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enough indeed to look not so well as I was. I went in the extreme comfort of thinking myself beloved by one I imagined to be possessed of a goodly store of all honourable virtues ;-) return but to find that I have been the dupe of the very wickedest wanton that ever disgraced God's earth.”
“What mean you by this?” asked the mercer's daughter, seemingly in great astonishment.
“What mean I?" exclaimed the youth, indignantly. “Hast done no ill thing ? hast given me no provocation to quarrel since I have been away, by the infamousness of thy behaviour?”
6 None!” replied she, with exceeding earnestness; “I have done no ill thing: I have done nothing that should give you provocation to quarrel.”
“ Ha ! and indeed !” cried her companion, now still more incensed against her; “ dost tell me that, and come straight from the kisses of my Lord Cobham?” At hearing this the colour mounted into her cheek a little, of which he took speedy notice, and continued: “I see nature will take no part in so monstrous a lie. But I will at once confess that I was nearly as nigh unto you as I may be at this present, and heard all the shameless impudency of your proceedings. In truth, you have made of your lips a common, upon which every ass may find pasture. Go to ! you are a wanton.” And so saying, he turned away from her.
“I pray you, Francis, speak not in this way, said Joanna, in a very serious manner, and with a face somewhat troubled. “That my Lord Cobham hath caressed me, I acknowledge; but that I gave him
any such return, is most untrue: and of ought worse than that done by me at any time, know I nothing.".
“Dost think I can believe any such thing from you?” asked Master Francis, suddenly. “Dost think I know not more of such conduct?-even if ’twere not enough to condemn you by, as the stealing under a public gateway with one so noted ; and going into hidden corners to be caressed by him. I tell you he be not the only one-nor Ralph Goshawk, whom you did unblushingly assure me you cared not for, to whom you have given such villainous encouragement; for I have knowledge of divers fine gallants that you must needs have to attend upon you, doubtless to afford you the like gratification. Nay, to such a pitch of shamelessness have you arrived, that it be known to more than one you have a man with you in private the whole night long; and then do yourself secretly let him out iai the street in the early morning. And this hath be done too when
loved me along I do believe there existeth not in this world so deceitful a creature ;- one of so false a heart, and of so profligate a nature—one so thoroughly lost to all sense of honour and of true affection. Why,
the wretchedest woman that liveth upon her own iniquity, be no other than what she seems, and seeketh not to pass for anything better; but thou hast added hypocrisy to sin, and would hide the disposition of a wanton under the character of a vestal.”
66 Take heed,” exclaimed the mercer's daughter, who, as she had listened, had become exceeding pale-her bosom heaved mightily-her brilliant eyes shot quick and uneasy glances, and, altogether, her appearance was that of one marvellously disturbed. “Take heed, Francis, I can bear much from you, but this-this I cannot bear.”
« 'Tis less than you have deserved,” replied he. “ And now I have done with you. There !” he cried, as approaching her closely he dashed at her feet the chain of gold she had of his uncle. “ There lies one of the gifts with which you have sought to bribe me into a toleration of your infamous doings. And here!” he added, as he followed it with a purse that seemed tolerably well filled. “ Here is that which will pay for the cost I have been to you in other things. Be assured hath been honestly come by; and not like your costly presents and generous supplying of my wants—the liberal wages of a more liberal iniquity.”
To this she answered not save by a slight gasping as if for breath; but her brow became darker, and the expression of her eyes unnatural.
“ I now take my leave of you,” added Master
66 I care
Francis in a voice somewhat tremulous.
Villain !” screamed Joanna, as she furiously clutched him by the throat with both her hands before the offensive word had been spoken. Dost think I can be maddened in this vile way, and bear it tamely? If thou hadst twenty lives they would scarce be atonement enough for so atrocious an insult. Thou hast traduced
Thou hast spoken of me the horriblest things— the falsest vilest-wickedest matters that ever misused woman hath been forced to endure. Dost think to live ? Dost hope for mercy that hath shewn none? Thou hast tortured me into a raging madness! My heart is ready to burst—and my brain reels ! But thy life shall be the forfeit. Thy life, villainthe life !” M
or Francis was so seized by surprise that he seemed -t to have had time to make any struggle, or she had grasped him with such exceeding violence that he had only the power to move up his arms a little and then let them fall; and
his face grew black with an extreme suddenness, so that when she took away her hands from about his neck, his head fell back, and he was falling to the ground like one that is taken with a sudden death, when Joanna sprung forward and caught him in her arms.
Why, I have not killed thee, sure ?” exclaimed she, apparently in a wonderful consternation.
Nay, it cannot be ! --Indeed, I meant it not ! 'Twas but the madness of the moment. Oh! what a wretch have I been if I have done thee any hurt. Francis !-dear--dear Francis !--I will forgive all the vile things thou hast said of me if thou wilt not look at me so horribly. Move but a limb—breatheor let me feel but the beating of thy heart. No--all be as still as a stone. Oh, God! he is dead he is dead, and I have killed him!”
So saying she clasped him close to her breast with many piteous sobs, and with the saddest wildest look eye ever beheld. Again she felt for his heart; but there was no beating; she looked to his lips, but they were slightly open, and breathed not at all; and eagerly watched all his limbs as if to observe the slightest movement, but the quietness of death seemed to be upon them. The eyelids were not quite closed, and little of the eyes save the white part was to be seen, which made them appear to look very ghastly and unnatural; and the delicacy of his complexion was scarce discernable for the discolouring