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The ladies proposed an airing to divert the Countess from dwelling on past events, and Matilda from apprehensions of future ones. The carriage was ordered, and they drove as far as Hampstead. The evening was uncommonly beautiful, and when they returned, the moon, which was in its meridian, shone with all its splendour. Just as the carriage stopped in Harley-street, Matilda, who sat next the door, saw two gentlemen pass slowly and look into the coach; she plainly perceived one of them was Mr Weimar: she met his eyes, and he turned his hastily from her; she gave a faint shriek, and hid her head behind Mrs Courtney. Her friends were alarmed, but hastened her into the house; she ran into the dining-parlour, and, in inconceivable terror, cried out, 'He is come - he is come !' 'Who, who?' exclaimed the Countess. 'Mr Weimar,' answered she; 'did you not see him' 'No,' replied the Marchioness, 'and I hope your fears deceived you.' 'Too sure they did not,' said Matilda, 'and I am convinced also that he knew me.' 'Fear nothing,' said Mrs Courtney; you are in the power of your friends; he must prove his right to you before he can take you from us: here are no lettres de-cachet, the laws will protect you from injury; compose yourself, therefore, my dear girl -in England no violence can be offered to you in any shape.'
This kind and seasonable assurance calmed the terrors of the trembling Matilda; but when she retired to rest, and reflected on her cruel destiny, she shed floods of tears, and passed a sleepless night.
The following day was appointed for their return to Mrs Courtney's villa, to spend a week or two, previous to the preparations for the birth-day, after which the whole party, with Lord Delby, proposed going to Scarborough.
The Countess and Matilda bore evident marks in their features and pale looks, of the uneasy state of their minds; their amiable friends fought to raise their spirits, and they felt too much gratitude to their kindness not to make the effort, though their smiles were clouded with sorrow.
They had a pleasant excursion to Mrs Courtney's house, and its delightful situation, with the cheerful hospitality of its charming owner, could not fail of making those happy who had the honor of her friendship.
The Countess, who was known in public only as Madame Le Roche, and by which name her friends always called her in company, found in the sympathy of Matilda more consolation than the conversation of strangers or any amusements could afford her; they generally contrived to steal from company and ramble in the gardens, relating past sorrows, and mutually endeavoring to inspire each other with hopes of happier days, though despairing of any to themselves.
A few days after they had been in the country, the Marquis received another packet from the Count De Bouville, enclosing a letter from Madame de Clermont, to Matilda. They learnt, with much sorrow, that the Countess died three days after the Count's first letter; that their affliction had been very great, and preyed much on the spirits of her affectionate daughter, in consequence of which she had been advised to visit Aix, and from thence to the Spa; their departure was fixed for the end of that week -Madame De Nancy and her amiable sister De Bancre were going with them. Madame De Clermont requested the correspondence of Matilda, and charged her to take great care of her brother. This charge Matilda did not comprehend, until the Marquis congratulated the party on the agreeable addition they might daily expect from the company of the Count De Bouville, who had written to him, that his sister having a party of her own going to Aix, he had no inclination to visit that place, and therefore should gratify his wishes, by returning to England for a few months, and hoped to enjoy additional satisfaction by the pleasures of the society.
Every one appeared gratified by this information, except Matilda. She felt her heart flutter at his name; she was convinced he was more interesting to her than any other man, and that in her circumstances she ought not to indulge a preference which never could be returned. Ah ! thought she, where is the sorrows that can equal mine? Scarce a wretch that breaths but has some connexion, some relation to own them and sympathise in their troubles, I alone am destitute of family, or fortune; I can carry only disgrace to the arms of a husband, and am therefore an outcast -a being without any natural ties, and must despair of procuring any other protection but what charity and benevolence affords me ! She felt the full force of these melancholy reflections, and it threw such a sad impression on her features that every one was touched with compassion, though they knew not the cause, and sought by kindness and attention to render her more cheerful.
Within three days after this letter, which had occasioned so much pleasure and pain to different parties, the Marquis, by a note, was informed of the Count's arrival in London. Mrs Courtney entreated the honor of his company, and Lord Delby offered to accompany the Marquis and escort him to their friends. This offer was too obliging to be declined; they set off that evening, and the following morning returned with the Count.
Matilda spent the intermediate time in laying down rules for her behaviour. She still suffered under the apprehensions that Mr Weimar had pursued, and would occasion more trouble to her; she therefore resolved to avail herself of that fear, keep as much in her apartment as possible, and avoid mixing in all the little pleasurable parties where the Count might make one.
The company received the Count with the politest attention. His amiable person, his polished manners, and enchanting vivacity, could not fail of engaging the esteem of every one who had taste and discernment. After he had been introduced to the lady of the mansion, to the Marchioness, and to Madame Le Roche, whom he knew not, he advanced to Matilda; she trembled; he took her hand, and bowing on it, 'I am charged,' said he, 'with a thousand expressions of kindness and friendship from my sister and Mademoiselle De Bancre, to the charming Miss Matilda; but you must take them upon trust now, and permit me to express my own happiness in seeing my lovely friend well, and situated in the midst of a society so delightful as this.' She attempted to speak, her voice, her powers failed her; 'Your Lordship does me honor,' was all she could utter. The conversation became general and sprightly, but she had no share in it; the day appeared uncommonly long, and she rejoiced when night came, that she could escape to her apartment and enjoy her own reflections.
The Count, who had observed her emotions, her silence and melancholy air, felt himself much concerned for the unfortunate girl; he thought her more lovely, more interesting than ever: the soft melancholy which pervaded her fine features could not fail of touching a susceptible heart; and the Count soon found the tender interest he had formerly taken in Matilda's misfortunes, revive with more solicitude than ever. He seized an opportunity the following morning, to enquire some particulars respecting the cause of her distress. The Marquis told him of her alarm on seeing a gentleman she believed to be, and possibly, said he, might be, Mr Weimar. 'I am really,' added he, 'unhappy about this charming young woman; we all love her exceedingly; beauty is her least merit; she has every amiable quality, joined to an excellent understanding, that can adorn a human being; I could not love my own child better; but she has too much sensibility to be happy -she feels her dependent and unprotected state too keenly, -it preys upon her mind and injures her health. Consulting with the Marchioness on this subject last night, I intend this day to write, and order a deed to be drawn, agreeable to our design of making her independent, at the same time, I wish not to burthen her feelings with too high a sense of obligation, by settling any very large sum on her: four hundred a year, English money, paid her quarterly, will enable her to live genteelly, should she ever wish to seperate from us, and will be a handsome provision for pocket expences, if she does us the favor of continuing under our protection.'
'Will you permit me,' said the Count, eagerly, 'to add another two hundred to her income?' 'Indeed I will not,' replied the Marquis; I think myself as much the guardian of Matilda's honor and delicacy as of her person: no young man shall boast any claims upon her, nor shall she be humbled by receiving favors, which, if known, might subject her to censure -say no more, my dear Count,' added he, observing he was about to reply, 'the Marchioness will not have her protégée under any obligations but to herself.' 'Shall I be sincere with you, Marquis?' demanded the Count. 'Doubtless, my Lord, you may, and assure yourself of my secrecy, if necessary.' 'Well then,' resumed the Count,' I confess to you, that with the Marchioness's protégée, as you call her, I should be the happiest of men: I feel, and acknowledge, that she has more than beauty -she has a soul; she has those virtues, those amiable qualities, which must render any man happy: but, my dear Marquis, her birth -the scandalous stories promulgated of her in Paris: ah! what can do away these objections which rise hourly before me, and bar me from happiness and Matilda?' 'Since you do me the honor of your confidence, my Lord, 'tis my duty to be candid and explicit. That I entertain the highest opinion of Matilda, is most certain that I think whoever the man is, who is honored with her hand, will be a happy one, I also acknowledge; but, my Lord, family and society have great claims upon us; we ought not to injure the one, nor disregard the other. Could you bear to see your wife treated with contempt, as one whom nobody knew, as one who had no claims to distinction, but what your very great friends might allow her? Could you support the idea, that she whose genuine merit might entitle her to the first society, should be refused admittance among such, as in real worth she very far surpassed? No; I know you would feel such a degradation most painfully; and, though young men, in the moment of passion, think they could sacrifice every thing to the object of it; yet, believe me, passion is but short-lived, and though your wife may yet retain your love and esteem, you will regret the loss of society - you will feel the insults offered to your wife, and you will both be unhappy.'
'Ah ! my dear Marquis,' cried the Count, say no more. How happy are Englishmen ! free from all those false prejudices, they can confer honor on whom they please, and the want of noble birth is no degradation where merit and character deserve esteem; but we are the victims to false notions, and from thence originates all that levity and vice for which we are censured by other nations.' He walked away with a melancholy air: the Marquis felt for him, but national honor was in his opinion of more consequence than the gratification of a private individual, how great soever the merit of the object.
The Count walked into the garden, his arms folded, his mind distrest, unknowing what he should, what he ought to do. Turning into a small alcove, he beheld Matilda, her head reclining on one hand, whilst with the other she dried the tears which fell on her face: they both started; she rose from her seat; he advanced, prevented her going and seated himself by her. Both were silent for moment, at length Matilda, making a second effort to rise, exclaimed in a faint voice, 'Bless me! I dare say I have made the family wait breakfast,' and attempted to pass him. 'Stay, Miss Weimar, I beseech you; tell me why I behold you a prey to sorrow and grief?' 'Because, Sir,' said she, withdrawing her hand, 'I am the child of sorrow; I never knew another parent; poor, forlorn, proscribed, and dependant, I never can belong to any one.' She snatched her hand, which he endeavoured to retain, from him, and flew like lightning towards the house; the Count followed, full of admiration and grief. He entered the breakfast-room; every one was seated, and rallied him on his passion for morning rambles: his natural vivacity returned, and he tried to make himself agreeable and pleasant.
They had scarce finished breakfast when the Marquis received a letter from the French Ambassador, requesting he might see him in town immediately, on an important affair. The Marquis was surprised, but gave orders for his horses to be ready. The Countess trembled, Matilda was terrified; each thought herself concerned, and when the Marquis quitted the house, retired together.
'Ah!' cried the Countess, the Count has discovered me !' 'No, no, madam,' replied Matilda, "tis, I am discovered and shall be torn from you.' Both burst into tears, equally for herself and friend.
The Marchioness, who saw him depart, now entered the room; 'As I supposed,' said he, you retired to frighten each other, but that I shall not allow, so ladies, if you please, throw on your cloaks; I have made up two parties this morning for an airing: in my coach goes Lord Delby, the Count, my sister, and Miss Matilda; I accompany Mrs Courtney, in her chariot; so pray hasten directly, the carriages wait.'
She withdrew on saying these words, and left them no power to frame excuses, and consequently they were obliged to follow, though with aching hearts.
They were disposed of according to the Marchioness's arrangements, but for some minutes after the carriage proceeded all were silent. Lord Delby first spoke, and regretted the party did not seem to accord with the wishes of the ladies, if he might judge from their averted looks. 'Indeed, my Lord,' replied the Countess, 'you do me particular injustice; I entertain the highest respect for every person here; to your Lordship I owe obligations never to be forgotten; I infinitely esteem the Count, as a friend, and this young lady I love with the affection of a sister. I have been a little agitated by the sudden departure of the Marquis, and my uneasiness has communicated itself to my friend; we beg your pardon, and will endeavor to be better company.' After this the conversation became more general and amusing.
The Marquis proceeded to town, and instantly waited on the Ambassador. 'I am sorry, my dear Lord,' said his Excellency 'to have broken in upon your retirement, and must mention the visit I received yesterday as my apology. A German gentleman, who sent in his name as Mr Weimar, requested permission to wait on me; he was consequently admitted: he entered upon a long story of an orphan he had preserved from perishing, of a paper fastened to the child, deputing him the guardian of it 'till claimed by its parents; and in short, that despairing, from the number of years past, that those parents had any existence, he resolved to marry the young lady, that he might provide for her without injury to her reputation; that, from what motives he knew not, she had been induced to fly from his house, seducing a servant of his to go with her; and she was now detained from him by you, notwithstanding he had a lettre de-cachet, which he produced, commanding you to give her up; consequently, by virtue of that order, he requested I would compel you to deliver the young lady to his care. Now, my dear Marquis, I am prepared to hear you on the subject, for it is a delicate affair, and I am convinced you would be sorry it should be noised abroad.' 'No otherwise, Sir,' replied the Marquis, 'than as it might wound the young lady's delicacy to be publicly talked of. I am obliged to your Excellency for your communications, and must trespass on your patience to elucidate the affair properly.' He then recapitulated the whole of Matilda's story, concealing every thing relative to the Countess at that time; and having deduced it down to the present period, he besought his Excellency to protect an amiable young woman, under the most unfortunate circumstances.
'I am really,' he replied, 'much interested for her, and perfectly disposed to comply with your wishes, but the whole affair is replete with so many extraordinary circumstances, that I think we had best consult the German Ambassador before any thing can be determined on.'
The carriage was ordered, and his Excellency took the Marquis with him. They most fortunately found the German Minister at home, and after some deliberation it was settled Matilda should remain under the protection of the Marquis for one year, he to be answerable for her; during that interval advertisements should be sent to the different kingdoms, in quest of her parents; and if in the course of one twelvemonth no such persons appeared, Mr Weimar was the natural protector of the young lady, but could not oblige her to marry him -neither could he prevent her retiring to a convent, though she might be accountable to him for her choice of such a retirement.
The Marquis was obliged to be contented with this decision, and returning with the Ambassador, he said, 'I shall in all probability have to trouble you again soon, on a still more extraordinary affair, and relative to one more dear and nearer to me than this young lady.' 'Upon my word, Marquis,' replied the Minister, smiling, 'you are quite a knight-errant, to protect distressed damsels.' 'A very honourable employment,' answered the other, in the same tone; 'but though these are not the days of romance, yet I have met with such extraordinary incidents lately as carry much the face of the wonderful stories we have heard of former times but as the development of this business will be attended with serious consequences I must consider a few days before I make the discovery.' 'Very well, said his Excellency; 'you have excited my curiosity, and, if I am not too old to join in a Quixote like expedition, behold me ready to assist in the defence of the fair. The Marquis smiled, thanked him, and declining an invitation to dine at his house, got into his own carriage, and drove back with all speed, rightly conceiving every one would entertain uneasy conjectures.
The party were but just returned from a long morning's drive when the Marquis arrived; every one met him with anxiety in their looks -he accosted them with a smiling countenance; 'A truce to interrogatories at present,' said he, I have good news for all, but I am really faint for want of refreshment; order something for me; and then I shall give an account of my proceedings.'
Every one flew to the bells, and in a moment he had chocolate, jellies, wine, and biscuits set before him.
'Ah!' said he, laughing, 'nothing like giving a little spur to curiosity, I see; this is an excellent lesson for me how to be well served.'
When he had taken his repast, which he maliciously prolonged 'till the Marchioness in a pet rang the bell, and declared he should eat no more, the things taken away, and the servants withdrawn. 'Now listen, ladies, and thank me for having procured, in the person of our gallant Ambassador, a Don Quixote, ready to fight in your defence. He then, in a more serious tone, repeated the particulars which have been already related.
Poor Matilda felt but a gleam of satisfaction; 'A twelvemonth,' cried she. 'A twelvemonth,' repeated Mrs Courtney; 'why, do you consider, my dear girl, how many strange events may happen in that time?' 'Yes,' answered she, sighing, 'I consider and hope death will free me from his power long before that period expires.'
The Count de Bouville rose and left the room to conceal his emotions.
'I will not forgive you, my dear child,' said the Marchioness 'if you indulge such desponding ideas; depend upon it happier days await you -trust in Providence, and rejoice you are now free from anxiety: equally under the protection of the ambassadors and the Marquis, Mr Weimar will not dare to molest you.'
The ladies all congratulated Matilda; and, the Marchioness taking her hand, 'Come with me into the garden, I must chide you, but I will not do it publicly, though you deserve it. ' She led her to a little temple, at one end of the garden, and when seated she said to the still silent Matilda, 'You do not consider the advantages we have gained.' 'O, my dear madam,' cried the other, interrupting her, 'how sensible I am of that kind we have gained!' ' Well, well,' resumed the Marchioness, 'hear me out. We can now take public methods to enquire, if there yet exists a being who has any claim to you, without fear of Mr Weimar; a twelvemonth may make great alterations in his sentiments; should it appear you have no particular relations, he has no legal claim upon you, but from his expenditure for your maintenance and clothes -let him bring in his bill, he shall be paid to the uttermost farthing; you are my adopted child; consider yourself as such, and dare not refuse that trifle for your future expences; -if you utter any ohs! or ahs! if you ever talk of obligations, I will never pardon you: to be cheerful and happy is the only return you can make or I accept.' She then placed the deed mentioned by the Marquis, with a fifty-pound note, upon the lap of the astonished Matilda, and hastened away to the house.
It was some moments before she recovered herself enough to examine the papers. The contents overwhelmed her with gratitude; she burst into a flood of tears, the papers in her hand, when unexpectedly the Count stood before her. 'Good heavens!' he cried, 'what means this distress, these tears?' 'O, my Lord,' answered she, 'they are tears of sensibility and gratitude.' 'I rejoice to hear it,' replied the Count, 'heaven forbid they should ever flow from any other cause.' He seated himself by her, she dried her eyes, and put the papers in her pocket. 'I congratulate you, madam,' resumed he, 'on the happy turn in your affairs, which the Marquis has informed me of.' 'You know me then for an unhappy deserted orphan?' said she, blushing and mortified. 'I know you,' replied he, eagerly, 'for the most amiable of your sex; no adventitious advantages of birth or fortune can add to those claims your own merit gives you to universal esteem.' 'Ah, my Lord,' said she, 'to generous spirits like yours and this family's, misfortunes are a recommendation to kindness and attention, but with the generality of mankind I have not to learn it must be otherwise. Stranger as I am to the manners and customs of the world, I am sensible birth and fortune have superior advantages, and that without them, though with liberal minds we may obtain compassion, we can never hope for consideration or respect.' 'Pardon me, madam,' replied the Count,' if I pre sume to say you judge erroneously; she who with merit, with good sense, delicacy, and refined sentiments can command respect, is a thousand times superior to those whose inferiority of mind disgraces a rank which the other would ennoble.' 'You are very kind, Sir,' said Matilda, rising, and unable to support a conversation which she feared might grow too interesting for her peace: 'you are truly friendly, in endeavouring to reconcile me to myself; and I have no way of deserving your favorable judgment, but by constantly remembering what I am, that I may at least preserve my humility.' She courtesied and walked fast towards the house, and to the apartment of the Countess. That lady was alone, her head resting on her hand, and seemed buried in thought. Matilda would have withdrawn, the other entreated her return; 'Come in, my dear girl,' said she, 'my own thoughts are the worst company you could leave me in at present.' 'I come to tell you, my dear madam,' cried her young friend, 'that my heart is bursting with gratitude: the Marchioness will not hear me, but I must have vent for my feelings, or I shall be opprest to death.' She burst into tears. 'My dear April girl,' said the Countess, 'no more of those showers, -you have too much sensibility; I know what you want to tell me, therefore spare yourself the trouble, and let me acquaint you, that I am indebted to my generous brother, for a settlement of treble the value of what he has given you, yet I make no fuss about the matter.' 'But, dear madam,' cried Matilda, 'sure there is great difference in our situations, you have a natural claim -' 'A natural claim,' repeated the Countess; 'the best claim to a generous mind, is being unfortunate with merit that deserves a better fate. I think little of those favours which are bestowed from claims of affinity only; since family pride, the censure of the world, and many causes, may unlock a heart to support their own consequence in their connexions, but the truly benificent mind looks upon every child of sorrow as their relation, and entitled to their assistance; but when beauty and virtue suffer, from whatsoever cause, believe me, dear Matilda, they receive a superior gratification that have the power of relieving sorrows, than the receiver can in accepting the favors.' 'I believe, my dear madam, replied Matilda, her heart warmed by the idea, 'I believe you are right; for if there is a human being I could envy, it would be the one who can raise the desponding heart to hope and peace.' 'With that conviction,' resumed the Countess, 'feel as if you conferred a favor, without the oppressive notion of having received one; and now pray listen to me. My brother and sister hourly importune me to prosecute the Count: you know my objections, -God only knows whether I have a child living or not -the doubt gives me a thousand pangs; as to the murder of the poor Chevalier, Peter only was a witness beside myself, and he is a creature of the Count's; then to accuse one's husband, what an indelible reproach! I never can submit to it: tell me, advise me, dear girl, what I must do?' 'Impossible madam,' replied she; 'I am incompetent to advise, - your own good sense, and the opinion of your friends, are more capable of it than one so little conversant in the world as I am.' 'Well,' resumed the Countess, 'I will be guided by Lord Delby and Mrs Courtney; my own relations are too warmly interested in my favor to give an impartial opinion: -but pray, my dear, what do you think of our Count, is not he a charming youth?'
A question so mal-a-propos, when poor Matilda's heart bore testimony to his merit, threw her into the greatest confusion, she was unable to speak.
The Countess observed her emotion, but was too delicate to notice it; she therefore added, ' 'Tis a needless question; I see your sentiments correspond with mine; but your spirits are low, child - in truth mine are not high, so let us seek for better company.' She arose, and taking Matildas passive hand, led her to the drawing room, where the company was assembled.
Matilda could not see her benefactors without being visibly affected, which the Marchioness observing, 'Come, ladies,' said she, 'give me your votes, I am collecting them for a party to Windsor to-morrow.' 'O, doubtless you may command ours,' replied the Countess; 'novelty has always its charms for us females.' 'Very well,' said the Marquis, 'then it's a settled business.'
The excursion to Windsor, and several other places, in the fortnight they staid at Mrs Courtney's jumbled the Count and Matilda so frequently together, and he had so many opportunities of admiring her strong understanding and polished manners, that his affection was insensibly engaged beyond all power of resistance, and he determined to brave the censures of the world, and marry her, if he could obtain her heart. From the moment this resolution took place, he treated her with that insinuating tenderness in his voice and manners, which seldom fails of communicating the infection to a susceptible mind. Matilda's feelings alarmed her; she was conscious of the impropriety of indulging them, and felt the necessity of avoiding the Count as much as possible. He quickly observed the alteration in her behaviour, and was determined to come to an immediate explanation; justly conceiving nothing could be more wounding to a delicate mind than suspense under such circumstances.
She so carefully shunned him, that it was not easy to find her alone; but the morning, when it was intended to return in the evening to London, chance afforded him an opportunity. The Marchioness, Matilda, and the Count were in the garden; the Marquis came to them and requested to speak a few words to his Lady; She disengaged her arm from her companion, and went with him to the house. Matilda turned with an intention to follow; the Count took her hand, 'Let me entreat you, madam, to pursue your walk; I wish to speak a few words, on an affair of consequence, that will not detain you long from your friends.' She trembled, and without speaking, suffered him to conduct her to an alcove at the bottom of the garden. They were both seated for a minute before he could assume courage to speak, at length, 'I believe from the first hour I had the happiness of being introduced to you, my admiration was very visible, but it was that admiration which a beautiful person naturally inspires, I knew not then it was your least perfection. Your story, which the Marquis related, convinced me you had every virtue which should adorn your sex, joined with a courage and perseverance, through difficulties which might do honor even to ours. Since I have been admitted a visitor in this house, I have been confirmed in the exalted opinion I entertained of your superiority to most women, and under this conviction I may justly fear you will condemn my presumption, in offering myself and fortune to your disposal.' 'How, my Lord,' cried Matilda, recovering from her confusion, and interrupting him, 'do you consider who and what I am? 'Yes, madam,' replied he, 'I have already told you, I think you one of the most perfect of your sex, and as to any other consideration 'tis beneath my notice: if you will deign to accept of me, it shall be the study of my life to make you amends for the injustice of fortune, who blindly bestows her favors on the unworthy.' 'You will pardon me, my Lord,' said she, 'for interrupting you a second time, but I cannot suffer you to proceed in error; I entreat you, therefore to hear me with patience, and believe that the sentiments I express are the genuine feelings of my heart, from which no persuasions, no temptations shall ever make me depart. I acknowledge, with a grateful mind, the honor you offer me is far beyond any expectations I can ever form in life, and such as affords me both pride and pleasure, that I am not deemed unworthy your esteem. At the same time, although you can generously resolve to forego the respect you owe to yourself and family, my duty to myself obliges me to remember it: without family and connexions, without even a name -perhaps the offspring of poor, or still worse, of infamous parents, brought up and supported by charity; shall I intrude myself into a noble family, contaminate its lustre, reflect indelible disgrace on the author of my undeserved elevation, and live despised and reproached, as the artful creature who had taken advantage of your generosity and compassion? No, my Lord, permit me to say on such terms I never would condescend to be the wife of a prince. I shrink at my own littleness; I am in a state of obligation for my support, but I never will incur my own contempt, by deserving it from others. My mind is indeed, I hope, superior to my situation: I will preserve a rectitude of principles under every evil that may befall me; those principles impel me to avow, with the greatest solemnity in the face of heaven, that under the disgraceful circumstances in which my fate seems enveloped, I never will be yours.' 'Hold, hold, madam,' cried the Count, endeavouring to interrupt her, 'great God! what have you vowed!' 'What duty to myself and you required of me,' said she; 'and now, my Lord, let this subject never be renewed. If it can afford you any consolation,' added she, softened by the disorder and distress of his appearance, 'be assured, my Lord, that as I never can be yours, I never will be another's; and if my happiness is as dear to you as yours will ever be to me, you will from this moment cease to think of me but as an unfortunate girl, deprived of all power to return obligations, and therefore with too much pride and spirit to receive them, but from this worthy family, where I conceive it no disgrace to hold myself dependent.'