Eliza Fowler Haywood.

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

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constitution, nor any confederations of her quality and function,
which rendered him so content with enjoying no more of her than her
conversation; nor that hindered him from taking advantage of many
advances she made him, whenever they were alone, of becoming more
particular; but it was the progress Elgidia every day made in his
esteem: - the more he saw that beautiful young lady, the more he
thought her charming; and every time she spoke discovered to him a new
fund of wit, and sweetness of disposition: - it was not in her power to
erase the first impression her sister had made on him, but it was to
stop the admiration he had for her from growing up into a
passion: - whenever he saw either of them alone, he thought her most
amiable he was with; and when they were together, he was divided
between both.

For upwards of a month did he continue in the same place, and in the
same situation of mind; but then either the abbess's own good sense,
or the advice of some friend, remonstrating to her, that so long a
stay of a young gentleman, who was known to be not of her kindred,
might occasion discourses to her disreputation, and that of the
monastery in general; she took the opportunity one day, when he was
making an offer of going, as he frequently did, to speak to him in
this manner:

'I know not how,' said she, 'to part with you, and I flatter myself
you think of going, rather because you imagine your tarrying here for
any length of time, might be inconvenient for us, than because you are
tired of the reception you have found here.'

'Ah madam!' cried he, 'be assured I could live for ever here; - and
that I only grieve that such a hope is impossible. - If what you now
say is sincere,' answered she, 'you may at least prolong the happiness
we at present enjoy: - but I shall put you to the proof,' continued
she, looking on him with eyes in which the most eager passion was
visibly painted, - 'to hush the tongue of censure, you shall remove to
a town about seven miles distant, where there are many good houses, in
one of which you may lodge, under pretence of liking the air of this
country, and visit us, as other of our friends do, as frequently as
you please, without endangering any remarks, even though you should
stay with us three or four nights at a time.'

Natura was so ravished at this proposal, and the kind, almost fond
manner, in which it was made, that he catched hold of her hand, and
kissed it, with a vehemence not conformable to a Platonic
affection: - she seemed, however, far from being offended at his
boldness, which had perhaps proceeded to greater lengths, had not
Elgidia at that instant come into the room. - The abbess was a little
disconcerted, but to conceal it as well as she could, 'sister,' said
she, 'I have made our guest the proposal I mentioned to you this
morning, and leave you to second it': with these words she withdrew.

Elgidia appeared in little less confusion than her sister had done;
but Natura was in infinitely more than either of them. - The sudden
sight of her who possessed at least half of his affections, just in
the moment he was in a kind of rapture with another, struck him like
the ghost of a departed mistress; and tho' he had never made any
declaration of love either to the one or the other, yet his heart
reproached him with a secret perfidy, and he durst scarce lift his
eyes to her face, when with a timid voice he at last said, 'Madam, may
I hope you take any interest in what your sister has been speaking
of?' - 'You may be sure I do,' replied she, 'in all that concerns the
abbess; as to my farther sentiments on your staying or going, they can
be of no consequence to you.' - 'How, madam!' resumed he, by this time
a little re-assured, 'of no consequence! You know nothing of my heart,
if you know it not incapable of forming the least wish but to please
you.'

He said many other tender and gallant things to her, in order to
engage her to add her commands to those of the abbess; but, either the
belief that he was wholly devoted to that lady, or the natural reserve
of her temper, would suffer her to let him draw no more from her, than
that she should share in the happiness her sister proposed to herself,
in his continuing so near them.

But tho' Elgidia could command her words, she could not have so much
power over her eyes as to keep them from betraying a tenderness not
inferior to that of her sister; and Natura had the satisfaction of
finding he was beloved by both these amiable women, without thinking
himself so far attached to either, as not to be able to break off
whenever he pleased.

But to what end tended all this gallantry! to what purpose was all
this waste of time, in an amour, which either had no aim in view, or
if it had, must be such a one, as must turn to the confusion of the
persons concerned in it! - These indeed are questions any one might
naturally ask, but could not have been resolved by Natura, who took a
pleasure in prosecuting the adventure, and neither examined what he
proposed by it himself, or considered what consequences might ensue;
and herein he but acted as most others do of his age, who rarely give
themselves the pains of consulting what _may_, or _will be_, when
pleased with what _is_.

He went to the place the abbess had directed, but imagined he should
be very much at a loss for amusement, being wholly a stranger to every
body. He would doubtless have been so, had his retreat been in any
other country than France; but as it is the peculiar characteristic of
that nation to entertain at first sight with the same freedom and
communicativeness of a long acquaintance, he soon found himself
neither without company nor diversion: - whether he had an inclination
to hunt, or dance, or play, he always met with persons ready to join
in the party, so that the intervals he passed there, between his
visits to the monastery, seemed not at all tedious to him.

The ladies, however, were far from being forgotten by him; ten days
had not elapsed, before he returned to renew, or rather to improve,
the impression he had both given and received. - The abbess appeared
all life and spirit at his return, but Elgidia was more melancholly
than when he left her; but it was a melancholly which had in it
somewhat of a soft languor, which was very engaging to Natura,
especially as he had reason to believe, by several looks and
expressions, which in some unguarded moments fell from her, that he
had the greatest interest in it.

The oftener he saw her, the more he was confirmed in this conjecture;
but as he could not be assured of it, never treated her in a manner
which should give her room to guess what his thoughts were, for fear
of meeting with a rebuff, which would have been too mortifying to his
vanity: - but as the belief of being beloved by her, rendered her
insensibly more dear to him; the regards he paid her, and the sighs
which frequently issued from his breast when he approached her, did
not escape the notice of the quick-sighted abbess; and disdaining a
competitorship in a heart she thought she had wholly engrossed,
resolved to be more plain than hitherto she had been, in order to
bring him to declare himself.

With this view she led him one day into the garden, and being seated in
a close arbour, where there was no danger of being overheard, - 'Natura,'
said she, 'I doubt not but you may perceive, by the civilities I have
treated you with, that you are not indifferent to me; but as you cannot
be sensible to how great a degree my regard for you extends, it remains
that I confess to you there is but one thing wanting to compleat the
intire conquest of my heart'; 'and that is,' continued she, fixing her
eyes intently on his face, 'that you will cease for the future to pay
those extraordinary assiduities to Elgidia you have lately done.'

How much soever Natura was transported at the beginning of this
discourse, the closure of it gave him an inexpressible shock, insomuch
that he was wholly unable to make any reply, to testify the sense he
had of the obligation she conferred on him. 'I see,' said she, 'the
too great influence my sister has over you leaves me no room to hope
any thing from you: - I did not think the sacrifice I exacted from you
so great, that the purchase of my heart would not have atoned for it;
but since I find it is otherwise, I repent I put you to the trial.'

In speaking these words she rose up, and flew out of the arbour: the
confusion Natura was in, prevented him from endeavouring to detain
her; and before he could resolve with himself how to behave in so
critical a conjuncture, she was out of sight. - Whatever tenderness he
had for the other, he could not bear the thoughts of having offended
this lady: the confession she had just made him, seemed to deserve all
his gratitude; and tho' the price she demanded for her heart was too
excessive for him to comply with, yet he resolved to make his peace
with her the first time he found her alone, on the best terms he
could.

This was an opportunity, however, not so easily attained as he had
imagined: - the abbess conceived so much spite at the little
inclination he had testified to comply with her demand, that she kept
one or other of the nuns with her the whole remainder of that day, and
he could only tell her by his eyes how desirous he was of coming to an
eclaircisement.

But as if this was a day destined to produce nothing but extraordinary
events, perceiving the abbess industriously avoided speaking to him,
he had retired into the parlour to ruminate on the affair, when
Elgidia came in to him, and with somewhat more gaiety than she was
accustomed to, cried, 'What, alone, Natura! but I suppose you attend
my sister, and I will not be any interruption'; and then turned to go
out of the room. All the discontent he was in for the displeasure he
found he had given the abbess, could not keep him from getting between
her and the door: - 'I have no other way to convince you of the
injustice of your suspicion,' said he, 'than to detain you here; tho'
perhaps,' added he, looking on her with an unfeigned tenderness,
'while I am clearing myself in one article, it may not be in my power
to prevent betraying my guilt in another, which it may be you will
find yet less worthy of forgiveness.'

'I know not,' replied she, with a smile too enchanting to be resisted,
'that I ever gave you any tokens of a rigid disposition; and besides,
I am inclined to have so good an opinion of you, that I look on your
giving me any cause of offence, as one of the things out of your
power.'

Emboldened by these words, 'Suppose, madam,' returned he, 'I should
confess to you that I was indulging the most passionate tenderness for
the beautiful Elgidia! - that her sweet idea is always present with me,
and that I sometimes am presuming enough to cherish the hopes of not
being hated by her': - 'tell me,' continued he, 'what punishment does
this criminal deserve?'

'To be treated in the same manner,' answered she blushing, 'if he is
sincere; and to be made know that he cannot have formed any designs
upon the heart of Elgidia, which Elgidia has not equally harboured
upon that of Natura.' - A declaration so unexpected might very well
transport a young man, even beyond himself, and all considerations
whatever: - forgetful of the respect due to her quality and virtue, and
regardless of the place they were in, he seized her in his arms, and
almost smothered her with kisses, before she could disengage herself;
at length, breaking from him, 'It is not by such testimonies as
these,' said she, 'that I expected you should repay the acknowledgment
I have made; but by a full laying open your bosom, as to what passes
in it, in regard to my sister: - I know very well she loves you, and am
apt to believe she has not been more discreet than myself in
concealing it from you; but am altogether at a loss as to the returns
you may have made her passion.'

Natura now really loving her, hesitated not to do as she desired;
neither making any secret of the admiration which the abbess had
raised in him at first sight, nor the discourse she had lately
entertained him with, and the injunction she had laid upon him.
Elgidia took this as so great a proof of his affection, that she made
no scruple to ratify the confession she had made him by all the
endearments that innocence would permit: - after which, they consulted
together how he should behave to the abbess, whose temper being
violent, it was not proper to drive to extremes; and it was therefore
agreed between them, that he should continue to treat her with a shew
of tenderness: Elgidia even proposed, that he should renounce her, in
case the other continue to insist upon it; but Natura could not
consent his insincerity should go so far.

They parted, mutually content with each other; and Natura himself
believed his inclinations were now fixed, by the assurance Elgidia had
given him of the most true and perfect passion that ever was: but how
little do we know of our own hearts at his years! the next time he saw
the abbess alone, he relapsed into the same fluctuating state as
before, and found too much charms in the kindness she expressed for
him, to be able to withdraw himself intirely from her.

That lady, who loved to an excess, could not be any long time without
affording him the means of reconciliation; and the next morning, as
soon as breakfast was over, descended alone into the garden, giving
him a look at the same time, which commanded him to follow: - he did
so, and perceiving she took her way to the same arbour they had been
in before, he went in soon after her, affecting, rather than feeling,
a timidity in approaching her. 'Well, Natura,' said she, 'have you yet
examined your heart sufficiently, to know whether the full possession
of mine, can atone for your breaking with my sister'; - to which he
replied, that as he had no engagements with Elgidia, nor had ever any
other thoughts of her, than such as were excited by that respect due
to her sex and rank, he was wholly ignorant in what manner it was
exacted from him to behave: - 'but,' added he, 'if vowing that from the
first moment I beheld your charms, I became absolutely devoted to you,
may deserve any part of that affection you are pleased to flatter me
with, I am ready to give you all the assurances in the power of
words.'

This asseveration could not be called altogether false, because he had
really a latent inclination in him towards her, which all the
tenderness he had for Elgidia could not eradicate; and this it was
that gave all he said such an air of sincerity as won upon the abbess,
to believe her jealousy had misinterpreted the looks she had sometimes
seen him give her sister, and at length made her desist from
reproaching him on that score.

The tranquility of her mind being restored, she gave a loose to the
violence of her passion, in such caresses as might well make the
person who received them forgetful of all other obligations: - in these
transporting moments the lovely abbess had his whole soul: - he now,
unasked, abjured not only Elgidia, but all the sex beside, and even
wondered at himself for having ever entertained a wish beyond the
happiness he enjoyed at present.

The abbess was too well versed in the affairs of love, not to be
highly satisfied with the proofs he gave of his, than which, it is
certain, nothing for the time could be more sincere or ardent; death
was it to them both to put an end to this inchanting scene, but as
they were seen to go into the garden soon after one another, and too
long a stay together might occasion a suspicion of the cause, they
were obliged to separate, though not without a promise of meeting in
the same place at night, after the nuns were all retired to their
respective chambers.

The abbess passed through a back-way into the chapel, it being near
the time of prayers, and Natura returned by the great walk into the
outward cloister, where Elgidia seeing him at a distance, and alone,
waited his coming, to know of him how he had proceeded with her
sister. - Natura, yet full of the abbess and the favours he had
received from her, would have gladly dispenced with this interview;
but she was too near, before he perceived her, for him to draw back
with decency.

Far from suspecting any change in him, and judging of his integrity by
her own, 'I was impatient,' said she, 'to hear the event of your
conversation with the abbess; tell me therefore in a few words, for
the bell rings to chapel, whether you have succeeded so far as to
stifle all jealousies of me?' 'Yes, madam,' replied he, recovering
himself as well as he could from his confusion, 'we may be easy for
the future, as to that particular.' - 'I long for the particulars of
your discourse' resumed she, 'but cannot now stay to be informed; meet
me in the garden after the sisterhood are in bed'; 'this,' continued
she, putting a key into his hand, 'will admit you by the gate that
leads to the road: - do not fail to be there at nine.' - The haste she
was in to be gone, would not have permitted him time to make any
answer, if he had been provided with one, and he could only just kiss
her hand as she turned from him.

But what was the dilemma he was now involved in! the hour, and place
she appointed, were the very same in which he was to meet the abbess!
impossible was it for him to gratify both, and not very easy to
deceive either: - he went back into the garden, ruminating what course
he should take in so intricate an affair; at first he thought of
writing a little billet, and slipping it into Elgidia's hand,
acquainting her that the abbess had commanded him to attend her in the
garden at the time she mentioned, and telling her that he thought it
necessary to obey, to prevent all future suspicion: - but he rejected
this design, not only as that young lady might possibly have the
curiosity to conceal herself behind the arbour, and would then be a
witness of things it was no way proper she should be informed of, but
also because his heart reproached him for having already done more
than he could answer, and forbad him to deceive her any farther; in
fine, that he might be guilty of perfidy to neither, he resolved to
quit both, at least for that night, but knew not yet on what he should
determine for the future.

Divine service being over, he repaired to the parlour, where, after
they were sat down to dinner, he said, addressing himself to the
abbess, that having sent his servant that morning to his lodgings, he
had received letters of the utmost importance, which required
immediate answers; and that he must be obliged for that reason to take
his leave; 'though with what regret,' added he, 'it is easy to
perceive, by the long stay I always make here.'

The abbess insisted upon it, that he should not go; - told him he might
write what he pleased there without interruption; and that his man
might carry his dispatches to the post: but all she urged could not
prevail, and both that lady and her sister had the mortification to
hear him give orders that his own horse should be got ready with all
expedition; as for his servant he was left behind for a few hours, on
the account of packing up some things he had brought him in the design
of staying a longer time.

In fine, he went away, with a promise of returning in a short time.
The abbess was inwardly fretted at the disappointment, but imagined it
was only occasioned by the motive he pretended, till a young nun who
was her confidante in all things, and had happened to cross the
cloyster when Natura and Elgidia were talking together before prayers,
and had seen him kiss her hand, informed her of this passage, and
added, of her own conjecture, that the abrupt departure of Natura was
owing to somewhat that lady had said to him: - there needed no more to
inflame the passionate and jealous abbess; she doubted not of being
betrayed, and flew directly to her sister's chamber, accused her of
being guilty of the most criminal intercourse with a stranger, and
threatened if she did not confess the whole truth to her, and swear
never to see him more, she would send an account of her behaviour to
their parents, who would not fail to thrust her into a less commodious
convent, and compel her to take the veil directly.

The mild and timid disposition of Elgidia, could not sustain this
shock; she immediately fainted away, and help being called to bring
her to herself, in opening her bosom a paper fell out of it, which the
abbess snatching up, ran to her chamber to examine, and found it
contained these words:

'To prevent my dear angel from being surprized at my sudden
departure, know that it is to avoid the abbess, who obliged me to
give her a promise of meeting her this night in the garden: - at my
next visit you shall be informed at full of all that passed
between us in the morning. Adieu.

Natura.

As Natura had no opportunity to make an excuse to Elgidia, he had
slipt this billet into her hand on taking leave; and though no more
was meant by it than to make her easy till his return, there was
sufficient in the expression not only to convince the abbess that her
sister was indeed her rival, but also to make her think herself had
been the dupe to their amour. - Impossible would it be to describe the
force of those passions, which, in this dreadful instant, overwhelmed
her soul; so I shall only say, it was as great as woman could sustain,
and which the impatience of venting on their proper object, put it
into her head to go to him in a disguise, and upbraid his perfidy. As
she seldom listened to any dictates, but those of her passion, this
design was no sooner formed than preparations were made for the
execution, nor could all her confidante urged, on the danger and
scandal of the attempt, deter her from it.

There was a fellow who was frequently employed about the monastery, in
whom she could confide: - him she sent to a farmer, with orders to hire
three horses, one for herself, another for her confidante, who, in
spite of all her apprehensions on that account, she would needs make
accompany her, and the third for the man, who was to attend them as a
valet, the little road they had to travel. This fellow was directed to
bring the horses about ten o'clock at night, at which time it would be
dark, to the corner of a wall at the farther end of the garden, when
she and her companion were to mount, and away on this wild expedition.

But while the abbess was busy on her project, Elgidia had also
another, though of somewhat a less desperate kind; her sister's temper
gave her but too much reason to believe she would revenge herself on
her by all the ways in her power; and trembling at the thoughts of
being exposed to her parents, and the censure of the world, as the
other had threatened, which she knew no way to avoid, but by Natura
making up this quarrel; and tho' she knew it could only be done by his
renouncing all pretensions to herself, yet she rather chose to lose
the man she loved, than her reputation. As she knew not whether the
abbess would delay the gratification of her malice any longer than the
next morning, she resolved to send for Natura that same night, in
order to engage him to a second reconciliation with her sister, let
the terms be never so cruel to herself.

She had no sooner laid this plot, than she ran to see if the servant
he had left behind was yet gone, and finding he was not, bad him wait
a little, that she might send a letter by him to his master. The
contents of her epistle were as follow:

'Something has happened, which lays me under a necessity of
speaking to you this night: - the only consolation I have under the
severest of all afflictions, is, that I did not take back the key
I gave you in the morning: I beg you will make use of it, and let
me find you in the close arbour as soon as the darkness will
permit your entrance unobserved: - fail not, if you have any regard
for the honour, the peace, and even the life of the unfortunate

Elgidia.

Natura had no sooner received this billet from the hands of his
servant, than all his tenderness for the fair authoress of it revived
in him, which, joined to his impatient curiosity for the knowledge of
the accident she mentioned, easily determined him to do as she
desired.

He set out at the close of day; but the moon rising immediately after,
shone so extremely bright as proved her, no less than the sun, an
enemy to the design he was at present engaged in; he was therefore


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Online LibraryEliza Fowler HaywoodLife's Progress Through The Passions Or, The Adventures of Natura → online text (page 6 of 16)