Containing an Incident full as probable as any in Scudery's Romances.
Sydimiris, To Bellmour.
If that Proof of my Gratitude, which I promised to give you, fall short of your Expectations; blame not the Defect of my Will, but the Rigour of my Destiny: It was by this only Way I could give you Liberty; nor is it too dearly bought by the Loss of all my Happiness, if you receive it as you ought: Had I been allowed to follow my own Inclinations, there is no Man in the World I would have preferred to yourself. I owe this Confession to the Remembrance of your Affection, of which you gave me so generous an Instance; and the Use I expect you will make of it, is, to console you under a Misfortune, which is common to us both; though I haply have most Reason to complain, since I could not be just to you, without being cruel at the same time, or confer a Benefit, without loading you with a Misfortune. If the Sacrifice I have made of myself for your sake, gives me any Claim to the Continuance of your Love, I command you, by the Power it gives me over you, to live, and not add to the Miseries of my Condition, the Grief of being the Cause of your Death. Remember, I will look upon your Disobedience, as an Act of the most cruel Ingratitude; and your Compliance with this Request shall ever be esteemed, as the dearest Mark you can give of that Passion you have borne to the unfortunate Sydimiris.
Ah! Sydimiris, cried I, having read this Letter, more cruel in your Kindness than Severity! After having deprived me of yourself, do you forbid me to die; and expose me by so rigorous a Command to Ills infinitely more hard and painful than Death? Yes, pursued I, after a little Pause; yes, Sydimiris, thou shalt be obeyed; we will not dye, since thou hast commanded us to live; and, notwithstanding the Tortures to which thou condemnest us, we will obey this Command; and give thee a glorious Proof of our present Submission, by enduring that Life, which the Loss of thee has rendered truly wretched.
Urinoe and Toxares, somewhat reassured, by the Resolution I had taken, exhorted me by all the Persuasions, Friendship could put in their Mouths, to persevere in it; and, Urinoe bidding me Farewel, I endeavoured to prevail upon her to procure me a Sight of Sydimiris once more, or at least to bear a Letter from me to her; but she refused both these Requests so obstinately, telling me, Sydimiris would neither consent to the one nor the other, that I was obliged to be contented with the Promise she made me, to represent my Affliction in a true Light to her Mistress; and to assure her, that nothing but her absolute Commands could have hindered me from dying. Then, taking leave of me with much Tenderness, she went out of the Prison, leaving Toxares with me, who assisted me to dress, and conducted me out of that miserable Place, where I had passed so many sad, and also joyful Hours. At a Gate to which he brought me, I found a Horse waiting; and, having embraced this faithful Confidant, with many Expressions of Gratitude, I bestowed a Ring of some Value upon him to remember me by; and, mounting my Horse, with a breaking Heart, I took the first Road which presented itself to my Eyes, and galloped away, without knowing whither I went. I rode the whole Night, so totally engrossed by my Despair, that I did not perceive my Horse was so tired, it could hardly carry me a Step farther: At last the poor Beast fell down under me, so that I was obliged to dismount; and, looking about me, perceived I was in a Forest, without seeing the least Appearance of any Habitation.
The Wilderness, and Solitude of the Place, flattered my Despair, and while my Horse was feeding upon what Grass he could find, I wandered about: The Morning just breaking, gave me Light enough to direct my Steps. Chance at last conducted me to a Cave, which seemed to have been the Residence of some Hermit, or unfortunate Lover like myself. It was dug at the Side of a Rock, the Entrance to it thick set with Bushes, which hid it from View. I descended by a few Steps cut rudely enough, and was convinced, it had formerly served for a Habitation for some religious or melancholy Person; for there were Seats of Turf raised on each Side of it, a kind of Bed composed of dried Leaves and Rushes, and a Hole made artificially at the Top, to admit the Light.
While I considered this Place attentively, I all at once took up a Resolution, inspired by my Despair; which was, to continue there, and indulge my Melancholy in a Retirement so fitted for my Purpose.
Giving my Horse therefore Liberty to go where he pleased, and hanging up my Arms upon a Tree near my Cave, I took Possession of this solitary Mansion, with a gloomy Kind of Satisfaction, and devoted all my Hours to the Contemplation of my Misfortunes.
I lived in this manner, Madam, for Ten Months, without feeling the least Desire to change my Habitation; and, during all that time, no Mortal approached my Solitude, so that I lived perfectly secure and undiscovered.
Sir George pausing here to take Breath, the old Baronet said what will be found in the following Chapter.