« ElőzőTovább »
the world to cheer her. She burst it open, and eagerly ran over its contents, yielding her at once joy and dismay.' Florian loved her, loved her ardently; would brave any danger to render her happyi! but how did her mind magnify the peril that would attend any plan devised for her rescue! Dangers arose on every side, in every shape; surrounded by misfortune, she felt, she lived, but to despair. A footstep now sounded near: it was the Abbot Angelo. His approach redoubled her agitation. In her emotion she dropped Florian's letter, which Angelo picking up, was on the point of restoring to her, when the eager anxiety of her effort to regain it awoke his suspicions. Thrusting her from him, he quickly perused it, and vehemently called for the prioress, with a voice that rung around the desolate cloisters. In the intervals of his fury, the plaintive voice of Olivia beseeched his pity. His silence. Her supplications were vain : he heeded her not, but reiterated his calls on the lady prioress. Thé lights now flickered over the murky walls; the prioress, with her sisterhood pressing forward, were stopped by surprise. Whence was this intrusion? how! Angelo, with the novice prostrate at his feet! Had it been other than Angelo, what would have been her suspicions! He was the church's idol and the people's pride: twice twenty thousand tongues proclaimed his spotless purity! But the youth, the beauty of Olivia! He left her, however, brief time for supposition. Unfolding the sad tale, and presenting Florian's letter, he soon roused the prioress to fury. Olivia bade adieu to every hope: already fearful visions swam before her eyes, portentous of her horrid doom : she sunk under the thought, and the sisterhood, sup. porting her almost lifeless from the spot, left the unfeeling abbot to meditate on his cruelty. Had but one ray of pity touched his soul, be might have led a weary wanderer back, amidst the still waters and the pastures green, to bless his aid, and humbly walk with God. Angelo, what said thy conscience?' He asked it not; but, Aying from its dictates, plunged into deeper scenes of blood. Hate, rooted hate to Olivia's house, had deafened him to her heart-smiting entreaties, when her anguish would have softened the most
obdurate; but, in Olivia's misery, he saw only the first step to that revenge on Carantani, which he had lung cherished with ardent desire.
In early life, Count Lernia had loved, with the tenderest passion, one who warmly returned his attachment; nor did there appear an obstacle to his union with all he desired, when, on the eve of his nuptials, he found himself plunged in sudden ruin. Heated with wine, urged onward by a frantic appetite of gain, he staked his fortune to a fellow noble; he cast thé dice, and all was lost. His treacherous rival, with specious offers of relief, persuaded him to take on bond a thousand ducats, and seek another clime, leaving his patrimony to liquidate his debt; but scarce had he reached the foreign shore ere payment of the bond was demanded, and he, a friendless, unknown bankrupt, hurried to a distant prison. Meanwhile, rumour spread a report of his being murdered, and that his mangled carcase had been cast into the deep; a tale which gained credit from his mysterious disappearance. His plighted bride, distracted, unconscious what she did, was by a sordid parent wrought upon, ere one short year had elapsed, with faltering lips, to confirm the vows that bound her to another for ever. Year's rolled over Lernia's head, unmarked to him by the light of day, when a public festival gave freedom to his emaciated form. He hastened to Chivazzo; there heard the almost-forgotten tale of his death; and, unrecognized in his altered person, beheld his rival possessing all that he had once longed for. It was too much! The bright orb of day beamed on him free indeed, but ruined. By a dreadful oath he bound himself to be avenged; then sought San Martino's gloomy walls, and there, by bitter penance and austere guise, deemed little less than saint, he rose to the highest offices. His fame was not confined to the precincts of his convent, nor to the boundaries of the city; the piety of Angelo was a theme of far more universal admiration. Long had the saintly hypocrite beheld, with savage joy, the ambition of Carantani, and anticipated all the delight of revenge in blighting his hopes. Now he perceived the long-looked-for moment fast appproaching, when he should hurl his unsuspecting oppressor headlong
from the summit of his wishes, and involve him in the blackest despair. · The emissaries of the abbot, on the Duke of Milan's arrival, conveyed to him assurances of Olivia's determmation to resist taking the veil, and information that she was passionately attached to a young nobleman, who would doubtless use every endeavour to prevent her impending doom ;-thus awakening the duke's mind to the precarious chance of his obtaining this half of the golden dower,—while, on the other hand, he learned that Victoria secretly countenanced the buzzing flatteries of a cowardly fop. To accept her hand with only half the fortune, would not answer his greedy views; but she was too rich a prize to lose, and he resolved to urge Carantani to consummate the vows of b. th his daughters on one evening, hoping that the same hour which witnessed the forlorn Olivia torn
om the world, wonld behold Victoria plunging into its vortex; and would place within his grasp all her wealth. Victoria treated him with disdainful coldness and ironical contempt, which, though it might occasionally cause him a momentary smart, he did not regret, hoping to reserve it as a plausible excuse for declining her hand, should more weighty reasons eventually decide his doing so.
Night hushed all in sleep, but Angelo slept not; he pillowed himself on the near approach of his revenge, and the dawn of morning shewed his victims deeply entangled in the net he had spread for them. The prioress, determining to visit Olivia's fault with the heaviest punishment her despotic spirit could devise, had condemned her to a dreary dungeon, cutting her off from the smallest comfort; hoping that the misery of her fate would induce her, more willingly, to listen to the proposals for her taking the veil. Dreading to lose so rich a prize from her house, she was anxious to see her speedily within the pale of the church, and her wishes were gratitied by the arrival of a messenger from Carantani, announcing his wish that the ensuing evening might be the period that should fix his daughter's fate. The prioress readily gave directions to hurry onward every preparation for the event, and then hastened to visit Olivia.
Jerome, a creature of the abbot's, who concealed his iniquities under the monkish garb, had observed two pilgrims, that had been admitted to the abbey, descending from the garden by a trap-door, which led to the cemetery. On communicating this to Angelo, a thought flashed across their minds, that it was Florian, accompanied by a trusty friend, seeking Olivia. If that was the case, the abbot, on their next visit, would give them up to the Inquisition; but he was now summoned to the prioress, who wanted his counsel. In her visit to Olivia, one of the sisterhood had accidentally found a dagger on the rough floor of the dungeon, which had induced them to suppose that she meditated suicide. As its brightness proclaimed it to have been but a recent inmate of the damp cell, the abbot seized this opportunity of imploring the prioress to permit him to have an audience with the novice; but none of his arts could gain him access to this horrid den. He, however, felt his opinion confirmed, that the subterraneous passage would conduct him to it; and, accompanied by Jerome, he hastened to descend by the door, where, as he rightly judged, Florian had ventured in search of Olivia. The rays of their lanthorn scaree penetrated the thick gloom. They almost thought their search fruitless, when a small papnel yielding to Angelo's pressure, he threw it downward, and viewed his victim, sinking to the earth in terror. Olivia was looking for Florian, and deemed what she now saw some fearful apparition; but Angelo's cold and rugged grasp recalled her fleeting senses, and waked her to life, which he, drawing from beneath' his robe a blackened phial, told her she must speedily relinquish, if she would save her Florian from the jaws of the Inquisition. Her resolution wavered ; she seized the poisonous drug; but a distant footstep sounded along the vaulted passage-it approached-she dashed the phial from her - It was Florian, coming to her rescue! She flew toward the opening, urging him to fly; but he, w
ho was resolved to effect her escape, or die in the attempt, rushed down, followed by Jerome, who had concealed himself in the passage. A desperate struggle now ensiled, but Florian, after a vain attempt to cope with Angelo and the athletic Jerome, was overpowered, and
they dragged him through the little door, which closed amidst the agonised shrieks of Olivia and the report of fire-arms, the sounds of which, reverberating along the hollow vaults, were lost in echo.
How different were the scenes above! The darkened shades of evening had again sunk around the earth, and the glare of innumerable lights gleamed through the windows of San Martino's chapel, whither the whole city had crowded, to catch the last glimpse of the beauteous Olivia, and to view the nuptials of Victoria and the Duke of Milan. Already had the monks arranged themselves in front of the assembled multitudes; the gilded gratings, which divided the chapel,
re thrown asunder, and the stately prioress with her closely-veiled daughters had proceeded to stalls prepared for them : two of the sisterhood had been dis. patched to hasten Olivia's approach: the deeply-rolling organ and swelling voices of the chaunters had now ceased, and all was silence. Every eye was turned toward'the avenue which led froin the convent, momentarily expecting Olivia'sentrance; the hearts, not of the young only, but of thcaged, were beating with sickened horror at her fate, when a quickened pace echoed along the aisle, which instantly arrested their attention ;Ludovico Carantani, with a disordered air, sprung through the crowd, and wildly bade the lady prioress stop the ceremony, crying loudly, “My daughter, my daughter, my poor injured Olivia! Give her to my arms! This night shall see her Florian de Rosalba's bride." The rumour of Victoria's flight with the empty coxcomb Celestini, whose adulations she had long countenanced, now spread through the chapel. But in a moment all was hushed at the sad sight of the fair Olivia, whose form still survived shocks that had destroyed her mind. She fitted toward her father like a sheeted spectre, and he, folding her in his arms, lost in speechless agony, sunk his head on her shoulder unman
ned, till he was roused by the entrance of the Duke of Milan, who led in Angelo strongly guarded; while servants followed, supporting the dying Florian. The duke, in searching for Victoria, had passed by the convent walls, and perceiving a rope ladder, he mounted it, followed by his
in speechless- agony, sundrum his trance of grief