Contains a Description of a Lady's Dress in Fashion not much above Two thousand Years ago.--The Beginning of an Adventure which seems to promise a great deal.
Arabella had now entered into her Seventeenth Year with the Regret of seeing herself the Object of Admiration to a few Rustics only, who happened to see her; when, one Sunday, making use of the Permission the Marquis sometimes allowed her, to attend Divine Service at the Church belonging to the Village near which they lived, her Vanity was flattered with an Adorer not altogether unworthy of her Notice.
This Gentleman was young, gay, handsome, and very elegantly dressed; he was just come from London with an Intention to pass some Weeks with a Friend in that Part of the Country; and at the time Arabella entered the Church, his Eyes, which had wandered from one rural Fair to another, were in an Instant fixed upon her Face. She blushed with a very becoming Modesty; and, pleased with the unusual Appearance of so fine a Gentleman, and the particular Notice he took of her, passed on to her Seat thro' a double Row of Country People, who, with a Profusion of aukward Bows and Courtesies, expressed their Respect.
Mr. Hervey, for that was the Stranger's Name, was no less surprised at her Beauty, than the Singularity of her Dress; and the odd Whim of being followed into the Church by three Women-Attendants, who, as soon as she was seated, took their Places behind her.
Her Dress, tho' singular, was far from being unbecoming. All the Beauties of her Neck and Shape were set off to the greatest Advantage by the Fashion of her Gown, which, in the Manner of a Robe, was made to sit tight to her Body; and fastened on the Breast with a Knot of Diamonds. Her fine black Hair, hung upon her Neck in Curls, which had so much the Appearance of being artless, that all but her Maid, whose Employment it was to give them that Form, imagined they were so. Her Head-dress was only a few Knots advantageously disposed, over which she wore a white Sarsenet Hood, somewhat in the Form of a Veil, with which she sometimes wholly covered her fair Face, when she saw herself beheld with too much Attention.
This Veil had never appeared to her so necessary before. Mr. Hervey's eager Glances threw her into so much Confusion, that, pulling it over her Face as much as she was able, she remained invisible to him all the time they afterwards stayed in the Church. This Action, by which she would have had him understand that she was displeased at his gazing on her with so little Respect, only increased his Curiosity to know who she was.
When the Congregation was dismissed, he hastened to the Door, with an Intention to offer her his Hand to help her to her Coach; but seeing the magnificent Equipage that waited for her, and the Number of Servants that attended it, he conceived a much higher Idea of her Quality than he had at first; and, changing his Design, contented himself with only bowing to her as she passed; and as soon as her Coach drove away, inquired of some Persons nearest him, who she was? These Rustics, highly delighted with the Opportunity of talking to the gay Londoner, whom they looked upon as a very extraordinary Person, gave him all the Intelligence they were able, concerning the Lady he inquired after; and filled him with an inconceivable Surprize at the strange Humour of the Marquis, who buried so beautiful a Creature in Obscurity.
At his Return home he expressed his Admiration of her in Terms that persuaded his Friend, she had made some Impression on his Heart; and, after raillying him a little upon this Suspicion, he assumed a more serious Air, and told him, If he really liked Lady Bella; he thought it not impossible but he might obtain her. The poor Girl, added he, has been kept in Confinement so long, that I believe it would not be difficult to persuade her to free herself by Marriage. She never had a Lover in her Life; and therefore the first Person who addresses her has the fairest Chance for succeeding.
Mr. Hervey, tho' he could not persuade himself his Cousin was in Earnest when he advised him to court the only Daughter of a Man of the Marquis's Quality, and Heiress to his vast Estates; yet relished the Scheme, and resolved to make some Attempt upon her before he left the Country. However, he concealed his Design from his Cousin, not being willing to expose himself to be ridiculed, if he did not succeed; and, turning the Advice he had given him into a Jest, left him in the Opinion, that he thought no more of it.