Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

neglect without expostulation: and thus all intercourse between the families was at an end. Eugenio in the mean time was inflexible in his purpose; and Amelia, in her nextinterview with Ventosus, acquainted him that she would see him no more. Ventosus again appealed to her father: but the old gentleman was steady in his principles, notwithstanding his resentment; and told him, that he had exerted all the authority which God and nature had given him in his favour; and that, however provoked, he would never prostitute his child, by compelling her to marry a person who was not the object of her choice.

Ventosus, who was extremely mortified at this disappointment, was very inquisitive about Eugenio, for whom he still supposed he had been rejected: he soon learned his situation and circumstances, and his long intimacy with Amelia; he reflected upon the confus sion which both had expressed in the accidental inter. view at which he was present; and was willing to believe, that his rival, however contemptible, had been too successful to be supplanted with honour by a hus. band: this, however, if he did not believe, he was very diligent to propagate; and to remove the disa grace of a refusal, hinted that for this reason he had abruptly discontinued his addresses, and congratu, lated himself upon his escape.

It happened that about six weeks ago, Ventosus, as he was walking in the Mall, with a young officer of distinction, met Amelia in company of several ladies and a gentleman. He thought fit to bow to Amelia with a supercilious respect, which had greatly the air of an insult; of this compliment Amelia, though she looked him in the face, took no notice: by this calm disdain he was at once disappointed and confounded; he was stung by an effort of his own malignity, and his breast swelled with passion which he could not vent. In this agitation of mind he hastily turned back, and determine ed, for whatever reason, to follow her. After he

[ocr errors]

had advanced about fifty paces, he saw Eugenio com-
ing forward, who the moment he perceived Amelia,
turned into another walk. This was observed by Ven.
tosus, whose contempt and indignation had now a-
nother object, upon which they might without vio-
lence to the laws of honour be gratified; he communi-
cated his purpose to his companion, and hastily fol.
lowed Eugenio. When they had overtaken him, they
burst into a horse laugh, and pushed so rudely by him,
that he could scarce recover his step: they did not,
however go on; but stopping suddenly, turned about,
as if to apologize for the accident, and affected great
surprise at discovering to whom it had happened.
Ventosus bowed very low, and with much contemp-
tuous ceremony begged his pardon; telling him at the
same time, that there was a lady in the next walk who
would be very glad of his company. To this insult
Eugenio answered, “That he was not willing to sup-
pose that an affront was intended, and that if the la.
dy he meant was a woman of honour, she ought al-
ways to be mentioned with respect." Ventosus re-
plied, “That whether the lady he meant was a wom-
.an of honour, he would not determine; but he be-
• lieved she had been very kind; and was pleased to
• see that her favours were not forgotten, though they
• were no longer accepted.' Eugenio was not now
master of his temper, but turning suddenly upon
Ventosus, struck him with such violence that he fell
at his feet: he

rose,

however in an instant, and laid his hand upon his sword, but was prevented from drawing it by his companion; and the crowd beginning to gather about them, they parted with mutual expresa sions of contempt and rage.

In the morning the officer who had been in company with Ventosus at the quarrel, delivered a challenge to Eugenio, which he answered by the following billet.

Sir, Your behaviour last night has convinced ' me that you are a scoundrel; and your letter this

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

' morning that you are a fool.

If I should accept your challenge, I should myself be both. I owe a duty to God and to my country, which I deem it in« famous to violate; and I am intrusted with a life " which I think cannot without folly be staked against

yours. I believe you have ruined, but you cannot degrade me. You may possibly, while you sneer • over this letter, secretly exult in your own safety; • but remember, that to prevent assassination I have la sword, and to chastise insolence a cane.'

With this letter, the captain returned to Ventosus, who read it with all the extravagancies of rage and disdain; the captain, however, endeavoured to soothe and encourage him; he represented Eugenio as a poltroon and a beggar, whom he ought no otherwise to punish than by removing him from the rank into which he had intruded; and this, he said, would be very easily accomplished. Ventosus at length asquiesced in the sentiments of his friend; and it was soon industriously reported, that Eugenio had struck a person of high rank, and refused him the satisfaction of a gentleman, which he had condescended to ask. For not accepting a challenge, Eugenio could )t be legally punished be. cause it was made his duty as a soldier by the articles of war;* but it drew upon him the contempt of bis superior officers, and made them very solicitous to find some pretence to dismiss him. The friends of Ventosus immediately intimated, that the act of violence to which Eugenio had been provoked, was committed within the verge of the court, and was, therefore, a sufficient cause to break him; as for that offence he was liable to be punished with the loss of his hand, by a law, which, though disused, was still in force. This expedient was eagerly adopted, and Eugenio was accordingly deprived of his commission.

* Such is the necessary imperfection of human laws, that many private injuries are perpetrated of which they take no cognizance: but if these were allowed to be punished by the individual against whom they are committed, every man would be judge and executioner in his own cause, and universal anarchy would immediately follow. The laws, therefore, by which this practice is prohibited, ought to be held more sacred than any other; and the violation of them is so far from being necessary to prevent an imputation of cowardice, that they are enforced, even among those in whom cowardice is punished with death, by the following clause in the nineteenth Article of War:

“ Nor shall any officer or soldier upbraid another for refusing a “ challenge: since, according to these our orders they do but the du“ ty of soldiers, who ought to subject themselves to discipline; and “ we do acq and discharge all men who have quarrels offered, or “ challenges sent to them, of all disgrace or opinion of disadvantage " in their obedience hereunto: and whoever shall upbraid them, or

He had concealed his quarrel with Ventosus from his father, who was then at the family-seat about twenty miles from London, because he was not willing to acquaint him with the cause : but the effect was such as could not be hidden; and it was now become nec. essary that he should anticipate the report of others. He, therefore, set out immediately for the country ; but his father about the same time arrived in London : some imperfect account had been sent him of the proceedings against Eugenio; and though he concluded from his silence that he had been guilty of some indiscretion, yet he did not suspect an imputation of cowardice; and hoped by his interest to support him against private resentment. When he found that he had missed Eugenio in some of the avenues to town, he went innmediately to the gentleman who had procured his commission, from whom he learned all the circumstances of the affair. The moment he heard that his son had refused a challenge, he was seized with rage so violent, that it had the appearance of distraction: heuttered innumerable oaths and execrations in a voice that was scarce human, declared his son to be unworthy of his name, and solemny renounced him for ever.

Eugenio returned to London the same day, but it “offend in this case, shall be punished as a challenger.”

It is to be presumed, that of this clause no Entlemen in the army is ignorant; and those, who by the arrogance of their folly labour to render it ineffectual, should, as enemies to their country, be driven out of it with detestation and contempt.

was late before he arrived. The servant that opened the door told him, with tears in his eyes, that his father was gone to bed much disordered, and had commanded that he should no more be admitted into that house. He stood motionless a few moments; and than departing without reply, came directly to me; his looks were wild, his countenance pale, and his eyes swimming in tears: the moment he saw me, he threw himself into a chair; and putting a copy of his answer to Ventosus's challenge into my hand, anticipated my enquiries by relating all that had happened.

After having administered such consolation as I could, I prevailed upon him with much difficulty to go to bed. I sat up the rest of the night, devising various arguments to convince Orgilio, that his son had added new dignity to his character. In the morning I went to his house; and after much solicitation was admitted to his chamber. I found him in bed, where he had lain awake all the night; and it was easy to see that his mind was in great agitation. I hoped that this tumult was produced by the struggles of paternal tenderness: but the moment I mentioned his son, he fell into an agony of rage that rendered him speechless; and I came away, convinced the eloquence of an angel upon the same subject would have been without effect. I did not, however, relate these discouraging circumstances to Eugenio: I told him that it would be proper to wait a few days before any farther application was made; not only because his father's resentment would probably subside, but because he was now indisposed. Eugenio, when he heard that his father was ill, changed colour and burst into tears. He went every evening and knocking softly at the ser. vant's window, enquired how he did; and when he found that his fever was become dangerous, he intreated me to go yet once more and intercede for him, that he might at least be permitted to see his father, if he might not hope to be forgiven. I went; but when

« VorigeDoorgaan »