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diftant and respectful terms, and with the utmost diffidence and caution. She told Flavilla, "that "fhe was a fine young lady, that her husband was "abroad, that fhe kept a great deal of company, "and that the world was cenforious; fhe wished "that lefs occafion for fcandal was given; and "hoped to be excufed the liberty fhe had taken, as "fhe might be ruined by those slanders which could "have no influence upon the great, and which, "therefore, they were not folicitous to avoid."— This addrefs, however ambiguous, and however gentle, was easily understood, and fiercely refented. Flavilla, proud of her virtue, and impatient of controul, would have despised the counsel of a philofopher, if it had implied an impeachment of her conduct; before a perfon fo much her inferior, therefore, she was under no restraint; she answered, with a mixture of contempt and indignation, that thofe only who did not know her would dare to take any liberty with her character; and warned her to propagate no fcandalous report at her peril.' Flavilla immediately rofe from her feat, and the woman departed without reply, though she was scarce less offended than her lodger; and from that moment she determined, when Mercator returned, to give warning.

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Mercator's voyage was profperous; and after an absence of about ten months he came back. The woman to whom her husband left the whole management of her lodgings, and who perfifted in her purpofe, foon found an opportunity to put it in execution. Mercator, as his part of the contract had been punctually fulfilled, thought he had fome cause to be offended, and infifted to know her reasons for compelling him to leave her house.. These his hostess, who was indeed a friendly woman, was very unwilling to give; and as he perceived that the evaded his question, he became more folicitous to obtain an answer. After much hesitation, which perhaps had a worse effect than any tale which malice could have invented, fhe told him, that "Madam kept a great deal of company, and often "ftaid out very late; that she had always been used "to quiet and regularity; and was determined to let "her apartment to fome perfon in a more private " ftation."

At this account Mercator changed countenance; for he inferred from it just as much more than truth, as he believed it to be lefs. After fome moments of fufpence, he conjured her to conceal nothing from him, with an emotion which convinced her that she had already faid too much. She then affured him, that "he had no reason to be alarmed;

" for

"for that she had no exception to his lady, but those "gaieties which her station and the fashion fuffici "ently authorised." Mercator's fufpicions, however, were not wholly removed; and he began to think he had found a confidant whom it would be his intereft to truft: he therefore, in the folly of his jealoufy, confeffed, that he had some doubts con'cerning his wife, which it was of the utmost importance to his honour and his peace to refolve: he intreated that he might continue in the apart'ment another year: that, as he should again leave'

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the kingdom in a fhort time, fhe would fuffer no incident, which might confirm either his hopes or his fears, to escape her notice in his abfence; and

at his return fhe would give him fuch an account S as would at least deliver him from the torment of fufpenfe, and determine his future conduct.'

There is no fophiftry more general than that by which we justify a busy and scrupulous inquiry after fecrets, which to discover is to be wretched without hope of redrefs; and no fervice to which others are fo eafily engaged as to affift in the fearch. To communicate fufpicions of matrimonial infidelity, especially to a husband, is, by a strange mixture of folly and malignity, deemed not only an act of justice but of friendship; though it is too late to prevent an evil, which, whatever be its guilt, can diffuse wretchedness

wretchedness only in proportion as it is known. It is no wonder, therefore, that the general kindness of Mercator's confidant was on this occafion overborne; fhe was flattered by the truft that had been placed in her, and the power with which she was invefted; fhe confented to Mercator's propofal, and promifed that she would with the utmoft fidelity execute her commiffion.

Mercator, however, concealed his fufpicions from his wife, and, indeed, in her presence they were forgotten. Her manner of life he began seriously to disapprove; but being well acquainted with her temper, in which great sweetness was blended with a high spirit, he would not embitter the pleasure of a short stay by altercation, chiding, and tears; but, when her mind was melted into tenderness at his departure, he clasped her in an extacy of fondness to his bofom, and intreated her to behave with reserve and circumfpection; " because," said he, " I "know that my father keeps a watchful eye upon "your conduct, which may, therefore, confirm or "remove his displeasure, and either intercept or "bestow fuch an increase of my fortune as will pre"vent the pangs of feparation which muft otherwise "fo often return, and in a fhort time unite us to part no more." To this caution fhe had then no

power to reply; and they parted with mutual pro

teftations of unalterable love.


Flavilla, foon after fhe was thus left in a kind of widowhood a fecond time, found herself with child; and within fomewhat lefs than eight months after Mercator's return from his firft voyage, fhe happened to stumble as fhe was going up stairs, and being immediately taken ill, was brought to bed before the next morning. The child, though its birth had been precipitated more than a month, was not remarkably fmall, nor had any infirmity which endangered its life.

It was now neceffary, that the vigils of whift and the tumults of balls and vifits should, for a while, be fufpended; and in the interval of languor and retirement, Flavilla firft became thoughtful. She often reflected upon Mercator's caution when they laft parted, which had made an indelible impreffion upon her mind, though it had produced no alteration in her conduct: notwithstanding the manner in which it was expreffed, and the reafon upon which it was founded, fhe began to fear that it might have been fecretly prompted by jealousy. The birth, therefore, of her first child in his absence, at a time when, if it had not been premature, it could not poffibly have been his, was an accident which greatly alarmed her: but there was yet another, for which it was ftill lefs in her power to account, and which, therefore, alarmed her ftill more.


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