Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

But that which, more than any other cause, rendered his friendship exceedingly difficult of attainment, was the exquisite delicacy of his taste in every thing but the expression of his own feelings. He was, perhaps, not more than thirty, but ill health gave him the appearance of being considerably older. He was rather below the middle stature. His complexion was fair, and the cast of his physiognomy mild and interesting ; but there was a want of that harmony in the parts of his figure, which is always found connected with a consistent character.

I have rarely met with a man to whom the epithet of accomplished could be more strictly or properly applied. He had not one spark of original genius. He could not place two words together, for which he might not have been able to quote an authority; and the slightest modification of original metaphor or fancy was beyond all the faculties of his mind to form; and yet the most ingenious poet, in the happiest moment of inspiration, never surpassed the occasional sallies of Count Waltzerstein. In every company where he chose to unbend he led the conversation, and astonished and delighted his auditors. His proficiency in music was wonderful; the violin was a living intelligence in his hands, and he could draw from it the whole pathos and spirit of the finest composers ;

but he could not himself connect a single bar of melody. He read and spoke every polished modern language with admirable propriety. But I am wrong in say, ing he had no genius, for, unquestionably, he was endowed with the most delicate perception of whatever is elegant in art and refined in manners and literature.

Yet, notwithstanding all these accomplishments, Count Waltzerstein was, in his own person and manners, remarkably offensive. He declared his dislike, on the most trivial occasions, with such a vehemence of expression and distortion of features, that only feelings of the greatest abhorrence could have justified. If a dish at table was not exactly according to his taste, he would push it from him with the horror of such disgust as the smell of corruption and the sight of rottenness might excite. But, except in this odious peculiarity, he was altogether a thing made up of artman automaton. He had been early taught to cull the happiest and most brilliant phrases for exhibition in conversation ;-he held his time divided into certain invariable portions, to each of which was allotted a particular study, or the retouching of the faded points of recollection; and the evening was hallowed and

[ocr errors]

rendered set apart, for displaying the intellectual full dress with as the which he had been engaged in adorning himself all the

[ocr errors]

een all

f his mi

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

and to

than the

All
my
endeavours to obtain any

interest in the good-will consident of the Count would have proved useless, but for one of those

Hi e curious turns in trifling things, which show us the massive y maid a strength of the chain of destiny with which we are all bound. lony in Elegant and accomplished as he undoubtedly was, he poscted isessed no knowledge of accounts ; and, in settling his affairs

with Don Lopez, he showed himself so strangely ignorant of thet of

this very necessary and ordinary kind of knowledge, that he plied E appeared exceedingly mortified. He had heard me express . not plei

a wish to go to the continent ; he had seen me expert in com

mon arithmetic, and to make himself in some degree acquaintl of are ed with figures, he invited me to accompany

him. We left Sassari early in the morning, on the festival of happies St Nicholas, to embark at a village a few miles distant from

the city, where a vessel, loaded with wine and grain, belonghe chiring to Don Lopez, was waiting for a favourable wind to sail for Leghorn.

On our arrival, we found the vessel had words weighed anchor, and was underweigh. The Count hired a sy ander boat to follow her, and we proceeded to sea. The vessel e fine caught a favourable breeze, and left us farther and farther

By this time the afternoon was far advanced; the Magdalene islands lay bright around us, and the mountains of Corsica appeared nearer than those of Sardinia.

We will not return to Sassari,' said the Count, when he had made up his mind to relinquish the pursuit of the ves

Let us examine these islands, which are but seldom visited ; and, when a favourable opportunity presents itself, % we shall go to Corsica.'

We accordingly made for the only one of the cluster that is inhabited. The population does not exceed a thousand, chiefly Corsicans, who emigráted after the unsuccessful exploits of Paoli. The whole surface of the island is incrusted with masses of rocks, covered with the orchillà weed ; and the country has such an appearance of devastation, that I can compare it to nothing but a portion of the fragments of a broken-up world.

The little village to which our boatmen conducted us is the only town on the island. It was almost sunset when we landed. The Count was fatigued with the anxiety of the day and the disappointment which he had suffered.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

sel.

[ocr errors]

the boatmen stepped on before to the town, and secured lodgings for us in one of the best cottages ; and the Count, on reaching it, resolved to go to bed.

By some unaccountable sympathy, which I had never before experienced, I was seized, immediately on setting my foot on the shore, with a kind of superstitious dread, so truly awful, that no words can convey any notion of what I felt; and yet there was nothing in the appearance of the place to justify the indulgence of any fear. The sky at the time was as clear as crystal, and the sea as bright and calm as quicksilver ;-the sun hung upon the verge of the horizon, and the boats were drawn close to the water's edge, preparatory to being launched after vespers. It was the moment when the labour of the landsmen is on the point of terminating, and the hazards of the smuggler and the fisherman are almost to commence. The women stood at their doors without their distaffs, and the children were wondering at their own shadows lengthening as the sun declined.

The cottage in which we were to take up our abode, was recommended by an appearance of more industry among the inmates than any other in the place. The front of the house was attractively white-washed ;-several articles for sale hung at the window, and on each side of the door stood casks of tunny-fish, caviare, and olives.

The island is inhabited chiefly by Corsican exiles and emigrants. Their way of life at the period of our visit was bold, restless, and piratical. Their leaders had borne a distinguished part in the patriotic exertions of Paoli : ;-they had descended from their ancient castles with a sounding tread and a lordly spirit. The failure of his enterprise scattered them and their followers. Some sought an asylum among rocks, and forests, and inaccessible fastnesses, and were necessitated to turn the swords which they had drawn to vindicate the liberties of their country, against their earliest friends and fellow-patriots for support. The eyes of history will never discover the atrocities that were then perpetrated in the woods and caverns of Corsica. Hundreds perished of hunger in the recesses of the mountains, and when the peasants yet happen to find a skeleton, they mourn as they commit it to the earth, and remember that their country was once animated with the spirit of freedom.

At the period of my visit to Maddalena with Count Waltzerstein, the troubled temper of the first refugees had subsided, and a sterner energy had succeeded to the zeal of patriotic enthusiasm. They treated the stranger with mili

tary frankness, and with hospitality, but among themselves acknowledged the restraint of no law ;-they were felons and criminals in action, desire and practice; but still their former habits lent an air of dignity to their manners, and depravity was so universal, that it produced no feeling of repugnance among them to the greatest offenders.

When the Count had retired to rest, I went and sat down on a bench opposite to a cottage. By this time the twilight had almost faded from the sky; the breeze rose with fresh and delightful blandishments, and the stars sparkled as they shone out with extraordinary brilliancy.

While I was enjoying the freshness of the air and the beauty of the heavens, I heard at some distance on the shore, the sound of a flageolet played with exquisite sweetness and skill. I rose, and walked towards the spot whence the sound proceeded; but I had not advanced above a hundred yards, when I found myself bewildered

among

the masses of rock; and I sat down on a stone, content to listen to the melody which, wild and pathetic, came like the voice of an enchantress through the silence of the night.

The fancy unconsciously endeavours, in such situations, to form an image for itself to contemplate, and the character of the music led me to think, that the musician could be no other than some elegant youth, fallen from the fortunes of his fathers, and languishing over the recollection of departed hopes of glory and renown.

While I was thus busy giving figure and features to this creation, the flageolet stopped suddenly, as if interrupted, and I heard a man hoarsely call from a short distance towards the musician. The voice that replied was clear and masculine, and appropriate to the image I had formed in my fancy. Almost in the same moment, I heard the rustle of some one passing near me, and on turning round, I saw a female form, within a few yards of the stone on which I was sitting, stoop to conceal herself.

The intruder approached close to the musician. I was not near enough to hear distinctly what passed, but there was a menace in the accents of the one, and subdued energy of remonstrance in those of the other. It was a father and

[ocr errors]

Their altercation continued about ten minutes, and was ended by the old man calling with a deep and angry tone on Agatha, his daughter, to come to him. She rose from her hiding-place and went towards him. A wild and pierc

ing shriek announced that she had received a wound. A profound silence followed, and I heard something heavy plunged into the sea, which dashed against the rocks in a succession of low and sullen sounds.--I shuddered : no other sound arose but that of retiring footsteps, for the undulations of the sea were all soon as hushed as oblivion.

The dawn of the morn now began to appear in the east. After waiting a few minutes, in a strange and indescribable state of mind approaching to horror, I returned to the cottage, unaccountably agitated with vague and hideous imaginings. The wild note of that shriek thrilled in my ear. The silence that 'followed was so hollow and inexplicable, that I could only ascribe it to mystery and guilt, while the dash of the water seemed expressive of some mournful acquiescence of Nature to the performance of a dreadful rite.

When I entered the cottage, Count Waltzerstein had risen, and supper was ready. He chided me for venturing out so late; but observing me pale and disturbed, he checked himself, and inquired if I was unwell. I had not courage to disclose to him the singular apprehension with which I had been seized, and I allowed him to think me really ill, by declining to eat.

While we were sitting at table, one of the Corsican exiles entered the shop, and inquired, in the same hoarse accents which interrupted the music, for an article he wished to purchase. The lamp on our table shone fall on his face, and he stood nearly opposite me. He appeared to be about sixty years of age. His figure was naturally majestic, and it was rather crushed than decayed. His physiognomy was at once grim and sorrowful. He wore a red Barbaresque night-cap, and his flowing grey hair, hoary mustachios and eyebrows,--the colour of his cap, and the dark bronze of his complexion, gave him a supernatural, a demoniacal appear.

He looked older than human nature ever attains with the possession of so much strength, and something wilder and worse than man.

The Count was greatly struck with his figure, and in a whisper, bade me look at him.

The Corsican overheard him, but without perhaps knowing what he said, and turned fiercely towards me. caught mine. I thought of the frightful shriek, and the more tremendous silence, and he withdrew his eye, abashed and confounded. In a moment after he looked at me again, with an expression of such helpless grief, that my heart dis

ance.

His eye

« AnteriorContinua »