Pagina:Baretti - Prefazioni e polemiche.djvu/351



was little better than a string of paltry lies of her own invention? And indeed, how could I play the tyrant where I had no manner of dominion? how could I keep her daughters in captivity where there was no jail? and how could I be rude and cynical to a woman of boldness, who, without going one inch from her right, had but to desire me to quit her house to be instantly obeyed? These are unanswerable objections to her assertions. I should think, nevertheless, her suppression of her own letter takes from me ali power of confuting with due positiveness her absurd accusations; and I cannot plead any other thing against them, but the impossibility of their being founded on truth. With safety, however, can I appeal to her daughters themselves, and challenge them to bear witness to my fond affection to them ali, as I never loved children so much as I did them; which I even hope they will long remember with some small degree of gratitude. The tyrant over them, and they know it, was not Baratti, but their mother herself, who brought them up with such severity of discipline, as not to suffer them even to speak in her presence, but when absolutely commanded.

To give some faint idea of her rare method of education, the shortest way will be to teli a fact or two, that I make almost sure she will not be frontless enough to deny, if she is not quite lost to ali sense of shame; though any reliance on her sense of shame be but a precarious tenure, considering how long she has been habituated in the foul practice of boldly opposing her falsehoods to any truth, be it ever so glaring and conspicuous.

The house at Streatham, where we then were, was partly surrounded by a narrow pleasure-ground, beyond which there was a spacious grass fíeld. The ground was separated from the fíeld by what they term a «Ha-ha», over which stood a kind of draw-bridge that was easily raised or lowered. The young ladies were strictly forbidden by their mamma to lower the draw-bridge and go over into the field. It happened one afternoon, that I invited them to walk into that field with me, as I was then quite ignorant of the formidable prohibition.