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dered, not only as fecuring whatever the enjoyed by the favour of others, but as a pledge of poffeffing them in her own right by an advantageous marriage. Thus the vifion that danced before her, derived stability from the very vanity which it flattered: and fhe had as little apprehenfion of distress, as diffidence of her own power to please.

There was a fashionable levity in her carriage and discourse, which her mother, who knew the danger of her fituation, laboured to restrain, fometimes with anger, fometimes with tears, but always without fuccess. Flavilla was ever ready to answer, that she neither did nor said any thing of which she had reason to be afhamed; and therefore did not know why she should be reftrained, except in mere courtesy to envy, whom it was an honour to provoke, or to flander, whom it was a difgrace to fear. In proportion as Flavilla was more flattered and careffed, the influence of her mother became less; and though fhe always treated her with refpect, from a point of good breeding, yet the fecretly despised her maxims, and applauded her own conduct.

Flavilla at eighteen was a celebrated toaft; and among other gay vifitants, who frequented her tea-table, was Clodio, a young baronet, who had just taken poffeffion of his title and eftate. There were many particulars in Clodio's behaviour, which encouraged

encouraged Flavilla to hope that she should obtain him for a hufband: but fhe fuffered his affiduities with fuch apparent pleasure, and his familiarities with fo little referve, that he foon ventured to difclofe his intention, and make her what he thought a very genteel propofal of another kind: but whatever were the artifices with which it was introduced, or the terms in which it was made, Flavilla rejected it with the utmost indignation and difdain. Clodio, who, notwithstanding his youth, had long known and often practised the arts of seduction, gave way to the ftorm, threw himself at her feet, imputed his offence to the phrenzy of his paffion, flattered her pride by the most abject fubmiffion and extravagant praise, intreated her pardon, aggravated his crime, but made no mention of atonement by marriage. This particular, which Flavilla did not fail to remark, ought to have determined her to admit him. no more: but her vanity and her ambition were ftill predominant; fhe ftill hoped to fucceed in her project. Clodio's offence was tacitly forgiven, his vifits were permitted, his familiarities were again fuffered, and his hopes revived. He had long entertained an opinion that she loved him, in which, however, it is probable, that his own vanity and her indiscretion concurred to deceive him; but this opinion, though it implied the strongest obligation

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to treat her with generofity and tenderness, only determined him again to attempt her ruin, as it encouraged him with a probability of fuccefs. Having, therefore, refolved to obtain her as a miftrefs, or at once to give her up, he thought he had little more to do, than to convince her that he had taken fuch a refolution, justify it by some plausible sophistry, and give her some time to deliberate upon a final determination. With this view, he went a fhort journey into the country; having put a letter into her hand at parting, in which he acquainted her, "That he often reflected, with inexpreffible regret; <c upon her refentment of his conduct in a late in"ftance; but that the delicacy and the ardour of "his affection were infuperable obftacles to his mar

riage; that where there was no liberty, there could " be no happiness: that he fhould become indif"ferent to the endearments of love, when they could "no longer be distinguished from the officiousness "of duty: that while they were happy in the pof"feffion of each other, it would be abfurd to fup

pofe they would part; and that if this happiness "fhould cease, it would not only infure but aggra"vate their mifery to be infeparably united; that "this event was lefs probable, in proportion as their "co-habitation was voluntary; but that he would make fuch provifion for her upon her contin

"c gency,

gency, as a wife would expect upon his death. He "conjured her not to determine under the influence "of prejudice and custom, but according to the "laws of reafon and nature. After mature delibe"ration," said he, "remember that the whole " value of my life depends upon your will, I do "not request an explicit confent, with whatever "transport I might behold the lovely confufion "which it might produce. I fhall attend you in a << few days; with the anxiety, though not with the

guilt, of a criminal who waits for the decifion of "his judge. If my visit is admitted, we will never part; if it is rejected, I can never fee you more." Flavilla had too much understanding, as well as virtue, to deliberate a moment upon this propofal. She gave immediate orders that Clodio fhould be admitted no more. But his letter was a temptation to gratify her vanity, which she could not refift; fhe fhewed it first to her mother, and then to the whole circle of her female acquaintance, with all the exultation of a hero who expofes a vanquished enemy at the wheels of his chariot in a triumph; fhe confidered it as an indifputable evidence of her virtue, as a reproof of all who had dared to cenfure the levity of her conduct, and a licence to continue it without apology or restraint.


It happened that Flavilla, foon after this accident, was feen in one of the boxes at the play-house by Mercator, a young gentleman who had just returned from his first voyage as captain of a large ship in the Levant Trade, which had been purchased for him by his father, whofe fortune enabled him to make a genteel provision for five fons, of whom Mercator was the youngeft, and who expected to fhare his eftate, which was perfonal, in equal proportions at his death.

Mercator was captivated with her beauty, but difcouraged by the fplendour of her appearance, and the rank of her company. He was urged, rather by curiofity than hope, to inquire who she was; and he foon gained fuch a knowledge of her circumstances as relieved him from despair.

As he knew not how to get admiffion to her company, and had no designs upon her virtue, he wrote in the first ardour of his paffion to her mother, giving a faithful account of his fortune and dependence, and intreating that he might be permitted to vifit Flavilla as a candidate for her affection. The old lady, after having made fome inquiries, by which the account that Mercator had given her was confirmed, fent him an invitation, and received his first visit alone. She told him, that as Flavilla had no fortune, and as a confiderable part of his own


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