« EelmineJätka »
alone; I avoided my parents' society; I repulsed my little nephew whenever he wished to approach me; daily feeding my imagination on the sickly conceits with which my style of reading had supplied me, and which served to heighten rather than allay the feverish restlessness of
• Young persons who have been made acquainted with the principles of true religion, need not be told that our present state of being on earth is not a state of perfect happiness. They are convinced, not only that they must meet with trials, but also that much advantage may arise from these trials; they have not been accustomed to hear fortune, the fates, or the higher powers, accused of injustice when a great man suffers, or when a beautiful woman is made to shed tears: but they have been taught at least to acknowledge that they are guilty of impiety and ingratitude, if they do not bear the common lot of their sinful race with a decent resignation.- Very little however of this submissive spirit is recommended in heathen writers: and though I, who was the early pupil of such writers, could have submitted to any
kind of trial attended with circumstances of a splendid and heroic nature, yet I could not endure the thought of spending my youth in the dull and calm routine of domestic life, which was become still less interesting to me since Mr. Gisborne had made one of our party, putting to flight by his grave and formal manner, together with the solidity and seriousness of his remarks, several of those sprightly visitors in whose society my father used to take pleasure.
“And now, my mind being thus prepared for all manner of evil, Satan speedily provided a temptation for me precisely suited to my case. A letter was, one evening, put into my hand by a servant, who had, no doubt, been bribed for the purpose, from the young Countess of Rheinswald.
Though the artful servant had given me no hint respecting the propriety of concealing this letter, my own evil heart dictated to me the necessity of so doing; and accordingly, on the receipt of it, I hastened to my own room, and closed my door, in order to read it without interruption.
“ It contained, in the first place, much of that com
mon-place trash which is so frequently found in the correspondence of young people; viz. violent expressions of regard, long extracts from poetical writers on the charms of sympathy, the eternity of friendship, the union of hearts, &c. &c.; together with lamentations for our long and continued separation, mingled with pathetic descriptions of her own miserable feelings in being parted from me, and her utter inability of sustaining life much longer without receiving some short notices respecting my welfare. Your image, my Ellen,' said she, * such as it appeared to me when first I beheld you
in the halls of Swetzinghen, is ever present to my imagination, blooming and charming as you then appeared, when the roses in your bosom, and the diamonds which shone in your lovely tresses, were eclipsed and put to shame by the brighter bloom of your cheeks, and the brilliance of your sparkling eye. The sweet tones of your voice still vibrate on my ravished ear, while the purity and elegance of your sentiments continue to delight my enraptured heart. O Ellen! would that I had either never seen you, or had met you never more to part!'
• Much more was added to this purpose; and had there been volumes, instead of a few pages only, in this style, all might have been well. But, like most ladies' letters, the real purport, after an immense redundance of words, was contained in a few short lines at the end-a kind of postscript, in which the countess mentioned her brother, spoke of his unhappy rencontre with my father, attributed it to the violence of his feelings, and described the ill-fated youth as nearly reduced to despair by remorse and disappointment: remorse, for having injured the man he revered most on earth; and disappointment, with regard to the greatest earthly happiness he had ever dared to promise himself.
“ I read this letter again and again, feasting on its flattery, and taking deep draughts of the poison contained in the postscript. I well knew that the name of Rheinswald was held in abhorrence by both my parents; while therefore I determined not to shew them the letter, I resolved to answer it clandestinely-a determination which I soon put in execution, confiding my answer to the care of the artful servant above mentioned.
“My epistle to the countess contained nothing very
remarkable, except a return of the same sort of fine and tender sentiments and high-flown compliments as those with which my young acquaintance had honoured me. However, I also added my little postscript, which, although very short, was probably the only part of my letter to which much attention would be paid. tained an expression of concern for the illness of the count, worded indeed with some coldness, yet somewhat sweetened by a fine panegyric on the heroic duty of forgiving of injuries, the application of which I left to the young lady herself, or her brother, as either of them should be pleased to make it.
“ A second letter from the countess arrived as speedily as possible after the reception of mine. It came flying, as the young lady expressed it, on the wings of love and gratitude. It announced an amendment in the health of the count, spoke of balms, precious ointments, sweet sympathies, recovery from death unto life, &c. &c.; very earnestly requesting me to finish the work of consolation which I had commenced, by another letter.
“ In this manner was our correspondence continued for some time; till, at length, the countess announced her intention of leaving Baden for Switzerland. And as she must needs pass near the gates of Warenheim, she requested me to give her the meeting, were it only for a few moments, on an appointed night, in a small grove, of which she pretended to have retained a faint recollection from a former visit in the neighbourhood.
“I will own that I was startled at this request: but I had too little principle or discretion to deny it. Indeed I was rather pleased than otherwise at the idea of an adventure: so, without decidedly enquiring what I proposed to myself, or what the countess proposed, by this meeting, I consented to it; encouraging myself with the idea, that no harm could possibly arise from an interview with a young person of my own sex, even though that interview was one which I knew my parents would not approve.
" But I was at that time to all intents and purposes an infidel; my morality, if I had any, was partly derived from heathen writers, and partly from some confused sense of the fitness and decorum of things; while I had no kind of principle within powerful enough to
contend with the strength of my natural evil inclinations. In short, I agreed to this meeting; and the day and hour being fixed, I prepared to rush into the snare thus craftily laid for me: for it must be remembered that, entitled as I was to an immense property, I was a prize worthy the pursuit of a family who had but slender means of supporting a high hereditary rank.
“ It was about one year from the time of our visiting the court of Swetzinghen, that I one evening stole from the presence of my parents; and being accompanied by the servant who had been the confidant of my secret correspondence, I made my way through the most obscure paths of the pleasure-ground to the little grove, where I expected to meet my faithless friend.
“This was the first daring act of disobedience of which I had ever been guilty; and it was not without some degree of trembling that I made my way through the shrubs and covered walks, then dropping with the damps of night. We had chosen a moonlight evening for our purpose, and the moon was just rising above the misty heights of the Schwartzwald as I struck into the little coppice where I expected to see the countess. “I had passed the gates of our own domain, and
pursued a private road which led into the highway for some hundred yards, when I discovered a carriage and some persons waiting at a distance. The figures of several men standing with the carriage filled me with alarm; though this was no more than I had reason to expect : since I could not for a moment suppose that the countess would travel alone. Flowever, being come under the shade of the coppice, the voice of the countess arrested me at the
moment when I was about to turn back; and the next instant I felt myself closely embraced by my perfidious friend.–And do I at length clasp my Ellen in my arms! O! happy hour! O! exquisite moment! O! infinite delight!' were the words, or something like the words, with which she saluted me, as she drew me further beneath the shade of the trees.
“I can only speak to you, I can only bid you one long adieu,' I said, and then I must return:' for
my discretion now began to stare me in my face, and I looked apprehensively towards the figures of the men, clearly discernible by the moonlight.
“I know not what she answered; but the words of flattery, which fell like honey from her lips, tempted me still to stand and listen.
"A little while, my Ellen,' she said; 'give me your company but for a few short moments, and let me tell you but a little of what I have suffered in
absence. Permit me to convey the consoling tidings to my brother that you forgive him. I dare not ask you to see him; I dare not ask you to pronounce his pardon with your own lips.'
“ More she said, much more, to the same purpose, still holding my hand, and endeavouring to conceal her too evident agitation by the affectation of excessive plea
• While I still endeavoured to withdraw myself from her caresses, and expostulated against any attempt which she might make to bring her brother to speak to me, I suddenly heard approaching steps. I saw a figure pass in a direction opposite to the carriage; and an instant afterwards, a confusion ensued
among the out the grove.
The sound of voices immediately followed, as in loud and angry expostulation. The countess seemed terrified; and, feeling myself freed from her embraces, I darted from the grove, and ran back to the gate of the park. I heard the countess call me; but her voice was presently lost in the louder voices of men: and looking back a moment, I observed that some violent contest was taking place among the persons about the carriage. I waited not to ascertain the cause of this; but still running towards home, I had scarcely passed a little gate which opened into the park, when the report of a pistol reached my ear. Terror now added new wings to my flight, and I arrived, almost breathless, in the portico of the chateau, where I rested a few seconds to recover myself; and the doors of the saloon standing open, I saw my mother sitting calmly at her needlework, Mr. Gisborne and Alfred being placed opposite to her, engaged with their books.
“ The sweet tranquillity of this scene, compared with the apprehended horrors and real danger of that which I had left, struck me very forcibly; and at this moment, for the first time in my experience, a verse of Scripture came with power to my remembrance.