“Then,” said Gerald reproachfully, “it was merely to make me an instrument of vengeance that you sought me. Unkind Matilda!”
“Nay, Gerald,—recollect, that then I had not learnt to know you as I do now—I will not deny that when first I saw you, a secret instinct told me you were one whom I would have deeply loved had I never loved before; but betrayed and disappointed as I had been, I looked upon all men with a species of loathing—my kind, good, excellent, more than father, excepted—and yet, Gerald, there were moments when I wished even him dead.” (Gerald started)—“yes! dead—because I knew the anguish that would crush his heart if he should ever learn that the false brand of the assassin: had been affixed to the brow of his adopted child.” Matilda sighed profoundly, and then resumed. “Later however, when the absence of its object had in some degree abated the keenness of my thirst for revenge, and when more frequent intercourse had made me acquainted with the generous qualities of your mind, I loved you Gerald, although I would not avow it, with a fervor I had never believed myself a second time capable of entertaining.”
Again the countenance of Matilda was radiant with the expression just alluded to by her lover. Gerald gazed at her as though his very being hung upon the continuance of that fascinating influence, and again he clasped her to his heart.
“Matilda! oh my own betrothed Matilda!” he murmured.
“Yes your own betrothed,” repeated the American highly excited, the wife of your affection and your choice, who has been held up to calumny and scorn. Think of that, Gerald; she on whose fond bosom you are to repose your aching head, she who glories in her beauty only because it is beauty in your eyes, has been, betrayed, accused of a vile passion for a slave; yet he—the fiend who has done this grievous wrong—he who has stamped your wife with ignominy, and even published her shame-still lives. Within a week,” she resumed, in a voice hoarse from exertion. “Yes, within a week, Gerald, he will be here—perhaps to deride and contemn you for the choice you have made.”
“Within a week he dies,” exclaimed the youth. “Matilda, come what will, he dies. Life is death without you, and with you even crime may sit lightly on my soul. But we will fly far from the habitations of man. The forest shall be our home, and when the past recurs to me you shall smile upon me with that smile—look upon me with that look, and I will forget it all. Yes” he pursued, with a fierce excitement snatching up the holy book, and again carrying it to his lips—“once more I repeat my oath. He who has thus wronged you, my own Matilda, dies—dies by the hand of Gerald Grantham—of your affianced husband.”
There was another long embrace, after which the plan of operations was distinctly explained and decided upon. They then separated for the night—the infatuated Gerald with a load of guilt at his heart, no effort of his reason could remove, returning by the route he had followed on the preceding evening to his residence in the town.