“I only desire you to decide between this and a worse debasement. Which will you choose?”
“What mean you?”
“That I will only marry you on condition you will accede to my present proposition.”
“Have you not told me, time and again, that you looked upon me as your wife by the highest of all laws, the laws of nature and of God? How, then, can you talk of not making me legally yours, in the sight of men?”
“I will, I tell you, if you will do as I wish in the present instance. Come, be kind, be gentle and loving, as you ever have been, and we will soon be completely happy by acknowledging our love before men, at the altar.”
“This again! Oh, tempter, betray me not!”
“You have your choice. I will never marry you if you refuse my present offer, never! Whose, then, will be the shame? Which will you be, an honorable wife, or a despised offcast? Your destiny is in your own hands, make your election.”
“Oh, God! I am in your power!”
“Then you consent?”
“What assurance have I that this promise will make me your wife? Have you not promised the same thing scores of times?”
“Require any form of obligation, and I will give it; as I mean what I say, make your own conditions.”
“Give me a written promise.”
He gave it as she dictated it:
“I hereby promise to marry Eliza Fleming within one month from this 12th day of April, 1786. This promise I most solemnly give, calling on heaven to witness it, and if I fail in its performance, may the curses of God rest upon my soul in this world and in the world to come.
“That will do,” she said.
“And I may depend on you?”
“Yes; I am no longer free. But mind, all must be done quietly and kept a profound secret.”
“Leave that to me; I will be responsible for the result.”
Thus was a net woven for an unsuspecting victim. Who was she, and what the cause for this unrelenting and revengeful feeling on the part of Durant? Time must show.
A villain unmasked.
In a beautiful district of the “Old Dominion,” bordering on the Rappahannock, there lived, just previous to the time of the opening of our story, a planter, who had once been wealthy, but whose princely fortune had become much reduced by indiscriminate kindness. Possessed of a noble heart, a generous disposition, and the finest sympathies, he could never find it in his heart to say “no” to an application for assistance. Thousands had thus gone to pay debts of security; and, at last, he resolved to move to the West, as a means of retrieving his affairs, as well as to cut loose from the associations which were rapidly diminishing the remains of his wealth.