Continuing the narrative that began here.
Letter the Forty-Second:
Sir George Purvis to Miss Amelia Purvis.
My dear Amelia,
’Tis a strange Dungeon I inhabit,—not dug into the Earth, but built up on a Foundation like any other House; not shrouded in Darkness, but filled with Light from tall Windows; not barred and bolted, but open and unlocked. The Shackles that bind me here are not of Iron, but of my own Making; at any Moment I might walk out the Door, and be free;—free, and ruined. The Moment I depart, my Honor is gone: not that any such Thing as true Honor is left to me in my own Soul, but that the Appearance of it still clings to me in the World, where Appearance is more than Truth.
That Suspicion of which I wrote previously is now established Fact; Honoria has deserted me for the eminent Doctor Albertus. —Or rather, she has deserted all Principle, and believes, on the strength of the Doctor’s Arguments, that she is above Principle, and may do as she chooses. She sees no Contradiction, between her Betrothal to me, and her Relation with Doctor Albertus. That I see such a Contradiction, I need not tell you.
Now I shall relate to you, how the World has entrapped me thus, and how the House of Doctor Albertus has become my Prison. —Last Night, we had another of those Demonstrations of the Automaton, which serve as the eminent Doctor’s Mart, at which he peddles his mechanicall Toys, and solicits Orders from the Great. The Automaton gave a faultless Performance, which is not to be wondered at, as Miss Smith has perfected her Impersonation of the Machine to such a Degree that (so she tells me) she feels Clockworks in her Joints when she plays the Machine. After the noble Guests had departed, and the Time had come to retire, Honoria treated Doctor Albertus with such obvious Familiarity, that I could ignore it no longer.
“Sir, (I said,) I must ask that you restrain your Familiarity with Miss Wells, and keep within the Bounds of Propriety.”
Honoria spoke, tho’ I had not addressed her. “There can be nothing improper in the Appearance of Familiarity (quoth she) when the Appearance is the Mirror of the Fact.”
This bald Statement silenced me, and indeed the Room was silent for a few Moments; but at last Doctor Albertus laughed, and spoke thus:
“Come, Sir George, we are all Friends, and we are not Peasants; you and I are Men of the World, and Honoria knows as much of the World as we: Then let not Prejudice drive a Wedge between us.”
“Really, George,” Honoria added, “there is no need. I have learned much from Doctor Albertus, and surely you would not begrudge me the Truths I have gathered from my Congress with a great Mind.”
“Truths!” At last that Choler, which I had not been able to muster earlier, came over me, and I was not able to control my Speech. “What can a Charlatan have to do with Truth? Has this Oracle of all Wisdom told you that his wonderfull Automaton is a Cockney Seamstress named Smith? That he has been deceiving the Great with an Exhibition of—”
Here I ceased, because Honoria was smiling. When I had been silent for some Time, she spoke in calm and unperturbed Tones:
“Did you suppose (quoth she) that I was unaware of the true Nature of the Automaton? Did you suppose that Doctor Albertus had withheld aught from me—or I from him? Dear George, you are a perfect Innocent, but we are not all such perfect Innocents as you.”
This was her final Word, and my Wrath left me as suddenly as it had come. I sat in the Side-chair, and there I remained I know not how long; I am without Sensibility, and have returned to that Lassitude, in which I am wonderfully indifferent to my Plight. In this Condition I write, and send you Communication as from a Prison; or perhaps as from a Tomb, the Grave of my Honor and my Hope. Farewell; as writing to you is become my only Consolation, you may expect that I shall write again, and you shall hear from
Your lost Brother,