Imatges de pÓgina

was great natural enthusiasm, separated himself privately from his companions, went back to the fortune-teller, and renewed his solicitations under the most solemn assurances that whatever he might see should be kept secret. By gold and fair promises he succeeded at length in overcoming the scruples of the old woman, who, silently motioning, lighted him up a small staircase into a room in which there was a large mirror placed against the wall, with a curtain before it. She set the glass on the table, hid the lamp in the oven, and then asked her visitor what he wished to see.

He reflected awhile, and debated in his mind whether he should ask to behold his future bride, his future residence, or whatever else curiosity dictated. Whilst he was thus pondering, he heard the call of the watchman. The wine he had drunk and his midnight excursion had a singular influence on his mind: he looked up, and asked to see his grave.

In manifest alarm, and, moreover, with a certain sort of kindliness in her manner, the beldam endeavoured to divert him from this, reminding him how often foreknowledge causes accomplishment-but in vain; he persisted in his wish, and, after many refusals, the curtain was withdrawn from the glass.

In the dusky twilight which seemed to be retained in the glass, and not to extend without it, there appeared a long green quadrangle surrounded by a wall. Within it stood many oak and elm trees, above which appeared the roof of a building resembling a cloister. In the back ground there were seen many hillocks, raised above the sod, with crosses and grave-stones: on one of these, not far from the wall, he, at first with astonishment, and with constantly increasing horror, plainly read his own name.

[ocr errors]

He sat still and in silence before the glass until the curtain was again let down, and the old woman had taken the lamp from out of the oven, to light him to the door. He went home sunk in thought; every trace of his revelling had disappeared, but the image of his grave was impressed upon his mind in indelible characters: many days and weeks passed on.

In order to divert his mind, he now determined to go himself upon a journey, which, on account of some disagreeable affairs, he had previously determined to leave to another. He rightly considered that a total change of scenes, places, and sensations, would have a beneficial influence. Visiting on horseback many charming, and, to him, hitherto unknown spots, his mind not only regained its former tone, but he became even more lively than the natural gravity of his character had hitherto allowed him to be.

Whilst travelling one day he was overtaken by a storm that constantly increased. He was already many miles distant from the place he had left, and had about as far to go before he could reach the one to which he was journeying. He soon became dripping wet, and, spurring his horse, he took a by-path, in hopes of reaching some village, of which he saw that the main road offered no prospect: but the whole neighbourhood seemed alike solitary and deserted by men.

He per

At length, however, he came in sight of a farm-yard, partly surrounded with trees, and enclosed within a pretty high wall. ceived that he should be forced to alight and tie up his horse, as he

could only find a narrow foot-path; and this he resolved upon, though the pity he felt for his steed made him for some time debate with himself as to the propriety of seeking another road. At length, however, he advanced. He came to a church-yard. He stood still with affright. The form of the spot, the trees, the roof which appeared above them, seemed to remind him of a well-known spot; and, pondering a few moments, the recollection flashed across his mind that this was precisely the spot he had beheld portrayed in the magic glass. He looked again at the wall; the spot was empty; but close by were seen the newly-made graves.

Horror rendered him for a time speechless, and immoveably rooted to the spot. Alternate fits of shivering and of burning fever succeeded. Hastening back, he sprang upon his horse; spurring without intermission, he soon regained the highway; and, disregarding the business on which he had come, he took the direct road homewards. On the third day he reached his native town, which he had left ten days before. His excellent steed died from fatigue, and he himself was seized with a violent fever, during which, to the horror of those who attended him, he dwelt continually upon the frightful images that had taken possession of his mind. It was long before he recovered from the debility this malady brought upon him.

At length, however, he became convalescent; but every trace of his original gaiety seemed to have been rooted out by his illness, and he appeared in the circle of his friends the shadow of his former selfhis youthful manly beauty gone. His eyes no longer beamed with that innocent confidence, which, in spite of all faults and weaknesses, so long remains when neither enormous sins nor an odious narrow-mindedness impair the graces of youth.

Unable to regain his wonted cheerfulness, he gradually became more and more an object of indifference to his friends: this wounded him, and caused him to reflect with greater earnestness upon the sad images that had taken possession of his mind. He shortly afterwards realized all his fortune, for he felt that he abode too near his buryingplace, and that he was attached, as it were by an invisible chain, to the green and silent spot which lay within the cloister-wall. Amply provided with money, he left the town by a road directly opposite to the one he had formerly taken; and, after several days' journey, he stopped in a small Catholic town, where an agreeable neighbourhood, pleasant companions, and, more than all, a removal from all his former connexions, seemed to promise that oblivion of the past of which he was in search. He succeeded, in fact, in repressing the appalling images which had filled his mind; and, feeling himself better, he sought to perfect his cure by habitually taking part in every sort of amusement,-in balls, fetes, and drinking parties. His wealth caused him to become the centre of a circle of gay young men, who drank deeply of the cup of pleasure, and, by mockery and laughter, drove away from him and from each other every serious thought. He was now looked upon as an exaggerated specimen of a gallant, gay, and reckless man of pleasure; and the elder citizens of the town privately warned the young of the sin of such thoughtless dissipation, and against the seduction of bad examples.

Leopold often heard of these cautions, of which he made a jest:

not that his heart was corrupted, but he felt within him a stern necessity for acting as he did: he could not hide from himself how impossible it was for him to revert to a life of quiet and moderation, and that he must continue his wild career in order to escape from the horrid, the maddening ideas which he could not overcome. It was in such a mood that he was one day looking on at a procession: he discovered, by the angry looks which both men and women directed towards him, how displeased they were at his presence; but for this he cared little, and therefore continued to walk up and down with one of his friends.

Amongst the train of young maidens there appeared one, of a slender make, clad in a gray dress, her heaving bosom confined by a white kerchief. Slowly walking along, she bent her pale face over a hymnbook, just as we see St. Cecilia or St. Elizabeth designed in old pictures. From the moment he saw her, Leopold's indifference was at an end. He gazed on the lofty, yet pious, cast of her features-her bright eyes, which indicated an ingenuous and elevated faith-that faint glow, like as of the morning, which seemed to beam from out her heart through her transparent skin: he saw how compassionately she looked upon him. At that moment he felt again the peace of infancy, so long, so very long, a stranger; and, unheeding the questions of his companion, he ran from street to street before the procession, and beheld her with increasing pleasure, as, passing by, she blushed at his gaze. When the priest, by giving his blessing, had ended the ceremony, and she was in a moment lost to Leopold's view, he was amazed at finding how completely the memory of the past, like a moment of inebriation, had yielded to the sentiment, hitherto unknown, which now possessed his soul.

Man only learns the worth, the importance, and the bliss of life, when he loves; but we are incredulous until this highest miracle of the mind is no stranger to us. All that had hitherto engaged Leopold's mind was now unheeded. He was at first occupied exclusively in finding out the name and residence of the fair unknown; and, having succeeded in devising measures for again and again seeing and hearing her, he by this means occupied his mind and filled his heart with the admiration of her loveliness.

The parents of the maid, already advanced in life, and whose minds had never been highly cultivated, were well known and esteemed in the town for the scrupulous exactness with which they observed the forms of their religion: they saw, with displeasure, the visits of the young man to their house, without, however, venturing to disoblige the distinguished stranger by any marked incivility, although, as they were bigotedly scrupulous, they secretly, but closely, watched his


He, on the other hand, made use of all the amiability which was natural to him, and the polished manners which he had acquired in his early intercourse with society, to inspire them with confidence. He came oftener, spoke to his beloved more and for a longer time, now and then even without witnesses; and, observing all those attentions which are agreeable to the fair, he at length saw that his assiduous courtship had caused a tender partiality to spring up in his favour.

For a few weeks only was his happiness concealed from the watch

ful eyes of the parents. They had already learnt much as to his religion and former conduct. The growing inclination of their beloved child to the Protestant was as apparent as it was disagreeable to them; and, their suspicions being confirmed, they resolved upon taking a decisive step. A short time afterwards Leopold paid them many visits without ever finding the daughter at home: he inquired anxiously whether she was unwell or had gone on a journey: the parents seemed dejected, and returned an evasive answer. Tormented by doubts and the loss of her society, he waited a month longer; but his good angel came back no more.

Unwearied by his disappointment, he now redoubled his researches in private, and, at length, learnt that she had been sent by her parents to a distant religious establishment, the name and situation of which no one could tell him. He offered his domestics large rewards, if they could procure more positive intelligence: but this was for a long time useless.

One evening, however, his valet came to him with a cheerful and confident look, and said that he had learnt, from an old servant of the young lady, the name of the driver of the coach in which she had been taken away. With a joyful cry Leopold sprang up, threw him a handful of money, and hastened to the house that had been pointed


The driver made a great many difficulties, and declared that he had been obliged to take an oath that he would keep the road to the place a secret; but by dint of constantly increasing offers, Leopold overcame his scruples. He then avowed all: he did not know the name of the spot; but, if the gentleman wished, he would, for the sum promised, conduct him thither, provided he would travel alone, and engage not to stop in any town of importance. Leopold promised every thing, and impatiently required that they should set off the same night. The driver got ready, and within two hours they were in a carriage, travelling rapidly along by the light of the bright harvest moon: the journey lasted several days, and at night they always slept in obscure villages.

The old man related that the young lady was accompanied by her father; that she had, throughout, been excessively dejected, had wept very much, and, at last, quite exhausted, had appeared to be very ill. The sanguine feelings of the young man inclined him to interpret this in his own favour; and, with the wild enthusiasm to which he had lately been subject, he determined to make her his in spite of parents, religion, or fate. The coachman, who had been well paid in advance, was now anxious as to the strength of his horses, and endea voured to soothe the perturbed feelings of his companion by relating over and over the circumstances of his late journey. One day, about noon, they halted at a small village on the borders of what appeared to be a very extensive forest. The old coachman requested Leopold to alight, telling him that they had arrived at the inn where he had before stopped. He could conduct him no further; all that he knew was that the travellers he lately brought went thence into the wood, and that towards evening the father returned alone.

Leopold went into the inn in order to get further information, and to receive from the landlord a confirmation of what he had just

heard. Enjoining the driver to secrecy, he permitted him, if he thought proper, to return alone; and then, without taking any refreshment, he procured a boy to be his guide, and sallied into the wood.

After walking for about a hundred and fifty yards through a very narrow path, they found the trees less thickly planted, and came in sight of a castle which appeared to have been converted either into a farm-house or a cloister. Leopold hastened towards it, and knocked at the gate with a beating heart.

A sour old man with a shaven crown opened it to him, and asked, in a mistrustful tone of voice, what had brought him thither after sunset. He wanted to speak to the Prior of the establishment. The priest remarked that the building was a cloister, and therefore under the direction of an abbess. Leopold begged more humbly for the favour of an interview. The chaplain went into the house, and, returning some time after, conducted him into the parlour, and requested him to wait there patiently until vespers were done.

Leopold's soul was so distracted by the variety of thoughts which alternately passed through his mind, that he became every minute more agitated. He now felt great exhaustion, which, however, there was nothing in the room to relieve, and he feared to leave it lest he should lose the opportunity of seeing the abbess.

She came at last an elderly lady, but who still retained great softness of manners. She looked at him with an enquiring eye, and asked his name and the object of his visit. He told both, and his anguish was greatly augmented as he observed how the countenance of the abbess was overcast with melancholy as he proceeded in his narrative. He had ended: he waited eagerly for her reply. "Young man," said she, deliberately speaking, "you must arm yourself with Christian fortitude: already eight days ago the novice went to her home"-meaning that she was dead. Leopold sank into a deep swoon: when he revived many others of the nuns were present assisting, as also the priest who had to perform the religious service of the cloister. On the return of recollection, his first request was that they would conduct him to the grave of his beloved. The abbess consented, hoping that tears would assuage the convulsive anguish of his heart. At her request the priest preceded with a light: she followed, with the eldest of the sisters, both supporting Leopold's faltering steps.

The small door was opened: their way led over green graves. At length the father, having nearly approached a wall, stood still, and held the light over the newest-made grave. Leopold looked up: his face became alternately flushed and deadly pale: a mortal anguish possessed his whole frame. In the imperfect light he beheld again the still green long quadrangle, surrounded by the wall, which he so well knew. Overcome by the horror of the destiny which now burst upon him, he cried out, "Oh God! my grave!" and fell senseless on the ground, thus sinking into the lap of death and doom.

A few days afterwards his grave-stone stood on the wall. His confession was not known, and they therefore buried him on the spot where he expired.

« AnteriorContinua »