“What is singular, Matilda?” asked Gerald.
“You shall know all tomorrow,” she replied; “but mind,” and her dark eye rested on his with an expression of much tenderness, “that you come prepared to yield me all I ask.”
Gerald promised that he would, and Matilda, expressing a desire to hear what had so unexpectedly restored him to her presence, he entered into a detail of all that had befallen him from the moment of their separation. She appeared to be much touched by the relation, and, in return, gave him a history of what she too had felt and suffered. She, moreover, informed him that Major Montgomerie had died of his wound shortly after their parting, and that she had now been nearly two months returned to her uncle’s estate at Frankfort, where she lived wholly secluded from society, and with a domestic establishment consisting of slaves. These short explanations having been entered into, they parted—Matilda to enter her dwelling, (the same Gerald had remarked in outline,) in which numerous lights were now visible, and her lover to make the best of his way to the town.
Morning dawned, and yet no sleep had visited the eyes of Gerald Grantham. The image of Matilda floated in his mind, and, to the recollection of her beauty, he clung with an aching eagerness of delight that attested the extent of its influence over his imagination. Had there been nothing to tarnish that glorious picture of womanly perfection, the feelings it called up would have been too exquisite for endurance; but alas! with the faultless image, came also recollections, against which it required all the force of that beauty to maintain itself. One ineffaceable spot was upon the soul of that fascinating being; and though, like the spots on the sun’s disk, it was hidden in the effulgence which surrounded it, still he could not conceal from himself that it did exist, to deface the symmetry of the whole. It was his knowledge of that fearful blemish that had driven him to seek in drunkenness, and subsequently in death, a release from the agonizing tortures of his mind. Virtue and a high sense of honor had triumphed so far, as not merely to leave his own soul spotless, but to enable him to fly from her who would have polluted it with crime; yet, although respect and love—the pure sentiments by which he had originally been influenced—had passed away, the hour of their departure had been that of the increased domination of passion, and far from her whose beauty was ever present to his mind, his imagination had drawn and lingered on such pictures, that assured as he was they could never be realized, he finally resolved to court death wherever it might present itself.