Imágenes de página

awakened from a deep sleep, in which a dream had long held my reason prisoner; an evil, fateful dream, which fascinated, while it filled me with terror, but which seems, at this moment, to be about to receive a natural, though humiliating solution. Stay-one other look at the picture, and then away!'

"I looked at the picture again, as well as he, without being able to perceive in it any thing beyond what I have already stated. My God!' said I, as he drew me hastily out of the church, what can all this mean? Let me know the truth.'

[ocr errors]

"At another time, perhaps,' he interrupted me, hastily at present, I have something else to say to you. I can travel with you no farther; I must return home, and that on the instant. By a visionary weakness, or superstitious abandonment of mind, we have, perchance, brought upon ourselves irreparable misery, and reared up prodigies where every thing lay within the ordinary course of nature. I must return, to avert, if possible, still more fearful evils. Enough enough is done already.'

"What mean you,' said I,' by a dream? do I not, then, possess your confidence ?'

"You do indeed,' he continued; 'but this is not the time for the disclosure. The man who thinks he has seen a spectre of the night, takes care not to speak of it, till day with its cheerful light breaks in upon him again; when the patient lies in the crisis of his disorder, the careful physician prohibits all conversation. Besides, I cannot, if I would; I have promised silence. At present, then, I must hence. I will return when I can. Continue your journey alone.'

"My efforts to obtain from him some farther explanation, or to retard his departure, were equally in vain. Unwillingly I saw him depart; his presence and his friendship had fanned within my bosom a gentle hope, the existence of which was first rendered clear to me by our separation. I was, in truth, as deeply in love as any one could be at a single glance; but this fleeting glance had been so brief, so incomplete, that I scarcely felt as if I could discriminate whether I was most fascinated by the portrait or the original. My friend,' said I, as we separated, 'I

cannot bear to part with you, without some visible token of our hours of friendship. Leave me the picture of your sister. It will be to me a gratifying memorial of that talent which you do not sufficiently prize, and perhaps the prophetic herald of a happy future.

"What mean you?' said he, turning suddenly round to me with a serious and anxious air, though the moment before he had been gaily urging his preparations for departure. I will not deny,' said I, that your sister Jacoba has so enchanted me, that I cannot part with her portrait.'

[ocr errors]

"Her portrait!' repeated he.— Well, so let it be. Take the picture-keep it-fall in love with it— but not with my sister. Believe me, it is not that I would not give her to you, for I love the picture as I do her-nay, perhaps more. There,with that picture you remove a load from my heart.' He pressed it into my hand, and disappeared.

"Let me pass hastily over the two following years. They have no connexion with my friend, or with his concerns. He returned not at the time we had contemplated; the letter which I received in his stead, seemed to breathe a spirit of returning melancholy;-of his family, he said nothing. His letters became shorter and less frequent, and at last entirely ceased. The picture, however, continued as dear to me as ever; often did I gaze upon it, though I tried to consider it only as a lovely painting. The parting words of my friend had awakened in my bosom a feeling of distrust; and, often as I looked at it, the idea occurred to me that I was involved in some ominous and mysterious tissue of events, which, in spite of all my efforts, maintained an unceasing ascendency over my senses and my soul.

My journey was interrupted by the increasing debility and declining health of my uncle, who possessed an estate in Jutland; he had named me his heir, and wished to see me once more before his death. Accordingly, I hurried back.

"I found my uncle better than I had expected, but in great uneasiness relative to part of his fortune, then in the hands of a firm in Copen

hagen, which had lately encountered some serious losses, and of whose doubtful credit he had within the last few weeks received more than one warning epistle from his friends. The presence of a person of decision on the spot was evidently required, and I undertook the task, to which my uncle agreed, on condition, that as soon as the business was over, I should hasten back to him, that he might enjoy as much of my company as he could, ere we were separated by that death which he foresaw could not be distant.

"I travelled as fast as possible, and found myself, on my arrival in Copenhagen, so pressed on all sides by

the numerous concerns I had to attend to, that I had not a moment to spare for myself or my friends. I had not visited one of them; and, in order not to shake the credit of the house by any open proceedings, which would inevitably have led to suspicion, had shewn myself as little as possible to my acquaintances; when, on the second post day after my arrival, I received a letter frommy uncle, announcing that he had had a relapse, and pressing my immediate return. I had already put matters so far in train, that a friend, in whom I had confidence, might wind up the business; and as I pondered the matter in my mind, it occurred to me that it could not be placed in better hands, from his connexions in the capital, than in those of my friend Emanuel.

"As yet I had only had time to enquire hastily after him; nor had I received any intelligence of him; for he had left the house from which his last letter had been addressed to me, a long time before, and no one was acquainted with his present abode. By accident, I recollected an agent with whom he used occasionally to be connected in business. I applied to him.

Your friend,' he answered,' is in the town; where he lives, I know not; but that you will easily learn from his family.'

"His family!' said I, with astonishment.

"Yes,' continued he, the father, with his two eldest daughters, is at present in Frederick's Hospital; he has undergone a dangerous operation, but is now recovering.'

"I felt my heart beat quicker. Jacoba, whose image I had been labouring so long to erase from my fancy-Jacoba was in my neighbourhood. I should see her once more; she was not forgotten, as I had sometimes supposed; she lived there as indelibly impressed as the traits of the dear picture, whose graceful but silent charms I had never yet met with mortal maid to equal.

"I had little time to spare, so I hurried towards the hospital, and entered the wing devoted to patients who paid for their reception. I sent in my name to the pastor; it was well known to him, and I was kindly received. The old man, for such he was, though I knew him at once, from his resemblance to his son, was still confined to bed; a tea-table stood before it; and beside it sat-I could not doubt for a moment-Jacoba, more lovely and blooming than ever; Regina, still more sickly and fading than before. Our greeting was a silent one; but I saw at once that I was recognised by both.

"The talkative old man, when he had given me the information I required, and assured me that in half an hour I would find his son at his house, continued to support the conversation almost alone. I should probably have listened with a more attentive ear to his really entertaining discourse, had not my thoughts been so much divided between his daughters, the picture, and my own recollections. I confess, at the same time, it was on the fairest of these daughters that my glance rested the longest. She seemed obviously, as I had formerly thought, the original of the miniature. Yet, methought, I could now perceive many little differences which had formerly escaped my observation; nay, even differences between her features as they appeared to me now and before. I had some difficulty in resisting the old man's invitation to remain with him till the arrival of his son, whom he expected at his usual hour; but my hours were numbered. After promising, at the old man's request, that I would pay him a second visit at home, along with his son-for he had heard afterwards of our short nocturnal visit and addressing to the charming girl some expressions of interest and affection, which flow

ed involuntarily from my heart, and tinged her cheek with blushes, I hastened to the residence of my friend, whom I was fortunate enough to find at home.


"His lively joy at seeing me soon dispelled the depression, which, like a dark veil, overshadowed his features, and dissipated at the same time all my reproaches. I found no difficulty in opening to him the nature of the commission with which I had to intrust him, and which he at once undertook; he displayed all his former wild gaiety as he congra tulated me on the fortunate influence of my journey; but he relapsed at once into his habitual serious ness the moment he learned I had seen his father, and renewed my acquaintance with this sisters, especially, as I added, with the charming Jacoba.

"The charming Jacoba,' he repeated, with a bitter sarcastic smile. What still charming, beside her fairer sister, whose beauties almost eclipse those of your portrait!'

[ocr errors]

"How so?' said I, confused-'I cannot have mistaken the name. I heard the name of Jacoba pronounced-no other found an echo in my heart! Have I not, as before, seen Regina and Jacoba?'

65 6 Regina, my friend,' replied he, 'has long been at rest. Today you have seen Jacoba and Lucia,

[ocr errors]

"What!' said I, with increasing confusion, can that pale and slender creature whom I then saw, have since come to resemble poor Regina so closely ?'

[ocr errors]

Again,' continued he, you mistake. It is Lucia with whom you are captivated. Poor Jacoba is fast sinking into her grave.'

"This last reply utterly confounded me. How?' said I-'I would think you were in jest, were this a time for jesting. Is the portrait then that of Lucia?-Incredible!'..

"Have I not already said to you,' said he, with a sorrowful tone, love the picture-be enamoured of it as you will-but have nothing to do with the living?

"I came to you," I resumed, still more bewildered, with love in my heart

“‘For Lucia—' he interrupted me hastily-Beware! She is betrothed already.'

"Betrothed! To whom?' cried I, with impetuosity.

"To Death' repeated he, slowly. You yourself was present at the betrothal. Remember the Dance of Death at Lubeck. Fool that I was, to think that I could tear her from him!'


"Explain this enigma to me, Ι beseech you!' cried I, while my cheek grew pale, and an indescribable feeling of terror shot through my heart. Can I?' said he and if I could this is not the time. No more of my family! You cannot doubt that I would give her to you willingly-and perhaps it may be possible'-continued he, musingly

[ocr errors]

Keep the picture-love it stillbut ask me no questions. You have seen enough to perceive I am no visionary!'

"He ceased-and, notwithstanding all my questions, continued obstinately silent. I knew him of old, and was aware that any farther importunity on my part would only serve to annoy and embitter him; and, besides, I must confess I felt myself oppressed with an undefinable, but irresistible sensation of terror, As soon as I returned home, I laid the picture, which I had been accustomed to wear, in the most secret recess of my writing-desk, and determined never to look upon it again.


[ocr errors]


"Before leaving my friend, I had enquired how his studies were proceeding. He burst into a loud and sneering laugh. All studies,' said he, and particularly medicine, have become loathsome to me. will learn nothing, since I cannot learn that which I vainly long for! What have I to do with knowledge, who have lost all relish for life itself? To me the earth is but a yawning grave its inhabitants but living carcasses. Even in the midst of gaiety, I am in death!'

"I saw at once that the sinking energies of my friend could only be restored by active employment; and, in truth, nothing but the activity which Imyself was called on to exert, prevented me from giving way to the influence of that feeling of terror which seemed to oppress me when in his presence, or when I thought of his family. I felt that travel was necessary, and I set out; my thoughts,

however, often reverted back to him, and I pondered long how I might withdraw him from a situation which seemed to be preying more and more upon his mind. I saw plainly that some singular, and to me inconceivable destiny, exercised a melancholy power over this family, to which ignorance, timidity, or superstition, had lent a degree of strength, which it never could have possessed over persons of a more sober and decided mind; and as soon as I had reached the place of my destination, I wrote to him, fully laid before him all my ideas, and begged of him to answer me with the same candour and openness. For nearly a year I recei, ved no answer. When it arrived, I saw immediately from its con tents that some internal change had taken place in his mind, though what its nature might be, I could but imperfectly gather. The letter was a calm and business-like answer to mine; it exhibited no traces either of depression of spirit, or of that fac titious gaiety by which he had la boured to cloak his despair. He confessed that it was his belief that a full disclosure to me might tend to ease his mind; but he added, that when that disclosure should be made, I would see at once why it had not been made sooner. Such matters, however, he continued, could not be discussed in writing. He spoke of the picture, (to which I had not alluded,) and added wont borlupus


"Is it still dear to you? I know well that our connexion and my confusion of mind may have inspired you with a feeling of terror connected with it; but, believe me, you may love it without fear. Yes, love it. I have built a fabric of hope upon the idea, which still deserts me e not. Know, then, you have never yet seen the real original of the miniature. It represents neither Jacoba nor Lucia, however much it may resemble them. Yes, I begin to hope that I myself have never till now become acquainted with the original, or rather, perhaps, that a still fairer copy of this mysterious and enigmatical picture is even now unfolding itself beneath my eye. "A new riddle, you will say-and I admit it, but this riddle I can solve; only it must be verbally.'

"This letter made a singular impression on me. His words seemed

to have dissipated for ever that feeling of terror with which, for some time back, the picture had inspired me. I took it out anew from its case, and, as it beamed before me again in the innocent glow of youth, I wondered how these lovely and loving features could ever have worn in my eyes an aspect of evil, or that a distant resemblance to those two girls for that there was a resemblance I could not deny-should have made me insensible to its far higher expression, its fulness of health and heavenly grace, in which those two living beings, notwithstanding their beauty, were so visi bly inferior.cied

"From this moment I gazed on it frequently, and with delight. My correspondence with Emanuel became more regular; still, however, he evaded my invitation to visit me, by saying the time was not yet come; and all I could learn of his studies or employments was, that he had devoted himself entirely to painting, and principally to landscape-painting.

"I myself began to perceive that country pursuits did not exactly suit my taste, and that I was in a great measure wasting my time in a residence which was situated in a neighbourhood neither remarkable for its natural beauties, nor interesting from the society it afforded, and cut off, as it were, from literary and political news. Shortly afterwards the death of my aunt followed, and I made up my mind to leave the estate.

Ihastened without delay towards Copenhagen. The portrait seemed to beckon me thither. Two years now had nearly elapsed since I had seen my friend; and during the jourhey, my longing to see him again, my eagerness for the solution of this dark enigma, daily increased. I found my expectation, however, disappointed; when I reached his lodging I found him not; only a letter of the following import was delivered to me.

"Just as I was awaiting your arrival with impatience, and, I must add, with anxiety and uneasiness, I received a message from home. My old and worthy father has been suddenly seized with an apoplectic stroke. He is still alive; but I have seen too many of such attacks to in

dulge much hope of his recovery at his advanced period of life. As soon as all is over I shall hasten back. Wait for me patiently; or if I remain too long absent, and you are not afraid of the house of death-thendo as you will.'

"These lines contained, as you perceive, an indirect invitation. My friend had been already, as I learned, eight days absent, nor had any intelligence been received from him during that time. In the latest newspapers which I called for, I found no announcement of death; I calculated, therefore, that the invalid was still alive, and I felt convinced that my sympathy and friendly offices might be useful to my friend in the hour of sorrow. An internal voice seemed to whisper to me, that his heart would, in such a state of mind, be more readily and confidentially opened to me. I required only to get my comfortable and well-covered travelling carriage ready, which bade defiance to the cold blasts of autumn, which had already set in,-and in four-and-twenty hours I knew I should be at his side.

"No sooner was the resolution formed than it was executed. Next morning, though somewhat later than I had wished, I was travelling southward from the capital. A sharp north-east wind whistled around the carriage, which lulled a little to wards evening, as I reached, in the twilight, a solitary posting station, where we changed horses; but it was succeeded by a thick mass of clouds, which, gradually overspreading the heavens with their dark veil, threatened every instant to descend in torrents of rain.

An uncovered but respectablelooking country vehicle, which appeared to have arrived before me, had just been drawn into the shed; and in the travellers' room, where I sat down till the horses should be ready, I found a young female, closely wrapped in a hood and mantle, walking up and down, evidently in great agitation.

"I had thrown myself, somewhat ill-humouredly at having probably to wait here for some time, upon a seat near the window, paying little attention to what was passing in the apart ment, till I was suddenly roused by an active dispute, at first carried on

in a low voice, but gradually becoming louder.

"I must proceed,' said a clear, sweet, silvery-toned voice. 'If I can bear the wind and rain, so may your horses and yourself. You know not the anxiety which urges me on.'

"The peasant, with whom the trembling and mantled female spoke, seemed immovable. We are Christians,' replied he, doggedly, ' and should spare our beasts and ourselves. We shall have nothing but rain and storm all night. Here we have rest and shelter-without, who knows what may happen in such a tempest-and your friends, miss, have given me the strictest charge to take care of you. These tender limbs of yours are not fitted to bear what I might look upon as a trifle: your health might suffer for ever.-Upon my conscience, I cannot do it.'

"Nay, nay,' replied the young lady, 'I am strong and healthy. It is not the tempest without, but the anguish I feel within, that may prove fatal to me.'

"The faint and touching notes of her voice awakened my deepest sym-. pathy. I stept forward, put a question to her, and learned that the young lady was most anxious to reach her birthplace to-night, and had with that view availed herself of a conveyance returning from the capital :—filial duty, she said, was the motive of her journey; and it happened most fortunately that her place of destination and mine were the same. I instantly offered her a seat in my carriage. Almost without looking at me, or perceiving my youth, which, at another time, would probably have occasioned some difficulty, she instantly accepted my offer with such visible joy, that I perceived at once that her mind was occupied by a nobler and more engrossing feeling than any cold calculation of propriety. The horses arrived rather sooner than I expected, and ere it was wholly dark we were seated in the carriage.

"The increased rapidity and comfort of the mode of travelling, the certainty that before midnight she would reach the goal of her wishes, had disposed her to be communicative; and ere we had proceeded a league, I learned, to my great astonishment, that my travelling companion was the youngest sister of my

« AnteriorContinuar »