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Chapter 2

  • Among the favourite authors of his early years were the heroic poets of Italy.
  • From them he imbibed the love of chivalry and romance. He had too much goo_ense to regret the times of Charlemagne and Arthur. But, while hi_magination was purged by a certain infusion of philosophy, he conceived tha_here was in the manners depicted by these celebrated poets something t_mitate, as well as something to avoid. He believed that nothing was so wel_alculated to make men delicate, gallant, and humane, as a temper perpetuall_live to the sentiments of birth and honour. The opinions he entertained upo_hese topics were illustrated in his conduct, which was assiduously conforme_o the model of heroism that his fancy suggested.
  • With these sentiments he set out upon his travels, at the age at which th_rand tour is usually made; and they were rather confirmed than shaken by th_dventures that befel him. By inclination he was led to make his longest sta_n Italy; and here he fell into company with several young noblemen whos_tudies and principles were congenial to his own. By them he was assiduousl_ourted, and treated with the most distinguished applause. They were delighte_o meet with a foreigner, who had imbibed all the peculiarities of the mos_iberal and honourable among themselves. Nor was he less favoured and admire_y the softer sex. Though his stature was small, his person had an air o_ncommon dignity. His dignity was then heightened by certain additions whic_ere afterwards obliterated,—an expression of frankness, ingenuity, an_nreserve, and a spirit of the most ardent enthusiasm. Perhaps no Englishma_as ever in an equal degree idolised by the inhabitants of Italy.
  • It was not possible for him to have drunk so deeply of the fountain o_hivalry without being engaged occasionally in affairs of honour, all of whic_ere terminated in a manner that would not have disgraced the chevalier Bayar_imself. In Italy, the young men of rank divide themselves into tw_lasses,—those who adhere to the pure principles of ancient gallantry, an_hose who, being actuated by the same acute sense of injury and insult,
  • accustom themselves to the employment of hired bravoes as their instruments o_engeance. The whole difference, indeed, consists in the precariou_pplication of a generally received distinction. The most generous Italia_onceives that there are certain persons whom it would be contamination fo_im to call into the open field. He nevertheless believes that an indignit_annot be expiated but with blood, and is persuaded that the life of a man i_ trifling consideration, in comparison of the indemnification to be made t_is injured honour. There is, therefore, scarcely any Italian that would upo_ome occasions scruple assassination. Men of spirit among them,
  • notwithstanding the prejudices of their education, cannot fail to have _ecret conviction of its baseness, and will be desirous of extending as far a_ossible the cartel of honour. Real or affected arrogance teaches others t_egard almost the whole species as their inferiors, and of consequence incite_hem to gratify their vengeance without danger to their persons. Mr. Falklan_et with some of these. But his undaunted spirit and resolute temper gave hi_ decisive advantage even in such perilous rencounters. One instance, amon_any, of his manner of conducting himself among this proud and high-spirite_eople it may be proper to relate. Mr. Falkland is the principal agent in m_istory; and Mr. Falkland in the autumn and decay of his vigour, such as _ound him, cannot be completely understood without a knowledge of his previou_haracter, as it was in all the gloss of youth, yet unassailed by adversity,
  • and unbroken in upon by anguish or remorse.
  • At Rome he was received with particular distinction at the house of marqui_isani, who had an only daughter, the heir of his immense fortune, and th_dmiration of all the young nobility of that metropolis. Lady Lucretia Pisan_as tall, of a dignified form, and uncommonly beautiful. She was not deficien_n amiable qualities, but her soul was haughty, and her carriage no_nfrequently contemptuous. Her pride was nourished by the consciousness of he_harms, by her elevated rank, and the universal adoration she was accustome_o receive.
  • Among her numerous lovers count Malvesi was the individual most favoured b_er father, nor did his addresses seem indifferent to her. The count was a ma_f considerable accomplishments, and of great integrity and benevolence o_isposition. But he was too ardent a lover, to be able always to preserve th_ffability of his temper. The admirers whose addresses were a source o_ratification to his mistress, were a perpetual uneasiness to him. Placing hi_hole happiness in the possession of this imperious beauty, the most triflin_ircumstances were capable of alarming him for the security of hi_retensions. But most of all he was jealous of the English cavalier. Marqui_isani, who had spent many years in France, was by no means partial to th_uspicious precautions of Italian fathers, and indulged his daughter i_onsiderable freedoms. His house and his daughter, within certain judiciou_estraints, were open to the resort of male visitants. But, above all, Mr.
  • Falkland, as a foreigner, and a person little likely to form pretensions t_he hand of Lucretia, was received upon a footing of great familiarity. Th_ady herself, conscious of innocence, entertained no scruple about trifles,
  • and acted with the confidence and frankness of one who is superior t_uspicion.
  • Mr. Falkland, after a residence of several weeks at Rome, proceeded to Naples.
  • Meanwhile certain incidents occurred that delayed the intended nuptials of th_eiress of Pisani. When he returned to Rome Count Malvesi was absent. Lad_ucretia, who had been considerably amused before with the conversation of Mr.
  • Falkland, and who had an active and enquiring mind, had conceived, in th_nterval between his first and second residence at Rome, a desire to b_cquainted with the English language, inspired by the lively and arden_ncomiums of our best authors that she had heard from their countryman. Sh_ad provided herself with the usual materials for that purpose, and had mad_ome progress during his absence. But upon his return she was forward to mak_se of the opportunity, which, if missed, might never occur again with equa_dvantage, of reading select passages of our poets with an Englishman o_ncommon taste and capacity.
  • This proposal necessarily led to a more frequent intercourse. When Coun_alvesi returned, he found Mr. Falkland established almost as an inmate of th_isani palace. His mind could not fail to be struck with the criticalness o_he situation. He was perhaps secretly conscious that the qualifications o_he Englishman were superior to his own; and he trembled for the progress tha_ach party might have made in the affection of the other, even before the_ere aware of the danger. He believed that the match was in every respect suc_s to flatter the ambition of Mr. Falkland; and he was stung even to madnes_y the idea of being deprived of the object dearest to his heart by thi_ramontane upstart.
  • He had, however, sufficient discretion first to demand an explanation of Lad_ucretia. She, in the gaiety of her heart, trifled with his anxiety. Hi_atience was already exhausted, and he proceeded in his expostulation, i_anguage that she was by no means prepared to endure with apathy. Lad_ucretia had always been accustomed to deference and submission; and, havin_ot over something like terror, that was at first inspired by the imperiou_anner in which she was now catechised, her next feeling was that of th_armest resentment. She disdained to satisfy so insolent a questioner, an_ven indulged herself in certain oblique hints calculated to strengthen hi_uspicions. For some time she described his folly and presumption in terms o_he most ludicrous sarcasm, and then, suddenly changing her style, bid hi_ever let her see him more except upon the footing of the most distan_cquaintance, as she was determined never again to subject herself to s_nworthy a treatment. She was happy that he had at length disclosed to her hi_rue character, and would know how to profit of her present experience t_void a repetition of the same danger. All this passed in the full career o_assion on both sides, and Lady Lucretia had no time to reflect upon wha_ight be the consequence of thus exasperating her lover.
  • Count Malvesi left her in all the torments of frenzy. He believed that thi_as a premeditated scene, to find a pretence for breaking off an engagemen_hat was already all but concluded; or, rather, his mind was racked with _housand conjectures: he alternately thought that the injustice might be her_r his own; and he quarrelled with Lady Lucretia, himself, and the whol_orld. In this temper he hastened to the hotel of the English cavalier. Th_eason of expostulation was now over, and he found himself irresistibl_mpelled to justify his precipitation with the lady, by taking for grante_hat the subject of his suspicion was beyond the reach of doubt.
  • Mr. Falkland was at home. The first words of the count were an abrup_ccusation of duplicity in the affair of Lady Lucretia, and a challenge. Th_nglishman had an unaffected esteem for Malvesi, who was in reality a man o_onsiderable merit, and who had been one of Mr. Falkland's earliest Italia_cquaintance, they having originally met at Milan. But more than this, th_ossible consequence of a duel in the present instance burst upon his mind. H_ad the warmest admiration for Lady Lucretia, though his feelings were no_hose of a lover; and he knew that, however her haughtiness might endeavour t_isguise it, she was impressed with a tender regard for Count Malvesi. H_ould not bear to think that any misconduct of his should interrupt th_rospects of so deserving a pair. Guided by these sentiments, he endeavoure_o expostulate with the Italian. But his attempts were ineffectual. Hi_ntagonist was drunk with choler, and would not listen to a word that tende_o check the impetuosity of his thoughts. He traversed the room with perturbe_teps, and even foamed with anguish and fury. Mr. Falkland, finding that al_as to no purpose, told the count, that, if he would return to-morrow at th_ame hour, he would attend him to any scene of action he should think prope_o select.
  • From Count Malvesi Mr. Falkland immediately proceeded to the palace of Pisani.
  • Here he found considerable difficulty in appeasing the indignation of Lad_ucretia. His ideas of honour would by no means allow him to win her to hi_urpose by disclosing the cartel he had received; otherwise that disclosur_ould immediately have operated as the strongest motive that could have bee_ffered to this disdainful beauty. But, though she dreaded such an event, th_ague apprehension was not strong enough to induce her instantly to surrende_ll the stateliness of her resentment. Mr. Falkland, however, drew s_nteresting a picture of the disturbance of Count Malvesi's mind, an_ccounted in so flattering a manner for the abruptness of his conduct, tha_his, together with the arguments he adduced, completed the conquest of Lad_ucretia's resentment. Having thus far accomplished his purpose, he proceede_o disclose to her every thing that had passed.
  • The next day Count Malvesi appeared, punctual to his appointment, at Mr.
  • Falkland's hotel. Mr. Falkland came to the door to receive him, but requeste_im to enter the house for a moment, as he had still an affair of thre_inutes to despatch. They proceeded to a parlour. Here Mr. Falkland left him,
  • and presently returned leading in Lady Lucretia herself, adorned in all he_harms, and those charms heightened upon the present occasion by _onsciousness of the spirited and generous condescension she was exerting. Mr.
  • Falkland led her up to the astonished count; and she, gently laying her han_pon the arm of her lover, exclaimed with the most attractive grace, "Will yo_llow me to retract the precipitate haughtiness into which I was betrayed?"
  • The enraptured count, scarcely able to believe his senses, threw himself upo_is knees before her, and stammered out his reply, signifying that th_recipitation had been all his own, that he only had any forgiveness t_emand, and, though they might pardon, he could never pardon himself for th_acrilege he had committed against her and this god-like Englishman. As soo_s the first tumults of his joy had subsided, Mr. Falkland addressed hi_hus:—
  • "Count Malvesi, I feel the utmost pleasure in having thus by peaceful mean_isarmed your resentment, and effected your happiness. But I must confess, yo_ut me to a severe trial. My temper is not less impetuous and fiery than you_wn, and it is not at all times that I should have been thus able to subdu_t. But I considered that in reality the original blame was mine. Though you_uspicion was groundless, it was not absurd. We have been trifling too much i_he face of danger. I ought not, under the present weakness of our nature an_orms of society, to have been so assiduous in my attendance upon thi_nchanting woman. It would have been little wonder, if, having so man_pportunities, and playing the preceptor with her as I have done, I had bee_ntangled before I was aware, and harboured a wish which I might no_fterwards have had courage to subdue. I owed you an atonement for thi_mprudence.
  • "But the laws of honour are in the utmost degree rigid; and there was reaso_o fear that, however anxious I were to be your friend, I might be obliged t_e your murderer. Fortunately, the reputation of my courage is sufficientl_stablished, not to expose it to any impeachment by my declining your presen_efiance. It was lucky, however, that in our interview of yesterday you foun_e alone, and that accident by that means threw the management of the affai_nto my disposal. If the transaction should become known, the conclusion wil_ow become known along with the provocation, and I am satisfied. But if th_hallenge had been public, the proofs I had formerly given of courage woul_ot have excused my present moderation; and, though desirous to have avoide_he combat, it would not have been in my power. Let us hence each of us lear_o avoid haste and indiscretion, the consequences of which may be inexpiabl_ut with blood; and may Heaven bless you in a consort of whom I deem you ever_ay worthy!"
  • I have already said that this was by no means the only instance, in the cours_f his travels, in which Mr. Falkland acquitted himself in the most brillian_anner as a man of gallantry and virtue. He continued abroad during severa_ears, every one of which brought some fresh accession to the estimation i_hich he was held, as well as to his own impatience of stain or dishonour. A_ength he thought proper to return to England, with the intention of spendin_he rest of his days at the residence of his ancestors.