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The Duchess Of Hamptonshire
by [?]

One dark quiet evening, about two months after the marriage, a man entered the gate admitting from the highway to the park and avenue which ran up to the house. He arrived within two hundred yards of the walls, when he left the gravelled drive and drew near to the castle by a roundabout path leading into a shrubbery. Here he stood still. In a few minutes the strokes of the castle-clock resounded, and then a female figure entered the same secluded nook from an opposite direction. There the two indistinct persons leapt together like a pair of dewdrops on a leaf; and then they stood apart, facing each other, the woman looking down.

‘Emmeline, you begged me to come, and here I am, Heaven forgive me!’ said the man hoarsely.

‘You are going to emigrate, Alwyn,’ she said in broken accents. ‘I have heard of it; you sail from Plymouth in three days in the Western Glory?

‘Yes. I can live in England no longer. Life is as death to me here,’ says he.

‘My life is even worse–worse than death. Death would not have driven me to this extremity. Listen, Alwyn–I have sent for you to beg to go with you, or at least to be near you–to do anything so that it be not to stay here.’

‘To go away with me?’ he said in a startled tone.

‘Yes, yes–or under your direction, or by your help in some way! Don’t be horrified at me–you must bear with me whilst I implore it. Nothing short of cruelty would have driven me to this. I could have borne my doom in silence had I been left unmolested; but he tortures me, and I shall soon be in the grave if I cannot escape.’

To his shocked inquiry how her husband tortured her, the Duchess said that it was by jealousy. ‘He tries to wring admissions from me concerning you,’ she said, ‘and will not believe that I have not communicated with you since my engagement to him was settled by my father, and I was forced to agree to it.’

The poor curate said that this was the heaviest news of all. ‘He has not personally ill-used you?’ he asked.

‘Yes,’ she whispered.

‘What has he done?’

She looked fearfully around, and said, sobbing: ‘In trying to make me confess to what I have never done, he adopts plans I dare not describe for terrifying me into a weak state, so that I may own to anything! I resolved to write to you, as I had no other friend.’ She added, with dreary irony, ‘I thought I would give him some ground for his suspicion, so as not to disgrace his judgment.’

‘Do you really mean, Emmeline,’ he tremblingly inquired, ‘that you–that you want to fly with me?’

‘Can you think that I would act otherwise than in earnest at such a time as this?’

He was silent for a minute or more. ‘You must not go with me,’ he said.


‘It would be sin.’

‘It cannot be sin, for I have never wanted to commit sin in my life; and it isn’t likely I would begin now, when I pray every day to die and be sent to Heaven out of my misery!’

‘But it is wrong, Emmeline, all the same.’

‘Is it wrong to run away from the fire that scorches you?’

‘It would look wrong, at any rate, in this case.’

‘Alwyn, Alwyn, take me, I beseech you!’ she burst out. ‘It is not right in general, I know, but it is such an exceptional instance, this. Why has such a severe strain been put upon me? I was doing no harm, injuring no one, helping many people, and expecting happiness; yet trouble came. Can it be that God holds me in derision? I had no supporter–I gave way; and now my life is a burden and a shame to me . . . Oh, if you only knew how much to me this request to you is–how my life is wrapped up in it, you could not deny me!’