Capítulo XII
Nueva aventura

Apenas estuvo nuestra heroína quince días en Londres, cuando empezó a experimentar los efectos del aire grosero y ahumado de aquella ciudad. Deteriorose su salud y la propuso su tío llevarla a Richemont, donde alquiló una casa cómoda y agradable159. Como había poco tiempo que Carlota disfrutaba los placeres de la capital, no se ofreció a acompañar a su prima, pero sí a hacerla cuantas visitas pudiese. El barón, que trataba en negocios que lo detenían en Londres, resolvió enviar a Arabela con el mayordomo y con criadas seguras que la cuidasen bien, ya que no permitía la decencia que fuese a vivir con ella Glanville, quien la acompañó hasta su destino y después la visitó diariamente. Y como esperaba la vuelta de la condesa de ***, de quien esperaba la curación moral de su prima, fomentó en esta la idea de que los aires de Richemont eran necesarios a su salud, además de que, como la estación era todavía benigna, no faltaba gente que hiciese gustosa aquella morada. Arabela recibió las visitas de todas las damas y sufrió, como extranjera, rigoroso examen: las personas de cierta edad hacían por conciliar sus perfecciones con sus rarezas, pero las jóvenes no la perdonaban su hermosura. Pocas mujeres halló Arabela con quien poder entrar en conversación y ninguna Clelia, Estatira ni Mandana, pues todas eran Carlotas. El único placer que disfrutaba nuestra heroína era el de pasearse por el campo. Una tarde oyó, a las inmediaciones de un bosquecillo, unos doloridos acentos y vio, a corta distancia, a dos mujeres sentadas bajo un árbol: la una de ellas se enjugaba las lágrimas con un pañuelo y, a cada instante, exhalaba suspiros, arrancados a fuerza del más amargo dolor. Esta aventura, más verisímil que ninguna de las que hasta entonces había experimentado nuestra hermosa visionaria, la agitó mucho. Hizo señas a Lucía para que callara y prestó atento oído a este monólogo.

—Pérfido Ariamenes, a quien he amado tanto, por desgracia mía, ¿no tendré jamás valor para aborrecerte?... Ya, pues que el cielo y tu ingratitud han determinado que no nos uniésemos, y ya que mis más lisonjeras esperanzas se frustraron, olvida para siempre aquellos inocentes favores que se han convertido en criminales por tu inconstancia… vuélveme aquellos sagrados testimonios de nuestro amor… y el corazón que todavía posees a pesar de tu infidelidad.

Enternecida Arabela hasta llorar, se mostró a la desconocida, que tuvo la precaución de taparse el rostro. Arabela la suplicó tiernamente que la contase sus desgracias.

—No creáis, bella incógnita160 –la dijo–, que sea una mera curiosidad la que me obligue a pediros esta fineza. Vuestras quejas han promovido en mi alma sentimientos de mucha compasión. p. 223

—¡Ay! –respondió la que se quejaba, con ademán tímido–. Creía yo estar sola en una soledad como esta…, pero tengo que corresponder a lo que os dignáis interesaros por mi suerte y no vacilo en depositar en vuestro pecho secretos relativos a lo que indiscretamente proferí.

Arabela la aseguró de que no abusaría de su confianza, mandó a Lucía que se incorporara con las otras criadas y, sentada bajo un árbol con la dolorida, oyó la siguiente historia.

159 Richmond, localidad en el suroeste de Londres que actualmente ya forma parte del llamado Greater London, surcada por el Támesis y famosa por su palacio que fue residencia real y por el parque donde antaño cazaban ciervos los monarcas ingleses.

160 ‘bella desconocida’.

Chapter III
In which Arabella meets with another admirable adventure.

Our lovely heroine had not been above a fortnight in London before the gross air of that smoky town affected her health so much that Sir Charles proposed to her to go for a few weeks to Richmond, where he hired a house elegantly furnished for her reception.

Miss Glanville had been too long out of that darling city to pay her the compliment of attending her constantly at Richmond; yet she promised to be as often as possible with her. And Sir Charles, having affairs that could not dispense with his absence from town, placed his steward in her house, being a person whose prudence and fidelity he could rely upon; and he, with her women, and some other* menial servants, made up her equipage.

As it was not consistent with decorum for Mr. Glanville to reside in her house, he contented himself with riding to Richmond generally [257] every day. And as long as Arabella was pleased with that retirement, he resolved not to press her return to town till the countess of … arrived, in whose conversation he grounded all his hopes of her cure.

At that season of the year Richmond not being quite deserted by company, Arabella was visited by several ladies of fashion, who charmed with her affability, politeness and good sense were strangely perplexed how to account for some peculiarities in her dress and manner of thinking.

Some of the younger sort, from whom Arabella’s extraordinary beauty took away all pretensions to equality on that score, made themselves extremely merry with her ‘oddnesses,’ as they called them, and gave broad intimations that her head was not right.

As for Arabella, whose taste was as delicate, sentiments as refined, and judgment as clear as any person’s could be who believed the authenticity of Scudery’s romances, she was strangely disappointed to find no lady with whom she could converse with any tolerable pleasure. And that instead of Clelias, Statiras, Mandanas, etcetera she found only Miss Glanvilles* among all she knew.

The comparison she drew between such as these and the charming countess of …, whom she had just begun to be acquainted with at Bath, increased her regret for the interruption that was given to so agreeable a friendship. And it was with infinite pleasure Mr. Glanville heard her repeatedly wish for the arrival of that admirable lady (as she always called her) in town.

[258] Not being able to relish the insipid conversation of the young ladies that visited her at Richmond, her chief amusement was to walk in the park there, which, because of its rural privacy, was extremely agreeable to her inclinations.

Here she indulged contemplation, leaning on the arm of her faithful Lucy, while her other women walked at some distance behind her, and two men servants kept her always in sight.p. 310

One evening when she was returning from her usual walk, she heard the sound of a woman’s voice, which seemed to proceed from a tuft of trees that hid her from her view. And stopping a moment, distinguished some plaintive accents, which increasing her curiosity, she advanced towards the place, telling Lucy she was resolved if possible to discover who the distressed lady was, and what was the subject of her affliction.

As she drew nearer with softly treading steps, she could distinguish through the branches of the trees, now despoiled of great part of their leaves, two women seated on the ground, their backs towards her, and one of them, with her head gently reclined on the other’s shoulder, seemed by her mournful action to be weeping; for she often put her handkerchief to her eyes, breathing every time a sigh, which, as Arabella phrased it, seemed to proceed from the deepest recesses of her heart.

This adventure, more worthy indeed to be styled an adventure than all our fair heroine had ever yet met with, and so conformable to what she had read in romances, filled her heart with eager expectation. She made a sign to [259] Lucy to make no noise, and creeping still closer towards the place where this afflicted person sat, she heard her distinctly utter these words, which however were often interrupted with her sighs.

“Ah! Ariamenes, whom I to my misfortune have too much loved, and whom to my misfortune I fear I shall never sufficiently hate, since that heaven and thy cruel ingratitude hath ordained that thou shalt never be mine, and that so many sweet and dear hopes are forever taken from me, return me at least, ungrateful man, return me those testimonies of my innocent affection, which were sometimes so dear and precious to thee. Return me those favours, which all innocent as they were, are become criminal by thy crime. Return me, cruel man, return me those relics of my heart which thou detainest in despite of me, and which, notwithstanding thy infidelity, I cannot recover.”

Here her tears interrupting her speech, Arabella being impatient to know the history of this afflicted person came softly round to the other side, and showing herself, occasioned some disturbance to the sad unknown, who, rising from her seat, with her face averted (as if ashamed of having so far disclosed her sorrows in a stranger’s hearing), endeavoured to pass by her unnoticed.

Arabella, perceiving her design, stopped her with a very graceful action, and, with a voice all composed of sweetness, earnestly conjured her to relate her history.

[260] “Think not, lovely unknown,” said she, (for she was really very pretty) “that my endeavours to detain you proceed from an indiscreet curiosity. It is true some complaints which have fallen from your fair mouth have raised in me a desire to be acquainted with your adventures; but this desire has its foundation in that compassion your complaints have filled me with. And if I wish to know your misfortunes, it is only with a view of affording you some consolation.”

“Pardon me, madam,” said the fair afflicted, gazing on Arabella with many signs of admiration, “if my confusion at being overheard in a place I had chosen to bewail my misfortunes made me be guilty of some appearance of rudeness, not seeing the admirable person I wanted to avoid. But,” pursued she, hesitating a little, “those characters of beauty I behold in your face, and the gracefulness of your deportment* convincing me you can be of no ordinary rank, I will the less scruple to acquaint you with my adventures, and the cause of those complaints you have heard proceed from my mouth.”

Arabella assuring her that, whatever her misfortunes were, she might depend upon all the assistance in her power, seated herself near her at the foot of the tree where she had been sitting, and giving Lucy orders to join the rest of her women, and stay at a distance till she made a sign to them to advance, she prepared to listen to the adventures of the fair unknown, who, after some little pause, began to relate them in this manner.

isome other] two or three other, 1752 (1st).

iiMiss Glanvilles] Miss Glanville, 1752 (1st).

iiideportment] Behaviour.