Which inculcates by a very good Example, that a Person ought not to be too hasty in deciding a Question he does not perfectly understand.
You are come very opportunely, Sir, said Arabella, when he entered the Room, to be Judge of a great Controversy between Miss Glanville and myself. I beseech you therefore, let us have your Opinion upon the Matter.
Miss Glanville maintains, that it is less criminal in a Lady to hear Persons talk to her of Love, allow them to kiss her Hand, and permit them to write to her, than to make a charitable Visit to a Man who is confined to his Bed through the Violence of his Passion and Despair; the Intent of this Visit being only to prevent the Death of an unfortunate Lover, and, if necessary, to lay her Commands upon him to live.
And this latter is your Opinion, is it not Madam? said Mr. Glanville.
Certainly, Sir, replied Arabella, and in this I am justified by all the Heroines of Antiquity.
Then you must be in the Right, Madam, returned Mr. Glanville, both because your own Judgment tells you so, and also the Example of these Heroines you mention.
Well, Madam, interrupted Miss Glanville hastily, since my Brother has given Sentence on your Side, I hope you will not delay your Visit to Sir George any longer.
How! said Mr. Glanville, surprised, is Lady Bella going to visit Sir George? Pray, Madam, may I presume to inquire the Reason for your doing him this extraordinary Favour? You are not very wise, said Arabella, looking gravely upon Miss Glanville, to discover a Thing, which may haply create a Quarrel between your Brother, and the unfortunate Person you speak of: Yet since this Indiscretion cannot be recalled, we must endeavour to prevent the Consequences of it.
I assure you, Madam, interrupted Mr. Glanville, extremely impatient to know the Meaning of these Hints, you have nothing to fear from me: Therefore you need not think yourself under any Necessity of concealing this Affair from me.
You are not, haply, so moderate as you pretend, said Arabella, (who would not have been displeased to have seen him in all the jealous Transports of an enraged Orontes); but whatever ensues, I can no longer keep from your Knowledge, a Truth your Sister has begun to discover; but, in telling you what you desire to know, I expect you will suppress all Inclinations to Revenge, and trust the Care of your Interest to my Generosity.
You are to know then, that in the Person of your Friend Sir George, you have a Rival, haply the more to be feared, as his Passion is no less respectful than violent: I possibly tell you more than I ought, pursued she, blushing, and casting down her Eyes, when I confess, that for certain Considerations, wherein perhaps you are concerned, I have received the first Insinuation of this Passion with Disdain enough; and I assure myself, that you are too generous to desire any Revenge upon a miserable Rival, of whom Death is going to free you.
Then, taking Sir George's Letter out of her Cabinet, she presented it to Mr. Glanville.
Read this, added she; but read it without suffering yourself to be transported with any violent Motions of Anger: And as in Fight, I am persuaded you would not oppress a fallen and vanquished Foe; so in Love, I may hope, an unfortunate Rival will merit your Compassion.
Never doubt it, Madam, replied Mr. Glanville, receiving the Letter, which Miss Glanville, with a beating Heart, earnestly desired to hear read. Her Brother, after asking Permission of Arabella, prepared to gratify her Curiosity; but he no sooner read the first Sentence, than, notwithstanding all his Endeavours, a Smile appeared in his Face; and Miss Glanville, less able, and indeed less concerned to restrain her Mirth at the uncommon Stile, burst out a laughing, with so much Violence, as obliged her Brother to stop, and counterfeit a terrible Fit of Coughing, in order to avoid giving Arabella the like Offence.
The Astonishment of this Lady, at the surprising and unexpected Effect her Lover's Letter produced on Miss Glanville, kept her in a profound Silence, her Eyes wandering from the Sister to the Brother; who, continuing his Cough, was not able, for some Moments, to go on with his Reading.
Arabella, during this Interval, having recovered herself a little, asked Miss Glanville, if she found any thing in a Lover's Despair, capable of diverting her so much, as she seemed to be with that of the unfortunate Sir George? My Sister, Madam, said Mr. Glanville, preventing her Reply, knows so many of Sir George's Infidelities, that she cannot persuade herself he is really in such a dangerous Way as he insinuates: Therefore you ought not to be surprised, if she is rather disposed to laugh at this Epistle, than to be moved with any Concern for the Writer, who, though he is my Rival, I must say, appears to be in a deplorable Condition.
Pray, Sir, resumed Arabella, a little composed by those Words, finish the Letter: Your Sister may possibly find more Cause for Pity than Contempt, in the latter Part of it.
Mr. Glanville, giving a Look to his Sister, sufficient to make her comprehend, that he would have her restrain her Mirth for the future, proceeded in his Reading; but every Line increasing his strong Inclination to laugh, when he came to the pathetic Wish, that her fair Eyes might shed some Tears upon his Tomb, no longer able to keep his assumed Gravity, he threw down the Letter in a counterfeited Rage. Curse the stupid Fellow! cried he, is he mad, to call the finest Black Eyes in the Universe, fair. Ah! Cousin, said he to Arabella, he must be little acquainted with the Influence of your Eyes, since he can so egregiously mistake their Colour.
And it is very plain, replied Arabella, that you are little acquainted with the sublime Language in which he writes, since you find Fault with an Epithet, which marks the Beauty, not the Colour, of those Eyes he praises; for, in fine, Fair is indifferently applied, as well to Black and Brown Eyes, as to Light and Blue ones, when they are either really lovely in themselves, or by the Lover's Imagination created so: And therefore, since George's Prepossession has made him see Charms in my Eyes, which questionless are not there; by calling them fair, he has very happily expressed himself, since therein he has the Sanction of those great Historians, who wrote the Histories of Lovers he seems to imitate, as well in his Actions as Stile.
I find my Rival is very happy in your Opinion, Madam, said Mr. Glanville; and I am apt to believe, I shall have more Reason to envy than pity his Situation.
If you keep within the Bounds I prescribe you, replied Arabella, you shall have no Reason to envy his Situation; but, considering the Condition to which his Despair has by this Time certainly reduced him, Humanity requires that we should take some Care of him; and, to shew you how great my Opinion of your Generosity is, I will even intreat you to accompany me in the Visit I am going to make him.
Mr. Glanville, being determined, if possible, to prevent her exposing herself, affected to be extremely moved at this Request; and, rising from his Chair in great seeming Agitation, traversed the Room for some Moments, without speaking a Word: Then suddenly stopping; And can you, Madam, said he, looking upon Arabella, suppose, that I will consent to your visiting my Rival; and that I will be mean enough to attend you myself to his House? Do you think, that Orontes you have often reproached me with, would act in such a Manner? I don't know how Orontes would have acted in this Case, said Arabella, because it never happened that such a Proof of his Submission was ever desired of him; but, considering that he was of a very fiery and jealous Disposition, it is probable he might act as you do.
I always understood, Madam, said Mr. Glanville, that Orontes was a Favourite of yours, but it seems I was mistaken.
You will be very unjust, said Arabella, to draw any unfavourable Conclusion from what I have said, to the Prejudice of that valiant Prince, for whom I confess I have a great Esteem; and truly whoever reflects upon the great Actions he did in the Wars between the Amazons and the fierce Naobarzanes King of the Cilicians, must needs conceive a very high Idea of his Virtue; but if I cannot bring the Example of Orontes to influence you in the present Case, I can mention those of other Persons, no less illustrious for their Birth and Courage, than him. Did not the brave Memnon, when his Rival Oxyatres was sick, intreat the beautiful Barsina to favour him with a Visit? And the complaisant Husband of the divine Parisatis was not contented with barely desiring her to visit Lysimachus, who was dying with Despair at her Marriage, but would many times bring her himself to the Bed-side of this unfortunate Lover, and, leaving her there, give him an Opportunity of telling her what he suffered for her sake.
I am afraid, Madam, said Mr. Glanville, I shall never be capable of imitating either the brave Memnon, nor the complaisant Lysimachus, in this Case, and the Humour of Orontes seems to me the most commendable.
Nevertheless, said Arabella, the Humour of Orontes cost him an infinite Number of Pains; and it may happen, you will as near resemble him in his Fortune as you do in his Disposition: But pray let us end this Dispute at present. If you are not generous enough to visit an unfortunate Rival, you shall not put a Stop to the Charity of my Intentions; and since Miss Glanville is all of a sudden become so severe, that she will not accompany me in this Visit, I shall be contented with the Attendance of my Women.
Saying this, she rose from her Seat, calling Lucy, and ordered her to bid her Companions attend.
Mr. Glanville, seeing her thus determined, was almost mad with Vexation.
Upon my Soul, Madam, said he, seizing her Hand, you must not go.
How, Sir! said Arabella, sternly.
Not without seeing me die first, resumed he, in a languishing Tone.
You must not die, replied Arabella, a little softened, nor must you pretend to hinder me from going.
Nay, Madam, said Glanville, one of these two Things will certainly happen: Either you must resolve not to visit Sir George, or else be contented to see me die at your Feet.
Was ever any Lady in so cruel a Dilemma? said Arabella, throwing herself into the Chair in a languishing Posture: What can I do to prevent the Fate of two Persons, one of whom I infinitely pity, and the other, obstinate as he is, I cannot hate? Shall I resolve to let the miserable Bellmour die, rather than grant him a Favour the most rigid Virtue would not refuse him? or shall I, by opposing the impetuous Humour of a Lover, to whom I am somewhat obliged, make myself the Author of his Death? Fatal Necessity! which obliges me either to be cruel or unjust; and, with a Disposition to neither, makes me, in some Degree, guilty of both!