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will. You, who are so many years her senior, who have had such a knowledge of society and its dangers -- why was it that you did not prevent this catastrophe? Yes, it will break the heart of her excellent parents to have dishonour stamped on their child !” and here my aunt burst into tears. And, now 1 remember,” she resumed, looking at me with sternness, “how came it, that you yesterday received a letter franked by Lord Annandale ? Are you so unfeeling, so faithless a friend, as to maintain a correspondence with the husband who drives Augusta from his house? for it is plain the letter could not be from her. Caroline, I have sometimes accused myself of judging you too harshly. Your irreligion, your levity, and want of womanly reserve, gave me a very bad opinion of you ; but I never thought you capable of deserting your friend the moment that she most required the consolation of your presence, or of keeping up a correspondence with the husband who has denounced her."
I attempted to explain, that, as she went to her father's, I thought it best to come home.
“ Then you judged her guilty of the crime with which she is charged ?"
I tried to answer an assent; but I could not utter the falsehood.
“ How was it possible for her to be culpable even in appearance (for that she is so in reality no person shall ever make me believe),” pursued my aunt, “ without your having perceived some impropriety of manner? And when
had perceived, why not have remonstrated and advised ? If neither advice nor remonstrance availed, why not have left her house ere she herself was expelled from it? All this mystery must be explained, Caroline; and I warn you,
that, unless the explanation proves more satisfactory than I anticipate it will, you will find me a severe judge, and an implacable guardian. I loved Augusta Vernon from her birth, and would have preferred hearing that she was dead to having her name thus dishonoured.”
So saying, my aunt rose from her chair and retired to her own room, leaving me overwhelmed with confusion and dread. I withdrew
to my chamber, where I am now writing in a state of trepidation I have never before experienced. The great clock in the hall has tolled twelve. It seemed, to my excited feelings, , to have a funeral sound; and I almost wished it was my knell, as even death would have been a relief in my present horrible position. The money I possess, not above twenty pounds, is wholly inadequate to procure even a temporary forbearance from my evil genius. The sale of all the trinkets I have would not produce a sum sufficient to satisfy his rapacity. What, what will become of me? Hark! I hear the signal he is at the window !
I descended to the state dressing-room, opened the casement in fear and trembling, and offered to hand him the money ; but he thrust it aside: “What,” said he,“ do you
treat me as a mendicant ?
- me, who hold
your reputation, your position even in this dwelling, in my hands? I must, and will enter the house
I have much to say to you.” Say it where you are!" I exclaimed ;“ for into the house you cannot, must not come.”
“ We shall see,” he replied, and vaulted into the window, pushing me from it and closing it down.
I shook so violently that I could with difficulty support myself - my terror of him suggesting a thousand fearful thoughts.
“ Who would believe," said he, looking at me with an expression of mingled mockery and malice almost demoniacal, “ that we two have been lovers; that we have met in rapture, and parted with regret ? Who would imagine that the woman I see cowering and trembling before me, with averted eye and blanched cheek, has smiled with delight, and blushed love's own rosy hue, when I have approached her ? Such are the metamorphoses wrought by time and circumstances; and I - yes, even I - could be sad as I note them. But I am a philosopher, and only laugh at what occasions tears to others;' and he laughed in a sort that caused my blood to chill.
“ Do not make a noise, I implore you,” said I ; “ for my aunt sleeps in the next room."
“ And now to business,” he rejoined, without noticing my appeal. I handed him the money, which he eyed contemptuously, but, neverthe