Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB
[merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

Ellustrated Article.

can forget, and do and will forget. As

for the count, his heart was cruel with BERTHA;

prosperity, and selfish with good fortune; OR, THE FALSE-HEARTED COUNT, he had never known sickuess which

softens-sorrow which brings all to its Many, many years ago there was a own level-poverty which, however it fair peasant-so fair, that from her child- may at last harden the heart, at first hood all her friends prophesied it could teaches us our helplessness. What was lead to no good. When she came to six- it to him that Bertha had left the home teen, the Count Ludolf thought it was a which could never receive her again? pity such beauty should be wasted, and What, that for his sake she had subunitted therefore took possession of it; better that to the appearance of disgrace which was the lovely should pine in a castle than not in reality her's ?-for the peasant-girl flourish in a cottage. Her inother died was proud as the baron ; and when she broken-hearted; and her father left the stept over her father's threshold, it was as neighbourhood, with a curse on the dis- his wife. Well, well, he wearied, as obedient girl who had brought desolation men ever weary of woman's complaining, to his hearth, and shame to his old age. however bitter may be the injury which It needs little to tell that such passion has wrung reproach from the unwilling grew cold—it were a long tale that ac- lip. Many a sad hour did she spend counted for the fancies of a young, rich, weeping in the lonely tower, which had and reckless cavalier; and, after all, no once seemed to her like a palace; for then thing changes so soon as love," "Love !" the radiance of love was around it and murmured Lucy, in a low voice, as if un- love, forsooth, is something like the conscious of the interruption, “Love, fairies in our own land; for a time it can which is our fate, like fate must be immu- make all that is base and worthless seem table: how can the heart forget its young most glittering and precious. Once, every religion ?” “Many," pursued the sibyl, night brought the ringing horn and eager VOL. X.

271

soon

step of the noble hunter ; now, the nights ing eyes; then a low moan; a few bub-
passed away too often in dreary and un- bles of foam rose on the stream ; and all
broken splendour. Yet the shining steel was still-but it was the stillness of
of the shield in the hall, and the fair death. An instant after, the thunder-cloud
current of the mountain-spring, shewed burst above, the peal reverberated from
her that her face was lovely as ever. One cliff to cliff, the lightning clave the black
evening he came to visit her; and his depths of the stream, the billows rose in
manner was soft, and his voice was low, tumultuous eddies; but Count Ludolf's
as in the days of old. Alas! of late she boat cut its way through, and the vessel
had been accustomed to the unkind look arrived at the open river. No trace was
and the harsh word. “It is a lovely twi- there of storm ; and the dewy wild
light, my Bertha," said he ; “ help me to flowers filled the air with their fragrance ;
unmoor our little bark, and we will sail and the moon shone over them pure and
down the river." With a light step, and clear, as if her light had no sympathy
yet lighter heart, she descended the rocky with human sorrow, and shuddered not
stairs, and reached the boat before her at human crime. And why should she ?
companion. The white sail was We might judge her by ourselves; what
spread-they sprang in, and the slight care we for crime in which we are not
vessel went rapidly through the stream. involved, and for suffering in which we
At first the waves were crimson, as if have no part?
freighted with rubies, the last love-gifts The red wine-cup was drained deep and
of the dying sun-for they were sailing long in Count Ludoli's castle that night;
on direct to the west, which was one flush and soon after its master travelled afar
like a sea of blushing wine. Gradually into other lands—there was not pleasure
the tints became paler ; shades of soft enongh for him at home. He found that
pink just tinged the far-off clouds, and a bright eyes could gladden even the ruins
delicate lilac fell on the waters. A star of Rome-but Venice became his chosen
or two shone pure and bright in the sky, city. It was as if revelry delighted in
and the only shadows were flung by a few the contrast which the dark robe, the
wild rose-trees that sprang from the clefts gloomy canal,and the death-black gondola
of the rocks. By degrees the drooping offered to the orgies which made joyous
flowers disappeared ; the stream grew her midnights. " And did he feel no re-
narrower, and the sky became darker; a morse ?" asked Lucy. “Remorse!” said
few soft clouds soon gathered into a the crone, with a scornful laugh;
storm; but Bertha heeded them not; she morse is the word for a child, or for a fool
was too earnestly engaged in entreating the unpunished crime is never
her husband that he would acknowledge gretted. We weep over the consequence,
their secret marriage. She speaks of the not over the fault. Count Ludolf soon
dreary solitude to which she was con, found another love. This time his passion
demned; of her wasted youth, worn by was kindled by a picture, but one of a
the fever of continual anxiety. Suddenly most strange and thrilling beauty—a por-
she stopped in fear-It was so gloomy trait, the only unfaded one in a deserted
around; the steep banks nearly closed palace situate in the eastern lagune. Day
overhead, and the boughs of the old pines after day he went to gaze on the exqui-
which stood in some of the tempest-cleft site face and the large black eyes, till
hollows met in the air, and cast a dark, they seemed to answer to his own. But
ness like that of night upon the rapid the festival of San Marco was no time
waters, which hurried on as if they dis- for idle fantasies; and the Count was
trusted their gloomy passage. At this among the gayest of the revellers. Amid
moment Bertha's eye caught the ghastly the many masks which he followed, was
paleness of her husband's face, terribly one that finally rivetted his attention. Her
distinct ; she thought that he feared the light step seemed scarcely to touch the
rough torrent, and for her sake; tenderly ground, and every now and then a dark
she leant towards bim-his arm grasped curl or two of raven softness escaped the
her waist, but not in love ; he seized the veil; at last the mask itself slipped aside,
wretched girl and Aung her overboard, and he saw the countenance of his beau-
with the very name of God upon her lips, tiful incognita. He addressed her; and
and appealing, too, for his sake! Twice her answers, if brief, were at least encou-
her bright head-Bertha had ever gloried raging ; he followed her to a gondola,
in her sunny curls, which now fell in which they entered together. It stopped
wild profusion on her shoulders-twice at the steps of the palace he had supposed
did it emerge from the wave; her faint deserted. “Will you come with me!"
hands were spread abroad for help ; he said she, in a voice whose melancholy
shrunk from the last glare of her despair. was as the lute when the night-wind

re

re

[ocr errors]

news.

wakens its music; and as she stood by he felt himself sinking rapidly ; again he the sculptured lions which kept the en rose to the surface-he knew the gloomy trance, the moonlight fell on her lovely pine-trees overhead ; the grasp on his face-lovely as if Titian had paint- hand loosened ; he saw the fair' head of ed it.' Could you doubt!” said Bertha gasp in its death-agony amid the Ludolf, as he caught the extended hand; waters ; the blue eyes met his; the stream "neither heaven nor hell should keep me flung her towards him ; her arms closed from your side !” And here I cannot round his neck with a deadly weight; choose but laugh at the exaggerated down they sank beneath the dark river phrases of lovers ; why a stone, togetherand to eternity. wall or a steel chain might have kept

The Book of Beauty. him away at that very moment! They

HUNGARIAN HORSE-DEALER. passed many a gloomy room, dimly seen in the moonshine, till they came to the

On the third night after leaving Vienna, picture-gallery, which was splendidly a Hungarian horse-dealer stopped at an illuminated-and, strange contrast to its inn, situated in the suburbs of a small usual desolation, there was spread a

town. He had never been there bemagnificient banquet The waxen tapers fore, but the house was comfortable, burned in their golden candlesticks, the and the appearance of the people about lamps were fed with perfumed oil, and it respectable. Having first attended many a crystal vase was filled with rare

to his tired horse, he sat down to supflowers, till the atmosphere was heavy

per with his host and family. During with fragrance. Piled up, iu mother-of- the meal, he was asked whence he came ? pearl baskets, the purple grapes had yet and when he liad said from Vienna, the morning dew upon them; and the all present were anxious to know the carved pine reared its emerald crest be

The horse-dealer told them all side peaches, like topazes in a sunset. he knew. The host then inquired what The Count and the lady seated themselves business had carried him to Vienna? He on a crimson ottoman ; one white arm, told them he had been there to sell some leant negligently, contrasted with the of the best horses that were ever taken warm colour of the velvet ; but extend- to that market. When he heard this, ing the other towards the table, she took the host cast a glance at one of the men a glass ; at her sign the Count filled it of the family, who seemed to be his son, with wine. "Will you pledge me?" which the dealer scarcely observed then, said she, touching the cup with her lips, but which he had reason to recall afterand passing it to hiin. He drank it-forwards. When supper was finished, wine and air seemed alike freighted with the fatigued traveller requested to be the odour of her 'sigh. “My beauty!" shewn to his bed. The host himself exclaimed Ludolf

, detaining the ivory took up a light, and conducted him across hand. “ Nay, Count,” returned the stran

a little yard at the back of the house to ger, in that sweet and peculiar voice, a detached building, which contained more like music than language "I know

two rooms, tolerably decent for an Hunhow lightly you hold the lover's vow!”. garian hostel. In the inner room I never loved till now!" exclaimed

was a bed, and here the host left him to he, impatiently ; name, rank, fortune, himself. As the dealer threw off his life, soul, are your own.” She drew a jacket and loosened the girdle round his ring from her hand, and placed it on waist, where his money was deposited, bis, leaving her's in his clasp. “What he thought he might as well see whether will you give me in exchange,-this?" it was all safe. Accordingly, he drew and she took the diamond cross of an out an old leathern purse that contained order which he wore. Ay, and by my his gold, and then a tattered parchment knightly faith will l, and redeem it at pocket-book that enveloped the Ausyour pleasure. It was her hand which trian bank-notes, and finding that both now grasped his ; a change passed over were quite right, he laid them under the her face; “thank you, my sister-in- bolster, extinguished the light, and death, for your likeness, ,” said she, in threw himself on the bed, thanking God an altered voice, turning to where the and the saints that had carried him thus portrait had hung. For the first time, far homeward in safety. He had no ihe Count observed that the frame was misgiving as to the character of the empty. Her grasp tightened upon him people he had fallen amongst to hinder

it was the bony hand of a skeleton. his repose, and the horse-dealer was very The beauty vanished: the face grew a soon enjoying a profound and happy familiar one it was that of Bertha ! sleep. He might have been in this state The floor became unstable, like water ; of beatitude an hour or two, when he

mo

was disturbed by a noise like the open “There is no fear of that," said the ing of a window, and felt a sudden rush younger man, also in a whisper, “we of cool night air ; on raising himself on are two lo one ; he has nothing but a the bed, he saw peering through an open little knife about hiin-he is dead window wbich was almost immediaiely asleep loo! hear how he snores !" “ Do above the bed, the head and shoulders my bidding," said the old man sternly; of a man, who was evidently attempting “would you have him wake and rouse to make his ingress into the room that the neighbourhood with his screams ?" way.' As the terrified dealer looked, As it was, the horror-stricken dealer the intruding figure was withdrawn, under the bed could scarcely suppress and he heard a rumbling noise, and then a shriek ; but he saw that the son left the voices of several nien, as he thought, the light in the outer room, and then, close under the window. The most pulling the door partially after them, lo Creadful apprehensions, the more hor- skreen the rays of the lamp from the rible as they were so sudden, now agi- bed, he saw the two murderers glide to tated the traveller, who, scarcely know. the bedside, and then heard a rustling ing what he did, but utterly despairing motion as of arins descending on the of preserving his life, threw himself un- bed-clothes, and a hissing, and then a der the bed. He had scarcely done so, grating sound, that turned his soul sick, when the hard breathing of a man was for he knew it came from knives or dagheard at the open window, and the next gers penetrating to the heart or vitals of moment a robust fellow dropped into a human being like himself, and only a the room, and after staggering across it, few inches above his own body. This groped his way by the walls to the bed. was followed by one sudden and violent Fear had almost deprived the horse start on the bed, accompanied by a dealer of his senses, but yet he pere moan. Then the bed, which was low ceived that the intruder, whoever he one, was bent by an increase of weight might be, was drunk. There was, how caused by one or both the murderers ever, slight comfort in this, for he might throwing themselves upon it, until it only have swallowed wine to make him pressed on the body of the horse-dealer. the more desperate, and the traveller There was an awful silence for a was convinced he had heard the voices ment or two, and then the host said, “he of other men without, who might climb is finished - I have cut him across the into the room to assist their brother throat take the money, I saw him villain in case any resistance should put it under his bolster 6. I have it, be made. His astonishment, however, here it is,” said the son;

a purse and was great and reviving when he heard a pocket-book.” The traveller was the fellow throw off his jacketon the floor, then relieved from the weight that had and then toss himself upon the bed un- oppressed him almost to suffocation ; der which he lay. Terror, however, and the assassins, who seemed to tremble had taken too firm a hold of the travel- as they went, ran out of the room, took ler to be shaken off at once, -bis ideas up the light, and disappeared altogether were too confused to permit his imagin. from the apartment. No sooner were ing any other motive for such a midnight they fairly gone than the poor dealer intrusion on an unarmed man with pro- crawled from under the bed, took one perty abont bin, save that of robbery desperate leap, and escaped through the and assassination, and he lay quiet little window by which he had seen enwhere he was until he heard the fellow ter the unfortunate wretch, who had above him snoring with all the sonorous- evidently been murdered in bis slead. ness of a drunkard. Then, indeed, he He ran with all his speed into the town, would have left his hiding-place, and where he told his horrid story and miragone to rouse the people in the inn to culous escape to the night-watch. The get another resting place, instead of the night-watch conducted him to the burbed of which he had been dispossessed gomaster, who was soon aroused from in so singular a manner; but, just as he his sleep, and acquainted him with allcame to this resolution, he heard the that had happened. In less than half an door of the outer room open-then hour from the time of his escape from it, stealthy steps cross it-then the door the horse-dealer was again at the murof the very room he was in was softly derous inn with the magistrate, and a opened, and two men, one of whoin was sirong force of the horror-stricken inthe host and the other his son, appear- habitants and the night-watch, who had ed on its threshold. “Leave the light all run thither in the greatest silence. where it is," whispered the host, In the house all seemed as still as death ; it may disturb him and give us trouble." but as the party went round to the

66

or

stables they heard a noise ; cautioning throat, “My son ! I have killed mine the rest to surround the inn and the out own son !"also found a temporary rehouses, the magistrate, with the traveller lief from the horrors of his situation in and some half-dozen armed men, ran to insensibility. The next minute the the stable-door ; this they opened, and wretched hostess, who was innocent of found within the host and his son digg- all that had passed, and who was, withing a grave. The first figure that met out knowing it, the wife of a murderer, the eyes of the murderers was that of the mother of a murderer, and the mother the traveller. The effect of this on their of a murdered son-of a son killed by a guilty souls was too much to be borne ; brother and a father, ran to the apartthey shrieked, and threw themselves on ment and would have increased tenfold the ground; and though they were its already insupportable horrors by enimmediately seized by hard griping tering there, had she not been prevented hands of real flesh and blood, and heard by the honest townspeople. She had the voices of the magistrate and their been roused from sleep by the noise friends and neighbours, denouncing them made in the stable, and then by her as murderers, it was some minutes ere husband's shriek, and was now herself they could believe that the figure of the shrieking and frantic carried back into traveller that stood among them was the inn by main force. The two murother than a spirit. It was the hardier derers were forth with bound and carried villain, the father, who, on hearing the to the town gaol, where, on the exastranger's voice continuing in conversa- mination, which was made the next tion with the magistrate, first gained morning, it appeared from evidence that sufficient command over himself to raise the person murdered was the youngest his face froin the earth ; he saw the son of the landlord of the inn, and a perstranger still pale and haggard, but son never suspected of any crime more evidently unhurt. The murderer's head serious than habitual drunkenness; that spun round confusedly; but, at length instead of being in bed, as his father and rising, he said to those who held him, brother had believed him, he had stolen “ Let me see that stranger nearer; let out of the house and joined a party of me touch him-only let me touch him!” carousers in the town: of these boon The poor horse-dealer drew back in hor- companions, all appeared in evidence; ror and disgust. “You may satisfy him and two of them deposed that the dein this," said the magistrate ; he is un- ceased, being exceedingly intoxicated, armed and unnerved, and we are here and dreading his father's wrath, should to prevent his doing you barm." On he rouse the house in such a state, and this the traveller let the host approach at that late hour, had said to them that him, and pass his hand over his person, he would get through the window into which, when he had done, the villain the little detached apartment, and sleep exclaimed, “I am no murderer! Who there, as he had often done before, and says I am a murderer ?” " That shall that they two had accompanied him, and we see anon," said the traveller, who assisted him to climb to the window, led the way to the detached apartment, The deceased had reached the window followed by the magistrate, by the two once, and as they thought would have prisoners, and all the party which had got safe through it, but drunk and uncollected in the stable on hearing what steady as he was, he slipped back; they passed there. Both father and son had then some difficulty in inducing him walked with considerable confidence to climb again, for, in the caprice of into the room ; but when they saw by intoxication, he said he would rather go the lamps the night-watch and others sleep with one of his comrades. Howheld over it, that there was a body ever, he had at last effected his entrance ; covered with blood, lying upon the bed, and they, his two comrades, had gone to they cried out, “ How is this! who is their respective homes. The wretched this !” and rushed together to the bed. criminals were executed a few weeks side. The lights were lowered; their after the commission of the crime. They rays fell full upon the ghastly face and had confessed every thing, and restored bleeding throat of a young man. At the to the horse-dealer the gold and the sight, the younger of the murderers turned paper-money they had concealed, and his head, and swooned in silence; but which had led them to do a deed so much the father, uttering a shriek so loud, so more atrocious than even they had conawful, that one of the eternally damned templated. alone might equal its effects, threw him

Mac Farlane's Lives of Banditta. self on the bed, and on the gashed and bloody body, and murmuring in his

« AnteriorContinua »