Obrazy na stronie

the female suspected of want of chastity was condemned to walk barefooted, as a mean of detecting the justice of the imputation, was a merciful penalty compared to that of the searing-iron of consuming shame which the notoriety of a trial inflicts on a sensitive mind. Then, to watch the struggles, to conceal grief and wounded honour, of those who were once proud of you; to know that their love and pity for one deemed impure, expose their own reputations to censure — oh! all this once felt, never can be erased from the memory, and poisons every thought, destroys every earthly hope ! From such misery there is but one refuge -- the grave; but one hope— the mercy of that God, who can distinguish between error and guilt, and can pardon her whom

men condemn.

It is in vain, my dearest husband, that I endeavour to lead her to take a less sombre view of her position. Her womanly pride, and, above all, the extreme modesty peculiar to her character, have received wounds too deep, too deadly, ever to be healed; and, however her innocence may be proved, hers is not a nature to drag on a protracted life of fancied humiliation, or to submit to the capricious kindness of some, and the still cherished malignant doubts of others.

Could the young and fair of her own sex, who, unthinking of crime, recklessly expose themselves to its suspicion, behold this lovely and unhappy creature sinking into a premature grave as a refuge from shame, how would they tremble at even the approach of levity, or the semblance of impropriety of manner; and how carefully would they preserve that decorum which should ever be the outward and visible

sign of the purity within !

The love of Augusta for her father and mother, demonstrated in a thousand ways, is the most touching sight I ever beheld. It seems as if the cords that unite their hearts

are drawn more tightly now that they are so soon to be rent asunder for ever.

But even this tender affection makes her more alive to

the sense of the wound inflicted on their

peace by the stain affixed to her honour. Yes; it is one of the peculiarities of the heart of woman, that the blow which most afflicts her, is that which must wound the hearts of those dear to her.

In compliance with the wishes of Augusta, we have chosen a different route to the direct one to Vernon Hall; consequently, we are unknown at the inns where we stop ; and this privacy is a great relief to her feelings.

“What a blessing to die at home !" she often murmurs; “ with no prating London physicians to describe to their fashionable and idle valetudinarian all the symptoms of — a

broken heart; no hireling domestics of a season to profane one's name at the adjacent alehouses; no newspapers to detail daily · the little better,' and something worse,' of poor Lady A.; and no strange pastor to speak comfort to dying ears, or patience to agonised ones. No, blessed be God! I return to the peaceful home of my infancy, where no eye will glance suspicion, no tongue utter, no heart form it. Good Dr. Henderson will not make my malady the topic of his visits to his other patients. The gray-headed domestics, who have known me since my birth, will not talk lightly of

Our provincial paper will not give the on dits of my health ; and dear, good Doctor Wilmington, will smooth my passage to the grave, and best comfort those who are left to


mourn for me.”

She loves to dwell on her approaching

end, to which she continually refers, as persons do to a long and pleasurable journey which they are about to undertake. Nor does she neglect to prepare for it, by prayer, meditation, and the cultivation of a contrite spirit. I never saw a creature throw off the faults of human nature so wholly, or clothe her spirit in meekness and holiness, as she does hers. Once, and only once, since the first day of her return to reason, I have ventured to name Lord Nottingham. She became crimsoned with shame; and, after a moment's pause, begged me to mention him no more. Then, resuming, after an internal struggle, “ yet, why should I conceal from you, Mary, now, that by a consciousness of my sin, and a deep penitence, which I trust in the Almighty has atoned for it, that I felt for him a guilty passion, which rendered me blind and heedless to the danger to which I was exposing my fame, by permit

[blocks in formation]
« PoprzedniaDalej »