Mary: A Fiction

by Mary Wollstonecraft

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Chapter XXVII

Oppressed by her foreboding fears, her sore mind was hurt by new instances of ingratitude: disgusted with the family, whose misfortunes had often disturbed her repose, and lost in anticipated sorrow, she rambled she knew not where; when turning down a shady walk, she discovered her feet had taken the path they delighted to tread. She saw Henry sitting in his garden alone; he quickly opened the garden-gate, and she sat down by him.

"I did not," said he, "expect to see thee this evening, my dearest Mary; but I was thinking of thee. Heaven has endowed thee with an uncommon portion of fortitude, to support one of the most affectionate hearts in the world. This is not a time for disguise; I know I am dear to thee--and my affection for thee is twisted with every fibre of my heart.--I loved thee ever since I have been acquainted with thine: thou art the being my fancy has delighted to form; but which I imagined existed only there! In a little while the shades of death will encompass me--ill-fated love perhaps added strength to my disease, and smoothed the rugged path. Try, my love, to fulfil thy destined course--try to add to thy other virtues patience. I could have wished, for thy sake, that we could have died together--or that I could live to shield thee from the assaults of an unfeeling world! Could I but offer thee an asylum in these arms--a faithful bosom, in which thou couldst repose all thy griefs--" He pressed her to it, and she returned the pressure--he felt her throbbing heart. A mournful silence ensued! when he resumed the conversation. "I wished to prepare thee for the blow--too surely do I feel that it will not be long delayed! The passion I have nursed is so pure, that death cannot extinguish it--or tear away the impression thy virtues have made on my soul. I would fain comfort thee--"

"Talk not of comfort," interrupted Mary, "it will be in heaven with thee and Ann--while I shall remain on earth the veriest wretch!"--She grasped his hand.

"There we shall meet, my love, my Mary, in our Father's--" His voice faultered; he could not finish the sentence; he was almost suffocated--they both wept, their tears relieved them; they walked slowly to the garden-gate (Mary would not go into the house); they could not say farewel when they reached it--and Mary hurried down the lane; to spare Henry the pain of witnessing her emotions.

When she lost sight of the house she sat down on the ground, till it grew late, thinking of all that had passed. Full of these thoughts, she crept along, regardless of the descending rain; when lifting up her eyes to heaven, and then turning them wildly on the prospects around, without marking them; she only felt that the scene accorded with her present state of mind. It was the last glimmering of twilight, with a full moon, over which clouds continually flitted. Where am I wandering, God of Mercy! she thought; she alluded to the wanderings of her mind. In what a labyrinth am I lost! What miseries have I already encountered--and what a number lie still before me.

Her thoughts flew rapidly to something. I could be happy listening to him, soothing his cares.--Would he not smile upon me--call me his own Mary? I am not his--said she with fierceness--I am a wretch! and she heaved a sigh that almost broke her heart, while the big tears rolled down her burning cheeks; but still her exercised mind, accustomed to think, began to observe its operation, though the barrier of reason was almost carried away, and all the faculties not restrained by her, were running into confusion. Wherefore am I made thus? Vain are my efforts--I cannot live without loving--and love leads to madness.--Yet I will not weep; and her eyes were now fixed by despair, dry and motionless; and then quickly whirled about with a look of distraction.

She looked for hope; but found none--all was troubled waters.--No where could she find rest. I have already paced to and fro in the earth; it is not my abiding place--may I not too go home! Ah! no. Is this complying with my Henry's request, could a spirit thus disengaged expect to associate with his? Tears of tenderness strayed down her relaxed countenance, and her softened heart heaved more regularly. She felt the rain, and turned to her solitary home.

Fatigued by the tumultuous emotions she had endured, when she entered the house she ran to her own room, sunk on the bed; and exhausted nature soon closed her eyes; but active fancy was still awake, and a thousand fearful dreams interrupted her slumbers.

Feverish and languid, she opened her eyes, and saw the unwelcome sun dart his rays through a window, the curtains of which she had forgotten to draw. The dew hung on the adjacent trees, and added to the lustre; the little robin began his song, and distant birds joined. She looked; her countenance was still vacant--her sensibility was absorbed by one object.

Did I ever admire the rising sun, she slightly thought, turning from the Window, and shutting her eyes: she recalled to view the last night's scene. His faltering voice, lingering step, and the look of tender woe, were all graven on her heart; as were the words "Could these arms shield thee from sorrow--afford thee an asylum from an unfeeling world." The pressure to his bosom was not forgot. For a moment she was happy; but in a long-drawn sigh every delightful sensation evaporated. Soon--yes, very soon, will the grave again receive all I love! and the remnant of my days--she could not proceed--Were there then days to come after that?

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