“It boots not now, Clara, to enter upon all that succeeded to my first introduction to your mother. It would take long to relate, not the gradations of our passion, for that was like the whirlwind of the desert, sudden and devastating from the first; but the burning vow, the plighted faith, the reposing confidence, the unchecked abandonment that flew from the lips, and filled the heart of each, sealed, as they were, with kisses, long, deep, enervating, even such as I had ever pictured that divine pledge of human affection should be. Yes, Clara de Haldimar, your mother was the child of nature then. Unspoiled by the forms, unvitiated by the sophistries of a world with which she had never mixed, her intelligent innocence made the most artless avowals to my enraptured ear,—avowals that the more profligate minded woman of society would have blushed to whisper even to herself. And for these I loved her to my own undoing.
“Blind vanity, inconceivable folly!” continued Wacousta, again pressing his forehead with force; “how could I be so infatuated as not to perceive, that although her heart was filled with a new and delicious passion, it was less the individual than the man she loved. And how could it be otherwise, since I was the first, beside her father, she had ever seen or recollected to have seen? Still, Clara de Haldimar,” he pursued, with haughty energy, “I was not always the rugged being I now appear. Of surpassing strength I had ever been, and fleet of foot, but not then had I attained to my present gigantic stature; neither was my form endowed with the same Herculean rudeness; nor did my complexion wear the swarthy hue of the savage; nor had my features been rendered repulsive, from the perpetual action of those fierce passions which have since assailed my soul. My physical faculties had not yet been developed to their present grossness of maturity, neither had my moral energies acquired that tone of ferocity which often renders me hideous, even in my own eyes. In a word, the milk of my nature (for, with all my impetuosity of character, I was generous-hearted and kind) had not yet been turned to gall by villainy and deceit. My form had then all that might attract—my manners all that might win—my enthusiasm of speech all that might persuade—and my heart all that might interest a girl fashioned after nature’s manner, and tutored in nature’s school. In the regiment, I was called the handsome grenadier; but there was another handsomer than I,—a sly, insidious, wheedling, false, remorseless villain. That villain, Clara de Haldimar, was your father.
“But wherefore,” continued Wacousta, chafing with the recollection, “wherefore do I, like a vain and puling schoolboy, enter into this abasing contrast of personal advantages? The proud eagle soars not more above the craven kite, than did my soul, in all that was manly and generous, above that of yon false governor; and who should have prized those qualities, if it were not the woman who, bred in solitude, and taught by fancy to love all that was generous and noble in the heart of man, should have considered mere beauty of feature as dust in the scale, when opposed to sentiments which can invest even deformity with loveliness? In all this I may appear vain; I am only just.