Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

He rea

died about the time he mentioned. For this event, however, he had little credit, it being said, that the death of such an old man' might reasonably be expected. Within the time prefixed, Bishop Mew also died, by a strange accident. He was subject to fainting fits, from which he was soon recovered, by smelling to spirits of hartshorn. Being seized with a fit while a gentleman was with him, perceiving its approach, he pointed eagerly to a vial in the window : the visitor took it, and in his haste, poured the contents down the bishop's throat, which instantly suffocated him. This incident was accounted for in the same manner as the other. As the time app: oached which Needs bad prefixed for his own di:solution, of which he named even the day and the hour, he sickened, apparently declined, and kept his chamber, where he was frequently visited and prayed with by Mr. Fletcher, second master of the school, and father to the late Bishop of Kildare. soned and argued with the youth, but in vain ; with great calmness and composure, he resolutely persisted in affirming that the event would verify his prediction. On the day he had fixed, the house-clock being put forward, struck the hour before the tinie; he saw through this deception, and told those that were with him, that when the church-clock struck, he should expire. He did so.

Mr. Fletcher left a memorandum in writing to the above purport; and Bishop Trimnell, about the year 1722, having heard this story at Winchester, wrote to New College, of which Mr. Lavington was then fellow, for farther information. His answer was, that “ John Needs had indeed foretold that the Bishop of Winchester, (Mew,) and old Mr. Carman should die that year; but then they being very old men, he had foretold for two or three years before, that they should die in that number of years. As to foretelling the time of his own death, I believe he was punctually right.”

Dr. Lavington gave the same account to his friends after be was bishop of Exeter.

THE MASK.

Count T-, chamberlain of the Duke of B

-g, lost by a sudden and violent fever, his young, beautiful, and amiable consort, with whom he had lived scarcely a year in uninterrupted conjugal felicity. This heavy affliction reduced him to the brink of despair. He himself was still young, rich, respected by many, envied by more, distinguished by bis rank, and in a still higher degree by the favour of his sovereign ; had he but signified his pleasure, all the young females about the court would have been ready to offer him their hands. This, however, afforded bim no consolation. Notwithstanding his

illustrious descent, he was so unfashionable as to possess a heart susceptible of the most tender and generous feelings. He now shunned all the brilliant circles, and while he suffered the Prince

very often to go unattended to the theatre and to the chace, he confined himself almost entirely to his own house. There he frequently shut himself up for half the day with his sorrows and a portrait of his beloved wife, in a small lonely closet. When he quitted this retreat, he conversed with not more than two or three of his most intimate friends; in company even with them he was often visibly absent, and listened with anguish in his heart and a smile upon his countenance, when they sometimes advised him to keep up his spirits, and to seek some diversion.

In this manner several months passed away; the carnival arrived, and to him that period of amusement was as destitute of pleasure as any which had preceded it; he seemed to have bidden an eternal adieu to every enjoyment.

The Prince at length grew weary of his long dejection. In the mean time, many courtiers had endeavoured, perhaps purely from disinterested attachment to his serene highness, to fill the place of the negligent favourite, and had also occasionally indulged in satirical reflections on the gloomy melancholy, and extravagant tenderness, of this new Orpheus, whose only cry was,-Eurydice! Eurydice! Their sarcasms and their designs were alike unsuccessful; a stern look from the Duke had always instantly checked the brilliant current of their humour. The Prince was seriously concerned for a man whom he had known from his youth, and with whom, though he had studiously avoided interfering in the affairs of government, he could, nevertheless, converse on many other subjects besides the last stag with sixteen branches that had been shot, or the latest opera-dancer; he therefore resolved himself to attempt his

cure.

“ Chamberlain,” said he once to him, when Count Thad not appeared for two or three days at court, “ the tenderness of your love for your wife is not only honourable and praise-worthy, but, in the present times, it is truly exemplary; but as she is dead, and it is impossible to recall her from the grave, you should not, for her sake, fall out with all the living. Many of the latter, and myself in particular, have a just claim to your affection, and yet many weeks pass away in which I cannot even obtain a sight of you.”

“ The most flattering reprimand, your serene highness, that I ever received ! pardon me, however, if a slight indisposition _"

6 Yes, your looks, my dear Count, attest that you are in dist

posed; but probably you have brought this indisposition on yourself by your incessant grief, your watchings, weeping, and continual confinement at home. Tell me how you have liked this carnival, how many balls you have been to ?"

“ To confess the truih, your highness, not to one."

“ I thought so; and can you then wonder that you are unwell, at the same time that you refuse all medicine !

The day after to-morrow I shall give a masquerade, and that at least I hope you will go to."

“ If your highness commands it.”

“Excellent ! so you would stay away from that too? You know that I am not fond of using the word command, and least of all with you, but I shall fight you with your own weapons. Therefore, Sir, I request this condescension of you, and shall expect you at eight precisley."

The chamberlain bowed, and promised to obey. All the necessary preparations were made for the masquerade; half the town of B-equipped themselves, with joy for the occasion. The third evening a great number of masks appeared in the capacious hall of the palace, which was magnificently lighted. The Prince, with all his couri, graced the assembly. Count T-, who was almost always near the Duke, and very often engaged in conversation with him, strove to appear, at least, soniewhat more cheerful than usual. Rather more than two hours had elapsed when, still near the person of the Prince, and fatigued with continually walking about, and perhaps also from secret disgust, he reclined a few moments against the cornice of a stove that was in the centre of the hall, and which afforded the most advantageous view of the whole gay and motley throng.

He had not been there long before a female mask that passed twice or thrice close to him drew his attention; it was a black domino with a white mask which completely covered the whole face. She walked quite alone; she had nothing particularly remarkable in her dress, though it was perfectly neat and new, nor any thing glaring or splendid about her person ; but in her tall elegant figure, in her step, air, and movement, the Count imagined that he discovered a great resemblance to his deceased wife. At length she reclined against a pillar exactly opposite to him, and equally unconcerned about the crowd and the bustle around her seemed to fix her eyes upon him alone. An unaccountable anxiety took possession of his soul, and overpowered by involuntary curiosity, he looked steadfastly at the figure. The Prince observing him change countenance, at length inquired what was the matter.

“O nothing, your serene highness, nothing at all; I only saw yonder a mask that interests me. I should like to know who it is."

“Why not address her then ? you are at liberty, Count, to go and come back as often as you please ; it gives me satisfaction to see you take an earnest in something."

The chamberlain followed his advice. But the mask, though it was impossible she could have heard what had passed in a whisper between them, seemed to anticipate the intention of the Count, and purposely to avoid him. Scarcely did he advance towards her before she quitted her station, and took refuge in the thickest of the crowd; the farther she removed, the more eager was Count 1-in the pursuit; every one instantly made way, as may easily be conceived, for the favourite of the Prince. At last she could no longer avoid him without evidently giving offence. He addressed her with one of the usual masquerade questions, which, perfectly unmeaning in themselves, signify nothing more than,—“ Mask, I do not know you, but should like to hear you speak." Her reply was as short and indifferent as his question. These few words, however, startled him; he fancied that the voice exactly resembled that of her whose image was still ever present to his mind. He suppressed his astonishment, and again addressed her. She answered all his questions with the utmost politeness, but always in a certain melancholy tone, which corresponded but too well with that of his own mind. At length he offered her his arm to walk about the hall; she accepted it; but when she took' hold of him, though very gently, an inward tremour thrilled his frame. In despite of this sensation, he proceeded. “ Why, beauteous mask,” said he, “ do you touch me with so timid a hand ? perhaps my proposal to conduct you may not be agreeable ?”

“On the contrary, it is most agreeable; you, Count, are the only person in this hall to whom I could say so."

“ Your politeness puts me to the blush.-Have we ever been in each other's

company

before ?" “ Yes, often; both here and in other places; masked and unmasked ?"

66 You must know me then ?"

66 yes."

“ Intimately ?"

" I once flattered myself that I did; now I hope so still more than before."

6 And do I know you ?”
- Most certainly you do."

you ?"

“ Extraordinary !-And your name; might I not be permitted to know that ?"

“ You might; but the knowledge of it cannot now be attended with any advantage, but would rather prove injurious to

Injurious ! your name injurious !--Can any name prove injurious to me? Incomprehensible ! impossible !"

6 But yet too true! You are here for the purpose of diverting yourself: a single word from me might awaken the most painful sensations.

Such was the commencement of a conversation which every moment grew more inieresting and more obscure for the unhappy Count, which filled his heart with inexpressible anxiety, and which, nevertheless, he could not prevail upon himself to break off. He turned the conversation to various long past occurrences of his life ; the mask knew them all with a precision and accuracy that nothing could surpass; nay, she even recalled to his memory many a little trait that he himself had forgotten. At length he began to speak, with an inward tremour, of the felicity he enjoyed in the conjugal state. The mask was silent, or replied only in monosyllables. Her voice seemed to become fainter. When the Count urged her to tell him, whether she knew any thing relative to this subject, she exclaimed, “Why should I tear open wounds which still bleed in my own bosom? You are sensible, Count, deeply sensible of what you have lost. But as you have again made your appearance here, you seem already to be looking round you for consolation and oblivion.” He thought that, on these words, she would have disengaged herself from him, but he held her too firmly.

6 By all that is sacred !" cried the Count, and in a louder tone than was suited to such a place," I will not let you go! Incomprehensible woman, who are you ? and whence come

A motion with her right hand towards heaven served instead of an answer, and seemed to say, “ From above."

The Count could scarcely restrain the tumult of his feelings. Seating bimself with her in a corner of the hall, lest they should excite the notice, and become the butt of the company, he employed all the powers of his eloquence, and summoned to his aid all the promises he could think of, to prevail on her either to tell him her name, or what would be still more agreeable, to unmask. She long refused, or rather kept silence. At last, when he conjured her by all that is sacred on earth or in heaven, and if she had ever loved, by the object of her affection, she answered, but still not without apparent reluc

you ?"

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »