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vilest and most abandoned of men !—Stop where thou art!—Nor, with that determined face, offer to touch me, if thou wouldst not that I should be a corpse at thy feet!'
To my astonishment, she held forth a penknife in her hand, the point to her own bosom, grasping resolutely the whole handle, so that there was no offering to take it from her.
'I offer not mischief to any body but myself. You, sir, and ye women, are safe from every violence of mine. The Law shall be all my resource: the LAW,' and she spoke the word with emphasis, that to such people carries natural terror with it, and now struck a panic into them.
No wonder, since those who will damn themselves to procure ease and plenty in this world, will tremble at every thing that seems to threatens their methods of obtaining that ease and plenty.
'The LAW only shall be my refuge!'——
The infamous mother whispered me, that it were better to make terms with this strange lady, and let her go.
Sally, notwithstanding all her impudent bravery at other times, said, If 'Mr. Lovelace had told them what was not true of her being his wife—
And Polly Horton, that she must needs say, the lady, if she were not my wife, had been very much injured; that was all.
That is not now a matter to be disputed, cried I: you and I know, madam
'We do,—said she j and I thank God, I am not thine—once more I thank God for it—I have no doubt of the further baseness that thou hast intended me, by this vile and low trick: but I have my Senses, Lovelace: and from my heart I despise thee, thou very poor Lovelace !—How canst thou stand in my presence? thou, that'——
Madam, madam, madam—these are insults not to be borne—and was approaching her.
She withdrew to the door, and set her back against it, holding the pointed knife to her heaving bosom; while the women held me, beseeching me not to provoke the violent lady—for their house sake, and be curs'd to them, they besought me— and all three hung upon me—while the truly heroic lady, braved me, at that distance.
'Approach me, Lovelace with resentment, if thou wilt. I dare die. It is in defence of my honour. God will be merciful to my poor soul! I expect no mercy from thee! I have gained this distance, and two steps nearer me, and thou shalt
see what I dare do!'
Leave me, women, to myself, and to my angel;— They retired at a distance—O my beloved creature, how you terrify me !—Holding out my arms, and kneeling on one knee—Not a step, not a step further, except to receive my death at that injured hand which is thus held up against a life far dearer to me than my own! I am a villain! the blackest of villains—Say you will sheath your knife in the injurer's, not the injured's heart, and then I will indeed approach you, but not else.
The mother twang'd her d—n'd nose; and Sally and Polly pulled out their handkerchiefs, and turned from us. They never in their lives, they
told me afterwards, beheld such a scene
Innocence so triumphant: villany so debased, they must mean!
Unawares to myself, I had moved onward to my angel;—' And dost thou, dost thou, still disclaiming, still advancing—dost thou, dost thou, still insidiously move towards me?' [and her hand was extended] I dare—I dare—not rashly neither—my heart from principle abhors the act, which thou wiakest necessary!—God in thy mercy; [lifting up her eyes and hands] God, in thy mercy!'
I threw myself to the further end of the room. An ejaculation, a silent ejaculation, employing her thoughts that moment! Polly says the whites of her lovely eyes were only visible: and, in the instant that she extended her hand, assuredly to strike the fatal blow [how the very recital terrifies me!J she cast her eye towards me, and saw me, at the utmost distance the room would allow, and heard my broken voice—my voice was utterly broken; nor knew I what I said, or whether to the purpose or not—and her charming cheeks, that , were all in a glow before, turned pale, as if terrified at her own purpose; and, lifting up her eyes— 'Thank God!—Thank God! said the angel—delivered for the present; for the present delivered—' from myself—keep, sir, keep that distance,' [looking down towards me, who was prostrate on the floor, my heart pierced, as with a hundred daggers:] 'that distance has saved a life: to what reserved, the Almighty only knows!'—
To be happy, madam; and to make happy !— And O let me but hope for your favour for tomorrow—I will put off my journey till then—and may God—
Swear not, sir!—with an awful and piercing aspect—you have too, too often sworn!—God's eye is upon us!—His more immediate eye; and looked wildly.—But the women looked up to the ceiling, as if afraid of God's eye, and trembled. And well they might; and I too, who so very lately had each of us the devil in our hearts.
If not to-morrow, madam, say but next Thursday, your uncle's birth-day, say but next Thursday!
• This I say, of this you may assure yourself,
VOL. VI. H
never, never will be yours.—And let me hope, that 1 may be entitled to the performance of your promise, to be permitted to leave this innocent house, as one called it (but long have my ears been accustomed to such inversions of words) as soon as the day breaks.'
Did my perdition depend upon it, that you cannot, madam, but upon terms. And I hope you will not terrify me—still dreading the accursed knife.
'Nothing less than an attempt upon my honour shall make me desperate. I have no view but to defend my honour: with such a view only I entered into treaty with your infamous agent below. The resolution you have seen, I trust, God will give me again, upon the same occasion. But for a less, I wish not for it.—Only take notice, women, that I am no wife of this man: basely as he has used me, I am not his wife. He has no authority over me. If he go away by and by, and you act by his authority to detain me, look to it.
Then, taking one of the lights, she turned from us; and away she went unmolested.—Not a soul was able to molest her.
Mabell saw her, tremblingly, and in a hurry, take the key of her chamber-door out of her pocket, and unlock it; and, as soon as she entered, heard her double-lock, bar, and bolt it.
By her taking out her key, when she came out of her chamber to us, she no doubt suspected my design: which was, to have carried her in my arms thither, if she made such force necessary, after I had intimidated her; and to have been her companion for that night.
She was to have had several bed-chamber-women to assist to undress her upon occasion: but from the moment she entered the dining-room with so much intrepidity, it was absolutely impossible to think of prosecuting my villainous designs against feer.
# * #
This, this, Belford, was the hand I made of a contrivance from which I expected so much!— And now I am ten times worse off than before.
Thou never sawest people in thy life look so like fools upon one another, as the mother, her partners, and I did, for a few minutes. And at last, the two devilish nymphs broke out into insulting ridicule upon me; while the old wretch was concerned for her house, the reputation of her house. I cursed them altogether; and, retiring to my chamber, locked myself in.
And now it is time to set out: all I have gained, detection, disgrace, fresh guilt by repeated perjuries, and to be despised by her I doat upon; and what is still worse to a proud heart, by myself.
.Success, success in projects, is every thing. What an admirable contriver did I think myself till now! even for this scheme among the rest! But how pitifully foolish does it now appear to me! —Scratch out, erase, never to be read, every part of my preceding letters, where I have boastingly mentioned it. And never presume to rally me upon the cursed subject: for I cannot bear it.
But for the lady, by my soul, I love her. I admire her, more than ever! I must have her. I will have her still—with honour or without, as I have often vowed. My cursed fright at her accidental bloody nose, so lately, put her upon improving upon me thus. Had she threatened ME, I should soon have been master of one arm, and in both! But for so sincere a virtue to threaten herself, and not to offer to intimidate any other, and with so much presence of mind, as to distinguish, in the very passionate intention, the necessity of the act,