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Title: Zastrozzi
Author: Percy Bysshe Shelley
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0606461.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: August 2006
Date most recently updated: August 2006

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Zastrozzi
Percy Bysshe Shelley



CHAPTER I.



     ---That their God
May prove their foe, and with repenting hand
Abolish his own works--This would surpass
Common revenge.
--Paradise Lost.

Torn from the society of all he held dear on earth, the victim of
secret enemies, and exiled from happiness, was the wretched Verezzi!

All was quiet; a pitchy darkness in volved the face of things, when,
urged by fiercest revenge, Zastrozzi placed himself at the door of the
inn where, undisturbed, Verezzi slept.

Loudly he called the landlord. The landlord, to whom the bare name of
Zastrozzi was terrible, trembling obeyed the summons.

"Thou knowest Verezzi the Italian? he lodges here." "He does,"
answered the landlord.

"Him, then, have I devoted to destruction," exclaimed Zastrozzi. "Let
Ugo and Bernardo follow you to his apartment; I will be with you to
prevent mischief."

Cautiously they ascended--successfully they executed their revengeful
purpose, and bore the sleeping Verezzi to the place, where a chariot
waited to convey the vindictive Zastrozzi's prey to the place of its
destination.

Ugo and Bernardo lifted the still sleeping Verezzi into the chariot.
Rapidly they travelled onwards for several hours. Verezzi was still
wrapped in deep sleep, from which all the movements he had undergone
had been insufficient to rouse him.

Zastrozzi and Ugo were masked, as was Bernardo, who acted as
postition.

It was still dark, when they stopped at a small inn, on a remote and
desolate heath; and waiting but to change horses, again advanced. At
last day appeared---still the slumbers of Verezzi remained unbroken.

Ugo fearfully questioned Zastrozzi as to the cause of his
extraordinary sleep. Zastrozzi, who, however, was well acquainted with
it, gloomily answered, "I know not."

Swiftly they travelled during the whole of the day, over which nature
seemed to have drawn her most gloomy curtain.---They stopped
occasionally at inns to change horses and obtain refreshments.

Night came on--they forsook the beaten track, and, entering an immense
forest, made their way slowly through the rugged underwood.

At last they stopped--they lifted their victim from the chariot, and
bore him to a cavern, which yawned in a dell close by.

Not long did the hapless victim of unmerited persecution enjoy an
oblivion which deprived him of a knowledge of his horrible situation.
He awoke--and overcome by excess of terror, started violently from the
ruffians' arms.

They had now entered the cavern---Verezzi supported himself against a
fragment of rock which jutted out.

"Resistance is useless," exclaimed Zastrozzi; "following us in
submissive silence can alone procure the slightest mitigation of your
punishment."

Verezzi followed as fast as his frame, weakened by unnatural sleep,
and enfeebled by recent illness, would permit; yet, scarcely believing
that he was awake, and not thoroughly convinced of the reality of the
scene before him, he viewed every thing with that kind of inexplicable
horror, which a terrible dream is wont to excite.

After winding down the rugged descent for some time, they arrived at
an iron door, which at first sight appeared to be part of the rock
itself. Every thing had till now been obscured by total darkness; and
Verezzi, for the first time, saw the masked faces of his persecutors,
which a torch brought by Bernardo rendered visible.

The massy door flew open.

The torches from without rendered the darkness which reigned within
still more horrible; and Verezzi beheld the interior of this cavern as
a place whence he was never again about to emerge--as his grave. Again
he struggled with his persecutors, but his enfeebled frame was
insufficient to support a conflict with the strong-nerved Ugo, and,
subdued, he sank fainting into his arms.

His triumphant persecutor bore him into the damp cell, and chained him
to the wall. An iron chain encircled his waist; his limbs, which not
even a little straw kept from the rock, were fixed by immense staples
to the flinty floor; and but one of his hands was left at liberty, to
take the scanty pittance of bread and water which was daily allowed
him.

Every thing was denied him but thought, which, by comparing the
present with the past, was his greatest torment.

Ugo entered the cell every morning and evening, to bring coarse bread,
and a pitcher of water, seldom, yet sometimes, accompanied by
Zastrozzi.

In vain did he implore mercy, pity, and even death: useless were all
his enquiries concerning the cause of his barbarous imprisonment--a
stern silence was maintained by his relentless gaoler.

Languishing in painful captivity, Verezzi passed days and nights
seemingly countless, in the same monotonous uniformity of horror and
despair. He scarcely now shuddered when the slimy lizard crossed his
naked and motionless limbs. The large earth-worms, which twined
themselves in his long and matted hair, almost ceased to excite
sensations of horror.

Days and nights were undistinguishable from each other; and the period
which he had passed there, though in reality but a few weeks, was
lengthened by his perturbed imagination into many years. Sometimes he
scarcely supposed that his torments were earthly, but that Ugo, whose
countenance bespoke him a demon, was the fury who blasted his reviving
hopes. His mysterious removal from the inn near Munich also confused
his ideas, and he never could bring his thoughts to any conclusion on
the subject which occupied them.

One evening, overcome by long watching, he sank to sleep, for almost
the first time since his confinement, when he was aroused by a loud
crash, which seemed to burst over the cavern. Attentively he
listened--he even hoped, though hope was almost dead within his
breast. Again he listened--again the same noise was repeated--it was
but a violent thunderstorm which shook the elements above.

Convinced of the folly of hope, he addressed a prayer to his Creator--
to Him who hears a suppliant from the bowels of the earth. His
thoughts were elevated above terrestrial enjoyments--his sufferings
sank into nothing on the comparison.

Whilst his thoughts were thus employed, a more violent crash shook the
cavern. A scintillating flame darted from the cieling to the floor.
Almost at the same instant the roof fell in.

A large fragment of the rock was laid athwart the cavern; one end
being grooved into the solid wall, the other having almost forced open
the massy iron door.

Verezzi was chained to a piece of rock which remained immoveable. The
violence of the storm was past, but the hail descended rapidly, each
stone of which wounded his naked limbs. Every flash of lightning,
although now distant, dazzled his eyes, unaccustomed as they had been
to the least ray of light.

The storm at last ceased, the pealing thunders died away in indistinct
murmurs, and the lightning was too faint to be visible. Day appeared--
no one had yet been to the cavern--Verezzi concluded that they either
intended him to perish with hunger, or that some misfortune, by which
they themselves had suffered, had occurred. In the most solemn manner,
therefore, he now prepared himself for death, which he was fully
convinced within himself was rapidly approaching.

His pitcher of water was broken by the falling fragments, and a small
crust of bread was all that now remained of his scanty allowance of
provisions.

A burning fever raged through his veins; and, delirious with
despairing illness, he cast from him the crust which alone could now
retard the rapid advances of death.

Oh! what ravages did the united efforts of disease and suffering make
on the manly and handsome figure of Verezzi! His bones had almost
started through his skin; his eyes were sunken and hollow; and his
hair, matted with the damps, hung in strings upon his faded cheek. The
day passed as had the morning---death was every instant before his
eyes---a lingering death by famine--he felt its approaches: night
came, but with it brought no change. He was aroused by a noise against
the iron door: it was the time when Ugo usually brought fresh
provisions. The noise lessened, at last it totally ceased--with it
ceased all hope of life in Verezzi's bosom. A cold tremor pervaded his
limbs--his eyes but faintly presented to his imagination the ruined
cavern--he sank, as far as the chain which encircled his waist would
permit him, upon the flinty pavement; and, in the crisis of the fever
which then occurred, his youth and good constitution prevailed.



CHAPTER II.



In the mean time Ugo, who had received orders from Zastrozzi not to
allow Verezzi to die, came at the accustomed hour to bring provisions,
but finding that, in the last night's storm, the rock had been struck
by lightning, concluded that Verezzi had lost his life amid the ruins,
and he went with this news to Zastrozzi.---Zastrozzi, who, for
inexplicable reasons, wished not Verezzi's death, sent Ugo and
Bernardo to search for him.

After a long scrutiny, they discovered their hapless victim. He was
chained to the rock where they had left him, but in that exhausted
condition, which want of food, and a violent fever, had reduced him
to.

They unchained him, and lifting him into a chariot, after four hours
rapid travelling, brought the insensible Verezzi to a cottage,
inhabited by an old woman alone. The cottage stood on an immense
heath, lonely, desolate, and remote from other human habitation.

Zastrozzi awaited their arrival with impatience: eagerly he flew to
meet them, and, with a demoniac smile, surveyed the agonised features
of his prey, who lay insensible and stretched on the shoulders of Ugo.

"His life must not be lost," exclaimed Zastrozzi; "I have need of it.
Tell Bianca, therefore, to prepare a bed."

Ugo obeyed, and Bernardo followed, bearing the emaciated Verezzi. A
physician was sent for, who declared, that the crisis of the fever
which had attacked him being past, proper care might reinstate him;
but that the disorder having attacked his brain, a tranquillity of
mind was absolutely necessary for his recovery.

Zastrozzi, to whom the life, though not the happiness of Verezzi was
requisite, saw that his too eager desire for revenge had carried him
beyond his point. He saw that some deception was requisite; he
accordingly instructed the old woman to inform him, when he recovered,
that he was placed in this situation, because the physicians had
asserted that the air of this country was necessary for a recovery
from a brain fever which had attacked him.

It was long before Verezzi recovered---long did he languish in torpid
insensibility, during which his soul seemed to have winged its way to
happier regions.

At last, however, he recovered, and the first use he made of his
senses was to inquire where he was.

The old woman told him the story, which she had been instructed in by
Zastrozzi.

"Who ordered me then to be chained in that desolate and dark cavern,"
inquired Verezzi, "where I have been for many years, and suffered most
insupportable torments?"

"Lord bless me!" said the old woman: "why, baron, how strangely you
talk! I begin to fear you will again lose your senses, at the very
time when you ought to be thanking God for suffering them to return to
you. What can you mean by being chained in a cavern? I declare I am
frightened at the very thought: pray do compose yourself."

Verezzi was much perplexed by the old woman's assertions. That Julia
should send him to a mean cottage, and desert him, was impossible.

The old woman's relation seemed so well connected, and told with such
an air of characteristic simplicity, that he could not disbelieve her.

But to doubt the evidence of his own senses, and the strong proofs of
his imprisonment, which the deep marks of the chains had left till
now, was impossible.

Had not those marks still remained, he would have conceived the
horrible events which had led him thither to have been but the dreams
of his perturbed imagination. He, however, thought it better to yield,
since, as Ugo and Bernardo attended him in the short walks he was able
to take, an escape was impossible, and its attempt would but make his
situation more unpleasant.

He often expressed a wish to write to Julia, but the old woman said
she had orders neither to permit him to write nor receive letters--on
pretence of not agitating his mind; and to avoid the consequences of
despair, knives were denied him.

As Verezzi recovered, and his mind obtained that firm tone which it
was wont to possess, he perceived that it was but a device of his
enemies that detained him at the cottage, and his whole thoughts were
now bent upon the means for effecting his escape.

It was late one evening, when, tempted by the peculiar beauty of the
weather, Verezzi wandered beyond the usual limits, attended by Ugo and
Bernardo, who narrowly watched his every movement. Immersed in
thought, he wandered onwards, till he came to a woody eminence, whose
beauty tempted him to rest a little, in a seat carved in the side of
an ancient oak. Forgetful of his unhappy and dependent situation, he
sat there some time, until Ugo told him that it was time to return.

In their absence, Zastrozzi had arrived at the cottage. He had
impatiently enquired for Verezzi.

"It is the baron's custom to walk every evening," said Bianca; "I soon
expect him to return."

Verezzi at last arrived.

Not knowing Zastrozzi as he entered, he started back, overcome by the
likeness he bore to one of the men he had seen in the cavern.

He was now convinced that all the sufferings which he had undergone in
that horrible abode of misery were not imaginary, and that he was at
this instant in the power of his bitterest enemy.

Zastrozzi's eyes were fixed on him with an expression too manifest to
be misunderstood; and with an air in which he struggled to disguise
the natural malevolence of his heart, he said, that he hoped Verezzi's
health had not suffered from the evening air.

Enraged beyond measure at this hypocrisy, from a man whom he now no
longer doubted to be the cause of all his misfortunes, he could not
forbear inquiring for what purpose he had conveyed him hither, and
told him instantly to release him.

Zastrozzi's cheeks turned pale with passion, his lips quivered, his
eyes darted revengeful glances, as thus he spoke:--

"Retire to your chamber, young fool, which is the fittest place for
you to reflect on, and repent of, the insolence shown to one so much
your superior."

"I fear nothing," interrupted Verezzi, "from your vain threats and
empty denunciations of vengeance: justice, Heaven! is on my side, and
I must eventually triumph."

What can be a greater proof of the superiority of virtue, than that
the terrible, the dauntless Zastrozzi trembled! for he did tremble;
and, conquered by the emotions of the moment, paced the circumscribed
apartment with unequal steps. For an instant he shrunk within himself:
he thought of his past life, and his awakened conscience reflected
images of horror. But again revenge drowned the voice of virtue--again
passion obscured the light of reason, and his steeled soul persisted
in its scheme.

Whilst he still thought, Ugo entered. Zastrozzi, smothering his
stinging conscience, told Ugo to follow him to the heath.--Ugo obeyed.



CHAPTER III.



Zastrozzi and Ugo proceeded along the heath, on the skirts of which
stood the cottage. Verezzi leaned against the casement, when a low
voice, which floated in indistinct murmurs on the silence of the
evening, reached his ear.---He listened attentively. He looked into
the darkness, and saw the towering form of Zastrozzi, and Ugo, whose
awkward, ruffian-like gait, could never be mistaken. He could not hear
their discourse, except a few detached words which reached his ears.
They seemed to be denunciations of anger; a low tone afterwards
succeeded, and it appeared as if a dispute, which had arisen between
them, was settled: their voices at last died away in distance.

Bernardo now left the room: Bianca entered; but Verezzi plainly heard
Bernardo lingering at the door.

The old woman continued sitting in silence at a remote corner of the
chamber. It was Verezzi's hour for supper:---he desired Bianca to
bring it. She obeyed, and brought some dried raisins in a plate. He
was surprised to see a knife was likewise brought; an indulgence he
imputed to the inadvertency of the old woman.--A thought started
across his mind--it was now time to escape.

He seized the knife--he looked expressively at the old woman--she
trembled. He advanced from the casement to the door: he called for
Bernardo--Bernardo entered, and Verezzi, lifting his arm high, aimed
the knife at the villain's heart.---Bernardo started aside, and the
knife was fixed firmly in the doorcase. Verezzi attempted by one
effort to extricate it. The effort was vain. Bianca, as fast as her
tottering limbs could carry her, hastened through the opposite door,
calling loudly for Zastrozzi.

Verezzi attempted to rush through the open door, but Bernardo opposed
himself to it. A long and violent contest ensued, and Bernardo's
superior strength was on the point of overcoming Verezzi, when the
latter, by a dexterous blow, precipitated him down the steep and
narrow staircase.

Not waiting to see the event of his victory, he rushed through the
opposite door, and meeting with no opposition, ran swiftly across the
heath.

The moon, in tranquil majesty, hung high in air, and showed the
immense extent of the plain before him. He continued rapidly
advancing, and the cottage was soon out of sight. He thought that he
heard Zastrozzi's voice in every gale. Turning round, he thought
Zastrozzi's eye glanced over his shoulder.---But even had Bianca taken
the right road, and found Zastrozzi, Verezzi's speed would have mocked
pursuit.

He ran several miles, still the dreary extent of the heath was before
him: no cottage yet appeared where he might take shelter. He cast
himself, for an instant, on the bank of a rivulet, which stole slowly
across the heath. The moonbeam played upon its surface--he started at
his own reflected image--he thought that voices were wafted on the
western gale, and, nerved anew, pursued his course across the plain.

The moon had gained the zenith before Verezzi rested again. Two pine
trees, of extraordinary size, stood on a small eminence: he climbed
one, and found a convenient seat in its immense branches.

Fatigued, he sank to sleep.

Two hours he lay hushed in oblivion, when he was awakened by a noise.
It is but the hooting of the night-raven, thought he.

Day had not yet appeared, but faint streaks in the east presaged the
coming morn. Verezzi heard the clattering of hoofs--What was his
horror to see that Zastrozzi, Bernardo, and Ugo, were the horsemen!
Overcome by terror, he clung to the rugged branch. His persecutors
advanced to the spot--they stopped under the tree wherein he was.

"Eternal curses," exclaimed Zastrozzi, "upon Verezzi! I swear never to
rest until I find him, and then I will accomplish the purpose of my
soul.---But come, Ugo, Bernardo, let us proceed."

"Signor," said Ugo, "let us the rather stop here to refresh ourselves
and our horses. You, perhaps, will not make this pine your couch, but
I will get up, for I think I spy an excellent bed above there."

"No, no," answered Zastrozzi; "did not I resolve never to rest until I
had found Verezzi? Mount, villain, or die."

Ugo sullenly obeyed. They galloped off, and were quickly out of sight.

Verezzi returned thanks to Heaven for his escape; for he thought that
Ugo's eye, as the villain pointed to the branch where he reposed, met
his.

It was now morning. Verezzi surveyed the heath, and thought he saw
buildings at a distance. Could he gain a town or city, he might defy
Zastrozzi's power.

He descended the pine-tree, and advanced as quickly as he could
towards the distant buildings. He proceeded across the heath for half
an hour, and perceived that, at last, he had arrived at its
termination.

The country assumed a new aspect, and the number of cottages and
villas showed him that he was in the neighbourhood of some city. A
large road which he now entered confirmed his opinion. He saw two
peasants, and asked them where the road led.--"To Passau," was the
answer.

It was yet very early in the morning, when he walked through the
principal street of Passau. He felt very faint with his recent and
unusual exertions; and, overcome by languor, sank on some lofty stone
steps, which led to a magnificent mansion, and resting his head on his
arm, soon fell asleep.

He had been there nearly an hour, when he was awakened by an old
woman. She had a basket on her arm, in which were flowers, which it
was her custom to bring to Passau every market-day. Hardly knowing
where he was, he answered the old woman's inquiries in a vague and
unsatisfactory manner. By degrees, however, they became better
acquainted; and as Verezzi had no money, nor any means of procuring
it, he accepted of an offer which Claudine (for that was the old
woman's name) made him, to work for her, and share her cottage, which,
together with a little garden, was all she could call her own.
Claudine quickly disposed of her flowers, and accompanied by Verezzi,
soon arrived at a little cottage near Passau. It was situated on a
pleasant and cultivated spot; at the foot of a small eminence, on
which it was situated, flowed the majestic Danube, and on the opposite
side was a forest belonging to the Baron of Schwepper, whose vassal
Claudine was.

Her little cottage was kept extremely neat; and, by the charity of the
Baron, wanted none of those little comforts which old age requires.

Verezzi thought that, in so retired a spot, he might at least pass his
time tranquilly, and elude Zastrozzi.

"What induced you," said he to Claudine, as in the evening they sat
before the cottage-door, "what induced you to make that offer this
morning to me?"

"Ah!" said the old woman, "it was but last week that I lost my dear
son, who was every thing to me: he died by a fever which he caught by
his too great exertions in obtaining a livelihood for me; and I came
to the market yesterday, for the first time since my son's death,
hoping to find some peasant who would fill his place, when chance
threw you in my way.

"I had hoped that he would have outlived me, as I am quickly hastening
to the grave, to which I look forward as to the coming of a friend,
who would relieve me from those cares which, alas! but increase with
my years."

Verezzi's heart was touched with compassion for the forlorn situation
of Claudine. He tenderly told her that he would not forsake her; but
if any opportunity occurred for ameliorating her situation, she should
no longer continue in poverty.



CHAPTER IV.



But let us return to Zastrozzi.--He had walked with Ugo on the heath,
and had returned late. He was surprised to see no light in the
cottage. He advanced to the door--he rapped violently--no one
answered. "Very strange!" exclaimed Zastrozzi, as he burst open the
door with his foot. He entered the cottage--no one was there: he
searched it, and at last saw Bernardo lying, seemingly lifeless, at
the foot of the staircase. Zastrozzi advanced to him, and lifted him
from the ground: he had been but in a trance, and immediately
recovered.

As soon as his astonishment was dissipated, he told Zastrozzi what had
happened.

"What!" exclaimed Zastrozzi, interrupting him, "Verezzi escaped! Hell
and furies! Villain, you deserve instant death; but thy life is at
present necessary to me. Arise, go instantly to Rosenheim, and bring
three of my horses from the inn there--make haste! begone!"

Bernardo trembling arose, and obeying Zastrozzi's commands, crossed
the heath quickly towards Rosenheim, a village about half a league
distant on the north.

Whilst he was gone, Zastrozzi, agitated by contending passions, knew
scarcely what to do. With hurried strides he paced the cottage. He
sometimes spoke lowly to himself. The feelings of his soul flashed
from his eyes--his frown was terrible.

"Would I had his heart reeking on my dagger, Signor!" said Ugo. "Kill
him when you catch him, which you soon will, I am sure."

"Ugo," said Zastrozzi, "you are my friend; you advise me well.--But,
no! he must not die.--Ah! by what horrible fetters am I chained--fool
that I was---Ugo! he shall die--die by the most hellish torments. I
give myself up to fate:---I will taste revenge; for revenge is sweeter
than life: and even were I to die with him, and, as the punishment of
my crime, be instantly plunged into eternal torments, I should taste
superior joy in recollecting the sweet moment of his destruction. O!
would that destruction could be eternal!"

The clattering of hoofs was heard, and Zastrozzi was now interrupted
by the arrival of Bernardo--they instantly mounted, and the high-
spirited steeds bore them swiftly across the heath.

Rapidly, for some time, were Zastrozzi and his companions borne across
the plain. They took the same road as Verezzi had. They passed the
pines where he reposed. They hurried on.

The fainting horses were scarce able to bear their guilty burthens. No
one had spoken since they had left the clustered pines.

Bernardo's horse, overcome by excessive fatigue, sank on the ground;
that of Zastrozzi scarce appeared in better condition.---They stopped.

"What!" exclaimed Zastrozzi, "must we give up the search! Ah! I am
afraid we must; our horses can proceed no farther---curse on the
horses.

"But let us proceed on foot--Verezzi shall not escape me--nothing
shall now retard the completion of my just revenge."

As he thus spoke, Zastrozzi's eye gleamed with impatient revenge; and,
with rapid steps, he advanced towards the south of the heath.

Day-light at length appeared; still were the villain's efforts to find
Verezzi inefficient. Hunger, thirst, and fatigue, conspired to make
them relinquish the pursuit--they lay at intervals upon the stony
soil.

"This is but an uncomfortable couch, Signor," muttered Ugo.

Zastrozzi, whose whole thoughts were centred in revenge, heeded him
not, but nerved anew by impatient vengeance, he started from the bosom
of the earth, and muttering curses upon the innocent object of his
hatred, proceeded onwards. The day passed as had the morning and
preceding night. Their hunger was scantily allayed by the wild berries
which grew amid the heathy shrubs; and their thirst but increased by
the brackish pools of water which alone they met with. They perceived
a wood at some distance. "That is a likely place for Verezzi to have
retired to, for the day is hot, and he must want repose as well as
ourselves," said Bernardo. "True," replied Zastrozzi, as he advanced
towards it. They quickly arrived at its borders: it was not a wood,
but an immense forest, which stretched southward as far as
Schauffhausen. They advanced into it.

The tall trees rising above their heads warded off the meridian sun;
the mossy banks beneath invited repose: but Zastrozzi, little recking
a scene so fair, hastily scrutinised every recess which might afford
an asylum to Verezzi.

Useless were all his researches--fruitless his endeavours: still,
however, though faint with hunger, and weary with exertion, he nearly
sank upon the turf. His mind was superior to corporeal toil; for that,
nerved by revenge, was indefatigable.

Ugo and Bernardo, overcome by the extreme fatigue which they had
undergone, and strong as the assassins were, fell fainting on the
earth.

The sun began to decline; at last it sank beneath the western
mountain, and the forest-tops were tinged by its departing ray. The
shades of night rapidly thickened.

Zastrozzi sat a while upon the decayed trunk of a scathed oak.

The sky was serene; the blue ether was spangled with countless myriads
of stars: the tops of the lofty forest-trees waved mournfully in the
evening wind; and the moon-beam penetrating at intervals, as they
moved, through the matted branches, threw dubious shades upon the dark
underwood beneath.

Ugo and Bernardo, conquered by irresistible torpor, sank to rest upon
the dewy turf.

A scene so fair--a scene so congenial to those who can reflect upon
their past lives with pleasure, and anticipate the future with the
enthusiasm of innocence, ill accorded with the ferocious soul of
Zastrozzi, which at one time agitated by revenge, at another by
agonising remorse, or contending passions, could derive no pleasure
from the past--anticipate no happiness in futurity.

Zastrozzi sat for some time immersed in heart-rending contemplations;
but though conscience for a while reflected his past life in images of
horror, again was his heart steeled by fiercest vengeance; and,
aroused by images of insatiate revenge, he hastily arose, and, waking
Ugo and Bernardo, pursued his course.

The night was calm and serene--not a cloud obscured the azure
brilliancy of the spangled concave above--not a wind ruffled the
tranquillity of the atmosphere below.

Zastrozzi, Ugo, and Bernardo, advanced into the forest. They had
tasted no food, save the wild berries of the wood, for some time, and
were anxious to arrive at some cottage, where they might procure
refreshments. For some time the deep silence which reigned was
uninterrupted.

"What is that?" exclaimed Zastrozzi, as he beheld a large and
magnificent building, whose battlements rose above the lofty trees. It
was built in the Gothic style of architecture, and appeared to be
inhabited.

The building reared its pointed casements loftily to the sky: their
treillaged ornaments were silvered by the clear moon-light, to which
the dark shades of the arches beneath formed a striking contrast. A
large portico jutted out: they advanced towards it, and Zastrozzi
attempted to open the door.

An open window on one side of the casement arrested Zastrozzi's
attention. "Let us enter that," said he.--They entered. It was a large
saloon, with many windows. Every thing within was arranged with
princely magnificence.---Four ancient and immense sofas in the
apartment invited repose.

Near one of the windows stood a table, with an escrutoire on it; a
paper lay on the ground near it.

Zastrozzi, as he passed, heedlessly took up the paper. He advanced
nearer to the window, thinking his senses had deceived him when he
read, "La Contessa di Laurentini;" but they had not done so, for La
Contessa di Laurentini still continued on the paper. He hastily opened
it; and the letter, though of no importance, convinced him that this
must have been the place to which Matilda said that she had removed.

Ugo and Bernardo lay sleeping on the sofas. Zastrozzi, leaving them as
they were, opened an opposite door--it led into a vaulted hall--a
large flight of stairs rose from the opposite side--he ascended them--
He advanced along a lengthened corridor--a female in white robes stood
at the other end--a lamp burnt near her on the balustrade. She was in
a reclining attitude, and had not observed his approach. Zastrozzi
recognised her for Matilda. He approached her, and beholding Zastrozzi
before her, she started back with surprise. For a while she gazed on
him in silence, and at last exclaimed, "Zastrozzi! ah! are we revenged
on Julia? am I happy? Answer me quickly. Well by your silence do I
perceive that our plans have been put into execution. Excellent
Zastrozzi! accept my most fervent thanks, my eternal gratitude."

"Matilda!" returned Zastrozzi, "would I could say that we were happy!
but, alas! it is but misery and disappointment that causes this my so
unexpected visit. I know nothing of the Marchesa di Strobazzo---less
of Verezzi. I fear that I must wait till age has unstrung my now so
fervent energies; and when time has damped your passion, perhaps you
may gain Verezzi's love. Julia is returned to Italy--is even now in
Naples; and, secure in the immensity of her possessions, laughs at our
trifling vengeance. But it shall not be always thus," continued
Zastrozzi, his eyes sparkling with inexpressible brilliancy; "I will
accomplish my purpose; and, Matilda, thine shall likewise be effected.
But, come, I have not tasted food for these two days."

"Oh! supper is prepared below," said Matilda. Seated at the supper-
table, the conversation, enlivened by wine, took an animated turn.
After some subjects, irrelevant to this history, being discussed,
Matilda said, "Ha! but I forgot to tell you, that I have done some
good: I have secured that diabolical Paulo, Julia's servant, who was
of great service to her, and, by penetrating our schemes, might have
even discomfited our grand design. I have lodged him in the lowest
cavern of those dungeons which are under this building--will you go
and see him?" Zastrozzi answered in the affirmative, and seizing a
lamp which burnt in a recess of the apartment, followed Matilda.

The rays of the lamp but partially dissipated the darkness as they
advanced through the antiquated passages. They arrived at a door:
Matilda opened it, and they quickly crossed a grass-grown court-yard.

The grass which grew on the lofty battlements waved mournfully in the
rising blast, as Matilda and Zastrozzi entered a dark and narrow
casement.---Cautiously they descended the slippery and precipitous
steps. The lamp, obscured by the vapours, burnt dimly as they
advanced. They arrived at the foot of the staircase. "Zastrozzi!"
exclaimed Matilda. Zastrozzi turned quickly, and, perceiving a door,
obeyed Matilda's directions.

On some straw, chained to the wall, lay Paulo.

"O pity! stranger, pity!" exclaimed the miserable Paulo.

No answer, save a smile of most expressive scorn, was given by
Zastrozzi. They again ascended the narrow staircase, and, passing the
court-yard, arrived at the supper-room.

"But," said Zastrozzi, again taking his seat, "what use is that fellow
Paulo in the dungeon? why do you keep him there?"

"Oh!" answered Matilda, "I know not; but if you wish"--

She paused, but her eye expressively filled up the sentence.

Zastrozzi poured out an overflowing goblet of wine. He summoned Ugo
and Bernardo--"Take that," said Matilda, presenting them a key--One of
the villains took it, and in a few moments returned with the hapless
Paulo.

"Paulo!" exclaimed Zastrozzi loudly, "I have prevailed on La Contessa
to restore your freedom: here," added he, "take this; I pledge you to
your future happiness."

Paulo bowed low--he drank the poisoned potion to the dregs, and,
overcome by sudden and irresistible faintness, fell at Zastrozzi's
feet. Sudden convulsions shook his frame, his lips trembled, his eyes
rolled horribly, and, uttering an agonised and lengthened groan, he
expired.

"Ugo! Bernardo! take that body and bury it immediately," cried
Zastrozzi. "There, Matilda, by such means must Julia die: you see,
that the poisons which I possess are quick in their effect."

A pause ensued, during which the eyes of Zastrozzi and Matilda spoke
volumes to each guilty soul.

The silence was interrupted by Matilda. Not shocked at the dreadful
outrage which had been committed, she told Zastrozzi to come out into
the forest, for that she had something for his private ear.

"Matilda," said Zastrozzi, as they advanced along the forest, "I must
not stay here, and waste moments in inactivity, which might be more
usefully employed: I must quit you to-morrow--I must destroy Julia."

"Zastrozzi," returned Matilda, "I am so far from wishing you to spend
your time here in ignoble listlessness, that I will myself join your
search. You shall to Italy--to Naples--watch Julia's every movement,
attend her every step, and in the guise of a friend destroy her: but
beware, whilst you assume the softness of the dove, to forget not the
cunning of the serpent. On you I depend for destroying her, my own
exertions shall find Verezzi; I myself will gain his love--Julia must
die, and expiate the crime of daring to rival me, with her hated
blood."

Whilst thus they conversed, whilst they planned these horrid schemes
of destruction, the night wore away.

The moon-beam darting her oblique rays from under volumes of louring
vapour, threatened an approaching storm. The lurid sky was tinged with
a yellowish lustre--the forest-tops rustled in the rising tempest--big
drops fell--a flash of lightning, and, instantly after, a peal of
bursting thunder, struck with sudden terror the bosom of Matilda. She,
however, immediately overcame it, and regarding the battling element
with indifference, continued her discourse with Zastrozzi.

They wore out the night in many visionary plans for the future, and
now and then a gleam of remorse assailed Matilda's heart. Heedless of
the storm, they had remained in the forest late. Flushed with
wickedness, they at last sought their respective couches, but sleep
forsook their pillow.

In all the luxuriance of extravagant fancy, Matilda portrayed the
symmetrical form, the expressive countenance, of Verezzi; whilst
Zastrozzi, who played a double part, anticipated, with ferocious
exultation, the torments which he she loved was eventually fated to
endure, and changed his plan, for a sublimer mode of vengeance was
opened to his view.

Matilda passed a night of restlessness and agitation: her mind was
harassed by contending passions, and her whole soul wound up to deeds
of horror and wickedness. Zastrozzi's countenance, as she met him in
the breakfast-parlour, wore a settled expression of determined
revenge--"I almost shudder," exclaimed Matilda, "at the sea of
wickedness on which I am about to embark! But still, Verezzi--ah! for
him would I even lose my hopes of eternal happiness. In the sweet idea
of calling him mine, no scrupulous delicacy, no mistaken superstitious
fear, shall prevent me from deserving him by daring acts--No! I am
resolved," continued Matilda, as, recollecting his graceful form, her
soul was assailed by tenfold love--

"And I am likewise resolved," said Zastrozzi; "I am resolved on
revenge---my revenge shall be gratified. Julia shall die, and
Verezzi--"

Zastrozzi paused; his eye gleamed with a peculiar expression, and
Matilda thought he meant more than he had said---she raised her eyes--
they encountered his.

The guilt-bronzed cheek of Zastrozzi was tinged with a momentary
blush, but it quickly passed away, and his countenance recovered its
wonted firm and determined expression.

"Zastrozzi!" exclaimed Matilda,---"should you be false--should you
seek to deceive me--But, no, it is impossible.---Pardon, my friend--I
meant not what I said--my thoughts are crazed--"

"Tis well," said Zastrozzi, haughtily.

"But you forgive my momentary, unmeaning doubt?" said Matilda, and
fixed her unmeaning eyes on his countenance.

"It is not for us to dwell on vain, unmeaning expressions, which the
soul dictates not," returned Zastrozzi; "and I sue for pardon from
you, for having, by ambiguous expressions, caused the least agitation:
but, believe me, Matilda, we will not forsake each other; your cause
is mine; distrust between us is foolish.---But, farewell for the
present; I must order Bernardo to go to Passau, to purchase horses."

The day passed on; each waited with impatience for the arrival of
Bernardo.---"Farewell, Matilda," exclaimed Zastrozzi, as he mounted
the horses which Bernardo brought; and, taking the route of Italy,
galloped off.



CHAPTER V.



Her whole soul wrapped up in one idea, the guilty Matilda threw
herself into a chariot which waited at the door, and ordered the
equipage to proceed towards Passau.

Left to indulge reflection in solitude, her mind recurred to the
object nearest her heart--to Verezzi.

Her bosom was scorched by an ardent and unquenchable fire; and while
she thought of him, she even shuddered at the intenseness of her own
sensations.

"He shall love me--he shall be mine---mine for ever," mentally
ejaculated Matilda.

The streets of Passau echoed to La Contessa di Laurentini's equipage,
before, roused from her reverie, she found herself at the place of
destination; and she was seated in her hotel in that city, before she
had well arranged her unsettled ideas. She summoned Ferdinand, a
trusty servant, to whom she confided every thing.--"Ferdinand," said
she, "you have many claims on my gratitude: I have never had cause to
reproach you with infidelity in executing my purposes---add another
debt to that which I already owe you: find Il Conte Verezzi within
three days, and you are my best friend." Ferdinand bowed, and prepared
to execute her commands. Two days passed, during which Matilda failed
not to make every personal inquiry, even in the suburbs of Passau.

Alternately depressed by fear, and revived by hope, for three days was
Matilda's mind in a state of disturbance and fluctuation. The evening
of the third day, of the day on which Ferdinand was to return,
arrived. Matilda's mind, wound up to the extreme of impatience, was
the scene of conflicting passions.--She paced the room rapidly.

A servant entered, and announced supper.

"Is Ferdinand returned?" hastily inquired Matilda.

The domestic answered in the negative.---She sighed deeply, and struck
her forehead.

Footsteps were heard in the antichamber without.

"There is Ferdinand!" exclaimed Matilda, exultingly, as he entered--
"Well, well! have you found Verezzi? Ah! speak quickly! ease me of
this horrible suspense."

"Signora!" said Ferdinand, "it grieves me much to be obliged to
declare, that all my endeavours have been inefficient to find Il Conte
Verezzi--."

"Oh, madness! madness!" exclaimed Matilda; "is it for this that I have
plunged into the dark abyss of crime?---is it for this that I have
despised the delicacy of my sex, and, braving consequences, have
offered my love to one who despises me--who shuns me, as does the
barbarous Verezzi? But if he is in Passau---if he is in the environs
of the city, I will find him."

Thus saying, despising the remonstrances of her domestics, casting off
all sense of decorum, she rushed into the streets of Passau. A gloomy
silence reigned through the streets of the city; it was past midnight,
and every inhabitant seemed to be sunk in sleep--sleep which Matilda
was almost a stranger to. Her white robes floated on the night air--
her shadowy and dishevelled hair flew over her form, which, as she
passed the bridge, seemed to strike the boatmen below with the idea of
some supernatural and ethereal form.

She hastily crossed the bridge--she entered the fields on the right--
the Danube, whose placid stream was scarcely agitated by the wind,
reflected her symmetrical form, as, scarcely knowing what direction
she pursued, Matilda hastened along its banks. Sudden horror,
resistless despair, seized her brain, maddened as it was by hopeless
love.

"What have I to do in this world, my fairest prospect blighted, my
fondest hope rendered futile?" exclaimed the frantic Matilda, as,
wound up to the highest pitch of desperation, she attempted to plunge
herself into the river.

But life fled; for Matilda, caught by a stranger's arm, was prevented
from the desperate act.

Overcome by horror, she fainted.

Some time did she lie in a state of torpid insensibility, till the
stranger, filling his cap with water from the river, and sprinkling
her pallid countenance with it, recalled to life the miserable
Matilda.

What was her surprise, what was her mingled emotion of rapture and
doubt, when the moon-beam disclosed to her view the countenance of
Verezzi, as in anxious solicitude he bent over her elegantly-
proportioned form!

"By what chance," exclaimed the surprised Verezzi, "do I see here La
Contessa di Laurentini? did not I leave you at your Italian castella?
I had hoped you would have ceased to persecute me, when I told you
that I was irrevocably another's."

"Oh, Verezzi!" exclaimed Matilda, casting herself at his feet, "I
adore you to madness--I love you to distraction. If you have one spark
of compassion, let me not sue in vain--reject not one who feels it
impossible to overcome the fatal, resistless passion which consumes
her."

"Rise, Signora," returned Verezzi---"rise; this discourse is
improper--it is not suiting the dignity of your rank, or the delicacy
of your sex: but suffer me to conduct you to yon cottage, where,
perhaps, you may deign to refresh yourself, or pass the night."

The moon-beams played upon the tranquil waters of the Danube, as
Verezzi silently conducted the beautiful Matilda to the humble
dwelling where he resided.

Claudine waited at the door, and had begun to fear that some mischance
had befallen Verezzi, as, when he arrived at the cottage-door, it was
long past his usual hour of return.

It was his custom, during those hours when the twilight of evening
cools the air, to wander through the adjacent rich scenery, though he
seldom prolonged his walks till midnight.

He supported the fainting form of Matilda as he advanced towards
Claudine. The old woman's eyes had lately failed her, from extreme
age; and it was not until Verezzi called to her that she saw him,
accompanied by La Contessa di Laurentini.

"Claudine," said Verezzi, "I have another claim upon your kindness:
this lady, who has wandered beyond her knowledge, will honour our
cottage so far as to pass the night here. If you would prepare the
pallet which I usually occupy for her, I will repose this evening on
the turf, and will now get supper ready. Signora," continued he,
addressing Matilda, "some wine would, I think, refresh your spirits;
permit me to fill you a glass of wine."

Matilda silently accepted his offer---their eyes met--those of Matilda
were sparkling and full of meaning.

"Verezzi!" exclaimed Matilda, "I arrived but four days since at
Passau---I have eagerly inquired for you--oh! how eagerly!--Will you
accompany me to-morrow to Passau?"

"Yes," said Verezzi, hesitatingly.

Claudine soon joined them. Matilda exulted in the success of her
schemes, and Claudine being present, the conversation took a general
turn. The lateness of the hour, at last, warned them to separate.

Verezzi, left to solitude and his own reflections, threw himself on
the turf, which extended to the Danube below.---Ideas of the most
gloomy nature took possession of his soul; and, in the event of the
evening, he saw the foundation of the most bitter misfortunes.

He could not love Matilda; and though he never had seen her but in the
most amiable light, he found it impossible to feel any sentiment
towards her, save cold esteem. Never had he beheld those dark shades
in her character, which, if developed, could excite nothing but horror
and detestation: he regarded her as a woman of strong passions, who,
having resisted them to the utmost of her power, was at last borne
away in the current---whose brilliant virtues one fault had
obscured---as such he pitied her: but still could he not help
observing a comparison between her and Julia, whose feminine delicacy
shrunk from the slightest suspicion, even of indecorum. Her fragile
form, her mild heavenly countenance, was contrasted with all the
partiality of love, to the scintillating eye, the commanding
countenance, the bold expressive gaze, of Matilda.

He must accompany her on the morrow to Passau.--During their walk, he
determined to observe a strict silence; or, at all events, not to
hazard one equivocal expression, which might be construed into what it
was not meant for.

The night passed away--morning came, and the tops of the far-seen
mountains were gilded by the rising sun.

Exulting in the success of her schemes, and scarcely able to disguise
the vivid feelings of her heart, the wily Matilda, as early she
descended to the narrow parlour, where Claudine had prepared a simple
breakfast, affected a gloom she was far from feeling.

An unequivocal expression of innocent and mild tenderness marked her
manner towards Verezzi: her eyes were cast on the ground, and her
every movement spoke meekness and sensibility.

At last, breakfast being finished, the time arrived when Matilda,
accompanied by Verezzi, pursued the course of the river, to retrace
her footsteps to Passau. A gloomy silence for some time prevailed---at
last Matilda spoke.

"Unkind Verezzi! is it thus that you will ever slight me? is it for
this that I have laid aside the delicacy of my sex, and owned to you a
passion which was but too violent to be concealed?--Ah! at least pity
me! I love you: oh! I adore you to madness!"

She paused--the peculiar expression which beamed in her dark eye, told
the tumultuous wishes of her bosom.

"Distress not yourself and me, Signora," said Verezzi, "by these
unavailing protestations. Is it for you--is it for Matilda," continued
he, his countenance assuming a smile of bitterest scorn, "to talk of
love to the lover of Julia?"

Rapid tears coursed down Matilda's cheek. She sighed--the sigh seemed
to rend her inmost bosom.

So unexpected a reply conquered Verezzi. He had been prepared for
reproaches, but his feelings could not withstand Matilda's tears.

"Ah! forgive me, Signora," exclaimed Verezzi, "if my brain, crazed by
disappointments, dictated words which my heart intended not."

"Oh!" replied Matilda, "it is I who am wrong: led on by the violence
of my passion, I have uttered words, the bare recollection of which
fills me with horror. Oh! forgive, forgive an unhappy woman, whose
only fault is loving you too well."

As thus she spoke, they entered the crowded streets of Passau, and,
proceeding rapidly onwards, soon arrived at La Contessa di
Laurentini's hotel.



CHAPTER VI.



The character of Matilda has been already so far revealed, as to
render it unnecessary to expatiate upon it farther. Suffice it to say,
that her syren illusions, and well-timed blandishments, obtained so
great a power over the imagination of Verezzi, that his resolution to
return to Claudine's cottage before sun-set became every instant
fainter and fainter.

"And will you thus leave me?" exclaimed Matilda, in accents of the
bitterest anguish, as Verezzi prepared to depart---"will you thus
leave unnoticed, her who, for your sake alone, casting aside the pride
of high birth, has wandered, unknown, through foreign climes? Oh! if I
have (led away by love for you) outstepped the bounds of modesty, let
me not, oh! let me not be injured by others with impunity. Stay, I
entreat thee, Verezzi, if yet one spark of compassion lingers in your
breast--stay and defend me from those who vainly seek one who is
irrevocably thine."

With words such as these did the wily Matilda work upon the generous
passions of Verezzi. Emotions of pity, of compassion, for one whose
only fault he supposed to be love for him, conquered Verezzi's
softened soul.

"Oh! Matilda," said he, "though I cannot love thee--though my soul is
irrevocably another's--yet, believe me, I esteem, I admire thee; and
it grieves me that a heart, fraught with so many and so brilliant
virtues, has fixed itself on one who is incapable of appreciating its
value."

The time passed away, and each returning sun beheld Verezzi still at
Passau---still under Matilda's proof. That softness, that melting
tenderness, which she knew so well how to assume, began to convince
Verezzi of the injustice of the involuntary hatred which had filled
his soul towards her. Her conversation was fraught with sense and
elegant ideas. She played to him in the cool of the evening; and
often, after sun-set, they rambled together into the rich scenery and
luxuriant meadows which are washed by the Danube.

Claudine was not forgotten: indeed, Matilda first recollected her,
and, by placing her in an independent situation, added a new claim to
the gratitude of Verezzi.

In this manner three weeks passed away. Every day did Matilda practise
new arts, employ new blandishments, to detain under her roof the
fascinated Verezzi.

The most select parties in Passau, flitted in varied movements to
exquisite harmony, when Matilda perceived Verezzi's spirits to be
ruffled by recollection.

When he seemed to prefer solitude, a moonlight walk by the Danube was
proposed by Matilda; or, with skilful fingers, she drew from her harp
sounds of the most heart-touching, most enchanting melody. Her
behaviour towards him was soft, tender, and quiet, and might rather
have characterised the mild, serene love of a friend or sister, than
the ardent, unquenchable fire, which burnt, though concealed, within
Matilda's bosom.

It was one calm evening that Matilda and Verezzi sat in a back saloon,
which overlooked the gliding Danube. Verezzi was listening, with all
the enthusiasm of silent rapture, to a favourite soft air which
Matilda sang, when a loud rap at the hall door startled them. A
domestic entered, and told Matilda that a stranger, on particular
business, waited to speak with her.

"Oh!" exclaimed Matilda, "I cannot attend to him now; bid him wait."

The stranger was impatient, and would not be denied.

"Desire him to come in, then," said Matilda.

The domestic hastened to obey her commands.

Verezzi had arisen to leave the room. "No," cried Matilda, "sit still;
I shall soon dismiss the fellow; besides, I have no secrets from you."
Verezzi took his seat.

The wide folding-doors which led into the passage were open.

Verezzi observed Matilda, as she gazed fixedly through them, to grow
pale.

He could not see the cause, as he was seated on a sofa at the other
end of the saloon.

Suddenly she started from her seat---her whole frame seemed convulsed
by agitation, as she rushed through the door.

Verezzi heard an agitated voice exclaim, "Go! go! to-morrow morning!"

Matilda returned--she seated herself again at the harp which she had
quitted, and essayed to compose herself; but it was in vain--she was
too much agitated.

Her voice, as she again attempted to sing, refused to perform its
office; and her humid hands, as they swept the strings of the harp,
violently trembled.

"Matilda," said Verezzi, in a sympathising tone, "what has agitated
you? Make me a repository of your sorrows: I would, if possible,
alleviate them."

"Oh no," said Matilda, affecting unconcern; "nothing--nothing has
happened. I was even myself unconscious that I appeared agitated."

Verezzi affected to believe her, and assumed a composure which he felt
not. The conversation changed, and Matilda assumed her wonted mien.
The lateness of the hour at last warned them to separate.

The more Verezzi thought upon the evening's occurrence, the more did a
conviction in his mind, inexplicable even to himself, strengthen, that
Matilda's agitation originated in something of consequence. He knew
her mind to be superior to common circumstance and fortuitous
casualty, which might have ruffled an inferior soul. Besides, the
words which he had heard her utter--"Go! go! to-morrow morning!"--and
though he resolved to disguise his real sentiments, and seem to let
the subject drop, he determined narrowly to scrutinise Matilda's
conduct; and, particularly, to know what took place on the following
morning.---An indefinable presentiment that something horrible was
about to occur, filled Verezzi's mind. A long chain of retrospection
ensued--he could not forget the happy hours which he had passed with
Julia; her interesting softness, her ethereal form, pressed on his
aching sense.

Still did he feel his soul irresistibly softened towards Matilda--her
love for him flattered his vanity; and though he could not feel
reciprocal affection towards her, yet her kindness in rescuing him
from his former degraded situation, her altered manner towards him,
and her unremitting endeavours to please, to humour him in every
thing, called for his warmest, his sincerest gratitude.

The morning came--Verezzi arose from a sleepless couch, and descending
into the breakfast-parlour, there found Matilda.

He endeavoured to appear the same as usual, but in vain; for an
expression of reserve and scrutiny was apparent on his features.

Matilda perceived it, and shrunk abashed from his keen gaze.

The meal passed away in silence.

"Excuse me for an hour or two," at last stammered out Matilda--"my
steward has accounts to settle;" and she left the apartment.

Verezzi had now no doubt but that the stranger, who had caused
Matilda's agitation the day before, was now returned to finish his
business.

He moved towards the door to follow her--he stopped.

What right have I to pry into the secrets of another? thought Verezzi:
besides, the business which this stranger has with Matilda cannot
possibly concern me.

Still was he compelled, by an irresistible fascination, as it were, to
unravel what appeared to him so mysterious an affair. He endeavoured
to believe it to be as she affirmed; he endeavoured to compose
himself: he took a book, but his eyes wandered insensibly.

Thrice he hesitated--thrice he shut the door of the apartment; till at
last, a curiosity, unaccountable even to himself, propelled him to
seek Matilda.

Mechanically he moved along the passage. He met one of the domestics--
he inquired where Matilda was.

"In the grand saloon," was the reply.

With trembling steps he advanced towards it--The folding-doors were
open---He saw Matilda and the stranger standing at the remote end of
the apartment.

The stranger's figure, which was towering and majestic, was rendered
more peculiarly striking, by the elegantly proportioned form of
Matilda, who leant on a marble table near her; and her gestures, as
she conversed with him, manifested the most eager impatience, the
deepest interest.

At so great a distance, Verezzi could not hear their conversation;
but, by the low murmurs which occasionally reached his ear, he
perceived that, whatever it might be, they were both equally
interested in the subject.

For some time he contemplated them with mingled surprise and
curiosity--he tried to arrange the confused murmurs of their voices,
which floated along the immense and vaulted apartment, but no
articulate sound reached his ear.

At last Matilda took the stranger's hand: she pressed it to her lips
with an eager and impassioned gesture, and led him to the opposite
door of the saloon.

Suddenly the stranger turned, but as quickly regained his former
position, as he retreated through the door; not quickly enough,
however, but, in the stranger's fire-darting eye, Verezzi recognised
him who had declared eternal enmity at the cottage on the heath.

Scarcely knowing where he was, or what to believe, for a few moments
Verezzi stood bewildered, and unable to arrange the confusion of ideas
which floated in his brain, and assailed his terror-struck
imagination. He knew not what to believe---what phantom it could be
that, in the shape of Zastrozzi, blasted his straining eye-balls--
Could it really be Zastrozzi? Could his most rancorous, his bitterest
enemy, be thus beloved, thus confided in, by the perfidious Matilda?

For several moments he stood doubting what he should resolve upon. At
one while he determined to reproach Matilda with treachery and
baseness, and overwhelm her in the mid career of wickedness; but at
last concluding it to be more politic to dissemble and subdue his
emotions, he went into the breakfast-parlour which he had left, and
seated himself as if nothing had happened, at a drawing which he had
left incomplete.

Besides, perhaps Matilda might not be guilty--perhaps she was
deceived; and though some scheme of villany and destruction to himself
was preparing, she might be the dupe, and not the coadjutor, of
Zastrozzi. The idea that she was innocent soothed him; for he was
anxious to make up, in his own mind, for the injustice which he had
been guilty of towards her: and though he could not conquer the
disgusting ideas, the unaccountable detestations, which often, in
spite of himself, filled his soul towards her, he was willing to
overcome what he considered but as an illusion of the imagination, and
to pay that just tribute of esteem to her virtues which they demanded.

Whilst these ideas, although confused and unconnected, passed in
Verezzi's brain, Matilda again entered the apartment.

Her countenance exhibited the strongest marks of agitation, and full
of inexpressible and confused meaning was her dark eye, as she
addressed some trifling question to Verezzi, in a hurried accent, and
threw herself into a chair beside him.

"Verezzi!" exclaimed Matilda, after a pause equally painful to both--
"Verezzi! I am deeply grieved to be the messenger of bad news--
willingly would I withhold the fatal truth from you; yet, by some
other means, it may meet your unprepared ear. I have something
dreadful, shocking, to relate: can you bear the recital?"

The nerveless fingers of Verezzi dropped the pencil--he seized
Matilda's hand, and, in accents almost inarticulate from terror,
conjured her to explain her horrid surmises.

"Oh! my friend! my sister!" exclaimed Matilda, as well-feigned tears
coursed down her cheeks,--"oh! she is--"

"What! what!" interrupted Verezzi, as the idea of something having
befallen his adored Julia filled his maddened brain with tenfold
horror: for often had Matilda declared, that since she could not
become his wife, she would willingly be his friend, and had even
called Julia her sister.

"Oh!" exclaimed Matilda, hiding her face in her hands, "Julia--Julia--
whom you love, is dead."

Unable to withhold his fleeting faculties from a sudden and chilly
horror which seized them, Verezzi sank forward, and, fainting, fell at
Matilda's feet.

In vain, for some time, was every effort to recover him. Every
restorative which was administered, for a long time, was unavailing:
at last his lips unclosed---he seemed to take his breath easier---he
moved--he slowly opened his eyes.



CHAPTER VIII.



His head reposed upon Matilda's bosom; he started from it violently,
as if stung by a scorpion, and fell upon the floor. His eyes rolled
horribly, and seemed as if starting from their sockets.

"Is she then dead? is Julia dead?" in accents scarcely articulate
exclaimed Verezzi. "Ah, Matilda! was it you then who destroyed her?
was it by thy jealous hand that she sank to an untimely grave?---Ah,
Matilda! Matilda! say that she yet lives! Alas! what have I to do in
this world without Julia?--an empty uninteresting void."

Every word uttered by the hapless Verezzi spoke daggers to the
agitated Matilda.

Again overpowered by the acuteness of his sensations, he sank on the
floor, and, in violent convulsions, he remained bereft of sense.

Matilda again raised him--again laid his throbbing head upon her
bosom.---Again, as recovering, the wretched Verezzi perceived his
situation--overcome by agonising reflection, he relapsed into
insensibility.

One fit rapidly followed another, and at last, in a state of the
wildest delirium, he was conveyed to bed.

Matilda found, that a too eager impatience had carried her too far.
She had prepared herself for violent grief, but not for the paroxysms
of madness which now seemed really to have seized the brain of the
devoted Verezzi.

She sent for a physician--he arrived, and his opinion of Verezzi's
danger almost drove the wretched Matilda to desperation.

Exhausted by contending passions, she threw herself on a sofa: she
thought of the deeds which she had perpetrated to gain Verezzi's love;
she considered that, should her purpose be defeated, at the very
instant which her heated imagination had portrayed as the commencement
of her triumph; should all the wickedness, all the crimes, into which
she had plunged herself, be of no avail---this idea, more than remorse
for her enormities, affected her.

She sat for a time absorbed in a confusion of contending thought: her
mind was the scene of anarchy and horror: at last, exhausted by their
own violence, a deep, a desperate calm took possession of her
faculties. She started from the sofa, and, maddened by the idea of
Verezzi's danger, sought his apartment.

On a bed lay Verezzi.

A thick film overspread his eye, and he seemed sunk in insensibility.

Matilda approached him--she pressed her burning lips to his--she took
his hand---it was cold, and at intervals slightly agitated by
convulsions.

A deep sigh, at this instant, burst from his lips--a momentary hectic
flushed his cheek, as the miserable Verezzi attempted to rise.

Matilda, though almost too much agitated to command her emotions,
threw herself into a chair behind the curtain, and prepared to watch
his movements.

"Julia! Julia!" exclaimed he, starting from the bed, as his flaming
eye-balls were unconsciously fixed upon the agitated Matilda, "where
art thou? Ah! thy fair form now moulders in the dark sepulchre! would
I were laid beside thee! thou art now an ethereal spirit!" and then,
in a seemingly triumphant accent, he added, "But, ere long, I will
seek thy unspotted soul--ere long I will again clasp my lost Julia!"
Overcome by resistless delirium, he was for an instant silent--his
starting eyes seemed to follow some form, which imagination had
portrayed in vacuity. He dashed his head against the wall, and sank,
overpowered by insensibility, on the floor.

Accustomed as she was to scenes of horror, and firm and dauntless as
was Matilda's soul, yet this was too much to behold with composure.
She rushed towards him, and lifted him from the floor. In a delirium
of terror, she wildly called for help. Unconscious of every thing
around her, she feared Verezzi had destroyed himself. She clasped him
to her bosom, and called on his name, in an ecstasy of terror.

The domestics, alarmed by her exclamations, rushed in. Once again they
lifted the insensible Verezzi into the bed---every spark of life
seemed now to have been extinguished; for the transport of horror
which had torn his soul was almost too much to be sustained. A
physician was again sent for--Matilda, maddened by desperation, in
accents almost inarticulate from terror, demanded hope or despair from
the physician.

He, who was a man of sense, declared his opinion, that Verezzi would
speedily recover, though he knew not the event which might take place
in the crisis of the disorder, which now rapidly approached.

The remonstrances of those around her were unavailing, to draw Matilda
from the bed-side of Verezzi.

She sat there, a prey to disappointed passion, silent, and watching
every turn of the hapless Verezzi's countenance, as, bereft of sense,
he lay extended on the bed before her.

The animation which was wont to illumine his sparkling eye was fled:
the roseate colour which had tinged his cheek had given way to an ashy
paleness-he was insensible to all around him. Matilda sat there the
whole day, and silently administered medicines to the unconscious
Verezzi, as occasion required.

Towards night, the physician again came. Matilda's head thoughtfully
leant upon her arm as he entered the apartment.

"Ah, what hope? what hope?" wildly she exclaimed.

The physician calmed her, and bid her not despair: then observing her
pallid countenance, he said, he believed she required his skill as
much as his patient.

"Oh! heed me not," she exclaimed; "but how is Verezzi? will he live or
die?"

The physician advanced towards the emaciated Verezzi--he took his
hand.

A burning fever raged through his veins.

"Oh, how is he?" exclaimed Matilda, as, anxiously watching the humane
physician's countenance, she thought a shade of sorrow spread itself
over his features---"but tell me my fate quickly," continued she: "I
am prepared to hear the worst---prepared to hear that he is even dead
already."

As she spoke this, a sort of desperate serenity overspread her
features--she seized the physician's arm, and looked steadfastly on
his countenance, and then, as if overcome by unwonted exertions, she
sank fainting at his feet.

The physician raised her, and soon succeeded in recalling her fleeted
faculties.

Overcome by its own violence, Matilda's despair became softened, and
the words of the physician operated as a balm upon her soul, and bid
her feel hope.

She again resumed her seat, and waited with smothered impatience for
the event of the decisive crisis, which the physician could now no
longer conceal.

She pressed his burning hand in hers, and waited, with apparent
composure, for eleven o'clock.

Slowly the hours passed--the clock of Passau tolled each lingering
quarter as they rolled away, and hastened towards the appointed time,
when the chamberdoor of Verezzi was slowly opened by Ferdinand.

"Ha! why do you disturb me now?" exclaimed Matilda, whom the entrance
of Ferdinand had roused from a profound reverie.

"Signora!" whispered Ferdinand---"Signor Zastrozzi waits below: he
wishes to see you there."

"Ah!" said Matilda thoughtfully, "conduct him here."

Ferdinand departed to obey her--footsteps were heard in the passage,
and immediately afterwards Zastrozzi stood before Matilda.

"Matilda!" exclaimed he, "why do I see you here? what accident has
happened which confines you to this chamber?"

"Ah!" replied Matilda, in an undervoice, "look in that bed--behold
Verezzi! emaciated and insensible--in a quarter of an hour, perhaps,
all animation will be fled--fled for ever!" continued she, as a deeper
expression of despair shaded her beautiful features.

Zastrozzi advanced to the foot of the bed--Verezzi lay, as if dead,
before his eyes; for the ashy hue of his lips, and his sunken
inexpressive eye, almost declared that his spirit was fled.

Zastrozzi gazed upon him with an indefinable expression of insatiated
vengeance---indefinable to Matilda, as she gazed upon the expressive
countenance of her coadjutor in crime.

"Matilda! I want you; come to the lower saloon; I have something to
speak to you of," said Zastrozzi.

"Oh! if it concerned my soul's eternal happiness, I could not now
attend," exclaimed Matilda, energetically: "in less than a quarter of
an hour, perhaps, all I hold dear on earth will be dead; with him,
every hope, every wish, every tie which binds me to earth. Oh!"
exclaimed she, her voice assuming a tone of extreme horror, "see how
pale he looks!"

Zastrozzi bade Matilda farewell, and went away.

The physician yet continued watching, in silence, the countenance of
Verezzi: it still retained its unchanging expression of fixed despair.

Matilda gazed upon it, and waited with the most eager, yet subdued
impatience, for the expiration of the few minutes which yet remained--
she still gazed.

The features of Verezzi's countenance were slightly convulsed.

The clock struck eleven.

His lips unclosed--Matilda turned pale with terror; yet mute, and
absorbed by expectation, remained rooted to her seat.

She raised her eyes, and hope again returned, as she beheld the
countenance of the humane physician lighted up with a beam of
pleasure.

She could no longer contain herself, but, in an ecstasy of pleasure,
as excessive as her grief and horror before had been violent, in rapid
and hurried accents questioned the physician. The physician, with an
expressive smile, pressed his finger on his lip. She understood the
movement; and, though her heart was dilated with sudden and excessive
delight, she smothered her joy, as she had before her grief, and gazed
with rapturous emotion on the countenance of Verezzi, as, to her
expectant eyes, a blush of animation tinged his before-pallid
countenance. Matilda took his hand--the pulses yet beat with feverish
violence. She gazed upon his countenance--the film, which before had
overspread his eye, disappeared: returning expression pervaded its
orbit, but it was the expression of deep, of rooted grief.

The physician made a sign to Matilda to withdraw.

She drew the curtain before her, and, in anxious expectation, awaited
the event.

A deep, a long-drawn sigh, at last burst from Verezzi's bosom. He
raised himself---his eyes seemed to follow some form, which
imagination had portrayed in the remote obscurity of the apartment,
for the shades of night were but partially dissipated by a lamp which
burnt on a table behind. He raised his almost nerveless arm, and
passed it across his eyes, as if to convince himself, that what he saw
was not an illusion of the imagination. He looked at the physician,
who sat near to and silent by the bedside, and patiently awaited
whatever event that might occur.

Verezzi slowly arose, and violently exclaimed, "Julia! Julia! my long-
lost Julia, come!" And then, more collectedly, he added, in a mournful
tone, "Ah no! you are dead; lost, lost for ever!"

He turned round, and saw the physician, but Matilda was still
concealed.

"Where am I?" inquired Verezzi, addressing the physician. "Safe,
safe," answered he: "compose yourself; all will be well."

"Ah, but Julia?" inquired Verezzi, with a tone so expressive of
despair, as threatened returning delirium.

"Oh! compose yourself," said the humane physician: "you have been very
ill: this is but an illusion of the imagination; and even now, I fear,
that you labour under that delirium which attends a brain-fever."

Verezzi's nerveless frame again sunk upon the bed--still his eyes were
open, and fixed upon vacancy: he seemed to be endeavouring to arrange
the confusion of ideas which pressed upon his brain.

Matilda undrew the curtain; but, as her eye met the physician's, his
glance told her to place it in its original situation.

As she thought of the events of the day her heart was dilated by
tumultuous, yet pleasurable emotions. She conjectured, that were
Verezzi to recover, of which she now entertained but little doubt, she
might easily erase from his heart the boyish passion which before had
possessed it; might convince him of the folly of supposing that a
first attachment is fated to endure for ever; and, by unremitting
assiduity in pleasing him---by soft, quiet attentions, and an affected
sensibility, might at last acquire the attainment of that object, for
which her bosom had so long and so ardently panted.

Soothed by these ideas, and willing to hear from the physician's mouth
a more explicit affirmation of Verezzi's safety than his looks had
given, Matilda rose, for the first time since his illness, and, unseen
by Verezzi, approached the physician.---"Follow me to the saloon,"
said Matilda.

The physician obeyed, and, by his fervent assurances of Verezzi's
safety and speedy recovery, confirmed Matilda's fluctuating hopes.
"But," added the physician, "though my patient will recover if his
mind be unruffled, I will not answer for his re-establishment should
he see you, as his disorder, being wholly on the mind, may be possibly
augmented by--"

The physician paused, and left Matilda to finish the sentence; for he
was a man of penetration and judgement, and conjectured that some
sudden and violent emotion, of which she was the cause, occasioned his
patient's illness. This conjecture became certainty, as, when he
concluded, he observed Matilda's face change to an ashy paleness.

"May I not watch him--attend him?" inquired Matilda imploringly.

"No," answered the physician: "in the weakened state in which he now
is, the sight of you might cause immediate dissolution."

Matilda started, as if overcome by horror at the bare idea, and
promised to obey his commands.

The morning came--Matilda arose from a sleepless couch, and with hopes
yet unconfirmed sought Verezzi's apartment.

She stood near the door, listening.---Her heart palpitated with
tremulous violence, as she listened to Verezzi's breathing---every
sound from within alarmed her. At last she slowly opened the door,
and, though adhering to the physician's directions in not suffering
Verezzi to see her, she could not deny herself the pleasure of
watching him, and busying herself in little offices about his
apartment.

She could hear Verezzi question the attendant collectedly, yet as a
person who was ignorant where he was, and knew not the events which
had immediately preceded his present state.

At last he sank into a deep sleep---Matilda now dared to gaze on him:
the hectic colour which had flushed his cheek was fled, but the ashy
hue of his lips had given place to a brilliant vermilion--She gazed
intently on his countenance.

A heavenly, yet faint smile, diffused itself over his countenance--his
hand slightly moved.

Matilda, fearing that he would awake, again concealed herself. She was
mistaken; for, on looking again, he still slept.

She still gazed upon his countenance. The visions of his sleep were
changed, for tears came fast from under his eyelids, and a deep sigh
burst from his bosom.

Thus passed several days: Matilda still watched, with most
affectionate assiduity, by the bedside of the unconscious Verezzi.

The physician declared that his patient's mind was yet in too
irritable a state to permit him to see Matilda, but that he was
convalescent.

One evening she sat by his bedside, and gazing upon the features of
the sleeping Verezzi, felt unusual softness take possession of her
soul--an indefinable and tumultuous emotion shook her bosom---her
whole frame thrilled with rapturous ecstasy, and seizing the hand,
which lay motionless beside her, she imprinted on it a thousand
burning kisses.

"Ah, Julia! Julia! is it you?" exclaimed Verezzi, as he raised his
enfeebled frame; but perceiving his mistake, as he cast his eyes on
Matilda, sank back, and fainted.

Matilda hastened with restoratives, and soon succeeded in recalling to
life Verezzi's fleeted faculties.



CHAPTER IX.



      Art thou afraid
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As thou art in desire? would'st thou have that
Which thou esteemest the ornament of life.
Or live a coward in thine own esteem.
Letting I dare not wait upon I would?
--Macbeth.

For love is heaven, and heaven is love.
--Lay of the Last Minstrel.

The soul of Verezzi was filled with irresistible disgust, as,
recovering, he found himself in Matilda's arms. His whole frame
trembled with chilly horror, and he could scarcely withhold himself
from again fainting. He fixed his eyes upon the countenance--they met
hers--an ardent fire, mingled with a touching softness, filled their
orbits.

In a hurried and almost inarticulate accent, he reproached Matilda
with perfidy, baseness, and even murder. The roseate colour which had
tinged Matilda's cheek, gave place to an ashy hue--the animation which
had sparkled in her eye, yielded to a confused expression of
apprehension, as the almost delirious Verezzi uttered accusations he
knew not the meaning of; for his brain, maddened by the idea of
Julia's death, was whirled round in an ecstasy of terror.

Matilda seemed to have composed every passion: a forced serenity
overspread her features, as, in a sympathising and tender tone, she
entreated him to calm his emotions, and giving him a composing
medicine, left him.

She descended to the saloon.

"Ah! he yet despises me--he even hates me," ejaculated Matilda. "An
irresistible antipathy--irresistible, I fear, as my love for him is
ardent, has taken possession of his soul towards me. Ah! miserable,
hapless being that I am! doomed to have my fondest hope, my brightest
prospect, blighted."

Alive alike to the tortures of despair and the illusions of hope,
Matilda, now in an agony of desperation, impatiently paced the saloon.

Her mind was inflamed by a more violent emotion of hate towards Julia,
as she recollected Verezzi's fond expressions: she determined,
however, that were Verezzi not to be hers, he should never be Julia's.

Whilst thus she thought, Zastrozzi entered

The conversation was concerning Verezzi.

"How shall I gain his love, Zastrozzi?" exclaimed Matilda. "Oh! I will
renew every tender office--I will watch by him day and night, and, by
unremitting attentions, I will try to soften his flinty soul. But,
alas! it was but now that he started from my arms in horror, and, in
accents of desperation, accused me of perfidy--of murder. Could I be
perfidious to Verezzi, my heart, which burns with so fervent a fire,
declares I could not, and murder--"

Matilda paused.

"Would thou could say thou were guilty, or even accessary to that,"
exclaimed Zastrozzi, his eye gleaming with disappointed ferocity.
"Would Julia of Strobazzo's heart was reeking on my dagger!"

"Fervently do I join in that wish, my best Zastrozzi," returned
Matilda: "but, alas! what avail wishes--what avail useless
protestations of revenge, whilst Julia yet lives?--yet lives, perhaps,
again to obtain Verezzi--to clasp him constant to her bosom--and
perhaps--oh, horror! perhaps to--".

Stung to madness by the picture which her fancy had portrayed, Matilda
paused.

Her bosom heaved with throbbing palpitations; and, whilst describing
the success of her rival, her warring soul shone apparent from her
scintillating eyes.

Zastrozzi, meanwhile, stood collected in himself; and scarcely heeding
the violence of Matilda, awaited the issue of her speech.

He besought her to calm herself, nor, by those violent emotions, unfit
herself for prosecuting the attainment of her fondest hope.

"Are you firm?" inquired Zastrozzi.

"Yes!"

"Are you resolved? Does fear, amid the other passions, shake your
soul?"

"No, no--this heart knows not to fear--this breast knows not to
shrink," exclaimed Matilda eagerly.

"Then be cool--be collected," returned Zastrozzi, "and thy purpose is
effected."

Though little was in these words which might warrant hope, yet
Matilda's susceptible soul, as Zastrozzi spoke, thrilled with
anticipated delight.

"My maxim, therefore," said Zastrozzi, "through life has been,
wherever I am, whatever passions shake my inmost soul, at least to
appear collected. I generally am; for, by suffering no common events,
no fortuitous casualty to disturb me, my soul becomes steeled to more
interesting trials. I have a spirit, ardent, impetuous as thine; but
acquaintance with the world has induced me to veil it, though it still
continues to burn within my bosom. Believe me, I am far from wishing
to persuade you from your purpose--No--any purpose undertaken with
ardour, and prosecuted with perseverance, must eventually be crowned
with success. Love is worthy of any risque--I felt it once, but
revenge has now swallowed up every other feeling of my soul--I am
alive to nothing but revenge. But even did I desire to persuade you
from the purpose on which your heart is fixed, I should not say it was
wrong to attempt it; for whatever procures pleasure is right, and
consonant to the dignity of man, who was created for no other purpose
but to obtain happiness; else, why were passions given us? why were
those emotions, which agitate my breast, and madden my brain,
implanted in us by nature? As for the confused hope of a future state,
why should we debar ourselves of the delights of this, even though
purchased by what the misguided multitude calls immorality?"

Thus sophistically argued, Zastrozzi.---His soul, deadened by crime,
could only entertain confused ideas of immortal happiness; for in
proportion as human nature departs from virtue, so far are they also
from being able clearly to contemplate the wonderful operations, the
mysterious ways of Providence.

Coolly and collectedly argued Zastrozzi: he delivered his sentiments
with the air of one who was wholly convinced of the truth of the
doctrines he uttered,---a conviction to be dissipated by shunning
proof.

Whilst Zastrozzi thus spoke, Matilda remained silent,--she paused.
Zastrozzi must have strong powers of reflection; he must be convinced
of the truth of his own reasoning, thought Matilda, as eagerly she yet
gazed on his countenance---Its unchanging expression of firmness and
conviction still continued.---"Ah!" said Matilda, "Zastrozzi, thy
words are a balm to my soul, I never yet knew thy real sentiments on
this subject; but answer me, do you believe that the soul decays with
the body, or if you do not, when this perishable form mingles with its
parent earth, where goes the soul which now actuates its movements?
perhaps, it wastes its fervent energies in tasteless apathy, or
lingering torments."

"Matilda," returned Zastrozzi, "think not so; rather suppose, that by
its own inmate and energetical exertions, this soul must endure for
ever, that no fortuitous occurrences, no incidental events, can affect
its happiness; but by daring boldly, by striving to verge from the
beaten path, whilst yet trammelled in the chains of mortality, it will
gain superior advantages in a future state."

"But religion! Oh Zastrozzi!"--

"I thought thy soul was daring," replied Zastrozzi, "I thought thy
mind was towering; and did I then err, in the different estimate I had
formed of thy character?--O yield not yourself, Matilda thus to false,
foolish, and vulgar prejudices--for the present, farewell."

Saying this, Zastrozzi departed.

Thus, by an artful appeal to her passions, did Zastrozzi extinguish
the faint spark of religion which yet gleamed in Matilda's bosom.

In proportion as her belief of an Omnipotent Power, and consequently
her hopes of eternal salvation declined, her ardent and unquenchable
passion for Verezzi increased, and a delirium of guilty love, filled
her soul.--

"Shall I then call him mine for ever?" mentally inquired Matilda;
"will the passion which now consumes me, possess my soul to all
eternity? Ah! well I know it will; and when emancipated from this
terrestrial form, my soul departs; still its fervent energies
unrepressed, will remain; and in the union of soul to soul, it will
taste celestial transports." An ecstasy of tumultuous and confused
delight rushed through her veins: she stood for some time immersed in
thought.---Agitated by the emotions of her soul, her every limb
trembled--she thought upon Zastrozzi's sentiments, she almost
shuddered as she reflected; yet was convinced, by the cool and
collected manner in which he had delivered them.---She thought on his
advice, and steeling her soul, repressing every emotion, she now
acquired that coolness so necessary to the attainment of her desire.

Thinking of nothing else, alive to no idea but Verezzi, Matilda's
countenance assumed a placid serenity--she even calmed her soul, she
bid it restrain its emotions, and the passions which so lately had
battled fiercely in her bosom, were calmed.

She again went to Verezzi's apartment, but, as she approached, vague
fears, lest he should have penetrated her schemes confused her: but
his mildly beaming eyes, as she gazed upon them, convinced her, that
the horrid expressions which he had before uttered, were merely the
effect of temporary delirium.

"Ah, Matilda!" exclaimed Verezzi, "where have you been?"

Matilda's soul, alive alike to despair and hope, was filled with
momentary delight as he addressed her; but bitter hate, and
disappointed love, again tortured her bosom, as he exclaimed in
accents of heart-felt agony: "Oh! Julia, my long-lost Julia!"

"Matilda," said he, "my friend, farewell; I feel that I am dying, but
I feel pleasure,--oh! transporting pleasure, in the idea that I shall
soon meet my Julia. Matilda," added he, "in a softened accent,
farewell for ever." Scarcely able to contain the emotions which the
idea alone of Verezzi's death excited, Matilda, though the crisis of
the disorder, she knew, had been favorable, shuddered---bitter hate,
even more rancorous than ever, kindled in her bosom against Julia, for
to hear Verezzi talk of her with soul-subduing tenderness, but wound
up her soul to the highest pitch of uncontrollable vengeance.--Her
breast heaved violently, her dark eye, in expressive glances, told the
fierce passions of her soul; yet, sensible of the necessity of
controlling her emotions, she leaned her head upon her hand, and when
she answered Verezzi, a calmness, a melting expression of grief,
overspread her features. She conjured him in the most tender, the most
soothing terms, to compose himself, and, though Julia was gone for
ever, to remember that there was yet one in the world, one tender
friend who would render the burden of life less insupportable.

"Oh! Matilda," exclaimed Verezzi, "talk not to me of comfort, talk not
of happiness, all that constituted my comfort, all to which I looked
forward with rapturous anticipation of happiness, is fled--fled for
ever."

Ceaselessly did Matilda watch by the bed-side of Verezzi; the melting
tenderness of his voice, the melancholy, interesting expression of his
countenance, but added fuel to the flame which consumed her: her soul
was engrossed by one idea; every extraneous passion was conquered, and
nerved for the execution of its fondest purpose; a seeming
tranquillity overspread her mind, not that tranquillity which results
from conscious innocence, and mild delights, but that which calms
every tumultuous emotion for a time; when firm in a settled purpose,
the passions but pause, to break out with more resistless violence. In
the mean time, the strength of Verezzi's constitution overcame the
malignity of his disorder, returning strength again braced his nerves,
and he was able to descend to the saloon.

The violent grief of Verezzi had subsided into a deep and settled
melancholy; he could now talk of his Julia, indeed it was his constant
theme; he spoke of her virtues, her celestial form, her sensibility,
and by his ardent professions of eternal fidelity to her memory,
unconsciously almost drove Matilda to desperation.---Once he asked
Matilda how she died, for on the day when the intelligence first
turned his brain, he waited not to hear the particulars, the bare fact
drove him to instant madness.

Matilda was startled at the question, yet ready invention supplied the
place of a premeditated story.

"Oh! my friend," said she tenderly, "unwillingly do I tell you, that
for you she died; disappointed love, like a worm in the bud, destroyed
the unhappy Julia; fruitless were all her endeavours to find you, till
at last concluding that you were lost to her for ever, a deep
melancholy by degrees consumed her, and gently led to the grave--she
sank into the arms of death without a groan."

"And there shall I soon follow her," exclaimed Verezzi, as a severer
pang of anguish and regret darted through his soul. "I caused her
death, whose life was far, far dearer to me than my own. But now it is
all over, my hopes of happiness in this world are blasted, blasted for
ever."

As he said this, a convulsive sigh heaved his breast, and the tears
silently rolled down his cheeks; for some time, in vain were Matilda's
endeavours to calm him, till at last, mellowed by time, and overcome
by reflection, his violent and fierce sorrow was softened into a fixed
melancholy.

Unremittingly Matilda attended him, and gratified his every wish: she,
conjecturing that solitude might be detrimental to him, often
entertained parties, and endeavoured by gaiety to drive away his
dejection, but if Verezzi's spirits were elevated by company and
merriment, in solitude again they sank, and a deeper melancholy, a
severer regret possessed his bosom, for having allowed himself to be
momentarily interested by any thing but the remembrance of his Julia;
for he felt a soft, a tender and ecstatic emotion of regret, when
retrospection portrayed the blissful time long since gone by, while
happy in the society of her whom he idolised, he thought he could be
never otherwise than then, enjoying the sweet, the serene delights of
association with a congenial mind, he often now amused himself in
retracing with his pencil, from memory, scenes which, though in his
Julia's society he had beheld unnoticed, yet were now hallowed by the
remembrance of her: for he always associated the idea of Julia with
the remembrance of those scenes which she had so often admired, and
where, accompanied by her, he had so often wandered.

Matilda, meanwhile, firm in the purpose of her soul, unremittingly
persevered: she calmed her mind, and though, at intervals, shook by
almost super-human emotions, before Verezzi a fixed serenity, a well-
feigned sensibility, and a downcast tenderness, marked her manner.
Grief, melancholy, a fixed, a quiet depression of spirits, seemed to
have calmed every fiercer feeling, when she talked with Verezzi of his
lost Julia: but, though subdued for the present, revenge, hate, and
the fervour of disappointed love, burned her soul.

Often, when she had retired from Verezzi, when he had talked with
tenderness, as he was wont, of Julia, and sworn everlasting fidelity
to her memory, would Matilda's soul be tortured by fiercest
desperation.

One day, when conversing with him of Julia, she ventured to hint,
though remotely, at her own faithful and ardent attachment.

"Think you," replied Verezzi, "that because my Julia's spirit is no
longer enshrined in its earthly form, that I am the less devotedly,
the less irrevocably hers?---No! no! I was hers, I am hers, and to all
eternity shall be hers: and when my soul, divested of mortality,
departs into another world, even amid the universal wreck of nature,
attracted by congeniality of sentiment, it will seek the unspotted
spirit of my idolised Julia.---Oh, Matilda! thy attention, thy
kindness, calls for my warmest gratitude--thy virtue demands my
sincerest esteem; but, devoted to the memory of Julia, I can love none
but her."

Matilda's whole frame trembled with unconquerable emotion, as thus
determinedly he rejected her; but, calming the more violent passions,
a flood of tears rushed from her eyes; and, as she leant over the back
of a sofa on which she reclined, her sobs were audible.

Verezzi's soul was softened towards her--he raised the humbled
Matilda, and bid her be comforted, for he was conscious that her
tenderness towards him deserved not an unkind return.

"Oh! forgive, forgive me!" exclaimed Matilda, with well-feigned
humility; "I knew not what I said."--She then abruptly left the
saloon.

Reaching her own apartment, Matilda threw herself on the floor, in an
agony of mind too great to be described. Those infuriate passions,
restrained as they had been in the presence of Verezzi, now agitated
her soul with inconceivable terror. Shook by sudden and irresistible
emotions, she gave vent to her despair.

"Where, then, is the boasted mercy of God," exclaimed the frantic
Matilda, "if he suffer his creatures to endure agony such as this? or
where his wisdom, if he implant in the heart passions furious---
uncontrollable--as mine, doomed to destroy their happiness?"

Outraged pride, disappointed love, and infuriate revenge, revelled
through her bosom. Revenge, which called for innocent blood--the blood
of the hapless Julia.

Her passions were now wound up to the highest pitch of desperation. In
indescribable agony of mind, she dashed her head against the floor--
she imprecated a thousand curses upon Julia, and swore eternal
revenge.

At last, exhausted by their own violence, the warring passions
subsided--a calm took possession of her soul--she thought again upon
Zastrozzi's advice---Was she now cool? was she now collected?

She was now immersed in a chain of thought; unaccountable, even to
herself, was the serenity which had succeeded.



CHAPTER X.



Persevering in the prosecution of her design, the time passed away
slowly to Matilda; for Verezzi's frame, becoming every day more
emaciated, threatened, to her alarmed imagination, approaching
dissolution.--Slowly to Verezzi; for he waited with impatience for the
arrival of death, since nothing but misery was his in this world.

Useless would it be to enumerate the conflicts in Matilda's soul:
suffice it to say, that they were many, and that their violence
progressively increased.

Verezzi's illness at last assumed so dangerous an appearance, that
Matilda, alarmed, sent for a physician.

The humane man, who had attended Verezzi before, was from home, but
one, skilful in his profession, arrived, who declared that a warmer
climate could alone restore Verezzi's health.

Matilda proposed to him to remove to a retired and picturesque spot
which she possessed in the Venetian territory. Verezzi, expecting
speedy dissolution, and conceiving it to be immaterial where he died,
consented; and indeed he was unwilling to pain one so kind as Matilda
by a refusal.

The following morning was fixed for the journey.

The morning arrived, and Verezzi was lifted into the chariot, being
yet extremely weak and emaciated.

Matilda, during the journey, by every care, every kind and
sympathising attention, tried to drive away Verezzi's melancholy;
sensible that, could the weight which pressed upon his spirits be
removed, he would speedily regain health. But, no! it was impossible.
Though he was grateful for Matilda's attention, a still deeper shade
of melancholy overspread his features; a more heart-felt inanity and
languor sapped his life. He was sensible of a total distaste of former
objects--objects which, perhaps, had formerly forcibly interested him.
The terrific grandeur of the Alps, the dashing cataract, as it foamed
beneath their feet, ceased to excite those feelings of awe which
formerly they were wont to inspire. The lofty pine-groves inspired no
additional melancholy, nor did the blooming valleys of Piedmont, or
the odoriferous orangeries which scented the air, gladden his deadened
soul.

They travelled on--they soon entered the Venetian territory, where, in
a gloomy and remote spot, stood the Castella di Laurentini.

It was situated in a dark forest--lofty mountains around lifted their
aspiring and craggy summits to the skies.

The mountains were clothed half up by ancient pines and plane-trees,
whose immense branches stretched far; and above, bare granite rocks,
on which might be seen, occasionally, a scathed larch, lifted their
gigantic and mishapen forms.

In the centre of an amphitheatre, formed by these mountains,
surrounded by wood, stood the Castella di Laurentini, whose grey
turrets, and time-worn battlements, overtopped the giants of the
forest.

Into this gloomy mansion was Verezzi conducted by Matilda. The only
sentiment he felt, was surprise at the prolongation of his existence.
As he advanced, supported by Matilda and a domestic, into the
castella, Matilda's soul, engrossed by one idea, confused by its own
unquenchable passions, felt not that ecstatic, that calm and serene
delight, only experienced by the innocent, and which is excited by a
return to the place where we have spent our days of infancy.

No--she felt not this: the only pleasurable emotion which her return
to this remote castella afforded, was the hope that, disengaged from
the tumult of, and proximity to the world, she might be the less
interrupted in the prosecution of her madly-planned schemes.

Though Verezzi's melancholy seemed rather increased than diminished by
the journey, yet his health was visibly improved by the progressive
change of air and variation of scenery, which must, at times,
momentarily alleviate the most deep-rooted grief; yet, again in a
fixed spot--again left to solitude and his own torturing reflections,
Verezzi's mind returned to his lost, his still adored Julia. He
thought of her ever; unconsciously he spoke of her; and, by his
rapturous exclamations, sometimes almost drove Matilda to desperation.

Several days thus passed away. Matilda's passion, which, mellowed by
time, and diverted by the variety of objects, and the hurry of the
journey, had relaxed its violence, now, like a stream pent up, burst
all bounds.

But one evening, maddened by the tender protestations of eternal
fidelity to Julia's memory which Verezzi uttered, her brain was almost
turned.

Her tumultuous soul, agitated by contending emotions, flashed from her
eyes. Unable to disguise the extreme violence of her sensations, in an
ecstasy of despairing love, she rushed from the apartment, where she
had left Verezzi, and, unaccompanied, wandered into the forest, to
calm her emotions, and concert some better plans of revenge; for, in
Verezzi's presence, she scarcely dared to think.

Her infuriated soul burned with fiercest revenge: she wandered into
the trackless forest, and, conscious that she was unobserved, gave
vent to her feelings in wild exclamations.

"Oh! Julia! hated Julia! words are not able to express my detestation
of thee. Thou hast destroyed Verezzi---thy cursed image, revelling in
his heart, has blasted my happiness for ever; but, ere I die, I will
taste revenge--oh! exquisite revenge!" She paused--she thought of the
passion which consumed her---"Perhaps one no less violent has induced
Julia to rival me," said she. Again the idea of Verezzi's illness--
perhaps his death--infuriated her soul. Pity, chased away by vengeance
and disappointed passion, fled.--"Did I say that I pitied thee?
Detested Julia, much did my words belie the feelings of my soul. No---
no--thou shalt not escape me.--Pity thee!"

Again immersed in corroding thought, she heeded not the hour, till
looking up, she saw the shades of night were gaining fast upon the
earth. The evening was calm and serene: gently agitated by the evening
zephyr, the lofty pines sighed mournfully. Far to the west appeared
the evening star, which faintly glittered in the twilight. The scene
was solemnly calm, but not in unison with Matilda's soul. Softest,
most melancholy music, seemed to float upon the southern gale. Matilda
listened--it was the nuns at a convent, chanting the requiem for the
soul of a departed sister.

"Perhaps gone to heaven!" exclaimed Matilda, as, affected by the
contrast, her guilty soul trembled. A chain of horrible racking
thoughts pressed upon her soul; and, unable to bear the acuteness of
her sensations, she hastily returned to the castella.

Thus, marked only by the varying paroxysms of the passions which
consumed her, Matilda passed the time: her brain was confused, her
mind agitated by the ill success of her schemes, and her spirits, once
so light and buoyant, were now depressed by disappointed hope.

What shall I next concert? was the mental inquiry of Matilda. Ah! I
know not.

She suddenly started--she thought of Zastrozzi.

"Oh! that I should have till now forgotten Zastrozzi," exclaimed
Matilda, as a new ray of hope darted through her soul. "But he is now
at Naples, and some time must necessarily elapse before I can see him.

"Oh, Zastrozzi, Zastrozzi! would that you were here!"

No sooner had she well arranged her resolutions, which before had been
confused by eagerness, than she summoned Ferdinand, on whose fidelity
she dared to depend, and bid him speed to Naples, and bear a letter,
with which he was intrusted, to Zastrozzi.

Meanwhile Verezzi's health, as the physician had predicted, was so
much improved by the warm climate and pure air of the Castella di
Laurentini, that, though yet extremely weak and emaciated, he was
able, as the weather was fine, and the summer evenings tranquil, to
wander, accompanied by Matilda, through the surrounding scenery.

In this gloomy solitude, where, except the occasional and infrequent
visits of a father confessor, nothing occurred to disturb the uniform
tenour of their life, Verezzi was every thing to Matilda--she thought
of him ever: at night, in dreams, his image was present to her
enraptured imagination. She was uneasy, except in his presence; and
her soul, shook by contending paroxysms of the passion which consumed
her, was transported by unutterable ecstasies of delirious and
maddening love.

Her taste for music was exquisite; her voice of celestial sweetness;
and her skill, as she drew sounds of soul-touching melody from the
harp, enraptured the mind to melancholy pleasure.

The affecting expression of her voice, mellowed as it was by the
tenderness which at times stole over her soul, softened Verezzi's
listening ear to ecstasy.

Yet, again recovering from the temporary delight which her seductive
blandishments had excited, he thought of Julia. As he remembered her
ethereal form, her retiring modesty, and unaffected sweetness, a more
violent, a deeper pang of regret and sorrow assailed his bosom, for
having suffered himself to be even momentarily interested by Matilda.

Hours, days, passed lingering away. They walked in the evenings around
the environs of the castella--woods, dark and gloomy, stretched far--
cloud-capt mountains reared their gigantic summits high; and, dashing
amidst the jutting rocks, foaming cataracts, with sudden and impetuous
course, sought the valley below.

Amid this scenery the wily Matilda usually led her victim.

One evening when the moon, rising over the gigantic outline of the
mountain, silvered the far-seen cataract, Matilda and Verezzi sought
the forest.

For a time neither spoke: the silence was uninterrupted, save by
Matilda's sighs, which declared that violent and repressed emotions
tortured the bosom within.

They silently advanced into the forest. The azure sky was spangled
with stars---not a wind agitated the unruffled air---not a cloud
obscured the brilliant concavity of heaven. They ascended an eminence,
clothed with towering wood; the trees around formed an amphitheatre.
Beneath, by a gentle ascent, an opening showed an immense extent of
forest, dimly seen by the moon, which overhung the opposite mountain.
The craggy heights beyond might distinctly be seen, edged by the beams
of the silver moon.

Verezzi threw himself on the turf.

"What a beautiful scene, Matilda!" he exclaimed.

"Beautiful indeed," returned Matilda. "I have admired it ever, and
brought you here this evening on purpose to discover whether you
thought of the works of nature as I do."

"Oh! fervently do I admire this," exclaimed Verezzi, as, engrossed by
the scene before him, he gazed enraptured.

"Suffer me to retire for a few minutes," said Matilda.

Without waiting for Verezzi's answer, she hastily entered a small tuft
of trees. Verezzi gazed surprised; and soon sounds of such ravishing
melody stole upon the evening breeze, that Verezzi thought some spirit
of the solitude had made audible to mortal ears ethereal music.

He still listened--it seemed to die away---and again a louder, a more
rapturous swell, succeeded.

The music was in unison with the scene--it was in unison with
Verezzi's soul: and the success of Matilda's artifice, in this
respect, exceeded her most sanguine expectation.

He still listened--the music ceased---and Matilda's symmetrical form
emerging from the wood, roused Verezzi from his vision.

He gazed on her--her loveliness and grace struck forcibly upon his
senses: her sensibility, her admiration of objects which enchanted
him, flattered him; and her judicious arrangement of the music, left
no doubt in his mind but that, experiencing the same sensations
herself, the feelings of his soul were not unknown to her.

Thus far every thing went on as Matilda desired. To touch his feeling
had been her constant aim: could she find any thing which interested
him; any thing to divert his melancholy; or could she succeed in
effacing another from his mind, she had no doubt but that he would
quickly and voluntarily clasp her to his bosom.

By affecting to coincide with him in every thing--by feigning to
possess that congeniality of sentiment and union of idea, which he
thought so necessary to the existence of love, she doubted not soon to
accomplish her purpose.

But sympathy and congeniality of sentiment, however necessary to that
love which calms every fierce emotion, fills the soul with a melting
tenderness, and, without disturbing it, continually possesses the
soul, was by no means consonant to the ferocious emotions, the
unconquerable and ardent passion which revelled through Matilda's
every vein.

When enjoying the society of him she loved, calm delight, unruffled
serenity, possessed not her soul. No--but, inattentive to every object
but him, even her proximity to him agitated her with almost
uncontrollable emotion.

Whilst watching his look, her pulse beat with unwonted violence, her
breast palpitated, and, unconscious of it herself, an ardent and
voluptuous fire darted from her eyes.

Her passion too, controlled as it was in the presence of Verezzi,
agitated her soul with progressively-increasing fervour. Nursed by
solitude, and wound up, perhaps, beyond any pitch which another's soul
might be capable of, it sometimes almost maddened her.

Still, surprised at her own forbearance, yet strongly perceiving the
necessity of it, she spoke not again of her passion to Verezzi.



CHAPTER XI.



At last the day arrived when Matilda expected Ferdinand's return.
Punctual to his time Ferdinand returned, and told Matilda that
Zastrozzi had, for the present, taken up his abode at a cottage, not
far from thence, and that he there awaited her arrival.

Matilda was much surprised that Zastrozzi preferred a cottage to her
castella; but dismissing that from her mind, hastily prepared to
attend him.

She soon arrived at the cottage. Zastrozzi met her--he quickened his
pace towards her.

"Well, Zastrozzi," exclaimed Matilda, inquiringly.

"Oh!" said Zastrozzi, "our schemes have all, as yet, been
unsuccessful. Julia yet lives, and, surrounded by wealth and power,
yet defies our vengeance. I was planning her destruction, when,
obedient to your commands, I came here."

"Alas!" exclaimed Matilda, "I fear it must be ever thus: but,
Zastrozzi, much I need your advice--your assistance. Long have I
languished in hopeless love: often have I expected, and as often have
my eager expectations been blighted by disappointment."

A deep sigh of impatience burst from Matilda's bosom, as, unable to
utter more, she ceased.

"'Tis but the image of that accursed Julia," replied Zastrozzi,
"revelling in his breast, which prevents him from becoming instantly
yours. Could you but efface that!"'

"I would I could efface it," said Matilda: "the friendship which now
exists between us, would quickly ripen into love, and I should be for
ever happy. How, Zastrozzi, can that be done? But, before we think of
happiness, we must have a care to our safety: we must destroy Julia,
who yet endeavours, by every means, to know the event of Verezzi's
destiny. But, surrounded by wealth and power as she is, how can that
be done? No bravo in Naples dare attempt her life: no rewards, however
great, could tempt the most abandoned of men to brave instant
destruction, in destroying her; and should we attempt it, the most
horrible tortures of the Inquisition, a disgraceful death, and that
without the completion of our desire, would be the consequence."

"Think not so, Matilda," answered Zastrezzi; "think not, because Julia
possesses wealth, that she is less assailable by the dagger of one
eager for revenge as I am; or that, because she lives in splendor at
Naples, that a poisoned chalice, prepared by your hand, the hand of a
disappointed rival, could not send her writhing and convulsed to the
grave. No, no; she can die, nor shall we writhe on the rack."

"Oh!" interrupted Matilda, "I care not, if, writhing in the prisons of
the Inquisition, I suffer the most excruciating torment; I care not
if, exposed to public view, I suffer the most ignominious and
disgraceful of deaths, if, before I die--if, before this spirit seeks
another world, I gain my purposed design, I enjoy unutterable, and, as
yet, inconceivable happiness."

The evening meanwhile came on, and, warned by the lateness of the hour
to separate, Matilda and Zastrozzi parted.

Zastrozzi pursued his way to the cottage, and Matilda, deeply musing,
retraced her steps to the castella.

The wind was fresh, and rather tempestuous: light fleeting clouds were
driven rapidly across the dark-blue sky. The moon, in silver majesty,
hung high in eastern ether, and rendered transparent as a celestial
spirit the shadowy clouds which at intervals crossed her orbit, and by
degrees vanished like a vision in the obscurity of distant air. On
this scene gazed Matilda--a train of confused thought took possession
of her soul--her crimes, her past life, rose in array to her terror-
struck imagination. Still burning love, unrepressed, unconquerable
passion, revelled through every vein: her senses, rendered delirious
by guilty desire, were whirled around in an inexpressible ecstasy of
anticipated delight--delight, not unmixed by confused apprehensions.

She stood thus with her arms folded, as if contemplating the spangled
concavity of heaven.

It was late--later than the usual hour of return, and Verezzi had gone
out to meet Matilda.

"What! deep in thought, Matilda?" exclaimed Verezzi, playfully.

Matilda's cheek, as he thus spoke, was tinged with a momentary blush;
it however quickly passed away; and she replied, "I was enjoying the
serenity of the evening, the beauty of the setting sun, and then the
congenial twilight induced me to wander farther than usual."

The unsuspicious Verezzi observed nothing peculiar in the manner of
Matilda; but, observing that the night air was chill, conducted her
back to the castella. No art was left untried, no blandishment
omitted, on the part of Matilda, to secure her victim. Every thing
which he liked, she affected to admire: every sentiment uttered by
Verezzi was always anticipated by the observing Matilda; but long was
all in vain--long was every effort to obtain his love useless.

Often, when she touched the harp, and drew sounds of enchanting melody
from its strings, whilst her almost celestial form bent over it, did
Verezzi gaze enraptured, and, forgetful of every thing else, yielding
himself to a tumultuous oblivion of pleasure, listened entranced.

But all her art could not draw Julia from his memory: he was much
softened towards Matilda; he felt esteem, tenderest esteem--but he yet
loved not.

Thus passed the time.--Often would desperation, and an idea that
Verezzi would never love her, agitate Matilda with most violent agony.
The beauties of nature which surrounded the eastella had no longer
power to interest: borne away on swelling thought, often, in the
solitude of her own apartment, her spirit was wafted on the wings of
anticipating fancy. Sometimes imagination portrayed the most horrible
images for futurity: Verezzi's hate, perhaps his total dereliction of
her; his union with Julia, pressed upon her brain, and almost drove
her to distraction, for Verezzi alone filled every thought; nourished
by restless reveries, the most horrible anticipations blasted the
blooming Matilda.---Sometimes, however, a gleam of sense shot across
her soul: deceived by visions of unreal bliss, she acquired new
courage, and fresh anticipations of delight, from a beam which soon
withdrew its ray; for, usually sunk in gloom, her dejected eyes were
fixed on the ground; though sometimes an ardent expression, kindled by
the anticipation of gratified desire, flashed from their fiery orbits.

Often, whilst thus agitated by contending emotions, her soul was
shook, and, unconscious of its intentions, knew not the most
preferable plan to pursue, would she seek Zastrozzi: on him,
unconscious why, she relied much--his words were those of calm
reflection and experience; and his sophistry, whilst it convinced her
that a superior being exists not, who can control our actions, brought
peace to her mind--peace to be succeeded by horrible and resistless
conviction of the falsehood of her coadjutor's arguments: still,
however, they calmed her; and, by addressing her reason and passions
at the same time, deprived her of the power of being benefited by
either.

The health of Verezzi, meanwhile, slowly mended: his mind, however,
shook by so violent a trial as it had undergone, recovered not its
vigour, but, mellowed by time, his grief, violent and irresistible as
it had been at first, now became a fixed melancholy, which spread
itself over his features, was apparent in every action, and, by
resistance, inflamed Matilda's passion to tenfold fury.

The touching tenderness of Verezzi's voice, the dejected softened
expression of his eye, touched her soul with tumultuous yet milder
emotions. In his presence she felt calmed; and those passions which,
in solitude, were almost too fierce for endurance, when with him were
softened into a tender though confused delight.

It was one evening, when no previous appointment existed between
Matilda and Zastrozzi, that, overcome by disappointed passion, Matilda
sought the forest.

The sky was unusually obscured, the sun had sunk beneath the western
mountain, and its departing ray tinged the heavy clouds with a red
glare.--The rising blast sighed through the towering pines, which rose
loftily above Matilda's head: the distant thunder, hoarse as the
murmurs of the grove, in indistinct echoes mingled with the hollow
breeze; the scintillating lightning flashed incessantly across her
path, as Matilda, heeding not the storm, advanced along the trackless
forest.

The crashing thunder now rattled madly above, the lightnings flashed a
larger curve, and at intervals, through the surrounding gloom, showed
a scathed larch, which, blasted by frequent storms, reared its bare
head on a height above.

Matilda sat upon a fragment of jutting granite, and contemplated the
storm which raged around her. The portentous calm, which at intervals
occurred amid the reverberating thunder, portentous of a more violent
tempest, resembled the serenity which spread itself over Matilda's
mind--a serenity only to be succeeded by a fiercer paroxysm of
passion.



CHAPTER XII.



Still sat Matilda upon the rock--she still contemplated the tempest
which raged around her.

The battling elements paused: an uninterrupted silence, deep, dreadful
as the silence of the tomb, succeeded. Matilda heard a noise--
footsteps were distinguishable, and looking up, a flash of vivid
lightning disclosed to her view the towering form of Zastrozzi.

His gigantic figure was again involved in pitchy darkness, as the
momentary lightning receded. A peal of crashing thunder again madly
rattled over the zenith, and a scintillating flash announced
Zastrozzi's approach, as he stood before Matilda.

Matilda, surprised at his approach, started as he addressed her, and
felt an indescribable awe, when she reflected on the wonderful
casualty which, in this terrific and tempestuous hour, had led them to
the same spot.

"Doubtless his feelings are violent and irresistible as mine: perhaps
these led him to meet me here."

She shuddered as she reflected; but smothering the sensations of alarm
which she had suffered herself to be surprised by, she asked him what
had led him to the forest.

"The same which led you here, Matilda," returned Zastrozzi: "the same
influence which actuates us both, has doubtless inspired that
congeniality which, in this frightful storm, led us to the same spot."

"Oh!" exclaimed Matilda, "how shall I touch the obdurate Verezzi's
soul? he still despises me--he declares himself to be devoted to the
memory of his Julia; and that although she be dead, he is not the less
devotedly hers. What can be done?"

Matilda paused; and, much agitated, awaited Zastrozzi's reply.

Zastrozzi, meanwhile, stood collected in himself, and firm as the
rocky mountain which lifts its summit to heaven.

"Matilda," said he, "to-morrow evening will pave the way for that
happiness which your soul has so long panted for, if, indeed, the
event which will then occur does not completely conquer Verezzi. But
the violence of the tempest increases---let us seek shelter."

"Oh! heed not the tempest," said Matilda, whose expectations were
raised to the extreme of impatience by Zastrozzi's dark hints--"heed
not the tempest, but proceed, if you wish not to see me expiring at
your feet."

"You fear not the tumultuous elements---nor do I," replied
Zastrozzi---"I assert again, that if to-morrow evening you lead
Verezzi to this spot--if, in the event which will here occur, you
display that presence of mind, which I believe you to possess, Verezzi
is yours."

"Ah! what do you say, Zastrozzi, that Verezzi will be mine?" inquired
Matilda, as the anticipation of inconceivable happiness dilated her
soul with sudden and excessive delight.

"I say again, Matilda," returned Zastrozzi, "that if you dare to brave
the dagger's point--if you but make Verezzi owe his life to you--"

Zastrozzi paused, and Matilda acknowledged her insight of his plan,
which her enraptured fancy represented as the basis of her happiness.

"Could he, after she had, at the risk of her own life, saved his,
unfeelingly reject her? Would those noble sentiments, which the
greatest misfortunes were unable to extinguish, suffer that?--No."

Full of these ideas, her brain confused by the ecstatic anticipation
of happiness which pressed upon it, Matilda retraced her footsteps
towards the castella.

The violence of the storm which so lately had raged was passed--the
thunder, in low and indistinct echoes, now sounded through the chain
of rocky mountains, which stretched far to the north--the azure, and
almost cloudless either, was studded with countless stars, as Matilda
entered the castella, and, as the hour was late, sought her own
apartment.

Sleep fled not, as usual, from her pillow; but, overcome by excessive
drowsiness, she soon sank to rest.

Confused dreams floated in her imagination, in which she sometimes
supposed that she had gained Verezzi; at others, that, snatched from
her ardent embrace, he was carried by an invisible power over rocky
mountains, or immense and untravelled heaths, and that, in vainly
attempting to follow him, she had lost herself in the trackless
desert.

Awakened from disturbed and unconnected dreams, she arose.

The most tumultuous emotions of rapturous exultation filled her soul
as she gazed upon her victim, who was sitting at a window which
overlooked the waving forest.

Matilda seated herself by him, and most enchanting, most pensive
music, drawn by her fingers from a harp, thrilled his soul with an
ecstasy of melancholy; tears rolled rapidly down his cheeks; deep
drawn, though gentle sighs heaved his bosom: his innocent eyes were
mildly fixed upon Matilda, and beamed with compassion for one, whose
only wish was gratification of her own inordinate desires, and
destruction to his opening prospects of happiness.

She, with a ferocious pleasure, contemplated her victim; yet, curbing
the passions of her soul, a meekness, a wellfeigned sensibility,
characterised her downcast eye.

She waited, with the smothered impatience of expectation, for the
evening: then, had Zastrozzi affirmed, that she would lay a firm
foundation for her happiness.

Unappalled, she resolved to brave the dagger's point: she resolved to
bleed; and though her life-blood were to issue at the wound, to dare
the event.

The evening at last arrived: the atmosphere was obscured by vapour,
and the air more chill than usual; yet, yielding to the solicitations
of Matilda, Verezzi accompanied her to the forest.

Matilda's bosom thrilled with inconceivable happiness, as she advanced
towards the spot: her limbs, trembling with ecstasy, almost refused to
support her. Unwonted sensations--sensations she had never felt
before, agitated her bosom; yet, steeling her soul, and persuading
herself that celestial transports would be the reward of firmness, she
fearlessly advanced.

The towering pine-trees waved in the squally wind--the shades of
twilight gained fast on the dusky forest--the wind died away, and a
deep, a gloomy silence reigned.

They now had arrived at the spot which Zastrozzi had asserted would be
the scene of an event which might lay the foundation of Matilda's
happiness.

She was agitated by such violent emotions, that her every limb
trembled, and Verezzi tenderly asked the reason of her alarm.

"Oh! nothing, nothing!" returned Matilda; but, stung by more certain
anticipation of ecstasy by his tender inquiry, her whole frame
trembled with tenfold agitation, and her bosom was filled with more
unconquerable transport.

On the right, the thick umbrage of the forest trees, rendered
undistinguishable any one who might lurk there; on the left, a
frightful precipice yawned, at whose base a deafening cataract dashed
with tumultuous violence; around, mishapen and enormous masses of
rock; and beyond, a gigantic and blackened mountain, reared its craggy
summit to the skies.

They advanced towards the precipice. Matilda stood upon the dizzy
height---her senses almost failed her, and she caught the branch of an
enormous pine which impended over the abyss.

"How frightful a depth!" exclaimed Matilda.

"Frightful indeed," said Verezzi, as thoughtfully he contemplated the
terrific depth beneath.

They stood for some time gazing on the scene in silence.

Footsteps were heard--Matilda's bosom thrilled with mixed sensations
of delight and apprehension, as, summoning all her fortitude, she
turned round.--A man advanced towards them.

"What is your business?" exclaimed Verezzi.

"Revenge!" returned the villain, as, raising a dagger high, he essayed
to plunge it in Verezzi's bosom, but Matilda lifted her arm, and the
dagger piercing it, touched not Verezzi. Starting forward, he fell to
the earth, and the ruffian instantly dashed into the thick forest.

Matilda's snowy arm was tinged with purple gore: the wound was
painful, but an expression of triumph flashed from her eyes, and
excessive pleasure dilated her bosom: the blood streamed fast from her
arm, and tinged the rock whereon they stood with a purple stain.

Verezzi started from the ground, and seeing the blood which streamed
down Matilda's garments, in accents of terror demanded where she was
wounded.

"Oh! think not upon that," she exclaimed, "but tell me--ah! tell me,"
said she, in a voice of well-feigned alarm, "are you wounded mortally?
Oh! what sensations of terror shook me, when I thought that the
dagger's point, after having pierced my arm, had drunk your life-
blood."

"Oh!" answered Verezzi, "I am not wounded; but let us haste to the
castella."

He then tore part of his vest, and with it bound Matilda's arm. Slowly
they proceeded towards the castella.

"What villain, Verezzi," said Matilda, "envious of my happiness,
attempted his life, for whom I would ten thousand times sacrifice my
own? Oh! Verezzi, how I thank God, who averted the fatal dagger from
thy heart!"

Verezzi answered not; but his heart, his feelings, were irresistibly
touched by Matilda's behaviour. Such noble contempt of danger, so
ardent a passion, as to risk her life to preserve his, filled his
breast with a tenderness towards her; and he felt that he could now
deny her nothing, not even the sacrifice of the poor remains of his
happiness, should she demand it.

Matilds's breast meanwhile swelled with sensations of unutterable
delight: her soul, borne on the pinions of anticipated happiness,
flashed in triumphant glances from her fiery eyes. She could scarcely
forbear clasping Verezzi in her arms, and claiming him as her own; but
prudence, and a fear of in what manner a premature declaration of love
might be received, prevented her.

They arrived at the castella, and a surgeon from the neighbouring
convent was sent for by Verezzi.

The surgeon soon arrived, examined Matilda's arm, and declared that no
unpleasant consequences could ensue.--Retired to her own apartment,
those transports, which before had been allayed by Verezzi's presence,
now, unrestrained by reason, involved Matilda's senses in an ecstasy
of pleasure.

She threw herself on the bed, and, in all the exaggerated colours of
imagination, portrayed the transports which Zastrozzi's artifice has
opened to her view.

Visions of unreal bless floated during the whole night in her
disordered fancy: her senses were whirled around in alternate
ecstasies of happiness and despair, as almost palpable dreams pressed
upon her disturbed brain.

At one time she imagined that Verezzi, consenting to their union,
presented her his hand: that at her touch the flesh crumbled from it,
and, a shrieking spectre, he fled from her view: again, silvery clouds
floated across her sight, and unconnected, disturbed visions occupied
her imagination till the morning.

Verezzi's manner, as he met Matilda the following morning, was
unusually soft and tender; and in a voice of solicitude, he inquired
concerning her health.

The roseate flush of animation which tinged her cheek, the triumphant
glance of animation which danced in her scintillating eye, seemed to
render the inquiry unnecessary.

A dewy moisture filled her eyes, as she gazed with an expression of
tumultuous, yet repressed rapture, upon the hapless Verezzi.

Still did she purpose, in order to make her triumph more certain, to
protract the hour of victory; and, leaving her victim, wandered into
the forest to seek Zastrozzi. When she arrived at the cottage, she
learnt that he had walked forth.--She soon met him.

"Oh! Zastrozzi--my best Zastrozzi!" exclaimed Matilda, "what a source
of delight have you opened to me! Verezzi is mine--oh! transporting
thought! will be mine for ever. That distant manner which he usually
affected towards me, is changed to a sweet, an ecstatic expression of
tenderness. Oh! Zastrozzi, receive my best, my most fervent thanks."

"Julia need not die then," muttered Zastrozzi; "when once you possess
Verezzi, her destruction is of little consequence."

The most horrible scheme of revenge at this instant glanced across
Zastrozzi's mind.

"Oh! Julia must die," said Matilda, "or I shall never be safe; such an
influence does her image possess over Verezzi's mind, that I am
convinced, were he to know that she lived, an estrangement from me
would be the consequence. Oh! quickly let me hear that she is dead. I
can never enjoy uninterrupted happiness until her dissolution."

"What you have just pronounced is Julia's death-warrant," said
Zastrozzi, as he disappeared among the thick trees.

Matilda returned to the castella.

Verezzi, at her return, expressed a tender apprehension, lest, thus
wounded, she should have hurt herself by walking; but Matilda quieted
his fears, and engaged him in interesting conversation, which seemed
not to have for its object the seduction of his affection; though the
ideas conveyed by her expressions were so artfully connected with it,
and addressed themselves so forcibly to Verezzi's feelings, that he
was convinced he ought to love Matilda, though he felt that within
himself, which, in spite of reason--in spite of reflection--told him
that it was impossible.



CHAPTER XIII.



The enticing smile, the modest-seeming eye.
Beneath whose beauteous beams, belying heaven.
Lurk searchless cunning, cruelty, and death.
--Thomson.

Still did Matilda's blandishments--her unremitting attention--inspire
Verezzi with a softened tenderness towards her.---He regarded her as
one who, at the risk of her own life, had saved his; who loved him
with an ardent affection, and whose affection was likely to be
lasting: and though he could not regard her with that enthusiastic
tenderness with which he even yet adored the memory of his Julia, yet
he might esteem her---faithfully esteem her--and felt not that horror
at uniting himself with her as formerly. But a conversation which he
had with Julia recurred to his mind: he remembered well, that when
they had talked of their speedy marriage, she had expressed an idea,
that a union in this life might endure to all eternity; and that the
chosen of his heart on earth, might, by congeniality of sentiment, be
united in heaven.

The idea was hallowed by the remembrance of his Julia; but chasing it,
as an unreal vision, from his mind, again his high sentiments of
gratitude prevailed.

Lost in these ideas, involved in a train of thought, and unconscious
where his footsteps led him, he quitted the castella. His reverie was
interrupted by low murmurs, which seemed to float on the silence of
the forest: it was scarcely audible, yet Verezzi felt an undefinable
wish to know what it was. He advanced towards it--it was Matilda's
voice.

Verezzi approached nearer, and from within heard her voice in
complaints.---He eagerly listened.--Her sobs rendered the words, which
in passionate exclamations burst from Matilda's lips, almost
inaudible. He still listened--a pause in the tempest of grief which
shook Matilda's soul seemed to have taken place.

"Oh! Verezzi--cruel, unfeeling Verezzi!" exclaimed Matilda, as a
fierce paroxysm of passion seized her brain---"will you thus suffer
one who adores you, to linger in hopeless love, and witness the
excruciating agony of one who idolises you, as I do, to madness?"

As she spoke thus, a long-drawn sigh closed the sentence.

Verezzi's mind was agitated by various emotions as he stood; but
rushing in at last, raised Matilda in his arms, and tenderly attempted
to comfort her.

She started as he entered--she heeded not his words; but, seemingly
overcome by shame, cast herself at his feet, and hid her face in his
robe.

He tenderly raised her, and his expressions convinced her, that the
reward of all her anxiety was now about to be reaped.

The most triumphant anticipation of transports to come filled her
bosom; yet, knowing it to be necessary to dissemble---knowing that a
shameless claim on his affections would but disgust Verezzi, she
said--

"Oh! Verezzi, forgive me: supposing myself to be alone--supposing no
one overheard the avowal of the secret of my soul, with which, believe
me, I never more intended to have importuned you, what shameless
sentiments--shameless even in solitude--have I not given vent to. I
can no longer conceal, that the passion with which I adore you is
unconquerable, irresistible: but, I conjure you, think not upon what
you have this moment heard to my disadvantage; nor despise a weak
unhappy creature, who feels it impossible to overcome the fatal
passion which consumes her.

"Never more will I give vent, even in solitude, to my love--never more
shall the importunities of the hapless Matilda reach your ears. To
conquer a passion fervent, tender as mine, is impossible."

As she thus spoke, Matilda, seemingly overcome by shame, sank upon the
turf.

A sentiment stronger than gratitude, more ardent than esteem, and more
tender than admiration, softened Verezzi's heart as he raised Matilda.
Her symmetrical from shone with tenfold loveliness to his heated
fancy: inspired with sudden fondness, he cast himself at her feet.

A Lethean torpor crept upon his senses; and, as he lay prostrate
before Matilda, a total forgetfulness of every former event of his
life swam in his dizzy brain. In passionate exclamations he avowed
unbounded love.

"Oh, Matilda! dearest, angelic Matilda!" exclaimed Verezzi, "I am even
now unconscious what blinded me---what kept me from acknowledging my
adoration of thee!--adoration never to be changed by circumstances--
never effaced by time."

The fire of voluptuous, of maddening love, scorched his veins, as he
caught the transported Matilda in his arms, and, in accents almost
inarticulate with passion, swore eternal fidelity.

"And accept my oath of everlasting allegiance to thee, adored
Verezzi," exclaimed Matilda: "accept my vows of eternal, indissoluble
love."

Verezzi's whole frame was agitated by unwonted and ardent emotions. He
called Matilda his wife--in the delirium of sudden fondness he clasped
her to his bosom--"and though love like ours," exclaimed the
infatuated Verezzi, "wants not the vain ties of human laws, yet, that
our love may want not any sanction which could possibly be given to
it, let immediate orders be given for the celebration of our union."

Matilda exultingly consented: never had she experienced sensations of
delight like these: the feelings of her soul flushed in exulting
glances from her fiery eyes. Fierce, transporting triumph filled her
soul as she gazed on her victim, whose mildly-beaming eyes were now
characterised by a voluptuous expression. Her heart beat high with
transport; and, as they entered the castella, the swelling emotions of
her bosom were too tumultuous for utterance.

Wild with passion, she clasped Verezzi to her beating breast; and,
overcome by an ecstasy of delirious passion, her senses were whirled
around in confused and inexpressible delight. A new and fierce passion
raged likewise in Verezzi's breast: he returned her embrace with
ardour, and clasped her in fierce transports.

But the adoration with which he now regarded Matilda, was a different
sentiment from that chaste and mild emotion which had characterised
his love for Julia: that passion, which he had fondly supposed would
end but with his existence, was effaced by the arts of another.

Now was Matilda's purpose attained---the next day would behold her his
bride---the next day would behold her fondest purpose accomplished.

With the most eager impatience, the fiercest anticipation of
transport, did she wait for its arrival.

Slowly passed the day, and slowly did the clock toll each lingering
hour as it rolled away.

The following morning at last arrived: Matilda arose from a sleepless
couch---fierce, transporting triumph, flashed from her eyes as she
embraced her victim. He returned it--he called her his dear and ever-
beloved spouse; and, in all the transports of maddening love, declared
his impatience for the arrival of the monk who was to unite them.
Every blandishment---every thing which might dispel reflection, was
this day put in practice by Matilda.

The monk at last arrived: the fatal ceremony---fatal to the peace of
Verezzi---was performed.

A magnificent feast had been previously arranged; every luxurious
viand, every expensive wine, which might contribute to heighten
Matilda's triumph, was present in profusion.

Matilda's joy, her soul-felt triumph, was too great for utterance--too
great for concealment. The exultation of her inmost soul flashed in
expressive glances from her scintillating eyes, expressive of joy
intense--unutterable.

Animated with excessive delight, she started from the table, and,
seizing Verezzi's hand, in a transport of inconceivable bliss, dragged
him in wild sport and varied movements, to the sound of swelling and
soul-touching melody.

"Come, my Matilda," at last exclaimed Verezzi, "come, I am weary of
transport--sick with excess of unutterable pleasure: let us retire,
and retrace in dreams the pleasures of the day."

Little did Verezzi think that this day was the basis of his future
misery: little did he think that, amid the roses of successful and
licensed voluptuousness, regret, horror, and despair would arise, to
blast the prospects which, Julia being forgot, appeared so fair, so
ecstatic.

The morning came.--Inconceivable emotions--inconceivable to those who
have never felt them--dilated Matilda's soul with an ecstasy of
inexpressible bliss: every barrier to her passion was thrown down--
every opposition conquered; still was her bosom the scene of fierce
and contending passions.

Though in possession of every thing which her fancy had portrayed with
such excessive delight, she was far from feeling that innocent and
clam pleasure which soothes the soul, and, calming each violent
emotion, fills it with a serene happiness. No--her brain was whirled
around in transports; fierce, confused transports of visionary and
unreal bliss: though her every pulse, her every nerve, panted with the
delight of gratified and expectant desire; still was she not happy;
she enjoyed not that tranquillity which is necessary to the existence
of happiness.

In this temper of mind, for a short period she left Verezzi, as she
had appointed a meeting with her coadjutor in wickedness.

She soon met him.

"I need not ask," exclaimed Zastrozzi, "for well do I see, in those
triumphant glances, that Verezzi is thine; that the plan which we
concerted when last we met, has put you in possession of that which
your soul panted for."

"Oh! Zastrozzi!" said Matilda,--"kind, excellent Zastrozzi; what words
can express the gratitude which I feel towards you--what words can
express the bliss exquisite, celestial, which I owe to your advice;
yet still, amid the roses of successful love--amid the ecstasies of
transporting voluptuousness--fear, blighting chilly fear, damps my
hopes of happiness. Julia, the hated, accursed Julia's image, is the
phantom which scares my otherwise certain confidence of eternal
delight: could she but be hurled to destruction---could some other
artifice of my friend sweep her from the number of the living--"

"'Tis enough, Matilda," interrupted Zastrozzi; "'tis enough: in six
days hence meet me here; meanwhile, let not any corroding
anticipations destroy your present happiness: fear not; but, on the
arrival of your faithful Zastrozzi, expect the earnest of the
happiness which you wish to enjoy for ever."

Thus saying, Zastrozzi departed, and Matilda retraced her steps to her
castella.

Amid the delight, the ecstasy, for which her soul had so long panted--
amid the embraces of him whom she had fondly supposed alone to
constitute all terrestrial happiness, racking, corroding thoughts
possessed Matilda's bosom.

Deeply musing on schemes of future delight--delight established by the
gratification of most diabolical revenge, her eyes fixed upon the
ground, heedless what path she pursued, Matilda advanced along the
forest.

A voice aroused her from her reverie---it was Verezzi's--the well-
known, the tenderly-adored tone, struck upon her senses forcibly: she
started, and, hastening towards him, soon allayed those fears which
her absence had excited in the fond heart of her spouse, and on which
account he had anxiously quitted the castella to search for her.

Joy, rapturous, ecstatic happiness, untainted by fear, unpolluted by
reflection, reigned for six days in Matilda's bosom.

Five days passed away, the sixth arrived, and, when the evening came,
Matilda, with eager and impatient steps, sought the forest.

The evening was gloomy, dense vapours overspread the air; the wind,
low and hollow, sighed mournfully in the gigantic pine trees, and
whispered in low hissings among the withered shrubs which grew on the
rocky prominences.

Matilda waited impatiently for the arrival of Zastrozzi. At last his
towering form emerged from an interstice in the rocks.

He advanced towards her.

"Success! Victory! my Matilda," exclaimed Zastrozzi, in an accent of
exultation---"Julia is--"

"You need add no more," interrupted Matilda: "kind, excellent
Zastrozzi, I thank thee; but yet do say how you destroyed her--tell me
by what racking, horrible torments, you launched her soul into
eternity. Did she perish by the dagger's point? or did the torments of
poison send her, writhing in agony, to the tomb."

"Yes," replied Zastrozzi; "she fell at my feet, overpowered by
resistless convulsions. Who more ready than myself to restore the
Marchesa's fleeted senses---who more ready than myself to account for
her fainting, by observing, that the heat of the assembly had
momentarily overpowered her. But Julia's senses were fled for ever;
and it was not until the swiftest gondola in Venice had borne me far
towards your castella, that il consiglio di dieci searched for,
without discovering the offender.

"Here I must remain; for, were I discovered, the fatal consequences to
us both are obvious. Farewell for the present," added he, "meanwhile
happiness attend you; but go not to Venice."

"Where have you been so late, my love?" tenderly inquired Verezzi as
she returned. "I fear lest the night air, particularly that of so damp
an evening as this, might affect your health."

"No, no, my dearest Verezzi, it has not," hesitatingly answered
Matilda.

"You seem pensive, you seem melancholy, my Matilda," said Verezzi:
"lay open your heart to me. I am afraid something, of which I am
ignorant, presses upon your bosom.

"Is it the solitude of this remote castella which represses the
natural gaiety of your soul? Shall we go to Venice?"

"Oh! no, no!" hastily and eagerly interrupted Matilda: "not to
Venice--we must not go to Venice."

Verezzi was slightly surprised, but imputing her manner to
indisposition, it passed off.

Unmarked by events of importance, a month passed away. Matilda's
passion, unallayed by satiety, unconquered by time, still raged with
its former fierceness---still was every earthly delight centred in
Verezzi; and, in the air-drawn visions of her imagination, she
portrayed to herself that this happiness would last for ever.

It was one evening that Verezzi and Matilda sat, happy in the society
of each other, that a servant entering, presented the latter with a
sealed paper.

The contents were: "Matilda Contessa di Laurentini is summoned to
appear before the holy inquisition--to appear before its tribunal,
immediately on the receipt of this summons."

Matilda's cheek, as she read it, was blanched with terror. The
summons---the fatal, irresistible summons, struck her with chilly awe.
She attempted to thrust it into her bosom; but, unable to conceal her
terror, she essayed to rush from the apartment--but it was in vain:
her trembling limbs refused to support her, and she sank fainting on
the floor.

Verezzi raised her--he restored her fleeting senses; he cast himself
at her feet, and in the tenderest, most pathetic accents, demanded the
reason of her alarm. "And if," said he, "it is any thing of which I
have unconsciously been guilty--if it is any thing in my conduct which
has offended you, oh! how soon, how truly would I repent. Dearest
Matilda, I adore you to madness: tell me then quickly--confide in one
who loves you as I do."

"Rise, Verezzi," exclaimed Matilda, in a tone expressive of serene
horror: "and since the truth can no longer be concealed, peruse that
letter."

She presented him the fatal summons. He eagerly snatched it:
breathless with impatience, he opened it. But what words can express
the consternation of the affrighted Verezzi, as the summons,
mysterious and inexplicable to him, pressed upon his straining eye-
ball. For an instant he stood fixed in mute and agonising thought. At
last, in the forced serenity of despair, he demanded what was to be
done.

Matilda answered not; for her soul, borne on the pinions of
anticipation, at that instant portrayed to itself ignominious and
agonising dissolution.

"What is to be done?" again, in a deeper tone of despair, demanded
Verezzi.

"We must instantly to Venice," returned Matilda, collecting her
scattered faculties: "we must to Venice; there, I believe, we may be
safe. But in some remote corner of the city we must for the present
fix our habitations: we must condescend to curtail our establishment;
and, above all, we must avoid particularity. But will my Verezzi
descend from the rank of life in which his birth has placed him, and
with the outcast Matilda's fortunes quit grandeur?"

"Matilda! dearest Matilda!" exclaimed Verezzi, "talk not thus; you
know I am ever yours; you know I love you, and with you, could
conceive a cottage elysium."

Matilda's eyes flushed with momentary triumph as Verezzi spoke thus,
amid the alarming danger which impended her: under the displeasure of
the inquisition, whose motives for prosecution are inscrutable, whose
decrees are without appeal, her soul, in the possession of all it held
dear on earth, secure of Verezzi's affection, thrilled with
pleasurable emotions, yet not unmixed with alarm.

She now prepared to depart. Taking, therefore, out of all her
domestics, but the faithful Ferdinand, Matilda, accompanied by
Verezzi, although the evening was far advanced, threw herself into a
chariot, and leaving every one at the castella unacquainted with her
intentions, took the road through the forest which led to Venice.

The convent bell, almost inaudible from distance, tolled ten as the
carriage slowly ascended a steep which rose before it.

"But how do you suppose, my Matilda," said Verezzi, "that it will be
possible for us to evade the scrutiny of the inquisition?"

"Oh!" returned Matilda, "we must not appear in our true characters--we
must disguise them."

"But," inquired Verezzi, "what crime do you suppose the inquisition to
allege against you?"

"Heresy, I suppose," said Matilda. "You know, an enemy has nothing to
do but lay an accusation of heresy against any unfortunate and
innocent individual, and the victim expires in horrible tortures, or
lingers the wretched remnant of his life in dark and solitary cells."

A convulsive sigh heaved Verezzi's bosom.

"And is that then to be my Matilda's destiny?" he exclaimed in horror.
"No---Heaven will never permit such excellence to suffer."

Meanwhile they had arrived at the Brenta. The Brenta's stream glided
silently beneath the midnight breeze towards the Adriatic.

Towering poplars, which loftily raised their spiral forms on its bank,
cast a gloomier shade upon the placid wave.

Matilda and Verezzi entered a gondola, and the grey tints of
approaching morn had streaked the eastern ether, before they entered
the grand canal at Venice; and passing the Rialto, proceeded onwards
to a small, though not inelegant mansion, in the eastern suburbs.

Every thing here, though not grand, was commodious; and as they
entered it, Verezzi expressed his approbation of living here retired.

Seemingly secure from the scrutiny of the inquisition, Matilda and
Verezzi passed some days of uninterrupted happiness.

At last, one evening Verezzi, tired even with monotony of ecstasy,
proposed to Matilda to take the gondola, and go to a festival which
was to be celebrated at St. Mark's Place.



CHAPTER XIV.



The evening was serene.--Fleecy clouds floated on the horizon--the
moon's full orb, in cloudless majesty, hung high in air, and was
reflected in silver brilliancy by every wave of the Adriatic, as,
gently agitated by the evening breeze, they dashed against innumerable
gondolas which crowded the Laguna.

Exquisite harmony, borne on the pinions of the tranquil air, floated
in varying murmurs: it sometimes died away, and then again swelling
louder, in melodious undulations softened to pleasure every listening
ear.

Every eye which gazed on the fairy scene beamed with pleasure;
unrepressed gaiety filled every heart but Julia's, as with a vacant
stare, unmoved by feelings of pleasure, unagitated by the gaiety which
filled every other soul, she contemplated the varied scene. A
magnificent gondola carried the Marchesa di Strobazzo; and the
innumerable flambeaux which blazed around her rivalled the meridian
sun.

It was the pensive, melancholy Julia, who, immersed in thought, sat
unconscious of every external object, whom the fierce glance of
Matilda measured with a haughty expression of surprise and revenge.
The dark fire which flashed from her eye, more than told the feelings
of her soul, as she fixed it on her rival; and had it possessed the
power of the basilisk's, Julia would have expired on the spot.

It was the ethereal form of the now forgotten Julia which first caught
Verezzi's eye. For an instant he gazed with surprise upon her
symmetrical figure, and was about to point her out to Matilda, when,
in the downcast countenance of the enchanting female, he recognised
his long-lost Julia.

To paint the feelings of Verezzi--as Julia raised her head from the
attitude in which it was fixed, and disclosed to his view that
countenance which he had formerly gazed on in ecstasy, the index of
that soul to which he had sworn everlasting fidelity--is impossible.

The Lethean torpor, as it were, which before had benumbed him; the
charm, which had united him to Matilda, was dissolved.

All the air-built visions of delight, which had but a moment before
floated in gay variety in his enraptured imagination, faded away, and,
in place of these, regret, horror, and despairing repentance, reared
their heads amid the roses of momentary voluptuousness.

He still gazed entranced, but Julia's gondola, indistinct from
distance, mocked his straining eyeball.

For a time neither spoke: the gondola rapidly passed onwards, but,
immersed in thought, Matilda and Verezzi heeded not its rapidity.

They had arrived at St. Mark's Place, and the gondolier's voice, as he
announced it, was the first interruption of the silence.

They started.--Verezzi now, for the first time, aroused from his
reverie of horror, saw that the scene before him was real; and that
the oaths of fidelity which he had so often and so fervently sworn to
Julia were broken.

The extreme of horror seized his brain---a frigorific torpidity of
despair chilled every sense, and his eyes, fixedly, gazed on vacancy.

"Oh! return--instantly return!" impatiently replied Matilda to the
question of the gondolier.

The gondolier, surprised, obeyed her, and they returned.

The spacious canal was crowded with gondolas; merriment and splendour
reigned around, enchanting harmony stole over the scene; but, listless
of the music, heeding not the splendour, Matilda sat lost in a maze of
thought.

Fiercest vengeance revelled through her bosom, and, in her own mind,
she resolved a horrible purpose.

Meanwhile, the hour was late, the moon had gained the zenith, and
poured her beams vertically on the unruffled Adriatic, when the
gondola stopped before Matilda's mansion.

A sumptuous supper had been prepared for their return. Silently
Matilda entered--silently Verezzi followed.

Without speaking, Matilda seated herself at the supper table: Verezzi,
with an air of listlessness, threw himself into a chair beside her.

For a time neither spoke.

"You are not well to-night," at last stammered out Verezzi: "what has
disturbed you?"

"Disturbed me!" repeated Matilda: "why do you suppose that any thing
has disturbed me?"

A more violent paroxysm of horror seemed now to seize Verezzi's brain.
He pressed his hand to his burning forehead---the agony of his mind
was too great to be concealed--Julia's form, as he had last seen her,
floated in his fancy, and, overpowered by the resistlessly horrible
ideas which pressed upon them, his senses failed him: he faintly
uttered Julia's name--he sank forward, and his throbbing temples
reclined on the table.

"Arise! awake! prostrate, perjured Verezzi, awake!" exclaimed the
infuriate Matilda, in a tone of gloomy horror.

Verezzi started up, and gazed with surprise upon the countenance of
Matilda, which, convulsed by passion, flashed desperation and revenge.

"'Tis plain," said Matilda, gloomily, "'tis plain, he loves me not."

A confusion of contending emotions battled in Verezzi's bosom: his
marriage vow--his faith plighted to Matilda--convulsed his soul with
indescribable agony.

Still did she possess a great empire over his soul--still was her
frown terrible--and still did the hapless Verezzi tremble at the tones
of her voice, as, in a phrensy of desperate passion, she bade him quit
her for ever: "And," added she, "go, disclose the retreat of the
outcast Matilda to her enemies; deliver me to the inquisition, that a
union with her you detest may fetter you no longer."

Exhausted by breathless agitation, Matilda ceased: the passions of her
soul flashed from her eyes; ten thousand conflicting emotions battled
in Verezzi's bosom; he knew scarce what to do; but, yielding to the
impulse of the moment, he cast himself at Matilda's feet, and groaned
deeply.

At last the words, "I am ever yours, I ever shall be yours," escaped
his lips.

For a time Matilda stood immoveable. At last she looked on Verezzi;
she gazed downwards upon his majestic and youthful figure; she looked
upon his soul-illumined countenance, and tenfold love assailed her
softened soul. She raised him---in an oblivious delirium of sudden
fondness she clasped him to her bosom, and, in wild and hurried
expressions, asserted her right to his love.

Her breast palpitated with fiercest emotions; she pressed her burning
lips to his; most fervent, most voluptuous sensations of ecstasy
revelled through her bosom.

Verezzi caught the infection; in an instant of oblivion, every oath of
fidelity which he had sworn to another, like a baseless cloud,
dissolved away; a Lethean torpor crept over his senses; he forgot
Julia, or remembered her only as an uncertain vision, which floated
before his fancy more as an ideal being of another world, whom he
might hereafter adore there, than as an enchanting and congenial
female, to whom his oaths of eternal fidelity had been given.

Overcome by unutterable transports of returning bliss, she started
from his embrace---she seized his hand--her face was overspread with a
heightened colour as she pressed it to her lips.

"And are you then mine--mine for ever?" rapturously exclaimed Matilda.

"Oh! I am thine--thine to all eternity," returned the infatuated
Verezzi: "no earthly power shall sever us; joined by congeniality of
soul, united by a bond to which God himself bore witness."

He again clasped her to his bosom---again, as an earnest of fidelity,
imprinted a fervent kiss on her glowing cheek; and, overcome by the
violent and resistless emotions of the moment, swore, that nor heaven
nor hell should cancel the union which he here solemnly and
unequivocally renewed.

Verezzi filled an overflowing goblet.

"Do you love me?" inquired Matilda.

"May the lightning of heaven consume me, if I adore thee not to
distraction! may I be plunged in endless torments, if my love for
thee, celestial Matilda, endures not for ever!"

Matilda's eyes flashed fiercest triumph; the exultingly delightful
feelings of her soul were too much for utterance--she spoke not, but
gazed fixedly on Verezzi's countenance.



CHAPTER XV.



That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it. Come to my woman's breasts.
And take my milk for gall, ye murd'ring ministers.
Wherever, in your sightless substances.
Ye wait on nature's mischief.
--Macbeth.

Verezzi raised the goblet which he had just filled, and exclaimed, in
an impassioned tone--

"My adored Matilda! this is to thy happiness--this is to thy every
wish; and if I cherish a single thought which centres not in thee, may
the most horrible tortures which ever poisoned the peace of man, drive
me instantly to distraction. God of heaven! witness thou my oath, and
write it in letters never to be erased! Ministering spirits, who watch
over the happiness of mortals, attend! for here I swear eternal
fidelity, indissoluble, unalterable affection to Matilda!"

He said--he raised his eyes towards heaven--he gazed upon Matilda.
Their eyes met--hers gleamed with a triumphant expression of unbounded
love.

Verezzi raised the goblet to his lips---when, lo! on a sudden he
dashed it to the ground--his whole frame was shook by horrible
convulsions--his glaring eyes, starting from their sockets, rolled
wildly around: seized with sudden madness, he drew a dagger from his
girdle, and with fellest intent raised it high--

What phantom blasted Verezzi's eyeball! what made the impassioned
lover dash a goblet to the ground, which he was about to drain as a
pledge of eternal love to the choice of his soul! and why did he,
infuriate, who had, but an instant before, imagined Matilda's arms an
earthly paradise, attempt to rush unprepared into the presence of his
Creator!--It was the mildly-beaming eyes of the lovely but forgotten
Julia, which spoke reproaches to the soul of Verezzi--it was her
celestial countenance, shaded by dishevelled ringlets, which spoke
daggers to the false one; for, when he had raised the goblet to his
lips--when, sublimed by the maddening fire of voluptuousness to the
height of enthusiastic passion, he swore indissoluble fidelity to
another---Julia stood before him!

Madness--fiercest madness--revelled through his brain. He raised the
poniard high, but Julia rushed forwards, and, in accents of
desperation, in a voice of alarmed tenderness, besought him to spare
the dagger from his bosom--it was stained with his life's-blood, which
trickled fast from the point to the floor. She raised it on high, and
impiously called upon the God of nature to doom her to endless
torments, should Julia survive her vengeance.

She advanced towards her victim, who lay bereft of sense on the floor:
she shook her rudely, and grasping a handful of her dishevelled hair,
raised her from the earth.

"Knowest thou me?" exclaimed Matilda, in frantic passion--"knowest
thou the injured Laurentini? Behold this dagger, reeking with my
husband's blood--behold that pale corse, in whose now cold breast, thy
accursed image revelling, impelled to commit the deed which deprives
me of happiness for ever."

Julia's senses, roused by Matilda's violence, returned. She cast her
eyes upwards, with a timid expression of apprehension, and beheld the
infuriate Matilda convulsed by fiercest passion, and a blood-stained
dagger raised aloft, threatening instant death.

"Die! detested wretch," exclaimed Matilda, in a paroxysm of rage, as
she violently attempted to bathe the stiletto in the life-blood of her
rival; but Julia starting aside, the weapon slightly wounded her neck,
and the ensanguined stream stained her alabaster bosom.

She fell on the floor, but suddenly starting up, attempted to escape
her bloodthirsty persecutor.

Nerved anew by this futile attempt to escape her vengeance, the
ferocious Matilda seized Julia's floating hair, and holding her back
with fiend-like strength, stabbed her in a thousand places; and, with
exulting pleasure, again and again buried the dagger to the hilt in
her body, even after all remains of life were annihilated.

At last the passions of Matilda, exhausted by their own violence, sank
into a deadly calm: she threw the dagger violently from her, and
contemplated the terrific scene before her with a sullen gaze.

Before her, in the arms of death, lay him on whom her hopes of
happiness seemed to have formed so firm a basis.

Before her lay her rival, pierced with innumerable wounds, whose head
reclined on Verezzi's bosom, and whose angelic features, even in
death, a smile of affection pervaded.

There she herself stood, an isolated guilty being. A fiercer paroxysm
of passion now seized her: in an agony of horror, too great to be
described, she tore her hair in handfuls--she blasphemed the power who
had given her being, and imprecated eternal torments upon the mother
who had born her.

"And is it for this," added the ferocious Matilda--"is it for horror,
for torments such as these, that He, whom monks call all-merciful, has
created me?"

She seized the dagger which lay on the floor.

"Ah! friendly dagger," she exclaimed, in a voice of fiend-like horror,
"would that thy blow produced annihilation! with what pleasure then
would I clasp thee to my heart!"

She raised it high--she gazed on it---the yet warm blood of the
innocent Julia trickled from its point.

The guilty Matilda shrunk at death---she let fall the up-raised
dagger--her sou had caught a glimpse of the misery which awaits the
wicked hereafter, and, spite of her contempt of religion--spite of
her, till now, too firm dependence on the doctrines of atheism, she
trembled at futurity; and a voice from within which whispers "thou
shalt never die!" spoke daggers to Matilda's soul.

Whilst thus she stood entranced in a delirium of despair, the night
wore away, and the domestic who attended her, surprised at the unusual
hour to which they had prolonged the banquet, came to announce the
lateness of the hour; but opening the door, and perceiving Matilda's
garments stained with blood, she started back with affright, without
knowing the full extent of horror which the chamber contained, and
alarmed the other domestics with an account that Matilda had been
stabbed.

In a crowd they all came to the door, but started back in terror when
they saw Verezzi and Julia stretched lifeless on the floor.

Summoning fortitude from despair, Matilda loudly called for them to
return; but fear and horror overbalanced her commands, and, wild with
affright, they all rushed from the chamber, except Ferdinand, who
advanced to Matilda, and demanded an explanation.

Matilda gave it, in few and hurried words.

Ferdinand again quitted the apartment, and told the credulous
domestics, that an unknown female had surprised Verezzi and Matilda;
that she had stabbed Verezzi, and then committed suicide.

The crowd of servants, as in mute terror they listened to Ferdinand's
account, entertained not a doubt of the truth.---Again and again they
demanded an explanation of the mysterious affair, and employed their
wits in conjecturing what might be the cause of it; but the more they
conjectured, the more were they puzzled; till at last a clever fellow,
named Pietro, who, hating Ferdinand on account of the superior
confidence with which his lady treated him, and supposing more to be
concealed in this affair than met the ear, gave information to the
police, and, before morning, Matilda's dwelling was surrounded by a
party of officials belonging to il consiglio di dieci.

Loud shouts rent the air as the officials attempted the entrance.
Matilda still was in the apartment where, during the night, so bloody
a tragedy had been acted; still in speechless horror was she extended
on the sofa, when a loud rap at the door aroused the horror-tranced
wretch. She started from the sofa in wildest perturbation, and
listened attentively. Again was the noise repeated, and the officials
rushed in.

They searched every apartment; at last they entered that in which
Matilda, motionless with despair, remained.

Even the stern officials, hardy, unfeeling as they were, started back
with momentary horror as they beheld the fair countenance of the
murdered Julia; fair even in death, and her body disfigured with
numberless ghastly wounds.

"This cannot be suicide," muttered one, who, by his superior manner,
seemed to be their chief, as he raised the fragile form of Julia from
the ground, and the blood, scarcely yet cold, trickled from her
vestments.

"Put your orders in execution," added he.

Two officials advanced towards Matilda, who, standing apart with
seeming tranquillity, awaited their approach.

"What wish you with me?" exclaimed Matilda haughtily.

The officials answered not; but their chief, drawing a paper from his
vest, which contained an order for the arrest of Matilda La Contessa
di Laurentini, presented it to her.

She turned pale; but, without resistance, obeyed the mandate, and
followed the officials in silence to the canal, where a gondola
waited, and in a short time she was in the gloomy prisons of il
consiglio di dieci.

A little straw was the bed of the haughty Laurentini; a pitcher of
water and bread was her sustenance; gloom, horror, and despair
pervaded her soul: all the pleasures which she had but yesterday
tasted; all the ecstatic blisses which her enthusiastic soul had
painted for futurity, like the unreal vision of a dream, faded away;
and, confined in a damp and narrow cell, Matilda saw that all her
hopes of future delight would end in speedy and ignominious
dissolution.

Slow passed the time--slow did the clock at St. Mark's toll the
revolving hours as languidly they passed away.

Night came on, and the hour of midnight struck upon Matilda's soul as
her death knell.

A noise was heard in the passage which led to the prison.

Matilda raised her head from the wall against which it was reclined,
and eagerly listened, as if in expectation of an event which would
seal her future fate. She still gazed, when the chains of the entrance
were unlocked. The door, as it opened, grated harshly on its hinges,
and two officials entered.

"Follow me," was the laconic injunction which greeted her terror-
struck ear.

Trembling, Matilda arose: her limbs, stiffened by confinement, almost
refused to support her; but collecting fortitude from desperation, she
followed the relentless officials in silence.

One of them bore a lamp, whose rays darting in uncertain columns,
showed, by strong contrasts of light and shade, the extreme massiness
of the passages.

The Gothic frieze above was worked with art; and the corbels, in
various and grotesque forms, jutted from the tops of clustered
pilasters.

They stopped at a door. Voices were heard from within: their hollow
tones filled Matilda's soul with unconquerable tremours. But she
summoned all her resolution---she resolved to be collected during the
trial; and even, if sentenced to death, to meet her fate with
fortitude, that the populace, as they gazed, might not exclaim--"The
poor Laurentini dared not to die."

These thoughts were passing in her mind during the delay which was
occasioned by the officials conversing with another whom they met
there.

At last they ceased--an uninterrupted silence reigned: the immense
folding doors were thrown open, and disclosed to Matilda's view a vast
and lofty apartment. In the centre, was a table, which a lamp,
suspended from the centre, overhung, and where two stern-looking men,
habited in black vestments, were seated.

Scattered papers covered the table, with which the two men in black
seemed busily employed.

Two officials conducted Matilda to the table where they sat, and,
retiring, left her there.



CHAPTER XVI.



Fear, for their scourge, mean villains have;
Thou art the torturer of the brave.
--Marmion.

One of the inquisitors raised his eyes; he put back the papers which
he was examining, and in a solemn tone asked her name.

"My name is Matilda; my title La Contessa di Laurentini," haughtily
she answered; "nor do I know the motive for that inquiry, except it
were to exult over my miseries, which you are, I suppose, no stranger
to."

"Waste not your time," exclaimed the inquisitor sternly, "in making
idle conjectures upon our conduct; but do you know for what you are
summoned here?"

"No," replied Matilda.

"Swear that you know not for what crime you are here imprisoned," said
the inquisitor.

Matilda took the oath required. As she spoke, a dewy sweat burst from
her brow, and her limbs were convulsed by the extreme of horror, yet
the expression of her countenance was changed not.

"What crime have you committed which might subject you to the notice
of this tribunal?" demanded he, in a determined tone of voice.

Matilda gave no answer, save a smile of exulting scorn. She fixed her
regards upon the inquisitor: her dark eyes flashed fiercely, but she
spoke not.

"Answer me," exclaimed he, "what to confess might save both of us
needless trouble."

Matilda answered not, but gazed in silence upon the inquisitor's
countenance.

He stamped thrice--four officials rushed in, and stood at some
distance from Matilda.

"I am unwilling," said the inquisitor, "to treat a female of high
birth with indignity; but if you confess not instantly, my duty will
not permit me to withhold the question."

A deeper expression of contempt shaded Matilda's beautiful
countenance: she frowned, but answered not.

"You will persist in this foolish obstinacy?" exclaimed the
inquisitor.--"Officials, do your duty."

Instantly the four, who till now had stood in the back-ground, rushed
forwards: they seized Matilda, and bore her into the obscurity of the
apartment.

Her dishevelled ringlets floated in negligent luxuriance over her
alabaster bosom: her eyes, the contemptuous glance of which had now
given way to a confused expression of alarm, were almost closed; and
her symmetrical form, as borne away by the four officials, looked
interestingly lovely.

The other inquisitor, who, till now, busied by the papers which lay
before him, had heeded not Matilda's examination, raised his eyes, and
beholding the form of a female, with a commanding tone of voice,
called to the officials to stop.

Submissively they obeyed his order.---Matilda, released from the fell
hands of these relentless ministers of justice, advanced to the table.

Her extreme beauty softened the inquisitor who had spoken last. He
little thought that, under a form so celestial, so interesting, lurked
a heart depraved, vicious as a demon's.

He therefore mildly addressed her; and telling her that, on some
future day, her examination would be renewed, committed her to the
care of the officials, with orders to conduct her to an apartment
better suited to her rank.

The chamber to which she followed the officials was spacious and well
furnished, but large iron bars secured the windows, which were high,
and impossible to be forced.

Left again to solitude, again to her own gloomy thoughts--her
retrospection but horror and despair--her hopes of futurity none--her
fears many and horrible--Matilda's situation is better conceived than
described.

Floating in wild confusion, the ideas which presented themselves to
her imagination were too horrible for endurance.

Deprived, as she was, of all earthly happiness, fierce as had been her
passion for Verezzi, the disappointment of which sublimed her brain to
the most infuriate delirium of resistless horror, the wretched Matilda
still shrunk at death--she shrunk at the punishment of those crimes,
in whose perpetration no remorse had touched her soul, for which, even
now, she repented not, but as they had deprived her of terrestrial
enjoyments.

She thought upon the future state---she thought upon the arguments of
Zastrozzi against the existence of a Deity: her inmost soul now
acknowledged their falsehood, and she shuddered as she reflected that
her condition was irretrievable.

Resistless horror revelled through her bosom: in an intensity of
racking thought she rapidly paced the apartment; at last, overpowered,
she sank upon a sofa.

At last the tumultuous passions, exhausted by their own violence,
subsided: the storm, which so lately had agitated Matilda's soul,
ceased; a serene calm succeeded, and sleep quickly overcame her
faculties.

Confused visions flitted in Matilda's imagination whilst under the
influence of sleep; at last they assumed a settled shape.

Strangely brilliant and silvery clouds seemed to flit before her
sight: celestial music, enchanting as the harmony of the spheres,
serened Matilda's soul, and, for an instant, her situation forgotten,
she lay entranced.

On a sudden the music ceased; the azure concavity of heaven seemed to
open at the zenith, and a being, whose countenance beamed with
unutterable beneficence, descended.

It seemed to be clothed in a transparent robe of flowing silver: its
eye scintillated with super-human brilliancy, whilst her dream,
imitating reality almost to exactness, caused the entranced Matilda to
suppose that it addressed her in these words:--

"Poor sinning Matilda! repent, it is not yet too late.--God's mercy is
unbounded.---Repent! and thou mayest yet be saved."

These words yet tingled in Matilda's ears; yet were her eyes lifted to
heaven, as if following the visionary phantom who had addressed her in
her dream, when, much confused, she arose from the sofa.

A dream so like reality made a strong impression upon Matilda's soul.

The ferocious passions, which so lately had battled fiercely in her
bosom, were calmed: she lifted her eyes to heaven: they beamed with an
expression of sincerest penitence; for sincerest penitence, at this
moment, agonised whilst it calmed Matilda's soul.

"God of mercy! God of heaven!" exclaimed Matilda; "my sins are many
and horrible, but I repent."

Matilda knew not how to pray; but God, who from the height of heaven
penetrates the inmost thoughts of terrestrial hearts, heard the
outcast sinner, as in tears of true and agonising repentance she knelt
before him.

She despaired no longer--She confided in the beneficence of her
Creator; and, in the hour of adversity, when the firmest heart must
tremble at his power, no longer a hardened sinner, demanded mercy. And
mercy, by the All-benevolent of heaven, is never refused to those who
humbly, yet trusting in his goodness, ask it.

Matilda's soul was filled with a celestial tranquillity. She remained
upon her knees in mute and fervent thought: she prayed; and, with
trembling, asked forgiveness of her Creator.

No longer did that agony of despair torture her bosom. True, she was
ill at ease: remorse for her crimes deeply affected her; and though
her hopes of salvation were great, her belief in God and a future
state firm, the heavy sighs which burst from her bosom, showed that
the arrows of repentance had penetrated deeply.

Several days passed away, during which the conflicting passions of
Matilda's soul, conquered by penitence, were mellowed into a fixed and
quiet depression.



CHAPTER XVII.



Si fractus illabatur orbis.
Impavidum ferient ruin
--Horace.

At last the day arrived, when, exposed to a public trial, Matilda was
conducted to the tribunal of il consiglio di dieci.

The inquisitors were not, as before, at a table in the middle of the
apartment; but a sort of throne was raised at one end, on which a
stern-looking man, whom she had never seen before, sat: a great number
of Venetians were assembled, and lined all sides of the apartment.

Many, in black vestments, were arranged behind the superior's throne;
among whom Matilda recognised those who had before examined her.

Conducted by two officials, with a faltering step, a pallid cheek, and
downcast eye, Matilda advanced to that part of the chamber where sat
the superior.

The dishevelled ringlets of her hair floated unconfined over her
shoulders: her symmetrical and elegant form was enveloped in a thin
white robe.

The expression of her sparkling eyes was downcast and humble; yet,
seemingly unmoved by the scene before her, she remained in silence at
the tribunal.

The curiosity and pity of every one, as they gazed on the loveliness
of the beautiful culprit, was strongly excited.

"Who is she? who is she?" ran in inquiring whispers round the
apartment.---No one could tell.

Again deep silence reigned--not a whisper interrupted the appalling
calm.

At last the superior, in a sternly solemn voice, said--

"Matilda Contessa di Laurentini, you are here arraigned on the murder
of La Marchesa di Strobazzo: canst thou deny it? canst thou prove to
the contrary? My ears are open to conviction. Does no one speak for
the accused?"

He ceased: uninterrupted silence reigned. Again he was about--again,
with a look of detestation and horror, he had fixed his penetrating
eye upon the trembling Matilda, and had unclosed his mouth to utter
the fatal sentence, when his attention was arrested by a man who
rushed from the crowd, and exclaimed, in a hurried tone--

"La Contessa di Laurentini is innocent." "Who are you, who dare assert
that?" exclaimed the superior, with an air of doubt.

"I am," answered he, "Ferdinand Zeilnitz, a German, the servant of La
Contessa di Laurentini, and I dare assert that she is innocent."

"Your proof," exclaimed the superior, with a severe frown.

"It was late," answered Ferdinand, "when I entered the apartment, and
then I beheld two bleeding bodies, and La Contessa di Laurentini, who
lay bereft of sense on the sofa."

"Stop!" exclaimed the superior.

Ferdinand obeyed.

The superior whispered to one in black vestments, and soon four
officials entered, bearing on their shoulders an open coffin.

The superior pointed to the ground: the officials deposited their
burden, and produced, to the terror-struck eyes of the gazing
multitude, Julia, the lovely Julia, covered with innumerable and
ghastly gashes.

All present uttered a cry of terror--all started, shocked and amazed,
from the horrible sight; yet some, recovering themselves, gazed at the
celestial loveliness of the poor victim to revenge, which, unsubdued
by death, still shone from her placid features.

A deep-drawn sigh heaved Matilda's bosom; tears, spite of all her
firmness, rushed into her eyes; and she had nearly fainted with dizzy
horror; but, overcoming it, and collecting all her fortitude, she
advanced towards the corse of her rival, and, in the numerous wounds
which covered it, saw the fiat of her future destiny.

She still gazed on it--a deep silence reigned--not one of the
spectators, so interested were they, uttered a single word---not a
whisper was heard through the spacious apartment.

"Stand off! guilt-stained, relentless woman," at last exclaimed the
superior fiercely: "is it not enough that you have persecuted, through
life, the wretched female who lies before you--murdered by you? Cease,
therefore, to gaze on her with looks as if your vengeance was yet
insatiated. But retire, wretch: officials, take her into your custody;
meanwhile, bring the other prisoner."

Two officials rushed forward, and led Matilda to some distance from
the tribunal; four others entered, leading a man of towering height
and majestic figure. The heavy chains with which his legs were bound,
rattled as he advanced.

Matilda raised her eyes--Zastrozzi stood before her.

She rushed forwards--the officials stood unmoved.

"Oh, Zastrozzi!" she exclaimed---"dreadful, wicked has been the tenour
of our life; base, ignominious, will be its termination: unless we
repent, fierce, horrible, may be the eternal torments which will rack
us, ere four and twenty hours are elapsed. Repent then, Zastrozzi;
repent! and as you have been my companion in apostasy to virtue,
follow me likewise in dereliction of stubborn and determined
wickedness."

This was pronounced in a low and faltering voice.

"Matilda," replied Zastrozzi, whilst a smile of contemptuous atheism
played over his features--"Matilda, fear not: fate wills us to die:
and I intend to meet death, to encounter annihilation, with
tranquillity. Am I not convinced of the non-existence of a Deity? am I
not convinced that death will but render this soul more free, more
unfettered? Why need I then shudder at death? why need any one, whose
mind has risen above the shackles of prejudice, the errors of a false
and injurious superstition."

Here the superior interposed, and declared he could allow private
conversation no longer.

Quitting Matilda, therefore, Zastrozzi, unappalled by the awful scene
before him, unshaken by the near approach of agonising death, which he
now fully believed he was about to suffer, advanced towards the
superior's throne.

Every one gazed on the lofty stature of Zastrozzi, and admired his
dignified mein and dauntless composure, even more than they had the
beauty of Matilda.

Every one gazed in silence, and expected that some extraordinary
charge would be brought against him.

The name of Zastrozzi, pronounced by the superior, had already broken
the silence, when the culprit, gazing disdainfully on his judge, told
him to be silent, for he would spare him much needless trouble.

"I am a murderer," exclaimed Zastrozzi; "I deny it not: I buried my
dagger in the heart of him who injured me; but the motives which led
me to be an assassin were at once excellent and meritorious; for I
swore, at a loved mother's death-bed, to revenge her betrayer's
falsehood.

"Think you, that whilst I perpetrated the deed I feared the
punishment? or whilst I revenged a parent's cause, that the futile
torments which I am doomed to suffer here, had any weight in my
determination? No--no. If the vile deceiver, who brought my spotless
mother to a tomb of misery, fell beneath the dagger of one who swore
to revenge her---if I sent him to another world, who destroyed the
peace of one I loved more than myself in this, am I to be blamed?"

Zastrozzi ceased, and, with an expression of scornful triumph, folded
his arms.

"Go on!" exclaimed the superior.

"Go on! go on!" echoed from every part of the immense apartment.

He looked around him. His manner awed the tumultuous multitude; and,
in uninterrupted silence, the spectators gazed upon the unappalled
Zastrozzi, who, towering as a demi-god, stood in the midst.

"Am I then called upon," said he, "to disclose things which bring
painful remembrances to my mind? Ah! how painful! But no matter; you
shall know the name of him who fell beneath this arm: you shall know
him, whose memory, even now, I detest more than I can express. I care
not who knows my actions, convinced as I am, and convinced to all
eternity as I shall be, of their rectitude.--Know, then, that Olivia
Zastrozzi was my mother; a woman in whom every virtue, every amiable
and excellent quality, I firmly believe to have been centred.

"The father of him who by my arts committed suicide but six days ago
in La Contessa di Laurentini's mansion, took advantage of a moment of
weakness, and disgraced her who bore me. He swore with the most sacred
oaths to marry her--but he was false.

"My mother soon brought me into the world--the seducer married
another; and when the destitute Olivia begged a pittance to keep her
from starving, her proud betrayer spurned her from his door, and
tauntingly bade her exercise her profession.---The crime I committed
with thee, perjured one! exclaimed my mother as she left his door,
shall be my last!---and, by heavens! she acted nobly. A victim to
falsehood, she sank early to the tomb, and, ere her thirtieth year,
she died--her spotless soul fled to eternal happiness.--Never shall I
forget, though but fourteen when she died--never shall I forget her
last commands.--My son, said she, my Pietrino, revenge my wrongs---
revenge them on the perjured Verezzi---revenge them on his progeny for
ever.

"And, by heaven! I think I have revenged them. Ere I was twenty-four,
the false villain, though surrounded by seemingly impenetrable
grandeur; though forgetful of the offence to punish which this arm was
nerved, sank beneath my dagger. But I destroyed his body alone," added
Zastrozzi, with a terrible look of insatiated vengeance: "time has
taught me better: his son's soul is hell-doomed to all eternity: he
destroyed himself; but my machinations, though unseen, effected his
destruction.

"Matilda di Laurentini! Hah! why do you shudder?. When, with repeated
stabs, you destroyed her who now lies lifeless before you in her
coffin, did you not reflect upon what must be your fate? You have
enjoyed him whom you adored---you have even been married to him---and,
for the space of more than a month, have tasted unutterable joys, and
yet you are unwilling to pay the price of your happiness--by heavens I
am not!" added he, bursting into a wild laugh.---"Ah! poor fool,
Matilda, did you think it was from friendship I instructed you how to
gain Verezzi?--No, no--it was revenge which induced me to enter into
your schemes with zeal; which induced me to lead her, whose lifeless
form lies yonder, to your house, foreseeing the effect it would have
upon the strong passions of your husband.

"And now," added Zastrozzi, "I have been candid with you. Judge, pass
your sentence--but I know my doom; and, instead of horror, experience
some degree of satisfaction at the arrival of death, since all I have
to do on earth is completed."

Zastrozzi ceased; and, unappalled, fixed his expressive gaze upon the
superior.

Surprised at Zastrozzi's firmness, and shocked at the crimes of which
he had made so unequivocal an avowal, the superior turned away in
horror.

Still Zastrozzi stood unmoved, and fearlessly awaited the fiat of his
destiny.

The superior whispered to one in black vestments. Four officials
rushed in, and placed Zastrozzi on the rack.

Even whilst writhing under the agony of almost insupportable torture
his nerves were stretched, Zastrozzi's firmness failed him not; but,
upon his soul-illumined countenance, played a smile of most disdainful
scorn; and with a wild convulsive laugh of exulting revenge--he died.



THE END



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