Edward Saville, A Transcript by
The doctor tells me I must take no wine. Pshaw! It is not that
which mounts into my brain; and sometimes—but I must not wander—wine
is the best corrector of these fancies. One bottle more
of sober claret, and I shall be able to finish before midnight the brief
sketch of my life which I promised Travers long ago.
It were worse than useless to set down any particulars of
my boyhood. An only son is usually a spoiled one, and that which is so
easy and delightful a task to most parents was by no means difficult
or unpleasant to mine; and yet, to do myself justice, I believe I was
not more conceited, insolent, selfish, and rapacious than others are
during those days of innocence, as they are called,—those days of
innocence which form the germ of that noble and disinterested
At the age of three-and-twenty I succeeded to my father's
estate. It was to divert a sense of loneliness which beset me, that I
plunged into—as they term it, but the phrase is a wrong one—that
I ventured upon the course of folly and dissipation into which so
many young men of fortune like myself hurry themselves, or are led,
or are driven. But why recount these scenes of pleasure—so called,
or miscalled—whose reaction is utter weariness, satiety, and disgust?
I was at the theatre one night, when the friend who accompanied
me directed my attention to a very lovely girl, who, with her mother
and a party of friends, occupied the next box. She was, certainly,
the loveliest creature my eyes had ever lighted upon; with a sylph-like
form, (that is the usual phrase, I believe,) wanting perhaps that
complete roundness of limb which is considered essential to perfect
beauty in a woman—but she was barely sixteen—and yet suggesting,
too, the idea of consummate symmetry. Her face—but who
can describe beauty? who even can paint it? Let any man look at
the finest attempts to achieve this impossibility by the old masters,
and then let him compare them with the faces he has seen, and may
see every day. Heavens! what inanities! Can a man paint a soul
upon canvass? And yet the artist talks of his "expression."
I watched her closely during the performance,—indeed,
I had no power to withdraw my gaze from her; and once or twice her eyes
met mine, and I thought I could perceive she was not altogether
displeased at my attention. Her confusion betrayed that to me, and
in one short hour I was a lost man.
When the play was over, I framed a miserable excuse,
which I thought at the time a most ingenious one, to my friend for not
accompanying him home to supper, as I had promised; and hastening
after my unknown and her mother, who had left the box, was just in
time to see them enter a coach. I contrived to keep pace with it,
and saw it deposit its beautiful freight at a house in a small private
street near Portman Square.
I could laugh—unaccustomed as I am even to private laughing
now-a-days—when I think, as I do sometimes, on those days of sentiment.
It were as futile to attempt to renew that sentiment after
thirty, as to strive to recal those days, and to bid them stand in next
year's calendar. The green wood is out of the tree by that time;
and the trunk becomes hard, and gnarled, and stubborn. Now is the
time to enjoy life. At five-and-thirty the blood and the brain act in
concert, and the heart beats not one pulse the quicker, while they do
their spiriting—not gently always.—To return.
I went home that night altogether an altered man, and
rose next morning from a sleepless bed, absorbed with the one idea which had
worked so miraculous a change within me. All that day, almost
without intermission, did I pace up and down the street in the hope of
seeing her; but in vain. Not once did she approach the window;
and I did not deem it prudent to question one of the servants who
came out of the house several times during the day. I betook myself,
therefore, towards evening to a green-grocer's shop in the neighbourhood;
and the purchase of some fruit gave me a privilege to indulge
in a little chat with the good old woman who conducted the
business. I affected to be chiefly solicitous respecting the elderly
lady, whom I had seen by chance, and believed to be a friend of my
father, but whose name I could not, for the life of me, remember.
The old woman smiled at my shallow artifice, but proceeded to inform
me that the elderly lady was the widow of an officer who had been
killed in the Peninsular War, leaving an only daughter, at that period
an infant. I begged pardon—the name? did she know the daughter's name?
"Oh yes! it was Isabella Denham."
It was an era in my life, the first sound of that name.
I thanked my kind informant, and withdrew.
I need not tell how unremittingly, and for how many weeks,
I paced up and down that street, with various success; how regularly I attended
the church she frequented; and how at length I obtained an
introduction to the family.
I found Isabella Denham more captivating than the accumulated
fancies and self-willed convictions of months had pictured her to me.
It is no unusual result in such cases; but whether it be that the object
transcends the imagination, or that the imagination subserves the
object, I know not. It was so, however; for feeling upon these occasions
takes the place of reason, which is an impertinence.
Let me be just. I think, had I loved Isabella Denham less,
I should equally have admired her. She had a mind and a heart; she was
accomplished; she was beautiful, gentle, and good; and she loved
me. Yes, she loved me. I believed it then, and I am certain of it
now. How I loved her, she never knew: that was for Time to show,
and he has shown it.
I offered her my hand in due time, and was accepted. How I
despised the sneers and banter of some of my friends who could
not conceive the idea of a marriage with fortune on one side, and
none on the other, and yet were endeavouring at the same time
to effect an engagement of a similar nature in their own favour!
How I disregarded the gratuitous advice of sundry of my officious
relatives, who thought that all love had died when their own gave up
the ghost, and who sometimes prophesied truly because they were
always prognosticating evil!
We were at length married; and the close of the fourth
year saw no diminution of our happiness. We were domestic enough without
seclusion, and went into as much company as sufficed to make
us feel that home was the happiest place after all. One circumstance
had contributed to augment my felicity,—the birth of a son,
which took place about a year after our marriage.
I know not what some people mean, who tell you that when
a man becomes married, love subsides into affection, and friendship
takes the place of passion. It was not so with me. I loved the
wife as much as I had adored the mistress. To make her happy
was myself to be so; and to have made her so, I would have laid
down my life. Some, indeed, hinted that I indulged her too much—that
I let her have her own way in everything. And why not?
Did I marry to make my wife the creature, or the slave, of some
system of management, rule of action, or principle of conduct?
phrases which I abhor. No—no; be they as wise as they will, I
was right. I am convinced of it. That was not the cause.
We were happy.
It was by the merest chance that I one day encountered
Hastings in the street—my friend Hastings. We had been companions at
Eton, and at college our intimacy had grown into friendship. Were
I now asked for what particular quality of mind or heart I had chosen
Hastings for a friend, I should find some difficulty in answering the
question. He was what is termed "a good-natured fellow;" there
was nothing gross or offensive in his gaiety, and he was always the
same. His feelings never led him to make a fool of himself which is
much to say of a young man. They might be called good plated
feelings, which answered the purpose well enough, and sometimes
passed for more costly articles. It is much, after all, to possess a
friend between whom and yourself you can drew comparisons favourable
to the latter, and who is perfectly content that you should do so.
He dined with me on the next day. His powers of conversation
were certainly much improved since we had last talked together. He
could turn the most superficial reading to admirable account; and so
minute was his observation, and so faithfully and graphically could he
describe manners, and the surface motives of men, that it almost
appeared like a profound knowledge of mankind. Isabella was pleased
with his society; and after she had retired to the drawing-room, my
friend expatiated somewhat at large upon her beauty and elegance,
and, above all, upon the good sense which characterised her. I need
hardly say that I also was delighted with him, and when we shook
hands for the night, I could have hugged the man for his glowing
eulogy. I almost loved every one who admired her. I was too
He visited us often, for his time was altogether his own.
He was living upon expectancy, and accordingly had more leisure than money.
At various periods I pressed him to make my purse his own,
and he did so. I had, indeed, more money at my disposal than I
cared for, or knew what to do with; and at that time I thought, when
I served a friend, that I had found the best employment of it. It is
strange,—and yet perhaps it is not by any means strange,—how men
alter in this particular as they grow older. The heart-strings and the
purse-strings are not so easily drawn then.
Well, I was his banker, and felt myself sufficiently repaid
by his society. About this time, also, I was greatly occupied in business of
a somewhat troublesome nature, to conclude which it was necessary
that I should visit my estate. My probable term of absence was to
be about six weeks. The fashionable season was in its meridian, and
I could not be cruel enough to ask Isabella to accompany me. She
had latterly taken more pleasure in parties, and balls, and concerts
than heretofore. Perhaps I had kept her too close; we were too domestic.
After all, it was not the way of the world. I thought so,
and Hastings agreed with me;—I would see it reformed altogether
when I return.
In the mean while I begged Hastings to look in now and then,
and see that she was not lonely and out of spirits. It was natural to expect
that my first absence from her would cause her to feel so. He
promised to do as I requested, and I set off into the country, where I
was detained more than two months; and at length, finding myself
released from an irksome attendance on very unpleasant business, I
took post-horses, and with all the ardour of a lover returned to
I returned to London.—
I remember the minutest particulars of that scene so well!
Not a tittle of it has escaped my memory—not a word, not a syllable! It
will never depart from my mind—from my soul!
When the porter opened the door, I hastened through the hall,
and sprang up stairs into the drawing-room. She was not there; but my
little boy, hearing my well-known footstep, came from the adjoining
room and ran towards me. I caught him in my arms, and gave him a thousand kisses.
"Well, my dear little fellow, and where is mamma?"
"Not here—not here," said the boy, looking around;
"but I'm so glad you've come back!"
Isabella was gone out, doubtless. I rang the bell. I did not
observe Mrs. Martin, the housekeeper, enter the room,—I was still
caressing the child.
"Ha! Mrs. Martin—But what's the matter?
You look ill.—Where is Mrs. Saville?"
The woman spoke not, but trembled violently, and turned
very pale. I motioned her to take a seat. She did so.
"My dear madam, you alarm me," said I. "Is anything
Tears were streaming down the woman's face, as she arose
suddenly, and with her hands clasped before her she came towards me.
"Oh, sir! bear it like a man," she cried, weeping bitterly;—"do
bear it like a man, sir! That I should live to tell you this!—I, who
have carried you in these arms, and have prayed a thousand times for
your happiness when I should be dead and gone!"
She paused. Perhaps my face revealed the sickness of heart
which at that moment overcame me. I could not rise from my seat; I
could not lift the child from my knee, as he lay upon my bosom with
his head pressed against my heart.
"Merciful Heaven!—Isabella is ill—she is
dying!—at once, at once tell me——"
"No, no," said the woman bitterly, "she is not ill or dying.
Mr. Saville, I durst not tell you my suspicions before you left town—I
durst not, sir. For mercy's sake compose yourself! My mistress left
this house last Tuesday night with Mr. Hastings."
That horrible shriek still rings in my ears. I remember
thrusting the child from me, and clasping my head with my hands; and then I
was smitten down—struck to the earth—worse than dead—oh, how
much worse than dead!
It was a long, long, hideous dream that succeeded, full of
woe, and lamentations, and weeping, and curses, and despair. But I awoke at
last from that dream. Where was I? It was a very narrow, but
lofty room; the walls were whitewashed, and there was one small
window about twelve feet from the door. I was seated on a low
truckle-bed; and as I turned my eyes from the light of the window,
they fell upon my hands, which were laid before me. Around my
wrists there were deep marks, as though they had been tied together
with cords; and when I moved, a sharp pain went round me, like a
girdle. But the rope had been loosened, and was no longer about me.
A man entered the room.
"How do you feel yourself now?" said he,
laying his hand upon my shoulder.
I looked up. Methought I recognised the voice,
and the face was almost familiar to me, and repulsively so.
"I am well—very well," I answered. "Where am I?"
The man said nothing, but silently left the room,
presently returning with a gentleman, of whom, as of the man, I had an
"You will be better soon, sir," said this person kindly,
as he felt my pulse; and he turned towards the man, and spoke to him in an
undertone. "Let him be kept very quiet," was all I heard, and he
retired shortly after.
Yes:—I had been mad—raving mad—for two years,
and was now slowly struggling back into consciousness. Feeble glimmerings of the
past came upon me at first, and then farther half-revelations were
extended to me; until at length the cause, dimly and remotely,
but gradually nearer and more near, stood before me like a curse. It is
well for me that I did not then relapse into madness; but I wrestled
with it, I overcame it, and in a month was taken away in my own
physician's carriage, and brought back home. Home?—that had
My friend, Dr. Herbert, was, and is, the best fellow
breathing. He devoted for some weeks nearly the whole of his time to me. He
endeavoured to draw my mind away from the one subject, which might,
he thought, if entertained, once more overthrow my reason. He was
mistaken. The very endeavour to discard that memory, as often as it
recurred, would soon have distracted me. I encouraged it, therefore,
and was strengthened by it;—my mind throve upon it,—it was
a comfort to me.
The many slight indications of an attachment—of a
passion—between her and this man Hastings,—and they must have
been but slight indications,—were presented to me now grossly and palpably.
I could see them all,—they stung me;—and I would curse my fool's
nature that was blind, or would not see and provide against the
consequence. And why did I curse my easy nature? Could I have
borne to live a wretched turnkey, a miserable listener at key-holes, a
dealer out of "punishment, the drudgery of devils?" Did I marry
to suspect virtue, or to control vice? Neither; and I was glad that,
when they did wrong me, they permitted me to know it. These
thoughts never affected my brain;—there was no fear of that. I
thought no longer from the brain;—these thoughts were in my heart,
and never moved thence.
One evening, as I was ascending the stairs, I overheard
the child inquiring of one of the servants "who that white-haired gentleman
was, and why he lived in the house?" I had hitherto refused to see
the child; but I now rang the bell, and ordered the housekeeper, who
constantly waited upon me, to bring him to me.
He was much grown since I had last seen him, and was a fine
boy. He did not know me, and was at first fearful of approaching me; but I
induced him to sit upon my knee, and, putting his hair from the forehead,
asked him if he would not give me a kiss. As he lifted his face,
and looked up at me—that look! his very mother was gazing through
those eyes! A sudden faintness possessed me. I lifted the child
gently from my knee, and motioned the housekeeper to take him from
my sight. I did not see him again.
But there was comfort still:—Hastings was in
London,—I was certain of it.
And so he was. One night, about a fortnight after my return
to town from Paris, where I was told he had been seen, and where I had
sought him in vain, I was proceeding home, baffled in my endeavours
to discover him in some of his old haunts, which I had ascertained after
many and fruitless inquiries. I was walking rapidly down a miserable
street in the vicinity of Clare Market, when a squalid wretch, issuing
from a public-house, came in contact with me. I think no human being
in the world would have recognised him but myself. Hideously changed
as he was, I knew him instantly. The half-shriek that burst from him
as he recoiled from me showed that he had recognised me also. The
struggle was a short one,—I had omitted to put my pistols in my
pocket on that evening. With what a savage triumph, when I had
dashed him on the pavement, did I stamp upon the prostrate carcass
of the groaning wretch! But my joy was brief; for I was suddenly
seized by three or four men, who held me firmly by the arms. I could
not get at him. Heedless of my ravings, they assisted the miscreant
to rise, who, casting one glance of terror towards me, darted down an
alley, and was lost to me for ever. He had escaped me.
How I reached home I know not. Herbert, who visited me
next morning, forbade me to rise from my bed. He said my brain was
unsettled, and I believe it was. But I was well again in a month.
The one idea pervaded my whole being when I arose from
my bed. My rencontre with Hastings had whetted my appetite for revenge so
keenly, that no reason, no thought, no feeling could control me. He
was evidently in a state of the most abject beggary and want. That
conviction did not disarm me; it rendered me only the more determined
I went forth one evening, and with much difficulty discovered
the public-house from which I had seen him emerge on that night. From
the landlord I obtained every particular I required to know. Hastings
had, it seemed, changed his name;—it was now Harris. He resided
in one small room on the first floor of a house in a filthy court hard
by; that is, if he had not left the neighbourhood, for the man had not
seen him for a month past.
It was well. I drank two glasses of brandy, for it was a cold
night, and proceeded towards my destination. I found it easily. There was
a light in the window, and, from the reflection of a man's figure on
the wall, I judged he was at home. The house-door was open, and I
entered the narrow passage. At that moment I trembled, and for an
instant could not proceed. No: it was not that which made me
tremble; I knew, and was prepared for, what I had to do. It was
the other,—it was that face which I feared I could not bear to behold.
This was, as I have said, the weakness of a moment.
I mounted the stairs, and burst into the room suddenly. A man and a woman
were seated at a small fire, who arose abruptly on my entrance. It
was not Harris and—his wife.
"Where is the man—Hastings?" I exclaimed,
addressing the old couple.
As I uttered these words, a loud shriek proceeded from a
bed behind me, and a female dropt upon the floor. I knew that voice,—I
knew it well;—but it did not move me.
"Mrs. Harris is ill," said the old woman; "permit us to pass
you, sir;—it is one of the fits to which she is subject."
I allowed the woman to step by me, who, raising the
lifeless form beside her, drew it into an adjoining room.
"What do you want, sir? what is your business here?"
inquired the man.
I placed one hand into my coat-pocket and grasped a
pistol, and with the other seized the man by the collar.
"Where is Harris?" said I. "You had best tell me; you are a
dead man else. He is hid somewhere—he is below, in the house—where
"He is there," gasped the man; and he pointed towards the bed,
upon which a body was lying, covered with a linen cloth.
I sank upon a chair. Hastings had indeed escaped me, and for
ever. I was left alone, for the man had hurried from the room. I
cannot describe the agony of feeling which I underwent during the
next half-hour. I took the light, and, walking to the bed, drew the
linen cloth from the face of the corpse.
How awful! how mysterious is the power of death! The man who
had insulted, who had wronged, who had betrayed me,—whose ingratitude—of
all crimes the vilest and the basest—had inverted my very
soul,—this man lay before me cold, serene, tranquil, miserable, callously
insensible,—and yet I had no power to curse him. There was
no serenity, no tranquillity upon the face, when I gazed upon it more
closely. The brow was corrugated, the cheeks collapsed, and the
eyelids sunken; and there was the soul's torture, as it left a tortured
body impressed upon the face. Enough to have mitigated a
more implacable hatred than mine!
I left the room, and walked down stairs. As I proceeded
along the passage, the man whom I had before seen came out of a lower room,
and opened the door for me. I was about to depart, when he caught
me gently but firmly by the arm.
"Oh, sir!" said he earnestly, "do not leave the house
without seeing Mrs. Harris. She has relapsed into another fit; but when she
comes to herself, it will be a comfort to her to see a friend of her
husband. You knew him, sir, when living; and for his sake, perhaps—"
the man paused for a moment, and continued,—"you have a benevolent
heart, sir,—I am sure you have,—and if you knew all, even
though he may have wronged you——"
It was an unseasonable time for an appeal of this nature.
The passions that had been forced back upon my heart had yet scarce begun
to subside, but I spoke calmly.
"You will tell her Mr. Saville has been here;" and I was going.
"Mr. Saville!" repeated the man. "Oh, sir, we have heard that
name mentioned frequently of late. You will come again, or send,
perhaps;—will you not, sir?"
"She will know where to find me, should she wish to see me,
which I think is hardly probable;" and with a cold "good-night" I left him.
I called upon Herbert on my way home, and told him all that had
taken place. He was surprised and shocked.
"Saville," said he, after a long pause, during which he
had been absorbed in reflection, "this cursed affair is destroying you. I am a
plain man. You may shake your head, and tell me coolly and calmly
that you have ceased to feel the injury which all the while is preying
upon you. It is that calmness which I fear most; it will kill you,
or worse than that,—you understand me. You must pursue this matter
no farther. The man is dead, and your wife —— Well," he resumed,
"I beg your pardon; I was wrong to call her by that name. May I
"She is evidently in a state of want—of destitution. This
must not be. You must allow her—settle upon her—enough to rescue her
from poverty and its temptations. She must not starve;—I see you
could not bear that. And you must forget her. It will not do to see
a young man like yourself sacrificed, self-sacrificed, to the villany of
a scoundrel. I will say no more, Saville. Vice has too much homage
paid to her when an honourable man is made her victim."
Herbert was right—he was always so. No, no;—she
must not starve. That were indeed a miserable triumph to me. I went to my
solicitor on the next morning, and a deed was made out, settling a
competence upon her, and I sent with it as much money as she could
require for immediate exigencies. And I was resolved that I would
forget her. The worst was past, and time and occupation would do
much, and I would think this misery down. But the worst was not yet past.
I was informed, one morning, that a woman in the hall
desired to speak with me. Concluding that she was one of the many persons
who are accustomed to wait upon the wealthy with petitions, I ordered
the servant to admit her. A woman meanly dressed, and whose countenance
was concealed, moved towards me, and sinking upon her
knees, with her palms pressed together and raised towards me, looked
up into my face. Madness in me, and misery and famine in her, must
have wrought more strongly, if that were possible, than they had done,
could I have failed to recognise that face instantly. Her lips moved,—she
would have spoken, but she had no power to speak,—and with a
deep and heavy groan she fell upon the floor before me. I rang the
bell violently. A servant entered the room.
"Send Mrs. Martin to me instantly. Mrs. Martin," said I,
as the woman hastened into the room, "let Dr. Herbert be sent for immediately.
You must take care of her. See that she wants nothing."
"Gracious God! it is my mistress!" said the woman, as she
raised her head upon her knee. "You will let her remain in the house,
Mr. Saville?—in one of the upper rooms?"
"In her own room, Mrs. Martin.—I commit her to you.
When she recovers, we can make other arrangements."
It is out of the power of fortune or of fate to excite
such feelings within me now as pressed upon my heart for some days after
this scene. I thank God for it. Human strength or weakness could not
again endure so dreadful a conflict of brute passion and of human
feeling. That piteous face raised to mine would not depart from me.
That she should kneel,—that she should have been degraded abjectly
to crouch before me for forgiveness, for pardon, for the vilest pity,—and
that I should know and feel that the base expiation was the
poorest recompense—oh! I cannot pursue this farther.
Some days after this,—it was on a Sunday forenoon,—
Mrs. Martin entered the room. She took a seat opposite to me.
"I am come to speak with you, Mr. Saville," she said.
"Well, madam, proceed."
"Mrs. Saville, my mistress, sir, is dying."
I spoke not for some minutes, although I was not
altogether unprepared for a communication of this nature.
"You will take the child to her, madam; she will wish to see him."
"Oh, sir, she has seen him every day since she came here,
and he is with her now. You will not be offended, sir, if I tell you that she
has seen him many times within the last two years. Yes, sir, when
"Mad, madam!—speak plainly!—I was mad."
"She came, sir, to me, and fell at my feet, imploring to
see the child, and I could not refuse her. I could not bear that my mistress
should kneel to me, and not be permitted to behold her own son;" and
here the woman wept bitterly.
"It is very well," said I, after a pause; "I do not blame
you. It is better, perhaps, that it should have been so."
"Could I prevail upon you, sir?" she continued, wiping her eyes;
"might I be so bold as to hope——"
I anticipated the woman's thoughts.
"She has expressed no wish that I should see her, Mrs. Martin."
"She does not mention your name even to me," said she; "but
she must not die without seeing you;—she must not, Mr. Saville."
My nature at times was changed from what it had been since
I was released from the mad-house. I cast a glance at the woman, which
she understood and feared.
"Mention not this subject again, madam, and leave me.
I would be alone."
I was disturbed by what the housekeeper had told me. She was
dying. It was well. I wished her to die. I felt that until she was
dead, my heart could not be brought to forgive her.
I walked out, and bent my steps towards the lodging which
Hastings had formerly occupied. I found the woman of the house at home,
and, with a calmness which I have since marvelled at, I drew from
her all the particulars of their sojourn at her house. They had been
living with her about ten months before the death of Hastings, who,
she understood, had been entirely deserted by his relations, but why
she knew not. About a month previous to the decease of Hastings,
he came home one night, saying that he had been waylaid by a ruffian
and much injured, and he had never risen from his bed again.
I ventured to ask "if Mr. Harris and his wife
lived happily together?"
The woman shook her head. "There was a strange mystery
about them," said she, "which I never could rightly make out. She was
ever gentle and obedient; but still there was something unlike a wife,
I used to think, whenever she addressed him. And he, sir,—poor
man! we should not speak ill of the dead,—but when he came home—from
the gaming-house, we often thought—how he used to strike
and beat her, telling her to go to her Mr. Saville! He was jealous of
you, sir, I suppose, but I am certain without cause; for she was an
angel, sir, if ever angel was born upon this earth.—But you are ill,
sir. What is the matter?"
"Nothing, nothing," said I, rising suddenly; "I am better now;"
and pressing my purse upon the woman, I rushed from the house.
God of justice! how dreadful is thy vengeance, and how
thou oft-times makest the sinner work out his own punishment! I thought not
of the wife at first,—I thought of Isabella Denham. My heart dwelt
upon her once more as I had first beheld her at the theatre,—the
young, the lovely, the innocent being of former days. I remembered
when but to see her for a moment at the window was happiness
unspeakable,—when even the pressure of her hand in mine was a blessing
and a delight to me. And to think that this creature, who had
lain in my bosom, who had been tended, watched, almost served,
with a degree of love akin to idolatry,—who had never seen one
glance of unkindness from me, who had heard no tone from my lips
save of affection—too often of foolish weakness;—to think that this
creature should have become the slave, the drudge,—the spurned and
beaten drudge of a brutal miscreant,—the thought was too horrible!
I had scarcely entered my own house when Mrs. Martin sought me.
"For mercy's sake, sir!" she said in agitation, "come and take
your last leave of my mistress. She is dying, and has prayed to see
you once more."
I followed her in silence. I met Herbert at the door
of the room. "I am glad you are come," said he. He was in tears.
"I am too weak, Herbert; am I not?"
He pressed my hand,—"No, no,"—and he left me.
I entered the room, and sat down by her side.
She spoke not for some minutes.
"I wished to see you once more, Mr. Saville," she said at
length in a low tone, and without raising her eyes to my face, "to implore,
not your pardon, for that I dare not expect; but that you will not curse
my memory when I am gone. You would not, Edward,"—and she
tremblingly touched my hand as it lay upon the bed,—"if you knew
all, or if I could tell you all."
I answered something, but I know not what.
"I have been guilty," she resumed, "but I did not meditate
guilt. Heaven is my witness that I speak the truth. I was betrayed;—and
the rest was fear, and frenzy, and despair!"
I could conceive that now—I could believe it:—
I did believe it,—and I was human. I took both her hands in mine: "Look at me,
Isabella! look in my face!"
She did so, but with hesitation, and as she did so she
started.—"Nay, we are both altered: but other miseries might have done this.
I forgive you from my heart and from my soul. As we first met, so
shall we now part. All shall be forgotten,—all is forgiven. God bless you!"
Those words had killed her. Her eyes dwelt
upon me for one moment with their first sweetness in them;—a
sigh,—and earth alone remained!