Page images

gree, by the objects which first excited it. The weakness of humanity is never willingly perceived by young minds. It is painful to know, that we are operated upon by objects whose impressions are variable as they are indefinable— and that what yesterday affected us strongly, is to day but imperfectly felt, and to-morrow perhaps shall be disregarded. When at length this unwelcome truth is received into the mind, we at first reject, with disgust, every appearance of good, we disdain to partake of a happiness which we cannot always command, and we not unfrequently sink into a temporary despair. Wisdom or accident, at length, recalls us from our error, and offers to us some object capable of producing a pleasing, yet lasting effect, which effect, therefore, we call happiness. Happiness has this essential difference from what is commonly called pleasure, that virtue forms its ba-. sis, and virtue, being the offspring of reason, may be expected to produce uniformity of effect.

The passions which had hitherto lain concealed in Julia's heart, touched by circumstance, dilated to its power, and afforded her a slight experience of the pain and delight which flow from their influence. The beauty and accomplishments of Vereza raised in her a new and various emotion, which reflection made her fear to encourage, but which was too pleasing to be wholly resisted. Tremblingly alive to a sense of delight, and unchilled by disappointment, the young heart welcomes every feeling, not simply painful, with a romantic expectation that it will expand into bliss.

Julia sought with eager anxiety to discover the sentiments of Vereza towards her; she revolved each circumstance of the day, but they afforded her little satisfaction; they reflected only a glimmering and uncertain light, which, instead of guiding, served only to perplex her. Now she remembered some instance of particular attention, and then some mark of apparent indifference. She compared his conduct with that of the other young noblesse; and thought each appeared equally desirous of the favour of every lady present. All the ladies, however, appeared to her to court the admiration of Vereza, and she trembled lest he should be too sensible of the distinction. She drew from these reflections no positive inference; and though distrust rendered pain the predominant sensation, it was so exquisitely interwoven with delight, that she could not wish it exchanged for her former ease. Thoughtful and restless, sleep fled from her eyes, and she longed with impatience for the morning, which should again present Vereza, and enable her to pursue the inquiry. She rose early, and adorned herself with unusual care. In her favourite closet she awaited the hour of breakfast, and endeavoured to read, but her thoughts wandered from the subject. Her lute and favourite airs lost half their power to please; the day seemed to stand still

-she became melancholy, and thought the breakfast hour would never arrive. At length the clock struck the signal, the sound vibrated on every nerve, and, trembling, she quitted the closet for her sister's apartment. Love taught her disguise. Till then Emilia had shared all her thoughts; they now descended to the breakfast-room in silence, and Julia almost feared to meet her eye. In the breakfast-room they were alone. Julia found it impossible to support a conversation with Emilia, whose observations, interrupting the course of her thoughts, became uninteresting and tiresome. She was therefore about to retire to her closet, when the Marquis entered. His air was haughty, and his look severe. He coldly saluted his daughters, and they had scarcely time to reply to his general inquiries, when the Marchioness entered, and the company soon after assembled. Julia, who had awaited with so painful an impatience for the moment which should present Vereza to her sight, now sighed that it was arrived. She scarcely dared to lift her timid eyes from the ground, and when by accident they met his, a soft tremour seized her; and apprehension lest he should discover her sentiments, served only to render her confusion conspicuous. At length a glance from the Marchioness recalled her bewildered thoughts; and other fears superseding those of love, her mind, by degrees, recovered its dignity. She could distinguish in the behaviour of Vereza no symptoms of particular admiration, and she resolved to conduct herself towards him with the most scrupulous care.

This day, like the preceding one, was devoted to joy. In the evening there was a concert, which was chiefly performed by the nobility. Ferdinand played the violoncello, Vereza the German flute, and Julia the piano-forte, which she touched with a delicacy and execution that engaged every auditor. The confusion of Julia may be easily imagined, when Ferdinand, selecting a beautiful duet, desired Vereza would accompany his sister. The pride of conscious excellence, however, quickly overcame her timidity, and enabled her to exert all her powers. The air was simple and pathetic, and she gave it those charms of expression so peculiarly her own. She struck the chords of her piano-forte in beautiful accompaniment, and towards the close of the second stanza, her voice resting on one note, swelled into a tone so exquisite, and from thence descended to a few simple notes, which she touched with such impassioned tenderness, that every eye wept to the sounds. The breath of the flute trembled, and Hippolitus entranced, forgot to play. A pause of silence ensued at the conclusion of the piece, and continued till a general sigh seemed to awaken the audience from their enchantment. Amid the general applause, Hippolitus was silent. Julia observed his behaviour, and gently raising her eyes to his, there read the sentiments which she


had inspired. An exquisite emotion thrilled her heart, and she experienced one of those rare moments which illuminate life with a ray of bliss, by which the darkness of its general shade is Care, doubt, every disagreeable sensation vanished, and for the remainder of the evening she was conscious only of delight. A timid respect marked the manner of Hippolitus, more flattering to Julia than the most ardent professions. The evening concluded with a ball, and Julia was again the partner of the Count.

When the ball broke up, she retired to her apartment, but not to sleep. Joy is as restless She seemed to have enas anxiety or sorrow. tered upon a new state of existence;-those fine springs of affection which had hitherto lain concealed, were now touched, and yielded to her a happiness more exalted than any her imagination had ever painted. She reflected on the tranquillity of her past life, and comparing it with the emotions of the present hour, exulted in the difference. All her former pleasures now appeared insipid; she wondered that they ever had power to affect her, and that she had endured with content the dull uniformity to which she had been condemned. It was now only that she appeared to live. Absorbed in the single idea of being beloved, her imagination soared into the regions of romantic bliss, and bore her high above the possibility of evil. Since she was beloved by Hippolitus, she could only be happy.

From this state of entranced delight, she was awakened by the sound of music immediately under her window. It was a lute touched by a masterly hand. After a wild and melancholy symphony, a voice of more than magic expression swelled into an air so pathetic and tender, that it seemed to breathe the very soul of love. The chords of the lute were struck in low and sweet accompaniment. Julia listened, and distinguished the following words :


those of the preceding day. Her anxiety had
now evaporated in joy, and she experienced that
airy dance of spirits which accumulates delight
from every object; and with a power like the
touch of enchantment, can transform a gloomy
desert into a smiling Eden. She flew to the
breakfast-room, scarcely conscious of motion;
but, as she entered it, a soft confusion overcame
her; she blushed, and almost feared to meet the
eyes of Vereza. She was presently relieved, how-
ever, for the Count was not there. The company
assembled-Julia watched the entrance of every
person with painful anxiety, but he for whom she
looked did not appear. Surprised and uneasy, she
fixed her eyes on the door, and whenever it open-
ed, her heart beat with an expectation which was
as often checked by disappointment. In spite of all
her efforts, her vivacity sunk into languor, and
she then perceived that love may produce other
sensations than those of delight. She found it
possible to be unhappy, though loved by Hippo-
litus; and acknowledged with a sigh of regret,
which was yet new to her, how tremblingly her
peace depended upon him. He neither appear-
ed nor was mentioned at breakfast; but though
delicacy prevented her inquiring after him, con-
versation soon became irksome to her, and she
retired to the apartment of Madame de Menon.
There she employed herself in painting, and en-
deavoured to beguile the time till the hour of
dinner, when she hoped to see Hippolitus. Ma-
dame was, as usual, friendly and cheerful, but
she perceived a reserve in the conduct of Julia,
and penetrated without difficulty into its cause.
She was, however, ignorant of the object of her
pupil's admiration. The hour so eagerly desi-
red by Julia at length arrived, and with a pal-
pitating heart she entered the hall. The Count
was not there, and in the course of conversation,
she learned that he had that morning sailed for
Naples. The scene which so lately appeared en-
chanting to her eyes, now changed its hue; and
in the midst of society, and surrounded by gaie-
ty, she was solitary and dejected. She accused
herself of having suffered her wishes to mislead
her judgment; and the present conduct of Hip-
politus convinced her, that she had mistaken ad-
miration for a sentiment more tender. She be-
lieved, too, that the musician who had addressed
her in his sonnet, was not the Count; and thus
at once was dissolved all the ideal fabric of her
happiness. How short a period often reverses
the character of our sentiments, rendering that
which yesterday we despised, to-day desirable!
The tranquil state which she had so lately de-
lighted to quit, she now reflected upon with regret.
She had, however, the consolation of believing
that her sentiments towards the Count were un-
known, and the sweet consciousness that her
conduct had been governed by a nice sense of

The public rejoicings at the castle closed with the week; but the gay spirit of the Marchion

Still is the night-breeze!-not a lonely sound
Steals through the silence of this dreary hour;
O'er these high battlements Sleep reigns profound,
And sheds on all his sweet oblivious power.

On all but me-I vainly ask his dews

To steep in short forgetfulness my cares.
Th' affrighted god still flies when love pursues,
Still still denies the wretched lover's prayers.


An interval of silence followed, and the air was repeated; after which the music was heard no more. If before Julia believed that she was loved by Hippolitus, she was now confirmed in the sweet reality. But sleep at length fell upon her senses, and the airy forms of ideal bliss no longer fleeted before her imagination. Morning came, and she arose light and refreshed. How different were her present sensations from

ess forbade a return to tranquillity; and she substituted diversions more private, but in splendour scarcely inferior to the preceding ones. She had observed the behaviour of Hippolitus on the night of the concert with chagrin, and his departure with sorrow; yet, disdaining to perpetuate misfortune by reflection, she sought to lose the sense of disappointment in the hurry of dissipation. But her efforts to erase him from her remembrance were ineffectual. Unaccustomed to oppose the bent of her inclinations, they now maintained unbounded sway; and she found too late, that in order to have a due command of our passions, it is necessary to subject them to early obedience. Passion, in its undue influence, produces weakness as well as injustice. The pain which now recoiled upon her heart from disappointment, she had not strength of mind to endure, and she sought relief from its pressure in afflicting the innocent. Julia, whose beauty she imagined had captivated the Count, and confirmed him in indifference towards herself, she incessantly tormented by the exercise of those various and splenetic little arts which elude the eye of the common observer, and are only to be known by those who have felt them;-arts, which individually are inconsiderable, but in the aggregate amount to a cruel and decisive effect.

[blocks in formation]

The apartments of Madame de Menon were spacious and noble. The windows opened upon the sea, and commanded a view of the straits of Messina, bounded on one side by the beautiful shores of the Isle of Sicily, and on the other by the high mountains of Calabria. The straits, filled with vessels whose gay streamers glittered to the sun-beam, presented to the eye an ever-moving scene. The principal room opened upon a gallery that overhung the grand terrace of the castle, and it commanded a prospect which for beauty and extent has seldom been equalled. These were formerly consider

ed the chief apartments of the castle; and wher the Marquis quitted them for Naples, were allotted for the residence of Madame de Menon, and her young charge. The Marchioness, struck with the prospect which the windows afforded, and with the pleasantness of the gallery, determined to restore the rooms to their former splendour. She signified this intention to Madame, for whom other apartments were provided. The chambers of Emilia and Julia forming part of the suite, they were also claimed by the Marchioness, who left Julia only her favourite closet. The rooms to which they removed were spacious, but gloomy; they had been for some years uninhabited; and though preparations had been made for the reception of their new inhabitants, an air of desolation reigned within them that inspired melancholy sensations. Julia observed that her chamber, which opened beyond Madame's, formed a part of the southern building, with which, however, there appeared no means of communication. The late mysterious circumstances relating to this part of the fabric now arose to her imagination, and conjured up a terror which reason could not subdue. She told her emotions to Madame, who, with more prudence than sincerity, laughed at her fears. The behaviour of the Marquis, the dying words of Vincent, together with the preceding circumstances of alarm, had sunk deep in the mind of Madame, but she saw the necessity of confining to her own breast doubts which time only could resolve.

Julia endeavoured to reconcile herself to the change, and a circumstance soon occurred which obliterated her present sensations, and excited others far more interesting. One day that she was arranging some papers in the small drawers of a cabinet that stood in her apartment, she found a picture which fixed all her attention. It was a miniature of a lady, whose countenance was touched with sorrow, and expressed an air of dignified resignation. The mournful sweetness of her eyes, raised towards Heaven with a look of supplication, and the melancholy languor that shaded her features, so deeply affected Julia, that her eyes were filled with involuntary tears. She sighed and wept, still gazing on the picture, which seemed to engage her by a kind of fascination. She almost fancied that the portrait breathed, and that the eyes were fixed on hers with a look of penetrating softness. Full of the emotions which the miniature had excited, she presented it to Madame, whose mingled sorrow and surprise increased her curiosity. But what were the various sensations which pressed upon her heart, on learning that she had wept over the resemblance of her mo ther! Deprived of a mother's tenderness before she was sensible of its value, it was now only that she mourned the event which lamentation could not recall. Emilia, with an emotion as exquisite, mingled her tears with those of her

sister. With eager impatience they pressed Madame to disclose the cause of that sorrow, which so emphatically marked the features of their


Alas! my dear children, said Madame, deeply sighing, you engage me in a task too severe, not only for your peace, but for mine; since, in giving you the information you require, I must retrace scenes of my own life, which I wish for ever obliterated. It would, however, be both cruel and unjust to withhold an explanation so nearly interesting to you, and I will sacrifice my own ease to your wishes.

Louisa de Bernini, your mother, was, as you well know, the only daughter of the Count de Bernini. Of the misfortunes of your family, I believe you are yet ignorant. The chief estates of the Count were situated in the Val di Demona, a valley deriving its name from its vicinity to Mount Etna, which vulgar tradition has peopled with devils. In one of those dreadful eruptions of Etna, which deluged this valley with a flood of fire, a great part of your grandfather's domains in that quarter were laid waste. The Count was at that time with a part of his family at Messina; but the Countess and her son, who were in the country, were destroyed. The remaining property of the Count was proportionably inconsiderable, and the loss of his wife and son deeply affected him. He retired with Louisa, his only surviving child, who was then near fifteen, to a small estate near Cattania. There was some degree of relationship between your grandfather and myself; and your mother was attached to me by the ties of sentiment, which, as we grew up, united us still more strongly than those of blood. Our pleasures and our tastes were the same; and a similarity of misfortunes might, perhaps, contribute to cement our early friendship. I, like herself, had lost a parent in the eruption of Etna. My mother had died before I understood her value; but my father, whom I revered and tenderly loved, was destroyed by one of those terrible events; his lands were buried beneath the lava, and he left an only son and myself to mourn his fate, and encounter the evils of poverty. The Count, who was our nearest surviving relation, generously took us home to his house, and declared that he considered us as his children. To amuse his leisure hours, he undertook to finish the education of my brother, who was then about seventeen, and whose rising genius promised to reward the labours of the Count. Louisa and myself often shared the instruction of her father, and at those hours Orlando was generally of the party. The tranquil retirement of the Count's situation, the rational employment of his time between his own studies, the education of those whom he called his children, and the conversation of a few select friends, anticipated the effect of time, and softened the asperities of his

distress into a tender complacent melancholy. As for Louisa and myself, who were yet new in life, and whose spirits possessed the happy elasticity of youth, our minds gradually shifted from suffering to tranquillity, and from tranquillity to happiness. I have sometimes thought that when my brother has been reading to her a delightful passage, the countenance of Louisa discovered a tender interest, which seemed to be excited rather by the reader than by the author. Those days, which were surely the most enviable of our lives, now passed in serene enjoyments, and in continual gradations of im provement.

The Count designed my brother for the army, and the time now drew nigh when he was to join the Sicilian regiment, in which he had a commission. The absent thoughts, and dejected spirits of my cousin, now discovered to me the secret which had long been concealed even from herself; for it was not till Orlando was about to depart, that she perceived how dear he was to her peace. On the eve of his departure, the Count lamented, with fatherly yet manly tenderness, the distance which was soon to separate us. But we shall meet again, said he, when the honours of war shall have rewarded the bravery of my son.-Louisa grew pale, a half suppressed sigh escaped her, and, to conceal her emotion, she turned to her harpsichord.

My brother had a favourite dog, which, be- ↓ fore he set off, he presented to Louisa, and, committing it to her care, begged she would be kind to it, and sometimes remember its master. He checked his rising emotion, but, as he turned from her, I perceived the tear that wetted his cheek. He departed, and with him the spirit of our happiness seemed to evaporate. The scenes which his presence had formerly enlivened, were now forlorn and melancholy, yet we loved to wander in what were once his favourite haunts. Louisa forbore to mention my brother even to me; but frequently, when she thought herself unobserved, she would steal to her harpsichord, and repeat the strain which she had played on the evening before his departure.

We had the pleasure to hear from time to time that he was well; and, though his own modesty threw a veil over his conduct, we could collect, from other accounts, that he had behaved with great bravery. At length the time of his return approached, and the enlivened spirits of Louisa declared the influence he retained in her heart. He returned, bearing public testimony of his valour in the honours which had been conferred upon him. He was received with universal joy; the Count welcomed him with the pride and fondness of a father, and the villa became again the seat of happiness. His person and manners were much improved; the elegant beauty of the youth was now exchanged for the graceful dignity of manhood, and some knowledge of the world was added to that of the sci

ences. The joy which illumined his countenance when he met Louisa, spoke at once his admiration and his love; and the blush which her observation of it brought upon her cheek, would have discovered, even to an uninterested spectator, that this joy was mutual.

Orlando brought with him a young Frenchman, a brother officer, who had rescued him from imminent danger in battle, and whom he introduced to the Count as his preserver. The Count received him with gratitude and distinction, and he was for a considerable time an inmate at the villa. His manners were singularly pleasing, and his understanding was cultivated and refined. He soon discovered a partiality for me, and he was indeed too pleasing to be seen with indifference. Gratitude for the valuable life he had preserved, was perhaps the groundwork of an esteem which soon increased into the most affectionate love. Our attachment grew stronger as our acquaintance increased; and at length the Chevalier de Menon asked me of the Count, who consulted my heart, and, finding it favourable to the connection, proceeded to make the necessary inquiries concerning the family of the stranger. He obtained a satisfactory and pleasing account of it. The Chevalier was the second son of a French gentleman of large estates in France, who had been some years deceased. He had left several sons; the family-estate, of course, devolved to the eldest, but to the two younger he had bequeathed considerable property. Our marriage was solemnized in a private manner at the villa, in the presence of the Count, Louisa, and my brother. Soon after the nuptials, my husband and Orlando were remanded to their regiments. My brother's affections were now unalterably fixed upon Louisa, but a sentiment of delicacy and generosity still kept him silent. He thought, poor as he was, to solicit the hand of Louisa would be to repay the kindness of the Count with ingratitude. have seen the inward struggles of his heart, and mine has bled for him. The Count and Louisa so earnestly solicited me to remain at the villa during the campaign, that at length my husband consented. We parted-O! let me forget that period!-Had I accompanied him, all might have been well; and the long, long years of affliction which followed, had been spared me.


The horn now sounded the signal for dinner, and interrupted the narrative of Madame. Her beauteous auditors wiped the tears from their eyes, and with extreme reluctance descended to the hall. The day was occupied with company and diversions, and it was not till late in the evening that they were suffered to retire. They hastened to Madame immediately upon their being released; and, too much interested for sleep, and too importunate to be repulsed, solicited the sequel of her story. She objected the lateness of the hour, but at length yielded to their entreaties. They drew their chairs close

to hers; and, every sense being absorbed in the single one of hearing, followed her through the course of her narrative.

My brother again departed without disclosing his sentiments; the effort it cost him was evident, but his sense of honour surmounted every opposing consideration. Louisa again drooped, and pined in silent sorrow. I lamented equally for my friend and my brother; and have a thousand times accused that delicacy as false, which withheld them from the happiness they might so easily and so innocently have obtained. The behaviour of the Count, at least to my eye, seemed to indicate the satisfaction which this union would have given him. It was about this period that the Marquis Mazzini first saw and became enamoured of Louisa. His proposals were very flattering, but the Count forbore to exert the undue authority of a father; and he ceased to press the connection, when he perceived that Louisa was really averse to it. Louisa was sensible of the generosity of his conduct, and she could scarcely reject the alliance without a sigh, which her gratitude paid to the kindness of her father.

But an event now happened which dissolved at once our happiness, and all our air-drawn schemes for futurity. A dispute which, it seems, originated in a trifle, but soon increased to a serious degree, arose between the Chevalier de Menon and my brother. It was decided by the sword, and my dear brother fell by the hand of my husband. I shall pass over this period of my life; it is too painful for recollection. The effect of this event upon Louisa was such as may be imagined. The world was now become indifferent to her, and, as she had no prospect of happiness for herself, she was unwilling to withhold it from the father who had deserved so much of her. After some time, when the Marquis renewed his addresses, she gave him her hand. The characters of the Marquis and his lady were, in their nature, too opposite to form a happy union. Of this Louisa was very soon sensible; and, though the mildness of her disposition made her tamely submit to the unfeeling authority of her husband, his behaviour sunk deep in her heart, and she pined in secret. It was impossible for her to avoid opposing the character of the Marquis to that of him upon whom her affections had been so fondly and so justly fixed. The comparison increased her sufferings, which soon preyed upon her constitution, and very visibly affected her health. Her situation deeply afflicted the Count, and united with the infirmities of age to shorten his life.

Upon his death, I bade adieu to my cousin, and quitted Sicily for Italy, where the Chevalier de Menon had for some time expected me. Our meeting was very affecting. My resentment towards him was done away, when I observed his pale and altered countenance, and perceived the melancholy which preyed upon his heart. All

« PreviousContinue »