« VorigeDoorgaan »
always came, and often in the storm and plashing rain, that never seemed to touch or to annoy her, and looked sweetly at me, and silently passed on; and though she was so near to me, that once the wind lifted those light straying locks, and I felt them against my cheek, yet I never could move or speak to her. I fell ill; and when I recovered, my mother closely questioned me of the tall lady, of whom, in the height of my fever, I had so often spoken.
I cannot tell you what a weight was taken from my boyish spirits, when I learnt that this was no apparition, but a most lovely woman; not young, though she had kept her young looks; for the grief which had broken her heart seemed to have spared her beauty.
When the rebel troops were retreating after their total defeat, in that very wood I was so fond of, a young officer, unable any longer to endure the anguish of his wounds, sunk from his horse, and laid himself down to die. He was found there by the daughter of Sir Henry R, and conveyed by a trusty domestic to her father's mansion, Sir Henry was a loyalist; but the officer's desperate condition excited his compassion, and his many wounds spoke a language a brave man could not misunderstand. Sir Henry's daughter with many tears pleaded for him, and pronounced that he should be carefully and secretly attended. And well she kept that promise, for she waited upon him (her mother being long dead) for many weeks, and anxiously watched for the first opening of eyes, that, languid as he was, looked brightly and gratefully upon his young nurse.
You may fancy better than I can tell you, as he slowly recovered, all the moments that were spent in reading, and low-voiced singing, and gentle playing on the lute, and how many fresh flowers were brought to one whose wounded limbs would not bear him to gather them for himself, and how calmly the days glided on in the blessedness of returning health, and in that sweet silence so carefully enjoined him. I will pass by this, to speak of one day, which, brighter and pleasanter than others, did not seem more bright or more lovely than the looks of the young maiden, as she gaily spoke of "a little festival which (though it must bear an unworthier name) she meant really to give in honour of her guest's recovery;" "And it is time, lady," said he, for that guest so tended and so honoured, to tell you his whole story, and speak to you of one who will help him to thank you: may I ask you, fair lady, to write a little billet, for me, which, even in these times of danger, I may find some means to forward ?" To his mother,. no doubt, she thought, as with light steps and a lighter heart she seated herself by his couch, and smilingly bade him dictate; but, when he said, "My dear wife," and lifted up his eyes to be asked for more, he saw before him a pale statue, that gave him one look of utter despair, and fell, for he had no power to help her, heavily at his feet. Those eyes never truly reflected the pure soul again, or answered by answering looks the fond enquiries of her poor old father. She lived to be as I saw her, sweet and gentle, and delicate always; but reason returned no more. She visited till the day of her death the spot where she first saw that young soldier, and dressed herself in the very clothes that he said so well became her.
A TALE OF TRUE LOVE.
From "May You Like It."
"Thou know'st, that in my desert halls
Yet, on this dark and dreary pile,
Thy love its tender wreaths hath hung;
Bloom, fade, and die where once it clung."
C. H. TOWNSEND.
"I WILL wait," said an old man, as he stopped under a grove of tall forest trees, "I will wait till all this splendour is past. Poor young creature! she will hear it soon enough." He looked towards the superb palace which shone out one blaze of light amid the darkness of the night. He saw the doors crowded with persons; and carriages rolled rapidly past him. He recognized the imperial equipage, by the light of the flambeaux borne around it. He drew nearer, and heard the sound of music and song. "No, no," he exclaimed, "I cannot enter yet." He turned back and sought the little inn where he had left his horse. There the happy peasantry were assembled. Unwearied with a long day of rejoicing, they were dancing, and singing, and laughing. The whole house rung with merriment. The old man entered one of the least crowded rooms: there he found a large party sitting round a long table, covered with fruit and cakes. They were all talking, and laughing; all but one little girl, who had dropped fast asleep with joyful fatigue. Her arms were crossed upon the table, and her bright cheek rested on them; her eyelids lcoked heavy with slumber, but her fresh rosy lips were partly unclosed, and her cheek was dimpled with smiles. The old man sat down beside her, and leaned his - folded arms also on the table; but he did not sleep.
The palace of the Countess Florenheim was on that evening thronged with lordly company. Every splendid saloon had been thrown open but among the beauteous forms assembled there, the young Countess herself was the most admired. It might be that every eye looked in almost determined admiration upon one so gentle, and so distinguished by birth and fortune. But the young and innocent Bianca was very lovely. The usual expression of her large hazel eyes was eloquent tenderness, her features were beautiful, and every movement of her tall and delicate form was by nature graceful: though her dress was adorned by jewels of immense value, its appearance was less magnificent than simple.
That day she had taken possession of her princely wealth; and for the first time, she appeared as the mistress of her own palace: her
manner was perfectly dignified and easy, but, during the whole evening, the rich bloom of her cheek was heightened by a continued blush.
The Empress remained some hours at the Florenheim palace, delighted with the appearance and conduct of the young and noble orphan. The parents of the Countess had deserved and enjoyed the favour of their sovereigns, and Maria Theresa loved to distinguish their child.
Every guest had departed; and the young Countess stood alone in her spacious and magnificent saloons. She pressed her hand for a moment over her eyes, for they ached with the glare of the tapers still blazing around her. She looked at the beautiful flowers which hung in fading garlands round the room, and sighed. With a true girlish fancy, she took down a long drooping branch of roses from the tall candelabra beside her; the blossoms were all faded: she sighed again; her heart had not been in the gaiety and splendour of the evening, and now she had leisure to attend to the silent thoughts of her bosom. She thought of her betrothed husband, and she could not help reproaching herself for having shared in any way the festivities around her, while Ernest Alberti was exposed to the dangers of war.
As the young Countess was retiring to rest, the arrival of a person, who earnestly requested to see her that very night, was announced; she hesitated at first, but after a few moments consideration, she consented to appear. She returned to the deserted saloon, and there waited till the man was introduced to her presence. She recognized at once the servant of the Count Alberti, and dismissed her attendants. How often did she tremble, how often did she turn pale with horror, during that short interview! Ernest had fought with his general officer against the positive commands of the Emperor; the general had been mor. tally wounded, and Alberti was disgraced; a high reward was set upon his life. He had however escaped, but his servant knew not whither.
Many months passed away, months of doubt and sorrow to the hapless Bianca. The young deserter was never heard of; and the festive magnificence which had flashed for a moment in the palace of the Countess, entirely disappeared. All Vienna talked of her engagement with Ernest, and many pronounced the engagement to be dissolved. It was said, that the Empress had herself forbidden the young Countess to think of the disgraced Alberti. Bianca was certainly commanded to appear at court, and she did not refuse.-Many of the young courtiers determined to pay more than usual attention to the very beautiful and very wealthy heiress. She appeared, but none presumed to insult her sorrow with their addresses: her real, artless grief, invested her with a dignity which no one dared to infringe upon. She did not attempt to conceal how severely the blow had fallen upon her; but her grief, though silent, and seeming to claim no interest, was quietly majestic. Calm and pale, she stood among the ladies of the court, an object of respect and admiration even to the Empress herself.
A year passed away. The general whom Alberti had wounded was not dead, but he had met with so many relapses that his recovery was still pronounced uncertain. Bianca continued a quiet mourner, but now her alliance was sought by many of the noblest houses of Austria ;
gently, but firmly, every proposal was declined. For the first time, the Empress interested herself in the suit of the Prince, one of Bianca's enthusiastic admirers. The young Countess did not repel the confidence which her sovereign sought; she disclosed with affecting earnestness the feelings of her heart, and the principles on which she acted: before she quitted the Empress, she perceived that her feelings were understood,— she guessed that her principles were approved.
The mother of the Count Alberti was living; and still presided over the household of her son. The Countess Bianca was now a constant visitor at the Alberti palace; and a few days after the above mentioned interview with the Empress, the aged Countess and Bianca were conversing almost cheerfully together: they were elated with hope, for the petitions which had been presented in behalf of Ernest seemed to be successful. The Empress had herself written to the Countess Alberti; the letter was in Bianca's hand. Suddenly a person entered the saloon: it was the old and faithful servant of Alberti; he told them news that almost overwhelmed them. The young Count had returned, he had been brought to Vienna with a gang of desperate banditti, he was said to be the captain of men who were outlaws, robbers, and murderers. "Alas! alas!" exclaimed the old Countess, and she gazed with a look of heart-broken sorrow on a magnificent portrait of her late husband; "this is to be the end of the house of Alberti. Your only son, my beloved Conrad, the child of our hopes, will he prove a shame to his father's name? It is well you are not here; it is enough that I survive to witness our disgrace."- "Ernest will never disgrace you," cried Bianca, eagerly. "We know him much better," she added, clasping the trembling hands of the Countess, with tender affection; there is much to be explained in this story. Dear rash Ernest," she faltered, leaning her head on his mother's shoulder, and burst into tears. "We know him better: he may be wild and faulty, but he will never disgrace any one." "He never will, you are right,” replied the Countess ; "I spoke hastily. I ought to hope, I ought to believe, better things of my beloved son. Daughter of my love, I was very wrong to doubt him for a moment; you judge him rightly. Bless you, bless you, my sweet Bianca." Alberti had been indeed brought to Vienna among the banditti of Istria; every proof was strong against him. He was condemned to be broken on the wheel, and there seemed no hope that the sentence would be mitigated. Ernest himself told an improbable story about his not being connected with the banditti; but nobody listened to it, and he mentioned it no more. Bianca and his mother did believe him. The account was perfectly true.
Ernest had seen his antagonist fall, and he stood in stupified horror, with the bloody sword in his hand; a cold and sickening chill crept through his frame, and thought and memory seemed to forsake him. The friend who had accompanied him to the spot where the duel was fought, roused him from his reckless stupor: he led up to him his charger, which had brought him to the spot; he conjured, he commanded him to fly. Ernest heeded him not, but rushed to the place where the wounded general was lying: he had swooned, and the ashy paleness of death was already on his countenance. Ernest flung himself on the ground and groaned with anguish. The general revived, he
beheld the young man, he called to him with a feeble voice, he stretched out his clammy hand to him. Ernest half rose from the ground, he drew near the dying man, and with downcast eyes he took the extended hand. Again the general spoke, "I was in fault," he said; “ I should have known better than to be provoked by a youth like yourself. Forgive me, Alberti. If you wish that I should recover, leave me. Fly instantly-I shall be anxious, I shall have no rest, I shall die, if I think that you are in danger. Leave me, I entreat you." The young soldier obeyed; he kissed the cold hand of his general, and his friend hurried him away; he pointed towards the south, as if insinuating the direction which Ernest should take. Once again, Alberti looked round he saw the arm of the wounded man raised, as if to wave him away; his hand was on the rein of the impatient charger; he leapt into the saddle and fled.
It was nearly sunset when the Count Alberti stopt at the entrance of a desolate valley. Immense masses of rock descended to the banks of a rushing stream, on one side of which a narrow path wound apparently up the valley. For some miles before he reached this spot, Ernest had beheld no traces of man. He looked behind, and the broad barren moor which he had passed over, marked out a uniform horizon, against the clear crimson heavens. The standing rays of the sun spread in a thread-like blaze of golden glory over the plain. He turned again towards the mountains and waters. There all was dark and awful; the shadows of evening had cast even a terrific gloom over the valley; the loud and rising wind came rushing down it, and blew the foam of the torrent over his face. Ernest threw the reins on his horse's neck, and proceeded slowly along the winding path. The valley became narrower as he advanced, the rocks more precipitous, and the darkness increased. At last the valley appeared to be closed in entirely by one steep precipice, over which the torrent fell with a deafening roar. The charger stopt, and Ernest dismounted; he climbed the rocks beside. him; the path which he had lost sight of, again appeared: it seemed to lead in to a chasm of impenetrable blackness: he sprung forward, and felt the path firm and level under his feet. Returning to his horse, he led it after him, till they had reached what seemed to be the end of the cavern, for he saw the stars shining above him, and the ground beneath was spread with thick grass. The horse stooped down his head to graze, and Ernest unbridled it. The fugitive threw himself down among the rocks, and slept.
When he awoke, the moon was shining brightly on the plain before him, and the wind had died quite away. Not a sound disturbed the stillness of the night, except a faint murmur of distant waters, and the ceaseless chirping of innumerable grasshoppers. The plain seemed to be enclosed by mountains partly covered with dark pine woods; but the black and deepened shadows which enveloped every spot not lighted by the silvery moonshine, prevented his accurate observance of the scenes he gazed upon. He listened in vain, to hear if his horse were grazing near; he then wandered on, but forgot entirely that he was seeking his horse, he forgot every thing but the thoughts most nearly connected with his own dreary sorrows.
"At this moment," thought he, "the blood that I have shed, may