One morning they set out to visit the aqueduct; though the day was very fine when they left home, a very heavy shower fell before they reached it; they lengthened their ride, the clouds dispersed, and the sun came from behind them uncommonly bright.
Mary would fain have persuaded Ann not to have left the carriage; but she was in spirits, and obviated all her objections, and insisted on walking, tho' the ground was damp. But her strength was not equal to her spirits; she was soon obliged to return to the carriage so much fatigued, that she fainted, and remained insensible a long time.
Henry would have supported her; but Mary would not permit him; her recollection was instantaneous, and she feared sitting on the damp ground might do him a material injury: she was on that account positive, though the company did not guess the cause of her being so. As to herself, she did not fear bodily pain; and, when her mind was agitated, she could endure the greatest fatigue without appearing sensible of it.
When Ann recovered, they returned slowly home; she was carried to bed, and the next morning Mary thought she observed a visible change for the worse. The physician was sent for, who pronounced her to be in the most imminent danger.
All Mary's former fears now returned like a torrent, and carried every other care away; she even added to her present anguish by upbraiding herself for her late tranquillity--it haunted her in the form of a crime.
The disorder made the most rapid advances--there was no hope!--Bereft of it, Mary again was tranquil; but it was a very different kind of tranquillity. She stood to brave the approaching storm, conscious she only could be overwhelmed by it.
She did not think of Henry, or if her thoughts glanced towards him, it was only to find fault with herself for suffering a thought to have strayed from Ann.--Ann!--this dear friend was soon torn from her--she died suddenly as Mary was assisting her to walk across the room.--The first string was severed from her heart--and this "slow, sudden-death" disturbed her reasoning faculties; she seemed stunned by it; unable to reflect, or even to feel her misery.
The body was stolen out of the house the second night, and Mary refused to see her former companions. She desired her maid to conclude her marriage, and request her intended husband to inform her when the first merchantman was to leave the port, as the packet had just sailed, and she determined not to stay in that hated place any longer than was absolutely necessary.
She then sent to request the ladies to visit her; she wished to avoid a parade of grief--her sorrows were her own, and appeared to her not to admit of increase or softening. She was right; the sight of them did not affect her, or turn the stream of her sullen sorrow; the black wave rolled along in the same course, it was equal to her where she cast her eyes; all was impenetrable gloom.
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