Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

flashed in at the window, (for the sky all day had been thunderous and warm,) and instantly it was followed by a tremendous peal of thunder, which doubly startled the whole company sitting in the twilight room.

"Get up, foolish boy," said Romelli, his deep voice a little tremulous, whilst at the same time he struck Antonio gently with his foot. Not more quickly did the disguised Prince of Evil as represented by Milton, start up into his proper shape at the touch of Ithuriel's spear, than did the young Italian spring up at the touch of Romelli's foot. His very stature seemed dilated, and his pantomime was angry and threatening, as for a moment he bent towards the Signor; but its dangerous outline was softened by the darkness, so that it was not distinctly observed; and next moment the youth drew back with this remark,—" By Jove, Captain, there was a flash from the very South Sea island in question! What a coincidence! what a demonstration was there! and O what a glorious mirror plate might be cut from that sheet of fire, for the murderer to see himself in. Thank God, none of us have been in the South Seas, like the wicked Captain in the Legend."

There was no further reply to this, and Signor Romelli was silent and unusually pale during the remainder of the evening. After waiting one hour, during which there followed no more thunder and lightning, and then a second hour till the moon was up, he arose with his daughter and went home.

Chapter III.

Agais the season came round, which called Frederick Hume to town for another session, to finish his medical studies, and get his degree as a physician; and once more he prepared to take a tender leave of his Julia, whom he loved more than fame or life. Overcome by his deep passion, he confessed it all to the maiden; and when he caught her trembling at his declaration, how could she explain her emotion otherwise than by confessing, despite of her pride, that their love was mutual? or answer for it better than by pledging her troth for ever, in return for his vow of constancy?

About Christmas, Antonio Cardo came from Mr Baillie's to spend a few holidays, at Greenwells Cottage. One night Signoni Romelli gravely assumed the character of a prophetic improvisatrice, and told the future fortunes of Mrs Mather's household. "And now," said she to Antonio, "come forward, young harper; you look there for all the world as if you were about to be set down for a murderer." The boy started and went out, but in a few minutes he returned, and, flinging himself on his knees before Miss Romelli, he prayed her, for the love of heaven, to reserve her ungentle prophecy. "Up, foolish boy," said Julia, "why, you look indeed as if your conscience were fairly measured; as if the red cap fitted you. Well, Antonio, you are either waggish or simple to an uncommon stretch." The boy rose with a groan, and Julia's father entering the room at this moment, he took up a small knife from the table, and shaking it at the Signor Captain, said, in a voice trembling with emotion, "Your foolish daughter, sir, says that I am to be murderer." On no answer being returned, he bit the handle of the knife for a moment, and then laid it down.

Next evening, a party being assembled at the cottage, and Julia Romelli being there, she was of course an object of general attention and the most assiduous gallantry. During a dance, Antonio, who had refused to play on the harp, sat moodily in a corner, watching the graceful Signora, and louring against the smiles of her partner; heedless at the same time of his sister, who, when she stopped near him in the dance, gently chid him one while, and then, smiling in her happy mood with a tearful glance, which asked him to share her joy, patted him below the chin, and bid him rise and dance merrily. Miss Romelli saw the sisterly love of Charlotte; and, in her good-nature, a little while after, she made up to the youth, and speaking to him as if he were merely a shy and timid schoolboy, insisted upon his taking part in the dance. ".Prithee, do not think me quite a boy," said he in return. Signora, as the best rejoinder, repeated her invitation, upon which he started up, and flinging his arms with mad violence around her neck, saluted her before the whole company. Julia disengaged herself, blushing. There was bridling on the part of the ladies; hearty laughter and cheers from old bachelors; and some of the young gallants looked very high, and ready to call the offender to account Signor Romelli looked grave and moody after the strange salutation; and poor Charlotte hung down her head, and gradually withdrew from the room. As for the culprit himself, he walked haughtily out, and was followed by Mrs Mather, who took him to task in another apartment The amiable Miss Pearcehad likewise followed to approve her former prophecy of trouble from such guests; but her patroness was not in the vein for tolerating officious wisdom, and forestalling that virgin's charitable purpose, she turned her to the right about in a moment

"And now, mad boy," demanded the old lady, "what meant this outrageous solecism? For my sake, what did you mean, Antonio Cardo?" "Kind and gracious lady,'' he replied, " do not question me just now. But if you would have me saved from perdition, bind me hand and foot, and send me far away over seas and lands." "If this is all you have to say for yourself," returned Mis Mather, " it is certainly a very pretty speech; though it is far above my comprehension. No—no; the thing was a breach of good manners: but I don't exactly see that your precious soul's endangered, or that you are ?ntitled to be sent to Botany Bay for stealing a bit kiss—doubtless your first offence." "Well, my excellent apologist," said Antonio, "if you will use a little address, and bring Signora Julia hither, I will ask her forgiveness perhaps." "You are a very foolish young man indeed," returned the old lady, wh(? was one of those persons whose humour it is, without abating from their real good-nature, to rise in their demands or reproaches when any thing like concession has been made. "I say it—a very foolish boy; and I have a great mind to let the young lady be angry at you for ever; and so I don't think I shall either bring her or send her."

Cardo knew very well that these words of his hostess, as she left the apartment, implied any thing but a decisive negative; and he sat still waiting the entrance of Julia, who, after a few minutes, made her appearance accordingly, with Mrs Mather. "Now, my most gracious hostess," said the youth, rising and turning to the latter, "you must give us leave for a brief while, for I have something particular to say to this young lady." Mrs Mather looked to Signora. "O yes, by all means," said Julia, "do according to his request, and let me hear this wonderful secret."

When Mrs Mather had retired, the boy Cardo advanced, and said to Julia, in a voice trembling with emotion, "Will you judge me, fair Italian, and condemn me by coldhearted rules? If you do, I ask ten thousand pardons for my rudeness to-night." "And, pray, what right have I, sir, to give dispensations beyond the laws of wise and prudent society?" "O, let me vary my question then, beautiful woman," said the passionate boy, flinging himself on his knees before her,—" Can you forgive my deep soul then for loving you to madness, Julia Romelli?'' "Now shall I laugh at you for a very foolish boy, or shall I bid you rise at once, if you would not have me leave the apartment as quickly? Now, sir, that you are up, (for you seem to dread the imputation of boyhood,) let me tell you, that when 1 spoke of the rights of society I gave no liberty to suppose that my own maidenly feeling would be more liberal than such a law. The truth is, sir, I have nothing farther to add or hear, unless you sent for me to ask pardon for your breach of good manners, in which case, I readily allow, that I mistook you so much as heedlessly to give you some provocation. As for the offence itself, really you seem so very foolish that I know not whether I do right in saying, (with a smile) that it was not by any means very grievous." "Is that all?—Is that all?" said the Italian boy. "No—no; you must let my heart love you, and you must love me in return. O, if you value your father's life, and your own peace; and if you would save me from perdition, you must become my wife, lady!" "Why, sir, I do think it were charity to believe that you have lost your reason: You are most foolish else. 1 will not stay flippantly to debate your boyish proposal; but, young sir, Antonio Cardo I think is your name, Can you—" "Mother in Heaven!" interrupted Cardo. "Do you think so? only think so? Why, my sister's name is Charlotte Cardo, and by Heaven I think she is a lady. You will say, Are we not dependent? Yes, to that: for a certain overwhelming reason I have allowed it for a little while; but soon the whole shall be accounted for." "Condescend not for me, sir," said Julia, "to vindicate your dignity or pride: I have no right, nor am I disposed, to offend either." "Perhaps not, young lady. But be wise and wary as you list, cold and cruel, I shall only love you the more; or plague you with my demon: there are but two alternatives; and 1 must be miserable in either, I am afraid." "Sir," said Julia angrily, and walking away, "I will pay the only compliment which I can reasonably bestow upon you, by telling you that your conduct obliges me to discontinue my visits in future at this house." "One moment— stay then, Signora," cried Antonio, stepping between her and the door, "Listen to me this once. Mrs Mather loves you dearly, and so does Frederick Hume, and so does Charlotte Cardo, and so does

. Well, so do you also love to visit at this house; and never

for me shall you forego that delight, never for me shall the three excellent persons above named forego your delightful presence. I shall leave this house for ever, to-morrow morning, nor plague you more." "I must now do you justice, sir," said the fair Italian, "and though you certainly speak like a foolish boy, I will not urge this, but address you as a frank, open-minded, honourable man, and tell you at once that my affections are already engaged, and my vow of constancy made to another." "Enough said, Signora Romelli: 1 can guess who that highly favoured youth is: and I will say there is not a nobler heart than his in all the earth. Forgive me, young lady, and let me not detain you longer. Be assured, too, my impertinent solicitations are ended for ever.''

The lady withdrew, and Antonio, locking the door, paced hurriedly up and down the apartment Signor Romelli in the meantime had retired from the house. The yellow moon was swimming through the streams, but not in unison with the lovely night was the heart of this Italian Captain as he walked forth along the bank. "By Heaven,-" said he to himself, "this boy, Cardo, knows it all! whether from prophetic divination, or whether the sea hath given up her dead to declare against me. I will as soon believe that those hot seething brains of his could produce the literal dagger which his hand seems always in the act of clutching, as that they could frame that celebrated Sea-legend, without some horrid collusion. Well, 'tis passing strange: but the imp seems daily ripening for some disclosure, or for some act of vengeance, and I must forestall him in both. How shall it be done? Stay now, let me see—he is nearly mad ; that must be allowed by all—well, then, can I not get a professional verdict to that effect? Stay now: is not Stewart, the principal physician of the Lunatic Asylum in the neighbouring town, a suiter of my daughter? I can easily see that he is bold and unprincipled, and the other consulting physicians are old women. Well, may I not possess Stewart with the belief that my daughter loves this Antonio Cardo, and get him to warrant the removal of the boy to the mad-house, in virtue of his late strange behaviour, which, to common observation, will amply justify a charge of lunacy? Stewart, I think, will do it in the faith that my daughter will never give herself to one that has been in bedlam; and I, for my share, will gain the security, that whatever he may hint or declare in future, relative to what I think he knows of me, will be easily ascribed to a taint of remaining madness. Any period, however short, in that redoubted place, will serve Stewart's motives and mine; but if the horrid sympathy of the house make a convert of his soul to the propriety of his chains, so much the better. Now, Stewart is at present in the cottage, and why may not the thing be carried into effect this very night? By his authority, we shall get constables from the village without a moment's delay."

Romelli lost no time in making his representations to Stewart, who, hearing the Signer's professions in his favour relative to Julia's love, if Cardo could be morally black-balled, gave in without hesitation to the wicked scheme. Mrs Mather, evercome by the explanations of the Doctor, and by the dread of having a madman in her house, was constrained also to accede, and charitably undertook to detain Charlotte in a remote part of the house, till her brother should be seized and carried off, which was to be done as quietly as possible. The door, however, of the room in which he had locked himself had to be forced, as he could not be prevailed upon to open it; and ere the constables could do this, and overcome the resistance which he offered to their attempts to seize him, the whole house had been alarmed, and crowded to see what was the matter. Charlotte, when she saw him in custody, uttered a piercing shriek, and fell in a swoon to the ground; some of the ladies

« AnteriorContinuar »