Part 2 out of 6
"The seal Love's dimpling finger hath impress'd,
Denotes how soft that chin which bears his touch,
Her lips whose kisses pout to leave their nest,
Bid man be valiant ere he merit such;
Her glance how wildly beautiful--how much
Hath Phoebus woo'd in vain to spoil her cheek,
Which grows yet smoother from his amorous clutch,
Who round the north for paler dames would seek?
How poor their forms appear! how languid, wan, and weak."
Love! Heavenly love! by Plato's mind conceived, and Sicyon's artist
chiselled! not thou! night's offspring, springing on golden wing from
the dark bosom of Erebus! the first created, and the first creating: but
thou! immaculate deity; effluence of unspotted thought, and child of a
chaster age! where, oh where is now thy resting place?
Pensile in mid-heaven, gazest thou yet with seraphic sorrow on this,
the guilty abode of guilty man?--with pity's tear still mournest thou,
as yoked to the car of young desire, we bow the neck in degrading and
slavish bondage? Or dost thou, the habitant of some bright star, where
frailty such as ours is yet unknown, lend to lovers a rapture unalloyed
by passion's grosser sense; as, symphonious with the tremulous zephyr,
chastened vows of constancy are there exchanged? Ah! vainly does one
solitary enthusiast, in his balmy youth, for a moment conceive he really
grasps thee! 'tis but a fleeting phantasy, doomed to fade at the first
sneer of derision--and for ever vanish, as a false and fascinating world
stamps its dogmas on his heart! Celestial love! oh where may he yet find
thee? and a clear voice whispers, ETERNITY!
Hope! guide the fainting pilgrim! undying soul! shield him from the
world's venomed darts, as he painfully wends his toilsome way!
When Delme returned to his brother, he found the latter anxiously
expecting him, and desirous of ascertaining the impression, which his
conversation with the surgeon had created.
But Delme thought it more prudent, to defer the discussion of those
points, till he had heard from George himself, as to many circumstances
connected with Acme's history, and had been able to form some personal
opinion regarding the health of the invalid. He therefore begged
George, if he felt equal to the task, to avail himself of the
opportunity of Acme's absence, to tell him how he had first met her. To
this George willingly assented; and as there is ever a peculiarity in
foreign scenes and habits, which awakens interest, we give his story in
his own language.
"There are some old families here, Henry," began the invalid, "whose
names are connected with some of the proudest, which the annals of the
Knights of St. John of Jerusalem can boast. They are for the most part
sunk in poverty, and possess but little of the outward trappings of
rank. But their pride is not therefore the less; and rather than have it
wounded, by being put in collision with those with whom in worldly
wealth they are unable to compete, they prefer the privacy of
retirement; and are rarely seen, and more rarely known, by any of the
English residents, whom they distrust and dislike. It is true, there are
a few families, some of the male members of which have accepted
subordinate situations under government: and these have become
habituated to English society, and meet on terms of tolerable
cordiality, the English whose acquaintance they have thus made. But
there are others, as I have said, whose existence is hardly recognised,
and who vegetate in some lone palazzo; brooding over the decay of their
fortunes--never crossing the threshold of their mansions--except when
religious feelings command them to attend a mass, or public procession.
Of such a family was Acme a member. By birth a Greek, she was a witness
to many of the bloody scenes which took place at the commencement of the
struggle for Grecian freedom. She was herself present at the murder of
both her parents. Her beauty alone saved her from sharing their fate.
One of the Turks, struck with, her expression of childish sorrow,
interfered in her behalf, and permitted a friend and neighbour to save
her life and his own, by taking shipping for one of the islands in our
possession. After residing in Corfu for some months, she received an
invitation from her father's brother-in-law, a member of an ancient
Maltese family; and for the last few years has spent a life, if not gay,
at least free from a repetition of those sanguinary scenes, which have
lent their impress to a sensitive mind, and at moments impart a
melancholy tinge, to a disposition by nature unusually joyous. It was on
a festa day, dedicated to the patron saint of the island, when no
Maltese not absolutely bed-ridden, but would deem it a duty, to witness
the solemn and lengthy procession which such a day calls forth; that I
first met Acme Frascati.
"I was alone in the Strada Reale, and strolling towards the Piazza, when
my attention was directed to what struck me as the loveliest face I had
"Acme, for it was her, was drest in the costume of the island; and,
although a faldette is not the best dress for exhibiting a figure,
there was a grace and lightness in her carriage, that would have
arrested my attention, even had I not been riveted by her countenance.
She was on the opposite side of the street to myself, and was attended
by an old Moorish woman, who carried an illumined missal. Of these
women, several may yet be seen in Malta, looking very Oriental and
duenna-like. As I stopped to admire her, she suddenly attempted to
cross to the side of the street where I stood. At the same moment, I
observed a horse attached to a caleche galloping furiously towards her.
It was almost upon her ere Acme saw her danger. The driver, anxious to
pass before the procession formed, had whipped his horse till it became
unmanageable, and it was now in vain that he tried to arrest its
progress. A natural impulse induced me to rush forward, and endeavour
to save her. She was pale and trembling, as I caught her and placed her
out of the reach of danger; but before I could touch the pavement, I
felt myself struck by the wheel of the carriage, was thrown down, and
taken up insensible. When consciousness returned, I found they had
conveyed me to a neighbouring shop, and that medical attendance had
been procured. But more than all, I noticed the solicitude of Acme.
Until the surgeon had given a favourable report, she could not address
me, but when this had been pronounced, she overwhelmed me with thanks,
begged to know where I would wish to be taken, and rested not until her
own family caleche came up, and she saw me, attended by the Moorish
woman, on the road to Floriana.
"My accident, though not a very serious one, proved of sufficient
consequence, to confine me to my room for some time; and during that
period, not a day passed, that did not give me proof of the anxiety of
the young Greek for my restoration. I need not say that one of my
first visits was to her. Her family received me as they would an
absent brother. The obligations they considered I had conferred,
outweighed all prejudices which they might have imbibed against my
nation. On _my_ part, charmed with my adventure, delighted with Acme,
and gratified by the kindness of her relations, I endeavoured to
increase their favourable opinion by all the means in my power. Acme
and myself were soon more than friends, and I found my visits gave and
"I now arrive at the unhappy part of my narrative. How do I wish it were
effaced from my memory. You may remember how, in all my letters to
Delme, I made mention of my dear friend Delancey. We were indeed dear
friends. We joined at the same time, lived together in England,
embarked together, and when, one dreadful night off the African coast,
the captain of the transport thought we must inevitably drift on the
lee shore, we solaced each other, and agreed that, if it came to the
worst, on one plank would we embark our fortunes. On our landing in
Malta, we were inseparable, and my first impulse was to inform Delancey
of all that had occurred, and to introduce him to a house where I felt
so happy. I must here do him the justice to state, that whether I was
partly unaware of the extent of my own feelings towards Acme, or
whether I felt a morbid sense of delicacy, in alluding to what I knew
to be the first attachment I had ever formed, I am unable to inform
you! but the only circumstance I concealed from my friend was my
attachment to the young Greek. Perhaps to this may be mainly attributed
what happened. God, who knows all secrets, knows this; but I may now
aver, that my friend, with many faults, has proved himself to have as
frank and ingenuous a spirit, as noble ideas of friendship, as can
exist in the human breast. For some time, matters continued thus. We
were both constant visitors at Acme's house. With unparalleled
blindness, I never mistrusted the feelings of my friend. I never
contemplated that _he_ also might become entangled with the young
beauty. I considered her as my own prize, and was more engaged in
analysing my own sensations, and in vainly struggling against a
passion, which I was certain could not meet my family's approval, than
at all suspicious that fresh causes of uneasiness might arise in
another quarter. As Acme's heart opened to mine, I found her with
feelings guileless and unsuspecting as a child's; although these were
warm, and their expression but little restrained. There was a confiding
simplicity in her manner, that threw an air over all she said or did,
which quite forbade censure, and excited admiration. My passion became
a violent and an all-absorbing one. I had made up my mind, to throw
myself on the kindness of my family, and endeavour to obtain all your
consents. Thus was I situated, when one day Acme came up to me with
frankness of manner, but a tremulous voice, to beg I would use my
interest with my friend, to prevent his coming to see her.
"'Indeed, indeed,' said she, 'I have tried to love him as a friend, as
the friend of my life's preserver, but ever since he has spoken as he
now does, his visits are quite unpleasant. My family begged me to tell
you. They would have asked him to come no more, but were afraid you
might be angry. Will you still come to us, and love us all, if they tell
him this? If you will not, he shall still come; for indeed we could not
offend one to whom we owe so much.'
"'_I_, too,' said I to Acme, '_I_, too, dearest, ought perhaps to leave
you, _I_, too'--
"'Oh, never! never!' said she, as she turned to me her dark eyes, bright
with humid radiance. 'We cannot thus part!'
"She _did_, then, love me! I clasped her to my arms--our lips clung
together in one rapturous intoxicating embrace.
"Yet, even in that moment of delirium, Henry, I told her of you, and of
the many obstacles which still presented themselves to retard or even
prevent our union. I sought my friend Delancey, and remonstrated with
him. He appeared to doubt my right to question his motives. Success made
me feel still more injured. I showered down reproaches. He could not
have acted differently. We met! and I saw him fall! Till then, I had
considered myself as the injured man; but as I heard him on the ground
name his mother, and one dearer still--as he took from his breast the
last gift _she_ had made him--as he begged of _me_ to be its bearer; I
then first felt remorse. He was taken to his room. Even the surgeon
entertained no hopes. He again called me to his side; I heard his noble
acknowledgment, his reiterated vows of friendship, the mournful tones of
his farewell. I entered this room a heart-broken man. I felt my pulse
throb fearfully, a gasping sensation was in my throat, my head swam
round, and I clung to the wall for support. The next thing of which I
have any recollection, was the dawn of reason breaking through my
troubled dreams. It was midnight--all was still. The fitful lamp shone
dimly through my chamber. I turned on my side--and, oh! by its light, I
saw the face I most loved--that face, whose gentle lineaments, were each
deeply and separately engraven on my heart. I saw her bending over me
with a maiden's love and a mother's solicitude. As I essayed to
speak--as my conscious eye met her's--as the soft words of affection
were involuntarily breathed by my feeble lips--how her features lit up
with joy! Oh, say not, Henry, till you have experienced such a moment of
transport, say not that the lips which then vowed eternal fidelity, that
the young hearts which _then_ plighted their truth, and vowed to love
for ever--oh call not these guilty!
"Since that time my health has been extremely precarious. Whether the
events crowded too thickly on me, or that I have not fully recovered my
health, or--which I confess I think is the case--that my compunctions
for my conduct to Acme weigh me down, I know not; but it is not always,
my dear Henry, that I can thus address you. There are hours when I am
hardly sensible of what I do, when my brain reels from its oppression.
At such times, Acme is my guardian angel--my tender nurse--my
affectionate attendant! In my lucid intervals, she is what you see
her--the gentle companion--the confiding friend. I love her, Henry, more
than I can tell you! I shall never be able to leave her! From Acme you
may learn more of those dreary hours, which appear to me like waste
dreams in my existence. She has watched by my bed of sickness, till she
knows every turn of the disorder. From her, Henry, may you learn all."
Thus did George conclude his tale of passion; which Delme mused over,
but refrained from commenting on.
Soon afterwards, George's caleche, in which he daily took exercise, was
announced as being at the door. The brothers entered, and left Floriana.
"The car rattling through the stony street."
For an easy conveyance, commend us to a Maltese caleche! Many a time,
assaulted by the blue devils, have we taken refuge in its solacing
interior--have pulled down its silken blinds, and unseeing and unseen,
the motion, like that of the rocking-cradle to the petulant child of
less mature growth, has restored complacency, and lulled us to good
humour. The caleche, the real caleche, is, we believe, peculiar to
Malta. It is the carriage of the rich and poor--Lady Woodford may be
seen employing it, to visit her gardens at St. Antonio; and in the
service of the humblest of her subjects, will it be enlisted, as they
wend their way to a picnic in the campagna. Every variety of steed is
put in requisition for its draught.
We may see the barb, with nostril of fire, and mane playing with the
wind, perform a curvet, as he draws our aristocratic countrywoman--
aristocratic and haughty at least in Malta, although, in England,
perhaps a star of much less magnitude.
We may view too the over-burthened donkey, as he drags along some aged
vehicle, in which four fat smiling women, and one lean weeping child,
look forward to his emaciated carcase, and yet blame him for being slow.
And thou! patient and suffering animal, whose name has passed into a
proverb, until each vulgar wight looks on thee as the emblem of
obstinacy,--maligned mule! when dost thou appear to more advantage, more
joyous, or more self-satisfied, than when yoked to the Maltese caleche?
Who that has witnessed thee, taking the scanty meal from the hand of
thine accustomed driver, with whinnying voice, waving tail, thy long
ears pricked upwards, and thy head rubbing his breast, who that has
seen thee thus, will deny thee the spirit of gratitude?
Most injured of quadrupeds! if we ascend the rugged mountain's path,
where on either side, precipices frown, and the pines wave far--far
beneath--when one false step would plunge us, with our hopes, our fears,
and our vices, into the abyss of eternity; is it not to thee we trust?
Calumniated mule! go on thy way.
This world's standard is but little to be relied on, whether it be for
good, or whether it be for evil.
The motion of a caleche, such as we patronised, is an easy and luxurious
one--the pace, a fast trot or smooth canter, of seven miles an hour--and
with the blinds down, we have communed with ourselves, with as great
freedom, and as little fear of interruption, as if we had been crossing
the Zahara. The caleche men too are a peculiar and happy race--attentive
to their fares--masters of their profession--and with a cigar in their
cheek dexter, will troll you Maltese ditties till your head aches. Their
costume is striking. Their long red caps are thrown back over their
necks--their black curls hang down on each side of the face--and a
crimson, many-folded sash, girds in a waist usually extremely small.
Their neck, face, and breast, from continued exposure to the sun, are a
red copper colour. They are always without shoes and stockings; and even
our countrywomen, who pay much attention to the costume of their
drivers, have not yet ventured to encase their brawny feet in the
mysteries of leather. They run by the side of their caleches, the reins
in one hand--the whip in the other--cheering on their animals by a
constant succession of epithets, oaths, and invocations to their
They are rarely fatigued, and may be seen beside their vehicles, urging
the horses, with the thermometer at 110 deg., and perhaps a stout-looking
Englishman inside, with white kerchief to his face, the image of languor
Their horses gallop down steeps, which no English Jehu dare attempt; and
ascend and descend with safety and hardihood, stone steps which occur in
many parts of Valletta; and which would certainly present an
insurmountable obstacle to our steeds at home.
The proper period, however, to see a caleche man in his glory, is during
the carnival. Every caleche is in employ; and many a one which has
reposed for the twelvemonth previous, is at that time wheeled from its
accustomed shed, and put in requisition for some of pleasure's votaries.
Long lines of them continue to pass and repass in the principal street.
Their inmates are almost universally of the fair sex, and of the best
part of it, the young and beautiful. Cavaliers, with silken bags,
containing bon-bons, slung on their left arm, stand at intervals, ready
to discharge the harmless missiles, at those whom their taste approves
worthy of the compliment. Happy the young beauty, who, returning
homewards, sees the carpet of her caleche thickly strewn with these
dulcet favours! The driver is now in his element! He ducks his head, as
the misdirected sweetmeat approaches; he has an apt remark prompt for
the occasion. As he nears too the favoured inamorato, for whom he well
knows his mistress' sweetest smile is reserved--who already with his
right hand grasping the sugared favours, is prepared to lavish his whole
store on this one venture--how arch his look--how roguish his eye--as he
turns towards his donna, and speaks as plainly as words could do, "See!
there he is, he whom you love best!"
Ah! well may we delight to recal once more those minute details! ah!
well may we remember how--when our brow was smoothed with youth, as it
is now furrowed with care--when our eye sparkled from pleasure, as it is
now dimmed from time, or mayhap, tears--well may we love to remember,
how our whole hearts were engrossed in that mimic warfare. How
impatiently did we watch for _one_, amidst that crowded throng, for
one--whose beauty haunted us by day, and whose smile we dreamt over by
night. Well do we recal with what unexampled ingenuity, we laboured to
befit the snow white egg for a rare tenant--attar-gul. Well do we
remember how that face, usually so cloudless, became darkened almost to
a frown, as our heart's mistress saw the missile approach her. What a
radiant smile bewitched us, as it burst on her lap, and filled the air
with its fragrance! Truly we had our reward!
Delme and George took a quiet drive, and enjoyed that sweet interchange
of ideas, that characterises the meeting of two brothers long absent
from each other.
They went in the direction of St. Julian's, a drive all our Maltese
friends will be familiar with. The road lay almost wholly by the sea
side. A gentle breeze was crisping the waters, and served to allay the
heat, which, at a more advanced period of the season, is by no means an
enviable one. Sun-shine seemed to beam on George's mind, as he once more
spoke of home ties, to one to whom those home ties were equally dear.
And gratefully did he bask in its rays! Long used to the verdant but
tame, beautiful but romantic landscapes, which the part of England he
resided in presented; the scenery around him, novel and picturesque,
struck Sir Henry forcibly. To one who has resided long in Malta, its
scenes may wear an aspect somewhat different. The limited country--the
ceaseless glare--the dust, or rather the pulverised rock--the
ever-present lizard, wary and quick, peeping out at each crevice--the
buzzing mosquito, inviting the moody philosopher to smite his own
cheek,--these things may come to be regarded as real grievances.
But Delme, as a visitor, was pleased with what he saw. The promising
vineyards--the orange groves, with their glowing fruit and ample
foliage, "looking like golden lamps" in a dark night of leaves--the
thick leaves of the prickly pear--the purple sky above him, lending its
rich hue to the sea beside--the architectural beauties of the
cottages--the wide portico of the mansions--the flat terrace with its
balustrade, over which might be seen a fair face, half concealed by the
faldette, smilingly peering, and through whose pillars might be noted a
pretty ancle, and siesta-looking slipper--these were novelties, and
pleasing ones! Their drive over, Delme felt more tranquil as to George's
state of mind, and more inclined to look on the bright side, as to his
Acme was waiting to receive them, and as she scanned George's features,
Delme could not but observe the affectionate solicitude that marked her
glance and manner.
Let it not be thought we would make vice seductive!
Fair above all things is the pure affection of woman! happy he who may
regard it his! he may bask without a shade of distrust in its glorious
splendour, and permanently adore its holy beauty.
While, fascinating though be the concentred love of woman, whether
struggling in its passion--enraptured in its madness--or clinging and
loving on in its guilt: Man--that more selfish wanderer from virtue's
pale, that destroyer of his own best sympathies--will find too late that
a day of bitterest regret must arrive: a day when love shall exist no
more, or, linked with remorse, shall tear--a fierce vulture--at his very
"Not such as prate of war, but skulk in peace."
Delme strolled out half an hour before his brother's dinner hour, with
the intention of paying a visit of ceremony to the Colonel of George's
regiment. His house was not far distant. It had been the palazzo of one
of the redoubted Knights of St. John; and the massive gate at which Sir
Henry knocked for admittance, seemed an earnest, that the family, who
had owned the mansion, had been a powerful and important one. The door
was opened, and the servant informed Delme, that Colonel Vavasour was on
The court yard through which they passed was extensive; and a spring
"Of living water from its centre rose,
Whose bubbling did a genial softness fling."
Ascending a lofty marble staircase, along which were placed a few
bronzed urns, Delme crossed a suite of apartments--thrown open in the
Italian mode--and passing through a glass door, found himself on a wide
stone terrace, edged by pillars.
Immediately beneath this, was an orange grove, whose odours perfumed the
air. Colonel Vavasour was employed in reading a German treatise on light
infantry tactics. He received Sir Henry with great cordiality, and
proposed adjourning to the library. Delme was pleased to observe, for it
corresponded with what he had heard of the man; that, with the exception
of the chef d'oeuvres of the English and German poets, the Colonel's
library, which was an extensive one, almost wholly consisted of such
books as immediately related to military subjects, or might be able to
bear on some branch of science connected with military warfare. Pagan,
and his follower Vauban, and the more matured treatises of Cormontaigne,
were backed by the works of that boast of the Low Countries, Coehorn;
and by the ingenious theories, as yet _but_ theories, of Napoleon's
minister of war, Carnot.
Military historians, too, crowded the shelves. _There_ might be noted
the veracious Polybius--the classic Xenophon--the scientific
Caesar--the amusing Froissart, with his quaint designs, and quainter
discourses--and many an author unknown to fame, who in lengthy quarto,
luxuriated on the lengthy campaigns of Marlborough or Eugene; those wise
commanders, who flourished in an era, when war was a well debated
scientific game of chess; when the rival opponents took their time,
before making their moves; and the loss of a pawn was followed by the
loss of a kingdom. _There_ might you be enamoured with even a soldier's
hardships, as your eye glanced on the glowing circumstantial details of
Kincaid;--or you might glory in your country's Thucydides, as you read
the nervous impassioned language of a Napier. _Thou_, too, Trant! our
friend! wert there! Ah, why cut off in thy prime? Did not thy spirit
glow with martial fire? Did not thy conduct give promise, that not in
vain were those talents accorded thee? What hadst _thou_ done, to sink
thus early to a premature inglorious grave? Nor were our friends Folard
and Jomini absent; nor eke the minute essays of a Jarry, who taught the
aspiring youths of Great Britain all the arts of castrametation. With
what gusto does he show how to attack Reading; or how, with the greatest
chance of success, to defend the tranquil town of Egham. _Here_ would he
sink trous de loup on the ancient Runnimede, whereby the advance of the
enemy's cavalry would be frustrated; _there_ would he cut down an
abattis, or plant chevaux de frise. At _this_ winding of England's
noblest river, would he establish a pontoon bridge; the approaches to
which he would enfilade, by a battery placed on yonder height.
Before relating the conversation between Delme and Colonel Vavasour, it
may not be improper to say a few words as to the character of the
latter. When we say that he was looked up to as an officer, and adored
as a man, by the regiment he had commanded for years; we are not
according light praise.
Those who have worn a coat of red, or been much conversant with
military affairs, will appreciate the difficult, the ungrateful task,
devolving on a commanding officer.
How few, how very few are those, who can command respect, and ensure
love. How many, beloved as men, are imposed on, and disregarded as
officers. How many are there, whose presence on the parade ground awes
the most daring hearts, who are passed by in private life, with
something like contumely, and of whom, in their private relations, few
speak, and yet fewer are those who wish kindly. When deserving in each
relation, how frequently do we see those who want the manner, the tact,
to show themselves in their true colours. An ungracious refusal--ay! or
an ungraciously accorded favour! may raise a foe who will be a bar to a
man's popularity for years:--whilst how many a free and independent
spirit is there, who criticises with a keener eye than is his wont, the
sayings and doings of his commanding officer, solely because he _is_
such. How apt is such an one to misrepresent a word, or create a wrong
motive for an action! how slow in giving praise, lest _he_ should be
deemed one of the servile train! Pass we over the host of petty
intrigues--the myriads of conflicting interests:--show not how the
partial report of a favourite, may make the one in authority unjust to
him below him; or how the false tale-bearer may induce the one below to
be unjust to his superior. Colonel Vavasour was not only considered in
the field, as one of England's bravest soldiers; but was yet more
remarkable for his gentlemanly deportment, and for the attention he ever
paid to the interior economy of his corps. This gave a tone to the----
mess, almost incredible to one, who has not witnessed, what the constant
presence of a commanding officer, if he be a real gentleman, is enabled
to effect. Colonel Vavasour had ideas on the duties of a soldier, which
to many appeared original. We cannot but think, that the Colonel's
ideas, in the main, were right. He disliked his officers marrying; often
stating that he considered a sword and a wife as totally incompatible.
"Where," would he say, "is _then_ that boasted readiness of purpose,
that spirit of enterprise? Can an officer _then_, with half a dozen
shirts in his portmanteau, and a moderate quantity of cigars, if he be a
smoker, declare himself ready to sail over half the world?"
The Colonel would smile as he said this, but would continue with a
"No, there is a choice, and I blame no one for making his election:--a
soldier's hardships and a soldier's joys;--or domestic happiness, and an
inglorious life:--but to attempt to blend the two, is, I think,
On regimental subjects, he was what is technically called, a regulation
man. No innovations ever crept into his regiment, wanting the sanction
of the Horse Guards; whilst every order emanating from thence, was as
scrupulously adopted and adhered to, as if his own taste had prompted
the change. On parade, Colonel Vavasour was a strict disciplinarian;--
but his sword in the scabbard, he dropped the officer in his manner,--it
was impossible to do so in his appearance,--and no one ever heard him
discuss military points in a place inappropriate. He knew well how to
make the distinction between his public and his private duties. On an
officer under his command, being guilty of any dereliction of duty, he
would send for him, and reprimand him before the assembled corps, if he
deemed that such reprimand would be productive of good effect to others;
but--the parade dismissed--he would probably take this very officer's
arm, or ask to accompany him in his country ride.
Colonel Vavasour had once a young and an only brother under his command.
In no way did he relax discipline in his favour. Young Vavasour had
committed a breach of military etiquette. He was immediately ordered by
his brother to be placed in arrest, and would inevitably have been
brought to a court martial, had not the commanding officer of the
station interfered. During the whole of this time, the Colonel's manner
towards him continued precisely the same. They lived together as usual;
and no man, without a knowledge of the circumstance, could have been
aware that any other but a fraternal tie bound them together. What was
more extraordinary, the younger brother saw all this in its proper
light; and whilst he clung to and loved his brother, looked up with awe
and respect to his commanding officer.
As for Colonel Vavasour, no one who saw his convulsed features, as his
brother fell heading a gallant charge of his company at Waterloo, could
have doubted for a moment his deep-rooted affection. From that period, a
gloomy melancholy hung about him, which, though shaken off in public,
gave a shade to his brow, which was very perceptible.
In person, he was particularly neat; being always the best dressed
officer in his regiment, "How can we expect the men to pay attention to
_their_ dress, when we give them reason to suppose we pay but little
attention to our own?" was a constant remark of his. And here we may
observe, that no class of men have a stricter idea of the propriety of
dress, than private soldiers. To dress well is half a passport to a
soldier's respect; whilst on the other hand, it requires many excellent
qualities, to counterbalance in his mind a careless and slovenly
exterior. Colonel Vavasour had an independent fortune, which he spent at
the head of his regiment. Many a dinner party was given by him, for
which the corps he commanded obtained the credit; many a young officer
owed relief from pecuniary embarrassments, which might otherwise have
overwhelmed him, to the generosity of his Colonel. He appeared not to
have a wish, beyond the military circle around him, although those who
knew him best, said he had greater talent, and possessed the art of
fascinating in general society, more than most men.
"I am glad to see you here, Sir Henry," said he to Delme, "although I
cannot but wish that happier circumstances had brought you to us. I have
a very great esteem for your brother, and am one of his warmest well
wishers. But I must not neglect the duties of hospitality. You must
allow me to present you to my officers at mess this evening. Our dinner
hour is late; but were it otherwise, we should miss that delightful hour
for our ride, when the sun's rays have no longer power to harm us, and
the sea breezes waft us a freshness, which almost compensates for the
languor attending the summer's heat."
Delme declined his invitation, stating his wish to dine with his brother
on that day; but expressed himself ready to accept his kind offer on the
"Thank you!" said Colonel Vavasour, "it is natural you should wish to
see your brother; and it pains me to think that poor George cannot yet
dine with his old friends. Have you seen Mr. Graham?"
Delme replied in the affirmative; adding, that he could not but feel
obliged to him for his frankness.
"I am glad you feel thus," said Vavasour, "it emboldens me to address
you with equal candour; and, painful as our advice must be, I confess I
am inclined to side with George's medical attendant. I have myself been
witness to such lamentable proofs of George's state of mind--he has so
often, with the tears in his eyes, spoken to me of his feelings with
regard to Acme Frascati, that I certainly consider these as in a great
measure the cause, and his state of mind the effect. I speak to you,
Sir Henry, without disguise. I had once a brother--the apple of my
eye--I loved him as I shall never love human being more; and, as God is
my witness, under similar circumstances, frankness is what I should have
prayed for,--my first wish would have been at once to know the worst.
Mr. Graham has told you of his long illness--his delirium--and has, I
conclude, touched upon the present state of his patient. Shall I shock
you, when I add that his lucid intervals are not to be depended upon;
that occasionally the wildest ideas, the most extraordinary projects,
are conceived by him? I wish you not, to act on any thing that Mr.
Graham, or that I may tell you, but to judge for yourself. Without this,
indeed, you would hardly understand the danger of these mental
paroxysms. So fearful are they, that I confess I should be inclined to
adopt any remedy, make any sacrifices which promised the remotest
possibility of success."
"I trust," said Sir Henry, "there are no sacrifices I would not
personally make for my only brother, were I once convinced these were
for his real benefit."
"I frankly mean," said Vavasour, "that I think almost the only chance of
restoring him, is by allowing him to marry Acme Frascati."
Delme's brow clouded.
"Think not," continued he, "that I am ignorant of what such a
determination must cost you. _I_, too, Sir Henry,"--and the old man drew
his commanding form to its utmost height,--"_I_ too, know what must be
the feelings of a descendant of noble ancestors. I know them well; and
in more youthful days, the blood boiled in my veins as I thought of the
name they had left me. Thank heaven! I have never disgraced it. But were
_I_ situated as _you_ are, and the dead Augustus Vavasour in the place
of the living George Delme, I would act as I am now advising you to do.
I speak solely as to the expediency of the measure. From what I have
stated--from my situation in life--from my character--you may easily
imagine that all my prejudices are enlisted on the other side of the
question. But I must here confess that I see something inexpressibly
touching in the devotion which that young Greek girl displayed, during
the whole of George's illness. But putting this on one side, and
considering the affair as one of mere expediency, I think you will
finally agree with me, that however desperate the remedy, some such must
be applied. And now, let me assure you, that nothing could have induced
me to obtrude thus, my feelings and opinions on a comparative stranger,
were it not that that stranger is the brother of one in whose welfare I
feel the liveliest interest."
Sir Henry Delme expressed his thanks, and inwardly determined that he
would form no opinion till he had himself been witness to some act of
mental aberration. It is true, he had heard the medical attendant give a
decided opinion,--from George's own lips he had an avowal of much that
had been stated,--and now he had heard one, for whom he could not but
feel great respect--one who had evidently no interest in the
question--declare his sentiments as strongly. We are all sanguine as to
what we wish. It may be, that a hope yet lurked in Delme's breast, that
these accounts might be unconsciously exaggerated, or that his brother's
state of health was now more established than heretofore.
On returning to Floriana, Delme found George and the blushing Acme
awaiting him. A delightful feeling is that, of again finding ourselves
with those from whom we have long been parted, once more engaged in the
same round of familiar avocations, once more re-acting the thousand
little trifles of life which we have so often acted before, and that,
too, in company with those who now sit beside us, as if to mock the
lapse of intervening years. These meetings seem to steal a pinion from
time's wing, and hard indeed were it if the sensations they called forth
were not pleasurable ones; for oh! how rudely and frequently, on the
other hand, are we reminded of the changes which the progress of years
brings with it: the bereavement of loved ones--the prostration of what
we revered--our buoyant elasticity of body and mind departed--all things
changing and changed.
We sigh, and gaze back. How few are the scenes, which memory's
kaleidoscope presents in their pristine bright colours, of that
journey, performed so slowly, as it once appeared, but which, to the
eye of retrospection, seems to have hurried to its end with the rapid
wings of the wind!
Imbued with an association, what a trivial circumstance will please! As
the brothers touched each other's glass; and drank to mutual happiness,
what grateful recollections were called up by that act! How did these
manifest their power, as they lighted up the wan features of George
Delme. Acme looked on smilingly; her hair flowing about her neck--her
dark eyes flashing with unusual brilliancy. Delme felt it would be
unsocial were he alone to look grave; and although many foreboding
thoughts crowded on him, _he_ too seemed to be happy. It was twilight
when the dinner was over. The windows were open, and the party placed
themselves near the jalousies. They here commanded a view of the public
gardens, where groups of Maltese were enjoying the coolness of the hour,
and the fragrance of the flowers. The walk had a roof of lattice work
supported by wooden pillars; round which, an image of woman's love, the
honeysuckle clingingly twined, diffusing sweets.
Immediately before them, the principal outlet of the town presented
itself. Laughing parties of English sailors were passing, mounted on
steeds of every size, which they were urging forward, in spite of the
piteous remonstrances of the menials of their owners. The latter, for
the most part, held by the tails of their animals, and uttered a
jargon composed of English, Italian, and Maltese. The only words
however, that met the unregarding ears of the sailors, were some such
exclamations as these.
"Not you go so fast, Signore; he good horse, but much tire."
The riders sat in their saddles swinging from side to side, evidently
thinking their tenure more precarious than that on the giddy mast; and
wholly unmindful of the expressive gestures, and mournful ejaculations
of the bare-legged pursuers. At another time, their antics and
buffoonery, as they made unmerciful use of the short sticks with which
they were armed, would have provoked a smile. _Now_ our party gazed on
these things as they move the wise. They felt calm and happy; and
deceptive hope whispered they might yet remain so. Acme took up her
guitar, and throwing her fingers over it, as she gave a soft prelude,
warbled that sweet although common song, "Buona notte, amato bene." She
sung with great feeling, and feeling is the soul of music.
How plaintively! how tenderly did her lips breathe the
"ricordati! ricordati di me!"
There was something extremely witching in her precocious charms. She
resembled some beauteous bud, just ready to burst into light and bloom.
It is not yet the rose,--but a moment more may make it such. Her
beauties were thus ripe for maturity. It seemed as if the sunshine of
love were already upon them--they were basking in its rays. A brief
space--and the girl shall no longer be such. What was promise shall be
beauty. She shall meet the charmed eye a woman; rich in grace and
loveliness. As Delme marked her sympathising glance at George--her
beaming features--her innocent simplicity;--as he thought of all she had
lost, all she had suffered for his brother's sake,--as he thought of the
scorn of the many--the pity of the few--the unwearied watching--the
sleepless nights--the day of sorrow passed by the bed of sickness--all
so cheerfully encountered for _him_--he could not reproach her. No! he
took her hand, and the brothers whispered consolation to her, and to
Late that evening, they were joined by Colonel Vavasour, and Mr. Graham.
George's spirits rose hourly. Never had his Colonel appeared to such
advantage--Acme so lovely--or Henry so kind--as they did to George Delme
It was with a sigh at the past pleasures that George retired to
"Red coats and redder faces."
The following day, a room having been given up to Delme, he discharged
his bill at Beverley's; and moved to Floriana. He again accompanied
George in his drive; and they had on this occasion, the advantage of
Acme's society, who amused them with her artless description of the
manners of the lower orders of Maltese.
Pursuant to his promise, at the bugle's signal Delme entered the mess
room; and the Colonel immediately introduced him to the assembled
officers. To his disappointment, for he felt curious to see one, who had
exercised such an influence over his brother, Delancey was not amongst
them. Sir Henry was much pleased with the feeling that appeared to
exist, between Colonel Vavasour and his corps of officers:--respect on
one side--and the utmost confidence on both. We think it is the talented
author of Pelham, who describes a mess table as comprising "cold dishes
and hot wines, where the conversation is of Johnson of ours and Thomson
This, though severe, is near the truth; and if, to this description, be
added _lots_ of plate of that pattern called the Queen's--ungainly
servants in stiff mess liveries--and a perpetual recurrence to Mr. Vice;
we have certainly caught the most glaring features of a commonplace
regimental dinner. Vavasour was well aware of this, and had directed
unremitting attention, to give a tone to the conversation at the mess
table, more nearly approaching to that of private life; one which should
embrace topics of general interest, and convey some general information.
Even in _his_ well ordered regiment, there were some, whose nature would
have led them, to confine their attention to thoughts of the daily
military routine. This inclination was repressed by the example of
their Colonel; and these, if not debaters, were at least patient
listeners, as the conversation dealt of matters, to them uncongenial,
and the value of the discussion of which they could not themselves
perceive. Not that military subjects were interdicted; the contrary was
the case. But these subjects took a somewhat loftier tone, than the
contemplation of an exchange of orderly duty, or an overslaugh of guard.
When dinner was announced, Colonel Vavasour placed his hand on the
shoulder of a boy near him.
"Come, Cholmondeley!" said he, "sit near me, and give me an account of
your match. You must not fail to write your Yorkshire friends every
particular. Major Clifford, will you sit on the other side of Sir Henry?
You are both Peninsula men, and will find, I doubt not, that you have
many friends in common.
"There is something," said he to Delme, as he took his seat,
"revivifying to an old soldier, in noting the exhilaration of spirit of
these boys. It reminds us of the zeal with which _we_ too buckled on
our coat of red. It is a great misfortune these youngsters labour under,
that they have no outlet for their ambition, no scene on which they can
display their talents. Never were youthful aspirants for service more
worthy, or more zealous, and yet it is probable their country will not
need them, until they arrive at an age, when neither body nor mind are
attuned for _commencing_ a life of hardship, however well adapted to
_continue_ in it. _We_ have had the advantage there--_we_ trod the
soldier's proudest stage when our hopes and buoyancy of heart were at
their highest; and for myself, I am satisfied that much of my present
happiness, arises from the very different life of my earlier years."
The conversation took a military turn; and Delme could not help
observing the attention, with which the younger members of the corps
heard the anecdotes, related by those who had been actually engaged.
Occasionally, the superior reading of the juniors would peep out, and
give them the advantage of knowledge, even with regard to
circumstances, over those who had been personal actors in the affairs
they spoke of. The most zealous of these detail narrators, were the
quarter-master of the regiment, and Delme's right-hand neighbour, Major
Clifford. The former owed his appointment to his gallantry, in saving
the colours of his regiment, when the ensign who bore them was killed,
and the enemy's cavalry were making a sudden charge, before the
regiment could form its square.
His was a bluff purple face, denoting the bon vivant. Indeed, it was
with uncommon celerity, that his previous reputation of being the best
maker of rum punch in the serjeants' mess, had changed into his present
one of being the first concoctor of sangaree at the officers'.
Major Clifford merits more especial notice. He was a man hardly
appreciated in his own profession; out of it, he was misrepresented, and
voted a bore. He had spent all the years of his life, since the down
mantled his upper lip, in the service of his country; and for _its_
good, as he conceived it, he had sacrificed all his little fortune. It
is true his liberality had not had a very comprehensive range: he had
sunk his money in the improvement of the personal appearance of his
company--in purchasing pompons--or new feathers--or whistles, when he
was a voltigeur--in establishing his serjeants' mess on a more
respectable footing--in giving his poor comrade a better coffin, or a
richer pall:--these had been his foibles; and in indulging them, he had
expended the wealth, that might have purchased him on to rank and
honours. His eagle glance, his aquiline nose, and noble person, showed
what he must have been in youth. His hair was now silvered, but his coat
was as glossy as formerly--his zeal was unabated--his pride in his
profession the same--and what he could spare, still went, to adorn the
persons of the soldiers he still loved. He remained a captain, although
his long standing in the army had brought him in for the last brevet. It
is true every one had a word for poor Clifford. "Such a fine fellow!
what a shame!" But _this_ did not help him on. At the Horse Guards, too,
his services were freely acknowledged. The Military Secretary had always
a smile for him at his levee, and an assurance that "he had his eye on
him" The Commander in Chief, too, the last time he had inspected the
regiment, attracted by his Waterloo badge, and Portuguese cross, had
stopped as he passed in front of the ranks, and conversed with him most
affably, for nearly two minutes and a half; as his colour serjeant with
some degree of pride used to tell the story. But yet, somehow or other,
although Major Clifford was an universal favourite, they always forgot
to reward him. A man of the world, would have deemed the Major's ideas
to be rather contracted; and to confess the truth, there were two
halcyon periods of his life, to which he was fond of recurring. The one
was, when he commanded a light company, attached to General Crauford's
light brigade;--the other, when he had the temporary command of the
regimental depot, and at his own expense, had dressed out its little
band, as it had never been dressed out before.
Do you sneer at the old soldier, courtly reader?
There breathes not a man who dare arraign that man's courage;--there is
not one who knows him, who would not cheerfully stake his life as a gage
for his stainless honour.
The soup and fish had been removed, when Delme observed a young officer
glide in, with that inexpressible air of fashion, which appears to shun
notice, whilst it attracts it. His arm was in a sling, and his
attenuated face seemed to bespeak ill health. Sir Henry addressed
Colonel Vavasour, and begged to know if the person who had just entered
the room was Delancey. He was answered in the affirmative; and he again
turned to scrutinise his features. These rivetted attention; and were
such as could not be seen once, without being gazed at again. His eyes
were dark and large, and rested for minutes on one object, with an
almost mournful expression; nor was it until they turned from its
contemplation, that the discriminating observer might read in their
momentary flash, that their possessor had passions deep and
uncontrollable. His dark hair hung in profusion over his forehead, which
it almost hid; though from the slight separation of a curl, the form of
brow became visible; which was remarkable for its projection, and for
its pallid hue, which offered a strong contrast to the swart and
"Are you aware of his history?" said the Colonel.
"Not in the slightest," replied Delme. "I felt curious to see him, on
account of the way in which he has been mixed up with George's affair;
and think his features extraordinary--very extraordinary ones."
"He is son," said Vavasour, "to the once celebrated Lady Harriet D----,
who made a marriage so disgracefully low. He is the only child by that
union. His parents lived for many years on the continent, in obscurity,
and under an assumed name. They are both dead. It is possible Delancey
may play a lofty role in the world, as he has only a stripling between
him and the earldom of D----, which descends in the female line. I am
sure he will not be a common character; but I have great fears about
him. In the regiment he is considered proud and unsocial; and indeed it
was your brother's friendship that appeared to retain him in our circle.
He has great talents, and some good qualities; but from his uncommon
impetuosity of temper, and his impatience of being thwarted, I should be
inclined to predict, that the first check he receives in life, will
either make him a misanthrope, or a pest to society."
At a later period of his life, Delme again encountered Delancey; and
this prophecy of the Colonel's was vividly recalled.
In the ensuing chapter, we purpose giving Oliver Delancey's history, as
a not uninstructive episode; although we are aware that episodes are
impatiently tolerated, and it is in nowise allied to the purpose of our
story. But before doing so, we must detail a conversation which occurred
between Delancey and Delme, at the table of the ---- mess. The latter was
scanning the features of the former, when their eyes met. A conviction
seemed to flash on Delancey, that Delme was George's brother; for the
blood rushed to his cheek--his colour went and came--and as he turned
away his head, he made a half involuntary bow. Delme was struck with his
manner, and apparent emotion; and in returning the salute, ventured "to
hope he was somewhat recovered."
When Major Clifford left the table, Delancey took his vacant seat.
"Sir Henry Delme," said he, "I have before this wished to see you, to
implore the forgiveness of your family for the misery I have
occasioned. How often have I cursed my folly! I acted on an impulse,
which at the time I could not withstand. I had never serious views
with regard to Acme Frascati. Indeed, I may here tell you,--to no
other man have I ever named it,--that I have ties in my own country
far dearer, and more imperatively binding. I knew I had erred. The
laws of society could alone have made me meet George Belme as a foe;
but even then--on the ground--God and my second know that my weapon
was never directed at my friend. I am an unsocial being, Sir Henry,
and, from my habits, not likely to be popular. Your brother knew this,
and saved me from petty contentions and invidious calumnies. He was
the best and only friend I possessed. I purpose soon to leave Malta
and the army. The former is become painful to me,--for the latter I
have a distaste, A feeling of delicacy to Acme Frascati would prevent
my seeing your brother, even if Mr. Graham had not forbidden the
interview, as likely to harass his mind. Will you, then, assure him of
my unabated attachment, and tell me that _you _ forgive me for the
part I have taken in this unhappy affair."
Delme was much moved as he assured him he would do all he wished; that
he could see little to blame him for--that George's excited feelings had
brought on the present crisis, and that _he_ had amply atoned for any
share he might have had in the transaction. Delancey pressed his hand
It was at a somewhat late hour that Delme joined Acme and his brother;
declining the hearty invitation of the Quartermaster to come down to
"He could give him a devilled turkey and a capital cigar."
"Then the few, whose spirits float above the wreck of happiness,
Are driven o'er the shoals of guilt, or ocean of excess;
The magnet of their course is gone, or only points in vain
The shore to which their shiver'd sail shall never reach again."
We have said that Delme saw Delancey once more. It was at a later period
of our story, when business had taken Sir Henry to Bath. He had been
dining with Mr. Belliston Graeme, who possessed a villa in the
neighbourhood. Tempted by the beauty of the night, he dismissed his
carriage, and, turning from the high road, took a by-path which led to
the city. The air was serene and mild. The moon-light was sufficiently
clear to chase away night's dank vapours. The ground had imperceptibly
risen, until having ascended a grassy eminence, over which the path
stretched, the well-lighted city burst upon the eye.
Immediately in front of the view, a principal street presented itself,
the lamps on either side stretching in regular succession, until they
gradually narrowed and joined in the perspective. Nearer to the
spectator, the flickering lights of the detached villas, and the moving
ones of the carriages in the public road, relieved the stillness of the
scene. Delme paused to regard it, with that subdued feeling with which
men, arrived at a certain period of life, scan the aspect of nature. The
moon at the moment was enveloped in light clouds. As it broke through
them, its shimmering light revealed a face and form that Delme at once
recognised as Delancey's. It was with a consciousness of pain he did so,
for it brought before him recollections of scenes, whose impressions had
still power to subdue him. All emotions, however, soon became absorbed
in that of curiosity, as he noted the still figure and agitated
features before him. A block of granite lay near the path. Delancey
leant back over it--his right hand nearly touched the ground--his hat
lay beside him. The dark hair, wet with the dews of night, was blown
back by the breeze. His high forehead was fully shewn. His vest and
shirt were open, as he gazed with an air of fixedness on the city, and
conversed to himself. His teeth were firmly clenched, and it seemed that
the lips moved not, but the words were fearfully distinct. We often hear
of these soliloquies,--they afford scope to the dramatist, food for the
poet, a chapter for the narrator of fiction,--but we rarely witness
them. When we do, they are eminently calculated to thrill and alarm. It
was evident that Delancey saw him not; but had it been otherwise,
Delme's interest was so aroused that he could not have left the spot.
"Hail! sympathising night!" thus spoke the young man, "the calm of thy
silent hour seems in unison with my lone heart--thy dewy breeze imparts
a freshness to this languid and darkened spirit, Sweet night! how I
love thee! And moon, too! fair moon! how abruptly!--how chastely!--how
gloriously!--dost thou break through the variegated and fleecy clouds,
which would impede thy progress, and deny me to gaze on thy white orb
unshrouded. And thou, too! radiant star of eve! oh that woman's love but
resembled thee! that it were gentle, constant, and pure as thy holy
gleam. That _that_ should dazzle to bring in its train--oh God! what
misery." He raised his hand to his brow, as if a poignant thought had
Sir Henry Delme stole away, and ruminated long that night, on the
distress that could thus convulse those fine features. Afterwards, when
Delancey's name was no longer the humble one he had first known it, but
became bruited in loftier circles,--for Vavasour's prediction became
realised,--Delme heard it whispered, that his affections had suffered
an early blight, from the infidelity of one to whom he had been
affianced. We may relate the circumstances as they occurred. Blanche
Allen was the daughter of a country gentleman of some wealth, whose
estate joined that of the Earl of D----'s, where Delancey's boyhood
had been spent. For years Blanche and Oliver considered themselves as
more than friends. Each selected the other as the companion in the
solitary walk, or partner in the joyous dance. Not a country girl but
had her significant smile, as young Delancey's horse's head was turned
towards Hatton Grange.
Delancey joined the army at an early age. Blanche was some eighteen
months his junior. They parted with tears, and thus they continued to do
for the two following years, during which Oliver frequently got leave to
run down to his uncle's. This was while he was serving with part of the
regiment at home. When it came to his turn to embark for foreign
service, it was natural from this circumstance, as well as from their
riper age, that their farewell should be of a more solemn nature. They
bade adieu by the side of the streamlet that divided the two properties.
It was where this made a small fall, down which it gushed in crystal
brightness, and then meandered with gentle murmur through a succession
of rich meadows. A narrow bridge was below the fall, while beside it, a
rustic seat had been placed, on which the sobbing Blanche sat, with her
lover's arm round her waist. For the first time he had talked seriously
of their attachment, and it was with youthful earnestness, that they
mutually plighted their troth. Nor did Blanche hesitate, though blushing
deeply as she did so, to place in his hand a trivial gage d'amour, and
that which has so long solaced absent lovers, a lock of her sunny hair.
Blanche was very beautiful, but she had a character common to many
English women--more so, we think, than to foreign ones.
As a girl, Blanche was nature's self, warm, gentle, confiding,--as an
unmarried woman, she was a heartless coquette,--as a matron, an
exemplary mother and an affectionate wife. During the time Delancey was
abroad, he heard of Blanche but seldom, for the lovers were not of that
age in which a correspondence would be tolerated by Blanche's family.
She once managed to send him, by the hands of a young cousin, some
trifling present, with a few lines accompanying it, informing him that
she had not forgotten him. His uncle--his only correspondent in
England--was not exactly the person to make a confidant of; but he
would, in an occasional postscript, let him know that he had seen
Blanche Allen lately--that "she was very gay, prettier than ever, and
always blushing when spoken to of a certain person."
To do Oliver justice, he at all times thought of Blanche. We have seen
him, with regard to Acme, apparently disregarding her, but in that
affair he had been actuated by a mere spirit of adventure. His heart was
but slightly enlisted, and his feelings partook of any thing but those
of a serious attachment.
Oliver Delancey left Malta soon after his conversation with
Delme. Previous to doing so, he had forwarded his resignation to
He passed some time in Italy, and, as the season arrived, found himself
a denizen in that gayest of cities, Vienna. Pleasure is truly there
enshrouded in her liveliest robes. As regards Delancey, not in vain was
she thus clothed. Just relieved from the dull monotony of a military
life--dull as it ever must be without war's excitement, and peculiarly
distasteful to one constituted like Delancey, who refused to make
allowance for the commonplace uncongenial spirits with whom he found
himself obliged to herd--he was quite prepared to embrace with avidity
any life that promised an agreeable change. Austria's capital holds out
many inducements to dissipation, and to none are these more freely
tendered, than to young and handsome Englishmen. The women, over the
dangerous sentimentality of their nation, throw such an air of ease and
frankness, that their victims resemble the finny tribe in the famous
tunny fishery. While they conceive the whole ocean is at their
command--disport here and there in imagined freedom--they are already
encased by the insidious nets; the harpoon is already pointed, which
shall surely pierce them. Delancey plunged headlong into pleasure's
vortex--touched each link between gaiety and crime. He wandered from the
paths of virtue from the infatuation of folly, and continued to err from
the fascinations of sin. He was suddenly recalled to himself, by one of
those catastrophes often sent by Providence, to awaken us from
intoxicating dreams. His companion, with whom he had resided during his
stay in Vienna, lost his all at a gaming table. Although he had not the
firmness of mind to face his misfortunes, yet had he the rashness to
meet his God unbidden. Sobered and appalled, Oliver left Germany for
England. There was a thought, which even in the height of his follies
obtruded, and which now came on him with a force that surprised himself.
That thought was of Blanche Allen. He turned from the image of his
expiring friend to dwell unsated on hers. A new vista of life seemed to
open--thoughts which had long slept came thronging on his mind--he was
once more the love-sick boy. The more, too, he brooded over his late
unworthiness, the more did his imagination ennoble the one he loved. He
now looked to the moment of meeting her, as that whence he would date
his moral regeneration. "Thank God!" thought he, "a sure haven is yet
mine. There will I--my feelings steadied, my affections
concentrated--enjoy a purified and unruffled peace. What a consolation
to be loved by one so good and gentle!"
He hurried towards England, travelled day and night, and only wondered
that he could have rested any where, while he had the power of flying to
her he had loved from childhood. Occasionally a feeling of apprehension
would cross him. It was many months since he had heard of her--she might
be ill. His love was of that confiding nature, that he could not
conceive her changed. As he came near his home, happier thoughts
succeeded. In fancy, he again saw her enjoying the innocent pleasures in
which he had been her constant companion,--health on her
cheek--affection in her glance. He had to pass that well known lodge.
His voice shook, as he told the driver to stop at its gate. As he drove
through the avenue of elms, he threw himself back in the carriage, and
every limb quivered from his agitation. He could hardly make himself
understood to the domestic--he waited not an answer to his enquiry--but
bounded up the stairs, and with faltering step entered the room.
Blanche was there, and not alone but oh! how passing fair! Even Delancey
had not dared to think, that the beauty of the girl could have been so
eclipsed by the ripe graces of the woman. She recognised him, and rose
to meet him with a burst of unfeigned surprise. She held out her hand
with an air of winning frankness; and yet for an instant,--and his hand
as it pressed hers, trembled with that thought,--he deemed there was a
hesitating blush on her cheek, which should not have been there. But it
passed away, and radiant with smiles, she turned to the one beside her.
"My dear," said she, as she gave him a confiding look, which haunts
Delancey yet, "this is a great friend of Papa's, and an old playmate of
mine--Mr. Delancey;" and as the stranger stepped forward to shake his
hand, Blanche looked at her old lover, with a glance that seemed to say,
"How foolish were we, to deem we were ever more than friends." Oliver
Delancey turned deadly pale; but pride bade him scorn her, and his hand
shook not, as it touched that of him, who had robbed him of a treasure,
he would have died to have called his.
"And you have been to D---- Castle, I suppose, and found your uncle had
left it for Bath. Indeed, _we_ only arrived the day before yesterday;
but Papa wrote us, saying he had got one of his attacks of rheumatism,
from the late fishing, and begged us to take this on our way to
Habberton, Did you see my marriage in the papers, or did your uncle
write you, Oliver?"
Delancey's lips quivered, but his countenance did not change, as he
looked her in the face, and told her he had not known it until now.
And now her husband spoke: "It was very late, and he must want
refreshment; and Mr. Allen intended to be wheeled to the dinner table;
and they could so easily send up to D---- Castle to tell them to get a
bed aired; and he could dismiss the chaise now, and their carriage could
take him there at night."
And Delancey _did_ stay, although unable to analyse the feeling that
made him do so.
And during dinner, _he_ was the life of that little party. He spoke of
foreign lands--related strange incidents of travel--dwelt with animation
on his schoolboy exploits. The old man was delighted--the husband forgot
his wife;--and she, the false one, sat silent, and for the moment
disregarded. She gazed and gazed again on that familiar face--drank in
the tones of that accustomed voice--and the chill of compunction crept
over her frame.
But Delancey's brain was on fire; and in the solitude of his
chamber--no! he was not calm there. He paced hurriedly across the oaken
floor; and he opened wide his window, and looked out on the bright
stars, spangling heaven's blue vault; and then beneath him, where the
cypress trees bowed their heads to the wind, and the moon's light fell
on the marble statues on the terrace.
And he turned to his bed-side, and hid his tearless face in his hands;
and in the fulness of his despair, he knelt and prayed, that though he
had long neglected his God, his God would not now forsake him. And, as
if to mock his sufferings, sleep came; but it was short, very short; and
a weight, a leaden weight, oppressed his eye-lids even in slumber. And
he gave one start, and awoke a prey to mental agony. His despair flashed
on him--he sprung up wildly in his bed. "Liar! liar!" said he, as with
clenched teeth, and hand upraised, he recalled that fond look given to
another. Drops of sweat started to his brow--his pulse beat quick and
audibly--quicker--quicker yet. A feeling of suffocation came over
him--and God forgive him! Oliver Delancey deemed that hour his last. He
staggered blindly to the bell, and with fearful energy pulled its cord,
till it fell clattering on the marble hearth stone. The domestics found
him speechless and insensible on the floor--the blood oozing from his
mouth and ears.
It may be said that this picture is overcharged; that no vitiated mind
could have thus felt. But it is not so. In life's spring we all feel
acutely: and to the effects of disappointed love, and wounded pride,
there are few limits.
Woman! dearest woman! born to alleviate our sorrow, and soothe our
anguish! who canst bid feeling's tear trickle down the obdurate cheek,
or mould the iron heart, till it be pliable as a child's--why stain thy
gentle dominion by inconstancy? why dismiss the first form that haunted
thy maiden pillow, until--or that vision is a dear reality beside
thee--or thou liest pale and hushed, on thy last couch of repose?
And then--shall not thy virgin spirit hail him? Why first fetter us,
slaves to virtue and to thee; _then_ become the malevolent Typhoon, on
whose wings our good genius flies for ever? In this--far worse than the
iconoclasts of yore art thou! _They_ but disfigured images of man's rude
fashioning: whilst _thou_ wouldst injure the _once_ loved form of God's
high creation,--wouldst entail on the body a premature decay--and on
that which dieth not, an irradicable blight.
"Then the mortal coldness of the soul, like death itself comes down;
It cannot feel for others woes--it dares not dream its own.
That heavy chill has frozen o'er the fountain of our tears;
And though the eye may sparkle still, 'tis where the ice appears."
On such a character as was Delancey's, the blow did indeed fall heavy.
Not that his paroxysms of grief were more lasting, or his pangs more
acute, than is usual in similar cases; but to his moral worth it was
death. An infliction of this nature, falling on a comparatively virtuous
man, is productive of few evil consequences. It may give a holier turn
to his thoughts--wean him from sublunary vanities--and purify his
nature. On an utterly depraved man, its effects may be fleeting also;
for few can _here_ expect a moral regeneration. But falling on Delancey,
it was not thus. The slender thread that bound him to virtue, was snapt
asunder; the germ whence the good of his nature might have sprung,
destroyed for ever. Such a man could not love purely again. To expect
him to wander to another font, and imbibe from as clear a stream, would
be madness. The love of a man of the world, let it be the first and
best, is gross and earthly enough; but let him be betrayed in that
love--let him see the staff on which he confidingly leant, break from
under him--and he becomes from henceforth the deceiver--but never the
deceived. When Delme saw him, Delancey was writhing under his
affliction. When he again entered the world, and it was soon, he
regarded it as a wide mart, where he might gratify his appetites, and
unrestrainedly indulge his evil propensities. He believed not that
virtue and true nobility were there; could he but find them. He looked
at the blow his happiness had sustained, and thought it afforded a fair
sample of human nature. Oliver Delancey became a selfish and a
He was to be pitied; and from his soul did Delme pity him. He had been
one of promise and of talent; but _now_ his lot is cast on the die of
apathy;--and it is to be feared--without a miracle intervene--and
should his life be spared--that when the wavy locks of youth are
changed to the silver hairs of age--that he will then be that thing of
all others to be scoffed at--the hoary sensualist. Let us hope not! Let
us hope that she who hath brought him to this, may rest her head on the
bosom of her right lord, and forget the one, whose hand used to be
locked in her own, for hours--hours which flew quick as summer's
evening shadows! Let us trust that remorse may be absent from her;
that she may never know that worst of reflections--the having injured
one who had loved her, irremediably; that she may gaze on her
fair-haired children, and her cheek blanch not as she recals another
form than the father's; that her life may be irreproachable, her end
calm and dignified; that dutiful children may attend the inanimate clay
to its resting place; that filial tears may bedew her grave; and, when
the immortal stands appalled before its Judge, that the destruction of
that soul may not be laid to her charge.
"And I have loved thee! Ocean! and my joy
Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
Borne like thy bubbles onward."
* * * * *
"Pull away! yo ho! boys!"
Delme continued to reside with his brother, whose health seemed to amend
daily. George generally managed to accompany him in his sight-seeing,
from which Henry derived great gratification.
He mused over the antique tombs of some of the departed knights; and
admired the rich mosaics in that splendid church, dedicated to Saint
John; than which the traveller may voyage long, and meet nothing
worthier his notice. He visited the ancient armoury--dined at the
palace, and at the different messes--inspected the laborious
travailings of the silkworm at the boschetto--conversed with the
original of Byron's Leila--a sweet creature she is!--looked with
wondering eye on the ostrich of Fort Manuel--and heard the then
commandant's wife relate her tale thereanent. He went to Gozzo too--shot
rabbits--and crossed in a basket to the fungus rock. He saw a festa in
the town, and a festa in the country--rode to St. Antonio, and St.
Paul's Bay--and was told he had seen the lions. Nor must we pass over
that most interesting of spectacles; viz., some figures enveloped in
monkish cowl, and placed in convenient niches; but beneath the close
hood, the blood mounts not with devotion's glow, nor do eyes glare from
sockets shrunk by abstinence. Skeletons alone are there!
These, curious reader, are the bodies of saintly Capuchins; thus
exhibited--dried and baked--to excite beholders to a life of virtue!
One morning, George said he felt rather unwell, and would stay at home.
An oar happened to be wanted in the regimental gig, which Sir Henry
offered to take. He was soon accoutred in the dress of an absent
member, and in a short time was discharging the duties of his office to
the satisfaction of all; for he knew every secret of _feathering,_ and
had not _caught a crab_ for years.
It was a beautifully calm day--not a speck in the azure heaven. It was
hot too--but for this they cared not. They had porter; and on such
occasions, what better beverage would you ask? Swiftly and gaily did the
slim bark cleave through the glassy sea. Its hue was a dark crimson,
with one black stripe--its nom de guerre, the Spitfire.
As the ------ regiment particularly prided itself on its aquatic costume,
we shall describe it. Small chased pearl buttons on the blue jacket and
white shirt; a black band round the neck, to match the one on the
narrow-brimmed thick straw hat; white trousers; couleur de rose silk
collar, fastened to the throat by a golden clasp; and stockings of the
same colour. How joyously did the gig hold her course! What a thrilling
sensation expanded the soul, as the steersman, a handsome little fellow
with large black whiskers, gave the encouraging word, "Stroke! my good
ones!" Then were exerted all the energies of the body--then was
developed each straining muscle--then were the arms thrown back in
sympathy, to give a long pull, and a strong pull--till the bark reeled
beneath them, and shot through the wave.
The tall ship--the slender mole--the busy deck--the porticoed
palace--the strong fort--the bristling battery--the astonished fisher's
bark as it sluggishly crept on--were all cheeringly swept by, as the
bending oars in perfect unison, kissed the erst slumbering water. What
sensation can be more glorious? The only thing to compete with it, is
the being in a crack coach on the western road; the opposition slightly
in front--a knowing whip driving--when the horses are at their utmost
speed--the traces tight as traces can be--the ladies inside pale and
screaming--one little child cramming out her head, her mouth stuffed
with Banbury cakes, adding her shrill affetuoso--whilst the odd-looking
man in the white hat, seated behind, is blue from terror, and with
chattering teeth, mumbles undistinguishable sentences of furious
driving and prosecution. Surely such moments half redeem our miseries!
What bitter thought can travel twelve miles an hour?
And ever and anon would the Spitfire dart into some little creek, and
the thirsty rowers would rest on their oars, whose light drip fell on
purple ocean, tinged by a purple sky. And now would the jovial steersman
introduce the accommodating corkscrew, first into one bottle and then
into another, as these were successively emptied, and thrown overboard,
to give the finny philosophers somewhat to speculate on.
Delme landed weary; but it was a beneficial weariness. He felt he had
taken manly exercise, and that it would do him good. He was walking
towards the barrack, with his jacket slung over his shoulder, when he
was met by George's servant.
"Oh, Sir!" said the man, "I am so glad you are come. The Signora is
terribly afraid for my young master. I fear, Sir, he is in one of
Delme hurried forward, and entered his brother's room. George held a
riding whip in his hand. He had thrown off his cravat--his throat was
bare--his eyes glanced wildly.
"And who are you, Sir?" said he, as Henry entered.
"What! not know me, dearest George?" replied his brother, in agony.
"I do not understand your insolence, Sir; but if you are a dun, go to my
servant. Thompson," continued he, "give me my spurs! I shall ride."
"Ride!" said Delme.
Thompson made him a quiet sign. "I am very sorry, Sir," said he, "but
the Arab is quite lame, and is not fit for the saddle."
"Give me a glass of sangaree then, you rascal! Port--do you hear?"
The glass was brought him. He drained its contents at a draught.
"Now, kick that scoundrel out of the room, Thompson, and let me sleep."
He threw himself listlessly on the sofa. Acme was weeping bitterly,
but he seemed not to notice her. It was late in the day. The surgeon
had been sent for. He now arrived, and stated that nothing could be
done; but recommended his being watched closely, and the removing
all dangerous weapons. He begged Henry, however, to indulge him in
all his caprices, in order that he might the better observe the
state of his mind.
While George slept, Delme entered another room, and ordering the servant
to inform him when he awoke, he sat down to dinner alone and dispirited;
for Acme refused to leave George. It was indeed a sad, and to Sir Henry
Delme an unforeseen shock.
In a couple of hours, Thompson came with a message from Acme. "Master
is awake, Sir--knows the Signora--and seems much better. He has
desired me to brush his cloak, as he intends going out. Shall I do so,
Sir, or not?"
"Do so!" said Delme, "but fail not to inform me when he is about to go;
and be yourself in readiness. We will watch him."
The Charnel House.
"And when at length the mind shall be all free,
From what it hates in this degraded form,
Reft of its carnal life, save what shall be
Existent happier in the fly or worm;
When elements to elements conform,
And dust is as it should be."
The last grey tinge of twilight, was fast giving place to the sombre
hues of night, as a figure, enveloped in a military cloak, issued from
the barrack at Floriana.
Henry at once recognised George; and only delaying till a short distance
had intervened between his brother and himself, Delme and Thompson
followed his footsteps.
George Delme walked swiftly, as if intent on some deep design. The long
shadow thrown out by his figure, enabled his pursuers to distinguish him
very clearly. He did not turn his head, but, with hurried step, strode
the species of common which divides Floriana from La Valette. Crossing
the drawbridge, and passing through the porch which guards the entrance
to the town, he turned down an obscure street, and, folding his cloak
closer around him, rapidly--yet with an appearance of caution--continued
his route, diving from one street to another, till he entered a small
court-yard, in which stood an isolated gloomy-looking house. No light
appeared in the windows, and its exterior bespoke it uninhabited. Henry
and the domestic paused, expecting George either to knock or return to
the street. He walked on, however, and, turning to one side of the
porch, descended a flight of stone steps, and entered the lower part of
"Perhaps we had better not both follow him," said the servant.
"No, Thompson! do you remain here, only taking care that your master
does not pass you: and I think you may as well go round the house, and
see if there is any other way of leaving it."
Sir Henry descended the steps in silence. Arrived at the foot of the
descent, a narrow passage, diverging to the left, presented itself.
Beyond appeared a distant glimmering of light. Delme groped along the
passage, using the precaution to crouch as low as possible, until he
came before a large comfortless room in the centre of which, was placed
a brass lamp, whose light was what he had discerned at the extremity of
the passage. He could distinctly observe the furniture and inmates of
the room. Of the former, the only articles were a table--on which were
placed the remains of a homely meal--an iron bedstead, and a barrel,
turned upside down, which served as a substitute for a chair. The
bedstead had no curtains, but in lieu of them, there were hangings
around it, which struck Delme as resembling mourning habiliments.
Whilst the light operated thus favourably, in enabling Sir Henry to
note the interior of the apartment, it was hardly possible, from its
situation, that he himself could be observed. Its rays did not reach
the passage; and he was also shrouded in some degree by a door, which
was off its hinges, and which was placed against the wall. Fastened to
the side of the room were two deep shelves--the lower one containing
some bottles and plates; the upper, a number of human sculls. In a
corner were some more of these, intermingled in a careless heap, with a
few bleached bones.
George Delme was standing opposite the door, conversing earnestly with a
Maltese, evidently of the lowest caste. The latter was seated on the
barrel we have mentioned, and was listening with apparently a mixture of
surprise and exultation to what George was saying. George's voice sunk
to an inaudible whisper, as the conversation continued, and he was
evidently trying to remove some scruples, which this man either affected
to feel, or really felt. The man's answers were given in a gruff and
loud tone of voice, but from the Maltese dialect of his Italian, Sir
Henry could not understand what was said. His countenance was very
peculiar. It was of that derisive character rarely met with in one of
his class of life, except when called forth by peculiar habits, or
extraordinary circumstances. His eyes were very small, but bright and
deeply set. His lips wore a constant sarcastic smile, which gave him the
air of a bold but cunning man. His throat and bosom were bare, and of a
deep copper colour; and his muscular chest was covered with short curly
hair. The conversation on George's part became more animated, and he at
length made use of what seemed an unanswerable argument. Taking out a
beaded purse, which Sir Henry knew well--it had been Emily's last
present to George--he emptied the contents into the bronzed hand of his
companion, who grasped the money with avidity. The Maltese _now_
appeared to acquiesce in all George's wishes; and rising, went towards
the bed, and selected some of the articles of wearing apparel Delme had
already noticed. He addressed some words to George, who sat on the
bedside quiescently, while the man went to the table, and took up a
knife that was upon it. For a moment, Delme felt alarm lest his design
might be a murderous one; but it was not so. He laughed savagely, as he
made use of the knife, to cut off the luxuriant chestnut ringlets, which
shaded George's eyes and forehead. He then applied to the face some
darkening liquid, and commenced choosing a sable dress. George threw off
his cloak, and was attired by the Maltese, in a long black cotton robe
of the coarsest material, which, descending to the feet, came in a hood
over his face, which it almost entirely concealed. During the whole of
this scene, George Delme's features wore an air of dogged apathy, which
alarmed his brother, even more than his agitation in the earlier part of
the day. After his being metamorphosed in the way we have described, it
would have been next to an impossibility to have recognised him. His
companion put on a dress of the same nature, and Sir Henry was preparing
to make his retreat, presuming that they would now leave the building,
when he was induced to stay for the purpose of remarking the conduct of
the Maltese. He took up a scull, and placing his finger through an
eyeless hole, whence _once_ love beamed or hate flashed, he made some
savage comment, which he accompanied by a long and malignant laugh. This
would at another time have shocked Sir Henry, but there was another
laugh, wilder and more discordant, that curdled the blood in Delme's
veins. It proceeded from his brother, the gay--the happy George Delme;
and as it re-echoed through the gloomy passage, it seemed that of a
remorseless demon, gloating on the misfortunes of the human race. Delme
turned away in agony, and, unperceived, regained the anxious domestic.
Screened by an angle of the building, they saw George and his companion
ascend the stone steps, cross the yard, and turn into the street. They
followed him cautiously--Delme's ears ringing with that fiendish laugh.
George's companion stopped for a moment, at a house in the street, where
they were joined by a sallow-looking priest, apparently one of the most
disgusting of his tribe. He was accompanied by a boy, also drest in
sacerdotal robes, in one hand bearing a silver-ornamented staff, of the
kind frequently used in processions, and in other observances of the
Catholic religion; and in the other, a rude lanthorn, whose light
enabled Delme to note these particulars. As the four figures swept
through the streets, the lower orders prostrated themselves, before the
figure of the crucified and dying Saviour which surmounted the staff.
They again stopped, and the priest entered a house alone. On coming
back, he was followed by a coffin, borne on the shoulders of four of the
lower order of Maltese. At the moment these were leaving the house,
Henry heard a solitary scream, apparently of a woman. It was wild and
thrilling; such an one as we hear from the hovering sea bird, as the
tempest gathers to a head. To Delme, coming as it did at that lone hour
from one he saw not, it seemed superhuman. In the front of the house
stood two caleches, the last of which, Sir Henry observed was without
doors. At a sign from the Maltese, George and his strange companion
entered it. They were followed by the coffin, which was placed
lengthways, with the two ends projecting into the street. In the
_leading_ caleche were the priest and boy, the latter of whom thrust
the figure of the bleeding Jesus out at the window, whilst with the
other hand he held up the lanthorn. Twice more did the caleche
stop--twice receive corpses. Another light was produced, and placed in
the last conveyance, and Delme took the opportunity of their arranging
this, to pass by the caleche. The light that had been placed in it shone
full on George. The coffins were on a level with the lower part of his
face. Nothing of his body, which was jammed in between the seat and the
coffins, could be seen. But the features, which glared over the pall,
were indeed terrific; apathy no longer marked them. George seemed wound
up to an extraordinary state of excitement. Gone was the glazed
expression of his eye, which now gleamed like that of a famished eagle.
The Maltese leant back in the carriage, with a sardonic smile, his dark
face affording a strange contrast to the stained, but yet ghastly hue of
"They intend to take them to the vault at Floriana, your honor," said
the servant, "shall I call a caleche, and we can follow them?"
Without waiting a reply, for the man saw that Sir Henry's faculties,
were totally absorbed in the strange scene he had witnessed; Thompson
called a carriage, which passed the other two--now commencing at a
funeral pace to proceed to the vault--and, taking the same direction
which they had done on entering the town, a short time sufficed to put
them down immediately opposite the church. They had time allowed them to
dismiss their carriage, and screen themselves from observation, before
the funeral procession arrived.
This stopped in front of the vault, and Delme anxiously scrutinised the
proceedings. Another man--probably the one whose place George had
supplied--had joined them outside the town, and now walked by the side
of the caleche. He assisted George's companion in bearing out the
coffins. The huge door grated on its hinges, as they opened it. The
coffins were borne in, and the whole party entered; the priest mumbling
a short Latin prayer. In a short time, the priest alone returned; and
looking cautiously around, and seeing no one, struck a light from a
tinder box, and lighted his cigar. The other two men brought back the
coffins, evidently relieved of their weight; and the priest--the
boy--with the man who had last joined them, and who had also lit his
cigar--entered the first caleche, after exchanging some jokes with
George's companion, and returned at a rapid pace towards the town.
During this time, George Delme had been left alone in the vault. His
companion returned to him, after taking the precaution to fasten its
Sir Henry was now at a loss what plan to adopt; but Thompson, after a
moment's hesitation, suggested one.
"There is an iron grating, Sir, over part of the vault, through which,
when a bar was loose, I know one of our soldiers went down. Shall I
get a cord?"
The man ran towards his barrack, and returned with it. To wrench by
their united efforts, one bar from its place, and to fasten the rope to
another, was the work of an instant. Space was just left them to creep
through the aperture. Sir Henry was the first to breathe the confined
air of the sepulchre. A voice warned him in what direction to proceed;
and not waiting for the domestic, he groped his way forward through a
narrow passage. At first, Delme thought there was a wall on either side
him; but as he made a false step, and the bones crumbled beneath, he
knew that it was a wall, formed of the bleached remains of the bygone
dead. As he drew nearer the voice, he was guided by the lanthorn brought
by George's companion; and towards this he proceeded, almost overpowered
by the horrible stench of the charnel house, As he drew near enough to
distinguish objects, what a scene presented itself! In one corner of the
vault, lay a quantity of lime used to consume the bodies, whilst nearer
the light, lay corpses in every stage of putrefaction. In some, the lime
had but half accomplished its purpose; and while in parts of the body,
the bones lay bare and exposed; in others, corruption in its most
loathsome form prevailed. Here the meaner reptiles--active and
prolific--might be seen busily at work, battening on human decay. Sir
Henry stepped over a dead body, and started, as a rat, scared from its
prey, rustled through a wreath of withered flowers, and hid itself amid
a mouldering heap of bones. But there were some forms lovely still! In
them the pulse of life had that day ceased to beat. The rigidity of
Death--his impressive stillness was there--but he had not yet "swept the
lines where beauty lingers."
The Maltese stood with folded arms, closely regarding George Delme.
George leant against a pillar, with one knee bent. Over it was stretched
the corpse of a girl, with the face horribly decomposed. The dull and
flagging winds of the vault moved her dank and matted hair.
"Acme," said he, as he parted the dry hair from the blackened brow,
"_do_ but speak to your own George! Be not angry with me, dearest!" He
held the disgusting object to his lips, and lavished endearments on the
Delme staggered--and Thompson supported him--as he gasped for breath
in the extremity of his agony. At this moment his eye caught the face of
the Maltese. He had advanced towards George--his arms were still
folded--his eyes were sparkling with joy--and his features wore the
malignant expression of gratified revenge. Sir Henry sprang to his feet
and rushed forward.
"George! my brother! my brother!"
The maniac raised his pallid brow--his eye flashed consciousness--the
blue veins in his forehead swelled almost to bursting--he tossed his
arms wildly--and sunk powerless on the corpses around--his convulsive
shrieks re-echoing in that lonely vault. Thompson seized the Maltese,
and making him unlock the door, bore the brothers into the open air; for
Henry, at the time, was as much overpowered as George himself.
A clear solution to that curious scene was never given, for George could
not give the clue to his train of mental aberration.
With regard to his companion's share in the transaction, the man was
closely questioned, and other means of information resorted to, but the
only facts elicited were these:
His son had been executed some years before for a desperate attempt to
assassinate a British soldier, with whom he had had an altercation
during the carnival.
The man himself said, that he had no recollection of ever having
seen George before, but that he certainly _did_ remember some
officers questioning him on two occasions somewhat minutely as to
his mode of life.
This part of his story was confirmed by another officer of the regiment,
who remembered George and Delancey being with him on one occasion, when
the latter had taken much interest in the questioning of this man. The
Maltese declared, that on the night in question he was taken entirely by
surprise--that George entered the room abruptly--offered him money to be
allowed to accompany him to the vault--and told him that he had just
placed a young lady there whom he wished to see.
Colonel Vavasour, who took some trouble in arriving at the truth, was
satisfied that the man was well aware of George's insanity, but that
he felt too happy in being able to wreak an ignoble revenge on a
"The child of love, though born in bitterness,
And nurtured in convulsion."
For many days, George Delme lay on his couch unconscious and
immoveable. If his eye looked calm, it was the tranquillity of
apathetic ignorance, the fixedness of idiotcy. He spoke if he was
addressed, but recognised no one, and his answers were not to the
purpose. He took his food, and would then turn on his side, and close
his eyes as if in sleep. In vain did Acme watch over him--in vain did
her tears bedew his couch--in vain did Delme take his hand, and
endeavour to draw his attention to passing objects.
George had never been so long without a lucid interval. The surgeon's
voice grew less cheering every day, as he saw the little amendment in
his patient, and remarked that the pulse was gradually sinking. Colonel
Vavasour never allowed a day to elapse without visiting the invalid; and
in the regiment, his illness excited great commiseration, and drew forth
many expressions of kindness.
"Oh God! oh God!" said Delme, "he must not sink thus. Just as I am with
him--just as--oh, poor Emily! what will _she_ feel? Can nothing he done,
"Nothing! Sir: we must now put our whole trust in an all-seeing
Providence. _My_ skill can neither foresee nor hasten the result."
One soft summer's evening, when the wind blew in the scent of flowers
from the opposite gardens--and the ceaseless hum of the insects--those
twilight revellers--sounded happily on the ear, Acme started from the
couch as a thought crossed her.
"We have never tried music," said she, "I have been too unhappy to
think of it."
Her tears fell fast on the guitar, as she tuned its strings. She sung a
plaintive Greek air. It was the first George ever heard her sing, and
was the favourite. He heard it, when watching; lover-like beneath her
balcony during the first vernal days of their attachment. The song was
gone through sadly, and without hope. George's face was from her, and
she laid down the guitar, weary of life.
George gently turned his head. His eyes wore a subdued melancholy
expression, bespeaking consciousness. Down his cheek one big drop was
"Acme!" said he, "dearest Acme!"
Delme, who had left the room, was recalled by the hysterical sobs of the
poor girl, as she fell back on the chair, her hands clasped in joyful
The surgeon, who had immediately been sent for, ordered that George
should converse as little as possible.
What he did say was rational. What a solace was that to Henry and Acme!
The invalid too appeared well aware of his previous illness, although he
alluded to it but seldom. To those about him, his manner was femininely
soft, as he whispered his thanks, and sense of their kindness.
Immediately after the horrible scene he had witnessed, Sir Henry's mind
had been made up, as to the line of conduct he ought to pursue. The
affectionate solicitude of the young Greek, during George's illness,
gave him no reason to regret his determination.
"Now," said Mr. Graham, one day as George was rapidly recovering,
"now, Sir Henry, I would recommend you to break all you have to say to
George. For God's sake, let them be married; and although, mark me! I
by no means assert that it will quite re-establish George's health,
yet I think such a measure _may_ effectually do so, and at all events
will calm him for the present; which, after all, is the great object
we have in view."
The same day, Delme went to his brother's bed-side. "George," said he,
"let me take the present opportunity of Acme's absence, to tell you what
I had only deferred till you were somewhat stronger. She is a good girl,
George, a very good girl. I wish she had been English--it would have
been better!--but this we cannot help. You must marry her, George! I
will be a kind brother-in-law, and Emily shall love her for your sake."
The invalid sat up in his bed--his eyes swam in tears. He twice essayed
to speak, ere he could express his gratitude.
"Thank you! a thousand times thank you! my kind brother! Even _you_
cannot tell the weight of suffering, you have this day taken from my
mind. My conduct towards Acme has been bowing me to the earth; and yet
I feared your consent would never be obtained. I feared that coldness
from you and Emily would have met her; and that I should have had but
_her_ smile to comfort me for the loss of what I so value. God bless
you for this!"
Delme was much affected.
To complete his good work, he waited till Acme had returned from a visit
she had just made to her relations; and taking her aside, told her his
wishes, and detailed his late conversation with George.
"Never! never!" said the young Greek, "I am too happy as I am. I have
heard you all make better lovers than husbands. I cannot be happier!
No! no! I will never consent to it."
All remonstrances were fruitless--no arguments could affect her--no
Delme, quite perplexed at finding such a difficulty, where he had so
little expected to find one,--pitying her simplicity, but admiring her
disinterestedness,--went to George, and told him Acme's objections.
"I feared it," said his brother, "but perhaps I may induce her to think
differently. Were I to take advantage of her unsophisticated feelings,
and want of knowledge of the world, I should indeed be a villain."
Acme was sent for, and came weeping in--took Georg's hand--and gazed
earnestly in his face as he addressed her.
"You must change your mind, dearest," said he. And he told her of the
world's opinion--the contumely she might have to endure--the slights to
which she would be subjected. Still she heeded not.
"Why mention these things?" said she. "Who would insult me, were _you_
near? or if they did, should I regard them while _you_ were kind?"
And her lover's words took a loftier tone; and he spoke of religion, and
of the duties it imposes; of the feelings of his countrywomen; and the
all-seeing eye of their God. Still the fond girl wept bitterly, but
"My own Acme! consider _my_ health too, dearest! Were you now to
consent, I might never again be ill. It would be cruelty to me to
refuse. Say you consent for _my_ sake, sweet!"
"For your sake, then!" said Acme, as she twined her snowy arms round his
neck, "for _your_ sake, Giorgio, I do so! But oh! when I am yours for
ever by that tie; when--if this be possible--our present raptures are
less fervent--our mutual affections less devoted--do not, dearest
George--do not, I implore you--treat me with coldness. It would break my
heart, indeed it would."
They were married according to the rites of both the Protestant and
Catholic Church. Few were present. George had been lifted to the sofa,
and sat up during the ceremony; and although his features were pale and
emaciated, they brightened with internal satisfaction, as he heard those
words pronounced, which made his love a legitimate one. Acme was silent
and thoughtful; and tears quenched the fire of her usually sparkling
eye. George Delme's recovery from this date became more rapid.
He was able to resume his wonted exercise--his step faltered
less--his eye became clearer. His convalescence was so decided, that
the surgeon recommended his at once travelling, and for the present
relinquishing the army.
"Perhaps the excessive heat may not be beneficial. I would, if possible,
get him to Switzerland for the summer months. I will enquire what
outward-bound vessels there are. If there is one for Leghorn, so much
the better. But the sooner he tries change of scene, the more
advantageous it is likely to be; and after all, the climate is but a
An American vessel bound to Palermo, happened to be the only one in the
harbour, whose destination would serve their purpose; and determined
not to postpone George's removal, Sir Henry at once engaged its cabin.
Colonel Vavasour obtained George leave for the present, and promised to
arrange as to his exchanging from full pay. He likewise enabled him,
which George felt as a great boon, to take his old and attached servant
with him; with the promise that he would use all his interest to have
the man's discharge forwarded him, before the expiration of his leave.
"He may be useful to you, my dear boy, if you get ill again, which God
forbid! He is an old soldier, and a good man--well deserving the
indulgence. And remember! if you should be better, and feel a returning
penchant for the red coat, write to me--we will do our best to work an
exchange for you."
"Farewell! a word that must be, and hath been,
A sound that makes us linger, yet farewell."
The day of departure at length arrived. Thompson had been busy the
greater part of the night in getting every thing ready for the voyage.
It was a lovely morning, and the wind, although light, was propitious.
Acme had parted with her relations and friends the day previous.
She was henceforward to share the destiny of one, who was to supply the
place of both to her. Attached to them as she was, and grateful as she
felt for their kindness in the hour of need, there was nothing in that
parting to throw a permanent gloom on the hopes of the youthful bride.
Her love, and the feelings it engendered, were of that confiding nature,
that she could have followed George anywhere, and been happy still. As
it was, her lot seemed cast "in pleasant places," and no foreboding of
evil, except indeed for George, ever marred the waking dreams of Acme.
Her simple heart had already learnt, to look up with respect and
affection to Sir Henry, and yearned with fond longing for the period
when she should return a sister's love.
She had that lively talent too, which, miniatured as it was, allowed of
her fully appreciating the superiority of the English she had lately
met, to the general run of those with whom she had hitherto associated.
An English home had none but charms for her.
"Come Acme," said George, as he assisted her in adjusting the first
bonnet that had ever confined her wavy curls, "wish good bye to your
ring-dove, dear! Mrs. Graham will take good care of it; and Thompson has
just finished the packing."
The boat which was to convey them to the vessel was so near, that they
had agreed to walk down to the place of embarkation.
As George left the room, a tall figure presented itself on the
"Ah, Clark!" said George, "my good fellow! I am very sorry to part with
you. I do not know what I shall do without my pay serjeant!" and he held
out his hand.
It was grasped gratefully.
"Thank you, your honour!"
The old soldier stood erect, and put his hand to his cap.
"God bless you! Mr. Delme. I have served under many officers, but never
under a kinder. May the Almighty bless you, Sir, in all your
The soldier turned away--one large drop burst o'er the lid, and trickled
down his sun-burnt cheek.
With the back of his hand, he brushed it off indignantly.
His converse may be rough--his manner rude--his hand ever ready for
quarrel;--but, believe us! ye who deem the soldier beneath his
fellow-men,--that the life of change--of chance--of hardship--and of
danger--which is his, freezes not the kindlier emotions of the soul, if
it sweep away its sicklier refinements. Beneath the red vest, beat
hearts as warm and true, as ever throbbed beneath operative apron, or
swelled under softest robe of ermine.
George was moved by the man's evidently sincere grief. He reached the
bottom of the stairs. The company to which he belonged was drawn up in
the court yard.
In front of it, the four tallest men supported a chair, and almost
before George Delme was aware of their purpose, bore him to it, and
lifted him on their shoulders, amidst the huzzas of their comrades. The
band, too, which had voluntarily attended, now struck up the march which
George delighted to hear; and, followed by his company, he was carried
triumphantly towards the mole.
George's heart was full.
Sir Henry felt deeply interested in the scene; and poor Acme leant on
his arm, and wept with joy.
Yes! there are moments in life, and this was one, when the approval of
our inferiors awakens a degree of pride and mental satisfaction, that
no panegyric of our superiors, no expressions of esteem from our
equals, could have ever called forth. Such approval meets us, as the
spontaneous effusion of hearts that have looked up to ours, and have
_not_ been deceived.
This pride was it that flushed George's cheek, and illumed with
brightness his swimming eye. He was thus carried till he arrived at the
spot where his boat should have been. It was already, with Thompson and
their baggage, half way towards the vessel. In its place was the
regimental gig, manned by George's best friends. Its steersman was
Colonel Vavasour, drest in the fanciful aquatic costume his regiment
Trifling as this may appear, this act of his Colonel, seemed to George
the very highest compliment that had ever been paid him.
George Delme turned to his company, and with choking voice thanked them
for this last mark of attention. We are very certain that a shake of
the hand from a prince, would not have delighted him as much, as did
the hearty farewell greeting of his rough comrades.
Even Acme blushingly went up to the chair-supporters, and, with a
winning smile, extended her small hand. Vavasour assisted her into the
gig, and it was with a bounding elasticity of spirit, to which he had
long been a stranger, that George followed. As the boat cut through the
water, they were greeted with a last and deafening huzza.
In a short time they were alongside the vessel. The captain was pacing
the deck, and marking the signs of the wind, with the keen eye of the
sailor. A chair was lowered for Acme. She shook hands with the rowers.
George parted from them as if they had been brothers, and from Colonel
Vavasour last of all.
"Take care of yourself, my dear boy," said the latter, "do not
forget to write us; we shall all be anxious to know how you have
stood the voyage."
As the gig once more shot its way homewards, and many a friendly