Графични страници
PDF файл


He brings Earl Osmond to receive my vows.
O dreadful change ! for Tancred, baughty Osmond.

Tancred and Sigismunda.


MR. VERE, whom long practice of dissimulation liad enabled to model his very gait and footsteps to aid the purposes of deception, walked along the stone passage, and the first flight of steps toward Miss Vere's apartment, with the alert, firm, and steady pace of one, who is bound, indeed, upon important business, but who entertains no doubt he can terminate his affairs satisfactorily. But when out of hearing of the gentlemen whom he had left, his step became so slow and irresolute, as to correspond with his doubts and his fears. At length he paused in an antechamber to collect his ideas, and form his plan of argument before approaching his daughter.

"In what more hopeless and inextricable dilemma was ever an unfortunate man involved !”-Such was the tenor of his reflections.—“If we now fall to pieces by disunion, there can be little doubt that the government will take my life as the prime agitator of the insurrection. Or, grant I could stoop to save myself by a hasty submission, am I not, even in that case, utterly ruined ? I have broken irreconcilably with Ratcliffe, and can have nothing to expect from that quarter but insult and persecution I must wander forth an impoverished and dishonoured man, without even the means of sustaining life, far less wealth sufficient to counterbalance the infamy which my countrymen, both those whom I desert and those whom I join, will attach to the name of the political renegade. It is not to be thought of. And yet, what choice remains between this lot and the ignominious scaffold ? Nothing can save me but reconciliation with

11* VOL. 1.

these men; and, to accomplish this, I have promised to Langley that Isabella sball marry him ere midnight, and, to Mareschal, that she shall do so without compulsion. I have but one remedy betwixt me and ruin-her consent to take a suitor whom she dislikes, upon such short notice as would disgust her, even were he a favoured lover - But I must trust to the romantic generosity of her disposition ; and let me paint the necessity of her obedience ever so strongly, I cannot overcharge its reality.”

Having finished this sad chain of reflections upon his perilous condition, he entered his daughter's apartment, with every nerve bent up to the support of the argument which he was about to sustain. Though a deceitful and ambitious man, he was not so devoid of natural affection but that he was shocked at the part he was about to act, in practising on the feelings of a dutiful and affectionate child ; but the recollections, that if he succeeded, his daughter would only be trepanned into an advantageous match, and that, if he failed, he himself was a lost man, were quite sufficient to drown all scruples.

He found Miss Vere seated by the window of her dressing-room, her head reclining on her hand, and either sunk in slumber, or so deeply engaged in meditation, that she did not hear the noise he made at his entrance. He approached with his features composed to a deep expression of sorrow and sympathy, and sitting down beside her, solicited her attention by quietly taking her hand, a motion which he did not fail to accompany with a deep sigh.

“ My father !” said Isabella, with a sort of start, which expressed at least as much fear, as joy or affection.

“ Yes, Isabella,” said Vere, “ your unhappy father, who comes now as a penitent to crave forgiveness of his daughter for an injury done to her in the excess of his affection, and then to take leave of her forever.”

“ SirOffence to me ? Take leave forever ? What does all this mean?” said Miss Vere.

66 Yes, Isabella, I am serious. But first let me ask you, have you no suspicion that I may have been privy

to the strange chance which befell you yesterday morn


« You, sir?” answered Isabella, stammering, between a consciousness that he had guessed ber thoughts justly, and the shame as well as fear which forbade her to acknowledge a suspicion so degrading and so unnatural.

“ Yes !” he continued, “your hesitation confesses that you entertained such an opinion, and I have now the painful task of acknowledging that your suspicions have done me no injustice. But listen to my motives. In an evil hour I countenanced the addresses of Sir Frederick Langley, conceiving it impossible that you could have any permanent objections to a match where the advantages were, in most respects, on your side. In a worse, I entered with him into measures calculated to restore our banished monarch, and the independence of my country. He has taken advantage of my unguarded confidence, and now has my life at his disposal.”

“ Your life, sir ?" said Isabella, faintly.

“Yes, Isabella," continued her father," the life of him who gave life to you. So soon as I foresaw the excesses into which his headlong passion (for, to do him justice, I believe his unreasonable conduct arises from excess of attachinent to you) was likely to hurry him, I endeavoured, by finding a plausible pretext for your absence for some weeks, to extricate myself from the dilemma in which I am placed. For this purpose I wished, in case your objections to the match continued insurmountable, to have sent you privately for a few months to the convent of your maternal aunt at Paris. By a series of mistakes, you have been brought from the place of secrecy and security, which I had destined for your temporary abode. Fate has baffled my last chance of escape, and I have only to give you my blessing, and send you from the castle with Mr. Ratcliffe, who now leaves it ; my own fate will soon be decided.”

" Good Heaven, sir! can this be possible ?" exclaimed Isabella. “ O, why was I freed from the restraint in which you placed me? or why did you not impart your pleasure to me ?"

all over.

“ Think an instant, Isabella. Would you have had me prejudice in your opinion the friend I was most desirous of serving, by communicating to you the injurious eagerness with which he pursued his object ? Could I do so honourably, having promised to assist bis suit ?-But it is

I and Mareschal have made up our minds to die like men ; it only remains to send you from hence under a safe escort."

"Great powers! and is there no remedy ?" said the terrified young woman.

“ None, my child,” answered Vere, gently, “ unless one which you would not advise your father to adopt—to be the first to betray his friends,

6 Q, no! no !" she answered, abhorrently, yet hastily, as if to reject the temptation which the alternative presented to her. “But is there no other hope==through flightthrough mediațion---through supplication ?-I will bend my knee to Sir Frederick !"

“ It would be a fruitless degradation; he is determined on his course, and I am equally resolved to stand the hazard of my fate. On one condition only he will turn aside from his purpose, and that condition my lips shall never utter to you.'

“ Name it, I conjure you, my dear father !” exclaimed Isabella. “ What can he ask that we ought not to grant, to prevent the hideous catastrophe with which you are threatened ?"

“ That, Isabella,” said Vere, solemnly, “ you shall never know, until your father's head has rolled on the bloody scaffold ; then, indeed, you will learn there was one sacrifice by which he might have been saved."

“ And why not speak it now ?” said Isabella ; “ do you

fear I would Ainch from the sacrifice of fortune for your preservation ? or would you bequeath me the bitter legacy of life-long remorse so oft as I shall think that you perished, while there remained one mode of preventing the dreadful misfortuŋe that overhangs you?"

“ Then, my child,” said Vere, “ since you press me to name what I would a thousand times rather leave in silence, I must inform you that he will accept for rapsoni nothing but your hand in marriage, and that conferred before midnight this very evening !"

“ This evening, sir ?" said the young lady, struck with horror at the proposal— and to such a man ka man ?a monster, who could wish to win the daughter by threatening the life of the father-it is impossible !"

“You say right, my child,” answered her father, “it is indeed impossible ; nor have I either the right or the wish to exact such a sacrifice-It is the course of nature that the old should die and be forgot, and the young should live and be happy.”

My father die, and his child can save him !-but no -no-my dear father, pardon me, it is impossible ; you only wish to guide me to your wishes. I know your object is what you think my happiness, and this dreadful tale is only told to influence my conduct and subdue my scruples."

. My daughter,” replied Ellieslaw, in a tone where offended authority seemed to struggle with parental affection," my child suspects me of inventing a false tale to work upon her feelings ! Even this I must bear, and even from this unworthy suspicion I must descend to vindicate myself. You know the stainless honour of your cousin Mareschal-mark what I shall write to him, and judge from his answer, if the danger in which we stand is not real, and whether I have not used every means to avert it.”

He sat down, wrote a few lines hastily, and handed them to Isabella, who, after repeated and painful efforts, cleared her eyes and head sufficient to discern their purport.

“ Dear cousin," said the billet, “I find my daughter, as I expected, in despair at the untimely and premature urgency of Sir Frederick Langley.

She cannot even comprehend the peril in which we stand, or how much we are in his power-Use your influence with him, for beaven's sake, to modify proposals to the acceptance of which I cannot, and will not, urge my child against all her own feelings, as well as those of delicacy and propriety, and oblige your loving cousin,—R. V."

In the agitation of the moment, when her swimming

« ПредишнаНапред »