- M. E. BRADDON
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- An Infidel reads the Qur’an, Surahs 100, 108, 102, 107, 109 & 105
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Try it for 30 days FREE. You must be logged in to view your newly purchased content. Please log in below or if you don't have an account, creating one is easy and only takes a few moments. Streaming and Download help. The End of Progress by mystakin. It's haunting, dark, moody prog rock that alternately makes you want to plan the demise of the human race, bust out the whiskey and party, and go kick someone's ass. Also Mystakin is a great guitarist Single White Infidel. If you like Single White Infidel, you may also like:.
Hope This Ends Well. Pitch-perfect math rock from Kaneohe, Hawaii charges forward on raw, ragged emotion. A treat for fans of Polvo and Pardoner. Slush [EP] by Slush. Melbourne-based Slush's debut EP is filled with feminist, punky-pop tunes that make for an exciting introduction to their music. She questioned her father on their next meal together. Miss Lavenew was the daughter of a Calcutta merchant who dealt with the native princes in gold and gems, and who owned a tenth share of the richest diamond mine in the East.
Kilrush came in before her task was finished, but she laid her pen aside gladly, and rose to take his hat and stick from him with her dutiful daughterly air, just as she did for her father. It was seven o'clock, and he had come from a Jacobite dinner in Golden Square—a dinner at which the champagne and Burgundy had gone round freely before it came to drinking the king's health across a bowl of water.
There was an unusual brightness in his eyes, and a faint flush upon cheeks that were more often pale. I found 'twas impossible to leave this stifling town.
M. E. BRADDON
He made a step towards her, wanting to clasp her to his breast in the recklessness of a long suppressed passion, but drew back at the sound of a step on the stair. She looked at him still with the same open wonder. She could scarcely believe that this was Kilrush, the friend she admired and revered. Her father came in while she stood silent, perplexed, and distressed at the transformation.
Kilrush flung himself into an armchair with a muttered oath. Then looking up, he caught the expression of Tonia's face, and it sobered him. He had been talking wildly; had offended her, his divinity, the woman to win whom was the fixed purpose of his mind—to win her at his own price, which was a base one. He had been tactful hitherto, had gained her friendship, and in one unlucky moment he had dropped the mask, and it might be that she would trust him no more.
I must make her love me before I play the lover. He let Thornton talk while he sat in a gloomy silence. It wounded him to the quick to discover that she still thought of him as an elderly man, whose most dreaded misfortune was a fit of the gout. Thornton had been with Garrick, and had come home radiant. The play was to be put in rehearsal next week, with a magnificent cast. I am sick of this petty life of ours, and all it holds. He glanced at Tonia to see how the materialist's barren creed sat on her bright youth. She gave a thoughtful sigh, and her eyes looked dreamily out to the summer clouds sailing over Wren's tall steeple.
She was thinking that if she could have accepted Mrs. Potter's creed, and believed in a shining city above the clouds and the stars, it would have been sweet to hope for reunion with the mother whose face she could not remember, but whose sweetness and beauty her father loved to praise, even now after nineteen years of widowhood. I am out of health and out of humour. Miss Thornton was right, I dare swear, when she suggested the gout—my gout—an old man's chronic malady.
I have been dining with a crew of boisterous asses who won't believe the Stuarts are beaten, in spite of the foolish heads that are blackening on Temple Bar. J'ai le vin mauvais , and am best at home. He kissed Antonia's hand, that cold hand which had never thrilled at his touch, nodded good-bye to Thornton, and hurried away. She was not accustomed to see any one under the influence of liquor. Her father was, by long habit, proof against all effects of the nightly punch-bowl, and however late he came from "The Portico," he had always his reasoning powers, and legs steady enough to carry him up two flights of stairs without stumbling.
Lord Kilrush posted to Tunbridge Wells the day after the Jacobite dinner, and found a herd of fine people he knew parading the Pantiles, or sauntering on the common, among Jews and Germans, pinmakers' wives from Smock Alley, and rural squires with red-cheeked daughters. He drank the waters, and nearly died of ennui.
He would have liked the place better if it had been a solitude. Wit no longer aroused him, not even George Selwyn's; beauty had ceased to charm, except in one face, and that was two and thirty miles away. That chronic weariness which he knew for the worst symptom of advancing years increased with every hour of fashionable rusticity. The air at the Wells was delicious, the inn was comfortable, his physician swore that the treatment was improving his health. He left the place at an hour's notice, to the disgust of his body-servant, and posted back to town. He preferred the gloom of his great silent house in St.
James's Square, where he lived a hermit's life in his library when London was empty. Scarce a season had passed without rumours of his impending marriage with some famous beauty, or still more famous fortune. But for the last five or six years he had wearied of society, and had restricted his company to a few chosen friends, men of his own age, with whom he could rail at the follies of the new generation—men who had known Bolingbroke in his day of power, and had entertained Voltaire at their country seats in the year ' Were Tonia's violet eyes the lodestars that drew him back to town?
He was singing softly to himself as he walked up Shooter's Hill, being ever merciful to the brute creation, and loving horses and dogs better than he loved men. But his first visit was not to Rupert Buildings. He knew that he had shocked and disgusted Antonia, and that he must give her time to recover her old confidence. It had been but an impetuous movement, a waft of passionate feeling, when he stretched out his arms towards her, yearning to clasp her to his breast; but her fine instinct had told her that this was the lover and not the friend.
He must give her time to think she had mistaken him. He must play the comedy of indifference. He ordered his favourite hack on the day after his return from the Wells, and rode by Westminster Bridge, only opened in the previous autumn, to Clapham, past Kennington Common, where poor Jemmy Dawson had suffered for his share in the rebellion of '45, by pleasant rustic roads where the perfume of roses exhaled from prosperous citizens' gardens, surrounding honest, square-built brick houses, not to be confounded with the villa, which then meant a demi-mansion on a classic model, secluded in umbrageous grounds, and not a flimsy bay-windowed packing-case in a row of similar packing-cases.
Clapham was then more rustic than Haslemere is now, and the common was the Elysian Fields of wealthy city merchants and some persons of higher quality. The shrubberied drive into which Kilrush rode was kept with an exquisite propriety, and those few flowering shrubs that bloom in September were unfolding their petals under an almost smokeless sky. He dismounted before a handsome house more than half a century old, built before the Revolution, a solid, red-brick house with long narrow windows, and a handsome cornice, pediment, and cupola masking the shining black tiles of the low roof.
A shell-shaped canopy, richly carved, and supported by cherubic brackets, sheltered the tall doorway. The open door offered a vista of garden beyond the hall, and Kilrush walked straight through to the lawn, while his groom led the horses to the stable yard, a spacious quadrangle screened by intervening shrubberies.
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A middle-aged woman of commanding figure was seated at a table under the spreading branches of a plane with a young man, who rose hurriedly, and went to meet the visitor. The lady was Mrs. Stobart, the widow of a Bristol ship-owner, and the young man was her only son, late of a famous dragoon regiment. Both were dressed with a gloomy severity that set his lordship's teeth on edge, but both had a certain air of distinction not to be effaced by their plain attire. She saw your name in the Gazette. He kissed Mrs. Stobart's black mitten, and dropped into a chair at her side, after vouchsafing a distant nod to a young woman who sat at a pace or two from the table, sewing the seam of a coarse linen shirt, with her head discreetly bent.
She raised a pair of mild brown eyes, and blushed rosy red as she acknowledged his lordship's haughty greeting, and he noticed that Stobart went over to speak to her before he resumed his seat. There were some dishes of fruit on the table, Mrs. Stobart's work-basket and several books—the kind of books Kilrush loathed, pamphlets in grey paper covers, sermons in grey boards, the literature of that Great Revival which had spread a wave of piety over the United Kingdom, from John o' Groat's to the Land's End, and across the Irish Channel from the Liffey to the Shannon.
Stobart was his first cousin, the daughter of his father's elder sister and of Sir Michael MacMahon, an Irish judge. Good looks ran in the blood of the Delafields, and only two years ago Kilrush had been proud of his cousin, who until that date was a distinguished figure in the fashionable assemblies of London and Bath, and whose aquiline features and fine person were set off by powder and diamonds, and the floral brocades and flowing sacques which "that hateful woman," Madame de Pompadour, whom everybody of ton abused and imitated, had brought into fashion.
The existence of such women is, of course, a disgrace to civilization; but while their wicked reign lasts, persons of quality must copy their clothes. Two years ago George Stobart had been one of the most promising soldiers in His Majesty's army, a man who loved his profession, who had distinguished himself as a subaltern at Fontenoy, and was marked by his seniors for promotion.
He had been also one of the best-dressed and best-mannered young men in London society, and at the Bath and the Wells a star of the first magnitude. To Kilrush such a transformation meant little short of lunacy. He was indignant at his kinsman's decadence; and when he gave a curt and almost uncivil nod to the poor dependent, bending over her plain needlework yonder betwixt sun and shade, it was because he suspected that pretty piece of lowborn pink-and-white to have some part in the change that had been wrought so suddenly.
Two years ago, at an evening service in John Wesley's chapel at the Old Foundery, George Stobart had been "convinced of sin. In that awful moment the depth of his iniquity had been opened to him, and he had discovered the hollowness of a life without God in the world. He had looked along the backward path of years, and had seen himself a child, drowsily enduring the familiar liturgy, sleeping through the hated sermon; a lad at Eton, making a jest of holy things, scorning any assumption of religion in his schoolfellows, insolent to his masters, arrogant and uncharitable, shirking everything that did not minister to his own pleasures or his own aims, studious only in the pursuit of selfish ambitions, dreaming of future greatness to be won amidst the carnage of battles as ruthless, as unnecessary, as Malplaquet.
And following those early years of self-love and impiety there had come a season of darker sins, of the sins which prosperous youth calls pleasure, sins that had sat so lightly on the slumbering conscience, but which filled the awakened soul with horror. His first impulse after that spiritual regeneration was to sell out of the army. This was the one tangible and irrevocable sacrifice that lay in his power. The more he loved a soldier's career, the more ardently he had aspired to military renown, the more obvious was the duty of renunciation. The treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle had but just been concluded, and the troubles in America had not begun, so there seemed no chance of his regiment being sent on active service, but his conduct seemed not the less extraordinary to his commanding officer.
Stobart was furious with her son for his abandonment of a career in which she had expected him to win distinction. For some months after his "call" she had refused to speak to him, and had left him to his solitary meditations in his own rooms at Stobart Lodge. In this gloomy period they had met only at meals, and it had vexed her to see that her son took no wine, and refused all the daintier dishes upon the table, all those ragouts and salmis that adorned the board in sumptuous covered dishes of Georgian silver, and which were the pride of cook and dinner-giver.
Stobart said angrily, as the side dishes were removed untasted, breaking in upon a melancholy silence that had lasted from the soup to the game. Ah, madam, if you would but hearken to the voices I hear, court the friends I love, you would scorn the worldling's life as I scorn it. To the heir of a boundless estate in the Kingdom of Heaven 'tis idle to waste thought and toil upon a trumpery speck of earth. You have caught their jargon. I am a good Churchwoman, George, and I hate cant. But what is it to be a good Churchwoman?
To attend a morning service once a week in a church where there is neither charity nor enthusiasm, upon whose dull decorum the hungry and the naked dare not intrude—a service that takes no cognizance of sinners, save in a formula that the lips repeat while the heart remains dead; to eat a cold dinner on the Sabbath in order that your servants may join in the same heartless mockery of worship; to listen to the barren dogma of a preacher whose life you know for evil, and whose intellect you despise. Mother and son had many such conversations—oases in a desert of sullen silence—before Mrs.
Stobart's conversion; but that conversion came at last, partly by the preaching of John Wesley, whom her son worshipped, and partly by the influence of Lady Huntingdon and other ladies of birth and fortune, whose example appealed to the fashionable Maria Stobart as no meaner example could have done.
She began to think less scornfully of the Great Revival when she found her equals in rank among the most ardent followers of Whitefield and the Wesleys: and within a year of her son's awakening she, too, became convinced of sin, the firstfruits of which conversion were shown by the dismissal of her forty-guinea cook, her second footman, the third stable servant, and the sale of a fine pair of carriage-horses.
She had even contemplated dispensing with her own maid, but was prevented by a sense of her patrician incapability of getting into her clothes or out of them without help. She made, perhaps, a still greater sacrifice by changing her dressmaker from a Parisienne in St. James's to a woman at Kennington, who worked for the Quaker families on Denmark Hill. After about ten minutes' conversation with this lady, of whose mental capacity he had but a poor opinion, Lord Kilrush invited her son to a turn in the fruit garden—a garden planned fifty years before, and maintained in all the perfection of espaliered walks and herbacious borders, masking the spacious area devoted to celery, asparagus, and the homelier vegetables.
High brick walls, heavily buttressed, surmounted this garden on three sides, the fourth side being divided from lawn and parterre by a ten-foot yew hedge. At the further end, making a central point in the distance, there was a handsome red-brick orangery, flanked on either side by a hothouse, while at one angle of the wall an octagonal summer-house of two stories overlooked the whole, and afforded an extensive view of the open country across the river, from Notting Hill to Harrow.
Established wealth and comfort could hardly find a better indication than in this delightful garden. Come, George, I am glad to see you look so well in health, and I hope soon to be gratified by seeing you make an end of your crazy life, and return to a world you were created to serve and adorn. If the army will not please you, there is the political arena open to every young man of means and talent.
I should like to see your name rank with the Townsends and the Pelhams before I die. Faith, George, that's too old for foolery. John Wesley was a lad at college, and Whitefield was scarce out of his teens when he gave himself up to these pious hallucinations; and they were both penniless youths who must needs begin their journey without scrip or sack. But you, a man of fortune, a soldier, one of the young heroes of Fontenoy, that you could be caught by the rhapsodies that carry away a London mob of shop-boys and servant-wenches, or a throng of semi-savage coal-miners at Kingswood, in that contagion of enthusiasm to which crowds are subject—that you could turn Methodist!
Pah, it makes me sick to think of your folly! After my mother's conversion there is no heart so stubborn that I should despair of its being changed. Well, I don't want to quarrel with you, so we'll argue no further. After all, in a young man these follies are but passing clouds. Had you not taken so serious a step as to leave the army I should scarcely have vexed myself on your account. By the way, who is that seamstress person I saw sitting on the lawn, and whom I have seen here before to-day? His eyes were on George's face, and the conscious flush he expected to see passed over the young man's cheek and brow as he spoke.
Her home was a hell upon earth. Her case had been brought before Mr. Wesley, who was touched by her unaffected piety. I heard her history from his lips, and made it my duty to rescue her from her vile associations. Her whole frame was convulsed with sobs which she strove with all her might to restrain. I tried to raise her from the ground, but her ice-cold hand repulsed mine, and the kneeling figure was as rigid as if it had been marble.
If so, I wonder your mother consented to harbour her. It is one thing to entertain angels unawares, but knowingly to receive devils——". I cannot conceive the need of self-humiliation in youth that has never gone astray. The fall from virtue is a terrible thing; but there is a state of sin more deadly than Mary Magdalen's. There is the sin of the infidel who denies Christ; there is the sin of the ignorant and the unthinking, who has lived aloof from God.
It was to the conviction of such a state that Lucy Foreman was awakened that night. It was a fine frank face, with well-cut features and eyes of the same dark grey as his lordship's, a face that had well become the dragoon's Roman headgear, and which had a certain poetical air to-day with the unpowdered brown hair thrown carelessly back from the broad forehead. It was not till after my mother's conversion that I could hope to win her friendship for this recruit of Christ. I had heard Lucy's story in the mean-time, and I knew that she was worthy of all that our friendship could do for her.
To me the premier duke is of no more importance than Lucy Foreman's infidel father—a soul to be saved or lost. You know very well what I mean. You have played the fool badly enough already, by selling your commission. But there are lower depths of folly. When a man begins to talk as you do, and to hanker after some pretty bit of plebeian pink-and-white, one knows which way he is drifting.
I will go further, George, and say that if you make such a marriage I will never forgive you, never see your face again. I have not asked your permission to marry, and I have not given you the slightest ground for supposing that I contemplate marriage. That young woman yonder is ground enough for my apprehension. Take a friendly counsel from a man of the world, George, and remember that although my title dies with me, my fortune is at my disposal, and that you are my natural heir.
I came here to-day on purpose to give you this warning. She had come at her mistress's order to invite them to a dish of tea on the lawn. Kilrush assented, though it was but five o'clock, and he had not dined. They walked by the damsel's side to the table under the plane, where the tea-board was set ready. Having given expression to his opinion, his lordship was not disinclined to become better acquainted with this Helen of the slums, so that he might better estimate his cousin's peril.
She resumed her distant chair and her needlework, as Kilrush and George sat down to tea, and was not invited to share that elegant refreshment. The young man's vexed glance in her direction would have been enough to betray his penchant for the humble companion. Stobart forgot herself so far as to question her cousin about some of the fine people whose society she had renounced.
Lady Chesterfield and Lady Coventry are really converts; but I fear most of my former friends resort to that admirable woman's assemblies out of curiosity rather than from a searching for the truth. I myself stood in the blazing sun at Moorfields to hear him, when he first began to be cried up; but having heard him I am satisfied. The show was a fine show, but once is enough. Some good seed must ever fall on stony places; yet the harvest has been rich enough to reward those who toil in the vineyard—rich in promise of a day when there shall be no more railing and no more doubt. I am keeping her till I can place her in some household where she will be safe herself, and a well-spring of refreshing grace for those with whom she lives.
Danger for my son in the society of a journeyman's daughter—a girl who can but just read and write? My good Kilrush, I am astounded that you could entertain such a thought. But it would have been wiser to omit that hint to the mother. If she should plague her son about his penchant , ten to one 'twill make matters worse. An affair of that kind thrives on opposition. Lord Kilrush allowed nearly a month to elapse before he reappeared in Rupert Buildings. He had absented himself in the hope that Antonia would miss his company; and her bright smile of welcome told him that his policy had been wise.
She had, indeed, forgotten the sudden gust of passion that had scared her by a suggestion of strangeness in the friend she had trusted. She had been very busy since that evening. Her father's play was in rehearsal, and while Thornton spent his days at Drury Lane and his nights at "The Portico," she had to do most of his magazine work, chiefly translations of essays or tales by Voltaire or Diderot, and even to elaborate such scraps of news as he brought her for the St.
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James's, Lloyd's, or the Evening Post, all which papers opened their columns to gossip about the town. He had called more than once in St. James's Square during the interval, but had not succeeded in seeing his friend and patron. And now Kilrush reappeared, with as easy a friendliness as if there had been no break in his visits. He brought a posy of late roses for Antonia, the only offering he ever made her whom he would fain have covered with jewels richer than stud the thrones of Indian Emperors.
Her sweet simplicity of speech, the directness of her lovely gaze smote him to the heart. Still—still she trusted him, still treated him as if he had been a benevolent uncle, while his heart beat high with a passion that it was a struggle to hide. Yet he was not without hope, for in her confiding sweetness he saw signs of a growing regard. I have been much occupied since I saw you last, and concerned about a cousin of mine who is in a bad way. His fever is the Methodist rant. He has taken the new religion.
She had heard none of the new preachers; but all she had been told, or had read about them, appealed to her sense of the ridiculous. She had been so imbued with the contempt for all religious observances, that she could feel nothing but a wondering pity for people whose thoughts and lives could be influenced by a two-hours' sermon in the open air. To this young votaress of pure reason the enthusiasm of crowds seemed a fanatical possession tending towards a cell in Bedlam.
But his mother's estate is at her own disposal; she is a handsome woman still, and may cheat him by a second marriage. I think a man of good family should marry in his own rank, if he can't marry above it. He should never have to apologize for his wife, or for her kindred. He had started to his feet at Tonia's speech, in angry agitation. He had never been able to forgive the wife who had disgraced him, or to think of her with common charity, though he had carried off his mortification with a well-acted indifference, and though it was ten years since that frail offender had come to the end of her wandering in a cemetery outside the walls of Florence.
Marriage is the gate of hell. I grant you there are marriages that seem happy—nay, I will say that are happy—but 'tis not the less a fact that to chain a man and woman to each other for life is the way to make them the deadliest enemies. The marriage bond was invented to keep estates together, not to bind hearts. I should be sorry to think that 'twas like a fairy tale, and that there are no lovers as noble as Dorifleur, no women as happy as Rosalia.
We go to the play on purpose to be deluded by pictures of impossible felicity—men of never-to-be-shaken valour, women of incorruptible virtue, shadows that please us in a three-hours' dream, and which have no parallels in flesh and blood. Antonia looked at him with a puzzled air, slow to follow his drift. He saw that he had gone too far, and was in danger of displeasing her. What formalists they are at best! If they are not in fear of the day of judgment they tremble at the notion of being ill-spoken of by their neighbours.
I'll warrant this sweet girl is as anxious to keep her landlady's good opinion as George Whitefield is to go to heaven. Tonia's eyes sparkled at the thought of her triumph. To have her words spoken by David Garrick—by the lovely Mrs. Pritchard—to sit unseen in the shadow of the curtained side-box, while her daydreams took form and substance in the light of the oil lamps! Garrick is kind enough to give us a pass. Father has given me a silk gown from Hilditch's in the city, the first I have had. He had taken the red morocco case out of an iron coffer not long since, and had looked at the ornament, longing to clasp it round Tonia's throat.
The hands that held the case trembled a little as he imagined the moment when he should fasten the diamond clasp on that exquisite neck. I take gifts from no one but my father, except, indeed, the roses you are so kind as to bring me. The necklace was my mother's, and has been wasting in darkness for near half a century.
She died before I went to Eton. Would you but let me lend it to you—only to air the pearls. His lordship's visits now became more frequent than at first; and Tonia received him with unvarying kindness, whether he found her alone or in her father's company. Her calm assurance was so strangely in advance of her years and position that he could but think she owed it to having mixed so little with her own sex, and thus having escaped all taint of self-consciousness or coquetry.
She listened to his opinions with respect, but was not afraid to argue with him. She made no secret of her pleasure in his society, and owned to finding the afternoons or evenings vastly dull on which he did not appear. The comedy was well received, and Thornton was made much of by Mr. Garrick and all the actors. No one was informed of Antonia's share in the work, or suspected that the handsome young woman in a yellow silk sacque had so much to do with the success of the evening.
Thornton, and more than ever reproachful of Antonia for deserting her. I cannot be sure. You have grown distant of late, and more of a fine lady than you was last year. Antonia blushed, and promised to take tea with her friend next day. She was conscious of a certain distaste for Patty's company, but still more for Patty's casual visitors; but the chief influence had been Kilrush's urgent objections to the young actress's society.
I have watched her at the side-scenes with a swarm of such gadflies buzzing round her. On my soul, dear Miss Thornton, 'twould torture me to think of you the cynosure of Miss Lester's circle. Tonia laughed off the warning, swore she was very fond of Patty, and would on no account desert her.
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She sparkles and revives at my coming, like a drooping flower at a sprinkle of summer rain. But, oh, how wide the difference between loving my company and loving me! Shall I ever bridge the abyss? Shall I ever see those glorious eyes droop under my gaze, that transcendent form agitated by a heart that passion sets beating? Again and again he found her alone among her books and manuscripts, for Thornton, being now flush of money, spent most of his time abroad. He sported a new suit, finer than any his daughter had ever seen him wear, and had an air of rakish gaiety that shocked her.
The comedy seemed a gold mine, for he had always a guinea at command.
An Infidel reads the Qur’an, Surahs 100, 108, 102, 107, 109 & 105
He no longer allowed his daughter to fetch and carry between him and his employers. She must trapes no more along the familiar Strand to Fleet Street. He employed a messenger for this vulgar drudgery. He urged her to buy herself new hats and gowns, and to put her toilet on a handsome footing. I had never a miser's temper. Davy shall take our next play. You had best stick to Spanish, and find me a plot in De Vega or Moratin, and not plague yourself about scraping a guinea or two.
The hours Antonia spent in his lordship's company were the happiest she had ever known, and the days when he did not come had a grey dulness that was a new sensation. The sound of his step on the stair put her in good spirits, and she was all smiles when he entered the room. Her bright and fearless outlook as she said the words showed him how far she was from divining a passion that had grown and strengthened in every hour of their companionship. They talked of every subject under the sun.
He had travelled much, as travelling went in those days; had read much, and had learnt still more from intercourse with the brightest minds of the age. He showed her the better side of his nature, the man he might have been had he never abandoned himself to the vices that the world calls pleasures. They talked often about religion; and though he had cast in his lot with the Deists before he left Oxford, it shocked him to find a young and innocent woman lost to all sense of natural piety.
Her father had trained her to scorn all creeds, and to rank the Christian faith no higher than the most revolting or the most imbecile superstitions of India or the South Seas. She had read Voltaire before she read the gospel; and that inexorable pen had cast a blight over the sacred pages, and infused the poison of a malignant satire into the fountain of living waters. Kilrush praised her independence of spirit, and exulted in the thought that a woman who believed in nothing had nothing to lose outside the region of material advantages, and, convinced of this, felt sure that he could make her life happy.
They were alone together in the June afternoon, as they so often were. He had met Thornton at the entrance to the court, trudging off to Adelphi Terrace, to wait upon Mr. She welcomed him with unconcealed pleasure, pushed aside her papers, took the bunch of roses that he carried her with her prettiest curtsey, and then busied herself in arranging the nosegay in a willow-pattern Worcester bowl, while he laid down his hat and cane, and took his accustomed seat by her writing-table.
They were cabbage roses, and made a great mass of glowing pink above the dark blue of the bowl. She looked at them delightedly, handled them with delicate touch, fingers light as Titania's, and then stopped in the midst of her pleasant task, surprised at his silence. Dear girl, do you not know that I adore you? She tried to draw her hand from his grasp, and looked at him with unutterable astonishment, but not in anger. Did you think that I could come here day after day, for a year—see you and hear you, be your friend and companion—and not love you? By Heaven, child, you must have thought me the dullest clay that ever held a human soul, if you could think so.
She looked at him still, mute and grave, deep blushes dyeing her cheeks, and her eyes darkly serious. Your rank, and the difference of our ages, prevented me from thinking of you as a suitor. He started, and dropped her hand; and his face, which had flushed as he talked to her, grew pale again. He would not have her deceived in his intentions for an instant. He had not always been fair and above-board in his dealings with women; but to this one he could not lie. My heart might break from a jilt's ill-usage—but that , the name which belongs not to me only, but to all of my race who have borne it in the past or who will bear it in the future—that should be out of the power of woman's misconduct.
And so to you whom I love with a passion more profound, more invincible than this heart ever felt for another since it began to beat, I cannot offer a legal tie; but I lay my adoring heart, my life, my fortune at your feet, and I swear to cleave to you and honour you with a constant and devoted affection which no husband upon this earth can surpass. He tried to take her hand again, but she drew herself away from him with a superb gesture of mingled surprise and scorn. Do you call it degradation to be the idol of my life, to be the beloved companion of a man who can lavish all this world knows of luxury and pleasure upon your lot, who will carry you to the fairest spots of earth, show you all that is noblest in art and nature, all that makes the bliss of intelligent beings, who will protect your interests by the most generous settlements ever made by a lover?
I thought you were my friend—indeed, for me you had become a dear and cherished friend. I was deceived, cruelly deceived! I shall know better another time when a man of your rank pretends to offer me the equality of friendship! There were tears in her eyes in spite of her courage, in which Roman virtue she far surpassed the average woman.
What can my name matter to you—to you of all women, friendless and alone in the world, your existence unknown to more than some half-dozen people? I stand on a height where the arrows of ridicule fly thick and fast. Were I to marry a young woman—I who was deceived and deserted by a handsome wife before I was thirty—you cannot conceive what a storm of ridicule I should provoke, how Selwyn would coruscate with wit at my expense, and Horry Walpole scatter his contemptuous comments on my folly over half the continent of Europe. I suffered that kind of agony once—knew myself the target of all the wits and slanderers in London.
I will not suffer it again! He was pacing the room, which was too small for the fever of his mind. To be refused without an instant's hesitation, as if he had tried to make a queen his mistress! To be scorned by Bill Thornton's daughter—Thornton, the old jail-bird whom he had helped to get out of prison—the fellow who had been sponging on him more or less for a score of years, most of all in this last year!