Page images
PDF
EPUB

him, and therefore, with an effort perhaps equal to that of a hero who smiles upon the rack, she affected an air of gaiety, said she was glad to see him, and as an excuse for her message and her conduct, prattled something about the fickleness of woman's mind, and concluded with observing, that she changed her's too often ever to be mad. By this conduct a retreat was rendered impossible, and they walked together till between eight and nine: but the clouds having insensibly gathered, and a sudden shower falling just as they reached SpringGardens, they went out instead of going back: and the Captain having put the lady into a chair, took his leave.

It happened that Sir James, contrary to his first purpose, had returned from his journey, at night. He learnt from the servants, that his lady was gone to Captain Freeman's, and was secretly displeased that she had made this visit when he was absent; an incident, which, however trifling in itself, was by the magic of jealousy swelled into importance: yet upon recollection he reproved himself for this displeasure, since the presence of the Captain's lady would sufficiently secure the honour of his own. While he was struggling with these suspicions, they increased both in number and strength in proportion as the night wore away. At one he went to bed; but he passed the night in agonies of terror and resentment, doubting whether the absence of his lady was the effect of accident or design, listening to every noise, and bewildering himself in a multitude of extravagant suppositions. He rose again at break of day; and after several hours of suspence and irresolution, whether to wait the issue, or go out for intelligence, the restlessness of curiosity prevailed, and about eight he set out for Captain Freeman's; but left word with his servants, that he was gone to a neighbouring coffeehouse.

Mrs. Freeman, whose affected indifference and dissimulation of a design to go immediately to bed, contributed to prevent the Captain's return, had during his absence suffered inexpressible disquiet; she had, indeed, neither intention to go to bed, nor inclination to sleep; she walked backward and forward in her chamber, distracted with jealousy and suspence, till she was informed that Sir James was below, and desired to see her. When she came down, he discovered that she had been in tears; his fear was now more alarmed than his jealousy, and he concluded that some fatal accident had befallen his wife; but he soon learnt that she and the Captain had gone from thence at £ve in the. morning, and that he was not yet returned. Mrs. Freeman, by Sir James's inquiry, knew that his lady had not been at home; her suspicions, therefore, were confirmed; and in her jealousy, which to prevent a duel she laboured to conceal, Sir James found new cause for his own. He determined, however, to wait with as much decency as possible, till the Captain came in; and perhaps two persons were never more embarrassed by the presence of each other. While breakfast was getting ready, Dr. Tattle came to pay Mrs. Freeman a morning visit; and to the unspeakable relief both of the lady and her guest was immediately admitted. Doctor Tattle is one of those male gossips who in the common opinion are the most diverting company in the world. The Doctor saw that Mrs. Freeman was lowrspirited, and made several efforts to divert her, but without success: at last he declared with an air of ironical importance, that he could tell her such news as

would make her look grave for something; 'The Captain/ says he, 'has just huddled a lady into a chair, at the door of a bagnio near Spring Gardens.' He soon perceived, that this speech was received with emotions very different from those he intended to produce; and, therefore, added, ' that she need not, however, be jealous; for notwithstanding the manner in which he had related the incident, the lady was certainly a woman of character, as he instantly discovered■ by her mien and appearance:' This particular confirmed the suspicion it was intended to remove; and the Doctor finding that he was not so good company as usual, took his leave, but was met at the door by the Captain, who brought him back. His presence, however insignificant, imposed some restraint upon the rest of the company; and Sir James, with as good an appearance of jocularity as he could assume, asked the Captain, ' What he had done with his wife.' The Captain, with some irresolution, replied, that 'he had left her early in the morning at her father's; and that having made a point of waiting on her home, she sent word down that her cousin Meadows was indisposed, and had engaged her to breakfast.' The Captain, who knew nothing of the anecdote that had been communicated by the Doctor, judged by appearances that it was prudent thus indirectly to lie, by concealing the truth both from Sir James and his wife: he supposed, indeed, that Sir James would immediaiely inquire after his wife at her father's, and learn that she did not stay there to breakfast; but as it would not follow that they had been together, he left her to account for her absence as she thought fit, taking for granted that what he had concealed she also would conceal, for the same reasons; or, if she did not, as he had af~ firmed nothing contrary to truth, he might pretend to have concealed it in jest. Sir James, as soon as he had received this intelligence, took his leave with some appearance of satisfaction, and was followed by the Doctor.

As soon as Mrs. Freeman and the Captain were alone, she questioned him with great earnestness about the lady whom he had been seen to put into a chair. When he had heard that this incident had been related in the presence of Sir James, he was greatly alarmed lest Lady Forrest should increase his suspicions, by attempting to conceal that which, by a series of inquiry to which he was now stimulated, he would probably discover: he condemned this conduct in himself, and, as the most effectual means at once to quiet the mind of his wife and obtain her assistance, he told her all that had happened, and his apprehension of the consequences: he also urged her to go directly to Miss Meadows, by whom his account would be confirmed, and of whom she might learn farther intelligence of Sir James; and to find some way to acquaint Lady Forrest with her danger, and admonish her to conceal nothing.

Mrs. Freeman was convinced of the Captain's sincerity, not only by the advice which he urged her to give to Lady Forrest, but by the consistency of the story and the manner in which he was affected. Her jealousy was changed into pity for her friend,. and apprehension for her husband. She hasted to Miss Meadows, and learnt that Sir James had inquired of the servant for his lady, and was told that she had been there early with Captain Freeman, but went away soon after him: she related to Miss Meadows all that had happened, and thinking it at least possible that Sir James might not go directly home, she wrote the following letter to bis lady:

'My dear Lady Forrest,

'I am in the utmost distress for you. Sir James has suspicions which truth only can remove, and of which my indiscretion is the cause. If I had not concealed my desire of the Captain's return, your design to disengage yourself from him, which I learn from Miss Meadows, would have been effected. Sir James breakfasted with me in the Haymarket; and has since called at your father's, from whence 1 write: he knows that your stay here was short, and has reason to believe the Captain put you into a chair some hours afterwards at SpringGardens. I hope, therefore, my dear lady, that this will reach your hands time enough to prevent your concealing any thing. It would have been better if Sir James had known nothing, for then you would not have been suspected; but now he must know all, or you cannot be justified. Forgive the freedom with which I write, and believe me most affectionately

'Yours,

'Maria Freeman.'

« P. S. I have ordered the bearer to say he came from Mrs. Fashion the milliner.'

This letter was given to a chairman, and he was ordered to say he brought it from the milliner's; because, if it should be known to come from Mrs. Freeman, and should fall by accident into Sir James's hands, his curiosity might prompt him to read it, and his jealousy to question the lady, without communicating the contents.

VOX. XXIV. 1

« PreviousContinue »