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false boast incurs contempt, and the false apology aggravates the offence.
Is it not, therefore, astonishing, that a practice, for whatever reason, so universally infamous and unsuccessful, should not be more generally and scrupulously avoided? To think, is to renounce it: and that I may fix the attention of my readers a little longer upon the subject, I shall relate a story, which, perhaps, by those who have much sensibility, will not soon be forgotten.
Charlotte and Maria were educated together at an emirent boarding school near London: there was little difference in their age, and their personal accomplishments were equal : but though their families were of the same rank, yet, as Charlotte was an only child, she was considerably superior in fortune.
Soon after they were taken home, Charlotte was addressed by Captain Freenian, who, besides his commission in the guards, had a small paternal estate: but as her friends hoped for a more advantageous match, the Captain was desired to forbear his visits, and the lady to think of him no more. After some fruitless struggles they acquiesced; but the discontent of both was so apparent, that it was thought expedient to remove Miss into the country. She was sent to her aunt, the Lady Meadows, who, with her daughter, lived retired at the family seat, more than one hundred miles distant from the metropolis. After she had repined in this dreary solitude from April to August, she was surprised with a visit from her father, who brought with him Sir James Forrest, a young gentleman who had just succeeded to a baronet's title, and a very large estate in the same county. Sir James had good-nature and good-sense, an agreeable person, and an easy address: Miss was
insensibly pleased with his company; her vanity, if not her love, had a new object; a desire to be delivered from a state of dependence and obscurity, had almost absorbed all the rest; and it is no wonder that this desire was gratified, when scarce any other was felt; or that in compliance with the united solicitations of her friends, and her lover, she suffered herself within a few weeks to become a lady and a wife. They continued in the country till the beginning of October, and then came up to London, having prevailed upon her aunt to accompany them, that Miss Meadows, with whom the bride had contracted an intimate friendship, might be gratified with the diversions of the town during the winter.
Captain Freeman, when he heard that Miss Charlotte was married, immediately made proposals of marriage to Maria, with whom he became acquainted during his visits to her friend, and soon after married her.
The friendship of the two young ladies seemed to be rather increased than diminished by their marriage; they were always of the same party both in the private and public diversions of the season, and visited each other without the formalities of messages and dress.
But neither Sir James nor Mrs. Freeman could reflect without uneasiness upon the frequent interviews which this familiarity and confidence produced between a lover and his mistress, whom force only had divided; and though of these interviews they were themselves witnesses, yet Sir James insensibly became jealous of his lady, and Mrs. Freeman of her husband.
It happened in the May following, that Sir James went about ten miles out of town to be present at the election of a member of parliament for the
county, and was not expected to return till the next day. In the evening his lady took a chair and visited Mrs. Freeman: the rest of the company went away early, the Captain was upon guard, Sir James was out of town, and the two ladies after supper sate down to piquet, and continued the game without once reflecting upon the Lour till three in the morning. Lady Forrest would then have gone home; but Mrs. Freeman, perhaps chiefly to conceal a contrary desire, importuned her to stay till the Captain came in, and at length with some reluctance she consented.
About five the Captain came home, and Lady Forrest immediately sent out for a chair: a chair, as it happened, could not be procured: but a hackney-coach being brought in its stead, the Captain insisted upon waiting on her ladyship home. This she refused with some emotion; it is probable that she still regarded the Captain with less indifference than she wished, and was therefore more sensible of the impropriety of his offer: but her reasons for rejecting it, however forcible, being such as she could not allege, he persisted, and her resolution was overborne. By this importunate complaisance the Captain had not unly thrown Lady Forrest into confusion, but displeased his wife: she could not, however, without unpoliteness, oppose it; and lest her uneasiness should be discovered, she affected a negligence which in some degree revenged it: she desired that when he came back he would not disturb her, for that she should go directly to bed; and added, with a kind of drowsy insensibility, I am more than half asleep already.
Lady Forrest and the Captain were to go from the Hay-market to Grosvenor Square. It was about half an hour after five when they got into the coach; the morning was remarkably fine, the late contest had shaken off all disposition to sleep, and Lady Forrest could not help saying, that she had much rather take a walk in the Park than go home to bed. The Captain zealously expressed the same sentiment, and proposed that the coach should set them down at St. James's Gate. The lady, however, had nearly the same objections against being seen in the Mall without
company than the Captain, that she had against its being known that they were alone together in a hackney coach: she, therefore, to extricate herself from this second difficulty, proposed that they should call at her father's in Bond-street, and take her cousin Meadows, whom she knew to be an early riser, with them. This project was immediately put in execution; but Lady Forrest found her cousin indis. posed with a cold. When she had communicated the design of this early visit, Miss Meadows intreated her to give up her walk in the Park, to stay till the family rose, and go home after breakfast; . No,' replied Lady Forrest, I am determined upon a walk; but as I must first get rid of Captain Freeman, I will send down word that I will take your advice.' A servant was accordingly dispatched to acquaint the Captain, who was waiting below, that Miss Meadows was indisposed and had engaged Lady Forrest to breakfast.
N° 55. TUESDAY, MAY 15, 1753.
Quid quisque vitet, nunquam homini satis
While dangers hourly round us rise,
The Captain discharged the coach; but being piqued at the behaviour of his wife, and feeling that flow of spirits which usually returns with the morning, even to those who have not slept in the night, he had no desire to go home, and therefore resolved to enjoy the fine morning in the Park alone.
Lady Forrest, not doubting but that the Captain would immediately return home, congratulated herself upon her deliverance; but at the same time to indulge her desire of a walk, followed him into the Park.
The Captain had reached the top of the Mall, and turning back met her before she had advanced two hundred yards beyond the palace. The moment she perceived him, the remembrance of her message, the motives that produced it, the detection of its falsehood, and discovery of its design, her disappointment and consciousness of that very situation which she had so much reason to avoid, all concurred to cover her with confusion which it was impossible to hide: pride and good breeding were, however, still predominant over truth and prudence; she was still zealous to remove from the Captain's mind any suspicion of a design tu shun