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Chapter VI.

Containing something which at first Sight may possibly puzzle the Reader.

The Countess was as good as her Word, and two Days after sent a Card to Arabella, importing her Design to wait on her that Afternoon.

Our Heroine expected her with great Impatience, and the Moment she enter'd the Room flew towards her with a graceful Eagerness, and straining her in her Arms, embrac'd her with all the Fervour of a long absent Friend.

Sir Charles and Mr. Glanville were equally embarrass'd at the Familiarity of this Address; but observing that the Countess seem'd not to be surpriz'd at it, but rather to receive it with Pleasure, they were soon compos'd.

You cannot imagine, lovely Stranger, said Arabella to the Countess, as soon as they were seated, with what Impatience I have long'd to behold you, since the Knowledge I have receiv'd of your rare Qualities, and the Friendship you have been pleas'd to honour me with--And I may truly protest to you, that such is my Admiration of your Virtues, that I would have gone to the farthest Part of the World to render you that which you with so much Generosity have condescended to bestow upon me.

Sir Charles star'd at this extraordinary Speech, and not being able to comprehend a Word of it, was concern'd to think how the Lady to whom it was address'd would understand it.

Mr. Glanville look'd down, and bit his Nails in extreme Confusion; but the Countess who had not forgot the Language of Romance, return'd the Compliment in a Strain as heroick as hers.

The Favour I have receiv'd from Fortune, said she, in bringing me to the Happiness of your Acquaintance, charming Arabella, is so great, that I may rationally expect some terrible Misfortune will befall me: Seeing that in this Life our Pleasures are so constantly succeeded by Pains, that we hardly ever enjoy the one without suffering the other soon after.

Arabella was quite transported to hear the Countess express herself in Language so conformable to her own; but Mr. Glanville was greatly confounded, and began to suspect she was diverting herself with his Cousin's Singularities: And Sir Charles was within a little of thinking her as much out of the Way as his Niece.

Misfortunes, Madam, said Arabella, are too often the Lot of excellent Persons like yourself. The sublimest among Mortals both for Beauty and Virtue have experienc'd the Frowns of Fate. The Sufferings of the divine Statira or Cassandra, for she bore both Names, the Persecutions of the incomparable Cleopatra, the Dissresses of the beautiful Candace, and the Afflictions of the fair and generous Mandana, are Proofs that the most illustrious Persons in the World have felt the Rage of Calamity. It must be confess'd, said the Countess, that all those fair Princesses you have nam'd, were for a while extremely unfortunate: Yet in the Catalogue of these lovely and afflicted Persons you have forgot one who might with Justice dispute the Priority of Sufferings with them all-- I mean the beautiful Elisa, Princess of Parthia.

Pardon me, Madam, reply'd Arabella, I cannot be of your Opinion. The Princess of Parthia may indeed justly be rank'd among the Number of unfortunate Persons, but she can by no means dispute the melancholy Precedence with the divine Cleopatra --For in fine, Madam, what Evils did the Princess of Parthia suffer which the fair Cleopatra did not likewise endure, and some of them haply in a greater Degree? If Elisa by the tyrannical Authority of the King her Father, saw herself upon the Point of becoming the Wife of a Prince she detested, was not the beautiful Daughter of Antony, by the more unjustifiable Tyranny of Augustus, likely to be forced into the Arms of Tyberius, a proud and cruel Prince, who was odious to the whole World as well as to her? If Elisa was for some time in the Power of Pyrates, was not Cleopatra Captive to an inhuman King, who presented his Sword to the fair Breast of that divine Princess worthy the Adoration of the whole Earth? And in fine, if Elisa had the Grief to see her dear Artaban imprison'd by the Order of Augustus, Cleopatra beheld with mortal Agonies, her beloved Coriolanus inclos'd amidst the Guards of that enrag'd Prince, and doom'd to a cruel Death.

'Tis certain, Madam, reply'd the Countess, that the Misfortunes of both these Princesses were very great, tho' as you have shew'd me with some Inequality: And when one reflects upon the dangerous Adventures to which Persons of their Quality were expos'd in those Times, one cannot help rejoicing that we live in an Age in which the Customs, Manners, Habits, and Inclinations differ so widely from theirs, that 'tis impossible such Adventures should even happen.

Such is the strange Alteration of Things, that some People I dare say at present, cannot be persuaded to believe there ever were Princesses wandering thro' the World by Land and Sea in mean Disguises, carry'd away violently out of their Father's Dominions by insolent Lovers--Some discover'd sleeping in Forests, other Shipwreck'd on desolate Islands, confin'd in Castles, bound in Chariots, and even strugling amidst the tempestuous Waves of the Sea, into which they had cast themselves to avoid the brutal Force of their Ravishers. Not one of these Things having happen'd within the Compass of several thousand Years, People unlearn'd in Antiquity would be apt to deem them idle Tales, so improbable do they appear at present.

Arabella, tho' greatly surpriz'd at this Discourse, did not think proper to express her Thoughts of it. She was unwilling to appear absolutely ignorant of the present Customs of the World, before a Lady whose good Opinion she was ardently desirous of improving.

Her Prepossessions in favour of the Countess made her receive the new Delights she held out to her with Respect, tho' not without Doubt and Irresolution. Her Blushes, her Silence, and down-cast Eyes gave the Countess to understand Part of her Thoughts; who for fear of alarming her too much for that Time, dropt the Subject, and turning the Conversation on others more general, gave Arabella an Opportunity of mingling in it with that Wit and Vivacity which was natural to her when Romances were out of the Question.

Chapter V. | The Female Quixote | Chapter VII.