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Chapter III.4
Great Heaven! How frail thy creature Man is made!
How by himself insensibly betrayed!
In our own strength unhappily secure,
Too little cautious of the adverse power,
On pleasure's flowery brink we idly stray,
Masters as yet of our returning way:
Till the strong gusts of raging passion rise,
Till the dire Tempest mingles earth and skies,
And swift into the boundless Ocean borne,
Our foolish confidence too late we mourn:
Round our devoted heads the billows beat,
And from our troubled view the lessening lands retreat.
All this while, Ambrosio was unconscious of the dreadful scenes which were passing so
near. The execution of his designs upon Antonia employed his every thought. Hitherto,
He was satisfied with the success of his plans. Antonia had drank the opiate, was buried
in the vaults of St. Clare, and absolutely in his disposal. Matilda, who was well
acquainted with the nature and effects of the soporific medicine, had computed that it
would not cease to operate till one in the Morning. For that hour He waited with
impatience. The Festival of St. Clare presented him with a favourable opportunity of
consummating his crime. He was certain that the Friars and Nuns would be engaged in
the Procession, and that He had no cause to dread an interruption: From appearing
himself at the head of his Monks, He had desired to be excused. He doubted not, that
being beyond the reach of help, cut off from all the world, and totally in his power,
Antonia would comply with his desires. The affection which She had ever exprest for
him, warranted this persuasion: But He resolved that should She prove obstinate, no
consideration whatever should prevent him from enjoying her. Secure from a discovery,
He shuddered not at the idea of employing force: If He felt any repugnance, it arose not
from a principle of shame or compassion, but from his feeling for Antonia the most
sincere and ardent affection, and wishing to owe her favours to no one but herself.
The Monks quitted the Abbey at midnight. Matilda was among the Choristers, and led the
chaunt. Ambrosio was left by himself, and at liberty to pursue his own inclinations.
Convinced that no one remained behind to watch his motions, or disturb his pleasures, He
now hastened to the Western Aisles. His heart beating with hope not unmingled with
anxiety, He crossed the Garden, unlocked the door which admitted him into the
Cemetery, and in a few minutes He stood before the Vaults. Here He paused.