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Chapter 75

He prosecutes his Design upon Emilia with great Art and Perseverance.

Our adventurer, having by his hypocrisy obtained free access to his mistress, began the siege by professing the most sincere contrition for his former levity, and imploring her forgiveness with such earnest supplication, that, guarded as she was against his flattering arts, she began to believe his protestations, which were even accompanied with tears, and abated a good deal of that severity and distance she had proposed to maintain during this interview. She would not, however, favour him with the least acknowledgment of a mutual passion, because, in the midst of his vows of eternal constancy and truth, he did not mention one syllable of wedlock, though he was now entirely master of his own conduct, and this consideration created a doubt, which fortified her against all his attacks. Yet, what her discretion would have concealed, was discovered by her eyes, which, in spite of all her endeavours, breathed forth complacency and love; for her inclination was flattered by her own self-sufficiency, which imputed her admirer’s silence in that particular to the hurry and perturbation of his spirits, and persuaded her that he could not possibly regard her with any other than honourable intentions.

The insidious lover exulted in the tenderness of her looks, from which he presaged a complete victory; but, that he might not overshoot himself by his own precipitation, he would not run the risk of declaring himself, until her heart should be so far entangled within his snares, as that neither the suggestions of honour, prudence, nor pride, should be able to disengage it. Armed with this resolution, he restrained the impatience of his temper within the limits of the most delicate deportment. After having solicited and obtained permission to attend her to the next opera, he took her by the hand, and, pressing it to his lips, in the most respectful manner, went away, leaving her in a most whimsical state of suspense, chequered with an interesting vicissitude of hope and fear. On the appointed day, he appeared again about five o’clock in the afternoon, and found her native charms so much improved by the advantages of dress, that he was transported with admiration and delight; and, while he conducted her to the Haymarket, could scarce bridle the impetuosity of his passion, so as to observe the forbearing maxims he had adopted. When she entered the pit, he had abundance of food for the gratification of his vanity; for, in a moment, she eclipsed all the female part of the audience; each individual allowing in her own heart that the stranger was by far the handsomest woman there present, except herself.

Here it was that our hero enjoyed a double triumph; he was vain of this opportunity to enhance his reputation for gallantry among the ladies of fashion who knew him, and proud of an occasion to display his quality acquaintance to Emilia, that she might entertain the greater idea of the conquest she had made, and pay the more deference to his importance in the sequel of his addresses. That he might profit as much as possible by this situation, he went up and accosted every person in the pit, with whom he ever had least communication, whispered and laughed with an affected air of familiarity, and even bowed at a distance to some of the nobility, on the slender foundation of having stood near them at court, or presented them with a pinch of rappee at White’s chocolate-house.

This ridiculous ostentation, though now practised with a view of promoting his design, was a weakness that, in some degree, infected the whole of his behaviour; for nothing gave him so much joy in conversation, as an opportunity of giving the company to understand how well he was with persons of distinguished rank and character. He would often, for example, observe, as it were occasionally, that the Duke of G— was one of the best-natured men in the world, and illustrate this assertion by some instance of his affability, in which he himself was concerned. Then, by an abrupt transition, he would repeat some repartee of Lady T—, and mention a certain bon mot of the Earl of C—, which was uttered in his hearing.

Abundance of young men in this manner make free with the names, though they have never had access to the persons of the nobility; but this was not the case with Peregrine, who, in consideration of his appear............

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