At the end of the first part of these letters, we left Philander impatiently waiting on the sea-shore for the approach of the lovely Sylvia; who accordingly came to him dressed like a youth, to secure herself from a discovery. They stayed not long to caress each other, but he taking the welcome maid in his arms, with a transported joy bore her to a small vessel, that lay ready near the beach; where, with only Brilliard and two men servants, they put to sea, and passed into Holland, landing at the nearest port; where, after having refreshed themselves for two or three days, they passed forwards towards the Brill, Sylvia still remaining under that amiable disguise: but in their passage from town to town, which is sometimes by coach, and other times by boat, they chanced one day to encounter a young Hollander of a more than ordinary gallantry for that country, so degenerate from good manners, and almost common civility, and so far short of all the good qualities that made themselves appear in this young nobleman. He was very handsome, well made, well dressed, and very well attended; and whom we will call Octavio, and who, young as he was, was one of the States of Holland; he spoke admirable good French, and had a vivacity and quickness of wit unusual with the natives of that part of the world, and almost above all the rest of his sex: Philander and Sylvia having already agreed for the cabin of the vessel that was to carry them to the next stage, Octavio came too late to have any place there but amongst the common crowd; which the master of the vessel, who knew him, was much troubled at, and addressed himself as civilly as he could to Philander, to beg permission for one stranger of quality to dispose of himself in the cabin for that day: Philander being well enough pleased, so to make an acquaintance with some of power of that country, readily consented; and Octavio entered with an address so graceful and obliging, that at first sight he inclined Philander’s, heart to a friendship with him; and on the other side the lovely person of Philander, the quality that appeared in his face and mien, obliged Octavio to become no less his admirer. But when he saluted Sylvia, who appeared to him a youth of quality, he was extremely charmed with her pretty gaiety, and an unusual air and life in her address and motion; he felt a secret joy and pleasure play about his soul, he knew not why, and was almost angry, that he felt such an emotion for a youth, though the most lovely that he ever saw. After the first compliments, they fell into discourse of a thousand indifferent things, and if he were pleased at first sight with the two lovers, he was wholly charmed by their conversation, especially that of the amiable youth; who well enough pleased with the young stranger, or else hitherto having met nothing so accomplished in her short travels; and indeed despairing to meet any such; she put on all her gaiety and charms of wit, and made as absolute a conquest as it was possible for her supposed sex to do over a man, who was a great admirer of the other; and surely the lovely maid never appeared so charming and desirable as that day; they dined together in the cabin; and after dinner reposed on little mattresses by each other’s side, where every motion, every limb, as carelessly she lay, discovered a thousand graces, and more and more enflamed the now beginning lover; she could not move, nor smile, nor speak, nor order any charm about her, but had some peculiar grace that began to make him uneasy; and from a thousand little modesties, both in her blushes and motions, he had a secret hope she was not what she seemed, but of that sex whereof she discovered so many softnesses and beauties; though to what advantage that hope would amount to his repose, was yet a disquiet he had not considered nor felt: nor could he by any fondness between them, or indiscretion of love, conceive how the lovely strangers were allied; he only hoped, and had no thoughts of fear, or any thing that could check his new beginning flame. While thus they passed the afternoon, they asked a thousand questions, of lovers, of the country and manners, and their security and civility to strangers; to all which Octavio answered as a man, who would recommend the place and persons purely to oblige their stay; for now self-interest makes him say all things in favour of it; and of his own friendship, offers them all the service of a man in power, and who could make an interest in those that had more than himself; much he protested, much he offered, and yet no more than he designed to make good on all occasions, which they received with an acknowledgement that plainly discovered a generosity and quality above the common rate of men; so that finding in each other occasions for love and friendship, they mutually professed it, and nobly entertained it. Octavio told his name and quality, left nothing unsaid that might confirm the lovers of his sincerity. This begot a confidence in Philander, who in return told him so much of his circumstances, as sufficed to let him know he was a person so unfortunate to have occasioned the displeasure of his king against him, and that he could not continue with any repose in that kingdom, whose monarch thought him no longer fit for those honours he had before received: Octavio renewed his protestations of serving him with his interest and fortune, which the other receiving with all the gallant modesty of an unfortunate man, they came ashore, where Octavio’s coaches and equipage waiting his coming to conduct him to his house, he offered his new friends the best of them to carry them to their lodging, which he had often pressed might be his own palace; but that being refused as too great an honour, he would himself see them placed in some one, which he thought might be most suitable to their quality; they excused the trouble, but he pressed too eagerly to be denied, and he conducted them to a merchant’s house not far from his own, so love had contrived for the better management of this new affair of his heart, which he resolved to pursue, be the fair object of what sex soever: but after having well enough recommended them to the care of the merchant, he thought it justice to leave them to their rest, though with abundance of reluctancy; so took his leave of both the lovely strangers, and went to his own home. And after a hasty supper got himself up to bed: not to sleep; for now he had other business: love took him now to task, and asked his heart a thousand questions. Then it was he found the idea of that fair unknown had absolute possession there: nor was he at all displeased to find he was a captive; his youth and quality promise his hopes a thousand advantages above all other men: but when he reflected on the beauty of Philander, on his charming youth and conversation, and every grace that adorns a conqueror, he grew inflamed, disordered, restless, angry, and out of love with his own attractions; considered every beauty of his own person, and found them, or at least thought them infinitely short of those of his now fancied rival; yet it was a rival that he could not hate, nor did his passion abate one thought of his friendship for Philander, but rather more increased it, insomuch that he once resolved it should surmount his love if possible, at least he left it on the upper-hand, till time should make a better discovery. When tired with thought we’ll suppose him asleep, and see how our lovers fared; who being lodged all on one stair-case (that is, Philander, Sylvia, and Brilliard) it was not hard for the lover to steal into the longing arms of the expecting Sylvia; no fatigues of tedious journeys, and little voyages, had abated her fondness, or his vigour; the night was like the first, all joy! All transport! Brilliard lay so near as to be a witness to all their sighs of love, and little soft murmurs, who now began from a servant to be permitted as an humble companion; since he had had the honour of being married to Sylvia, though yet he durst not lift his eyes or thoughts that way; yet it might be perceived he was melancholy and sullen whenever he saw their dalliances; nor could he know the joys his lord nightly stole, without an impatience, which, if but minded or known, perhaps had cost him his life. He began, from the thoughts she was his wife, to fancy fine enjoyment, to fancy authority which he durst not assume, and often wished his lord would grow cold, as possessing lovers do, that then he might advance his hope, when he should even abandon or slight her: he could not see her kissed without blushing with resentment; but if he has assisted to undress him for her bed, he was ready to die with anger, and would grow sick, and leave the office to himself: he could not see her naked charms, her arms stretched out to receive a lover, with impatient joy, without madness; to see her clasp him fast, when he threw himself into her soft, white bosom, and smother him with kisses: no, he could not bear it now, and almost lost his respect when he beheld it, and grew saucy unperceived. And it was in vain that he looked back upon the reward he had to stand for that necessary cypher a husband. In vain he considered the reasons why, and the occasion wherefore; he now seeks precedents of usurped dominion, and thinks she is his wife, and has forgot that he is her creature, and Philander’s vassal. These thoughts disturbed him all the night, and a certain jealousy, or rather curiosity to listen to every motion of the lovers, while they were employed after a different manner.
Next day it was debated what was best to be done, as to their conduct in that place; or whether Sylvia should yet own her sex or not; but she, pleased with the cavalier in herself, begged she might live under that disguise, which indeed gave her a thousand charms to those which nature had already bestowed on her sex; and Philander was well enough pleased she should continue in that agreeable dress, which did not only add to her beauty, but gave her a thousand little privileges, which otherwise would have been denied to women, though in a country of much freedom. Every day she appeared in the Tour, she failed not to make a conquest on some unguarded heart of the fair sex: not was it long ere she received billets-doux from many of the most accomplished who could speak and write French. This gave them a pleasure in the midst of her unlucky exile, and she failed not to boast her conquests to Octavio, who every day gave all his hours to love, under the disguise of friendship, and every day received new wounds, both from her conversation and beauty, and every day confirmed him more in his first belief, that she was a woman; and that confirmed his love. But still he took care to hide his passion with a gallantry, that was natural to him, and to very few besides; and he managed his eyes, which were always full of love, so equally to both, that when he was soft and fond it appeared more his natural humour, than from any particular cause. And that you may believe that all the arts of gallantry, and graces of good management were more peculiarly his than another’s, his race was illustrious, being descended from that of the Princes of Orange, and great birth will shine through, and shew itself in spite of education and obscurity: but Octavio had all those additions that render a man truly great and brave; and this is the character of him that was next undone by our unfortunate and fatal beauty. At this rate for some time they lived thus disguised under feigned names, Octavio omitting nothing that might oblige them in the highest degree, and hardly any thing was talked of but the new and beautiful strangers, whose conquests in all places over the ladies are well worthy, both for their rarity and comedy, to be related entirely by themselves in a novel. Octavio saw every day with abundance of pleasure the little revenges of love, on those women’s hearts who had made before little conquests over him, and strove by all the gay presents he made a young Fillmond (for so they called Sylvia,) to make him appear unresistible to the ladies; and while Sylvia gave them new wounds, Octavio failed not to receive them too among the crowd, till at last he became a confirmed slave, to the lovely unknown; and that which was yet more strange, she captivated the men no less than the women, who often gave her serenades under her window, with songs fitted to the courtship of a boy, all which added to their diversion: but fortune had smiled long enough, and now grew weary of obliging, she was resolved to undeceive both sexes, and let them see the errors of their love; for Sylvia fell into a fever so violent, that Philander no longer hoped for her recovery, insomuch that she was obliged to own her sex, and take women servants out of decency. This made the first discovery of who and what they were, and for which every body languished under a secret grief. But Octavio, who now was not only confirmed she was a woman, but that she was neither wife to Philander, nor could in almost all possibility ever be so; that she was his mistress, gave him hope that she might one day as well be conquered by him; and he found her youth, her beauty, and her quality, merited all his pains of lavish courtship. And now there remains no more than the fear of her dying to oblige him immediately to a discovery of his passion, too violent now by his new hope to be longer concealed, but decency forbids he should now pursue the dear design; he waited and made vows for her recovery; visited her, and found Philander the most deplorable object that despair and love could render him, who lay eternally weeping on her bed, and no counsel or persuasion could remove him thence; but if by chance they made him sensible it was for her repose, he would depart to ease his mind by new torments, he would rave and tear his delicate hair, sigh and weep upon Octavio’s bosom, and a thousand times begin to unfold the story, already known to the generous rival; despair, and hopes of pity from him, made him utter all: and one day, when by the advice of the physician he was forced to quit the chamber to give her rest, he carried Octavio to his own, and told him from the beginning, all the story of his love with the charming Sylvia, and with it all the story of his fate: Octavio sighing (though glad of the opportunity) told him his affairs were already but too well known, and that he feared his safety from that discovery, since the States had obliged themselves to harbour no declared enemy to the French King. At this news our young unfortunate shewed a resentment that was so moving, that even Octavio, who felt a secret joy at the thoughts of his departure, could no longer refrain from pity and tenderness, even to a wish that he were less unhappy, and never to part from Sylvia: but love soon grew again triumphant in his heart, and all he could say was, that he would afford him the aids of all his power in this encounter; which, with the acknowledgements of a lover, whose life depended on it, he received, and parted with him, who went to learn what was decreed in Council concerning him. While Philander returned to Sylvia, the most dejected lover that ever fate produced, when he had not sighed away above an hour, but received a billet by Octavio’s page from his lord; he went to his own apartment to read it, fearing it might contain something too sad for him to be able to hold his temper at the reading of, and which would infallibly have disturbed the repose of Sylvia, who shared in every cruel thought of Philander’s: when he was alone he opened it, and read this.
OCTAVIO to PHILANDER.
I had rather die than be the ungrateful messenger of news, which I am sensible will prove too fatal to you, and which will be best expressed in fewest words: it is decreed that you must retire from the United Provinces in four and twenty hours, if you will save a life that is dear to me and Sylvia, there being no other security against your being rendered up to the King of France. Support it well, and hope all things from the assistance of your
From the Council, Wednesday.
Philander having finished the reading of this, remained a while wholly without life or motion, when coming to himself, he sighed and cried — ‘Why — farewell trifling life — if of the two extremes one must be chosen, rather than I’ll abandon Sylvia, I’ll stay and be delivered up a victim to incensed France— It is but a life — at best I never valued thee — and now I scorn to preserve thee at the price of Sylvia’s tears!’ Then taking a hasty turn or two about his chamber, he pausing cried — ‘But by my stay I ruin both Sylvia and myself, her life depends on mine; and it is impossible hers can be preserved when mine is in danger: by retiring I shall shortly again be blessed with her sight in a more safe security, by staying I resign myself poorly to be made a public scorn to France, and the cruel murderer of Sylvia.’ Now, it was after an hundred turns and pauses, intermixed with sighs and ravings, that he resolved for both their safeties to retire; and having a while longer debated within himself how, and where, and a little time ruminated on his hard pursuing fate, grown to a calm of grief, (less easy to be borne than rage) he hastes to Sylvia, whom he found something more cheerful than before, but dares not acquaint her with the commands he had to depart —— But silently he views her, while tears of love and grief glide unperceivably from his fine eyes, his soul grows tenderer at every look, and pity and compassion joining to his love and his despair, set him on the wreck of life; and now believing it less pain to die than to leave Sylvia, resolves to disobey, and dare the worst that shall befall him; he had some glimmering hope, as lovers have, that some kind chance will prevent his going, or being delivered up; he trusts much to the friendship of Octavio, whose power joined with that of his uncle, (who was one of the States also, and whom he had an ascendant over, as his nephew and his heir) might serve him; he therefore ventures to move him to compassion by this following letter.
PHILANDER to OCTAVIO.
I know, my lord, that the exercise of virtue and justice is so innate to your soul, and fixed to the very principle of a generous commonwealth’s man, that where those are in competition, it is neither birth, wealth, or glorious merit, that can render the unfortunate condemned by you, worthy of your pity or pardon: your very sons and fathers fall before your justice, and it is crime enough to offend (though innocently) the least of your wholesome laws, to fall under the extremity of their rigour. I am not ignorant neither how flourishing this necessary tyranny, this lawful oppression renders your State; how safe and glorious, how secure from enemies at home, (those worst of foes) and how feared by those abroad: pursue then, sir, your justifiable method, and still be high and mighty, retain your ancient Roman virtue, and still be great as Rome herself in her height of glorious commonwealths; rule your stubborn natives by her excellent examples, and let the height of your ambition be only to be as severely just, as rigidly good as you please; but like her too, be pitiful to strangers, and dispense a noble charity to the distressed, compassionate a poor wandering young man, who flies to you for refuge, lost to his native home, lost to his fame, his fortune, and his friends; and has only left him the knowledge of his innocence to support him from falling on his own sword, to end an unfortunate life, pursued every where, and safe no where; a life whose only refuge is Octavio’s goodness; nor is it barely to preserve this life that I have recourse to that only as my sanctuary, and like an humble slave implore your pity: oh, Octavio, pity my youth, and intercede for my stay yet a little longer: yourself makes one of the illustrious number of the grave, the wise and mighty Council, your uncle and relations make up another considerable part of it, and you are too dear to all, to find a refusal of your just and compassionate application. Oh! What fault have I committed against you, that I should not find a safety here; as well as those charged with the same crime with me, though of less quality? Many I have encountered here of our unlucky party, who find a safety among you: is my birth a crime? Or does the greatness of that augment my guilt? Have I broken any of your laws, committed any outrage? Do they suspect me for a spy to France! Or do I hold any correspondence with that ungrateful nation? Does my religion, principle, or opinion differ from yours? Can I design the subversion of your glorious State? Can I plot, cabal, or mutiny alone? Oh charge me with some offence, or yourselves of injustice. Say, why am I denied my length of earth amongst you, if I die? Or why to breathe the open air, if I live, since I shall neither oppress the one, nor infect the other? But on the contrary am ready with my sword, my youth and blood to serve you, and bring my little aids on all occasions to yours: and should be proud of the glory to die for you in battle, who would deliver me up a sacrifice to France. Oh! where, Octavio, is the glory or virtue of this punctilio? For it is no other: there are no laws that bind you to it, no obligatory article of Nations, but an unnecessary compliment made a nemine contradicente of your senate, that argues nothing but ill nature, and cannot redound to any one’s advantage; an ill nature that’s levelled at me alone; for many I found here, and many shall leave under the same circumstances with me; it is only me whom you have marked out the victim to atone for all: well then, my lord, if nothing can move you to a safety for this unfortunate, at least be so merciful to suspend your cruelty a little, yet a little, and possibly I shall render you the body of Philander, though dead, to send into France, as the trophy of your fidelity to that Crown: oh yet a little stay your cruel sentence, till my lovely sister, who pursued my hard fortunes, declare my fate by her life or death: oh, my lord, if ever the soft passion of love have touched your soul, if you have felt the unresistible force of young charms about your heart, if ever you have known a pain and pleasure from fair eyes, or the transporting joys of beauty, pity a youth undone by love and ambition, those powerful conquerors of the young —— pity, oh pity a youth that dies, and will ere long no more complain upon your rigours. Yes, my lord, he dies without the force of a terrifying sentence, without the grim reproaches of an angry judge, without the soon consulted arbitrary —— guilty of a severe and hasty jury, without the ceremony of the scaffold, axe, and hangman, and the clamours of inconsidering crowds; all which melancholy ceremonies render death so terrible, which else would fall like gentle slumbers upon the eye-lids, and which in field I would encounter with that joy I would the sacred thing I love! But oh, I fear my fate is in the lovely Sylvia, and in her dying eyes you may read it, in her languishing face you will see how near it is approached. Ah, will you not suffer me to attend it there? By her dear side I shall fall as calmly as flowers from their stalks, without regret or pain: will you, by forcing me to die from her, run me to a madness? To wild distraction? Oh think it sufficient that I die here before half my race of youth be run, before the light be half burnt out, that might have conducted me to a world of glory! Alas, she dies=-the lovely Sylvia dies; she is sighing out a soul to which mine is so entirely fixed, that they must go upward together; yes, yes, she breathes it sick into my bosom, and kindly gives mine its disease of death: let us at least then die in silence quietly; and if it please heaven to restore the languished charmer, I will resign myself up to all your rigorous honour; only let me bear my treasure with me, while we wander over the world to seek us out a safety in some part of it, where pity and compassion is no crime, where men have tender hearts, and have heard of the god of love; where politics are not all the business of the powerful, but where civility and good nature reign.
Perhaps, my lord, you will wonder I plead no weightier argument for my stay than love, or the griefs and tears of a languishing maid: but, oh! they are such tears as every drop would ransom lives, and nothing that proceeds from her charming eyes can be valued at a less rate! In pity to her, to me, and your amorous youths, let me bear her hence: for should she look abroad as her own sex, should she appear in her natural and proper beauty, alas they were undone. Reproach not (my lord) the weakness of this confession, and which I make with more glory than could I boast myself lord of all the universe: if it appear a fault to the more grave and wise, I hope my youth will plead something for my excuse. Oh say, at least, it was pity that love had the ascendant over Philander’s soul, say it was his destiny, but say withal, that it put no stop to his advance to glory; rather it set an edge upon his sword, and gave wings to his ambition! — Yes, try me in your Councils, prove me in your camps, place me in any hazard — but give me love! And leave me to wait the life or death of Sylvia, and then dispose as you please, my lord, of your unfortunate
OCTAVIO to PHILANDER.
I am much concerned, that a request so reasonable as you have made, will be of so little force with these arbitrary tyrants of State; and though you have addressed and appealed to me as one of that grave and rigid number, (though without one grain of their formalities, and I hope age, which renders us less gallant, and more envious of the joys and liberties of youth, will never reduce me to so dull and thoughtless a Member of State) yet I have so small and single a portion of their power, that I am ashamed of my incapacity of serving you in this great affair. I bear the honour and the name, it is true, of glorious sway; but I can boast but of the worst and most impotent part of it, the title only; but the busy, absolute, mischievous politician finds no room in my soul, my humour, or constitution; and plodding restless power I have made so little the business of my gayer and more careless youth, that I have even lost my right of rule, my share of empire amongst them. That little power (whose unregarded loss I never bemoaned till it rendered me incapable of serving Philander) I have stretched to the utmost bound for your stay; insomuch that I have received many reproaches from the wiser coxcombs, have made my youth’s little debauches hinted on, and judgements made of you (disadvantageous) from my friendship to you; a friendship, which, my lord, at first sight of you found a being in my soul, and which your wit, your goodness, your greatness, and your misfortunes have improved to all the degrees of it: though I am infinitely unhappy that it proves of no use to you here, and that the greatest testimony I can now render of it, is to warn you of your approaching danger, and hasten your departure, for there is no safety in your stay. I just now heard what was decreed against you in Council, which no pleading, nor eloquence of friendship had force enough to evade. Alas, I had but one single voice in the number, which I sullenly and singly gave, and which unregarded passed. Go then, my lord, haste to some place where good breeding and humanity reigns: go and preserve Sylvia, in providing for your own safety; and believe me, till she be in a condition to pursue your fortunes, I will take such care that nothing shall be wanting to her recovery here, in order to her following after you. I am, alas, but too sensible of all the pains you must endure by such a separation; for I am neither insensible, nor incapable of love, or any of its violent effects: go then, my lord, and preserve the lovely maid in your flight, since your stay and danger will serve but to hasten on her death: go and be satisfied she shall find a protection suitable to her sex, her innocence, her beauty, and her quality; and that wherever you fix your stay, she shall be resigned to your arms by, my lord, your eternal friend and humble servant,
Lest in this sudden remove you should want money, I have sent you several Bills of Exchange to what place soever you arrive, and what you want more (make no scruple to use me as a friend and) command.
After this letter finding no hopes, but on the contrary a dire necessity of departing, he told Brilliard his misfortune, and asked his counsel in this extremity of affairs. Brilliard, (who of a servant was become a rival) you may believe, gave him such advice as might remove him from the object he adored. But after a great deal of dissembled trouble, the better to hide his joy, he gave his advice for his going, with all the arguments that appeared reasonable enough to Philander; and at every period urged, that his life being dear to Sylvia, and on which hers so immediately depended, he ought no longer to debate, but hasten his flight: to all which counsel our amorous hero, with a soul ready to make its way through his trembling body, gave a sighing unwilling assent. It was now no longer a dispute, but was concluded he must go; but how was the only question. How should he take his farewell? How he should bid adieu, and leave the dear object of his soul in an estate so hazardous? He formed a thousand sad ideas to torment himself with fancying he should never see her more, that he should hear that she was dead, though now she appeared on this side the grave, and had all the signs of a declining disease. He fancied absence might make her cold, and abate her passion to him; that her powerful beauty might attract adorers, and she being but a woman, and no part angel but her form,’twas not expected she should want her sex’s frailties. Now he could consider how he had won her, how by importunity and opportunity she had at last yielded to him, and therefore might to some new gamester, when he was not by to keep her heart in continual play: then it was that all the despair of jealous love, the throbs and piercing of a violent passion seized his timorous and tender heart, he fancied her already in some new lover’s arms, and ran over all these soft enjoyments he had with her; and fancied with tormenting thought, that so another would possess her; till racked with tortures, he almost fainted on the repose on which he was set: but Brilliard roused and endeavoured to convince him, told him he hoped his fear was needless, and that he would take all the watchful care imaginable of her conduct, be a spy upon her virtue, and from time to time give him notice of all that should pass! Bid him consider her quality, and that she was no common mistress whom hire could lead astray; and that if from the violence of her passion, or her most severe fate, she had yielded to the most charming of men, he ought as little to imagine she could be again a lover, as that she could find an object of equal beauty with that of Philander. In fine, he soothed and flattered him into so much ease, that he resolves to take his leave for a day or two, under pretence of meeting and consulting with some of the rebel party; and that he would return again to her by that time it might be imagined her fever might be abated, and Sylvia in a condition to receive the news of his being gone for a longer time, and to know all his affairs. While Brilliard prepared all things necessary for his departure, Philander went to Sylvia; from whom, having been absent two tedious hours, she caught him in her arms with a transport of joy, reproached him with want of love, for being absent so long: but still the more she spoke soft sighing words of love, the more his soul was seized with melancholy, his sighs redoubled, and he could not refrain from letting fall some tears upon her bosom —— which Sylvia perceiving, with a look and a trembling in her voice, that spoke her fears, she cried, ‘Oh Philander! These are unusual marks of your tenderness; oh tell me, tell me quickly what they mean.’ He answered with a sigh, and she went on —‘It is so, I am undone, it is your lost vows, your broken faith you weep; yes, Philander, you find the flower of my beauty faded, and what you loved before, you pity now, and these be the effects of it.’ Then sighing, as if his soul had been departing on her neck, he cried, ‘By heaven, by all the powers of love, thou art the same dear charmer that thou wert;’ then pressing her body to his bosom, he sighed anew as if his heart were breaking —‘I know’ (says she) ‘Philander, there is some hidden cause that gives these sighs their way, and that dear face a paleness. Oh tell me all; for she that could abandon all for thee, can dare the worst of fate: if thou must quit me —— oh Philander, if it must be so, I need not stay the lingering death of a feeble fever; I know a way more noble and more sudden.’ Pleased at her resolution, which almost destroyed his jealousy and fears, a thousand times he kissed her, mixing his grateful words and thanks with sighs; and finding her fair hands (which he put often to his mouth) to increase their fires, and her pulse to be more high and quick, fearing to relapse her into her (abating) fever, he forced a smile, and told her, he had no griefs, but what she made him feel, no torments but her sickness, nor sighs but for her pain, and left nothing unsaid that might confirm her he was still more and more her slave; and concealing his design in favour of her health, he ceased not vowing and protesting, till he had settled her in all the tranquillity of a recovering beauty. And as since her first illness he had never departed from her bed, so now this night he strove to appear in her arms with all that usual gaiety of love that her condition would permit, or his circumstances could feign, and leaving her asleep at day-break (with a force upon his soul that cannot be conceived but by parting lovers) he stole from her arms, and retiring to his chamber, he soon got himself ready for his flight, and departed. We will leave Sylvia’s ravings to be expressed by none but herself, and tell you that after about fourteen days’ absence, Octavio received this letter from Philander.
PHILANDER to OCTAVIO.
Being safely arrived at Cologne, and by a very pretty and lucky adventure lodged in the house of the best quality in the town, I find myself much more at ease than I thought it possible to be without Sylvia, from whom I am nevertheless impatient to hear; I hope absence appears not so great a bugbear to her as it was imagined: for I know not what effects it would have on me to hear her griefs exceeded a few sighs and tears: those my kind absence has taught me to allow and bear without much pain, but should her love transport her to extremes of rage and despair, I fear I should quit my safety here, and give her the last proof of my love and my compassion, throw myself at her feet, and expose my life to preserve hers. Honour would oblige me to it. I conjure you, my dear Octavio, by all the friendship you have vowed me, (and which I no longer doubt) let me speedily know how she bears my absence, for on that knowledge depends a great deal of the satisfaction of my life; carry her this enclosed which I have writ her, and soften my silent departure, which possibly may appear rude and unkind, plead my pardon, and give her the story of my necessity of offending, which none can so well relate as yourself; and from a mouth so eloquent to a maid so full of love, will soon reconcile me to her heart. With her letter I send you a bill to pay her 2000 patacons, which I have paid Vander Hanskin here, as his letter will inform you, as also those bills I received of you at my departure, having been supplied by an English merchant here, who gave me credit. It will be an age, till I hear from you, and receive the news of the health of Sylvia, than which two blessings nothing will be more welcome to, generous Octavio, your
Direct your letters for me to your merchant Vander Hanskin.
PHILANDER to SYLVIA.
There is no way left to gain my Sylvia’s pardon for leaving her, and leaving her in such circumstances, but to tell her it was to preserve a life which I believed entirely dear to her; but that unhappy crime is too severely punished by the cruelties of my absence: believe me, lovely Sylvia, I have felt all your pains, I have burnt with your fever, and sighed with your oppressions; say, has my pain abated yours? Tell me, and hasten my health by the assurance of your recovery, or I have fled in vain from those dear arms to save my life, of which I know not what account to give you, till I receive from you the knowledge of your perfect health, the true state of mine. I can only say I sigh, and have a sort of a being in Cologne, where I have some more assurance of protection than I could hope I from those interested brutes, who sent me from you; yet brutish as they are, I know thou art safe from their clownish outrages. For were they senseless as their fellow-monsters of the sea, they durst not profane so pure an excellence as thine; the sullen boars would jouder out a welcome to thee, and gape, I and wonder at thy awful beauty, though they want the tender sense to know to what use it was made. Or if I doubted their humanity, I cannot the friendship of Octavio, since he has given me too good a proof of it, to leave me any fear that he has not in my absence pursued those generous sentiments for Sylvia, which he vowed to Philander, and of which this first proof must be his relating the necessity of my absence, to set me well with my adorable maid, who, better than I, can inform her; and that I rather chose to quit you only for a short space, than reduce myself to the necessity of losing you eternally. Let the satisfaction this ought to give you retrieve your health and beauty, and put you into a condition of restoring to me all my joys; that by pursuing the dictates of your love, you may again bring the greatest happiness on earth to the arms of your
My affairs here are yet so unsettled, that I can take no order for your coming to me; but as soon as I know where I can fix with safety, I shall make it my business and my happiness: adieu. Trust Octavio with your letters only.
This letter Octavio would not carry himself to her, who had omitted no day, scarce an hour, wherein he saw not or sent not to the charming Sylvia; but he found in that which Philander had writ to him an air of coldness altogether unusual with that passionate lover, and infinitely short in point of tenderness to those he had formerly seen of his, and from what he had heard him speak; so that he no longer doubted (and the rather because he hoped it) but that Philander found an abatement of that heat, which was wont to inspire at a more amorous rate: this appearing declension he could not conceal from Sylvia, at least to let her know he took notice of it; for he knew her love was too quick-sighted and sensible to pass it unregarded; but he with reason thought, that when she should find others observe the little slight she had put on her, her pride (which is natural to women in such cases) would decline and lessen her love for his rival. He therefore sent his page with the letters enclosed in this from himself.
OCTAVIO to SYLVIA.
From a little necessary debauch I made last night with the Prince, I am forced to employ my page in those duties I ought to have performed myself: he brings you, madam, a letter from Philander, as mine, which I have also sent you, informs me; I should else have doubted it; it is, I think, his character, and all he says of Octavio confesses the friend, but where he speaks of Sylvia sure he disguises the lover: I wonder the mask should be put on now to me, to whom before he so frankly discovered the secrets of his amorous heart. It is a mystery I would fain persuade myself he finds absolutely necessary to his interest, and I hope you will make the same favourable constructions of it, and not impute the lessened zeal wherewith he treats the charming Sylvia to any possible change or coldness, since I am but too fatally sensible, that no man can arrive at the glory of being beloved by you, that had ever power to shorten one link of that dear chain that holds him, and you need but survey that adorable face, to confirm your tranquillity; set a just value on your charms, and you need no arguments to secure your everlasting empire, or to establish it in what heart you please. This fatal truth I learned from your fair eyes, ere they discovered to me your sex, and you may as soon change to what I then believed you, as I from adoring what I now find you: if all then, madam, that do but look on you become your slaves, and languish for you, love on, even without hope, and die, what must Philander pay you, who has the mighty blessing of your love, your vows, and all that renders the hours of amorous youth, sacred, glad, and triumphant? But you know the conquering power of your charms too well to need either this daring confession, or a defence of Philander’s virtue from, madam, your obedient slave,
Sylvia had no sooner read this with blushes, and a thousand fears, and trembling of what was to follow in Philander’s letters both to Octavio and to herself, but with an indignation agreeable to her haughty soul, she cried —‘How — slighted! And must Octavio see it too! By heaven, if I should find it true, he shall not dare to think it.’ Then with a generous rage she broke open Philander’s, letter; and which she soon perceived did but too well prove the truth of Octavio’s suspicion, and her own fears. She repeated it again and again, and still she found more cause of grief and anger; love occasioned the first, and pride the last; and, to a soul perfectly haughty, as was that of Sylvia, it was hard to guess which had the ascendant: she considered Octavio to all the advantages that thought could conceive in one, who was not a lover of him; she knew he merited a heart, though she had none to give him; she found him charming without having a tenderness for him; she found him young and amorous without desire towards him; she found him great, rich, powerful and generous without designing on him; and though she knew her soul free from all passion, but that for Philander, nevertheless she blushed and was angry, that he had thoughts no more advantageous to the power of those charms, which she wish’d might appear to him above her sex, it being natural to women to desire conquests, though they hate the conquered; to glory in the triumph, though they despise the slave: and she believed, while Octavio had so poor a sense of her beauty as to believe it could be forsaken, he would adore it less: and first, to satisfy her pride, she left the softer business of her heart to the next tormenting hour, and sent him this careless answer by his page, believing, if she valued his opinion; and therefore dissembled her thoughts, as women in those cases ever do, who when most angry seem the most galliard, especially when they have need of the friendship of those they flatter.
SYLVIA to OCTAVIO.
Is it indeed, Octavio, that you believe Philander cold, or would you make that a pretext to the declaration of your own passion? We French ladies are not so nicely tied up to the formalities of virtue, but we can hear love at both ears: and if we receive not the addresses of both, at least we are perhaps vain enough not to be displeased to find we make new conquests. But you have made your attack with so ill conduct, that I shall find force enough without more aids to repulse you. Alas, my lord, did you believe my heart was left unguarded when Philander departed? No, the careful charming lover left a thousand little gods to defend it, of no less power than himself; young deities, who laugh at all your little arts and treacheries, and scorn to resign their empire to any feeble Cupids you can draw up against them: your thick foggy air breeds love too dull and heavy for noble flights, nor can I stoop to them. The Flemish boy wants arrows keen enough for hearts like mine, and is a bungler in his art, too lazy and remiss, rather a heavy Bacchus than a Cupid, a bottle sends him to his bed of moss, where he sleeps hard, and never dreams of Venus.
How poorly have you paid yourself, my lord, (by this pursuit of your discovered love) for all the little friendship you have rendered me! How well you have explained, you can be no more a lover than a friend, if one may judge the first by the last! Had you been thus obstinate in your passion before Philander went, or you had believed me abandoned, I should perhaps have thought that you had loved indeed, because I should have seen you durst, and should have believed it true, because it ran some hazards for me, the resolution of it would have reconciled me then to the temerity of it, and the greatest demonstration you could have given of it, would have been the danger you would have ran and contemned, and the preference of your passion above any other consideration. This, my lord, had been generous and like a lover; but poorly thus to set upon a single woman in the disguise of a friend, in the dark silent melancholy hour of absence from Philander, then to surprise me, then to bid me deliver! to pad for hearts! It is not like Octavio, Octavio that Philander made his friend, and for whose dear sake, my lord, I will no farther reproach you, but from a goodness, which, I hope, you will merit, I will forgive an offence, which your ill-timing has rendered almost inexcusable, and expect you will for the future consider better how you ought to treat
As soon as she had dismissed the page, she hasted to her business of love, and again read over Philander’s, letter, and finding still new occasion for fear, she had recourse to pen and paper for a relief of that heart which no other way could find; and after having wiped the tears from her eyes, she writ this following letter.
SYLVIA to PHILANDER.
Yes, Philander, I have received your letter, and but I found my name there, should have hoped it was not meant for Sylvia! Oh! It is all cold — short — short and cold as a dead winter’s day. It chilled my blood, it shivered every vein. Where, oh where hast thou lavished out all those soft words so natural to thy soul, with which thou usedst to charm; so tuned to the dear music of thy voice? What is become of all the tender things, which, as I used to read, made little nimble pantings in my heart, my blushes rise, and tremblings in my blood, adding new fire to the poor burning victim! Oh where are all thy pretty flatteries of love, that made me fond and vain, and set a value on this trifling beauty? Hast thou forgot thy wondrous art of loving? Thy pretty cunnings, and thy soft deceivings? Hast thou forgot them all? Or hast thou forgot indeed to love at all? Has thy industrious passion gathered all the sweets, and left the rifled flower to hang its withered head, and die in I shades neglected? For who will prize it now, now when all its I perfumes are fled? Oh my Philander, oh my charming fugitive! Was it not enough you left me, like false Theseus, on the shore, on the forsaken shore, departed from my fond, my clasping arms; where I believed you safe, secure and pleased, when sleep and night, that favoured you and ruined me, had rendered them incapable of their dear loss! Oh was it not enough, that when I found them empty and abandoned, and the place cold where you had lain, and my poor trembling bosom unpossessed of that dear load it bore, that I almost expired with my first fears? Oh, if Philander loved, he would have thought that cruelty enough, without the sad addition of a growing coldness: I awaked, I missed thee, and I called aloud, ‘Philander! my Philander!’ But no Philander heard; then drew the close-drawn curtains, and with a hasty and busy view surveyed the chamber over; but oh! In vain I viewed, and called yet louder, but none appeared to my assistance but Antonet and Brilliard, to torture me with dull excuses, urging a thousand feigned and frivolous reasons to satisfy my fears: but I, who loved, who doted even to madness, by nature soft, and timorous as a dove, and fearful as a criminal escaped, that dreads each little noise, fancied their eyes and guilty looks confessed the treasons of their hearts and tongues, while they, more kind than true, strove to convince my killing doubts, protested that you would return by night, and feigned a likely story to deceive. Thus between hope and fear I languished out a day; oh heavens! A tedious day without Philander: who would have thought that such a dismal day should not, with the end of its reign, have finished that of my life! But then Octavio came to visit me, and who till then I never wished to see, but now I was impatient for his coming, who by degrees told me that you were gone — I never asked him where, or how, or why; that you were gone was enough to possess me of all I feared, your being apprehended and sent into France, your delivering yourself up, your abandoning me; all, all I had an easy faith for, without consulting more than that thou wert gone — that very word yet strikes a terror to my soul, disables my trembling hand, and I must wait for reinforcements from some kinder thoughts. But, oh! From whence should they arrive? From what dear present felicity, or prospect of a future, though never so distant, and all those past ones serve but to increase my pain; they favour me no more, they charm and please no more, and only present themselves to my memory to complete the number of my sighs and tears, and make me wish that they had never been, though even with Philander? Oh! say, thou monarch of my panting soul, how hast thou treated Sylvia, to make her wish that she had never known a tender joy with thee? Is it possible she should repent her loving thee, and thou shouldst give her cause! Say, dear false charmer, is it? But oh, there is no lasting faith in sin! —— Ah — What have I done? How dreadful is the scene of my first debauch, and how glorious that never to be regained prospect of my virgin innocence, where I sat enthroned in awful virtue, crowned with shining honour, and adorned with unsullied reputation, till thou, O tyrant Love, with a charming usurpation invaded all my glories; and which I resigned with greater pride and joy than a young monarch puts them on. Oh! Why then do I repent? As if the vast, the dear expense of pleasures past were not enough to recompense for all the pains of love to come? But why, oh why do I treat thee as a lover lost already? Thou art not, canst not; no, I will not believe it, till thou thyself confess it: nor shall the omission of a tender word or two make me believe thou hast forgot thy vows. Alas, it may be I mistake thy cares, thy hard fatigues of life, thy present ill circumstances (and all the melancholy effects of thine and my misfortunes) for coldness and declining love. Alas, I had forgot my poor my dear Philander is now obliged to contrive for life as well as love, thou perhaps (fearing the worst) are preparing eloquence for a council table; and in thy busy and guilty imaginations haranguing it to the grave judges, defending thy innocence, or evading thy guilt: feeing advocates, excepting juries, and confronting witnesses, when thou shouldst be giving satisfaction to my fainting love-sick heart: sometimes in thy labouring fancy the horror of a dreadful sentence for an ignominious death, strikes upon thy tender soul with a force that frights the little god from thence, and I am persuaded there are some moments of this melancholy nature, wherein your Sylvia is even quite forgotten, and this too she can think just and reasonable, without reproaching thy heart with a declining passion, especially when I am not by to call thy fondness up, and divert thy more tormenting hours: but oh, for those soft minutes thou hast designed for love, and hast dedicated to Sylvia, Philander should dismiss the dull formalities of rigid business, the pressing cares of dangers, and have given a loose to softness. Could my Philander imagine this short and unloving letter sufficient to atone for such an absence? And has Philander then forgotten the pain with which I languished, when but absent from him an hour? How then can he imagine I can live, when distant from him so many leagues, and so many days? While all the scanty comfort I have for life is, that one day we might meet again; but where, or when, or how-thou hast not love enough so much as to divine; but poorly leavest me to be satisfied by Octavio, committing the business of thy heart, the once great importance of thy soul, the most necessary devoirs of thy life, to be supplied by another. Oh Philander, I have known a blessed time in our reign of love, when thou wouldst have thought even all thy own power of too little force to satisfy the doubting soul of Sylvia: tell me, Philander, hast thou forgot that time? I dare not think thou hast, and yet (O God) I find an alteration, but heaven divert the omen: yet something whispers to my soul, I am undone! Oh, where art thou, my Philander? Where is thy heart? And what has it been doing since it begun my fate? How can it justify thy coldness, and thou this cruel absence, without accounting with me for every parting hour? My charming dear was wont to find me business for all my lonely absent ones; and writ the softest letters — loading the paper with fond vows and wishes, which ere I had read over another would arrive, to keep eternal warmth about my soul; nor wert thou ever wearied more with writing, than I with reading, or with sighing after thee; but now — oh! There is some mystery in it I dare not understand. Be kind at least and satisfy my fears, for it is a wondrous pain to live in doubt; if thou still lovest me, swear it over anew! And curse me if I do not credit thee. But if thou art declining — or shouldst be sent a shameful victim into France— oh thou deceiving charmer, yet be just, and let me know my doom: by heaven this last will find a welcome to me, for it will end the torment of my doubts and fears of losing thee another way, and I shall have the joy to die with thee, die beloved, and die
Having read over this letter, she feared she had said too much of her doubts and apprehensions of a change in him; for now she flies to all the little stratagems and artifices of lovers, she begins to consider the worst, and to make the best of that; but quite abandoned she could not believe herself, without flying into all the rage that disappointed woman could be possessed with. She calls Brilliard, shews him his lord’s letters, and told him, (while he read) her doubts and fears; he being thus instructed by herself in the way how to deceive her on, like fortune-tellers, who gather people’s fortune from themselves, and then return it back for their own divinity; tells her he saw indeed a change! Glad to improve her fear, and feigns a sorrow almost equal to hers: ‘It is evident,’ says he, ‘it is evident, that he is the most ungrateful of his sex! Pardon, madam,’ (continued he, bowing) ‘if my zeal for the most charming creature on earth, make me forget my duty to the best of masters and friends.’ ‘Ah, Brilliard,’ cried she, with an air of languishment that more enflamed him, ‘have a care, lest that mistaken zeal for me should make you profane virtue, which has not, but on this occasion, shewed that it wanted angels for its guard. Oh, Brilliard, if he be false — if the dear man be perjured, take, take, kind heaven, the life you have preserved but for a greater proof of your revenge’—— and at that word she sunk into his arms, which he hastily extended as she was falling, both to save her from harm, and to give himself the pleasure of grasping the loveliest body in the world to his bosom, on which her fair face declined, cold, dead, and pale; but so transporting was the pleasure of that dear burden, that he forgot to call for, or to use any aid to bring her back to life, but trembling with his love and eager passion, he took a thousand joys, he kissed a thousand times her lukewarm lips, sucked her short sighs, and ravished all the sweets, her bosom (which was but guarded with a loose night-gown) yielded his impatient touches. Oh heaven, who can express the pleasures he received, because no other way he ever could arrive to so much daring? It was all beyond his hope; loose were her robes, insensible the maid, and love had made him insolent, he roved, he kissed, he gazed, without control, forgetting all respect of persons, or of place, and quite despairing by fair means to win her, resolves to take this lucky opportunity; the door he knew was fast, for the counsel she had to ask him admitted of no lookers-on, so that at his entrance she had secured the pass for him herself, and being near her bed, when she fell into his arms, at this last daring thought he lifts her thither, and lays her gently down, and while he did so, in one minute ran over all the killing joys he had been witness to, which she had given Philander; on which he never paus’d, but urged by a Cupid altogether malicious and wicked, he resolves his cowardly conquest, when some kinder god awakened Sylvia, and brought Octavio to the chamber door; who having been used to a freedom, which was permitted to none but himself, with Antonet her woman, waiting for admittance, after having knocked twice softly, Brittiard heard it, and redoubled his disorder, which from that of love, grew to that of surprise; he knew not what to do, whether to refuse answering, or to re-establish the reviving sense of Sylvia; in this moment of perplexing thought he failed not however to set his hair in order, and adjust him, though there were no need of it, and stepping to the door (after having raised Sylvia, leaning her head on her hand on the bed-side,) he gave admittance to Octavio; but, oh heaven, how was he surprised when he saw it was Octavio? His heart with more force than before redoubled its beats, that one might easily perceive every stroke by the motion of his cravat; he blushed, which, to a complexion perfectly fair, as that of Brilliard (who wants no beauty, either in face or person) was the more discoverable, add to this his trembling, and you may easily imagine what a figure he represented himself to Octavio; who almost as much surprised as himself to find the goddess of his vows and devotions with a young Endymion alone, a door shut to, her gown loose, which (from the late fit she was in, and Brilliard’s rape upon her bosom) was still open, and discovered a world of unguarded beauty, which she knew not was in view, with some other disorders of her headcloths, gave him in a moment a thousand false apprehensions: Antonet was no less surprised; so that all had their part of amazement but the innocent Sylvia, whose eyes were beautified with a melancholy calm, which almost set the generous lover at ease, and took away his new fears; however, he could not choose but ask Brilliard what the matter was with him, he looked so out of countenance, and trembled so? He told him how Sylvia had been, and what extreme frights she had possessed him with, and told him the occasion, which the lovely Sylvia with her eyes and sighs assented to, and Brilliard departed; how well pleased you may imagine, or with what gusto he left her to be with the lovely Octavio, whom he perceived too well was a lover in the disguise of a friend. But there are in love those wonderful lovers who can quench the fire one beauty kindles with some other object, and as much in love as Brilliard was, he found Antonet an antidote that dispelled the grosser part of it; for she was in love with our amorous friend, and courted him with that passion those of that country do almost all handsome strangers; and one convenient principle of the religion of that country is, to think it no sin to be kind while they are single women, though otherwise (when wives) they are just enough, nor does a woman that manages her affairs thus discreetly meet with any reproach; of this humour was our Antonet, who pursued her lover out, half jealous there might be some amorous intrigue between her lady and him, which she sought in vain by all the feeble arts of her country’s sex to get from him; while on the other side he believing she might be of use in the farther discovery he desired to make between Octavio and Sylvia, not only told her she herself was the object of his wishes, but gave her substantial proofs on it, and told her his design, after having her honour for security that she would be secret, the best pledge a man can take of a woman: after she had promised to betray all things to him, she departed to her affairs, and he to giving his lord an account of Sylvia, as he desired, in a letter which came to him with that of Sylvia; and which was thus:
PHILANDER to BRILLIARD.
I doubt not but you will wonder that all this time you have not heard of me, nor indeed can well excuse it, since I have been in a place whence with ease I could have sent every post; but a new affair of gallantry has engaged my thoughtful hours, not that I find any passion here that has abated one sigh for Sylvia; but a man’s hours are very dull, when undiverted by an intrigue of some kind or other, especially to a heart young and gay as mine is, and which would not, if possible, bend under the fatigues of more serious thought and business; I should not tell you this, but that I would have you say all the dilatory excuses that possibly you can to hinder Sylvia’s coming to me, while I remain in this town, where I design to make my abode but a short time, and had not stayed at all, but for this stop to my journey, and I scorn to be vanquished without taking my revenge; it is a sally of youth, no more — a flash, that blazes for a while, and will go out without enjoyment. I need not bid you keep this knowledge to yourself, for I have had too good a confirmation of your faith and friendship to doubt you now, and believe you have too much respect for Sylvia to occasion her any disquiet. I long to know how she takes my absence, send me at large of all that passes, and give your letters to Octavio, for none else shall know where I am, or how to send to me: be careful of Sylvia, and observe her with diligence, for possibly I should not be extravagantly afflicted to find she was inclined to love me less for her own ease and mine, since love is troublesome when the height of it carries it to jealousies, little quarrels, and eternal discontents; all which beginning lovers prize, and pride themselves on every distrust of the fond mistress, since it is not only a demonstration of love in them, but of power and charms in us that occasion it. But when we no longer find the mistress so desirable, as our first wishes form her, we value less their opinion of our persons, and only endeavour to render it agreeable to new beauties, and adorn it for new conquests; but you, Brilliard, have been a lover, and understand already this philosophy. I need say no more then to a man who knows so well my soul, but to tell him I am his constant friend.
This came as Brilliard’s soul could wish, and had he sent him word he had been chosen King of Poland, he could not have received the news with so great joy, and so perfect a welcome. How to manage this to his best advantage was the business he was next to consult, after returning an answer; now he fancied himself sure of the lovely prize, in spite of all other oppositions: ‘For’ (says he, in reasoning the case) ‘if she can by degrees arrive to a coldness to Philander, and consider him no longer as a lover, she may perhaps consider me as a husband; or should she receive Octavio’s addresses, when once I have found her feeble, I will make her pay me for keeping of every secret.’ So either way he entertained a hope, though never so distant from reason and probability; but all things seem possible to longing lovers, who can on the least hope resolve to out-wait even eternity (if possible) in expectation of a promised blessing; and now with more than usual care he resolved to dress, and set out all his youth and beauty to the best advantage; and being a gentleman well born, he wanted no arts of dressing, nor any advantage of shape or mien, to make it appear well: pleased with this hope, his art was now how to make his advances without appearing to have designed doing so. And first to act the hypocrite with his lord was his business; for he considered rightly, if he should not represent Sylvia’s sorrows to the life, and appear to make him sensible of them, he should not be after credited if he related any thing to her disadvantage; for to be the greater enemy, you ought to seem to be the greatest friend. This was the policy of his heart, who in all things was inspired with fanatical notions. In order to this, being alone in his chamber, after the defeat he had in that of Sylvia’s, he writ this letter.
BRILLIARD to PHILANDER.
You have done me the honour to make me your confidant in an affair that does not a little surprise me; since I believed, after Sylvia, no mortal beauty could have touched your heart, and nothing but your own excuses could have sufficed to have made it reasonable; and I only wish, that when the fatal news shall arrive to Sylvia’s ear (as for me it never shall) that she may think it as pardonable as I do; but I doubt it will add abundance of grief to what she is already possessed of, if but such a fear should enter in her tender thoughts. But since it is not my business, my lord, to advise or counsel, but to obey, I leave you to all the success of happy love, and will only give you an account how affairs stand here, since your departure.
That morning you left the Brill, and Sylvia in bed, I must disturb your more serene thoughts with telling you, that her first surprise and griefs at the news of your departure were most deplorable, where raging madness and the softer passion of love, complaints of grief, and anger, sighs, tears and cries were so mixed together, and by turns so violently seized her, that all about her wept and pitied her: it was sad, it was wondrous sad, my lord, to see it: nor could we hope her life, or that she would preserve it if she could; for by many ways she attempted to have released herself from pain by a violent death, and those that strove to preserve that, could not hope she would ever have returned to sense again: sometimes a wild extravagant raving would require all our aid, and then again she would talk and rail so tenderly —— and express her resentment in the kindest softest words that ever madness uttered, and all of her Philander, till she has set us all a weeping round her; sometimes she’d sit as calm and still as death, and we have perceived she lived only by sighs and silent tears that fell into her bosom; then on a sudden wildly gaze upon us with eyes that even then had wondrous charms, and frantically survey us all, then cry aloud, ‘Where is my Lord Philander! —— Oh, bring me my Philander, Brilliard: Oh, Antonet, where have you hid the treasure of my soul?’ Then, weeping floods of tears, would sink all fainting in our arms. Anon with trembling words and sighs she’d cry ——‘But oh, my dear Philander is no more, you have surrendered him to France—— Yes, yes, you have given him up, and he must die, publicly die, be led a sad victim through the joyful crowd — reproached, and fall ingloriously ——’ Then rave again, and tear her lovely hair, and act such wildness — so moving and so sad, as even infected the pitying beholders, and all we could do, was gently to persuade her grief, and soothe her raving fits; but so we swore, so heartily we vowed that you were safe, that with the aid of Octavio, who came that day to visit her, we made her capable of hearing a little reason from us. Octavio kneeled, and begged she would but calmly hear him speak, he pawned his soul, his honour, and his life, Philander was as safe from any injury, either from France, or any other enemy, as he, as she, or heaven itself. In fine, my lord, he vowed, he swore, and pleaded, till she with patience heard him tell his story, and the necessity of your absence; this brought her temper back, and dried her eyes, then sighing, answered him —— that if for your safety you were fled, she would forgive your cruelty and your absence, and endeavour to be herself again: but then she would a thousand times conjure him not to deceive her faith, by all the friendship that he bore Philander, not to possess her with false hopes; then would he swear anew; and as he swore, she would behold him with such charming sadness in her eyes that he almost forgot what he would say, to gaze upon her, and to pass his pity. But, if with all his power of beauty and of rhetoric he left her calm, he was no sooner gone, but she returned to all the tempests of despairing love, to all the unbelief of faithless passion, would neither sleep, nor eat, nor suffer day to enter; but all was sad and gloomy as the vault that held the Ephesian matron, nor suffered she any to approach her but her page, and Count Octavio, and he in the midst of all was well received: not that I think, my lord, she feigned any part of that close retirement to entertain him with any freedom, that did not become a woman of perfect love and honour; though I must own, my lord, I believe it impossible for him to behold the lovely Sylvia, without having a passion for her. What restraint his friendship to you may put upon his heart or tongue I know not, but I conclude him a lover, though without success; what effects that may have upon the heart of Sylvia, only time can render an account of: and whose conduct I shall the more particularly observe from a curiosity natural to me, to see if it may be possible for Sylvia to love again, after the adorable Philander, which levity in one so perfect would cure me of the disease of love, while I lived amongst the fickle sex: but since no such thought can yet get possession of my belief, I humbly beg your lordship will entertain no jealousy, that may be so fatal to your repose, and to that of Sylvia; doubt not but my fears proceed perfectly from the zeal I have for your lordship, for whose honour and tranquillity none shall venture so far as, my lord, your lordship’s most humble and obedient servant,
My lord, the groom shall set forward with your coach horses tomorrow morning, according to your order.
Having writ this, he read it over; not to see whether it were witty or eloquent, or writ up to the sense of so good a judge as Philander, but to see whether he had cast it for his purpose; for there his masterpiece was to be shewn; and having read it, he doubted whether the relation of Sylvia’s griefs were not too moving, and whether they might not serve to revive his fading love, which were intended only as a demonstration of his own pity and compassion, that from thence the deceived lover might with the more ease entertain a belief in what he hinted of her levity, when he was to make that out, as he now had but touched upon it, for he would not have it thought the business of malice to Sylvia, but duty and respect to Philander: that thought reconciled him to the first part without alteration; and he fancied he had said enough in the latter, to give any man of love and sense a jealousy which might inspire a young lover in pursuit of a new mistress, with a revenge that might wholly turn to his advantage; for now every ray gave him light enough to conduct him to hope, and he believed nothing too difficult for his love, nor what his invention could not conquer: he fancied himself a very Machiavel already, and almost promised himself the charming Sylvia. With these thoughts he seals up his letters, and hastes to Sylvia’s chamber for her farther commands, having in his politic transports forgotten he had left Octavio with her. Octavio, who no sooner had seen Brilliard quit the chamber all trembling and disordered, after having given him entrance, but the next step was to the feet of the new recovered languishing beauty, who not knowing any thing of the freedom the daring husband lover had taken, was not at all surprised to hear Octavio cry (kneeling before her) ‘Ah madam, I no longer wonder you use Octavio with such rigour;’ then sighing declined his melancholy eyes, where love and jealousy made themselves too apparent; while she believing he had only reproached her want of ceremony at his entrance, checking herself, she started from the bed, and taking him by the hand to raise him, she cried, ‘Rise, my lord, and pardon the omission of that respect which was not wanting but with even life itself.’ Octavio answered, ‘Yes, madam, but you took care, not to make the world absolutely unhappy in your eternal loss, and therefore made choice of such a time to die in, when you were sure of a skilful person at hand to bring you back to life’—‘My lord ——’ said she (with an innocent wonder in her eyes, and an ignorance that did not apprehend him) ‘I mean, Brilliard,’ said he, ‘whom I found sufficiently disordered to make me believe he took no little pains to restore you to the world again.’ This he spoke with such an air, as easily made her imagine he was a lover to the degree of jealousy, and therefore (beholding him with a look that told him her disdain before she spoke) she replied hastily, ‘My lord, if Brilliard have expressed, by any disorder or concern, his kind sense of my sufferings, I am more obliged to him for it, than I am to you for your opinion of my virtue; and I shall hereafter know how to set a value both on the one and the other, since what he wants in quality and ability to serve me, he sufficiently makes good with his respect and duty.’ At that she would have quitted him, but he (still kneeling) held her train of her gown, and besought her, with all the eloquence of moving and petitioning love, that she would pardon the effect of a passion that could not run into less extravagancy at a sight so new and strange, as that she should in a morning, with only her night-gown thrown loosely about her lovely body, and which left a thousand charms to view, alone receive a man into her chamber, and make fast the door upon them, which when (from his importunity) it was opened he found her all ruffled, and almost fainting on her bed, and a young blushing youth start from her arms, with trembling limbs, and a heart that beat time to the tune of active love, faltering in his speech, as if scarce yet he had recruited the sense he had so happily lost in the amorous encounter: with that, surveying of herself, as she stood, in a great glass, which she could not hinder herself from doing, she found indeed her night-linen, her gown, and the bosom of her shift in such disorder, as, if at least she had yet any doubt remaining that Brilliard had not treated her well, she however found cause enough to excuse Octavio’s opinion: weighing all the circumstances together, and adjusting her linen and gown with blushes that almost appeared criminal, she turned to Octavio, who still held her, and still begged her pardon, assuring him, upon her honour, her love to Philander, and her friendship for him, that she was perfectly innocent, and that Brilliard, though he should have quality and all other advantages which he wanted to render him acceptable, yet there was in nature something which compelled her to a sort of coldness and disgust to his person; for she had so much the more abhorrence to him as he was a husband, but that was a secret to Octavio; but she continued speaking — and cried, ‘No, could I be brought to yield to any but Philander, I own I find charms enough in Octavio to make a conquest; but since the possession of that dear man is all I ask of heaven, I charge my soul with a crime, when I but hear love from any other, therefore I conjure you, if you have any satisfaction in my conversation, never to speak of love more to me, for if you do, honour will oblige me to make vows against seeing you: all the freedoms of friendship I will allow, give you the liberties of a brother, admit you alone by night, or any way but that of love; but that is a reserve of my soul which is only for Philander, and the only one that ever shall be kept from Octavio.’ She ended speaking, and raised him with a smile; and he with a sigh told her, she must command: then she fell to telling him how she had sent for Brilliard, and all the discourse that passed; with the reason of her falling into a swoon, in which she continued a moment or two; and while she told it she blushed with a secret fear, that in that trance some freedoms might be taken which she durst not confess: but while she spoke, our still more passionate lover devoured her with his eyes, fixed his very soul upon her charms of speaking and looking, and was a thousand times (urged by transporting passion) ready to break all her dictates, and vow himself her eternal slave; but he feared the result, and therefore kept himself within the bounds of seeming friendship; so that after a thousand things she said of Philander, he took his leave to go to dinner; but as he was going out he saw Brilliard enter, who, as I said, had forgot he left Octavio with her; but in a moment recollecting himself, he blushed at the apprehension, that they might make his disorder the subject of their discourse; so what with that, and the sight of the dear object of his late disappointed pleasures, he had much ado to assume an assurance to approach; but Octavio passed out, and gave him a little release. Sylvia’s confusion was almost equal to his, for she looked on him as a ravisher; but how to find that truth which she was very curious to know, she called up all the arts of women to instruct her in; by threats she knew it was in vain, therefore she assumed an artifice, which indeed was almost a stranger to her heart, that of jilting him out of a secret which she knew he wanted generosity to give handsomely; and meeting him with a smile, which she forced, she cried, ‘How now, Brilliard, are you so faint-hearted a soldier, you cannot see a lady die without being terrified?’ ‘Rather, madam,’ (replied he blushing anew) ‘so soft-hearted, I cannot see the loveliest person in the world fainting in my arms, without being disordered with grief and fear, beyond the power of many days to resettle again.’ At which she approached him, who stood near the door, and shutting it, she took him by the hand, and smiling, cried, ‘And had you no other business for your heart but grief and fear, when a fair lady throws herself into your arms? It ought to have had some kinder effect on a person of Brilliard’s youth and complexion.’ And while she spoke this she held him by the wrist, and found on the sudden his pulse to beat more high, and his heart to heave his bosom with sighs, which now he no longer took care to hide, but with a transported joy, he cried, ‘Oh madam, do not urge me to a confession that must undo me, without making it criminal by my discovery of it; you know I am your slave ——’ when she with a pretty wondering smile, cried —‘What, a lover too, and yet so dull!’ ‘Oh charming Sylvia,’ (says he, and falling on his knees) ‘give my profound respect a kinder name:’ to which she answered — ‘You that know your sentiments may best instruct me by what name to call them, and you Brilliard may do it without fear —— You saw I did not struggle in your arms, nor strove I to defend the kisses which you gave ——’ ‘Oh heavens,’ cried he, transported with what she said, ‘is it possible that you could know of my presumption, and favour it too? I will no longer then curse those unlucky stars that sent Octavio just in the blessed minute to snatch me from my heaven, the lovely victim lay ready for the sacrifice, all prepared to offer; my hands, my eyes, my lips were tired with pleasure, but yet they were not satisfied; oh there was joy beyond those ravishments, of which one kind minute more had made me absolute lord:’ ‘Yes, and the next,’ said she, ‘had sent this to your heart’—— snatching a penknife that lay on her toilet, where she had been writing, which she offered so near to his bosom, that he believed himself already pierced, so sensibly killing her words, her motion, and her look; he started from her, and she threw away the knife, and walked a turn or two about the chamber, while he stood immovable, with his eyes fixed on the earth, and his thoughts on nothing but a wild confusion, which he vowed afterwards he could give no account of. But as she turned she beheld him with some compassion, and remembering how he had it in his power to expose her in a strange country, and own her for a wife, she believed it necessary to hide her resentments; and cried, ‘Brilliard, for the friendship your lord has for you I forgive you; but have a care you never raise your thoughts to a presumption of that nature more: do not hope I will ever fall below Philander’s love; go and repent your crime —— and expect all things else from my favour ——’ At this he left her with a bow that had some malice in it, and she returned into her dressing-room. — After dinner Octavio writes her this letter, which his page brought.
OCTAVIO to SYLVIA.
’Tis true, that in obedience to your commands, I begged your pardon for the confession I made you of my passion: but since you could not but see the contradiction of my tongue in my eyes, and hear it but too well confirmed by my sighs, why will you confine me to the formalities of a silent languishment, unless to increase my flame with my pain?
You conjure me to see you often, and at the same time forbid me speaking my passion, and this bold intruder comes to tell you now, it is impossible to obey the first, without disobliging the last; and since the crime of adoring you exceeds my disobedience in not waiting on you, be pleased at least to pardon that fault, which my profound respect to the lovely Sylvia makes me commit; for it is impossible to see you, and not give you an occasion of reproaching me: if I could make a truce with my eyes, and, like a mortified capuchin, look always downwards, not daring to behold the glorious temptations of your beauty, yet you wound a thousand ways besides; your touches inflame me, and your voice has music in it, that strikes upon my soul with ravishing tenderness; your wit is unresistible and piercing; your very sorrows and complaints have charms that make me soft without the aid of love: but pity joined with passion raises a flame too mighty for my conduct! And I in transports every way confess it: yes, yes, upbraid me, call me traitor and ungrateful, tell me my friendship is false; but, Sylvia, yet be just, and say my love was true, say only he had seen the charming Sylvia; and who is he that after that would not excuse the rest in one so absolutely born to be undone by love, as is her destined slave,
Madam, among some rarities I this morning saw, I found these trifles Florio brings you, which because uncommon I presume to send you.
Sylvia, notwithstanding the seeming severity of her commands, was well enough pleased to be disobeyed; and women never pardon any fault more willingly than one of this nature, where the crime gives so infallible a demonstration of their power and beauty; nor can any of their sex be angry in their hearts for being thought desirable; and it was not with pain that she saw him obstinate in his passion, as you may believe by her answering his letters, nor ought any lover to despair when he receives denial under his mistress’s own hand, which she sent in this to Octavio.
SYLVIA to OCTAVIO.
You but ill judge of my wit, or humour, Octavio, when you send me such a present, and such a billet, if you believe I either receive the one, or the other, as you designed: in obedience to me you will no more tell me of your love, and yet at the same time you are breaking your word from one end of the paper to the other. Out of respect to me you will see me no more, and yet are bribing me with presents, believing you have found out the surest way to a woman’s heart. I must needs confess, Octavio, there is great eloquence in a pair of bracelets of five thousand crowns: it is an argument to prove your passion, that has more prevailing reason in it, than either Seneca or Tully could have urged; nor can a lover write or speak in any language so significant, and very well to be understood, as in that silent one of presenting. The malicious world has a long time agreed to reproach poor women with cruel, unkind, insensible, and dull; when indeed it is those men that are in fault who want the right way of addressing, the true and secret arts of moving, that sovereign remedy against disdain. It is you alone, my lord, like a young Columbus, that have found the direct, unpractised way to that little and so much desired world, the favour of the fair; nor could love himself have pointed his arrows with any thing more successful for his conquest of hearts: but mine, my lord, like Scæva’s shield, is already so full of arrows, shot from Philander’s eyes, it has no room for any other darts: take back your presents then, my lord, and when you make them next be sure you first consider the receiver: for know, Octavio, maids of my quality ought to find themselves secure from addresses of this nature, unless they first invite. You ought to have seen advances in my freedoms, consenting in my eyes, or (that usual vanity of my sex) a thousand little trifling arts of affectation to furnish out a conquest, a forward complaisance to every gaudy coxcomb, to fill my train with amorous cringing captives, this might have justified your pretensions; but on the contrary, my eyes and thoughts, which never strayed from the dear man I love, were always bent to earth when gazed upon by you; and when I did but fear you looked with love, I entertained you with Philander’s, praise, his wondrous beauty, and his wondrous love, and left nothing untold that might confirm you how much impossible it was, I ever should love again, that I might leave you no room for hope; and since my story has been so unfortunate to alarm the whole world with a conduct so fatal, I made no scruple of telling you with what joy and pride I was undone; if this encourage you, if Octavio have sentiments so meanly poor of me, to think, because I yielded to Philander, his hopes should be advanced, I banish him for ever from my sight, and after that disdain the little service he can render the never to be altered
This letter she sent him back by his page, but not the bracelets, which were indeed very fine, and very considerable: at the same time she threatened him with banishment, she so absolutely expected to be disobeyed in all things of that kind, that she dressed herself that day to advantage, which since her arrival she had never done in her own habits: what with her illness, and Philander’s absence, a careless negligence had seized her, till roused and weakened to the thoughts of beauty by Octavio’s love, she began to try its force, and that day dressed. While she was so employed, the page hastes with the letter to his lord, who changed colour at the sight of it ere he received it; not that he hoped it brought love, it was enough she would but answer, though she railed: ‘Let her’ (said he opening it) ‘vow she hates me: let her call me traitor, and unjust, so she take the pains to tell it this way;’ for he knew well those that argue will yield, and only she that sends him back his own letters without reading them can give despair. He read therefore without a sigh, nor complained he on her rigours; and because it was too early yet to make his visit, to shew the impatience of his love, as much as the reality and resolution of it, he bid his page wait, and sent her back this answer.
OCTAVIO to SYLVIA.
Fair angry Sylvia, how has my love offended? Has its excess betrayed the least part of that respect due to your birth and beauty? Though I am young as the gay ruddy morning, and vigorous as the gilded sun at noon, and amorous as that god, when with such haste he chased young Daphne over the flowery plain, it never made me guilty of a thought that Sylvia might not pity and allow. Nor came that trifling present to plead for any wish, or mend my eloquence, which you with such disdain upbraid me with; the bracelets came not to be raffled for your love, nor pimp to my desires: youth scorns those common aids; no, let dull age pursue those ways of merchandise, who only buy up hearts at that vain price, and never make a barter, but a purchase. Youth has a better way of trading in love’s markets, and you have taught me too well to judge of, and to value beauty, to dare to bid so cheaply for it: I found the toy was gay, the work was neat, and fancy new; and know not any thing they would so well adorn as Sylvia’s lovely hands: I say, if after this I should have been the mercenary fool to have dunned you for return, you might have used me thus —— Condemn me ere you find me sin in thought! That part of it was yet so far behind it was scarce arrived in wish. You should have stayed till it approached more near, before you damned it to eternal silence. To love, to sigh, to weep, to pray, and to complain; why one may be allowed it in devotion; but you, nicer than heaven itself, make that a crime, which all the powers divine have never decreed one. I will not plead, nor ask you leave to love; love is my right, my business, and my province; the empire of the young, the vigorous, and the bold; and I will claim my share; the air, the groves, the shades are mine to sigh in, as well as your Philander’s; the echoes answer me as willingly, when I complain, or name the cruel Sylvia; fountains receive my tears, and the kind spring’s reflection agreeably flatters me to hope, and makes me vain enough to think it just and reasonable I should pursue the dictates of my soul —— love on in spite of opposition, because I will not lose my privileges; you may forbid me naming it to you, in that I can obey, because I can; but not to love! Not to adore the fair! And not to languish for you, were as impossible as for you not to be lovely, not to be the most charming of your sex. But I am so far from a pretending fool, because you have been possessed, that often that thought comes cross my soul, and checks my advancing love; and I would buy that thought off with almost all my share of future bliss! Were I a god, the first great miracle should be to form you a maid again: for oh, whatever reasons flattering love can bring to make it look like just, the world! The world, fair Sylvia, still will censure, and say —— you were to blame; but it was that fault alone that made you mortal, we else should have adored you as a deity, and so have lost a generous race of young succeeding heroes that may be born of you! Yet had Philander loved but half so well as I, he would have kept your glorious fame entire; but since alone for Sylvia I love Sylvia, let her be false to honour, false to love, wanton and proud, ill-natured, vain, fantastic, or what is worse — let her pursue her love, be constant, and still dote upon Philander— yet still she will be the Sylvia I adore, that Sylvia born eternally to enslave
This he sent by Florio his page, at the same time that she expected the visit of his lord, and blushed with a little anger and concern at the disappointment; however she hasted to read the letter, and was pleased with the haughty resolution he made in spite of her, to love on as his right by birth; and she was glad to find from these positive resolves that she might the more safely disdain, or at least assume a tyranny which might render her virtue glorious, and yet at the same time keep him her slave on all occasions when she might have need of his service, which, in the circumstances she was in, she did not know of what great use it might be to her, she having no other design on him, bating the little vanity of her sex, which is an ingredient so intermixed with the greatest virtues of women-kind, that those who endeavour to cure them of that disease rob them of a very considerable pleasure, and in most it is incurable: give Sylvia then leave to share it with her sex, since she was so much the more excusable, by how much a greater portion of beauty she had than any other, and had sense enough to know it too; as indeed whatever other knowledge they want, they have still enough to set a price on beauty, though they do not always rate it; for had Sylvia done that, she had been the happiest of her sex: but as she was she waited the coming of Octavio, but not so as to make her quit one sad thought for Philanders love and vanity, though they both reigned in her soul; yet the first surmounted the last, and she grew to impatient ravings whenever she cast a thought upon her fear that Philander grew cold; and possibly pride and vanity had as great a share in that concern of hers as love itself, for she would oft survey herself in her glass, and cry, ‘Gods! Can this beauty be despised? This shape! This face! This youth! This air! And what’s more obliging yet, a heart that adores the fugitive, that languishes and sighs after the dear runaway. Is it possible he can find a beauty,’ added she, ‘of greater perfection —— But oh, it is fancy sets the rate on beauty, and he may as well love a third time as he has a second. For in love, those that once break the rules and laws of that deity, set no bounds to their treasons and disobedience. Yes, yes ——’ would she cry, ‘He that could leave Myrtilla, the fair, the young, the noble, chaste and fond Myrtilla, what after that may he not do to Sylvia, on whom he has less ties, less obligations? Oh wretched maid —— what has thy fondness done, he is satiated now with thee, as before with Myrtilla, and carries all those dear, those charming joys, to some new beauty, whom his looks have conquered, and whom his soft bewitching vows will ruin.’ With that she raved and stamped, and cried aloud, ‘Hell —— fires —— tortures —— daggers —— racks and poison —— come all to my relief! Revenge me on the perjured lovely devil —— But I will be brave —— I will be brave and hate him ——’ This she spoke in a tone less fierce, and with great pride, and had not paused and walked above a hasty turn or two, but Octavio, as impatient as love could make him, entered the chamber, so dressed, so set out for conquest, that I wonder at nothing more than that Sylvia did not find him altogether charming, and fit for her revenge, who was formed by nature for love, and had all that could render him the dotage of women: but where a heart is prepossessed, all that is beautiful in any other man serves but as an ill comparison to what it loves, and even Philander’s likeness, that was not indeed Philander, wanted the secret to charm. At Octavio’s entrance she was so fixed on her revenge of love, that she did not see him, who presented himself as so proper an instrument, till he first sighing spoke, ‘Ah, Sylvia, shall I never see that beauty easy more? Shall I never see it reconciled to content, and a soft calmness fixed upon those eyes, which were formed for looks all tender and serene; or are they resolved’ (continued he, sighing) ‘never to appear but in storms when I approach?’ ‘Yes,’ replied she, ‘when there is a calm of love in yours that raises it.’ ‘Will you confine my eyes,’ said he, ‘that are by nature soft? May not their silent language tell you my heart’s sad story?’ But she replied with a sigh, ‘It is not generously done, Octavio, thus to pursue a poor unguarded maid, left to your care, your promises of friendship. Ah, will you use Philander with such treachery?’ ‘Sylvia,’ said he,‘my flame is so just and reasonable, that I dare even to him pronounce I love you; and after that dare love you on ——’ ‘And would you’ (said she) ‘to satisfy a little short lived passion, forfeit those vows you have made of friendship to Philander? ‘That heart that loves you, Sylvia,’ (he replied) ‘cannot be guilty of so base a thought; Philander is my friend, and as he is so, shall know the dearest secrets of my soul. I should believe myself indeed ungrateful’ (continued he) ‘wherever I loved, should I not tell Philander; he told me frankly all his soul, his loves, his griefs, his treasons, and escapes, and in return I will pay him back with mine.’ ‘And do you imagine’ (said she) ‘that he would permit your love?’ ‘How should he hinder me?’ (replied he.) ‘I do believe’ (said she) ‘he’d forget all his safety and his friendship, and fight you.’ ‘Then I’d defend myself,’ (said he) ‘if he were so ungrateful.’ While they thus argued, Sylvia had her thoughts apart, on the little stratagems that women in love sometimes make use of; and Octavio no sooner told her he would send Philander word of his love, but she imagined that such a knowledge might retrieve the heart of her lover, if indeed it were on the wing, and revive the dying embers in his soul, as usually it does from such occasions; and on the other side, she thought that she might more allowably receive Octavio’s addresses, when they were with the permission of Philander, if he could love so well to permit it; and if he could not, she should have the joy to undeceive her fears of his inconstancy, though she banished for ever the agreeable Octavio; so that on Octavio’s farther urging the necessity of his giving Philander that sure mark of his friendship she permitted him to write, which he immediately did on her table, where there stood a little silver escritoire which contained all things for this purpose.
OCTAVIO to PHILANDER.
Since I have vowed you my eternal friendship, and that I absolutely believe myself honoured with that of yours, I think myself obliged by those powerful ties to let you know my heart, not only now as that friend from whom I ought to conceal nothing, but as a rival too, whom in honour I ought to treat as a generous one: perhaps you will be so unkind as to say I cannot be a friend and a rival at the same time, and that almighty love, that sets the world at odds, chases all things from the heart where that reigns, to establish itself the more absolutely there; but, my lord, I avow mine a love of that good nature, that can endure the equal sway of friendship, where like two perfect friends they support each other’s empire there; nor can the glory of one eclipse that of the other, but both, like the notion we have of the deity, though two distinct passions, make but one in my soul; and though friendship first entered, ’twas in vain, I called it to my aid, at the first soft invasion of Sylvia’s power; and you my charming friend, are the most oblig’d to pity me, who already know so well the force of her beauty. I would fain have you think, I strove at first with all my reason against the irresistible lustre of her eyes: and at the first assaults of love, I gave him not a welcome to my bosom, but like slaves unused to fetters, I grew sullen with my chains, and wore them for your sake uneasily. I thought it base to look upon the mistress of my friend with wishing eyes; but softer love soon furnished me with arguments to justify my claim, since love is not the choice but the face of the soul, who seldom regards the object lov’d as it is, but as it wishes to have it be, and then kind fancy makes it soon the same. Love, that almighty creator of something from nothing, forms a wit, a hero, or a beauty, virtue, good humour, honour, any excellence, when oftentimes there is neither in the object, but where the agreeing world has fixed all these; and since it is by all resolved, (whether they love or not) that this is she, you ought no more, Philander, to upbraid my flame, than to wonder at it: it is enough I tell you that it is Sylvia to justify my passion; nor is it a crime that I confess I love, since it can never rob Philander of the least part of what I have vowed him: or if his mere honour will believe me guilty of a fault, let this atone for all, that if I wrong my friend in loving Sylvia, I right him in despairing; for oh, I am repulsed with all the rigour of the coy and fair, with all the little malice of the witty sex, and all the love of Sylvia to Philander—— There, there is the stop to all my hopes and happiness, and yet by heaven I love thee, oh thou favoured rival!
After this frank confession, my Philander, I should be glad to hear your sentiment, since yet, in spite of love, in spite of beauty, I am resolved to die Philander’s constant friend,
After he had writ this, he gave it to Sylvia: ‘See charming creature’ (said he in delivering it) ‘if after this you either doubt my love, or what I dare for Sylvia.’ ‘I neither receive it’ (said she) ‘as a proof of the one or the other; but rather that you believe, by this frank confession, to render it as a piece of gallantry and diversion to Philander; for no man of sense will imagine that love true, or arrived to any height, that makes a public confession of it to his rival.’ ‘Ah, Sylvia,’ answered he, ‘how malicious is your wit, and how active to turn its pointed mischief on me! Had I not writ, you would have said I durst not; and when I make a declaration of it, you call it only a slight piece of gallantry: but, Sylvia, you have wit enough to try it a thousand ways, and power enough to make me obey; use the extremity of both, so you recompense me at last with a confession that I was at least found worthy to be numbered in the crowd of your adorers.’ Sylvia replied, ‘He were a dull lover indeed, that would need instructions from the wit of his mistress to give her proofs of his passion; whatever opinion you have of my sense, I have too good a one of Octavio’s to believe, that when he is a lover he will want aids to make it appear; till then we will let that argument alone, and consider his address to Philander.’ She then read over the letter he had writ, which she liked very well for her purpose; for at this time our young Dutch hero was made a property of in order to her revenge on Philander: she told him, he had said too much both for himself and her. He told her, he had declared nothing with his pen, that he would not make good with his sword. ‘Hold, sir,’ said she, ‘and do not imagine from the freedom you have taken in owning your passion to Philander, that I shall allow it here: what you declare to the world is your own crime; but when I hear it, it is no longer yours but mine; I therefore conjure you, my lord, not to charge my soul with so great a sin against Philander, and I confess to you, I shall be infinitely troubled to be obliged to banish you my sight for ever.’ He heard her, and answered with a sigh; for she went from him to the table, and sealed her letter, and gave it him to be enclosed to Philander, and left him to consider on her last words, which he did not lay to heart, because he fancied she spoke this as women do that will be won with industry: he, in standing up as she went from him, saw himself in the great glass, and bid his person answer his heart, which from every view he took was reinforced with new hope, for he was too good a judge of beauty not to find it in every part of his own amiable person, nor could he imagine from Sylvia’s eyes, which were naturally soft and languishing, (and now the more so from her fears and jealousies) that she meant from her heart the rigours she expressed: much he allowed for his short time of courtship, much to her sex’s modesty, much from her quality, and very much from her love, and imagined it must be only time and assiduity, opportunity and obstinate passion, that were capable of reducing her to break her faith with Philander; he therefore endeavour’d by all the good dressing, the advantage of lavish gaiety, to render his person agreeable, and by all the arts of gallantry to charm her with his conversation, and when he could handsomely bring in love, he failed not to touch upon it as far as it would be permitted, and every day had the vanity to fancy he made some advances; for indeed every day more and more she found she might have use for so considerable a person, so that one may very well say, never any passed their time better than Sylvia and Octavio, though with different ends. All he had now to fear was from the answer Philander’s letter should bring, for whom he had, in spite of love, so entire a friendship, that he even doubted whether (if Philander could urge reasons potent enough) he should not choose to die and quit Sylvia, rather than be false to friendship; one post passed, and another, and so eight successive ones, before they received one word of answer to what they sent; so that Sylvia, who was the most impatient of her sex, and the most in love, was raving and acting all the extravagance of despair, and even Octavio now became less pleasing, yet he failed not to visit her every day, to send her rich presents, and to say all that a fond lover, or a faithful friend might urge for her relief: at last Octavio received this following letter.
PHILANDER to OCTAVIO.
You have shewed, Octavio, a freedom so generous, and so beyond the usual measures of a rival, that it were almost injustice in me not to permit you to love on; if Sylvia can be false to me, and all her vows, she is not worth preserving; if she prefer Octavio to Philander, then he has greater merit, and deserves her best: but if on the contrary she be just, if she be true, and constant, I cannot fear his love will injure me, so either way Octavio has my leave to love the charming Sylvia; alas, I know her power, and do not wonder at thy fate! For it is as natural for her to conquer, as ’tis for youth to yield; oh, she has fascination in her eyes! A spell upon her tongue, her wit’s a philtre, and her air and motion all snares for heedless hearts; her very faults have charms, her pride, her peevishness, and her disdain, have unresisted power. Alas, you find it every day — and every night she sweeps the tour along and shews the beauty, she enslaves the men, and rivals all the women! How oft with pride and anger I have seen it; and was the unconsidering coxcomb then to rave and rail at her, to curse her charms, her fair inviting and perplexing charms, and bullied every gazer: by heaven I could not spare a smile, a look, and she has such a lavish freedom in her humour, that if you chance to love as I have done — it will surely make thee mad; if she but talked aloud, or put her little affectation on, to show the force of beauty, oh God! How lost in rage! How mad with jealousy, was my fond breaking heart! My eyes grew fierce, and clamorous my tongue! And I have scarce contained myself from hurting what I so much adored; but then the subtle charmer had such arts to flatter me to peace again — to clasp her lovely arms about my neck — to sigh a thousand dear confirming vows into my bosom, and kiss, and smile, and swear — and take away my rage — and then — oh my Octavio, no human fancy can present the joy of the dear reconciling moment, where little quarrels raised the rapture higher, and she was always new. These are the wondrous pains, and wondrous pleasures that love by turns inspires, till it grows wise by time and repetition, and then the god assumes a serious gravity, enjoyment takes off the uneasy keenness of the passion, the little jealous quarrels rise no more; quarrels, the very feathers of love’s darts, that send them with more swiftness to the heart; and when they cease, your transports lessen too, then we grow reasonable, and consider; we love with prudence then, as fencers fight with foils; a sullen brush perhaps sometimes or so; but nothing that can touch the heart, and when we are arrived to love at that dull, easy rate, we never die of that disease; then we have recourse to all the little arts, the aids of flatterers, and dear dissimulation, (that help-meet to the lukewarm lover) to keep up a good character of constancy, and a right understanding.
Thus, Octavio, I have ran through both the degrees of love; which I have taken so often, that I am grown most learned and able in the art; my easy heart is of the constitution of those, whom frequent sickness renders apt to take relapses from every little cause, or wind that blows too fiercely on them; it renders itself to the first effects of new surprising beauty, and finds such pleasure in beginning passion, such dear delight of fancying new enjoyment, that all past loves, past vows and obligations, have power to bind no more; no pity, no remorse, no threatening danger invades my amorous course; I scour along the flow’ry plains of love, view all the charming prospect at a distance, which represents itself all gay and glorious! And long to lay me down, to stretch and bask in those dear joys that fancy makes so ravishing: nor am I one of those dull whining slaves, whom quality or my respect can awe into a silent cringer, and no more; no, love, youth, and oft success has taught me boldness and art, desire and cunning to attack, to search the feeble side of female weakness, and there to play love’s engines; for women will be won, they will, Octavio, if love and wit find any opportunity.
Perhaps, my friend, you are wondering now, what this discourse, this odd discovery of my own inconstancy tends to? Then since I cannot better pay you back the secret you had told me of your love, than by another of my own; take this confession from thy friend —— I love! —— languish! And am dying —— for a new beauty. To you, Octavio, you that have lived twenty dull tedious years, and never understood the mystery of love, till Sylvia taught you to adore, this change may seem a wonder; you that have lazily run more than half your youth’s gay course of life away, without the pleasure of one nobler hour of mine; who, like a miser, hoard your sacred store, or scantily have dealt it but to one, think me a lavish prodigal in love, and gravely will reproach me with inconstancy —— but use me like a friend, and hear my story.
It happened in my last day’s journey on the road I overtook a man of quality, for so his equipage confessed; we joined and fell into discourse of many things indifferent, till, from a chain of one thing to another, we chanced to talk of France, and of the factions there, and I soon found him a Cesarian; for he grew hot with his concern for that prince, and fiercely owned his interest: this pleased me, and I grew familiar with him; and I pleased him so well in my devotion for Cesario, that being arrived at Cologne he invites me home to his palace, which he begged I would make use of as my own during my stay at Cologne. Glad of the opportunity I obeyed, and soon informed myself by a Spanish page (that waited on him) to whom I was obliged; he told me it was the Count of Clarinau, a Spaniard born, and of quality, who for some disgust at Court retired hither; that he was a person of much gravity, a great politician, and very rich; and though well in years was lately married to a very beautiful young lady, and that very much against her consent; a lady whom he had taken out of a monastery, where she had been pensioned from a child, and of whom he was so fond and jealous, he never would permit her to see or be seen by any man: and if she took the air in her coach, or went to church, he obliged her to wear a veil. Having learned thus much of the boy, I dismissed him with a present; for he had already inspired me with curiosity, that prologue to love, and I knew not of what use he might be hereafter; a curiosity that I was resolved to satisfy, though I broke all the laws of hospitality, and even that first night I felt an impatience that gave me some wonder. In fine, three days I languished out in a disorder that was very nearly allied to that of love. I found myself magnificently lodged; attended with a formal ceremony; and indeed all things were as well as I could imagine, bating a kind opportunity to get a sight of this young beauty: now half a lover grown, I sighed and grew oppressed with thought, and had recourse to groves, to shady walks and fountains, of which the delicate gardens afforded variety, the most resembling nature that ever art produced, and of the most melancholy recesses, fancying there, in some lucky hour, I might encounter what I already so much adored in Idea, which still I formed just as my fancy wished; there, for the first two days I walked and sighed, and told my new-born passion to every gentle wind that played among the boughs; for yet no lady bright appeared beneath them, no visionary nymph the groves afforded; but on the third day, all full of love and stratagem, in the cool of the evening, I passed into a thicket near a little rivulet, that purled and murmured through the glade, and passed into the meads; this pleased and fed my present amorous humour, and down I laid myself on the shady brink, and listened to its melancholy glidings, when from behind me I heard a sound more ravishing, a voice that sung these words:
Alas, in vain, you pow’rs above,
You gave me youth, you gave me charms,
And ev’ry tender sense of love;
To destine me to old Phileno’s arms.
Ah how can youth’s gay spring allow
The chilling kisses of the winter’s snow!
All night I languish by his side,
And fancy joys I never taste;
As men in dreams a feast provide,
And waking find, with grief they fast.
Either, ye gods, my youthful fires allay,
Or make the old Phileno young and gay.
Like a fair flower in shades obscurity,
Though every sweet adorns my head,
Ungather’d, unadmired I lie,
And wither on my silent gloomy bed,
While no kind aids to my relief appear,
And no kind bosom makes me triumph there.
By this you may easily guess, as I soon did, that the song was sung by Madam the Countess of Clarinau, as indeed it was; at the very beginning of her song my joyful soul divined it so! I rose, and advanced by such slow degrees, as neither alarmed the fair singer, nor hindered me the pleasure of hearing any part of the song, till I approached so near as (behind the shelter of some jessamine that divided us) I, unseen, completed those wounds at my eyes, which I had received before at my ears. Yes, Ociavio, I saw the lovely Clarinau leaning on a pillow made of some of those jessamines which favoured me, and served her for a canopy. But, oh my friend! How shall I present her to thee in that angel form she then appeared to me? All young! All ravishing as new-born light to lost benighted travellers; her face, the fairest in the world, was adorned with curls of shining jet, tied up — I know not how, all carelessly with scarlet ribbon mixed with pearls; her robe was gay and rich, such as young royal brides put on when they undress for joys; her eyes were black, the softest heaven ever made; her mouth was sweet, and formed for all delight; so red her lips, so round, so graced with dimples, that without one other charm, that was enough to kindle warm desires about a frozen heart; a sprightly air of wit completed all, increased my flame, and made me mad with love: endless it were to tell thee all her beauties: nature all over was lavish and profuse, let it suffice, her face, her shape, her mien, had more of angel in them than humanity! I saw her thus all charming! Thus she lay! A smiling melancholy dressed her eyes, which she had fixed upon the rivulet, near which I found her lying; just such I fancied famed Lucretia was, when Tarquin first beheld her; nor was that royal ravisher more inflamed than I, or readier for the encounter. Alone she was, which heightened my desires; oh gods! Alone lay the young lovely charmer, with wishing eyes, and all prepared for love! The shade was gloomy, and the tell-tale leaves combined so close, they must have given us warning if any had approached from either side! All favoured my design, and I advanced; but with such caution as not to inspire her with a fear, instead of that of love! A slow, uneasy pace, with folded arms, love in my eyes, and burning in my heart —— at my approach she scarce contained her cries, and rose surprised and blushing, discovering to me such a proportioned height — so lovely and majestic — that I stood gazing on her, all lost in wonder, and gave her time to dart her eyes at me, and every look pierced deeper to my soul, and I had no sense but love, silent admiring love! Immovable I stood, and had no other motion but that of a heart all panting, which lent a feeble trembling to my tongue, and even when I would have spoke to her, it sent a sigh up to prevent my boldness; and oh, Octavio, though I have been bred in all the saucy daring of a forward lover, yet now I wanted a convenient impudence; awed with a haughty sweetness in her look, like a Fauxbrave after a vigorous onset, finding the danger fly so thick around him, sheers off, and dares not face the pressing foe, struck with too fierce a lightning from her eyes, whence the gods sent a thousand winged darts, I veiled my own, and durst not play with fire: while thus she hotly did pursue her conquest, and I stood fixed on the defensive part, I heard a rustling among the thick-grown leaves, and through their mystic windings soon perceived the good old Count of Clarinau approaching, muttering and mumbling to old Dormina, the dragon appointed to guard this lovely treasure, and which she having left alone in the thicket, and had retired but at an awful distance, had most extremely disobliged her lord. I only had time enough in this little moment to look with eyes that asked a thousand pities, and told her in their silent language how loath they were to leave the charming object, and with a sigh —— I vanished from the wondering fair one, nimble as lightning, silent as a shade, to my first post behind the jessamines; that was the utmost that I could persuade my heart to do. You may believe, my dear Octavio, I did not bless the minute that brought old Clarinau to that dear recess, nor him, nor my own fate; and to complete my torment, I saw him (after having gravely reproached her for being alone without her woman) yes, I saw him fall on her neck, her lovely snowy neck, and loll and kiss, and hang his tawny withered arms on her fair shoulders, and press his nauseous load upon Calista’s body, (for so I heard him name her) while she was gazing still upon the empty place, whence she had seen me vanish; which he perceiving, cried —‘My little fool, what is it thou gazest on, turn to thy known old man, and buss him soundly ——’ When putting him by with a disdain, that half made amends for the injury he had done me by coming, ‘Ah, my lord,’ cried she, ‘even now, just there I saw a lovely vision, I never beheld so excellent a thing:’ ‘How,’ cried he, ‘a vision, a thing — What vision? What thing? Where? How? And when ——’ ‘Why there,’ said she, ‘with my eyes, and just now is vanished behind yon jessamines.’ With that I drew my sword — for I despaired to get off unknown; and being well enough acquainted with the jealous nature of the Spaniards, which is no more than see and stab, I prepared to stand on my defence till I could reconcile him, if possible, to reason; yet even in that moment I was more afraid of the injury he might do the innocent fair one, than of what he could do to me: but he not so much as dreaming she meant a man by her lovely vision, fell a kissing her anew, and beckoning Dormina off to pimp at distance, told her, ‘The grove was so sweet, the river’s murmurs so delicate, and she was so curiously dressed, that all together had inspired him with a love-fit;’ and then assaulting her anew with a sneer, which you have seen a satyr make in pictures, he fell to act the little tricks of youth, that looked so goatish in him — instead of kindling it would have damped a flame; which she resisted with a scorn so charming gave me new hope and fire, when to oblige me more, with pride, disdain, and loathing in her eyes, she fled like Daphne from the ravisher; he being bent on love pursued her with a feeble pace, like an old wood-god chasing some coy nymph, who winged with fear out-strips the flying wind, and though a god he cannot overtake her; and left me fainting with new love, new hope, new jealousy, impatience, sighs and wishes, in the abandoned grove. Nor could I go without another view of that dear place in which I saw her lie. I went — and laid me down just on the print which her fair body made, and pressed, and kissed it over a thousand times with eager transports, and even fancied fair Calista there; there ’twas I found the paper with the song which I have sent you; there I ran over a thousand stratagems to gain another view; no little statesman had more plots and arts than I to gain this object I adored, the soft idea of my burning heart, now raging wild, abandoned all to love and loose desire; but hitherto my industry is vain; each day I haunt the thickest groves and springs, the flowery walks, close arbours; all the day my busy eyes and heart are searching her, but no intelligence they bring me in: in fine, Octavio, all that I can since learn is, that the bright Calista had seen a vision in the garden, and ever since was so possessed with melancholy, that she had not since quitted her chamber; she is daily pressing the Count to permit her to go into the garden, to see if she can again encounter the lovely phantom, but whether, from any description she hath made of it, (or from any other cause) he imagines how it was, I know not; but he endeavours all he can to hinder her, and tells her it is not lawful to tempt heaven by invoking an apparition; so that till a second view eases the torments of my mind, there is nothing in nature to be conceived so raving mad as I; as if my despair of finding her again increased my impatient flame, instead of lessening it.
After this declaration, judge, Octavio, who has given the greatest proofs of his friendship, you or I; you being my rival, trust me with the secret of loving my mistress, which can no way redound to your disadvantage; but I, by telling you the secrets of my soul, put it into your power to ruin me with Sylvia, and to establish yourself in her heart; a thought I yet am not willing to bear, for I have an ambition in my love, that would not, while I am toiling for empire here, lose my dominion in another place: but since I can no more rule a woman’s heart, than a lover’s fate, both you and Sylvia may deceive my opinion in that, but shall never have power to make me believe you less my friend, than I am your
The enclosed I need not oblige you to deliver; you see I give you opportunity.
Octavio no sooner arrived to that part of the letter which named the Count of Clarinau, but he stopped, and was scarce able to proceed, for the charming Calista was his sister, the only one he had, who having been bred in a nunnery, was taken then to be married to this old rich count, who had a great fortune: before he proceeded, his soul divined this was the new amour that had engaged the heart of his friend; he was afraid to be farther convinced, and yet a curiosity to know how far he had proceeded, made him read it out with all the disorder of a man jealous of his honour, and nicely careful of his fame; he considered her young, about eighteen, married to an old, ill-favoured, jealous husband, no parents but himself to right her wrongs, or revenge her levity; he knew, though she wanted no wit, she did art, for being bred without the conversation of men, she had not learnt the little cunnings of her sex; he guessed by his own soul that hers was soft and apt for impression; he judged from her confession to her husband of the vision, that she had a simple innocence, that might betray a young beauty under such circumstances; to all this he considered the charms of Philander unresistible, his unwearied industry in love, and concludes his sister lost. At first he upbraids Philander, and calls him ungrateful, but soon thought it unreasonable to accuse himself of an injustice, and excused the frailty of Philander, since he knew not that she whom he adored was sister to his friend; however, it failed not to possess him with inquietude that exercised all his wit, to consider how he might prevent an irreparable injury to his honour, and an intrigue that possibly might cost his sister her life, as well as fame. In the midst of all these torments he forgot not the more important business of his love: for to a lover, who has his soul perfectly fixed on the fair object of its adoration, whatever other thoughts fatigue and cloud his mind, that, like a soft gleam of new sprung light, darts in and spreads a glory all around, and like the god of day, cheers every drooping vital; yet even these dearer thoughts wanted not their torments. At first he strove to atone for the fears of Calista, with those of imagining Philander false to Sylvia: ‘Well,’ cried he ——‘If thou be’st lost, Calista, at least thy ruin has laid a foundation for my happiness, and every triumph Philander makes of thy virtue, it the more secures my empire over Sylvia; and since the brother cannot be happy, but by the sister’s being undone, yield thou, O faithless fair one, yield to Philander, and make me blest in Sylvia! And thou’ (continued he) ‘oh perjured lover and inconstant friend, glut thy insatiate flame —— rifle Calista of every virtue heaven and nature gave her, so I may but revenge it on thy Sylvia!’ Pleased with this joyful hope he traverses his chamber; glowing and blushing with new kindling fire, his heart that was all gay, diffused a gladness, that expressed itself in every feature of his lovely face; his eyes, that were by nature languishing, shone now with an unusual air of briskness, smiles graced his mouth, and dimples dressed his face, insensibly his busy fingers trick and dress, and set his hair, and without designing it, his feet are bearing him to Sylvia, till he stopped short and wondered whither he was going, for yet it was not time to make his visit —‘Whither, fond heart,’ (said he) ‘O whither wouldst thou hurry this slave to thy soft fires!’ And now returning back he paused and fell to thought — He remembered how impatiently Sylvia waited the return of the answer he writ to him, wherein he owned his passion for that beauty. He knew she permitted him to write it, more to raise the little brisk fires of jealousy in Philander, and to set an edge on his blunted love, than from any favours she designed Octavio; and that on this answer depended all her happiness, or the confirmation of her doubts, and that she would measure Philander’s love by the effects she found there of it: so that never lover had so hard a game to play, as our new one. He knew he had it now in his power to ruin his rival, and to make almost his own terms with his fair conqueress, but he considered the secret was not rendered him for so base an end, nor could his love advance itself by ways so false, dull and criminal — Between each thought he paused, and now resolves she must know he sent an answer to his letter; for should she know he had, and that he should refuse her the sight of it, he believed with reason she ought to banish him for ever her presence, as the most disobedient of her slaves. He walks and pauses on — but no kind thought presents itself to save him; either way he finds himself undone, and from the most gay, and most triumphing lover on the earth, he now, with one desirous thought of right reasoning, finds he is the most miserable of all the creation! He reads the superscription of that Philander writ to Sylvia, which was enclosed in his, and finds it was directed only —‘For Sylvia’, which would plainly demonstrate it came not so into Holland, but that some other cover secured it; so that never any but Octavio, the most nice in honour, had ever so great a contest with love and friendship: for his noble temper was not one of those that could sacrifice his friend to his little lusts, or his more solid passion, but truly brave, resolves now rather to die than to confess Philander’s secret; to evade which he sent her letter by his page, with one from himself, and commanded him to tell her, that he was going to receive some commands from the Prince of Orange, and that he would wait on her himself in the evening. The page obeys, and Octavio sent him with a sigh, and eyes that languishingly told him he did it with regret.
The page hastening to Sylvia, finds her in all the disquiet of an expecting lover; and snatching the papers from his hand, the first she saw was that from Philander, at which she trembled with fear and joy, for hope, love and despair, at once seized her, and hardly able to make a sign with her hand, for the boy to withdraw, she sank down into her chair, all pale, and almost fainting; but re-assuming her courage, she opened it, and read this.
PHILANDER to SYLVIA.
Ah, Sylvia! Why all these doubts and fears? why at this distance do you accuse your lover, when he is incapable to fall before you, and undeceive your little jealousies. Oh, Sylvia, I fear this first reproaching me, is rather the effects of your own guilt, than any that love can make you think of mine. Yes, yes, my Sylvia, it is the waves that roll and glide away, and not the steady shore. ’Tis you begin to unfasten from the vows that hold you, and float along the flattering tide of vanity. It is you, whose pride and beauty scorning to be confined, give way to the admiring crowd, that sigh for you. Yes, yes, you, like the rest of your fair glorious sex, love the admirer though you hate the coxcomb. It is vain! it is great! And shews your beauty’s power —— Is it possible, that for the safety of my life I cannot retire, but you must think I am fled from love and Sylvia? Or is it possible that pitying tenderness that made me incapable of taking leave of her should be interpreted as false — and base — and that an absence of thirty days, so forc’d, and so compelled, must render me inconstant — lost — ungrateful —— as if that after Sylvia heaven ever made a beauty that could charm me?
You charge my letter with a thousand faults, it is short, it is cold, and wants those usual softnesses that gave them all their welcome, and their graces. I fear my Sylvia loves the flatterer, and not the man, the lover only, not Philander: and she considers him not for himself, but the gay, glorious thing he makes of her! Ah! too self-interested! Is that your justice? You never allow for my unhappy circumstances; you never think how care oppresses me, nor what my love contributes to that care. How business, danger, and a thousand ills, take up my harrassed mind: by every power! I love thee still, my Sylvia, but time has made us more familiar now, and we begin to leave off ceremony, and come to closer joys to join our interests now, as people fixed, resolved to live and die together; to weave our thoughts and be united stronger. At first we shew the gayest side of love, dress and be nice in every word and look, set out for conquest all; spread every art, use every stratagem — But when the toil is past, and the dear victory gained, we then propose a little idle rest, a little easy slumber: we then embrace, lay by the gaudy shew, the plumes and gilded equipage of love, the trappings of the conqueror, and bring the naked lover to your arms; we shew him then uncased with all his little disadvantages; perhaps the flowing hair, (those ebony curls you have so often combed and dressed, and kissed) are then put up, and shew a fiercer air, more like an antique Roman than Philander: and shall I then, because I want a grace, be thought to love you less? Because the embroidered coat, the point and garniture’s laid by, must I put off my passion with my dress? No, Sylvia, love allows a thousand little freedoms, allows me to unbosom all my secrets; tell thee my wants, my fears, complaints and dangers, and think it great relief if thou but sigh and pity me: and oft thy charming wit has aided me, but now I find thee adding to my pain. O where shall I unload my weight of cares, when Sylvia, who was wont to sigh and weep, and suffer me to ease the heavy burden, now grows displeased and peevish with my moans, and calls them the effects of dying love! Instead of those dear smiles, that fond bewitching prattle, that used to calm my roughest storm of grief, she now reproaches me with coldness, want of concern, and lover’s rhetoric: and when I seem to beg relief and shew my soul’s resentment, it is then I’m false; it is my aversion, or the effects of some new kindling flame: is this fair dealing, Sylvia? Can I not spare a little sigh from love, but you must think I rob you of your due? If I omit a tender name, by which I used to call you, must I be thought to lose that passion that taught me such endearments? And must I never reflect upon the ruin both of my fame and fortune, but I must run the risk of losing Sylvia too? Oh cruelty of love! Oh too, too fond and jealous maid, what crimes thy innocent passion can create, when it extends beyond the bounds of reason! Ah too, too nicely tender Sylvia, that will not give me leave to cast a thought back on my former glory; yet even that loss I could support with tameness and content, if I believed my suffering reached only to my heart; but Sylvia, if she love, must feel my torments too, must share my loss, and want a thousand ornaments, my sinking fortune cannot purchase her: believe me, charming creature, if I should love you less, I have a sense so just of what you have suffered for Philander, I’d be content to be a galley-slave, to give thy beauty, birth and love their due; but as I am thy faithful lover still, depend upon that fortune heaven has left me; which if thou canst (as thou hast often sworn) then thou would’st submit to be cheerful still, be gay and confident, and do not judge my heart by little words; my heart — too great and fond for such poor demonstrations.
You ask me, Sylvia, where I am, and what I do; and all I can say is, that at present I am safe from any fears of being delivered up to France, and what I do is sighing, dying, grieving; I want my Sylvia; but my circumstances yet have nothing to encourage that hope; when I resolve where to settle, you shall see what haste I will make to have you brought to me: I am impatient to hear from you, and to know how that dear pledge of our soft hours advances. I mean, what I believe I left thee possessed of, a young Philander: cherish it, Sylvia, for that is a certain obligation to keep a dying fire alive; be sure you do it no hurt by your unnecessary grief, though there needs no other tie but that of love to make me more entirely
If Sylvia’s fears were great before she opened the letter, what were her pains when all those fears were confirmed from that never-failing mark of a declining love, the coldness and alteration of the style of letters, that first symptom of a dying flame! ‘O where,’ said she, ‘where, oh perjured charmer, is all that ardency that used to warm the reader? Where is all that natural innocence of love that could not, even to discover and express a grace in eloquence, force one soft word, or one passion? Oh,’ continued she, ‘he is lost and gone from Sylvia and his vows; some other has him all, clasps that dear body, hangs upon that face, gazes upon his eyes, and listens to his voice, when he is looking, sighing, swearing, dying, lying and damning of himself for some new beauty — He is, I will not endure it; aid me, Antonet! Oh, where is the perjured traitor!’ Antonet, who was waiting on her, seeing her rise on the sudden in so great a fury, would have stayed her hasty turns and ravings, beseeching her to tell her what was the occasion, and by a discovery to ease her heart; but she with all the fury imaginable flung from her arms, and ran to the table, and snatching up a penknife, had certainly sent it to her heart, had not Antonet stepped to her and caught her hand, which she resisted not, and blushing resigned, with telling her, she was ashamed of her own cowardice; ‘For,’ said she, ‘if it had designed to have been brave, I had sent you off, and by a noble resolution have freed this slave within’ (striking her breast) ‘from a tyranny which it should disdain to suffer under:’ with that she raged about the chamber with broken words and imperfect threatenings, unconsidered imprecations, and unheeded vows and oaths; at which Antonet redoubled her petition to know the cause; and she replied —‘Philander! The dear, the soft, the fond and charming Philander is now no more the same. O, Antonet,’ said she, ‘didst thou but see this letter compared to those of heretofore, when love was gay and young, when new desire dressed his soft eyes in tears, and taught his tongue the harmony of angels; when every tender word had more of passion, than volumes of this forced, this trifling business; Oh thou wouldst say I were the wretchedest thing that ever nature made — Oh, thou wouldst curse as I do — not the dear murderer, but thy frantic self, thy mad, deceived, believing, easy self; if thou wert so undone —’ Then while she wept she gave Antonet liberty to speak, which was to persuade her, her fears were vain; she urged every argument of love she had been witness to, and could not think it possible he could be false. To all which the still weeping Sylvia lent a willing ear; for lovers are much inclined to believe every thing they wish. Antonet, having a little calmed her, continued telling her, that to be better convinced of his love, or his perfidy, she ought to have patience till Octavio should come to visit her; ‘For you have forgotten, madam,’ said she, ‘that the generous rival has sent him word he is your lover:’ for Antonet was waiting at the reading of that letter, nor was there any thing the open-hearted Sylvia concealed from that servant; and women who have made a breach in their honour, are seldom so careful of their rest of fame, as those who have a stock entire; and Sylvia believed after she had entrusted the secret of one amour to her discretion, she might conceal none. ‘See, madam,’ says Antonet, ‘here is a letter yet unread:’ Sylvia, who had been a great while impatient for the return of Octavio’s answer from Philander, expecting from thence the confirmation of all her doubts, hastily snatched the letter out of Antonet’s hand, and read it, hoping to have found something there to have eased her soul one way or other; a soul the most raging and haughty by nature that ever possessed a body: the words were these.
OCTAVIO to SYLVIA.
At least you will pity me, oh charming Sylvia, when you shall call to mind the cruel services I am obliged to render you, to be the messenger of love from him, whom beauty and that god plead so strongly for already in your heart.
If, after this, you can propose a torture that yet may speak my passion and obedience in any higher measure, command and try my fortitude; for I too well divine, O rigorous beauty, the business of your love-sick slave will be only to give you proofs how much he does adore you, and never to taste a joy, even in a distant hope; like lamps in urns my lasting fire must burn, without one kind material to supply it. Ah Sylvia, if ever it be thy wretched fate to see the lord of all your vows given to another’s arms —— when you shall see in those soft eyes that you adore, a languishment and joy if you but name another beauty to him; —— when you behold his blushes fade and rise at the approaches of another mistress —— hear broken sighs and unassured replies, whenever he answers some new conqueress; tremblings, and pantings seizing every part at the warm touch as of a second charmer: ah, Sylvia, do but do me justice then, and sighing say — I pity poor Octavio.
Take here a letter from the blest Philander, which I had brought myself, but cannot bear the torment of that joy that I shall see advancing in your eyes when you shall read it over — no — it is too much that I imagine all! Yet bless that patient fondness of my passion that makes me still your slave, and your adorer,
At finishing this, the jealous fair one redoubled her tears with such violence, that it was in vain her woman strove to abate the flowing tide by all the reasonable arguments she could bring to her aid; and Sylvia, to increase it, read again the latter part of the ominous letter; which she wet with the tears that streamed from her bright eyes. ‘Yes, yes,’ (cried she, laying the letter down) ‘I know, Octavio, this is no prophecy of yours, but a known truth: alas, you know too well the fatal time is already come, when I shall find these changes in Philander!’ ‘Ah madam,’ replied Antonet, ‘how curious are you to search out torment for your own heart, and as much a lover as you are, how little do you understand the arts and politics of love! Alas, madam,’ continued she, ‘you yourself have armed my Lord Octavio with these weapons that wound you: the last time he writ to my lord Philander, he found you possessed with a thousand fears and jealousies; of these he took advantage to attack his rival: for what man is there so dull, that would not assault his enemy in that part where the most considerable mischief may be done him? It is now Octavio’s interest, and his business, to render Philander false, to give you all the umbrage that is possible of so powerful a rival, and to say any thing that may render him hateful to you, or at least to make him love you less.’ ‘Away,’ (replied Sylvia with an uneasy smile) ‘how foolish are thy reasonings; for were it possible I could love Philander less, is it to be imagined that should make way for Octavio in my heart, or any after that dear deceiver?’ ‘No doubt of it,’ replied Antonet, ‘but that very effect it would have on your heart; for love in the soul of a witty person is like a skein of silk; to unwind it from the bottom, you must wind it on another, or it runs into confusion, and becomes of no use, and then of course, as one lessens the other increases, and what Philander loses in love, Octavio, or some one industrious lover, will most certainly gain.’ ‘Oh,’ replied Sylvia, ‘you are a great philosopher in love.’ ‘I should, madam,’ cried Antonet, ‘had I but had a good memory, for I had a young churchman once in love with me, who has read many a philosophical lecture to me upon love; among the rest, he used to say the soul was all composed of love. I used to ask him then, if it were formed of so soft materials, how it came to pass that we were no oftener in love, or why so many were so long before they loved, and others who never loved at all?’ ‘No question but he answered you wisely,’ said Sylvia carelessly, and sighing, with her thoughts but half attentive. ‘Marry, and so he did,’ cried Antonet, ‘at least I thought so then, because I loved a little. He said, love of itself was inactive, but it was informed by object; and then too that object must depend on fancy; (for souls, though all love, are not to love all.) Now fancy, he said, was sometimes nice, humorous, and fantastic, which is the reason we so often love those of no merit, and despise those that are most excellent; and sometimes fancy guides us to like neither; he used to say, women were like misers, though they had always love in store, they seldom cared to part with it, but on very good interest and security, cent per cent most commonly, heart for heart at least; and for security, he said, we were most times too unconscionable, we asked vows at least, at worst matrimony —’ Half angry, Sylvia cried —‘And what is all this to my loving again?’ ‘Oh madam,’ replied Antonet, ‘he said a woman was like a gamester, if on the winning hand, hope, interest, and vanity made him play on, besides the pleasure of the play itself; if on the losing, then he continued throwing at all to save a stake at last, if not to recover all; so either way they find occasion to continue the game.’ ‘But oh,’ said Sylvia sighing, ‘what shall that gamester set, who has already played for all he had, and lost it at a cast?’ ‘O, madam,’ replied Antonet,‘the young and fair find credit every where, there is still a prospect of a return, and that gamester that plays thus upon the tick is sure to lose but little; and if they win it is all clear gains.’ ‘I find,’ said Sylvia, ‘you are a good manager in love; you are for the frugal part of it.’ ‘Faith, madam,’ said Antonet, ‘I am indeed of that opinion, that love and interest always do best together, as two most excellent ingredients in that rare art of preserving of beauty. Love makes us put on all our charms, and interest gives us all the advantage of dress, without which beauty is lost, and of little use. Love would have us appear always new, always gay, and magnificent, and money alone can render us so; and we find no women want lovers so much as those who want petticoats, jewels, and all the necessary trifles of gallantry. Of this last opinion I find you yourself to be; for even when Octavio comes, on whose heart you have no design, I see you dress to the best advantage, and put on many, to like one: why is this, but that even unknown to yourself, you have a secret joy and pleasure in gaining conquests, and of being adored, and thought the most charming of your sex?’ ‘That is not from the inconstancy of my heart,’ cried Sylvia, ‘but from the little vanity of our natures.’ ‘Oh, madam,’ replied Antonet, ‘there is no friend to love like vanity; it is the falsest betrayer of a woman’s heart of any passion, not love itself betrays her sooner to love than vanity or pride; and madam, I would I might have the pleasure of my next wish, when I find you not only listening to the love of Octavio, but even approving it too.’ ‘Away,’ replied Sylvia, in frowning, ‘your mirth grows rude and troublesome — Go bid the page wait while I return an answer to what his lord has sent me.’ So sitting at the table she dismissed Antonet, and writ this following letter.
SYLVIA to OCTAVIO.
I find, Octavio, this little gallantry of yours, of shewing me the lover, stands you in very great stead, and serves you upon all occasions for abundance of uses; amongst the rest, it is no small obligation you have to it, for furnishing you with handsome pretences to keep from those who importune you, and from giving them that satisfaction by your counsel and conversation, which possibly the unfortunate may have need of sometimes; and when you are pressed and obliged to render me the friendship of your visits, this necessary ready love of yours is the only evasion you have for the answering a thousand little questions I ask you of Philander; whose heart I am afraid you know much better than Sylvia does. I could almost wish, Octavio, that all you tell me of your passion were true, that my commands might be of force sufficient to compel you to resolve my heart in some doubts that oppress it. And indeed if you would have me believe the one, you must obey me in the other; to which end I conjure you to hasten to me, for something of an unusual coldness in Philander’s letter, and some ominous divinations in yours, have put me on a rack of thought; from which nothing but confirmation can relieve me; this you dare not deny, if you value the repose of SYLVIA.
She read it over; and was often about to tear it, fancying it was too kind: but when she considered it was from no other inclination of her heart than that of getting the secrets out of his, she pardoned herself the little levity she found it guilty of; all which, considering as the effects of the violent passion she had for Philander, she found it easy to do; and sealing it she gave it to Antonet to deliver to the page, and set herself down to ease her soul of its heavy weight of grief by her complaints to the dear author of her pain; for when a lover is insupportably afflicted, there is no ease like that of writing to the person loved; and that, all that comes uppermost in the soul: for true love is all unthinking artless speaking, incorrect disorder, and without method, as ’tis without bounds or rules; such were Sylvia’s unstudied thoughts, and such her following letter.
SYLVIA to PHILANDER.
Oh my Philander, how hard it is to bring my soul to doubt, when I consider all thy past tender vows, when I reflect how thou hast loved and sworn. Methinks I hear the music of thy voice still whispering in my bosom; methinks the charming softness of thy words remains like lessening echoes of my soul, whose distant voices by degrees decay, till they be heard no more! Alas, I’ve read thy letter over and over, and turned the sense a thousand several ways, and all to make it speak and look like love — Oh I have flattered it with all my heart. Sometimes I fancied my ill reading spoiled it, and then I tuned my voice to softer notes, and read it over again; but still the words appeared too rough and harsh for any moving air; I which way soever I changed, which way soever I questioned it of love, it answered in such language — as others would perhaps interpret love, or something like it; but I, who’ve heard the very god himself speak from thy wondrous lips, and known him guide thy pen, when all the eloquence of moving angels flowed from thy charming tongue! When I have seen thee fainting at my feet, (whilst all heaven opened in thy glorious face) and now and then sigh out a trembling word, in which there was contained more love, more soul, than all the arts of speaking ever found; what sense? Oh what reflections must I make on this decay, this strange — this sudden alteration in thee? But that the cause is fled, and the effect is ceased, the god retired, and all the oracles silenced! Confess — oh thou eternal conqueror of my soul, whom every hour, and every tender joy, renders more dear and lovely — tell me why (if thou still lovest me, and lovest as well) does love not dictate to thee as before? Dost thou want words? Oh then begin again, I repeat the old ones over ten thousand times; such repetitions are love’s rhetoric! How often have I asked thee in an hour, when my fond soul was doting on thy eyes, when with my arms clasping thy yielding neck, my lips imprinting kisses on thy cheeks, and taking in the breath that sighed from thine? How often have I asked this little but important question of thee? ‘Does my Philander love me?’ Then kiss thee for thy ‘Yes’ and sighs, and ask again; and still my soul was ravished with new joy, when thou wouldst answer, ‘Yes, I love thee dearly!’ And if I thought you spoke it with a tone that seemed less soft and fervent than I wished, I asked so often, till I made thee answer in such a voice as I would wish to hear it; all this had been impertinent and foolish in any thing but love, to any but a lover: but oh — give me the impertinence of love! Talk little nonsense to me all the day, and be as wanton as a playing Cupid, and that will please and charm my love-sick heart better than all fine sense and reasoning.
Tell me, Philander, what new accident, what powerful misfortune has befallen thee, greater than what we have experienced yet, to drive the little god out of thy heart, and make thee so unlike my soft Philander? What place contains thee, or what pleasures ease thee, that thou art now contented to live a tedious day without thy Sylvia? How then the long long age of forty more, and yet thou livest, art patient, tame and well; thou talkest not now of ravings, or of dying, but look’st about thee like a well pleased conqueror after the toils of battle — oh, I have known a time — but let me never think upon it more! It cannot be remembered without madness! What, think thee fallen from love! To think, that I must never hear thee more pouring thy soul out in soft sighs of love? A thousand dear expressions by which I knew the story of thy heart, and while you tell it, bid me feel it panting — never to see thy eyes fixed on my face — till the soft showers of joy would gently fall and hang their shining dew upon thy looks, then in a transport snatch me to thy bosom, and sigh a thousand times ere thou couldst utter —‘Ah Sylvia, how I love thee’— oh the dear eloquence those few short words contain, when they are sent with lovers’ accents to a soul all languishing! But now — alas, thy love is more familiar grown — oh take the other part of the proverb too, and say it has bred contempt, for nothing less than that your letter shews, but more it does, and that is indifference, less to be borne than hate, or any thing —
At least be just, and let me know my doom: do not deceive the heart that trusted all thy vows, if thou be’st generous — if thou lettest me know — thy date of love — is out (for love perhaps as life has dates) and equally uncertain, and thou no more canst stay the one than the other; yet if thou art so kind for all my honour lost, my youth undone, my beauty tarnished, and my lasting vows, to let me fairly know thou art departing, my worthless life will be the only loss: but if thou still continuest to impose upon my easy faith, and I should any other way learn my approaching fate — look to it Philander — she that had the courage to abandon all for love and faithless thee, can, when she finds herself betrayed and lost, nobly revenge the ruin of her fame, and send thee to the other world with SYLVIA.
She having writ this, read it over, and fancied she had not spoke half the sense of her soul — fancied if she were again to begin, she could express herself much more to the purpose she designed, than she had done. She began again, and writ two or three new ones, but they were either too kind or too rough; the first she feared would shew a weakness of spirit, since he had given her occasion of jealousy; the last she feared would disoblige if all those jealousies were false; she therefore tore those last she had writ, and before she sealed up the first she read Philander’s, letter again, but still ended it with fears that did not lessen those she had first conceived; still she thought she had more to say, as lovers do, who are never weary of speaking or writing to the dear object of their vows; and having already forgotten what she had just said before — and her heart being by this time as full as ere she began, she took up her complaining pen, and made it say this in the covert of the letter.
Oh Philander! Oh thou eternal charmer of my soul, how fain I would repent me of the cruel thoughts I have of thee! When I had finished this enclosed I read again thy chilling letter, and strove with all the force of love and soft imagination, to find a dear occasion of asking pardon for those fears which press my breaking heart: but oh, the more I read, the more they strike upon my tenderest part — something so very cold, so careless and indifferent you end your letter with — I will not think of it — by heaven it makes me rave — and hate my little power, that could no longer keep thee soft and kind. Oh if those killing fears (bred by excess of love) are vainly taken up, in pity, my adorable — in pity to my tortured soul convince them, redress the torment of my jealous doubts, and either way confirm me; be kind to her that dies and languishes for thee, return me all the softness that first charmed me, or frankly tell me my approaching fate. Be generous or be kind to the unfortunate and undone
She thought she had ended here, but here again she read Philander’s letter, as if on purpose to find new torments out for a heart too much pressed already; a sour that is always mixed with the sweets of love, a pain that ever accompanies the pleasure. Love else were not to be numbered among the passions of men, and was at first ordained in heaven for some divine motion of the soul, till Adam, with his loss of Paradise, debauched it with jealousies, fears and curiosities, and mixed it with all that was afflicting; but you’ll say he had reason to be jealous, whose woman, for want of other seducers, listened to the serpent, and for the love of change, would give way even to a devil; this little love of novelty and knowledge has been entailed upon her daughters ever since, and I have known more women rendered unhappy and miserable from this torment of curiosity, which they bring upon themselves, than have ever been undone by less villainous men. One of this humour was our haughty and charming Sylvia, whose pride and beauty possessing her with a belief that all men were born to die her slaves, made her uneasy at every action of the lover (whether beloved or not) that did but seem to slight her empire: but where indeed she loved and doted, as now in Philander, this humour put her on the rack at every thought or fancy that he might break his chains, and having laid the last obligation upon him, she expected him to be her slave for ever, and treated him with all the haughty tyranny of her sex, in all those moments when softness was not predominant in her soul. She was chagrin at every thing, if but displeased with one thing; and while she gave torments to others, she failed not to feel them the most sensibly herself; so that still searching for new occasion of quarrel with Philander, she drew on herself most intolerable pains, such as doubting lovers feel after long hopes and confirmed joy; she reads and weeps, and when she came to that part of it that inquired of the health and being of the pledge of love — she grew so tender that she was almost fainting in her chair, but recovering from the soft reflection, and finding she had said nothing of it already, she took her pen again and writ.
You ask me, oh charming Philander, how the pledge of our soft hours thrives: alas, as if it meant to brave the worst of fate! It does advance my sorrows, and all your cruelties have not destroyed that: but I still bear about me the destiny of many a sighing maid, that this (who will, I am sure, be like Philander) will ruin with his looks.
Thou sacred treasure of my soul, forgive me, if I have wronged thy love, adieu.
She made an end of writing this, just when Antonet arrived, and told her Octavio was alighted at the gate, and coming to visit her, which gave her occasion to say this of him to Philander.
I think I had not ended here, but that Octavio, the bravest and the best of friends, is come to visit me. The only satisfaction I have to support my life in Philander’s absence. Pay him those thanks that are due to him from me; pay him for all the generous cares he has taken of me; beyond a friend! Almost Philander in his blooming passion, when it was all new and young, and full of duty, could not have rendered me his service with a more awful industry: sure he was made for love and glorious friendship. Cherish him then, preserve him next your soul, for he is a jewel fit for such a cabinet: his form, his parts, and every noble action, shews us the royal race from whence he sprung, and the victorious Orange confesses him his own in every virtue, and in every grace; nor can the illegitimacy eclipse him: sure he was got in the first heat of love, which formed him so a hero— but no more. Philander is as kind a judge as
She had no sooner finished this and sealed it, but Octavio came into the chamber, and with such an air, with such a grace and mien he approached her — with all the languishment of soft trembling love in his face, which with the addition of the dress he was that day in, (which was extremely rich and advantageous, and altogether such as pleases the vanity of women,) I have since heard the charming Sylvia say, in spite of her tenderness for Philander, she found a soft emotion in her soul, a kind of pleasure at his approach, which made her blush with some kind of anger at her own easiness. Nor could she have blushed in a more happy season; for Octavio saw it, and it served at once to add a lustre to her paler beauty, and to betray some little kind sentiment, which possessed him with a joy that had the same effects on him: Sylvia saw it; and the care she took to hide her own, served but to increase her blushes, which put her into a confusion she had much ado to reclaim: she cast her eyes to earth, and leaning her cheek on her hand, she continued on her seat without paying him that usual ceremony she was wont to do; while he stood speechless for a moment, gazing on her with infinite satisfaction: when she, to assume a formality as well as she could, rose up and cried, (fearing he had seen too much) ‘Octavio, I have been considering after what manner I ought to receive you? And while I was so, I left those civilities unpaid, which your quality and my good manners ought to have rendered you.’ ‘Ah, madam,’ replied he sighing, ‘if you would receive me as I merited, and you ought, at least you would receive me as the most passionate lover that ever adored you.’ ‘I was rather believing,’ said Sylvia, ‘that I ought to have received you as my foe; since you conceal from me so long what you cannot but believe I am extremely impatient of hearing, and what so nearly concerns my repose.’ At this, he only answering with a sigh, she pursued, ‘Sure, Octavio, you understand me: Philander’s answer to the letter of your confessing passion, has not so long been the subject of our discourse and expectation, but you guess at what I mean?’ Octavio, who on all occasions wanted not wit, or reply, was here at a loss what to answer; notwithstanding he had considered before what he would say: but let those in love fancy, and make what fine speeches they please, and believe themselves furnished with abundance of eloquent harangues, at the sight of the dear object they lose them all, and love teaches them a dialect much more prevailing, without the expense of duller thought: and they leave unsaid all they had so floridly formed before, a sigh a thousand things with more success: love, like poetry, cannot be taught, but uninstructed flows without painful study, if it be true; it is born in the soul, a noble inspiration, not a science! Such was Octavio’s, he thought it dishonourable to be guilty of the meanness of a lie; and say he had no answer: he thought it rude to say he had one and would not shew it Sylvia; and he believed it the height of ungenerous baseness to shew it. While he remained this moment silent, Sylvia, whose love, jealousy, and impatience endured no delay, with a malicious half smile, and a tone all angry, scorn in her eyes, and passion on her tongue, she cried —‘It is well, Octavio, that you so early let me know, you can be false, unjust, and faithless; you knew your power, and in pity to that youth and easiness you found in me, have given a civil warning to my heart. In this I must confess,’ continued she, ‘you have given a much greater testimony of your friendship for Philander, than your passion for Sylvia, and I suppose you came not here to resolve yourself which you should prefer; that was decided ere you arrived, and this visit I imagine was only to put me out of doubt: a piece of charity you might have spared.’ She ended this with a scorn, that had a thousand charms, because it gave him a little hope; and he answered with a sigh, ‘Ah, madam, how very easy you find it to entertain thoughts disadvantageous of me: and how small a fault your wit and cruelty can improve to a crime! You are not offended at my friendship for Philander. I know you do not value my life, and my repose so much, as to be concerned who, or what shares this heart that adores you! No, it has not merited that glory; nor dare I presume to hope, you should so much as wish my passion for Sylvia, should surmount my friendship to Philander.’ ‘If I did,’ replied she with a scorn, ‘I perceive I might wish in vain.’ ‘Madam,’ answered he, ‘I have too divine an opinion of the justice of the charming Sylvia to believe I ought, or could make my approaches to her heart, by ways so base and ungenerous, the result of even tolerated treason is to hate the traitor.’ ‘Oh, you are very nice, Octavio,’ replied Sylvia, ‘in your punctilio to Philander; but I perceive you are not so tender in those you ought to have for Sylvia: I find honour in you men, is only what you please to make it; for at the same time you think it ungenerous to betray Philander, you believe it no breach of honour to betray the eternal repose of Sylvia. You have promised Philander your friendship; you have avowed yourself my lover, my slave, my friend, my every thing; and yet not one of these has any tie to oblige you to my interest: pray tell me,’ continued she, ‘when you last writ to him; was it not in order to receive an answer from him? And was not I to see that answer? And here you think it no dishonour to break your word or promise; by which I find your false notions of virtue and honour, with which you serve yourselves, when interest, design, or self-love makes you think it necessary.’ ‘Madam,’ replied Octavio, ‘you are pleased to pursue your anger, as if indeed I had disobeyed your command, or refused to shew you what you imagine I have from Philander:’ ‘Yes, I do,’ replied she hastily; ‘and wonder why you should have a greater friendship for Philander, than for Sylvia; especially if it be true that you say, you have joined love to friendship: or are you of the opinion of those that cry, they cannot be a lover and a friend of the same object.’ ‘Ah, madam,’ cried our perplexed lover, ‘I beg you to believe, I think it so much more my duty and inclination to serve and obey Sylvia, than I do Philander, that I swear to you, oh charming conqueress of my soul, if Philander have betrayed Sylvia, he has at the same time betrayed Octavio, and that I would revenge it with the loss of my life: in injuring the adorable Sylvia, believe me, lovely maid, he injures so much more than a friend, as honour is above the inclinations; if he wrong you, by heaven he cancels all! He wrongs my soul, my honour, mistress, and my sister:’ fearing he had said too much, he stopped and sighed at the word sister, and casting down his eyes, blushing with shame and anger, he continued. ‘Oh give me leave to say a sister, madam, lest mistress had been too daring and presumptuous, and a title that would not justify my quarrel half so well, since it would take the honour from my just resentment, and blast it with the scandal of self-interest or jealous revenge.’ ‘What you say,’ replied she, ‘deserves abundance of acknowledgement; but if you would have me believe you, you ought to hide nothing from me; and he, methinks, that was so daring to confess his passion to Philander, may after that, venture on any discovery: in short, Octavio, I demand to see the return you have from Philander, for possibly —’ said she, sweetening her charming face into a smile designed, ‘I should not be displeased to find I might with more freedom receive your addresses, and on the coldness of Philander’s reasoning may depend a great part of your fate, or fortune: come, come, produce your credentials, they may recommend your heart more effectually than all the fine things you can say; you know how the least appearance of a slight from a lover may advance the pride of a mistress; and pride in this affair will be your best advocate.’ Thus she insinuated with all her female arts, and put on all her charms of looks and smiles, sweetened her mouth, softened her voice and eyes, assuming all the tenderness and little affectations her subtle sex was capable of, while he lay all ravished and almost expiring at her feet; sometimes transported with imagined joys in the possession of the dear flattering charmer, he was ready to unravel all the secrets of Philander’s letter; but honour yet was even above his passion, and made him blush at his first hasty thought; and now he strove to put her off with all the art he could, who had so very little in his nature, and whose real love and perfect honour had set him above the little evasions of truth, who scorned in all other cases the baseness and cowardice of a lie; and so unsuccessful now was the little honest cheat, which he knew not how to manage well, that it was soon discovered to the witty, jealous, and angry Sylvia: so that after all the rage a passionate woman could express, who believed herself injured by the only two persons in the world from whom she expected most adoration; she had recourse to that natural and softening aid of her sex, her tears; and having already reproached Octavio with all the malice of a defeated woman, she now continued it in so moving a manner, that our hero could no longer remain unconquered by that powerful way of charming, but unfixed to all he had resolved, gave up, at least, a part of the secret, and owned he had a letter from Philander; and after this confession knowing very well he could not keep her from the sight of it; no, though an empire were rendered her to buy it off; his wit was next employed how he should defend the sense of it, that she might not think Philander false. In order to this, he, forcing a smile, told her, that Philander was the most malicious of his sex, and had contrived the best stratagem in the world to find whether Sylvia still loved, or Octavio retained his friendship for him: ‘And but that,’ continued he, ‘I know the nature of your curious sex to be such, that if I should persuade you not to see it, it would but the more inflame your desire of seeing it; I would ask no more of the charming Sylvia, than that she would not oblige me to shew what would turn so greatly to my own advantage: if I were not too sensible, it is but to entrap me, that Philander has taken this method in his answer. Believe me, adorable Sylvia, I plead against my own life, while I beg you not to put my honour to the test, by commanding me to shew this letter, and that I join against the interest of my own eternal repose while I plead thus.’ She hears him with a hundred changes of countenance. Love, rage, and jealousy swell in her fierce eyes, her breath beats short, and she was ready to burst into speaking before he had finished what he had to say; she called up all the little discretion and reason love had left her to manage herself as she ought in this great occasion; she bit her lips, and swallowed her rising sighs; but he soon saw the storm he had raised, and knew not how to stand the shock of its fury; he sighs, he pleads in vain, and the more he endeavours to excuse the levity of Philander, the more he rends her heart, and sets her on the rack; and concluding him false, she could no longer contain her rage, but broke out into all the fury that madness can inspire, and from one degree to another wrought her passion to the height of lunacy: she tore her hair, and bit his hands that endeavoured to restrain hers from violence; she rent the ornaments from her fair body, and discovered a thousand charms and beauties; and finding now that both his strength and reason were too weak to prevent the mischiefs he found he had brought on her, he calls for help: when Brilliard was but too ready at hand, with Antonet, and some others who came to his assistance. Brilliard, who knew nothing of the occasion of all this, believed it the second part of his own late adventure, and fancied that Octavio had used some violence to her; upon this he assumes the authority of his lord, and secretly that of a husband or lover, and upbraiding the innocent Octavio with his brutality, they fell to such words as ended in a challenge the next morning, for Brilliard appeared a gentleman, companion to his lord; and one whom Octavio could not well refuse: this was not carried so silently but Antonet, busy as she was about her raving lady, heard the appointment, and Octavio quitted the chamber almost as much disturbed as Sylvia, whom, with much ado they persuaded him to leave; but before he did so, he on his knees offered her the letter, and implored her to receive it; so absolutely his love had vanquished his nobler part, that of honour. But she attending no motions but those of her own rage, had no regard either to Octavio’s proffer, or his arguments of excuse; so that he went away with the letter in all the extremity of disorder. This last part of his submission was not seen by Brilliard; who immediately left the chamber, upon receiving Octavio’s answer to his challenge; so that Sylvia was now left with her woman only; who by degrees brought her to more calmness; and Brilliard, impatient to hear the reproaches he hoped she would give Octavio when she was returned to reason, being curious of any thing that might redound to his disadvantage, whom he took to be a powerful rival, returned again into her chamber: but in lieu of hearing what he wished, Sylvia being recovered from her passion of madness, and her soul in a state of thinking a little with reason, she misses Octavio in the crowd, and with a voice her rage had enfeebled to a languishment, she cried — surveying carefully those about her, ‘Oh where is Octavio? Where is that angel man: he who of all his kind can give me comfort?’ ‘Madam,’ replied Antonet, ‘he is gone; while he was here, he kneeled and prayed in vain, but for a word, or look; his tears are yet remaining wet upon your feet, and all for one sensible reply, but rage had deafened you; what has he done to merit this?’ ‘Oh Antonet,’ cried Sylvia——‘It was what he would not do, that makes me rave; run, haste and fetch him back —— but let him leave his honour all behind: tell him he has too much consideration for Philander, and none for my repose. Oh, Brilliard —— Have I no friend in view dares carry a message from me to Octavio? Bid him return, oh instantly return —— I die, I languish for a sight of him —— descending angels would not be so welcome —— Why stand ye still —— have I no power with you —— Will none obey ——’ Then running hastily to the chamber door, she called her page to whom she cried ——‘Haste, haste, dear youth, and find Octavio out, and bring him to me instantly: tell him I die to see him.’ The boy, glad of so kind a message to so liberal a lover, runs on his errand, while she returns to her chamber, and endeavours to recollect her senses against Octavio’s coming as much as possibly she could: she dismisses her attendant with different apprehensions; sometimes Brilliard believed this was the second part of her first raving, and having never seen her thus, but for Philander, concludes it the height of tenderness and passion for Octavio; but because she made so public a declaration of it, he believed he had given her a philtre, which had raised her flame so much above the bounds of modesty and discretion; concluding it so, he knew the usual effects of things of that nature, and that nothing could allay the heat of such a love but possession; and easily deluded with every fancy that flattered his love, mad, stark-mad, by any way to obtain the last blessing with Sylvia, he consults with Antonet how to get one of Octavio’s letters out of her lady’s cabinet, and feigning many frivolous reasons, which deluded the amorous maid, he persuaded her to get him one, which she did in half an hour after; for by this time Sylvia being in as much tranquillity as it was possible a lover could be in, who had the hopes of knowing all the secrets of the false betrayer, she had called Antonet to dress her; which she resolved should be in all the careless magnificence that art or nature could put on; to charm Octavio wholly to obedience, whom she had sent for, and whom she expected! But she was no sooner set to her toilet, but Octavio’s page arrived with a letter from his master, which she greedily snatched, and read this:
OCTAVIO to SYLVIA.
By this time, oh charming Sylvia, give me leave to hope your rage is abated, and your reason returned, and that you will hear a little from the most unfortunate of men, whom you have reduced to this miserable extremity of losing either the adorable object of his soul, or his honour: if you can prefer a little curiosity that will serve but to afflict you, before either that or my repose, what esteem ought I to believe you have for the unfortunate Octavio: and if you hate me, as it is evident, if you compel me to the extremity of losing my repose or honour, what reason or argument have I to prefer so careless a fair one above the last? It is certain you neither do nor can love me now; and how much below that hope shall the exposed and abandoned Octavio be, when he shall pretend to that glory without his honour? Believe me, charming maid, I would sacrifice my life, and my entire fortune at your least command to serve you; but to render you a devoir that must point me out the basest of my sex, is what my temper must resist in spite of all the violence of my love; and I thank my happier stars, that they have given me resolution enough, rather to fall a sacrifice to the last, than be guilty of the breach of the first: this is the last and present thought and pleasure of my soul; and lest it should, by the force of those divine ideas which eternally surround it, be soothed and flattered from its noble principles, I will to-morrow put myself out of the hazard of temptation, and divert if possible, by absence, to the campaign, those soft importunate betrayers of my liberty, that perpetually solicit in favour of you: I dare not so much as bid you adieu, one sight of that bright angel’s face would undo me, unfix my nobler resolution, and leave me a despicable slave, sighing my unrewarded treason at your insensible feet: my fortune I leave to be disposed by you; but the more useless necessary I will for ever take from those lovely eyes, you can look on nothing with joy, but the happy Philander: if I have denied you one satisfaction, at least I have given you this other, of securing you eternally from the trouble and importunity of, madam, your faithful
This letter to any other less secure of her power than was our fair subject, would have made them impatient and angry; but she found that there was something yet in her power, the dispensation of which could soon recall him from any resolution he was able to make of absenting himself. Her glass stood before her, and every glance that way was an assurance and security to her heart; she could not see that beauty, and doubt its power of persuasion. She therefore took her pen, and writ him this answer, being in a moment furnished with all the art and subtlety that was necessary on this occasion.
SYLVIA to Octavio.
Though I have not beauty enough to command your heart; at least allow me sense enough to oblige your belief, that I fancy and resent all that the letter contains which you have denied me, and that I am not of that sort of women, whose want of youth or beauty renders so constant to pursue the ghost of a departed love: it is enough to justify my honour, that I was not the first aggressor. I find myself pursued by too many charms of wit, youth, and gallantry, to bury myself beneath the willows, or to whine away my youth by murmuring rivers, or betake me to the last refuge of a declining beauty, a monastery: no, my lord, when I have revenged and recompensed myself for the injuries of one inconstant, with the joys a thousand imploring lovers offer, it will be time to be weary of a world, which yet every day presents me new joys; and I swear to you, Octavio, that it was more to recompense what I owed your passion, that I desired a convincing proof of Philander’s falsehood, than for any other reason, and you have too much wit not to know it; for what other use could I make of the secret? If he be false he is gone, unworthy of me, and impossible to be retrieved; and I would as soon dye my sullied garments, and wear them over again, as take to my embraces a reformed lover, the native first lustre of whose passion is quite extinct, and is no more the same; no, my lord, she must be poor in beauty, that has recourse to shifts so mean; if I would know the secret, by all that is good it were to hate him heartily, and to dispose of my person to the best advantage; which in honour I cannot do, while I am unconvinced of the falseness of him with whom I exchanged a thousand vows of fidelity; but if he unlink the chain, I am at perfect liberty; and why by this delay you should make me lose my time, I am not able to conceive, unless you fear I should then take you at your word, and expect the performance of all the vows of love you have made me —— If that be it — my pride shall be your security, or if other recompense you expect, set the price upon your secret, and see at what rate I shall purchase the liberty it will procure me; possibly it may be such as may at once enfranchise me, and revenge me on the perjured ingrate, than which nothing can be a greater satisfaction to
She seals this letter with a wafer, and giving it to Antonet to give the page, believing she had writ what would not be in vain to the quick-sighted Octavio; Antonet takes both that and the other which Octavio had sent, and left her lady busy in dressing her head, and went to Brilliard’s chamber, who thought every moment an age till she came, so vigorous he was on his new design. That which was sent to Octavio, being sealed with a wet wafer, he neatly opens, as it was easy to do, and read, and sealed again, and Antonet delivered it to the page. After receiving what pay Brilliard could force himself to bestow upon her, some flatteries of dissembled love, and some cold kisses, which even imagination could not render better, she returned to her lady, and he to his stratagem, which was to counterfeit a letter from Octavio; she having in hers given him a hint, by bidding him set a price upon the secret, which he had heard was that of a letter from Philander, with all the circumstances of it, from the faithless Antonet, whom love had betrayed; and after blotting much paper to try every letter through the alphabet, and to produce them like those of Octavio, which was not hard for a lover of ingenuity, he fell to the business of what he would write; and having finished it to his liking, his next trouble was how to convey it to her; for Octavio always sent his by his page, whom he could trust. He now was certain of love between them; for though he often had persuaded Antonet to bring him letters, yet she could not be wrought on till now to betray her trust; and what he long apprehended, he found too true on both sides, and now he waited but for an opportunity to send it seasonably, and in a lucky minute. In the mean time Sylvia adorns herself for an absolute conquest, and disposing herself in the most charming, careless, and tempting manner she could devise, she lay expecting her coming lover, on a repose of rich embroidery of gold on blue satin, hung within-side with little amorous pictures of Venus descending in her chariot naked to Adonis, she embracing, while the youth, more eager of his rural sports, turns half from her in a posture of pursuing his dogs, who are on their chase: another of Armida, who is dressing the sleeping warrior up in wreaths of flowers, while a hundred little Loves are playing with his gilded armour; this puts on his helmet too big for his little head, that hides his whole face; another makes a hobby-horse of his sword and lance; another fits on his breast-piece, while three or four little Cupids are seeming to heave and help him to hold it an end, and all turned the emblems of the hero into ridicule. These, and some either of the like nature, adorned the pavilion of the languishing fair one, who lay carelessly on her side, her arm leaning on little pillows of point of Venice, and a book of amours in her other hand. Every noise alarmed her with trembling hope that her lover was come, and I have heard she said, she verily believed, that acting and feigning the lover possessed her with a tenderness against her knowledge and will; and she found something more in her soul than a bare curiosity of seeing Octavio for the letter’s sake: but in lieu of her lover, she found herself once more approached with a billet from him, which brought this.
OCTAVIO to SYLVIA.
Ah, Sylvia, he must be more than human that can withstand your charms; I confess my frailty, and fall before you the weakest of my sex, and own I am ready to believe all your dear letter contains, and have vanity enough to wrest every hopeful word to my own interest, and in favour of my own heart: what will become of me, if my easy faith should only flatter me, and I with shame should find it was not meant to me, or if it were, it was only to draw me from a virtue which has been hitherto the pride and beauty of my youth, the glory of my name, and my comfort and refuge in all extremes of fortune; the eternal companion, guide and counsellor of all my actions: yet this good you only have power to rob me of, and leave me exposed to the scorn of all the laughing world; yet give me love! Give me but hope in lieu of it, and I am content to divest myself of all besides.
Perhaps you will say I ask too mighty a rate for so poor a secret. But even in that there lies one of my own, that will more expose the feebleness of my blood and name, than the discovery will me in particular, so that I know not what I do, when I give you up the knowledge you desire. Still you will say all this is to enhance its value, and raise the price: and oh, I fear you have taught my soul every quality it fears and dreads in yours, and learnt it to chaffer for every thought, if I could fix upon the rate to sell it at: and I with shame confess I would be mercenary, could we but agree upon the price; but my respect forbids me all things but silent hope, and that, in spite of me and all my reason, will predominate; for the rest I will wholly resign myself, and all the faculties of my soul, to the charming arbitrator of my peace, the powerful judge of love, the adorable Sylvia; and at her feet render all she demands; yes, she shall find me there to justify all the weakness this proclaims; for I confess, oh too too powerful maid, that you have absolutely subdued
She had no sooner read this letter, but Antonet, instead of laying it by, carried it to Brilliard, and departed the chamber to make way for Octavio, who she imagined was coming to make his visit, and left Sylvia considering how she should manage him to the best advantage, and with most honour acquit herself of what she had made him hope; but instead of his coming to wait on her, an unexpected accident arrived to prevent him; for a messenger from the Prince came with commands that he should forthwith come to His Highness, the messenger having command to bring him along with him: so that not able to disobey, he only begged time to write a note of business, which was a billet to Sylvia to excuse himself till the next day; for it being five leagues to the village where the Prince waited his coming, he could not return that night; which was the business of the note, with which his page hasted to Sylvia. Brilliard, who was now a vigilant lover, and waiting for every opportunity that might favour his design, saw the page arrive with the note; and, as it was usual, he took it to carry to his conqueress; but meeting Antonet on the stairs, he gave her what he had before counterfeited with such art, after he had opened what Octavio had sent, and found fortune was wholly on his side, he having learned from the page besides, that his lord had taken coach with Monsieur —— to go to His Highness, and would not return that night: Antonet, not knowing the deceit, carried her lady the forged letter, who opened it with eager haste, and read this.
To the Charming SYLVIA.
Since I have a secret, which none but I can unfold, and that you have offered at any rate to buy it of me, give me leave to say, that you, fair creature, have another secret, a joy to dispense, which none but you can give the languishing Octavio: if you dare purchase this of mine, with that infinitely more valuable one of yours, I will be as secret as death, and think myself happier than a fancied god! Take what methods you please for the payment, and what time, order me, command me, conjure me, I will wait, watch, and pay my duty at all hours, to snatch the most convenient one to reap so ravishing a blessing. I know you will accuse me with all the confidence and rudeness in the world: but oh! consider, lovely Sylvia, that that passion which could change my soul from all the course of honour, has power to make me forget that nice respect your beauty awes me with, and my passion is now arrived at such a height, it obeys no laws but its own; and I am obstinately bent on the pursuit of that vast pleasure I fancy to find in the dear, the ravishing arms of the adorable Sylvia: impatient of your answer, I am, as love compels me, madam, your slave,
The page, who waited no answer, was departed: but Sylvia, who believed he attended, was in a thousand minds what to say or do: she blushed, as she read, and then looked pale with anger and disdain, and, but that she had already given her honour up, it would have been something more surprising: but she was used to questions of that nature, and therefore received this with so much the less concern; nevertheless, it was sufficient to fill her soul with a thousand agitations; but when she would be angry, the consideration of what she had writ to him, to encourage him to this boldness, stopped her rage: when she would take it ill, she considered his knowledge of her lost fame, and that took off a great part of her resentment on that side; and in midst of all she was raving for the knowledge of Philander’s secret. She rose from the bed, and walked about the room in much disorder, full of thought and no conclusion; she is ashamed to consult of this affair with Antonet, and knows not what to fix on: the only thing she was certain of, and which was fully and undisputably resolved in her soul, was never to consent to so false an action, never to buy the secret at so dear a rate; she abhors Octavio, whom she regards no more as that fine thing which before she thought him; and a thousand times she was about to write her despite and contempt, but still the dear secret stayed her hand, and she was fond of the torment: at last Antonet, who was afflicted to know the cause of this disorder, asked her lady if Octavio would not come; ‘No,’ replied Sylvia, blushing at the name, ‘nor never shall the ungrateful man dare to behold my face any more.’ ‘Jesu,’ replied Antonet, ‘what has he done, madam, to deserve this severity?’ For he was a great benefactor to Antonet, and had already by his gifts and presents made her a fortune for a burgomaster. ‘He has,’ said Sylvia, ‘committed such an impudence as deserves death from my hand:’ this she spoke in rage, and walked away cross the chamber. ‘Why, madam,’ cried Antonet,‘does he deny to give you the letter?’ ‘No,’ replied Sylvia, ‘but asks me such a price for it, as makes me hate myself, that am reduced by my ill conduct to addresses of that nature:’ ‘Heavens, madam, what can he ask you to afflict you so!’ ‘The presumptuous man,’ said she, (in rage) ‘has the impudence to ask what never man, but Philander, was ever possessed of ——’ At this, Antonet laughed —‘Good lord, madam,’ said she, ‘and are you angry at such desires in men towards you? I believe you are the first lady in the world that was ever offended for being desirable: can any thing proclaim your beauty more, or your youth, or wit? Marry, madam, I wish I were worthy to be asked the question by all the fine dancing, dressing, song-making fops in town.’ ‘And you would yield,’ replied Sylvia. ‘Not so neither,’ replied Antonet, ‘but I would spark myself, and value myself the more upon it.’ ‘Oh,’ said Sylvia, ‘she that is so fond of hearing of love, no doubt but will find some one to practise it with.’ ‘That is as I should find myself inclined,’ replied Antonet. Sylvia was not so intent on Antonet’s raillery, but she employed all her thought the while on what she had to do: and those last words of Antonet’s jogged a thought that ran on to one very advantageous, at least her present and first apprehension of it was such: and she turned to Antonet, with a face more gay than it was the last minute, and cried, ‘Prithee, good wench, tell me what sort of man would soonest incline you to a yielding:’ ‘If you command me, madam, to be free with your ladyship,’ replied Antonet, ‘I must confess there are two sorts of men that would most villainously incline me: the first is he that would make my fortune best; the next, he that would make my pleasure; the young, the handsome, or rather the well-bred and good-humoured; but above all, the man of wit.’ ‘But what would you say, Antonet,’ replied Sylvia, ‘if all these made up in one man should make his addresses to you?’ ‘Why then most certainly, madam,’ replied Antonet, ‘I should yield him my honour, after a reasonable siege.’ This though the wanton young maid spoke possibly at first more to put her lady in good humour, than from any inclination she had to what she said; yet after many arguments upon that subject, Sylvia, cunning enough to pursue her design, brought the business more home, and told her in plain terms, that Octavio was the man who had been so presumptuous as to ask so great a reward as the possession of herself for the secret she desired; and, after a thousand little subtleties, having made the forward girl confess with blushes she was not a maid, she insinuated into her an opinion, that what she had done already (without any other motive than that of love, as she confessed, in which interest had no part) would make the trick the easier to do again, especially if she brought to her arms a person of youth, wit, gallantry, beauty, and all the charming qualities that adorn a man, and that besides she should find it turn to good account; and for her secrecy she might depend upon it, since the person to whose embraces she should submit herself, should not know but that she herself was the woman: ‘So that,’ says Sylvia, ‘I will have all the infamy, and you the reward every way with unblemished honour.’ While she spoke, the willing maid gave an inward pleasing attention, though at first she made a few faint modest scruples: nor was she less joyed to hear it should be Octavio, whom she knew to be rich, and very handsome; and she immediately found the humour of inconstancy seize her; and Brilliard appeared a very husband lover in comparison of this new brisker man of quality; so that after some pros and cons the whole matter was thus concluded on between these two young persons, who neither wanted wit nor beauty; and both crowed over the little contrivance, as a most diverting piece of little malice, that should serve their present turn, and make them sport for the future. The next thing that was considered was a letter which was to be sent in answer, and that Sylvia being to write with her own hand begot a new doubt, insomuch as the whole business was at a stand: for when it came to that point that she herself was to consent, she found the project look with a face so foul, that she a hundred times resolved and unresolved. But Philander filled her soul, revenge was in her view, and that one thought put her on new resolves to pursue the design, let it be never so base and dishonourable: ‘Yes,’ cried she at last, ‘I can commit no action that is not more just, excusable and honourable, than that which Octavio has done to me, who uses me like a common mistress of the town, and dares ask me that which he knows he durst not do, if he had not mean and abject thoughts of me; his baseness deserves death at my hand, if I had courage to give it him, and the least I can do is to deceive the deceiver. Well then, give me my escritoire,’ says she; so, sitting down, she writ this, not without abundance of guilt and confusion; for yet a certain honour, which she had by birth, checked the cheat of her pen.
SYLVIA to OCTAVIO.
The price, Octavio, which you have set upon your secret, I (more generous than you) will give your merit, to which alone it is due: if I should pay so high a price for the first, you would believe I had the less esteem for the last, and I would not have you think me so poor in spirit to yield on any other terms. If I valued Philander yet — after his confirmed inconstancy, I would have you think I scorn to yield a body where I do not give a soul, and am yet to be persuaded there are any such brutes amongst my sex; but as I never had a wish but where I loved, so I never extended one till now to any but Philander; yet so much my sense of shame is above my growing tenderness, that I could wish you would be so generous to think no more of what you seem to pursue with such earnestness and haste. But lest I should retain any sort of former love for Philander, whom I am impatient to rase wholly from my soul, I grant you all you ask, provided you will be discreet in the management: Antonet therefore shall only be trusted with the secret; the outward gate you shall find at twelve only shut to, and Antonet wait you at the stairs-foot to conduct you to me; come alone. I blush and gild the paper with their reflections, at the thought of an encounter like this, before I am half enough secured of your heart. And that you may be made more absolutely the master of mine, send me immediately Philander’s letter enclosed, that if any remains of chagrin possess me, they may be totally vanquished by twelve o’clock.
She having, with much difficulty, writ this, read it to her trusty confidante; for this was the only secret of her lady’s she was resolved never to discover to Brilliard, and to the end he might know nothing of it she sealed the letter with wax: but before she sealed it, she told her lady, she thought she might have spared abundance of her blushes, and have writ a less kind letter; for a word of invitation or consent would have served as well. To which Sylvia replied, her anger against him was too high not to give him all the defeat imaginable, and the greater the love appeared, the greater would be the revenge when he should come to know (as in time he should) how like a false friend she had treated him. This reason, or any at that time would have served Antonet, whose heart was set upon a new adventure, and in such haste she was (the night coming on a-pace) to know how she should dress, and what more was to be done, that she only went out to call the page, and meeting Brilliard (who watched every body’s motion) on the stair-case, he asked her what that was; and she said, to send by Octavio’s page: ‘You need not look in it,’ said she (when he snatched it hastily out of her hand:) ‘For I can tell you the contents, and it is sealed so, it must be known if you unrip it.’ ‘Well, well,’ said he, ‘if you tell it me, it will satisfy my curiosity as well; therefore I’ll give it the page.’ She returns in again to her lady, and he to his own chamber to read what answer the dear object of his desire had sent to his forged one: so opening it, he found it such as his soul wished, and was all joy and ecstasy; he views himself a hundred times in the glass, and set himself in order with all the opinion and pride, as if his own good parts had gained him the blessing; he enlarged himself as he walked, and knew not what to do, so extremely was he ravished with his coming joy; he blessed himself, his wit, his stars, his fortune; then read the dear obliging letter, and kissed it all over, as if it had been meant to him; and after he had forced himself to a little more serious consideration, he bethought himself of what he had to do in order to this dear appointment: he finds in her letter, that in the first place he was to send her the letter from Philander: I told you before he took Octavio’s letter from the page, when he understood his lord was going five leagues out of town to the prince. Octavio could not avoid his going, and wrote to Sylvia; in which he sent her the letter Philander writ, wherein was the first part of the confession of his love to Madam the Countess of Clarinau: generously Octavio sent it without terms; but Brilliard slid his own forged one into Antonet’s hand in lieu of it, and now he read that from Philander, and wondered at his lord’s inconstancy; yet glad of the opportunity to take Sylvia’s heart a little more off from him, he soon resolved she should have the letter, but being wholly mercenary, and fearing that either when once she had it, it might make her go back from her promised assignation, or at least put her out of humour, so as to spoil a great part of the entertainment he designed: he took the pains to counterfeit another billet to her, which was this.
Since we have begun to chaffer, you must give me leave to make the best of the advantage I find I have upon you; and having violated my honour to Philander, allow the breach of it in some degree on other occasions; not but I have all the obedience and adoration for you that ever possessed the soul of a most passionate and languishing lover: but, fair Sylvia, I know not whether, when you have seen the secret of the false Philander, you may not think it less valuable than you before did, and so defraud me of my due. Give me leave, oh wondrous creature! to suspect even the most perfect of your sex; and to tell you, that I will no sooner approach your presence, but I will resign the paper you so much wish. If you send me no answer, I will come according to your directions: if you do, I must obey and wait, though with that impatience that never attended a suffering lover, or any but, divine creature, your OCTAVIO.
This he sealed, and after a convenient distance of time carried as from the page to Antonet, who was yet contriving with her lady, to whom she gives it, who read it with abundance of impatience, being extremely angry at the rudeness of the style, which she fancied much altered from what it was; and had not her rage blinded her, she might easily have perceived the difference too of the character, though it came as near to the like as possible so short a practice could produce; she took it with the other, and tore it in pieces with rage, and swore she would be revenged; but, after calmer thoughts, she took up the pieces to keep to upbraid him with, and fell to weeping for anger, defeat and shame; but the April shower being past, she returned to her former resentment, and had some pleasure amidst all her torment of fears, jealousies, and sense of Octavio’s disrespect in the thoughts of revenge; in order to which she contrives how Antonet shall manage herself, and commanding her to bring out some fine point linen, she dressed up Antonet’s head with them, and put her on a shift, laced with the same; for though she intended no light should be in the chamber when Octavio should enter, she knew he understood by his touch the difference of fine things from other. In fine, having dressed her exactly as she herself used to be when she received Octavio’s visits in bed, she embraced her, and fancied she was much of her own shape and bigness, and that it was impossible to find the deceit: and now she made Antonet dress her up in her clothes, and mobbing her sarsenet hood about her head, she appeared so like Antonet (all but the face) that it was not easy to distinguish them: and night coming on they both long for the hour of twelve, though with different designs; and having before given notice that Sylvia was gone to bed, and would receive no visit that night, they were alone to finish all their business: this while Brilliard was not idle, but having a fine bath made, he washed and perfumed his body, and after dressed himself in the finest linen perfumed that he had, and made himself as fit as possible for his design; nor was his shape, which was very good, or his stature, unlike to that of Octavio: and ready for the approach, he conveys himself out of the house, telling his footman he would put himself to bed after his bathing, and, locking his chamber door, stole out; and it being dark, many a longing turn he walked, impatient till all the candles were out in every room of the house: in the mean time, he employed his thoughts on a thousand things, but all relating to Sylvia; sometimes the treachery he shewed in this action to his lord, caused short-lived blushes in his face, which vanished as soon, when he considered his lord false to the most beautiful of her sex: sometimes he accused and cursed the levity of Sylvia that could yield to Octavio, and was as jealous as if she had indeed been to have received that charming lover; but when his thought directed him to his own happiness, his pulse beat high, his blood flushed apace in his cheeks, his eyes languished with love, and his body with a feverish fit! In these extremes, by turns, he passed at least three tedious hours, with a striking watch in his hand; and when it told it was twelve, he advanced near the door, but finding it shut walked yet with greater impatience, every half minute going to the door; at last he found it yield to his hand that pushed it: but oh, what mortal can express his joy! His heart beats double, his knees tremble, and a feebleness seizes every limb; he breathes nothing but short sighs, and is ready in the dark hall to fall on the floor, and was forced to lean on the rail that begins the stairs to take a little courage: while he was there recruiting himself, intent on nothing but his vast joy; Octavio, who going to meet the Prince, being met halfway by that young hero, was dispatched back again without advancing to the end of his five leagues, and impatient to see Sylvia, after Philander’s letter that he had sent her, or at least impatient to hear how she took it, and in what condition she was, he, as soon as he alighted, went towards her house in order to have met Antonet, or her page, or some that could inform him of her welfare; though it was usual for Sylvia to sit up very late, and he had often made her visits at that hour: and Brilliard, wholly intent on his adventure, had left the door open; so that Octavio perceiving it, believed they were all up in the back rooms where Sylvia’s apartment was towards a garden, for he saw no light forward. But he was no sooner entered (which he did without noise) but he heard a soft breathing, which made him stand in the hall: and by and by he heard the soft tread of some body descending the stairs: at this he approaches near, and the hall being a marble floor, his tread was not heard; when he heard one cry with a sigh —‘Who is there?’ And another replied, ‘It is I! Who are you?’ The first replied, ‘A faithful and an impatient lover.’ ‘Give me your hand then,’ replied the female voice, ‘I will conduct you to your happiness.’ You may imagine in what surprise Octavio was at so unexpected an adventure, and, like a jealous lover, did not at all doubt but the happiness expected was Sylvia, and the impatient lover some one, whom he could not imagine, but raved within to know, and in a moment ran over in his thoughts all the men of quality, or celebrated beauty, or fortune in the town, but was at as great a loss as at first thinking: ‘But be thou who thou wilt,’ cried he to himself; ‘traitor as thou art, I will by thy death revenge myself on the faithless fair one.’ And taking out his sword, he had advanced towards the stairs-foot, when he heard them both softly ascend; but being a man of perfect good nature, as all the brave and witty are, he reflected on the severe usage he had from Sylvia, notwithstanding all his industry, his vast expense, and all the advantages of nature. This thought made him, in the midst of all his jealousy and haste, pause a little moment; and fain he would have persuaded himself, that what he heard was the errors of his sense; or that he dreamed, or that it was at least not to Sylvia, to whom this ascending lover was advancing: but to undeceive him of that favourable imagination, they were no sooner on the top of the stairs, but he not being many steps behind could both hear and see, by the ill light of a great sash-window on the stair-case, the happy lover enter the chamber-door of Sylvia, which he knew too well to be mistaken, not that he could perceive who, or what they were, but two persons not to be distinguished. Oh what human fancy, (but that of a lover to that degree that was our young hero,) can imagine the amazement and torture of his soul, wherein a thousand other passions reigned at once, and, maugre all his courage and resolution, forced him to sink beneath their weight? He stood holding himself up by the rails of the stair-case, without having the power to ascend farther, or to shew any other signs of life, but that of sighing; had he been a favoured lover, had he been a known declared lover to all the world, had he but hoped he had had so much interest with the false beauty, as but to have been designed upon for a future love or use, he would have rushed in, and have made the guilty night a covert to a scene of blood; but even yet he had an awe upon his soul for the perjured fair one, though at the same time he resolved she should be the object of his hate; for the nature of his honest soul abhorred an action so treacherous and base: he begins in a moment from all his good thoughts of her to think her the most jilting of her sex; he knew, if interest could oblige her, no man in Holland had a better pretence to her than himself; who had already, without any return, even so much as hope, presented her the value of eight or ten thousand pounds in fine plate and jewels: if it were looser desire, he fancied himself to have appeared as capable to have served her as any man; but oh! he considers there is a fate in things, a destiny in love that elevates and advances the most mean, deformed or abject, and debases and condemns the most worthy and magnificent: then he wonders at her excellent art of dissembling for Philander; he runs in a minute over all her passions of rage, jealousy, tears and softness; and now he hates the whole sex, and thinks them all like Sylvia, than whom nothing could appear more despicable to his present thought, and with a smile, while yet his heart was insensibly breaking, he fancies himself a very coxcomb, a cully, an imposed on fool, and a conceited fop; values Sylvia as a common fair jilt, whose whole design was to deceive the world, and make herself a fortune at the price of her honour; one that receives all kind bidders, and that he being too lavish, and too modest, was reserved the cully on purpose to be undone and jilted out of all his fortune! This thought was so perfectly fixed in him, that he recovered out of his excess of pain, and fancied himself perfectly cured of his blind passion, resolves to leave her to her beastly entertainment, and to depart; but before he did so, Sylvia, (who had conducted the amorous spark to the bed, where the expecting lady lay dressed rich and sweet to receive him) returned out of the chamber, and the light being a little more favourable to his eyes, by his being so long in the dark, he perceived it Antonet, at least such a sort of figure as he fancied her, and to confirm him saw her go into that chamber where he knew she lay; he saw her perfect dress, and all confirmed him; this brought him back almost to his former confusion; but yet he commands his passion, and descended the stairs, and got himself out of the hall into the street; and Sylvia, remembering the street-door was open, went and shut it, and returned to Antonet’s chamber with the letter which Brilliard had given to Antonet, as she lay in the bed, believing it Sylvia: for that trembling lover was no sooner entered the chamber, and approached the bed-side, but he kneeled before it, and offered the price of his happiness, this letter, which she immediately gave to Sylvia, unperceived, who quitted the room: and now with all the eager haste of impatient love she strikes a light, and falls to reading the sad contents; but as she read, she many times fainted over the paper, and as she has since said, it was a wonder she ever recovered, having no body with her. By that time she had finished it, she was so ill she was not able to get herself into bed, but threw herself down on the place where she sat, which was the side of it, in such agony of grief and despair, as never any soul was possessed of, but Sylvia’s, wholly abandoned to the violence of love and despair: it is impossible to paint a torment to express hers by; and though she had vowed to Antonet it should not at all affect her, being so prepossessed before; yet when she had the confirmation of her fears, and heard his own dear soft words addressed to another object, saw his transports, his impatience, his languishing industry and endeavour to obtain the new desire of his soul, she found her resentment above rage, and given over to a more silent and less supportable torment, brought herself into a high fever, where she lay without so much as calling for aid in her extremity; not that she was afraid the cheat she had put on Octavio would be discovered; for she had lost the remembrance that any such prank was played; and in this multitude of thoughts of more concern, had forgot all the rest of that night’s action.
Octavio this while was traversing the street, wrapped in his cloak, just as if he had come from horse; for he was no sooner gone from the door, but his resenting passion returned, and he resolved to go up again, and disturb the lovers, though it cost him his life and fame: but returning hastily to the door, he found it shut; at which being enraged, he was often about to break it open, but still some unperceivable respect for Sylvia prevented him; but he resolved not to stir from the door, till he saw the fortunate rogue come out, who had given him all this torment. At first he cursed himself for being so much concerned for Sylvia or her actions to waste a minute, but flattering himself that it was not love to her, but pure curiosity to know the man who was made the next fool to himself, though the more happy one, he waited all night; and when he began to see the day break, which he thought a thousand years; his eye was never off from the door, and wondered at their confidence, who would let the day break upon them; ‘but the close-drawn curtains there,’ cried he, ‘favour the happy villainy.’ Still he walked on, and still he might for any rival that was to appear, for a most unlucky accident prevented Brilliard’s coming out, as he doubly intended to do; first, for the better carrying on of his cheat of being Octavio; and next that he had challenged Octavio to fight; and when he knew his error, designed to have gone this morning, and asked him pardon, if he had been returned; but the amorous lover over night, ordering himself for the encounter to the best advantage, had sent a note to a doctor, for something that would encourage his spirits; the doctor came, and opening a little box, wherein was a powerful medicine, he told him that a dose of those little flies would make him come off with wondrous honour in the battle of love; and the doctor being gone to call for a glass of sack, the doctor having laid out of the box what he thought requisite on a piece of paper, and leaving the box open, our spark thought if such a dose would encourage him so, a greater would yet make him do greater wonders; and taking twice the quantity out of the box, puts them into his pocket, and having drank the first with full directions, the doctor leaves him; who was no sooner gone, but he takes those out of his pocket, and in a glass of sack drinks them down; after this he bathes and dresses, and believes himself a very Hercules, that could have got at least twelve sons that happy night; but he was no sooner laid in bed with the charming Sylvia, as he thought, but he was taken with intolerable gripes and pains, such as he had never felt before, insomuch that he was not able to lie in the bed: this enrages him; he grows mad and ashamed; sometimes he had little intermissions for a moment of ease, and then he would plead softly by her bed-side, and ask ten thousand pardons; which being easily granted he would go into bed again, but then the pain would seize him anew, so that after two or three hours of distraction he was forced to dress and retire: but, instead of going down he went softly up to his own chamber, where he sat him down, and cursed the world, himself and his hard fate; and in this extremity of pain, shame and grief, he remained till break of day: by which time Antonet, who was almost as violently afflicted, got her coats on, and went to her own chamber, where she found her lady more dead than alive. She immediately shifted her bed-linen, and made her bed, and conducted her to it, without endeavouring to divert her with the history of her own misfortune; and only asked her many questions concerning her being thus ill: to which the wretched Sylvia only answered with sighs; so that Antonet perceived it was the letter that had disordered her, and begged she might be permitted to see it; she gave her leave, and Antonet read it; but no sooner was she come to that part of it which named the Countess of Clarinau, but she asked her lady if she understood who that person was, with great amazement: at this Sylvia was content to speak, pleased a little that she should have an account of her rival. ‘No,’ said she, ‘dost thou know her?’ ‘Yes, madam,’ replied Antonet, ‘particularly well; for I have served her ever since I was a girl of five years old, she being of the same age with me, and sent at six years old both to a monastery; for she being fond of my play her father sent me at that age with her, both to serve and to divert her with babies and baubles; there we lived seven years together, when an old rich Spaniard, the Count of Clarinau, fell in love with my lady, and married her from the monastery, before she had seen any part of the world beyond those sanctified walls. She cried bitterly to have had me to Cologne with her, but he said I was too young now for her service, and so sent me away back to my own town, which is this; and here my lady was born too, and is sister to ——’ Here she stopped, fearing to tell; which Sylvia perceiving, with a briskness (which her indisposition one would have thought could not have allowed) sat up in bed, and cried, ‘Ha! sister to whom? Oh, how thou wouldst please me to say to Octavio.’ ‘Why, madam, would it please you?’ said the blushing maid. ‘Because,’ said Sylvia, ‘it would in part revenge me on his bold addresses to me, and he would also be obliged, in honour to his family, to revenge himself on Philander.’ ‘Ah, madam,’ said she, ‘as to his presumption towards you, fortune has sufficiently revenged it;’ at this she hung down her head, and looked very foolishly. ‘How,’ said Sylvia, smiling and rearing herself yet more in her bed, ‘is any misfortune arrived to Octavio? Oh, how I will triumph and upbraid the daring man! —— tell me quickly what it is; for nothing would rejoice me more than to hear he were punished a little.’ Upon this Antonet told her what an unlucky night she had, how Octavio was seized, and how he departed; by which Sylvia believed he had made some discovery of the cheat that was put upon him; and that he only feigned illness to get himself loose from her embraces; and now she falls to considering how she shall be revenged on both her lovers: and the best she can pitch upon is that of setting them both at odds, and making them fight and revenge themselves on one another; but she, like a right woman, could not dissemble her resentment of jealousy, whatever art she had to do so in any other point; but mad to ease her soul that was full, and to upbraid Philander, she writes him a letter; but not till she had once more, to make her stark-mad, read his over again, which he sent Octavio.
SYLVIA to PHILANDER.
Yes, perjured villain, at last all thy perfidy is arrived to my knowledge; and thou hadst better have been damned, or have fallen, like an ungrateful traitor, as thou art, under the public shame of dying by the common executioner, than have fallen under the grasp of my revenge; insatiate as thy lust, false as thy treasons to thy prince, fatal as thy destiny, loud as thy infamy, and bloody as thy party. Villain, villain, where got you the courage to use me thus, knowing my injuries and my spirit? Thou seest, base traitor, I do not fall on thee with treachery, as thou hast with thy king and mistress; to which thou hast broken thy holy vows of allegiance and eternal love! But thou that hast broken the laws of God and nature! What could I expect, when neither religion, honour, common justice nor law could bind thee to humanity? Thou that betrayest thy prince, abandonest thy wife, renouncest thy child, killest thy mother, ravishest thy sister, and art in open rebellion against thy native country, and very kindred and brothers. Oh after this, what must the wretch expect who has believed thee, and followed thy abject fortunes, the miserable out-cast slave, and contempt of the world? What could she expect but that the villain is still potent in the unrepented, and all the lover dead and gone, the vice remains, and all the virtue vanished! Oh, what could I expect from such a devil, so lost in sin and wickedness, that even those for whom he ventured all his fame, and lost his fortune, lent like a state-cully upon the public faith, on the security of rogues, knaves and traitors; even those, I say, turned him out of their councils for a reprobate too lewd for the villainous society? Oh cursed that I was, by heaven and fate, to be blind and deaf to all thy infamy, and suffer thy adorable bewitching face and tongue to charm me to madness and undoing, when that was all thou hadst left thee, thy false person, to cheat the silly, easy, fond, believing world into any sort of opinion of thee; for not one good principle was left, not one poor virtue to guard thee from damnation, thou hadst but one friend left thee, one true, on real friend, and that was wretched Sylvia; she, when all abandoned thee but the executioner, fled with thee, suffered with thee, starved with thee, lost her fame and honour with thee, lost her friends, her parents, and all her beauty’s hopes for thee; and, in lieu of all, found only the accusation of all the good, the hate of all the virtuous, the reproaches of her kindred, the scorn of all chaste maids, and curses of all honest wives; and in requital had only thy false vows, thy empty love, thy faithless embraces, and cold dissembling kisses. My only comfort was, (ah miserable comfort,) to fancy they were true; now that it is departed too, and I have nothing but a brave revenge left in the room of all! In which I will be as merciless and irreligious as even thou hast been in all thy actions; and there remains about me only this sense of honour yet, that I dare tell thee of my bold design, a bravery thou hast never shewed to me, who takest me unawares, stabb’st me without a warning of the blow; so would’st thou serve thy king hadst thou but power; and so thou servest thy mistress. When I look back even to thy infancy, thy life has been but one continued race of treachery, and I, (destined thy evil genius) was born for thy tormentor; for thou hast made a very fiend of me, and I have hell within; all rage, all torment, fire, distraction, madness; I rave, I burn, I tear myself and faint, am still a dying, but can never fall till I have grasped thee with me: oh, I should laugh in flames to see thee howling by: I scorn thee, hate thee, loathe thee more than ever I have loved thee; and hate myself so much for ever loving thee, (to be revenged upon the filthy criminal) I will expose myself to all the world, cheat, jilt and flatter all as thou hast done, and having not one sense or grain of honour left, will yield the abandoned body thou hast rifled to every asking fop: nor is that all, for they that purchase this shall buy it at the price of being my bravoes. And all shall aid in my revenge on thee; all merciless and as resolved as I; as I! The injured
Having shot this flash of the lightning of her soul, and finished her rant, she found herself much easier in the resolves on revenge she had fixed there: she scorned by any vain endeavour to recall him from his passion; she had wit enough to have made those eternal observations, that love once gone is never to be retrieved, and that it was impossible to cease loving, and then again to love the same person; one may believe for some time one’s love is abated, but when it comes to a trial, it shews itself as vigorous as in its first shine, and finds its own error; but when once one comes to love a new object, it can never return with more than pity, compassion, or civility for the first: this is a most certain truth which all lovers will find, as most wives may experience, and which our Sylvia now took for granted, and gave him over for dead to all but her revenge. Though fits of softness, weeping, raving, and tearing, would by turns seize the distracted abandoned beauty, in which extremities she has recourse to scorn and pride, too feeble to aid her too often: the first thing she resolved on, by the advice of her reasonable counsellor, was to hear love at both ears, no matter whether she regard it or not, but to hear all, as a remedy against loving one in particular; for it is most certain, that the use of hearing love, or of making love (though at first without design) either in women or men, shall at last unfix the most confirmed and constant resolution. ‘And since you are assured,’ continued Antonet, ‘that sighs nor tears bring back the wandering lover, and that dying for him will be no revenge on him, but rather a kind assurance that you will no more trouble the man who is already weary of you, you ought, with all your power, industry and reason, rather to seek the preservation of that beauty, of that fine humour, to serve you on all occasions, either of revenge or love, than by a foolish and insignificant concern and sorrow reduce yourself to the condition of being scorned by all, or at best but pitied.’ ‘How pitied!’ cried the haughty Sylvia. ‘Is there any thing so insupportable to our sex as pity!’ ‘No surely,’ replied the servant, ‘when ’tis accompanied by love: oh what blessed comfort ’tis to hear people cry —“she was once charming, once a beauty.” Is any thing more grating, madam?’ At this rate she ran on, and left nothing unsaid that might animate the angry Sylvia to love anew, or at least to receive and admit of love; for in that climate the air naturally breeds spirits avaricious, and much inclines them to the love of money, which they will gain at any price or hazard; and all this discourse to Sylvia, was but to incline the revengeful listening beauty to admit of the addresses of Octavio, because she knew he would make her fortune. Thus was the unhappy maid left by her own unfortunate conduct, encompassed in on every side with distraction; and she was pointed out by fate to be made the most wretched of all her sex; nor had she left one faithful friend to advise or stay her youth in its hasty advance to ruin; she hears the persuading eloquence of the flattering maid, and finds now nothing so prevalent on her soul as revenge, and nothing soothes it more; and among all her lovers, or those at least that she knew adored her, none was found so proper an instrument as the noble Octavio, his youth, his wit, his gallantry, but above all his fortune pleads most powerfully with her; so that she resolves upon the revenge, and fixes him the man; whom she now knew by so many obligations was obliged to serve her turn on Philander: thus Sylvia found a little tranquillity, such as it was, in hope of revenge, while the passionate Octavio was wrecked with a thousand pains and torments, such as none but jilted lovers can imagine; and having a thousand times resolved to hate her, and as often to love on, in spite of all —— after a thousand arguments against her, and as many in favour of her, he arrived only to this knowledge, that his love was extreme, and that he had no power over his heart; that honour, fame, interest, and whatever else might oppose his violent flame, were all too weak to extinguish the least spark of it, and all the conquest he could get of himself was, that he suffered all his torment, all the hell of raging jealousy grown to confirmation, and all the pangs of absence for that whole day, and had the courage to live on the rack without easing one moment of his agony by a letter or billet, which in such cases discharges the burden and pressures of the love-sick heart; and Sylvia, who dressed, and suffered herself wholly to be carried away by her vengeance, expected him with as much impatience as ever she did the coming of the once adorable Philander, though with a different passion; but all the live-long day passed in expectation of him, and no lover appeared; no not so much as a billet, nor page at her up-rising to ask her health; so that believing he had been very ill indeed, from what Antonet told her of his being so all night, and fearing now that it was no discovery of the cheat put upon him by the exchange of the maid for the mistress, but real sickness, she resolved to send to him, and the rather because Antonet assured her he was really sick, and in a cold damp sweat all over his face and hands which she touched, and that from his infinite concern at the defeat, the extreme respect he shewed her in midst of all the rage at his own disappointment, and every circumstance, she knew it was no feigned thing for any discovery he had made: on this confirmation, from a maid cunning enough to distinguish truth from flattery, she writ Octavio this letter at night.
SYLVIA to OCTAVIO.
After such a parting from a maid so entirely kind to you, she might at least have hoped the favour of a billet from you, to have informed her of your health; unless you think that after we have surrendered all, we are of the humour of most of your sex, who despise the obliger; but I believed you a man above the little crimes and levities of your race; and I am yet so hard to be drawn from that opinion, I am willing to flatter myself, that ’tis yet some other reason that has hindered you from visiting me since, or sending me an account of your recovery, which I am too sensible of to believe was feigned, and which indeed has made me so tender, that I easily forgive all the disappointment I received from it, and beg you will not afflict yourself at any loss you sustained by it, since I am still so much the same I was, to be as sensible as before of all the obligations I have to you; send me word immediately how you do, for on that depends a great part of the happiness of
You may easily see by this letter she was not in a humour of either writing love or much flattery; for yet she knew not how she ought to resent this absence in all kinds from Octavio, and therefore with what force she could put upon a soul, too wholly taken up with the thoughts of another, more dear and more afflicting, she only writ this to fetch one from him, that by it she might learn part of his sentiment of her last action, and sent her page with it to him; who, as was usual, was carried directly up to Octavio, whom he found in a gallery, walking in a most dejected posture, without a band, unbraced, his arms a-cross his open breast, and his eyes bent to the floor; and not taking any notice when the pages entered, his own was forced to pull him by the sleeve before he would look up, and starting from a thousand thoughts that oppressed him almost to death, he gazed wildly about him, and asked their business: when the page delivered him the letter, he took it, but with such confusion as he had much ado to support himself; but resolving not to shew his feebleness to her page, he made a shift to get a wax-light that was on the table, and read it; and was not much amazed at the contents, believing she was pursuing the business of her sex and life, and jilting him on; (for such was his opinion of all women now); he forced a smile of scorn, though his soul were bursting, and turning to the page gave him a liberal reward, as was his daily use when he came, and mustered up so much courage as to force himself to say —‘Child, tell your lady it requires no answer; you may tell her too, that I am in perfect good health —’ He was oppressed to speak more, but sighs stopped him, and his former resolution, wholly to abandon all correspondence with her, checked his forward tongue, and he walked away to prevent himself from saying more: while the page, who wondered at this turn of love, after a little waiting, departed; and when Octavio had ended his walk, and turned, and saw him gone, his heart felt a thousand pangs not to be borne or supported; he was often ready to recall him, and was angry the boy did not urge him for an answer. He read the letter again, and wonders at nothing now after her last night’s action, though all was riddle to him: he found it was writ to some happier man than himself, however he chanced to have it by mistake; and turning to the outside, viewed the superscription, where there happened to be none at all, for Sylvia writ in haste, and when she did it, it was the least of her thoughts: and now he believed he had found out the real mystery, that it was not meant to him; he therefore calls his page, whom he sent immediately after that of Sylvia, who being yet below (for the lads were laughing together for a moment) he brought him to his distracted lord; who nevertheless assumed a mildness to the innocent boy, and cried, ‘My child, thou hast mistaken the person to whom thou shouldst have carried the letter, and I am sorry I opened it; pray return it to the happy man it was meant to,’ giving him the letter. ‘My lord,’ replied the boy, ‘I do not use to carry letters to any but your lordship: it is the footmen’s business to do that to other persons.’ ‘It is a mistake, where ever it lies,’ cried Octavio, sighing, ‘whether in thee, or thy lady ——’ So turning from the wondering boy he left him to return with his letter to his lady, who grew mad at the relation of what she heard from the page, and notwithstanding the torment she had upon her soul, occasioned by Philander, she now found she had more to endure, and that in spite of all her love-vows and resentments, she had something for Octavio to which she could not give a name; she fancies it all pride, and concern for the indignity put on her beauty: but whatever it was, this slight of his so wholly took up her soul, that she had for some time quite forgot Philander, or when she did think on him it was with less resentment than of this affront; she considers Philander with some excuse now; as having long been possessed of a happiness he might grow weary of; but a new lover, who had for six months incessantly lain at her feet, imploring, dying, vowing, weeping, sighing, giving and acting all things the most passionate of men was capable of, or that love could inspire, for him to be at last admitted to the possession of the ravishing object of his vows and soul, to be laid in her bed, nay in her very arms (as she imagined he thought) and then, even before gathering the roses he came to pluck, before he had begun to compose or finished his nosegay, to depart the happy paradise with a disgust, and such a disgust, as first to oblige him to dissemble sickness, and next fall even from all his civilities, was a contempt she was not able to bear; especially from him, of whom all men living, she designed to make the greatest property of, as most fit for her revenge of all degrees and sorts: but when she reflected with reason, (which she seldom did, for either love or rage blinded that) she could not conceive it possible that Octavio could be fallen so suddenly from all his vows and professions, but on some very great provocation: sometimes she thinks he tempted her to try her virtue to Philander, and being a perfect honourable friend, hates her for her levity; but she considers his presents, and his unwearied industry, and believes he would not at that expense have bought a knowledge which could profit neither himself nor Philander; then she believes some disgusted scent, or something about Antonet, might disoblige him; but having called the maid, conjuring her to tell her whether any thing passed between her and Octavio; she again told her lady the whole truth, in which there could be no discovery of infirmity there; she embraced her, she kissed her bosom, and found her touches soft, her breath and bosom sweet as any thing in nature could be; and now lost almost in a confusion of thought, she could not tell what to imagine; at last she being wholly possessed that all the fault was not in Octavio, (for too often we believe as we hope) she concludes that Antonet has told him all the cheat she put upon him: this last thought pleased her, because it seemed the most probable, and was the most favourable to herself; and a thought that, if true, could not do her any injury with him. This set her heart a little to rights, and she grew calm with a belief, that if so it was, as now she doubted not, a sight of her, or a future hope from her, would calm all his discontent, and beget a right understanding; she therefore resolves to write to him, and own her little fallacy: but before she did so, Octavio, whose passion was violent as ever in his soul, though it was oppressed with a thousand torments, and languished under as many feeble resolutions, burst at last into all its former softness, and he resolves to write to the false fair one, and upbraid her with her last night’s infidelity; nor could he sleep till he had that way charmed his senses, and eased his sick afflicted soul. It being now ten at night, and he retired to his chamber, he set himself down and writ this.
OCTAVIO to SYLVIA.
You have at last taught me a perfect knowledge of myself; and in one unhappy night made me see all the follies and vanities of my soul, which self-love and fond imagination had too long rendered that way guilty; long long! I have played the fop as others do, and shewed the gaudy monsieur, and set a value on my worthless person for being well dressed, as I believed, and furnished out for conquest, by being the gayest coxcomb in the town, where, even as I passed, perhaps, I fancied I made advances on some wishing hearts, and vain, with but imaginary victory, I still fooled on —— and was at last undone; for I saw Sylvia, the charming faithless Sylvia, a beauty that one would have thought had had the power to have cured the fond disease of self-conceit and foppery, since love, they say, is a remedy against those faults of youth; but still my vanity was powerful in me, and even this beauty too I thought it not impossible to vanquish, and still dressed on, and took a mighty care to shew myself — a blockhead, curse upon me, while you were laughing at my industry, and turned the fancying fool to ridicule, oh, he deserved it well, most wondrous well, for but believing any thing about him could merit but a serious thought from Sylvia. Sylvia! whose business is to laugh at all; yet love, that is my sin and punishment, reigns still as absolutely in my soul, as when I wished and hoped and longed for mighty blessings you could give; yes, I still love! Only this wretchedness is fixed to it, to see those errors which I cannot shun; my love is as high, but all my wishes gone; my passion still remains entire and raving, but no desire; I burn, I die, but do not wish to hope; I would be all despair, and, like a martyr, am vain and proud even in suffering. Yes, Sylvia— when you made me wise, you made me wretched too: before, like a false worshipper, I only saw the gay, the gilded side of the deceiving idol; but now it is fallen —— discovers all the cheat, and shews a god no more; and it is in love as in religion too, there is nothing makes their votaries truly happy but being well deceived: for even in love itself, harmless and innocent, as it is by nature, there needs a little art to hide the daily discontents and torments, that fears, distrusts and jealousies create; a little soft dissimulation is needful; for where the lover is easy, he is most constant. But oh, when love itself is defective too, and managed by design and little interest, what cunning, oh what cautions ought the fair designer then to call to her defence; yet I confess your plot —— still charming Sylvia, was subtly enough contrived, discreetly carried on —— the shades of night, the happy lover’s refuge, favoured you too; it was only fate was cruel, fate that conducted me in an unlucky hour; dark as it was, and silent too the night, I saw —— Yes, faithless fair, I saw I was betrayed; by too much faith, by too much love undone, I saw my fatal ruin and your perfidy; and, like a tame ignoble sufferer, left you without revenge!
I must confess, oh thou deceiving fair one, I never could pretend to what I wished, and yet methinks, because I know my heart, and the entire devotion, that is paid you, I merited at least not to have been imposed upon; but after so dishonourable an action, as the betraying the secret of my friend, it was but just that I should be betrayed, and you have paid me well, deservedly well, and that shall make me silent, and whatsoever I suffer, however I die, however I languish out my wretched life, I’ll bear my sighs where you shall never hear them, nor the reproaches my complaints express: live thou a punishment to vain, fantastic, hoping youth, live, and advance in cunning and deceit, to make the fond believing men more wise, and teach the women new arts of falsehood, till they deceive so long, that man may hate, and set as vast a distance between sex and sex, as I have resolved (oh Sylvia) thou shalt be for ever from OCTAVIO.
This letter came just as Sylvia was going to write to him, of which she was extremely glad; for all along there was nothing expressed that could make her think he meant any other than the cheat she put upon him in Antonet instead of herself: and it was some ease to her mind to be assured of the cause of his anger and absence, and to find her own thought confirmed, that he had indeed discovered the truth of the matter: she knew, since that was all, she could easily reconcile him by a plain confession, and giving him new hopes; she therefore writes this answer to him, which she sent by his page, who waited for it.
SYLVIA to OCTAVIO.
I own, too angry, and too nice Octavio, the crime you charge me with; and did believe a person of your gallantry, wit and gaiety, would have passed over so little a fault, with only reproaching me pleasantly; I did not expect so grave a reproof, or rather so serious an accusation. Youth has a thousand follies to answer for, and cannot Octavio pardon one sally of it in Sylvia? I rather expected to have seen you early here this morning, pleasantly rallying my little perfidy, than to find you railing at a distance at it; calling it by a thousand names that does not merit half this malice: and sure you do not think me so poor in good nature, but I could, some other coming hour, have made you amends for those you lost last night, possibly I could have wished myself with you at the same time; and had I, perhaps, followed my inclination, I had made you happy as you wished; but there were powerful reasons that prevented me. I conjure you to let me see you, where I will make a confession of my last night’s sin, and give such arguments to convince you of the necessity of it, as shall absolutely reconcile you to love, hope, and SYLVIA.
It being late, she only sent this short billet: and not hoping that night to see him, she went to bed, after having inquired the health of Brilliard, who she heard was very ill; and that young defeated lover, finding it impossible to meet Octavio as he had promised, not to fight him, but to ask his pardon for his mistake, made a shift, with much ado, to write him a note, which was this:
I confess my yesterday’s rudeness, and beg you will give me a pardon before I leave the world; for I was last night taken violently ill, and am unable to wait on your lordship, to beg what this most earnestly does for your lordship’s most devoted servant,
This billet, though it signified nothing to Octavio, it served Sylvia afterwards to very good use and purpose, as a little time shall make appear. And Octavio received these two notes from Brilliard and Sylvia at the same time; the one he flung by regardless, the other he read with inifinite pain, scorn, hate, indignation, all at once stormed in his heart, he felt every passion there but that of love, which caused them all; if he thought her false and ungrateful before, he now thinks her fallen to the lowest degree of lewdness, to own her crime with such impudence; he fancies now he is cured of love, and hates her absolutely, thinks her below even his scorn, and puts himself to bed, believing he shall sleep as well as before he saw the light, the foolish Sylvia: but oh he boasts in vain, the light, the foolish Sylvia was charming still; still all the beauty appeared; even in his slumbers the angel dawned about him, and all the fiend was laid: he sees her lovely face, but the false heart is hid; he hears her charming wit, but all the cunning is hushed: he views the motions of her delicate body, without regard to those of her mind; he thinks of all the tender words she has given him, in which the jilting part is lost, and all forgotten; or, if by chance it crossed his happier thought, he rolls and tumbles in his bed, he raves and calls upon her charming name, till he have quite forgot it, and takes all the pains he can to deceive his own heart: oh it is a tender part, and can endure no hurt; he soothes it therefore, and at the worst resolves, since the vast blessing may be purchased, to revel in delight, and cure himself that way: these flattering thoughts kept him all night waking, and in the morning he resolves his visit; but taking up her letter, which lay on the table, he read it over again, and, by degrees, wrought himself up to madness at the thought that Sylvia was possessed: Philander he could bear with little patience, but that, because before he loved or knew her, he could allow; but this —— this wrecks his very soul; and in his height of fury, he writes this letter without consideration.
OCTAVIO to SYLVIA.
Since you profess yourself a common mistress, and set up for the glorious trade of sin, send me your price, and I perhaps may purchase damnation at your rate. May be you have a method in your dealing, and I have mistook you all this while, and dealt not your way; instruct my youth, great mistress of the art, and I shall be obedient; tell me which way I may be happy too, and put in for an adventurer; I have a stock of ready youth and money; pray, name your time and sum for hours, or nights, or months; I will be in at all, or any, as you shall find leisure to receive the impatient Octavio.
This in a mad moment he writ, and sent it ere he had considered farther; and Sylvia, who expected not so coarse and rough a return, grew as mad as he in reading it; and she had much ado to hold her hands off from beating the innocent page that brought it: to whom she turned with fire in her eyes, flames in her cheeks, and thunder on her tongue, and cried, ‘Go tell your master that he is a villain; and if you dare approach me any more from him, I’ll have my footmen whip you:’ and with a scorn, that discovered all the indignation in the world, she turned from him, and, tearing his note, threw it from her, and walked her way: and the page, thunder-struck, returned to his lord, who by this time was repenting he had managed his passion no better, and at what the boy told him was wholly convinced of his error; he now considered her character and quality, and accused himself of great indiscretion; and as he was sitting the most dejected melancholy man on earth, reflecting on his misfortune, the post arrived with letters from Philander, which he opened, and laying by that which was enclosed for Sylvia, he read that from Philander to himself.
PHILANDER to OCTAVIO.
There is no pain, my dear Octavio, either in love or friendship, like that of doubt; and I confess myself guilty of giving it you, in a great measure, by my silence the last post; but having business of so much greater concern to my heart than even writing to Octavio, I found myself unable to pursue any other; and I believe you could too with the less impatience bear with my neglect, having affairs of the same nature there; our circumstances and the business of our hearts then being so resembling, methinks I have as great an impatience to be recounting to you the story of my love and fortune, as I am to receive that of yours, and to know what advances you have made in the heart of the still charming Sylvia! Though there will be this difference in the relations; mine, whenever I recount it, will give you a double satisfaction; first from the share your friendship makes you have in all the pleasures of Philander; and next that it excuses Sylvia, if she can be false to me for Octavio; and still advances his design on her heart: but yours, whenever I receive it, will give me a thousand pains, which it is however but just I should feel, since I was the first breaker of the solemn league and covenant made between us; which yet I do, by all that is sacred, with a regret that makes me reflect with some repentance in all those moments, wherein I do not wholly give my soul up to love, and the more beautiful Calista; yes more, because new.
In my last, my dear Octavio, you left me pursuing, like a knight-errant, a beauty enchanted within some invisible tree, or castle, or lake, or any thing inaccessible, or rather wandering in a dream after some glorious disappearing phantom: and for some time indeed I knew not whether I slept or waked. I saw daily the good old Count of Clarinau, of whom I durst not so much as ask a civil question towards the satisfaction of my soul; the page was sent into Holland (with some express to a brother-in-law of the Count’s) of whom before I had the intelligence of a fair young wife to the old lord his master; and for the rest of the servants they spoke all Spanish, and the devil a word we understood each other; so that it was impossible to learn any thing farther from them; and I found I was to owe all my good fortune to my own industry, but how to set it a-working I could not devise; at last it happened, that being walking in the garden which had very high walls on three sides, and a fine large apartment on the other, I concluded that it was in that part of the house my fair new conqueress resided, but how to be resolved I could not tell, nor which way the windows looked that were to give the light, towards that part of the garden there was none; at last I saw the good old gentleman come trudging through the garden, fumbling out of his pocket a key; I stepped into an arbour to observe him, and saw him open a little door, that led him into another garden, and locking the door after him vanished; and observing how that side of the apartment lay, I went into the street, and after a large compass found that which faced the garden, which made the fore-part of the apartment. I made a story of some occasion I had for some upper rooms, and went into many houses to find which fronted best the apartment, and still disliked something, till I met with one so directly to it, that I could, when I got a story higher, look into the very rooms, which only a delicate garden parted from this by-street; there it was I fixed, and learned from a young Dutch woman that spoke good French, that this was the very place I looked for: the apartment of Madam, the Countess of Clarinau; she told me too, that every day after dinner the old gentleman came thither, and sometimes a-nights; and bewailed the young beauty, who had no better entertainment than what an old withered Spaniard of threescore and ten could give her. I found this young woman apt for my purpose, and having very well pleased her with my conversation, and some little presents I made her, I left her in good humour, and resolved to serve me on any design; and returning to my lodging, I found old Clarinau returned, as brisk and gay, as if he had been caressed by so fair and young a lady; which very thought made me rave, and I had abundance of pain to with-hold my rage from breaking out upon him, so jealous and envious was I of what now I loved and desired a thousand times more than ever; since the relation my new, young, female friend had given me, who had wit and beauty sufficient to make her judgement impartial: however, I contained my jealousy with the hopes of a sudden revenge; for I fancied the business half accomplished in my knowledge of her residence. I feigned some business to the old gentleman, that would call me out of town for a week to consult with some of our party; and taking my leave of him, he offered me the compliment of money, or what else I should need in my affair, which at that time was not unwelcome to I me; and being well furnished for my enterprise, I took horse without a page or footman to attend me; because I pretended my business was a secret, and taking a turn about the town in the evening, I left my horse without the gates, and went to my secret new quarters, where my young friend received me with the joy of a mistress, and with whom indeed I could not forbear entertaining myself very well, which engaged her more to my service, with the aid of my liberality; but all this did not allay one spark of the fire kindled in my soul for the lovely Calista; and I was impatient for night, against which time I was preparing an engine to mount the battlement, for so it was that divided the garden from the street, rather than a wall: all things fitted to my purpose, I fixed myself at the window that looked directly towards her sashes, and had the satisfaction to see her leaning there, and looking on a fountain, that stood in the midst of the garden, and cast a thousand little streams into the air, that made a melancholy noise in falling into a large alabaster cistern beneath: oh how my heart danced at the dear sight to all the tunes of love! I had not power to stir or speak, or to remove my eyes, but languished on the window where I leant half dead with joy and transport; for she appeared more charming to my view; undressed and fit for love; oh, my Octavio, such are the pangs which I believe thou feelest at the approach of Sylvia, so beats thy heart, so rise thy sighs and wishes, so trembling and so pale at every view, as I was in this lucky amorous moment! And thus I fed my soul till night came on, and left my eyes no object but my heart —— a thousand dear ideas. And now I sallied out, and with good success; for with a long engine which reached the top of the wall, I fixed the end of my ladder there, and mounted it, and sitting on the top brought my ladder easily up to me, and turned over to the other side, and with abundance of ease descended into the garden, which was the finest I had ever seen; for now, as good luck would have it, who was designed to favour me, the moon began to shine so bright, as even to make me distinguish the colours of the flowers that dressed all the banks in ravishing order; but these were not the beauty I came to possess, and my new thoughts of disposing myself, and managing my matters, now took off all that admiration that was justly due to so delightful a place, which art and nature had agreed to render charming to every sense; thus much I considered it, that there was nothing that did not invite to love; a thousand pretty recesses of arbours, grotts and little artificial groves; fountains, environed with beds of flowers, and little rivulets, to whose dear fragrant banks a wishing amorous god would make his soft retreat. After having ranged about, rather to seek a covert on occasion, and to know the passes of the garden, which might serve me in any extremity of surprise that might happen, I returned to the fountain that faced Calista’s window, and leaning upon its brink, viewed the whole apartment, which appeared very magnificent: just against me I perceived a door that went into it, which while I was considering how to get open I heard it unlock, and skulking behind the large basin of the fountain (yet so as to mark who came out) I saw to my unspeakable transport, the fair, the charming Calista dressed just as she was at the window, a loose gown of silver stuff lapped about her delicate body, her head in fine night-clothes, and all careless as my soul could wish; she came, and with her the old dragon; and I heard her say in coming out —‘This is too fine a night to sleep in: prithee, Dormina, do not grudge me the pleasure of it, since there are so very few that entertain Calista.’ This last she spoke with a sigh, and a languishment in her voice, that shot new flames of love into my panting heart, and trilled through all my veins, while she pursued her walk with the old gentlewoman; and still I kept myself at such a distance to have them in my sight, but slid along the shady side of the walk, where I could not be easily seen, while they kept still on the shiny part: she led me thus through all the walks, through all the maze of love; and all the way I fed my greedy eyes upon the melancholy object of my raving desire; her shape, her gait, her motion, every step, and every movement of her hand and head, had a peculiar grace; a thousand times I was tempted to approach her, and discover myself, but I dreaded the fatal consequence, the old woman being by; nor knew I whether they did not expect the husband there; I therefore waited with impatience when she would speak, that by that I might make some discovery of my destiny that night; and after having tired herself a little with walking, she sat down on a fine seat of white marble, that was placed at the end of a grassy walk, and only shadowed with some tall trees that ranked themselves behind it, against one of which I leaned: there, for a quarter of an hour, they sat as silent as the night, where only soft-breathed winds were heard amongst the boughs, and softer sighs from fair Calista; at last the old thing broke silence, who was almost asleep while she spoke. ‘Madam, if you are weary, let us retire to bed, and not sit gazing here at the moon.’ ‘To bed,’ replied Calista, ‘What should I do there?’ ‘Marry sleep,’ quoth the old gentlewoman; ‘What should you do?’ ‘Ah, Dormina,’ (sighed Calista,) ‘would age would seize me too; for then perhaps I should find at least the pleasure of the old; be dull and lazy, love to eat and sleep, not have my slumbers disturbed with dreams more insupportable than my waking wishes; for reason then suppresses rising thoughts, and the impossibility of obtaining keeps the fond soul in order; but sleep —— gives an unguarded loose to soft desire, it brings the lovely phantom to my view, and tempts me with a thousand charms to love; I see a face, a mien, a shape, a look! Such as heaven never made, or any thing but fond imagination! Oh, it was a wondrous vision!’ ‘For my part,’ replied the old one, ‘I am such a heathen Christian, madam, as I do not believe there are any such things as visions, or ghosts, or phantoms: but your head runs of a young man, because you are married to an old one; such an idea as you framed in your wishes possessed your fancy, which was so strong (as indeed fancy will be sometimes) that it persuaded you it was a very phantom or vision.’ ‘Let it be fancy or vision, or whatever else you can give a name to,’ replied Calista, ‘still it is that, that never ceased since to torture me with a thousand pains; and prithee why, Dormina, is not fancy since as powerful in me as it was before? Fancy has not been since so kind; yet I have given it room for thought, which before I never did; I sat whole hours and days, and fixed my soul upon the lovely figure; I know its stature to an inch, tall and divinely made; I saw his hair, long, black, and curling to his waist, all loose and flowing; I saw his eyes, where all the Cupids played, black, large, and sparkling, piercing, loving, languishing; I saw his lips sweet, dimpled, red, and soft; a youth complete in all, like early May, that looks, and smells, and cheers above the rest: in fine, I saw him such as nothing but the nicest fancy can imagine, and nothing can describe; I saw him such as robs me of my rest, as gives me all the raging pains of love (love I believe it is) without the joy of any single hope.’ ‘Oh, madam,’ said Dormina, ‘that love will quickly die, which is not nursed with hope, why that is its only food.’ ‘Pray heaven I find it so,’ replied Calista. At that she sighed as if her heart had broken, and leaned her arm upon a rail of the end of the seat, and laid her lovely cheek upon her hand, and so continued without speaking; while I, who was not a little transported with what I heard, with infinite pain with-held myself from kneeling at her feet, and prostrating before her that happy phantom of which she had spoke so favourably; but still I feared my fate, and to give any offence. While I was amidst a thousand thoughts considering which to pursue, I could hear Dormina snoring as fast as could be, leaning at her ease on the other end of the seat, supported by a wide marble rail; which Calista hearing also, turned and looked on her, then softly rose and walked away to see how long she would sleep there, if not waked. Judge now, my dear Octavio, whether love and fortune were not absolutely subdued to my interest, and if all things did not favour my design: the very thought of being alone with Calista, of making myself known to her, of the opportunity she gave me by going from Dormina into a by-walk, the very joy of ten thousand hopes, that filled my soul in that happy moment, which I fancied the most blessed of my life, made me tremble all over; and with unassured steps I softly pursued the object of my new desire: sometimes I even overtook her, and fearing to fright her, and cause her to make some noise that might alarm the sleeping Dormina, I slackened my pace, till in a walk, at the end of which she was obliged to turn back, I remained, and suffered her to go on; it was a walk of grass, broad, and at the end of it a little arbour of greens, into which she went and sat down, looking towards me; and methought she looked full at me; so that finding she made no noise, I softly approached the door of the arbour at a convenient distance; she then stood up in great amaze, as she after said; and I kneeling down in an humble posture, cried —‘Wonder not, oh sacred charmer of my soul, to see me at your feet at this late hour, and in a place so inaccessible; for what attempt is there so hazardous despairing lovers dare not undertake, and what impossibility almost can they not overcome? Remove your fears, oh conqueress of my soul; for I am an humble mortal that adores you; I have a thousand wounds, a thousand pains that prove me flesh and blood, if you would hear my story: oh give me leave to approach you with that awe you do the sacred altars; for my devotion is as pure as that which from your charming lips ascends the heavens ——’ With such cant and stuff as this, which lovers serve themselves with on occasion, I lessened the terrors of the frighted beauty, and she soon saw, with joy in her eyes, that I both was a mortal, and the same she had before seen in the outward garden: I rose from my knees then, and with a joy that wandered all over my body, trembling and panting I approached her, and took her hand and kissed it with a transport that was almost ready to lay me fainting at her feet, nor did she answer any thing to what I had said, but with sighs suffered her hand to remain in mine; her eyes she cast to earth, her breast heaved with nimble motions, and we both, unable to support ourselves, sat down together on a green bank in the arbour, where by the light we had, we gazed at each other, unable to utter a syllable on either side. I confess, my dear Octavio, I have felt love before, but do not know that ever I was possessed with such pleasing pain, such agreeable languishment in all my life, as in those happy moments with the fair Calista: and on the other, I dare answer for the soft fair one; she felt a passion as tender as mine; which, when she could recover her first transport, she expressed in such a manner as has wholly charmed me: for with all the eloquence of young angels, and all their innocence too, she said, she whispered, she sighed the softest things that ever lover heard. I told you before she had from her infancy been bred in a monastery, kept from the sight of men, and knew no one art or subtlety of her sex; but in the very purity of her innocence she appeared like the first-born maid in Paradise, generously giving her soul away to the great lord of all, the new-formed man, and nothing of her heart’s dear thoughts she did reserve, (but such as modest nature should conceal;) yet, if I touched but on that tender part where honour dwelt, she had a sense too nice, as it was a wonder to find so vast a store of that mixed with so soft a passion. Oh what an excellent thing a perfect woman is, ere man has taught her arts to keep her empire, by being himself inconstant! All I could ask of love she freely gave, and told me every sentiment of her heart, but it was in such a way, so innocently she confessed her passion, that every word added new flames to mine, and made me raging mad: at last, she suffered me to kiss with caution; but one begat another —— that a number —— and every one was an advance to happiness; and I who knew my advantage, lost no time, but put each minute to the properest use; now I embrace, clasp her fair lovely body close to mine, which nothing parted but her shift and gown; my busy hands find passage to her breasts, and give and take a thousand nameless joys; all but the last I reaped; that heaven was still denied; though she were fainting in my trembling arms, still she had watching sense to guard that treasure: yet, in spite of all, a thousand times I brought her to the very point of yielding; but oh she begs and pleads with all the eloquence of love! tells me, that what she had to give me she gave, but would not violate her marriage-vow; no, not to save that life she found in danger with too much love, and too extreme desire: she told me, that I had undone her quite; she sighed, and wished that she had seen me sooner, ere fate had rendered her a sacrifice to the embraces of old Clarinau; she wept with love, and answered with a sob to every vow I made: thus by degrees she wrought me to undoing, and made me mad in love. It was thus we passed the night; we told the hasty hours, and cursed their coming: we told from ten to three, and all that time seemed but a little minute: nor would I let her go, who was as loath to part, till she had given me leave to see her often there; I told her all my story of her conquest, and how I came into the garden: she asked me pleasantly, if I were not afraid of old Clarinau; I told her no, of nothing but of his being happy with her, which thought I could not bear: she assured me I had so little reason to envy him, that he rather deserved my compassion; for that, her aversion was so extreme to him; his person, years, his temper, and his diseases were so disagreeable to her, that she could not dissemble her disgust, but gave him most evident proofs of it too frequently ever since she had the misfortune of being his wife; but that since she had seen the charming Philander, (for so we must let her call him too) his company and conversation was wholly insupportable to her; and but that he had ever used to let her have four nights in the week her own, wherein he never disturbed her repose, she should have been dead with his nasty entertainment: she vowed she never knew a soft desire but for Philander, she never had the least concern for any of his sex besides, and till she felt his touches —— took in his kisses, and suffered his dear embraces, she never knew that woman was ordained for any joy with man, but fancied it designed in its creation for a poor slave to be oppressed at pleasure by the husband, dully to yield obedience and no more: but I had taught her now, she said, to her eternal ruin, that there was more in nature than she knew, or ever should, had she not seen Philander; she knew not what dear name to call it by, but something in her blood, something that panted in her heart, glowed in her cheeks, and languished in her looks, told her she was not born for Clarinau, or love would do her wrong: I soothed the thought, and urged the laws of nature, the power of love, necessity of youth —— and the wonder that was yet behind, that ravishing something, which not love or kisses could make her guess at; so beyond all soft imagination, that nothing but a trial could convince her; but she resisted still, and still I pleaded with all the subtlest arguments of love, words mixed with kisses, sighing mixed with vows, but all in vain; religion was my foe, and tyrant honour guarded all her charms: thus did we pass the night, till the young morn advancing in the East forced us to bid adieu: which oft we did, and oft we sighed and kissed, oft parted and returned, and sighed again, and as she went away, she weeping, cried — wringing my hand in hers, ‘Pray heaven, Philander, this dear interview do not prove fatal to me; for oh, I find frail nature weak about me, and one dear minute more would forfeit all my honour.’ At this she started from my trembling hand, and swept the walk like wind so swift and sudden, and left me panting, sighing, wishing, dying, with mighty love and hope: and after a little time I scaled my wall, and returned unseen to my new lodging. It was four days after before I could get any other happiness, but that of seeing her at her window, which was just against mine, from which I never stirred, hardly to eat or sleep, and that she saw with joy; for every morning I had a billet from her, which we contrived that happy night should be conveyed me thus — It was a by-street where I lodged, and the other side was only the dead wall of her garden, where early in the morning she used to walk; and having the billet ready, she put it with a stone into a little leathern-purse, and tossed it over the wall, where either myself from the window, or my young friend below waited for it, and that way every morning and every evening she received one from me; but ’tis impossible to tell you the innocent passion she expressed in them, innocent in that there was no art, no feigned nice folly to express a virtue that was not in the soul; but all she spoke confessed her heart’s soft wishes. At last, (for I am tedious in a relation of what gave me so much pleasure in the entertainment) at last, I say, I received the happy invitation to come into the garden as before; and night advancing for my purpose, I need not say that I delivered myself upon the place appointed, which was by the fountain-side beneath her chamber-window; towards which I cast, you may believe, many a longing look: the clock struck ten, eleven, and then twelve, but no dear star appeared to conduct me to my happiness; at last I heard the little garden-door (against the fountain) open, and saw Calista there wrapped in her night-gown only: I ran like lightning to her arms, with all the transports of an eager lover, and almost smothered myself in her warm rising breast; for she taking me in her arms let go her gown, which falling open, left nothing but her shift between me and all her charming body. But she bid me hear what she had to say before I proceeded farther; she told me she was forced to wait till Dormina was asleep, who lay in her chamber, and then stealing the key, she came softly down to let me in. ‘But,’ said she, ‘since I am all undressed, and cannot walk in the garden with you, will you promise me, on love and honour, to be obedient to all my commands, if I carry you to my chamber? for Dormina’s sleep is like death itself; however, lest she chance to awake, and should take an occasion to speak to me, it were absolutely necessary that I were there; for since I served her such a trick the other night, and let her sleep so long, she will not let me walk late.’ A very little argument persuaded me to yield to any thing to be with Calista any where; so that both returning softly to her chamber, she put herself into bed, and left me kneeling on the carpet: but it was not long that I remained so; from the dear touches of her hands and breast we came to kisses, and so equally to a forgetfulness of all we had promised and agreed on before, and broke all rules and articles that were not in the favour of love; so that stripping myself by degrees, while she with an unwilling force made some feeble resistance, I got into the arms of the most charming woman that ever nature made; she was all over perfection; I dare not tell you more; let it suffice she was all that luxurious man could wish, and all that renders woman fine and ravishing. About two hours thus was my soul in rapture, while sometimes she reproached me, but so gently, that it was to bid me still be false and perjured, if these were the effects of it; ‘If disobedience have such wondrous charms, may I,’ said she, ‘be still commanding thee, and thou still disobeying.’ While thus we lay with equal ravishment, we heard a murmuring noise at a distance, which we knew not what to make of, but it grew still louder and louder, but still at a distance too; this first alarmed us, and I was no sooner persuaded to rise, but I heard a door unlock at the side of the bed, which was not that by which I entered; for that was at the other end of the chamber towards the window. ‘Oh heavens,’ said the fair frighted trembler, ‘here is the Count of Clarinau.’ For he always came up that way, and those stairs by which I ascended were the back-stairs; so that I had just time to grope my way towards the door, without so much as taking my clothes with me; never was any amorous adventurer in so lamentable a condition, I would fain have turned upon him, and at once have hindered him from entering with my sword in my hand, and secured him from ever disturbing my pleasure any more; but she implored I would not, and in this minute’s dispute he came so near me, that he touched me as I glided from him; but not being acquainted very well with the chamber, having never seen my way, I lighted in my passage on Dormina’s pallet-bed, and threw myself quite over her to the chamber-door, which made a damnable clattering, and awaking Dormina with my catastrophe, she set up such a bawl, as frighted and alarmed the old Count, who was just taking in a candle from his footman, who had lighted it at his flambeau: So that hearing the noise, and knowing it must be some body in the chamber, he let fall his candle in the fright, and called his footman in with the flambeau, draws his Toledo, which he had in his hand, and wrapped in his night-gown, with three or four woollen caps one upon the top of another, tied under his tawny, leathern chops, he made a very pleasant figure, and such a one as had like to have betrayed me by laughing at it; he closely pursued me, though not so close as to see me before him; yet so as not to give me time to ascend the wall, or to make my escape up or down any walk, which were straight and long, and not able to conceal any body from pursuers, approached so near as the Count was to me: what should I do? I was naked, unarmed, and no defence against his jealous rage; and now in danger of my life, I knew not what to resolve on; yet I swear to you, Octavio, even in that minute (which I thought my last) I had no repentance of the dear sin, or any other fear, but that which possessed me for the fair Calista; and calling upon Venus and her son for my safety (for I had scarce a thought yet of any other deity) the sea-born queen lent me immediate aid, and ere I was aware of it, I touched the fountain, and in the same minute threw myself into the water, which a mighty large basin or cistern of white marble contained, of a compass that forty men might have hid themselves in it; they had pursued me so hard, they fancied they heard me press the gravel near the fountain, and with the torch they searched round about it, and beat the fringing flowers that grew pretty high about the bottom of it, while I sometimes dived, and sometimes peeped up to take a view of my busy coxcomb, who had like to have made me burst into laughter many times to see his figure; the dashing of the stream, which continually fell from the little pipes above in the basin, hindered him from hearing the noise I might possibly have made by my swimming in it: after he had surveyed it round without-side, he took the torch in his own hand, and surveyed the water itself, while I dived, and so long forced to remain so, that I believed I had escaped his sword to die that foolisher way; but just as I was like to expire, he departed muttering, that he was sure some body did go out before him; and now he searched every walk and arbour of the garden, while like a fish I lay basking in element still, not daring to adventure out, lest his hasty return should find me on the wall, or in my passage over: I thanked my stars he had not found the ladder, so that at last returning to Calista’s chamber, after finding no body, he desired (as I heard the next morning) to know what the matter was in her chamber: but Calista, who till now never knew an art, had before he came laid her bed in order, and taken up my clothes, and put them between her bed and quilt; not forgetting any one thing that belonged to me, she was laid as fast asleep as innocence itself; so that Clarinau awaking her, she seemed as surprised and ignorant of all, as if she had indeed been innocent; so that Dormina now remained the only suspected person; who being asked what she could say concerning that uproar she made, she only said, as she thought, that she dreamed His Honour fell out of the bed upon her, and awaking in a fright she found it was but a dream, and so she fell asleep again till he awaked her whom she wondered to see there at that hour; he told them that while they were securely sleeping he was like to have been burned in his bed, a piece of his apartment being burned down, which caused him to come thither; but he made them both swear that there was no body in the chamber of Calista, before he would be undeceived; for he vowed he saw something in the garden, which, to his thinking, was all white, and it vanished on the sudden behind the fountain, and we could see no more of it. Calista dissembled abundance of fear, and said she would never walk after candlelight for fear of that ghost; and so they passed the rest of the night, while I, all wet and cold, got me to my lodging unperceived, for my young friend had left the door open for me.
Thus, dear Octavio, I have sent you a novel, instead of a letter, of my first most happy adventure, of which I must repeat thus much again, that of all the enjoyments I ever had, I was never so perfectly well entertained for two hours, and I am waiting with infinite patience for a second encounter. I shall be extremely glad to hear what progress you have made in your amour; for I have lost all for Sylvia, but the affection of a brother, with that natural pity we have for those we have undone; for my heart, my soul and body are all Calista’s, the bright, the young, the witty, the gay, the fondly-loving Calista: only some reserve I have in all for Octavio. Pardon this long history, for it is a sort of acting all one’s joys again, to be telling them to a friend so dear, as is the gallant Octavio to
I should, for some reasons that concern my safety, have quitted Ms town before, but I am chained to it, and no sense of danger while Calista compels my stay.
If Octavio’s trouble was great before, from but his fear of Calista’s yielding, what must it be now, when he found all his fears confirmed? The pressures of his soul were too extreme before, and the concern he had for Sylvia had brought it to the highest tide of grief; so that this addition overwhelmed it quite, and left him no room for rage; no, it could not discharge itself so happily, but bowed and yielded to all the extremes of love, grief, and sense of honour; he threw himself upon his bed, and lay without sense or motion for a whole hour, confused with thought, and divided in his concern, half for a mistress false, and half for a sister loose and undone; by turns the sister and the mistress torture; by turns they break his heart: he had this comfort left before, that if Calista were undone, her ruin made way for his love and happiness with Sylvia, but now —— he had no prospect left that could afford any ease; he changes from one sad object to another, from Sylvia to Calista, then back to Sylvia; but like to feverish men that toss about here and there, remove for some relief, he shifts but to new pain, wherever he turns he finds the madman still: in this distraction of thought he remained till a page from Sylvia brought him this letter, which in midst of all, he started from his bed with excess of joy, and read.
SYLVIA to OCTAVIO.
After your last affront by your page, I believe it will surprise you to receive any thing from Sylvia but scorn and disdain: but, my lord, the interest you have by a thousand ways been so long making in my heart, cannot so soon be cancelled by a minute’s offence; and every action of your life has been too generous to make me think you writ what I have received, at least you are not well in your senses: I have committed a fault against your love, I must confess, and am not ashamed of the little cheat I put upon you in bringing you to bed to Antonet instead of Sylvia: I was ashamed to be so easily won, and took it ill your passion was so mercenary to ask so coarsely for the possession of me; too great a pay I thought for so poor service, as rendering up a letter which in honour you ought before to have shewed me: I own I gave you hope, in that too I was criminal; but these are faults that sure deserved a kinder punishment than what I last received — a whore — a common mistress! Death, you are a coward —— and even to a woman dare not say it, when she confronts the scandaler —— Yet pardon me, I mean not to revile, but gently to reproach; it was unkind —— at least allow me that, and much unlike Octavio.
I think I had not troubled you, my lord, with the least confession of my resentment, but I could not leave the town, where for the honour of your conversation and friendship alone I have remained so long, without acquitting myself of those obligations I had to you; I send you therefore the key of my closet and cabinet, where you shall find not only your letters, but all those presents you have been pleased once to think me worthy of: but having taken back your friendship, I render you the less valuable trifles, and will retain no more of Octavio, than the dear memory of that part of his life that was so agreeable to the unfortunate
He reading this letter, finished with tears of tender love; but considering it all over, he fancied she had put great constraint upon her natural high spirit to write in this calm manner to him, and through all he found dissembled rage, which yet was visible in that one breaking out in the middle of the letter: he found she was not able to contain at the word, common mistress. In fine, however calm it was, and however designed, he found, and at least he thought he found the charming jilt all over; he fancies from the hint she gave him of the change of Antonet for herself in bed, that it was some new cheat that was to be put upon him, and to bring herself off with credit: yet, in spite of all this appearing reason, he wishes, and has a secret hope, that either she is not in fault, or that she will so cozen him into a belief she is not, that it may serve as well to soothe his willing heart; and now all he fears is, that she will not put so neat a cheat upon him, but that he shall be able to see through it, and still be obliged to retain his ill opinion of her: but love returned, she had roused the flame anew, and softened all his rougher thoughts with this dear letter; and now in haste he calls for his clothes, and suffering himself to be dressed with all the advantage of his sex, he throws himself into his coach, and goes to Sylvia, whom he finds just dressed en chevalier, (and setting her head and feather in good order before the glass) with a design to depart the town, at least so far as should have raised a concern in Octavio, if yet he had any for her, to have followed her; he ran up without asking leave into her chamber; and ere she was aware of him he threw himself at her feet, and clasping her knees, to which he fixed his mouth, he remained there for a little space without life or motion, and pressed her in his arms as fast as a dying man. She was not offended to see him there, and he appeared more lovely than ever he yet had been. His grief had added a languishment and paleness to his face, which sufficiently told her he had not been at ease while absent from her; and on the other side, Sylvia appeared ten thousand times more charming than ever, the dress of a boy adding extremely to her beauty: ‘Oh you are a pretty lover,’ said she, raising him from her knees to her arms, ‘to treat a mistress so for a little innocent raillery. —— Come, sit and tell me how you came to discover the harmless cheat;’ setting him down on the side of her bed. ‘Oh name it no more,’ cried he, ‘let that damned night be blotted from the year, deceive me, flatter me, say you are innocent; tell me my senses rave, my eyes were false, deceitful, and my ears were deaf: say any thing that may convince my madness, and bring me back to tame adoring love.’ ‘What means Octavio,’ replied Sylvia, ‘sure he is not so nice and squeamish a lover, but a fair young maid might have been welcome to him coming so prepared for love; though it was not she whom he expected, it might have served as well in the dark at least?’ ‘Well said,’ replied Octavio, forcing a smile ‘—— advance, pursue the dear design, and cheat me still, and to convince my soul, oh swear it too, for women want no weapons of defence, oaths, vows, and tears, sighs, imprecations, ravings, are all the tools to fashion mankind coxcombs: I am an easy fellow, fit for use, and long to be initiated fool; come, swear I was not here the other night.’ ‘It is granted, sir, you were: why all this passion?’ This Sylvia spoke, and took him by the hand, which burnt with raging fire; and though he spoke with all the heat of love, his looks were soft the while as infant Cupids: still he proceeded; ‘Oh charming Sylvia, since you are so unkind to tell me truth, cease, cease to speak at all, and let me only gaze upon those eyes that can so well deceive: their looks are innocent, at least they will flatter me, and tell mine they lost their faculties that other night.’ ‘No,’ replied Sylvia, ‘I am convinced they did not, you saw Antonet——’ ‘Conduct a happy man’ (interrupted he) ‘to Sylvia’s bed. Oh, why by your confession must my soul be tortured over anew!’ At this he hung his head upon his bosom, and sighed as if each breath would be his last. ‘Heavens!’ cried Sylvia, ‘what is it Octavio says! Conduct a happy lover to my bed! by all that is sacred I am abused, designed upon to be betrayed and lost; what said you, sir, a lover to my bed!’ When he replied in a fainting tone, clasping her to his arms, ‘Now, Sylvia, you are kind, be perfect woman, and keep to cozening still —— Now back it with a very little oath, and I am as well as before I saw your falsehood, and never will lose one thought upon it more.’ ‘Forbear,’ said she, ‘you will make me angry. In short, what is it you would say? Or swear, you rave, and then I will pity what I now despise, if you can think me false.’ He only answered with a sigh, and she pursued, ‘Am I not worth an answer? Tell me your soul and thoughts, as ever you hope for favour from my love, or to preserve my quiet.’ ‘If you will promise me to say it is false,’ replied he softly, ‘I will confess the errors of my senses. I came the other night at twelve, the door was open. ———’ ‘It is true,’ said Sylvia——‘At the stairs-foot I found a man, and saw him led to you into your chamber, sighing as he went, and panting with impatience: now, Sylvia, if you value my repose, my life, my reputation, or my services, turn it off handsomely, and I am happy.’ At that, being wholly amazed, she told him the whole story, as you heard of her dressing Antonet, and bringing him to her; at which he smiled, and begged her to go on —— She fetched the pieces of Brilliard’s counterfeit letters, and shewed him; this brought him a little to his wits, and at first sight he was ready to fancy the letters came indeed from him; he found the character his, but not his business; and in great amaze replied, ‘Ah, madam, did you know Octavio’s soul so well, and could you imagine it capable of a thought like this? A presumption so daring to the most awful of her sex; this was unkind indeed: and did you answer them?’ ‘Yes,’ replied she, ‘with all the kindness I could force my pen to express.’ So that after canvassing the matter, and relating the whole story again with his being taken ill, they concluded from every circumstance Brilliard was the man; for Antonet was called to council; who now recollecting all things in her mind, and knowing Brilliard but too well, she confessed she verily believed it was he, especially when she told how she stole a letter of Octavio’s for him that day, and how he was ill of the same disease still. Octavio then called his page, and sent him home for the note Brilliard had sent him, and all appeared as clear as day: but Antonet met with a great many reproaches for shewing her lady’s letters, which she excused as well as she could: but never was man so ravished with joy as Octavio was at the knowledge of Sylvia’s innocence; a thousand times he kneeled and begged her pardon; and her figure encouraging his caresses, a thousand times he embraced her, he smiled, and blushed, and sighed with love and joy, and knew not how to express it most effectually: and Sylvia, who had other business than love in her heart and head, suffered all the marks of his eager passion and transport out of design, for she had a farther use to make of Octavio; though when she surveyed his person handsome, young, and adorned with all the graces and beauties of the sex, not at all inferior to Philander, if not exceeding in every judgement but that of Sylvia; when she considered his soul, where wit, love, and honour equally reigned, when she consults the excellence of his nature, his generosity, courage, friendship, and softness, she sighed and cried, it was pity to impose upon him; and make his love for which she should esteem him, a property to draw him to his ruin; for so she fancied it must be if ever he encountered Philander; and though good nature was the least ingredient that formed the soul of this fair charmer, yet now she found she had a mixture of it, from her concern for Octavio; and that generous lover made her so many soft vows, and tender protestations of the respect and awfulness of his passion, that she was wholly convinced he was her slave; nor could she see the constant languisher pouring out his soul and fortune at her feet, without suffering some warmth about her heart, which she had never felt but for Philander; and this day she expressed herself more obligingly than ever she had done, and allows him little freedoms of approaching her with more softness than hitherto she had; and, absolutely charmed, he promises, lavishly and without reserve, all she would ask of him; and in requital she assured him all he could wish or hope, if he would serve her in her revenge against Philander: she recounts to him at large the story of her undoing, her quality, her fortune, her nice education, the care and tenderness of her noble parents, and charges all her fate to the evil conduct of her heedless youth: sometimes the reflection on her ruin, she looking back upon her former innocence and tranquillity, forces the tears to flow from her fair eyes, and makes Octavio sigh, and weep by sympathy: sometimes (arrived at the amorous part of her relation) she would sigh and languish with the remembrance of past joys in their beginning love; and sometimes smile at the little unlucky adventures they met with, and their escapes; so that different passions seized her soul while she spoke, while that of all love filled Octavio’s: he dotes, he burns, and every word she utters enflames him still the more; he fixes his very soul upon her tongue, and darts his very eyes into her face, and every thing she says raises his vast esteem and passion higher. In fine, having with the eloquence of sacred wit, and all the charms of every differing passion, finished her moving tale, they both declined their eyes, whose falling showers kept equal time and pace, and for a little time were still as thought: when Octavio, oppressed with mighty love, broke the soft silence, and burst into extravagance of passion, says all that men (grown mad with love and wishing) could utter to the idol of his heart; and to oblige her more, recounts his life in short; wherein, in spite of all his modesty, she found all that was great and brave; all that was noble, fortunate and honest: and having now confirmed her, he deserved her, kneeling implored she would accept of him, not as a lover for a term of passion, for dates of months or years, but for a long eternity; not as a rifler of her sacred honour, but to defend it from the censuring world; he vowed he would forget that ever any part of it was lost, nor by a look or action ever upbraid her with a misfortune past, but still look forward on nobler joys to come: and now implores that he may bring a priest to tie the solemn knot. In spite of all her love for Philander, she could not choose but take this offer kindly; and indeed, it made a very great impression on her heart; she knew nothing but the height of love could oblige a man of his quality and vast fortune, with all the advantages of youth and beauty, to marry her in so ill circumstances; and paying him first those acknowledgements that were due on so great an occasion, with all the tenderness in her voice and eyes that she could put on, she excused herself from receiving the favour, by telling him she was so unfortunate as to be with child by the ungrateful man; and falling at that thought into new tears, she moved him to infinite love, and infinite compassion; insomuch that, wholly abandoning himself to softness, he assured her, if she would secure him all his happiness by marrying him now, that he would wait till she were brought to bed, before he would demand the glorious recompense he aspired to; so that Sylvia, being oppressed with obligation, finding yet in her soul a violent passion for Philander, she knew not how to take, or how to refuse the blessing offered, since Octavio was a man whom, in her height of innocence and youth, she might have been vain and proud of engaging to this degree. He saw her pain and irresolution, and being absolutely undone with love, delivers her Philander’s last letter to him, with what he had sent her enclosed; the sight of the very outside of it made her grow pale as death, and a feebleness seized her all over, that made her unable for a moment to open it; all which confusion Octavio saw with pain, which she perceiving recollected her thoughts as well as she could, and opened it, and read it; that to Octavio first, as being fondest of the continuation of the history of his falsehood, she read, and often paused to recover her spirits that were fainting at every period; and having finished it, she fell down on the bed where they sat. Octavio caught her in her fall in his arms, where she remained dead some moments; whilst he, just on the point of being so himself, ravingly called for help; and Antonet being in the dressing-room ran to them, and by degrees Sylvia recovered, and asked Octavio a thousand pardons for exposing a weakness to him, which was but the effects of the last blaze of love: and taking a cordial which Antonet brought her, she roused, resolved, and took Octavio by the hand: ‘Now,’ said she, ‘shew yourself that generous lover you have professed, and give me your vows of revenge on Philander; and after that, by all that is holy,’ kneeling as she spoke, and holding him fast, ‘by all my injured innocence, by all my noble father’s wrongs, and my dear mother’s grief; by all my sister’s sufferings, I swear, I will marry you, love you, and give you all!’ This she spoke without considering Antonet was by, and spoke it with all the rage, and blushes in her face, that injured love and revenge could inspire: and on the other side, the sense of his sister’s honour lost, and that of the tender passion he had for Sylvia, made him swear by all that was sacred, and by all the vows of eternal love and honour he had made to Sylvia, to go and revenge himself and her on the false friend and lover, and confessed the second motive, which was his sister’s fame, ‘For,’ cried he,‘that foul adulteress, that false Calista, is so allied to me.’ But still he urged that would add to the justness of his cause, if he might depart her husband as well as lover, and revenge an injured wife as well as sister; and now he could ask nothing she did not easily grant; and because it was late in the day, they concluded that the morning shall consummate all his desires: and now she gives him her letter to read; ‘For,’ said she, ‘I shall esteem myself henceforth so absolutely Octavio’s, that I will not so much as read a line from that perjured ruiner of my honour;’ he took the letter with smiles and bows of gratitude, and read it.
PHILANDER to SYLVIA.
There are a thousand reasons, dearest Sylvia, at this time that prevent my writing to you, reasons that will be convincing enough to oblige my pardon, and plead my cause with her that loves me: all which I will lay before you when I have the happiness to see you; I have met with some affairs since my arrival to this place, that wholly take up my time; affairs of State, whose fatigues have put my heart extremely out of tune, and if not carefully managed may turn to my perpetual ruin, so that I have not an hour in a day to spare for Sylvia; which, believe me, is the greatest affliction of my life; and I have no prospect of ease in the endless toils of life, but that of reposing in the arms of Sylvia: some short intervals: pardon my haste, for you cannot guess the weighty business that at present robs you of
‘You lie, false villain ———’ replied Sylvia in mighty rage, ‘I can guess your business, and can revenge it too; curse on thee, slave, to think me grown as poor in sense as honour: to be cajoled with this — stuff that would never sham a chambermaid: death! am I so forlorn, so despicable, I am not worth the pains of being well dissembled with? Confusion overtake him, misery seize him; may I become his plague while life remains, or public tortures end him!’ This, with all the madness that ever inspired a lunatic, she uttered with tears and violent actions: when Octavio besought her not to afflict herself, and almost wished he did not love a temper so contrary to his own: he told her he was sorry, extremely sorry, to find she still retained so violent a passion for a man unworthy of her least concern; when she replied —‘Do not mistake my soul, by heaven it is pride, disdain, despite and hate — to think he should believe this dull excuse could pass upon my judgement; had the false traitor told me that he hated me, or that his faithless date of love was out, I had been tame with all my injuries; but poorly thus to impose upon my wit — By heaven he shall not bear the affront to hell in triumph! No more — I have vowed he shall not — my soul has fixed, and now will be at ease — Forgive me, oh Octavio;’ and letting herself fall into his arms, she soon obtained what she asked for; one touch of the fair charmer could calm him into love and softness.
Thus, after a thousand transports of passion on his side, and all the seeming tenderness on hers, the night being far advanced, and new confirmations given and taken on either side of pursuing the happy agreement in the morning, which they had again resolved, they appointed that Sylvia and Antonet should go three miles out of town to a little village, where there was a church, and that Octavio should meet them there to be confirmed and secured of all the happiness he proposed to himself in this world —Sylvia being so wholly bent upon revenge (for the accomplishment of which alone she accepted of Octavio) that she had lost all remembrance of her former marriage with Brilliard: or if it ever entered into her thought, it was only considered as a sham, nothing designed but to secure her from being taken from Philander by her parents; and, without any respect to the sacred tie, to be regarded no more; nor did she design this with Octavio from any respect she had to the holy state of matrimony, but from a lust of vengeance which she would buy at any price, and which she found no man so well able to satisfy as Octavio.
But what wretched changes of fortune she met with after this, and what miserable portion of fate was destined to this unhappy wanderer, the last part of Philander’s life, and the third and last part of this history, shall most faithfully relate.
The End of the Second Part.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:06