“At length my friend was removed from me, and I was again left to my solitude, to the tormenting conversation with my own reflections, and to apply to books for my only comfort. I now read almost all day long.—How many books do you think I read in three months?” “I can’t guess, indeed, cousin, answered Sophia. “Perhaps half a score.” “Half a score! half a thousand, child!” answered the other. “I read a good deal in Daniel’s English History of France; a great deal in Plutarch’s Lives, the Atalantis, Pope’s Homer, Dryden’s Plays, Chillingworth, the Countess D’Aulnois, and Locke’s Human Understanding.

“During this interval I wrote three very supplicating, and, I thought, moving letters to my aunt; but, as I received no answer to any of them, my disdain would not suffer me to continue my application.” Here she stopt, and, looking earnestly at Sophia, said, “Methinks, my dear, I read something in your eyes which reproaches me of a neglect in another place, where I should have met with a kinder return.” “Indeed, dear Harriet,” answered Sophia, “your story is an apology for any neglect; but, indeed, I feel that I have been guilty of a remissness, without so good an excuse.—Yet pray proceed; for I long, though I tremble, to hear the end.”

Thus, then, Mrs. Fitzpatrick resumed her narrative:—“My husband now took a second journey to England, where he continued upwards of three months; during the greater part of this time I led a life which nothing but having led a worse could make me think tolerable; for perfect solitude can never be reconciled to a social mind, like mine, but when it relieves you from the company of those you hate. What added to my wretchedness was the loss of my little infant: not that I pretend to have had for it that extravagant tenderness of which I believe I might have been capable under other circumstances; but I resolved, in every instance, to discharge the duty of the tenderest mother; and this care prevented me from feeling the weight of that heaviest of all things, when it can be at all said to lie heavy on our hands.

“I had spent full ten weeks almost entirely by myself, having seen nobody all that time, except my servants and a very few visitors, when a young lady, a relation to my husband, came from a distant part of Ireland to visit me. She had staid once before a week at my house, and then I gave her a pressing invitation to return; for she was a very agreeable woman, and had improved good natural parts by a proper education. Indeed, she was to me a welcome guest.

“A few days after her arrival, perceiving me in very low spirits, without enquiring the cause, which, indeed, she very well knew, the young lady fell to compassionating my case. She said, ‘Though politeness had prevented me from complaining to my husband’s relations of his behaviour, yet they all were very sensible of it, and felt great concern upon that account; but none more than herself.’ And after some more general discourse on this head, which I own I could not forbear countenancing, at last, after much previous precaution and enjoined concealment, she communicated to me, as a profound secret—that my husband kept a mistress.

“You will certainly imagine I heard this news with the utmost insensibility—Upon my word, if you do, your imagination will mislead you. Contempt had not so kept down my anger to my husband, but that hatred rose again on this occasion. What can be the reason of this? Are we so abominably selfish, that we can be concerned at others having possession even of what we despise? or are we not rather abominably vain, and is not this the greatest injury done to our vanity? What think you, Sophia?”

“I don’t know, indeed,” answered Sophia; “I have never troubled myself with any of these deep contemplations; but I think the lady did very ill in communicating to you such a secret.”

“And yet, my dear, this conduct is natural,” replied Mrs. Fitzpatrick; “and, when you have seen and read as much as myself, you will acknowledge it to be so.”

“I am sorry to hear it is natural,” returned Sophia; “for I want neither reading nor experience to convince me that it is very dishonourable and very ill-natured: nay, it is surely as ill-bred to tell a husband or wife of the faults of each other as to tell them of their own.”

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