Page images

the valley, it was luxury to hear them ; from Sir Edward, who was one of the most engaging figures I ever saw, they were doubly delightful. In his countenance, there was always an expression animated and interesting ; his sickness had overcome somewhat of the first, but greatly added to the power of the latter.

Louisa's was no less captivating--and Sir Edward had not seen it so long without emotion. During his illness he thought this emotion but gratitude ; and, when it first grew warmer, he checked it ; from the thought of her situation, and of the debt he owed her. But the struggle was too ineffectual to overcome; and, of consequence, increased his passion. There was but one way in which the pride of Sir Edward allowed of its being gratified. He sometimes thought of this as a base and unworthy one; but he was the fool of words which he had often despised, the slave of manners he had often condemned. He at last compromised matters with himself; he resolved, if he could, to think no more of Louisa ; at any rate, to think no more of the ties of gratitude, or the restraints of virtue.

Louisa, who trusted to both, now communicated to Sir Edward an important secret, It was at the close of a piece of music which they had been playing in the absence of her father. She took up her lute, and touched a little wild melancholy

air, which she had composed to the memory of her mother.

That,' said she, nobody ever heard except my • father ; I play it sometimes when I am alone, and • in low spirits. I don't know how I came to think

of it now; yet I have some reason to be sad.' Sir Edward pressed to know the cause ; after some hesitation she told it all. Her father had fixed on the son of a neighbour, rich in possessions, but rude in manners, for her husband. Against this


match she had always protested as strongly,as a sense of duty, and the mildness of her nature, would allow; but Venoni was obstinately bent on the match, and she was wretched from the thoughts of it. - To marry, where one cannot love, to marry such a man, Sir Edward !'

-It was an opportunity beyond his power of resistance. Sir Edward pressed her hand; said it would be profanation to think of such a marriage ; praised her beauty, extolled her virtues; and concluded by swear. ing, that he adored her. She heard him with unsuspecting pleasure, which her blushes could ill conceal.—Sir Edward improved the favourable moment; talked of the ardency of his passion, the insignificancy of ceremonies and forms, the inefficacy of legal engagements, the eternal duration of those dictated by love; and, in fine, urged her going off with him, to crown both their days with happiness. Louisa started at that proposal. She would have reproached him, but her heart was not made for it; she could only weep.

They were interrupted by the arrival of her father with his intended son-in-law. He was just such a man as Louisa had represented him, coarse, vulgar, and ignorant. But Venoni, though much above their neighbour in every thing but riches, looked on him

as poorer men often look on the wealthy, and discovered none of his imperfections. He took his daughter aside, told her he had brought her future husband, and that he intended they should be married in a week at farthest.

Next morning Louisa was indisposed, and kept her chamber. Sir Edward was now perfectly recovered. He was engaged to go out with Venoni ; but, before his departure, he took up his violin, and touched a few plaintive notes on it. They were heard by Louisa.

In the evening the wandered forth to indulge her sorrows alone.

She had reached a sequestered spoi, where some poplars formed a thicket, on the banks of a little stream that watered the valley. A nightingale was perched on one of them, and had already begun its accustomed song. Louisa sat down on a withered stump, leaning her cheek upon her hand. After a little while, the bird was scared from its perch, and fitted from the thicket. Louisa rose from the ground, and burst into tears! She turned-and beheld Sir Edward. His countenance had much of its former languor ; and when he took her hand, he cast on the earth a melancholy look, and seemed unable to speak his feelings. Are you • not well, Sir Edward ? ' said Louisa, with a voice faint and broken. I am ill indeed,' said he, but

my illness is of the mind. Louisa cannot cure me • of that. I am wretched; but I deserve to be so.

I have broken every law of hospitality, and every obligation of gratitude. I have dared to wish for

happiness, and to speak what I wished, though it • wounded the heart of my dearest benefactress but I will make a severe expiation. This moment I leave you, Louisa ! I go to be wretched; but you may be happy, happy in your duty to a father,

happy, it may be, in the arms of a husband, whom • the possession of such a wife


teach refinement • and sensibility.-I go to my native country, to • hurry through scenes of irksome business or taste• less amusement; that I may, if possible, procure a

sort of half-oblivion of that happiness which I have • left behind, a listless endurance of that life which I once dreamed might be made delightful with Louisa.'

Tears were the only answer she could give. Sir Edward's servants appeared, with a carriage, ready for his departure. He took from his pocket two pictures ; one he had drawn of Louisa, 'he fastened



round his neck, and, kissing it with rapture, hid it in his bosom. The other he held out in a hesitating

• This,' said he, “ if Louisa will accept of sit, may sometimes put her in mind of him who

once offended, who can never cease to adore her. · She may look on it, perhaps, after the original is

no more; when this heart shall have forgot to • love, and cease to be wretched.' Louisa was at last overcome.

Her face was first pale as death; then suddenly it was crossed with a crimson blush. O Sir Edward!' said she, • What--what would you have me do?'-He eagerly seized her hand, and led her, reluctant, to the carriage. They entered it, and driving off with furious speed, were soon out of sight of those hills which pastured the locks of the unfortunate Venoni,

[ocr errors]

N° 109. TUESDAY, MAY 23, 1780.

The virtue of Louisa was vanquished ; but her sense of virtue was not overcome. --Neither the vows of eternal fidelity of her sedycer, nor the constant and respectful attention which he paid her during a hurried journey to England, could allay that anguish which she suffered at the recollection of her

past, and the thoughts of her present situation. Sir Ed. ward felt strongly the power of her beauty and of her grief. His heart was not made for that part which, it is probable, he thought it could have performed : it was still subject to remorse, to compassion, and to love. These emotions, perhaps, he might soon have overcome, had they been met by vulgar violence or reproaches ; but the quiet and unupbraiding sorrows of Louisa nourished those feelings of tenderness and attachment. She never inentioned her wrongs in words: sometimes a few itarting tears would speak them; and when time had given her a little more composure, her lute discoursed melancholy mufic.

On their arrival in England, Sir Edward carried Louisa to his seat in the country. There she was treated with all the observance of a wife ; and had she chosen it, might have commanded more than the ordinary splendour of one. But she would not allow the indulgence of Sir Edward to blazon with equipage, and shew that state which she wished always to hide, and, if possible, to forget. Her books and her music were her only pleasures ; if pleasures they could be called, that served but to alleviate misery, and to blunt, for a while, the pangs of contrition.

These were deeply aggravated by the recollection of her father: a father left in his


to feel his own misfortunes and his daughter's disgrace. Sir Edward was too generous not to think of providing for Venoni. He meant to make some atonement for the injury he had done him by that cruel bounty which is reparation only to the base, but to the honest is insult. He had not, however, an opportunity of accomplishing his purpose. He learned that Venoni, soon after his daughter's elopement, removed from his former place of residence, and, as his neighbours reported, had died in one of the villages of Savoy. His daughter felt this with anguish the most poignant, and her affliction, for a while, refused consolation. Sir Edward's whole tenderness and attention were called forth to miti

« PreviousContinue »