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N° 56. SATURDAY, MAY 19, 1753,
Multos in summa pericula misit
How oft the fear of ill to ill betrays !
Sir James being convinced, that his lady and the Captain had passed the morning at a bagnio, by the answer which he received at her father's, went directly home. His lady was just arrived before him, and had not recovered from the confusion and dread which seized her when she heard that Sir James came to town the night before, and at the same instant anticipated the consequences of her own indiscretion. She was told he was then at the coffee-house, and in a few minutes was thrown into an universal tremor upon hearing him knock at the door. He perceived her distress not with compassion but rage, because he believed it to proceed from the consciousness of guilt: he turned pale, and his lips quivered; but he so far restrained his passion as to ask her, without invective,. Where, and how she had passed the night.' She replied, • At Captain Freeman's; that the Captain was upon guard, that she sat up with his lady till he came in, and that then insisting to see her home, she would suffer the coach to go no further than her father's, where he left her early in the morning: she had not fortitude to relate the sequel, but stopped with some appearance of irresolution and terror. Sir
James then asked, “ If she came directly from her father's home.' This question, and the manner in which it was asked, increased her confusion: to appear to have stopped short in her narrative, she thought would be an implication of guilt, as it would betray a desire of concealment: but the past could not be recalled, and she was impelled by equivocation to falsehood, from which, however, she would have been kept back by fear, if Sir James had not deceived her into a belief that he had been no farther than the neighbourhood. After these tumultuous reflections, which passed in a moment, she ventured to affirm, that she stayed with Miss Meadows till eight, and then came home:' but she uttered this falsehood with such marks of guilt and shame, which she had indeed no otherwise than by this falsehood incurred or deserved, that Sir James no more doubted her infidelity than her existence. As her story was the same with that of the Captain's, and as the one had concealed the truth and the other denied it, he concluded there was a confederacy between them; and determining first to bring the Captain to account, he turned from her abruptly, and immediately left the house.
At the door he met the chairman who had been dispatched by Mrs. Freeman to his lady, and fiercely interrogated him what was his business ; the man produced the letter, and saying, as he had been ordered, that he brought it from Mrs. Fashion, Sir James snatched it from him, and muttering some expressions of contempt and resentment, thrust it into his pocket.
It happened that Sir James did not find the Captain at home; he, therefore, left a billet, in which he requested to see him at a neighbouring tavern, and added that he had put on his sword. In the meantime, his lady, dreading a discovery
of the falsehood which she had asserted, dispatched a billet to Captain Freeman; in which she conjured him as a man of honour, for particular reasons not to own to Sir James, or any other person, that he had seen her after he had left her at her father's: she also wrote to her cousin Meadows, intreating, that if she was questioned by Sir James, he might be told that she stayed with her till eight o'clock, an hour at which only herself and the servants were up.
The billet to Miss Meadows came soon after the chairman had returned with an account of what had happened to the letter; and Mrs. Freeman was just gone in great haste to relate the accident to the Captain, as it was of importance that he should know it before his next interview with Sir James : but the Captain had been at home before her, and had received both Sir James's billet and that of his lady. He went immediately to the tavern, and, inquiring for Sir James Forrest, was shewn into a back-room one pair of stairs: Sir James received his salutation without reply, and instantly bolted the door. His jealousy was complicated with that indignation and contempt, which a sense of injury from a person of inferior rank never fails to produce; he, therefore, demanded of the Captain, in a haughty tone, “Whether he had not that morning been in company with his wife, after he had left her at her father's?' The Captain, who was incensed at Sir James's manner, and deemed himself engaged in honour to keep the lady's secret, answered, that after what he had said in the morning, no man had a right to suppose he had seen the lady afterwards; that to insinuate the contrary, was obliquely to charge him with a falsehood; that he was bound to answer no such questions, till they were properly explained ; and that as a gentleman he was prepared to vindicate
his honour.' Sir James justly deemed this reply an equivocation and an insult: and being no longer able to restrain his rage, he cursed the Captain as a liar and a-scoundrel, and at the same time striking him a violent blow with his fist, drew his sword and put himself in a posture of defence. Whatever de sign the Captain might have had to bring his friend to temper, and reconcile him to his wife, when he first entered the room, he was now equally enraged, and indeed had suffered equal indignity; he, therefore, drew at the same instant, and after a few desperate passes on both sides, he received a wound in his breast, and reeling backward a few paces, fell down.
The noise had brought many people to the door of the room, and it was forced open just as the Captain received his wound: Sir James was secu
ecured, and a messenger was dispatched for a surgeon. In the meantime, the Captain perceived himself to be dying: and whatever might before have been his opinion of right and wrong, and honour and shame, he now thought all dissimulation criminal, and that his murderer had a right to that truth which he thought it meritorious to deny him when he was his friend: he, therefore, earnestly desired to speak a few words to him in private. This request was immediately granted ; the persons who had rushed in withdrew, contenting themselves to keep guard at the door; and the Captain beckoning Sir James to kneel down by him, then told him, that however his lady might have been surprised or betrayed by pride or fear into dissimulation or falsehood, she was innocent of the crime which he supposed her solicitous to conceal:' he then briefly related all the events as they had happened ; and at last, grasping his hand, urged him to escape from the window, that he might be a friend to his widow and to his child,
if its birth should not be prevented by the death of its father. Sir James yielded to the force of this motive, and escaped as the Captain had directed. In his way to Dover he read the letter which he had taken from the chairman, and the next post enclosed it in the following to his lady:
My dear Charlotte, • I am the most wretched of all men ; but I do not upbraid you as the cause : would to God that I were not more guilty than you! We are the martyrs of dissimulation. By dissimulation dear Captain Freeman was induced to waste those hours with you, which he would otherwise have enjoyed with the poor unhappy dissembler his wife. Trusting in the success of dissimulation, you was tempted to venture into the Park, where you met him whom you wished to shun. By detecting dissimulation in the Captain, my suspicions were increased ; and by dissimulation and falsehood you confirmed them. But your
dissimulation and falsehood were the effects of mine; yours were ineffectual, mine succeeded : for I left word that I was gone no further than the Coffeehouse, that you might not suspect I had learned too much to be deceived. By the success of a lie put into the mouth of a chairman, I was prevented from reading a letter which at last would have undeceived me; and by persisting in dissimulation, the Captain has made his friend a fugitive, and his wife a widow. Thus does insincerity terminate in misery and confusion, whether in its immediate purpose it succeeds or is disappointed. O my dear Charlotte ! if ever we meet again,--to meet again in peace is impossible
-but if ever' we meet again, let us resolve to be sincere: to be sincere is to be wise, innocent and safe. We venture to commit faults which shame or fear would preve.it, if we did not hope to conceal