Immagini della pagina

whether or not-in the vulgar phrase -his head or heels were uppermost, Carl sat himself down mechanically at the table; and the obsequious attendants instantly removed the covers of several dishes. When Carl saw the expensive dainties spread before him, and the magnificent plate which contained them, and marked the solemn and anxious deference paid him by the servants, he felt convinced that through some inexplicable blunder, he had been mistaken for an expected visitor of distinction. The tumultuous and terrifying scenes which had ushered in his journey, were for a while obscured from his recollection. Carl found it impossible to partake of the exquisite fare before him. He contrived, however, to quaff an ample cup of rich wine, which soon revived his torpid faculties.

He turned towards the silent servants, stationed at due distances from him, and enquired, in a stern tone, what they were going to do with him; "whether they knew who he was?" A respectful obeisance was the only answer. "Carl Koëcker-a student of Goettingen University." A second and lower bow. A third time he repeated his question, but the only answer he could obtain, was a brief intimation, couched in the most deferential terms, that " Her Highness" was waiting his appearance in the audience-room. Carl clasped his hands over his forehead, lost in wonder and despair.

"Who who, in God's name, is 'Her Highness ?" he enquired.

"She has been long expecting your arrival with anxiety," replied one of the servants, apparently in nowise surprised at the disorder of their youthful guest.


"Waiting and for my arrival? Impossible!-You are all wrong, fellows! I am not he whom you suppose me! I am mistaken for some one else and he must be nothing particular, seeing I, through being mistaken for him, was kidnapped away! Harkee, sirrahs-do you understand?" The servants looked at one another in silence, and without a smile. "Do you know who I am?" continued Carl in a louder key-but in vain; he received no answer. The servants seemed to have been tu tored,

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

**“ Once more, I say-Who am I ?` repeated Carl.


That, we suppose, your High ness best knows-but our duty is t wait and conduct you into her Higl ness's presence," was the only an swer he received, delivered in th same stedfast respectfulness of tor and manner.

"Where will all this mummer end?" thought Carl, pouring ou mechanically, another cup of win The thought suddenly struck hir and the more he entertained it, th more probable it appeared-tha after all, the whole of his evening adventures might be the contrivan of one of those celebrated and syster atic hoaxers, of whom, in Italy, th illustrious Lorenzo was chief. Eve occurrence of the evening seeme easily explicable on this hypothes -but one; the general uproar in th streets of Goettingen at the peric of his leaving. That savoured to strongly of serious reality to be pa of a hoax!-While he was turni about these thoughts in his min one of the servants opened a doc and stood by it, as if hinting th Carl should rise from table and fo low. Resolved patiently to awa the issue, he rose, and walked to wards the door. He was conducte up an ample staircase, leading to lofty hall, supported by marble pi lars. After traversing it in silenc his conductors opened a pair of larg folding-doors, and ushered Ca through them-gently closed th high doors upon him, and retire Carl now found himself in an apar ment equally magnificent with th one he had left. Still, howeve there was not as in the other-art ficial light; but the room was, so 1 speak, flooded with a radiant tide moonlight. Every thing about him to Carl's disturbed apprehension wore the air of mystery and re mance. The silence of the sepulchr was there, and it oppressed him. H dared hardly draw his breath, fearfu

of its being audible. He was reluctant to move from the spot where he had first stood, lest he should dissipate the nameless charm of the chamber, or encounter some unwelcome and startling spectacle. Whichever way he looked, there was a dim and dreary splendour which transcended the creatures of poetry. Almost the whole extent of the further extremity of the chamber consisted of a large Gothic-fashioned window, with a door in the centre of it, opening upon a narrow slip of shrubbery or terrace. The prospect through this window was glorious. The moon was still

"Riding at her highest noon,"

like a bright bark over a sea of sapphire, scattering her splendour over streams glittering like veins of silver amid a noble extent of champaign country; and rendering visible, in the distance, hoary structures of prodigious extent, relieved against a back-ground of profound forest shade. A little to the right lay a lake of liquid silver! But the most marvellous circumstance of the whole, was the disappearance of the snow he had So lately seen. Was it possiblethought Carl, pressing his hands to his forehead-that he had slept through an interval of twenty-four hours since he saw the snow? Had he taken drugged draughts at supper, and but now awoke, unconscious of the interal that had elapsed? This extraordinary absence of snow was, as already said, the first thing observed by Carl, hurried as was his glance; but erelong a very different object, within the chamber, arrested his attention, absorbing every faculty in mute astonishment and admiration. At the upper extremity of the chamber the resplendent moonbeam fell on the igure of a lady, white as snow, reclining on a couch, with her head supported by her arm. Never before had Carl beheld, even in dreams, a rision of such dazzling beauty. So perfectly symmetrical her features, so delicately moulded her figure, so gracefully negligent her attitude, and so motionless withal, that Carl, as he glided slowly towards her, his eyes and hands elevated with rapturous astonishment, began to suspect he was mocked by some surpassing


specimen of the statuary's art. As he drew nearer, he perceived that the lady was asleep-at least her head drooped a little, and her eyes were closed. He stood within a few paces of her. He had never before seen features so perfectly beautiful. Her brow wore the pure hue of alabaster; her eyebrows were most delicately pencilled and shaded off; her nose, of soft Grecian outline, was exquisitely chiselled; and her small closed lips seemed like a bursting rose-bud. The lilied fingers of the little hand supporting her head, peeped out in rich contrast from among her black tresses; while her right hand lay concealed beneath the folds of a long rich veil. What with gazing on the lovely recumbent, and the generous potency of the wine he had been drinking, Carl felt himself, as it were, under a new influence. Fear and doubt had passed away. He fell softly on his knees before the beautiful incognita. Her features moved not.

Now, thought Carl, was she inanimate-a cunning piece of waxwork, and were the contrivers of the hoax, if such it were, watching him from secret parts of the room, to enjoy his doings?

He thought, however, after steadfastly eyeing her, that he perceived a slow heaving of the bosom, as though she strove to conceal the breath she drew. Intoxicated with his feelings, Carl could continue silent no longer.

"Oh, lady, if mortal you be-oh, lady, I die at your feet!" stammered Carl, with a fluttering heart.

"Carl, where have you been? You cannot-no, you cannot love me, or you would not have delayed so long!" replied the lady, in a gentle tone, and with a glance "fuller of speech unto the heart than aught utterable by man." What dazzling eyes were fixed upon the sinking student!

"I would to Heaven," he stammered, "I might believe you-loved me; but-but-lady".

"But what?-Ah, Carl! Do you doubt me?" enquired the lady, gazing at him with an eye of anxious tenderness. Carl's tongue refused him utterance for some moments, and he trembled from head to foot.


"How, fair one, can you say you love one you know not? Me you know not--"

"Not know you!-Oh, Carl, Carl!" and she looked at him with a reproachful smile. The student stared at her in silence.

"Lady, I am bewildered! I know not where I am, nor how I came hither! Yet, blessed be Heaven, that I have thus seen you. I could die with your image in my eye! It would pass me to heaven! Oh, forgive me, lady, knowing that I rave! Your beauty maddens me! I sink-I die beneath it! I know not, nor can control, what my tongue utters! The only thing I know is, that I am unworthy of you--" gasped Carl, dropping his head upon his bosom.

[ocr errors]

Then, Carl, is my love for you the greater, seeing it can overlook all unworthiness! But, dear Carl, why speak I thus? You are not unworthy-no, no! You are of great wit-graceful, noble-in a word,


[ocr errors]

Speak, lady! speak, speak! Delay not! I faint-I die!" murmured the impassioned student.

"Well, I love you, Carl! I have long loved you, since first my eye fell on you. Pardon the scheme" Here the lady became inarticulate with agitation. A long pause of mutual trepidation and embarrassment ensued. Each cast but furtive glances at the other; the conscious colour went and came alternately, in the cheeks of either.

Carl, still bending on his knee, gently strove to disentangle the hand which lay concealed beneath the folds of her veil. He succeeded, feeble as was the force he used; but the hand was still enveloped in the folds of a long white glove.

"May I not kiss these fair fingers but through a glove?" enquired Carl, fondly, and with returning selfpossession.

Why, you are truly of a sudden grown chivalrous as an old knight," replied the lady, in a tone of subdued gaiety; "but since such is your ambitious fancy, why should I refuse you so small a favour, who can re fuse you nothing? So, here is my right hand, Sir Knight. What wouldst thou?"

She disengaged the hand on which her head had been leaning, and gave

it to Carl, who smothered the taper fingers with kisses. Infatuated with sudden unaccountable passion, Carl in a sort of frenzy, started from his knee, threw his arm around the sylph-like figure of the lady, and imprinted a long, clinging, half-returned kiss upon her soft lips!

He had neither time nor inclina tion to reflect on what he was doingon the unaccountable freedom of hi behaviour to a lady evidently of th highest consideration, with whom h had had-and that in the most unsa tisfactory and mysterious manneronly a few minutes' acquaintance In vain did he strive to calm an settle his unsteady faculties, or sobe himself into a consciousness of h real situation-of how he came th ther-and how had come to pass th astounding events of the evenin He forgot all his harrowing susp cions of inquisitorial diablerie; } thought no more of the possibili that his frantic feats were the su jects of suppressed laughter to inv sible powers! Every thing merge into his intense consciousness of pr sent pleasure. He yielded to th irresistible impulse of his feeling blind and indifferent to consequence

"'Tis all owing to the wine I dru in the supper-room!" thought Ca but, alas, how little did he know the important events with which i had got extraordinarily implicate of the principle and subtle influen which was at work preparing f him scenes of future change and su fering!

A few minutes' time beheld Ca pacing slowly up and down the sp cious chamber, supporting his bea tiful and mysterious companio watching with ecstasy her gracef motions, and pouring into her e the impassioned accents of love not, however, without an occasion flightiness of manner, which he coul neither check nor disguise. Whe he listened to the dulcet melody her voice, which fell on his ear lik the breathings of an Eolian harp when he observed her dove-like eye fixed fondly upon him; and felt th faint throbbings of her heart again: the hand that supported her, he a most lost all consciousness of treac ing among the lower realities of life.

Whilst Carl was thus delightful ly occupied, his companion sudden

ly turned aside her head, and to Carl's amazement and alarm, burst into a flood of tears. Burying her face in the folds of her veil, she began to weep bitterly. "For mercy's sake, dear lady, tell me what ails you!" enquired the startled student. He repeated his question; but in vain. His reiterated questions called forth no other answer than sobs and


[ocr errors]

Lady! dear, beloved lady-why are you bent on breaking my heart? Have I then so soon grown unworthy in your eyes?" again enquired Carl, a little relaxing the arm that supported her, as though grieved and mortified at her reserve.

"Oh Carl, Carl! Indeed you are most worthy of my love, of all my confidence; but you cannot help me! No, no-I am undone! Lost, lost, lost for ever!" replied the lady, in heart-breaking accents.

Carl begged, entreated, implored, to be made acquainted with the cause of her agitation, but in vain. His thoughts (alas, what is man?) began to travel rapidly from "beauty in tears," to "beauty in sullens;" and commiseration was freezing fast into something like anger, or rather contempt.

"Lady, if you think me thus unworthy to share your grief-to be apprized of its source that so I may acquit myself, I—I—I cannot stay to see you in sufferings I may not alleviate! I must-yes, I must leave you, lady-if it even break my heart!" said Carl, with as much firmness as he could muster. She turned towards him an eye that instantly melted away all his displeasure-a soft blue eye glistening through the dews of sorrow and swooned in his


Was ever mortal so situated as Carl, at that agitating moment? Inexpressibly shocked, he bore his lovely, but insensible burden to the window; and thinking fresh air might revive her, he carried her through the door,which opened on the narrow terrace as before mentioned. While supporting her in his arms, and against his shaking knees, and parting her luxuriant hair from her damp forehead, he unconsciously dropped a tear upon her pallid features. She revived. She smiled with sad sweetness on her agitated supporter, with

slowly returning consciousness, and passed her soft fingers gently over his forehead. As soon as her strength returned, Carl led her gently a few paces to and fro on the terrace, thinking the exercise might fully restore her. The terrace overlooked, at a height of about sixty feet, an extensive and beautifully disposed garden; and both Carl and his mysterious companion paused a few moments to view a fountain underneath, which threw out its clear waters in the moonlight, like sparkling showers of crystal. How tranquil and beautiful was all before them! While Carl's eye was passing rapidly over the various objects before him, he perceived his companion suddenly start. Concern and agitation were again visible in her features. She seemed on the point of bursting a second time into tears, when Carl, once more, with affectionate earnestness, besought her to keep him no longer in torturing suspense, but acquaint him with the source of her sorrows.


Lady, once more I implore you to tell me whence all this agony ?" She eyed him steadfastly and mournfully, and replied, "A loss, dear Carl-a fearful-an irreparable loss."

[ocr errors]

In the name of mercy, lady, what loss can merit such dreadful names ?" enquired the student, shocked at the solemnity of her manner, and the ashy hue her countenance had assumed. She trembled, and continued silent. Carl's eyes were more eloquent than his lips. Seeing them fixed on her with intense curiosity and excitement, she proceeded:

"It is a loss, Carl, the effects of which scarce befits mortal lips to tell. It were little to say, that unless it be recovered, a crowned head must be brought low!" She shuddered from head to foot. Carl's blood began to trickle coldly through his veins, and he stood gazing at his companion with terrified anxiety.

"Carl!" continued the lady, in a scarcely audible murmur, "I have been told to-day-how shall I breathe it!-by one from the grave, that you were destined to restore to me what I have lost-that you were Heaven's chosen instrument-that you alone, of other men, had rightly studied the laws of spiritual being-could com

He shook like an aspen-leaf, shivering under the midnight wind. "What have you lost?" he enquired.

mand the services of EVIL SPIRITS," "None! none!" murmured the she continued, fixing a startling student, a mist clouding his eyes; glance on Carl, who quailed under it. for, at the moment of his compaLady, pardon me for saying it is nion's uttering the words last menfalse, if it has been so slanderously tioned, he had distinctly seen a hureported to you of me; aye, false as man face peering over the edge of the lips of Satan! I know nought the terrace. of spirits-nought of hereafter, but through the blessed Bible," replied Carl, in hurried accents, a cold perspiration suddenly bedewing him from head to foot. His feelings began to revolt to recoil from his companion-whom he could not help sud. denly likening to the beautiful serpent that beguiled Eve; but she twined her arms closely around him, and almost groaned in heart-moving accents, "Oh Carl, Carl! that I might but tell you what I have heard of you, or rather what I KNOW of you!"

There had been something very terrible in her demeanour, latterly. She seemed speaking as if of set purpose, and her eye was ever alive, probing Carl's soul to see the effect of what she uttered. At least so Carl thought. All his apprehensions about the hideous Inquisition revived, and with tenfold force. Was this subtle and beautiful being one of THEIR creatures? A fiend, cunningly tutored to extract his soul's secret, and then betray him into the fiery grasp of torture and death?

It was long before he could speak to her. At length he exclaimed," For mercy's sake, lady, tell me what frightful meaning lurks beneath what you say? What is your loss? What do you know, or have heard, of ME? Tell me, though I should expire with terror!"E OR 1067 267 Desen

"Can you, then, bear a secret to the grave, unspoken ?" she enquired, gazing at him with an expression of melancholy and mysterious awe."

"Did Thurialma appear again?” The student turned ghastly pale, and almost dropped her from his


"The fellow to THIS," replied the lady, drawing off the glove from her left hand, and disclosing a bracelet the very counterpart of that in Carl's possession. His brain reeled;-he felt choked.

"What-what of him-that-hath its fellow ?" He faltered, sinking on one knee, unable to sustain the bur den of his companion.

"He is either a sorcerer, a prince or a murderer!" replied the lady, in a hollow broken tone.

Carl slowly bared his shaking arm and disclosed the bracelet gleaming

on his wrist. He felt that in anothei moment he must sink senseless to the earth; but the lady, after glaring at the bracelet,with a half-suppressed shriek, and an expanding eye o glassy horror, suddenly sprung from him, and fell headlong over the ter race, at the very edge of which they had been standing.

"Ha-accursed, damned traitor yelled a voice close behind him, fol fowed by a peal of hideous laughter He turned staggeringly towards the quarter from which the sounds came and beheld the old man who hac given him the bracelet, and now stood close at his elbow, glaring a him with the eye of a demon, his hands stretched out, his fingers cur ved like the cruel claws of a tiger and his feet planted in the earth as if with convulsive effort.

Thrice accursed wretch !" repeated the old man, in a voice of thunder; " what have you done : Did not her highness tell you who you were?" "

"Tell me!-what?"

"I know not what your words mean," stammered Carl, almost swooning. His companion's eye was fixed on him with wellnigh petrify-Carl by the wrist covered with the ing effect.

"Carl," said she, in a low tone, "I am about to tell you the source of my sorrows that is, my loss. There is none near, to overhear us ?" she enquired, faintly, without removing her eyes from Carl's.

The old man suddenly clasped

bracelet; his features dilated with fiendish fury; his eyes, full of horrible lustre, glanced from Carl to the precipice, and from the precipice to Carl.

"Tell me !-what?" again gasped the student, half dead with fright,"

« IndietroContinua »