Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

her voice float on the air, as sweet, and as mysterious like, from her grated concealment, as the hymning of invisible angels at still and dark midnight; and to feel, while his sense of hearing proved she was there, that he was breathing the same atmosphere with her—was within a short distance of her-still, this was pleasure !

• But when, as happened after the lapse of somewhat more than a month from the time of the intrusion of the invidious shutter, he was deprived of that pleasure, and could no longer catch the sound of Lucia's voice, Ottaviano became desperate, and prepared for any extreme measure that might present itself. One morning, as he returned into the busy part of the city of Bologna from St. Christina's, where he now listened as vainly as he had gazed, and whither despair told him never to return, his absent, distracted attention was claimed by a torrent of people that pressed towards the duomo, or cathedral church,—and having some indistinct notion of what attracted them, he followed their steps.

'In those days, which were somewhere in the year of our redemption 1192, the city of Bologna was governed by its own bishop and the people's choice, the wise and moderate Gerardode Scannabecchi. This virtuous prætor, or podestà, had authorized an eloquent missionary in favour of crusade, to preach in the cathedral, and to give the cross to as many in the city and territory of Bologna, as might be induced to invest it. The whole of Christendom was then in consternation at the recent events in the Holy Land, where the infidels had taken Jerusalem, the city of our Lord; and an appeal to the generous-hearted and the brave,-to Christians of every class and of every country,—was incessantly made by the Roman pontiffs. and the untiring ministers of the church of Rome, through every degree of the hierarchy, from the mitred priest to the barefoot mendicant friar. Few, however, of the missionaries of the crusade possessed the moving eloquence of him to whom Ottaviano now listened in the cathedral of Bologna. The cries which arose when Peter the Hermit first preached to a devout, a fanatic, and martial people, were repeated by the Bolognese; and Ottaviano's Deus vult" was louder, and every way more energetic than any other voice in the vast church. It surprised him that it should not have occurred to him before, as the only remedy for his hopeless love, to go to Palestine ; to consecrate himself to Heaven, as his beloved Lucia was consecrated,-and by a vow as solemn as her’s when she took the veil, to detach himself for ever from the world ; but now he made that vow with all the ardour of an enthusiastic nature; and receiving from the missionary the cross, the sacred symbol, that, worn on his arm, marked him as the soldier of Christ; he prepared at once to depart from his friends and home, and the beautiful land of his birth.'— The Romance of History-Italy, vol. ii. pp. 126-132.

Like all disappointed heroes of those times, Ottaviano turned soldier, and went to the holy wars in Palestine, where he fell fighting for the Cross. The young nun found it impossible to quench the fire which his love for her had kindled in her heart, and she also soon became a victim to its influence.

This is in every respect an Italian story—Italian in the ardour of the lovers, and the religious sentiments by which they were both actuated. Similar praise is due to “The Entranced,' and The Fatal

the gems

Nuptials.' The former resembles Romeo and Juliet, with this difference, that the lady is happily married after her revival. The Condottiero,' and the well-known insurrection of Masaniello, are

of the third volume ; but we may recommend the whole work to the reader who loves romance, as decidedly the most entertaining collection of tales which we have encountered during the present season.

We cannot say much in favour of • The Usurer's daughter. The story grows out of the avarice and ambition of a citizen, named Erpingham, who, after amassing a fortune, is anxious to make what he considers the best use of it, by obtaining for his only daughter, an alliance with some noble family. Her beauty attracts around her numerous admirers, amongst whom she might count even a member of the royal family, though his designs were of a dishonourable character. The fair Margaret, who is in every thing the contrast of her father, felt, however, that she had affections in her heart, which were not easily to be conquered; and, contrary to her father's wishes, she gave her hand to Worthington, a person engaged in one of the public offices, and not above her own degree. The usurer received the newly married pair with a smiling countenance, but a secret malignity of soul, that turned out to be utterly inexorable. He was not the only party to whom the marriage was a disappointment. Lord Singleton, to whom the fortune destined for Margaret would have been peculiarly accceptable, on account of the incumbrances absorbing his estates, had looked forward to her alliance with himself; as his affections, however, if any he had, were wholly disengaged in the matter, he soon recovered from his surprise, and affected only to pity Margaret for the turn which the affair had taken. Old Erpingham, apparently, looked at it in the same point of view: he visited the newly married pair at their cottage, and, as Worthington's official income was sufficient for their present wants, they were determined to seek no pecuniary assistance from the usurer. Through the secret hostility of Lord Singleton, Worthington was deprived of his appointment, and then came the trials of the ardent lovers. As for Worthington, the author, with some knowledge of public life, observes, that being out of place, he found it to be a general complaint, that never had there been a time in which it was so difficult to obtain situations; and he heard from many middle aged and elderly gentlemen, a great deal of that kind of talk, which may be called retrospective advice, telling him how he ought to have acted, and how he ought not to have acted; and saying, what a pity it was that when he had such an excellent situation, he could not have been fortunate enough to keep it; and then they all said that they would do any thing to serve bim. But none of them had a dictionary in which the word “any thing” was defined ; and if they had examined their own hearts for a definition of the word, they would have found that it meant something which would cost them neither time, trouble, nor expence.' Of course

Erpingham now discontinued his visits to a house, upon which the curse of poverty had descended. After much solicitation, he lent Worthington a small sum of money upon the security of his furniture, and when the day of payment arrived, the pledge was insisted upon with the utmost rigour of the law. Their only resource was a petition for delay, urged by Margaret herself, who knew her hardhearted father too well to expect that she should be successful. The scene between the usurer and his daughter on this occasion, may afford some idea of the powers which the author has brought to the execution of his task.

Early therefore the next morning, Margaret' went to the house of her father; and the servants shed tears when they saw her, for they knew that she was deserted. Her father refused not to see her, but bowed to her very politely, and handed her a chair, and desired her to be seated. Now though she had much presence of mind, and a great deal of self-possession, and though she knew what must be the result of her visit, yet she could not immediately speak, for there was an emotion not to be subdued easily, at the thought of the inhumanity and heartlessness of him to whom she was come as a suppliant. Moreover it suited not the complexion of her spirit to kneel and sue in an agony of tears and a convulsion of hysteric passion. Calmness she inherited from her father ; but the calmness which in him was a vice, in her was a virtue; for he bore with calmness the suffering of others, but she her own suffering. For awhile, therefore, she sat silently, and her father was the first to speak. “ You have come to me on a matter of business, I presume, will you be kind enough to state it ?”

• “ The business on which I came," replied Margaret, “ I suppose you may easily conjecture, the bond which my husband gave you

I“ Sold to me, more properly speaking, Margaret, sold to me. He had an eqnivalent for it."

« « Had be indeed an equivalent for it?” 6" Ask him.”

«« He told me what he had, and no doubt he told me truly; but to my mind that was not an equivalent.”.

““ Pardon me, Margaret, pardon me,” replied the usurer," " but there we differ. In my mind it was an equivalent: and in the mind of your husband it was an equivalent. Harry Worthington was always remarked for being an acute and intelligent youth. He would never give for any thing more than it was worth. Look ye-on this table and on this spot, where you see my finger points, lay Harry Worthington's bond for one hundred pounds, and here," pointing with his other hand to another part of the table," here lay seventy-five pounds; and there stood Harry Worthington-and I said to him take your choice—and he took the seventy-five pounds, every farthing of it, without abatement."

""All that, Sir, may be very true,” replied Margaret, “but still I must say that you took advantage of his necessities—

* Mr. Érpingham smiled, and replied, “ To be sure I did, Margaret, to be sure I did ; what is the use of advantages if we do not take them. Go about the city, and look into the shops and counting-houses, and go into the markets, and what do you see there?—Do you not see that all are taking advantages ?—They could not live without. At all events they

But you

could not thrive and get rich without. The simple people who walk about the streets begging, or who abide in miserable homes starving, have not taken advantages.

• " Perhaps they have had none to take," said Margaret.

• “ They have certainly taken none," said Mr. Erpingham, “nor would you, when the offer of a coronet was made to you. By this time you might have been a peeress, living in splendour and much luxury, but you would not take advantage of the offer that was made to you. I marvel much, Margaret, that you, professing so much sorrow and sympathy for the poor, and compassionating their hard lot, should choose to be one of the poor yourself."

Surely, Sir," replied she, “ you are not serious in using this kind of language. You do not mean to insult your daughter.”.

«« Oh by no means," answered the usurer, " I insult no one. say that

you have come here on business--on what business, I pray?" "I am come to intreat of you that you would not persist in utterly ruining my husband, but that you would give him a little time, and perhaps he may

redeem the bond.”

No, Margaret, perhaps he may not redeem the bond; and then you know that the interest will accumulate, and that the furniture will be worse for wear, and may not fetch so much when sold by auction, and so I may be a loser.— Besides, the process is commenced, and I would not rudely obstruct the operation of the law.”

.'" Can nothing move you, Sir, to have a little compassion on your own child ?"

• “What shall I get by it, Margaret ?" said the usurer. r" You will have

my

thanks— Margaret,” replied the usurer, you were once very fond of buying thanks with your pocket money-where are those thanks now? What is their worth' ?

They are in my heart, Sir, they are worth much, they console me in my present adversity." ris Let them. You may go now. Your business is done.

You ask me to stay the process of the law : I never did so yet, and never will. This is not your home, you have left it, and renounced it. You had despised my wealth which I had hoarded up for you, and now you may depart. Go you were foolish to make the choice; but having made it, you must adhere to it. You had it once in your power to be a peeress—you would not. Your husband had his bond once in his power, but he took my money, and left his bond, and now he repents.”

Margaret had heard and seen much of her father's insensibility and heartlessness, but perhaps never so much as this. It came upon her with such an oppressiveness, that there was no possibility of her expressing her feelings. She was morally stunned and stupified, and she sat for some minutes in a wild silence, scarce one remove from madness; but presently her father roused her from her abstraction, tapping her gently on the shoulder, and saying in his usual mild tone of voice, “Mrs. Worthington, this is not your home, and the chair on which you are sitting is not your property. I must desire you to leave it, and depart.”

Margaret rose ; but the shock of her father's brutality was too strong for her, and she could with difficulty keep herself from falling. He led her

[ocr errors]

to the door, and a stranger might have supposed, from the appearance of the parties, that Mr. Erpingham was affording the kind support of his arm to an invalid, for he moved very gently and considerately, and he looked anxiously at her ; but when he had conducted her to the threshold, and had ascertained that she could walk some few steps without his assistance, he gently closed the door behind her, and left her to find her way to that home, which was presently to be dismantled of its goods.

Now it was a long way for poor Margaret to walk with an almost broken heart, which was not merely on account of her own destitution, but which owed a great portion of the weight that pressed on it, to the consideration of her father's heartlessness. She was bitterly sorry for him, and would have undergone much more individual suffering herself, could she but so have recalled him to sentiments of humanity. But there seemed 10 be no point at which he was vulnerable or accessible; he dwelt in a panoply of indifference; tears melted him not, reproaches moved him not, blessings and curses were to him but modulations of air, mere sounds, meaningless as a parrot's prate.—And as she went on her weary way, and as her thoughts came to her again in their ordinary and settled current, recovering from the disturbance which they had experienced from the cruelty of her father, she thought to herself that there was, or that there might be, a point of mental suffering, too much for her strength of mind to bear or meet without sinking. Therefore she trembled with a painful apprehension.

Frequently has the solitude of great cities been made the theme of remark and declamation, and oftentimes have sufferers thought themselves unheeded, because they have been unnoticed. But the Samaritan in the world cannot stop to bind up all the broken hearts which he may meet with among the myriads which swarın the streets of a great city. Much pity is felt for the afflicted, which they who feel it cannot stop to express. No doubt many an eye looked with compassion on the sorrow-stricken countenance of Margaret, but many who pitied her passed on, and she knew not of the sad sensations which she excited in their bosoms. Some passed her who had known her in the days when no sorrows but those of sympathy were hers; and they almost started at the sad change which grief had wrought; but they were not sufficiently acquainted to speak to her ;-moreover some might think that to address her might seem to savour more of curiosity than compassion, and might waken her grief to a louder and stronger expression.

• But there was one whose kind heart was always open to the claims of suffering humanity, who though a man of the city and of business, and growing, more than growing, rich, yet had a compassionate feeling for the destitute and oppresssed, and was ready to assist those who needed. He would not pass without notice one whom he knew and respected. He greeted Margaret in the crowded street, but he spoke so gently and so well, that he disturbed not her sorrow into tears. He supposed, and spoke as if be supposed, that the sadness of her countenance was from bodily illness or fatigue; for he knew nothing of the desertion of her by her father, or of the misfortunes of her husband. He offered her the assistance of his arm, and that offer was gratefully accepted, for it was much needed ; and while she leaned on his arm she trembled. Now Mr. Francis, for that was the gentleman's name, knew the character of Mr. Erpingham so well, that he supposed, that it was merely in compliance with the usurer's penurious

vol. 1. (1832.) NO. 1.

G

« НазадПродовжити »