“I well know whom I have to deal with, my lord,” she said, “and am, therefore, provided against the last extremity. Attempt to touch me, and I plunge this dagger into my heart.”
“Your sense of religion will not allow you to commit so desperate a deed,” replied the earl, derisively.
“My blood be upon your head, my lord,” she rejoined; “for it is your hand that strikes the blow, and not my own. My honour is dearer to me than life, and I will unhesitatingly sacrifice the one to preserve the other. I have no fear but that the action, wrongful though it be, will be forgiven me.”
“Hold!” exclaimed the earl, seeing from her determined look and manner that she would unquestionably execute her purpose. “I have no desire to drive you to destruction. Think over what I have said to you, and we will renew the subject tomorrow.”
“Renew it when you please, my lord, my answer will still be the same,” she replied. “I have but one refuge from you—the grave—and thither, if need be, I will fly.” And as she spoke, she moved slowly towards the adjoining chamber, the door of which she fastened after her.
“I thought I had some experience of her sex,” said Rochester to himself, “but I find I was mistaken. To-morrow’s mood, however, may be unlike to-day’s. At all events, I must take my measures differently.”
* * * * *
THE MARRIAGE AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.
Unwilling to believe he had become an object of aversion to Amabel, Rochester renewed his solicitations on the following day, and calling into play his utmost fascination of manner, endeavoured to remove any ill impression produced by his previous violence. She was proof, however, against his arts; and though he never lost his mastery over himself, he had some difficulty in concealing his chagrin at the result of the interview. He now began to adopt a different course, and entering into long discussions with Amabel, strove by every effort of wit and ridicule, to shake and subvert her moral and religious principles. But here again he failed; and once more shifting his ground, affected to be convinced by her arguments. He entirely altered his demeanour, and though Amabel could not put much faith in the change, it was a subject of real rejoicing to her. Though scarcely conscious of it herself, he sensibly won upon her regards, and she passed many hours of each day in his society without finding it irksome. Seeing the advantage he had gained, and well aware that he should lose it by the slightest indiscretion, Rochester acted with the greatest caution. The more at ease she felt with him, the more deferential did he become; and before she was conscious of her danger, the poor girl was once more on the brink of the precipice.