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Chapter VII.

In which some Contradictions are very happily reconciled.

The Marquis's head Gardener had received a young Fellow into his Master's Service, who had lived in several Families of Distinction. He had a good Face; was tolerably genteel; and, having an Understanding something above his Condition, join'd to a great deal of secondhand Politeness, which he had contracted while he lived at London, he appeared a very extraordinary Person among the Rustics who were his Fellow-Servants.

Arabella, when she walked in the Garden, had frequent Opportunities of seeing this young Man, whom she observed with a very particular Attention. His Person and Air had something, she thought, very distinguishing. When she condescended to speak to him about any Business he was employed in, she took Notice, that his Answers were framed in a Language vastly superior to his Condition; and the Respect he paid her had quite another Air from that of the aukward Civility of the other Servants.

Having discerned so many Marks of a Birth far from being mean, she easily passed from an Opinion that he was a Gentleman, to a Belief that he was something more; and every new Sight of him adding Strength to her Suspicions, she remained, in a little time, perfectly convinced that he was some Person of Quality, who, disguised in the Habit of a Gardener, had introduced himself into her Father's Service, in order to have an Opportunity of declaring a Passion to her, which must certainly be very great, since it had forced him to assume an Appearance so unworthy of his noble Extraction.

Wholly possessed with this Thought, she set herself to observe him more narrowly; and soon found out, that he went very aukwardly about his Work; that he sought Opportunities of being alone; that he threw himself in her Way as often as he could, and gazed on her very attentive: She sometimes fansied she saw him endeavour to smother a Sigh when he answered her any Question about his Work; once saw him leaning against a Tree with his Hands crossed upon his Breast; and, having lost a String of small Pearls, which she remembered he had seen her threading as she sat in one of the Arbours, was persuaded he had taken it up, and kept it for the Object of his secret Adoration.

She often wondered, indeed, that she did not find her Name carved on the Trees, with some mysterious Expressions of Love; that he was never discovered lying along the Side of one of the little Rivulets, increasing the Stream with his Tears; nor, for three Months that he had lived there, had ever been sick of a Fever caused by his Grief, and the Constraint he put upon himself in not declaring his Passion: But she considered again, that his Fear of being discovered kept him from amusing himself with making the Trees bear the Records of his secret Thoughts, or of indulging his Melancholy in any Manner expressive of the Condition of his Soul; and, as for his not being sick, his Youth, and the Strength of his Constitution, might, even for a longer time, bear him up against the Assaults of a Fever: But he appeared much thinner and paler than he used to be; and she concluded, therefore, that he must in time sink under the Violence of his Passion, or else be forced to declare it to her; which she considered as a very great Misfortune; for, not finding in herself any Disposition to approve his Love, she must necessarily banish him from her Presence, for fear he should have the Presumption to hope, that Time might do any thing in his Favour: And it was possible also, that the Sentence she would be obliged to pronounce, might either cause his Death, or force him to commit some extravagant Action, which would discover him to her Father, who would, perhaps, think her guilty of holding a secret Correspondence with him.

These Thoughts perplexed her so much, that, hoping to find some Relief by unburdening her Mind to Lucy, she told her all her Uneasiness. Ah! said she to her, looking upon Edward, who had just passed them, how unfortunate do I think myself in being the Cause of that Passion which makes this illustrious Unknown wear away his Days in so shameful an Obscurity! Yes, Lucy, pursued she, that Edward, whom you regard as one of my Father's menial Servants, is a Person of sublime Quality, who submits to this Disguise only to have an Opportunity of seeing me every Day. But why do you seem so surprised? Is it possible, that you have not suspected him to be what he is? Has he never unwittingly made any Discovery of himself? Have you not surprised him in Discourse with his faithful 'Squire, who, certainly, lurks hereabouts to receive his Commands, and is haply the Confident of his Passion? Has he never entertained you with any Conversation about me? Or have you never seen any valuable Jewels in his Possession by which you suspected him to be not what he appears? Truly, Madam, replied Lucy, I never took him for any body else but a simple Gardener; but now you open my Eyes, methinks I can find I have been strangely mistaken; for he does not look like a Man of low Degree; and he talks quite in another Manner from our Servants. I never heard him indeed speak of your Ladyship, but once; and that was, when he first saw you walking in the Garden, he asked our John, If you was not the Marquis's Daughter? And he said, You was as beautiful as an Angel. As for fine Jewels, I never saw any; and I believe he has none; but he has a Watch, and that looks as if he was something, Madam: Nor do I remember to have seen him talk with any Stranger that looked like a 'Squire.

Lucy, having thus, with her usual Punctuality, answered every Question her Lady put to her, proceeded to ask her, What she should say, if he should beg her to give her a Letter, as the other Gentleman had done? You must by no means take it, replied Arabella: My Compassion had before like to have been fatal to me. If he discovers his Quality to me, I shall know in what manner to treat him.

They were in this Part of their Discourse, when a Noise they heard at some Distance, made Arabella bend her Steps to the Place from whence it proceeded; and, to her infinite Amazement, saw the head Gardener, with a Stick he had in his Hand, give several Blows to the concealed Hero, who suffered the Indignity with admirable Patience.

Shocked at seeing a Person of Quality treated so unworthily, she called out to the Gardener to hold his Hand; who immediately obeyed; and Edward, seeing the young Lady advance, sneaked off, with an Air very different from an Oroondates.

For what Crime, pray, said Arabella, with a stern Aspect, did you treat the Person I saw with you so cruelly? He whom you take such unbecoming Liberties with, may possibly-- But again I ask you, What has he done? You should make some Allowance for his want of Skill in the abject Employment he is in at present.

It is not for his want of Skill, Madam, said the Gardener, that I corrected him; he knows his Business very well, if he would mind it; but, Madam, I have discovered him-- Discovered him, do you say? interrupted Arabella: And has the Knowlege of his Condition not been able to prevent such Usage? or rather, Has it been the Occasion of his receiving it? His Conditions are very bad, Madam, returned the Gardener; and I am afraid are such as will one Day prove the Ruin of Body and Soul too. I have for some time suspected he had bad Designs in his Head; and just now watched him to the Fish-pond, and prevented him from-- O dear! interrupted Lucy, looking pitifully on her Lady, whose fair Bosom heaved with Compassion, I warrant he was going to make away with himself.

No, resumed the Gardener, smiling at the Mistake, he was only going to make away with some of the Carp, which the Rogue had caught, and intended, I suppose, to sell; but I threw them into the Water again; and if your Ladyship had not forbid me, I would have drubbed him soundly for his Pains.

Fye! fye! interrupted Arabella, out of Breath with Shame and Vexation, tell me no more of these idle Tales.

Then, hastily walking on to hide the Blushes which this strange Accusation of her illustrious Lover had raised in her Face, she continued for some time in the greatest Perplexity imaginable.

Lucy, who followed her, and could not possibly reconcile what her Lady had been telling her concerning Edward, with the Circumstance of his stealing the Carp, ardently wished to hear her Opinion of this Matter; but, seeing her deeply engaged with her own Thoughts, she would not venture to disturb her.

Arabella indeed, had been in such a terrible Consternation, that it was some Time before she even reconciled Appearances to herself; but, as she had a most happy Faculty in accommodating every Incident to her own Wishes and Conceptions, she examined this Matter so many different Ways, drew so many Conclusions, and fansied so many Mysteries in the most indifferent Actions of the supposed noble Unknown, that she remained, at last, more than ever confirmed in the Opinion, that he was some great Personage, whom her Beauty had forced to assume an Appearance unworthy of himself: When Lucy, no longer able to keep Silence, drew off her Attention from those pleasing Images, by speaking of the Carp-stealing Affair again.

Arabella, whose Confusion returned at that disagreeable Sound, charged her, in an angry Tone, never to mention so injurious a Suspicion any more: For, in fine, said she to her, do you imagine a Person of his Rank could be guilty of stealing Carp? Alas! pursued she, sighing, he had, indeed, some fatal Design; and, doubtless, would have executed it, had not this Fellow so luckily prevented him.

But Mr. Woodbind, Madam, said Lucy, saw the Carp in his Hand: I wonder what he was going to do with them.

Still, resumed Arabella, extremely chagrined, still will you wound my Ears with that horrid Sound? I tell you, obstinate and foolish Wench, that this unhappy Man went thither to die; and if he really caught the Fish, it was to conceal his Design from Woodbind: His great Mind could not suggest to him, that it was possible he might be suspected of a Baseness like that this ignorant Fellow accused him of; therefore he took no Care about it, being wholly possessed by his despairing Thoughts.

However, Madam, said Lucy, your Ladyship may prevent his going to the Fishpond again, by laying your Commands upon him to live.

I shall do all that I ought, answered Arabella; but my Care for the Safety of other Persons must not make me forget what I owe to my own.

As she had always imputed Mr. Hervey's fansied Attempt to carry her away, to the Letter she had written to him, upon which he had probably founded his Hopes of being pardoned for it, she resolved to be more cautious for the future in giving such Instances of her Compassion; and was at a great Loss in what manner to comfort her despairing Lover, without raising Expectations she had no Inclination to confirm: But she was delivered from her Perplexity by the News of his having left the Marquis's Service; which she attributed to some new Design he had formed to obtain her; and Lucy, who always thought as her Lady did, was of the same Opinion; tho' it was talked among the Servants, that Edward feared a Discovery of more Tricks, and resolved not to stay till he was disgracefully dismissed.

Chapter VI. | The Female Quixote | Chapter VIII.