Imágenes de páginas

princely hospitality and generous kindness, has be- | accompanied by a son of the count and some attend

trayed his benefactor, brought misery into his home, enticed from him a beautiful, and loving, and loyal wife's affection--"

"Oh, say not so, I conjure you!" again interrupted the poor listener, unable any longer to restrain her feelings. "If you do not love me, yet have pity on me. You know it is not so."

"Yes; it is my unhallowed work!" pursued Sumner, "my kind friend; my hostess!"

Nay, call me Emilie, if you would have me listen to a word," interrupted the princess.

[ocr errors]

"Well, then, if I must deface that pure and cherished name with my selfish lips, gentle, faithful Emilie! Ever shall you remain so. For my own sake, even more than for yours, this excess of feeling you have been betrayed into, led on by- He paused from emotion, then added, "Would you urge me to a deed of deep, of foul, dishonour? Nay, you would not. You are carried away by feelings of which I am the hateful cause you know you would not."

"I care not," she exclaimed, with wild vehemence, "I care for nothing-nothing, save one for whom I am ready to sacrifice everything, including life and honour."

At a sudden impulse, as the thought flashed across him, Sumner replied,

"Well, then, Princesse de Czaslau, know that the wretch who has thus wronged you cannot love another!" "Than whom? Oh! I supplicate you, tell me, than whom?"

"Listen, dear lady! I implore you," he said, as she still urged him; "My love is elsewhere plighted."

"You love another?" she exclaimed. "Another! -Did you say another? A-noth-er!" And uttering a cry of agony she fell to the earth.

The attentions which the condition of the princess imperatively demanded served to distract Sumner's mind, for the moment, in a great measure from this new position of distress in which he found himself. The heart-stricken lady (happily for her) had fallen into a deep and prolonged swoon. Occasionally she would half open her sorrowful eyes, sigh, and begin to move; and then, shuddering violently, relapse into her former state of insensibility. Whilst Sumner was earnestly engaged in bathing her temples with water from a clear brook which ran hard by, humming its rippling melody in blissful unconsciousness of the woe to which its waters were administering, he was startled by the sound of horses' hoofs, and of human voices, which were evidently close at hand. In an instant a suspicion of the fact flashed across him. He gently moved her to a spot where the shelter of the underwood might conceal her as much as possible from view, her head being supported by the trunk of a tree which had grown in a slanting position. He had scarcely accomplished his object, when, livid with rage, the Prince de Czaslau stood before him. The conjectures of his wife had been too well founded-her husband was in another part of the forest, not far off,

ants, in quest of Harry Sumner, and bent on demanding instant satisfaction. Whilst the count's son and his attendants had approached in different directions, he had himself arrived by the only possible route from which a glimpse could be had of the concealed princess. Imagining he perceived some object or other through the underwood, where it chanced to be more thin and bare of foliage than elsewhere, he galloped straight up as near to it as he was able, and flinging himself from his horse, whose bridle he slung over the arm of a tree, beheld his wife lying rigid, pale, and motionless as dead. He recoiled a few paces. A deeper hue overspread his dark complexion, a black cloud of unspeakable rage and hatred seemed to gather on his handsome brow. He trembled with rage; and casting one more look at the reclining motionless body, leaped at a bound, like a wild beast, over a rather high and broad shrub that intervened, snatched a loaded pistol from the hands of one of the attendants, and muttering through his clenched teeth, "You hid her there, did you? Take your just fate, assassin!" levelled the weapon at Sumner's heart.

At that perilous instant the count's son, springing forward, gently struck aside the levelled weapon, exclaiming, as he did so, "She moves! she breathes! -she is alive!" This interruption of the prince's intention was a disappointment rather than a reprieve to Sumner. Never did he more ardently crave to be rid of the burden of life. He even longed for that fatal sound which should announce that he was about to be divested of it. Yet he could not bear to be thought so basely of, even for a moment; and as the young nobleman hurried past him to render what assistance he could to his father's loved guest, he could not forbear half whispering, "The princess has swooned!"

To discover that the case was really so, and to report it to the prince, was the work of an instant. And as at that moment she began to revive, she was, by the imperative direction of her husband, conducted to their present residence, in a carriage which was in attendance at the entrance to the forest. The young count assisted her so far, and then returned to the prince.

Meanwhile, the state of mind of the involuntary cause of this untoward event may be more easily imagined than described. What to do, how to act, he knew not. His heart was well nigh rent in sunder at the bare thought of being suspected of making such a return for kindness and hospitality. "And yet, 'tis true," he said within himself. "Never would I have injured that poor wife! Never would I, did I say? I have! I saw she was every day learning more and more to regard me with such feelings as should have been her husband's only; and yet, mean, selfish, and most contemptible of all creatures that I am! by my base acquiescence I encouraged her-allured her on. I should have saved her the instant I detected it. Why could I not have made my visits far more rare, instead of spending my life in her society! Why

could I not have incidentally informed her that my There was no alternative. Fight he must. And affections were irrevocably engaged? Oh! I deserve again behold Harry Sumner, in spite of himself, a death a hundred times over. Welcome-welcome the duellist. He was a by no means unskilful swordsdelivery. Screen her I will, at any cost. And if I can man, although inferior to his antagonist; who was a but do that without leaving the prince in the belief perfect master of the art, and well knew that in perthat I have made a baser return than I have done for mitting Sumner to defend himself he was only subhis kindness, he will only add to my obligation if he-" mitting to those conventional definitions which change Although these and other considerations passed the character of the deed he meditated from “assassithrough his racked brain with the rapidity of light-nation" to an "affair of honour." There were, howning, they had only reached this point, when the ever, circumstances that conspired to give an unexprince, accompanied by his young companion, again pected turn to the combat. approached him. The latter held in his hand two glittering and keenly tempered weapons. The prince's manner appeared at first to be more resolute, but more collected and unimpassioned. It seemed, however, as if the sound of his own voice was the signal for all the repressed furies within him to rage forth. "English minion!" he exclaimed, in a voice of thunder; "Vassal! worm, that I would loathe to tread upon! This is your return for kindness-condescension! This-this-" and here rage choked his utterance. "My wife-the princess!" he continued, in a voice raised to the highest pitch, and all but inarticulate with emotion. "Trying to cheat me of my wife under cover of my hospitalify!"

"Too true!" groaned Sumner.

Sumner was perfectly calm and collected; the prince was blind with rage, and was unable to command himself sufficiently to avail himself to the full of the resources of his skill. And, what was of yet more service to Sumner, all his efforts and skill were entirely devoted to the task of defence. For his own part, he almost longed for his antagonist to run him through the body. And, but that he was desirous of shielding the princess, and affording her husband a fuller explanation of the situation in which she was discovered, he would scarcely have made even a show of defending himself.

After one or two passes, in which the prince was completely foiled by the cool and steady guard of his adversary, the former, inflamed to a pitch of ungovernable fury, and perhaps observing that he received no thrusts himself to parry, made a fierce and rapid

"True, did you say?" he exclaimed. "Do you own it-confess it-to my face? Is it true, baseborn? Ha! Admitted? Stand upon your guard-thrust at Sumner through his guard, which, if the Hand him a weapon!

[ocr errors]

Sumner shuddered as he took the sword. The remembrance of his last duel flashed athwart his


"I will not," he said, casting the weapon from him. "I do not, indeed, deserve to be on my defence! Nay, give me at once the punishment I deserve. I ask no greater favour at your hands.”

"Draw, I say!" shouted the prince, as he stamped violently on the ground, "Draw, minion! But first tell me, how came she here? On what base errand? Speak!"

"The goodness of her pure heart!" said Sumner. "Dare not to talk to me, perfidious Englishman," interrupted the prince, "of the goodness of her heart. Foul not my ears with your nauseous honey! What brought her here, I say?"

"She compassionated me," replied Sumner. "She felt pity for me; and she came to beseech me to leave Hungary and Austria instantly."

"Liar!" almost roared the prince, "she has spoken otherwise than this to me. Draw, I say! Nay, then, an you will not-down-down to-—” And but for the rapid and effectual intervention of the young count, he would have plunged his rapier into Sumner's side.

"My dear prince, bethink you," he remonstrated. "Yes, yes," exclaimed the prince hurriedly; then again addressing Sumner, "Draw, villain, if a spark of honour yet lurk in that craven breast. What, will you betray a prince's hospitality, and then refuse him the common boon of satisfaction?"

[ocr errors]

latter had been acting on the offensive, must, if unsuccessful, have been fatal to him who aimed it. The rapidity and impetuosity of the movement compelled Sumner to parry it with a short and smart stroke of his weapon; which, taking his opponent's within a few inches of the hilt, struck it out of his hand, and sent it spinning several yards up into the air. He immediately advanced to the disarmed prince, and offering him his own weapon, besought him not to spare his life, "for I assure you," he said, "it is a burden to me; and I should look upon a single word and a single effort expended in its behalf as utterly wasted. I have essayed my best defence in this affair, with no other view than that an opportunity might be afforded me of clearing the princess from the loss she might possibly suffer in your estimation by the ill-omened course events have taken."

"You can talk well, sir," rejoined the prince. "The princess stands in no need of your disingenuous advocacy. I have heard all that need be heard from her own lips. So, sir, since you refuse to take advantage of your good fortune,-again defend yourself."

[ocr errors]

Nay, sir, one word, and I will take the weapon into my hand, since you require it," said Sumner. "Upon the honour of an Englishman, by every name and consideration most venerated amongst men, I call Heaven to witness, what perhaps is needless, for you already doubt it not,-that generous lady's honour is unstained."

"Name her not-name her not-stand on guard, I say-defend yourself!" interrupted the prince, with a tone and gesture of ungovernable excitement.

The young noble, however, who had been atten- | circumstances. It is well a more fatal termination tively listening to every word his kinsman's adversary has been avoided. Let me hope that you will return spoke, and narrowly scrutinizing his countenance, at with me. I believe my friend here and his father will this moment stepped up to the former, and a short permit me to press this in their name." but animated conversation was held in a whisper between them.

[ocr errors]

"I am to blame, I know. I admired her more than the distance between our respective ranks admitted. She is blameless. She urged me to leave immediately. Oh, it is a miserable affair! I am grievously to blame-but that kind pure lady' "For what purpose was the Princesse de Czaslau here?" inquired the young noble, turning to Sumner, and addressing him with an expression of considerable interest.

"It was to urge me to leave Hungary and Vienna immediately and for ever," he replied.

"But what if the princess herself has owned more exceptionable motives?" asked the young man.

"Would a lady own exceptionable motives in sober earnest ?" asked Sumner in reply; "I ask you, as a man of the world, Is it probable? Nay. An anxious wish to discover if her husband could receive such a conviction on any testimony"

Here the youthful count made some communication to his friend, as if he were reminding him that he had already suggested this probability.

"A retaliation for some real or fancied slight or coldness," continued Sumner, not appearing to notice these signs; "these and other like motives I can imagine for such an uncalled-for avowal as you allude to. But, depend on it, did she not know such a thing to be all but impossible, no woman would ever even allude to what you intimate."

There was that in these representations of Sumner's which seemed to have a very powerful effect on one of his auditors. The furious passion with which he had been agitated seemed gradually to subside, until he was once more master of himself. Mad with jealousy when that passion was excited, he was by no means usually of a jealous nature; and the faintest semblance of a plausible explanation was enough to disarm him. Sumner could not help perceiving the effect he had produced.

"Prince!" he continued, "I am your debtor, and must ever remain so, for the most unbounded and generous hospitality. I am not going to avow that my heart is entirely free from just reproach for its feelings towards my kind hostess. I do not pretend that they have not overstepped the bounds of that deferential respect which is her due. But those feelings have never passed into action. You have undoubtedly a right to reproach me for presuming on your kindness, and for having been the cause, however unwillingly, of the painful circumstances that have happened. I am most culpable. Only let me not be the cause of that lady suffering in your estimation; that would be a misery great enough to embitter the remainder of my life. I am now at your command." "Mr. Sumner!" said the prince, extending his sword hand, we have been, I fear, the victims of

Sumner was not averse to avail himself of this opportunity of informing the princess of the turn affairs had taken, and of conjuring her to clear him from the prevarication he had been guilty of, by acting up to the motive he had ascribed to her.

This he effected by letter-a letter so admirably adapted to its end, that from it might be dated the commencement of a happy change in the feelings and disposition of the warm-hearted, but hitherto undisciplined and self-indulgent, lady to whom it was addressed.

The following morning he bade farewell to the party at the Count Scheynini's, and set out on his return to Vienna.

[blocks in formation]

THE doctor had pronounced Mr. Browne's wound to be fatal. The great effusion of blood and rapid sinking of the patient allowed of no other conclusion. He was conveyed to Southampton at a gentle pace in his own carriage, in which he lay as easily as on feathers. He remained for twenty-six hours in a state of syncope. The hemorrhage had ceased before he was removed from the field, but a principal artery had been undoubtedly severed. The only doubt seemed to be the precise moment at which he should cease to breathe. Mr. D'Aaroni left him in this state, on the evening of the same day, to pursue his Parlia mentary avocations. He made a brilliant speech, which damaged the tottering ministry. A division left them in a minority of two. They must resign!" it was whispered. "Who'll be the great man ?" it was asked. The place-hunters were in raptures. It was hinted, Mr. Perigord would be sent for. When the debate was over, Mr. D'Aaroni sought that gentleman, received his congratulations with a sneer, declined an insinuated offer of a place, and narrated shortly what had taken place that morning at Delcombe Hollow.


"I return to Southampton this morning," he said. "Have the goodness to see these safe in Mrs. Sumner's and Mrs. Perigord's hands. The directions on the cover are ambiguous. You may as well take the precaution of informing them that their relation is safe."

At an early hour in the morning Mr. Perigord returned homewards. A vision was before him, from which he could not remove so much as one glance of his mind. His pulse quickened, his eye grew restless, his movements irregular and incessant. Behold the iceberg in flames! He had scarcely a thought for the duel, except in so far as it affected matters as they stood towards himself.

"Headstrong idiot!" he muttered; "If Browne


die, I'll have nothing more to do with him. He's too I was in the adjoining apartment. This was followed by a succession of shrill screams, each more heartunmanageable to serve my turn." piercing than the last.

[ocr errors]

Mr. Perigord removed the boot he had drawn on again by mistake, replaced it with a slipper, and entered the bed-room.


Arrived at home, he remained for several minutes, 'Master, Master! oh! pray come! Oh! my poor to the consternation of the valet, with one arm imprisoned in his over-coat sleeve, the other, half in and Missus! Oh! my dear Missus!" screamed the dishalf out. He sat down, and rose up again, and walked | tracted Harding. about in the library, in the breakfast-room, in the drawing-room, in the dining room, in several other rooms. He cast his eyes towards a painting, but did not see it. He lolled in a low chair, with one leg thrown over the arm, the other excessively extended; with one hand dangling his watch-guard, with the other pinching up his lips. He tattooed on the table; he tore up letters he had never read; he took down from their shelf Demosthenes' Orations, and Thucydides. Then he became wrapt for several minutes at a for the Colonies. time. " shall be Privy Seal; That mad boy shall have an under-secretaryship, if he will but get in for Bribeworth, and keep the ranks."

He went up stairs. He was just entering his dressing-room, when he saw Harding gliding up the stairs. "Up, at this hour!" he exclaimed. "Nothing the matter, I hope ?”

[ocr errors]

Nothing, only what Missus told me not to tell you, sir," replied Harding.

"And what may that be?" asked her master. "That she an't very well, sir; indeed, I may say, she's very ill. The doctor's been here, and he says she must be kept from incitement. Consequences might even be alarming, if she isn't taken care off. Oh! my dear Missus. I'm sure I do what I can. Blessed creature, I love her more than my own child, and a great deal better than my own husband, who's He dead and gone - more's the pity, poor fellow! says she's a-fretting about something or 'nother." By the "Silence!" said Mr. Perigord, sternly. bye-the letters! It's that heartless brother that is fretting her. Give these letters to your mistress and to Mrs. Sumner."

[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]

Yes, sir," replied the abigail, with great alacrity; only, please don't tell Missus as I told you she was She was so particular in desiring me not."

[ocr errors]

Do my bidding!" said her master.

It was not heartless cruelty that caused Mr. Perigord to act thus. To think of the drift and probable contents of the letters, was to him, just at present, out of the question. Almost instinctively he acted And in on the readiest thought that came to hand. sending them to the persons to whom they were addressed, he had a vague intention of setting their anxieties at rest. Even Mr. D'Aaroni's precautionary recommendation (and he was not the most acutely in the world of others' feelings) considerate person had been lost in the all-engrossing subject. He might be prime minister of England to-morrow, and 'the rest was not worth a fillip.' He passed into his room. With the aid of a boot-jack he had removed both his boots. Forgetting that bed and sleep were the next things, he had just drawn on one of them again, when a piercing shriek startled him from the construction of cabinets to a consciousness that Mrs. Perigord

Lucy, my dear!" he said, "What is the matter? I fear you are ill. Harding, send for Dr. ——.” Harding paid no attention to her master's directions; but flew about the room like one frantic, snatching up bottles, vinaigrettes, &c. first from one table, and then from another. It was hard if one remedy did not succeed, for she tried all.

The poor sufferer answered her husband's inquiries with still repeated shrieks, succeeded by such terrible convulsions, that her husband and Harding together were scarce strong enough to restrain her, These distressing symptoms continued almost uninterruptedly for an hour. They grew feebler at length, as nature became exhausted; and a deep sleep came to her aid. Mr. Perigord was transfixed, gazing at his wife. Harding thought it was speechless sorrow.

"Shall I send a messenger now, sir ?" she inquired.

"A messenger did you say, Harding? Is he here? Where is the despatch ?" was the reply.

Harding, who was not thinking of queen's-messengers at the time, did not feel quite sure that she understood her master. However, guessing at his meaning as best she could, she replied that "she had been as despatchful as she could; that the doctor was not here, for she could not be spared before to go and send a messenger for him. But I will go at once, sir!"

"No; stay, Harding," said her master, "this sleep will do much. We may now, I think, wait until the morning. Stay with your mistress-do not stir, nor make a sound. Call me as soon as she awakes." He then left the apartment.

The state into which Lucy Perigord had fallen was, at first, rather a trance of exhausted powers, than sleep. It lasted for two hours. She then opened her eyes, sighed deeply, and relapsed into what more resembled sleep. The instant she awoke, Harding rang the bell. Her master speedily made his appear-" he began, but was inter


"My dear Lucy! rupted by his wife.

[ocr errors]

George, oh, George!" she cried, as soon as she Where is Harry? where is caught sight of him, my dearest brother? where is he?" "He is perfectly safe and well," said her husband, as he approached the bed-side.

"He is not!" she replied passionately, "You know he is not! you are deceiving me, George!" And an agony of tears afforded her a relief second only to the rest of sleep.

[ocr errors]

Compose yourself, my dear Lucy!" said her hus

band, taking her burning hand in his own. "I assure | which nothing in nature affords a parallel; warm you upon my honour that he is."

Lucy Perigord closed her hand upon the temperate touch of her wedded husband with a gentle pressure; and a gentle inquiring smile trembled like morning twilight in her features, on which the storm that had swept over them had left its traces.

[ocr errors]

Say so again, George dear!" she said timidly. "Upon my sacred word of honour," replied her husband, with portentous solemnity. The smile brightened.

"He is at this moment travelling to Vienna !" he continued.

"Then have I been delirious ?" asked Lucy Perigord, trembling. "That letter! Have I not had a letter from Harry? I know I have. It was his own dear handwriting." And the smile faded; and the storm lowered again upon her pale brow.

"By-and-by, dear, I will tell you all about it. Try and sleep awhile first," said Mr. Perigord, who began to have an instinctive terror of more convulsions. "Oh no, no!" she exclaimed, rising to a sitting posture in the bed, with her hands clasped, and raised in an attitude of supplicating entreaty. 'Now-now, my dearest husband, if you would not kill me, tell me all-all!"

[ocr errors]

Mr. Perigord perceived that there was no time to be lost. He answered promptly and somewhat bluntly.

"The truth is he was yesterday morning engaged in a duel. He has wounded his antagonist, and it was thought advisable for him to leave England for a few days."

Lucy Perigord scrutinized her husband's features for a few seconds with a deep gaze of timid incredulity. A long-drawn sigh of relief escaped her; and clasping her hands together, she exclaimed

"I should quite believe it, if it were not too much happiness! But the letter! I'm sure there was something terrible in the letter. Where is it?"

"My dear, Mr. D'Aaroni was his friend in the matter," replied Mr. Perigord; "I saw him last night. He desired me to tell you that he himself saw him safe away to the continent; he said too, there was something ambiguous in the direction of the letter."

Harding now remembered that she had been kicking something about with her feet. Looking down, she perceived it was a letter, which she immediately raised and presented to her mistress.

[ocr errors]

In a fatal event, the enclosed to be given immediately." Such was the direction! such then the ambiguity! Mr. Perigord felt he was slightly to blame.

"There is no fatal event, on my honour, Lucy, unless his antagonist's wound be fatal. Your brother is as safe and well as you and I."

He pressed his wife's hand as he spoke. He stooped in a stately manner and kissed her. Then a white dimpled arm wreathed round the neck of that selfish man with a grace-an expression-a sensation-to

kisses were impressed upon a forehead that felt not the rapture of their touch and light. He heard no reproaches for his inexcusable, almost cruel, thoughtlessness; no word of blame for the needless suffering his carelessness had occasioned. The gentle lips, the deep blue eyes, the encircling arm, combined in their ministries of contentment and love.

"Oh! how rejoiced I am that dear mamma has been spared this!" she exclaimed.

"And now, Lucy, do, to oblige me, try and get some more rest and sleep. I will leave you. Harding, perhaps you had better do the same. A few hours' sound repose will do more than any other prescription."

He then left the apartment, followed by his wife's waiting-maid.

"Have you given the other letter to Mrs. Sumner ?" he inquired, as soon as they were outside the room. "No, sir," replied Harding. "Missus was took much worse as soon as she looked at the letter you gave me to give her; and I were restrained to stay with her." "Return it

"That is well!" said Mr. Perigord.

to me."

The following morning, Mr. Perigord took the first opportunity of giving Harry's letter to Mrs. Sumner. She had been anxious about her son. This intelligence relieved her. She felt displeased with him. There had indeed been much of late to disapprove of. This, however, she kept to herself. Lucy Perigord was sufficiently recovered to take her usual place at the breakfast table. A great weight of agony had been removed from her. A sound morning's sleep had refreshed her exhausted frame, and she was anxious that no intimation of what she had suffered should reach her mother. The perusal of the contents of Harry's letter much mollified his mother's opinions. She read and re-read the letter; and as the writer was not in the fatal position which it implied, it was an unmixed pleasure to read what he would have wished said if he had been so. Indeed, the good lady did nothing but read and weep and apply her handkerchief to her eyes all breakfast-time.

Mr. Perigord's thoughts were so pre-occupied, that he exhibited no annoyance. The chief sound his ears were alive to, was that of horses' hoofs. Not an animal of that genus passed the house unheeded. Lucy Perigord sat regarding her mother with a gaze -sad, still, unfathomable--like a becalmed sea in which the cloudless sky is bosomed. It had been arranged that she and Mrs. Sumner should leave for Pendlebury, to-morrow. She had remonstrated— fondly-even passionately. Her husband had descended to persuasives, and they overcame her. Harry was to be sent down immediately on his return.

"You need change of air-indeed you do, my love!" said Mr. Perigord. "And the influential men must be fêted. I may be down myself in a day or two."

[ocr errors][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »