Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

and I have once assisted in your country at | effort, and bending politely towards the an exhibition of The Box,' but such an en- Prince, who was drinking his tokay with imcounter as I now had to sustain was more mence satisfaction. terrible than any thing I ever witnessed . Only the marks of his claws on my fought out fairly between man and man. shoulder," replied he smacking his lips after Fortunately a ball through the back part of his draught. “I have got them there to the head, and another through the lungs, this day. Is it not so, Rose ?” he added, had somewhat diminished the natural force appealing to his wife with a hearty laugh. of my adversary, or I must have succumbed ; She turned her head away without conde and by a great exertion of strength on my scending to notice him. Victor bit his lip part, I managed to liberate one hand and with a gesture of impatience, and the Countmake a grasp for my hunting knife. Hor- ess, rising slowly and gracefully, gave her ror! it had fallen from the sheath, but, by hand to the Prince to lead her back to the the mercy

of Heaven and the blessing of St. drawing-room, whither we all followed in Hubert, it had caught in my boot, and I the same order as that in which we had pronever felt before how dear life was as when I ceeded to dinner. touched the buckhorn handle of my last “Do you not feel like a wounded man, friend : three, four times in succession I once more ? ” observed Valèrie, gaily to me, buried the long keen blade in the bear's as I stood, coffee-cup in hand, with my back side ; at each thrust he gave a quick convul- to the fire-place, like a true Englishman. sive sob, but he strained me tighter and" Is it not all exactly as you left it ? the easitighter to his body till I thought my very est arm-chair and my eternal embroidery bloodvessels would burst with the fearful frame, and your own sofa where you used to pressure. At last we fell, and rolled over lie so wonderfully patient, and look out of and over towards the waterfall. In the window at the sunset. Constance has e8hasty glance I had previously cast behind tablished herself there now, and considers it me, I had remarked a dead fir-tree that stood her peculiar property. O, Vere (I shall alwithin a yard or so of the precipice; I re- ways call you Vere), is she not charming ? member the thought had darted through my I am so fond of her!” mind that if I could reach it I might be safe, Slow torture! but never mind, it is but for and the reflection as instantaneously fol- to-night—this experiment must never be relowed that a bear was a better climber than peated. Go on, Countess Valèrie, happy, una Hungarian. Never shall I forget my sen- conscious executioner. sations when, in our last revolution, I caught You English people are delightful, when a glimpse of that naked tree. I shut my one knows you well

, although at first you eyes then, for I knew it was all over, but I are so cold and undemonstrative. Now, gave him one more stab, and a hearty one, Constance, though she is so quiet and melanwith my hunting-knife. Splash! we reached choly-looking, though she never laughs and the water together, and went down like a rarely smiles, has the energy and the activcouple of stones, down, down to the very ity of a dozen women when it is a question bottom, but fortunately it was the deepest of doing good. You have no idea of what part of the pool, and we unclosed our em- she is here amongst our own people. They brace the instant we touched the surface- worship the very ground she walks on-they the bear, I believe, was dead before he got call her “ the good angel of Edeldorf.” But there, and I thought myself fortunate in be- she over-exerts herself ; she is not strong: ing able to swim ashore, whilst the brown she looks ill, very ill. Vere do you not think body of my late antagonist went tumbling so ? " and whirling down the foaming torrent be- For the first time since we entered the low. I recovered his skin, Madame, to make drawing-room I glanced in the direction of a cover for my arm-chair, but I have never the Countess de Rohan, but her face was been fond of water since. Give me a glass turned from me; she was still occupied with of Tokay, if you please."

Prince Vocqsal, who, old enough to appre “ And did you sustain no further harm ciate the value of a good listener, was devotfrom your encounter ?” asked Constance, ing himself entirely to her amusement No, rousing herself from her abstraction with an I could not see the pale, well-known face, but

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

see.

the light streamed off her jet-black hair, and could have given her up to one that loved memory probed me to the quick as its shin- her, I could have rejoiced in her welfare, ing masses recalled the wet, heavy locks of and forgotten myself in the certainty of her one whose life I saved in Beverley mere. happiness. I could have blessed him thank

“ Come and play the march in the Honi- fully for his care and tenderness towards that jady,” said Ropsley, leading his fiancée gajly transplanted flower, and lived on contented, off to the piano-forte. On revient toujours if not happy, to think that I had not offered à ses premiers amours, but I really cannot up my own broken heart in vain ; but to see allow you to flirt with Egerton any more,” her neglected and pining—her dignity inhe added, with a smile of such thorough con- sulted—her rights trampled on-another, fidence and affection in his promised bride immeasurably her inferior, filling the place as altered the whole expression of his coun- in her husband's affections, to which she had tenance, and lit it up with a beauty I had an undoubted right. Victor! Victor! you never before imagined it to possess.

were my earliest friend, and yet I can almost Not that,” she answered, looking anx- curse you

from
my

soul!” iously round,“ but, 'Cheer, boys! cheer!'as But soon my better nature triumphed; I often as you like, now we have got you back saw the path of duty plain before me, I deagain." And they walked away together, a termined to follow it, and struggle on, at happy, handsome pair as one should wish to whatever cost. I had lived for her all my

life. I would live for her still. Perhaps I could not have borne it much longer. when I became an old grey man she would I gasped for solitude as a man half-stifled know it; perhaps-never in this life-pergasps for air. With an affectation of leis- haps she might bless me for it in another ; urely indifference, I strolled into the adjoin- but it should be done! Could I but make a ing billiard-1

l-room. I passed close to the certainty of Victor's liaison with the PrinCountess, but she never turned her head, so cess, could I but obtain a right to speak to engrossed was she with the conversation of him on the subject! I would make him one Prince Vocqsal. I walked on through the last appeal that should force him back to his spacious conservatory. I even stopped to duty. I would, if necessary, tell him the examine an exotic as I passed. At length I whole truth, and shame him by my own sacreached a balcony in which that structure rifice into the right path. I felt a giant's terminated, and sinking into a chair that strength and a martyr's constancy; once stood in one corner, out of sight and inter- more I leaned my head upon the cold iron ruption, I leaned my forehead against the rail, and the opportunity that I asked for cold iron railing, and prayed for fortitude seemed to come when I least expected it. and resignation to my lot.

In such a mood as I then was in, a man The fresh night air cooled and composed takes no note of time : I could not tell how mé. A bright moonlight flickered and glis- long I had been sitting there in the solemn tened over the park. The tones of Valèrie's peaceful night, it might have been minutes, piano-forte, softened by distance, stole sadly it might have been hours, but at length the yet soothingly on my ear. The autumn click of billiard-balls, which had been hithbreeze, hushed to a whisper, seemed to erto audible in the adjoining apartment, breathe of peace and consolation, I felt ceased altogether, a man's step and the rustle that the strength I had asked would be of a lady's dress were heard in the conservagiven ; that though the fight was not yet tory, and when they reached within six over, it would be won at last; that although, paces of me, Victor placed a chair for Prinalas! the sacrifice was still to be offered, I cess Vocqsal under the spreading branches should have power to make it, and the higher of brilliant azalia, and seated himself at. the cost, the holier, the more acceptable it her side. She dropped her bracelet on the would be. More than once the Devil's smooth tesselated floor as she sat down; he sophistry prompted me to repine; more than picked it up and clasped it on her arm : as once I groaned aloud to think that she, too, he did so I caught a glimpse of his face : was sacrificed unworthily that, her happiness, he was deadly pale, and as he raised his eyes

my own, was lost beyond recal. “O,” I to hers, their wild mournful appealing glance thought, in the bitterness of my agony," I reminded me of poor Bold's last look when

a

like

[ocr errors]

a

a

he died licking my hand. The Princess, on is in my power to give," he burst out hurthe contrary, shone if possible more brilliant riedly, and in accents of almost childish imthan ever; there was a settled flush, as of patience ; "I tell you, that for your sake I triumph, on her cheek, and her whole coun- would cast everything to the winds—fortune, tenance bore an impress of determined, un- friends, home, country, life itself. Drop by compromising resolution, which I had already drop, you should have the best blood in my remarked as no uncommon expression on body, and I would thank you and bless you those lovely features.

for accepting it; but this is more than all, My first impulse was to confront them at Rose—this is my

honor. Could

you

bear to once, and take my departure ; but I have al- see me a disgraced and branded man? could ready said I suffered from constitutional shy- you bear to feel that I deserved to have my ness to a great degree, and I was unwilling arms reversed and my name scouted ? Could to face even my old friend with such traces you care for me if it were so? O, Rose, you of strong emotion as I knew must be visible have never loved me if you ask for this!” on my exterior. I was most unwilling to “ Perhaps you are right,” she answered, play the eavesdropper. I felt that, as a man coldly, "perhaps I never did. You have of honor, I was inexcusable in not instantly often told me I am very hard-hearted—Vicapprising them of my presence; yet some tor,” she added, after a pause, with a sudden strange, inexplicable fascination that I could change of manner, and another of those soft not resist, seemed to force me to remain fond looks that made such wild work with her where I was, unnoticed and unsuspected. victim-“do you think I would ask a man I Ere they had spoken three words I was in did not care for to make such a sacrifice ? possession of the whole truth, that truth O, Victor! you little know a woman's heartwhich a few minutes earlier I had been so you have cruelly mistaken mine." anxious to ascertain. I do not attempt to The fond eyes filled with tears as she excuse my conduct, I am aware that it ad-spoke. Victor was doomed. I knew it from mits of no palliation, that no one can be that moment. He scarcely made an effort to guilty of an act of espial and still remain a save himself now. gentleman ; but I state the fact as it occurred, “And you ask for this as a last proof of and can only offer in extenuation the fever my devotion. You are not satisfied yet. It of morbid excitement into which I had is not enough that I have given you the worked myself, and my unwavering resolu- whole happiness of my life, you must have tion to save Victor, in spite of his own infat- that life itself as well—nay, even that is too uation, for her sake in whose behalf I did little,” he added, with bitter emphasis, “I not hesitate thus to sacrifice even my honor. must offer up the unstained honor of the De

“ Anything but that, Rose, my adored Rohans in addition to all!" Rose; anything but that,”:pleaded the Count; Another of those speaking, thrilling glanand his voice came thick and hoarse, whilst ces. O, the old, old story. Samson and his features worked convulsively with the Dalilah - Hercules and Omphale — Antony violence of his feelings. Think of what I and Cleopatra, on the ruins of an empirehave been to you, think of all my devotion, or plain Jack and Gill at the fair. Man's all

my self-denial. You cannot doubt me: it weakness is woman's opportunity, and so the is impossible; you cannot mistrust me now; world but, as you have a woman's heart, ask me for “ Victor,” she said, “ it is for

my anything but that.

The color mounted in his cheek, and he She was clasping and unclasping the brace- rose to his feet like a man. The old look I let he had placed upon her arm, her head had missed all the evening on his face came drooped over he jewel, but she raised her back once more, the old look that reminded soft lustrous eyes to his, and with a witching, me of shouting squadróns by the Danube

, maddening glance, of which he knew too well and a dash to the front with Ali Mesrour the power, murmured

and brave Iskender Bey. His blood wis up, “Give it me, Victor, dear Victor! you have and his lance in rest now, stop him who never refused me anything since I have can! known you."

“So be it,” he said, calmly and distinctly “ Nor would I now, were it anything that I but with his teeth clenched and his nostril

66

[ocr errors]

goes on.

sake.”

[ocr errors]

me.

gary. I stain

dilated, like that of a thorough-bred horse but I cannot accept the terms. To-morrow after a gallop. “So be it! and never forget, is my birth-day, Rose. It is St. Hubert's Rose, in the long dark future, never forget day, and I have a grand chasse herc, as you that it was for your sake; and now listen to know. Many of these devoted gentlemen

I betray my own and my father's will be at Edeldorf to-morrow. Give us at friends, I complete an act of treachery such least that one day. In twenty-four hours as is yet unknown in the annals of my coun- from this time you can forward your informatry, such as her history shall curse for its tion to Vienna ; after that, you and I will baseness till the end of time. I devote to meet no more on earth. Rose, dear Rose," ruin and death a score of the noblest fami- he murmered, as he placed the paper in her lies, a score of the proudest heads in Hun- hand, “it is the last present I shall give you

my father's shield, I break my --make the most of it!" own oaths. Life, and honor, and all, I cast Why did she meddle with politics, woman away at one throw, and Rose, it is for your as she was in her heart of hearts? What sake!”

had she to do with Monsieur Stein, and GovShe was weeping now—weeping convul- ernment intrigues, and a secret police, and all sively, with her face buried in her hands; but that complicated machinery which is worked he heeded it not, and went on

by gold alone, and in which the feelings “Al this I am willing to do, Rose, because count for nothing ? State information might I love you; but mark the consequences. As go to other quarters; fortunes be made on surely as I deliver you this list"_'he drew a the Bourse by other speculators ; her husband paper from his breast as he spoke—“so sure- wait for his appointment till doomsday, and ly I proclaim my treachery to the world, so the attainder remain unreversed on the estates surely I give myself over to the authorities, in the Banat as long as the Danube flowed

I 80 surely I march up to the scaffold at the downward from its source ;—what cared Prinhead of that deroted band who were once cess Vocqsal? She looked up, smiling my friends, and though they think it shame through her tears, like a wet rose in the sunthat their blood should soak the same planks shine. She took the list from his hand; as mine, though they turn from me in dis- once, twice, she pressed the paper to her lips, gust, even on the verge of another world, so then tore it in a thousand fragments, and surely will I die amongst them as boldly, as scattered them abroad over the shining floor unflinchingly, as the most stainless patriot of of the conservatory, to mingle with the shed them all!”

blossoms of the azalia, to be swept away with “No, no,” she sobbed out; “never, never; the decayed petals of the camellias, to be do you think I have no feeling? do you think whirled hither and thither by the breeze of I have no heart? I have provided for your morning to oblivion, but to rise up between safety long ago. I have got your free pardon her and him who now stood somewhat aghast

a written promise, your life and fortune by her side, never, never more ! are secure, your share in the discovery will She put her hand almost timidly in his. never be made known. Victor, do you think « Victor,” she said, in a soft, low voice, “ you I have not taken care of you ?

have conquered. I am yours now in defiance Even than his whole countenance softened. of all. O, Victor, Victor, you do indeed love This man, whose proud spirit she had so me!” often trampled on, whose kind heart she had He looked startled, scared, almost as if 80 often wounded, from whom she asked so he could not understand her; he shook in much-ay, so much as his bitterest enemy every limb, whilst she was composed and even would have shrunk from taking-was ready dignified. and willing to give her all, and to bless the “ Yes," she said, rising from her chair, “I very hand that smote him to the death. He will trifle with you no longer now. I know spoke gently and caressingly now. He bent what I do; I see the gulf into which I plunge. over her chair, and looked down at her with Misery, ruin, and crime are before me; but I

fear nothing. Victor de Rohan! when I leave "Not so,” he said, “ Rose, not so.

I am Edeldorf, I leave it with you, and with you I glad you did not sacrifice me. I like to remain for ever!think you

would have saved me if you could; They walked out of the conservatory side

kind, sad eyes.

[ocr errors]
[graphic]
[ocr errors]

by side. I do not think they exchanged an- her work. Here I found Ropsley and Prince other word; and I remained stunned, motion- Vocqsal comfortably established, apparently less, stupified, like a man who wakes from with no idea of going to bed yet for hours. some ghastly and bewildering dream. They had never met till to-day, but seemed

The striking of the Castle clock roused me to suit each other admirably, all that was to consciousness—to a conviction of the im- ludicrous in the Prince's character and conportance of time, and the necessity for imme- versation affording a ceaseless fund of amusediate action. It was now midnight. Early ment to the Guardsman; while the latter's to-morrow we should all be on the alert for high prowess as a sportsman and intimate acthe grand battue on the Waldenberg, for quaintance with the turf rendered him an obwhich preparations had been making for ject of great interest and admiration to the several days. I should scarcely have an op- enthusiastic Hungarian. Ropsley, with reportunity of speaking in private to my friend, stored health, and his ladye-love under the and the day after it might be too late. No, same roof with him, was in the highest spirits, to-night I must see Victor before he slept; and no wonder. to-night I must warn him from the abyss into “ Don't run away, Vere,” said he, catching which he was about to fall, confess to him me by the arm as I passed behind his chair; the dishonorable act of which I had been “it's quite early yet. Have a quiet weed beguilty, sustain his anger and contempt as I fore turning in.” Adding, in an amused best might, and plead her cause whom I must whisper, “ he's an immense trump, this! never see again.

That's his third cigar and his fourth tumbler More than once-I will not deny it—a re- of brandy and soda since we came here ; bellious feeling rose in my heart. Why are and he's telling me now how he once pinked these things so ? Why is she not mine whom a fellow in the Bois de Boulogne for wearing I have loved so many dark and lonely years ? revolutionary shirt-buttons. In English, too, Why must Victor, after the proof he has my dear fellow; it's as good as a play.” given to-night of more than human devotion, Even as he spoke I heard a door shut in never be happy with her for whose sake he the passage, and I hurried away, leaving the did not hesitate to offer up all that was far new acquaintances delighted with each other's dearer to him than life ? But I had long society. learnt the true lesson, that “ Whatever is, is In the gallery I met Victor's French valet right"—that Providence sees not with our with a bundle of clothes over his arm, humeyes, nor judges with our judgment; and ming an air from a French opera.

« Could that we must not presume to question, much I see the Count ?" “ Alas! I was a few less dare to repine. I hurried through the seconds too late !" The valet " was in de billiard-room towards Victor's apartments ; I spair-he was desolate—it was impossible

. had then to traverse the drawing-room, and Monsieur had even now retired to the apart

ments of Madame!” “I must do it toa little snug retreat in which it used to be

morrow,” thought I; "perhaps I may our custom to finish the evening with a social an opportunity when the chasse is over."

find cigar, and to which in former days, Valèrie And I went to bed with a heavy, aching was sometimes to be prevailed upon to bring heart.

CHAPTER XLIV.—THE GIPSY'S DREAM. It is a calm, clear night ; a narrow crescent cloud obscures the diamond-sprinkled vault moon, low down on the horizon, scarcely above ; not a tree, not an undulation, varies dims the radiance of those myriads of stars the level plain extending far and wide below. which gem the entire sky. It is sạch a night Dim and indistinct, its monotonous surface

. as yould have been chosen by the Chaldean presents a vague id

of boundless space, the to read his destiny on the glittering page vastness of which is enhanced by the silence above his head—such a night as compels us that reigns around. Not a breath of air is perforce to think of other matters than what stirring, not a sound is heard save the lary we shall eat and what we shall drink-as plash and ripple of the Danube, as it steals brings startlingly to our minds the unsolved away under its low swampy bands, sluggish question, which is Reality—the Material of and unseen. Yet there is life breathing in to-day or the Ideal of to-morrow? Not a the midst of this apparent solitude : human

[ocr errors]
[graphic]

« ElőzőTovább »