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into tears, turned back, and went up to her chamber: and Dorcas was taken to task for suffering her to be in the passage before she was seen.
This shows, as we hoped last night, that she is recovering her charming intellects.
Dorcas says she was visible to her but once before, the whole day; and then seemed very solemn and sedate.
I will endeavour to see her. It must be in her own chamber, I suppose; for she will hardly meet me in the dining-room. What advantage will the confidence of our sex give me over the modesty of hers, if she be recovered! —I, the most confident of men: she, the most delicate of women. Sweet soul! methinks, I have her before me: her face averted: speech lost in sighs—abashed—conscious —what a triumphant aspect will this give me, when I gaze in her downcast countenance!
Here she comes!
Never blame me for giving way to have art used with this admirable creature. All the princes of the air, or beneath it, joining with me, could never have subdued her while she had her senses.
I will not anticipate—only to tell thee, that I am too much awakened by her to think of sleep, were I to go to bed; and so shall have nothing to do, but to write an account of our odd conversation, while it is so strong upon my mind that I can think of nothing else.
She was dressed in a white damask night-gown, with less negligence than for some days past. I was sitting with my pen in my fingers ; and stood up when I first saw her, with great complaisance, as if the day was still her own. And so indeed it is.
She entered with such dignity in her manner, as struck me with great awe, and prepared me for the poor figure I made in the subsequent conversation. A poor figure indeed!—But I will do her justice.
She came up with quick steps, pretty close to me; a white handkerchief in her hand; her eyes neither fierce nor mild, but very earnest; and a fixed sedateness in her whole aspect, which seemed to be the effect of deep contemplation: and thus she accosted me, with an air and action that I never saw equalled.
You see before you, sir, the wretch, whose preference of you to all your sex you have rewarded—as it indeed deserved to be rewarded. My father's dreadful curse has already operated upon me in the very letter of it, as to this life; and it seems to me too evident, that it will not be your fault, that it is not entirely completed in the loss of my soul, as well as of my honour—which you, villanous man! have robbed me of, with a baseness so unnatural, so inhuman, that, it seems, you, even you, had not the heart to attempt it, till my senses were made the previous sacrifice.
Here I made an hesitating effort to speak, laying down my pen: but she proceeded :—hear me out, guilty wretch! —abandoned man!—man did I say ?—Yet what name else can I? since the mortal worryings of the fiercest beast would have been more natural, and infinitely more welcome, than what you have acted by me; and that with a premeditation and contrivance worthy only of that single heart, which now, base as well as ungrateful as thou art, seems to quake within thee.—And well mayest thou quake; well mayest thou tremble and falter, and hesitate, as thou dost, when thou reflectest upon what I have suffered for- thy sake, and upon the returns thou hast made me!
By my soul, Belford, my whole frame was shaken: for not only her looks, and her action, but her voice, so solemn, was inexpressibly affecting : and then my cursed guilt, and her innocence, and merit, and rank, and superiority of talents, all stared me at that instant in the face so formidably, that my present account, to which she unex
pectedly called me, seemed, as I then thought, to resemble that general one, to which we are told we shall be summoned, when our conscience shall be our accuser.
My dear—my love—I—I—I never—no never—lips trembling, limbs quaking, voice inward, hesitating, broken —never surely did miscreant look so like a miscreant! While thus she proceeded, waving her snowy hand, with all the graces of moving oratory.
I have no pride in the confusion visible in thy whole person. I have been all the day praying for a composure, if I could not escape from this vile house, that should once more enable me to look up to my destroyer with the consciousness of an innocent sufferer. Thou seest me, since my wrongs are beyond the power of words to express, thou seest me, calm enough to wish, that thou mayest continue harassed by the workings of thy own conscience, till effectual repentance take hold of thee, that so thou mayest not forfeit all title to that mercy which thou hast not shown to the poor creature now before thee, who had so well deserved to meet with a faithful friend, where she met with the worst of enemies.
But tell me (for no doubt thou hast some scheme to pursue), tell me, since I am a prisoner, as I find, in the vilest of houses, and have not a friend to protect or save me, what thou intendest shall become of the remnant of a life not worth the keeping? Tell me, if yet there are more evils reserved for me; and whether thou hast entered into a compact with the grand deceiver, in the person of his horrid agent in this house; and if the ruin of my soul, that my father's curse may be fulfilled, is to complete the triumphs of so vile a confederacy 1—Answer me!— Say, if thou hast courage to speak out to her whom thou hast ruined, tell me what further I am to suffer from thy barbarity?
She stopped here: and, sighing, turned her sweet face from me, drying up with her handkerchief those tears which she endeavoured to restrain; and, when she could not, to conceal from my sight.
As I told thee, I had prepared myself for high passions, raving, flying, tearing, execration: these transient violences, the workings of sudden grief, and shame, and vengeance, would have set us upon a par with each other, and quitted scores. These have I been accustomed to; and, as nothing violent is lasting, with these I could have wished to encounter. But such a majestic composure— seeking me—whom yet, it is plain, by her attempt to get away, she would have avoided seeing—no Lucretia-like vengeance upon herself in her thought—yet swallowed up, her whole mind swallowed up, as I may say, by a grief so heavy, as, in her own words, to be beyond the power of speech to express—and to be able, discomposed as she was, to the very morning, to put such a home-question to me, as if she had penetrated my future view—how could I avoid looking like a fool, and answering, as before, in broken sentences, and confusion?
What—what-a—what has been done—I, I, I—cannot
but say—must own—must confess—hem—hem is not
right—is not what should have been—but-a—but—but— I am truly—truly—sorry for it—upon my soul I am—and —and—will do all—do everything—do what—whatever is incumbent upon me—all that you—that you—that you shall require, to make you amends!—
O Belford! Belford! Whose the triumph now !—hers, or mine?
Amends! O thou truly despicable wretch !—Then, lifting up her eyes—good heaven! who shall pity the creature who could fall by so base a mind!—Yet—and then she looked indignantly upon me—yet, I hate thee not (base and low-souled as thou art!) half so much as I hate myself, that I saw thee not sooner in thy proper colours !— That I hoped either morality, gratitude, or humanity, from a libertine, who, to be a libertine, must have got over and defied all moral sanctions.
She then called upon her cousin Morden's name, as if he had warned her against a man of free principles; and walked towards the window; her handkerchief at her eyes; but, turning short towards me, with an air of mingled scorn and majesty—(what, at the moment, would I have given never to have injured her!) what amends hast thou to propose !—what amends can such a one as thou make to a person of spirit, or common sense, for the evils thou hast so inhumanly made me suffer 1
As soon, madam—as soon—as—as soon as your uncle —or—not waiting—
Thou wouldst tell me, I suppose—I know what thou wouldst tell me—but thinkest thou, that marriage will satisfy for a guilt like thine? Destitute as thou hast made me both of friends and fortune, I too much despise the wretch, who could rob himself of his wife's virtue, to endure the thoughts of thee, in the light thou seemest to hope I will accept thee in !—
Now comes the fool, the miscreant again, hesitating his broken answer: my dearest love, I am confounded, quite confounded, at the thought of what—of what has been done; and at the thought of—to whom. I see, I see, there is no withstanding your eloquence !—such irresistible proofs of the love of virtue for its own sake—did I never hear of, nor meet with, in all my reading. And if you can forgive a repentant villain, who thus on his knees implores your forgiveness (then down I dropped, absolutely in earnest in all I said) I vow by all that's sacred and just (and may a thunderbolt strike me dead at your feet, if I am not sincere !) that I will by marriage, before to-morrow noon, without waiting for your uncle, or anybody, do you all the justice I now can do you. And you shall ever after control and direct me as you please, till you have made me more worthy of your angelic purity, than now I