Transcribed from the text of the first edition by David Price, email email@example.com
INCOGNITA: OR, LOVE AND DUTY RECONCIL'D A NOVEL by William Congreve
TO THE Honoured and Worthily Esteem'd Mrs. Katharine Leveson.
A Clear Wit, sound Judgment and a Merciful Disposition, are things so rarely united, that it is almost inexcusable to entertain them with any thing less excellent in its kind. My knowledge of you were a sufficient Caution to me, to avoid your Censure of this Trifle, had I not as intire a knowledge of your Goodness. Since I have drawn my Pen for a Rencounter, I think it better to engage where, though there be Skill enough to Disarm me, there is too much Generosity to Wound; for so shall I have the saving Reputation of an unsuccessful Courage, if I cannot make it a drawn Battle. But methinks the Comparison intimates something of a Defiance, and savours of Arrogance; wherefore since I am Conscious to my self of a Fear which I cannot put off, let me use the Policy of Cowards and lay this Novel unarm'd, naked and shivering at your Feet, so that if it should want Merit to challenge Protection, yet, as an Object of Charity, it may move Compassion. It has been some Diversion to me to Write it, I wish it may prove such to you when you have an hour to throw away in Reading of it: but this Satisfaction I have at least beforehand, that in its greatest failings it may fly for Pardon to that Indulgence which you owe to the weakness of your Friend; a Title which I am proud you have thought me worthy of, and which I think can alone be superior to that
Your most Humble and Obliged Servant CLEOPHIL.
THE PREFACE TO THE READER.
Some Authors are so fond of a Preface, that they will write one tho' there be nothing more in it than an Apology for its self. But to show thee that I am not one of those, I will make no Apology for this, but do tell thee that I think it necessary to be prefix'd to this Trifle, to prevent thy overlooking some little pains which I have taken in the Composition of the following Story. Romances are generally composed of the Constant Loves and invincible Courages of Hero's, Heroins, Kings and Queens, Mortals of the first Rank, and so forth; where lofty Language, miraculous Contingencies and impossible Performances, elevate and surprize the Reader into a giddy Delight, which leaves him flat upon the Ground whenever he gives of, and vexes him to think how he has suffer'd himself to be pleased and transported, concern'd and afflicted at the several Passages which he has Read, viz. these Knights Success to their Damosels Misfortunes, and such like, when he is forced to be very well convinced that 'tis all a lye. Novels are of a more familiar nature; Come near us, and represent to us Intrigues in practice, delight us with Accidents and odd Events, but not such as are wholly unusual or unpresidented, such which not being so distant from our Belief bring also the pleasure nearer us. Romances give more of Wonder, Novels more Delight. And with reverence be it spoken, and the Parallel kept at due distance, there is something of equality in the Proportion which they bear in reference to one another, with that betwen Comedy and Tragedy; but the Drama is the long extracted from Romance and History: 'tis the Midwife to Industry, and brings forth alive the Conceptions of the Brain. Minerva walks upon the Stage before us, and we are more assured of the real presence of Wit when it is delivered viva voce—
Segnius irritant animos demissa per aurem, Quam quae sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus, & quae Ipse sibi tradit spectator.—Horace.
Since all Traditions must indisputably give place to the Drama, and since there is no possibility of giving that life to the Writing or Repetition of a Story which it has in the Action, I resolved in another beauty to imitate Dramatick Writing, namely, in the Design, Contexture and Result of the Plot. I have not observed it before in a Novel. Some I have seen begin with an unexpected accident, which has been the only surprizing part of the Story, cause enough to make the Sequel look flat, tedious and insipid; for 'tis but reasonable the Reader should expect it not to rise, at least to keep upon a level in the entertainment; for so he may be kept on in hopes that at some time or other it may mend; but the 'tother is such a balk to a Man, 'tis carrying him up stairs to show him the Dining- Room, and after forcing him to make a Meal in the Kitchin. This I have not only endeavoured to avoid, but also have used a method for the contrary purpose. The design of the Novel is obvious, after the first meeting of Aurelian and Hippolito with Incognita and Leonora, and the difficulty is in bringing it to pass, maugre all apparent obstacles, within the compass of two days. How many probable Casualties intervene in opposition to the main Design, viz. of marrying two Couple so oddly engaged in an intricate Amour, I leave the Reader at his leisure to consider: As also whether every Obstacle does not in the progress of the Story act as subservient to that purpose, which at first it seems to oppose. In a Comedy this would be called the Unity of Action; here it may pretend to no more than an Unity of Contrivance. The Scene is continued in Florence from the commencement of the Amour; and the time from first to last is but three days. If there be any thing more in particular resembling the Copy which I imitate (as the Curious Reader will soon perceive) I leave it to show it self, being very well satisfy'd how much more proper it had been for him to have found out this himself, than for me to prepossess him with an Opinion of something extraordinary in an Essay began and finished in the idler hours of a fortnight's time: for I can only esteem it a laborious idleness, which is Parent to so inconsiderable a Birth. I have gratified the Bookseller in pretending an occasion for a Preface; the other two Persons concern'd are the Reader and my self, and if he be but pleased with what was produced for that end, my satisfaction follows of course, since it will be proportion'd to his Approbation or Dislike.
INCOGNITA: OR, Love & Duty RECONCIL'D
Aurelian was the only Son to a Principal Gentleman of Florence. The Indulgence of his Father prompted, and his Wealth enabled him, to bestow a generous Education upon him, whom, he now began to look upon as the Type of himself; an Impression he had made in the Gayety and Vigour of his Youth, before the Rust of Age had debilitated and obscur'd the Splendour of the Original: He was sensible, That he ought not to be sparing in the Adornment of him, if he had Resolution to beautifie his own Memory. Indeed Don Fabio (for so was the Old Gentleman call'd) has been observ'd to have fix'd his Eyes upon Aurelian, when much Company has been at Table, and have wept through Earnestness of Intention, if nothing hapned to divert the Object; whether it were for regret, at the Recollection of his former self, or for the Joy he conceiv'd in being, as it were, reviv'd in the Person of his Son, I never took upon me to enquire, but suppos'd it might be sometimes one, and sometimes both together.
Aurelian, at the Age of Eighteen Years, wanted nothing (but a Beard) that the most accomplished Cavalier in Florence could pretend to: he had been Educated from Twelve Years old at Siena, where it seems his Father kept a Receiver, having a large Income from the Rents of several Houses in that Town. Don Fabio gave his Servant Orders, That Aurelian should not be stinted in his Expences, when he came up to Years of Discretion. By which means he was enabled, not only to keep Company with, but also to confer many Obligations upon Strangers of Quality, and Gentlemen who travelled from other Countries into Italy, of which Siena never wanted store, being a Town most delightfully Situate, upon a Noble Hill, and very well suiting with Strangers at first, by reason of the agreeableness and purity of the Air: There also is the quaintness and delicacy of the Italian Tongue most likely to be learned, there being many publick Professors of it in that place; and indeed the very Vulgar of Siena do express themselves with an easiness and sweetness surprizing, and even grateful to their Ears who understand not the Language.
Here Aurelian contracted an acquaintance with Persons of Worth of several Countries, but among the rest an intimacy with a Gentleman of Quality of Spain, and Nephew to the Archbishop of Toledo, who had so wrought himself into the Affections of Aurelian, through a Conformity of Temper, an Equality in Years, and something of resemblance in Feature and Proportion, that he look'd upon him as his second self. Hippolito, on the other hand, was not ungrateful in return of Friendship, but thought himself either alone or in ill Company, if Aurelian were absent: but his Uncle having sent him to travel, under the Conduct of a Governour, and the two Years which limited his stay at Siena being expired, he was put in mind of his departure. His Friend grew melancholy at the News, but considering that Hippolito had never seen Florence, he easily prevailed with him to make his first journey thither, whither he would accompany him, and perhaps prevail with his Father to do the like throughout his Travels.
They accordingly set out, but not being able easily to reach Florence the same Night, they rested a League or two short, at a Villa of the great Duke's called Poggio Imperiale, where they were informed by some of his Highness's Servants, That the Nuptials of Donna Catharina (near Kinswoman to the great Duke) and Don Ferdinand de Rovori, were to be solemnized the next day, and that extraordinary Preparations had been making for some time past, to illustrate the Solemnity with Balls and Masques, and other Divertisements; that a Tilting had been proclaimed, and to that purpose Scaffolds erected around the Spacious Court, before the Church Di Santa Croce, where were usually seen all Cavalcades and Shews, performed by Assemblies of the Young Nobility: That all Mechanicks and Tradesmen were forbidden to work or expose any Goods to Sale for the space of three days; during which time all Persons should be entertain'd at the Great Duke's Cost; and publick Provision was to be made for the setting forth and furnishing a multitude of Tables, with Entertainment for all Comers and Goers, and several Houses appointed for that use in all Streets.
This Account alarm'd the Spirits of our Young Travellers, and they were overjoy'd at the prospect of Pleasures they foresaw. Aurelian could not contain the satisfaction he conceiv'd in the welcome Fortune had prepar'd for his dear Hippolito. In short, they both remembred so much of the pleasing Relation had been made them, that they forgot to sleep, and were up as soon as it was light, pounding at poor Signior Claudio's Door (so was Hippolito's Governour call'd) to rouse him, that no time might be lost till they were arriv'd at Florence, where they would furnish themselves with Disguises and other Accoutrements necessary for the Prosecution of their Design of sharing in the publick Merriment; the rather were they for going so early because Aurelian did not think fit to publish his being in Town for a time, least his Father knowing of it, might give some restraint to that loose they designed themselves.
Before Sun rise they entred Florence at Porta Romana, attended only by two Servants, the rest being left behind to avoid notice; but, alas! they needed not to have used half that caution; for early as it was, the Streets were crowded with all sorts of People passing to and fro, and every Man employ'd in something relating to the Diversions to come; so that no notice was taken of any body; a Marquess and his Train might have pass'd by as unregarded as a single Fachin or Cobler. Not a Window in the Streets but echoed the tuning of a Lute or thrumming of a Gitarr: for, by the way, the Inhabitants of Florence are strangely addicted to the love of Musick, insomuch that scarce their Children can go, before they can scratch some Instrument or other. It was no unpleasing Spectacle to our Cavaliers (who, seeing they were not observ'd, resolved to make Observations) to behold the Diversity of Figures and Postures of many of these Musicians. Here you should have an affected Vallet, who Mimick'd the Behaviour of his Master, leaning carelessly against the Window, with his Head on one side, in a languishing Posture, whining, in a low, mournful Voice, some dismal Complaint; while, from his sympathizing Theorbo, issued a Base no less doleful to the Hearers. In Opposition to him was set up perhaps a Cobler, with the wretched Skeleton of a Gitarr, battered and waxed together by his own Industry, and who with three Strings out of Tune, and his own tearing hoarse Voice, would rack attention from the Neighbourhood, to the great affliction of many more moderate Practitioners, who, no doubt, were full as desirous to be heard. By this time Aurelian's Servant had taken a Lodging and was returned, to give his Master an Account of it. The Cavaliers grown weary of that ridiculous Entertainment, which was diverting at first sight, retired whither the Lacquey conducted them; who, according to their Directions, had sought out one of the most obscure Streets in the City. All that day, to the evening, was spent in sending from one Brokers Shop to another, to furnish them with Habits, since they had not time to make any new.
There was, it happened, but one to be got Rich enough to please our young Gentlemen, so many were taken up upon this occasion. While they were in Dispute and Complementing one another, (Aurelian protesting that Hippolito should wear it, and he, on 'tother hand, forswearing it as bitterly) a Servant of Hippolito's came up and ended the Controversie; telling them, That he had met below with the Vallet de Chambre of a Gentleman, who was one of the greatest Gallants about the Town, but was at this time in such a condition he could not possibly be at the Entertainment; whereupon the Vallet had designed to dress himself up in his Master's Apparel, and try his talent at Court; which he hearing, told him he would inform him how he might bestow the Habit for some time much more to his profit if not to his pleasure, so acquainted him with the occasion his Master had for it. Hippolito sent for the Fellow up, who was not so fond of his design as not to be bought off it, but upon having his own demand granted for the use of it, brought it; it was very Rich, and upon tryal, as fit for Hippolito as if it had been made for him. The Ceremony was performed in the Morning, in the great Dome, with all magnificence correspondent to the wealth of the great Duke, and the esteem he had for the Noble Pair. The next Morning was to be a Tilting, and the same Night a Masquing Ball at Court. To omit the Description of the universal Joy, (that had diffus'd it self through all the Conduits of Wine, which convey'd it in large measures to the People) and only relate those effects of it which concern our present Adventurers. You must know, that about the fall of the Evening, and at that time when the aequilibrium of Day and Night, for some time, holds the Air in a gloomy suspence between an unwillingness to leave the light, and a natural impulse into the Dominion of darkness, about this time our Hero's, shall I say, sally'd or slunk out of their Lodgings, and steer'd toward the great Palace, whither, before they were arrived, such a prodigious number of Torches were on fire, that the day, by help of these Auxiliary Forces, seem'd to continue its Dominion; the Owls and Bats apprehending their mistake, in counting the hours, retir'd again to a convenient darkness; for Madam Night was no more to be seen than she was to be heard; and the Chymists were of Opinion, That her fuliginous Damps, rarefy'd by the abundance of Flame, were evaporated.
Now the Reader I suppose to be upon Thorns at this and the like impertinent Digressions, but let him alone and he'll come to himself; at which time I think fit to acquaint him, that when I digress, I am at that time writing to please my self, when I continue the Thread of the Story, I write to please him; supposing him a reasonable Man, I conclude him satisfied to allow me this liberty, and so I proceed.
If our Cavaliers were dazled at the splendour they beheld without doors, what surprize, think you, must they be in, when entering the Palace they found even the lights there to be but so many foils to the bright eyes that flash'd upon 'em at every turn.
A more glorious Troop no occasion ever assembled; all the fair of Florence, with the most accomplished Cavaliers, were present; and however Nature had been partial in bestowing on some better Faces than others, Art was alike indulgent to all, and industriously supplyed those Defects she had left, giving some Addition also to her greatest Excellencies. Every body appear'd well shap'd, as it is to be suppos'd, none who were conscious to themselves of any visible Deformity would presume to come thither. Their Apparel was equally glorious, though each differing in fancy. In short, our Strangers were so well bred, as to conclude from these apparent Perfections, that there was not a Masque which did not at least hide the Face of a Cherubim. Perhaps the Ladies were not behind hand in return of a favourable Opinion of them: for they were both well dress'd, and had something inexpressibly pleasing in their Air and Mien, different from other People, and indeed differing from one another. They fansy'd that while they stood together they were more particularly taken notice of than any in the Room, and being unwilling to be taken for Strangers, which they thought they were, by reason of some whispering they observed near them, they agreed upon an hour of meeting after the company should be broke up, and so separately mingled with the thickest of the Assembly. Aurelian had fixed his eye upon a Lady whom he had observ'd to have been a considerable time in close whisper with another Woman; he expected with great impatience the result of that private Conference, that he might have an opportunity of engaging the Lady whose Person was so agreeable to him. At last he perceived they were broke off, and the 'tother Lady seem'd to have taken her leave. He had taken no small pains in the mean time to put himself in a posture to accost the Lady, which, no doubt, he had happily performed had he not been interrupted; but scarce had he acquitted himself of a preliminary bow (and which, I have heard him say, was the lowest that ever he made) and had just opened his Lips to deliver himself of a small Complement, which, nevertheless he was very big with, when he unluckily miscarried, by the interposal of the same Lady, whose departure, not long before, he had so zealously pray'd for: but, as Providence would have it, there was only some very small matter forgot, which was recovered in a short whisper. The Coast being again cleared, he took heart and bore up, and, striking sail, repeated his Ceremony to the Lady; who, having Obligingly returned it, he accosted her in these or the like words:
'If I do not usurp a priviledge reserved for some one more happy in your acquaintance, may I presume, Madam, to entreat (for a while) the favour of your Conversation, at least till the arrival of whom you expect, provided you are not tired of me before; for then upon the least intimation of uneasiness, I will not fail of doing my self the violence to withdraw for your release. The Lady made him answer, she did not expect any body; by which he might imagine her Conversation not of value to be bespoke, and to afford it him, were but farther to convince him to her own cost. He reply'd, 'She had already said enough to convince him of something he heartily wished might not be to his cost in the end. She pretended not to understand him; but told him, 'If he already found himself grieved with her Conversation, he would have sufficient reason to repent the rashness of his first Demand before they had ended: for that now she intended to hold discourse with him, on purpose to punish his unadvisedness, in presuming upon a Person whose dress and mien might not (may be) be disagreeable to have wit. 'I must confess (reply'd Aurelian) my self guilty of a Presumption, and willingly submit to the punishment you intend: and though it be an aggravation of a Crime to persevere in its justification, yet I cannot help defending an Opinion in which now I am more confirm'd, that probable conjectures may be made of the ingenious Disposition of the Mind, from the fancy and choice of Apparel. The humour I grant ye (said the Lady) or constitution of the Person whether melancholick or brisk; but I should hardly pass my censure upon so slight an indication of wit: for there is your brisk fool as well as your brisk man of sense, and so of the melancholick. I confess 'tis possible a fool may reveal himself by his Dress, in wearing something extravagantly singular and ridiculous, or in preposterous suiting of colours; but a decency of Habit (which is all that Men of best sense pretend to) may be acquired by custom and example, without putting the Person to a superfluous expence of wit for the contrivance; and though there should be occasion for it, few are so unfortunate in their Relations and Acquaintance not to have some Friend capable of giving them advice, if they are not too ignorantly conceited to ask it. Aurelian was so pleased with the easiness and smartness of her Expostulation, that he forgot to make a reply, when she seem'd to expect it; but being a Woman of a quick Apprehension, and justly sensible of her own perfections, she soon perceived he did not grudge his attention. However she had a mind to put it upon him to turn the discourse, so went on upon the same Subject. 'Signior (said she) I have been looking round me, and by your Maxim I cannot discover one fool in the Company; for they are all well drest. This was spoken with an Air of Rallery that awakened the Cavalier, who immediately made answer: 'Tis true, Madam, we see there may be as much variety of good fancies as of faces, yet there may be many of both kinds borrowed and adulterate if inquired into; and as you were pleased to observe, the invention may be Foreign to the Person who puts it in practice; and as good an Opinion as I have of an agreeable Dress, I should be loth to answer for the wit of all about us. I believe you (says the Lady) and hope you are convinced of your error, since you must allow it impossible to tell who of all this Assembly did or did not make choice of their own Apparel. Not all (said Aurelian) there is an ungainness in some which betrays them. 'Look ye there (says he) pointing to a Lady who stood playing with the Tassels of her Girdle, I dare answer for that Lady, though she be very well dress'd, 'tis more than she knows. His fair unknown could not forbear laughing at his particular distinction, and freely told him, he had indeed light upon one who knew as little as any body in the Room, her self excepted. Ah! Madam, (reply'd Aurelian) you know every thing in the World but your own Perfections, and you only know not those because 'tis the top of Perfection not to know them. How? (reply'd the Lady) I thought it had been the extremity of knowledge to know ones self. Aurelian had a little over-strain'd himself in that Complement, and I am of Opinion would have been puzzl'd to have brought himself off readily: but by good fortune the Musick came into the Room and gave him an opportunity to seem to decline an answer, because the company prepared to dance: he only told her he was too mean a Conquest for her wit who was already a Slave to the Charms of her Person. She thanked him for his Complement, and briskly told him she ought to have made him a return in praise of his wit, but she hoped he was a Man more happy than to be dissatisfy'd with any of his own Endowments; and if it were so, that he had not a just Opinion of himself, she knew her self incapable of saying any thing to beget one. Aurelian did not know well what to make of this last reply; for he always abhor'd any thing that was conceited, with which this seem'd to reproach him. But however modest he had been heretofore in his own thoughts, yet never was he so distrustful of his good behaviour as now, being rally'd so by a Person whom he took to be of judgment: Yet he resolved to take no notice, but with an Air unconcerned and full of good humour entreated her to Dance with him: She promised him to Dance with no body else, nor I believe had she inclination; for notwithstanding her tartness, she was upon equal terms with him as to the liking of each others Person and Humour, and only gave those little hints to try his Temper; there being certainly no greater sign of folly and ill breeding, than to grow serious and concerned at any thing spoken in rallery: for his part, he was strangely and insensibly fallen in love with her Shape, Wit and Air; which, together with a white Hand, he had seen (perhaps not accidentally) were enough to have subdued a more stubborn Heart than ever he was master of; and for her Face, which he had not seen, he bestowed upon her the best his Imagination could furnish him with. I should by right now describe her Dress, which was extreamly agreeable and rich, but 'tis possible I might err in some material Pin or other, in the sticking of which may be the whole grace of the Drapery depended. Well, they danced several times together, and no less to the satisfaction of the whole Company, than of themselves; for at the end of each Dance, some publick note of Applause or other was given to the graceful Couple.
Aurelian was amaz'd, that among all that danced or stood in view he could not see Hippolito; but concluding that he had met with some pleasing Conversation, and was withdrawn to some retired part of the Room, he forbore his search till the mirth of that Night should be over, and the Company ready to break up, where we will leave him for a while, to see what became of his adventurous Friend.
Hippolito, a little after he had parted with Aurelian, was got among a knot of Ladies and Cavaliers, who were looking upon a large Gold Cup set with Jewels, in which his Royal Highness had drank to the prosperity of the new married Couple at Dinner, and which afterward he presented to his Cousin Donna Catharina. He among the rest was very intent, admiring the richness, workmanship and beauty of the Cup, when a Lady came behind him and pulling him by the Elbow, made a sign she would speak with him; Hippolito, who knew himself an utter Stranger to Florence and every body in it, immediately guessed she had mistaken him for her acquaintance, as indeed it happened; however he resolved not to discover himself till he should be assured of it; having followed her into a set Window remote from Company, she address'd her self to him in this manner: 'Signior Don Lorenzo (said she) I am overjoy'd to see you are so speedily recovered of your Wounds, which by report were much more dangerous than to have suffered your coming abroad so soon; but I must accuse you of great indiscretion, in appearing in a Habit which so many must needs remember you to have worn upon the like occasion not long ago, I mean at the Marriage of Don Cynthio with your Sister Atalanta; I do assure you, you were known by it, both to Juliana and my self, who was so far concerned for you, as to desire me to tell you, that her Brother Don Fabritio (who saw you when you came in with another Gentleman) had eyed you very narrowly, and is since gone out of the Room, she knows not upon what design; however she would have you, for your own sake, be advised and circumspect when you depart this place, lest you should be set upon unawares; you know the hatred Don Fabritio has born you ever since you had the fortune to kill his Kinsman in a Duel: Here she paused as if expecting his reply; but Hippolito was so confounded, that he stood mute, and contemplating the hazard he had ignorantly brought himself into, forgot his design of informing the Lady of her mistake. She finding he made her no Answer, went on. 'I perceive (continued she) you are in some surprize at what I have related, and may be, are doubtful of the Truth; but I thought you had been better acquainted with your Cousin Leonora's Voice, than to have forgot it so soon: Yet in Complaisance to your ill Memory, I will put you past doubt, by shewing you my Face; with that she pulled off her Mask, and discovered to Hippolito (now more amaz'd than ever) the most Angelick Face that he had ever beheld. He was just about to have made her some answer, when, clapping on her Mask again without giving him time, she happily for him pursu'd her Discourse. (For 'tis odds but he had made some discovery of himself in the surprize he was in.) Having taken him familiarly by the Hand, now she had made her self known to him, 'Cousin Lorenzo (added she) you may perhaps have taken it unkindly, that, during the time of your indisposition by reason of your Wounds, I have not been to visit you; I do assure you it was not for want of any Inclination I had both to see and serve you to my power; but you are well acquainted with the Severity of my Father, whom you know how lately you have disobliged. I am mighty glad that I have met with you here, where I have had an Opportunity to tell you what so much concerns your Safety, which I am afraid you will not find in Florence; considering the great Power Don Fabritio and his Father, the Marquess of Viterbo, have in this City. I have another thing to inform you of, That whereas Don Fabio had interested himself in your Cause, in Opposition to the Marquess of Viterbo, by reason of the long Animosity between them, all hopes of his Countenance and Assistance are defeated: For there has been a Proposal of Reconciliation made to both Houses, and it is said it will be confirm'd (as most such ancient Quarrels are at last) by the Marriage of Juliana the Marquess's Daughter, with Aurelian, Son to Don Fabio: to which effect the old Gentleman sent 'tother Day to Siena, where Aurelian has been Educated, to hasten his coming to Town; but the Messenger returning this Morning, brought word, That the same day he arriv'd at Siena, Aurelian had set out for Florence, in Company with a young Spanish Nobleman, his intimate Friend; so it is believ'd, they are both in Town, and not unlikely in this Room in Masquerade.
Hippolito could not forbear smiling to himself, at these last words. For ever since the naming of Don Fabio he had been very attentive; but before, his Thoughts were wholly taken up with the Beauty of the Face he had seen, and from the time she had taken him by the Hand, a successive warmth and chillness had play'd about his Heart, and surpriz'd him with an unusual Transport. He was in a hundred Minds, whether he should make her sensible of her Error or no; but considering he could expect no farther Conference with her after he should discover himself, and that as yet he knew not of her place of abode, he resolv'd to humour the mistake a little further. Having her still by the Hand, which he squeez'd somewhat more eagerly than is usual for Cousins to do, in a low and undistinguishable Voice, he let her know how much he held himself obliged to her, and avoiding as many words as handsomely he could, at the same time, entreated her to give him her Advice, toward the management of himself in this Affair. Leonora, who never from the beginning had entertain'd the least Scruple of distrust, imagined he spoke faintly, as not being yet perfectly recovered in his strength; and withal considering that the heat of the Room, by reason of the Crowd, might be uneasie to a Person in his Condition; she kindly told him, That if he were as inclinable to dispense with the remainder of that Nights Diversion as she was, and had no other engagement upon him, by her consent they should both steal out of the Assembly, and go to her House, where they might with more freedom discourse about a business of that importance, and where he might take something to refresh himself if he were (as she conceiv'd him to be) indisposed with his long standing. Judge you whether the Proposal were acceptable to Hippolito or no; he had been ruminating with himself how to bring something like this about, and had almost despair'd of it; when of a suddain he found the success of his design had prevented his own endeavours. He told his Cousin in the same key as before, That he was unwilling to be the occasion of her Divorce from so much good Company; but for his own part, he was afraid he had presumed too much upon his recovery in coming abroad so soon, and that he found himself so unwell, he feared he should be quickly forc'd to retire. Leonora stay'd not to make him any other reply, only tipp'd him upon the Arm, and bid him follow her at a convenient distance to avoid Observation.
Whoever had seen the Joy that was in Hippolito's Countenance, and the Sprightliness with which he follow'd his Beautiful Conductress, would scarce have taken him for a Person griev'd with uncured Wounds. She led him down a back pair of Stairs, into one of the Palace Gardens which had a Door opening into the Piazza, not far from where Don Mario her Father lived. They had little Discourse by the way, which gave Hippolito time to consider of the best way of discovering himself. A thousand things came into his Head in a minute, yet nothing that pleased him: and after so many Contrivances as he had formed for the discovery of himself, he found it more rational for him not to reveal himself at all that Night, since he could not foresee what effect the surprize would have, she must needs be in, at the appearance of a Stranger, whom she had never seen before, yet whom she had treated so familiarly. He knew Women were apt to shriek or swoon upon such Occasions, and should she happen to do either, he might be at a loss how to bring himself off. He thought he might easily pretend to be indisposed somewhat more than ordinary, and so make an excuse to go to his own Lodging. It came into his Head too, that under pretence of giving her an account of his Health, he might enquire of her the means how a Letter might be convey'd to her the next morning, wherein he might inform her gently of her mistake, and insinuate something of that Passion he had conceiv'd, which he was sure he could not have opportunity to speak of if he bluntly revealed himself. He had just resolv'd upon this Method, as they were come to the great Gates of the Court, when Leonora stopping to let him go in before her, he of a suddain fetch'd his Breath violently as if some stitch or twinging smart had just then assaulted him. She enquired the matter of him, and advised him to make haste into the House that he might sit down and rest him. He told her he found himself so ill, that he judged it more convenient for him to go home while he was in a condition to move, for he fear'd if he should once settle himself to rest he might not be able to stir. She was much troubled, and would have had a Chair made ready and Servants to carry him home; but he made answer, he would not have any of her Fathers Servants know of his being abroad, and that just now he had an interval of ease, which he hop'd would continue till he made a shift to reach his own Lodgings. Yet if she pleased to inform him how he might give an account of himself the next morning, in a line or two, he would not fail to give her the thanks due to her great kindness; and withal, would let her know something which would not a little surprize her, though now he had not time to acquaint her with it. She show'd him a little Window at the corner of the House, where one should wait to receive his Letter, and was just taking her leave of him, when seeing him search hastily in his Pocket, she ask'd him if he miss'd any thing; he told her he thought a Wound which was not throughly heal'd bled a little, and that he had lost his Handkerchief. His design took; for she immediately gave him hers: which indeed accordingly he apply'd to the only wound he was then griev'd with; which though it went quite through his Heart, yet thank God was not Mortal. He was not a little rejoyc'd at his good Fortune in getting so early a Favour from his Mistress, and notwithstanding the violence he did himself to personate a sick Man, he could not forbear giving some Symptoms of an extraordinary content; and telling her that he did not doubt to receive a considerable Proportion of ease from the Application of what had so often kiss'd her fair Hand. Leonora who did not suspect the Compliment, told him she should be heartily glad if that or any thing in her power might contribute to his recovery; and wishing him well home, went into her House, as much troubled for her Cousin as he was joyful for his Mistress.
Hippolito as soon as she was gone in, began to make his Remarks about the House, walking round the great Court, viewing the Gardens and all the Passages leading to that side of the Piazza. Having sufficiently informed himself, with a Heart full of Love, and a Head full of Stratagem, he walked toward his Lodging, impatient till the arrival of Aurelian that he might give himself vent. In which interim, let me take the liberty to digress a little, and tell the Reader something which I do not doubt he has apprehended himself long ago, if he be not the dullest Reader in the World; yet only for orders sake, let me tell him I say, That a young Gentleman (Cousin to the aforesaid Don Fabritio) happened one night to have some words at a Gameing House with one Lorenzo, which created a Quarrel of fatal Consequence to the former, who was killed upon the Spot, and likely to be so to the latter, who was very desperately wounded.
Fabritio being much concerned for his Kinsman, vow'd revenge (according to the ancient and laudable custom of Italy) upon Lorenzo if he surviv'd, or in case of his death (if it should happen to anticipate that, much more swinging Death which he had in store for him) upon his next of Kin, and so to descend Lineally like an English Estate, to all the Heirs Males of this Family. This same Fabritio had indeed (as Leonora told Hippolito) taken particular notice of him from his first entrance into the Room, and was so far doubtful as to go out immediately himself, and make enquiry concerning Lorenzo, but was quickly inform'd of the greatness of his Error, in believing a Man to be abroad, who was so ill of his Wounds, that they now despair'd of his recovery; and thereupon return'd to the Ball very well satisfied, but not before Leonora and Hippolito were departed.
So, Reader, having now discharg'd my Conscience of a small Discovery which I thought my self obliged to make to Thee, I proceed to tell thee, that our Friend Aurelian had by this time danced himself into a Net which he neither could, nor which is worse desired to untangle.
His Soul was charm'd to the movement of her Body: an Air so graceful, so sweet, so easie and so great, he had never seen. She had something of Majesty in her, which appear'd to be born with her; and though it struck an awe into the Beholders, yet was it sweetned with a familiarity of Behaviour, which rendred it agreeable to every Body. The grandeur of her Mien was not stiff, but unstudied and unforced, mixed with a simplicity; free, yet not loose nor affected. If the former seem'd to condescend, the latter seem'd to aspire; and both to unite in the centre of Perfection. Every turn she gave in dancing snatcht Aurelian into a Rapture, and he had like to have been out two or three times with following his Eyes, which she led about as Slaves to her Heels.
As soon as they had done dancing, he began to complain of his want of Breath and Lungs, to speak sufficiently in her Commendation; She smilingly told him, he did ill to dance so much then: Yet in Consideration of the pains he had taken more than ordinary upon her account she would bate him a great deal of Complement, but with this Proviso, That he was to discover to her who he was. Aurelian was unwilling for the present to own himself to be really the Man he was; when a suddain thought came into his Head to take upon him the Name and Character of Hippolito, who he was sure was not known in Florence. He thereupon, after a little pause, pretended to recal himself in this manner: 'Madam, it is no small demonstration of the entire Resignation which I have made of my Heart to your Chains, since the secrets of it are no longer in my power. I confess I only took Florence in my way, not designing any longer Residence, than should be requisite to inform the Curiosity of a Traveller, of the rareties of the Place. Whether Happiness or Misery will be the Consequence of that Curiosity, I am yet in fear, and submit to your Determination; but sure I am, not to depart Florence till you have made me the most miserable Man in it, and refuse me the fatal Kindness of Dying at your Feet. I am by Birth a Spaniard, of the City of Toledo; my name Hippolito di Saviolina: I was yesterday a Man free, as Nature made the first; to day I am fallen into a Captivity, which must continue with my Life, and which, it is in your power, to make much dearer to me. Thus in obedience to your Commands, and contrary to my Resolution of remaining unknown in this place, I have inform'd you, Madam, what I am; what I shall be, I desire to know from you; at least, I hope, the free discovery I have made of my self, will encourage you to trust me with the knowledge of your Person.
Here a low bow, and a deep sigh, put an end to his Discourse, and signified his Expectation of her Reply, which was to this purpose—(But I had forgot to tell you, That Aurelian kept off his Mask from the time that he told her he was of Spain, till the period of his Relation.) Had I thought (said she) that my Curiosity would have brought me in debt, I should certainly have forborn it; or at least have agreed with you before hand about the rate of your discovery, then I had not brought my self to the Inconveniency of being censur'd, either of too much easiness or reservedness; but to avoid, as much as I can, the extreamity of either, I am resolv'd but to discover my self in part, and will endeavour to give you as little occasion as I can, either to boast of, or ridicule the Behaviour of the Women of Florence in your Travels.
Aurelian interrupted her, and swore very solemnly (and the more heartily, I believe, because he then indeed spoke truth) that he would make Florence the place of his abode, whatever concerns he had elsewhere. She advised him to be cautious how he swore to his Expressions of Gallantry; and farther told him she now hoped she should make him a return to all the Fine Things he had said, since she gave him his choice whether he would know who she was, or see her Face.
Aurelian who was really in Love, and in whom Consideration would have been a Crime, greedily embrac'd the latter, since she assured him at that time he should not know both. Well, what follow'd? Why, she pull'd off her Mask, and appear'd to him at once in the Glory of Beauty. But who can tell the astonishment Aurelian felt? He was for a time senseless; Admiration had suppress'd his Speech, and his Eyes were entangled in Light. I short, to be made sensible of his condition, we must conceive some Idea of what he beheld, which is not to imagined till seen, nor then to be express'd. Now see the impertinence and conceitedness of an Author, who will have a fling at a Description, which he has Prefaced with an impossibility. One might have seen something in her Composition resembling the Formation of Epicurus his World, as if every Atome of Beauty had concurr'd to unite an excellency. Had that curious Painter lived in her days, he might have avoided his painful search, when he collected from the choicest pieces the most choice Features, and by a due Disposition and Judicious Symmetry of those exquisite parts, made one whole and perfect Venus. Nature seem'd here to have play'd the Plagiary, and to have molded into Substance the most refined Thoughts of inspired Poets. Her Eyes diffus'd Rays comfortable as warmth, and piercing as the light; they would have worked a passage through the straightest Pores, and with a delicious heat, have play'd about the most obdurate frozen Heart, untill 'twere melted down to Love. Such Majesty and Affability were in her Looks; so alluring, yet commanding was her Presence, that it minged awe with love; kindling a Flame which trembled to aspire. She had danced much, which, together with her being close masked, gave her a tincture of Carnation more than ordinary. But Aurelian (from whom I had every tittle of her Description) fancy'd he saw a little Nest of Cupids break from the Tresses of her Hair, and every one officiously betake himself to his task. Some fann'd with their downy Wings, her glowing Cheeks; while others brush'd the balmy Dew from off her Face, leaving alone a heavenly Moisture blubbing on her Lips, on which they drank and revell'd for their pains; Nay, so particular were their allotments in her service, that Aurelian was very positive a young Cupid who was but just Pen-feather'd, employ'd his naked Quills to pick her Teeth. And a thousand other things his transport represented to him, which none but Lovers who have experience of such Visions will believe.
As soon as he awaked and found his Speech come to him, he employ'd it to this effect:
''Tis enough that I have seen a Divinity—Nothing but Mercy can inhabit these Perfections—Their utmost rigour brings a Death preferable to any Life, but what they give—Use me, Madam, as you please; for by your fair self, I cannot think a Bliss beyond what now I feel—You wound with Pleasure, and if you Kill it must be with Transport—Ah! Yet methinks to live—O Heaven! to have Life pronounced by those Bless'd Lips—Did they not inspire where they command, it were an immediate Death of Joy.
Aurelian was growing a little too loud with his Admiration, had she not just then interrupted him, by clapping on her Masque, and telling him they should be observed, if he proceeded in his Extravagance; and withal, that his Passion was too suddain to be real, and too violent to be lasting. He replied, Indeed it might not be very lasting, (with a submissive mournful Voice) but it would continue during his Life. That it was suddain, he denied, for she had raised it by degrees from his first sight of her, by a continued discovery of Charms, in her Mien and Conversation, till she thought fit to set Fire to the Train she had laid, by the Lightning of her Face; and then he could not help it, if he were blown up.
He begg'd her to believe the Sincerity of his Passion, at least to enjoin him something, which might tend to the Convincing of her Incredulity. She said, she should find a time to make some Trials of him; but for the first, she charged him not to follow or observe her, after the Dissolution of the Assembly. He promised to obey, and entreated her to tell him but her Name, that he might have Recourse to that in his Affliction for her Absence, if he were able to survive it. She desired him to live by all means; and if he must have a Name to play with, to call her Incognita, till he were better informed.
The Company breaking up, she took her leave, and at his earnest Entreaty, gave him a short Vision of her Face which, then dress'd in an obliging smile, caused another fit of Transport, which lasted till she was gone out of Sight. Aurelian gathered up his Spirits, and walked slowly towards his Lodging, never remembring that he had lost Hippolito, till upon turning the Corner of a Street, he heard a noise of Fighting; and coming near, saw a Man make a vigorous Defence against two, who pressed violently upon him. He then thought of Hippolito, and fancying he saw the glimmering of Diamond Buttons, such as Hippolito had upon the Sleeves of his Habit, immediately drew to his Assistance; and with that Eagerness and Resolution, that the Assailants, finding their unmanly odds defeated, took to their Heels. The Person rescued by the Generous Help of Aurelian, came toward him; but as he would have stoop'd to have saluted him, dropp'd, fainting at his feet. Aurelian, now he was so near him, perceiv'd plainly Hippolito's Habit, and step'd hastily to take him up. Just as some of the Guards (who were going the Rounds, apprehensive of such Disorders in an Universal Merriment) came up to him with Lights, and had taken Prisoners the Two Men, whom they met with their Sword's drawn; when looking in the Face of the Wounded Man, he found it was not Hippolito, but his Governour Claudio, in the Habit he had worn at the Ball. He was extreamly surpriz'd, as were the Prisoners, who confess'd their Design to have been upon Lorenzo; grounding their Mistake upon the Habit which was known to have been his. They were Two Men who formerly had been Servants to him, whom Lorenzo had unfortunately slain.
They made a shift to bring Claudio to himself; and part of the Guard carrying off the Prisoners, whom Aurelian desired they would secure, the rest accompanied him bearing Claudio in their Arms to his Lodging. He had not patience to forbear asking for Hippolito by the Way; whom Claudio assured him, he had left safe in his Chamber, above Two Hours since. That his coming Home so long before the Divertisements were ended, and Undressing himself, had given him the Unhappy Curiosity, to put on his Habit, and go to the Pallace; in his Return from whence, he was set upon in the Manner he found him, which if he recovered, he must own his Life indebted to his timely Assistance.
Being come to the House, they carried him to his Bed, and having sent for Surgeons Aurelian rewarded and dismissed the Guard. He stay'd the dressing of Claudio's Wounds, which were many, though they hop'd none Mortal: and leaving him to his Rest, went to give Hippolito an Account of what had happened, whom he found with a Table before him, leaning upon both his Elbows, his Face covered with his Hands, and so motionless, that Aurelian concluded he was asleep; seeing several Papers lie before him, half written and blotted out again, he thought to steal softly to the Table, and discover what he had been employed about. Just as he reach'd forth his Hand to take up one of the Papers, Hippolito started up so on the suddain, as surpriz'd Aurelian and made him leap back; Hippolito, on the other hand, not supposing that any Body had been near him, was so disordered with the Appearance of a Man at his Elbow, (whom his Amazement did not permit him to distinguish) that he leap'd hastily to his Sword, and in turning him about, overthrew the Stand and Candles. Here were they both left in the Dark, Hippolito groping about with his Sword, and thrusting at every Chair that he felt oppose him. Aurelian was scarce come to himself, when thinking to step back toward the Door that he might inform his Friend of his Mistake, without exposing himself to his blind Fury; Hippolito heard him stir, and made a full thrust with such Violence, that the Hilt of the Sword meeting with Aurelian's Breast beat him down, and Hippolito a top of him, as a Servant alarm'd with the noise, came into the Chamber with a Light. The Fellow trembled, and thought they were both Dead, till Hippolito raising himself, to see whom he had got under him, swoon'd away upon the discovery of his Friend. But such was the extraordinary Care of Providence in directing the Sword, that it only past under his Arm, giving no Wound to Aurelia, but a little Bruise between his Shoulder and Breast with the Hilt. He got up, scarce recovered of his Fright, and by the help of the Servant; laid Hippolito upon the Bed; who when he was come to himself could hardly be perswaded, that his Friend was before him and alive, till he shew'd him his Breast, where was nothing of a Wound. Hippolito begg'd his Pardon a Thousand Times, and curs'd himself as often, who was so near to committing the most Execrable Act of Amicide.
They dismiss'd the Fellow, and with many Embraces, congratulated their fortunate Delivery from the Mischief which came so near them, each blaming himself as the Occasion: Aurelian accusing his own unadvisedness in stealing upon Hippolito; Hippolito blaming his own temerity and weakness, in being so easily frighted to Disorder; and last of all, his blindness, in not knowing his dearest Friend. But there he gave a Sigh, and passionately taking Aurelian by the Hand, cry'd, Ah! my Friend, Love is indeed blind, when it would not suffer me to see you—There arose another Sigh; a Sympathy seiz'd Aurelian immediately: (For, by the Way, sighing is as catching among Lovers, as yawning among the Vulgar.) Beside hearing the Name of Love, made him fetch such a Sigh, that Hippolito's were but Fly-blows in Comparison, that was answered with all the Might Hippolito had, Aurelian ply'd him close till they were both out of Breath.
Thus not a Word pass'd, though each wondred why the t'other sigh'd, at last concluded it to be only Complaisance to one another.
Aurelian broke the Silence, by telling him the Misfortune of his Governour. Hippolito rejoic'd as at the luckiest Accident which could have befall'n him. Aurelian wondred at his unseasonable Mirth, and demanded the Cause of it; he answer'd, It would necessitate his longer Stay in Florence, and for ought he knew be the Means of bringing a happy Period to his Amour.
His Friend thought him to be little better than a Madman, when he perceiv'd him of a suddain snatch out of his Bosom a Handkerchief, which having kiss'd with a great deal of Ardour, he took Aurelian by the Hand, and smiling at the Surprize he saw him in;
'Your Florentine Cupid is certainly (said he) 'the most Expert in the World. I have since I saw you beheld the most Beautiful of Women. I am faln desperately in Love with her, and those Papers which you see so blotted and scattered, are but so many Essays which I have made to the Declaration of my Passion. And this Handkerchief which I so zealously Caress, is the Inestimable Token which I have to make my self known to her. 'O Leonora! (continued he) 'how hast thou stamp'd thine Image on my Soul! How much dearer am I to my self, since I have had thy Heavenly Form in keeping! Now, my Aurelian, I am worthy thee; my exalted Love has Dignified me, and rais'd me far above thy poor former Despicable Hippolito.
Aurelian seeing the Rapture he was in, thought it in vain to expect a settled Relation of the Adventure, so was reaching to the Table for some of the Papers, but Hippolito told him, If he would have a little patience he would acquaint him with the whole Matter; and thereupon told him Word for Word how he was mistaken for Lorenzo, and his Management of himself. Aurelian commended his Prudence, in not discovering himself; and told him, If he could spare so much time from the Contemplation of his Mistress, he would inform him of an Adventure, though not so Accidental, yet of as great Concern to his own future Happiness. So related all that had happened to him with his Beautiful Incognita.
Having ended the Story, they began to consider of the Means they were to use toward a Review of their Mistresses. Aurelian was Confounded at the Difficulty he conceived on his Part. He understood from Hippolito's Adventure, that his Father knew of his being in Town, whom he must unavoidably Disoblige if he yet concealed himself, and Disobey if he came into his Sight; for he had already entertain'd an Aversion for Juliana, in apprehension of her being Imposed on him. His Incognita was rooted in his Heart, yet could he not Comfort himself with any Hopes when he should see her: He knew not where she lived, and she had made him no Promise of a second Conference. Then did he repent his inconsiderate Choice, in preferring the momentary Vision of her Face, to a certain Intelligence of her Person. Every thought that succeeded distracted him, and all the Hopes he could presume upon, were within compass of the Two Days Merriment yet to come; for which Space he hop'd he might excuse his remaining conceal'd to his Father.
Hippolito on the other side (though Aurelian thought him in a much better Way) was no less afflicted for himself. The Difficulties which he saw in his Friend's Circumstances, put him upon finding out a great many more in his own, than really there were. But what terrified him most of all, was his being an utter Stranger to Leonora; she had not the least knowledge of him but through mistake, and consequently could form no Idea of him to his Advantage. He look'd upon it as an unlucky thought in Aurelian to take upon him his Name, since possibly the Two Ladies were acquainted, and should they communicate to each other their Adventures; they might both reasonably suffer in their Opinions, and be thought guilty of Falshood, since it would appear to them as One Person pretending to Two. Aurelian told him, there was but one Remedy for that, which was for Hippolito, in the same Manner that he had done, to make use of his Name, when he writ to Leonora, and use what arguments he could to perswade her to Secrecy, least his Father should know of the Reason which kept him concealed in Town. And it was likely, though perhaps she might not immediately entertain his Passion; yet she would out of Generosity conceal, what was hidden only for her sake.
Well this was concluded on, after a great many other Reasons used on either Side, in favour of the Contrivance; they at last argued themselves into a Belief, that Fortune had befriended them with a better Plot, than their regular Thinking could have contriv'd. So soon had they convinc'd themselves, in what they were willing to believe.
Aurelian laid himself down to rest, that is, upon the Bed; for he was a better Lover than to pretend to sleep that Night, while Hippolito set himself again to frame his Letter design'd for Leonora. He writ several, at last pitched upon one, and very probably the worst, as you may guess when you read it in its proper Place.
It was break of Day when the Servant, who had been employed all the foregoing Day in procuring Accoutrements for the Two Cavaliers, to appear in at the Tilting, came into the Room, and told them all the Young Gentlemen in the Town were trying their Equipage, and preparing to be early in the Lists. They made themselves ready with all Expedition at the Alarm: and Hippolito having made a Visit to his Governour, dispatch'd a Messenger with the Letter and Directions to Leonora. At the Signal agreed upon the Casement was opened and a String let down, to which the Bearer having fastned the Letter, saw it drawn up, and returned. It were a vain attempt to describe Leonora's Surprize, when she read the Superscription.—The Unfortunate Aurelian, to the Beautiful Leonora—After she was a little recovered from her Amaze, she recollected to her self all the Passages between her and her supposed Cousin, and immediately concluded him to be Aurelian. Then several little Circumstances which she thought might have been sufficient to have convinced her, represented themselves to her; and she was in a strange Uneasiness to think of her free Carriage to a Stranger.
She was once in a Mind to have burn'd the Letter, or to have stay'd for an Opportunity to send it again. But she was a Woman, and her Curiosity opposed it self to all thoughts of that Nature: at length with a firm Resolution, she opened it, and found Word for Word, what is underwritten.
If your fair Eyes, upon the breaking up of this, meet with somewhat too quick a Surprize, make thence, I beseech you, some reflection upon the Condition I must needs have been in, at the suddain Appearance of that Sun of Beauty, which at once shone so full upon my soul. I could not immediately disengage my self from that Maze of Charms, to let you know how unworthy a Captive your Eyes had made through mistake. Sure, Madam, you cannot but remember my Disorder, of which your Innocent (Innocent, though perhaps to me Fatal) Error made a Charitable (but wide) Construction. Your Tongue pursued the Victory of your Eyes, and you did not give me time to rally my poor Disordered Senses, so as to make a tolerable Retreat. Pardon, Madam, the Continuation of the Deceipt, and call it not so, that I appear'd to be other than my self; for Heaven knows I was not then my self, nor am I now my own. You told me something that concern'd me nearly, as to a Marriage my Father design'd me, and much more nearly in being told by you. For Heaven's sake, disclose not to any Body your Knowledge of me, that I may not be forced to an immediate Act of Disobedience; for if my future Services and inviolate Love, cannot recommend me to your Favour, I shall find more comfort in the cold Embraces of a Grave, than in the Arms of the never so much admired (but by me dreaded) Juliana. Think, Madam, of those severe Circumstances I lie under; and withal I beg you, think it is in your Power, and only in your Power, to make them happy as my Wishes, or much more miserable than I am able to imagine. That dear, inestimable (though undesign'd) Favour which I receiv'd from you, shall this Day distinguish me from the Crowd of your Admirers; that which I really applied to my inward bleeding Wound, the welcom Wound which you have made, and which, unless from you, does wish no Cure; then pardon and have pity on, O Adored Leonora, him, who is your's by Creation as he is Heaven's, though never so unworthy. Have pity on
She read the Letter over and over, then flung it by, then read it again; the Novelty of the Adventure made her repeat her Curiosity, and take more than ordinary Pains to understand it. At last her Familiarity with the Expressions grew to an Intimacy, and what she at first permitted she now began to like. She thought there was something in it a little more serious, than to be barely Gallantry. She wondred at her own Blindness, and fancy'd she could remember something of a more becoming Air in the Stranger than was usual to Lorenzo. This thought was parent to another of the same kind, till a long Chain successively had Birth, and every one somewhat more than other, in Favour of the supposed Aurelian. She reflected upon his Discretion, in deferring the Discovery of himself, till a little time had, as it were, weaned her from her perswasion, and by removing her farther from her Mistake, had prepared her for a full and determinate Convincement. She thought his Behaviour, in personating a Sick Man so readily, upon the first hint was not amiss, and smil'd to think of his Excuse to procure her Handkerchief; and last of all, his sifting out the Means to write to her, which he had done with that Modesty and Respect, she could not tell how to find fault with it.
She had proceeded thus far in a maze of Thought, when she started to find her self so lost to her Reason, and would have trod back again that path of deluding Fancy; accusing her self of Fondness, and inconsiderate Easiness, in giving Credit to the Letter of a Person whose Face she never saw, and whose first Acquaintance with her was a Treachery, and he who could so readily deliver his Tongue of a Lye upon a Surprize, was scarce to be trusted when he had sufficient Time allow'd him to beget a Fiction, and Means to perfect the Birth.
How did she know this to be Aurelian, if he were? Nay farther, put it to the Extremity, What if she should upon farther Conversation with him proceed to Love him? What Hopes were there for her? Or how could she consent to Marry a Man already Destined for another Woman? nay, a Woman that was her Friend, whose Marrying with him was to compleat the happy Reconciliation of Two Noble Families, and which might prevent the Effusion of much Blood likely to be shed in that Quarrel: Besides, she should incurr share of the Guilt, which he would draw upon him by Disobedience to his Father, whom she was sure would not be consenting to it.
'Tis strange now, but all Accounts agree, that just here Leonora, who had run like a violent Stream against Aurelian hitherto, now retorted with as much precipitation in his Favour. I could never get any Body to give me a satisfactory reason, for her suddain and dextrous Change of Opinion just at that stop, which made me conclude she could not help it; and that Nature boil'd over in her at that time when it had so fair an Opportunity to show it self: For Leonora it seems was a Woman Beautiful, and otherwise of an excellent Disposition; but in the Bottom a very Woman. This last Objection, this Opportunity of perswading Man to Disobedience, determined the Matter in Favour of Aurelian, more than all his Excellencies and Qualifications, take him as Aurelian, or Hippolito, or both together.
Well, the Spirit of Contradiction and of Eve was strong in her; and she was in a fair Way to Love Aurelian, for she lik'd him already; that it was Aurelian she no longer doubted, for had it been a Villain, who had only taken his Name upon him for any ill Designs, he would never have slip'd so favourable an Opportunity as when they were alone and in the Night coming through the Garden and broad Space before the Piazza. In short, thus much she resolv'd, at least to conceal the Knowledge she had of him, as he had entreated her in his Letter, and to make particular Remarks of his Behaviour that Day in the Lists, which should it happen to Charm her with an absolute liking of his Person, she resolv'd to dress her self to the best Advantage, and mustering up all her Graces, out of pure Revenge to kill him down right.
I would not have the Reader now be impertinent, and look upon this to be force, or a whim of the Author's, that a Woman should proceed so far in her Approbation of a Man whom she never saw, that it is impossible, therefore ridiculous to suppose it. Let me tell such a Critick, that he knows nothing of the Sex, if he does not know that Woman may be taken with the Character and Description of a Man, when general and extraordinary, that she may be prepossess'd with an agreeable Idea of his Person and Conversation; and though she cannot imagine his real Features, or manner of Wit, yet she has a general Notion of what is call'd a fine Gentleman, and is prepar'd to like such a one who does not disagree with that Character. Aurelian, as he bore a very fair Character, so was he extreamly deserving to make it good, which otherways might have been to his prejudice; for oftentimes, through an imprudent Indulgence to our Friends merit, we give so large a Description of his excellencies, that People make more room in their Expectation, than the Intrinsick worth of the Man will fill, which renders him so much the more despicable as there is emptyness to spare. 'Tis certain, though the Women seldom find that out; for though they do not see so much in a Man as was promised, yet they will be so kind to imagine he has some hidden excellencies; which time may discover to them, so are content to allow, him a considerable share of their esteem, and take him into Favour upon Tick. Aurelian as he had good Credit, so he had a good Stock to support it, and his Person was a good promising Security for the payment of any Obligation he could lie under to the Fair Sex. Hippolito, who at this time was our Aurelian, did not at all lessen him in appearing for him: So that although Leonora was indeed mistaken, she could not be said to be much in the wrong. I could find in my Heart to beg the Reader's pardon for this Digression, if I thought he would be sensible of the Civility; for I promise him, I do not intend to do it again throughout the Story, though I make never so many, and though he take them never so ill. But because I began this upon a bare Supposition of his Impertinence, which might be somewhat impertinent in me to suppose, I do, and hope to make him amends by telling him, that by the time Leonora was dress'd, several Ladies of her acquaintance came to accompany her to the place designed for the Tilting, where we will leave them drinking Chocholate till 'tis time for them to go.
Our Cavaliers had by good Fortune provided themselves of two curious Suits of light Armour, finely enammelled and gilt. Hippolito had sent to Poggio Imperiale for a couple of fine led Horses which he had left there with the rest of his Train at his entrance into Florence. Mounted on these and every way well Equipt, they took their way, attended only by two Lacqueys, toward the Church di Santa Croce, before which they were to perform their Exercises of Chivalry. Hippolito wore upon his Helm a large Plume of Crimson Feathers, in the midst of which was artificially placed Leonora's Handkerchief. His Armour was gilt, and enammell'd with Green and Crimson. Aurelian was not so happy as to wear any token to recommend him to the notice of his Mistress, so had only a Plume of Sky- colour and White Feathers, suitable to his Armour, which was Silver enammelled with Azure. I shall not describe the Habits of any other Cavaliers, or of the Ladies; let it suffice to tell the Reader they were all very Fine and very Glorious, and let him dress them in what is most agreeable to his own Fancy.
Our Gallants entred the Lists, and having made their Obeysance to his Highness, turned round to salute and view the Company. The Scaffold was circular, so that there was no end of the Delightful Prospect. It seem'd a Glory of Beauty which shone around the admiring Beholders. Our Lovers soon perceived the Stars which were to Rule their Destiny, which sparkled a lustre beyond all the inferiour Constellations, and seem'd like two Suns to distribute Light to all the Planets in that Heavenly Sphere. Leonora knew her Slave by his Badge and blushed till the Lilies and Roses in her cheeks had resemblance to the Plume of Crimson and White Handkerchief in Hippolito's Crest. He made her a low bow, and reined his Horse back with an extraordinary Grace, into a respectful retreat. Aurelian saw his Angel, his beautiful Incognita, and had no other way to make himself known to her, but by saluting and bowing to her after the Spanish mode; she guess'd him by it to be her new Servant Hippolito, and signified her apprehension, by making him a more particular and obliging return, than to any of the Cavaliers who had saluted her before.
The Exercise that was to be perform'd was in general a running at the Ring; and afterwards two Cavaliers undertook to defend the Beauty of Donna Catharina, against all who would not allow her preheminence of their Mistresses. This thing was only designed for show and form, none presuming that any body would put so great an affront upon the Bride and Duke's Kinswoman, as to dispute her pretentions to the first place in the Court of Venus. But here our Cavaliers were under a mistake; for seeing a large Shield carry'd before two Knights, with a Lady painted upon it; not knowing who, but reading the Inscription which was (in large Gold Letters) Above the Insolence of Competition. They thought themselves obliged, especially in the presence of their Mistresses, to vindicate their Beauty; and were just spurring on to engage the Champions, when a Gentleman stopping them, told them their mistake, that it was the Picture of Donna Catharina, and a particular Honour done to her by his Highness's Commands, and not to be disputed. Upon this they would have returned to their Post, much concerned for their mistake; but notice being taken by Don Ferdinand of some Show of Opposition that was made, he would have begged leave of the Duke, to have maintained his Lady's Honour against the Insolence of those Cavaliers; but the Duke would by no means permit it. They were arguing about it when one of them came up, before whom the Shield was born, and demanded his Highness's Permission, to inform those Gentlemen better of their mistake, by giving them the Foyl. By the Intercession of Don Ferdinand, leave was given them; whereupon a Civil Challenge was sent to the two Strangers, informing them of their Error, and withal telling them they must either maintain it by force of Arms, or make a publick acknowledgment by riding bare headed before the Picture once round the Lists. The Stranger-Cavaliers remonstrated to the Duke how sensible they were of their Error, and though they would not justifie it, yet they could not decline the Combate, being pressed to it beyond an honourable refusal. To the Bride they sent a Complement, wherein, having first begg'd her pardon for not knowing her Picture, they gave her to understand, that now they were not about to dispute her undoubted right to the Crown of Beauty, but the honour of being her Champions was the Prize they fought for, which they thought themselves as able to maintain as any other Pretenders. Wherefore they pray'd her, that if fortune so far befriended their endeavours as to make them Victors, that they might receive no other Reward, but to be crown'd with the Titles of their Adversaries, and be ever after esteem'd as her most humble Servants. The excuse was so handsomely designed, and much better express'd than it is here, that it took effect. The Duke, Don Ferdinand and his Lady were so well satisfied with it as to grant their Request.
While the running at the Ring lasted, our Cavaliers alternately bore away great share of the Honour. That Sport ended, Marshals were appointed for the Field, and every thing in great form settled for the Combat. The Cavaliers were all in good earnest, but orders were given to bring 'em blunted Lances, and to forbid the drawing of a Sword upon pain of his Highness's Displeasure. The Trumpets sounded and they began their Course: The Ladies' Hearts, particularly the Incognita and Leonora's beat time to the Horses Hoofs, and hope and fear made a mock Fight within their tender Breasts, each wishing and doubting success where she lik'd: But as the generality of their Prayers were for the graceful Strangers, they accordingly succeeded. Aurelian's Adversary was unhorsed in the first Encounter, and Hippolito's lost both Stirrups and dropt his Lance to save himself. The Honour of the Field was immediately granted to them, and Don Catharina sent them both Favours, which she pray'd them to wear as her Knights. The Crowd breaking up, our Cavaliers made a shift to steal off unmarked, save by the watchful Leonora and Incognita, whose Eyes were never off from their respective Servants. There was enquiry made for them, but to no purpose; for they to prevent their being discovered had prepared another House, distant from their Lodging, where a Servant attended to disarm them, and another carried back their Horses to the Villa, while they walked unsuspected to their Lodging; but Incognita had given command to a Page to dog 'em till the Evening, at a distance, and bring her word where they were latest housed.
While several Conjectures pass'd among the Company, who were all gone to Dinner at the Palace, who those Cavaliers should be, Don Fabio thought himself the only Man able to guess; for he knew for certain that his Son and Hippolito were both in Town, and was well enough pleased with his humour of remaining Incognito till the Diversions should be over, believing then that the surprize of his Discovery would add much to the Gallantry he had shown in Masquerade; but hearing the extraordinary liking that every body express'd, and in a particular manner, the great Duke himself, to the Persons and Behaviour of the unknown Cavaliers, the Old Gentleman could not forbear the Vanity to tell his Highness, that he believed he had an interest in one of the Gentlemen, whom he was pleased to honour with so favourable a Character; and told him what reason he had to believe the one to be his Son, and the other a Spanish Nobleman, his Friend.
This discovery having thus got vent, was diffused like Air; every body suck'd it in, and let it out again with their Breath to the next they met withal; and in half an hours time it was talked of in the House where our Adventurers were lodged. Aurelian was stark mad at the News, and knew what search would be immediately made for him. Hippolito, had he not been desperately in Love, would certainly have taken Horse and rid out of Town just then, for he could make no longer doubt of being discovered, and he was afraid of the just Exceptions Leonora might make to a Person who had now deceived her twice. Well, we will leave them both fretting and contriving to no purpose, to look about and see what was done at the Palace, where their doom was determined much quicker than they imagined.
Dinner ended, the Duke retired with some chosen Friends to a Glass of Wine; among whom were the Marquess of Viterbo and Don Fabio. His Highness was no Stranger to the long Fewd that had been between the two Families, and also understood what Overtures of Reconciliation had been lately made, with the Proposals of Marriage between Aurelian and the Marquess's Daughter. Having waited till the Wine had taken the effect proposed, and the Company were raised to an uncommon pitch of Chearfulness, which he also encouraged by an Example of Freedom and Good Humour, he took an opportunity of rallying the two grave Signiors into an Accommodation: That was seconded with the praises of the young Couple, and the whole Company joined in a large Encomium upon the Graces of Aurelian and the Beauties of Juliana. The old Fellows were tickled with Delight to hear their Darlings so admired, which the Duke perceiving, out of a Principle of Generosity and Friendship, urged the present Consummation of the Marriage; telling them there was yet one day of publick Rejoycing to come, and how glad he should be to have it improved by so acceptable an Alliance; and what an honour it would be to have his Cousin's Marriage attended by the Conjunction of so extraordinary a Pair, the performance of which Ceremony would crown the Joy that was then in Agitation, and make the last day vie for equal Glory and Happiness with the first. In short, by the Complaisant and Perswasive Authority of the Duke, the Dons were wrought into a Compliance, and accordingly embraced and shook Hands upon the Matter. This News was dispersed like the former, and Don Fabio gave orders for the enquiring out his Son's Lodging, that the Marquess and he might make him a Visit, as soon as he had acquainted Juliana with his purpose, that she might prepare her self. He found her very chearful with Donna Catharina and several other Ladies; whereupon the old Gentleman, pretty well warmed with the Duke's Goodfellowship, told her aloud he was come to crown their Mirth with another Wedding; that his Highness had been pleased to provide a Husband for his Daughter, and he would have her provide her self to receive him to-morrow. All the Company at first, as well as Juliana her self, thought he had rally'd, till the Duke coming in confirmed the serious part of his Discourse. Juliana was confounded at the haste that was imposed on her, and desired a little time to consider what she was about. But the Marquess told her, she should have all the rest of her Life to consider in; that Aurelian should come and consider with her in the Morning, if she pleased; but in the mean time, he advised her to go home and call her Maids to Counsel.
Juliana took her leave of the Company very gravely, as if not much delighted with her Father's Rallery. Leonora happened to be by, and heard all that passed; she was ready to swoon, and found her self seized with a more violent Passion than ever for Aurelian: Now upon her apprehensions of losing him, her active fancy had brought him before her with all the advantages imaginable, and though she had before found great tenderness in her Inclination toward him, yet was she somewhat surprized to find she really lov'd him. She was so uneasie at what she had heard, that she thought it convenient to steal out of the presence and retire to her Closet, to bemoan her unhappy helpless Condition.
Our Two Cavalier-Lovers had rack'd their Invention till it was quite disabled, and could not make discovery of one Contrivance more for their Relief. Both sat silent, each depending upon his Friend, and still expecting when t'other should speak. Night came upon them while they sate thus thoughtless, or rather drowned in Thought; but a Servant bringing Lights into the Room awakened them: And Hippolito's Speech, usher'd by a profound Sigh, broke Silence.
'Well! (said he) what must we do, Aurelian? We must suffer, replied Aurelian faintly. When immediately raising his Voice, he cry'd out, 'Oh ye unequal Powers, why do ye urge us to desire what ye doom us to forbear; give us a Will to chuse, then curb us with a Duty to restrain that Choice! Cruel Father, Will nothing else suffice! Am I to be the Sacrifice to expiate your Offences past; past ere I was born? Were I to lose my Life, I'd gladly Seal your Reconcilement with my Blood. 'But Oh my Soul is free, you have no Title to my Immortal Being, that has Existence independent of your Power; and must I lose my Love, the Extract of that Being, the Joy, Light, Life, and Darling of my Soul? No, I'll own my Flame, and plead my Title too.—But hold, wretched Aurelian, hold, whither does thy Passion hurry thee? Alas! the cruel fair Incognita Loves thee not! She knows not of thy Love! If she did, what Merit hast thou to pretend?—Only Love.—Excess of Love. And all the World has that. All that have seen her. Yet I had only seen her once, and in that once I lov'd above the World; nay, lov'd beyond my self, such vigorous Flame, so strong, so quick she darted at my Breast; it must rebound, and by Reflection, warm her self. Ah! welcome Thought, lovely deluding Fancy, hang still upon my Soul, let me but think, that once she Loves and perish my Despair.
Here a suddain stop gave a Period also to Hippolito's Expectation, and he hoped now that his Friend had given his Passion so free a vent, he might recollect and bethink himself of what was convenient to be done; but Aurelia, as if he had mustered up all his Spirits purely to acquit himself of that passionate Harangue, stood mute and insensible like an Alarum Clock, that had spent all its force in one violent Emotion. Hippolito shook him by the Arm to rouze him from his Lethargy, when his Lacquey coming into the Room, out of Breath, told him there was a Coach just stopp'd at the Door, but he did not take time to who came in it. Aurelian concluded immediately it was his Father in quest of him; and without saying any more to Hippolito, than that he was Ruined if discovered, took his Sword and slipp'd down a back pair of Stairs into the Garden, from whence he conveyed himself into the Street. Hippolito had not bethought himself what to do, before he perceiv'd a Lady come into the Chamber close veil'd, and make toward him. At the first Appearance of a Woman, his Imagination flattered him with a Thought of Leonora; but that was quickly over upon nearer Approach to the Lady, who had much the Advantage in Stature of his Mistress. He very civilly accosted her, and asked if he were the Person to whom the Honour of that Visit was intended. She said, her Business was with Don Hippolito di Saviolina, to whom she had Matter of Concern to import, and which required haste. He had like to have told her, That he was the Man, but by good Chance reflecting upon his Friend's Adventure, who had taken his name, he made Answer, that he believed Don Hippolito not far off, and if she had a Moments Patience he would enquire for him.
He went out, leaving the Lady in the Room, and made search all round the House and Garden for Aurelian, but to no purpose. The Lady impatient of his long stay took a Pen and Ink and some Paper which she found upon the Table, and had just made an End of her Letter, when hearing a Noise of more than one coming up Stairs, she concluded his Friend had found him, and that her Letter would be to no purpose, so tore it in pieces, which she repented; when turning about, she found her Mistake, and beheld Don Fabio and the Marquess of Viterbo just entring at the Door. She gave a Shriek at the Surprize of their Appearance, which much troubled the Old Gentlemen, and made them retire in Confusion for putting a Gentlewoman into such a Fright. The Marquess thinking they had been misinformed, or had mistaken the Lodgings, came forward again, and made an Apology to the Lady for their Errour; but she making no reply, walk'd directly by him down Stairs and went into her Coach, which hurried her away as speedily as the Horses were able to draw.
The Dons were at a loss what to think, when, Hippolito coming into the Room to give the Lady an Account of his Errant, was no less astonished to find she was departed, and had left Two Old Signiors in her stead. He knew Don Fabio's Face, for Aurelian had shewn him his Father at the Tilting; but being confident he was not known to him, he ventur'd to ask him concerning a Lady whom just now he had left in that Chamber. Don Fabio told him, she was just gone down, and doubted they had been Guilty of a Mistake, in coming to enquire for a Couple of Gentlemen whom they were informed were Lodged in that House; he begg'd his Pardon if he had any Relation to that Lady, and desired to know if he could give them any Account of the Persons they sought for. Hippolito made answer, He was a Stranger in the Place, and only a Servant to that Lady whom they had disturb'd, and whom he must go and seek out. And in this Perplexity he left them, going again in Search of Aurelian, to inform him of what had passed.
The Old Gentlemen at last meeting with a Servant of the House, were directed to Signior Claudio's Chamber, where they were no sooner entered but Aurelian came into the House. A Servant who had skulk'd for him by Hippolito's Order, followed him up into the Chamber, and told him who was with Claudio then making Enquiry for him. He thought that to be no Place for him, since Claudio must needs discover all the Truth to his Father; wherefore he left Directions with the Servant, where Hippolito should meet him in the Morning. As he was going out of the Room he espied the torn Paper, which the Lady had thrown upon the Floor: The first piece he took up had Incognita written upon it; the sight of which so Alarum'd him, he scarce knew what he was about; but hearing a Noise of a Door opening over Head, with as much Care as was consistent with the haste he was then in, he gathered up scattered pieces of Paper, and betook himself to a Ramble.
Coming by a Light which hung at the Corner of a Street, he join'd the torn Papers and collected thus much, that Incognita had Written the Note, and earnestly desired (if there were any reality in what he pretended to her) to meet her at Twelve a Clock that Night at a Convent Gate; but unluckily the Bit of Paper which should have mentioned what Convent, was broken off and lost.
Here was a large Subject for Aurelian's Passion, which he did not spare to pour forth in Abundance of Curses on his Stars. So earnest was he in the Contemplation of his Misfortunes, that he walk'd on unwittingly; till at length Silence (and such as was only to be found in that part the Town, whither his unguided Steps had carried him) surpriz'd his Attention. I say, a profound Silence rouzed him from his Thought; and a clap of Thunder could have done no more.
Now because it is possible this at some time or other may happen to be read by some Malicious or Ignorant Person, (no Reflection upon the present Reader) who will not admit, or does not understand that Silence should make a Man start; and have the same Effect, in provoking his Attention, with its opposite Noise; I will illustrate this matter, to such a diminutive Critick, by a Parallel Instance of Light; which though it does chiefly entertain the Eyes, and is indeed the prime Object of the Sight, yet should it immediately cease, to have a Man left in the Dark by a suddain deficiency of it, would make him stare with his Eyes, and though he could not see, endeavour to look about him. Why just thus did it fare with our Adventurer; who seeming to have wandred both into the Dominions of Silence and of Night, began to have some tender for his own Safety, and would willingly have groped his Way back again; when he heard a Voice, as from a Person whose Breath had been stopp'd by some forcible Oppression, and just then, by a violent Effort, was broke through the Restraint.—'Yet—Yet—(again reply'd the Voice, still struggling for Air,) 'Forbear—and I'll forgive what's past—I have done nothing yet that needs a Pardon, (says another) and what is to come, will admit of none.
Here the Person who seemed to be the Oppressed, made several Attempts to speak, but they were only inarticulate Sounds, being all interrupted and choaked in their Passage.
Aurelian was sufficiently astonish'd, and would have crept nearer to the Place whence he guessed the Voice to come; but he was got among the Runes of an Old Monastery, and could not stir so silently, but some loose Stones he met with made a rumbling. The Noise alarm'd both Parties; and as it gave Comfort to the one, it so Terrified the t'other, that he could not hinder the Oppressed from calling for help. Aurelian fancy'd it was a Woman's Voice, and immediately drawing his Sword, demanded what was the Matter; he was answered with the Appearance of a Man, who had opened a Dark Lanthorn which he had by him, and came toward him with a Pistol in his Hand ready cock'd.
Aurelian seeing the irresistable advantage his Adversary had over him, would fain have retired; and, by the greatest Providence in the World, going backwards fell down over some loose Stones that lay in his Way, just in that Instant of Time when the Villain fired his Pistol, who seeing him fall, concluded he had Shot him. The Crys of the afflicted Person were redoubled at the Tragical Sight, which made the Murderer, drawing a Poniard, to threaten him, that the next Murmur should be his last. Aurelian, who was scarce assured that he was unhurt, got softly up; and coming near enough to perceive the Violence that was used to stop the Injured Man's Mouth; (for now he saw plainly it was a Man) cry'd out,—Turn, Villain, and look upon thy Death.—The Fellow amazed at the Voice, turn'd about to have snatch'd up the Lanthorn from the Ground; either to have given Light only to himself, or to have put out the Candle, that he might have made his Escape; but which of the Two he designed, no Body could tell but himself: and if the Reader have a Curiosity to know, he must blame Aurelian; who thinking there could be no foul play offered to such a Villain, ran him immediately through the Heart, so that he drop'd down Dead at his Feet, without speaking a Word. He would have seen who the Person was he had thus happily delivered, but the Dead Body had fallen upon the Lanthorn, which put out the Candle: However coming up toward him, he ask'd him how he did, and bid him be of good Heart; he was answered with nothing but Prayers, Blessings and Thanks, called a Thousand Deliverers, good Genius's and Guardian Angels. And the Rescued would certainly have gone upon his Knees to have worshipped him, had he not been bound Hand and Foot; which Aurelian understanding, groped for the Knots, and either untied them or cut them asunder; but 'tis more probable the latter, because more expeditious.
They took little heed what became of the Body which they left behind them, and Aurelian was conducted from out the Ruins by the Hand of him he had delivered. By a faint light issuing from the just rising Moon, he could discern that it was a Youth; but coming into a more frequented part of the Town, where several Lights were hung out, he was amaz'd at the extream Beauty which appeared in his Face, though a little pale and disordered with his late fright. Aurelian longed to hear the Story of so odd an adventure, and entreated his Charge to tell it him by the way; but he desired him to forbear till they were come into some House or other, where he might rest and recover his tired Spirits, for yet he was so faint he was unable to look up. Aurelian thought these last words were delivered in a Voice, whose accent was not new to him. That thought made him look earnestly in the Youth's Face, which he now was sure he had somewhere seen before, and thereupon asked him if he had never been at Siena? That Question made the young Gentleman look up, and something of a Joy appeared in his Countenance, which yet he endeavoured to smother; so praying Aurelian to conduct him to his Lodging, he promised him that as soon as they should come thither, he would acquaint him with any thing he desired to know. Aurelian would rather have gone any where else than to his own Lodging; but being so very late he was at a loss, and so forced to be contented.
As soon as they were come into his Chamber, and that Lights were brought them and the Servant dismissed, the paleness which so visibly before had usurped the sweet Countenance of the afflicted Youth vanished, and gave place to a more lively Flood of Crimson, which with a modest heat glow'd freshly on his Cheeks. Aurelian waited with a pleasing Admiration the discovery promised him, when the Youth still struggling with his Resolution, with a timorous haste, pulled off a Peruke which had concealed the most beautiful abundance of Hair that ever graced one Female Head; those dishevelled spreading tresses, as at first they made a discovery of, so at last they served for a veil to the modest lovely blushes of the fair Incognita; for she it was and none other. But Oh! the inexpressible, inconceivable joy and amazement of Aurelian! As soon as he durst venture to think, he concluded it to be all Vision, and never doubted so much of any thing in his Life as of his being then awake. But she taking him by the Hand, and desiring him to sit down by her, partly convinced him of the reality of her presence.
'This is the second time, Don Hippolito, (said she to him) 'that I have been here this Night. What the occasion was of my seeking you out, and how by miracle you preserved me, would add too much to the surprize I perceive you to be already in should I tell you: Nor will I make any further discovery, till I know what censure you pass upon the confidence which I have put in you, and the strange Circumstances in which you find me at this time. I am sensible they are such, that I shall not blame your severest Conjectures; but I hope to convince you, when you shall hear what I have to say in justification of my Vertue.
'Justification! (cry'd Aurelian) what Infidel dares doubt it! Then kneeling down, and taking her Hand, 'Ah Madam (says he) would Heaven would no other ways look upon, than I behold your Perfections—Wrong not your Creature with a Thought, he can be guilty of that horrid Impiety as once to doubt your Vertue—Heavens! (cry'd he, starting up) 'am I so really blessed to see you once again! May I trust my Sight?—Or does my fancy now only more strongly work?—For still I did preserve your Image in my Heart, and you were ever present to my dearest Thoughts.—
'Enough Hippolito, enough of Rapture (said she) you cannot much accuse me of Ingratitude; for you see I have not been unmindful of you; but moderate your Joy till I have told you my Condition, and if for my sake you are raised to this Delight, it is not of a long continuance.
At that (as Aurelian tells the Story) a Sigh diffused a mournful sweetness through the Air, and liquid grief fell gently from her Eyes, triumphant sadness sat upon her Brow, and even sorrow seem'd delighted with the Conquest he had made. See what a change Aurelian felt! His Heart bled Tears, and trembled in his Breast; Sighs struggling for a vent had choaked each others passage up: His Floods of Joys were all supprest; cold doubts and fears had chill'd 'em with a sudden Frost, and he was troubled to excess; yet knew not why. Well, the Learned say it was Sympathy; and I am always of the Opinion with the Learned, if they speak first.
After a World of Condoleance had passed between them, he prevailed with her to tell him her Story. So having put all her Sighs into one great Sigh, she discharged her self of 'em all at once, and formed the Relation you are just about to Read.
'Having been in my Infancy Contracted to a Man I could never endure, and now by my Parents being likely to be forced to Marry him, is in short, the great occasion of my grief. I fansy'd (continued she) something so Generous in your Countenance, and uncommon in your Behaviour, while you were diverting your self, and rallying me with Expressions of Gallantry, at the Ball, as induced me to hold Conference with you. I now freely confess to you, out of design, That if things should happen as I then feared, and as now they are come to pass, I might rely upon your assistance in a matter of Concern; and in which I would sooner chuse to depend upon a generous Stranger, than any Acquaintance I have. What Mirth and Freedom I then put on, were, I can assure you, far distant from my Heart; but I did violence to my self out of Complaisance to your Temper.—I knew you at the Tilting, and wished you might come off as you did; though I do not doubt, but you would have had as good Success had it been opposite to my Inclinations.—Not to detain you by too tedious a Relation, every day my Friends urged me to the Match they had agreed upon for me, before I was capable of Consenting; at last their importunities grew to that degree, that I found I must either consent, which would make me miserable, or be miserable by perpetually enduring to be baited by my Father, Brother and other Relations. I resolved yesterday, on a suddain to give firm Faith to the Opinion I had conceived of you; and accordingly came in the Evening to request your assistance, in delivering me from my Tormentors, by a safe and private conveyance of me to a Monastery about four Leagues hence, where I have an Aunt who would receive me, and is the only Relation I have averse to the Match. I was surprized at the appearance of some Company I did not expect at your Lodgings; which made me in haste tear a Paper which I had written to you with Directions where to find me, and get speedily away in my Coach to an old Servant's House, whom I acquainted with my purpose: By my Order she provided me of this Habit which I now wear; I ventured to trust my self with her Brother, and resolved to go under his Conduct to the Monastery; he proved to be a Villain, and Pretending to take me a short and private way to the place where he was to take up a Hackney Coach (for that which I came in was broke some where or other with the haste it made to carry me from your Lodging) led me into an old ruined Monastery, where it pleased Heaven, by what Accident I know not, to direct you. I need not tell you how you saved my Life and my Honour, by revenging me with the Death of my Perfidious Guide. This is the summ of my present Condition, bating the apprehensions I am in of being taken by some of my Relations, and forced to a thing so quite contrary to my Inclinations.