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Chapter 6

My chamber was in a retired part of the house, and looked upon the
garden so that no sound of the other inhabitants could reach it; and
here in perfect solitude I wept for several hours. When a servant came
to ask me if I would take food I learnt from him that my father had
returned, and was apparently well and this relieved me from a load of
anxiety, yet I did not cease to weep bitterly. As [_At_] first, as the
memory of former happiness contrasted to my present despair came
across me, I gave relief to the oppression of heart that I felt by
words, and groans, and heart rending sighs: but nature became wearied,
and this more violent grief gave place to a passionate but mute flood
of tears: my whole soul seemed to dissolve [in] them. I did not wring
my hands, or tear my hair, or utter wild exclamations, but as Boccacio
describes the intense and quiet grief [of] Sigismunda over the heart
of Guiscardo,[34] I sat with my hands folded, silently letting fall a
perpetual stream from my eyes. Such was the depth of my emotion that I
had no feeling of what caused my distress, my thoughts even wandered
to many indifferent objects; but still neither moving limb or feature
my tears fell untill, as if the fountains were exhausted, they
gradually subsided, and I awoke to life as from a dream.

When I had ceased to weep reason and memory returned upon me, and I
began to reflect with greater calmness on what had happened, and how
it became me to act--A few hours only had passed but a mighty
revolution had taken place with regard to me--the natural work of
years had been transacted since the morning: my father was as dead to
me, and I felt for a moment as if he with white hairs were laid in his
coffin and I--youth vanished in approaching age, were weeping at his
timely dissolution. But it was not so, I was yet young, Oh! far too
young, nor was he dead to others; but I, most miserable, must never
see or speak to him again. I must fly from him with more earnestness
than from my greatest enemy: in solitude or in cities I must never
more behold him. That consideration made me breathless with anguish,
and impressing itself on my imagination I was unable for a time to
follow up any train of ideas. Ever after this, I thought, I would
live in the most dreary seclusion. I would retire to the Continent and
become a nun; not for religion's sake, for I was not a Catholic, but
that I might be for ever shut out from the world. I should there find
solitude where I might weep, and the voices of life might never reach
me.

But my father; my beloved and most wretched father? Would he die?
Would he never overcome the fierce passion that now held pityless
dominion over him? Might he not many, many years hence, when age had
quenched the burning sensations that he now experienced, might he not
then be again a father to me? This reflection unwrinkled my brow, and
I could feel (and I wept to feel it) a half melancholy smile draw from
my lips their expression of suffering: I dared indulge better hopes
for my future life; years must pass but they would speed lightly away
winged by hope, or if they passed heavily, still they would pass and I
had not lost my father for ever. Let him spend another sixteen years
of desolate wandering: let him once more utter his wild complaints to
the vast woods and the tremendous cataracts of another clime: let him
again undergo fearful danger and soul-quelling hardships: let the hot
sun of the south again burn his passion worn cheeks and the cold night
rains fall on him and chill his blood.

To this life, miserable father, I devote thee!--Go!--Be thy days
passed with savages, and thy nights under the cope of heaven! Be thy
limbs worn and thy heart chilled, and all youth be dead within thee!
Let thy hairs be as snow; thy walk trembling and thy voice have lost
its mellow tones! Let the liquid lustre of thine eyes be quenched; and
then return to me, return to thy Mathilda, thy child, who may then be
clasped in thy loved arms, while thy heart beats with sinless emotion.
Go, Devoted One, and return thus!--This is my curse, a daughter's
curse: go, and return pure to thy child, who will never love aught but
thee.

These were my thoughts; and with trembling hands I prepared to begin a
letter to my unhappy parent. I had now spent many hours in tears and
mournful meditation; it was past twelve o'clock; all was at peace in
the house, and the gentle air that stole in at my window did not
rustle the leaves of the twining plants that shadowed it. I felt the
entire tranquillity of the hour when my own breath and involuntary
sobs were all the sounds that struck upon the air. On a sudden I heard
a gentle step ascending the stairs; I paused breathless, and as it
approached glided into an obscure corner of the room; the steps paused
at my door, but after a few moments they again receeded[,] descended
the stairs and I heard no more.

This slight incident gave rise in me to the most painful reflections;
nor do I now dare express the emotions I felt. That he should be
restless I understood; that he should wander as an unlaid ghost and
find no quiet from the burning hell that consumed his heart. But why
approach my chamber? Was not that sacred? I felt almost ready to faint
while he had stood there, but I had not betrayed my wakefulness by the
slightest motion, although I had heard my own heart beat with violent
fear. He had withdrawn. Oh, never, never, may I see him again!
Tomorrow night the same roof may not cover us; he or I must depart.
The mutual link of our destinies is broken; we must be divided by
seas--by land. The stars and the sun must not rise at the same period
to us: he must not say, looking at the setting crescent of the moon,
"Mathilda now watches its fall."--No, all must be changed. Be it light
with him when it is darkness with me! Let him feel the sun of summer
while I am chilled by the snows of winter! Let there be the distance
of the antipodes between us!

At length the east began to brighten, and the comfortable light of
morning streamed into my room. I was weary with watching and for some
time I had combated with the heavy sleep that weighed down my eyelids:
but now, no longer fearful, I threw myself on my bed. I sought for
repose although I did not hope for forgetfulness; I knew I should be
pursued by dreams, but did not dread the frightful one that I really
had. I thought that I had risen and went to seek my father to inform
him of my determination to seperate myself from him. I sought him in
the house, in the park, and then in the fields and the woods, but I
could not find him. At length I saw him at some distance, seated under
a tree, and when he perceived me he waved his hand several times,
beckoning me to approach; there was something unearthly in his mien
that awed and chilled me, but I drew near. When at [a] short distance
from him I saw that he was deadlily [_sic_] pale, and clothed in
flowing garments of white. Suddenly he started up and fled from me; I
pursued him: we sped over the fields, and by the skirts of woods, and
on the banks of rivers; he flew fast and I followed. We came at last,
methought, to the brow of a huge cliff that over hung the sea which,
troubled by the winds, dashed against its base at a distance. I heard
the roar of the waters: he held his course right on towards the brink
and I became breathless with fear lest he should plunge down the
dreadful precipice; I tried to augment my speed, but my knees failed
beneath me, yet I had just reached him; just caught a part of his
flowing robe, when he leapt down and I awoke with a violent scream. I
was trembling and my pillow was wet with my tears; for a few moments
my heart beat hard, but the bright beams of the sun and the chirping
of the birds quickly restored me to myself, and I rose with a languid
spirit, yet wondering what events the day would bring forth. Some time
passed before I summoned courage to ring the bell for my servant, and
when she came I still dared not utter my father's name. I ordered her
to bring my breakfast to my room, and was again left alone--yet still
I could make no resolve, but only thought that I might write a note to
my father to beg his permission to pay a visit to a relation who lived
about thirty miles off, and who had before invited me to her house,
but I had refused for then I could not quit my suffering father. When
the servant came back she gave me a letter.

"From whom is this letter[?]" I asked trembling.

"Your father left it, madam, with his servant, to be given to you when
you should rise."

"My father left it! Where is he? Is he not here?"

"No; he quitted the house before four this morning."

"Good God! He is gone! But tell how this was; speak quick!"

Her relation was short. He had gone in the carriage to the nearest
town where he took a post chaise and horses with orders for the London
road. He dismissed his servants there, only telling them that he had a
sudden call of business and that they were to obey me as their
mistress until his return.

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