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.