Eliza Fowler Haywood.

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

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whole attention, the many venerable reliques which were shewn him of
old Rome, appeared yet more lovely in his eyes; which shews the charms
antiquity has for persons even of the most gay dispositions: but this,
according to my opinion, is greatly owing to the prejudice of
education, which forces us as it were to an admiration of the
antients, meerly because they are so, and not that they are in any
essential respect always deserving that vast preference given them
over the moderns: - this may be easily proved by the exorbitant prices
some of our virtuoso's give for pieces of old copper, which are
reckoned the most valuable, as the inscriptions or figures on them are
least legible.

Natura, however, was not so absorbed in his admiration of the ruined
corner of a bath, or the half-demolished portico of an amphitheatre,
as to neglect those entertainments which more affect the senses, and
consequently give the most natural delight; - the exquisite music
performed at the churches, carried him there much oftener than
devotion would have done, and rarely did he fail the opera at night.

As the Romans are allowed to be the best bred people upon earth,
especially to strangers, be they of what country or perswasion soever,
neither the being an Englishman or a Protestant hindered him from
making very good acquaintance, and receiving the greatest civilities
from them; but the person to whom he was most obliged, and who indeed
had taken a particular fancy to him, was the younger son of the family
of Caranna: this nobleman, knowing his taste for music, would
frequently take him with him to his box at the opera-house, most
persons of condition having little closets or boxes to themselves, of
which every one keeps his own key, and none can be admitted but by
it: - nothing can be more indulging, as there are curtains to draw
before them, and the seats are made in such a manner that the person
may lie down at his ease.

The signior of Caranna being otherwise engaged one night, when a
celebrated piece was to be performed, he lent his key to Natura,
unknowing that his wife, who had also one, had made a compliment of
her's to a young lady of her acquaintance.

Natura by some accident being delayed from going till after the opera
began, on entering was surprized to find a very beautiful young person
there, stretched on the sopha: - as he had been told the box would be
intirely empty, he knew not whether he ought to retire or go forward
and seat himself by her: - this consideration kept him some minutes in
the posture he was in, and perceiving she was too much taken up with
the music, either to have heard him open the door, or see him after he
came in, he had the opportunity of feasting his eyes, with gazing on
the thousand charms she was mistress of; all which were displayed to a
great advantage by the shadowy light which gleamed from the stage
thro' a thin crimson taffety curtain, which she had drawn before her,
to the end she might neither be seen by others, nor see any thing
herself which might take off her attention from the music.

In fine, he drew near, and had placed himself close by her before she
observed him; but no sooner did so, than she started, and appeared in
some confusion: he made a handsome apology for the intrusion, which he
assured her, with a great deal of truth, was wholly owing to chance,
and said he would withdraw, if his presence would be any interruption
to the pleasure she proposed: - she seemed obliged to him for the
offer, but told him she would not abuse the proof he gave of his
complaisance by accepting it; on which he bowed, and continued in his
place.

Both the music, and the words, seemed intended to lull the soul into a
forgetfulness of all beside, and fill it only with soft ideas: - it had
at least this effect upon the lady, who had closed her eyes, and was
in reality lost to every other sense than that of hearing. - Natura,
either was, or pretended to be, equally transported, and sunk
insensibly upon her bosom, without any opposition on her part: - she
had possibly even forgot she was not alone, and when an air full of
the most inchanting tenderness was singing, was so much dissolved in
extasy, that crying out, 'O God, 'tis insupportable!' she threw her
arms over Natura's neck, who was still in the same posture I just
mentioned; - he spoke not a word, but was not so absorbed in the
gratification of one faculty, as to let slip the gratification of the
others: - he seized the lucky moment; - he pressed her close, and in
this trance of thought, this total absence of mind, stole himself, as
it were, into the possession of a bliss, which the assiduity of whole
years would perhaps never have been able to obtain.

Reason and thought at last returned; she opened her eyes, she knew to
what the rapture she had been in had exposed her, and was struck with
the most poignant shame and horror: - she broke with all her force from
that strict embrace in which he had continued to hold her; and being
withdrawn to the farther corner of the closet, - 'What have I done,'
cried she, 'What have I done!' - these words she repeated several
times, and accompanied them with tears, wringing her hands, and every
testimony of remorse. - It was in vain for him to attempt to pacify
her, much less to prevail on her to suffer any second proofs of his
tenderness; - she would not even give him leave to touch her hand, and
on his offering it, pushed him back, saying, 'No, stranger! you have
taken the advantage of my _insensibility_ but shall never triumph over
my _reason_, which enables me to hate you, - to fly from you for ever,
as from a serpent.'

Natura said every thing that love and wit could inspire, to reconcile
her to what had past; but she remained inflexible, and only
condescended to request him to leave the place before the opera was
ended, that they might not be seen coming out together, and that he
would tell signior Carrana, that having unexpectedly found a lady in
the box, he had withdrawn without entering. - He then begged she would
entertain a more favourable opinion of an action, which her beauty,
the bewitching softness of the entertainment, and the place they were
in, had all concurred to make him guilty of; but she would listen to
nothing on that head, insisted on his never taking the least notice of
her, wherever they might chance to meet; and only told him, that tho'
she was unalterably fixed in this resolution, yet he might depend upon
it she hated him less than she did herself.

Finding she was not to be moved, he obeyed her commands, and straight
went out of the box, more amazed at the oddness of the adventure, than
can be well expressed; and yet more so, when he afterwards heard she
was the wife of a person of great condition, was in the first month of
her marriage with him, and had the reputation of a woman of strict
virtue.

As this false step was meerly accidental, wholly unpremeditated on
either side, and by what can be judged by the character of the lady,
and her behaviour afterwards, was no more on her part than a surprize
on the senses, in which the mind was not consulted, and had not the
least share, I know not whether it may not more justly be called a
slip of unguarded nature, than a real crime in her; and as for Natura,
though certainly the most guilty of the two, whoever considers his
youth, his constitution, and above all the greatness of the
temptation, which presented itself before him, will allow, that he
must either have been _more_, or _less_, than _man_, to have behaved
otherwise than he did.

Let the most severely virtuous, who happily have never fallen into the
same error, but figure to themselves the circumstances of this
transgressing pair, and well consider in what manner nature must
operate, when thus powerfully excited, and if they are not rendered
totally incapable of any soft sensations, by an uncommon frigidity of
constitution, they will cease either to wonder at, or too cruelly
condemn, the effects of so irresistible an impulse.

Were it not for the precepts of religion and morality, the fears of
scandal, and shame of offending against law and custom, man would
undoubtedly think himself intitled to the same privileges which the
brute creation in this point enjoy above him; and it is not therefore
strange, that whenever reason nods, as it sometimes will do, even in
those who are most careful to preserve themselves under its
subjection, that the senses ever craving, ever impatient for
gratification, should readily snatch the opportunity of indulging
themselves, and which it is observable they ordinarily do to the
greater excess, by so much the longer, and the more strictly they have
been kept under restraint.




CHAP. III.

The uncertainty of human events displayed in many surprizing turns
of fortune, which befel Natura, on his endeavouring to settle
himself in the world: with some proofs of the necessity of
fortitude, as it may happen that actions, excited by the greatest
virtue, may prove the source of evil, both to ourselves and others.


Natura stayed but six months in Rome, and then passed on to Florence,
where having seen all the curiosities that place afforded, he only
waited to receive some remittances from his father, after which he
intended to cross the Appenines to Bolognio, then proceed to Venice,
and so through the Tirolose to Vienna, and flattered himself with
having time enough to visit all the different courts which compose the
mighty empire of Germany.

These remittances were delayed much longer than he had expected, and
when they arrived, were accompanied by a positive command from his
father to put an end to his travels, and return to England with all
the expedition he could. - His surprize at so unlooked for an order,
would have been equal to the mortification it gave him, if he had not
received a letter from his sister at the same time, which informed
him, that his being so suddenly recalled was wholly owing to the
misfortunes in which their family was at present involved: - that soon
after his departure, their father had discovered an intercourse
between his wife and a person who pretended to be a relation, no way
to the honour of either of them; - that frequent quarrels had at length
separated them; - that he was engaged in a law-suit with her, and also
in several others, with people to whom she, in revenge, as it was
supposed, had given bonds, dated before marriage, for very great sums
of money, pretended to have been borrowed of them by her; - that tho'
the imposition was too gross not to be easily seen through, yet the
forms of the courts of judicature could not be dispensed with, and the
continual demands made upon him had laid him under such
inconveniencies as obliged him even to lessen the number of his
servants, and retrench his table: - she added, that he spoke of his
dear Natura with the utmost tenderness, and was under a very great
concern that the necessity of his affairs would not permit to send him
any more such supplies as were requisite for the prosecution of his
travels.

Natura at first felt a very great shock at this account; but it is the
peculiar blessing of youth, not to be for any length of time affected
with misfortunes; his melancholly soon dissipated, and he thought of
nothing more than compliance with the command he had received, and
also to perform it in the cheapest manner he could. - On speaking of
his intentions of returning home, he was advised to go to Leghorn,
which being a very great port, it would be no difficulty to find a
ship bound for Holland or England, in which he might take his passage
at an easy rate. He had certainly taken this method, but meeting with
an English gentleman, who was on his travels, and had not yet been at
Rome, was perswaded by him to go back, on his offering to bear the
whole expences of that route, for the pleasure of his company. - After
a stay of two or three months there, they pursued their journey to
Paris, where Natura renewed all the former acquaintance he had
there: - the baron d' Eyrac, with whom he had contracted an intimate
friendship, and from whom he concealed nothing of his affairs, was
extremely concerned to hear the occasion of his being recalled so much
sooner than he had expected, and made him an offer which suited very
well with Natura's inclination to accept: it was this.

That an old officer in the army having obtained leave to dispose of
his commission, Natura should become the purchaser; and to enable him
to do so, the baron would advance a sum of money, to be returned at
several easy payments, as he received the profits arising from his
troop.

Love and gallantry had already had their turns with Natura; ambition,
and the pride of being in an independent state, began now to work in
him: - as France was in alliance with England, there was neither shame
nor danger in entering into her service: - besides, he considered, that
as his father was no longer in a condition to supply him with money
abroad, he could not expect any settlement to be made on him at home
that would be answerable to his former expectations; - and that by a
captain's pay, joined to some assistance he might hope to receive
sometimes from England, he should be enabled to make a very good
figure in the world, till the misfortunes of his family should be
retrieved, and if they never were so, he should at least have a
provision for life, in a country he was not weary of.

He therefore made no hesitation of accepting this proof of the baron's
friendship, who immediately went about making good his promise; and
what with his money, and the great interest he had, both with the
court and army, Natura was dispensed with, for not having been in the
service before; and in a very few days saw himself at the head of a
troop of horse.

His father, to whom he wrote an account of the step he had taken, with
his motives for it, was far from being offended at it; tho' he told
him it added to his trouble, to think his eldest son should be
compelled, by his having entered into a second marriage, to have
recourse to any avocation whatever for bread; but concluded with
telling him, that in the severe necessity of their present
circumstances, he could not have pitched on any thing more agreeable
to his inclinations, or more honourable in itself.

This letter served to compose all the disquiets Natura had of
disobliging a parent, for whom he retained the most tender, as well as
dutiful regard, ever since the kind forgiveness be received from him
at Wapping, which shews the great effect of lenity over a mind, where
gratitude and generosity are not wholly extinguished; which, as I
before observed, they never are, but by a long habitude of vice.

He was now as happy as he had any need to wish to be, enjoying all the
pleasures of life in a reasonable way, and rarely transgressing the
bounds of moderation; and when at any time, through the prevalence of
example, or the force of his own passions, he was hurried to some
little excesses, they were never such as could incur the censure of
dishonourable or mean. He was punctual to his payments with the baron,
and had the satisfaction of seeing himself intirely out of debt at
three years end; which manner of behaviour so endeared him to that
gentleman, that few friendships are to be found more sincere, than
that which subsisted between them.

But as good sometimes arises out of evil, so what is in itself a real
happiness, is not always without consequences altogether the reverse;
as it proved to Natura, who from the most contented situation, all
owing to the baron's friendship, was, on a sudden, by that very
friendship, thrown into one of the greatest trouble and danger.

One morning, as he was dressing, the baron entered his chamber, with a
countenance which before he spoke, denoted he had somewhat of
importance to communicate: - Natura easily perceived it, and to put him
out of pain, ordered his valet to leave the room; on which the other
immediately told him, he was come to desire a proof of that sincere
good-will he had professed for him. - 'I should,' replied he, 'be the
most unworthy of mankind, if I had not in reality much more than is in
the power of words to express, and not look on an opportunity given by
you of testifying it, equal to any favour you have bestowed on me.'

The baron was at present in too much agitation of spirit to answer
this compliment as he would have done at another time; and made haste
to inform him, that the countess d' Ermand, who on some
misunderstanding with her husband, had been confined in a monastery
for several months, without any hopes of obtaining her release, had
found means to convey a letter to him, earnestly requesting he would
assist her in her escape: - 'she has acquainted me,' continued he,
'with the plot she has laid; - there is nothing impracticable in it;
but I cannot do what she desires without the help of some trusty
friend, and it is you alone I dare rely upon, in a business, which, if
not carefully concealed, as well as resolutely acted, may be of very
ill consequence.'

Natura did not greatly relish this piece of knight-errantry; but as he
thought he ought to refuse nothing to the baron, hesitated not to
assure him of the most ready compliance; on which the other told him,
he must get two or three of his soldiers, who, disguised like
peasants, but well mounted, and their swords concealed under their
cloaths, must attend the expedition, and be at hand in case they
should meet with any resistance, which, however, he said he did not
apprehend, it being but ten small miles to the monastery, the road but
little frequented, and the time agreed upon for the execution of the
project twelve at night; so there was no great danger of any
interruption, unless some unfortunate accident should happen. - 'The
lady,' continued he, 'informs me she has observed the place where the
portress constantly hangs up the key of the outer gate every night,
and when the nuns are gone into the chapel to their midnight
devotions, can easily slip out: - we have only therefore to be there
exactly at the time, and be ready to receive her; and as for the rest,
I have already provided a place where she may remain undiscovered,
till something can be done for her.'

The baron added many things concerning the ill treatment she had
received; but Natura did not give himself any trouble to examine into
the merits of the cause, it was sufficient for him to do what he
requested of him; and that night being the same had been appointed by
the lady for the business to be done, he went immediately about
preparing for it.

Accordingly, he selected from out of his troop three who seemed most
proper to be employed in such an enterprize, and after having sworn
them to secrecy in whatever they saw, or should happen, though without
acquainting them with the main of the affair, or mentioning the baron
d' Eyrac, told them in what manner they were to disguise themselves,
and ordered they should attend him at the Fauxbourg, a little after
ten o'clock the same night.

Rejoiced at an opportunity of obliging their officer, especially as
they doubted not of being well gratified, each gave a thousand oaths
instead of the one required of him, to be both punctual and faithful
in the discharge of the trust reposed in him.

In fine, all was conducted with a care and caution becoming of the
gratitude and esteem Natura had for the baron, and as if he had
himself approved of this undertaking, which, as I before observed, he
could not do in his heart.

The two gentlemen, muffled up in their cloaks and vizarded, repaired
to the Fauxbourg, at the appointed time, where they found the soldiers
on the post allotted for them by their officer; on which they all rode
off together, and arrived before the walls of the monastery some few
minutes before twelve, at which hour precisely the gate was opened,
and a woman appeared at it. - To prevent the loss of time, it had been
concluded, that the baron should not dismount, but Natura perform the
office of an equerry, in placing her behind him: just as he had
alighted, and taken her in his arms, in order to perform that office,
a great noise was heard; and in an instant, our adventurers found
themselves surrounded by more than a dozen armed men, who rushed upon
them from the covert of a wood: - the lady shrieked, and ran back into
the convent, on Natura's letting her go, in order to draw his sword
against these antagonists, who seemed resolute, either to kill or take
him and his associates prisoners: - the fight was obstinate on both
sides, tho' the baron finding his design defeated, had not entered
into it at first, but trusted to the goodness of his horse for his
escape, if his consideration for Natura, who being on foot, must have
been immediately seized, had not prevented him. - At length, however,
having received two or three wounds, and convinced of the
impossibility of maintaining their ground against such an inequality
of numbers, self-preservation prevailed; he broke thro' those that
encompassed him, and setting spurs to his horse, had the good fortune
to avoid the mischief which he knew must inevitably befal those he
left behind.

The three troopers gallantly defended their captain for some time, nor
was he idle in making those who approached him too near, feel the
sharpness of his sword; but not being able to get on horseback, all
his courage, or that of his men, could not prevent him, and them, from
being made prisoners. Several of the conquering party being officers
of justice, they conducted them to Paris, where the soldiers were
disposed of in the common goal, but Natura who was known, was
committed to the care of an exempt, who treated him with the good
manners his station demanded; he had received a pretty deep wound in
the shoulder, and a surgeon was presently sent for; but no artery nor
sinew being touched, no ill consequence was like to attend it.

It may be imagined he passed the remainder of this night in a good
deal of disquiet, as having lived long enough in France to know that
an attempt of the nature he had been engaged in would find little
mercy from the law. - A good part of the next day was passed, before
they carried him to the magistrate, whose office it was to examine
into such causes, his adversaries not having prepared their
accusation; the heads of which were, that he had attempted a rape upon
a married woman of quality; that he had contrived, with other persons,
to take her out of the monastery, and had come with an armed force for
that purpose. These articles having been deposed upon oath, the
magistrate told him his crime was of a double nature, that he had
violated both the civil and ecclesiastic laws; but as his office
extended no farther than the former, he had only to demand of him what
defence he had to make for himself in that part.

Natura had no other remedy than to deny all that was laid to his
charge: - he protested, as he might truly do, that he was so far from
entertaining any criminal designs on any lady in that monastery, that
he did not so much as know the face of any one of them; and pretended,
that being only riding out for the benefit of the air, he found
himself attacked by persons unknown, with whom he confessed he had
fought in his own defence.

But this availed not at all to his justification: - his own soldiers,
who had been examined before himself, had confessed, that they were
commanded by their officer to attend him on a certain enterprize, in
which they were to behave with secresy and resolution; but said, they
did not know of what sort it was, till they saw a woman come to the
gate of the monastery, whom their captain presently took in his arms,
but with what intent they could not pretend to say.

A letter also was produced, which madame d' Ermand had dropt, and
which had occasioned this discovery of the intrigue, as it contained
the whole method by which she was to be taken away; and tho' there was
no name subscribed, appearances were strong against Natura as the
author, and tho' he offered to bring many witnesses to prove it was a
hand very different from what he wrote, yet it served at least to
prove that it was sent by some one person in the company, and that if
he were not the principal in this conspiracy, yet being the agent and
abettor, as it was plain he was, by his bringing his own soldiers, he
could not be judged less guilty.

After a long examination he was remanded to the exempt's house, till
the sitting of the judges, which they told him would be in eight days;
in which interval he was allowed to prepare what defence he had to


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Online LibraryEliza Fowler HaywoodLife's Progress Through The Passions Or, The Adventures of Natura → online text (page 8 of 16)