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her head on the pillow, exhausted by her
“ But all who know you, dearest Augusta, are convinced of your innocence; they never, for a single moment, doubted it.”
“ Bless them for that belief!” she replied ; “it is the only drop of balm in the cup of sorrow I have nearly emptied. Yet, dear and true friend, this is no time for deception; you must not think me better than I am. Though free from actual guilt, or even from the thought of it, I have allowed” (and here her pale cheeks became suffused with the deepest red) “an unhallowed passion to usurp my heart, to dethrone my reason. Was not this a crime, and of deep die?”
“ We are all weak and fallible, my dear Augusta ; but the Almighty is merciful, and pardons the involuntary errors of his frail creatures, when they have stopped short of guilt, or by deep repentance atoned for it."
“ Another sin, also, presses heavily on my soul. Regardless of your wise counsel, I closed my eyes to the good qualities of him I wedded; and, viewing his weaknesses through the medium of prejudice, exaggerated every defect, instead of, by affectionate kindness, endeavouring to amend them. He was not harsh, or unkind; even my coldness he bore with patience; and who knows, if I had evinced a better feeling towards him, whether he might not have become a more worthy and rational being ?
“ Had I avoided the society of him for whom I felt this engrossing, this culpable sentiment, the moment I had discovered my weakness, I should not have given room to the disgraceful suspicions that have for ever sullied
my fame. But, no
But, no-I courted danger; and, heedless of my reputation, and of the peace of mind of those to whom I was dear, I continued to receive his daily visits; and have now nothing to oppose to the charges which appearances furnished by my folly justify, except assertions of innocence, which those only who love me will credit. Think of the ignominy of a public trial! All the odious, the revolting disclosures of domestic privacy, thus laid open to the coarse and the vicious, who are but too prone to believe the worst. To have one's name made a by-word-a mockery - a shame! Oh, Mary! what woman could bear this degradation, and live?”
“ But you, dearest, are innocent, and your innocence will be made manifest to the world.”
“ Could that innocence be questioned, Mary, if I had not encouraged habits of intimacy, which, now that I calmly look back
and reflect on, were too decided and too conspicuous not to originate suspicions derogatory to my honour ? What would, or what could be thought, when it becomes known that I, every day, spent whole hours in his society, frequently quite alone ? No acquittal, could I hope for one, could console me for the appearances of guilt which my own imprudence has created ; and I feel that, in thus disregarding propriety, I have sinned against virtue, by furnishing cause for suspicion and evil example."
I tried, but in vain, to speak comfort to her; she is so impressed with a sense of the faultiness of her own conduct, to which alone she attributes all that has occurred, that it is impossible to console her. What a wife would this dear creature have made, had she fallen into good hands! When I think of her youth (she is not yet seventeen), and see the delicacy
and purity of her mind, the freedom from all rancorous passions,-evinced by her entire abstinence from any condemnation of the husband who proved so unfit a guardian for the treasure confided to him,—and the severity with which she judges her own conduct, I cannot repress the bitter feelings that arise in my breast.
• The action is already commenced, and of this she was apprised by a statement in one of the papers so cruelly sent to her. I tremble for its effect on her in her present weak state. Lord and Lady Vernon are nearly stunned by the weight of this heavy blow; for their very existence seems bound up in their child. Adieu, my beloved ! Ever your own