With such sort of polite discourse did the gay Bellarmine entertain his beloved Leonora, when the door opened on a sudden, and Horatio entered the room. Here 'tis impossible to express the surprize of Leonora.
"Poor woman!" says Mrs Slipslop, "what a terrible quandary she must be in!" — "Not at all," says Mrs Grave-airs; "such sluts can never be confounded." — "She must have then more than Corinthian assurance," said Adams; "aye, more than Lais herself."
A long silence, continued the lady, prevailed in the whole company. If the familiar entrance of Horatio struck the greatest astonishment into Bellarmine, the unexpected presence of Bellarmine no less surprized Horatio. At length Leonora, collecting all the spirit she was mistress of, addressed herself to the latter, and pretended to wonder at the reason of so late a visit. "I should indeed," answered he, "have made some apology for disturbing you at this hour, had not my finding you in company assured me I do not break in upon your repose." Bellarmine rose from his chair, traversed the room in a minuet step, and hummed an opera tune, while Horatio, advancing to Leonora, asked her in a whisper if that gentleman was not a relation of hers; to which she answered with a smile, or rather sneer, "No, he is no relation of mine yet;" adding, "she could not guess the meaning of his question." Horatio told her softly, "It did not arise from jealousy." — "Jealousy! I assure you, it would be very strange in a common acquaintance to give himself any of those airs." These words a little surprized Horatio; but, before he had time to answer, Bellarmine danced up to the lady and told her, "He feared he interrupted some business between her and the gentleman." — "I can have no business," said she, "with the gentleman, nor any other, which need be any secret to you."
"You'll pardon me," said Horatio, "if I desire to know who this gentleman is who is to be entrusted with all our secrets." — "You'll know soon enough," cries Leonora; "but I can't guess what secrets can ever pass between us of such mighty consequence." — "No, madam!" cries Horatio; "I am sure you would not have me understand you in earnest." — "'Tis indifferent to me," says she, "how you understand me; but I think so unseasonable a visit is difficult to be understood at all, at least when people find one engaged: though one's servants do not deny one, one may expect a well-bred person should soon take the hint." "Madam," said Horatio, "I did not imagine any engagement with a stranger, as it seems this gentleman is, would have made my visit impertinent, or that any such ceremonies were to be preserved between persons in our situation." "Sure you are in a dream," says she, "or would persuade me that I am in one. I know no pretensions a common acquaintance can have to lay aside the ceremonies of good breeding." "Sure," said he, "I am in a dream; for it is impossible I should be really esteemed a common acquaintance by Leonora, after what has passed between us?" "Passed between us! Do you intend to affront me before this gentleman?" "D — n me, affront the lady," says Bellarmine, cocking his hat, and strutting up to Horatio: "does any man dare affront this lady before me, d — n me?" "Hark'ee, sir," says Horatio, "I would advise you to lay aside that fierce air; for I am mightily deceived if this lady has not a violent desire to get your worship a good drubbing." "Sir," said Bellarmine, "I have the honour to be her protector; and, d — n me, if I understand your meaning." "Sir," answered Horatio, "she is rather your protectress; but give yourself no more airs, for you see I am prepared for you" (shaking his whip at him). "Oh! serviteur tres humble," says Bellarmine: "Je vous entend parfaitment bien." At which time the aunt, who had heard of Horatio's visit, entered the room, and soon satisfied all his doubts. She convinced him that he was never more awake in his life, and that nothing more extraordinary had happened in his three days' absence than a small alteration in the affections of Leonora; who now burst into tears, and wondered what reason she had given him to use her in so barbarous a manner. Horatio desired Bellarmine to withdraw with him; but the ladies prevented it by laying violent hands on the latter; upon which the former took his leave without any great ceremony, and departed, leaving the lady with his rival to consult for his safety, which Leonora feared her indiscretion might have endangered; but the aunt comforted her with assurances that Horatio would not venture his person against so accomplished a cavalier as Bellarmine, and that, being a lawyer, he would seek revenge in his own way, and the most they had to apprehend from him was an action.
They at length therefore agreed to permit Bellarmine to retire to his lodgings, having first settled all matters relating to the journey which he was to undertake in the morning, and their preparations for the nuptials at his return.
But, alas! as wise men have observed, the seat of valour is not the countenance; and many a grave and plain man will, on a just provocation, betake himself to that mischievous metal, cold iron; while men of a fiercer brow, and sometimes with that emblem of courage, a cockade, will more prudently decline it.
Leonora was waked in the morning, from a visionary coach and six, with the dismal account that Bellarmine was run through the body by Horatio; that he lay languishing at an inn, and the surgeons had declared the wound mortal. She immediately leaped out of the bed, danced about the room in a frantic manner, tore her hair and beat her breast in all the agonies of despair; in which sad condition her aunt, who likewise arose at the news, found her. The good old lady applied her utmost art to comfort her niece. She told her, "While there was life there was hope; but that if he should die her affliction would be of no service to Bellarmine, and would only expose herself, which might, probably, keep her some time without any future offer; that, as matters had happened, her wisest way would be to think no more of Bellarmine, but to endeavour to regain the affections of Horatio." "Speak not to me," cried the disconsolate Leonora; "is it not owing to me that poor Bellarmine has lost his life? Have not these cursed charms (at which words she looked steadfastly in the glass) been the ruin of the most charming man of this age? Can I ever bear to contemplate my own face again (with her eyes still fixed on the glass)? Am I not the murderess of the finest gentleman? No other woman in the town could have made any impression on him." "Never think of things past," cries the aunt: "think of regaining the affections of Horatio." "What reason," said the niece, "have I to hope he would forgive me? No, I have lost him as well as the other, and it was your wicked advice which was the occasion of all; you seduced me, contrary to my inclinations, to abandon poor Horatio (at which words she burst into tears); you prevailed upon me, whether I would or no, to give up my affections for him; had it not been for you, Bellarmine never would have entered into my thoughts; had not his addresses been backed by your persuasions, they never would have made any impression on me; I should have defied all the fortune and equipage in the world; but it was you, it was you, who got the better of my youth and simplicity, and forced me to lose my dear Horatio for ever."