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My Reception by that Lady �?I become enamoured of Narcissa �?recount the particulars of my last misfortune-acquire the good opinion of my Mistress �?an Account of the young Squire �?I am made acquainted with more particulars of Narcissa’s Situation �?conceive a mortal hatred against Sir Timothy �?examine my Lady’s library and performances �?her extravagant behaviour

And human carnage gratifies my sight:

And toss the sprawling infant on the spear,

She was no sooner gone than I was summoned by the bell to my lady’s chamber, where I found her sitting squat on her hands on the floor, in the manner of puss when she listens to the outcries of her pursuers. When I appeared, she started up with an alarmed look, and sprang to the other side of the room to avoid me, whom, without doubt, she mistook for a beagle thirsting after her life. Perceiving her extreme confusion, I retired, and on the staircase met the adorable Narcissa coming up, to whom I imparted the situation of my mistress; she said not a word, but smiling with unspeakable grace, went into her aunt’s apartment, and in a little time my ears were ravished with the efforts of her skill. She accompanied the instrument with a voice so sweet and melodious, that I did not wonder at the surprising change it produced on the spirits of my mistress which composed to peace and sober reflection.

Thus have I sent the simple King to hell,

Next morning, by daybreak, being awakened by the noise of the hunters and hounds, I rose to view the cavalcade, and had a sight of my competitor, whose accomplishments (the estate excluded) did not seem brilliant enough to give me much uneasiness with respect to Narcissa, who, I flattered myself, was not to be won by such qualifications as he was master of, either as to person or mind. My mistress, notwithstanding her precaution, was so much disturbed by her nephew’s company, that she did not rise till five o’clock in the afternoon; so that I had an opportunity of examining her study at leisure, to which examination I was strongly prompted by my curiosity. Here I found a thousand scraps of her own poetry, consisting of three, four, ten, twelve, and twenty lines, on an infinity of subjects, which, as whim inspired, she had begun, without constancy or capacity to bring to any degree of composition: but, what was very extraordinary in a female poet, there was not the least mention made of love in any of her performances. I counted fragments of five tragedies, the titles of which were The Stern Philosopher, The Double, The Sacrilegious Traitor, The Fall of Lucifer, and The Last Day. From whence I gathered, that her disposition was gloomy, and her imagination delighted with objects of horror. Her library was composed of the best English historians, poets, and philosophers; of all the French critics and poets, and of a few books in Italian, chiefly poetry, at the head of which were Tasso and Ariosto, pretty much used. Besides these, translations of the classics into French, but not one book in Greek or Latin; a circumstance that discovered her ignorance in these languages.

While the fond mother’s cries regale my ear.

Your lady, said she, is a maiden of forty years, not so remarkable for her beauty as her learning and taste, which is famous all over the country. Indeed, she is a perfect female virtuoso, and so eager after the pursuit of knowledge that she neglects her person even to a degree of sluttishness; this negligence, together with her contempt of the male part of the creation, gives her nephew no great concern, as by these means he will probably keep her fortune, which is considerable. in the family. He therefore permits her to live in her own way, which is something extraordinary, and gratifies her in all her whimsical desires. Her apartment is at some distance from the other inhabited parts of the house; and consists of a dining-room, bedchamber, and study; she keeps a cook maid, a waiting-woman, and footman, of her own, and seldom eats or converses with any of the family but her niece, who is a very lovely creature, and humours her aunt often to the prejudice of her own health by sitting up with her whole nights together; for your mistress is too much of a philosopher to be swayed by the custom of the world, and never sleeps nor eats like other people. Among other odd notions, she professes the principles of Rosicrucius, and believes the earth, air, and sea, are inhabited by invisible beings, with whom it is possible for the human species to entertain correspondence and intimacy, on the easy condition of living chaste. As she hopes one day to be admitted into an acquaintance of this kind, she no sooner heard of me and my cat, than she paid me a visit, with a view, as she has since owned, to be introduced to my familiar; and was greatly mortified to find herself disappointed in her expectation. Being by this visionary turn of mind abstracted as it were from the world, she cannot advert to the common occurrences of life; and therefore is frequently so absent as to commit very strange mistakes and extravagancies, which you will do well to rectify and repair, as your prudence shall suggest.

When their dinner was over, I and my fellow servants sat down to ours in the kitchen, where I understood that Sir Timothy Thicket was a wealthy knight in the neighbourhood, between whom and Narcissa a match had been projected by her brother, who promised at the same time to espouse Sir Timothy’s sister; by which means, as their fortunes were pretty equal, the young ladies would be provided for, and their brothers be never the poorer; but that the ladies did not concur in the scheme, each of them entertaining a hearty contempt for the person allotted to her for a husband by this agreement. This information begat in me a mortal aversion to Sir Timothy, whom I looked upon as my rival, and cursed in my heart for his presumption.

Having committed her success to paper, she turned towards the door, and perceiving us, cried, What’s the matter? Here’s the young man, replied my conductress, whom Mrs. Sagely recommended as a footman to your ladyship. On this information she stared in my face for a considerable time, and then asked my name, which I thought proper to conceal under that of John Brown. After having surveyed me with a curious eye, she broke out into, O so she spit in her snuff-box, and wiped her nose with her cap, which lay on the table, instead of a handkerchief.

My mistress is surprised at my learning �?communicates her performances to me �?I impart some of mine to her �?am mortified at her faint praise �?Narcissa approves of my conduct �?I gain an involuntary conquest over the cookwench and dairymaid �?their mutual resentment and insinuations �?the jealousy of their lovers

As I was not in a condition to satisfy him in this particular, he repeated his conjuration to no purpose, and they continued a good while in the agonies of fear. At length the father proposed that the son should draw nearer, and take a more distinct view of the apparition; but Dick was of opinion that his father should advance first, he being an old man past his labour and, if he received any mischief, the loss would be the smaller; whereas he himself might escape, and be useful, in his generation. This prudential reason had no effect upon the senior, who still kept Dick between me and him. In the meantime I endeavoured to raise one hand as a signal of distress, but had only strength sufficient to produce a rustling among the straw, which discomposed the young peasant so much, that he sprang out at the door, and overthrew his father in his flight. The old gentleman would not spend time in getting up, but crawled backwards like a crab, with great speed, till he had got over the threshold, mumbling exorcisms all the way. I was exceedingly mortified to find myself in danger of perishing through the ignorance and cowardice of these clowns; and felt my spirits decay apace, when an old woman entered the barn, followed by the two fugitives and with great intrepidity advanced to the place where I lay, saying, If it be the devil I fearen not, and for a dead mon a can do us no harm. When she saw my condition, she cried, Here be no devil, but in your en fool’s head. Here be a poor miserable wretch bleeding to death, and if a dies, we must be at the charge of burying him; therefore, Dick, go vetch the old wheelbarrow and put en in, and carry en to goodman Hodge’s backdoor; he is more able than we to pay out money upon poor vagrants. Her advice was taken, and immediately put in execution; I was rolled to the other farmer’s door, where I was tumbled out like a heap of dung; and should certainly have fallen a prey to the hogs, if my groans had not disturbed the family, and brought some of them out to view my situation. But Hodge resembled the Jew more than the good Samaritan, and ordered me to be carried to the house of the parson, whose business it was to practise as well as to preach charity; observing that it was sufficient for him to pay his quota towards the maintenance of the poor belonging to his own parish. When I was set down at the vicar’s gate, he fell into a mighty passion, and threatened to excommunicate him who sent, as well as those who brought me, unless they would move me immediately to another place. About this time I fainted with the fatigue I had undergone, and afterwards understood that I was bandied from door to door through a whole village, nobody having humanity enough to administer the least relief to me, Until an old woman, who was suspected of witchcraft by the neighbourhood, hearing of my distress, received me into her house, and, having dressed my wounds, brought me to myself with cordials of her own preparing. I was treated with great care and tenderness by this grave matron, who, after I had recovered some strength, desired to know the particulars of my last disaster. This piece of satisfaction I could not refuse to one who had saved my life, therefore related all my adventures without exaggeration or reserve. She seemed surprised at the vicissitudes I had undergone, and drew a happy presage of my future life from my past suffering, then launched out into the praise of adversity, with so much ardour and good sense, that I concluded she was a person who had seen better days, and conceived a longing desire to hear her story. She perceived my drift by some words I dropped, and smiling told me, there was nothing either entertaining or extraordinary in the course of her fortune; but, however, she would communicate it to me, in consideration of the confidence I had reposed in her. It is of little consequence, said she, to tell the names of my parents, who are dead many years ago; let it suffice to assure you, they were wealthy, and had no other child than me; so that I was looked upon as heiress to a considerable estate, and teased with addresses on that account. Among the number of my admirers, there was a young gentleman of no fortune, whose sole dependence was on his promotion in the army, in which, at that time, he bore a lieutenant’s commission. I conceived an affection for this amiable officer, which, in a short time, increased to a violent passion. and without entering into minute circumstances, married him privately. We had not enjoyed one another long in stolen interviews, when he was ordered with his regiment to Flanders; but, before he set out, it was agreed between us, that we should declare our marriage to my father by letter, and implore his pardon for the step we had taken without his approbation. This discovery was made while I was abroad visiting, and just as I was about to return home, I received a letter from my father, importing that, since I had acted so undutifully and meanly as to marry a beggar, without his privity or consent, to the disgrace of his family as well as the disappointment of his hopes, he renounced me to the miserable fate I had entailed upon myself, and charged me never to set foot within his doors again. This rigid sentence was confirmed by my mother, who, in a postscript, gave me to understand that her sentiments were exactly conformable to those of my father, and that I might save myself the trouble of making any applications, for her resolutions were unalterable. Thunderstruck with my evil fortune I called a coach, and drove to my husband’s lodgings, where I found him waiting the event of his letter. Though he could easily divine by my looks the issue of his declaration, he read with great steadiness the epistle I had received; and with a smile full of tenderness, which I shall never forget, embraced me, saying, I believe the good lady your mother might have spared herself the trouble of the last part of her postscript. Well, my dear Betty, you must lay aside all thoughts of a coach, till I can procure the command of a regiment. This unconcerned behaviour, while it enabled me to support my reverse of fortune, at the same time endeared him to me the more, by convincing me of his disinterested views in espousing me. I was next day boarded in company with the wife of another officer, who had long been the friend and confidant of my husband, at a village not far from London, where they parted with us in the most melting manner, went to Flanders, and were killed in sight of one another at the battle of the Wood.

Fraught with these useful instructions, I repaired to the place of her habitation, and was introduced by the waiting-woman to the presence of my lady, who had not before seen me. She sat in her study, with one foot on the ground, and the other upon a high stool at some distance from her seat; her sandy locks hung down, in a disorder I cannot call beautiful, from her head, which was deprived of its coif, for the benefit of scratching with one hand, while she held the stump of a pen in the other. Her forehead was high and wrinkled; her eyes were large, gray, and prominent; her nose was long, and aquiline: her mouth of vast capacity, her visage meagre and freckled, and her chin peaked like a shoemaker’s paring knife; her upper lip contained a large quantity of plain Spanish, which, by continual falling, had embroidered her neck, that was not naturally very white, and the breast of her gown, that flowed loose about her with a negligence that was truly poetic, discovering linen that was very fine, and, to all appearance, never washed but in Castalian streams. Around her lay heaps of books, globes, quadrants, telescopes, and other learned apparatus; her snuff-box stood at her right hand: at her left hand lay her handkerchief, sufficiently used, and a convenience to spit in appeared on one side of her chair. She being in a reverie when we entered, the maid did not think proper to disturb her; so that we waited some minutes unobserved, during which time she bit the quill several times, altered her position, made many wry faces, and, at length, with an air of triumph, repeated aloud:

While the fond mother’s cries regale my ear.

I drag the parent by the hoary hair,

We returned to the kitchen, where I was regaled by the maids, who seemed to vie with each other in expressing their regard for me; and from them I understood, that my business consisted in cleaning knives and forks, laying the cloth, waiting at table, carrying messages, and attending my lady when she went abroad. There was a very good suit of livery in the house, which had belonged to my predecessor deceased, and it fitted me exactly; so that there was no occasion for employing a tailor on my account. I had not been long equipped in this manner, when my lady’s bell rung; upon which, I ran up stairs, and found her stalking about the room in her shift and under petticoat only; I would immediately have retired as became me, but she bade me come in, and air a clean shift for her; which operation I having performed with some backwardness, she put it on before me without any ceremony, and I verily believe was ignorant of my sex all that time, as being quite absorbed in contemplation. About four o’clock in the afternoon I was ordered to lay the cloth, and place two covers, which I understood were for my mistress and her niece, whom I had not as yet seen. Though I was not very dexterous at this work, I performed it pretty well for a beginner, and, when dinner was upon the table, saw my mistress approach, accompanied by the young lady, whose name for the present shall be Narcissa. So much sweetness appeared in the countenance and carriage of this amiable apparition, that my heart was captivated at first sight, and while dinner lasted, I gazed upon her without intermission. Her age seemed to be seventeen, her stature tall, her shape unexceptionable, her hair, that fell down upon her ivory neck in ringlets, black as jet; her arched eyebrows of the same colour; her eyes piercing, yet tender; her lips of the consistence and hue of cherries; her complexion clear, delicate and healthy; her aspect noble, ingenuous, and humane; and the whole person so ravishingly delightful, that it was impossible for any creature endued with sensibility, to see without admiring, and admire without loving her to excess. I began to curse the servile station that placed me so far beneath the regard of this idol of my adoration When she spoke I listened with pleasure; but when she spoke to me, my soul was thrilled with an extacy of tumultuous joy. I was even so happy as to be the subject of their conversation; for Narcissa, having observed me, said to her aunt, I see your new footman is come. Then addressing herself to me, asked, with ineffable complacency, if I was the person who had been so cruelly used by robbers? When I had satisfied her in this; she expressed a desire of knowing the other particulars of my fortune, both before and since my being shipwrecked: hereupon (as Mrs. Sagely had counselled me) I told her that I had been bound apprentice to the master of a ship, contrary to my inclination, which ship had foundered at sea; that I and four more, who chanced to be on deck when she went down, made shift to swim to the shore, when my companions, after having overpowered me, stripped me to the shirt, and left me, as they imagined, dead of the wounds I received in my own defence. Then I related the circumstances of being found in a barn, with the inhuman treatment I met with from the country people and parson; the description of which, I perceived, drew tears from the charming creature’s eyes. When I had finished my recital, my mistress, said, Ma foi To which opinion Narcissa assented, with a compliment to my understanding, in the same language, that flattered my vanity extremely.

Nor dare the immortal gods my rage oppose.

This alteration gave me great uneasiness; and I passed the night without sleep, in melancholy reflections on the vanity of young men, which prompts them to commit so many foolish actions, contrary to their own sober judgment. Next day, however, instead of profiting by this self-condemnation, I yielded still more to the dictates of the principle I had endeavoured to chastise, and if fortune had not befriended me more than prudence could expect, I should have been treated with the contempt it deserved. After breakfast my lady, who was a true author, bade me follow her into the study, where she expressed herself thus: Since you are so learned, you cannot be void of taste; therefore I am to desire your opinion of a small performance in poetry, which I lately composed. You must know that I have planned a tragedy, the subject of which shall be, the murder of a prince before the altar, where he is busy at his devotions. After the deed is perpetrated, the regicide will harangue the people with the bloody dagger in his hand; and I have already composed a speech, which, I think, will suit the character extremely. Here it is. Then, taking up a scrap of paper, she read, with violent emphasis and gesture, as follows: �?

We returned to the kitchen, where I was regaled by the maids, who seemed to vie with each other in expressing their regard for me; and from them I understood, that my business consisted in cleaning knives and forks, laying the cloth, waiting at table, carrying messages, and attending my lady when she went abroad. There was a very good suit of livery in the house, which had belonged to my predecessor deceased, and it fitted me exactly; so that there was no occasion for employing a tailor on my account. I had not been long equipped in this manner, when my lady’s bell rung; upon which, I ran up stairs, and found her stalking about the room in her shift and under petticoat only; I would immediately have retired as became me, but she bade me come in, and air a clean shift for her; which operation I having performed with some backwardness, she put it on before me without any ceremony, and I verily believe was ignorant of my sex all that time, as being quite absorbed in contemplation. About four o’clock in the afternoon I was ordered to lay the cloth, and place two covers, which I understood were for my mistress and her niece, whom I had not as yet seen. Though I was not very dexterous at this work, I performed it pretty well for a beginner, and, when dinner was upon the table, saw my mistress approach, accompanied by the young lady, whose name for the present shall be Narcissa. So much sweetness appeared in the countenance and carriage of this amiable apparition, that my heart was captivated at first sight, and while dinner lasted, I gazed upon her without intermission. Her age seemed to be seventeen, her stature tall, her shape unexceptionable, her hair, that fell down upon her ivory neck in ringlets, black as jet; her arched eyebrows of the same colour; her eyes piercing, yet tender; her lips of the consistence and hue of cherries; her complexion clear, delicate and healthy; her aspect noble, ingenuous, and humane; and the whole person so ravishingly delightful, that it was impossible for any creature endued with sensibility, to see without admiring, and admire without loving her to excess. I began to curse the servile station that placed me so far beneath the regard of this idol of my adoration When she spoke I listened with pleasure; but when she spoke to me, my soul was thrilled with an extacy of tumultuous joy. I was even so happy as to be the subject of their conversation; for Narcissa, having observed me, said to her aunt, I see your new footman is come. Then addressing herself to me, asked, with ineffable complacency, if I was the person who had been so cruelly used by robbers? When I had satisfied her in this; she expressed a desire of knowing the other particulars of my fortune, both before and since my being shipwrecked: hereupon (as Mrs. Sagely had counselled me) I told her that I had been bound apprentice to the master of a ship, contrary to my inclination, which ship had foundered at sea; that I and four more, who chanced to be on deck when she went down, made shift to swim to the shore, when my companions, after having overpowered me, stripped me to the shirt, and left me, as they imagined, dead of the wounds I received in my own defence. Then I related the circumstances of being found in a barn, with the inhuman treatment I met with from the country people and parson; the description of which, I perceived, drew tears from the charming creature’s eyes. When I had finished my recital, my mistress, said, Ma foi To which opinion Narcissa assented, with a compliment to my understanding, in the same language, that flattered my vanity extremely.

Fraught with these useful instructions, I repaired to the place of her habitation, and was introduced by the waiting-woman to the presence of my lady, who had not before seen me. She sat in her study, with one foot on the ground, and the other upon a high stool at some distance from her seat; her sandy locks hung down, in a disorder I cannot call beautiful, from her head, which was deprived of its coif, for the benefit of scratching with one hand, while she held the stump of a pen in the other. Her forehead was high and wrinkled; her eyes were large, gray, and prominent; her nose was long, and aquiline: her mouth of vast capacity, her visage meagre and freckled, and her chin peaked like a shoemaker’s paring knife; her upper lip contained a large quantity of plain Spanish, which, by continual falling, had embroidered her neck, that was not naturally very white, and the breast of her gown, that flowed loose about her with a negligence that was truly poetic, discovering linen that was very fine, and, to all appearance, never washed but in Castalian streams. Around her lay heaps of books, globes, quadrants, telescopes, and other learned apparatus; her snuff-box stood at her right hand: at her left hand lay her handkerchief, sufficiently used, and a convenience to spit in appeared on one side of her chair. She being in a reverie when we entered, the maid did not think proper to disturb her; so that we waited some minutes unobserved, during which time she bit the quill several times, altered her position, made many wry faces, and, at length, with an air of triumph, repeated aloud:

After having taken a full view of this collection, I retired, and at the usual time was preparing to lay the cloth, when I was told by the maid that her mistress was still in bed, and had been so affected with the notes of the hounds in the morning, that she actually believed herself a hare beset by the hunters, and begged a few greens to munch for breakfast. When I expressed my surprise in this unaccountable imagination she gave me to understand that her lady was very much subject to whims of this nature; sometimes fancying herself an animal, sometimes a piece of furniture, during which conceited transformations it was very dangerous to come near her, especially when she represented a beast; for that lately, in the character of a cat, she had flown at her, and scratched her face in a terrible manner: that some months ago, she prophesied the general conflagration was at hand, and nothing would be able to quench it but her water, which therefore she kept so long, that her life was in danger, and she must needs have died of the retention, had they not found an expedient to make her evacuate, by kindling a bonfire under her chamber window and persuading her that the house was in flames: upon which, with great deliberation, she bade them bring all the tubs and vessels they could find to be filled for the preservation of the house, into one of which she immediately discharged the cause of her distemper. I was also informed that nothing contributed so much to the recovery of her reason as music, which was always administered on those occasions by Narcissa, who played perfectly well on the harpsichord, and to whom she (the maid) was just then going to intimate her aunt’s disorder.

While the fond mother’s cries regale my ear.

The whole behaviour of this venerable person was so primitive, innocent, sensible, and humane, that I contracted a filial respect for her, and begged her advice with regard to my future conduct, as soon as I was in a condition to act for myself. She dissuaded me from a design I had formed of travelling to Louder, in hopes of retrieving my clothes and pay, by returning to my ship, which by this time I read in the newspaper was safely arrived in the River Thames: because, said she, you run the hazard of being treated not only as a deserter in quitting the sloop, but also as a mutineer, in assaulting your commanding officer, to the malice of whose revenge you will moreover be exposed. She then promised to recommend me, as servant to a single lady of her acquaintance, who lived in the neighbourhood with her nephew, who was a young foxhunter of great fortune, where I might be very happy, provided I could bear with the disposition and manners of my mistress, which were somewhat whimsical and particular. But, above all things, she counselled me to conceal my story, the knowledge of which would effectually poison my entertainment; for it was a maxim, among most people of condition, that no gentleman ought to be admitted into a family as a domestic, lest he become lazy, and insolent. I was fain to embrace this humble proposal, because my affairs were desperate; and in a few days was hired by this lady, to serve in quality of her footman, having been represented by my hostess as a young man who was bred up to the sea by his relations against his will, and had suffered shipwreck, which had increased his disgust to that way of life so much, that he rather chose to go to service on shore, than enter himself on board of any other ship. Before I took possession of my new place, she gave me a sketch of my mistress’s character, that I might know better how to regulate my conduct.

My mistress is surprised at my learning �?communicates her performances to me �?I impart some of mine to her �?am mortified at her faint praise �?Narcissa approves of my conduct �?I gain an involuntary conquest over the cookwench and dairymaid �?their mutual resentment and insinuations �?the jealousy of their lovers

While the fond mother’s cries regale my ear.

Your lady, said she, is a maiden of forty years, not so remarkable for her beauty as her learning and taste, which is famous all over the country. Indeed, she is a perfect female virtuoso, and so eager after the pursuit of knowledge that she neglects her person even to a degree of sluttishness; this negligence, together with her contempt of the male part of the creation, gives her nephew no great concern, as by these means he will probably keep her fortune, which is considerable. in the family. He therefore permits her to live in her own way, which is something extraordinary, and gratifies her in all her whimsical desires. Her apartment is at some distance from the other inhabited parts of the house; and consists of a dining-room, bedchamber, and study; she keeps a cook maid, a waiting-woman, and footman, of her own, and seldom eats or converses with any of the family but her niece, who is a very lovely creature, and humours her aunt often to the prejudice of her own health by sitting up with her whole nights together; for your mistress is too much of a philosopher to be swayed by the custom of the world, and never sleeps nor eats like other people. Among other odd notions, she professes the principles of Rosicrucius, and believes the earth, air, and sea, are inhabited by invisible beings, with whom it is possible for the human species to entertain correspondence and intimacy, on the easy condition of living chaste. As she hopes one day to be admitted into an acquaintance of this kind, she no sooner heard of me and my cat, than she paid me a visit, with a view, as she has since owned, to be introduced to my familiar; and was greatly mortified to find herself disappointed in her expectation. Being by this visionary turn of mind abstracted as it were from the world, she cannot advert to the common occurrences of life; and therefore is frequently so absent as to commit very strange mistakes and extravagancies, which you will do well to rectify and repair, as your prudence shall suggest.

During this season of love and tranquillity, my muse, which had lain dormant so long, awoke, and produced several small performances on the subject of my flame. But as it concerned me nearly to remain undiscovered in my character and sentiments, I was under a necessity of mortifying my desire of praise, by confining my works to my own perusal and applause. In the meantime I strove to insinuate myself into the good opinion of both ladies; and succeeded so well, by my diligence and dutiful behaviour, that in a little time I was at least a favourite servant; and frequently enjoyed the satisfaction of hearing myself mentioned in French and Italian, with some degree of warmth and surprise by the dear object of all my wishes, as a person who had so much of the gentleman in my appearance and discourse, that she could not for her soul treat me like a common lacquey. My prudence and modesty were not long proof against these bewitching compliments. One day, while I waited at dinner, the conversation turned upon a knotty passage of Tasso’s Gierusalem, which, it seems, had puzzled them both: after a great many unsatisfactory conjectures, my mistress, taking the book out of her pocket, turned up the place in question, and read the sentence over and over without success; at length, despairing of finding the author’s meaning, she turned to me, saying, Come hither, Bruno; let us see what fortune will do for us: I will interpret to thee what goes before, and what follows this obscure paragraph, the particular words of which I will also explain, that thou mayst, by comparing one with another, guess the sense of that which perplexes us. I was too vain to let slip this opportunity of displaying my talents; therefore, without hesitation, read and explained the whole of that which had disconcerted them, to the utter astonishment of both. Narcissa’s face and lovely neck were overspread with blushes, from which I drew a favourable opinion, while her aunt, after having stared at me a good while with a look of amazement, exclaimed, In the name of heaven who art thou? I told her I had picked up a smattering of Italian, during a voyage up the Straits. At this explanation she shook her head, and observed that no smatterer could read as I had done. She then desired to know if I understood French. To which question I answered in the affirmative. She asked if I was acquainted with the Latin and Greek? I replied, A little. Oho continued she, and with philosophy and mathematics, I suppose? I owned I knew something of each. Then she repeated her stare and interrogation. I began to repent of my vanity, and in order to repair the fault I committed, said, it was not to be wondered at if I had a tolerable education, for learning was so cheap in my country, that every peasant was a scholar; but, I hoped her Ladyship would think my understanding no exception to my character. No, no, God forbid. But during the rest of the time they sat at table, they behaved with remarkable reserve.

Next morning, by daybreak, being awakened by the noise of the hunters and hounds, I rose to view the cavalcade, and had a sight of my competitor, whose accomplishments (the estate excluded) did not seem brilliant enough to give me much uneasiness with respect to Narcissa, who, I flattered myself, was not to be won by such qualifications as he was master of, either as to person or mind. My mistress, notwithstanding her precaution, was so much disturbed by her nephew’s company, that she did not rise till five o’clock in the afternoon; so that I had an opportunity of examining her study at leisure, to which examination I was strongly prompted by my curiosity. Here I found a thousand scraps of her own poetry, consisting of three, four, ten, twelve, and twenty lines, on an infinity of subjects, which, as whim inspired, she had begun, without constancy or capacity to bring to any degree of composition: but, what was very extraordinary in a female poet, there was not the least mention made of love in any of her performances. I counted fragments of five tragedies, the titles of which were The Stern Philosopher, The Double, The Sacrilegious Traitor, The Fall of Lucifer, and The Last Day. From whence I gathered, that her disposition was gloomy, and her imagination delighted with objects of horror. Her library was composed of the best English historians, poets, and philosophers; of all the French critics and poets, and of a few books in Italian, chiefly poetry, at the head of which were Tasso and Ariosto, pretty much used. Besides these, translations of the classics into French, but not one book in Greek or Latin; a circumstance that discovered her ignorance in these languages.

After having taken a full view of this collection, I retired, and at the usual time was preparing to lay the cloth, when I was told by the maid that her mistress was still in bed, and had been so affected with the notes of the hounds in the morning, that she actually believed herself a hare beset by the hunters, and begged a few greens to munch for breakfast. When I expressed my surprise in this unaccountable imagination she gave me to understand that her lady was very much subject to whims of this nature; sometimes fancying herself an animal, sometimes a piece of furniture, during which conceited transformations it was very dangerous to come near her, especially when she represented a beast; for that lately, in the character of a cat, she had flown at her, and scratched her face in a terrible manner: that some months ago, she prophesied the general conflagration was at hand, and nothing would be able to quench it but her water, which therefore she kept so long, that her life was in danger, and she must needs have died of the retention, had they not found an expedient to make her evacuate, by kindling a bonfire under her chamber window and persuading her that the house was in flames: upon which, with great deliberation, she bade them bring all the tubs and vessels they could find to be filled for the preservation of the house, into one of which she immediately discharged the cause of her distemper. I was also informed that nothing contributed so much to the recovery of her reason as music, which was always administered on those occasions by Narcissa, who played perfectly well on the harpsichord, and to whom she (the maid) was just then going to intimate her aunt’s disorder.

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