“Yes, Matilda,” exclaimed the youth, madly heedless of the past, while he rivetted his gaze upon her dazzling loveliness with such strong excitement of expression as to cause her own to sink beneath it, “your own Gerald— your slave kneels before you,” and he threw himself at her feet.
“And what punishment does not that slave merit?” she asked, in a tone so different from that in which she had addressed her supposed domestic, that Gerald could scarcely believe it to be the same. “What reparation can he make for having caused so much misery to one who loved and cherished him so well. Oh! Gerald, what days, what nights of misery, have I not passed since you so unkindly left me.” As she uttered the last sentence, she bent herself over the still kneeling form of her lover, while her long dark hair, falling forward, completely enveloped him in its luxuriant and waving folds.
“You will be mine, Matilda,” at length murmured the youth, as he sat at her side on the sofa, to which on rising he had conducted her.
“Yours, only yours,” returned the American, while she bent her face upon his shoulder. “But you know the terms of our union.”
Had a viper stung him, Gerald could not have recoiled with more dismay and horror from her embrace. Again the features of Matilda became colorless, and her brow assumed an expression of care and severity.
“Then, if not to fulfil that compact, wherefore are you here?” and the question was put half querulously, half contemptuously.
“Chance, Destiny, Fate,—call it what you will,” cried Gerald, obeying the stronger impulse of his feelings, and clasping her once more to his beating heart. “Oh! Matilda, if you knew how the idea of that fearful condition has haunted me in my thoughts by day, and my dreams by night, you would only wonder that at this moment I retain my senses, filled as my soul is with maddening—with inextinguishable love for you.”
“And do you really entertain for me that deep, that excessive passion you have just expressed,” at length observed Matilda, after some moments of silence, and with renewed tenderness of voice and manner, “and yet refuse the means by which you may secure me to you for ever?”
“Matilda,” said Gerald, with vehemence, “my passion for you is one which no effort of my reason can control; but let me not deceive you—it is now one of the senses.”
An expression of triumph, not wholly unmingled with scorn, animated the features of Matilda. It was succeeded by one of ineffable tenderness.
“We will talk of this no more tonight, Gerald, but tomorrow evening, at the same hour, be here: then our mutual hopes, and fears, and doubts shall be then realized or disappointed, as the event may show. Tomorrow will determine if, as I cannot but believe, Destiny has sent you to me at this important hour. It is very singular,” she added, as if to herself, her features again becoming deadly pale—“very singular, indeed!”