No. 491. Tuesday, September 23, 1712. Steele.

Digna satis fortuna revisit.'

It is common with me to run from Book to Book to exercise my Mind with many Objects, and qualify my self for my daily Labours. After an Hour spent in this loitering Way of Reading, something will remain to be Food to the Imagination. The Writings that please me most on such Occasions are Stories, for the Truth of which there is good Authority. The Mind of Man is naturally a Lover of Justice, and when we read a Story wherein a Criminal is overtaken, in whom there is no Quality which is the Object of Pity, the Soul enjoys a certain Revenge for the Offence done to its Nature, in the wicked Actions committed in the preceding Part of the History. This will be better understood by the Reader from the following Narration [1] it self, than from any thing which I can say to introduce it.

When Charles Duke of Burgundy, surnamed The Bold, reigned over spacious Dominions now swallowed up by the Power of France, he heaped many Favours and Honours upon Claudius Rhynsault, a German, who had serv'd him in his Wars against the Insults of his Neighbours. A great part of Zealand was at that time in Subjection to that Dukedom. The Prince himself was a Person of singular Humanity and Justice. Rhynsault, with no other real Quality than Courage, had Dissimulation enough to pass upon his generous and unsuspicious Master for a Person of blunt Honesty and Fidelity, without any Vice that could bias him from the Execution of Justice. His Highness prepossessed to his Advantage, upon the Decease of the Governour of his chief Town of Zealand, gave Rhynsault that Command. He was not long seated in that Government, before he cast his Eyes upon Sapphira, a Woman of Exquisite Beauty, the Wife of Paul Danvelt, a wealthy Merchant of the City under his Protection and Government. Rhynsault was a Man of a warm Constitution, and violent Inclination to Women, and not unskilled in the soft Arts which win their Favour. He knew what it was to enjoy the Satisfactions which are reaped from the Possession of Beauty, but was an utter Stranger to the Decencies, Honours and Delicacies that attend the Passion towards them in elegant Minds. However he had so much of the World, that he had a great share of the Language which usually prevails upon the weaker Part of that Sex, and he could with his Tongue utter a Passion with which his Heart was wholly untouch'd. He was one of those brutal Minds which can be gratified with the Violation of Innocence and Beauty, without the least Pity, Passion or Love to that with which they are so much delighted. Ingratitude is a Vice inseparable to a lustful Man; and the Possession of a Woman by him who has no thought but allaying a Passion painful to himself, is necessarily followed by Distaste and Aversion. Rhynsault being resolv'd to accomplish his Will on the Wife of Danvelt, left no Arts untried to get into a Familiarity at her House; but she knew his Character and Disposition too well, not to shun all Occasions that might ensnare her into his Conversation. The Governor despairing of Success by ordinary Means, apprehended and Imprisoned her Husband, under pretence of an Information that he was guilty of a Correspondence with the Enemies of the Duke, to betray the Town into their Possession. This Design had its desired Effect; and the Wife of the unfortunate Danvelt, the day before that which was appointed for his Execution, presented herself in the Hall of the Governor's House, and as he pass'd thro' the Apartment, threw her self at his Feet, and holding his Knees, beseeched his Mercy. Rhynsault beheld her with a dissembled Satisfaction, and assuming an Air of Thought and Authority, he bid her arise, and told her she must follow him to his Closet; and asking her whether she knew the Hand of the Letter he pulled out of his Pocket, went from her, leaving this Admonition aloud, If you will save your Husband, you must give me an account of all you know without Prevarication; for every body is satisfied he was too fond of you to be able to hide from you the Names of the rest of the Conspirators, or any other Particulars whatsoever. He went to his Closet, and soon after the Lady was sent to for an Audience. The Servant knew his distance when Matters of State were to be debated; and the Governor, laying aside the Air with which he had appear'd in publick, began to be the Supplicant, to rally an Affliction, which it was in her Power easily to remove, and relieve an innocent Man from his Imprisonment. She easily perceiv'd his Intention, and, bathed in Tears, began to deprecate so wicked a Design. Lust, like Ambition, takes all the Faculties of the Mind and Body into its Service and Subjection. Her becoming Tears, her honest Anguish, the wringing of her Hands, and the many Changes of her Posture and Figure in the Vehemence of speaking, were but so many Attitudes in which he beheld her Beauty, and further Incentives of his Desire. All Humanity was lost in that one Appetite, and he signified to her in so many plain Terms, that he was unhappy till he had possess'd her, and nothing less shou'd be the Price of her Husband's Life; and she must, before the following Noon, pronounce the Death or Enlargement of Danvelt. After this Notification, when he saw Sapphira enough again distracted to make the Subject of their Discourse to common Eyes appear different from what it was, he called Servants to conduct her to the Gate. Loaded with insupportable Affliction, she immediately repairs to her Husband, and having signified to his Gaolers, that she had a Proposal to make to her Husband from the Governor, she was left alone with him, reveal'd to him all that had pass'd, and represented the endless Conflict she was in between Love to his Person, and Fidelity to his Bed. It is easie to imagine the sharp Affliction this honest Pair was in upon such an Incident, in Lives not us'd to any but ordinary Occurrences. The Man was bridled by Shame from speaking what his Fear prompted, upon so near an approach of Death; but let fall Words that signify'd to her, he should not think her polluted, though she had not yet confess'd to him that the Governor had violated her Person, since he knew her Will had no part in the Action. She parted from him with this oblique Permission to save a Life he had not Resolution enough to resign for the safety of his Honour.

The next Morning the unhappy Sapphira attended the Governor, and being led into a remote Apartment, submitted to his Desires. Rhynsault commended her Charms, claim'd a Familiarity after what had pass'd between them, and with an Air of Gaiety in the Language of a Gallant, bid her return, and take her Husband out of Prison: But, continu'd he, my Fair one must not be offended that I have taken care he should not be an Interruption to our future Assignations. These last Words foreboded what she found when she came to the Gaol, her Husband executed by the Order of Rhynsault.

It was remarkable that the Woman, who was full of Tears and Lamentations during the whole Course of her Affliction, uttered neither Sigh nor Complaint, but stood fix'd with Grief at this Consummation of her Misfortunes. She betook herself to her abode, and after having in Solitude paid her Devotions to him who is the Avenger of Innocence, she repair'd privately to Court. Her Person and a certain Grandeur of Sorrow negligent of Forms gain'd her Passage into the Presence of the Duke her Sovereign. As soon as she came into the Presence, she broke forth into the following words, Behold, O mighty Charles, a Wretch weary of Life, though it has always been spent with Innocence and Virtue. It is not in your power to redress my Injuries, but it is to avenge them. And if the Protection of the Distress'd, and the Punishment of Oppressors, is a Task worthy a Prince, I bring the Duke of Burgundy ample matter for doing Honour to his own great Name, and wiping Infamy off of mine.

When she had spoke this, she deliver'd the Duke a Paper reciting her Story. He read it with all the Emotions that Indignation and Pity could raise in a Prince jealous of his Honour in the Behaviour of his Officers, and Prosperity of his Subjects.

Upon an appointed Day, Rhynsault was sent for to Court, and in the Presence of a few of the Council, confronted by Sapphira: the Prince asking, Do you know that Lady? Rhynsault, as soon as he could recover his Surprize, told the Duke he would marry her, if his Highness would please to think that a Reparation. The Duke seem'd contented with this Answer, and stood by during the immediate Solemnization of the Ceremony. At the Conclusion of it he told Rhynsault, Thus far have you done as constrain'd by my Authority: I shall not be satisfied of your kind Usage of her, without you sign a Gift of your whole Estate to her after your Decease. To the Performance of this also the Duke was a Witness. When these two Acts were executed, the Duke turn'd to the Lady, and told her, it now remains for me to put you in quiet Possession of what your Husband has so bountifully bestow'd on you; and order'd the immediate Execution of Rhynsault.


[Footnote 1: Founded upon note N to the Memoir of Charles of Burgundy in Bayle's Dictionary, where the authorities cited are Pontus Heuterus and others. It is not in Comines.]

Translation of motto:
VIRG. AEn. iii. 318.
'A just reverse of fortune on him waits.'