Eliza Fowler Haywood.

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

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signed a contract with an abandoned prostitute, is the worst action of
your life?'

It is impossible to describe the pleasure with which Natura found his
father was apprized of this affair, without being obliged to relate it
himself, as he was now determined to have done: - all his obduracy
being now intirely vanquished, and converted into the most tender,
affectionate, and dutiful submission.

'Can there be a worse?' replied he, renewing his embraces, 'and can
you know it, and yet vouchsafe to look on me as your son!' - 'If your
penitence be sincere,' said the good old gentleman, 'I neither can,
nor ought refuse to pardon all: - but rise,' continued he, 'and freely
give this worthy friend and myself, the satisfaction we require; - a
full confession of all your misbehaviour, is the only attonement you
can make, and that I can expect from you: - remember I have signed your
pardon for all that is past, but shall not include in it any future
acts of disobedience, among which, dissimulation, evasion or
concealment, in what I demand to be laid open, I shall look upon as of
the worst and most incorrigible kind.'

He needed not have laid so strong an injunction on the now truly
contrite Natura; - he disguised nothing of what he had done, even to
the mean arts of gaming, to which he had been obliged to have recourse
after his voluntary banishment from all his friends; and then painted
the horrors he conceived at the things he daily saw, and the despair
which had induced him to leave England, in such lively colours, that
not only his father, but the merchant, were affected by it, even to
the letting fall some tears.

But not to be too tedious in this part of my narration, never was
there a more perfect reconciliation: - the father till now knew not how
much he loved his son, nor the son before felt half that dutiful
affection and esteem for his father.

It now remained to conclude how the forgiven youth was to be
disposed: - there were two reasons which rendered it imprudent for him
to go home; first, on the score of his mother-in-law, who being better
informed than her husband could have wished, of the errors of his son,
he feared would have behaved to him in a fashion which, he easily
foresaw, would be attended with many inconveniences; even perhaps to
the driving him back into his late vicious courses; and secondly, on
that of the contract, which it would be more difficult to get Harriot
to relinquish, if Natura were known to be re-established in his
father's favour, than if concealed and supposed still in disgrace with
him. - The generous merchant made an offer of an apartment in his
house; but Natura, who had not seen his sister of a long time,
proposed a visit to her; as thinking the society of that dear and
prudent relation, would not only console, but establish him in virtue.

The father listened to both, and after some little deliberation, told
his son, that he approved of his going to his sister for a month or
two, or three, at his own option; 'but,' said he, 'it is not fit a
young man like you should bury yourself for any long time in the
country; - you are now of a right age to travel, and I would have you
enlarge your understanding by the sight of foreign manners and
customs: - I would, therefore, have you make a short visit to my
daughter, after which, accept of my friend's invitation, and in the
mean time I shall prepare things proper for your making the tour of
Europe, under a governor who may keep you in due limits.'

Had Natura never offended his father, the utmost he could have wished
from his indulgence, was a proposal of this kind: - he was in a perfect
extasy, and knew not how sufficiently to express his gratitude and
satisfaction; on talking, however, more particularly on the affair, it
was agreed he should go first to the merchant's, in order to be new
cloathed, and recover some part of those good looks his late dissolute
way of life had so much impaired.

Every thing being settled so much to the advantage of Natura, even a
few hours made some alteration in his countenance; so greatly does the
ease of the mind contribute to the welfare of the body! - he parted not
till night from this indulgent parent, when he went home with the
merchant, and had the next day tradesmen of all kinds sent for, who
had orders to provide, in their several ways, every thing necessary
for a young gentleman born to the estate he was. - As youth is little
regardless of futurity, he forgot, for a time, what consequences might
possibly attend his contract with Harriot, and was as perfectly at
ease, as if no such thing had ever happened. When fully equipped, he
went down into that country where his sister lived, and if the least
thought of his former transactions remained in him, they were now
intirely dissipated, by the kind reception he there met with, and the
entertainments made for him by the neighbouring gentry.

But his heart being bent on his travels, and receiving a letter from
his father, wherein he acquainted him that all things were ready for
his departure, he took leave of the country, after a stay of about
nine weeks, and returned to the merchant's, where his father soon came
to see him, and told him, he had provided a governor for him, who had
served several of the sons of the nobility in that capacity, and was
perfectly acquainted with the languages and manners of the countries
through which they were to pass.

This tender parent moreover acquainted him, that having consulted the
lawyers, on the score of that unhappy obligation he had laid himself
under to Harriot, and finding they had given it as their assured
opinion, that it was drawn up in the most binding and authentic
manner, he had offered that creature a hundred guineas to give up her
claim; but she had obstinately rejected his proposal, and seemed
determined to compel him to the performance of his contract; or in
case he married any other woman, to prosecute him for the moiety of
whatever portion he should receive with her.

The mention of this woman, who had given Natura so much disquiet, and
who indeed had been the primary cause of all his follies and
misfortunes, together with the thoughts of what future inconveniencies
she might involve him in, both on the account of his fortune and
reputation, made him relapse into his former agitations, and
afterwards rendered him extremely pensive, and he could not forbear
crying out, that he would chuse rather to abandon England for ever,
and, pass the whole remainder of his days in foreign climates, than
yield to become the prey any way of so wicked, so infamous a wretch,
'whom,' said he, 'I shall never think on, without hating myself for
having ever loved.'

The good-natured merchant, as well as his father, perceiving these
reflections began to take too much root in him, joined in endeavouring
to alleviate the asperity of them, by telling him, that it was their
opinion, as indeed it seemed highly probable, that when he was once
gone, she would be more easily prevailed upon; especially as the
reconciliation between him and his father was to be kept an inviolable
secret. The old gentleman also added, in order to make him easy, that
how exorbitant soever she might be in her demands, and whatever it
should cost, though it were the half of his estate, he would rid him
of the contract; which second proof of paternal affection, renewed in
Natura, as well it might, fresh sentiments of love, joy, and duty; and
the same promise being again and again reiterated, he soon resumed his
former chearfulness, and thought of nothing but the new scenes he was
going to pass through.

In fine, not many days elapsed before he departed, with his governor
and one footman, who had been an antient servant in the family. - As
their first route was to France, they went in the Dover stage, and
thence embarked for Calais, without any thing material happening,
except it were, that on sight of the ocean, Natura was fired with a
devout rhapsody at the thoughts of finding himself upon it, in a
manner so vastly different from that in which, but a few months since,
his despair had led him to project; and the resolution he made within
himself never to be guilty of any thing hereafter, which should
occasion a blush on his own face, or incur the displeasure of a
father, to whom he looked upon himself as much more indebted, for the
forgiveness he had received, than for being the author of his
existence.

So great an effect has mercy and benevolence over a heart not hardened
by a long practice of vice! How far Natura persevered in these good
intentions, we shall hereafter see; but the very ability of forming
them, shews that there is a native gratitude and generosity in the
human mind, which, in spite of the prevalence of unruly passions,
will, at sometimes, shine forth, even in the most thoughtless and
inconsiderate.






BOOK the Second.




CHAP. I.

The inconsideration and instability of youth; when unrestrained by
authority, is here exemplified, in an odd adventure Natura embarked
in with two nuns, after the death of his governor.


Novelty has charms for persons of all ages, but more especially in
youth, when manhood is unripened by maturity, when all the passions
are afloat, and reason not sufficiently established in her throne by
experience and reflection, the mind is fluctuating, easily carried
down the stream of every different inclination that invites, and
seldom or never has a constant bent.

From seventeen or eighteen to one or two and twenty, I look upon to be
that season of life in which all the errors we commit, will admit of
most excuse, because we are then at an age to think ourselves men,
without the power of acting as becomes reasonable men. It was in the
midst of this dangerous time, that Natura set out in order to make the
tour of Europe, and his governor dying soon after their arrival in
Paris, our young traveller was left to himself, and at liberty to
pursue whatever he had a fancy for.

The death of this gentleman was in effect a very great misfortune to
Natura; but as at his time of life we are all too apt to be impatient
under any restraint, tho' never so mild and reasonable, he did not
consider it in that light; and therefore less lamented his loss, than
his good nature would have made him do, had he been the companion of
his travels in any other station than that of governor, the very name
of which implied a right of direction over his behaviour, and a power
delegated by his father of circumscribing every thing he did. I
believe, whoever looks back upon himself at that age, will be
convinced by the retrospect, that there was nothing wonderful in
Natura's imagining he had now discretion enough to regulate his
conduct, without being under the controul of any person whatever; and
could not, for that reason, be much afflicted at being eased of a
subordination not at all agreeable to his humour, and which he thought
he had not the least occasion for.

The baron d' Eyrac had often invited him to pass some days with him,
at a fine villa he had about some ten leagues from Paris; but his
governor not having approved that visit, he had hitherto declined
it. - He now, however, took it into his head to go, and as the distance
was so short, went on horseback, attended by his footman, with a
portmanteau containing some linnen and cloaths, his intention being to
remain there while the baron stayed, which, as he was informed, would
be three weeks, or a month; - it being then the season for hunting, and
that part of the country well suited for the diversion.

He had been on a party of pleasure a considerable way on this road
before, so thought he had no occasion for a guide, and that he should
easily be directed to the house; but it so happened that being got
about twenty miles from Paris he missed his route, and took one the
direct contrary, and which at last brought him to the entrance of a
very thick wood: - there was not the least appearance of any human
creature, nor the habitation of one, and he was beginning to consult
with his servant whether to go back, or proceed till they should
arrive at some town or village for refreshment, when all at once there
fell the most terrible shower of hail and rain, accompanied with
thunder, that ever was heard; - this determined them to go into the
wood for shelter: - the storm continued till night, and it was then so
dark, that they could distinguish nothing: - they wandered, however,
leading their horses in their hands, for it was impossible to ride,
hoping to find some path, by which they might extricate themselves out
of that horrid labyrinth.

Some hours were passed in this perplexed situation, and Natura
expected no better than to remain there till morning, when he heard a
voice at a little distance, cry, 'Who goes there?' Never had any music
been half so pleasing to the ears of Natura. 'Friends,' replied he,
'and travellers, that have lost their way.' On this the person who had
spoke, drew nearer, and asked whither they were bent. Natura told him
to the villa of the baron d' Eyrac. 'The baron d' Eyrac,' said the
other, 'he lives twelve miles on the other side the wood, and that is
five miles over.' - He then asked if there were no town near, to which
he could direct them. - 'No,' replied the other, 'but there is a little
village where is one inn, and that is above half a league off: - you
will never find your way to it; but if you will pay me, I will guide
you.' Natura wished no more, and having agreed with him for his hire,
followed where he led.

Nothing that was ever called an inn, had so much the shew of
wretchedness; nor could it be expected otherwise, for being far from
any great road, it was frequented only by shepherds, and others the
meanest sort of peasants, who worked in the adjacent grounds, or
tended the cattle.

In this miserable place was Natura obliged to take up his lodging: - he
lay down, indeed, on the ragged dirty mattress, but durst not take off
his cloaths, so noisome was every thing about him: - fatigued as he
was, he could not close his eyes till towards day, but had not slept
above two hours before the peasant who had served him as a guide, and
had also stayed at the inn, came into his room, and waked him
abruptly, telling him the lady abbess desired to speak with
him. - Natura was much vexed at this disturbance, and not sufficiently
awaked to recollect himself, only cried peevishly, 'What have I to do
with abbesses,' and then turned to sleep again.

On his second waking, his footman acquainted him, that a priest waited
to see him: - Natura then remembered what the peasant had said, but
could not conceive what business these holy people had with him; he
went down however immediately, and was saluted by a reverend
gentleman, who told him, that the lady abbess of a neighbouring
monastery (whose almoner he was) hearing from one of her shepherds the
distress he had been in, had sent to intreat he would come, and
refresh himself with what her convent afforded.

Natura was now ashamed of having been so rough with the peasant, but
well atoned for it by the handsome apology he now made; after which he
told the almoner, that he would receive the abbess's commands as soon
as he was in a condition to be seen by her. - This was what good
manners exacted from him, tho' in truth he had no inclination for a
visit, in which he proposed so little satisfaction.

He then made his servant open the portmanteau, and give him such
things as were proper to equip him for this visit; and while he was
dressing, was informed by his host, that this abbess was a woman of
quality, very rich, and owned the village they were in, and several
others, which brought her in more rent.

If the vanity so natural to a young heart, made Natura, on this
information, pleased and proud of the consideration such a lady had
for him while unknown, how much more cause had he to be so, when being
shewn by the same peasant into the monastery, he was brought into a
parlour, magnificently furnished, and no sooner had sat down, than a
very beautiful woman, whom he soon found was the lady abbess, appeared
behind the grate, and welcomed him with the most elegant compliments.

He had never been in a monastery before, and had a notion that all the
nuns, especially the abbesses, were ill-natured old women: he was
therefore so much surprized at the sight of this lady, that he had
scarce power to return the politeness she treated him with. - Her age
exceeded not twenty-four; she was fair to an excess, had fine-turned
features, and an air which her ecclesiastic habit could not deprive of
its freedom; but the enchanting manner of her conversation, her wit,
and the gaiety that accompanied all she said, so much astonished and
transported him, that he cried out, without knowing that he did so,
'Good God! - is it possible a monastery can contain such charms!' - She
affected to treat the admiration he expressed, as no other than meer
bagatelle; but how serious a satisfaction she took in it, a very
little time discovered.

'A monastery,' said she, 'is not so frightful a solitude as you, being
a stranger to the manners of this country, have perhaps painted to
yourself: - I have companions in whom I believe you will find some
agreements.' - She then rung a bell, and ordered an attending nun, or
what they call a lay-sister, to call some of the sisterhood, whose
names she mentioned; and presently came two nuns, with a third lady in
a different habit; the least handsome of these might have passed for a
beauty, but she that was the most so I shall call Elgidia; she was
sister to the abbess, but wanted a good many of her years, and being
intended for a monastic life by their parents, had been sent there as
a pensioner, till she should be prevailed upon to take the veil.

The abbess, having learned from Natura that he was from England, told
them, in a few words, what she knew of him, and the motive of the
invitation she had made him; then desired they would entertain him
till her return, having some affair, which called her thence for a
small time.

As Elgidia appeared by her dress to be more a woman of this world than
her companions, he directed his discourse chiefly to her; but whether
it were that she had less gaiety in her temper, or that she was that
moment taken up with some very serious thought, Natura could not be
certain, but he found her much less communicative, than either of
those, whose profession seemed to exact greater reserve.

As Natura spoke French perfectly well, and delivered all he said with
a great deal of ease, they were very much pleased with his
conversation; and yet more so, when, at the return of the abbess, that
wit and spirit they before found in him, seemed to have gained an
additional vigour.

The truth is, the first sight of this beautiful abbess had very much
struck him; and a certain prepossession in her favour, had rendered
him not so quick-sighted as he might otherwise have been to the charms
of her sister: - not that he was absolutely in love with her, nor
entertained the least wish in prejudice to the sanctity of her order;
it was rather an _admiration_ he was possessed with on her account,
which the surprize, at finding her person and manner so widely
different from what he had expected, contributed very much to excite
in him.

The breakfast, which consisted of chocolate, tea, coffee, rich cakes,
and sweetmeats, was served upon the Turnabout; but the abbess told
him, that their monastery had greater privileges than any other in
France; for they were not restrained from entertaining their kindred
and friends, tho' of a different sex, within the grate; 'as you shall
experience,' said she, with the most obliging air, 'if you will favour
us with your company at dinner.'

Nothing could be more pleasing to Natura than this invitation, and it
cannot, therefore, be supposed he hesitated much to comply with it;
however, as the hour of their devotion drew nigh, and forms must be
observed, he was desired to take a tour round about the village till
twelve, at which time they told him dinner would be on the table.

He was still in so much amazement at what he had seen and heard, that
he was not sorry at having an opportunity of being alone, to reflect
on all had passed; but the deeper he entered into thought, the more
strange it still seemed to him; till happening accidentally to fall
into some discourse with a gentleman in the village, he was told by
him, that the nunnery they were in sight of, was called, Le Convent de
Riche Dames; that none but women of condition entered themselves into
it, and that they enjoyed liberties little different from those that
live in the world: - 'It is true,' said this person, 'the gay manner in
which they behave, has drawn many reflections on their order, yet I
know not but they may be equally innocent with those of the most
rigid.'

This was enough to shew Natura, that the civilities he received, were
only such as any stranger, who appeared of some rank, might be treated
with, as well as himself; and served to abate that little vanity
which, without this information, might have gained ground in his
heart; at least it did so for the present: what reasons he founds
afterwards for the indulging it, the reader will anon be enabled to
judge.

He was not, however, without a good deal of impatience for the hour
appointed for his return, which being arrived, the portress admitted
him into a fine room behind the grate, where he found the abbess,
Elgidia, the two nuns he had seen in the morning, and another, which,
it seems, were all the abbess thought proper should be present.

The table was elegantly served, and the richness of the wines, helped
very much to exhilerate the spirits of the company. - Elgidia alone
spoke little, tho' what she said was greatly to the purpose, and
discovered that it was not for want either of sentiment or words she
retained so great a taciturnity. - Natura saying somewhat, that shewed
he took notice how singular she was in this point, the abbess replied,
that her sister did not like a convent, that the comedy, the opera,
and ball, had more charms for her than devotion. On which Natura made
some feint attempts to justify a go√їte for those public diversions,
but was silenced by the abbess, who maintained the only true
felicities of life were religion and friendship. 'What then do you
make of love, madam?' cried he briskly: 'love, the first command of
Heaven, and the support of this great universe: - love, which gives a
relish to every other joy, and' - he was going on, but the abbess
interrupted him, 'Hold! - Hold!' said she, 'this is not a discourse fit
for these sacred precincts.' - But these words were uttered in a sound,
and accompanied with a look, which wholly took away their austerity,
and it was easy for Natura to perceive by the manner in which they
were spoke, as well as by a sigh, which escaped Elgidia at the same
time, that neither of these ladies were in reality enemies to the
passion he was defending.

Some little time after dinner was over, Natura was about to take his
leave; but the abbess told him, that she had formed a design to punish
him for pretending to espouse the cause of love; 'and that is,' said
she, 'by detaining you in a place, where you must never speak, nor
hear a word, in favour of it': - 'we have,' continued she, 'a little
apartment adjoining to the monastery, tho' not in it, which serves to
accommodate such friends as visit us, and are too far from home to
return the same day: - you must not refuse to pass at least one night
in it; and I dare promise you, that you will not find yourself worse
lodged, than the preceding one: - your servant may also lie in the same
house, and I will send your horses to a neighbouring farmer; who will
take care of them.'

The manner in which this request was urged, had somewhat in it too
obliging, for Natura to have denied, in good manners, even if his
inclinations had been opposite; but indeed he was too much charmed
with the conversation of the lovely abbess, and her fair associates,
to be desirous of quitting it. - He not only stayed that night, but
also, on their continuing to ask it, many succeeding ones. - He lay in
the apartment above-mentioned, breakfasted, dined, and supped in the
convent, as if a pensioner in the place, always in the same company,
and ambitious of no other.

The gallantries with which he treated the abbess, were as tender as
innocence would permit; nor did he presume to harbour any views of
being happier with her than he was at present.

But see! the strange caprice of love! It was not through a coldness of


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Online LibraryEliza Fowler HaywoodLife's Progress Through The Passions Or, The Adventures of Natura → online text (page 5 of 16)