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A SERIES OF FIFTEEN TALES,
MARY COWDEN CLARKE,
Author of the Concordance to Shakespeare.
"as petty to his ends,
As is the morn-dew on the myrtle leaf
To his grand sea."
ISABELLA; THE VOTARESS.
W. HI. SMITH & SON, 136, STRAND; AND SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, & CO.,
STATIONERS' HALL COURT.
J. ALFRED NOVELLO, PRINTER, DEAN STREET, SORO, LONDON.
DOUGLAS JERROLD, ESQ.,
IN HOMAGE TO HIS GENIUS,
IN GRATITUDE FOR HIS FRIENDSHIP,
IS CORDIALLY DEDICATED
MARY COWDEN CLARKE.
ISABELLA; THE VOTARESS.
"A thing ensky'd, and sainted ;"
Measure for Measure.
ALL the Vienna world was abroad, and gay, and well-dressed, and bent
on pleasure; for it was the first of May,-when every Viennese puts on
new clothes, and sallies forth, and makes holiday; and the city becomes a
scene of colour and animation.
Through the public thoroughfares, the croud streamed on; rich and poor,
high and low, haughty and humble, gentle and simple, the virtuous and the
vicious, the nobleman and the tradesman, the lady, the milliner, the man of
wealth, the artisan, the honest, the profligate, the wise, the foolish, the sober,
the dissipated, the careless, the studious, the indolent, the industrious, the
witty, the silly, the insolent, the modest, the proud, the coquette, the house-
wife, the flirt, the spendthrift, the miser, the home-lover, and the gad-about;
all with one accord, joined the band of idlers, and swelled the throng that
poured through the streets that fine May-morning, in holiday trim, and
holiday talk, and holiday mirth and laughter, and in the freedom of universal
association which holiday pursuit brings about.
For all the groups in this gay croud, whatever their class, or degree, or
habit, or profession, or calling, or ordinary pursuit, had that day but one
pursuit, and jostled and elbowed each other in temporary equality and un-
animity; for it was the first of May, and all the Vienna world was abroad,
and wending to see the foot-racing on the Prater.
The noble, and the wealthy, for the most part, kept their state, in coaches,
or on horseback, surveying the croud on foot with toleration, or disdain, as
the case might be, or with condescending approval, intimating that, as part of
the show and stir of the scene, the others were welcome there, in their clean
new dresses. The humbler pedestrians looked upon their lofty neighbours
with admiration, or with grudging, or with envy, as the case might be, also;
according to the several dispositions of the individual gazers in both ranks.
Among the pedestrians, was one couple, who, as they lounged along, were
not sparing of their remarks upon the rest, and who uttered them in a loud
jeering tone, regardless of being heard, or of giving offence.
The man,-a short, thick-set fellow, with a ferocious moustache, and a
cruel eye; a skin that bespoke double daily drink to daily bread; a head
held on one side, with an air that cast defiance in the teeth of all who cast
eyes on him; a swaggering step, and a general look of brutal ruffianism ;-
held on his arm a young girl, who was young only in years, for her face
had in it that which betokened an age of horrible experiences. There were
in her countenance traces of beauty, but they were obscured to a pitying eye
by the shadow of vice, by the hues of intemperance, by the lines which
wrangling and brawling had left cut in upon the cheek, and round the mouth
and eyes; while in the eyes themselves, there would occasionally gleam a
wild troubled look, that seemed like conscience betraying its inward struggle,
and starting forth involuntarily to claim sympathy and compassion.
In her person there was the same confession; recklessness of decorum
in dress, and bearing, together with a something of shrinking consciousness
at times, that seemed to plead for the sense of shame that yet remained.
Her voice revealed similar existence of bad, with latent good. It was coarse,
and unrestrained in its noisy vulgarity of speech and laugh; but there were
moments, when its tone would drop to an almost musical softness, and it
would tremble and vibrate with genuine womanly emotion.
Now, however, it was raised to its height of repulsive loudness, as she
laughed and talked with the ruffian companion on whose arm she hung,
humouring his mood of jocularity in sneering at the passers-by, and assisting
his invention by many smart sallies of her own.
In the midst of their boisterous mirth, it suddenly received a check, by
one of the horses starting from the line of cavalcade, and plunging and
rearing violently in their immediate vicinity. So close to them came the
animal, and so entirely beyond the control of his rider was he in his bounds
and curvettings, that his hoof struck the girl, before she could get out of
his way. She recoiled with a scream of pain; while her companion sprang
forward, with an oath, to seize the horse's rein, and to revenge himself on
the rider. But the animal dashed past him, and bore his master and himself
away from the spot, leaving the other raging and foaming, and pouring
forth a volley of curses and vows for vengeance.
"Don't heed it; I'm not much hurt-you'll only get yourself into
trouble-let him be;" said the girl with difficulty; for she was struggling
to hide the pain she was in.
Not much hurt !" with another oath; "you might have been killed !"
The girl turned deadly pale, and held her hand to her bosom; but she
continued to say she was not much hurt, and kept her other hand upon the
man's sleeve to hold him back.
"No, no, not badly hurt;" she said; only let me lean upon you for a
bit, and take me out of the croud for a minute or two, and I shall be right
The man led her up a quiet by-street; while she clung to him, as much,
apparently, to detain him by her side, as to use his arm for support
Here, sit you down here, Nanni, my girl ;" said he, as he turned through
the gates of a little old church-yard, that was in the by-street; sit upon
one of these mounds, and get your breath, which that scoundrel frightened
out of you with his horse's hoofs. I'll see if one arm can't strike as well as
four legs, if ever I catch that young jackanapes "
"Not here ;" said the girl shuddering, and looking round. I can't sit
here. You said just now, I might have been killed; so I might-in that
very moment-and have been brought and laid here." She looked round
upon the graves; she looked up at the old church-tower that reared its grey
head towards the sky; she looked up into that sky beyond, and a dark
troubled expression settled on her brow. She thought, had she then been
summoned to one of those earthly beds, what strange rest or unrest might
have been hers.
Why what a plague's come to the wench !" exclaimed the man, as he
watched her disturbed look, and quivering lip, you're no coward, are you,
Nan, to shiver and shake after the danger's over ? I know you're too brave
a wench for that-or I should'nt like ye as well as I do Ugo Branz hates
a milk-sop-be it man or woman-with all his body and soul !"
Winding up this manifesto with a few more round oaths, having for aim
milk-sops of all kinds, horses and horsemen of all sorts, mankind in general,
and himself and his own body and soul in particular, he again demanded
to know what a plague was come to the wench.
"O I don't know-nothing ;-nothing's come to me-nothing's the
matter with me; I'm better now;" said the girl hurriedly. But what's
that-over there-sitting among the graves-all in white? see !"
I suppose you think it's a ghost! What the devil's come over you ?"
And this time Ugo Branz invoked condemnation on his eyes and limbs, as
well as body and soul.
"A ghost ? No; more like an angel!" said she. "It's a child. See how
it sits, like a marble image; with its folded hands and drooping head."
I'll tell you what, my girl," said the man, if you're going to stay here
all day in this mouldy old church-yard, fancying ghosts, and spirits, and
angels, and all that sort of rubbish, you may stay here by yourself; for I
shan't, I promise you. But if you choose to come along with me, and see
the foot-running, like the jolly wench I know you for, generally, why, say
the word, and come along, and don't stop moping and fooling here no
"I am a fool; what's the good of moping and thinking?" muttered
the girl. "I often tell myself so-no use in thinking-be merry while
I can-merry! And so we'll be merry, shall we, Ugo?" she went on,
in her loud careless voice, and with her noisy laugh; but both the tone
and the laugh were forced and mirthless.
Her companion, however, was not one to detect want of true feeling of
any sort, or any where; as long as the semblance of high spirits was near
him, he was satisfied; and they soon joined the croud in the main street
again, and went lounging, and idling, and mocking, and jesting on, as they
had done before.
They reached the Prater, as the foot-race began. The competitors had
just started; and Ugo was soon eagerly engaged in watching them, and in
betting with some of the bystanders, on the probable event of the course.
The chances were very equal, the men engaged, being well matched in
strength and activity. They were, for the most part, running-footmen, be-
longing to the retinue of noblemen of distinction; and were dressed in
coloured silk jackets, embroidered in silver. The vivid hues, and richness
of their decoration, showed to peculiar advantage in rapid action; which,
joined to their well-matched powers, gave additional brilliancy, animation,
and interest to the sports. Ugo became more and more excited by the scene;
his bets grew more numerous; his shouts to those he abetted, more vehe-
ment; his yells at those he disfavoured, more execrative; his oaths more
savage, more voluble than ever. As the race concluded, he found himself a
victor, by several heavy wagers, and in state of foaming furious triumph.
In high good humour, still raving and panting, he seized the girl by the
arm, and led her to one of the small way-side houses of entertainment that
abound near there; taking his seat on one of the benches at a table set out-
side, for the accommodation of revellers, and calling upon all near him to
congratulate him upon his winnings. He did not notice that in passing his
arm through hers, the girl had shrunk abruptly, for she strove to repress
all evidence of the pain he gave her by touching, even thus casually,
the spot where she had received the blow from the horse's hoof; but after-
wards, when Ugo had bawled his orders for beer and schnapps, and, in a fit
of brute joviality, snatched the girl in his arms, to give her a sounding
kiss, the sudden and rough pressure extorted a scream from her lips,
which made him fling her from him, and exclaim with one of his usual
"What makes you squall, when a man's inclined to be jolly ? Are you
turned squeamish, or what? Because if you are, by Jove, you're no company
for Ugo. There, be off with that white face of yours I Pah, it turns a man's
liquor to milk. Be off with it, I say Let's see no more of it!"
The girl made one attempt to lay her hand upon his arm, and to utter
one of her forced laughs; but as her voice faltered, and she could not drive
the look of pain from her lips by a feigned smile, he shook her off, and she
As she arose from her seat on the bench beside him, one of the bystanders
said something as if in deprecation of Ugo's treatment of her; which this
latter resenting, high words arose, mingled with execrations and threatened
Nanni, again forgetful of herself, would have clung to Ugo, to withhold
him from danger, but, with a torrent of oaths, he protested that if she did'nt
get out of his sight that instant, he'd fell her to the ground, and set his foot
on her chalk face.
The girl crept away, giving a free course to the tears of suffering she had
till then suppressed; she occasionally put her hand to her bruised side as
if it gave her great pain, and more than once raised her other hand to her
head, as if full of thoughts that disturbed her with even greater.
She took no heed to wipe away the tears which blurred and smeared her
face, but walked on in dogged misery, heedless of appearance or observation;
until at length she was beyond the chance of the latter, for she had wandered
away from the crouded Prater, and was now in a quiet unfrequented path
down by the river.
The hum of voices, the tread of footsteps, the trample of horses and
carriages, the various sounds of a gay and eager croud, gradually grew
fainter, subsiding in the distance; the stillness of Nature softly replaced
them, while the green of the leaves overhead, and of the grass beneath,
with the mild blue heavens above, spanning the shining track of the Danube,
helped to shed benign influence upon the agitated senses of the sufferer.
The drops fell less thickly from her eyes; the swollen lids drooped less
heavily, as her look encountered the cool tranquillity of the scene; but still
in her heart there raged the bitter sense of pain, of ill-usage, and the still
keener sting of self-abasement and conscious worthlessness.
She flung herself down on the raised path by the way side, where she
sat rocking herself to and fro, moodily gazing across the gliding waters
into the space beyond, as if confronting the picture her fancy presented her
of the outcast thing she was.
As she sat thus, a little footstep approached. A child, of but a few
years old, came in sight, walking along the road by itself, looking about,
as if somewhat uncertain of its way, yet keeping steadily on without
Nanni watched the child involuntarily; and as it came near to the spot
where she sat, she could not help saying:-
"Why, you're a bit of a thing to be wandering here by yourself.
Where are you going to?"
"To Heaven," said the little one.
"Bless the child !" was the startled rejoinder.
"I'm trying to find my way there. There must be some way to get
there; and I want to go up-up there-to her !" And the child pointed
up into the blue sky with its baby finger.
Where do you come from ?"
"From the church-yard."
Nanni again started. The little creature stood there looking so innocent,
so clear, so undarkened by earth's mistakes and guilt, that, for an instant,
she might have seemed a newly disembodied spirit, freed from its cover-
ings of fleshly and church-yard clay, coming forth to seek kindred dwell-
ing-place with the angels above. For that instant, Nanni eyed the child,
as if she would have scarce been surprised to see a pair of wings spread
themselves from its shoulders, and bear it soaring away from her sight; but
in another moment she recognized it for the same she had beheld that
morning sitting upon one of the graves, when she was led into the church-
yard to recover, by Ugo Branz.
"Do you know the way to Heaven ?" resumed the child.
"Not I;" said Nanni with a would-be light laugh; but the old troubled
look came into her face.
"Did you ever know it ?" said the child; have you forgotten it ?"
"I might have known it, perhaps, one time"-replied the girl hurriedly;
"yes, yes, I've forgotten it, I suppose."
I wish I'd met you before you forgot it," said the child earnestly.
The troubled eye darkened still more, as the girl muttered something
that sounded like :-" Would to God you had !"
I wish I had ;" repeated the child; for I want to get there. They
told me she was gone there-and I must go to her." The little one looked
about her again; and seemed going to pursue her steady onward way, as
before. Suddenly she held out her hand to Nanni, and said :-" Come with
me; we'll try and find the way together, shall we ?"
The girl burst into a passion of crying. "Too late, too late!" She
exclaimed wildly; and beat her hands together, and clenched them among
1Z ISABELLA ;
The child stood looking in terror at this violence of grief; but yet she
found courage, after a pause, to go a little nearer, and repeat, "Do, come
and help me to look for it; if we find the way, you won't cry any more;
for they told me nobody's sorry there. Come, we shall be so happy there.
Let's go. Do; do."
And the little one, in her eagerness to cure misery which she saw, but
knew not how to help, was about to put her arm round the neck of the girl,
who had bowed her head upon her clasped hands; when the latter, looking
suddenly and almost fiercely up, cried:-" I can't-it's no use-too late, I
tell you, too late Go, go; you mock me; go "
The child, disconcerted, drew back; and after standing a few moments
more, vainly watching this wild wretchedness, finding that she did not raise
her head, or speak again, the little creature, not without many a hesitating
step, and wistful look behind, went upon her way, regretting the poor
woman would not come and help in the search.
And still that unhappy woman sat there, with her head upon her clasped
hands, her arms flung across her lap, her whole attitude expressive of the
despondency that possessed her.
Fit only to be trodden under foot, it was I-I-who flung myself into
the dust and soil !" These were some of the goading thoughts whispered
by conscience. Castaway, abject thing that I am, abandoned, despised,
lost,-who was it that first degraded my own being from what it might
have been ? Had I not been false to myself, could the treachery of others
have effected my ruin? The way to Heaven?' Ay, I might once have
learned it, had I kept, an innocent child, by my father's knee, and hearkened
to the good lessons he taught. Had I never wandered from his cottage
roof, or suffered myself to listen to words more flattering than his simple
praise, I still might have been worthy-still have hoped; but for me there
is no hope-none. My feet were led astray once and for ever from the
right path-and since then, lower, and lower, and ever lower, till now I am
fallen among ruffian companions, insulted, outraged, spurned even by
After remaining thus, some time, crouching listlessly, in a sort of stupor,
as if abandoned to the lowly position which best seemed to assort with the
condition of abasement in which she beheld herself, her course of thought
seemed to take a more active turn, impelling her to rise, and walk forward
with a hurried step.
Her eye followed the silvery flowing of the river that ran close by the
road she was pursuing; it seemed to lapse gently on, whispering of peace,
and repose, and forgetfulness, after a weary struggle with misery. And
still the stream seemed to lure her on, and on, promising rest and solace,
could she once find courage to throw herself trustingly into its whelming
bosom. Yet still she walked on by its side, hesitating; confused by
a thousand doubts, fears, and conflicting images of possible gain, and
possible evil-of exchanging her present anguish for worse-of the mockery
of peace in the reality of eternal unrest. Once take that fatal plunge, from
which there is no withdrawal-and what might be the unknown region she
should enter. What strange penalty might not her very rashness incur ?
How was she to secure repose by an act of daring, of violence ? Should it
not rather be the prelude to renewed turmoil-perpetuated suffering ? She
withdrew her eyes from the alluring stream, shuddering; yet not many
minutes elapsed, ere her look was again fascinated towards its bright, its
What else have I left me, but death ? she muttered. "Death now, or
death some time hence; what will the interval bring me, should I accept
one, but continued evil, added guilt? Some days, and months, or years
more of disgrace and outrage, added to those that have already been
endured. Why heap up more by that which has been foully achieved ?
Why increase my own offences, my own weight of injury ? If death come
now, it will but prevent another period of vicious life-for what course but
vice can be mine ? A creature branded with sin, steeped in infamy as I,
can take no one step in good; all paths of virtue and hope are closed
against such as I, by those who have never known the grief of straying; no
act of goodness, no office of kindliness, would be accepted at my hand; no
deed of charity be tolerated in me; no worthy emotion of mine be believed;
no yearning after excellence meet response. What then is left me but to
end this course of wrong and wretchedness ?"
In the energy of her self-communing, and hurried walk, the girl had in-
sensibly traversed a considerable distance along the river side.
As she paused, trying to derive strength, from the very extremity of her
despair, for the plunge which was to dare all that might come, so that the
past were blotted out, she looked round for an instant, upon the scene of her
intended farewell to earth.
It was a wild and desolate spot, remote from any chance of passing foot-
step. It's gloom and solitude fitted it for her purpose,-was the thought
that glanced across the girl's mind; though the next, was one which curled
her lip bitterly, as it suggested that there was not a being in the world
whose interest in the poor outcast would have sufficed to prompt interference,
could her intended deed have been witnessed.
Rejected of man-let me seek mercy of God !" she murmured, turning
once again to the river.
But in turning, her eye caught sight of something white that lay among
the rank grass, at a little distance. An impulse, for which she could not
have accounted, led her to go and look at it more closely; and she then
discovered the child, whom she had twice encountered that morning, lying
upon the ground, in a fast sleep.
It seemed tired and foot-sore; for its shoes were dusty and worn-so
worn, that one little foot peered through the broken sole, and was slightly
stained with blood; the arms lay half extended, with the careless grace and
ease of childhood, and the hair fell on either side the face in masses dis-
ordered by exercise and weariness; but though there were these traces of
fatigue about the little creature, there was still, through all, that look of
spotless innocence and calm, which had conveyed to Nanni the impression
of something spiritual and unearthly in this child.
Ethereal, holy, pure, apart from the grossness of the material world, this
little being seemed to the girl, as she bent over the sleeping face. A
celestial expression of softness dwelt upon the features, such as a cherub's
might wear; and the transparent beauty of the cheek was almost more than
belongs to mortality. Helpless as it lay there, it seemed to embody so
powerfully the spirit of purity, that Nanni felt as if she could have knelt and
worshipped the presence she involuntarily recognized.
Gently, reverently, she stooped, and drew off the little shoes ; then tearing
her handkerchief into strips, she bandaged the wounded feet, after having
bathed them in some water fetched in the hollow of her hand from the
Though she did all this as softly and tenderly as she might, yet
during her ministry, the child awoke, sat up, and, with outstretched elbows,
began rubbing its eyes with the backs of its dimpled hands, while it sleepily
watched the operation.
Thank you How kind you are I How nicely you have bound up
my feet! They were very sore with walking so far. I was very tired, I
believe, and fell asleep ;" said the child.
You must have been tired, to have walked such a long way. How far
do you live from here ?" asked Nanni.
Oh, a great far away off from here. It must be, for I walkedpall the
morning;" returned the child. But I could'nt find my way, and so I
must go home now, and try another day."
"Where is your home ?" enquired Nanni.
"I don't know; Oh, in Vienna-I should know the house if I saw it-
but I don't know the street;" said the child.
"I'll try and find it for you, if you like;" said Nanni.
"I like;" answered the child with the prompt frankness of her age;
at the same time putting her hand with confidence into the hand of the
stranger who offered help.
"I'll carry you as far as I can;" said Nanni. Your feet are too sore to
bear much walking." So saying, she raised the child in her arms, and felt
a thrill of pleasure, as those other little soft innocent ones curled themselves
round her neck.
They went on thus for some time; then the child said:-" You are very
good; but you must be tired. Change arms."
Nanni set her down for a moment, and attempted to lift her up on the
other side; but she was compelled to desist, and to place her on the ground
again, turning very pale, and uttering a stifled groan as she did so.
"What's the matter ?" said the child; "are you ill ?"
"No; I got a hurt this morning-here;" and the girl put her hand
upon her bosom; but it's nothing-it don't pain me, when I have you on
the other arm. We'll rest a bit; and then I'll take you up again, on
Nanni placed the child on the moss-grown root of a tree that grew near,
leaning against its trunk herself, and trying to speak cheerfully with her
"See what a croud of branches there is over your head! What a
fine resting-place they make for the little birds' nests And what a thick
shelter they give, when the rain comes pattering down !" said she. Look
too, how well that sprawling root serves you for a seat; and what a
pleasant shade there is from the close leaves! 0, it's a grand old tree,
isn't it ?"
But the child didn't answer; her eyes were fixed on Nanni's face,
and she was lost in thought.
"Then that was the reason you were crying, when I found you sitting
by the roadside, this morning;" she said at length, ponderingly. "I
didn't know you had been hurt-I thought you were sorry."
I was both sorry and hurt;" said Nanni, in a low tone; and with the
old trouble in her look.
"Then why won't you come with me ?" returned the child. "I asked
you to come and help to try and find the way to Heaven-and there, you
know, there's neither pain nor sorrow; they told me so."
"There's no way to Heaven for me; said Nanni, with a broken voice,
that had music in its hopeless lament.
"How do you know ?" said the child. "Though I couldn't find it
to-day, and was obliged to give it up, and lie down-0, so tired !-yet I
mean to try again to-morrow-and if I don't find it then-the next day-
and if not then, the next and the next. I'll never stop trying-because I
know what a happy place it is-and because my own mamma told me I
should come to her there, some day ;-and so, if I mean to go on trying to
find the way, why shouldn't you ?"
Poor Nanni only shook her head; but finding the child expected her to
speak, asked her some question about her mother, which might serve
to divert the child's attention from herself.
My own dear mamma died ;" said the child in her grave earnest way.
"She told me she should. She told me that I was not to grieve when she
was taken away, and laid in the churchyard, for that she hoped to go
to heaven, where, if her little Isabella were very good, and tried hard to be
worthy, and keep the right path, she might one day come to her. But
I did grieve at first,-I was very sorry to disobey my own mamma,-
but I couldn't help it, when she was taken away from me; and I cried very
much for a long time, and used to go and sit in the churchyard, near the
grave where they laid her; but then I remembered that if I went on doing
as she had forbidden me-that was not being good,' or 'worthy.' And
then I remembered what she had said about the 'right path' to Heaven,
and what a happy beautiful place she had told me it was; and so I resolved
to try and find it, and never to give up the hope of coming to her in
And who takes care of you now your own mamma is gone?" asked
Nanni after a pause, during which the child's thoughtful blue eyes had been
fixed upon their kindred skies, and her own had been sadly cast upon
When papa went away to the wars, which he was obliged to do two
days after my own mamma died," said the child, "he left me in the care of
Frau Leerheim; and my brother Claudio too, only he is always away
I think I know where Madame Leerheim lives; she's a widow-lady,
isn't she ?" said Nanni. "But her house is quite at the other end of the
city-it's a long way indeed; come, hadn't we better be going, or it'll be
dark before we can get there." And Nanni would have lifted up the child
again, but little Isabella would not hear of being carried any more,
protesting that her feet were well now-and that she was not a bit tired,
but quite rested, and able to walk on stoutly.
The child said this so firmly, and took Nanni's hand so composedly, and
walked on with so decided a step, rather seeming to lead, than to be led-
that the girl, although the grown-up person, submitted unconsciously to the
guidance of the little creature, as to that of a superior intelligence.
Indeed, it was remarkable, that throughout, this had been the tone
of their intercourse. The child seemed to possess an influence, powerful,
but involuntary and unconscious,-on either part,-upon the young woman.
From the momentary awe which the first sight of the little mourner among
VOL. II. B
the graves had awakened, to the interest inspired by the sleeping child,-
an interest sufficient to withdraw her from a fatal purpose,-the impression
upon Nanni had been uniform; she could not help regarding her as some-
thing sacred, and commanding reverence-almost, worship.
When she had tended the wounded feet, it was less as a woman relieving
a poor little wayfarer, than as a devotee yielding pious service; when she
had offered to convey her home, it was less a grown person proposing to
protect and succour a wandering child, than a faithful attendant too happy
if duty find acceptance. When the woman addressed the child, there was
the same thing observable; deference, respect, tacit avowal of self-
inferiority in every gesture and inflection of voice. It was the instinctive
homage paid by lost innocence to its visible image in the person of that
There was a feeling of security-of safety, which Nanni felt from the
presence of the child, ever since it had been the means of rescuing her from
her meditated destruction. She hardly knew how it was that her intent
had been frustrated, but she felt that it was gone; that she had no design
of resuming it; and that with its departure was associated the little
creature by her side, who had taken its place, and whose presence inspired
They had reached the suburbs of the city, and were making their way
through the low miserable houses that straggled on either side of the way,
leading into Vienna; when Nanni perceived that the little Isabella limped
as she walked, in spite of all her efforts not to seem tired or footsore.
"I wish you would let me carry you," said Nanni.
"No, oh no;" said Isabella. "I would rather not be carried; but I
should like to sit down and rest; and then I could walk on again,
Nanni looked about her with a disturbed look; and then seemed to
debate some point with herself. It came to a decision, by her muttering:-
"I ought not to take her there-nor I would not-but she must have
rest and food; yes, yes, she must."
So concluding, she turned down among some houses that stood on their
right, at one of which-a small low-roofed one, near to a much larger
one,-she stopped, and taking a key out of her pocket, unlocked the door,
and led the way in.
They entered at once into a kind of parlour; though of mean appearance,
with sanded floor, checked window-curtains, and tables and chairs of
Two of the latter Nanni speedily made into a kind of couch, upon which
she spread her shawl, and a folded quilt, which she fetched from an inner
room; and then she placed the child carefully on these temporary cushions,
to rest at full length. Then she bathed and bandaged the little feet afresh,
touching them with a light soft hand,-once, pressing her cheek tenderly
against them; and then she arose from the kneeling posture she had taken
while doing this, and went to a cupboard at the opposite side of the room,
whence she brought some bread, which she cut into slips, and an egg,
which she beat up with a little wine and sugar; and then she set the whole
on a small table, which she brought close beside Isabella's couch, and
begged her to eat.
And you are going to have some with me ?" said the child. "How
nice this is And what a comfortable sofa you've made me And what a
snug-room this is Is this your house ?"
My house ? Yes, yes, never mind--don't think about that.-Hush "
The girl started up, trembled, listened; then ran to the door by which they
had entered, and hastily fastened it.
The next instant a voice was heard outside, saying :-"Nanni, let me
in I I want to speak to you! Let me in, I say."
It was a woman's voice, but peculiarly disagreeable; it was harsh and
grating, yet with a whine of cajolery that was still more repulsive; it was
authoritative, yet wheedling; loud, yet fawning.
You can't come in, Mrs. Ov- the girl checked herself in the name,
and added, "I can't let you in, now."
What, you're not alone, my girl ? said the voice, with a laugh, the
most discordant, and unlike a laugh, that can be conceived.
"No;" replied Nanni, glancing anxiously at Isabella, and hurriedly
putting her finger on her lip, in token that she should keep silence.
"That's -another affair;" rejoined the voice with a second horrible
chuckle, which dwindled off, as the speaker seemed to retreat from the
door, and go away.
Nanni heaved a deep sigh of relief, though she still trembled, and
"What woman was that ?" whispered the child.
"Hush! Don't ask-pray don't ask-anything about her-anything
"Well, I won't ask about her, if you don't wish it," said little Isabella
soothingly, for she could see that the girl was much agitated; "but I hope
you won't tell me not to ask about you-for I want to know your name,
that I may think of you, and know who it is that has been so kind and
good to me."
"No, no,-pray,-my name is nothing;-and yet, yes, for that very
reason-if you wish it, dear,"-and the girl diffidently faltered out the
last word, as if she had no right to say it, but could not resist the pleasure
it gave her to do so.
"I do wish it, indeed;" said the child.
"Then it is Anna-Nanni;-they call me Nanni;" said the girl.
Dear kind Nanni, come and sit here by me-no, not on this side-
come round to the other."
The girl did not understand the child's meaning, but in obedience to
her signal, took her seat on the right hand; when Isabella, raising herself
upon her knees on the couch, threw her arms round Nanni's neck, and
hugged her affectionately, and said :-" Thank you, thank you, dear
Nanni, for all your kindness to me!"
As the childish arms twined around, and the little body strained against
her, and the fresh rosy lips were pressed to her cheek in hearty true
caresses, the tears gushed from the girl's eyes.
Do I hurt you, dear Nanni ? I thought it was the other side that
was bruised, or I would not have pressed so hard."
It is not that-you don't hurt me-you do me good-you make me
happier than I ever expected to be again-dear, blessed, little creature-
dear little angel"-she repeated, as she ventured timidly to return the
embraces that were being lavished on her.
Do I do you good ? I am glad of that-you have been very good
to me; you have done me good ;" said the child.
Good ? Have I been permitted to do good ?" was the thought that
thrilled through the heart of the castaway; while the nearest approach to
a gracious feeling which had swelled that heart for many a day, now
caused it to throb with grateful emotion towards Him who had vouchsafed
But I must not keep you here;" said Nanni, rousing herself from
this trance; "your friends will be uneasy; the night is coming on;
Frau von Leerheim will be alarmed at your being so long away, and will
wonder what is become of you." Nanni again did unconscious good,
in thus proposing Isabella's departure. She was not aware how unsel-
fishly, how disinterestedly, how heroically she was acting, in thus hast-
ening to deprive her dwelling of the only image of brightness that had
illumined it for years. It was as if a gloom, beyond the dusk of evening,
had settled upon the room, when that fair child stepped out from its
threshold. Purity and peace withdrew their light, and left within the
place, the shadows of its old haunters,-depravity, sin, pollution.
But though she acted upon that right impulse, which prompted her to
take back the child, instead of yielding to one which might have urged
her to detain it longer by her side, while at the same time unaware that
she had acted from any principle at all, yet she felt the full force of the
pain it cost her to part with this interesting little being, when the
moment came for separation.
They entered the street where Nanni guessed that the widow Leerheim
lived. The child pointed out the house, and was running towards the
door, when the girl said rapidly :-" Bid me goodbye now, dear; I can't
go in-I mustn't stay-say goodnight now."
She caught the child's hands in hers, and covered them with kisses,
while Isabella said in the simple nightly words she had been taught by
her dead mother :-" Goodnight! God bless you !" And then Nanni
turned suddenly, hurried from the spot, and was soon lost amid the
darkness, which was now deepening upon the city.
But that night, when the darkness had yielded to the rising moon, and
her beams fell upon a certain small casement in the low-roofed house,
there was one sat at the casement, who breathed an unwonted prayer and
thanksgiving,-for that she had been spared the crowning sin of self-
destruction,-for that an act of grace had been permitted and accepted at
her unworthy hands,-and for that a blessing from the lips of spotless
purity had been granted to rest upon her outcast head.
Frau Leerheim was what is generally called 'a well-meaning woman.'
She was so well-meaning, that she contented herself with meaning to do
well, instead of doing well; and her friends, when they could find
nothing of any consequence to praise in her wel-doing, gave her all the
more credit for well-meaning, finding that that was the great end of her
life, at which she constantly stopt short. She was passive, when others
were eager; she was indifferent, when others were all anxiety; she was
inert, when others were active-but then she was so well-meaning.
She would smile, when an answer was required; she would bend her
head, when an assertion was made; she would shrug her shoulders, when
a question was asked-which proved that she was uncommonly sweet-
tempered, and very well-meaning.
She would say, when anything distressing occurred :-" Dear me, what
a pity can't anything be done to relieve the sufferers ?" When an act
of injustice was committed, she would exclaim:-"Is it possible? Oughtn't
this to be seen into-or reformed-or punished ? If she heard of wrong
or disaster, she would pathetically remark :-" But really now, they should
take means to prevent this happening again! "
What a kind-hearted woman And how extremely well-meaning
Being so sweet-tempered, and kind-hearted, and particularly well-
meaning, she was of course the most fit person in the world to have
the charge of children; and accordingly when the father of Olaudio and
Isabella was left a widower, and was compelled immediately after to quit
Vienna to join the regiment of which he was colonel, he was persuaded
by his friends, that he could not possibly find a more proper person
to take care of his motherless children during his probably long absence
than Frau Leerheim, who was a widow-lady of genteel birth, but of
somewhat reduced circumstances, and therefore likely to undertake the
charge willingly, for a suitable stipend.
The arrangement was accordingly made; Claudio, the boy, having
Madame Leerheim's house as a home whenever his vacations at college
made him need one; and Isabella, the little girl, remaining at the widow-
lady's constantly, but subject to little control or discipline there,-the
mistress being too mild and well-meaning to exert much authority over
the child, "who of course liked to do as it chose, poor thing," and the
servants availing themselves of their mistress's example by never tending
or watching the child too closely.
The consequence was,. that the young Isabella went and came pretty
much as she liked: roaming about the house, which was spacious, at her
own will; peeping into the large lonely rooms, peopling them with her
own fancies; looking at the grim family portraits that hung by the walls,
or at the old-fashioned furniture that lurked in corners; wandering about
hither and thither, at her own hours, and in her own company only.
There was slight chance of the child meeting any restriction in her
freedom; for Frau Leerheim, since her husband's death, had confined
herself mostly to one apartment, and had contented herself with saying of
the rest of the house:-" The servants will see that the other rooms are
set to rights, as much as they require; one room is quite enough for me
now-but there's no need for me to move into a smaller house-it will do
as well as another-all houses are the same to me, now."
Thus it came, that when Isabella's ramblings led her beyond the large
lonely rooms, and beyond the walls of the house, and out of doors, even
as far as the churchyard where her mother's grave was, their extent was
still unnoted; for she generally came back about meal-time-and so that
Frau Leerheim saw her in her usual place at table, she was quite satisfied
as to the general whereabout of the child.
But on the day when Isabella's fancy to seek her mother in Heaven led
her to stray so far, and when the dinner hour passed, and the afternoon
collation hour passed, and still she did not return, Frau Leerheim said:-
"I wonder where that child can be I wonder she don't come home !
I wonder they take her out for so long a walk. Fritz," added she to the
lad, who was the only one left of the staff of footmen she had formerly
kept, ask Bertha which of the maids it was who took the child out for so
long a walk-it was very thoughtless whoever it was-but servants are
so thoughtless. There certainly ought to be some way invented of making
servant-girls less giddy-they should be taught better."
But when she heard that no one had taken the child abroad-that
Isabella had gone out by herself-she exclaimed :-" 0, but really now,
they should not allow that child to go out by herself-she might get into
mischief-it's positively too careless and neglectful of them. Tell them
so below, Fritz. And Fritz Be sure and let me know the instant the
child does return-for I don't know what I should do if any harm were
to come to it. What would her poor father say!"
And when, late in the evening, Fritz, obedient to his lady's wish,
informed her that the little girl had come home, very tired from having
lost her way, and was now in the act of being combed, and washed, and
made neat to come into Madame's room-Madame said with the slightest
possible curl of the mouth (it might be a smile, it might be a yawfn) :-
"Poor little thing I'm so glad she's come safe home But if she's
tired, poor thing, don't let her come to me this evening; tell Bertha to
have her undressed, and put to bed at once; it's a pity to bring her here
to-night-when she's so tired-and sleepy, no doubt-and oh yes, hungry
too, I dare say;-let Bertha give her some fruit and bread, or something,
before she's put to bed. I hope they'll see that she's made comfortable,
poor thing !"
'They' was a favourite word with Frau Leerheim. It was so convenient
a compromise with her conscience. It was so accommodating a recipient
for her own share of responsibility. It offered so safe a prop for any onus
that suddenly required shifting from her own shoulders. It served a
double purpose-it possessed a dual virtue. It acted at once as offender
and reformer. It might bear blame when she had occasion to say:-"But
really they should not, &c., &c., &c.," or prove a source of expected
rectifying and amendment when she said :-" But why don't they, &c.,
&c., &c.." No wonder that they' was a word which found favor with this
The next day, Frau Leerheim met her young charge at breakfast.
"And so you lost your way yesterday, did you, Isabella? Poor child !
But how came they to let you go out so far by yourself ? That was a sad
mistake What would papa say, if he knew you went wandering away so
far by yourself? That mustn't happen again, must it ?"
"I wanted to find my way to Heaven, and I'm afraid its a great way
off!" said Isabella.
"La child !" exclaimed the widow-lady.
"Is it ?" said the child.
"Is it what ? said Frau Leerheim, in a somewhat more peevish tone
than her usual vapid amiability allowed her to use.
"Is it a great way off ? said Isabella.
"What a strange child you are-what questions you do ask;" said the
Frau, looking about her perplexedly, as if in search of somebody, who she
thought really should make this child less strange, and tell her not to ask
such absurd questions.
It must be ;" said the child; for nobody seems to know whereabouts
it is. When I asked Bertha once, where it was, she said it didn't signify
where, since I should never get there she was certain, as long as I let my
hair get rumpled, or tore my frock, or was naughty; and when I told her
I meant to be neat and good, and therefore I hoped she'd tell me where it
was, that I might try and find it, she said, How you worry, miss Bella;
it's out of your reach, I promise you-it's up there-up beyond the blue
sky-ever so far !' Still, I don't think it can be so far, that I shall never
find it if I try," said Isabella, thoughtfully; for my own mamma told me
I should come to her there one day."
I can't conceive why people put such notions into children's heads, for
my part;" muttered Frau Leerheim. They really shouldn't; it's posi-
tively quite wrong-absolutely wicked-to fill their poor little heads with
such fancies, making them discontented, and tiresome, and troublesome."
What do you think about it, ma'am ?" asked Isabella, after a pause,
during which she had been considering, in her quiet grave manner.
About what, child ?" said the Frau.
"About Heaven-about where it is;" said Isabella.
I don't think at all about it;" said the widow lady, hastily; that is,"
added she, correcting herself-" I think a great deal about it, of course ; we
should all think constantly about Heaven, you know; but really, I can't
say-I don't know-you're such a little child-you are too young in my
opinion, to have any explanation-or to understand any explanation at pre-
sent; you must positively wait, my dear Isabella, till you are old enough
to have these things explained to you, which you will have, of course, you
know, some day or other, I dare say, if your teachers do their duty by you,
and if your papa provides proper teachers for you, which of course he will
do, one of these days, I make no doubt."
Then, seeing Isabella look as if she were again going to ask some ques-
tion, Frau Leerheim added :-" Suppose you go to Bertha, now, Isabella,
my dear; and see if she won't show you some pictures, or some toys, or
something or other, that will amuse you. I shouldn't wonder at all, if she
have some; so run away, there's a dear child: good bye, good bye;" she
said, as she kissed her hand languidly to the child, and nodded her out of
the room, half smiling, half gaping at her, as Isabella obediently disappeared.
But instead of going to Bertha, the child went up into the lonely suite of
chambers above, where she loitered about among the old pictures in their
worm-eaten frames, antique commodes, and spiral-legged tables, and carved
chairs, and dim Venetian mirrors; her thoughts rambling among subjects as
odd, obscure, crooked, and puzzling, as these objects that surrounded her.
She sat down at one of the windows, pondering and brooding over so
much that perplexed her. Questions presented themselves to her mind,
that crossed and recrossed each other in perpetual recurrence, and seemed
to find no hope of answer. Why did every one seem so anxious to change
the subject when she enquired about Heaven ? Her mother had told her
it was more beautiful, more peaceful, than any place on earth, and yet they
all seemed to shrink from its mention. Why was this ? Why did Madame
Leerheim find her a strange child, and almost always send her away, as if
she tired her? Why did Bertha think her 'worrying ?' Why was her
papa obliged to be away, with the army, when she wished him so much to
be able to come home, and talk to her, and tell her the reason of so much
that she could not understand ? Why could not Claudio be more at home,
or have longer holidays, or his vacations come oftener round ? Why would
not the young woman-Nanni, who had been so kind to her in other things,
come into the house with her when she brought her home? Why did she
not like her to notice her own house, or to ask about the woman who came
to the door with that ugly voice and unpleasant laugh ? How had she
come by that hurt ? And was the bruise any better this morning ? She
wished she could know.
All these, and twenty such questions, flitted through the busy little brain,
as Isabella sat, in one of the deep-recessed windows, leaning her elbow upon
the sill, and looking straight before her, without seeing anything, so deeply
absorbed was she in her train of thought. But at length, glancing through
the open casement at which she sat, her eyes rested upon a certain quiet
shady plot of ground, which, though surrounded by a high wall, could, from
that particular upper window be overlooked.
This green, retired spot, had peculiar charms for the solitary child. She
would often sit in her favorite window-seat, watching the shadows of the
spreading trees upon the grass beneath, or as they fell across the trim-kept
gravel-walks; she would note the twinkling of the leaves as they stirred
and played in the light morning or evening air; she would look at their
massive repose, as they rested like painted foliage beneath the breathless
heat of noon; she would often creep up here, and watch their silvery still-
ness as they lay placid and beautiful in the beams of the moon, when her
own due sleeping-hour had been protracted by the forgetfulness of the
damsel appointed, or rather, allowed, to attend upon her. She would take
delight in looking upon this only glimpse of verdant Nature, that was to be
seen from the town house where she lived. She would fancy herself run-
ning upon the grass, or sitting beneath the fine old trees; and thus enjoy
the pleasures of a garden, so dear to childish heart, as well as she might,
whilst sitting in a dreary great house by herself. And yet it was a sober,
stately sort of garden, with as little of the ordinary gaiety and garishness
that marks a pleasure-ground, as could be; it had few flowers, or shrubs,
or fruit-trees. There were lofty cedars; towering pines; lindens, oaks,
acacias, gnarled-trunked chesnuts; and an avenue of tall formal poplars.
It was a solemn, almost a gloomy-looking garden; and yet to the eyes of
MZ ISABELLA ;
that lonely child it was a green bower of delight; for to her, the trees
were clothed with ever-new beauty, and the place itself seemed replete
with loveliness and peace. She saw the cedars and pines tufted with bright
velvet edges, when the breath of spring gave them vigour to put forth
their young shoots; she saw the delicate pensile blossoms of the linden,
where the bees clung, making their sweet busy music, which she could
fancy she heard; she saw the cheerful glossy boughs of the chesnuts, with
their brisk leaves, so pointed yet so broad; she saw the slender forms
of the poplars bending and waving beneath the pressure of the wind, when
it chanced to be high.
There were the tender vernal buds-the flush luxuriance of summer
leaves-the gorgeous hues of autumnal foliage;-and even in the sullen
season of winter, there were the graceful lines and tracery of bare leafless
branches, to occupy her thoughts in turn with images of beauty.
There was another charm too, which this garden had for the young eyes
that watched it. It was a convent-garden; and Isabella found a strange
mysterious pleasure in seeing those dark figures moving to and fro, with
sombre flowing garments, and black veils, and bent heads, and measured
pace, beneath and among the trees. So earnestly did she observe them,
that it was not long before she had formed a sort of individual acquaintance
with these quiet nuns, and had even gone so far as to select some among
them for whom she felt a preference.
There was one nun, an especial favorite with her; one, for whose
appearance she watched with eagerness, and whom, when she did appear,
the child followed in every movement with peculiar interest.
This nun seemed to share her little observer's fondness for the garden;
for rarely did she come there, without some implement in her hand, with
which she sedulously applied herself to trim and cut the edges of the lawn,
to clip and prune stray twigs, or tend the few flowers that were sparingly
allowed to adorn the place.
In the performance of these occupations, would Isabella accompany her
in attentive vigil, day after day, and hour by hour, whenever, and as long
as these duties brought the nun to that part of the convent-garden which
could be seen from the child's post of observation; and thus it happened
that an affection, unknown by its object, but strong in the breast of its
youthful cherisher, had sprung up towards one with whom there had never
been a single word, or even look, exchanged.
Faith in remote good; worship of excellence beheld from afar; stedfast
belief in that which was intangible, yet visible to her soul's sight; firm in
adherence to that which she instinctively discerned as right, and pure, and
true, though as yet unproved to her mortal sense-seemed innate principles
in this young creature.
As yet she wandered on alone, with no one to guide her, no one to help
her in solving the questions her struggling perceptions prompted; but
a friend was at hand, who was to lead her through all her difficulties, to
assist her on her dimly-seen track, and to possess her, firmly and enduringly,
of the means to win the grand aim of existence.
On the morning in question, when Isabella, awakening from her reverie,
cast her eyes towards the convent-garden, hoping to behold her favorite
nun, they sparkled with delight when she saw her already there, training
the branches of some ivy that were flaunting idly away from the stem of
a tree, round which they should have clung for the support they needed.
As the child wistfully looked towards the figure she knew so well, and
watched that serenely pensive face, wherein she read so much of gentleness,
and consideration, and benignant patience, that promised willing response
to all she sought to know, to all the tenderness she yearned to ask and
bestow, her longing to hold nearer communion with this person so loved,
though so unknown, took possession of her with strength sufficient to urge
her starting up, sliding off the recessed window-seat, and making her way
through the suite of deserted rooms, as if bent on some resolved purpose.
"Frau Leerheim said papa would not approve of my wandering so far
again; but the convent is not far-I know the large iron gate-it is only
in the next street. I'll go there, and peep in at the gate, and-perhaps-
it may lead into the garden-I may perhaps see my nun herself there."
Thinking thus, Isabella soon was loitering near the tall grated portal,
peering in, with an eager look, and a heart beating with expectation.
It beat with something like fear, when a very starch lay-sister, the
portress, approached, and asked h*if she wanted anything or any body.
30 ISABELLA ;
The tone in which this was said, however, reassured the child; and she
said :-" If you please, ma'am, I should like very much to walk in your
beautiful garden, if you think I could be allowed."
It isn't my garden, my dear, I am only sister Gretchen; call me so,
and not ma'am,' when you speak to me. But I'll try and get Reverend
mother's leave-that's the abbess here, my dear,-for you to walk in the
convent garden, if you wish it. I don't see that little innocent feet like
yours can do the place any harm-and I dare say Reverend mother will
think so too. Walk in, my dear, and I'll ask her for you."
The starch-looking but kindly-spoken portress trotted away; but soon
returned with the expected permission.
"You're neighbour Leerheim's little girl-or rather, the little girl that
lives at her house, an't you ? said the portress, with the inquisitiveness
and talkativeness of her vocation, both-official and spiritual.
Isabella answered in the affirmative, and told her her name, as sister
Gretchen led the way to the garden, the gate of which she threw open,
saying:-" I thought you were; Reverend mother says she'll trust to your
word, if you promise that you'll do no mischief."
"I promise;" said Isabella, in her simple grave manner.
"Very well, my dear; and I shall be glad to let you in and out, as
often as you please to come and go; so now run about and amuse yourself,
to your little heart's content."
Isabella, left to herself, yet felt no temptation to give way to the usual
childish course of running off her exhilaration and joy at beholding
herself actually within the place she had so long admired at' a distance.
Happy as she was at being thus at liberty to roam freely among these
beautiful trees, and along this verdant turf, yet there was still a paramount
delight which she expected to enjoy here. She looked about her eagerly,
trusting to discover her favorite nun in some of the paths, or near to some
of the flower-beds.
She knew not well how to pursue the direction which should bring her
to that part of the garden where she had so recently beheld her training
the ivy; but she went on, in the hope that she might come to it.
At length, just as she was turning into a long walk skirted by a sloping
turf, surmounted by scattered trees, and ending in the avenue of poplars
she knew so well, she described her whom she sought, still engaged with
the same employment. But she was surrounded by a group of other nuns,
who were watching her work, and chatting with her; and the child
involuntarily checked her steps, and after a moment's pause, withdrew
behind a tree, whence she could observe them, herself unseen. It was
some undefined wish of speaking to her first by herself; something of
conscious preference, and the sanctity of secretly cherished attachment,
which demanded an unwitnessed meeting, and which bade the child thus
linger, in the hope of addressing her alone.
Her hope was fulfilled; the sisters, one by one, dropped off, leaving
Isabella free to accost her beloved nun as she wished. Yet now that she
had the opportunity so long and so much desired, she hesitated, and hung
back timidly; with a still more beating heart than when she had stood
anxiously peering in at the gate, or when she had asked admittance,
fearing denial. For love, given to an unconscious object, inspiring both
anxiety and fear, is more powerful than either; and the child, approaching
the presence of one thus beloved, glowed and faltered and trembled,-
agitated, yet happy.
She fixed her eyes on those of the nun, as she turned in surprise, at
seeing a strange little girl so close to her,-for Isabella had crept to her
side unperceived,-and putting her hand softly into that which belonged
to the gentle being whose face had so often filled her with comfort, and
confidence, and trust, she drew the hand against her fluttering heart, and
said:-" Will you love Isabella? She loves you very dearly."
"And who is Isabella ?" said the nun; "though she is a winning little
creature, I see. But how comes she to love me, I wonder ? I have never
seen her before, that I know of."
"But she has seen you, though, very often;" said the child, pointing
upwards with a smile, that yet did not take from the earnest gravity
of her manner.
She seemed a seraph, such as this nun, accustomed to contemplate
images of holiness and angelic guardianship, might almost fancy permitted
to look down upon human aspiration and devotion; one moment's glance
32 ISABELLA ;
skyward, revealed the passing fancy; but the next, she was assured of the
little one's claim to mere mortal childhood, by the matter-of-fact way in
which it pointed out an upper window of a high house not far off,
saying :-" There, from that window up there, I could see you every day,
and watch you gardening, and learn to love you. And I longed so much
to come to you-and love you near-and ask you to love me-and to let
me be with you often; and so-and so-I am come."
The gentle nun did not belie the impression her distant appearance had
produced upon the watching child. She was as good as she seemed; as
fit to inspire confidence; as fit to win love and esteem; as capable of
giving counsel and instruction; as wise, as kind, as tolerant, as benign,
as her every look bespoke her. Willingly did she accept her self-elected
disciple; joyfully did she welcome the devotion of this young heart; and
earnestly did she devote herself in return to its guidance, its support.
Yet with the sedate manner which distinguished her,-and which was
perhaps the one that had first attracted Isabella's regard, as being one so
akin to her own characteristic of placid gravity,-sister Aloysia appointed
certain restrictions to their intercourse. She gave the child leave to come
to her daily; but she fixed the hour at which she was to come, and the
period of her stay.
"Reverend mother grants me three hours in the garden every morning,"
said she; "during which I am to use the best of my poor skill in tending
and training these shrubs and plants. During those hours, my child, you
may come here; and Isabella may prove to me that she is pleased to be
with me, by never arriving later than nine o'clock, as she may prove her
punctuality and her wish to please me in return, by coming precisely at
that hour, and never lingering here beyond noon."
And now the old lonely life was over; no longer was the solitary child
condemned to wander listlessly from room to room, snatching distant
glimpses of comfort-gazing wistfully for some reliance, some response;
now her full heart met full comprehension; now her enquiring spirit had
help and satisfaction.
Day after day found her punctually at the side of sister Aloysia for the
entire space of the allotted three hours; day after day, her hands learned
dexterity in aiding the nun in her gardening duties; day after day, her
thinking faculties gained clearness and intelligence. Her mind and her
body reaped benefit alike, in these daily three hours spent in the open air,
and in the good nun's converse. Her energies, moral, mental, and physical,
acquired strength and power beneath these propitious influences.
Isabella's dreaming infancy was succeeded by a happy childhood, fos-
tered by a pure, a wise, a tender monitress. The baby visions of seeking
Heaven by actual roads and active walking, perplexed her no more; the
'right path' was patiently and reverently explained to her to mean, not an
earthly highway, but an earthly course through besetting temptations,
corruption, vicious example,-through trial, sorrow, and trouble,-through
avoided evil, through maintained virtue. She was taught to hope she might
still find that path, though not as she had once supposed, in her innocent,
matter-of-fact, unaided notion; she was taught how she might keep its
way, undeviating; she was taught how she might abide by its unerring
direction; she was taught how she might keep in view its gloried end-
how attain its immortal goal.
Her aspiration thus indulged, yet directed aright; her young ima-
ginings given full scope, yet presented with a due aim; her fervor regulated
while it was fostered-the fanciful visionary became the earnest enthusiast;
the young child's vague desire became a rational hope, a firm belief, a
steadfast faith, none the less spiritual that it was now based upon a knowledge
of the truth. It was sublimated; from an impulse it had become a creed.
And the little creature who had almost more than mortal aspect, beaming
with her innocent trust in an imaginary Heaven, now that her soul had
been taught to behold its veritable immortal hope, looked indeed little less
than one of the angels.
While still a child, Isabella was once taken, by Frau Leerheim, in a
friend's carriage, for a drive on the Prater. When there, the widow-lady
got out and walked for a while beneath the trees, taking the child with her.
Suddenly, Isabella broke away from Madame Leerheim's side, and ran
towards two young women she saw at a little distance.
VOL. II. C
Nanni, dear Nanni I'm so glad I've found you at last;" she said to
one of them; I've often thought about you, and wished to see you again.
Don't you remember me ? I'm Isabella, the little girl you were so kind to,
that day, when I lost my way."
Nanni was about to fling her arms about the child, and give vent to her
delight at seeing her again; but Madame Leerheim coming up at the
instant, Nanni drew back, glancing at the widow's indignant face, who
Why, Isabella, my dear, how came you to be talking to such people,-
what can you know of them ? Come away, directly."
She was very kind to me once, I have never seen her since-I must
thank her-I can't leave Nanni before I tell her how often I've thought of
her kindness to me that day ;" said Isabella, holding to the skirt of Nanni's
gown; for she shrank away from her as if she were going, in obedience to
the angry looks which Madame Leerheim continued to cast upon her.
Oh dear, this is very naughty, and disobedient of you, Isabella;-I in-
sist upon it, you come away from that person directly, and return with me
to the carriage. What a terrible thing it is, that children will be so head-
strong, and won't mind what they're told, or do any thing they're bid-Oh
dear me-tyeh! tyeh! tyeh concluded the widow Leerheim; her climax
of distress and perplexity finding vent in those half articulate sounds formed
by the tongue against the roof of the mouth, imperfectly represented by the
Go, go, dear;" whispered Nanni hurriedly; best go."
Isabella looked for a moment fixedly into the girl's face, and seeing how
earnest she was, let go her hold; when Nanni, snatching an end of ribbon,
that hung from the child's hat, to her lips, turned away, and, with her com-
panion, the other young woman, walked quickly out of sight among the
For a few minutes, madame Leerheim remained fixed to the spot in
speechless indignation-but when they were again seated in the carriage,
her vexation found vent in murmurs.
"Where you can have picked up such acquaintances, I can't think, for my
part;" said she. Such a disgrace such a degradation! I really don't
know what I should have done, had any of my acquaintances seen us near
them, much less speaking to them! How on earth did you ever come to
meet with such creatures, child ? "
Creatures, ma'am! I only met one of them, before; I only knew her,-
Nanni-she was very kind to me. I don't know the other young woman.
But what makes you call them creatures, as if you despised them ? Nanni
is good and kind; she bound up my feet, and carried me, though she was in
pain; and gave me food, and took care of me, home."
"No matter for that, you oughtn't to thank her;" said Madame Leerheim
hastily; "you can't thank her-you mustn't thank her."
"Not thank her !" exclaimed Isabella; "I thought we should be grateful
for kindness. Why not thank her ?"
Dear me, child, how you always tease, with your I thought this,' and
'I thought that;' your why this,' and your 'why not the other.' I tell
you, you oughtn't to thank her-you oughtn't to be seen with her; no
need of thanks-she's not fit to be thanked-not fit for you to be seen
"Not fit! How not fit ?" said Isabella, in her grave reflective way.
"Upon my word, I've no patience with you, child;" said Madame
Leerheim,-which was true enough-for she was impatient at her own
incapacity to evade or answer Isabella's questioning; "of course she's not
fit-she's a woman of pleasure, a-I won't say what she is."
"Pleasure! She seems to me to be the most unhappy woman I ever met
with;" said Isabella half aloud, thinking of what she had once beheld of
Nanni's vehement grief.
So she ought to be;" said the widow, with a toss of her head.
"Ought to be Ought any one to be unhappy ?"
"Let me tell you, child," said Frau Leerheim snappishly, for it was
wonderful how tart her usual insipid tone could be, on occasion; "let me
tell you, it's very rude to echo people when they speak. You ought to
know, Isabella, that it's the height of ill-breeding to repeat people's words,
when they're talking to you. I'm sure the miserable wretch isn't worth
talking about at all. One oughtn't to sully one's lips by even mentioning
Isabella was about to reply, Miserable if they're miserable, oughtn't
we to talk about them, and see if we can't help them"-but she remem-
bered, just in time, that this would be the 'repeating people's words' for
which she had so lately been rebuked; so she simply said :-" I don't
"To be sure you don't, child; how should you understand such things,
at your age ? said Madame Leerheim with a triumphant air, as if she
had now quite settled the question; and she leaned back complacently
among the cushions of the carriage, thinking how well she was fulfilling
her charge, by keeping the child in blissful ignorance that such shocking
things as crime and vice were in the world.
Isabella meantime thought that she would, on the morrow, refer to sister
Aloysia the many questions she had to ask, secure of explanation, however
numerous, or however perplexing, they might be; and she was just
wondering how it happened that she should never yet have mentioned her
former adventure with Nanni, to her friend the nun, when, as she looked
from the carriage-window, she caught sight of Nanni turning down one of
the by-alleys that threaded the suburbs. She noted the spot, and deter-
mined to return to it at some future time; for her true heart longed to
pay some of the debt of kindness it acknowledged, and she could not but
perceive that however inexplicably the young woman seemed to acquiesce
in the propriety of their not being seen together, she yet took evident
delight in her presence. And then the child recalled that look-the
only one approaching to joy that had lighted Nanni's face while she
was with her; the look with which the poor creature had said :-" you do me
good, you make me happier than I ever expected to be again." And she
resolved that she would come again, and try to do her good, and to make
her happy, in return for what she had done for her.
It was not many hours, ere she had an opportunity of carrying her
purpose into effect. In the afternoon, Frau Leerheim, lulled by the com-
bined effects of a morning drive through the air, and of a more than hearty
dinner,-for the widow's well-meaning amounted to well-dbing in the
matter of eating,-slept soundly in her easy chair; and Isabella, knowing
from experience that these naps of the good lady were not only profound
but prolonged, determined to go and endeavour to find out Nanni at once.
She remembered as she went, how anxious Frau Leerheim had been that
she should not be seen with Nanni; and she rejoiced that this quiet
opportunity had offered for seeking the young woman, without risk of
infringing the widow lady's wishes.
She did not seem to object to my being with her, but to my being seen
with her; thought the little girl. That was strange If Nanni were
really a bad companion for me, Madame Leerheim would have told me so,
I should think; but she seemed not to mind my associating with her; only
not to like my being seen with her. I'll take care. She lives in a very
out of the way part of the town, and no one will see me go to her. I would
not go, if I thought it wrong; but I know Nanni is good and kind-for
she was so to me."
Isabella had no difficulty in finding the turning she had marked Nanni
taking in the morning; and she soon reached the large house, which she
remembered stood near to the small low-roofed one, where she had been
taken by Nanni on the first evening of their meeting.
She stepped to the door, and was about to tap at it; but it yielded even
to the light push of her childish hand; and she stood upon the threshold.
So noiseless was her entrance, that it was merely the effect of variation
in the light, caused by the opening door, which made Nanni look up from
the abstracted attitude in which she sat, lost in thought; and then she saw
the fair image of the child, standing in the afternoon sunbeams which
streamed through the doorway. Flooded thus, in the rich gold and purple
effulgence, and with her own clear cheek and brow, ethereal bearing, and
purity of look, the little girl had even more than her usual appearance of
spiritual beauty; she seemed unearthly, immaterial-a thing of glory and
beatitude, sent in pity to mortal frailty.
I have found you out, Nanni; I am come to see you, to thank you-
I could not thank you this morning and tell you how often I have thought
of you since that day you were so kind to me."
At the sound of the childish human voice, the spell was broken. Her
appearance had but blended so harmoniously with the vision that occupied
Nanni's thoughts, that it required the evidence of another sense to tell her
it was a reality she beheld.
Dear little angel, is it you ? I was thinking of you-and wondering
should I ever see you again."
Often, dear Nanni, I hope; I mean to come and find you here, and see
you, and chat with you; for we can be quiet, and by ourselves, and meet
as often as we please, here, can't we ?" said Isabella, sitting down beside
her on the low seat she occupied.
No, no; I had forgotten ;" said Nanni hurriedly, and looking round
her apprehensively, with the old trouble in her face. You mustn't come
here, dear, this is no place for you."
No place Why not ? Nobody can see us together here-and that's
all we need mind; Madame Leerheim said so. Though I don't know
why. Do you ? "
She was right-she was right-you must not be seen with such as I.
No, no-you must not come."
What do you mean, Nanni ? 'Such as you ?' Why, what are you ?"
The girl shuddered; suddenly started up, walked a pace or two about
the room, wringing her hands. Dear little innocent!" she muttered;
then calming herself by a strong effort, she came towards Isabella, and sat
down by her again.
Dear child, listen;" she said. I cannot tell you how or why it is
not right for us to be together; but you will believe that I am telling you
true, when I say that it is against my own will to ask you not to come to
me again here; not to speak to me if you see me at any time in the streets;
not to look towards me, or seem to know me. I ought perhaps to say,
don't even think of me-best forget me-but I can't do it. I can't give
up that one blessing, to know you sometimes remember poor Nanni."
"I do indeed; I have often thought about you since that day you were
so good to me; and why mustn't I come to tell you so ? I can't forget,
when any body has been so kind to me as you were."
But if you thought me kind then, believe that I am kinder now, in
telling you not to notice me, or come to me, or be seen with me. To show
you, dear, how hard it is to me as well as to you, to give up meeting, and
yet how right I think it, that we should not meet, I will tell you, that every
night, since that one on which I took you home, I have been to the street
where you live, and looked up at your house, aud wished you, in my heart,
good night, and sweet sleep, and happy dreams, in return for the blessed
thought that innocent young face has been to me ever since I first beheld it."
"You have been every night outside our house to bid me good night,
dear Nanni ?" said Isabella, hanging upon her fondly. And yet you,
will not let me love you in return for so much love ? How can I help it?
I must love you-I do love you-dearly."
"Dear child !" said Nanni, in her lowest, sweetest, most plaintive tone.
"And you will let me come and see you, and tell you so, sometimes,
won't you dear Nanni ?" urged the child persuasively.
"I must not-I dare not;" answered Nanni, resuming her disturbed
look and manner. Even now, I am injuring you, by letting you stay
here; dear little creature, you must go-you must-you must." And she
passionately kissed one of the long bright curls that hung about the child's
I can't bear to leave you, dear Nanni, as you say I mayn't come again,"
said Isabella; "but if it is as you say, and we mustn't be friends by
meeting together, we'll think of each other always, and love each other,
won't we ? Promise me you'll remember me-and I shall never forget you,
or your kindness to me. Here," continued the little girl, lifting from her
neck a small silver chain, to which was attached a kind of medallion, with
a figure of St. Clare wrought upon it, here is a gift I had from sister
Aloysia; but I know she would be pleased that I should give it to you for
a keepsake; and you will wear it in remembrance of me, won't you, dear
But the girl shrank back. "Not that-not that"-she said in her
hurried, disturbed way; give me one of these curls, and I'll keep it till
If you like it better,-yes;" and the child took up a pair of scissors
that lay near, and gave them to Nanni, that she might sever the lock she
And when this was done, Nanni repeated her former words :-" You
must go, dear child; you must-you must; I may not, dare not let you
stay. I will not even attend you home. As well no guard, as mine. You
found your way here unharmed; you will return as safely. Go, dear,
indeed you must."
"Since I must-goodbye-God bless you, good kind Nanni!" And
Isabella was gone. As the door closed upon the child's departing figure,
Nanni's head sank upon her hands, and she exclaimed in a broken voice-
"' good and kind' only, in wringing my own heart, that I may for once
do what I know to be right."
She sat thus for a few minutes, plunged in bitterness of thought; then
she started up, determining to follow the child, and watch her, from
a distance, safely home.
During those few minutes, Isabella had proceeded on her way; and
passing near to the large house that was close by, she saw a huge bloated
woman, sitting in the doorway, looking out from the sort of hatch, or low
gate,- that formed the entrance.
The bloated woman, Who seemed to be eating some kind of stewed fruit
from a dish that rested on her lap, nodded at the little girl, and said:-
" How d'ye do, my pretty miss ?" Then she beckoned with one of her
fat fingers, and said :-" Come here, pretty miss, I want to speak t'ye !."
But Isabella did not go any nearer; she only looked at her with that
sort of involuntary pertinacity which sometimes seizes children, and rivets
their gaze upon what is at the same time unutterably repulsive to them.
She could not help fixing her eyes upon the loose-hanging cheeks; the
dark puffy lumps under the eyes; those fierce, yet leering black eyes
themselves; the coarse-grained, pimply skin, with its purple, and crimson,
and red patches of colour; and above all, she could not keep from watching
that single projecting tooth, which moved, and shifted, with every word
and every grin, that twisted the horrible mouth.
"Come to me, my pretty miss; won't you come to me ?" said the
wheedling voice; which Isabella now recognized for the one that had
spoken outside the door of Nanni's house, on that first evening she had
come to this place; "won't you come here, and have some of these
nice prunes ?"
"I'd rather not, thank you;" and Isabella hurried on, glad to get away
from the foul sorcery of that loathly face.
By the time she reached the more public thoroughfare, Nanni had over-
taken her sufficiently to have her in sight;; and then, keeping aloof, but
vigilant, she saw the child once more to her own door.
Next morning, full of the many thoughts that sprang out of this renewed
encounter with one who had, from the first, so much interested her, Isabella
hastened at the appointed hour to the convent garden, where she eagerly
related to sister Aloysia all the circumstances of her meeting with Nanni;
and then proceeded to question her upon all that so much perplexed her in
The good nun had seldom had a more difficult or painful task. Difficult,
inasmuch as she had to make clear to a child's comprehension that which
involves matter of enigma even to full-grown brains; painful, inasmuch as
she had to introduce her neophyte, for the first time, to the knowledge of
the existence of evil. But sister Aloysia was a being to shrink from
neither difficulty nor pain. The one she was well-fitted to encounter, by a
patient heart, a clear mind, strong sense, and more of hard-earned personal
experience than might have been expected from her vocation-for sister
Aloysia had gone through the fiery ordeal of a life of tribulation, and
of worldly care and suffering, before she found peace as a nun; and as for
pain, her sense of duty led her to meet and sustain it with martyrlike
endurance and fortitude.
Why should she wish me not to remain in her house-or to be with
her at all ?" was one of the child's most frequently recurring questions,
and one which seemed to puzzle her most of all-for she could not recon-
cile this with Nanni's evident love of her presence.
"She knew it was not good for you; it was on your account, she
"It was not right for you, and she knew it, for you to be with her, and
she spoke for your sake not for hers. She had not courage to tell you,
who showed a fondness for her, that she did not deserve it-that she was
not good and virtuous-and consequently no fit companion for an innocent
child like you."
"'Not good?' She was good and kind to me, when I was sore-footed
and tired, and had lost my way. Not good?' You say she spoke for
my sake, not hers-and that was good and unselfish was it not ? Nanni
must be good "
"You cannot yet understand how she is not good in the sense I mean,
my child ;" said the nun. But you can comprehend this; that a person
may be imperfectly good-good in one thing and not in another. For in-
stance, you yourself are truth-telling-an honest, courageous, good child, in
coming to tell me of a fault when you have committed one; and yet you
are sometimes weak enough not to be able to resist committing the fault
itself. The other day, you could not forbear giving way to more violent
expressions than became you, when you found that sister Josepha had neg-
lected to water those new cuttings. I have frequently warned you against
a warmth of indignation in your disposition which exists beneath your calm
exterior-and which, if not watched and checked betimes, will become a
serious evil. You might have concealed that instance of it from me-but
you did not-you told me of your misconduct yourself. Here, you see,
you may be weak and faulty in one case, but frank and worthy in another;
can you not therefore conceive that Nanni may be kind and good to you-
yet not good in other respects ? "
Isabella pondered; then said :-" Yes; I see."
"Even she herself, you say," continued the nun, owned that Madame
Leerheim was right in saying you should not be seen with her. It is so.
She herself knows it as well as any one; and it is one of the best things in
her favor that she admits this, by bidding you not to come. One of the
evils of going to her house you can yourself perceive, and which she would
save you from. It is evident, from what you tell me of that dreadful
woman who came to her door that night, and whom you afterwards saw
with a face so matched to her voice, that she is in the habit of entering
Nanni's house; and such a woman you would not like to meet.
Isabella breathed a whispered, but earnest "No." Then she thought a
few moments; and then she said :-" But Nanni's wishing to save me from
meeting this frightful woman was kind ? That was good, wasn't it?"
It was right of her to prevent her coming in then-but she may not be
able always to do so; you find that your going to her house yesterday,
brought you to see and to speak to that woman, without Nanni's even know-
ing of it, much less, her being able to save you from it. The mere fact of
her having such neighbours and associates, shows that her house is no fit
resort for you-no place for you to go to any more; and you will, I know,
give me your promise that you will never do so without my permission.
In return, I promise you, that I will at some future time, when I think you
at a more fit age to understand me, try to give you better and more explicit
reasons; at present, I can only ask you to refrain from farther intimacy, on
my simple word that it is for the best-best for you-and even for poor
Nanni, who is thus far good, that I believe her bitterest punishment now,
would be the reflection that you risked coming to harm through her."
"You call her 'poor NanniI' You pity her then, though she is not
good, you say."
"I pity her for that very reason; none are so deeply to be pitied
as those who are not good; and none are more to be pitied than those who
are not good in the sense that she is not good; and one of the most pitiable
things attendant upon not being good in the way that she is not good, is,
that it so little bears animadversion, discussion, or explanation. Honest
examination into an evil is one great step towards reform. Were the de-
linquency of Nanni and her unhappy sisterhood as open to general repro-
bation as the thief's or burglar's crime, it might be, that we should have
fewer such cases as hers to deplore. An dnow, my dear child, let us talk
of something else ;" added the nun, who had spoken the latter few words, as
if to herself.
Soon after this conversation with her friend and preceptress, Isabella had
her thoughts entirely diverted from the subject that had so lately occupied
them, by the society of her brother Claudio. The college vacation enabled
him to be at home at this time, and a very happy holiday it was for
Claudio was a fine, spirited, boy; handsome, lively, active, with a keen
sense of enjoyment, and a relish for the sports of his age. But this did not
prevent his liking the quiet companionship of his young sister, or occasion
his giving himself any airs of seniority towards her, although he was a
year or two older than herself-a circumstance that sometimes operates
upon boys of his age in making them contemptuous, or at best, condescend-
ing, to little girls of hers. On the contrary, the grave earnestness that dis-
tinguished Isabella, the refined character of her beauty, her contemplative
nature, her spiritual look, while even yet a child, inspired her brother with
something that almost amounted to reverence of feeling towards her; his
affection partook of admiration; his love was strengthened by esteem; and
he regarded her with a sort of tender respect, as one whom he instinctively
felt to be of a higher nature than his own. This in no way detracted from
the ease of intimacy and force of attachment between them. He was of too
genuine, too noble a disposition, for any perception of her superiority to do
otherwise than heighten his regard; and that, which in a less worthy tem-
per might have generated envy, or estrangement, in his induced only reli-
ance and enthusiastic preference. He was as fond of his young sister, as he
was proud of her.
The very first day of his return, he had told her of his college-mates; of
who were his favorites, of who were his antipathies, of who were his chief
associates; of who among the masters and professors were most to his
liking, and of whom he could best learn; he told her of his school-hours,
of his pastimes; of his studies, of his recreations; he told her of the great
resource he had in the friendship of his father's friend, the lord Escalus,
whose house was not far from the college, and who made a point of having
him there as often as he could obtain permission to visit.
And then he made her tell him of her own pursuits; of how she passed
her time; of how she amused herself; of how she spent the day from hour
In all he took a warm interest. He vehemently pitied her former lone-
liness in the deserted suite of rooms; he indulged in a few hearty expres-
sions of disgust at the vacancy of her intercourse with the well-meaning
widow-lady, who was no favorite of his; he congratulated her upon having
formed so happy a friendship with the good nun. On the incident of her
acquaintance with Nanni he made no comment, for it was not mentioned to
him. From some intuitive impulse, Isabella, in narrating to her brother
what had befallen since his last vacation, omitted any allusion to that one
circumstance. Perhaps it was the sort of mystery which still invested the
incident in her imagination, which prompted her clear transparent mind to
avoid all speech of what it would otherwise have openly discussed; as long
as it remained enshadowed and obscure, her delicacy forbidding approach
to the subject.
But on the theme of her gentle friend, sister Aloysia, Isabella's con-
fiding fluency could find full scope; freely and joyously did she pour forth
to her brother all she felt, and all she hoped, from this delightful inter-
course with the nun.
"She is so patient with me, dear Claudio; never weary of answering
my questions; never finding fault with me when I am stupid, and can't
perceive her meaning at once; never caring how often she repeats an ex-
planation, or in how many ways she re-words a sentence, if I am unable
to make it out. And then she tells me such curious things, and so many
of them, and encourages me to consider them with her, and to tell her, in
return, if there is anything I don't understand in what she speaks of, that
I could wish our three hours were twelve. I should like to be all day-
always-for ever, with sister Aloysia You will love her dearly, Claudio,
when you know her."
But I shall never know her, I suppose ;" said Claudio, half laughing;
"nuns don't leave their convent, remember, Isabel."
0, but I hope I shall have leave to take you into the convent-garden
with me, to see her;" said his sister. It is a beautiful garden-with fine
trees-and smooth lawns-you will like to be able to go into the garden
whenever we please, and play there."
"That's not likely, Isabel; they won't let me go there."
"Why not?" said she.
"They don't admit men-that is, a boy-into a nunnery."
Why not ?" she repeated.
0 because they don't;" said he, shyly; then he added laughing,
that's a girl's reason; but it must suffice you, Isabel, being a girl."
And both his shyness and his laughing words had more of boyish
assumption of superior knowledge, than was usual to him, when speaking
to his sister Isabella.
Well, we shall see ;" said she, nodding and smiling in her turn.
But she found, when she asked leave for her brother as well as herself
to come to the convent-garden, that it was refused; and as he had pre-
dicted, because no male visitors were admitted. However, there was a
portion of the grounds-where a conservatory stood, in which exotics,
and other botanical rarities were cultivated-which was not considered
within the precincts, and to which the curious of both sexes, were occa-
sionally permitted access. Here, Isabella and her brother obtained leave
to come and spend a portion of each day, on the same restrictions which
had marked the little girl's first admission to the convent-garden. It was
expressly stated that they were neither of them to pluck the flowers,
touch the plants, or otherwise prove themselves unworthy the privilege
which had been granted them.
At first they played very happily here; and made themselves bowers
among the tall shrubs; and formed fancied huts and caves among the
large green tubs; and imagined themselves wanderers on some remote
sea-island, cast there by sudden shipwreck, or straying amid the palmated
branches and gigantic leaves of some far eastern solitude, thrown charm-
ingly upon their own resources for habitation and food. They could
dream themselves some brother and sister Sinbad roaming on unknown
shores, expecting every moment to meet with the dread little old man of
the sea, or to behold the sky darkened with the vast wings of the
approaching roc. But soon, Claudio tired of this mimic scene. He one
day leaned against the crag of crystal which was supposed to form one
side of their hut,-but which was, in fact, the end window of the conser-
vatory,-and looking through it at the portion of the convent-grounds
which were visible thence, he said :-" I wish we could get leave to go
into the garden; it seems a fine large one. This is such a stupid, confined,
place; there's no room for a good hearty game of play."
You liked it very much, I thought, when we first got permission to
come here, didn't you ?" said Isabella.
Yes, yes; atjirst;" retorted he.
It is'nt changed, is it ?" said Isabella, simply.
Changed; no-of-course not."
You thought it a delightful place then; and showed me how we could
turn it into a beautiful desert island of our own, you know ;" said she.
But one can't go on making-believe for ever; said he petulantly,
climbing up on to the edge of a large green tub which supported a palm-
tree, and which had represented the out-works of their hut, fenced against a
probable attack of savages; but which he now used to obtain a better
view into the garden. What a pity we may'nt play there-we could
have such a famous race along that avenue; couldn't we, Isabel ?"
"Yes; said she.
"I wish we might go there ;" said he, presently, with more earnestness
"I wish we might, since you wish it so much; said Isabella; but
since we cannot, let's not think about it; don't look out at it any more,
Claudio ;" said she, laughing; I think the sight of it only makes you
long more to go."
Of course it does ;" said he, laughing too.
Then jump down; and don't think about the garden any more. See,
here are some apples I brought with me, to stock our hut with. If the
savages attack us, we shall want store of provision, while the siege lasts."
Pooh I can't play at huts, and islands, and savages, any more ;" said
he, jumping down, however; I'm tired of that game, an't you, Isabel ?"
"No, I can't say I am : but let's invent some new one, if you like."
What can one play at, in such a bit of a place as this is ?" said he,
tossing one of the apples, while he glanced somewhat contemptuously at
the arena which he had before found spacious enough to serve as a whole
tract of grove, plain, forest, rock, and valley. If one might only pluck
some flowers, or cut some branches, it would be something; one might
turn the hut into a cave, and make ourselves into the king and queen,
with crowns on. I wonder why they won't let us have some of these
flowers; I'm sure there are plenty; I've a great mind to gather a
few; they'd never be missed. What can they want with so many ?"
"They forbade us to take them, so we mustn't; said Isabella quietly.
"If you really wish for some, Claudio, I'll go and ask the prioress
for them; but we must not gather them ourselves."
Oh, it isn't so much for the flowers, that I care; it's for the pleasure
of plucking them just as I like. Flowers put up in a bunch, and given to
you, are nothing; but choosing them for yourself, and taking those you
want, and no more, and doing so, just as the fancy bids you, and at
the moment you feel inclined-that's a nosegay worth having!"
His sister looked at him as if she did not comprehend him; then
he laughed at her wondering face; and then she smiled too, saying:-
" Oh, I see, you're joking; and trying to make me stare, with your odd
"Not I, indeed; I really should like some of these flowers. I've a
great mind to take some. Why shouldn't I ? "
"We were allowed to come here, on condition we didn't touch the
plants, or do any mischief;" answered she; "besides, you would only have
the mortification of owning what you had done."
"I don't see that;" said he. "Why need I own it? They would never
know. There are too many blossoms here, for any to be missed."
Oh, Claudio !" exclaimed Isabella.
"You needn't look so shocked, my little saint;" said her brother, lightly
laughing; I was not going really to touch them; I'm too much obliged
to the reverend lady-nuns, for their kindness to my young sister, to steal
any of their property-though I must say I think they're rather dog-in-
the-mangerish with their blossoms; they neither use them themselves, nor
let others have the pleasure of gathering."
"You mistake, dear Claudio; the flowers are used in dressing the
chapel-altar; the garden supplies very few, and these are collected for
Claudio had been tossing and catching the apple all the while she spoke;
he now threw it to his sister, exclaiming :-" Catch, Isabel !" She, pleased
to find him willing to engage in a new sport, entered into this game of
ball with spirit, and they went on playing some time, until suddenly the
apple flew from Claudio's hand, and spun through one of the panes of the
conservatory-window, smashing and scattering the fragments of glass.
An affrighted exclamation burst from both children at once, as they
heard the crash.
"It's broken "
Whereabouts ?" said Claudio, after a pause, as he peered about,
in vain trying to discover the fracture. I don't see a single damaged
pane any where, do you? "
"No; said Isabella; "but I'm sure there must be one on that side;
I heard the blow of the apple, as if it went right through the window."
Claudio crept up upon the bulwarks of the island hut, and, looking
closely at the window which formed the end of the conservatory near to
which the tub stood, and in the direction whence the crash had been heard,
he described the broken pane among some neighboring plants.
It is here ;" whispered he to his sister; I see it plainly; but it is
quite out of sight from where you stand; the broad thick leaves of that
fan tree hide it completely." He stepped down; and as he came towards
where his sister stood, he looked back to see whether he could perceive
that pane from any point he passed; but from none else than the one he
had just occupied, among the tubs that were ranged near to the window,
was the fracture visible.
It is quite hidden; it will never be found out;" said he, glancing at
But we can point out where to look for it; it will have to be mended
directly, that the draught may not hurt the plants;" said she. Yes,
how completely those fan leaves cover the spot! It would never be
guessed that there was a broken pane there !"
"Never Unless we told ;" said Claudio, again looking at her.
Which of course we shall;" said she, returning his look with her
clear open one, and with her usual quiet gravity of manner.
Why 'of course' ?" asked her brother. Why need we tell ? They
will never know of the accident, if we do not mention it."
We shall know it; we shall know that there is a hole in the windows
that lets in a stream of air bad for the plants; we shall know that it
would be mended if they could see it, or if we told them where to look
for it;" said Isabella ; therefore we ought to tell."
But they will be displeased-they will forbid us the place-they will
not allow us to come and play here any more ;" said her brother.
Her face fell. I shall be sorry for that." Then it brightened again,
VOL. II. D
as she added, "but even that will not be so bad-you had become tired of it
you know, and found it too small for playing in."
But I shouldn't like to be turned out, for all that;" said Claudio,
"especially, on account of my own carelessness. Besides, I hate to have to
go and tell of myself. I can't, Isabel; I can't."
"Then I will go for you; said she.
"What tell tales of me ?" he said hastily.
"Not of you only; said she. I will own that we broke the window,
playing at ball together. I will myself make the confession to the
prioress, and then you will be spared the pain of telling."
You are a generous little soul, Isabel; said her brother, giving her a
hug; "but it is not fair that you should take any blame in this matter,
for it was I made the throw that broke the window, not you."
"We were both playing; the unlucky hit might just as well have been
mine, as yours;" said she simply.
But why need it be owned at all ? said he. It will be sure to cost
us dear; we shall be punished; we shall be dismissed from here in
disgrace, besides having the shame of telling."
But it would be a worse shame to keep it a secret; we should
feel more disgraced coming here knowing we didn't deserve it;"
Do you think so ? was his reply.
I am sure so; she rejoined.
"To you, perhaps it would; said her brother thoughtfully.
"And to you, too, dear Claudio; she said. "I know you would never
be comfortable or enjoy coming here any more, after having forfeited the
right to do so, if the secret were ever so well kept."
"You would feel this, my good little sister, because you are very
scrupulous, very conscientious; your friend, the nun, has taught you to be
so; I'm afraid we boys are not so particular; he said, with a half sigh,
"But you boys have very high notions of honor, haven't you ?" said
"Yes, yes,-of honor; replied he, with an emphasis on the-word.
"Well then, do you not think it would be dishonorable, mean, cowardly,
base, to conceal a fault you had committed, merely to preserve a privilege
that your fault, were it known, would forfeit?" said Isabella, with her
usual calm eyes flashing, and her voice trembling with unwonted eagerness.
"You are right, my dear little moralist," said he, smiling outright at
her warmth; "and I will do as you would have me-as somehow you
always make me do; I suppose it is, because I know that you are better
than my scapegrace self. But I would not have you one jot less good, less
scrupulous, less conscientious than you are, Isabel mine. 'Who knows ?
your better genius may be my good one, some day or other, and help to
save me from any pickle that may befal your less worthy brother. Come,
if it must be so, let's at once go and make our confession; best get
it over at once. Which is the way to the convent parlour, where we may
have our formidable interview with the prioress ? "
She is not formidable; said his sister, laughing; reverend mother
is one of the pleasantest, kindest, most cheerful women you ever beheld.
I love her dearly."
What, better than sister Aloysia ?"
"Than sister Aloysia ? O, I love her more than any body in the
world-except perhaps,-" She stopped; and looked with an affec-
tionate smile in Claudio's face.
"Yes, yes;" said he, returning it proudly, with one equally fond;
"Isabel will always keep a warm corner in her heart for her naughty
Who calls him so, but his own modesty ? said she. Not Isabel;
who knows him for the best, the most loving of brothers."
Time passed; and found the tenor of Isabella's daily life unaltered. Her
father's profession still detained him absent from Vienna and his children.
Madame Leerheim's house was, as before, their appointed home; Claudio
remained at college; while Isabella had masters, belonging to the school
which was part of the convent establishment, at the same time deriving
her principal instruction,-her moral culture-from the gentle nun, sister
Once, while yet a very young girl, Isabella happened to be taking a
walk, attended by Bertha. A croud approached. It proved to be some
soldiers, who were conducting to prison a Bohemian lad, suspected of
having murdered a young companion. The deed had not been brought
home to him, but the circumstances in which the body had been found,
were thought so conclusive against this lad, that he was arrested and
brought to Vienna to await his trial. There was a train of idlers accom-
panying the military and their prisoner, hooting, and hissing, and reviling
him, as he passed along. He was bound, and led between two soldiers; his
wild hair hung loose and dishevelled over his eyes, which now and
then gleamed forth savage glances of anger and confusion towards the
pitiless mob. Now and then he shook the disordered locks back, with a
toss of his head,-for his hands being bound behind him, he could not lift
them to his face,-as if he were about to fling some bitter retort at his tor-
mentors; but relapsing into dogged sullenness, he allowed the hair to fall
once more over his brow-though it ill served to hide his flushed cheeks
and scowling glances.
I'm glad they've caught the young ruffian! ejaculated mistress Bertha.
"Glad !" echoed Isabella.
"Yes, glad, miss; I'm sure it was he." And then the damsel recounted
what she had heard of his suspected crime.
But how can you be sure, Bertha, that it was he who did the murder ?
Even they who took him, are not sure; said Isabella.
0, I'm sure; I'm quite sure;" said the damsel. "Look at him,
miss; only look at him There's a murdering face for you, clear enough.
Only look at it!"
But it seems to distress him, to be looked at;" replied Isabella. See
how he shrinks from being stared at, as they are all doing."
Just then, the procession halted; the officer who conducted the party,
stopped to let his horse drink, at a fountain that stood there; and the men
grounded arms, and took a few moments' rest after their long march; for
they had captured the lad at a spot some miles distance. During this
pause, the Bohemian remained motionless; only the wrath-darting eyes,
the dilating nostrils, and the heaving chest, bore witness to his agitation.
He stood panting, dusty, with bloodshot eyes, parched tongue, and lips
apart, looking like a goaded animal, at bay.
As he stood thus, only a few paces from the doorway, where Isabella and
her attendant had taken refuge, till the crowd should have passed, the
kerchief that hung loosely round the lad's neck, became entirely detached,
and fell to the ground. The thoughtless croud laughed, in derision at the
convulsive movement with which the bound arms twitched, as if they would
have made an effort to recover the fallen handkerchief; but the laugh had
not died away, when Isabella stepped forward, and in her own quiet grave
manner, took it from the ground, and placed it in the lad's jacket-pocket.
The restless eyes gleamed-but with'another expression then; a look of
surprise, of awe, of gratitude, of almost tenderness, dwelt sadly in them, in
place of the ire that sparkled there before, as they fell upon the gentle beni-
ficence at his side.
He had scarcely endeavoured to mutter hoarsely and huskily:-
"Thanks I "-when the word was given to move on, and the procession
resumed its way.
"Good gracious, miss Bella!" said the damsel, when she had regained
her young lady's side. How could you pick up that. filthy rag of a hand-
kerchief I How could you bring yourself to touch it ?"
"Nobody else took it up for him; he could not lift it for himself;" said
Then there it migh thave lain, for me, I'm sure ;" said Bertha; I
should as soon have thought of touching a toad, as a murderer's necker-
chief. A hempen cravat's the only one I'd think of helping him to, I
Isabella did not answer any farther; but next morning, she asked
her friend the nun, how it was that no one but herself, in all that croud of
people, had seemed to think of assisting one so helpless and unhappy
as this boy prisoner.
"They believed him to be guilty as well as unhappy;" was the
"They could not be sure that he was guilty-that he had committed
murder ;" said Isabella; "for Bertha told me that his crime had not been
Ot ISABELLA ;
proved. Ought they to have treated him as a wicked wretch, unworthy of
help, until they were quite certain he was not as innocent as they ? "
Crouds seldom consider; mobs rarely deal justly; said the nun.
But supposing that he were really guiltless of the deed imputed to him,"
said Isabella, "this youth would in fact have been most cruelly injured,
instead of deserving to be treated with slight and scorn; for he would then
have been dragged all those miles, bound and guarded, treated as a prisoner,
held up as a show and a gaze, on a false charge,-on a mere mistake of his
accusers. He would have been subjected to suffering, to insult, which no
after-clearing of his innocence could redress. They could not make him
unsuffer what he had suffered."
After a pause, Isabella resumed :-" I wonder whether this Bohemian
lad-Barnardine, Bertha said his name was,-really did kill his companion.
He seemed such a boy, to have done so great a crime. Do you think he's
guilty ? "
"I have no means of judging, my child ;" said the nun. "The best I
can hope for him, is, that those who have, will use them quickly, to the end
that his innocence, if he be innocent, may be established. Should his trial
be delayed, all the evils of exposure to vicious example, to prison immo-
rality, to dungeon idleness, recklessness, and despondency, will then be his
allotted portion-and it would be scarce less than a miracle should he es-
cape their influence. He will then be made what he is now only believed,-
a criminal. He will be hardened, bronzed against all better feeling. The
heart that now softens, the young eye that now melts, beneath the look of
kindness and of sympathy, and the helping hand of beneficence, will then
know no sense of virtue. Alike too late will then be counsel, assistance,
or even correction; and the boy Barnardine, who might haply have been
reclaimed, will be the veteran villain, equally unfit to be spared, or to be
condemned to death."
But do you think his trial will be delayed ?" asked Isabella.
I know not; but I fear it;" replied sister Aloysia. Our young duke,
Vincentio, is a retired man; a scholar, rather than a governor; more
devoted to a student's leisure, than to a statesman's jurisdiction; it is to be
dreaded he may be more contemplative than active; more given to reflec-
tion, than to exercise of sway; more bent on storing knowledge, than on
learning to rule; and this is hardly fitting in a prince who has the weal
and moral condition of his subjects committed to his care. However,
Vincentio is virtuous, well-disposed, learned, pious. Let us hope all good
from his reign."
As Isabella advanced in girlhood, her imaginativeness, her childish in-
nocence, became scarcely less a part of her nature; but they took the form
of ideality, purity, and a refinement of soul that bade her seek communion
with things above this world. Her habitual mood was contemplation; her
happiness, religion. She was reflective, devout, serene in faith, fervent in
hope. She was gentle, yet dignified; candid, yet femininely reserved.
She had still that look of spirituality, which distinguished her as a child.
-She seemed surrounded by an atmosphere of holiness and sanctity, which
rejected assimilation with gross materiality. Her face was as if an unsound
thought could never find entrance among those which gave expression to
its fair open truth. Her words, her gestures, all the harmonious lines that
composed her gracious form, were instinct with the charm of modesty.
Her very garments appeared to have a property of cleanness and purity,
as if no soil or blemish could attach to them. White-robed, spotless, she
looked, and moved, a virgin saint.
Yet with all this native immaculacy, she was neither intolerant nor un-
charitable with regard to sin in others. In the first place she was slow to
conceive evil; and when she did discover its existence, it filled her with
pity rather than resentment for the guilty. She felt compassion for those
who fell, and regarded them rather as victims than as culprits, when their
sins were the result of ignorance, helplessness, or adverse circumstances;
and she was ever ready to attribute sin to any of these causes, until she had
received demonstration that it arose from voluntary error. It seemed to
her too improbable that sin could be a selected portion. It was only when
convinced that degradation was wilfully incurred, that vice was sought, that
crime was spontaneously committed, that her indignation was aroused.
Then that latent warmth of disposition,-against which sister Aloysia had
56 ISABELLA ;
warned her, lest it should transgress due bounds,-would lead her, into
an energy of expression, a heat of language, compounded of generous
feeling and disdain; of anger at the perverseness, of contempt at the folly,
of those who could so madly choose. It was rarely that such occasions
presented themselves; but when they did, it was startling to hear one so
apparently calm, pour forth such passionate declamation. Her reflective
habits, her mode of education, naturally induced a practice ofargument;
and she was accustomed to speak her thoughts in that manner, gaining
either refutal or confirmation from the replies she received.
Some years had elapsed since the Bohemian lad's imprisonment on
suspicion of murder; when Bertha happened to mention something she had
heard, which forcibly revived the circumstance in Isabella's recollection.
When she next met the nun, she reminded her of what had then been their
surmises respecting the too probable result of prolonged imprisonment
should his trial be delayed.
It is as you predicted, sister Aloysia;, the wretched man's innocence
or guilt has never been rightly ascertained; his case has never had strict
examination; some say, he has been sentenced, but reprieved, from time
to time, at the instance of benevolent persons, who interfered for him.
Be that as it may, his incarceration has endured all this time, and I hear
that he is now so utter a reprobate, that there is no trace of the touches
of good-all wild as they were-which formerly distinguished him. When
he first entered the prison, he was furious at being deprived of his liberty;
he would rave at his accusers, he would storm at his jailers; but he had
moments of savage gaiety, he would sing snatches of the national airs of
his country, he would speak of his little sister Tonerl, and he would
express a longing to see her, and to return with her to their native
Bohemia. But year after year passed; his thoughts of home faded,-
lost their softening influence; he yielded to the profligate example, the
loose companionship, the vicious influence, ever too surely afforded by
a prison, and is now so sunk in obduracy, that even the provost of the
prison (a kind-hearted man, Bertha says,-he is a relation of hers,) has
lost all concern for him; he says he is such a mere lump of brutality-
such a thorough jail-bird,' is his word. But then, how was he made so ?
By what fault of neglect was he converted from a man into an animal ?
How came it, that instead of fostering, until they burned brightly, the few
sparks of good, latent in his nature, they were suffered to be smothered,
extinguished, by the unwholesome air of a dungeon ? Why should it be,
that the scanty seeds of virtue which might have been found, and brought,
in time, to bear blossom and fruit, should have been, instead, buried in the
uncongenial soil of an underground cell, so that none but rank and
poisonous weeds should be the produce ? To make of a youth, who might
have been reformed into a worthy subject, a mere callous, worse-than-
useless member of society, is surely an act of impolicy as well as injustice."
And this is not the whole of the mischief, in the present instance;"
continued Isabella; his poor young sister, Antonia-' pretty Tonerl,' as he
called her,-without parents, deprived of her brother's protection, fell into
evil ways; went astray, Bertha says; was deserted; and in a fit of grief
and despair, drowned herself "
Sister Aloysia breathed a pious ejaculation-part horror, part inter-
cession,-for the soul of this second victim of man's neglectful error.
After a pause, Isabella repeated musingly :-" the poor young thing
'went astray,' Bertha said. No brother to protect her!' From what,
I wonder ? "
The good nun took this opportunity of giving Isabella the explanation
she had formerly promised, when she should be older and fitter to com-
prehend her meaning. She gently revealed to her, that by an inscrutable
ordination of the Almighty, sin and evil were permitted to exist; she
spoke to her of the degradation of vice, of the misery of crime; she told
her of the many ways in which frail humanity is beset;. of the passions
which urge, of the temptations which allure; she spoke of those who
fall by weakness of heart, as well as by strength of inclination; of those
who are misled by ill counsellors, betrayed by false or pretended friends,
as well as those who only listen to the inward promptings of bad
propensity; she showed how the native greater weakness of women, both
in frame and in heart, rendered them peculiarly liable to fall away from
virtue, and to yield to vice; and that the very softness and flexibility of
their natures, though originally disposing them to good, yet also tended
to make them easier victims to sinister influence. She then unveiled to
her,-as a tender mother might do,-how the especial virtue, esteemed
the crown of women, was fair chastity; how it behoved them to preserve
that crown untarnished; how it was a duty to watch diligently their own
hearts, lest solicitation from thence should join with that they might meet
elsewhere, to betray them; how it was a glory and a grace to live
unsullied; how it was irremediable shame and dishonor to fall.
But surely, where the glory is so great, on the one hand, and the
penalty so severe on the other," said Isabella, "the wonder is, that women
should ever yield,-should ever fall. Well may the sex be called weak,-
foolish,-frail, if they are so untrue to their own best interests."
Thus it appears to you, on the first glance. But consider. How many
are there, who have any one to represent to them their true best interest ?
How many are there, who have the aiding strength of morality and
religion? How many poor girls are taught even simple right from
wrong ? Too few, I fear. Remember, therefore,-you, who are a lady by
birth, secluded by position, and one who by circumstance has been made
acquainted with the full value and privilege of keeping pure, body
and soul,-remember, I say, to be lenient when you judge of error among
the fallen of your sex. Be strict to your own slightest deviation from
rectitude; be charitable to the utmost backsliding of your guilty sister-
hood. That rigid adherence to virtue, which in you, is mere duty,
and scarcely more than a selfish regard to your own advantage, is in
them a high merit,-and too frequently the price of heroic self-denial, of
"Sacrifice !" said Isabella. Surely, for highest gain."
"Ay sacrifice ;" replied the nun. "Sacrifice for highest gain, it is
true-yet still, sacrifice. What should you know, my dear child, you,
enclosed within a sanctuary of peace, know of the temptations, the almost
irresistible temptations, of the daily world ? How should you rightly
estimate the prompthigs of passion-you, who have had your feelings
regulated, your affections duly filled, your principles confirmed ? How
may you judge of the solicitations of a generous and compassionate heart,
more ready to favor another than itself-you, who have never been exposed
to lawless pleadings, either from your own unguided heart, or from the still
more dangerous voice of one you would fain oblige ? What idea can you
form of the whisperings of vanity, the thoughts of a girl who sees herself
in rags, while others are becomingly decked,-you, who have always had
ladylike attire supplied for your wear. What are you to guess of the
urgency of hunger,-you, who have your daily meals provided, and have
never known the sting of more than a few hours' sharpened appetite, or a
delayed unquenching of thirst ? Think of these things, in their true force,-
put yourself in the place of a poor young creature, day by day surrounded
and beset by such influences, and then judge of her fall; then say, whether
it be not almost a miracle, if she maintain her integrity."
"A miracle, indeed !" whispered Isabella.
Holy mother forbid, my dearest child," said the nun, that I should
for one instant seek to dethrone the sacred image of Chastity from the ex-
altation she occupies in your thought, or help to diminish your sense of the
necessity firmly to abide by her laws, or in any way lessen your reverence
for those who do hold fast by Virtue; all I would do is to teach you com-
miseration for those so unhappy as to abandon her service, to forfeit her
privileges, to exchange her happiness, for the misery of Vice."
Poor Tonerl Poor Nanni !" exclaimed Isabella, when the nun had
concluded; I comprehend the mystery of your stories now; I have
learned to know and to pity the truth of your condition I understand
your own errors, as well as those of others towards you I see the reason
of your grief, your despair !"
Letters, about this time, from Isabella's father, brought news of a much
regretted loss he had sustained, in the death of a dear friend of his, a com-
panion-in-arms, a renowned brother soldier. He lamented his fate the
more, in as much as it had not occurred as the friends could have hoped-on
Had my noble friend, Frederick, met his death, sword in hand, in the
service of his country, his fate had hardly been to be deplored;" thus ran
the letter; "it would have been but that end which all brave soldiers
covet. But he had sailed with his men, in pursuit of that scourge of the
seas, the famous pirate, Ragozine; and Heaven, in its mysterious wisdom,
saw fit to send, instead of his hoped-for prey, a violent storm, which
wrecked the ship, and sent my valiant friend to a watery grave. With
him, in the vessel, was all his hoarded pay, the wealth he had acquired
during many years' devotion to his prince and country. Several brilliant
exploits and honorable achievements had made this wealth considerable,
and the greater portion was intended, I know, for the dower of his sister,
Mariana. From certain circumstances confided to me by my friend
respecting this virtuous young lady, and the nobleman to whom she
is betrothed, I fear the loss of her beloved brother, is not the only
consequence she will have to bewail from this fatal shipwreck. If Heaven
grant me life and opportunity to return, I will regard this unhappy lady
as my especial charge; and her fortunes shall be as much my care as those
of my own children. From all I learn concerning the heart and mind of
my Claudio and Isabella, I have no fear but that they will join me in my
every wish to serve one whom I regard in the light of a sacred bequest
from my dear lost friend, the noble Frederick."
Isabella was on her way to the nun, to show her this letter, and
she was pondering on its contents, and beseeching Heaven to grant her
prayer for her father's speedy release from his duties, that he might
return to Vienna, and learn to love his children in person, as well as he
seemed inclined to love them on report, when she suddenly felt some one
touch her timidly on the arm, and turning, she saw a woman at her side,
whom she at first did not recognize, but whom, after a moment, she
remembered once to have seen walking with Nanni on the Prater, when
she had met her there with Madame Leerheim.
"I beg your pardon, miss," said the woman, "but you seemed so deep
in thought, I could not get you to notice me; so I made bold to---" she
glanced at the elbow she had touched.
What have you to tell me? Aught of poor Nanni ? Speak; tell
me !" said Isabella earnestly.
"Poor Nanni, indeed! Well may you call her so. She is dying, poor
wench,-and frightfully; 0, how frightfully !"
The woman broke off with a sob, and turned away.
"Dying Where ? Lead me to her ;" said Isabella.
Then you will go to her, will you ?" said the woman, turning again
quickly to Isabella. That is her hope. She says she dares ask you to
come and see her now, as she is dying; many and many's the time she
has crept here o'nights, to see you; at least to catch a glimpse of your
window, and fancy she watched you sleeping. A good heart, she has,
poor wench, with all her odd fancies;-but we're queer creatures, we
women; most of us." The woman paused, and seemed to be half talking
"But Nanni-Nanni--dying, you say repeated Isabella.
"Yes she's dying, sure enough-and says it's only because she's so
surely dying, that she ventures to ask you to come and see her. Death
makes all even; it makes the good forget to despise the wicked-the rich
to neglect the poor. Coffins are sometimes not grudged, where timely
help would have been better. But," continued the woman, looking up
again from the dreamy way in which she ever and anon looked down
and muttered to herself, if you come, as you say you will, it must be
soon, for she won't last long."
The woman shuddered, and then added; you must prepare your tender
heart-Nanni says you have a tender heart-and I see you have-for a
shock. Her sufferings are frightful, poor wench; and now that she has once
owned her state, she don't mind letting us see her writhe in torture, or
hear her scream; which before, she managed to keep from doing, that we
mightn't find her out, and have a doctor."
Isabella held her breath, that she might speak calmly, and not increase
the woman's agitation (which alternated with the dreamy way her manner
assumed between whiles) so as to prevent her from explaining herself
intelligibly; and then said :-" What do you mean by her'state' ? "
The woman told her that the blow which Nanni received from the
horse's hoof had been the original cause of her present condition. That, at
first, the pain had been such as to be unnoticeable, unless the bruised part
were touched; that it had gone on, however, from year to year, growing
worse and worse, and had at length produced cancer, which had been con-
cealed, until incurable. That from some unaccountable whim, Nanni had
62 ISABELLA ;
persevered in keeping the secret of her ailment, but that she was un-
accountable and whimsical altogether.
There was a singular mixture of sympathy and vexation in this woman's
manner, as she spoke of Nanni. She seemed angry with her, and sorry
for her, at the same time; and as if she would fain have not felt so deeply
for her as she did, and yet could not help it.
"She set her heart upon seeing you, and I couldn't refuse her, poor
wench, when she begged me to fetch you;" said the woman, in conclusion;
" I shall comfort her by carrying word back that you've promised to
I shall not fail;" said Isabella. "Tell poor Nanni that I shall be
with her not long after your return."
The woman, wiping her eyes on her shawl, turned away; and Isabella
resumed her way to the convent; for she determined to see sister Aloysia
before she went to Nanni, remembering her promise, that she would not
go to her house again without the nun's permission. She made no doubt
of obtaining it, when she remembered the deed of mere charity which her
visit now involved; and she was right. The good nun at once bade her
go; sending a lay-sister with her, to carry a basket of necessaries and
comforts for the sufferer.
They reached the suburbs; and on tapping at the door of the small low-
roofed house, it was opened by the woman who had brought Nanni's
message to Isabella. She put her finger on her lips, as they entered, and
whispered :-" The poor wench sleeps; I found her in a happier way on
my return, than when I left her; the pain's suddenly gone-no more of
those dreadful screams and writhings-she's quiet now-and able to
Best not disturb her ;" said Isabella, in the same tone; and she pro-
ceeded to make her arrangements for staying to watch by Nanni's bedside,
dismissing the lay-sister, telling her she would send and let her know if any
decided change took place, which should require assistance. She then,
thanking the woman who had hitherto nursed Nanni, for her kind care
of their poor friend, begged her to take some repose, which she was sure
she must need, after so much fatigue and anxiety.
"Enough of them-to be sure;" said the woman; "but I had the
means of bearing them. Here's what helps us to bear even worse things
than fatigue and anxiety," said she, still in a whisper, but with the agitation
which occasionally marked her manner, when it did not subside into that
inert kind of dreaminess before alluded to; and, as she spoke, she filled
herself out a glass of some sort of ardent spirit, from a bottle that stood on
"Besides, I felt that anything I could bear or do for her, she would
have done fifty times over for me;" added the woman, nodding her
head towards the bed where Nanni lay; she had always a good heart,
And the woman tossed off the liquor at a gulp.
"Do you not fear that it may do you more harm than good ?" asked
Isabella. Do you not fear that though it helps you to bear many painful
things, yet that it brings a pain and destruction of its own ?"
The woman turned quickly, looking her in the face, and with an almost
fierceness of manner, scarce the less vehement for the whisper she still
maintained in consideration of the sleeper's presence, said :-" Do I not
fear it ? No. Do I not know it ? Yes. I know that it brings old age
while a woman is still young-that it sets wrinkles, where smiles should
be-that it digs lines instead of dimples-that it turns cheek-roses to
saffron-that it dulls the eye, withers the skin, palsies the hand; that it
poisons the blood, and strikes decrepitude into young bones; that it is
assured and early death. But it is palsied age encountered boldly-it is
death met blindfold. It gives us courage to hug our ruin; and its fire,-
consuming though it be,-lights and warms us on our way, and gives us
temporary life while leading to the grave. It is the candle to the fluttering
moth-radiant destruction. Like the wandering vapours that flit by night
in burial-grounds, it lures us on, till we plunge headlong and unheeding
into yawning churchyard mould. We reach the brink unthinkingly, half
bewildered, half dazzled; the glare has thrown our danger into shadow,
and it is worth while to have it kept out of sight as long as possible-until
the last inevitable moment. For it must come-it must, it must."
As the woman uttered the last words in her slow, musing, abstracted
manner, her eyes rested upon the bed of the dying Nanni.
Isabella said softly :-" Since death must come, is there not a better
courage to meet it with, than the one you choose ? Why keep it out of
sight, because it is inevitable? Why not rather learn to seek it as
a friend, than be cheated towards it as an unavoidable enemy ?"
Too late too late !" muttered the woman, with her eyes still fixed in
the same direction; while Isabella thought how she had heard those very
words-those fatally comprehensive words-uttered by her whom they
Presently the woman roused herself; went towards the table, poured
out another glass of spirit, swallowed it, and then saying :-" I will seek
the rest you bid me. Should you want anything, call; we shall hear you,
some of us, from the large house; this is Nanni's own cottage; I'll leave
you here for the present, since you're so good as to stay with her;" she
went out, closing the door softly behind her.
Nanni's slumber lasted uninterruptedly for some hours. Mortification
had come on; and, freed from pain, she was able to sleep.
She awoke refreshed; and uttered her companion's name,-the woman
who had tended her during her illness.
Dear Nanni, I am here to take care of you, now; you will be pleased
to have me for your nurse, will you not ?" said the gentle voice
"And so you are come, angel that you are! I knew you would!"
The dying girl fixed her eyes on Isabella's face, with a look of full content.
"You are the same pure angel, that you looked to me, when a child!
You were always, more like a spirit of light and goodness, than a mere
mortal creature, like-like ourselves; "-and the voice faltered, and the
look of content left the countenance, and the old trouble cast its shadow
She turned her head feebly away, and sighed, and said :-" You are
come-because your good heart bade yoi come-and because it suspected
nothing that should keep you away-but perhaps, if you knew- "
I know all;" was Isabella's quiet reply.
Nanni's head turned more quickly now,-as quickly as her weakness
would allow,-towards Isabella. Fixing her eyes upon her, she repeated
emphatically, you know all ?"
Isabella, without averting her own, bowed assent.
You know what has been my reprobate way of life ?-what has been
my error-my fall ?-You know what a thing of shame and sin I am ?
you know what I, indeed, am ?"
"It is best thus; said Nanni, after covering her face with her hand in
silence, for a few moments; the shame and pain of having you know it,
is made up for by having now nothing to conceal, and by the comfort of
finding that you still have love enough for poor Nanni, to bid you come,
spite of what you know her to be."
It was only your own delicacy and consideration for me, that kept me
from you so long, dear Nanni; said Isabella.
Our own frailty sets a barrier between ourselves and the innocent and
good; and it is fitting we should bear the penalty, by not seeking to
transgress the limit, or to covet their sympathy and society; said Nanni.
"It is seldom, indeed, that the wish exists, on either side; generally, we
outcasts are as little anxious to associate with the virtuous, as they are
with us; but it is perhaps my misfortune, that while my errors depraved,
they never hardened me."
"Do not say so, Nanni;" said Isabella; "so long as one softening
regret, one remorseful emotion remains, to touch the heart, depend on it,
that heart is never wholly lost to good. It is callousness, it is indifference
in evil courses, that are the bane of all redemption from them."
"You comfort me;-I knew you would-you always did-the mere
sight of you from the first, seemed to do my sore heart good. But
I could not give myself that comfort at the risk of harm to you. And
yet, perhaps, I might. Your pure soul would have been as little injured
by contact with vice and pollution,-it would have as surely shrunk from
them, as crystal water refuses to mingle with grease and filth. Still, why
subject you to the disgust and heart-sickness of even knowing such things
to exist. No, no, I dared not be so selfish. Only now, now, that I am
surely dying, I can beseech the comfort of your presence; and may
Heaven reward you for granting it to me."
"You are easier now, dear Nanni, are you not? -The pain seems
VOL. II. E
abated, from what I learned of your sufferings before I came. You may
recover still," said Isabella.
Nanni shook her head. I know what this is; it is no healing calm;
it is the calm of coming death-but I bless it, since it gives me to feel
fully the comfort of having you near; at the same time that it spares you
from witnessing throes you could not relieve."
Three or four women now entered the cottage, asking if they could do
aught for the service of their dying companion; but Nanni thanked them;
told them the young lady they saw, had come purposely from a convent to
nurse her, as a work of charity and pious humility, and would therefore
take their place in the kind attendance they had hitherto given her. She
again thanked them heartily, bade them a sad farewell, and said she hoped
soon to be at rest.
One of the young women,-their eyes all bore witness that they were
much affected,-stooped towards Nanni, and sobbed out a few words that
reached Isabella's ear.
"Mrs. Overdone bade me say, Nanni, that she hoped you'd forgive her
for not coming to you, but that it made her miserable to see you suffer so,
and couldn't help you at all; and she hoped, if you were so bad that you
must die, that you'd forgive her for other things worse than not coming to
see you; that perhaps it would have been better if you'd never seen her-
but that at any rate, she hoped you'd forgive her."
"I forgive her all! Tell her so from me. Good-bye!"
The young women went away, crying; and as the cottage-door closed
behind them, Nanni said:--"they've been kind and good to me; they don't
want for kindness, poor souls, in their way; it is their having had kind
hearts, too kind and too tender hearts once, that has been mostly the cause
of their being what they are. God knows !"
You sent a message of forgiveness to some one-to her-that terrible
woman-I happened to see her once-who I suppose was the cause of
your misery, Nanni, was she ? "
"Not the cause-not the sole cause; one of the causes, she certainly
was. But it was my own fatal wealmess, joined to my still more fatal
ignorance,-for it was that which gave my weakness power to work fay
downfall,-which originally lost me. It is too long a tale for me now to
tell-too sad a tale for you to hear-one that you need not its warning to
encounter the pain of hearing-and one that is too common, alas, in its
You did well and generously to forgive even that terrible woman, one
cause, though she was, of your fate ;" said Isabella. You cannot, there-
fore, still regret having preserved your heart unhardened, since it leaves
you capable of generosity sufficient to send your pardon even to such a
She is indeed' a terrible woman,'" muttered Nanni, with a shudder;
"and to your innocent eyes she must appear a very monster of hideousness
and abomination; but even that woman has some touches of good in her,
that would amaze those who know not how difficult it is for even wicked-
ness and sin utterly to deface the divine image originally stamped on poor
humanity. I have known that woman, in a time of dearth, forego a meal
of her own that she might bestow it on a starving child; I have known
her make many sacrifices of personal comfort-no slight self-denial on the
part of a woman like her-that she might maintain a little ricketty bant-
ling, deserted by its parents; I have known her ever pitiful towards the
orphaned and homeless child; for children are her passion,-the love and
sympathy she feels for childhood is her saving grace-her single point of
genuine feeling and goodness. That is her one redeeming particular,-in
all else she is, truly, a terrible woman.' She has been a terrible woman'
Yet you forgave her; your unhardened heart forgave her ;" repeated
I forgave her, as I could hope myself to be forgiven;" sighed Nanni.
" Hope, did I say ? No hope for such as I!"
"Hope of forgiveness; ay, good hope ;" said Isabella. That heart,
which not only abhors and repents its own sin, but can also find pardon for
those who have sinned against itself, may not lose hope. Was it not
given to the unhappy sinner of old, to hear those benign words, her sins
which are many, are forgiven?' Let me tell you of some of these blessed
promise-words, dear Nanni. Let them carry their own comfort and
strength to your drooping courage. Let your heart-still in its trembling
humility 'an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and
bring forth fruit with patience.'"
Through the watches of the night, Isabella kept faithful vigil by
Nanni's bed-side. The sufferer had sunk into rest, calmed and composed
by the serene trust in Almighty mercy, which her gentle nurse had sought
to inspire; but just as the grey dawn crept through the checked curtains
of the cottage-window, Isabella perceived that that rest would never again
be broken. Slumber had subsided into death; and Nanni's cares were over.
Isabella arose; composed the limbs, and disposed all smoothly and
reverently around the poor frail tenement of clay; then knelt, praying
long and fervently for the erring spirit now fled to meet its fiat for eter-
nity. She was still thus lowly and earnestly pleading, when the lay-sister
softly opened the door of the cottage.
The poor thing is dead, is she ?" whispered the nun, as Isabella rose
from her knees. I knew she could not survive many hours; so as soon
as matins were finished, I came to see if all were over, and to fetch.
Some of the women from the neighboring house were summoned; and
then Isabella, and the lay-sister took their way back to the convent. As
they passed through the empty streets, quite deserted and solitary at that
early morning hour, the sky chill and grey before the rising of the sun, and
her thoughts still absorbed in the mournful story and scene which had so
lately occupied her, Isabella's heart sank in dejection. She felt utterly
depressed, saddened; life looked black before her; a sombre veil seemed
to hang upon the coming years; a dark foreboding seized her, despite her
better sense; and she could scarcely reason herself out of a vague but
powerful presentiment of calamity and coming evil. She strove resolutely
against this weakness-for such she felt it to be-and partly succeeded in
throwing it off; but still, temptation, sin, destruction, seemed about her
path, and, dimly hovering, to cast their shadows athwart her future course.
Presently, a party of military approached, leading a heavily-ironed man,
whom they were conducting to prison. As Isabella's eyes fell upon the
culprit, she was struck by the singular resemblance he bore to her brother
Claudio. The height, age, and general appearance were very like; and
the light brown color of the hair and beard were precisely similar. She
started, as the thought crossed her mind:-" Can it be my brother, that the
impending ill threatens ? Heaven shield my Claudio !"
Her companion, whose retired life as a nun, did not prevent her taking
a lingering interest in mundane affairs, and whose profession as a lay-sister
permitted her still to preserve sufficient communication with the world to
admit of her satisfying her inquisitive turn, asked one of the guard, who
was the criminal they were leading to prison; and she learned that it was
Ragozine, the noted pirate.
"Even such a perverted being as this, might my brother have become
had he early been exposed to the adverse influences, the mistaken teaching
which have doubtless been this man's portion in his youth;" thought
Isabella. "Courage and manly daring, made cruelty and rapine; ambition
and a thirst for glorious achievement, made lawless plunder and reckless
deeds; justice, consideration, devotion in the cause of humanity, made
slaughter and treachery to his fellow-creatures, as his prey, rather than his
brethren. A life misspent, and an ignominious death, are the sum of this
man's history; and such might have been my brother's lot! Mine too,
might have been no better than Nanni's, had I had only such instruction
as the world awards to the lowly-born, instead of helping them to stem the
tide of hostile circumstances which naturally surround them. Are there
no means of averting this sore evil ? Must a particular portion of hu-
manity be acquiescently doomed to certain sin, as well as poverty? To
starvation of soul as well as body ? Can the intellect of the world devise
io method of redemption? Will rulers ever continue to devote their energies
towards fit correction of crime, rather than diligently to seek some system
for its due prevention? Might not the discovery of how best to minister
timely help, be a higher aim in policy, than the most equitable code
of punishment that ever was designed ? 0 that the poor could have early
succour! Wholesome teaching-moral training-right guidance! Then
perchance, we might have fewer culprits, and worthier, happier citizens!"
As these thoughts passed through her mind, Isabella's attention was
drawn, by the lay-sister, towards a carriage that came quietly but rapidly
along the otherwise empty streets. There was no retinue, no train of
attendants, no state, or guard; but the lay-sister whispered :-" That is
his grace, the Duke-our exemplary sovereign, Vincentio. He is going
to early mass and confession, at the monastery hard by. Ah! he is indeed
a worthy prince! So young a man, yet so strict in his religious ob-
servances; so modest and retired in his habits; so devoted to study; so un-
ostentatious in the discharge of his duties. See how he avoids parade and
display in this early hour, and in the plain equipage he chooses for going
to his devotions. Holy virgin mother, assoil him, and have his soul in thy
especial care !" ejaculated the nun.
"Amen !" murmured Isabella, with fervour. "May he have all divine
grace to fulfil his princely duties, in promoting the welfare and best happi-
ness of his subjects. May he learn to inquire into their wants, to minister
to their necessities, and to improve their condition. A prince's lot were
indeed an enviable one, might he effect this end during his reign. Were
every monarch, at his death, to leave his people ameliorated by his acts,
proudly might he listen to the praises showered on his name, and con-
template the posthumous honors with which his memory should live and be
revered. To be the friend of such a prince, to aid him in his views, to
inspire and sustain him in such designs would be high privilege, and tempt
an ambition that should make a life of peace and retirement mere cowardice
and self-indulgence. Were such a post of friendship possible, it were
glorious enough in its prospects of patriotism and loyal help, to make the
calm happiness of a convent-life,-which I fondly hope may be mine,-
seem poor in the exchange! The vocation of a worthy prince, is not
unlike that of the votaress;-it is a life dedicated to a sacred cause."
Full four years had elapsed since the death of Nanni, when one fine
autumn, Claudio came to his sister in high spirits, telling her he had an
invitation for them both to spend the vacation at a country house, some
miles' distance from the city. It belonged to a family, with the master of
whom, Claudio had lately formed an acquaintance; and he and his sister
were requested to join the festivities, with which, according to annual
custom, the vintage was about to be celebrated.
Claudio had lately made many acquaintances, of whom his sister knew
nothing. Young gentlemen,-of suitable rank to his own, but of irregular
habits, and vitiated tastes; who were dissolute on principle, regarding
dissipation as a duty, and profligacy as an accomplishment; who thought
decorum lack of spirit, and morality a slavish restraint,-had recently won
him to be their associate; and he had spent more of his time with them,
and had imitated them more closely in their worst follies, than he would
have chosen to come to the knowledge of his pure sister.
His respect and love for her, made him regard her esteem far too highly,
to risk falling in her opinion, by letting her know that he had formed such
acquaintances as these; but the family to whom he now introduced her,
were worthy people, and he brought her the invitation in question, with
The brother and sister, with the rest of the guests, were welcomed, on
their arrival in the vineyards, by rejoicings, firing of pistol-shots, and
flourishes of trumpets and horns. Gay awnings,,and arboured seats, were
distributed about the grounds. Flags were flying, and the peasantry were
dressed in their holiday attire, shouting, and singing, and dancing, during
the intervals of their bacchanalian labour. The vines spread their flaunting
arms laden with rich foliage, and richer fruitage, on all sides; proffering
their luxuriance of beauty and of enjoyment.
The family-party was assembled to receive the guests. It consisted of
the host, Erasmus; his wife, Theresa; and their only daughter, Juliet;
who supported the steps of an aged man, her godfather, Anselmo. This
old gentleman formed completely one of the family; for he doted to such
excess on his god-daughter, that he could not live away from her; and he
had accordingly taken up his abode in her father's house, frequently de-
claring that she should be sole heiress of all he possessed. He was very
wealthy, and not a little whimsical; but like many rich old gentlemen, his
whims were tolerated for the sake of his wealth, His principal whim
was, to have his darling Juliet in constant attendance upon him; he would
i z ISABELLA;
never willingly have suffered her to stir from his side, and in deference to
his wish, the young girl scarcely ever quitted it for an instant. Her
parents loved to see her thus deferential, in consideration of the large
fortune which they believed she was eventually securing; but her own
motives in this complaisance, were, the gratitude she felt for the fond
attachment towards herself, the pleasure she saw her attention gave to one
so old and so dependant on her for happiness, and the real affection with
which these combined feelings had inspired her for him. Hitherto, the
unceasing proximity which he.exacted from her, and maintained between
them, had been a source of gratification rather than of inconvenience; but
now, for the first time, she found this close and incessant personal attendance,
She had never before grudged the duty which held her apart, attached
to the side of an old man, while those of her own age, walked, or danced,
or sported about, during the vintage festivities of former years. But on
this occasion, she began to wish that her godfather loved her a little bit
less, that he claimed rather less exclusively her society, that he did not so
wholly look to her for help and affection. For she had now for the first
time met with young people of her own age, who attracted her powerfully.
Both Isabella and Claudio won her regard, and drew her interest and her
thoughts towards them, as no young persons she had ever seen, had done.
They were of higher rank, of superior education, of more refined breeding,
than any acquaintance her family had till that time made ; and they seemed
to Juliet, beings of another sphere-almost of another nature, from the
rural neighbours, the farmers' sons and daughters, whom she had chiefly
seen at her father's house until then. The high intelligence, the dignity,
composure, and elevated style of beauty, which characterized Isabella,
claimed for her at once the admiration of the young country-bred lady, as
an embodiment of all that she could conceive exalted and becoming in
woman; while the spirit, grace, and personal advantages of Claudio,
seemed in Juliet's eyes, all that could be desired to form the complete
exemplar of a gentleman. Right noble did the brother and sister look,
and speak, and move; and well did they credit to their gentle birth and
education, both in person and demeanour.
For Juliet, she felt as though she could never sate herself with watching
them, and admiring them, and noting their every word, look, and gesture.
During the first day or two of their visit, she found almost sufficient
pleasure in this occupation, to indemnify her for being compelled to keep
aloof from them; but after a time, she longed to talk with them, to join
them in the entertainments that were going forward, and to form a nearer
and more intimate acquaintance with such beings, who seemed as loveable
and gentle-natured, as they were loftily endowed.
But the moment she showed any disposition to move away towards the
dancers, or to take part among the talkers, or to make one in a party
of saunterers through the grounds, Anselmo would say :-" You are not
going to leave me, Julietta, my child? You're not thinking of running
away from your poor old godfather, are you ? Stay by me, dear; stay by
me." And one look at his fond old face, together with his voice, which
quavered with age, and not with want of earnestness, sufficed to retain
Juliet close by the elbow of his arm-chair.
It was glorious autumnal weather, warm and genial; and the old man's
easy chair was brought out every morning during the festival, and placed
in a good situation on the borders of the lawn, whence he could command a
view of the vineyards, and grounds, and of all the joyous groups that
wandered, or sported, or danced, or idled, in them. Over the back of his
chair, or by his side, hung, ever watchful and affectionate, his darling
god-child; telling him the names of the guests, helping his imperfect sight
with her quick eyes, bringing to him all that escaped his duller hearing by
means of her acute ears, and supplying his failing senses with her own
young ardour and sensibility.
She is my treasure, my joy, my sole delight;" said the old gentleman,
in answer to something Isabella had said as she stood near, that she might
form better acquaintance with Juliet, whom she liked for her patient
devotion to her godfather. "She is youth and health, eyesight, hearing,
everything to me. She makes me forget I am old-and helps me to fancy
myself a boy again. She absolutely makes over to my use her active
limbs, her quick faculties, her young senses; she almost invests me with
her health and beauty; and goes hard to make me into a lovely young
t : ISABELLA;
creature like herself, so entirely does she give herself up to me and my
service. But, bless her, she shall find I am grateful-yes, I am grateful.
I'll give her what is the best part of me,-my money,-as she generously
bestows upon me, herself. All in good time-all in good time, though;"
said the old gentleman, chuckling and nodding with a knowing air;
" I can't give it her till I've done with her, for fear she should take it in
her giddy little head to fly away from me, and leave me, after all."
"I think, sir, what you know-even what I know-of Juliet's steadiness
of attachment for you, would ensure anything but such a desertion,
whatever your kindness might see fit to present her with,-and the rather
for that very kindness; said Isabella.
Ah, my dear young lady, I know what I know;" said the old
gentleman, turning his twinkling eyes again upon Isabella, and nodding
and chuckling as before; I know very well, that when you young ladies
get hold of a good round sum, you are apt to look out for some likely
young fellow upon whom to bestow it; and then, goodbye to the old
fellow for ever and a day No, no, all I have shall be my Julietta's, some
of these odd years-but not now-not now; all in good time-all in good
time I'm not going to risk losing the delight of my eyes-nay, my eyes,
and ears, and senses, themselves-youth itself-as long as I can keep all
secure. I dare say you think me a very selfish old man,-and so perhaps
I am-but I can't help it. Age is apt to teach selfishness. Youth is
capable of sacrifice-courts sacrifice, glories in sacrifice. At your years,
I dare say I could have been as self-denying as you-but now I know
better-I know better."
Isabella, whose clear perceptions, and whose love of truth, would not
allow her to agree with this view of the old gentleman's, respecting his
acquired better knowledge, and yet whose respect for age would not permit
her to argue with him adversely, held her peace.
"You are silent, my good young lady; you don't think as I do-of
course not. What old man and young lady ever thought alike ? Yet
I don't blame you-I don't blame you; and I dare say you're too good
to blame me-at any rate you're too polite to do so aloud. But I'm quite
ready to blame myself-I own it is selfish of me to keep this dear little
creature glued to my side;-if I were an old woman in reality, as I am in
my weakness, and my foolish fondness, I dare say I should pin her to my
gown, or tie her to my apron-string. But I can't for the life of me help
it; she's so good, and so careful of me, and so dear a girl altogether.
I really can not help it. Now, can I ? "
Thus directly appealed to, Isabella smiled, and said, "I think you
could, sir, if you tried hard; or indeed, ever so little. But you don't try;
you don't wish to help it."
"I'm afraid I don't; said the old gentleman, with his knowing little
chuckle. It's all very well, my dear young lady, for you young people
to give up a pleasure-you who have so many at command, with all your
senses, and faculties, and powers, fresh and vigorous about you-but for us
old folks, to part with a single joy, out of so few that remain to us, at our
withered season of life, is a magnanimity-a heroism, not to be expected
from our poor remnant of strength."
"You forget the compensating joy there is in the very exercise of
magnanimity, of heroism; it would supply to you the one you yielded;"
said Isabella; You would be indemnified; you wouldgain your reward,
depend on it."
My dear young lady, you speak as a young lady; you promise me the
rewards of youth. I told you before, youth takes pleasure in sacrifice-
which is another name for heroism and magnanimity. You, yourself, as
I have heard it whispered, are about to become a nun. This, to you
appears a noble dedication of yourself to a recluse life, a wise relinquishing
of the pomps and vanities of the world, a judicious withdrawal from
delusion and error, a worthy offering, in short, upon the shrine of
religion;-to me, I confess, it appears a sacrifice-and nothing more
In my eyes, it is rather a claim than an offering, that I make; I regard
it as a privilege, not a sacrifice;" said Isabella. "A life of peace and
holiness, is surely a gain, and no loss."
Ay; as I said before-or something like it-age and youth seldom
view things in the same way. To my thinking it is a sacrifice-a sheer
sacrifice of youth, beauty, intellect, virtue; a sacrifice of a virgin heart
and person that might bless some worthy man, and the world itself, as wife
and mother; a sacrifice of talents and excellences that might adorn and
benefit a far wider sphere than the interior of a convent. But that's an
old man's notion. I know what these things are-you don't, though you
possess them." And the old gentleman chuckled, nodded, and gave his
"And so you really intend taking the veil?" asked Juliet of Isabella.
"You, so young, so noble, so happy, so"-she blushed; and checked the
acknowledgment of beauty, the personal admiration, which her artless
eyes plainly expressed.
"I hope to have my father's consent to my entering my noviciate among
the votarists of St. Clare, before another twelvemonth elapses;" replied
"I am sorry-that is,-I regret-I could have hoped, that our acquaint-
ance once begun, we might have formed a friendship that would have
lasted through life;" said Juliet. "I never beheld any one out of my own
family, whom I feel I could love so well as I could you. I wish we were
really related; then I could come to your convent and see you, even after
you become a nun; and we might still be friends, as I had flattered
myself with believing we might be."
Let us fancy ourselves related; let us call each other, cousin; and look
upon this gentleman as our kind uncle, whom, by some strange chance, we
have never till now discovered. Will you have us for nieces, dear sir ?"
said Isabella, gaily.
Indeed, will I, and right gladly; said the old gentleman. You
know I'm apt to be selfish-you were too polite to say so-but I know
you thought so-come, confess, didn't you ?"
"Your niece knows her duty better than to contradict her uncle
Anselmo;" said Isabella, curtseying.
Go along with your sauciness under pretence of duty, you rogue;"
said the old gentleman, in a high state of chuckle; but, as I was saying-
I'm apt to be selfish; and by the new-established relationship, I shall get
two dear girls to love, instead of ohe-and moreover I shall expect a kiss
a-piece from my new-found nieces. But there's one especial matter, of
which I must forewarn you, niece Isabella; and that is, you must never
expect to rival my other niece in my affection; for I shall never never
love any one so dearly, so fondly, so exclusively, as my own little darling
Agreed; I am content to be second to her in your heart; but to no
one else will I yield grade in my uncle's regard;" said Isabella.
Second to me only in this; as in every thing else, I am avowedly
second to my dear cousin Isabella; said Juliet.
Claudio coming towards them at this moment, he was made acquainted
with his new-found relations; and smiles, and good-humour, and pleasant
congratulations were exchanged on all sides.
There was a large accession to the party that day. Fresh guests arrived;
and additional gaiety went forward. More feasting and dancing than ever,
were proposed for the evening; the shrubberies round the lawn were
hung with lamps, that the ball might continue out of doors after nightfall,
the weather being so warm and beautiful. It was so fine, the scene so
exhilarating, and so much enjoyed by old Anselmo, that it was agreed
there was no risk in allowing his chair still to occupy the position it had
maintained all day; especially as his goddaughter was at her usual post
to see to his comforts, and that he was warmly wrapped up.
"And let me put this cosy thing round your throat, godpapa;" said
Juliet; "you know I knitted it for you myself-and this is the very
time for you to wear it."
She does just as she pleases with me, you see," said the old gentleman,
turning, with evident pride and delight in her despotism, to Claudio, who
was standing near, and who indeed had hovered in the vicinity of the easy-
chair for the last several hours; see what it is to be a fond old godpapa,
submitting to be tyrannized over by a young hussy who knows her power
but too well."
She seems to use it very pleasantly, and very gently too ;" said the
young man, watching the little hands, that, spite of their being gloved,
deftly arranged the folds of the comforter round the old gentleman's neck.
Yes, yes-I don't know but I'm well off in my slavery. Like
most of her roguish sex, she knows how to make her chains sit easily.
They can all of 'em, bless'em, if they choose, hide the clanking, and
prevent the galling of the fetters, with some magic contrivance of their
own, which hardly lets us know we wear any at all ;" said the old gen-
tleman, with his favourite chuckle.
Pardon me, sir; but it seems rather you, here, who impose fetters;"
said Claudio. Do you not enjoy the glory of attaching this fair captive
to your chariot-wheels ? She has not quitted the side of that triumphant
car of yours--your easy-chair,-for five minutes during the day."
Ah ha I young gentleman, you would fain lead her away as a partner
in the dance, I dare say;" said Anselmo, with his knowing nod; but
I can't spare her-I can't spare her."
I have no wish to dance, I assure you, sir;" replied Claudio; I am
well content to stay here and swell your triumph, as another captive,
enchained in pleasant talk."
I'm afraid you flatter an old man," said Anselmo, with the sagacious
twinkle of his eyes; "I saw you dancing away, with right good will,
yesterday and the day before."
I do not care to dance this evening; I think I must have turned my
foot; it scarcely amounts to a sprain-but my ankle is sufficiently uneasy
to make me feel no wish to dance." As Claudio said this, he could perceive,
spite of the dim light,-for they were in a sort of bower of trees, which
fenced and screened the easy-chair from the night-air,-that Juliet's fair
head turned quickly towards him, as if in interest awakened by his words.
Juliet, my dear child, you should yourself put something round your
throat;" said Anselmo; you know you are not accustomed to be in the
open air thus late. Your shawl lies in the hall; you must put it on; I
will send for it."
I know where it is; I will fetch it, sir I" exclaimed Claudio, darting
across the lawn, towards the house.
Humph !" muttered the old gentleman, following the figure of the
young man with his eyes, as it bounded over the well-lit open space;
"tolerably fast running, that, for a man with a turned foot!" adding to
himself :-" If it's as I suspect, I'll make so bold as just to give the young
spark a hint. I'm not going to have my little Julietta lured away from
me, yet awhile. No, no; all in good time; all in good time:'
When Claudio returned with the shawl, he took the privilege of himself
placing it round the beautiful figure he had so constantly during the last
few hours found himself admiring, as it bent over the old man's chair.
What is that you're doing ? 0 ay,-putting her shawl on-ay, ay;
you're cousins, you're cousins. Come round here on the other side of me,
young gentleman; I hear best on this side; my right ear is a little deaf."
"And yet you let my cousin Juliet usually stand on that side, sir;"
"Juliet? 0 ay,-I hear her well enough; I'm accustomed to her
voice ;" said old Anselmo. I know its every tone by heart. I ought
to do so-for it breathes nothing but love and tenderness for me; I can't
spare one vibration of it for any body else. I'm well-nigh jealous of every
word she gives her parents; judge if I'll let her bestow them on any
"Not on her cousins, sir ? Isabella will think herself hardly used, if
she be not allowed a share of Juliet's words; and Claudio also hopes for his
The hand of the young girl lay on the back of her godfather's chair.
The eyes of the young man had noted it, traced as it was, even though
shadowed by the overhanging trees, by the gleam of the white glove it
wore. He could not resist the impulse which bade him place his own upon
it. At first, the imprisoned hand made a slight effort at withdrawal; but
afterwards lay tremblingly still, as if its owner were unwilling to disturb
the old gentleman, who rejoined :-
"Well, we'll see what can be done for relations;" and he chuckled
excessively as he placed great stress on the word; of course, the claims
of relations are to be considered. But as for any such impertinents as
wooers or suitors, we'll have nothing to say to them, will we, Julietta, my
darling? We won't spare them so much as a syllable, a single sigh.
They may sigh and long as much as they will, themselves-but I tell 'em
all, fairly, my little girl's not to be won till her old godfather can spare her,
and that'll never be till he's in his grave. Then she shall have all his
money-not a penny before,-and she shall do what she pleases with it,
and give it to him who shall win her and wear her. And then, but not
till then, I say, joy go with her and the man of her choice, whoever
he may be:'
"Why not help her to make her choice, that you may be sure he is
worthy of her ? said Claudio. "A man worthy of my cousin Juliet, it
will need some pains to find." Here the hand that rested on hers,.ventured
a little pressure. "Why not give her the advantage of your assistance,
sir ? Why not aid her judgment with yours, and let her youth benefit
by your experience ? "
"Youth seldom accepts age as its guide in such matters, young gentle-
man; said Anselmo, more gravely.
But my cousin Juliet has already proved, in her affectionate attachment
to your person, that she has no will but yours, dear sir; replied Claudio.
She will give a crowning proof of her implicit obedience to my will, if
she wait until my will itself be opened ;" said the old gentleman. She
will find there sufficient testimony, that I am not unmindful of the way in
which she has hitherto made my wishes her law."
Are you not denying yourself a pleasure in refusing to witness the
happiness of your goddaughter, sir ?" said Claudio. Why defer, until after
you are gone, a happiness which would be enhanced to her by sharing it
with you ?"
Here the hand which he had hitherto held enclosed beneath his own,
struggled, and resolutely freed itself; but Claudio had scarcely wondered
what he could have said to occasion so signal a token of his having offended,
when he was re-assured by the voluntary return of the hand to nestle itself
beneath his; and how was his re-assurance raised to rapturous conviction,
by finding that this little hand was now ungloved.
I am the best judge of what is my own pleasure, my dear young
gentleman;" said Anselmo; "and I am quite sure that it would be no
pleasure to me to give up my little darling to a husband.. No, no; I can't
spare her; all in good time; all in good time. Besides, you talk of her
happiness being assured by marriage; how do rou know that she has ever
yet seen the man she could love ?-and she must love, before she can find
her happiness in marriage. I remember enough of my youth, to know
that;" said Anselmo, resuming his little chuckle. "There's no love yet
in my Julietta's young heart for any body but her old godfather; I know
there isn't. Surely, you don't pretend to read your cousin Juliet's heart
better than I do, young gentleman ?"
"I am certain of one thing, sir; that my cousin Juliet's heart is as
generous and frank, as it is tender; when once it knows its own happiness
may be assured by making the happiness of that man who shall venture
to declare his fate to be in her hands, she will never hesitate to avow her
love, while she accepts and rewards his."
"All in good time; all in good time. This will be all well enough
when the man comes who is to declare it; but he shan't come, if I can
help it; he shan't declare himself, while I'm alive; I'll take good care of
that. I never let her out of my sight, but when I'm asleep; so he must
be a brisk suitor who will outwit such an Argus as her old godfather. Ah,
ah you'll allow the lover must be very much in earnest, who shall contrive
to win my little Julietta from me, mustn't he ?"
"He who loves Julietta, will be earnest in his love, depend on it, my
dear sir." And Claudio could not be quite sure, but he thought he now
felt the little soft hand give that returning pressure, which his own had
been some time soliciting.
"Ay, ay; all in good time. But bless me," said the old gentleman,
"it must be very late. See, the dancing is over. They are all going
towards the house. Give me your arm, my darling; and you, my good
young gentleman, let me take yours also; and I will go at once to my
own room. I am growing quite a rake, keeping such hours; but I always
say, Julietta makes me a boy again; she gives me her youth."
The supper was over; the lamps were extinguished; the guests had all
departed, excepting those who slept there; and even these had retired to
rest, with the exception of the brother and sister.
The moon had risen, and was now casting her tranquil light upon vine-
yard, lawn, and garden. Isabella, won by the solemn stillness of the scene,
which had so lately been all gaiety and merry uproar, was pacing to and
fro upon a broad terrace walk, that skirted one portion of the grounds,
commanding an extensive view over upland and valley. All lay bathed
in the pure moon-beams, looking so peaceful, so suggestive of serene
thoughts, that she could not help indulging the fit of musing hope which
the hour and scene inspired.
Claudio, restless, excited, his heart full of sweet emotion, with what had
VOL. II. F
so lately passed, was also wandering about the grounds, unable to withdraw
to his room, indisposed as he was for sleep.
It seems that Juliet partook of the same disinclination to retire to rest,
which kept the brother and sister still abroad; for as Claudio, in the course
of his wanderings, turned into a path of the flower garden which led
close by the house, he beheld her standing at one of the windows that
opened from her room on to the lawn. She was gazing forth upon the
moonlight, and stood half screened by the white muslin drapery which
curtained her window; but she was distinctly visible to the lover's .eye,
who thought she looked only the more lovely, thus veiled amid those
He advanced, and uttered her name.
"You are still luxuriating in this beautiful night;" she said; "I do
not wonder you cannot bear to leave the garden; I can hardly quit the
window, myself; all looks so calm and beautiful."
"Will you not come forth and enjoy it for half an hour longer ?" said
Claudio; "my sister is in the grounds still, somewhere, I think; shall we
seek her ?"
Juliet hesitated; he stepped into the room, and snatched up the shawl
which lay on a chair near. Folding it round her, he said :-" You need
not fear the night air; it is as bland as noon-day."
Juliet put her hand within the arm he proffered, to lead her forth from
the window; and they passed out into the garden. They were in no
mood for speech, either of them; the scene was not one to inspire
volubility; yet they talked on, as if they dared not trust themselves with
silence. But Buddenly Claudio said, in an altered voice,-altered from its
assumed gaiety and ease, to a deep earnestness of tone :-" Tell me, Juliet,
dear Juliet,- "
There is your sister I" exclaimed Juliet at the same instant, as she
sprang forward to meet Isabella.
I have persuaded our cousin Juliet to join us in a moonlight stroll,
Isabel;" said her brother; "it is impossible to go to bed such a night as
this. I could be well content, for my part, to wander about such grounds
as these, thus companioned, until day-break."
And it was long ere the three young people did separate; but at length
Isabella's prudence prevailed; and they returned to the house, time enough
to take at least a few hours' rest against the morrow.
On the following day, Anselmo was confined to the house; for, spite of
all precautions, he had not escaped taking cold from so long sitting in the
open air after nightfall. Close by his invalid chair, was Juliet, of course,
in constant requisition, during the whole of this time. In vain Claudio
hovered near; no means had he of communicating with her, or of speaking
to her unobserved. The old gentleman was peevish, querulous, fretful,
with his illness; and afforded no opportunity for conversation. Scarcely
a look, far less any such sweet token of intelligence and regard as had
passed between them on the previous evening, could the lover obtain from
the young girl. It seemed as if, with the morning hours, had come dis-
cretion, reserve; a dread lest she might have been too forward, too un-
maidenly bold, in the signs of preference which she had permitted to escape
her; and she seemed resolved to give no more such encouragement, either
to her own feelings, or to a passion scarcely avowed on his part.
Claudio fancied he could read all this in her manner; and he could
scarcely endure the restraint and suspense which prevented his asking its
true interpretation. His impatience increased hour by hour ; almost beyond
bearing, or concealment. At length, he controlled and consoled himself
with the thought that evening would set her free from this bondage; and
that then he would seek her in her room, where he might open his heart
to her, and learn from hers what he hoped existed there for him.
The stillness of evening, the sobered light, will better befit her timid
soul in its utterance, than this garish bustle of day;" thought the lover;
" I could hardly hope so frank an avowal from her, were I to seek it now,
as I shall hope to gain, when befriended by quiet and dusk. Let me
wait in hopeful patience."
The ailing old gentleman had withdrawn, rather better, and somewhat
less cross, to his own apartment; the family had also retired to rest; when
Claudio took the garden-path towards Juliet's room. Both folding-sashes
of the window stood wide open; and near it sat the young girl herself, her
fingers loosely clasped in one another, her head a little bent, and her
whole attitude bespeaking abstraction and reverie.
84 ISABELLA ;
For a few moments, the lover indulged himself with gazing upon the fair
picture she formed, sitting thus, in the softened light of the moon; then he
advanced, murmuring her name.
Juliet arose, startled; then smiled, as she said:--" 0, it is you!"
"Yes; forgive my thus breaking in upon your retirement; but I have
been unable to approach you all day; I cannot behold you, and not long
to hold some intercourse with you; your every look and word are so
exclusively engrossed by your godfather, that when you are with him,
nobody else can obtain one. Let your cousin Claudio claim a few moments
of speech with you, now; if you will not grudge them from your subject
of thought, which seemed a pleasant one, when I interrupted you, by
"I was thinking-of-of-my cousins,-of Isabella. I cannot help
regretting (I fear, sinfully) that she is about to shroud so much beauty,
and so many fair gifts in a cloisten And yet she looks the vestal
pre-ordained, in every particular of person and manner. How saintly
pure is the beautiful candour of her face. 'What a majesty tempered with
benignity there is in her aspect. How dignified is her step; how musical
is her voice, full of the calm and self-possession of a righteous soul!
She is, indeed, virtue and holiness personified. She looks so good, so
elevated above the follies and weaknesses of the every-day world, that,
do you know, I, her poor little cousin, conscious of being far her inferior
in goodness, as in every thing else, feel a little afraid of her, for all I love
her so much, and for all her condescension in establishing relationship
"' Afraid !' you need not; Isabella is as gentle and sympathetic, as she
is good; hers is no austere virtue. Those only who do not know her
truly, can think it so. Besides, you do not judge yourself truly; she,
who is justice itself, would tell you that you are only the more charming
for this modest opinion of your own merit; that you are- "
"I ask not for my own praises;" interrupted Juliet, smiling; "we
were not discussing my merits, but your sister's. Tell me, is she not cold ?
I know not whether it be my awe of her serene virtue, but to me, Isabella,
in her cool judgment, her dispassionate purity, sometimes brings to my
mind the image of the driven snow."
You do not know her fully yet;" replied Claudio. To those who
judge her only from a first impression, she may appear devoid of warmth.
But study her character truly, and you will find no lack of fervor, of
generous sympathy, of all that is kindly and noble. You should see her
when some exalted theme possesses her. That calm eye lights up; the
still soft lip quivers; the staid form dilates-and passionate eloquence flows
in a torrent from her heart and soul. She is a glorious creature! She
forms my ideal of a sister "
Juliet's eyes showed that she thought this enthusiasm proved him a
brother worthy of the sister he so exalted; but reading in the eyes that
met hers, how fully her own revealed the admiration she felt, she approached
the window, saying :-" I wonder whether Isabella will come forth to enjoy
the beauty of this night again with us; it is as beauteous as the last."
Claudio stepped to her side; his arm stole round the young girl's waist,
as he whispered :-" I have told Julietta how well Isabel fulfils my ideal
of a sister; shall I now tell her who forms the ideal of my love ?"
"No, no; I am thinking of Isabella; let us watch for her."
"I'm well content; let us watch."
They stood thus, linked together, gazing forth upon the still night. No
sound less hushed than the murmur of waters, or the light rustle of leaves,
broke upon the silence which almost made audible the throbbing of those
two young hearts. Night and Silence lent their aid to Nature and to Love,
that their mighty voices,-mute but eloquent, gentle but all-potent,-
should be heard. The moon shone blandly on; the stars shed their mild
radiance, patiently and watchfully through the waning hours; but still no
Isabel came. And then midnight cast her dark mantle around. The moon
set; the stars faded from the sky; the grey dawn chased the lingering
shadows of night, and the first blush of morning tinged the silver veil of
day-break, before Claudio crept forth from the garden-window of Juliet's
It was noon the next day; when,-the party all assembled in the
drawing-room, Juliet as usual hanging over her godfather's chair, in close
attendance upon him, and her parents occupied in entertaining their
guests,-a letter was placed in Claudio's hands. It was addressed to
himself and Isabella, by their father,. and had been just forwarded express
86 ISABELLA ;
from Vienna, where it had arrived on the day previous. It contained
a hasty summons to his children, to meet him there immediately, as he
hoped to obtain a short leave of absence previous to an intended expedition
against the enemy.
The young lover turned pale, as his sister delightedly announced to the
company, their near prospect of beholding the father she so longed
"We shall be sorry to lose you, my dear young friends," said Erasmus
and Theresa, "but it is natural that you should be eager to join your
father immediately. Orders shall be given, that you may set forth
without loss of time."
While her father and mother were saying this, Juliet had ventured one
look at Claudio; and then, without a word, dropped upon the floor.
She had swooned.
"Dear child! dear child!" sobbed her old godfather. "Lift her
gently, there, there; bear her to the window; the air will revive her; she
will be better presently. She stands too long by my chair; she shall have
a seat by me, in future."
When Juliet recovered, she found Claudio no longer in the room.
He and his sister, she heard, were gone to prepare for immediate departure
to Vienna. She strove to command herself; and steadily resisted all
recommendations to withdraw, lest she might not see them before they
left. She made light of her fainting; and all she could be persuaded to
do, was to lie down upon the couch, which Anselmo had had wheeled over
to the side of his arm-chair, for her. Here she lay, endeavouring to
suppress the trembling agitation which possessed her; until Isabella and
Claudio re-entered the room to take leave of their friends. While his
sister was bidding farewell to Anselmo, and thanking Erasmus and his
wife for their hospitality, during the visit she had so much enjoyed, the
lover approached the couch and found means to convey unobserved a letter
into his Juliet's hands. With this treasure, the moment the brother and
sister were gone, the young girl hastened to her own room, and there
devoured these words:
"Juliet-my bride-my wife !
A mandate, you would be the last to bid me disregard, calls
me from you. But I shall return with favoring nightfall. Let the secret
of our loves rest within our own hearts, until such time as I can proclaim
you mine with befitting triumph. I have been, till now, too unthrifty of
my time and means. Love will teach me prudence and industry, that
I may build a fortune worthy of your acceptance; unless, meantime,
it please Heaven to endow you with the one promised by Anselmo.
I shall have to watch lest the eagerness of love bid me grudge the old man
his short season of remaining life. Why will age tempt youth to such
unhallowed thoughts, by setting conditions to its bounty, cold, heartless,
unreasonable ? Why should it refuse sympathy with the ardour which
itself once knew ? Why not renew its own prime, by lovingly sharing its
stores, while yet alive to reap a harvest of grateful affection, rather than
convert to a tardy bequest, what may then be received with scant thanks,
for coming fatally too late ? But since your godfather wills that your
dower be thus shut within his coffers, until his death frees it and you-
I will not be so selfish as to withdraw you from a home where you now
command your due of ease and luxury, by asking you to share that of a poor
student. We will wait until the poor student shall have earned one worthy
of you, or until you yourself shall be so rich as to offer him one. You see,
his presumption,-or rather his faith in your love,-allows him not to
doubt that you will do so; as his own love will teach his pride to be ex-
alted, and not humbled, in having to owe all to you. Till then, receive as
your husband, in heart, in all, save ceremonial form,-and ever fondly, in
On arriving in Vienna, the brother and sister found their hope disap-
pointed, of seeing their father already there. No tidings reached them con-
cerning him, for several days; but then a rumour came, of there having
been an unexpected assault on the part of the enemy-of an engagement-
of a fatal loss of officers; and among these, fell the father of Claudio and
So sudden a defeat to all her hopes of beholding her sole surviving
parent, was a shock indeed to the filial piety of Isabella. It put the
crowning desire to the inclination she had always felt for a conventual life;
and she besought sister Aloysia, to obtain the reverend prioress's sanction,
that she might become one of the holy sisterhood without delay.
Her friend bade her think well, lest the impatience of grief was the sole
motive to this decision; and whether she might not, hereafter, when time
had assuaged the first violence of her sorrow, repent a step which could not
then be recalled. But Isabella explained how long it had been her wish
to become a nun; how she had learned to sigh for the pious calm of the
Far from foreseeing a time when I shall regret, and desire to recall, my
present determination," she said, my only hesitation would arise from the
doubt whether it be not a kind of selfishness to withdraw from the turmoil
and pollution of the world, into a life of purity and peace."
The period of mourning had not concluded-many months were scarcely
passed, after her father's death, when Isabella was about to see her devout
hopes fulfilled. On the very day she was to commence the season of her
probation, as a novice of St. Clare, she was speaking with one of the holy
sisters, concerning the duties and observances of the order, its regulations,
its immunities, its restrictions, its religious exercises, its appointed hours,
that she might strictly abide by them all; and she said :-" And have you
nuns no farther privileges?"
How Isabella's vocation was set aside; how she was induced to live in
the world, a duchess, instead of within convent walls, a nun, is shown
"What's yet behind, that's meet you all should know."
J. ALFRED NOVELLO, PRINTER, DEAN STREET, S01IO, LONDON.
A SERIES OF FIFTEEN TALES,
MARY COWDEN CLARKE,
Author of the Concordance to Shakespeare.
"as petty to his ends,
As is the morn-dew on the myrtle leaf
To his grand sea."
KATHARINA AND BIANCA;
THE SHREW, AND THE DEMURE.
W. H. SMITH & SON, 136, STRAND; AND SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, & CO.,
STATIONERS' HALL COURT.
J. ALFRED NOVELLO, PRINTER, DEAN STREET, SOHO, LONDON.
HER KNOWN AND UNKNOWN FRIEND,
THE AMERICAN ENTHUSIAST,"
THIS TALE IS GRATEFULLY DEDICATED
MARY COWDEN CLARKE.
KATHARINA AND BIANCA;
THE SHREW, AND THE DEMURE.
"The one as famous for a scolding tongue,
As is the other for beauteous modesty."
Taming of the Shrew.
BUT I must and will go to church, to-day, Antonia; it is the Santa
Lucia; and the altar is to be decked-and there is to be a procession-and
all the world will be there-and I tell you, I must go."
But our aunt is worse to-day, you know; she must not be left alone.
And remember, it is my turn to go out to-day, Claudia; and Camillo will
be so disappointed, if I do not meet him; for I promised him, I would,
as I knew to-day was my Sunday abroad, and- "
O, if it be to meet your betrothed, of course, I must give up;" retorted
Claudia. No doubt, a pious duty ought to give way to a love-meeting."
Nay, you are unjust, sister;" replied Antonia. I merely pleaded for
my turn, thinking of his disappointment, and my promise; but I must not
be selfish. My aunt shall not be left, yet you shall have your wish. Go
to church, dear. It is a laudable motive; you shall pray for me; and
above all, for our poor sick aunt. Fetch your veil, my Claudia; and I
will arrange it for you."
"You are a kind creature-you always were;" said Claudia, as Antonia
arranged the folds of the veil, and fastened it with the silver pins, and
ivory comb, so as to set off her sister to the best advantage; and if I
should happen to see Camillo in my way, I'll give him your love, and tell
him the reason you couldn't come. Poor old aunt! I fancy we shan't
have to nurse her long. Heigho! I'll pray for her. Camillo will forgive
your disappointing him, for the sake of the kindness it proves in you,
94 KATHARINA AND BIANCA;
staying to watch by her. He says it's that unselfish goodness in you,
Antonia, which makes him adore you as he does. So you'll only add to
his love, you see, by stopping away to-day, after all. Good-bye !"
Antonia smiled, sighed, kissed her sister, as she returned the "good-
bye." Then when Claudia had tripped away, and closed the door behind
her, the sigh was repeated; and for a few moments, the young girl
remained lost in thought, looking through the window. But rousing her-
self, she said :-" I won't think of his disappointment, or my own. Let
me go up to my aunt; and see whether she be ready for her 'bollitura.' "
Antonia and Claudia were two young Genoese girls. When their
parents died, they had no relation, but an aunt, a widow, in a thriving
way of business as a fruiterer. This aunt had taken charge of her two
orphan nieces, and for some years, entirely supported them, her trade
sufficing to maintain them all three in comfort. But as the sisters grew
towards womanhood, the aunt's health declined, and it became the duty
of the two girls to return a part of the kindness they had received at her
hands, by devoting themselves to the care and nursing of their sick
This duty was cheerfully as well as strictly fulfilled by the elder of the
two nieces, Antonia. But Claudia, the younger, felt a constant attendance
by the bedside of a woman, whom age and infirmity made somewhat
peevish, irritable, and exacting, to be a most irksome penance, which she
made no scruple of avoiding, as often as she possibly could. The sort of
means she took to avoid it, have been already hinted, in the dialogue
which took place between her sister and herself.
Claudia was very much prettier than her elder sister, Antonia; but it
was strange,-and truth to say, strangest of all to herself,-that the plain
Antonia had had many suitors, nay, was actually betrothed to one, her own
choice, while the pretty Claudia had never been able to boast more than
a few passing flirtations,-heart-smitten admirers of a week or so,-but
not one bona-fide proposal. She thought so charming a face as she beheld
every day in the glass, needed but to be more seen, to bring a host of
lovers; and this it was which made her so anxious to frequent the most
crowded places, when she did go abroad.
THE SHREW, AND THE DEMURE. 95
The church of San Lorenzo, on a saint's day, was sure to be the
most thronged, and most fashionable of all resorts; and besides, Claudia
was quite a devotee,-in her way; she knew all the embroidery on the
priests' robes by heart; was enthusiastic in the fineness of the lace round
the altar-cloths; doted on the velvet with which the pulpit was hung;
was thoroughly versed in every pearl in the waxen madonna's necklace,
and every gem on her petticoat; was learned in processions; could tell
every saint's day in the calendar, off-hand; and was ready for every feast,
moveable or appointed, long before its arrival. Nay, she saved up her
pocket-money scrupulously, to put into the 'tronco dei poveri;' only, it
sometimes happened, that a bright ribbon, or a tempting new kerchief,
would dwindle the destined liri' into a few soldi.'
On the day in question, she had no sooner entered the church, than she
perceived that her usual seat was occupied by a remarkably good-looking
young man; who, however,-on her approaching with a helpless, embar-
rassed, air, plainly bespeaking her perplexity and its cause,-immediately
gave up the place he occupied, drawing one of the rush-bottomed wooden-
backed chairs from the nearest stack, and setting it for himself not far
This courtesy on the stranger's part, necessarily produced some on hers.
She offered her missal, seeing that the young gentleman was unprovided
with a book. She held it between them; and when some of the little
coloured prints (of saints with up-turned eyes, or of several small fat,
flaming, cross-laden hearts, toiling up a hill, with dabs of crimson t
represent bleeding footsteps) that were put into the missal as markers,
occasionally fluttered out upon the pavement, as they would do, and as
they seemed to take a perverse pleasure in doing, Claudia would hurriedly
stoop to pick them up; and then the young stranger would gallantly
prevent her; and then, when he recovered it, and attempted to replace it,
Claudia would help him so awkwardly, and with such trembling fingers,
that the little picture was in danger of tumbling down again, and then
Claudia would colour a good deal, and look in a terrible state of pretty
All this improved their acquaintance amazingly; so that, by the time
96 KATHARINA AND BIANCA;
mass was over, nothing seemed more natural than that the young gentle-
man should offer to see her home; and when she protested she could not
think of giving him so much trouble, he could do no less than assure her
that it would be something very different from trouble to him; and when
she said :-" Well it was not far, to be sure," he was called upon to say
that "were it situated at the very farther extremity of Genoa city, he
should only be the better pleased ;" and after many of the like remarks-
no less unexpected, than brilliant and original, she permitted him to escort
her to her aunt's house; which led to a request on the young gentleman's
part that he should be allowed to call on the morrow, to enquire after her
health, and that of her sick relation. In short, this day's church-going
produced what Claudia had so earnestly desired-an offer of marriage.
The young man announced that his name was Baptista Minola, son of
signor Minola of Padua; that he was now at Genoa on business for his
father; that he was about to return home; where he would be sure of
a double welcome, could he bring so charming a bride in his hand.
The match was concluded; madame Minola took leave of her aunt and
sister, and set forth with her husband for Padua, protesting with much
obliging unction, that she should be always glad to hear of their welfare;
that she wished her aunt's speedy restoration to health, and hoped it might
not be long ere her sister was married to her lover, Camillo. He is not
a gentleman born, to be sure, like my Baptista;" said she to Antonia, in
the flow of considerate feeling towards her sister, inspired by her own
superior good fortune; but he is a very worthy young man-an excellent
workman, I dare say; and his exertions will doubtless suffice to support
you both very comfortably, when you marry. I hope it may be soon, for
your sake, Antonia. Nothing is more distressing for a girl than a protracted
engagement, and a long-deferred wedding. I trust you'll soon be able to
send me word that you are a happy wife-as I am."
My aunt's state of health, will not allow of my thinking of quitting her;
and heaven forbid, that I should owe my happiness to the death of one
who has been so good to us, as she has been ;" sighed Antonia. I fear,
Camillo and I must not think of marriage for a long time yet awhile."
When the bride and bridegroom were departed, the sick woman called
THE SHREW, AND THE DEMURE. 97
her niece to her bed side, and said :-" You are grieved at parting with
your sister, my Antonia; but we must not regret her, her happiness is
assured. It is the thought of yours, and of how it may also be secured,
which occupies me now. I know your attachment for Camillo; his for you.
I know how it has been made subservient to your dutiful attention towards
one who has had it in her power to benefit you. I know how often you
and he have given up your natural desire to be in each other's society, that
you may not let my comforts, or my tendance, be lessened. This ought
not to be. But I have not the courage to give up my nurse, my Antonia,
my dear niece. I have thought then, that if Camillo will endure the
presence of one whom age and infirmity render less patient than she ought
to be,-if he will consent to the infliction of a burden for the sake of the
girl he loves,-if he will help her to share its weight, that he may secure her
society, without withdrawing her from the duty which gratitude and her
own good feeling impose upon her,-if, in short, he will receive us both to
his home, I have considered how it may now be arranged that your union
shall be no longer delayed. The amount of my hoarded savings I had in-
tended to bequeath in equal shares to my two nieces. Claudia's marriage
with a man so well off as her husband is,-the son of a rich Paduan
gentleman,-renders it unnecessary that any of my money should go to her;
and the two portions combined, together with what Camillo's skill and
industry can command, will amply suffice to maintain such a home as your
moderate wishes could desire. Why then tarry until death shall have put
you in possession of this destined sum? Why not accept, instead of
inherit it; and give me the happiness of enjoying it with my children,
instead of the barren comfort of leaving it to them when I am gone ? Let
us induce Camillo to think with us, and then we may all live as happily
together, as an enfeebled frame, and the task of ministering to its wants
It may well be imagined that the young couple were not slow to avail
themselves of their generous relation's offer; and they determined that
the affection and zeal with which they would make her future happiness
their care, should best prove their gratitude, and make her feel that she
had gained double tendance by the kindness with which she had given up
her nurse to be the wife of the man she loved. In the wedded home of
98 KATIARINA AND BIANCA;
Camillo and Antonia, the sick and aged aunt was rewarded for the protection
she had formerly bestowed on the two orphan girls.
Upon the occasion of her marriage, Antonia wrote to her sister at
Padua, informing her of her happiness; and expressing trust that its
knowledge was the only thing wanting to complete that of Claudia.
Claudia sent a congratulatory letter in reply; which concluded with
a hint that her sister had proved her wisdom in abiding with a relation
who had wherewithal to recompense attachment. But do not let the
thought of having deprived me of my share of our aunt's property, disturb
you for a moment, Antonia;" the letter concluded; "I assure you, I have
the greatest pleasure in ceding to you whatever portion might have been
mine, could I have resolved to pain a worthy man's heart by refusing to be
his, on the plea of staying to watch by a sick relation. I should wish you
never to reproach yourself with having supplanted me in my aunt's
affection; I have that of a kind, an indulgent, husband, to console me.
Nor would I have you reflect upon yourself for having been the sole
recipient of her bounty. You want it, I do not. I dare say a turner of
olive wood does not make so large an income, but that a generous aunt's
contribution to the household must be a consideration-an important
advantage. I rejoice that you have it, sister. As for me, I have an
establishment far beyond what my poor humble merits could have entitled
me to. And lately, signor Minola's death has made us even richer than
we were before. The good old man left my Baptista all he was worth-
and if ever there was a saint in Paradise, that dear good old man is surely
gone there. That you may enjoy the result of your assiduity and vigilant
care, unalloyed by one sting of self-reproach, my dear Antonia, is the
sincere wish of your
Affectionate sister and humble servant,
For some time, no farther communication took place between the sisters.
After a period of a year or two, however, another letter reached Antonia
from Padua. It ran thus:-
Although so long a time has elapsed without your having found
time or inclination to write to me, I will not reproach you with your neg-