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Chapter VIII.

Some Reflexions very fit, and others very unfit for an Assembly-Room.

You speak in strange Terms, replied Arabella, blushing, of a Princess, who if she was not the most reserv'd and severe Person in the World, was yet nevertheless, absolutely chaste.

I know there were People who represented her Partiality for Ovid in a very unfavourable Light; but that ingenious Poet, when he related his History to the great Agrippa, told him in Confidence all that had pass'd between him and the Princess Julia, than which nothing could be more innocent tho' a little indiscreet. For, 'tis certain that she permitted him to love her, and did not condemn him to any rigorous Punishment for daring to tell her so; yet, for all this, as I said before, tho' she was not altogether so austere as she ought to have been, yet she was nevertheless a most virtuous Princess.

Mr. Selvin, not daring to contradict a Lady whose extensive Reading had furnish'd her with Anecdotes unknown almost to any Body else, by his Silence confess'd her Superiority. But Mr. Glanville, who knew all these Anecdotes were drawn from Romances, which he found contradicted the known Facts in History, and assign'd the most ridiculous Causes for Things of the greatest Importance; could not help smiling at the Facility with which Mr. Selvin gave into those idle Absurdities. For notwithstanding his Affectation of great Reading, his superficial Knowledge of History made it extremely easy to deceive him; and as it was his Custom to mark in his Pocket-Book all the Scraps of History he heard introduced into Conversation, and retail them again in other Company; he did not doubt but he would make a Figure with the curious Circumstances Arabella had furnish'd him with.

Arabella observing Mr. Tinsel by his familiar Bows, significant Smiles, and easy Salutations, was acquainted with the greatest Part of the Assembly, told him, that she did not doubt but he knew the Adventures of many Persons whom they were viewing; and that he would do her a Pleasure, if he would relate some of them.

Mr. Tinsel was charm'd with a Request which afforded him an Opportunity of gratifying a favourite Inclination, and seating himself near her immediately, was beginning to obey her Injunctions, when she gracefully intreated him to stay a Moment; and calling to Mr. Glanville and his Sister, who were talking to Mr. Selvin, ask'd them if they chose to partake of a more rational Amusement than Dancing, and listen to the Adventures of some illustrious Persons, which Mr. Tinsel had promis'd to relate.

I assure you, Madam, said Mr. Glanville, smiling, you will find that a less innocent Amusement than Dancing.

Why so, Sir, replied Arabella, since it is not an indiscreet Curiosity which prompts me to a Desire of hearing the Histories Mr. Tinsel has promis'd to entertain me with; but rather a Hope of hearing something which may at once improve and delight me; something which may excite my Admiration, engage my Esteem, or influence my Practice. 'Twas doubtless, with such Motives as these, that we find Princesses and Ladies of the most illustrious Rank, in Clelia and the Grand Cyrus, listning to the Adventures of Persons, in whom they were probably as little interested, as we are in these around us.

Kings, Princes, and Commanders of Armies, thought it was no Waste of their Time, in the midst of the Hurry and Clamour of a Camp, to listen many Hours to the Relation of one single History, and not fill'd with any extraordinary Events; but haply a simple Recital of common Occurrences: The great Cyrus, while he was busy in reducing all Asia to his Yoke, heard nevertheless, the Histories of all the considerable Persons in the Camp, besides those of Strangers, and even his Enemies. If there was therefore any thing either criminal or mean, in hearing the Adventures of others, do you imagine so many great and illustrious Persons would have given in to such an Amusement? After this Arabella turn'd gravely about to Mr. Tinsel, and told him, he was at Liberty to begin his Recital.

The Beau, a little disconcerted by the Solemnity with which she requested his Information, knew not how to begin with the Formality that he saw was required of him; and therefore sat silent for a few Moments; which Arabella suppos'd was to recall to his Memory all the Passages he propos'd to relate.

His Perplexity would probably have increas'd instead of lessening by the profound Silence which she observed, had not Miss Glanville seated herself with a sprightly Air on the other Side of him, and directing his Eyes to a tall handsome Woman that had just enter'd, ask'd him pleasantly, to tell her History if he knew it.

Mr. Tinsel, brought into his usual Track by this Question, answer'd smiling, That the History of that Lady was yet a Secret, or known but to very few; but my Intelligence, added he, is generally the earliest, and may always be depended on.

Perhaps, said Arabella, the Lady is one of your Acquaintances, and favour'd you with the Recital of her Adventure from her own Mouth.

No, really, Madam, answer'd Mr. Tinsel, surpriz'd at the great Simplicity of Arabella, for so he understood it; the Lady, I believe, is not so communicative: And to say the Truth, I should not chuse to hear her Adventures from herself, since she certainly would suppress the most material Circumstances.

In a Word, said he, lowering his Voice, That Lady was for many Years the Mistress of a young military Nobleman, whom she was so complaisant to follow in all his Campaigns, Marches, Sieges, and every Inconveniency of War: He married her in Gibraltar, from whence he is lately arriv'd, and introduc'd his new Lady to his noble Brother, by whom she was not unfavourably receiv'd. 'Tis worth remarking, that this same haughty Peer thought fit to resent with implacable Obstinacy, the Marriage of another of his Brothers, with the Widow of a brave Officer, of considerable Rank in the Army. 'Tis true, she was several Years older than the young Lord, and had no Fortune; but the Duke assign'd other Reasons for his Displeasure: He complain'd loudly, that his Brother had dishonour'd the Nobility of his Birth, by this Alliance, and continued his Resentment till the Death of the young Hero, who gave many remarkable Proofs of his Courage and Fortitude upon several Occasions, and died gloriously before the Walls of Carthagena ; leaving his disconsolate Lady a Widow a second Time, with the Acquisition of a Title indeed, but a very small Addition to her Fortune.

Observe that gay, splendid Lady, I beseech you, Madam, pursued he, turning to Arabella; how affectedly she looks and talks, and throws her Eyes around the Room, with a haughty Self-sufficiency in her Aspect, and insolent Contempt for every Thing but herself. Her Habit, her Speech, her Motions, are all French; nothing in England is able to please her; the People so dull, so aukwardly polite, the Manners so gross; no Delicacy, no Elegance, no Magnificence in their Persons, Houses, or Diversions; every Thing is so distasteful, there is no living in such a Place. One may crawl about, indeed, she says, and make a shift to breathe in the odious Country, but one cannot be said to live; and with all the Requisites to render Life delightful, here, one can only suffer, not enjoy it.

Would one not imagine, pursued he, this fine Lady was a Person of very exalted Rank, who has the Sanction of Birth, Riches, and Grandeur for her extraordinary Pride; and yet she is no other than the Daughter of an Inn-Keeper at Spa, and had the exalted Post assign'd her of attending new Lodgers to their Apartments, acquainting them with all the Conveniences of the Place, answering an humble Question or two concerning what Company was in the Town, what Scandal was stirring, and the like.

One of our great Sea Commanders going thither for his Health, happen'd to lodge at this Inn; and was so struck with her Charms, that he marry'd her in a few Weeks, and soon after brought her to England .

Such was the Origin of this fantastick Lady; whose insupportable Pride and ridiculous Affectation, draws Contempt and Aversion whereshe appears.

Did I not tell you, Madam, interrupted Mr. Glanville, that the Amusement you had chose was not so innocent as Dancing? What a deal of Scandal has Mr. Tinsel utter'd in the Compass of a few Minutes? I assure you, replied Arabella, I know not what to make of the Histories he has been relating. I think they do not deserve that Name, and are rather detatched Pieces of Satire on particular Persons, than a serious Relation of Facts. I confess my Expectations from this Gentleman have not been answer'd.

I think, however, Madam, said Mr. Glanville, we may allow that there is a negative Merit in the Relations Mr. Tinsel has made; for, if he has not shewn us any Thing to approve, he has at least shewn us what to condemn.

The Ugliness of Vice, reply'd Arabella, ought only to be represented to the Vicious; to whom Satire, like a magnifying Glass, may aggravate every Defect, in order to make its Deformity appear more hideous; but since its End is only to reprove and amend, it should never be address'd to any but those who come within its Correction, and may be the better for it: A virtuous Mind need not be shewn the Deformity of Vice, to make it be hated and avoided; the more pure and uncorrupted our Ideas are, the less shall we be influenc'd by Example. A natural Propensity to Virtue or Vice often determines the Choice: 'Tis sufficient therefore to shew a good Mind what it ought to pursue, though a bad one must be told what to avoid. In a Word, one ought to be always incited, the other always restrain'd.

I vow, Lady Bella, said Miss Glanville, you'd make one think one came here to hear a Sermon; you are so very grave, and talk upon such high-flown Subjects. What Harm was there in what Mr. Tinsel was telling us? It would be hard indeed, if one might not divert one's self with other Peoples Faults.

I am afraid, Miss, said Arabella, those who can divert themselves with the Faults of others, are not behind hand in affording Diversion. And that very Inclination, added she, smilingly, to hear other Peoples Faults, may by those very People, be condemned as one, and afford them the same Kind of ill-natur'd Pleasure you are so desirous of.

Nay, Madam, return'd Miss Glanville, your Ladyship was the first who introduc'd the Discourse you condemn so much. Did not you desire Mr. Tinsel to tell you Histories about the Company; and ask my Brother and me, to come and hear them? 'Tis true, reply'd Arabella, that I did desire you to partake with me of a pleasing and rational Amusement, for such I imagin'd Mr. Tinsel's Histories might afford; far from a Detail of Vices, Follies, and Irregularities, I expected to have heard the Adventures of some illustrious Personages related; between whose Actions, and those of the Heroes and Heroines of Antiquity, I might have found some Resemblance.

For Instance, I hop'd to have heard imitated the sublime Courage of a Clelia, who, to save her Honour from the Attempts of the impious Tarquin, leap'd into the River Tyber, and swam to the other Side; or the noble Resolution of the incomparable Candace, who, to escape out of the Hands of her Ravisher, the Pirate Zenadorus, set Fire to his Vessel with her own Hands, and committed herself to the Mercy of the Waves: Or, the Constancy and Affection of a Mandana, who, for the Sake of a Cyrus, refused the richest Crowns in the World, and braved the Terrors of Death to preserve herself for him.

As for the Men, I hoped to have heard of some who might have almost equall'd the great Oroondates, the invincible Artaban, the valiant Juba, the renowned Alcamenes, and many thousand Heroes of Antiquity; whose glorious Exploits in War, and unshaken Constancy in Love, have given them an immortal Fame.

While Arabella was uttering this long Speech, with great Emotion, Miss Glanville, with a fly Look at the Beau, gave him to understand, that was her Cousin's Foible.

Mr. Tinsel, however, not able to comprehend the Meaning of what she said, listen'd to her with many Signs of Perplexity and Wonder. Mr. Selvin in secret repin'd at her prodigious Knowledge of History; and Mr. Glanville, with his Eyes fix'd on the Ground, bit his Lips almost through with Madness.

In the mean Time, several among the Company, desirous of hearing what the strange Lady was saying so loud, and with so much Eagerness and Emotion, gather'd round them; which Mr. Glanville observing, and fearing Arabella would expose herself still farther, whisper'd his Sister to get her away if possible.

Miss Glanville, tho' very unwilling, obey'd his Injunctions; and complaining of a sudden Head-ach, Arabella immediately propos'd retiring, which was joyfully complied with by Mr. Glanville, who with the other Gentlemen attended them home.

Chapter VII. | The Female Quixote | Chapter IX.