« AnteriorContinuar »
honours of the meal, would have done 'credit to the highest station of society.
Charles not knowing how long they might have her company, introduced the subject of their escape as speedily as possible; but as soon as she perceived to what his conversation tended, she stopped him, holding up her finger, and looking towards the door.-“ My brother has spoken to me about it,” said she, in a low voice; “ I have arranged it all in my own mind. Trust to me, but say no more about it at present; for you are amongst those that confide not in each other.” - Charles was, of course, immediately silent on the subject, and their new friend remained with them during the whole evening, relating to them a great many tales and anecdotes of circumstances and people she had seen, which she did with inuch point and great variety of language, sometimes speaking of the meaner vices of the world with keen and bitter satire, and sometimes of the faults and sorrows
of life with deep and melancholy feeling; and at length interweaving her conversation with incidents more personal, she gave them a sketch of her own history, at first alluding to it in a detached manner, but afterwards detailing it more minutely. She was of a good family, she said, of Sienna; but there were circumstances had occurred, amongst the many changes that had taken place in Italy, which had reduced them in circumstances. Her bro. ther, whom they had seen, was once an officer in Napoleon's army of Italy; he had served in many campaigns, and might have been rewarded, she said, but the emperor had fallen, and her brother with him. Her father had been dead for
years, and her mother did not long survive him, so the only relation she had to live with was an old aunt, who, God forgive her! she exclaimed, had aided to make her wretched.
It was about five years ago, and her brother was absent, when she became aco.
quainted with one she wished she had never seen—“ He was your countryman,” she added, turning to Charles.--" He was handsome, accomplished, and elegant, and he seemed frank, kind, and honourable. I was young and ardent, and I loved him almost before I knew it. I was fond and inexperienced, and I married him, without consulting any who could have advised me better.
There were many reasons made me conceal what I had done. In the first place, he was a foreigner, and in the next, a heretic (that is, as we think); but what was more powerful than all, he desired me to do so. He had a reason for it, it seems, for shortly after our marriage, he found a pretext to leave me, and for two years never returned to Italy.”
During his absence, she added, she became acquainted with a young German officer, who having met with an accident near the house where she lived with her.: aunt, was carried in, and received from her great kindness and attention. He re
turned it with warmth, and in the end she became his mistress in fact, though not avowedly.
“ You blush, silly girl," she continued, looking at Mary, into whose cheek her tale had called the eloquent blood. There was something of asperity at first in her manner as she observed it, but it soon softened down into sadness, and she added, with a sigh" And yet why should you not? Happy are those whose innocent feelings are yet alive to shame! but I will shock you no more, if I can help it;" and she went on to tell them, that while she was living in this state, her husband returned, and sought an interview with her, when, to her surprise, she found that he was already acquainted with the whole of her connexion with the young officer, and only proposed to turn it to his own advantage. He did not reproach her for her infidelity-he said not a word in defence of his own conduct in leaving her, but coolly demanded that she should
lend herself to a scheme that he had previously concerted with her aunt, for making the other marry her. She at first steadily refused to follow the path of crime thus pointed out to her, and resolved to bear her shame, whatever it might be; but the villain held out so many threats to her, not only of exposure, but of the anger of her brother, and his own vengeance, which she now saw that he was capable of wreaking on her to the most dreadful degree; so that what between fear on the one side, and the persuasions of her aunt on the other, she consented to become the wretched tool of their purposes.
The plan laid was, to work upon the feelings of the young officer; and it was so' contrived, that she appeared to fall ill, and gradually seemed to approach the brink of death. The young officer paid her the kindest attention, but never for a moment seemed to entertain an idea of marrying her. Indeed the attachment he had shewn her, appeared from the first