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A COVERLEY PASTORAL. [STEELE.]
No. 118. MONDAY, JULY 16, 1711.
HÆRET lateri lethalis rundo. — VIRG. ÆN. iv. 73.
THE fatal dart
Sticks in his side, and rankles in his heart. — DRYDEN.
THIS agreeable seat is surrounded with so many pleasing walks, which are struck out of a wood, in the midst of which the house stands, that one can hardly ever be weary of rambling from one labyrinth of delight to 5 another. To one used to live in a city, the charms of the country are so exquisite that the mind is lost in a certain transport which raises us above ordinary life, and is yet not strong enough to be inconsistent with tranquillity. This state of mind was I in-ravished with 10 the murmur of waters, the whisper of breezes, the singing of birds; and whether I looked up to the heavens, down on the earth, or turned to the prospects around me, still struck with new sense of pleasure; — when I found by the voice of my friend, who walked by me, 15 that we had insensibly strolled into the grove sacred to the widow. "This woman," says he, "is of all others the most unintelligible: she either designs to marry, or she does not. What is the most perplexing of all is, that
she does not either say to her lovers she has any resolution against that condition of life in general, or that she banishes them; but, conscious of her own merit, she permits their addresses, without fear of any ill consequence, or want of respect, from their rage or despair. 5 She has that in her aspect against which it is impossible to offend. A man whose thoughts are constantly bent upon so agreeable an object, must be excused if the ordinary occurrences in conversation are below his attention. I call her indeed perverse, but, alas! why 10 do I call her so?- because her superior merit is such, that I cannot approach her without awe that my heart is checked by too much esteem: I am angry that her charms are not more accessible — that I am more inclined to worship than salute her. How often have I 15 wished her unhappy, that I might have an opportunity of serving her and how often troubled in that very imagination at giving her the pain of being obliged! Well, I have led a miserable life in secret upon her account; but fancy she would have condescended to have some 20 regard for me, if it had not been for that watchful animal her confidante.
"Of all persons under the sun (continued he, calling me by name) "be sure to set a mark upon confidantes : they are of all people the most impertinent. What is 25 most pleasant to observe in them is, that they assume to themselves the merit of the persons whom they have in their custody. Orestilla is a great fortune, and in wonderful danger of surprises, therefore full of suspicions of the least indifferent thing, particularly careful 30 of new acquaintance, and of growing too familiar with
the old. Themista, her favourite woman, is every whit as careful of whom she speaks to, and what she says. Let the ward be a beauty, her confidante shall treat you with an air of distance; let her be a fortune, and she 5 assumes the suspicious behaviour of her friend and patroness. Thus it is that very many of our unmarried women of distinction are to all intents and purposes married, except the consideration of different sexes. They are directly under the conduct of their whisperer ; 10 and think they are in a state of freedom, while they can prate with one of these attendants of all men in general, and still avoid the man they most like. You do not see one heiress in a hundred whose fate does not turn upon this circumstance of choosing a confidante. Thus it is 15 that the lady is addressed to, presented and flattered, only by proxy, in her woman. In my case, how is it possible that," Sir Roger was proceeding in his harangue, when we heard the voice of one speaking very importunately, and repeating these words, "What, not 20 one smile? We followed the sound till we came to a close thicket, on the other side of which we saw a young woman sitting as it were in a personated sullenness just over a transparent fountain. Opposite to her stood Mr. William, Sir Roger's master of the game. The knight 25 whispered me, "Hist, these are lovers." The huntsman looking earnestly at the shadow of the young maiden in the stream "Oh, thou dear picture, if thou couldst remain there in the absence of that fair creature whom you represent in the water, how willingly could I stand. 30 here satisfied for ever, without troubling my dear Betty herself with any mention of her unfortunate William,
whom she is angry with! But alas! when she pleases to be gone, thou wilt also vanish yet let me talk to thee while thou dost stay. Tell my dearest Betty thou dost not more depend upon her than does her William; her absence will make away with me as well as thee. If 5 she offers to remove thee, I will jump into these waves to lay hold on thee - herself, her own dear person, I must never embrace again. Still do you hear me without one smile it is too much to bear." He had no sooner spoke these words, but he made an offer of throwing 10 himself into the water: at which his mistress started up, and at the next instant he jumped across the fountain, and met her in an embrace. She, half recovering from her fright, said in the most charming voice imaginable, and with a tone of complaint, "I thought how well you would 15 drown yourself. No, no, you will not drown yourself till you have taken your leave of Susan Holiday." The huntsman, with a tenderness that spoke the most passionate love, and with his cheek close to hers, whispered the softest vows of fidelity in her ear, and cried, "Do 20 not, my dear, believe a word Kate Willow says; she is spiteful, and makes stories, because she loves to hear me talk to herself for your sake." "Look you there," quoth Sir Roger, "do you see there, all mischief comes from confidantes! But let us not interrupt them; the maid is honest, and the man dares not be otherwise, for he knows I loved her father: I will interpose in this matter, and hasten the wedding. Kate Willow is a witty mischievous wench in the neighbourhood, who was a beauty; and makes me hope I shall see the perverse widow in her: 30 condition. She was so flippant in her answers to all
the honest fellows that came near her, and so very vain of her beauty, that she has valued herself upon her charms till they are ceased. She therefore now makes it her business to prevent other young women from being 5 more discreet than she was herself: however, the saucy thing said the other day well enough, 'Sir Roger and I must make a match, for we are both despised by those we loved.' The hussy has a great deal of power wherever she comes, and has her share of cunning.
"However, when I reflect upon this woman, I do not know whether in the main I am the worse for having loved her whenever she is recalled to my imagination, my youth returns, and I feel a forgotten warmth in my veins. This affliction in my life has streaked all my 15 conduct with a softness, of which I should otherwise have been incapable. It is owing, perhaps, to this dear image in my heart that I am apt to relent, that I easily forgive, and that many desirable things are grown into my temper, which I should not have arrived at by better 20 motives than the thought of being one day hers. I am pretty well satisfied such a passion as I have had is never well cured; and between you and me, I am often apt to imagine it has had some whimsical effect upon my brain for I frequently find, that in my most serious 25 discourse I let fall some comical familiarity of speech or odd phrase that makes the company laugh. However, I cannot but allow she is a most excellent woman. When she is in the country, I warrant she does not run into dairies, but reads upon the nature of plants; she 30 has a glass beehive, and comes into the garden out of books to see them work, and observe the icies of their