Thus ran the 'last document,' commencing abruptly and without prefix:
"I have made up my mind to die. Not out of passion or petulance,—but fro_eliberate choice, and, as I think, necessity. My brain is tired o_roblems,—my body is tired of life; it is best to make an end. The idea o_eath,— which means annihilation,—is very sweet to me. I am glad to feel tha_y my own will and act I can silence this uneasy throbbing of my heart, thi_urmoil and heat of my blood,— this tortured aching of my nerves. Young as _m, I have no delight now in existence,—I see nothing but my love's luminou_yes, his god-like features, his enthralling smile,— and these are lost to me.
For a brief while he has been my world, life and time,—he has gone,—an_ithout him there is no universe. How could I endure the slow, wretched, passing of hours, days, weeks, months and years alone?— though it is better t_e alone than in the dull companionship of the self-satisfied, complacent an_rrogant fool who is my husband. He has left me for ever, so he says in _etter the maid brought to me an hour ago. It is quite what I expected o_im,—what man of his type could find pardon for a blow to his own _amou_ropre!_ If he had studied my nature, entered into my emotions, or striven i_he least to guide and sustain me,—if he had shown me any sign of a great, true love such as one sometimes dreams of and seldom finds,—I think I shoul_e sorry for him now,—I should even ask his forgiveness for having marrie_im. But he has treated me precisely as he might treat a paid mistress, —tha_s, he has fed me, clothed me, and provided me with money and jewels in retur_or making me the toy of his passions,—but he has not given me one touch o_ympathy— one proof of self-denial or humane forbearance. Therefore, I owe hi_othing. And now he, and my love who will not be my lover, have gone awa_ogether; I am free to do as I will with this small pulse within me calle_ife, which is after all, only a thread, easily broken. There is no one to sa_e nay, or to hold my hand back from giving myself the final _quietus._ I_s well I have no friends; it is good for me that I have probed the hypocris_nd social sham of the world, and that I have mastered the following har_ruths of life,—that there is no love without lust,—no friendship withou_elfinterest,—no religion without avarice,—and no so-called virtue without it_ccompanying stronger vice. Who, knowing these things, would care to take par_n them! On the verge of the grave I look back along the short vista of m_ears, and I see myself a child in this very place, this wooded Willowsmere; _an note how that life began to which I am about to put an end. Pampered, petted and spoilt, told that I must 'look pretty' and take pleasure in m_lothes, I was even at the age of ten, capable of a certain amount o_oquetry. Old _rouis,_ smelling of wine and tobacco, were eager to take m_n their knees and pinch my soft flesh;—they would press my innocent lips wit_heir withered ones,—withered and contaminated by the kisses of _cocottes_nd 'soiled doves' of the town !—I have often wondered how it is these men ca_are to touch a young child's mouth, knowing in themselves what beasts the_re! I see my nurse,—a trained liar and timeserver, giving herself more air_han a queen, and forbidding me to speak to this child or that child, becaus_hey were 'beneath' me;—then came my governess, full of a prurient prudery, a_ad a woman in morals as ever lived, yet 'highly recommended' and wit_xcellent references, and wearing an assumption of the strictest virtue, lik_any equally ' loose' clergymen's wives I have known. I soon found he_ut,—for even as a child I was painfully observant,—and the stories she and m_other's French maid used to tell, in lowered voices now and then broken b_oarse laughter, were sufficient to enlighten me as to her true character.
Yet, beyond having a supreme contempt for the woman who practised religiou_usterity outwardly and was at heart a rake, I gave small consideration to th_ifficult problem such a nature suggested. I lived,—how strange it seems tha_ should be writing now of myself, as past and done with !—yes, I lived in _reamy, more or less idyllic state of mind, thinking without being consciou_f thought, full of fancies concerning the flowers, trees and birds,—wishin_or things of which I knew nothing,— imagining myself a queen at times, an_gain, a peasant. I was an omnivorous reader,—and I was specially fond o_oetry. I used to pore over the mystic verse of Shelley, and judged him the_s a sort of demi-god;—and never, even when I knew all about his life, could _ealize him as a man with a thin, shrieking falsetto voice and 'loose' notion_oncerning women. But I am quite sure it was good for his fame that he wa_rowned in early youth with so many melancholy and dramatic surroundings,—i_aved him, I consider, from a possibly vicious and repulsive old age. I adore_eats till I knew he had wasted his passion on a Fanny Brawn,—and then th_lamour of him vanished. I can offer no reason for this, —I merely set dow_he fact. I made a hero of Lord Byron, —in fact he has always formed for m_he only heroical type of poet. Strong in himself and pitiless in his love fo_omen, he treated them for the most part as they merited, considering th_ingular and unworthy specimens of the sex it was his misfortune to encounter.
I used to wonder, when reading these men's amorous lines, whether love woul_ver come my way, and what beatific state of emotion I should then enjoy. The_ame the rough awakening from all my dreams,—childhood melted int_omanhood,—and at sixteen I was taken up to town with my parents to 'kno_omething of the ways and manners of society' before finally 'coming out.' Oh, those ways and manners! I learnt them to perfection! Astonished at first, the_ewildered, and allowed no time to form any judgment on what I saw, I wa_urried through a general vague 'impression' of things such as I had neve_magined or dreamed of. While I was yet lost in wonderment, and kep_onstantly in companionship with young girls of my own rank and age, wh_evertheless seemed much more advanced in knowledge of the world than I, m_ather suddenly informed me that Willowsmere was lost to us,—that he could no_fford to keep it up,—and that we should return there no more Ah, what tears _hed!—what a fury of grief consumed me !—I did not then comprehend th_ifficult entanglements of either wealth or poverty ;—all I could realize wa_hat the doors of my dear old home were closed upon me for ever. After that, _hink I grew cold and hard in disposition; I had never loved my mother ver_early,—in fact I had seen very little of her, as she was always awa_isiting, if not entertaining visitors, and she seldom had me with her,—s_hat when she was suddenly struck down by a first shock of paralysis, i_ffected me but little. She had her doctors and nurses,—I had my governes_till with me, and my mother's sister, Aunt Charlotte, came to keep house fo_s,—so I began to analyze society for myself, without giving any expression o_y opinions on what I observed. I was not yet 'out,' but I went everywher_here girls of my age were invited, and perceived things without showing tha_ had any faculty of perception. I cultivated a passionless and col_xterior,—a listless, uninterested and frigid demeanour,—for I discovered tha_his was accepted by many people as dullness or stupidity, and that b_ssuming such a character, certain otherwise crafty persons would talk mor_eadily before me, and betray themselves and their vices unawares. Thus my '
social education' began in grim earnest; —women of title and renown would as_e to their ' quiet teas,' because I was what they were pleased to call a
'harmless girl,'—'rather pretty, but dull,'—and allow me to assist them i_ntertaining the lovers who called upon them while their husbands were out. _emember on one occasion, a great lady famous for two things, her diamonds an_er intimacy with the Queen, kissed her 'cavaliere servente,' a noted sportin_arl, with considerable _abandon_ in my presence. He muttered somethin_bout me,—I heard it;—but his amorous mistress merely answered in a whisper—'
Oh, it's only Sibyl Elton,—she understands nothing.' Afterwards however, whe_e had gone, she turned to me with a grin and remarked—'You saw me kis_ertie, didn't you? I often do; he's quite like my brother!' I made no reply—_nly smiled vaguely; and the next day she sent me a valuable diamond ring, which I at once returned to her with a prim little note, stating that I wa_uch obliged, but that my father considered me too young as yet to wea_iamonds. Why do I think of these trifles now I wonder!—now when I am about t_ake my leave of life and all its lies! … There is a little bird singin_utside my bedroom window,—such a pretty creature. I suppose it is happy ?—i_hould be, as it is not human… . The tears are in my eyes as I listen to it_weet warbling, and think that it will be living and singing still to-day a_unset when I am dead!
That last sentence was mere sentiment, for I am not sorry to die. If I fel_he least regret about it I should not carry out my intention. I must resum_y narrative,—for it is an analysis I am trying to make of myself, to find ou_f I can whether there are no excuses to be found for my particula_isposition,—whether it is not after all the education and training I have ha_hat have made me what I am, or whether indeed I was born evil from the first.
The circumstances that surrounded me did not, at any rate, tend to soften o_mprove my character. I had just passed my seventeenth birthday, when on_orning my father called me into his library and told me the true position o_is affairs. I learned that he was crippled on all sides with debt,—that h_ived on advances made to him by Jew usurers,—and that these advances wer_rusted to him solely on the speculation that I, his only daughter, would mak_ sufficiently rich marriage to enable him to repay all loans with heav_nterest. He went on to say that he hoped I would act sensibly,—and that whe_ny men showed indications of becoming suitors for my hand, I would, befor_ncouraging them, inform him, in order that he might make strict enquiries a_o their actual extent of fortune. I then understood, for the first time, tha_ was for sale. I listened in silence till he had finished,—then I asked him—'
Love, I suppose, is not to be considered in the matter?' He laughed, an_ssured me it was much easier to love a rich man than a poor one, as I woul_ind out after a little experience. He added, with some hesitation, that t_elp make both ends meet, as the expenses of town life were considerable, h_ad arranged to take a young American lady under his charge, a Miss Dian_hesney, who wished to be introduced into English society, and who would pa_wo thousand guineas a year to him for that privilege, and for Aun_harlotte's services as chaperon. I do not remember now what I said to hi_hen I heard this,—I know that my long suppressed feelings broke out in _torm of fury, and that for the moment he was completely taken aback by th_orce of my indignation. An American boarder in _our_ house !—it seemed t_e as outrageous and undignified as the conduct of a woman I once knew, who, favoured by the Queen's patronage with 'free' apartments in Kensington Palace, took from time to time on the sly, an American or Colonial 'paying-guest,' wh_dopted forthwith the address of Her Majesty's birthplace as her own, thu_owering the whole prestige of that historic habitation. My wrath however wa_seless;—the bargain was arranged,—my father, regardless of his proud lineag_nd the social dignity of his position, had degraded himself, in my opinion, to the level of a sort of superior lodging-house keeper,—and from that time _ost all my former respect for him. Of course it can be argued that I wa_rong,—that I ought to have honoured him for turning his name to monetar_ccount by loaning it out as a protective shield and panoply for an America_oman without anything but the dollars of a vulgar 'railway-king' to back he_p in society,—but I could not see it in that light. I retreated into mysel_ore than ever,—and became more than pleasantly known for my coldness, reserv_nd hauteur. Miss Chesney came, and strove hard to be my friend,—but she soo_ound that impossible. She is a good-hearted creature I believe,—but she i_adly bred and badly trained, as all her compatriots are, more or less, despite their smattering of an European education. I disliked her from th_irst, and have spared no pains to show it. Yet I know she will be Countess o_lton as soon as it is decently possible,—say, after the year's ceremoniou_ourning for my mother has expired, and perhaps three months' hypocritica_earing of black for me,—my father believes himself to be still young an_assably good-looking, and he is quite incapable of resisting the fortune sh_ill bring him. When she took up her fixed abode in our house, and Aun_harlotte became her paid chaperon, I seldom went out to any socia_atherings, for I could not endure the idea of being seen in he_ompanionship. I kept to my own room a great deal, and thus secluded, rea_any books. All the fashionable fiction of the day passed through my hands, much to my gradual enlightenment, if not to my edification. One day,—a da_hat is stamped on my memory as a kind of turning-point in my life,—I read _ovel by a woman which I did not at first entirely understand,—but on goin_ver some of its passages a second time, all at once its horribl_asciviousness flashed upon me and filled me with such a genuine disgust tha_ flung it on the ground in a fit of loathing and contempt. Yet I had seen i_raised in all the leading journals of the day; its obscenities were hinted as
'daring,'—its vulgarities were quoted as 'brilliant wit,'—in fact so man_audatory columns were written about it in the press that I resolved to rea_t again. Encouraged by the ' literary censors' of the time, I did so, an_ittle by little the insidious abomination of it filtered into my mind an_stayed there._ I began to think about it,—and byand-by found pleasure i_hinking about it. I sent for other books by the same tainted hand, and m_ppetite for that kind of prurient romance grew keener. At this particula_uncture, as chance or fate would have it, an acquaintance of mine, th_aughter of a Marchioness, a girl with large black eyes and those ful_rotruding lips which remind one unconsciously of a swine's snout, brought m_wo or three odd volumes of the poems of Swinburne. Always devoted to poetry, and considering it to be the highest of the arts, and up to that period havin_een ignorant of this writer's work, I turned over the books with eagerness, expecting to enjoy the usual sublime emotions which it is the privilege an_lory of the poet to inspire in mortals less divinely endowed than himself, and who turn to him
"for help to climb Beyond the highest peaks of time."
Now I should like, if I could do so, to explain clearly the effect of thi_atyr-songster upon my mind,—for I believe there are many women to whom hi_orks have been deadlier than the deadliest poison, and far more soul- corrupting than any book of Zola's or the most pernicious of modern Frenc_riters. At first I read the poems quickly, with a certain pleasure in th_ere swing and jangle of rhythm, and without paying much attention to th_ubject-matter of the verse,— but presently, as though a lurid blaze o_ightning had stripped a fair tree of its adorning leaves, my senses suddenl_erceived the cruelty and fiendish sensuality concealed under the ornat_anguage and persuasive rhymes,—and for a moment I paused in my reading, an_losed my eyes, shuddering and sick at heart. Was human nature as base an_bandoned as this man declared it to be? Was there no God but Lust? Were me_nd women lower and more depraved in their passions and appetites than th_ery beasts? I mused and dreamed,—I pored over the 'Laus Veneris'—' Faustine'
and 'Anactoria,' till I felt myself being dragged down to the brute level o_he mind that conceived such outrages to decency. I drank in Swinburne's ow_iendish contempt of God, and I read over and over again his verses 'Before _rucifix' till I knew them by heart;—till they rang in my brain a_ersistently as any nursery jingle, and drove my thoughts into as haughty _corn of Christ and His teachings as any unbelieving Jew. It is nothing to m_ow,— now, when without hope or faith or love, I am about to take the fina_lunge into eternal darkness and silence,—but for the sake of those wh_have_ the comfort of a religion, I ask, why, in a so-called Christia_ountry, is such a hideous blasphemy as 'Before a Crucifix' allowed t_irculate among the people without so much as one reproof from those who elec_hemselves judges of literature? I have seen many noble writers condemne_nheard,—many have been accused of blasphemy, whose works tend quite the othe_ay,—but these lines are permitted to work their cruel mischief unchecked, an_he writer of them is glorified as though he were a benefactor to mankin_nstead of a corrupter. I quote them here, from bitter memory, that I may no_e deemed as exaggerating their nature—
"So when our souls look back to thee, They sicken, seeing against thy side, _Too foul to speak of or to see._
The leprous likeness of a bride, Whose kissing lips through his lips grown _Leave their God rotten to the bone._
When we would see thee man, and know What heart thou had'st towards man indeed,
Lo, thy blood-blackened altars; lo, The lips of priests that pray and feed,
While their own hell's worm curls and licks
The poison of the crucifix.
Thou bad'st the children come to thee,—
_What children now but curses come,_ What manhood in that God can be
Who sees their worship and is dumb?— No soul that lived, loved, wrought, and died _Is this, their Carrion CrucifiedI_
Nay, if their God and thou be one,
If thou and _this thing_ be the same, Thou should'st not look upon the sun,
_The sun grows haggard at thy name;_ Come down, be done with, cease, give o'er, Hide thyself, strive not, _be no more."_
From the time of reading this, I used to think of Christ as 'carrio_rucified';—if I ever thought at all. I found out that no one had eve_eproached Mr Swinburne for this term, —that it did not interfere with hi_hances for the Laureateship,—and that not even a priest of the church ha_een boldspoken or zealous enough in his Master's cause to publicly resent th_hameless outrage. So I concluded that Swinburne must be right in hi_pinions, and I followed the lazy and unthinking course of social movement, spending my days with such literature as stored my brain with a complet_nowledge of things evil and pernicious. Whatever soul I had in me was killed; the freshness of my mind was gone,—Swinburne, among others, had helped me t_ive mentally, if not physically, through such a phase of vice as had poisone_y thoughts for ever. I understand there is some vague law in existence abou_lacing an interdiction on certain books considered injurious to publi_orals,—if there is such a rule, it has been curiously lax concerning th_uthor of 'Anactoria'— who, by virtue of being a poet, passes unquestione_nto many a home, carrying pollution into minds that were once cleanly an_imple. As for me, after I had studied his verse to my heart's content, nothing remained sacred.—I judged men as beasts and women as little better,—_ad no belief in honour, virtue or truth,—and I was absolutely indifferent t_ll things save one, and that was my resolve to have my own way as far as lov_as concerned. I might be forced to marry without love for purely money- considerations,—but all the same, love I would have, or what I calle_ove;—not an 'ideal' passion by any means, but precisely what Mr Swinburne an_ few of the most-praised novelists of the day had taught me to consider a_ove. I began to wonder when and how I should meet my lover,—such thoughts a_ had at this time indeed would have made moralists stare and uplift thei_ands in horror,—but to the exterior world I was the very pink and pattern o_aidenly decorum, reserve and pride. Men desired, but feared me; for I neve_ave them any encouragement, seeing as yet none among them whom I deeme_orthy of such love as I could give. The majority resembled carefully traine_aboons,— respectably clothed and artistically shaven,—but nevertheless al_ith the spasmodic grin, the leering eye and the uncouth gestures of the hair_oodland monster. When I was just eighteen I 'came out' in earnest,—that is, _as presented at Court with all the foolish and farcical pomp practised o_uch occasions. I was told before going that it was a great and necessar_hing to be 'presented,'—that it was a guarantee of position and above all o_eputation,—the Queen received none whose conduct was not rigidly correct an_irtuous. What humbug it all was !—I laughed then, and I can smile now t_hink of it,—why, the very woman who presented me had two illegitimate sons, unknown to her lawful husband, and she was not the only playful sinner in th_ourt comedy! Some women were there that day whom since even / would no_eceive—so openly infamous are their lives and characters, yet they make thei_emure curtseys before the Throne at stated times and assume to be the ver_atterns of virtue and austerity. Now and then, it chances in the case of a_xceedingly beautiful woman of whom all the others are jealous, that for he_ittle slips she is selected as an 'example' and excluded from Court, whil_er plainer sisters, though sinning seventy times seven against all the law_f decency and morality, are still received,—but otherwise, there is ver_ittle real care exercised as to the character and prestige of the women who_he Queen receives. If any one of them _is_ refused, it is certain she add_o her social enormities the greater crime of being beautiful, otherwise ther_ould be no one to whisper away her reputation, _i_ was what is called a
'success' on my presentation day. That is, I was stared at, and openl_lattered by certain members of my sex who were too old and ugly to b_ealous, and treated with insolent contempt by those who were young enough t_e my rivals. There was a great crush to get into the Throne Room; and some o_he ladies used rather strong language. One duchess, just in front of me, sai_o her companion—' Do as I do,— _kick out!_ Bruise their shins for them—a_ard as you can,—we shall get on faster then!' This choice remark wa_ccompanied by the grin of a fishwife and the stare of a drab. Yet it was a '
great' lady who spoke,—not a Transatlantic importation, but a woman o_istinguished lineage and connection. Her observation, however, was only on_ut of many similar speeches which I heard on all sides of me during the
'distinguished' melee,—a thoroughly ill-mannered 'crush,' which struck me a_upremely vulgar and totally unfitting the dignity of our Sovereign's court.
When I curtsied before the Throne at last, and saw the majesty of the Empir_epresented by a kindly faced old lady, looking very tired and bored, whos_and was as cold as ice when I kissed it, I was conscious of an intens_eeling of pity for her in her high estate. Who would be a Monarch to b_oomed to the perpetual receiving of a company of fools! I got through m_uties quickly, and returned home more or less wearied out and disgusted wit_he whole ceremony,—and next day I found that my ' debut' had given me th_osition of a 'leading beauty' ; or in other words that I was now formally pu_p for sale. That is really what is meant by being 'presented' and 'comin_ut,'—these are the fancy terms of one's parental auctioneer. My life was no_assed in dressing, having my photograph taken, giving 'sittings' to aspirin_ashionable painters, and being 'inspected' by men with a view to matrimony.
It was distinctly understood in society that I was not to be sold under _ertain figure per annum,—and the price was too high for most would-b_urchasers. How sick I grew of my constant exhibition in the marriage-market!
What contempt and hatred was fostered in me for the mean and pitiabl_ypocrisies of my set! I was not long in discovering that money was the chie_otive power of all social success,—that the proudest and highest personage_n the world could be easily gathered together under the roof of any vulga_lebeian who happened to have enough cash to feed and entertain them. As a_xample of this, I remember a woman, ugly, passee and squint-eyed, who durin_er father's life was only allowed about half-a-crown a week as pocket-mone_p to her fortieth year,—and who, when that father died, leaving her i_ossession of half his fortune (the other half going to illegitimate childre_f whom she had never heard, he having always posed as a pattern of immaculat_irtue), suddenly blossomed out as a ' leader' of fashion, and succeeded, through cautious scheming and ungrudging toadyism, in assembling some of th_ighest people in the land under her roof. Ugly and passee though she was, an_erging towards fifty, with neither grace, wit, nor intelligence, through th_ower of her cash alone she invited Royal dukes and 'titles' generally to he_inners and dances,—and it is to their shame that they actually accepted he_nvitations. Such voluntary degradations on the part of really well-connecte_eople I have never been able to understand,—it is not as if they wer_ctually in want of food or amusement, for they have a surfeit of both ever_eason,—and it seems to me that they ought to show a better example than t_lock in crowds to the entertainments of a mere uninteresting and ugly nobod_ust because she happens to have money. I never entered her house myself, though she had the audacity to invite me,—I learned, moreover, that she ha_romised a friend of mine a hundred guineas if she could persuade me to mak_ne appearance in her rooms. For my renown as a 'beauty,' combined with m_ride and exclusiveness, would have given her parties a _prestige_ greate_han even Royalty could bestow,— _she_ knew that and _I_ knew that; an_nowing it, never condescended to so much as notice her by a bow. But though _ook a certain satisfaction in thus revenging myself on the atrociou_ulgarity of _parvenus_ and social interlopers, I grew intensely weary o_he monotony and emptiness of what fashionable folks call 'amusement,' an_resently falling ill of a nervous fever, I was sent down to the seaside for _ew weeks' change of air with a young cousin of mine, a girl I rather like_ecause she was so different to myself. Her name was Eva Maitland—she was bu_ixteen and extremely delicate—poor little soul! she died two months before m_arriage. She and I, and a maid to attend us, went down to Cromer,— and on_ay, sitting on the cliffs together, she asked me timidly if I knew an autho_amed Mavis Clare? I told her no,—whereupon she handed me a book called ' Th_ings of Psyche.'
"Do read it!" she said earnestly. "It will make you feel so happy!"
I laughed. The idea of a modern author writing anything to make one fee_appy, seemed to me quite ludicrous, the aim of most of them being to awaken _isgust of life, and a hatred of one's fellow-creatures. However, to pleas_va, I read 'The Wings of Psyche,'—and if it did not make me actually happy, it moved me to a great wonder and deep reverence for the woman-writer of suc_ book. I found out all about her,—that she was young, pretty, of a nobl_haracter and unblemished reputation, and that her only enemies were th_ress-critics. This last point was so much in her favour with me that I a_nce bought everything she had ever written, and her works became, as it were, my haven of rest. Her theories of life are strange, poetic, ideal an_eautiful,—though I have not been able to accept them or work them out in m_wn case. I have always felt soothed and comforted for a while in the very ac_f wishing they were true. And the woman is like her books,—strange, poetic, ideal and beautiful,—how odd it is to think that she is within ten minutes'
walk of me now !—I could send for her if I liked, and tell her all,—but sh_ould prevent me carrying out my resolve. She would cling to me woman-like an_iss me, and hold my hands and say, 'No, Sibyl, no! You are not yourself,—yo_ust come to me and rest!' An odd fancy has seized me, … I will open my windo_nd call her very gently,—she might be in the garden coming here to se_e,—and if she hears and answers, who knows !—why, perhaps my ideas ma_hange, and fate itself may take a different course!
Well, I have called her. I have sent her name ' Mavis !' softly out on th_unshine and still air three times, and only a little brown namesake of hers, a thrush, swinging on a branch of fir, answered me with his low autumna_iping. Mavis! She will not come,—to-day God will not make her His messenger.
She cannot guess—she does not know this tragedy of my heart, greater and mor_oignant than all the tragedies of fiction. If she did know me as I am, _onder what she would think of me!
Let me go back to the time when love came to me,—love, ardent, passionate, an_ternal! Ah, what wild joy thrilled through me! what mad ecstasy fired m_lood !—what delirious dreams possessed my brain! I saw Lucio,—and it seeme_s if the splendid eyes of some great angel had flashed a glory in my soul!
With him came his friend, the foil to his beauty, —the arrogant, self- satisfied fool of a millionaire, Geoffrey Tempest,—he who bought me, and wh_y virtue of his purchase, is entitled by law to call himself my husband … "
Here I paused in my reading and looked up. The dead woman's eyes appeared no_o regard me as steadily as herself in the opposite mirror,—the head was _ittle more dropped forward on the breast, and the whole face very nearl_esembled that of the late Countess of Elton when the last shock of paralysi_ad rendered her hideous disfigurement complete.
"To think that I loved _that!"_ I said aloud, pointing at the corpse'_hastly reflection. "Fool that I was indeed!—as great a fool as all men ar_ho barter their lives for the possession of a woman's mere body! Why, i_here were any life after death—if such a creature had a soul that at al_esembled this poisoned clay, the very devils might turn away aghast from suc_ loathly comrade !''
The candles flickered, and the dead face seemed to smile,— a clock chimed i_he adjoining room, but I did not count the hour,—I merely arranged th_anuscript pages I held more methodically, and read on with renewed attention.