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A ROMAN STORY.
BY THE COUNTESS OF BLESSINGTON.
“I COMMAND you to see that graceless varlet, Joseppa, no more; no good can come to him, he has been a disobedient son, and is the talk of the whole village, for his idleness, and his insolence."
This was the prohibition of Giovanni Vitelli, one of the most affluent farmers in the neighbourhood of Albano, to his only child, Madelina, the pride and darling of his old age. Tears and imploring looks, were the only answer given to the stern mandate, by the gentle Madelina ; but they produced more effect on the heart of her loving father, than the most eloquent appeał could have done. He pressed her to his breast, and, “ My poor child !" broke from his lips, as he affectionately patted her glossy raven locks.
“Do not think that I would willingly pain you, my girl," said Giovanni, “ The Madonna knows, how much it costs me to see these tears, and these poor pallid cheeks; but Joseppa is indeed unworthy of you, and a union with him can be productive only of misery and disgrace.”
" Oh! my father, surely you judge him too severely,” replied the weeping maiden; “ idle, and unthinking, he may be, but his heart is not bad, and he may yet be reclaimed."
“ Do not anger me, Madelina, by this weak defence. It is thus ever with you women ; you fancy a man is never irreclaimable, as long as he affects to love you; and ye think, simpletons as ye are, that the heart cannot be a bad one, wherein ye fancy yourselves treasured. Would a good heart have allowed its owner to indulge in follies, nay, worse than follies—crimes, until his ill conduct brought his poor mother to her grave?"
“ But Joseppa repents his evil doings, indeed he does, dear father."
" And shows his repentance,” interrupted Giovanni, " by a total neglect of his little farm, and continual wanderings among the mountains, where, if rumour is to be believed, he has formed some most discreditable and dangerous alliances, Even our good pastor told me."
“Oh! what did he say, my father? he who is so good, so merciful!" said Madelina, her cheeks becoming deadly pale.“ Has he too pronounced against Joseppa?”
“ He has warned me that this reckless youth is pursuing desperate courses, that he has been seen holding stealthy converse with men of whom nothing but evil is known ; and that he is out night after night, no one knows exactly where, but every one suspects, for no honest purpose.”
Little did the father or the daughter imagine, that he who was the subject of their conversation, was a listener to it, or the thirst for vengeance which it awakened in his breast. Joseppa had been hovering round the cottage, to see Madelina, and through the open window had heard the whole discourse. Some days elapsed, during which Madelina saw or heard nothing of Joseppa, and she formed the resolution of adopting the advice of her father, to whom she was fondly attached. But though she could not even entertain the idea of ultimately giving up Joseppa, without tears of anguish, and heartfelt pangs, still she resolved never to destroy the happiness of her only parent, by persevering in encouraging a suitor, whom he so much disapproved.
“ No, my father," would the affectionate giel ejaculate to herself, when alone,“ your Madelina will never desert you, or leave your hearth lonely; you have lost the dear partner who made your life, and mine too, happy, and your child will never cause you a pang.' Every recurrence to her mother, whom she had followed to the
grave, two years before, softened the heart of Madelina, and rendered her more devoted to her remaining parent; yet her passion for Joseppa was still unsubdued, for the poor girl thought, with the sophistry of youthful minds, that, so long as she refused to join her fate with Joseppa's, she could injure no one by allowing his image to retain its place in her heart. She carefully avoided all the haunts where she had been accustomed to meet her lover, though the effort cost her many a sigh, and many a longing, lingering glance did she cast from the door of the cottage to see if he was hovering nigh.
Ten nights after the prohibition of her father to see Joseppa, she was awaked from her slumber by a gentle tap at her window. How did the heart of Madelina palpitate at the well-known sound! Yet her good resolution of not seeing him was remembered, and she moved not. The tap was now repeated more loudly, and fearful that her father might also hear it, she arose and opened the casement.
“Cruel Madelina,” said Joseppa,“ how many days have I lingered about the cottage in the hope of seeing you! I am a fool to love you thus, when you, ungrateful that you are, love me no longer."
“Oh, Joseppa ! how can you say so : you know how dear you are to me, and what sorrow it gives me not to see you ; but my father has forbidden it, and even in speaking to you now, I am disobeying his commands."
“And know you not why he has used this tyranny ?" asked the lover with a scornful smile.
“Alas ! too well," was the answer. “Your neglect of your farm, your recklessness, your frequent wanderings in the mountains, and worse than all-oh, Joseppa! the intimacy you are said to have formed with wicked men, whom all dread. These are the reasons why my father separates us.”
“You are his dupe, I tell you," said the wily Joseppa. “All that he asserts is untrue, and only invented as an excuse to prejudice you against me, that he may accomplish his project of marrying you to the rich dotard, Thomaso."
“ What do I hear !" uttered the alarmed Madelina; “but no-it is impossible; my father could not be so cruel_no, Joseppa, I cannot believe it.” “I knew you would not,” replied he, with a scornful smile ; no,
it is only of me that you are disposed to believe evil, and no tale is too improbable for your credulity. You will never credit your father's plans until he has commanded you to receive the disgusting dotard as your husband, and then you are, forsooth, too dutiful a daughter to dispute his orders. But I waste time in attempting to remove the ban
dage from your eyes. Adieu, faithless Madelina ! May you be happy, while 1–" and he moved away, as if overpowered by his emotions.
“Stay, in pity stay, dear Joseppa ! you wrong me, indeed you do! I love you as truly as ever, and the Madonna knows how much I have suffered in obeying my father, and avoiding your presence."
“ Can you forget," resumed Joseppa, " how many times you have vowed to be mine? how often, when I have brought chaplets of flowers to hang on your window, have you flown to this casement, which tonight you opened so reluctantly, and allowed me to intwine your pretty fingers with flowers from the chaplet; but I see you are changed, Madelina."
“ No, no," replied the poor girl, softened by his appeal to past hours ; “ I still love you!"
“ Well then, prove it to me,” said Joseppa,“ by letting me come here to-morrow. Your father is going to Rome to sell some sheep, he will be absent all day, and we shall be able to converse without interruption, perhaps, for the last time. Your future husband goes with him to Rome, to arrange every thing for your marriage: for I saw them last evening in deep consultation with the pastor, and I am sure all is settled.",
A noise in the chamber drew the alarmed Madelina's attention, and she shrank with superstitious dread, when she saw the lamp that burned before the Madonna, faring with such force against the glass of the picture that it cracked it in many pieces.
“ Behold !" said the affrighted girl. “What an unlucky omen--the gist of my poor dear mother, offered up at my birth, is destroyed! Oh! Joseppa, this misfortune arises in my disobedience towards my father," and tears chased each other down her cheeks.
“See you not,” said Joseppa, " that the picture was destroyed exactly at the moment that I was telling you that they were arranging your marriage with Thomaso ? The Madonna then gave you this intimation that she would abandon you, if you consent to form that hateful alliance. Depend on it, this is the real meaning of the omen, which can have no evil consequences, if you remain true to your vows with me. But I must away ;-to-morrow, when they are gone, I shall be here. Until then, adio Madelina mia!" and he was out of sight ere she could utter the refusal she meant to give to receiving his visit.
Madelina passed a sleepless night, the consciousness of having disobeyed her father filled her with remorse, but the idea even of a marriage with Thomaso, alarmed her beyond measure.
When she met her father next morning, she for the first time dared scarcely list her eyes to his. Her embarrassment, added to her pale cheeks and heavy eyes, led Giovanni to believe that she was unwell, and drew from him many expressions of affection and endearment, as he pressed her to his breast, and blessed her, as his sole comfort. She was ready to throw herself at her father's feet and avow her disobedience, when the voice of old Thomaso, calling out to know if he was ready, prevented the movement; and Giovanni again blessing her, with even more than his accustomed fondness, hurried away to join his friend.
She stood at the door, and watched the receding figure of her father, his white locks floated round his ruddy face, and thrice as he turned to look back at Madelina, and waved his hand affectionately to her, she
was tempted to call him back, and thus avert the meeting with Joseppa. She left not the door, until her parent's figure was lost in distance; and when sbe entered the cottage, she wept as if her parting with him was to be one of long duration, instead of, as she imagined, a few brief hours. ...Joseppa came not until noon; and when he entered, seemed agitated and alarmed. He accounted for it, by stating that he had ascertained the certainty of the plan of Madelina's being immediately forced into a marriage with Thomaso ; and by his wily representations persuaded the simple girl that her only chanee of escape rested on eloping with him. His passionate remonstrances, and entreaties, won on her gentle nature; but it was not until he had repeatedly assured her, that when they should be married her father would relent, and receive them back with all his former affection, that she consented to fly with him.
While she was making the few necessary preparations, her unprincipled lover was not idle. He, by the assistance of an instrument with which he had provided himself, forced the lock of the coffer in which Giovanni kept his money, and took possession of its contents, carefully concealing his turpitude from his innocent and hapless dupe. He had prepared a horse on which he placed Madelina behind him, who left the happy home of her infancy with many tears and blessings, breathed for the father she was deserting. Their route led by the churchyard, where the mother of the weeping girl was interred, and her tears streamed afresh as she beheld the white cross with its chaplet of faded flowers, that marked the humble grave.
“Let us stop, dear Joseppa, for never have I hitherto passed this spot, without offering up my prayers for the repose of the soul of her who was so dear to me; of her, who is perhaps now looking down with sorrow on her unworthy child.”
“No! it is impossible for us to stop," replied Joseppa ; “soon, very soon, dear Madelina, we shall return here after we are united at the altar, and then we will invoke a blessing on our union, from the spirit of the departed. To remain now, would be to expose ourselves to the observation and evil tongues of all who might see us ; therefore, we must advance."
So saying, Joseppa urged forward his horse, while the trembling and weeping girl clung to him, her heart divided by feelings that absorbed every other, regret and remorse at deserting her parent, and love, passionate love, for him with whom she was flying.
“When my father returns, and finds no Madelina to welcome and embrace him,” would she say to her lover,
“ how bitter will be his disappointment!"
“ And when the dotard Thomaso finds no young bride awaiting him, how angry will he be !" would Joseppa reply; well aware that, only by. sustaining this hateful image in her mind, he could silence the remorse that was already inflicting its pangs on her heart; for, fondly as she loved Joseppa, never would she have fled with him, had he not taught her to believe that her father was determined on forcing her to wed old Thomaso—an idea that, it is scarcely necessary to say, had never once entered into her parent's head.
They stopped not until they had reached Velletri, where the marriage-ceremony was performed, and whence Madelina proposed that
Dec.-VOL, LVII. NO. CC.SSVIU.
they should despatch a messenger to announce the event to her father, and demand his permission to return. This wish being complied with, she fondly resigned herself to the happiness of the present, and to the sanguine anticipations of the future.
The affectionate bride now gave expression to all those terms of endearment that maiden modesty had hitherto restrained ; and as she drew her fingers through the dark curly locks of her husband, and looked with eyes beaming with love in his face, she whispered that the presence only of her father was necessary, to render her the happiest creature on earth. She observed with a chagrin, that threw a damp over her spirits, that every allusion to her parent seemed to displease Joseppa ; and having gently reproached him for it, he told her that he was jealous at finding that she thought so much more frequently of another than of him, and that his presence could not suffice to make her happy.
This excuse reassured her, and pressing his hands within hers, she replied, “Oh, Joseppa, when with my father, how often did I reproach myself for being insensible to his affection, and thinking only of you! and now, that you are mine, that nothing but death can separate us, forgive me, that his dear image is so continually present to my imagination. But we shall soon be with him, and then this heart will have only place for happiness; for with a husband so loved, and so dear a father, I cannot experience a care.”
Could Madelina have known what was passing through the mind of her husband during such conversations, how would she have shrunk from his embraces, and recoiled with horror from the hands she now pressed to her heart, with all the fondness of an adoring bride!
The next day the messenger returned from Albano bringing the fearful intelligence that Madelina no longer had a father. He, and old Thomaso, who had accompanied him on the route to Rome, to dispose of the product of their joint farms, had been robbed and murdered on the road; and the soldiers were sent into the mountains in search of the brigands, who were supposed to have committed the deed.
To describe the anguish of the unfortunate Madelina would be impossible. She accused herself in bitter terms, as having caused this misfortune, by abandoning her home; and drew forth sullen reproaches from her husband, when his representations, that whether she was in the cottage near Albano, or on the route to Velletri, the murder would equally have been committed, had failed to convince her that her flight had nothing to do with the fatal event. She insisted on returning immediately, that she might see all that remained to her of her parent; and urged it with such passionate entreaties, that Joseppa yielded an unwilling assent, evidently actuated by the suspicious looks of the persons around, who seemed to regard his unwillingness with surprise. The violence of Madelina's grief, drew forth more of sullenness than of sympathy, from her un feeling husband.
“Do you not still possess me?" would he say, but in a tone that expressed more of reproach than consolation, while the wretched woman could think only of the father she had lost, and who died by assassin's dagger.
“ I was happy and smiling, while they murdered him !" she continued to exclaim. " “Oh, father! dear father! little did I think when you