The more dear were the ideal image that accompanied her, the more did she execrate and detest her persecutor. “No,” cried she, “I will never be his. Never shall the sacred tie, which should only unite congenial spirits, be violated by two souls, distant as the poles, jarring as contending elements. My father may kill me. Alas, of what value is life to me! It is a long scene of unvaried misfortune. It is a dreary vista of despair. He may kill me, but never, never shall he force me to a deed my soul abhors.”
Containing that with which the reader will be acquainted when he has read it.
The cup of misfortune, by which it was decreed that the virtue and the constancy of our heroine should be tried, was not yet ended. The disposition of a melancholy lover is in the utmost degree variable. Now the fair Delia studiously sought to plunge herself in impervious solitude; and now, worn with a train of gloomy reflections, she with equal eagerness solicited the society of her favourite companion.
By this time sir William Twyford and Miss Fletcher were become in a manner inseparable. Of consequence the company of the one necessarily involved that of the other. And the gaiety and good humour of sir William, tempered as they were by an excellent understanding, and an unaffected vein of sportive wit, were the sweetest medicine to the wounded heart of Delia. When she had first chosen Miss Fletcher for her intimate friend, her own faculties had not yet reached their maturity; and habit frequently renders the most insipid amusements pleasurable and interesting. Southampton itself did not afford the largest scope for selection. And however our readers may decide respecting the merit of the easy, the voluble and the good humoured Miss Fletcher, they will scarcely be disposed to deny that of all the female characters we have hitherto exhibited, she was the most amiable.
One evening, as these three friends were sitting together, sir William took occasion to lament the necessity that was laid upon him to quit Southampton for a few days, though he hoped very speedily to be able to return. His inamorata, as usual, was very inquisitive to learn the business that was to deprive her for a time of the presence of a lover, of whom she was not a little ostentatious. Sir William answered that he was under an engagement to be present at the marriage of one of his college friends, and that he should set out in company with Mr. Moreland.
At that name our tender and apprehensive fair one involuntarily started. “Mr. Moreland!” said she to herself, “Ah, it was at his house that my unknown resided. It is very seldom that Mr. Moreland undertakes a journey. Surely there must be something particularly interesting to him in the affair. The strange combination of circumstances terrifies and perplexes me. Would I were delivered from this state of uncertainty! Would to God I were dead!”