« PreviousContinue »
he proposed to deprive a fellow being of the greatest earthly good, and to give her in return, that dross which was to himself as nothing.
But the proposals of Montalva, though liberal, and even splendid, were rejected with disdain by Ellen Dudley; her answer was concise, but decisive.
"Neither my heart, nor my person, are saleable.
This laconic billet, was the only answer she vouchsafed to send the count, for though he wrote repeatedly, yet his letters were returned unopened, and he never could gain admittance to her presence; this unexpected disappointment piqued his pride, and what at first was merely an inclination, became a passion, which he was determined at any risk to gratify. The single line that she had written, him, was rather, he thought, the language of insulted pride
than offended virtue, and he execrated the haughtiness to which he attributed "Yet who (thought he), could suppose it possible, that a girl so apparently gentle, so meek and unassuming, should possess so much insolence ? but I will humble her spirit proud as it is."
While he was devising a plan to carry her off, he received a note from her, desiring to see him, and he immediately obeyed her summons; he was shewn into a small apartment, and in a few moments she appeared.
She had evidently tried to collect herself, but the sight of the count seemed to deprive her of her self-possession, and too much agitated to speak, she motioned him to be seated.
The count began a complimentary speech, but she interrupted him, “I have to request your patience, sir (cried she), what I have to say will surprise, perhaps offend you, but I wish to be sincere with you, and to act without
disguise. In refusing the proposals which you made me-proposals which I will acknowledge were liberal in the extreme, I was not actuated by virtuous motives, for I am an unhappy being, who to the indulgence of a mad passion have sacrificed my honour." Her voice faltered, and for a few moments she was silent.
"Until lately, very lately, I knew not that I should be deserted; I knew not that the man to whom my whole soul was devoted, would from the cold considerations of worldly prudence, abandon me to poverty and shame; but he has done so, and I-"
"In my arms (cried the count interrupting her), thou shalt find a shelter from both; my rank and wealth are known to thee, and all they can bestow, thou shalt freely command."
"I thank your lordship (replied she), but can you be content with the possession of a woman whose heart is dead to love? a woman, who frankly avows to you, that distress alone could
induce her to give herself to your arms, and tells you that gratitude and fidelity, are all that you have to expect from her."
"Well, madam (cried the count), I will accept you on your own terms, and you shall have no cause to repent your confidence in my honour."
It was not without an effort that Montalva spoke thus, for his pride was stung to the quick, by what he internally termed the insolence of Ellen: and he formed the ungenerous resolu tion of gaining possession of her person, and then retaliating the contempt with which she treated him.
It was his wish to take for her elegant apartments, and to bestow upon her every luxury and enjoyment that wealth could purchase; but a life of retirement was more congenial to her disposition, and she declined mixing in the gay scenes which the count spoke of.
Her determination was not displeas
ing to Montalva, who soon made for her a small, but elegant establishment, and visited her daily. The novelty of her character interested him. The sprightly graces of the French ladies, and the voluptuous allurements of the Italians, he was no stranger to; but the mixture of gentleness and hauteur, of sensibility and firmness, which, he found in Ellen Dudley, he had never before met with; always grave, simple, and rational, the reserve and coldness of her manners would most probably soon have disgusted the count, but for a circumstance that gave her a strong hold upon his heart this was her being pregnant; often, and deeply had he regretted the child of Valeria; had she lived, he thought that he should at least have one being whom the ties of consanguinity would have attached to him; and frequently had he envied De Rosonio the possession of the little Isabel. The intelligence of Ellen's pregnancy gave to his bosom a degree of pleasure