Billeder på siden

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,
The balmy whisper in the leaves, the golden moon above;
But vain the hour of softest power: the noon is dark to thee,
My sister and my faithful one!-And oh! her death to me!

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,

[ocr errors]

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,
To tell the prime of summer-time, the glory of the year;
But ne'er for her :-to death her eyes have given up their trust,
And I cannot reach her in the grave, to clear them from the dust.

But in the skies her pearly eyes the Mother-maid hath kiss'd,
And she hath dipp'd her sainted foot in the sunshine of the bless'd.
Eternal peace her ashes keep, who loved me through the past!
And may good Christ my spirit take to be with hers at last!

With a softened heart Frederick listened to the strain; but after 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.

"Rise 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 meet me?" "How am I interested in your scheme 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 Romelli. 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. played the truant from school too long." "Farewell, sir, and remember your promise," answered Antonio. "I do not go with you at present." He accordingly hasted away from Frederick, without answering his farther inquiries.

"You have

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 now arrived. 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 flourishing 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 the 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 break

"So, thou art there,

into the aisle, and thus grimly spoke to him: thou glorious faithful one? Thou shalt live in the Kingdom-tocome with the Marlis. Come in, bird, into the house;" continued he, curving his fore-finger, and beckoning to Frederick with it; "advance and join the committee." A change came over his face in a moment; he unlocked the door; threw it open; dragged out the body of Romelli with awful violence; then turning to Hume, tried to speak, but could not, from violent emotion. He continued for a minute, merely pointing to the body, but at length he said, "So, there it is out: I would not have its blood mingle with my sister's ashes."

"Most murderous wretch," cried Frederick, grappling with him; "how didst thou dare call me to witness this?" "Sir, I thought your good opinion of some value, and I called you to see me approve myself a man of justice." "A wild beast thou! say a fiend rather; but thou shalt answer for it." "Ha!" cried Marli, with desperate


energy, casting himself free from Hume's hold-" Hear me, sir, now my brother: Go, weep for the little wren that dies in a tussle with the blue cuckoo, but give not your sympathy to that carrion, for he was a wretch, whose heart-strings might, unscathed, have tied up the forked bundles of lightning, so callous were they, so wicked, so callous. For your wife's sake, my sister, do not. Moreover you must leave this country instantly; and for your kindness to my sister, I shall go with you wherever you go, and be your slave till death, because in that I shall be honouring her." "A discreet travelling companion, forsooth!" returned Hume. sir like fire and water I can be a good servant; but my mastery, if your negative to my proposal put it upon me, may be equally dangerous." "Granted,-in the matters of Italian assassination," said Frederick. "But, suppose, sir, that this very moment I dispute your mastery? Suppose I tell you that even now my eye is upon you, and that I do not mean to let you leave the churchyard without a desperate effort on my part to secure your person?" "I shall not stay at present," said Cardo, "to show you how easily I can defy you, armed as I am. Let us come to the point. You love Signora Romelli, and she loves you. Well:-But you shall never marry her, for her vile father's sake.

She shall never sit a

bride on the throne of your heart, which my sister Charlotte could not gain: Nay, she shall never wear for you the comely garment of marriage, which my sister Charlotte gained. She shall never be happy as a wife, where my sister Charlotte could not be happy as a wife. I will flee this instant, and you will be suspected of Romelli's murder. I have put things in such a train, that suspicion must naturally fall upon you. No one, save your

self, and another whom I can trust, has seen me in this visit to you neighbourhood. The deed has been done with your own pistol and dagger, with which, besides the key to open the aisle door, my knowledge of Mrs Mather's premises enabled me secretly to provide myself a few nights ago. If you think it could serve you aught in the court of justice to produce my card of to-day, inviting you hither, look at it again, and see that it is not signed. Moreover, on a more careful glance, you will find it a fair imitation of your own hand-writing, so that it would instantly be declared an ex post facto forgery-a poorly-conceived contrivance. That dead dog was honoured likewise with a note of invitation, but I took care to put such dangerous hints in it, that he would not fail to burn it as soon as read. Moreover, on your way hither, you met two villagers, who, by a shrewd contrivance of mine, which it is needless at present to explain, were drawn to the road, notwithstanding the late hour, and who could not fail to recognise you, though they might not speak. Now, sir, do you see how you are beleaguered? You can hardly escape a condemning verdict: And even were it 'Not Proven,' still the lurking suspicion against you, which such a niggardly acquittal implies, would for ever prevent the fine-souled Julia Romelli from becoming your wife. Now for your alternative of choice:-Shall I leave you-and will you stay-to be confounded in this country? Or will you not rather flee with me instantly, where both of us shall be safe; and where, because you so honoured and tried to save the twin-sister of my being, my beloved one, I shall tame my safety, and my pride, and my powers, to be with you day and night as your companion and friend? Remember, either alternative will equally well serve my ends." "I have listened to you well, you must allow," said Hume; "and I have come to the conclusion, that your ingenuity and finesse are admirable; but what a pity it is that they should all go for nothing! To show you, sir, what an overweening fool you are, I will constrain myself to tell you, that Julia Romelli is already married to Dr Stewart, in consequence of my choosing a bride elsewhere. Now, sir, seeing what my connexion with your family has already gained for me, can you still urge it upon me, as a very important acquisi. tion, to secure your devoted and worshipful attendance? Faugh! your hand smells rankly, and I will not taste that bread which you have touched."

At this announcement of Miss Romelli's marriage, Marli gave a sort of involuntary scream. With trembling earnestness he then drew forth his bloody handkerchief, tied one end round his neck, and proffered the other to Dr Hume, with the following words: "Is it so, sir? Is Julia lost to you? I knew not of this: and now

« ForrigeFortsæt »