« PreviousContinue »
“ They both entered the wood; Ivan's servant followed, carrying the pistols; and when they had selected a suitable spot, and measured their ground, be proceeded to load the pistols, and to prevent the possibility of foul play being suspected, placed them on the ground, and turned his back upon the young men, while each appropriated one to himself. The two combatants took aim together with a deliberate coolness and precision which seemed to ensure the most disastrous results, and when the servant gave the appointed signal, by throwing his hat upon the ground, both fired so exactly at the same instant, that the two reports were confounded together. Ivan immediately fell pierced through the heart, and without uttering a word expired. Count A-remained standing for a moment, so that the servant for that brief space believed that he had escaped unhurt; but suddenly clapping his hand to his breast, a torrent of blood issued from his lips, and he sank to the earth in a state of apparent lifelessness.
“ There was to be a dinner-party at the Countess A-'s on that day, and the Princess Olga D-(who was looked upon as a future member of the family) had arrived long before any of the other guests, and was complacently contemplating her charming person in a long pier-glass in the drawing-room, while the Countess, with something of maternal solicitude, was placing some rare exotic blossoms in the young beauty's fair hair, when the tramp of a horse's feet entering rapidly into the court of the palace was heard.
“That is Constantine, I am sure !' exclaimed the Princess joyfully, for I know the sound of Rainbow's feet. I knew he would be home early to-day! And she eagerly approached one of the windows, prepared to dispense from thence her sweetest smile of welcome to the young horseman as he' dismounted. The Countess followed, but an exclamation of terror burst from the lips of both ladies as they beheld Rainbow, riderless, dash into the court, and make a full stop at the door that led from thence to the stables.
“My son is killed !' shrieked the Countess.
“I happened to be at that time in Moscow, and was one of the Countess A—'s guests on that day. My carriage drove into the en. trance court at the identical moment I have described, and I learned from the ladies themselves the cause of their alarm. While endeavouring to persuade them that their terrors had been premature, and that it was very possible that the animal might have escaped from some place where his rider had dismounted, a party of soldiers entered the palace, bearing upon a mattress the body of Å-, covered with blood, and to all appearance dead.
“ To describe the scene that followed would be impossible. When the surgeons arrived, they ascertained that the Count still lived, and that the ball had traversed part of the lungs, and lodged near the spine ; there was a slight chance that he might be saved; but it was so slight that the medical men would not dwell upon it as a hope. Ahimself, when he revived from his swoon, felt that he was a lost man, and desired that he might be left alone with his mother to communicate his last wishes to her. They were shut up together for half an hour, and during that agonizing interim the Countess was made acquainted with all that had happened, and for the first time became aware of the real nature of her son's affair with Elizabeth P-, and of the sacred claims she had upon him. Her conduct was admirable upon that occasion. Having ascertained from the surgeons that immediate dissolution was not to be apprehended, she despatched a courier to Wladi Caucasus, with a letter to General P—; stating with the utmost feeling and delicacy all that had occurred, and entreating, with as much earnestness as she had formerly evinced in forbidding the marriage, that he would without delay bring his daughter to Moscow, in order that Count A- might make tardy reparation for the injury he had inflicted by making Elizabeth his wife before he diedman act of justice which would give their child a legitimate claim to his name and fortune.
“ The melancholy summons was answered by the General in person, accompanied by his sorrowing daughter. They found A--- alive and conscious, but sinking so rapidly, that had the travellers been delayed but one day longer on the road, they would have been too late to give efficacy to the wishes of the Countess. Every arrangement had previously been made by her order to enable the marriage ceremony to be solemnized immediately on their reaching Moscow; they arrived at night, and were at once conducted to the chapel of the A Palace, whither the dying bridegroom was at the same time conveyed, stretched upon the couch from which he never more was to rise. Not a word of recognition was suffered to pass between him and Elizabeth, lest the emotions inseparable from any demonstration of tenderness should, by precipitating his last moments, defeat the purpose for which they had been brought together. What a trial for a young girl not seventeen years old! what a complication of sorrow to assail a young and tender heart at once! Her brother killed by the hand of her lover; her lover dying by that of her brother! and, for what purpose was she there? to wed the murderer of Ivan! his bleeding shade appeared to rise up before her, and forbid the profanation.
“The ceremony began and ended amidst the stifled sobs of the witnesses assembled; Elizabeth alone remained tearless; her feelings were wrought up to that painful degree of intensity which precludes the relief afforded by weeping. When the vows had been mutually pronounced, the rings exchanged, and the bride's last protestations made before the screen of the sanctuary, A, stretching his arms towards her, exclaimed, Elizabeth, my wife, my only love-pardon, oh pardon me, ere it be too late !"
“Elizabeth rushed into his embrace, and as she met the pressure of his icy lips tears for the first time relieved her bursting heart, and a few words, faint and almost inaudible on his part, broken by convulsive sobs on hers, were exchanged between them. A deep silence en. sued; and when the Countess, terrified by the stillness that prevailed, stepped forward to separate them, the eternal separation had taken place_Constantine was a breathless corpse Elizabeth, to all appearance lifeless as himself, hung over him in a deep swoon.
“Little more remains for me to add to my recital. Three months afterwards the Countess Elizabeth A- gave birth to a son; and then, for the first time since her misfortunes, life appeared once more desirable to her. To describe the affection felt for her by her motherin-law would be impossible ; the Countess A- appeared to have transferred all the tenderness she had entertained for her son to his youthful widow and her infant boy. Elizabeth was publicly adopted by her, and has ever since continued to reside under her roof,—surrounded by the splendours and luxuries of life, yet indifferent to the vanities and pleasures of the world. Her beauty and fortune have caused her to be sought in marriage by some of the most powerful nobles in Moscow; but she has remained faithful to the memory of her first and only love, and has never been known to smile upon man since that fatal hour which made her at once a wife and a widow. This is the Countess Elizabeth's first appearance at court, and it will probably be her last. She came to St. Petersburg solely to place her son, Count Constantine A—, in the Emperor's corps des cadets, and to thank his Imperial Majesty for the promise of a commission for him in the identical regiment of the guard in which his father had formerly served."
Thus ended General Y's narrative. Some few years afterwards I met him in Italy, one evening at the opera at Genoa ; and I then learned from him that the Countess A- was no more. She had died of a pulmonary complaint, contracted in a winter journey from the Donsky country, whither she had gone to visit her father; and, by a singular coincidence, her death occurred on the anniversary of her mournful marriage and widowhood, and in the chapel of the Apalace. She had caused herself to be carried there, to attend for the last time the funeral service which was annually solemnized in memory of her husband, and expired at the moment the choristers were chaunting the splendid Russian anthem, “Ghospodi Pomilui,'(“Lord have mercy upon us !) leaving behind her the memory of a saint.
THE SICK MAN'S REQUEST.
W. B. F. VOL. XVII.
THE BOYS OF KILKENNY.
BY THE IRISH WHISKEY-DRINKE R.
The boys of Kilkenny are stout roving blades,
Oh! of all towns in Ireland, Kilkenny for me.- Old Song. I know not what may be their present condition and character; but when I knew them, something more than a dozen years ago, they were in prime force and very proper order, and as remarkably pleasant a set of gentlemen as you could drop down amongst from a balloon or a mail coach in all Christendom. Some exceedingly pretty faces of the gentler sex, I remember also to have gazed upon with delight in that renowned locality, with soft melting eyes of blue or grey, as the case might be,
With cheeks like the roses, and lips like the same:
Or a dish of fresh strawberries smothered in crayme ; -as the same good old song has it, on which I have drawn abovewith winning looks and smiles that would bother an anchorite, and some of the nicest little twinkling feet and neatly turned ankles in the world.
Heigho! I wish I were as young now as I was then ; and as wise then as I am now; but wishing won't bring back the precious hours, nor a pound of sorrow pay for an ounce of debt. Amongst the cloudcovered passages of my life, however, I have no reason to reckon the week which I spent at Kilkenny. It was, in truth, one of the happiest, as it was not the least eventful of my devious career.
I do not, in the same spirit that my Uncle Toby used to date the events of his time from the year when Dendermond was taken by the Allies, mark the chief incidents of my life from the passing of the Reform Bill. A great many of my English friends are accustomed to do this; but as far as my poor country is concerned, I have my own notions about that great affair, and many other great affairs which have left her where she was the day I was born, not as old Harry Grattan once most poetically described her—"rising from her bed in the ocean and getting nearer to the sun ;" but pulling somebody I won't mention by the tail, or, if you like another metaphor better, stuck like Christian in the Slough of Despond, without his hopes of getting out of it.
It was the year of the Reform Bill, however,—I forget the exact month, but it was in the summer time,
When the lily leaf, and cowslip sweet,
Both bud and spring with merry cheer, and so forth according to Robin Hood's ballad, that I formed a rather unimportant unit in a small corps d'armée-in other words, a bunch of agitators despatched from Dublin under the command of “the Head Pacificator.” Our orders were to join the banner of Galmoy on the plains of Ossory, where the friends of the gallant Colonel Butler were preparing to contest, in his behalf, the representation of the county of Kilkenny with one of the Ponsonbys. The latter gentleman's Christian name I forget, if indeed I knew it even then It might be “Norval" or Marcus Antonius; but I fancy it was not.
Both the candidates for the honour of representing the local interests of Kilkenny county in particular, and the general interests of the nation at large, were liberals; and yet there was a slight shade of difference between the liberalism of each.
Party spirit was very exalted in Ireland at the time I speak of_I should like to know when it was not—and between no two parties did it run so high as the two segments of the liberal' circle, right into the centre of which it was my destiny to jump, at an age when, under more peaceful and happier auspices, I should have been attending to the circle of the sciences, which, according to Mr. O'Rafferty's version of the
“Emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros,” "Gives us the polish, and purvints us from making bastes of ourselves.”
“Och murder, murder! how many of yez is come down on top of us at all, at all?" ejaculated one Lanty Dooly, an individual of bustling and important exterior, in the service of the worthy and renowned attorney-at-law, the colonel's commander of all the forces, at whose house our cortège pulled up, not without much olympic dust and circumstance." And, as the astonished major-domo surveyed, with a look bordering on despair, the appearance of the down mail, crowded inside and out with hungry and thirsty "arrivals," he added “ Cead mille failtha, my darlings; but, holy St. Biddy of the Black Abbey! where are we to squeeze the mob of yez, barring it's to sleep three in a bed ?"
Notwithstanding Lanty's alarm, we were stowed away very snugly and comfortably. The seniors, taking precedence, were lodged under the roof-tree of our host. The juniors were distributed amongst equally pleasant quarters in the immediate neighbourhood. I had the felicity of being billeted upon the widow over the way, as kind and as patriotic a member of her sex as ever loved a bit of innocent flirtation or swallowed the sugar of blarney.
We all fed at the table of our friend, or those of us who chose might do so. Such feeding! The spreads given by Patricius were Homeric feasts in their way, including the councils of war, which were holden after the claret had circled the board some half dozen rounds, and the general opinion began to diverge from Bourdeaux to Bushmills,* or the wish was expressed to exchange Lafitte for Johnny Power.t
In addition to this hospitality-in-chief, to which we did ample justice, many of our political friends through the town kept open houses, and tables spread therein night and day for our accommodation, to which all were welcome who came in from the county with a vote, or even the “inane munus” of a good wish for the colonel.
In such campaigns as the Kilkenny election, the young gentlemen were generally mustered at night from quadrille and waltz or some of the various witcheries of “my lady's bower,” as the Duke's ofcers were summoned from the ball at Brussels, with this difference
• A famous distillery. + A veteran producer of the staple, made a baronet by the late Whig administration.