The Lining of the Patch-Work Screen, by Jane Barker

Philinda's Story out of the Book.

At the time when the Moors invaded Spain, there were many Irregularities committed which are usual wherever the Seat of War is carried. By this means a beautiful young Nun, enter'd into an Intrigue with a Cavalier, of the Army, who found means, notwithstanding all the Care and Circumspection of those Places; I say, they found means to contract an Affection; nor did they stop there, but promis'd personal Enjoyment, and to live together as married People, if our Nun could find a way to get out of her Cloyster.

Now she that could suffer her self to consent to the Temptation of the Flesh, the Devil was at hand to help her through, and found a means for her Escape, to the utter breach of her Solemn Religious Vow of Chastity. Thus they went away together, were married, and liv'd in the midst of Plenty and conjugal Happiness, till her Husband's Devoirs called him to the Army.

At his going he left a Friend to consolate and assist her in his Absence; who truly perform'd the part of a good Man in all things within his power: The Army was encamp'd far off, and Correspondence difficult, which was a perpetual Affliction to her; many Battels and Skirmishes were fought, without any News from him: At last, some of his own Regiment, sent her word that he was kill'd. This was an inexpressible Grief to her: She lived many Days and Weeks in the utmost Disquietude, using all means possible to know the truth; but he was Universally believed to be dead, though his Body was never found amongst the Slain, nor yet heard of amongst the Prisoners. The Friend, that was left with her, was no less afflicted, and bore a true share of Grief with our disconsolate Relict: But Time, which devours all things, by degrees drank up the Tears of the Widow, and so far dissipated the Grief of the Friend, that he began to be sensible of her Charms, not only those of her Beauty, but was touch'd with that tender Affection which she daily express'd for the loss of his good Friend her Husband: This Esteem by degrees ripened into Affection, and from Affection to Passion, till he could no longer resist making his Addresses to her. How she received these Addresses at first, or by what degrees or steps he climbed into her Affection, is yet unknown; but so it was, in some time they were married together, and lived happy enough, till the suppos'd dead Husband return'd, which was after they had been married but a few Weeks. We will not descant either on the Cause of his Silence or Absence, whether dangerous Wounds, Imprisonment, or what else hapned; but he thought to bring her a pleasing Surprize in bringing himself into her Arms: But, alas! the Appearance of his Person was much more disagreeable, than if it had been his Ghost. However, she concealed her Sentiments, and receiv'd him kindly. After the first mutual Caresses were over, he said he was weary, having travelled far that Day; therefore would go lie down on a Couch, in the next Room, He being thus gone to Repose his poor weary Body, she in the midst of her Anxiety, took a wicked thought in her head, and resolved his death, before her other Husband should return; for he was gone abroad. This execrable Thought she indulg'd, till he being fast asleep, she put in Execution, and murdered this unfortunate Gentleman; even him, for whose sake she had broke through the Laws of God and her Country, dishonour'd her self and her Family; Him, for whom she had shed a Flood of Tears, utter'd millions of Sighs and Lamentations, and was for divers Months the most disconsolate Creature living; yet had the Cruelty now to shed his Blood, who had given her no provocation; but on the contrary, had fatigu'd himself to a great degree with travelling far that day, to arrive at her Embraces.

No doubt, but her thoughts were greatly perplex'd at what she had done, and what to do when the other Husband should come home; which we will leave to the Consideration of any that shall hear the Story.

When the Husband came, she receiv'd him with a frighted disconsolate Kindness; which he perceiving, press'd her to know the Cause. After some Sighs and Tears, she told him, that Excess of Love to him had made her act the most wicked and detestable of all Crimes, and thereupon opened the Door where the poor murder'd Body lay; which Sight fill'd him with the utmost Horror and Detestation. He look'd upon her as a bloody and a hateful Monster, never to be forgiven by God or Man; then again turning his Wrath upon himself, for having supplanted his Friend, before greater assurances of his death, he lamented him, reproach'd her, hated himself; she, on the other side, sigh'd, wept, tore her Hair, suffer'd convulsive Agonies, that between 'em, they acted a miserable Scene of Horror.

After the first Efforts of their Grief and Distraction were discharg'd, they began to consider what was to be done. The Gentleman thought it was cruel to expose her to the Hand of Justice, for a Crime she had committed for his sake, though in its self most enormous; beside, his Affection for her, joyn'd with Compassion, for the Foible of the Sex, he resolv'd on the following Measures: Which were, that in the dead of the Night, he himself would carry the murther'd Body to the River, which ran just by the Side of the Town, and cast it therein. This Resolution they put in practice; first drying up his bloody Wounds as well as they could, then wrapt him in a Sheet, and the Gentleman took him on his Back, and went softly down Stairs; but as she was following, she perceived a Foot hanging out, and immediately took a Needle and Thread, and sew'd it into the Sheet: But in her Fright, by mistake, took hold of the Gentleman's Coat, and so fastned that to the Sheet. He went on with his Load, got safe to the River, and with a hasty Cast, threw it off; but the Sheet being fastned to his Coat as before said, the Weight of the Dead Body in that sudden Motion, drew in the living Man also; where he was soon drowned, not being in the least able to help himself, by means of his being fastned to the dead Body.

Next day these two Bodies being found thus fastned together, were soon known, Officers of Justice came to search the House, examine, and apprehend the Family; But the miserable Lady, soon confess'd and told the Story, for which she received Punishment from the Hands of Justice, and in which she fulfilled the Proverb.

Marry in haste, and Repent at leisure.

The Ladies, having thus pass'd the greatest part of the Forenoon, resolv'd to go take a walk in the Park, to get them a good stomach to their Dinner. Here they found much Company, it being a very bright fine Winter's Day; and according to custom there were divers sorts of Dresses, Figures and Shapes of Persons, and as many different Discourses; Some admiring the Fineness of the Weather, others saying it was not natural at that time of Year; some praising this Lady for her excellent Fancy in her Dress, whilst others were blam'd for not suiting their Dress to their Complexion; one praised this Lady's Manteau−maker, another blam'd that Lady's Seamstress; some commended the Chocolate they had for breakfast, others complaining of the Oysters they had eat over Night; some talking of the Opera, some of the Play; how generous my Lord such an one was to his New Mistress; how glorious she appeared in the Box; some talking of what such a Lady won at Ombre, or lost at Basset; Who was kept by the one, and who was jilted by the other; Who had luck in the Lottery, and who lost in the South−Sea; Who had hang'd themselves for Love, and who drown'd themselves for Debt. Good Heavens! said our Ladies, who is there that talking of any good or moral Vertues? Who serves God or their Neighbour, who prays with Devotion, or relieves the Poor; who instructs the Ignorant, or comforts the Afflicted; who protects the Fatherless, or supports the oppressed Widow; who visits the Sick, buries the Dead, or covers the Naked with a Garment? Many more things of this kind they were repeating, till they perceiv'd a pretty elderly Gentlewoman following behind them, who for some time had over−heard their Discourse; for which she humbly beg'd their pardon, telling them it was not the effect of Curiosity, but that she had been a true Sharer in those Afflictions, caus'd by being abandon'd by Friends and persecuted by Enemies; But the Almighty had been her Assistance; that she might with great truth repeat those Words, When my Father and Mother forsook me, the Lord cared for me. The Ladies being a little weary of walking, and very curious to hear the Gentlewoman's Adventures, betook themselves to a Seat, desired her Company, and to relate her Story.

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