Monday, March 10, 1712. Steele.
Ad humum maerore gravi deducit et angit.
It is often said, after a Man has heard a Story with extraordinary Circumstances, It is a very good one if it be true: But as for the following Relation, I should be glad were I sure it were false. It is told with such Simplicity, and there are so many artless Touches of Distress in it, that I fear it comes too much from the Heart.
Mr. SPECTATOR, Some Years ago it happened that I lived in the same House with a young Gentleman of Merit; with whose good Qualities I was so much taken, as to make it my Endeavour to shew as many as I was able in my self. Familiar Converse improved general Civilities into an unfeigned Passion on both Sides. He watched an Opportunity to declare himself to me; and I, who could not expect a Man of so great an Estate as his, received his Addresses in such Terms, as gave him no reason to believe I was displeased by them, tho I did nothing to make him think me more easy than was decent. His Father was a very hard worldly Man, and proud; so that there was no reason to believe he would easily be brought to think there was any thing in any Woman’s Person or Character that could ballance the Disadvantage of an unequal Fortune. In the mean time the Son continued his Application to me, and omitted no Occasion of demonstrating the most disinterested Passion imaginable to me; and in plain direct Terms offer’d to marry me privately, and keep it so till he should be so happy as to gain his Fathers Approbation, or become possessed of his Estate. I passionately loved him, and you will believe I did not deny such a one what was my Interest also to grant. However I was not so young, as not to take the Precaution of carrying with me a faithful Servant, who had been also my Mothers Maid, to be present at the Ceremony. When that was over I demanded a Certificate, signed by the Minister, my Husband, and the Servant I just now spoke of. After our Nuptials, we conversed together very familiarly in the same House; but the Restraints we were generally under, and the Interviews we had, being stolen and interrupted, made our Behaviour to each other have rather the impatient Fondness which is visible in Lovers, than the regular and gratified Affection which is to be observed in Man and Wife. This Observation made the Father very anxious for his Son, and press him to a Match he had in his Eye for him. To relieve my Husband from this Importunity, and conceal the Secret of our Marriage, which I had reason to know would not be long in my power in Town, it was resolved that I should retire into a remote Place in the Country, and converse under feigned Names by Letter. We long continued this Way of Commerce; and I with my Needle, a few Books, and reading over and over my Husbands Letters, passed my Time in a resigned Expectation of better Days. Be pleased to take notice, that within four Months after I left my Husband I was delivered of a Daughter, who died within few Hours after her Birth. This Accident, and the retired Manner of Life I led, gave criminal Hopes to a neighbouring Brute of a Country Gentle-man, whose Folly was the Source of all my Affliction. This Rustick is one of those rich Clowns, who supply the Want of all manner of Breeding by the Neglect of it, and with noisy Mirth, half Understanding, and ample Fortune, force themselves upon Persons and Things, without any Sense of Time and Place. The poor ignorant People where I lay conceal’d, and now passed for a Widow, wondered I could be so shy and strange, as they called it, to the Squire; and were bribed by him to admit him whenever he thought fit. I happened to be sitting in a little Parlour which belonged to my own Part of the House, and musing over one of the fondest of my Husbands Letters, in which I always kept the Certificate of my Marriage, when this rude Fellow came in, and with the nauseous Familiarity of such unbred Brutes, snatched the Papers out of my Hand. I was immediately under so great a Concern, that I threw my self at his Feet, and begged of him to return them. He with the same odious Pretence to Freedom and Gaiety, swore he would read them. I grew more importunate, he more curious, till at last, with an Indignation arising from a Passion I then first discovered in him, he threw the Papers into the Fire, swearing that since he was not to read them, the Man who writ them should never be so happy as to have me read them over again. It is insignificant to tell you my Tears and Reproaches made the boisterous Calf leave the Room ashamed and out of Countenance, when I had leisure to ruminate on this Accident with more than ordinary Sorrow: However, such was then my Confidence in my Husband, that I writ to him the Misfortune, and desired another Paper of the same kind. He deferred writing two or three Posts, and at last answered me in general, That he could not then send me what I asked for, but when he could find a proper Conveyance, I should be sure to have it. From this time his Letters were more cold every Day than the other, and as he grew indifferent I grew jealous. This has at last brought me to Town, where I find both the Witnesses of my Marriage dead, and that my Husband, after three Months Cohabitation, has buried a young Lady whom he married in Obedience to his Father. In a word, he shuns and disowns me. Should I come to the House and confront him, the Father would join in supporting him against me, though he believed my Story; should I talk it to the World, what Reparation can I expect for an Injury I cannot make out? I believe he means to bring me, through Necessity, to resign my Pretentions to him for some Provision for my Life; but I will die first. Pray bid him remember what he said, and how he was charmed when he laughed at the heedless Discovery I often made of my self; let him remember how awkward he was in my dissembled Indifference towards him before Company; ask him how I, who could never conceal my Love for him, at his own Request, can part with him for ever? Oh, Mr. SPECTATOR, sensible Spirits know no Indifference in Marriage; what then do you think is my piercing Affliction?—I leave you to represent my Distress your own way, in which I desire you to be speedy, if you have Compassion for Innocence exposed to Infamy.