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He fell upon his knees as if thunderstruck.
"Go to your
wife!" said I, repeating the words of the Marquis, as if I were delirious," but mind, there is a spot of Henryet's blood upon your wristband !" Leoni fell prostrate with his forehead against the floor. An articulate groan escaped his lips, to which I responded with another. He thought I had gone mad,
and he rose and came to me. I thought he was going to kill me, and I flung myself out of bed, on the other side, crying, "Mercy, mercy, I will not tell it!" and I swooned when he took hold of me to raise and assist me.
He was hanging over me when I recovered my consciousness, and never did he put forth more eloquence, more tenderness, more tears to implore his pardon. He acknowledged he was the lowest of mortals, but he said that one thing alone raised him in his own esteem. This was the love he had always felt for me; and which none of his crimes, none of his vices, had the strength to smother. Up to this moment he had struggled against the evidence to preserve my esteem. But thenceforward being no longer able to justify himself by cold lying, he took another course, and adopted a new part to soften and overcome me. He laid aside all artifice, and confessed to me all the turpitude of his life. But in the midst of this abyss, he pointed out and made me feel the fine part of his character, his power of love, the eternal vigour of a soul, which the most rude fatigues, the most dangerous trials, did not extinguish the sacred fire. "My conduct is vile," said he, but my heart is still noble, it bleeds for its errors; it preserves as energetic and pure as it did in its first youth, the sentiment of what is just and unjust, a horror of the evil it commits, the enthusiasm of the beautiful which it contemplates."
What had I to answer to rhapsodies like these? I stared at him with a vacant gaze. Lwas astonished to find him still handsome, still agreeable; to feel the same emotion I always felt when he spoke, the same gratitude for his love. His abjection left no trace upon his noble brow, and when black eyes darted their flame to mine I was dazzled and fascinated as of yore-all his defilement disappeared, all, even to the stains of Henryet's blood, was effaced. I forgot all, and blindly promised to remain. Then in truth his love was renewed as he had announced it would-he abandoned almost entirely the Princess Zagorola, and passed the time of my convalescence at my feet with the same assiduity, the same care and attention, which had made me so happy in Switzerland. I
became convinced of the truth of his promises, and his gratitude seemed equal to my sacrifices.
One evening he came in in great agitation, and seizing me in his arms, 66 My Juliet," said he, " my wife, you must be good and indulgent, even as they represent the deity; you must give me a new proof of your adorable gentleness and heroism. You must come with me and be introduced to the Princess Zagorola."
I drew back confounded, and as I found it was no longer in my power to refuse anything, I turned pale and trembled like a condemned culprit in presence of the gallows.
know," said he, "the Princess is very ill. I neglected her on your account, she has been so chagrined at it that the symptoms of her disease have been considerably aggravated, so that the physicians only allow her a month longer to live. Since you know all, I may as well tell you of this infernal will. It involves the succession to several millions, and I am rivalled by a family who are most watchful to profit by my faults, and to expel me at the decisive moment. The will in my favour is made in one form, but a momentary pique may consign it to the flames. We are ruined, this is our only remaining resource. If it is lost, you must go to the alms-house, and I must become the leader of a band of brigands."
"Good heaven!" I exclaimed, "have we not lived in Switzerland for next to nothing, why have riches become necessary for us? Cannot we live upon a trifle now that we understand each other once more."
His only reply was a contraction of his eyebrows expressive of the pain, the ennui, and the fear he felt at my reproaches. I paused and ventured to ask how I could be a necessary auxiliary in the prosecution of his schemes.
"Because the Princess in a fit of jealousy, for which there is ample cause, has insisted on seeing you and interrogating you in person. My enemies were on the alert to inform her that I spent my mornings with a young and beautiful woman who had come after me to Milan. I told her you were my sister, but my late absence has raised her suspicions, she will not believe my story of your illness. This morning she told me that if I neglected her in the state in which she is in, she would not believe my professions of affection and would break with me altogether. If your sister is ill and cannot do without you,' said she, you can have her conveyed to my house, where she can have the benefit of the advice of my physicians, and the attend
ance of my women, and you can see her when you please, and as she is your sister I shall cherish her as if she were my own.' In vain I tried to argue her out of this strange fancy by telling her you were very poor and very proud, that nothing in life would induce you to receive hospitality of this kind, and that it would be placing you in an indelicate position to require you to live in the house of your brother's intended wife. She was impervious to argument, and answered all my objections with 'Oh I see plainly you are deceiving me. She is not your sister.'-Now Juliet if you refuse we are lost. Come with me. Come, come my life,-I implore you."
I put on my bonnet and shawl without attempting a reply; the tears rushed down my cheeks, Leoni kissed them oft, called me his benefactress, his angel guardian, and led, or rather dragged me down stairs.
With a trembling step I passed through the spacious apartments of the princess. When I beheld the sumptuousness of this palace, I felt a thrill of pain, and the bitter expressions of Henryet came back upon my memory. "When she is dead, you will be rich, Juliet; you will inherit her wealth, you will occupy her couch, nay, you may wear her robes." I bowed my head as we passed the servants; it seemed to me as if they regarded me with hatred and envy, and I felt myself more degraded than themselves. Leoni pressed my arm as he felt me tremble, and my limbs tottering beneath me. "Courage, courage," said he, in an under tone.
At length we reached the apartmeat of the invalid. The princess was lying upon a chaise longue, and seemed to be waiting for us with impatience. She was a woman of about thirty, very thin, of an unmixed yellow complexion, and magnificently elegant, although in dishabille. She must have been
remarkably handsome in the full bloom of youth, and her countenance was still pleasing. The meagreness of her cheeks exaggerated the largeness of her eyes, the whiteness of which, vitrified by her consumption, were not unlike pearl paste. Her hair, lank and fine, was glassy black, and seemed debelitated and sick, like her whole figure. When she saw me, she uttered a slight exclamation of joy, and held out a large skinny and blueish hand, which is at this moment before my eyes. look from Leoni told me that I must kiss it, and I was resigned.
Leoni was far from being at his ease, and yet his self-posession, and the calmness of his manners, amazed me beyond measure. He spoke of me to the princess as if she never APRIL, 1840.
could find out his knavery, and addressed her in the most endearing phrases, as if utterly unconscious that I should feel pain or chagrin. From time to time, the princess seemed to have returns of her distrust, and I could see by her looks and words, that she studied me for matter that might dissipate or confirm her suspicions. My natural sweetness excluding all ideas of hatred, she soon felt confidence in me, and as she was jealous to a degree, she thought that no woman could consent to play the part I was going through. An impostor might attempt it, but the air and tone of my physiognomy gave the lie to this conjecture. The princess conceived a passion for me. She would not let me leave her room: she loaded me with presents and caresses. I was humiliated by her generosity, and I had a great mind to refuse it, but the fear of offending Leoni made me submit to this additionul mortification. All that I had to endure for the first few days, and the efforts it cost me to bend my pride to the ordeal, were more than I can tell. By degrees, however, my sufferings subsided, and my state of mind became tolerable. Leoni testified to me aside the most unbounded gratitude, and the most impassioned tenderness.. Spite of her caprices, her impatience, and all the pain her passion for Leoni caused me, the princess became agreeable, and even endeared to me. Her heart was more ardent than tender, and she was less generous than profuse. But her manners possessed an irresistible grace; the wit that sparkled in her conversation even while she was stricken down by disease, the ingenious selection of the caressing phrases with which she thanked me for my condescensions, or besought me to forget her past sallies of temper, her little flatteries, her finesses, her coquetry, all gave her a character of originality, high birth and elegance, which struck me the more forcibly from the fact of my never having seen a woman of her rank so closely before, and from my being utterly unaccustomed to that charm which they derive from constantly mixing with good society. This gift she possessed to such a degree, that I found it impossible to resist it, and yielded implicit obedience to her will. She was so malicious, so bewitching with Leoni, that I began to think he was really in love with her, and there were times when they both displayed such liveliness, such graceful words, that I took pleasure in listening to them; and Leoni found the means of directing towards me such delicate compliments, that I found myself happy in the midst of my abominable debasement. The hatred which the lacqueys and subalterns exhibited towards me at first very soon wore away, thanks to the care I took to
hand over to them all the little presents which I received from their mistress. Nay, I gained the confidence and affection of her nephews and cousins. A very pretty niece of the princess, whom she obstinately refused to see, was by my exertions presented to her, and pleased her exceedingly. I then requested permission to bestow upon the child a very pretty present which she had forced upon my acceptance that morning, and that act of generosity induced her to confer a more valuable present upon the little girl. As there was nothing mean, nothing little, in the covetousness of Leoni, he saw with pleasure the charity thus bestowed upon a poor orphan; and the other relations began to think they had nothing to fear from us, and that our attentions to the princess were the spontaneous effects of a noble and disinterested friendship. Hence their efforts to establish the real nature of my connexion with Leoni were altogether abandoned, and for two months we were left in the enjoyment of a very quiet life. I was astonished at myself for finding it so easily endured. The only circumstance which caused me uneasiness was the presence of the Marquis de *****. He had gained admittance under some pretext or other into the princess's house, and continued to amuse her by his caustic wit, and epigrammatic scandal. He frequently took Leoni apart, and they entered into long conversations, from which Leoni always returned with a gloomy air. 'How I do detest and despise that Lorenzo," he used to say to me; "he is the deepest villain I ever met, he is capable of anything." "And why not leave him," said I. "Impossible, Juliet," said he, you must know that when two rogues fall out, their quarrel is sure to send one or other of them to the gallows. These sinister expressions sounded so strangely, uttered in the splendid palace, and almost within hearing of a princess, so kind and so confiding, that my blood ran cold when I heard them.
SOME days later, Katharine was sitting with her children at the close of day and exerting herself to read by the fading twilight a letter of consolation which her imprisoned husband had