Exilius, by Jane Barker

Book V.

The Reader may please to remember in the third Book, that the two Ladies, Scipiana and Clelia, were interrupted in their Discourse by the Arrival of a certain Youth, Servant to Fabius; from whom he brought Letters to my Lord Publius Scipio. Now these Letters were to inform Publius, that his Nephew Fabius, as also Jemella, the fair Daughter of Lucullus, were detain'd Prisoners by Clodius, in his Castle at Sardinia; from thence the same Messenger was to have gone to Rome, to advertize the two Noble Lords, Lucullus and Fabius, Fathers of the two Prisoners. But the poor Youth, Almon, falling sick, Publius was oblig'd to send an Express to Rome, to inform the said Lords, that they might take their Measures with the Senate for their Enlargement, whilst the poor Youth was constrain'd to attend his Recovery.

Night approaching, and the two Ladies, Scipiana and Clelia, being retir'd into their Apartment, Clelia begg'd Scipiana to finish her Story, and let her know what became of Exilius after put in Prison, and by what Means she had made her Escape out of Egypt; of which two material Circumstances she was still ignorant, they having been divers Times interrupted in the Sequel of their Discourse.

The Continuation of the HISTORY of Scipiana.

Exilius being put in Prison (said Scipiana) as I have already told you, I ceased not to implore the King continually on his behalf; but his Majesty was deaf to all my Petitions. He told me, if Exilius had conspir'd against his Crown or Life, the least Word from me should procure his Pardon; but being the Rival of his Love, it was not in the Power of Mercy to forgive. One Day in particular being at the King's Feet, with Tears in my Eyes, and earnest Importunities, I besought him to pity the poor Exilius, whose Youth and Constancy was all his Crime. Alas! my Royal Lord, (said I) blame not him for loving one who is his Equal, and one whom Fortune has render'd Copartner in all his Sufferings, it is a Weakness incident to all human Beings; then pity this poor Miserable, for her sake who now kneels before you; without him I neither can nor ought to live; our Hearts have been inseparably united since the Moment of our first Interview. At which the King assay'd to go away, but I caught hold of his Robe, beseeching him to hear me out. I will hear you in all Things, said the King, but when you ask the Life of Exilius, for that I neither can nor will grant, it being incompatible with my Affection.

At these Words, I was like one Thunder−struck, and sunk down quite bereav'd of Sense. When I came to my self I found the King still with me, and, kissing my Hands, said, He was sorry to see me so passionate for one who deserv'd it not. I am sure (continued he) Exilius would make no Difficulty to desert you, if thereby he might purchase his Life or Liberty. Be advis'd, then, and consider wherein your Happiness consists. Weigh the Difference between a Monarch who offers you his Crown, together with his Love, and a poor abandon'd Creature, dependant on my Bounty; that if you had Kindness to your self or him, or Gratitude towards me, you would act suitable to your Advantage and my Satisfaction, you would consider with what Respect I have treated you, it being in my Power to oblige your Compliance, nevertheless I left you Mistress of my Love and Empire; therefore, if you have any Sense of Generosity, or of the Honour I profer you, conform your Will to a speedy Consent to my just Desires, I might say, Commands: And though the Wretch Exilius has deserv'd Death beyond all Degrees of Mercy, yet I make you Arbitrator of his Lot: If he dies, it is by your Tyranny. Adieu, I leave you to consider on the Event, so make your own Election.

The King being gone, I reflected on his Words, and consider'd with what Goodness and Generosity he had treated me: I could scarce forbear accusing my self of Ingratitude; but then again the Consideration of my Faith given to Exilius, render'd me uncapable of gratifying the King's Desires. One while I represented to my self the Death of my unhappy Lover, the most faithful and passionate of all Men, dying by my Means, in whose Power it was to save his Life; that noble Life, so useful to the World; that dear Life, that had not only twice saved mine, but that of my Brother the renowned Asiaticus, and in him the Roman Glory; that vertuous Life, that had subdued Rebels, redeem'd Royal and Nobles Captives, and fix'd the falling Crown of a mighty Monarch. O Scipiana, Scipiana,(did I say to my self) how canst thou consent to, much less pronounce, the Death of this thy Friend, Lover, and Benefactor, or rather this God−like Hero, the Benefactor of all Mankind! O! no, it is impossible: For I should be the cruelest of Creatures, abhorr'd of all Mankind, and the Odium of future Ages. And then again, considering the Means of saving his Life, which was more cruel than Death, I was in a perfect Exigence and Non plus what to do; both was cruel to Extremity, neither admitting any Degree of Comparison of which was worst. Sometimes I resolv'd to discover my Quality to the King, and get him to send to my Father and the Senate, thereby to protract Time; but then I look'd on that as giving my tacit Consent. I was in this Labyrinth of Thoughts when one brought me a Letter from Exiilus.

MADAM, I Flatter my self that my Sincerity is so well known to you, that I need use no previous Arguments to convince you, that I prefer your Happiness before all Things in this World, much before my own Life, which I hope will plead my Excuse, when I not only counsel but beg you to accept of those glorious Offers made you by our Royal Benefactor.

Madam, when Advantage courts and Miseries threaten, we must not suffer our Passions to argue in Opposition, unless we renounce our Reason, the Mark of our Humanity. Nay more, we abandon even the Sense of Animals, if we avoid not a Precipice where we see another fall.

Then give me Leave, Madam, to conjure you to let my Fall be your Security, which will in some Degree make happy, or at least abate the Miseries of,

MADAM, Your Ladyship's most humble and unfortunate Servant, EXILIUS.

Having read this Letter, I was more confounded than ever. I saw in it such a Mixture of Kindness and Inconstancy as I knew not how to separate or distinguish. Here Friendship, there Interest; here Kindness, there Inconstancy; in this Part Love, in that Reason; but all was so tangled one with another, that I knew not where to fix or begin to unravel his real Thoughts. Sometimes I made tender Reflections on his Kindness, and then my Love increas'd, in Consideration of what he suffer'd for me and presently I disdain'd him as the falsest of Men, and hated my self for having ever lov'd him. My Scorn would shoot up with such Violence, so as to eradicate all those tender Thoughts his Services had planted in my Soul, and the Eyes of my Understanding seem'd open to distinguish between him, a miserable Vagabond, and a Sovereign Monarch, who offer'd me his Crown together with his Love, who had courted me most honourably, and been indulgent to my Humour and capricious Freaks. Thus I rais'd my Thoughts to the highest Pitch of Vanity, and then branch'd them forth, by enumerating the Honours and Antiquities of my Family, the Noble House of the Scipio's. Then look'd down with Scorn into the Abyss of his Obscurity, wondering what Power of Darkness, or ill Genius, had level'd this Inequality. A thousand Things I thought, and as many bitter Things I utter'd against this unworthy perfidious Exilius. All which were reported to the King by those Women about me, who endeavour'd to make their Court by their officious Intelligence; and his Majesty would not lose so favourable an Occasion, but order'd all Things to be prepar'd for the speedy Celebration of our Marriage.

But, oh! how inscruitable are the mysterious Turnings of human Cogitations, and how inevitable the Vicissitudes of exteriour Events! Both compose Labyrinths for Reason to lose her Way, unless conducted by the Line of Vertue: This I experienc'd, when the King sent me his Commands to dispose my self for a speedy Marriage. Then did all those Resentments I had conceiv'd against Exilius vanish, and his Worth appear'd more bright than ever. All his Services and vertuous Affection, his modest long conceal'd Passion, his tender Declaration, seem'd now to enlarge themselves as Shadows at the Sun's declining. Methought his Sufferings drew that Knot strait which our mutual Vows had ty'd; and that seeming Willingness (in his Letter) to loosen it, serv'd only to tie it faster, and render it impossible to be undone, till cut together with the Thread of our Lives. His Dungeon was much more charming to my Thoughts than that Dignity which courted me. I hated my self, the King, and all that conduc'd to this my glorious Undoing. I accus'd the Gods that had made me fair, my Parents and European Education that had render'd me agreeable. Unhappy Maid, (said I to myself) that cannot be in Love with Riches, dote upon Honour, and idolize Grandeur, which carry with them such Charms as inchant and intoxicate the greatest Part of Mankind, and chiefly our Sex, who are said to be their most exact Votaries. Why was I born? Or, why was I born a Female? Or, why did I not die in my Infancy? Or, why did not some foul Disease seize my Youth, to disfigure this unhappy Form, that it might have been Love's Antidote to all Beholders? Or why, O ye immortal Powers! did you not give me a Soul unjust, treacherous, or unfaithful, thereby to render me the Odium of all vertuous People? But why, oh! why have you given me an Interior, bearing so great a Resemblance to your own divine Purities, and not given me the Power to act accordingly; but have fix'd me in such a State, that my Actions must combat my Conscience, and my Conscience oppose my Reason, and all make a civil War in my Affections. Happiness courts me, Misery flies me: I, like a Creature quite irrational, avoid the former, and pursue the latter, which I am bound to do by Inclination and Religion, and forbid by Reason and Necessity. Vertue and Wisdom, which are generally Friends and Allies, in me are utter Enemies; I cannot adhere to the one, nor dare not incline to the other. I am made up of Antipathies and Contradictions, which compose a Chaos of Madness, Misery, and Despair. O ye divine Powers, assist me! O Vertue, be my Guide thro' this Wilderness, into which my cruel Stars have misled me! O all ye immortal Beings, that contributed to raise the Scipio's to their Grandeur, and each good Genius of my Ancestors, suffer not a Daughter of this noble House, which has been your peculiar Care so many Ages, to fall into Dishonour! Whilst I was thus confusedly entertaining my distracted Thoughts, the King came to make me a Visit. He treated me with a chearful Discourse of Things indifferent, which I receiv'd with all the agreeable Complaisance I could, thereby to screw him up to a good Humour, the better to repeat my Request to him touching Exilius. But before any happy Moment gave me Occasion to speak, the Captain of the Guard came in, telling the King, he was come according to his Majesty's Command, to know his Orders about Exilius. At which, his Majesty turning towards me, said, Madam, I suppose you have by this Time fix'd your Resolution touching Exilius. You know the Conditions of his Life and Death, therefore be pleas'd to give your Sentence. To which I reply'd, all transported with Grief and Anger, saying, Let him die rather than live, to upbraid me with Falshood and Inconstancy. Since 'tis your Will (said the King) it shall be so: Then, turning to the Captain, gave Order for his Execution that very Night. This very Night! (reply'd I, all distracted) Can nothing purchase his Life one Night? Yes, (said the King) give me your Hand, and you shall have his Life to Night. Alas! (said I) I will give my Hand, my Life, or anything, to purchase his Life but for a Moment. So giving my Hand, begg'd that Exilius might live; to which the King accorded, and forthwith dispatch'd the Captain. Now, you must know, that, in that Country, a Woman never gives her Hand on any Occasion, but gives withal the Assurance of her Person. This I did not well know then, but thought it was as with us, that it might be done on divers Occasions, without Consequence.

I having thus ignorantly given this Assurance to the King, his Majesty express'd greater Transport than is needful to repeat: But I being all Grief and Distraction, begg'd him to leave me; which according he did, vowing he would not defer his Happiness.

Next Morning I heard that Exilius was sent away in the most miserable Condition in the World, in an old Boat, without Sails, Oars, or any Manner of Provision; which was indeed giving him Life, but accompany'd with such Circumstances, as render'd it worse than Death. This cruel, or rather tyrannical Treatment to him, whom I lov'd above all terrestrial Beings, rais'd in me such Anger, as turn'd to Hatred and Aversion to the King, which, 'till then, had never touch'd my Thoughts: For his Majesty had demean'd himself with so much Goodness and Generosity towards me, that it was impossible for a grateful Soul not to love him as the best of Friends, Masters, and Benefactors. To which add his Person truly handsom and graceful, his Humour agreeable and gallant, all his Actions moderate and merciful, (this being the only cruel Action of his Life) that it was impossible for the proudest Beauty, or severest Vertue, not to be touch'd where he address'd. But I, miserable Creature, was dead to all but Exilius; his unparalel'd Services had taken my Heart, and fortify'd it against all amorous Attacks whatsoever: and now this severe Treatment, he had found, redoubled all its Guards, rendering it more impregnable than ever. Nevertheless, when Word was brought me from the King, that in three Days I must dispose myself for his Espousals, I cannot tell you in what a Consternation of Mind I pass'd my Hours; 'tis certain, that in two Days I neither eat nor slept, and resolv'd never more to gratify or assist Nature in that Kind, but leave her to be vanquish'd and overcome by Death, her everlasting Enemy: In which I pleas'd myself, to think I should be reveng'd on the King; and, for that Reason, spitefully wish'd the Augmentation of his Love, that his Affliction might be the more insupportable. This Despair chang'd my Desires, and I saw, in the dark Recess of Death, that Glimmering of Satisfaction, which the dazzl'd Eyes of my Understanding were not capable to behold elsewhere; but like Wolves, and other wild Beasts of Prey, who see best in the Night, this black Despair, which benighted my Reason, made me see Happiness in Malice, Rancour, and Revenge.

The Evening before the Day appointed for our Marriage, the Captain of the Guard, our Roman Friend, sent one to let me know, that he was mortally wounded in a Rencounter, and desir'd to speak with me speedily. At my Arrival, he told me, that he could not die in Quiet, nor hope for Mercy from the Gods, 'till he had reveal'd and ask'd Pardon for his Treason committed against me and Exilius. It was I, Madam, (continu'd he) who being perfect in the Roman Language, and knew your Character, counterfeited that Letter from Exilius to you, and likewise one from you to him. Your Stile, as well as Character, on both Sides, were so well represented, that I think neither of you mistrusted, or thought of any Deceit; for as your Letter to him was full of Devotion and Submission to the Will of the Gods, so his to you was grounded on Reason, and the Necessity of obeying its Rudiments. These were the Topicks on which I founded my perswasive Arguments to you both, as knowing these two, to wit, Religion in you, and Reason in him, to be the Regents of your vertuous Souls; which reign'd with an Authority never to be control'd. It was I, Madam, this wretched repenting Creature, who brought him secretly into your Closet, where he saw you give your Hand to the King; which in this Country is never done, but on the Account of Marriage. It was I that contriv'd that cunning Placing of our Words, and tuning our Voice so, that he believ'd you begg'd his speedy Death of the King, as being loth to have a living Witness of your Inconstancy; so that he believes you not only false and marry'd to the King, but also pleas'd and fond of this your glorious Perjury. Thus is this most excellent and faithful of all Lovers the most wrong'd and abused of all Men.

At the Knowledge hereof, Good Gods! how violent was the Passion that seiz'd me! I told him, that nothing but the Destruction of Egypt should satisfy my Revenge, unless he could invent some Means to prevent or escape this Marriage: I will (said I) declare before the Altar of Hymen, that I am Daughter to Publius Scipio, a RomanSenator, and therefore ought not to be marry'd without the Consent of the Senate; so, in the Presence of the Gods and all the People, refuse my Consent, and swear never to be at Rest 'till Egypt be by Rome destroy'd. The Captain was surpriz'd at the Knowledge of my Quality; but soon recollected himself, and told me, that I spake like a true noble Roman, and Daughter of that honourable Family: But (said he) it is much easier to avoid, than revenge the Blow. If your Roman Courage will support you to undertake the Enterprize which I shall consel, I doubt not but you may accomplish your Escape. And therewithal he told me he would send a Suit of Cloaths of his Livery, in which, befriended by the Night, I might escape without Suspicion. This Proposal pleas'd me beyond Expression; I thank'd, forgave, and pray'd for him, then return'd to my Lodging, where I attended the Performance of his Promise, which was not long, for in few Hours he sent me the Disguise; but before I left my Apartment, I wrote these few Words to the King.

Royal Sir, Since the poor Exilia is escap'd, as not being worthy those Honours offer'd by your Majesty, she humbly begs you will cast your Eyes on Fabiel, who in her Retreat sighs for you, and is, no Doubt, that Roman design'd by the Gods for your Majesty; her Birth and Beauty in some Degree qualify her for it; her vertuous Inclination lay Claim to it; her being a Roman. entitles her to the Divine Prediction: Then, Royal Sir, oppose not Heaven and your own Happiness, in thinking on the unfortunate

Exilia.

Having left this little Billet, I made my Escape without Difficulty or Opposition and got safe to the Port of Alexandria, where I found a Vessel bound for Italy, ready to go off; in which Fortune favour'd me so well, that I got hither safe; where, for an Augmentation of my Happiness, I found you, my dear Cousin, in the Grove, and forgetting the Disguise I wore, embraced you with much Joy and Transport.

The End of the first Part.

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