Exilius, by Jane Barker

Volume 2

Book I.

Scipiana had scarce finish'd her Discourse, when one of her Women enter'd her Chamber, all surpriz'd, telling her, that according to her Ladyship's Commands, she had been to visit the poor Youth Almon, to see that he had all Things necessary for a Person indispos'd with Sickness: But coming into his Chamber, (said she) I found him sleeping, and the Cloaths fallen a little from his Stomach; by which Means I discover'd the perfect Beauties of a Virgin Breast. This surprizing Information made the two Ladies run to assure themselves of the Truth of this Adventure. The Lights, and Noise of their coming, awak'd the poor Almon; who, all blushing, half dy'd with Confusion.

It is in vain, Almon, said Scipiana, to endeavour to hide from us your being a Woman; nor be afflicted or affrighted at our Knowledge of it, but assure yourself of all the Service we can render you in that State; therefore, if it be not inconvenient to you, or too great a Fatigue to your weak Spirits, acquaint us with the Cause of this your Transformation. Wherefore Almon, with much Respect and Modesty, related as follows:

The History of Almon, or Cordiala.

Be not surpriz'd, Ladies, (said Almon) when I tell you, that under this Disguise is hid the unfortunate Cordiala,formerly the suppos'd Daughter of Flavia, Widow to Camillus, with whom I liv'd all the Days of my Childhood, and knew no other but that I was her proper Daughter. And is it possible, said Clelia, (interrupting her) that I cou'd behold those lovely Features, and not immediately remember the fair Charmer, that captivated the Hearts of all our Roman Gallants. I now perfectly call to Mind those Beauties, with which I had the Happiness to be acquainted at Rome; so, embracing her most tenderly, begg'd her to proceed.

Having attain'd to the Age of Fifteen, (said Cordiala) Flavia, my suppos'd Mother, with much Prudence, propos'd a Marriage between me and her Nephew Clodius; but great was my Aversion to the loose, or rather lewd Life of Clodius, that I could not possibly comply with her Commands, or his Desires, tho' he made his Addresses to me with all the Gallantry and Assiduity proper on such an Occasion. I know not whether my ill Genius inspir'd me, or my hard Fate commanded me, but I cou'd not in the least gain upon my Inclinations in Favour of Clodius. This displeas'd Flavia, my pretended Mother, that she not only absolutely commanded, but threaten'd to discard me, if I did not make my Will comply with hers, in marrying Clodius. In Conclusion, my Resistance caus'd her to drive me from her Presence, forbidding me ever to see her more, without a Resolution to obey her in this her just and honourable Command, the Marrying her Nephew. This Treatment, instead of softening me towards Clodius,increas'd my Disgust, and what was before only a Disesteem of his loose Character, became now an absolute and thorough Aversion. Thus my unlucky Constellations and ill Genius conspir d to engage my Disobedience to make an indiscreet Resolution, or, rather, a rash Vow, never to marry Clodius, he being the Author of my Mother's great Anger; tho', at the same Time, I was ignorant what to do, and destitute of all Consolation, but what I receiv'd from solitary Sighs and Tears.

Whilst my Thoughts were thus in Agitation, Flavia's Woman came to me, and told me, I should be for ever miserable, if I persisted to resist her Lady's Will: For, said she, I will tell you a Thing which is an absolute Secret to all but my Lady and myself. Then be pleas'd to know, Madam, (continu'd she) that you are not Daughter to Flavia and Camillus, as the World believes you to be; for soon after the Death of Camillus, your suppos'd Father, his little Daughter Cordiala dy'd also. And, Camillus and his Daughter being dead, and his Brother Catullusbanish'd, his Estate of course would have fall'n into the Hands of the Senate. Now, Madam, (continu'd she) take it not ill that I do tell you this secret Truth, You are Daughter to that Woman who nurs'd my Lady's Daughter, Foster−Sister to her Cordiala, whom my Lady finding very pretty, and (as she fancy'd) a little like her own Child, brib'd the Nurse to say it was her Child that dy'd; so my Lady took you as her proper Daughter, and always tender'd you accordingly; and now would make you happy, in marrying you to her Nephew, who is her lawful Heir. So that, if you refuse this Marriage, she is oblig'd in Conscience to declare the Truth of your Original, rather than defraud her Nephew of what belongs to him by Right of Inheritance. And now, Madam, since you know the Case, I hope Gratitude and your own Interest will oblige you to a ready Compliance with my Lady's Commands.

Whatever Gratitude and Interest may excite me to, (said I) I know not; but I am sure Justice and Generosity teaches me to refuse what belongs not to me; wherefore, the Knowledge I have of my low Birth obliges me to refuse Clodius, as being altogether unworthy of that Honour. So that if I cannot keep my Lady's Favour, but by unworthy and indirect Means, I must submit to whatsoever hard Fortune the Gods have allotted me. In short, Flavia wholly discarded me; by which Means I was reduc'd to the Necessity of seeking a Livelihood.

Now it was that Asbella had taken her Resolution to leave Rome, and retire to her Estate in Sicily; and wanting a Woman to go along with her, I offer'd myself, being desirous to quit Rome, where I had liv'd in so much Splendour; and she retiring with a Pretence of leading a vertuous recollected Life, I thought I could not propose to my self a happier Way of Subsistance.

Thus we took our Voyage for Sicily, where I enjoy'd as much Happiness as I could hope for in that Rank or Station of Life, 'till Valerius (Asbella's Son) came, and with him Clarinthia, whom they kept there secretly in Restraint. I will not digress so, as to tell your Ladyships her Story, (extraordinary as it is) at least, not at this Time, but go on with my own: I was appointed to wait on Clarinthia, whose sweet Humour made it a very agreeable Employment, excepting the Pain I had for fear she should know me; but she having been some Time in the Country, and I very young when she left Rome, I was grown out of her Remembrance. Nevertheless, she was pleas'd to confide in me, so far as to relate to me all the Cause and Circumstances of her Sufferings; which made me add Pity to that Esteem which her Merits had grafted in my Soul, and wish'd with all my Heart I could have been serviceable to her in helping her to make her Escape; but that lay not in my Power. However, so it was, she got away, by what Means I know not; but Asbella believing me to be the Author, or, at least, Coadjutor of her Flight, in a violent Rage turn'd me out of Doors, without the least Consideration to what Misery she expos'd me, a poor unfortunate Stranger, who knew not the Language of the Country, nor which Way to direct my Steps: Moreover, it was Evening when her Anger oblig'd her to this Act of Severity. I got into an adjacent Wood, where I soon wander'd myself weary, and out of my Knowledge, without Hopes of Town or House, wherein to shelter or repose myself, so that I was forc'd to lodge under an aged Oak, making its mossy Root my Pillow, and its Boughs my Canopy. Thus was I, poor Maid, expos'd to the Weather and wild Beasts, or perhaps my Youth a Prey to lewd Out−laws, who inhabit those Woods in great Number. It pleas'd the Gods to send the former of these Sorts of Enemies, which, in Part, I may suppose, secur'd me from the latter more dangerous Assailants; for it thunder'd, lighten'd, and rain'd so violently, that no living Creature that had a Den or Hole to creep into, would be abroad that stormy Night; nevertheless, I, poor Creature, remain'd all the Night, trembling and frighted at every Clap of Thunder, ready to sink, and wish'd myself in my Grave, at every Flash of Lightning. At last, I saw just before me a great Oak rent in a thousand Pieces, and burnt with the Lightning, which dreadful Spectacle, with the Noise that accompany'd it, cast me to the Ground, quite bereav'd of Sense, where I lay 'till Morning, and then, a little recovering, I found myself so numb'd and loaded with my wet Cloaths, that I had much ado to go along. I came to that Side of the Wood which runs along the Sea Coast, where I had not gone many Paces, but I found a Suit of Man's Apparel, which lay so well cover'd under a great Cloak, that the Cloaths were not at all wet. In these Cloaths I array'd my self, without considering the Decency or Indecency of the Place or Action, my present Distress making me postpone all such little Difficulties, and entertain no Considerations but such as were favourable to my Necessities.

Thus being eas'd of my wet Habit, I walk'd indifferently well along the Sea−Coast, 'till I came to a Port where many Ships lay in Harbour. Here I submitted myself to be hir'd for a Marmer, where I used my utmost Endeavours to perform my Duty; but, alas! my Weakness, as well as Ignorance, made them soon weary of my Service; so that after much Cursing and Swearing, they set me on Shore in Sardinia. Here I was reduc'd to the last Degree of Necessity, not knowing which Way to direct my Steps, nor to whom to address.

A little Way distant from the Port where I was set on Shore, is a Temple of Apollo; a very stately Fabrick, with an adjacent House of Holy Priests, Votaries to that God. Here I went, in Order to make my Devotion, and to obtain some Assistance, or, at least, Advice, from those pious Recluses. It happen'd to be a very solemn Festival among them, it being the Day on which they commemorated that God's being taken up into Heaven, after his long Servitude, of having been Herdsman to King Admetus. Here I got into the Musick−Lost, or Tribune, where being many Instruments as well as Voices, wherewith to celebrate that Day's Sacrifice, amongst these I took one, and assisted so tolerably well, that the Priests took me into their House, and treated me very kindly, making me sing, and discourse of the Science of Musick, in which I pleas'd 'em so well, (the Priests of Apollo being all great Musicians) that they were willing to take me in as a Probationer, in order to become one of their holy Fraternity. I was almost non−plus'd what Answer to make; but present Necessity being the imperious Mistress that will be first serv'd, oblig'd me to accept of their kind Offer, and so resolv'd to stay with them, at least for some Time, 'till I cou'd study or turn myself some other Way, more suitable to my Sex and Education. Here I improv'd that little Talent I had of Singing and Musick, learn'd all the Ways and Rules of those holy Votaries; and found so much Happiness and Tranquility in that Kind of Life, that if it had been compatible with my Sex, I should have preferr'd it before all others, and have supplicated most earnestly to have been admitted into their holy Society.

Here I pass'd many Months, 'till the Time began to approach, in which I must initiate myself a Member of these holy Recluses, or leave the House totally; one was hard, and the other impossible. Sometimes I thought to cast myself at the Feet of the High−Priest, and discover my Grief and Necessity to him; but then again, I knew the Crime I had committed, in living thus in Disguise amongst them, would be thought very enormous, if not unpardonable; so whether out of Cowardice or Modesty, I know not, but I could not furnish myself with Assurance enough to declare these my hard Circumstances.

An Accident, which is a little particular, I cannot omit. There was near this holy Confraternity, a certain House, wherein liv'd their Steward, or chief Servant, who took Care of all their external Concerns, a very discreet Man, who had gather'd much Riches, and had Possessions of Pastures, Corn, and Cattle. This good Man had only one fair Daughter, Heiress of his Substance: She was sought after by all the rich Swains of those Parts; but the unfortunate Maid took an Affection to me. This made her refuse their Addresses, and those her Father made on their Behalf. I will not repeat the several Advances and innocent Efforts she made; for I being a Person not engag'd in their Rule of Living, was sent abroad on divers Occasions, so I was very often at this House, with this pretty Maid, whose Vertue engag'd me to a particular Love and Esteem for her; she and her Mother always treating me extream kindly with their rural Cates, Creams, Tarts, Sweet−meats, and the like: She frequently took Occasion to hint her Affection to me, which I endeavour'd to avoid, or not understand; 'till one Day, being set with her in a pleasant Arbour, she was rallying and talking against Love and Marriage, which was often the Theme of her Discourse; I suppose, partly to justify her refusing those Offers of Marriage, so proper and fitting, that no Exception could be made; and partly to introduce that Entertainment in a modest Manner, the innocent Affection she had for me, rendering that Discourse pleasing to her. Tho' thereby she shew'd her Want of Education, and Ignorance of the World; for our Roman Gallants take it for a certain Mark of Love, when a young Lady rallies or banters a young Gentleman on that Subject; and count it an Invitation to Courtship, or a transparent Mask, thro' which they see she has a Mind to be marry'd. But this pretty Innocence knew none of these Sophisms, and therefore pursu'd the Dictates of her own Fancy; and, like Heaven, which often treats with Rigour its greatest Favourites, thereby to prove them; so she seem'd to condemn Love and Marriage, to try how far I would stand in its Defence. Wherefore, I would not baulk her Fancy, but let her catch the Discourse for which she laid a Trap, and oppos'd all the little Harangues she made against Cupid and Hymen; and with due Respect and Veneration asserted the Greatness of their Power, the Happiness of their Votaries, the Inevitableness of falling under their Jurisdiction; therefore, perswaded her to make Vertue comply with Necessity, and submit her Inclinations to her Father's wise Election, and take for an Husband one of those her rich and honest Lovers recommended by her Father. Alas! Almon, (reply'd she, with a Look over−charg'd with Tenderness) had Heaven made you one of those! And so fainted away, her Spirits being overcome with Shame and Confusion; for she was perfectly vertuous and modest. After some little Endeavours, she came to herself, and I led her in, where she betook herself to her Bed, I suppose, partly out of Indisposition, and partly out of Confusion, for having so far discover'd her Weakness. Whatever was the Cause, the Effect was an Affliction to me, and a sensible Augmentation of my Misfortunes, by reason that I truly lov'd her; for her Vertue had gain'd my Esteem, and her Kindness engag'd my Gratitude. In fine, I found myself in a Labyrinth, thro' which I knew not how to direct my Steps. To reveal my Sex I was asham'd, nor indeed knew I to whom; for to this vertuous Maid it was in vain, she not being able to help me; to the High−Priest it was dangerous, fearing to be immur'd for having prophan'd that holy Place, by living so long there in Disguise; and to live there longer, was but to augment my Crime. How to discover myself, I knew not; to steal away, I durst not, or if I did, was ignorant which Way to dispose of this wretched Creature.

Thus I was very knowing in what could not be done, but what could or ought to to be done supass'd my Capacity. Great were my Griefs, and tumultuous were my Thoughts; I reflected on my past Life, but found nothing wherein I had so grossly offended the Gods, as to render me thus the Object of their Anger. I call'd to Mind my Disobedience to Flavia, as the worst of my Life's Actions; but even in that I found a Mixture of Vertue; for before I knew my own Meanness, I refus'd Clodius out of a Principle of Morality, he being a very loose irregular Liver; and my Refusal afterwards proceeded from Justice, as knowing myself unworthy of his Quality. This made me think, that in disobeying Flavia, I comply'd with the Will of the Gods, and accordingly hoped for their Protection. But finding so great Severity, I began to grow prophane in my Thoughts, and almost concluded with the Atheists, that there were no such Beings, but that our Fears and Necessities had created the Deities, and not they us. That our Weakness gave them Power, and our Want of Ability to avenge ourselves, caus'd us to set up those immortal Tribunals, to affright those with a future Punishment, which our impotent Anger could not make them feel at present. That all those Lectures taught by Philosophers and Divines, of Patience, Humility, and Resignation, and the Rewards belonging to them, were but Words to bubble the Minds of the Poor, that they might let the Rich enjoy their Ease and Plenty without Opposition. They decry'd Self−Assassination, thereby to oblige the Poor to live, in spite of all their Wants, that the Rich might have some to serve their Sloth.

These and a thousand desperate Thoughts roll'd in my Breast, by which I found Poverty to be a greater Enemy to Vertue, than Riches: For if the Rich, in the Fulness of Riot, forget the Givers of those good Things; the Poor, in their Murmurs and Despair, affront their very Beings, as well as tax their Justice in the Distribution of their Blessings. All this I experienc'd in the Midst of my Afflictions, in a solitary Grove at the Bottom of our Garden, where I was walking alone, without Friend to consolate, or Patron to assist me: But propitious Heaven directed my Steps to a Chapel of Diana's: Here I humbled myself at the Feet of this Virgin−Goddess, endeavour'd to purge my Breast of those Murmurings tending to Despair, which my Misfortunes had there planted, and offer'd my Afflictions, Youth, and Innocence, to her Protection; and, with devout Aspirations, begg'd her to pity my Weakness, and support mine Innocence. As I thus lay in a most humble Posture before her, I know not whether Sleep overtook me, and with my flowing Tears seal'd my corporeal Eyes, or what else, I am ignorant, but I saw strange glorious Pageants of Victories, Triumphs, Countries won and lost, mighty Heroes, and heroic Actions; and after all, I thought I saw a lovely Youth stand by me, and sing these Words:

Cease, gentle Maid, cease, cease to grieve,

Thy Goddess does thy Pray'rs receive,

And Providence will thee relieve.

Those, who on Providence depend,

And patiently its Will attend,

Shall be rewarded in the End,

By Ways and Means least thought upon,

That Mortals may be forc'd to own

Their Help comes from the Gods alone.

Griefs to Heav'n's Favourites are sent,

To purify the Penitent,

And justify the Innocent.

These Ways of Heav'n are always good,

Tho' opposite to Flesh and Blood,

And are but seldom understood.

Then dry thy Eyes, and clear thy Brow;

All Africa to thee shall bow,

'Tis thy Good Genius tells thee so.

This I should have taken for a mere Dream, but that the Words were most perfectly recorded in my Memory, which must have been by some immortal Power; moreover, one of the holy Priests walking in the Grove, heard the Singing, and came to the Chapel, where finding me, he concluded it to have been my Voice: All which made me suppose it something extraordinary: But the latter Words carrying, with them so much Impossibility, that one must suppose them to proceed from some false, or at least flattering Demon, rather than a God, or one's Good Genius.

Excuse me, (reply'd Scipiana) such good Lectures cannot proceed from an infernal Teacher; I can very well believe it to be thy good Genius, which brought with him such Consolation and vertuous Instructions; nor is there an Impossibility in what he sung touching Africa: Your Beauty and Vertues are certainly made to shine in some splendid Sphere; for the all−wise Gods making nothing in vain, consequently such Merits are not to be bury'd in Obscurity, but to be instructive and exemplary to the World; and I doubt not but those Divine Powers have sent thee hither, as a Means to accomplish their eternal Will, and have given into our Hands the Power to agitate for thee, which shall be in this Manner: My Cousin Clelia and L will recommend thee to our Kinswoman and Friend Fabiel, who is a great Princess in Egypt, where I doubt not but your Merits may (at least in Part) help you to accomplish this extraordinary Prediction. In all which a little Time shall instruct us; but at present proceed in your Story.

I must needs own (said Cordiala) that I found an inward Tranquility of Mind, tho' I saw no Prospect of any good Event, or Means to extricate myself from these Difficulties in which I was entangled. But propitious Heaven had Pity on me, and sent a Deliverance least expected.

Fabius, your noble Brother, (bowing to Clelia) came into Sardinia, in Search of Scipiana; and having lost himself in the Night, by Chance arriv'd at this Place, where he was kindly entertain'd by these holy Priests. Here he was complaining for want of a Servant, being, by some Means or Accident, depriv'd of those he brought with him from Rome, and was now destitute. These holy Priests, finding my Time of Probation almost expir'd, and that I made no Application to be receiv'd into their Fraternity, recommended me to this noble Person, as one faithful and diligent in anything suitable to my Years and Capacity.

Behold, Ladies, how my hard Fortune toss'd me, from a Lady to a Waiting−Gentlewoman, thence to a miserable Vagabond, afterwards to a Mariner, then to a wretched Beggar, and after that, to a Choirister, lastly, to a Serving−Man. In this State I travell'd with my Master, the noble Fabius, till we came in Sight of a great and magnificent Castle, standing in a large Park, enclos'd with a high Wall. Here my Master had a great Curiosity to enter, and going on, he found a Breach in the Wall, over which he pass'd without much Difficulty, leaving me on the other Side with the Horses.

As Cordiala was about to go on with her Story, they heard a Noise of People coming up Stairs; and looking up, they saw Asiaticus enter the Chamber; but so fully were they possess'd with the Belief of his being dead, that they could not credit their Senses, till Time and several Demonstrations convinc'd them that it was really he himself. But then the Joy which took Possession of their Souls is not to be express'd, nor the interchangeable Caresses between him and his dear Sister not to be number'd, which continu'd till the Consideration of making their Father Partaker of this vast Felicity, made 'em descend to his Apartment, where their mutual Satisfactions were such, as no Hand can delineate, therefore I leave the Reader to imagine.

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