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Si non erafet, fecerrat ille minus.—Mart. i. 22.
HAT which we call gallantry to women, seems to
be the heroic virtue of private persons; and there never breathed one man, who did not, in that part of his days wherein he was recommending himself
to his mistress, do fomething beyond his ordinary course of life. As this has a very great effect, even upon the most flow and common men, so, upon such as it finds qualified with virtue and merit, it shines out in proportionable degrees of excellence. It gives new grace to the most eminent accomplishments; and he who of himself has either wit, wisdom, or valour, exerts each of these noble endowments when he becomes a lover, with a certain beauty of action above what was ever observed in him before. And all who are without any one of these qualities, are to be looked upon as the rabble of mankind
I was talking after this manner in a corner of this place with an old acquaintance, who, taking me by the hand, faid, Mr. Bickerstaff, your discourse recalls to my mind a story which I have longed to tell you ever since I read that article, wherein you desire
your friends to give you accounts of obscure merit. The story I had of him is literally true, and well known to be so in the country wherein the circumstances were transacted. He acquainted me with the names of the persons concerned, which I shall change into feigned ones, there being a respect due to their families that are still in being, as well as that the names themselves would not be so familiar to an English ear. The adventure really happened in Denmark; and if I can remember all the passages, I doubt not but it will be as moving to my readers as it was to me.
Clarinda and Chloe, two very fine women, were bred up as sisters in the family of Romeo, who was the father of Chloe and the guardian of Clarinda. Philander, a young gentleman of a good person and a charming conversation, being a friend of old Romeo's, frequented his house, and by that means was much in conversation with the young ladies, though still in the presence of the father and the guardian. The ladies both entertained a fecret passion for him, and could see well enough, notwithstanding the delight which he really took in Romeo's conversation, that there was something more in his heart which made him so affiduous a visitant. Each of them thought herself the happy woman; but the person beloved was Chloe. It happened that both of them were at a play in a carnival evening, when itis the fashion there (as well as in most countries of Europe) both for men and women to appear in masks and disguises. It was on that memorable night in the year 1679, when the playhouse by some unhappy accident was set on fire. Philander, in the first hurry of the disaster, immediately ran where his treasure was, burst open the door of the box, snatched the lady up in his arms and with unspeakable resolution and good fortune carried her off safe. He was no sooner out of the crowd but he fet her down, and grasping her in his arms, with all the raptures of a deserving lover, “How happy am I,” says he, “in an opportunity to tell you I love you more than all things, and of Tewing you the sincerity of my passion at the very first declaration of it.” “My dear, dear Philander,” says the lady, pulling off her mask, “this is not a time for art; you are much dearer to me than the life you have preserved; and the joy of my perfect deliverance does not transport me so much as the passion which occafioned it.” Who can tell the grief, the astonishment, the terror, that appeared in the face of Philander, when he saw the person he spoke to was Clarinda. After a short pause, “ Madam,” says he, with the looks of a dead man, “we are both mistaken,” and immediately flew
away, without hearing the distressed Clarinda, who had just · strength to cry out, “Cruel Philander! Why did you not leave me in the theatre?” Crowds of people immediately gathered about her, and after having brought her to herself, conveyed her to the house of the good, old, unhappy Romeo. Philander was now pressing against a whole tide of people at the doors of the theatre, and striving to enter with more earnestness than any there endeavoured to get out. He did it at last, and with much difficulty forced his way to the box where his beloved Chloe stood, expecting her fate amidst this scene of terror and distraction. She revived at the sight of Philander, who fell about her neck with a tenderness not to be expressed, and amidst a thousand fobs and fighs told her his love and his dreadful mistake. The stage was now in flames and the whole house full of fmoke; the entrance was quite barred up with heaps of people, who had fallen upon one another as they endeavoured to get out; swords were drawn, shrieks heard on all sides, and in short, no possibility of an escape for Philander himself, had he been capable of making it without his Chloe. But his mind was above such a thought and wholly employed in weeping, condoling, and comforting. He catches her in his arms, The fire surrounds them, while --I cannot go on
Were I an infidel, misfortunes like this would convince me that there must be a hereafter; for who can believe, that so much virtue could meet with so
great distress without a following reward. As for my part I am so old-fashioned, as firmly to believe, that all who perish in such generous enterprises, are relieved from the further exercise of life; and Providence, which sees their vistue consummate and manifest, takes them to an immediate reward, in a being more suitable to the grandeur of their spirits. What else can wipe away our tears, when we contemplate such undeserved, such irreparable distresses ? It was a sublime thought in some of the heathens of old:
Quæ gratia currúm