I am the more severe upon this Vice, because I have been so unfortunate as to be a very great Criminal my self. Sir ANDREW FREEPORT, and all other my Friends who are scrupulous to Promises of the meanest Consideration imaginable from an Habit of Virtue that way, have often upbraided me with it. I take Shame upon my self for this Crime, and more particularly for the greatest I ever committed of the Sort, that when as agreeable a Company of Gentlemen and Ladies as ever were got together, and I forsooth, Mr. SPECTATOR, to be of the Party with Women of Merit, like a Booby as I was, mistook the time of Meeting, and came the Night following. I wish every Fool who is negligent in this Kind, may have as great a Loss as I had in this; for the same Company will never meet more, but are dispersed into various Parts of the World, and I am left under the Compunction that I deserve, in so many different Places to be called a Trifler.
This Fault is sometimes to be accounted for, when desirable People are fearful of appearing precious and reserved by Denials; but they will find the Apprehension of that Imputation will betray them into a childish Impotence of Mind, and make them promise all who are so kind to ask it of them. This leads such soft Creatures into the Misfortune of seeming to return Overtures of Good-will with Ingratitude. The first Steps in the Breach of a Man’s Integrity are much more important than Men are aware of. The Man who scruples breaking his Word in little Things would not suffer in his own Conscience so great Pain for Failures of Consequence, as he who thinks every little Offence against Truth and Justice a Disparagement. We should not make any thing we our selves disapprove habitual to us, if we would be sure of our Integrity.
I remember a Falshood of the trivial Sort, tho’ not in relation to Assignations, that exposed a Man to a very uneasie Adventure. Will. Trap and Jack Stint were Chamber-fellows in the Inner-Temple about 25 Years ago. They one Night sate in the Pit together at a Comedy, where they both observed and liked the same young Woman in the Boxes. Their Kindness for her entered both Hearts deeper than they imagined. Stint had a good Faculty at writing Letters of Love, and made his Address privately that way; while Trap proceeded in the ordinary Course, by Money and her Waiting-Maid. The Lady gave them both Encouragement, receiving Trap into the utmost Favour, and answering at the same time Stint’s Letters, and giving him appointments at third Places. Trap began to suspect the Epistolary Correspondence of his Friend, and discovered also that Stint opened all his Letters which came to their common Lodgings, in order to form his own Assignations. After much Anxiety and Restlessness, Trap came to a Resolution, which he thought would break off their Commerce with one another without any hazardous Explanation. He therefore writ a Letter in a feigned Hand to Mr. Trap at his Chambers in the Temple. Stint, according to Custom, seized and opened it, and was not a little surpriz’d to find the Inside directed to himself, when, with great Perturbation of Spirit, he read as follows.