Summary and Analysis
Leonora, eighteen years old, was the daughter of a gentleman of fortune and now lived with an aunt. Vivacious and vain, she rarely missed a ball or other public meeting and had singled out a young gentleman, Horatio, from her many admirers at these gatherings. Horatio, handsome and dignified, eventually brought himself to ask for her hand, and Leonora accepted. The lady recounting the tale then recites from memory an exchange of letters in which the tenderest affections are expressed; indeed, everything was in "such great forwardness" that the wedding date was fixed and was now but a fortnight away. At this time, Horatio, who was a barrister, went off to the county sessions; meanwhile, Leonora, at home, spied a coach and six passing by her window and declared: "O, I am in love with that equipage!" Bellarmine, the owner of the coach and six and lately arrived from Paris, arrived in all his French finery at an assembly held that evening. He was immediately impressed by Leonora's beauty. As for Leonora, she had earlier decided not to dance in Horatio's absence. But her head was quite turned by the handsome and wealthy Bellarmine, and she danced with him the whole night. The next afternoon Bellarmine proposed to Leonora. Thoughts of Horatio worried at her conscience for a little while, but her aunt soon put a stop to her vacillations: "I assure you there is not anything worth our regard besides money." That evening Leonora and Bellarmine were at dinner, and Bellarmine was holding forth about his fancy clothes when without warning — Horatio entered. To his utter surprise, he found himself treated by Leonora as no more than a "common acquaintance," while Bellarmine hummed an opera tune and strolled around the room in a minuet step. Leonora upbraided Horatio, only to discover that her "protector" quickly wilted before the real courage of Horatio. The aunt entered then and appraised Horatio of the true state of affairs, whereupon he demanded satisfaction from Bellarmine. This was temporarily forestalled by the ladies, but Leonora awakened next morning to the dismal news that Bellarmine had been mortally wounded by Horatio. While Leonora assumed various frantic poses of grief, her aunt prudently advised her to make up with Horatio, but this only caused a bout of recrimination between the two ladies. A letter arrived shortly from Bellarmine; there was nothing mortal about his wound. Leonora's remorse immediately vanished, and she resolved to visit Bellarmine despite her aunt's advice not to overplay her hand. Just at that moment, the coach much to the disappointment of the insatiably curious Adams arrives at an inn.