From: William Godwin (1784). Imogen: A Pastorial Romance
From the Ancient British.
BOOK THE FIFTH
THE GARDEN OF RODOGUNE DESCRIBED. THE HOPES
AND DANGER OF IMOGEN. HER INCONSOLABLE DISTRESS.
IMOGEN, immediately after the interview that had so deeply perplexed her, returning to her apartment, had shut herself up in solitude. Her reflections were gloomy and unpleasing; the new obscurity that hung about them had not contributed to lighten their pressure. But though she was melancholy, her melancholy was of a different hue from that of her ravisher. If virtue can ever be deprived of those glorious distinctions that exclusively belong to her, it must be when she is precluded from the illuminations of duty, and is no longer able to discern the path in which she ought to tread. But even here, where distinction seems most annihilated, it yet remains. The cruel sensations of Imogen were not aggravated by despair, but heightened by hope. Through them all she was sustained by the consciousness of her rectitude. The cheerfulness of innocence supported her under every calamity.
She had not long remained alone before she was summoned to partake of that plainer repast, which in the economy of Roderic usually occupied the middle of the day, and preceded the sumptuous and splendid entertainment of the evening, by which the soul was instigated to prolong the indulgence of the table, and to throw the reins upon the neck of enjoyment. But Imogen, whose thoughts were dark, and whose mind brooded over a thousand sad ideas, was desirous of that solitude, which in the simplicity of pastoral life is ever at hand. She could not away with the freedom of society, and the levity of mirth. It was painful to her to have any witnesses of her new sensations, and she wished to remove herself for ever from the inspection of the officious and the inquisitive. In compliance with her humor a few viands were served to her in her own apartment. She was induced by the entreaties of her attendant, to call up a momentary smile upon her countenance, and to endeavor to partake of the refreshment that was offered her. But the effort was vain. It was the sunshine of an April day; her repast in spite of her was bedewed with tears, and she ate the bread of sorrow.
As soon as it was concluded, she was invited to a short excursion in the garden of the mansion. Unused to refusal, the natural mildness of her temper inclined to comply She saw the necessity of not yielding herself up to passive and unresisting melancholy. The natural serenity of innocence did not yet permit her to be insensible to the attractions of enjoyment; and the transient view she had had of the garden'es she passed to the terrace, led her to expect from it, something that might sooth her pensive thoughts, and something that might divert her affliction.
The garden of Rodogune was an enclosure in a bottom glade, at the entrance of which, though nigh to the castle, and upon a lower ground, you wholly lost sight the mansion, and every external object. But though these were excluded, the Sorceress by her art had also excluded the appearance of limits and boundaries. The scene was not terminated by walls and espaliers, but by the entrance on either side of a wild, meandering wood. The side by which you were introduced was protected by trees of the thickest foliage; and the gate was masqued with a clump of hazels and alders, which permitted only two narrow passages on either side. The eye was shut in, but the imagination was permitted to range in perfect freedom. Nor was this seeming confinement calculated to disgust; on the contrary you willingly believed that every charm and every grace was shut up in the circle, and you trembled lest the smallest outlet should take off from the richness of the scene. In entering you were struck with a sensation of coolness, that impervious shades, a bright and animated verdure, flowers scattered here and there in agreeable disorder, the prattling of the stream, and the song of a thousand birds, impressed as strongly upon the imagination, as the senses. But this did not appear the result of art. Every thing had the face of uncultivated luxuriance , and impenetrable solitude. You could not believe that you were not the first mortal that had ever found his way into the enchanting desert.
The scene however had been solely produced by the skill of Rodogune. Erewhile the grass had appeared dry and parched; a few solitary and leafless trees had been scattered up and down; there was no gaiety of colors to relieve the eye; and not one drop of water to give freshness to the prospect. But with the operations of magic Rodogune had delighted to supersede the parsimony of nature. She caused the tree and the shrub to spring forth in the richest abundance; the sturdiness of whose trunks, or the deepness of their verdure, cheated the eye with the semblance of the ripening hand of time. She sprinkled the turf, short, fine, and vivid, with flowers both native and exotic. She called forth a thousand fountains to enrich the scene. Sometimes they crept beneath the turf in almost imperceptible threads; sometimes they ran beside the alleys, or crossed them in sportive wantonness; and sometimes you might see them in broader and more limpid currents rolling over a smooth and spotted bed. Now they rose from the soil in foamy violence, and fell upon the chalk and pebbly ground beneath; and anon they formed themselves into the deeper basin, whose calm and even surface reflected back the reeds and shrubs that were planted round. There was nothing strait and nothing level; the rule and the line had never entered the delicious spot; the irregularities of the soil, and the fantastic, gradual windings of the alleys, were calculated to give length to the passage, and immensity to the scene.
From time to time you encountered tufts of trees closely planted, and that cast as brown a shade as the thickest forest. These were partly composed of wood of the most pliant texture, the extremities of whose branches, bending to the earth, took root a second time in her bosom. Elsewhere the raspberry [sic], the rose, the lilac, and a thousand flowering shrubs, appeared in thickets without either regularity or symmetry, and contributed at once to adorn, and to give an air of rudeness and wildness to the prospect. Round the body of the trees, planted some at their root, and some upon the different parts of the trunk, crept the withy, the snakeweed, the ivy, and the hop, and intermingled with them the jessamine and the honeysuckle, in the most unbounded profusion. Their tendrils hung from the branches' and waved to the wind; and suggested to you the appearance of garlands scattered from tree to tree by the nymphs of the grove. All was inexpressible 1uxuriance, and a thousand different shades of verdure were placed, one upon another, in regular confusion, and attractive disorder. An exuberance of this sort was calculated in a vulgar scene to have checked the fertility of the plants, and to have given a sickly and withered appearance to their productions; but it was not so in the garden of Rodogune. There the cherry and the grape, the downy peach and the purple plum were half discovered amid the foliage of the hop, and the clusters of the woodbine. Beneath the delicious shade you wandered over beds of moss, undeformed with barren sands and intrusive weeds, and smooth as the level face. of ocean when all the winds of heaven sleep.
Nor was this all. Inanimate and vegetable nature (and the observation had not escaped the penetration of Rodogune) adorn and arrange it as you will, infallibly suggests an idea of solitude, that communicates sadness to the mind. Accordingly your path was here beguiled with the warbling of a thousand birds, the full-toned blackbird' the mellow thrush, and the pensive nightingale. The sorceress had invited them to her retreat, by innumerable assiduities and innumerable conveniences of food and residence, and had suffered no rude intrusion to disturb the sacredness of their haunts. Unused to molestation in all their pursuits, they now showed no terror of human approach, but flew, and hopped, and sung, and played among the branches and along the ground, in thoughtless security and wanton defiance.
For a few moments Imogen was immersed in the contemplation of the beauties of the place, and its delightful coolness and mingled fragrance were balm and softness to her wounded soul. The domestic who accompanied her, perceived her propensity to reflection and fell back to a small distance. The shepherdess, as soon as she found herself disengaged and alone, revolved with the utmost displeasure her present situation. "How happy," cried she, "are the virgins of the vale! To them every hour is winged with tranquility and pleasure. They laugh at sorrow; they trill the wild, unfettered lay, or wander, cheerful and happy, with the faithful swain beneath the woodland shade. They fear no coming mischief; they know not the very meaning of an enemy. Innocent themselves, they apprehend not guilt and treachery in those around them. Nor have they reason. Simplicity and frankness are the unvaried character of the natives of the plain. Liberty, immortal, unvalued liberty, is the daughter of the mountains. We suspected not that deceit, invidiousness, and slavery were to be found beneath the sun. Ah, why was I selected from the rest to learn the fatal lesson! Un-wished, unfortunate distinction! Was I, who am simple and undisguised as the light of day, who know not how to conceal one sentiment of my heart, or arm myself with the shield of vigilance and incredulity, was I fitted by nature for a scene like this? In the mean time have not the Gods encouraged me by the most splendid appearance, and the most animating praises? I would not impeach their venerable counsels. But was this a time for applauses so seducing? How greatly have they perplexed, and how deeply distressed me! In what manner, alas! are they to be obeyed, and what am I to think of the professions of my ravisher? But, no; I dare not permit my purpose to be thus suspended. My danger here is too imminent. The deliverance of my own honor and the felicity of my parents are motives too sacred, not to annihilate every ambiguity and every doubt. Oh, that I could escape at once! Oh, that like the tender bird, that hops before me in my path, I could flit away along the trackless air! Why should the little birds that carol among the trees be the only beings in the domains of Roderic, that know the sweets of liberty? But it will not be. Still, still I am under the eye and guardianship of heaven. Wise are the ways of heaven, and I submit myself with reverence. Only do ye, propitious Gods, support, sustain, deliver me! Never was frail and trembling mortal less prepared to encounter with machination, and to brave unheard of dangers. How fear ful are those I have already encountered; and how much have I to apprehend from what may yet remain! But if I am weak, the omnipotent support to which I look is strong. I will not give way to impious despondence. It has delivered, and it may yet deliver me."
By such virtuous and ingenuous renections the shepherdess endeavored to solace her distress, and to fortify her courage. Now by revolving her dangers she sought to prepare for their encounter; and now she dismissed the recollection as too depressing and too melancholy. The confidences of the prospect, though rich infinitely beyond any thing she had yet seen, and though not naturally calculated to fatigue and disgust, was destructive of all its beauty in the eyes of Imogen. It presented to her too just an image of the thralldom, which was the subject of all her complaints. She desired to fling her eye through a wider prospect; and though unable even from the loftiest ground to discover the happy valley, she coveted the slender gratification of beholding the utmost boundaries of the magic circle, and extending her view as near as possible to her beloved home. She therefore advanced farther in the garden, and presently arrived at a clear and open brow, where a beautiful alcove was erected to catch the point of view, from which the surrounding objects appeared in the greatest variety, and with the happiest effect. She entered; and the domestic that attended her remained in a distant part of the garden.
Scarcely had Imogen seated herself, before she discovered, by a casual glance over tile prospect, and at some distance, a youth, who seemed to advance with hasty steps towards the castle. At first she was tempted to turn away her eye with carelessness and inattention. There was however something in his figure, that led her, by a kind of fascination for which she could not account, to cast upon him a second glance and a third. He drew nearer. He leaped with an active bound over the fence that separated him from the garden. It was the form of Edwin. His hair hung carelessly about his shoulders. His shepherd's pipe was slung in his belt. His clear and manly cheeks glowed with the warmth of the day, and the anxiety of love. He entered the alcove.
Had a ghost risen before Imogen, surrounded with all the horrors of the abyss' she could not have been struck with greater astonishment. As he advanced, she gazed in silence. She could not utter a word. Her very breath seemed suppressed At length he entered, and for a moment she had voice enough to utter her surprise "Gracious powers!" exclaimed she "is it possible? what is it that I see? Edwin, beloved Edwin!" and she sunk breathless upon her seat. The fictitious shepherd approached her, folded her in his arms, and with repeated, burning kisses' which he had never before ventured to ravish from his disdainful captive, resorted her to life and perception. The confusion of Imogen did not allow her to animadvert upon his freedoms. She had the utmost confidence in the person whose form he wore, and the guileless simplicity of pastoral life is accustomed to permit many undesigning liberties, and is slow to take the alarm, or to suspect a sinister purpose Roderic, anxious and timid respecting the success of his adventure, was backward to enter into conversation. Imogen, on the other hand, charmed with so unexpected an appearance, and presaging from it the most auspicious consequences' full of her situation and sufferings, and having a thousand things that pressed at once to be told, was eager and impatient to communicate them to her faithful shepherd. She was also desirous of learning by what undiscoverable means, by what happy fortune, he had been conducted to this impervious retreat, and at so critical a juncture. "Edwin, my gallant Edwin, how came you hither? Sure it was some propitious power, some unseen angel, that conducted you. Oh, my friend, I have been miserable, perplexed tortured but it is now no more I will not think of it Thanks to the immortal Gods, I have no occasion no room but for gratitude. Edwin what have you done and how did you escape the tempest? Was it not a fearful storm? But I ask you a thousand questions and you do not answer me. You seem abashed uncertain what is the meaning of this? Did you not come to succour my distress? Was it not pity for your poor forlorn desolate Imogen that directed your steps?"
"Yes, loveliest of thy sex," replied her betrayer. "I flew upon the wings of love. I was brought along by a celestial, impulsive guidance, which I followed I knew not why. Oh how gracious the condescension, how happy the obedience, how grateful the interview! Yes, Imogen, I was in despair. I was terrified at the concurring prodigies by which we were separated, and I feared never, never to behold that beauteous form again. Come then and let me clasp thee to my bosom. Oh, thou art sweeter than the incense-breathing rose, and brighter than the lily of the vale!"
For a moment, the affectionate and unsuspicious shepherdess received his caresses with complacence and pleasure. Suddenly however she recollected herself; instinctively and without reflection she repulsed the undue warmth of his attentions. "This," cried she, "is no time for fond indulgence, and careless dalliance Fate is on the wing. Our situation is arduous and we are in the midst of enemies. Every thing that surrounds us is full of danger all is deceit and treachery _ appearances are insidious all is frightful suspense and headlong precipice. The plotter of my ruin is as potent as he is Ah! every hour is big with calamity and destruction every moment that we stay here is in the last degree hazardous and decisive. My keepers may be alarmed Those eyes that never close may be summoned to attention we may be hemmed inprevented Oh, Edwin, how fearful is this place and how un-hoped how joyful to me must be an escape. I thought this hated seat had been impervious and impassable lark! Did you not hear the sound of feet? No everything is still Let us go this way Say, by what path did you come Let us hasten our flight let us make no delay not look behind."
"Yes, Imogen," replied Roderic, detaining her, "we will escape But this, my lovely maiden, is not the time I am not yet prepared We may remain here in security already the shades of evening begin to draw. Every thing is now busy and active. We cannot pass from hence without observation. In the silence of the night the attempt will be more practicable. And you, Imogen, are a heroine The Gods will watch over us. Silence and darkness have nothing in them at which innocence should be terrified. Till then let us reconcile ourselves to our situation. Let us endeavor, by secrecy and stillness, not to attract to us the attention of the enemies with which we are surrounded. Let us banish from them curiosity and suspicion. And let us trust in the Gods, propitious to rectitude, that they will look down with favor upon a design prompted by virtue and urged by oppression"
"Alas, Edwin," replied the shepherdess "it is with regret that I consent to remain one moment longer in this fatal spot. But I will submit to your direction, I will confide in your prudence; I will trust in your fidelity, and your zeal, for the deliverance I so ardently desire. Here however we cannot long remain undiscovered. My absence will be suspicious. I will return once again to the hated mansion. You, my swain, must conceal yourself in the mazes of this friendly wilderness. It shall not be long ere I come to you again. With motives like mine to inspire ingenuity, I shall easily find a way to elude the strictest guard, and escape from the closest thralldom. Say, my Edwin! this stratagem shall suffice, and you shall lead me in safety under the friendly cover of the night to liberty and innocence!"
"Yes," exclaimed Roderic, suddenly recollecting himself, "you may be assured that by me nothing shall be omitted, that can further your escape from this detested prison. The perils I have already incurred may well convince you of this. It has been through the most fearful dangers, ready every moment to be overwhelmed with omnipotent mischief, that I have reached you. I have approached by the most devious and undiscovered paths. Though the greatest hazards are to be encountered in the cause of innocence and honor, the conduct we should pursue is therefore ambiguous, and our success involved in uncertainty and darkness. Oh Imogen, I may now behold thee for the last time. The moment we sally from this retreat, I may be discovered by that enemy from whom we have so much to fear. I may be confined to all the wantonness of inventive torture, and that beauteous form, and the smiles of that bewitching countenance may be torn from these longing eyes for ever. But here, my shepherdess, we are safe. We may here secure ourselves from sudden intrusion, and a thousand means of concealment are here in our power. This Imogen is the moment of our ascendancy, this little period is all our own. In a short time the precious hours will be elapsed, the invaluable instants will be run out. Oh, my love, fairest, most angelic of thy sex, while they are yet ours, let us improve them. "He ceased; and his countenance glistened with the anticipations of enjoyment, and his eyes emitted the sparkles of lust but the imagination of Imogen was not sullied with the impressions of indecency, and the baseness of looser desires. She understood not the innuendoes of Roderic, and she remarked not with an eager and inquisitive eye the distraction of his visage. She replied therefore only to the more obvious tendency of what he said "And is this, Edwin, all the consolation you bring me? Ah how poor, how heartless, and how cold! If we accomplish not that flight upon which my hopes and wishes are suspended, what utility and what pleasure can we derive from this interview? It will then only be a bitter aggravation of all my trials, and all my miseries. If a prospect so unexpected and desirable terminate in no advantage, for what purpose was it opened before me? It will but render my sensations more poignant, and give a new refinement to the exquisiteness of despair.
"But no, my Edwin, let us not give way to despondence. The Gods, my generous swain, the same Gods that give luxuriance and felicity to the plain, and that have guided you through every hazard to this impervious spot, will assuredly deliver us. Remember the lessons of the heaven-taught Druids. There is an innate dignity and omnipotence in virtue. She may be surrounded with variety of woes, but none of them shall approach her. The darts of calamity may assail her on every side, but she is invulnerable to them all. Before her majesty, the fierceness of all the tenants of the wood is disarmed, and the more untamed brutality of savage man is awed into mute obedience. She may not indeed put on the insolence of pride, and the fool-hardiness of presumption. But wherever her duty calls, she may proceed fearless and unhurt. She may be attacked, but she cannot be wounded: she may be surprised, but she cannot be enslaved: she may be obscured for a moment, but it shall only be to burst forth again more illustrious than ever.
"But you, Edwin, are much better acquainted with these things, and more able to instruct than I. They were ever the favorite subject of your attention. I have seen you with rooted eye fixed for hours in listening admiration of the sublime dictates of the hoary Llewelyn. It is little to learn, to understand, and to admire. A barren and ineffectual enthusiasm for the speculations of truth, was never respectable and was never venerable. Now, my swain, is the moment in which these sacred lessons are to be called into action, and in which, beyond all others, reputation is to be asserted and character fixed. Leave not then to me the business of inciting and animating you. Be you my leader and protector."
"Alas, my charming mistress," replied her admirer, "I would to God it were in my power to inspire you with hope and fill you with courage. I confess that while peril was at a distance, and I sat secure in the tranquil vale, I received without distinction the doctrines of the Druids, and bowed assent to their sacred lessons. But practice, my Imogen, and the scenes of danger differ beyond conception from the ideas we form of them in the calmness of repose. Something must be allowed to the unruffled solitude of these sacred men, and something to the sublime of poetry. Surely it is no part of comprehensive prudence to banish the idea of those hazards that must be encountered, and to refuse to survey the snares and the difficulties with which our path is surrounded. Remember, my fair one, the malignant suspiciousness of your jailer, and the comfortless darkness of the night."
"Oh Edwin, and is this the strain in which you were wont to talk? Why are you thus altered, and what means this inauspicious quick-sightedness and alarm? We should indeed survey and prepare for danger, but we should never suffer it to overwhelm us. The cause of integrity should never be despaired of. What avails the suspicions of my keeper? The ever wakeful eye of heaven can make them slumber. Why should we wreck the gloom and loneliness of the night? Virtue is the ever-burning lamp of the sacred groves. No darkness can cast a shadow on her beams. Though the sun and moon were hurled below the bosom of the circling ocean, virtue could see to perform her purposes, and execute her great designs. Alas, my swain, my voice is weak, and broken, and powerless. But willingly would I breathe a soul to animate your timidity. Oh Edwin," and she folded him in her alabaster arms to her heaving, anxious bosom, "let me not exhort you in vain! It is but for a little while, it is but for one short effort, and if the powers above smile propitious on our purpose, we are happy for ever! Think how great and beautiful is our adventure. Comfortless and desponding as I am now, ready to sink without life and animation at your feet, I may be in a few hours happier than ever. Oh Edwin, lead on! Can you hesitate? Would it were in my power to reward the virtue I would excite as it deserves to be rewarded. But the Gods will reward you, Edwin."
As she uttered these words, her action was unspeakably graceful, her countenance was full of persuasion, and her voice was soft, and eloquent, and fascinating. Roderic gazed upon her with insatiate curiosity, and drank her accents with a greedy ear. For a moment, charmed with the loftiness of her discourse and the heroism of her soul, he was half persuaded to relent, and abjure his diabolical purpose. It was only by summoning up all the fierceness of his temper, all the impatience of his passions, and all the mistaken haughtiness and inflexibility of his purpose, that he could resist the artless enchantment. During the internal struggle, his countenance by no means answered to the simplicity of pastoral sentiments. It was now fierce, and now unprotected and despairing. Anon it was pale with envy, and anon it was flushed with the triumph of brutal passion. Transitions like these could not pass unobserved. Imogen beheld them-with anxiety and astonishment, but suspicion was too foreign in her breast, to be thus excited.
"Imogen," cried the traitor, "it is in your power to reward the noblest acts of heroism that human courage can perform. Who in the midst of all the exultation and applause that triumphant rectitude can inspire, could look to a nobler prize than the condescension of your smiles and the heaven of your embraces? No, too amiable shepherdess, it is not for myself I fear; witness every action of my life; witness all those dangers that I have this moment unhesitatingly encountered, that I might fly to your arms. But, oh, when your safety is brought to hazard, I feel that I am indeed a coward. Think, my fair one, of the dangers that surround us. Let us calmly revolve, before we immediately meet them. No sooner shall we set our foot beyond this threshold, than they will commence. Tyranny is ever full of apprehensions and environed with guards. Along the gallery, and through the protracted hall, centennials are placed with every setting sun. Could you escape their observations, an hundred bolts, and an hundred massive chains secure the hinges of the impious mansion. Beyond it all will be dark, and the solitude inviolate. But suppose we meet again, by what path to cross the wide extended glade, and to reach the only avenue that can lead us safely through this horrid cincture will then be undiscoverable. Amid the untamed forest and untrod precipices that lie beyond, all the beasts most inimical to man reside. There the hills re-echo the tremendous roarings of the boar; the serpents hiss among the thickets; and the gaunt and hungry wolf roams for prey. Oh, Imogen, how fearful is the picture! And can your tender frame, and your timid spirits support the reality?"
Imogen had now preserved the character of heroism and fortitude for a considerable time. All the energies of her soul had been exerted to encounter the trials and surmount the difficulties which she felt to be unavoidable. When the beloved form of Edwin had appeared before her, she relaxed in some degree from the caution and vigilance she had hitherto preserved. It is the very nature of joyful surprise to unbend as it were the strings of the mind, and to throw wide the doors of unguarded confidence. Before, she had felt herself alone; she saw no resource but in her own virtue, and could lean upon no pillar but her own resolution. Now she had trusted to meet with an external support; she had poured out her heart into the bosom of him in whom she confided, and she looked to him for prudence, for suggestion and courage. But, instead of support, she had found debility, and instead of assistance the resources of her own mind were dried up, and her native fortitude was overwhelmed and depressed. She turned pale at the recital of Roderic, her knees trembled, her eyes forgot their wonted luster, and she was immersed in the supineness and imbecility of despair.
"Edwin!" she cried, with a tone of perturbation; but her utterance failed her. Her voice was low, hoarse, and inaudible. The fictitious shepherd supported her in his arms. Her distress was a new gratification and stimulus to her betrayer. "Edwin, ah, wherefore this fearful recital? Did you come here for no other purpose than to sink me ten times deeper in despair? Alas, I had conceived far other expectations, and far other hopes fluttered in my anxious bosom, when I first beheld your well known form. I said I have been hitherto constant and determined, though unsupported and melancholy. I shall now be triumphant. I shall experience that heaven-descended favor, which ever attends the upright. Edwin, my firm, heroic Edwin, will perform what I wished, and finish what I began. And, oh, generous and amiable shepherd, is it thus that my presages are fulfilled? No, I cannot, will not bear it. If the courage of Edwin fail, I will show him what he ought to be. If you dare not lead, think whether you dare follow whither I guide. You shall see what an injured and oppressed woman can do. Feeble and tender as we are formed by nature, you shall see that we are capable of some fortitude and Some exertion" As she said this she had risen, and was advancing towards the door But recollecting herself with a sudden pang, "Alas," cried she, "whither do I go? What am I doing? What shall I do ? Oh, Edwin!" and, falling at his feet, she embraced his knees, "do not, do no [sic] not desert me in this sad, tremendous moment! '
'I will not, my Imogen, I will never desert you. One fate shall attend us both. And if you are called to calamity, to torture, and to death, Edwin will not be Supine and inactive." "Oh, now," cried she, her eyes moistened with rapture, "I recognize my noble and gallant swain. Come then, and let us fly If we must encounter peril and disaster, what avails it to suspend the trial for a few niggard hours? This, my friend, my guardian, this is the time Now the master dragon sleeps Roderic is now unconscious and distant and I fear him too much to apprehend any thing from a meaner adversary Let us fly let us escape let our speed outstrip the rapid winds!"
During their conversation, the heavens had been covered with clouds, and the rain descended with violence. But the change had not been noticed by Imogen. "Well then, my fair one, we will depart. What though the wind whistles along the heath, and the rain patters among the elms? We will defy their fury. Let us go! But, ah, my Imogen, look there! The hinds are flying across the plain for shelter; and see! two of them approach to the clump of trees directly before us on the outside of the garden. No, shepherdess, it is in vain that we resolve, and in vain that we struggle: we cannot escape."
The mind of Imogen was now wrought up to the extremes" distress. Her heart was wrung with anguish. She was ready to charge the immortals with conspiring against her, had not her piety forbade it. She saw the reality of what Roderic stated, and yet she was ready to charge him with raising eternal obstacles. She cast upon him a look of despair and agony. But she did not read in the countenance of the imaginary shepherd congenial sentiments. "Methinks," said she, with a voice full of reproachful blandishment, and inimitable sweetness, "methinks it is not with the tenderness of sympathy, that you tell me we must desist. Sure it is only the mist of tears through which I behold you, that makes me see the suppressed emotion of pleasure in your countenance. No, it is not in the heart of Edwin to harbor for a moment the sentiments of barbarity and insult But if we cannot now escape if the dangers to which we must submit may be diminished by delay indeed, Edwin, something must be attempted at least let us now fix upon a plan, and determine what to do. Let not delay relax the spirit of enterprise, or shake the firmness of our purpose."
"And what plan," cried the pretended shepherd, "can we form? I have already trod the intricate and dangerous road, and there is nothing better for us than to tread my footsteps back again. The day is particularly unfavorable, as it is accompanied with activity and business. We must therefore wait for the night. Then we must watch our opportunities, and embrace the favorable interval. Imogen, I feel not for myself. I do not throw away a thought upon my own safety, and I am ready to submit to every evil for your service and your defense. But yet, my gentle, noble-minded shepherdess, I cannot promise any very flattering probability of success. Indeed my hopes are not sanguine. The difficulties that are before us appear to me insurmountable. One mountain peeps through the breaches of another, and they are like a wall built by the hand of nature, and reaching to the skies. Penmaenmawr is heaped upon Snowdon, and Plinlimmon nods upon the summit of Penmaenmawr It is only by the intervention of a miracle that we can ever revisit the dear, lamented fields of Clwyd. Let us then, my Imogen, compose ourselves to the sedateness of despair. Let us surrender the success of our future efforts to fate. And let us endeavor to solace the short and only certain interval that we yet can call our own, by the recollection of our virtuous loves."
"Alas," cried Imogen, "I understand not in what the sedateness of despair consists In the prospect of every horrid mischief, mischief that threatens not merely my personal happiness or mortal existence, but which bears a malignant aspect upon the dignity of honor and the peace of integrity, I cannot calmly recollect our virtuous loves, or derive from that recollection sedateness and composure. Edwin your language is dissonant, and the thoughts you seek to inspire, jarring and incompatible. If you must tell me to despair, at least point me to some nobler source of consolation, than the coldness of memory; at least let us prepare for the fate that awaits us in a manner decent, manly, and heroic."
"Yes, too amiable shepherdess, if I were worthy to advise, I would recommend a more generous source of consolation, and teach you to prepare for futurity in a manner worthy of the simplicity of your heart; and worthy of that disinterested affection we have ever borne to each other. Think of those sacred ties that have united us. Think of the soft and gentle commerce of mutual glances; the chaste and innocent communication with which we have so often beguiled the noontide hour; the intercourse of pleasures, of sentiments, of feelings that we have held; the mingling of the soul. Did not heaven design us for each other? Is not, by a long probation of simplicity and innocence, the possession of each other become a mutual purchase? An impious and arbitrary tyrant has torn us asunder. But do the Gods smile upon his hated purpose? Does he not rather act in opposition to their decrees, and in defiance of their authority?"
The magician paused. "Alas," replied the shepherdess, "what is it you mean? Whither would you lead me? I understand you not. These indeed were motives for fortitude and exertion, but what consolation can they impart to the desponding heart?" "I will tell you," replied her seducer, folding her slender waist with one of his arms as he spoke. "Since the Gods are on our side, since heaven and earth approve our honest attachment, let us sit here and laugh at the tyrant. While he doubles his guards, and employs all his vigilance, let us mock his impotent efforts."
"Ah," replied the shepherdess, her eye moistened with despair, and beaming with un-apprehensiveness, "how strange and impracticable an advice do you suggest! Full of terror, full of despair, you bid me laugh at fear. Threatened by a tyrant whose power is irresistible, and whose arts you yourself assure me are not to be evaded, you would have me mock at those arts, and this dreaded power. Is not his power triumphant? Is not all his vigilance crowned with a fatal success? Are we not his miserable, trembling, death-expecting victims? Can we leave this apartment' can we almost move our hand, or utter our voice, for solicitude and terror? Oh Edwin, in what mould must that heart have been cast, what must be its hard and unsusceptible texture, that can laugh at sorrow, and be full of the sensations of joy, though surrounded with all the engines of wretchedness?"
Imogen, your fears are too great, your anxieties exaggerate the indigence of our condition. Though we are prisoners, yet even the misfortunes of a prison have their compensations. The activity of the immaterial mind, will not indeed submit long without reluctance to confinement and restraint. But we have not yet experienced lassitude and disgust." "Alas, Edwin, how strange and foreign are thoughts like these! Whither do they tend? What would you infer from them?"
"This my love I would infer. That within one little cincture we are yet absolute No prying eye can penetrate here. Of our words, of our actions, during a few remaining hours, we can dispose without control."
"Ah," exclaimed the shepherdess, struck with a sudden suspicion of the beach erous purpose, and starting from her betrayer, "ah, Edwin, yet, yet explain your. self! A thousand horrid thoughts a thousand dire and shapeless phantoms But Edwin, sure is plain, and artless, and innocent. What boots it that we can dispose of our words and actions within this cincture? Will that enable us to escape? No, no, no, no. Escape you say is hopeless What is it you mean? Say explain yourself Oh, Edwin!"
"Be not alarmed," cried the remorseless villain. "Listen, yet listen with calmness to the suggestions of my deliberate mind. Imogen, you are too beautiful I have beheld you too long I have admired you with too fierce an ardor. The Gods the Gods have joined us. It is guilt and malignity alone that oppose their purpose. Let us beat them down trample them under our feet employ worthily the moment that yet remains."
As the magician pronounced these words, he advanced towards his captive, and endeavored to seize her in his arms. But she thrust him from her with the warmest indignation; and contemplating him with an eye of infinite disdain, "Base unworthy swain!" she cried "Insidious traitor! abhorred destroyer! And is it thus that you would approach me? Is it thus that you would creep into the weakness of my heart? But fly I know you not One mark of compassion I will yet exhibit, which you little deserve Fly I will not deliver you into the hands of your rival, whom yet my soul does not so much loath and abhor Fly Live to be pointed at as an example of degeneracy Live to blush for and repent of that crime, which, Edwin! cannot be expiated."
Roderic had advanced too far to be thus deterred. He did not wish to manage the character under which he appeared. His passions by this interview, more private, and in which his captive had beheld him with an eye of greater complacency than ever, were inflamed to the extremes" degree. The charms of Imogen had been in turn heightened with joy, and mellowed with distress. Even the conscious dignity, and haughty air she now assumed, gave new attractions to her form, and new grace to her manner. Her muscles trembled with horror and disdain. Her eloquent blood wrought distinctly in her veins, and spoke in a tone, not more dignified than enchanting. Her whole figure had a life, an expression, a loveliness, that it is impossible to conceive.
Roderic rushed forward un-appalled, and un-subdued. He had already seized his unwilling victim. In vain she resisted his violence; in vain she strove to escape from her betrayer. "For pity's sake for mercy's sake for the sake of all our past endearments spare me! Relent and spare me spare me!" For a time she struggled; but her tender frame was soon overcome by the strength of her destroyer. She became cold and insensible in his arms.
At this moment a flood of splendid lightning filled the apartment. The air was rent with the hoarse and deafening roar of the thunder, the door new open, and the form of that specter that he most abhorred stood before Roderic. "Go on, cried the phantom, "complete thy heroic purpose. Scorn the tremendous sounds that now appall thee. They are but the prelude of that scene that shall shortly feast my eyes. Perceivest thou not the earth to tremble beneath thy feet? Hearest thou not the walls of thy hated mansion cracking to their ruin? Confusion is at hand. Chaos is come again. Go on then, Roderic. Complete thy heroic purpose." The Specter vanished, and all was uninterrupted silence.
The whole mind of Roderic was transformed from what it was. For the impotence of lust, and the cruelty of inexorable triumph, he felt the terrors of annihilation, and all the cold, damp tremblings of despair. But the victory of innocence was not yet complete. Imogen had sunk for a moment under the horrors that threatened her, but she had not been so far impercipient as not to hear the murmuring of the thunder, and to see the gleam of the lightning The form however that terrified Roderic, and the voice that addressed him, were perceived by him alone.
The shepherdess opened her eyes, and beheld the degenerate ravisher pale, aghast, and trembling. "It is well, Edwin. The Gods have declared themselves. The Gods have suspended their thunder over the head of the apostate. But, oh Edwin, could I have imagined it! Desolate and oppressed as I have been, could I have supposed, that that form was destined to fill up the measure of my woes! I once beheld it as the harbinger of happiness, as the temple of integrity and innocence. Oh, how wretched you have made me! How you have shaken all my most rooted opinions of the residence of virtue among mankind! Am I alone, and unsupported in her cause? How forlorn and solitary do I seem to myself! I suffered once I suffered the thought of Edwin to mix with the love of rectitude, and the obedience of heaven. They all together confirmed me in the path I had chalked out for myself. Mistake not these reproaches for the weakness of returning passion. And yet, Edwin, though I loath, I pity you! Go, and repent! Go, and blot from the records of your memory the cold insinuation, the aggravated guilt that you have this day practiced! Go, and let me never, never see you more!"
As she uttered these words, congratulation, reproach, wretchedness, abhorrence and pity succeeded each other in her countenance. But they were all accompanied with an ineffable dignity, and an angelic purity. The savage and the satyr might have beheld, and been awed into reverence. Roderic slunk away, guilty, mortified, and confounded. And such was the success of this other attempt upon the virtue of Imogen.