« VorigeDoorgaan »
before his face, the fine things Mr. B. said of her. She received them in a rattling good-humoured way, insisting that her conduct in the married state would depend on her husband's : for she declared that she did not find in herself that exalted turn of mind to love virtue for its own sake, and she believed she would make but an indifferent wife to half the men in the world. Such conversation generally produced an argument between her and Mr. B., which, as it was carried on with spirit and temper, had no other effect than making them still more pleased with one another. If she found the argument growing serious, she would call over the children, and, putting them on their father's knee, desire them to kiss him into good-humour, which never failed having the effect; or, if she said a flippant thing to him, with which he seemed half offended, she used to take his hand, and smile so sweetly in his face, it was impossible for him to continue displeased with her; and generally a kiss, and a game at billiards, sealed their reconciliation. I own to you, I began not to relish her behaviour ; yet it seemed so unpremeditated, and so perfectly corresponding with her general character, that I did not know how to make her sensible of the impropriety of it. I even doubted my own judgement of ihe matter. I had, for some time, lived so much out of the gay world, that I did not know but Maria's very great freedom of manner might be the fashionable behaviour of the people she had been accustomed to see; if so, how was she to blame? or why should I be uneasy, knowing her to be a woman of honour, surely incapable of so base an action as endeavouring to alienate my husband's affections from me? By such reasoning I strove to quell the first emotions, jealous, if you will have thein so, that rose in my breast. But, alas, Mr. MIRROR, to what purpose? I have every hour fresh cause of uneasiness. About a week ago I went suddenly into the parlour, and found Maria sitting on Mr. B.'s knee, her head leaning on his shoulder : he looked a little out of countenance ; but she was not in the least distressed at my appearance, but asked me, with her usual good humour, what made me look so grave; then, slapping Mr. B. gently on the cheek, said, • It is your fault, you harsh thing you! when I knew her formerly, she used to be all life and spirits. He answered, coldly I thought, that it was his wish ever to see me in spirits, and that he was sorry he was not so happy as to hit on a method to make me so. I turned my head aside, to hide the starting tear. Maria, as if guessing at my emotion, put her arm about my neck, and, drawing round my averted face, said, in a loud whisper,— My dear Mrs. B., how can you indulge such weakness ?' Mr. B. snatched
up his hat, and left the room ; I heard the word · childish,' as he shut the door. I remember the time when he could not bear the least cloud on my looks, without tenderly inquiring the cause ; but now he seems often to forget that I am present, while Maria engrosses his whole attention. I have been for some days deprived of his
conpany, and have spent the time in reflecting seriously on my situation. The more I consider it, the more it appears to me of a particular and distressing nature. I have at last determined to request your opinion of it, and, through the channel of your paper, to give Maria a hint, that, to keep clear of the grossness of vice, is not sufficient for the delicacy of the female character; and that the woman, who, by an alluring and refined coquetry, engages the thoughts and interests the feelings of a married man, is a more dangerous, and perhaps not a less criminal companion, than the avowed wanton, who excites a short-lived passion, soon extinguished by remorse, and, if I may be allowed the expression, fully compensated for by the returning tenderness of the repenting husband.
" I am, &c.
66 E. B."
66 TO THE AUTHOR OF THE MIRROR,
MR. MIRROR, * I MARRIED,
for love, a most charming woman', who has made me the happy father of two very
fine children: I have a thousand a-year estate, and enjoy a most perfect state of health; yet a very slight and contemptible cause was near destroying all those fair prospects of happiness, by interrupting the harmony of an union founded on mutual liking, and cemented by mutual esteem. In your
observations on the female world, you have suffered to escape your notice a dangerous and most destructive race, whose hearts, hardened by vanity, are equally impenetrable to the shafts of love, and insensible of the charms of friendship; yet the business of their lives is to excite passions they never mean to gratify, and sentiments they are incapable of returning. My dear Mrs. B., unfortunately for us both, some months ago renewed an intimacy, formed in her childish days, with one of those females. To Maria I was introduced as the husband of her friend; as such I was received by her, without reserve, and soon treated with the most flattering distinction. Maria possesses all those powers of allurement which men for ever condemn, and can never withstand: she can assume every shape that is fitted to captivate the senses, or delight the ima
gination, and can vary her appearance at pleasure. So consummate is her art, that one could not, for an instant, suspect her of any design in her behaviour; and even at this moment, that an accident has laid open her whole character to me, I should not answer for my resolution were she to enter the room, and smilingly take my hand, as was her frequent custom, with such a mixture of sweetness and tenderness in her looks !—I almost fear I should be weak enough to forget that my opi. nion of her is founded on the clearest proofs of her dissembling arts, and stand before her self-condemned, as the defamer of innocence and undesigning simplicity.
Luckily I am out of her reach : I left my own house immediately upon the discovery I made of the fair hypocrite's real disposition. I mean to send for
my dear Mrs. B., and, with her, pay a visit to the capital, and there use all my efforts to make her amends for any uneasiness my foolish infatuation may have given her; but first I wished to make this public acknowledgement of it; and, as Maria cleserves no mercy, I shall show her none, except concealing her family name.
“For five months, Mr. MIRROR, the Proteus-like animal had found out a thousand different ways to
Was I in spirits, she was all life and good humour; when in a graver mood, I found her all sense and seriousness. If what I had been reading excited in me a tender and not unpleasing melancholy, the sympathetic tear stood ready in her eye. A few days since, upon my reading to her the story of La Roche, so beautifully told in your papers, she wept, leaning upon my shoulder ; and I own to you, Mr. Mirnon, as her tears fell upon the finest bosom Nature ever formed, while her white hand lightly press ed upon my arm, I
thought I had never beheld so interesting an object. Mrs. B. came suddenly into the room : her grave cold manner was at the moment disagreeably contrasted to Maria's animated feelings. For the first time since our marriage, I thought I saw a change in Mrs. B.'s temper, and that she was not the very amiable woman I took her for. She took amiss something I said, and I left the room in disgust. I strolled down a shady walk that goes round part of my improvements: at the end of it I found Maria seated on the grass,
with one of my
little girls on her lap. She rose at my approach, and, desiring the child to walk before us, took me under the arm, and, in the gentlest terms, expostulated with me on the abruptness of my manner. She had, she said, after a vain attempt to soothe her, left Mrs. B. in tears. She acknowledged I had not given her very serious cause of uneasiness, but that a man of my sense should make allowance for the trifling blemishes of a very good woman ; adding, with a smile,— My dear Mr. B., we are none of us angels.' -I was puppy enough to be ready to exclaim,
Upon my soul, you are one.' I contented myself with saying – Whoever you marry, Maria, will have no reason to complain of your temper.' She blushed, drew out her handkerchief to cover her face with it, as if to conceal her emotions, but gave ine such a look from below it !-A servant appeared to tell us that dinner waited, and we went into the house together.
“ In the afternoon one of my little girls came into the parlour, where I was sitting alone : See what I found in the walk, Papa ?' said she, holding out a paper. I took it from the child, and, seeing it was Maria's hand, was about to go up stairs to restore it to its owner, when my own name, written in large characters, st ruck my eye. My good man