“And how can I assist you?”
“By sending me, as medicine, that which I dare no longer procure in any other way, and keeping the secret which I have imparted.”
“I will do both with pleasure; but yet,” said I, “is it not a pity, a thousand pities, that one so young—and if you will allow me to add, so lovely, should give herself up to ardent spirits? Why,” continued I, taking her small white hand, “why should you carry on the deception; why sacrifice your health, and I may say your happiness—” What more I might have said I know not, probably it might have been an offer of marriage, but she cut me short.
“Why does everybody sacrifice their health, their happiness, their all, but for ambition and the love of power? It is true, as long as this little beauty lasts, I might be courted as a woman, but never should I be worshipped as—I may say—a god.—No, no, there is something too delightful in that adoration, something too pleasant in witnessing a crowd of fools stare, and men of three times my age, falling down and kissing the hem of my garment. This is, indeed, adoration! the delight arising from it is so great, that all other passions are crushed by it—it absorbs all other feelings, and has closed my heart even against love, Japhet. I could not, I would not debase myself, sink so low in my own estimation, as to allow so paltry a passion to have dominion over me; and, indeed, now that I am so wedded to stimulants, even if I were no longer a prophetess, it never could.”
“But is not intoxication one of the most debasing of all habits?”
“I grant you, in itself, but with me and in my situation it is different. I fall to rise again, and higher. I cannot be what I am without I simulate—I cannot simulate without stimulants, therefore it is but a means to a great and glorious ambition.”
I had more conversation with her before I left, but nothing appeared to move her resolution, and I left her lamenting, in the first place, that she had abjured love, because, notwithstanding the orris root, which she kept in her mouth to take away the smell of the spirits, I found myself very much taken with such beauty of person, combined with so much vigour of mind; and in the second, that one so young should carry on a system of deceit and self-destruction. When I rose to go away she put five guineas in my hand, to enable me to purchase what she required. “Add to this one small favour,” said I, “Aramathea—allow me a kiss.”
“A kiss,” replied she, with scorn; “no, Japhet, look upon me, for it is the last time you will behold my youth; look upon me as a sepulchre, fair without but unsavoury and rottenness within. Let me do you a greater kindness, let me awaken your dormant energies, and plant that ambition in your soul, which may lead to all that is great and good—a better path and more worthy of a man than the one which I have partly chosen, and partly destiny has decided for me. Look upon me as your friend; although perhaps, you truly say, no friend unto myself. Farewell—remember that to-morrow you will send the medicine which I require.”