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the lighted hall. Frederick Hume stood by his bride Charlotte Cardo, and took her by the trembling hand. The words of mutual obligation were said by a neighbouring gentleman, a justice of the peace, because, owing to hasty preparation, the ceremony could not be performed according to the forms prescribed by the church, and, therefore, could not be engaged in by a clergyman. During the brief repeating of the marriage obligations, there was death and fire mingled in the bride's eye; her heart was heard by all present beating,
"Even us a madman beats upon a drum;"
And no sooner was the marriage fully declared, than she sprung forward, threw her arms around the neck of Frederick, kissed him with wild energy, and exclaimed, "O my own husband!" There was a faint and fluttering sound, like the echo of her passionate exclamation, as she sunk back upon the sofa, before which she had stood; the lord of life came reeling down from the bright round throne of the eye; her eyelid flickered for a moment; her lips moved, but nothing was heard ;—yet it was easily interpreted to be a wordless blessing for her beloved one before her, by the smile which floated and lay upon her placid upturned face, like sunshine upon marble. Thus died Charlotte Cardo, and Frederick Hume was a husband and a widower in the same moment of time.
With manly and decent composure Frederick ordered the preparations for the funeral of his short-lived spouse; and Mrs Mather, having returned home truly affected at the fate of Charlotte, repentant for her own last harshness to the dying maid, and touched with a sense of Frederick's noble behaviour, gave ample permission to the youth to lay the body of his Italian wife in their family aisle, which was done accordingly, three days after her death. Frederick laid her head in the grave, and continued in deep mourning for her.
According to a decent formula, Dr Hume would willingly enough have abstained for some time from treating with Signora Romelli about their former mutual vow; but, according to the spirit of his pledge, and his true affection for that lady which had been virtually unaltered, even when he most openly compromised it, he wrote to Julia a few days after the funeral, stating the whole circumstances, asking her pardon if he had wronged her, declaring his inalienable affection for her, yet modestly alleging that he had first broken his vow, and that he was at her mercy whether or not she would still be bound to him by hers. Such was Frederick's letter to Julia, which, had it been in time, she would have kissed with tears, a moment angry, yet soon honouring her lover the more, for the difficult and humane part which he had acted; but the devil of petty malignity and mean rivalry had been beforehand with him, in tempting, from without, his lady's heart; and ere his letter reached its destination, Julia Romelli was lost to him for ever. Dr Stewart, who, as already stated, was a rival of Hume's, had been mean enough to engage Miss Pearce in his interest, to do every thing she could by remote hint and open statement, to advance his suit with Signora Romelli; and we can easily suppose, that this intermediate party, from her dislike to Frederick, and her jealousy of Julia's favour with Mrs Mather, was not idle in her new office. On the very evening of Charlotte Cardo's marriage and death, she sought an interview with Stewart, reminded him of Miss Romelli's proud heart, advised him, without losing a moment, to wait upon that lady and urge his own respectful claims in contrast with Hume's ill usage; and to make all these particulars effective, the Pearce tendered a letter, already written, for Stewart to carry with him to Julia, in which, under the character of a friend, jealous of Miss Romelli's honour, she stated the fact of Hume's having married Charlotte Cardo, without mentioning the qualifying circumstances, or stating that the rival bride was already dead. Stewart was mean enough to follow this crooked policy to the utmost. The she-devil, Pearce, had calculated too justly on poor Julia's proud heart. He pressed his suit; was accepted by the Italian maid in her fit of indignation against Frederick; and they were married privately in great haste.
The first symptom of this unhappy change of affairs which occurred to Hume, was the return of the letter which he had sent to Julia, and which came back to him unopened. About a week afterwards he heard the stunning news of his own love's marriage with another, to feel that he was cut off for ever from the hopes of his young life:—for he had loved passionately, and with his whole being.
Days, weeks, passed over him, and his existence was one continuous dream of thoughts, by turns fierce and gentle; now wild as the impaled breast of a suicide, now soft as breathings of pity from the little warm heart of a young maid. One while he cursed the pride and cruelty of Julia, (for he knew not the part which Miss Pearce had acted,) and he made a vow in his soul, for his own peace of mind, never again to see her in this mortal life. Then he was disposed to curse the memory of Charlotte Cardo; but his heart was too magnanimous to let him long give way to this feeling. On the contrary, to keep down such thoughts, and to be strictly and severely just, he got Mrs Mather's consent to let a table-stone be placed in her aisle, with this inscription:—" Charlotte Cardo, wife to Dr Frederick Hume."
One day the youth went alone to the churchyard, to see the above tablet for the first time after its erection. As he bent over it, filled with a multitude of hurrying thoughts, a burst of solemn music rolled upon his ear, and, on looking up, there was Antonio Cardo within the door of the aisle, playing upon an organ. He was bare. headed, and tears glittered in his eyes, which were upturned with a wild pathos, as, in accompaniment with the rolling organ, he chanted the following song, or dirge:—
The stars that shine o'er day's decline, may tell the hour of love,
In sickness, aye, I cried for her—her beauty and her kiss:
For her my soul was loath to leave so fair a world as this:
And glad was I when day's soft gold again upon me fell,
And the sweetest voice in all the earth said, "Brother, art thou well?"
She led me where the voice of streams the leafy forest fills;
She led me where the white sheep go o'er the shining turfy hills;
And when the gloom upon me fell, O, she, the fairest beam,
Led forth, with silver leading-strings, my soul from darksome dream.
Now, sailing by, the butterfly may through the lattice peer,
But in the skies her pearly eyes the Mother-maid hath kiss'd,
With a softened heart Frederick listened to the strain; but aftei it had ceased, and Antonio had kissed his sister's name upon the stone, he could not refrain, in an alternation of sterner feeling, from saying, "By Heaven! most unhappy wanderer, the thing is all your own doing: Your folly hath ruined us all."
The Italian answered not, save by throwing himself down on the ground, and kissing Frederick's feet.
* Hise up, sir," said Hume, angrily, " I like not your savage philosophy: I like nothing beyond common sense and feeling. As for yourself, I know you not, sir: I do not know what character you are of, or any thing about your family." "By the Holy Mother! you shall soon know me then," said the boy, springing proudly up. '* Promise to meet me here on Saturday night at twelve o'clock, and you shall see me then no longer the weak boy that you have spurned, but one that can be strong and do justice. Do you promise to meetme?" "How am I interested in yourscheme of justice?" demanded Frederick. "You do not fear me, sir?'' asked the Italian in return. "Surely the man that so honoured Charlotte Cardo as you have done, need not fear me?" "Why, sir," said Frederick, "to tell you a circumstance which you have no right to know, in these late days I do not hold my life of more value than a box of grasshoppers." "You can have no scruple then to meet me," said Cardo. "And you may have some wish to hear me explain a few circumstances relative to our family, my own character, and the cause of my late absence. You shall also learn something about signor llomelli. Have I your sure promise to meet me then at this place?" '' I care not though I do," answered Hume, "since I am weary of every thing common under the sun, and especially since it is a very pretty hour for a man to speculate a little in." "You are too careless by half for my purpose," said the Italian. "Faith, not so," returned Frederick. "Nay, my good friend, I will on my knees on this stone swear to meet you. Well, did you say on Saturday?" "This is mere moody trifling all, Dr Hume; but no matter, I will ere then give you a memento to mind Saturday night: hour—twelve o'clock." "You go home with me in the interim, I presume ?" said Frederick. "You have played the truant from school too long." "Farewell, sir, and remember your promise," answered Antonio. "I do notgo with you at present." He accordingly hasted away from Frederick, without answering his farther inquiries.
On the forenoon of the following Saturday, Hume received a note from Cardo, reminding him of his engagement at twelve o'clock that night; which, to do Frederick justice, he had not forgotten, and which he had resolved to fulfil, chiefly from the excellent motive of seeing the poor Italian lad again, and offering to put him in some other respectable situation in life, if he did not choose farther to pursue his classical studies. A considerable while before the appointed hour our Doctor took the way to the churchyard, which was about a quarter of a mile from Mrs Mather's house. The belated moon was rising in the east, in an inflamed sphere, as of spilt wine and blood; and the light of her red-barred face tinged the dark tops of the yews, which stood bristling like angry feathers around the churchyard, at the gate of which Hume was nowarrived. The owl came sailing by his head on muffled wing, and flew about musing over the graves. The next minute Frederick was startled at hearing the reports of two pistols, one a little after the other; and making his way towards the quarter whence the sounds had come, he was led to his own aisle. On looking through its grated door,—Heavens of Mercy! what saw he within? There was Signor Romelli on his knees before the tombstone, and Antonio Cardo holding him fast by the neck. To the surprise of Hume, there seemed to be some new inscription on the stone. To this, Cardo, whilst he held Romelli with one hand, was pointing with the other; and at the same time a dark lantern had been so placed upon the tablet, that its light fell directly upon the letters of the inscription.
"Read aloud, sir, for the behoof of all, or you die this moment," cried Cardo sternly, and nourishing a sort of dagger-knife above the bare head of his prostrate countryman. Romelli stared upon the writing, but sat silent. "You cannot see them plainly, perhaps," said the vindictive Antonio. "There is dust on the stone and in the letters, but we shall cleanse them for you.'' So saying, he drew a white napkin from his pocket, dipped it in the blood that was flowing profusely from Romelli's throat, and wiped with it the stone. "Read!" was again the stern mandate. Romelli looked ghastly, kept his eyes fixed upon the stone, but said nothing. And there was a dogged determination in his look, which told that he would die like a fox, without murmur or word. "I will read for you, then," said Cardo:—" In memory of Hugo Marli, who perished in the South Seas."—"Now, tell me, red-handed hellfiend, how perished the youth?" A very slight groan, and a harder breathing, was all the answer from the prostrate Italian. "Well then, I am Antonio Marli,—the last of my race—the brother of thy victim,—his avenger,—thy—prove the title there—and find Hell." The last vengeful words gurgled in his throat; but his hand was nothing paralyzed, for, lifting high the dagger, he struck it, crashing and glutting itself, down through the skull and brains of the prostrate wretch, to the very hilt. The handle of the dagger, which was shaped like a cross, gave a grotesque tufted appearance to the head, and consorted well with the horrid expression of tho features, which were first gathered up into one welked knot of ugly writhen delirium, and then slowly fell back into their proper places, and were gradually settled into the rigidity of death. The body inclined forward against the stone, upon the edge of which stuck the chin, unnaturally raised; and the face, half lighted by the lamp, and adorned by the handle-cross towering above it, looked over the tablet towards the door,—a ghastly picture.
Antonio Marli, (let him now wear the name, thus horribly authenticated,) with a red smile, as if his countenance shone from the mouth of a furnace, turned to Hume, who, loudly deprecating the above violence, had made desperate efforts at the same time to breuk