Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

with happiness. Louisa started at that proposal. She would have reproached him, but her heart was not made for it; she could only weep.

They were interrupted by the arrival of her father with his intended son-in-law. He was just such a man as Louisa had represented him, coarse, vulgar, and ignorant. But Venoni, though much above their neighbour in every thing but riches, looked on him as poorer men often look on the wealthy, and discovered none of his imperfections. He took his daughter aside, told her he had brought her future husband, and that he intended they should be married in a week at farthest.

Next morning Louisa was indisposed, and kept her chamber. Sir Edward was now perfectly recovered. · He was engaged to go out with Venoni ; but, before his departure, he took up his violin, and touched a few plaintive notes on it. They were heard by Louisa.

In the evening she wandered forth to indulge her sorrows alone. She had reached a sequestered spot where some poplars formed a thicket on the banks of a little stream that watered the valley. A nightingale was perched on one of them, and had already begun its accustomed song. Louisa sat down on a withered stump, leaning her cheek upon her hand. After a little while, the bird was scared from its perch, and flitted from the thicket. Louisa rose from the ground, and burst into tears. She turned-and beheld Sir Edward. His countenance had much of its former languor; and, when he took her band, he cast on the earth a melancholy look, and seemed unable to speak his feelings. “ Are you not well, Sir Edward ? ” said Louisa, with a voice faint and broken. “I am ill indeed,” said he; “but my illness is of the mind. Louisa cannot cure me of that. I am wretched; I deserve to be so. I have broken every law of hospitality, and every obligation of gratitude. I have dared to wish for happiness, and to speak what I wished, though it wounded the heart of my dearest benefactress—but I will make a severe expiation. This moment I leave you, Louisa ! I go to be wretched; but you may be happy, happy in your duty to a father, happy it may be in the arms of a husband, whom the possession of such a wife may teach refinement and sensibility. I go to my native country, to hurry through scenes of irksome business or tasteless amusement; that I may, if possible, procure a sort of half-oblivion of that happiness which I have left behind, a

listless endurance of that life which I once dreamed might be made delightful with Louisa.”

Tears were the only answer she could give. Sir Edward's servants appeared, with a carriage ready for his departure. He took from his pocket two pictures ; one he had drawn of Louisa he fastened round his neck, and kissing it with rapture, hid it in his bosom. The other he held out in a hesitating manner. “ This," said he, “if Louisa will accept of it, may sometimes put her in mind of him who once offended, who can never cease to adore her. She may look on it, per. haps, after the original is no more ; when this heart shall have forgot to love, and cease to be wretched.”

Louisa was at last overcome. Her face was first pale as death; then suddenly it was crossed with a crimson blush. “Oh! Sir Edward !” said she, “what--what would you have me do?”-He eagerly seized her hand, and led her, reluctant, to the carriage. They entered it, and, driving off with furious speed, were soon out of sight of those hills which pastured the flocks of the unfortunate Venoni. · The virtue of Louisa was vanquished; but her sense of virtue was not overcome. Neither the vows of eternal fidelity of her seducer, nor the constant and respectful attention which he paid her during a hurried journey to England, could allay that anguish which she suffered at the recollection of her past and the thoughts of her present situation. Sir Edward felt strongly the power of her beauty and of her grief. His heart was not made for that part which, it is probable, he thought it could have performed; it was still subject to remorse, to compassion, and to love. These emotions, perhaps, he might soon have overcome, had they been met by vulgar violence or reproaches ; but the quiet and un-upbraiding sorrow of Louisa nourished those feelings of tenderness and attachment. She never mentioned her wrongs in words : sometimes a few starting tears would speak them; and when time had given her a little more composure her lute discoursed melancholy music.

On their arrival in England, Sir Edward carried Louisa to his seat in the country. There she was treated with all the observance of & wife ; and, had she chosen it, might have commanded more than the ordinary splendour of one. But she would not allow the indulgence of Sir Edward to blazon with equipage and show that state which she wished always to hide, and, if possible, to forget. Her books and her music were her only pleasures; if pleasures they could be called, that served but to alleviate misery, and to blunt, for awhile, the pangs of contrition.

These were deeply aggravated by the recollection of her father-a father left in his age to feel his own misfortunes and his daughter's disgrace. Sir Edward' was too generous not to think of providing for Venoni. He meant to make some atonement for the injury he had done him by that cruel bounty which is reparation only to the base, but to the honest is insult. He had not, however, an opportunity of accomplishing his purpose. He learned that Venoni, soon after his daughter's elopement, removed from his former place of residence, and, as his neighbours reported, had died in one of the villages of Savoy. His daughter felt this with anguish the most poignant, and her affliction, for awhile, refused consolation. Sir Edward's whole tenderness and attention were called forth to mitigate her grief; and, after its first transports had subsided, he carried her to London, in hopes that objects new to her, and commonly attractive to all, might contribute to remove it.

With a man possessed of feelings like Sir Edward's, the affliction of Louisa gave a certain respect to his attentions. He hired her a house separate from his own, and treated her with all the delicacy of the purest attachment. But his solicitude to comfort and amuse her was not attended with success. She felt all the horrors of that guilt, which she now considered as not only the ruin of herself, but the murderer of her father.

In London, Sir Edward found his sister, who had married a man of great fortune and high fashion. He had married her because she was a fine woman, and admired by fine men; she had married him, because he was the wealthiest of her suitors. They lived, as is common to people in such a situation, necessitous with a princely revenue, and very wretched amidst perpetual society. This scene was so foreign from the idea Sir Edward had formed of the reception his country and friends were to afford him, that he found a constant source of disgust in the society of his equals. In their conversation fantastic, not refined, their ideas were frivolous, and their knowledge shallow; and, with all the pride of birth and insolence of station, their principles were mean and their minds ignoble. In their pretended attachments he discovered only designs of selfishness; and their pleasures, he experienced, were as fallacious as their friendships. In the society of Louisa he found sensibility and truth; hers was the only heart that seemed interested in his welfare ; she saw the return of virtue in Sir Edward, and felt the friendship which he showed her. Sometimes, when she perceived him sorrowful, her lute would leave its melancholy for more lively airs, and her countenance assume a gaiety it was not formed to wear. But her heart was breaking with that anguish which her generosity endeavoured to conceal from him; her frame, too delicate for the struggle with her feelings, seemed to yield to their force: her rest forsook her; the colour faded in her cheek; the lustre of her eyes grew dim. Sir Edward saw these symptoms of decay with the deepest remorse. Often did he curse those false ideas of pleasure which had led him to consider the ruin of an artless girl, who loved and trusted him, as an object which it was luxury to attain, and pride to accomplish. Often did he wish to blot out from his life a few guilty months, to be again restored to an opportunity of giving happiness to that family, whose unsuspecting kindness he had repaid with the treachery of a robber and the cruelty of an assassin.

One evening, while he sat in a little parlour with Louisa, his mind alternately agitated and softened with this impression, a hand organ, of a remarkably sweet tone, was heard in the street. Louisa laid aside her lute and listened: the airs it played were those of her native country; and a few tears, which she endeavoured to hide, stole from her on hearing them. Sir Edward ordered a servant to fetch the organist into the room: he was brought in accordingly, and seated at the door of the apartment.

He played one or two sprightly tunes, to which Louisa had often danced in her infancy: she gave herself up to the recollection, and her tears flowed without control. Suddenly the musician, changing the stop, introduced a little melancholy air of a wild and plaintive kind. Louisa started from her seat, and rushed up to the stranger. He threw off a tattered coat, and black patch. It was her father! She would have sprung to embrace him; he turned aside for a few moments, and would not receive her into his arms. But nature at last overcame his resentment; he burst into tears, and pressed to his bosom his long-lost daughter.

Sir Edward stood fixed in astonishment and confusion,—“I come not to upbraid you,” said Venoni; “I am a poor, weak, old man, unable for upbraidings; I am come but to find my child, to forgive her, and to die! When you saw us first, Sir Edward, we were not thus. You found us virtuous and happy. We danced and we sung, and there was not a sad heart in the valley where we dwelt. Yet we left our dancing, our songs, and our cheerfulness; you were distressed, and we pitied you. Since that day the pipe has never been heard in Venoni's fields : grief and sickness have almost brought him to the grave ; and his neighbours, who loved and pitied him, have been cheerful no more. . Yet, methinks, though you robbed us of happiness, you are not happy ;-else why that dejected look, which, amidst all the grandeur around you, I saw you wear, and those tears which, under all the gaudiness of her apparel, I saw that poor deluded girl shed ?' “But she shall shed no more,” cried Sir Edward ; “you shall be happy, and I shall be just. Forgive, my venerable friend, the injuries which I have done thee; forgive me, my Louisa, for rating your excellence at a price so mean. I have seen those high-born females to which my rank might have allied me; I am ashamed of their vices, and sick of their follies. Profligate in their hearts amidst affected purity, they are slaves to pleasure without the sincerity of passion; and, with the name of honour, are insensible to the feelings of virtue. You, my Louisa—but I will not call up recollections that might render me less worthy of your future esteem-continue to love your Edward ; but a few hours, and you shall add the title to the affections of a wife; let the care and tenderness of a husband bring back its peace to your mind, and its bloom to your cheek. We will leave for awhile the wonder and the envy of the fashionable circle here. We will restore your father to his native home; under that roof I shall once more be happy_happy without alloy, because I shall deserve my happiness. Again shall the pipe, and the dance gladden the valley, and innocence and peace beam on the cottage of Venoni!”

leave to we will remore be happy shall

292.-VALUE OF TIME..

S. JOHNSON An ancient poet, unreasonably discontented at the present state of things, which his system of opinions obliged him to represent in its

« AnteriorContinuar »