A Mistake, which produces no great Consequences --An extraordinary Comment upon a Behaviour natural enough--An Instance of a Lady's Compassion for her Lover, which the Reader may possibly think not very compassionate.
Hervey, who was Master of no great Elegance in Letter-writing, was at first at some Loss, how to address a Lady of her Quality, to whom he was an absolute Stranger, upon the Subject of Love; but, conceiving there was no great Occasion for much Ceremony in declaring himself to one who had been educated in the Country, and who, he believed, could not be displeased with a Lover of his Figure, he therefore, in plain Terms, told her, how deeply he was enamoured of her; and conjured her to afford him some Opportunity of paying his Respects to her.
Lucy received this Letter from him with a worse Grace than she did the Gold; and, tho' she promised him to deliver it to her Lady immediately, yet she kept it a Day or two before she had the Courage to attempt it: At last, drawing it out of her Pocket, with a bashful Air, she presented it to her Lady, telling her it came from the fine Gentleman whom she saw at Church.
Arabella blushed at the Sight of the Letter; and tho', in Reality, she was not displeased, yet, being a strict Observer of romantic Forms, she chid her Woman severely for taking it. Carry it back, added she, to the presumptuous Writer of it; and let him know how greatly his Insolence has offended me.
Lucy, however, suffered the Letter to remain on the Toilet, expecting some Change in her Lady's Mind; for she traversed the Chamber in great seeming Irresolution, often stealing a Glance to the Letter, which she had a strong Inclination to open; but, searching the Records of her Memory for a Precedent, and not finding, that any Lady ever opened a Letter from an unknown Lover, she reiterated her Commands to Lucy to carry it back, with a Look and Accent so very severe, that the Girl, extremely apprehensive of having offended her, put the Letter again in her Pocket, resolving to return it the first Opportunity.
Mr. Hervey, who had his Thoughts wholly taken up with the flattering Prospect of Success, no sooner saw Lucy, who gave him his Letter without speaking a Word, than, supposing it had been the Answer he expected, he eagerly snatched it out of her Hand, and, kissing it first in a Rapture of Joy, broke it open; but his Surprize and Confusion, when he saw it was his own Letter returned, was inexpressible. For some Moments he kept his Eyes fastened upon the tender Billet, as if he was really reading it. His Disappointment, and the ridiculous Figure he knew he must make in the Eyes of his Messenger, filled him with so much Confusion, that he did not dare to look up; but, recovering himself at last, he affected to turn it into a Jest; and, laughing first himself, gave Lucy the Liberty of laughing also, who had with much Difficulty been able to prevent doing it before.
The Curiosity he felt to hear how she had acquitted herself of the Trust he had reposed in her, made him oblige her to give a Truce to her Mirth, in order to satisfy him; and Lucy, who was extremely exact in her Relations, told him all that had passed, without omitting the smallest Circumstance.
Though it was impossible to draw any favourable Omen from what he heard, yet he determined to make another Effort, before he set out for London; and, taking Leave of his Confident, after he had appointed her to meet him again the next Day, at her Brother's, he went home to consider upon Means to effect his Designs, which the ill Success of his first Attempt had not forced him to abandon.
Arabella, who expected to hear, that the Return of his Letter would make her Lover commit some very extravagant Actions; and having impatiently waited for an Account of them from Lucy; finding she seemed to have no Intention to begin a Discourse concerning him; asked her, at last, If she had executed her Commission, and returned the Letter to the insolent Unknown? The Girl answered, Yes.
Which not being all that her Lady expected, And how did he receive it? resumed she, peevishly.
Why Madam, replied Lucy, I believe he thought your Ladyship had sent him an Answer; for he kissed the Letter several times.
Foolish Wench! replied Arabella, How can you imagine he had the Temerity to think I should answer his letter? A Favour, which, though he had spent Years in my Service, would have been infinitely greater than he could have expected. No, Lucy, he kissed the Letter, either because he thought it had been touched at least by my Hands, or to shew the perfect Submission with which he received my Commands; and it is not to be doubted, but his Despair will force him to commit some desperate Outrage against himself, which I do not hate him enough to wish, though he has mortally offended me.
Arabella was possessed of great Sensibility and Softness; and, being really persuaded, that her Lover would entertain some fatal Design, seemed so much affected with the Thoughts of what might happen, that Lucy, who tenderly loved her, begged her not to be so much concerned for the Gentleman: There is no Fear, added she, that he will do himself a Mischief; for when he discovered his Mistake, he laughed heartily, as well as myself.
How! replied Arabella, extremely surprised, Did he laugh? Which Lucy confirming, Doubtless, resumed she, having taken a little Time to consider of so strange a Ph~A¦nomenon, he laughed, because his Reason was disturbed at the sudden Shock he received: Unhappy Man! his Presumption will be severely enough punished, though I do not add Anger to the Scorn which I have expressed for him: Therefore, Lucy, you may tell him, if you please, that, notwithstanding the Offence he has been guilty of, I am not cruel enough to wish his Death; and that I command him to live, if he can live without Hope.