Restored thus unexpectedly to the presence of her who had been the unceasing subject of his thoughts, and under circumstances so well calculated to inflame his imagination, it cannot appear wonderful that Gerald should have looked forward to his approaching interview with emotions of the intensest kind. How fated, too, seemed the reunion. He had quitted Matilda with the firm determination never to behold her more, yet, by the very act of courting that death which would fully have accomplished his purpose, he had placed himself in the position he most wished to avoid. Presuming that Major Montgomerie, who had never alluded to Frankfort as his home, was still with his niece a resident in the distant State in which he had left them—he had gladly heard Colonel Forrester name the Kentucky capital as the place of his destination; for, deep and maddening as was his passion for Matilda, no earthly considerations could have induced him voluntarily to have sought her. Even since his arrival in Frankfort, it had been a source of consolation to him to feel that he was far removed from her who could have made him forget that, although the heart may wither and die, while self-esteem and an approving conscience remain to us, the soul shares not in the same decay—confesses not the same sting. Could he even have divined that in the temple to which his curiosity had led him, he should have beheld the being on whose image he doted, even while he shunned it, he would have avoided her as a pestilence.
The result of this terrible struggle of his feelings was a determination to see her once more—to yield up his whole soul to the intoxication of her presence, and then, provided she should still refuse to unite her fate to his, unhampered by the terrible condition of past days, to tear himself from her for ever.
Strong in this resolution, Gerald, to whom the hours bad appeared as days since his rising, and who quitted Frankfort about his usual time, and, in order to avoid observation, took the same retired and circuitous route by which he had reached the valley the preceding evening. As he descended into the plain, the light from the window of the temple was again perceptible—In a few minutes he was in the room.
“Gerald—my own Gerald,” exclaimed Matilda, as carefully closing the door after her lover, she threw herself into his embrace. Alas, weak man! Like the baseless fabric of a dream, disappeared all the lately formed resolutions of the youth.
“Yes! Matilda, your own Gerald. Come what will henceforth, I am yours.”
A pause of some moments ensued, during which each felt the beating of the other’s heart.
“Will you swear it, Gerald?” at length whispered Matilda.
“I will—I do swear it.”
There was a sudden kindling of the dark eye of the American, and an outswelling of the full bust, that seemed to betoken exultation in the power of her beauty; but this was quickly repressed, and sinking on the sofa at the side of her lover, her whole countenance was radiant with the extraordinary expression Gerald had, for the first time, witnessed while she lingered on the arm of his uncle, Colonel D’Egville.