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Maria HTML version

Chapter 1
ABODES OF HORROR have frequently been described, and castles, filled with
spectres and chimeras, conjured up by the magic spell of genius to harrow the
soul, and absorb the wondering mind. But, formed of such stuff as dreams are
made of, what were they to the mansion of despair, in one corner of which Maria
sat, endeavouring to recall her scattered thoughts!
Surprise, astonishment, that bordered on distraction, seemed to have
suspended her faculties, till, waking by degrees to a keen sense of anguish, a
whirlwind of rage and indignation roused her torpid pulse. One recollection with
frightful velocity following another, threatened to fire her brain, and make her a fit
companion for the terrific inhabitants, whose groans and shrieks were no
unsubstantial sounds of whistling winds, or startled birds, modulated by a
romantic fancy, which amuse while they affright; but such tones of misery as
carry a dreadful certainty directly to the heart. What effect must they then have
produced on one, true to the touch of sympathy, and tortured by maternal
Her infant's image was continually floating on Maria's sight, and the first smile
of intelligence remembered, as none but a mother, an unhappy mother, can
conceive. She heard her half speaking half cooing, and felt the little twinkling
fingers on her burning bosom--a bosom bursting with the nutriment for which this
cherished child might now be pining in vain. From a stranger she could indeed
receive the maternal aliment, Maria was grieved at the thought-- but who would
watch her with a mother's tenderness, a mother's self-denial?
The retreating shadows of former sorrows rushed back in a gloomy train, and
seemed to be pictured on the walls of her prison, magnified by the state of mind
in which they were viewed--Still she mourned for her child, lamented she was a
daughter, and anticipated the aggravated ills of life that her sex rendered almost
inevitable, even while dreading she was no more. To think that she was blotted
out of existence was agony, when the imagination had been long employed to
expand her faculties; yet to suppose her turned adrift on an unknown sea, was
scarcely less afflicting.
After being two days the prey of impetuous, varying emotions, Maria began to
reflect more calmly on her present situation, for she had actually been rendered
incapable of sober reflection, by the discovery of the act of atrocity of which she
was the victim. She could not have imagined, that, in all the fermentation of
civilized depravity, a similar plot could have entered a human mind. She had
been stunned by an unexpected blow; yet life, however joyless, was not to be
indolently resigned, or misery endured without exertion, and proudly termed
patience. She had hitherto meditated only to point the dart of anguish, and
suppressed the heart heavings of indignant nature merely by the force of
contempt. Now she endeavoured to brace her mind to fortitude, and to ask
herself what was to be her employment in her dreary cell? Was it not to effect her
escape, to fly to the succour of her child, and to baffle the selfish schemes of her
tyrant--her husband?