Eliza Fowler Haywood.

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

. (page 14 of 16)
Online LibraryEliza Fowler HaywoodLife's Progress Through The Passions Or, The Adventures of Natura → online text (page 14 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


inspection, he found none who seemed so likely to answer his desires
in every respect as a young maid called Lætitia; she was the daughter
of a neighbouring yeoman, not disagreeable in her person, or
behaviour, yet possessed of no accomplishments, but those which nature
had bestowed: her father was an honest plain man, he had four sons and
two daughters, who had been married some time, and had several
children; Lætitia was his youngest, and promised to be no less
fruitful than her sisters; and this last was the chief inducement
which made Natura fix his choice upon her.

Having resolved to seek no farther, he frequently went to the old
man's house, pretending he took delight in country affairs, would walk
with him about his grounds, and into his barns, and see the men who
were at work in them. One day he took an opportunity of going when he
knew he was abroad, designing to break his mind to the young Lætitia,
who, being her father's housekeeper, he did not doubt finding at home:
accordingly she was so; and, after some previous discourse, a little
boy of one of her sisters, being playing about the room, 'This it a
fine child,' said he; 'when do you design to marry, pretty Mrs.
Lætitia?' - 'Should you not like to be a mother of such diverting
little pratlers?' - 'It is time enough, sir,' replied she modestly,
'for me to think of any such thing.' - 'If you get a good husband,'
resumed he, 'it cannot be too soon': - 'Nor, if a bad one, too late,'
cried she, 'as there are great odds on that side.' - 'That is true,'
said he, 'but I believe there are many ill husbands, who owe their
being such, to the ill conduct of their wives': - 'now I fancy,'
continued he, 'whoever is so happy as to have you, will have no such
excuse; for I firmly believe you have in you all the requisites to
make the marriage state agreeable.' To this she only made a curtesy,
and thanked him for his good opinion: 'I do assure you,' resumed he,
'it is so sincere, that I should be glad to prove it, by making you my
wife. What say you,' pursued he, 'could you be willing to accept of my
addresses on that score?' With these words he took hold of her hand,
and pressing it with a great deal of warmth, occasioned her to blush
excessively. - The inability she was in of speaking, through the shame
this question had excited in her, gave him an opportunity of
prosecuting what he had begun, and saying many tender things, to
convince her he was in earnest; but when at last she gave him an
answer, it was only such as made him see she gave little credit to his
professions. - Some people coming in on business to her father, and
saying they would wait till he came home, obliged Natura to take his
leave for that time, well satisfied in his mind, that he had declared
himself, and not much doubting, but that in spite of this first
shyness, she would easily be prevailed upon to correspond with his
desires, when his perseverance in them, should have assured her of
their sincerity.

He was, notwithstanding, a good deal surprized, when, going several
times after to the house, he could scarce see her, and never be able
to exchange a word with her in private, so industriously did she avoid
coming into his presence. - Such a behaviour, he thought, could proceed
only from one of these two motives, either thro' an extraordinary
dislike to his person, or through the fears of giving any indulgence
to an inclination, which the disparity between them might make her
mistake for a dishonourable one. Sometimes he was tempted to think the
one, sometimes the other; but not being of a humour to endure
suspense, he resolved to take effectual measures for coming at the
certainty.

He went one day about noon, and told the yeoman he was come to take a
dinner with him, on which the other replied, that he did him a great
deal of honour; but should have been glad to have been previously
acquainted with it, in order to have been prepared to receive a
gentleman of his condition. - 'No,' said Natura, 'I chose to come upon
you unawares, not only to prevent you from giving yourself any
superfluous trouble on my account, but also because I would use a
freedom, which should authorize you to treat me with the same; - we are
neighbours,' continued he, 'and neighbours should be friends, and love
one another.'

Some other little chat on trivial affairs passed away the short time
between the coming of Natura, and dinner being brought in; on which,
the yeoman intreated him to sit down, and partake of such homely food
as he found there. - 'That I shall gladly do,' answered Natura, 'but I
waited for your fair daughter; I hope we shall have her company. I do
not know,' said the yeoman, 'I think they told me she was not very
well, had got the head-ach, or some such ailment; - go, however,'
pursued he, to a servant, 'and see if Lætitia can come down.' - 'But,
sir,' cried he, perceiving his guest discovered no inclination to
place himself at the table, 'do not let us wait for her.'

Natura on this sat down, and they both began to eat, when the person
who had been sent to call Lætitia returned, and said, she begged to be
excused, being very much indisposed, and unfit to be seen. - The old
man seemed to take no notice, but pressed Natura to eat, and somewhat
embarrassed him with the many apologies he made for the coarseness of
his entertainment; to all which he gave but short answers, till the
cloth was taken away, and they were alone. - Then, 'I could not wish to
dine more to my satisfaction,' said he, 'if the sweetness of your meat
had not been imbittered by your daughter's absence'; - 'to be plain,'
continued he, 'I fear I am the disease which occasions her
retirement.' - 'You, sir!' cried the father, affecting a surprize,
which he was not so well skilled in the art of dissimulation, to make
appear so natural, but that Natura easily saw into the feint, and told
him with a smile, that he found the _country_ had its arts as well as
the _court:_ - 'but let us deal sincerely with each other,' pursued he,
'I am very certain, it is from no other motive, than my being here,
that your daughter refused to come to table; and I also faithfully
believe you are no stranger to that motive: - be therefore free with
me; and to encourage you to be so, I shall acquaint you, that I have
made some overtures to Mrs. Lætitia, - that I like her, and that my
frequent visits to you have been entirely on her account: - now, be as
sincere with me, and let me know, whether the offers I made her will
be approved.'

The yeoman was a little dashed on Natura's speaking in this manner,
and was some moments before he could recollect himself sufficiently to
make any reply; and, when at last he had, all he could bring out was,
'Sir, my girl is honest, and I hope will always continue so.'

'I am far from doubting her virtue in the least,' answered Natura
hastily, 'but I think I cannot give a greater testimony of the good
opinion I have of her, than by offering to make her my wife.' - 'Ah,
sir,' cried the yeoman, interrupting him, 'you must excuse me, if I
cannot flatter myself you have any thoughts of doing us that
honour. - I am a mean man, of no parentage, and it is well known have
brought up a large family by the sweat of my brow.' - 'Lætitia is a
poor country maid; - it is true, the girl is well enough, but has
nothing, - nothing at all, alas! in her to balance for that vast
disparity of birth and fortune between you.'

'Talk no more of that,' said Natura, taking him by the hand, 'such as
she is, I like her; and I once more assure you, that I never had any
dishonourable intentions on her, but am ready to prove the contrary,
by marrying her, as soon as she approves of me, and you agree to it.'

The old man looked very earnestly on him all the while he was
speaking, and knew not well whether he ought to give credit to what he
said, or not, - Natura, perceiving his diffidence, continued, by
sparing neither arguments, nor the most solemn imprecations, to remove
it, till he was at last assured of a good fortune, which, as he said,
he had thought too extraordinary to happen in his family. He then told
Natura he would acquaint his daughter with the happiness he intended
for her, and dispose her to receive it with that respect and gratitude
that became her. On which Natura took his leave till the next day,
when he found Lætitia did not make any excuse to avoid his presence,
as she had lately done. - He addressed himself to her not in the same
manner he would have done to a woman of condition, but yet in very
tender and affectionate terms: - her behaviour to him was humble,
modest, and obliging; and though she was not mistress of the politest
expressions, yet what she said discovered she wanted not a fund of
good sense and understanding, which, if cultivated by education, would
have appeared very bright. He easily perceived, she took a great deal
of pains to disguise the joy she conceived at this prospect of raising
her fortune, but was too little accustomed to dissimulation, to do it
effectually, and both the one and the other gave him much
satisfaction.

Circumstances being in the manner I related, it is not natural to
suppose any long sollicitation was required. - Lætitia affected not an
indifference she was free from, and Natura pressing for the speedy
consummation of his wishes, a day was appointed for the celebration of
the nuptials, and both the intended bride and bridegroom set
themselves about making the necessary preparations usual in such
cases.

But see, how capable are our finest resolutions of being shaken by
accidents! - the most assured of men may be compared to the leaf of a
tree, which veers with every blast of wind, and is never long in one
position. - Had any one told Natura he had taken all this pains for
nothing, and that he would be more anxious to get off his promise of
marrying Lætitia, than ever he had been to engage one from her for
that purpose; he would have thought himself highly injured, and that
the person who said this of him was utterly a stranger to his
sentiments or character; yet so it happened, and the poor Letitia
found all her hopes of grandeur vanish into air, when they seemed just
on the point of being accomplished. - The occasion of this strange and
sudden transition was as follows:

Two days before that prefixed for his marriage, Natura received a
packet from Gibralter, which brought him an account of the death of
his brother. - That unfortunate young gentleman, being convinced by his
sufferings, and perhaps too by his own remorse, and stings of
conscience of the foulness of the crime he had been guilty of, fell
into a languishing disorder, soon after his arrival in that country,
which left those about him no expectations of his ever getting the
better of. - Finding his dissolution near, he wrote a letter to Natura,
full of contrition, and intreaties for forgiveness. This epistle
accompanied that which related his death, and both together plunged
Natura into very melancholly thoughts. - The offence his brother had
been guilty of, was indeed great; but, when he remembered that he had
repented, and was now no more, all resentment, all revenge, against
him ceased with his existence, and a tender pity supplied their
place: - what, while _living_, he never would have forgave, when _dead_
lost great part of its atrocity, and he bewailed the fate of the
transgressor, with unfeigned tears and lamentations.

This event putting an end to the motive which had induced Natura to
think of marriage, put an end also to his desires that way; - he was
sorry he had gone so far with Lætitia, was loth to appear a deceiver
in her eyes, or in those of her father; but thought it would be the
extremest madness in him to prosecute his intent, as his beloved
sister had a son, who would now be his heir, and only had desired to
be the father of one himself to hinder _him_ from being so, whose
crimes had rendered him unworthy of it.

The emotions of this revenge having entirely subsided, he now had
leisure to consider how oddly the world would think and talk of him,
if he perpetrated a marriage with a girl such as Lætitia; - he almost
wondered at himself, that the just displeasure he had conceived
against his brother, should have transported him so far as to make him
forgetful of what was owing to his own character; and when he
reflected on the miseries, vexations, and infamy, his last marriage
had involved him in, he trembled to think how near he had been to
entering into a state, which tho' he had a very good opinion of
Lætitia's virtue, might yet possibly, some way or other, have given
him many uneasinesses.

He was, however, very much embarrassed how to break with her
handsomely; and it must be confessed, that after what had passed, this
was no very easy matter to accomplish. - Make what pretence he would,
he could not expect to escape the censure of an unstable fluctuating
man. - This is indeed a character, which all men are willing, nay
industrious, to avoid, yet what there are few men, but some time or
other in their lives, give just reason to incur. - Natura very well
knew, that to court a woman for marriage, and afterwards break his
engagements with her, was a thing pretty common in the world; but
then, it was thing he had always condemned in his own mind, and looked
upon as most ungenerous and base: - besides, though he had made his
addresses to Lætitia, meerly because he imagined she would prove a
virtuous, obedient, and fruitful wife, and was not inflamed with any
of those sentiments for her which are called love; yet, designing to
marry her, he had set himself as much as possible to love her, and had
really excited in his heart a kind of a tenderness, which made him
unable to resolve on giving her the mortification of being forsaken,
without feeling great part of the pain he was about to inflict on her.

All he now wished was, that she might be possessed of as little warmth
of inclination for him as he had known for her, and that the disparity
of years between them, might have made her consent to the proposed
marriage, intirely on the motive of interest, without any mixture of
love, in order that the disappointment she was going to receive, might
seem the less severe: as the regard he had for her made him earnestly
wish this might be the case, he carefully recollected all the passages
of her behaviour, her looks, her words, nay, the very accents of her
voice, were re-examined, in hope to find some tokens of that happy
indifference, which alone could make him easy in this affair; but all
this retrospect afforded him no more than uncertain conjectures, and
imaginations which frequently contradicted each other, and indeed
served only to increase his doubts, and add to his disquiets.

The mourning for his brother was, however, a very plausible pretence
for delaying the marriage; and as he was willing the disappointment
should come on by degrees, thinking by that means to soften the
asperity of it, he contrived to let both father and daughter have room
to guess the event before hand. - He seldom went to their house, and
when he did, made very short visits, talked as if the necessity of his
affairs would oblige him to leave the country, and settle again
entirely in town: - rather avoided, than sought any opportunity of
speaking to Lætitia in private, and in all his words and actions,
discovered a coldness which could not but be very surprizing to them
both, though they took not the least notice that they were so before
him, but behaved towards him in the same manner, as when he appeared
the most full of affection.

This was a piece of prudence Natura had not expected from persons of
their low education and way of life: - he had imagined, that either the
one or the other of them would have upbraided this change in him, and
by avowing a suspicion, that he had repented him of his promises,
given him an opportunity either of seeming to resent it, or by some
other method, of breaking off: but this way of proceeding frustrated
his measures in that point, and he found himself under a necessity of
speaking first, on a subject no less disagreeable to himself, than he
knew it would be to those to whom his discourse should be directed.

However, as there was no remedy, and he considered, that the longer to
keep them in suspense, would only be adding to the cruelty of the
disappointment; he sent one morning for the yeoman to come to his
house, and after ushering in what he was about to say, with some
reflections on the instability of human affairs, told him that some
accidents had happened, which rendered it highly inconvenient for him
to think of marrying; - that he had the utmost respect and good will
for Lætitia, and that if there were not indissoluble impediments to
hinder him from taking a wife, she should be still his choice, above
any woman he knew in the world; - that he wished her happy with any
other man, and to contribute to making her so, as also by way of
atonement for his enforced leaving her, he would give her five hundred
pounds, as an addition to her fortune.

This was the substance of what he said; but though he delivered it in
the softest terms he could possibly make use of, he could find it was
not well received by the old man; his countenance, however, a little
cleared up at the closure of it: - the five hundred pounds was somewhat
of a sweetener to the bitter pill; and after expatiating, according to
his way, on the ungenerosity of engaging a young maid's affection, and
afterwards forsaking her, he threw in some shrewd hints, that as
accidents had happened to change his mind as to marriage, others might
also happen, which would have the same effect, in relation to the
present he now seemed to intend for her.

'To prevent that,' cried Natura hastily, 'you shall take it home with
you'; and with these words turned to a cabinet, and took out the sum
he had mentioned; after counting it over, he put it into a bag, and
delivered it to the yeoman, saying at the same time, that though it
might not be so proper to come to his house, yet if he would send to
him in any exigence, he should find him ready to assist him; 'for you
may depend,' added he, 'that though I cannot be your son, I shall
always be your friend.'

These words, and the money together, rendered the yeoman more content
than Natura had expected he would be; and by that he hoped he knew his
daughter had not imbibed any passion for him, which she would find
much difficulty in getting rid of, and that this augmentation to her
portion, would very well compensate for the loss of a husband, of more
than twice her years.

A small time evinced, that Natura had not been altogether mistaken in
his conjectures. - Lætitia became the bride of a young wealthy grazier
in a neighbouring town, with whom she removed soon after her marriage;
and this event, so much desired by Natura, destroyed all the remains
of disquiet, his nicety of honour, and love of justice, had occasioned
in him.

Being now wholly extricated from an adventure, which had given him
much pain, and no less free from the emotions of any turbulent
passion, he passed his days and nights in a most perfect and
undisturbed tranquility; a situation of mind to which, for a long
series of years, he had been an utter stranger.

To desire, or pursue any thing with too much eagerness, is undoubtedly
the greatest cruelty we can practise on ourselves; yet how impossible
is it to avoid doing so, while the passions have any kind of dominion
over us: - to _acquire_, and to _preserve_, make the sole business of
our lives, and leave no leisure to _enjoy_ the goods of
fortune: - still tost on the billows of passion, hurried from care to
care the whole time of our existence here, is one continued scene of
restlessness and variated disquiet. - Strange propensity in man! - even
nature in us seems contradictory to herself! - we wish _long life_, yet
shorten it by our own anxieties; - nothing is so dreadful as _death_,
yet we hasten his approach by our intemperance and irregularity, and,
what is more, we know all this, yet still run on in the same heady
course.

Natura had now, however, an interval, a happy chasm, between the
extremes of pleasure and of pain; - contented with his lot, and neither
aiming at more than he possessed, nor fearful of being deprived of
what he had. He, for a time, seemed in a condition such as all wise
men would wish to attain, tho' so few take proper methods for that
purpose, that those who we see in it, may be said to owe their
felicity rather to chance, than to any right endeavours of their own.




CHAP. V.

Contains a remarkable proof, that tho' the passions may operate with
greater velocity and vehemence in youth, yet they are infinitely
more strong and permanent, when the person is arrived at maturity,
and are then scarce ever eradicated. Love and friendship are then,
and not till then, truly worthy of the names they bear; and that the
_one_ between those of different sexes, is always the consequence of
the _other_.


The inclination we have, and the pleasure it gives us to think well of
our abilities, leads us frequently into the most gross mistakes,
concerning the springs of action in our breasts. We are apt to ascribe
to the strength of our reason, what is in reality the effect of one or
other of the passions, sometimes even those of the worst kind, and
which a sound judgment would most condemn, and endeavour to
extirpate. - Man is a stranger to nothing, more than to himself; - the
recesses of his own heart, are no less impenetrable to him, than the
worlds beyond the moon; - he is blinded by vanity, and agitated by
desires he knows not he is possessed of.

It was not _reason_ but _revenge_, which dissipated the immoderate
grief of Natura on the death of his son; - it was not _reason_ but
_pride_, which made him see the inconveniences of marrying with
Lætitia; - and yet doubtless he gave the praise of these events to the
strength of his prudence: to that too he also ascribed the resolution
he now took of living single during the remainder of his life; whereas
it was in truth only owing to his being at present acquainted with no
object capable of inspiring him with the tender passion.

As he was now entirely free from all business, or avocation of any
kind whatsoever, it came into his head to go and pass some part of the
summer season with his sister: - he accordingly crossed the country to
her seat, and was received with all imaginable demonstrations of joy,
both by herself and husband.

He found their family increased by the addition of a lady, who
preferring a country to a town life, had desired to board with them,
which was readily granted by the sister of Natura, not only as she was
a relation of her husband, but also for the sake of having a companion
so perfectly agreeable as this lady was in every respect.

Charlotte, for so she was called, had been left a widow within three
months after her marriage, and had never entertained any thoughts of
entering into a second engagement, though her person, jointure, and
accomplishments, had attracted many sollicitations on that score. She
was about thirty years of age when Natura found her at his sister's;
and through the chearfulness of her temper, and the goodness of her
constitution, had preserved in her countenance all the bloom of
fifteen. - The charms of her person, however, made no impression on
Natura at his first acquaintance with her; he thought her a fine
woman, as every one did who saw her, but her charms reached not his
heart, nor gave him any emotions, either of pain or pleasure.

But it was not for any longtime he remained in this state of
insensibility. - Charlotte had graces which could not fail of conquest,
sooner or later: - where those of her eyes wanted the power to move,
her tongue came in to their assistance, and was sure of gaining the
day: - there was something so resistless in her wit, and manner of
conversation, that none but those by nature, or want of proper
education, were too dull and stupid to understand, but must have felt
an infinity of satisfaction in it.

Besides all this, there was a sympathy of humour between this lady and
Natura, which greatly contributed to make them pleased with each
other: - both were virtuous by nature, by disposition gay and
chearful: - both were equally lovers of reading; had a smattering of
philosophy, were perfectly acquainted with the world, and knew what in
it was truly worthy of being praised or contemned; and what rendered
them still more conformable, was the aversion which each testified to
marriage. - Natura's treatment from his wife, had made him speak with


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16

Online LibraryEliza Fowler HaywoodLife's Progress Through The Passions Or, The Adventures of Natura → online text (page 14 of 16)