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Wieland, or the Transformation
Charles Brockden Brown
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My way lay through the city. I had scarcely entered it when I was seized with a general
sensation of sickness. Every object grew dim and swam before my sight. It was with
difficulty I prevented myself from sinking to the bottom of the carriage. I ordered myself
to be carried to Mrs. Baynton's, in hope that an interval of repose would invigorate and
refresh me. My distracted thoughts would allow me but little rest. Growing somewhat
better in the afternoon, I resumed my journey.
My contemplations were limited to a few objects. I regarded my success, in the purpose
which I had in view, as considerably doubtful. I depended, in some degree, on the
suggestions of the moment, and on the materials which Pleyel himself should furnish me.
When I reflected on the nature of the accusation, I burned with disdain. Would not truth,
and the consciousness of innocence, render me triumphant? Should I not cast from me,
with irresistible force, such atrocious imputations?
What an entire and mournful change has been effected in a few hours! The gulf that
separates man from insects is not wider than that which severs the polluted from the
chaste among women. Yesterday and to-day I am the same. There is a degree of
depravity to which it is impossible for me to sink; yet, in the apprehension of another, my
ancient and intimate associate, the perpetual witness of my actions, and partaker of my
thoughts, I had ceased to be the same. My integrity was tarnished and withered in his
eyes. I was the colleague of a murderer, and the paramour of a thief!
His opinion was not destitute of evidence: yet what proofs could reasonably avail to
establish an opinion like this? If the sentiments corresponded not with the voice that was
heard, the evidence was deficient; but this want of correspondence would have been
supposed by me if I had been the auditor and Pleyel the criminal. But mimicry might still
more plausibly have been employed to explain the scene. Alas! it is the fate of Clara
Wieland to fall into the hands of a precipitate and inexorable judge.
But what, O man of mischief! is the tendency of thy thoughts? Frustrated in thy first
design, thou wilt not forego the immolation of thy victim. To exterminate my reputation
was all that remained to thee, and this my guardian has permitted. To dispossess Pleyel of
this prejudice may be impossible; but if that be effected, it cannot be supposed that thy
wiles are exhausted; thy cunning will discover innumerable avenues to the
accomplishment of thy malignant purpose.
Why should I enter the lists against thee? Would to heaven I could disarm thy vengeance
by my deprecations! When I think of all the resources with which nature and education
have supplied thee; that thy form is a combination of steely fibres and organs of exquisite
ductility and boundless compass, actuated by an intelligence gifted with infinite
endowments, and comprehending all knowledge, I perceive that my doom is fixed. What