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Chapter 15
DARNFORD returned the memoirs to Maria, with a most affectionate letter, in
which he reasoned on "the absurdity of the laws respecting matrimony, which, till
divorces could be more easily obtained, was," he declared, "the most insufferable
bondage. Ties of this nature could not bind minds governed by superior
principles; and such beings were privileged to act above the dictates of laws they
had no voice in framing, if they had sufficient strength of mind to endure the
natural consequence. In her case, to talk of duty, was a farce, excepting what
was due to herself. Delicacy, as well as reason, forbade her ever to think of
returning to her husband: was she then to restrain her charming sensibility
through mere prejudice? These arguments were not absolutely impartial, for he
disdained to conceal, that, when he appealed to her reason, he felt that he had
some interest in her heart.--The conviction was not more transporting, than
sacred--a thousand times a day, he asked himself how he had merited such
happiness?--and as often he determined to purify the heart she deigned to
inhabit--He intreated to be again admitted to her presence.
He was; and the tear which glistened in his eye, when he respectfully pressed
her to his bosom, rendered him peculiarly dear to the unfortunate mother. Grief
had stilled the transports of love, only to render their mutual tenderness more
touching. In former interviews, Darnford had contrived, by a hundred little
pretexts, to sit near her, to take her hand, or to meet her eyes-- now it was all
soothing affection, and esteem seemed to have rivalled love. He adverted to her
narrative, and spoke with warmth of the oppression she had endured.--His eyes,
glowing with a lambent flame, told her how much he wished to restore her to
liberty and love; but he kissed her hand, as if it had been that of a saint; and
spoke of the loss of her child, as if it had been his own.-- What could have been
more flattering to Maria?--Every instance of self-denial was registered in her
heart, and she loved him, for loving her too well to give way to the transports of
They met again and again; and Darnford declared, while passion suffused his
cheeks, that he never before knew what it was to love.--
One morning Jemima informed Maria, that her master intended to wait on her,
and speak to her without witnesses. He came, and brought a letter with him,
pretending that he was ignorant of its contents, though he insisted on having it
returned to him. It was from the attorney already mentioned, who informed her of
the death of her child, and hinted, "that she could not now have a legitimate heir,
and that, would she make over the half of her fortune during life, she should be
conveyed to Dover, and permitted to pursue her plan of travelling."
Maria answered with warmth, "That she had no terms to make with the
murderer of her babe, nor would she purchase liberty at the price of her own
She began to expostulate with her jailor; but he sternly bade her "Be silent--he
had not gone so far, not to go further."