Exilius, by Jane Barker

Book VI.

Inner was scarce ended, when Libidinia, who was very well recover'd, came to visit the Ladies. After they had congratulated the Restoration of her Health, Clodius advanc'd, telling her, that he was not only glad to find her in good Health, but in Prosperity, and freed from the Fetters of a prudent. Husband, the Curb of good Humour, and Bridle of Mirth, the Clog of Wit, and Bar to all Diversion; from these and many other Restraints the Gods have deliver'd you, in taking from you the discreet Aurelius, and has brought to you a more suitable Match, the wild, loose, lewd Clodius, who is ready to be again your Lover, and in Time your Husband: Trust me, Madam, I find great Charms in the Riches of Aurelius, as well as in the Beauty of his Widow; both are irresistable, and, I hope, Madam, you will find the same Agreements in me, which heretofore did not displease you; then let us never balk our Fancies, but marry speedily; no Matter for the Proverb of repenting leisurely, for that I am perswaded we shall never do; for we shall understand the World and our selves so well, as never to be displeas'd at what Company each other keeps, or what Diversions engage our Time, or where we spend our Money: No, no, we will be easy to our selves and to each other. Truly, reply'd Libidinia, you wou'd be easy to me if you wou'd cease this Ramble of Words, and remember what Respect is due to the illustrious Company, if you think none due to me. She was about to proceed, but Scipiana interpos'd, begging her not to take Notice with Displeasure of Clodius's Raillery, but remember what he had suffer'd in Consideration of her being marry'd to Aurelius, when he expected the Happiness himself; so begg'd her to consider how to repair those his Sufferings.

Whilst they were in this Discourse, Cordiala walk'd out into the Grove, there, in Solitude, to meditate on the late Change in the Circumstances of Ismenus, well knowing herself too low in Quality and Fortune ever to marry a Scipio, nevertheless found it impossible to disingage her Heart from those tender Sentiments the lovely Youth had infus'd: O cruel Passion, said she to herself, that in Spite of all Endeavours subjects us to thy Tyranny; yet I am happy in this, Scipio knows not what Power he has over me, nor ever shall; I will dye rather than discover my Folly. O poor Cordiala, unhapy Maid! what wild Meanders of strange and hard Adventures has Fortune mark'd out for thy Virtue to trace; what strange Vicissitudes hast thou encounter'd in the short Space of thy Life; yet short as it is, it had been happy for thee if it had pleas'd the Gods to have abridg'd it, and taken me out of the World ere I had beheld this lovely Object of my pleasing Pain. Yesterday I thought him the Morning−Star of my Hopes, ushering in the bright Dawn of some Happiness: But when he became illustrated with the Glories of his House, and the poor Ismenus encircled with the Rays of a Scipio, his Brightness then extinguish'd all my Hopes, and cast me into the Abyss of deep Despair. And now that all Hopes are extinguish'd, my fond Desires ought to dye with them: But, alas! so firm a Possession has Love taken of my Heart, as is not in my Power to eject. O ye Gods! why did you permit me to see and love him in his low Condition? Had I never seen him, 'til refulgent with the bright Rays of his Family, his Glories had been too dazling for one in my low Sphere to have look'd upon, but at a vast Distance, amongst the admiring Crowd, have run to see him pass by, and there to have respected him as a Hero, equal to a Demi−God. What Madness is it then for me, a Thing so mean, to think on him, but as one of the Lords of Mankind, above the Reach of vulgar Thoughts! Yet so it is, I must not only think of him, but infinitely love him. He is the only Object of my Tenderness; my Eyes never taught my Heart to make Distinction 'til they beheld Ismenus. All the Gallants of Rome, and Youths of Sicily, were to me alike indifferent. I thought Misfortunes hard harden'd my Heart to such a Temper, as not to love beyond the Degree of Friendship; but, poor Girl! how suddenly didst thou become flexible! The first Onset of his Eyes subjected my Heart to Love's imperial Commands: Methinks I could live on the Remembrance of that dear Moment, when a gentle Look and a soft Sigh forc'd their Passage to my Soul; which I had almost return'd with the like tender Motions, but that I stifled in the Birth such untimely Fruits of my Folly, not suffering my Breast to deliver itself of the Burden of one Sigh: By which Means Scipio remains ignorant of my Weakness, for which Conduct I am thankful to Heaven; for had he known it, I could not have out out−liv'd the Shame of being deserted by him, which must necessarily have ensu'd this his elevated State; for whatsoever Inclination might have whisper'd to him on my Behalf, Duty and Honour would command, and are such imperious Mistresses as must and ought to be obey'd. Then, O ye Gods! be so kind to me as you were to the Nymphs of old, and turn me into a Tree in this Grove, where perhaps Scipio may admire me in that Form or Species, and carve some Love Verses on my Bark, sing and whisper gentle Airs, which the Wind, joining with my ruffling Leaves, will reverberate, and so make a happy Consort of our mutual Loves. And if my thick Shade shelter him from Sun or Rain, how pleas'd should I be in rendering him that Service. But, O ye Gods! if he should bring some fair She, Daughter of a mighty Lord, and underneath the Umbrage of my extended Branches court and languish at her Feet, then should I die, my Leaves wither, and my Trunk rot with Indignation. Then rather let me follow the Fate of that babling Nymph whom your Pity turn'd into a Voice, and I will always follow this my Narcissus; and when vast Armies and glorious Triumph shall with loud Applause shout forth the Name of Scipio, then is my Time to serve his Fame, by echoing, Scipio, Scipio, Scipio, 'til his Name pierce the Clouds, and make even the Gods jealous of his rising Glories. Thus did this vertuous Maid entertain her roving Thoughts in this her solitary Walk, 'til Scipio, who was full of Agitation of Mind, also came into those Walks, and there met her, the Object of his Tenderness, to whom he address'd himself, saying, That since the Gods had been propitious to him in the Advancement of his Condition, he hoped she would now cease her Rigour; for (said he) I protest by all that's good, the chief Satisfaction I take in this my Advancement, is the Hopes that it well render me the more worthy Object of your Consideration, and gives me Occasion to testify the Sencerity of my Affection; inasmuch as no Change of Fortune is capable to change my Sentiments towards my lovely Maid: Then testify the Acceptance of this my offer'd Love by one gentle Look or Smile; let me hope that I am not wholly indifferent to you. Alas! (reply'd Cordiala) those Reasons you inforce, to oblige me to correspond with your amorus Pretensions, ought to be employ'd to justify my Refusal. It is obvious to any Capacity, that the Inequality of our present Fortunes must needs be a greater Obstacle than was our mutual Poverty. Then cease to entertain me or your own Fancy on this Subject; for assure your self I will never hear, much less gratify you: I will not be the Author of your Misfortunes, nor the Scorns of your Family: I will not cause you to disoblige the best of Fathers, nor myself become the Odium of Mankind. Therefore cease, I say, to importune me on this Subject. Madam, (reply'd Scipio) your Commands to me are sacred, and must be obey'd to the utmost Degree of Possibility; but know this, that although I cease to importune you, I cannot cease to love you: Your Perfections are made to be belov'd, and chiefly by me. And though you should forbid me ten thousand Times, yet still I must love on. You took Possession of my Heart the Moment of our first Interview, and will hold it against all other Assailants, whether Riches, Honours, or any other Beauty. Then since it is impossible to make my Heart cease from sighing Love, and my Mind from thinking Love, my Eyes from languishing, it is vain to command my Tongue to cease from declaring what all my interiour Passions dictate. No, rather give me Leave to address my Friends, and obtain not only their Leave but their Assistance to persuade you on my Behalf. As he was about to proceed, they discover'd Asiaticus at the End of the Walk, and seeing him alone, Scipio took the Opportunity to go and discourse with him on the Subject of his Passion, begging him to intercede with his Father on his Behalf. This Discourse both surpriz'd and displeas'd Asiaticus; nevertheless he could not refuse his Importunity, and so promis'd to do what he could with his Father, tho' he fear'd it would prove ineffectual; and so left Scipio to go look for his Father, whilst he return'd to the Place where he left Cordiala, and there found with her Clarinthia,who, seating themselves, and discoursing of Things indifferent, they saw a Person at the End of the Walk coming towards them, who they soon perceiv'd to be Valerius. As he came near Clarinthia, he cast himself at her Feet, begging Pardon of her and Heaven for all the Trouble he had caus'd her; adding, That he was come on Purpose from Sicily, and going to Rome, to enquire after Turpius, in Hopes he may have gotten thither. If seeking after Turpius be your Business, reply'd Clarinthia, you will soon find Success; for he is at my Lord Publius Scipio'sHouse, whither I will conduct thee.

Valerius humbled himself at the Feet of his Father, who readily receiv'd him. Asiaticus, at the Request of Clarinthia, forgave him. All the Company congratulated his safe Arrival, and oblig'd him to stay and be a Sharer in the general Happiness, and the Diversions of the coming Night, which was design'd for Musick, Mirth, and Feasting. Thus these happy Lovers diverted themselves, in Expectation of their Friends from Rome, in Order to conclude and perfect their Felicity.

But the Gods seldom permit human Happiness to be compleat, least, perhaps, we should forget them, the Donors, and fix our Affections too much on these terrestrial Objects; and therefore their allwise Providence mixes something amongst our most happy Moments, that may mind us on our Dependance upon their Bounty. Wherefore, amongst this happy Company of Lovers and Friends, the poor Scipio was unfortunate, in the Opposition his Father made in the Business of his Amour: For Publius receiv'd the Information from Asiaticuswith great Indignation, telling him, that he had rather he had remain'd still lost, than thus to lose himself and disgrace his Family, with divers other Rebukes of this Kind: All which were so grievous to him, that all the Diversion of that Night was not capable to infuse one easy Thought in the Heart of Scipio. When the Fatigue of Pleasure oblig'd them to retire to their Repose, he retir'd only to Inquietude. O ye Gods! (said he to himself) in what hard Circumstances have you plac'd me, that I must disobey the most honourable and kind of all Fathers, or violate my Word given to the most vertuous and beautiful of all Maids, and at the same Time render myself the most unhappy of all Mortals. Ah unhappy Scipio! It had been well for me if I had still been ignorant whose Son I was, and only known myself to be the poor Ismenus; then might I have lov'd the fair Cordiala without Controul. Yesterday I had no Chains to wear but hers, no Commands to obey but the Motion of her Eyes, no Friends to oblige, no Honours to comply with, no Grandeur to seek, no Parents to obey; all was concenter'd in her alone. Ah, the Happiness of Poverty and low Parentage! which gives us that most valuable Jewel of this World's Treasure, Liberty; which the Rich and Great are seldom Masters of, but are fetter'd with a thousand Impertinencies, from which they can no more disengage themselves than I from my unhappy Passion; but why do I call it unhappy? Am I not fortunate, to see and love the finest Thing of the Creation? Then why do I make any Doubt or Difficulty? Love on, Scipio, love thy beauteous Cordiala, and, if possible, make her wholly thine; such Perfections were never made for less noble Ends than to be Wife to a Scipio. But, O the Thoughts of making her wretched, when my Father shall discard us, all my Family scorn us, and the whole World condemn us! With what Face shall I then look on her, whom I have brought to inevitable Ruin. As she is, her Merits may provide her an honourable Marriage with some noble Roman, Master of himself, that can make her happy, since I only undo her with my Love. Then, since one must be miserable, 'tis fit that I sustain the whole Blow alone, and not endeavour to involve her, who has no Way been accessary; then be obedient to thy Father's Commands, and leave this only Object of my Life's Happiness; sacrifice all Satisfaction to the Honour of my Family, and the Repose of Cordiala. But, ah! if Cordiala should be sensible of those tender Sighs and faithful Vows I have so often repeated to her, where would then be her Ease or Repose? Yesterday I thought I perceiv'd a Sigh struggling in her Breast; but she, cruel to herself and me, stifled it e'er born. Her frequent Blushes and broken Words seem'd to testify she spake against the Sentiment of her Heart; that I brib'd my foolish Hopes to believe myself not wholly indifferent to her; for Maids, they say, take great Care to conceal that Secret from the Knowledge of their Lovers. If it should be thus with Cordiala, how could she bear the being deserted by me, or rather the Death of him she loves? For die I must, if not possess her. Ah, cruel Lot! that constrains me, either to live in Disobedience to the best of Fathers, or die, rather than displease him in marrying the best and most beautiful of all her Sex. Assist me, Vertue, to conduct me through this narrow Passage, that I wreck not upon Scylla or Charybdis. Thus did this young Heart pass his Hours in Chagrin, whilst others enjoy'd soft Slumbers.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31