and conscious of his ill dissimulation that way, the
little notice she took of a chagrin he knew she could not but observe,
very much added to it, as it seemed a certain proof of her
indifference for him; a behaviour so widely different from the amiable
tenderness of his former wife, dissipated all the little affection he
had for her, and it was not long before she became even hateful to
him; his jealousy however abated not with his love, her dishonour was
his own, her person was his property by marriage, and the thoughts of
any encroachment on his right were insupportable to him.

Whether she was in fact as yet guilty of those violations of her duty,
which his imagination incessantly suggested to him she was, neither
himself, nor the world, were ever able to prove; but it is certain her
conduct was such, in every shape towards him, as gave but too much
room for suspicion in the least censorious, and which growing every
day more disagreeable to him, he at length had not the power of
feigning an inattention to it. - He remonstrated to her the value every
woman, especially those in high life, ought to set on her
reputation; - told her plainly, that the severest censures had been
past upon her, and without seeming to believe them just himself,
intreated her to act with more reserve for the future.

All this, though delivered in the most gentle terms he could invent,
had no other effect than to set her into an immoderate laughter:
nothing could be more provoking, than the contempt with which she
treated his advice; and on his insisting at last, in terms which she
might think were somewhat too strong, on her being less frequently
seen with some persons he mentioned to her, she answered in the most
disdainful tone, that when she came to his years, she might, perhaps,
look on the pleasures of life with the same eyes he did; but while
youth and good humour lasted, she should deny herself no innocent
indulgencies, and was resolved, let him and the world say what they
would, not to anticipate old age and wrinkles.

As Natura was not yet forty, in perfect health, and consequently not
past the prime of manhood, this reflection cast upon his years, could
not but add to his disgust of her that made it, and he replied with a
spite which was very visible in his countenance, that whatever
disparity there was between their ages, it would soon diminish by the
course of life she followed, and which, if she persisted in, would, in
a very little time, make her become an object below the voice of
censure.

They must know little of the sex, that do not know no affront can be
so stinging as one offered to their beauty, even tho' conscious of
having no great share of it; but the wife of Natura had heard too many
flatteries, not to inspire her with the highest idea of her charms,
which the little respect he now testified to have for them, did not at
all abate, and only served to make her despise his stupidity, as she
termed it.

No measures after this were kept between them; she seemed to take a
pleasure in every thing that gave him pain; she coquetted before his
face with every handsome man that came in her way, and in fine gave
herself such airs as the most patient husband could not have permitted


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Online LibraryEliza Fowler HaywoodLife's Progress Through The Passions Or, The Adventures of Natura → online text (page 11 of 16)