Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 7/Santa; or, A woman's tragedy - Part 5

SANTA; OR, A WOMAN’S TRAGEDY.

BY THE AUTHOR OF “AGNES TREMORNE,” &c.

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CHAPTER VII.

One day, after a silence of many months, I received a letter from my husband. Reports against me had reached him, and the long thirst of vengeance which, as a disappointed courtier, as a baffled man of the world, as a mortified husband, he had amassed against me, gave themselves utterance in an epistle which was a masterpiece of polite insult. The coarsest insinuations were veiled under the most polished irony. A letter which sent the hot blushes to my forehead, and the scorching tears of indignant shame to my eyes: I was literally maddened. The letter concluded, by informing me that henceforth we were strangers—that a small yearly sum was at my disposal—that Rupert Rabenfels, whose home I had shared for a twelvemonth, would probably provide me with one in future; that by himself and my brother, I was repudiated and disowned. I instantly wrote to my husband that I accepted entirely and without reserve the position he had made for me; that it was true that Rupert Rabenfels and I, had been nearly a twelvemonth under the same roof, that which had sheltered me when cast off by him; that we had been hitherto, and I trusted would be always, friends; that besides the Chanoinesse, he and his child were the only relatives I should henceforth acknowledge. I despatched the letter immediately. I did not hesitate one moment. With reckless impetuosity I flung myself on the sword with which I was menaced.

“I went out in the cool evening to a spot which was a favourite of Rupert's and mine. He was still absent, I believed. He had taken Ida with him on his last visit to Madame Serrano, and neither had returned as yet. As I walked down the sloping lawn, and kept under the shadow of the trees which skirted it on one side, I thought not of aught which had chilled my friendship for Rupert, but that the happiest moments of my later life had been spent with him and his child. I recalled the past months, during which I had not thought a thought, wished a wish, hoped a hope, which was not in some way connected with Ida, and my heart melted with yearning tenderness over both. I longed to hold Rupert’s hand in mine, and tell him how much I valued these only treasures which fate had left me.

“I reached our favourite spot. It was a bank which hung steeply over a brawling stream. Seven cypresses stood together on the highest point, and beneath them a rustic bench had been placed on which I now sat down to rest. The view of the green fertile plains backed by the ‘terrible purple’ of the mountains was exquisitely beautiful. It was spring, and the grass at my feet was fragrant with violets and jonquils. The half-melancholy, half-enchanting mystery, with which all nature struggles into life, was filling the air with unutterable sweetness. My excited feelings were softened into calm; I felt contented; for me, also, life was not all winter,—there might be spring for me, too. Was not Ida a gift from God, to comfort and console me. A blossom to make vernal my hitherto frozen life?

‘The Serranos tell me you go in a few days,’ said a voice below. The cypresses sheltered me, and I saw Rupert, and a man who belonged to the same secret society as he did, and whom I had seen occasionally at the house, standing in the path just below me.

‘Yes, I go in a week.’

‘Why do you sigh so deeply? Madame Serrano thinks you have wasted your time here quite long enough; as she does not know your occupations, she considers, naturally enough, that Madame Rabenfels has an undue share of your society. I know she has persuaded you to leave the Schloss, and stay the rest of the time with her. But how will Madame Rabenfels receive this intelligence?’

“Rupert muttered an oath.

‘Poor Madame Rabenfels, she will miss both you and your child,’ continued his friend.

‘Pshaw! If Helena wishes it, it is enough. She makes it a point to retain Ida. How can I refuse her? No one has such a right to my devotion.’

‘Really you are unintelligible.’

‘In heaven’s name, are you mad?’ said Rupert, ‘or do you wish to drive me so? What am I to Madame Rabenfels, or Madame Rabenfels to me? We are friends of course—I have a great many friends; but surely friends are left every day. The fact is, I should not have returned at all had not business obliged me.’

‘The Chanoinesse is dying, then?’

‘Yes, poor woman, I believe she is. The house is miserable in consequence: it is like a tomb. I shall be glad to get away. This sort of life suited me while I was disabled; but since, it has been the greatest bore; the first day I put my foot in the stirrup, about a week ago, I was resolved it should not last, and my aunt’s illness has expedited my departure. I am sorry for poor Ida, though; for she will miss her home here and her aunt.’

‘Madame Rabenfels has been of very great use to her, to you,—indeed I may say, to all of us.’

‘Yes, she is a woman of great intelligence and powers of application. I soon discovered that, and made use of it accordingly. I came here to be near the Serranos. There had been a little coolness between us which I could only get over by seeing them constantly, though not at first under their own roof. My visit here has served two purposes. I have worked most diligently with Santa’s help.’

‘And you and the Serranos are more intimate than ever. The affair has been well and cheaply managed, I must say. You may smile and shrug your shoulders, but it is the fact. Poor Madame Rabenfels!

‘Qui plus y perd, plus y amis.

“Rupert laughed as he uttered this quotation from an old French song.

‘Is the rumour true, that instead of leaving her fortune to you, your aunt leaves it to Madame Rabenfels?’

‘It is: she only bequeathes the Schloss to me.’

‘I am sorry.’

‘Nay, I care not for myself, and I am well pleased that she leaves it to one who will serve our cause, and who has been like a daughter to her.’

‘Besides which, you are sure to be her husband’s heir; there is no chance of a reconciliation in that quarter: I have taken care of that, by informing him of this free-and-easy life at Schloss Stein. The interpretation which was placed upon it by all who witnessed it, he is informed of through me, and I am quite sure that his large fortune will help our cause. He will never see her again, and at his death it will be yours.’

“Rupert sighed. Did he, remorseless as he was, feel a little conscience-striken at this cold-blooded villany? It matters little; he listened to these infamous words, and acted as if they expressed his own sentiments.

‘To say the truth,’ went on his friend, ‘Madame Rabenfels is a woman I dislike. She is antagonistic to me in every way. Some persons praise her simplicity and intelligence. I could never discover anything in her but a certain hardness and force of character and will, which I supremely dislike in a woman. I can imagine her obtaining a great influence over some people, but I confess I always breathe more freely away from her; no woman should place herself so at war with the convenances of society as she does.’

“Again Rupert sighed. His friend pursued:

‘What will you do with your child? Had you not better leave her at the Serranos? And then her belongings can be sent after her.’

‘Yes, I think I shall do so.’

‘You will thus get rid of a scene: women always make scenes at parting. Have you any idea what Madame Rabenfels intends doing?’

‘None: but see, the dew is falling; let us go home.’

‘Stop, let me light my cigar.’

“I sank slowly down on the grass: how long I remained I know not: the stars were high and bright in the sky when I was conscious again. I staggered as I rose, and was as weak as if, after a twelvemonth’s illness, I had risen from my bed. We hear of broken hearts, but that is a fable. My heart was wounded to the core. The wound is as fresh now as it was then—but it is not broken. The event of Rupert’s departure was in itself nothing, but the few careless words with which he threw away a friendship which should have been lifelong, gave me the measure of his indifference, and gave me an insight into his character. To part me from Ida, and Ida from me, was as cruel as it was unnecessary. It was not, however, cruelty, it was simply the thoughtlessness of utter selfishness. Though my intelligence had always seen the faults in Rupert’s self, my heart had refused to acknowledge or realise them in Ida’s father. We are told we should trace in the lineaments of the present sinner the future seraph—those lineaments which exist in all, however faintly the outline may be preserved. I had certainly done this with him. I might compare the operation of my love for Ida on my estimate of Rupert’s character to the effect of a stereoscope on a photograph—of itself, a cold flat portrait, but when we look through the glasses, we see the same picture rounded into living beauty. It is a deception, we know, but through these glasses we can never see it otherwise.

“How shall I describe what I felt? I was alone. The life which had been so rich a few months back, and which might have been so still, for nothing need have been altered, even though Rupert’s absence was necessary, was now an entire waste. The whole was an illusion. I had no longer a brother, a child. In truth I had never possessed them. Had this been a love disappointment, pride would have risen to my aid. I should have trampled it under my feet, and have stood strong, even on the ashes of my soul. But if the babe a mother has been nursing on her breast, were suddenly to change into a serpent and to sting her, would not a mother’s cry be heard? Where would be the pride then? I had so little that I was anxious to find myself in fault. I scrutinised myself severely, and found, of course, that I had not been perfect, but my faults had been like grains of sand in the great sea of love with which I had surrounded Rupert and his child. How diligently I sought to blame myself, seems quite foolish now. Had he and I stood for one moment, in an equality of position, I could have borne up bravely; but I, I stood where I had been before, and where I should always be, for he had never loved me, and I had lost nothing; it was he, who had cast away an affection for him and his, which I had a mournful conviction he had not and could never inspire again. It required circumstances, as peculiar as those in which we were placed, to call it into being. If you stood with one you loved beside a precipice, firm and steadfast yourself, but he held only by your hand, what would be your feelings, if in sheer wantonness he threw your hand aside and sank down before your eyes? I knew that Madame Serrano, with all her gentle blandishments, with all her delicate allurements, was not capable if able, or able if capable, to hold him up for a moment—she might fall with him, or separating herself from him, give impetus to his fall: she could do no more. To Ida she was entirely indifferent. She had children of her own: she had not that yearning towards a child which I, the childless and worse than widowed, had so long suffered from, and had so gladly satisfied, by holding Ida to my heart. For himself, also (though in a far less anxious manner), when I reflected on his future life and the many arid scenes of toil before him, linked as he was to a great, but perhaps hopeless cause, I trembled, but what availed my help now. Yet I had given it, unselfishly, honestly, faithfully; many a week in which Rupert had regained the light-heartedness of his earlier youth, cheerfulness unusual to him, a buoyancy of heart and mind he might never again experience, attested this.

“With this fatal love at his heart, even if free, how could he hope to find in another marriage, the happiness that his first had deprived him of. He had no heart with which to win a bride, and yet the parental affection which was his, as the sun shone on him without his yea or his nay, he closed his eyes to, and shut out from himself and from his child.

“I had a sufficient knowledge of the human heart to perceive that nothing is so odious to a man who loves one woman, than the fulsome love of another who would be a rival to her; but there was no challenge or emulation here, the territories of friendship and love are so wide apart. Love is not robbed because Friendship is enriched. Men do not forsake the ties of blood because they love, and my love had all the spontaneousness, but none of the exigencies, of a blood relationship.

“I know that a rose-leaf dropped into a lover’s hand by the one he loves, outweighs the sacrifice of a friend’s whole life; nor do I blame this, for

“Love should still be lord of all.”

I did not feel aggrieved at any preference of love over friendship. In my younger, happier days, I too had dreamed of love: a love which like light in a lamp, would give flame to my whole being, which should glorify me into beauty, exalt me into genius, sanctify me into goodness; but I had long known that this consummation of happiness was not to be mine in this life, and I could fancy I understood why. I had a latent capacity for happiness, which, had it received its full satisfaction, would have made me feel immortal; if I had tasted of that fruit, I should have dreamed, I could not know death! My affection for Rupert had none of the elements of love in it; there was no appropriation in it; I never sought his sympathy; I was content to give him all mine: I knew his life throughout; and as to me, he knew and sought to know as little of my past, as if I had been born the day he arrived, and cared as little for my future as if I were to die the day he left.

“As soon as I reached the house I went to Ida’s room. I threw myself on my child’s bed, and buried my face in her little pillow. Indignation, resentment, disappointment, despair at the separation from Ida, compassion for myself, were all sunk into a stupefied sense of misery, added to by a feeling of my own utter helplessness and the overwhelming cruelty of my other sorrows. My husband’s bitter words returned to me. There seemed to be, in truth, a league against me of the powers of darkness; but the only distinct idea I could frame, the only articulate sound I could murmur, was ‘Ida, Ida.’ What was the use now of will, knowledge, and courage? I covered my face with my hands and prayed for patience, submission, faith. Suddenly a thought struck me. I rose from the bed; I went into the drawing-room. By the open window stood Rupert alone. The moonlight fell on his face. He looked pale. I went up to him.

‘Leave me the child, Rupert,’ I said gently.

“Had I broken in upon a love dream, that he started back with an expression of such astonishment, almost of fear?

‘Impossible!’ he said, and left the room, but before he did so, my heart spoke out to his. He was stung to the soul, and never forgave me.

“What that night was—what were the following nights I passed for many a long month—I shudder to think of. Rupert left a few days afterwards; he could not even await his aunt’s death; he was alienated and relentless to the last. A great flood had flowed between us; on my side, of the deepest sorrow; on his, of insurmountable aversion. I believe, firmly, that the very sight of my pale face, the silence and gloom which covered us both, as with a pall, were odious to him. There is something, I suppose, exasperating and irritating in the sight of the grief which is caused by one’s-self; yet how could I help it. I was hurt, and I bled; I had been struck, and I was bruised; I was wounded, and the gash was visible. The bitterness lay, perhaps, chiefly in the feeling that the whole had been a counterfeit. My weaknesses, as well as my qualities had been studied and made use of. The use was over, and I was cast aside without remorse. It was not an enemy who had done this, but my own familiar friend. No promise had been broken, no love betrayed, but the staff on which I leaned had shivered in my grasp. The tower I had built on the desert waste of my life, had as little foundation as a child’s pack of cards. A breath had blown it down. Men and women do not play equally at this game of friendship. The initiative is never in our power. The veto is rarely left to us.

“He left with a few conventional words of ordinary good will, and so we parted. At first I suffered intensely, for I was bereaved indeed; but slowly the light dawned upon my soul that I had deserved all this; the fault was mine—a thousand times mine. I had been mistaken, Quixotic, besotted. I bowed my head in acceptance of sorrow.

“A few weeks afterwards the Chanoinesse died. She bequeathed the whole of her large property to me, with the exception of the Schloss, which she left to Rupert. As there was a probability of his return, I made my preparations and left Schloss Stein.

 

CHAPTER VIII.

An impulse led me to Paris. In Paris there is so much to cure one of morbid self-contemplation. To make the best of my fate—to endure it in its length and breadth of privation—was my study. No resentment lived in my heart but regret, self-reproach, and self-condemnation. Towards Rupert my feelings were as little personally hostile as the patient’s towards the instrument, by which he suffers amputation. To him it had been given to act the Nemesis towards me, but the faults that deserved that Nemesis were mine, not his.

“My life was spent in writing, reading, serving the cause to which I had bound myself. Of Rupert, I never heard; our lives had dropped entirely apart. I had written several times to my husband; my letters were unanswered. My position, like all exceptional ones, invited calumny. Much could be written on the injustice of society in this respect; but until the whole education of women is reformed, so that their tastes, principles and habits are modified, I cannot wonder at the suspicion with which they are looked upon when they assert their independence. When we think on what principles they are guided in the selection of a husband, is it surprising that, alienated from him, they are supposed incapable of standing alone? There is more justice even in this world than we suspect. A true life always obtains the victory in the end.

“One day as I was returning to Paris after a fête champêtre, and driving through a part of the city I had never passed before, there was a crowd assembled, and the carriage was stopped. I sent my servant to inquire the cause. A cart had driven by; the horse had become unmanageable, and in its furious plungings and rearings, had knocked down a man who was passing. I told my servant to offer his assistance. He obeyed, and the next minute my own horses, impatient at the restraint, became suddenly ungovernable, and kicked in the most frightful manner. A charitable bystander opened the door of the carriage and assisted me out. I told my coachman to turn back, and find some bye-street which would bring him to a neighbouring point where I could meet him, and I then tried to find my servant. This brought me into the midst of the crowd; and there, supported by two men, his eyes closed, and his cheeks white as ashes, I saw Rupert Rabenfels! The circle had been run—we met again. I went up to the men who supported him, and asked them where they intended taking him. They shrugged their shoulders.

“One said, ‘We will look in his pocket and see if he has a card with any address, if not, we must take him to the hospital.’ There was no card, but a pocket-book, on which was written a number and a street. ‘You had best take him there, first,’ I said, with a calm voice. They obeyed me: at the same time a few francs to a commissioner brought back my carriage. We drove to his house; the porter recognised him. His room was on the fifth floor, and he was carried up and laid on his bed.

“I sent for a surgeon, dismissed the men, and was left alone. After a while I looked round the room for some trace of Ida. There was none. Rupert was evidently alone. He must have been sent on some mission by that secret society to which he belonged, and which was as imperious as the Order of Jesus it its demands. It must have required the strictest incognito, and there was nothing in this poor room, with the evidences of daily labour in it, that could excite suspicion. At last the doctor came. He feared congestion of the brain from the fall and the blow; but was, on the whole, hopeful. For three days and three nights Rupert was delirious. Strangely enough his child’s name never came to his lips, but very often in thick, gasping accents that of Madame Serrano.

“At last he opened his eyes, and out of their dim and sunken pupils came a look of recognition.

‘Santa,’ he said. There was no hesitation; a little distrust, but no surprise. It seemed natural for him to find me there.

‘Are you better?’

‘Thanks! But what is it? How is all this? You are very good,’ he said, and I saw a blush rise to his temples.

‘Where is Ida?’ I asked.

‘Ida, she is safe.’

“And then the past seemed to rush back upon him.

“From the day I found him, I had been cold and calm. It was a fellow-creature requiring assistance, and I rendered it as impassively as a Sister of Charity. He was silent, but his countenance assumed a great expression of pain. I rose and prepared to leave him. I told him I would send some one to attend to him, but during his delirium I had thought it best to remain myself. He thanked me absently.

‘Before you go, would you kindly open that desk,’ he said, ‘and give me two letters which are in it? It is of consequence they should be destroyed in case anything happens to me.’

“I went to the desk. The first thing which I saw was a miniature, which I recognised at once. It was a portrait of Madame Serrano. The painter had given the soft, beseeching smile of her witching lips. Beside it was a little sketch of Ida. At the sight of this, I felt the floor sway to and fro beneath my feet; but, with an effort which sent all the blood to my heart, I took out the letters, closed the desk, and bade adieu to Rupert. He expressed no wish to see me again.

“On reaching the street I sent my servant for a fiacre, and went home well nigh broken-hearted. I could only call upon God, and shudder like a wounded animal under my pain.

“Pain! pain! pain! How mysterious it is that in the great ebb and flow of humanity one human being can have so great a power of torturing another. How infinite is that power, and how ruthlessly is it sometimes wielded? God help us! when, in the future world, we see what we have done, when the hearts we have wounded, and perhaps maddened, by our unkindness, are laid bare to us!

“I had not been dragged, however, through all this suffering without some fruit to my soul. I had too often gone over the fateful past not to have it written out as in a map before me—where I had erred—where I had been to blame; and if weak human nature revolted and said, ‘Not from thy hand, Rupert, not from thy hand should come the punishment—spare me for thy child’s sake!’ my contrite and broken heart said, ‘Oh, God! not my will, but Thine be done!’

“To overcome evil with good, and that at the price of any self-sacrifice, was now my enduring object. I went again to see Rupert. The consequences of the fall were different from what was expected. The brain had not suffered, but the whole general health was prostrated. The shock had produced great weakness, and he had broken a blood-vessel. He could not be moved, partly on account of his health, and partly on account of the rendezvous this miserable lodging was to men engaged like himself.

“I should never have known all this, unless after some days’ struggle with myself before I could face the suffering of another meeting, I went to see him. The first glance at his face was enough. Rupert had not long to live. He knew it also.

‘I am glad you have come,’ he said; ‘there are some things I wish to do, and no one but you can help me. But the pain I endure obliges me to take opium. I am by day utterly unfitted for everything; about the evening I revive. There is another reason. Our companions come to me separately for a few minutes daily at the end of the day; I have to draw up a report of their progress and labours. These are secrets which I can trust to no one but you; do not be afraid of the hour, which you must make as late as possible. At certain distances you will be watched over by two of our associates, who, in different lodgings and in various streets, live in this vicinity. I would offer you an escort, but this might be of more disadvantage than benefit; and besides, it might be safest for your reputation’—with a sneer—‘to have a defender in the worst streets, in case of necessity, instead of one and the same companion through the whole length of Paris.’

‘I am glad to serve you and yours,’ I answered simply.

“I went every night. He maintained a distant, aggrieved manner towards me. Once or twice I spoke of Ida. I besought him to let me have her.

‘To be taught to hate her father! No! Remember you told me you despised me.’

“I threw myself on my knees,—I entreated, I implored him. To have snatched away that child from the fate which would be hers, a poor orphan in this hard world, gave a frantic energy to my prayers. He would not hear me, and turned so pale that I feared the discussion would kill him.

“Twice did I try with the same result. My generosity seemed an offence towards him. It placed him at a disadvantage, and he rejoiced that a revenge was still in his power.

“Two nights ago I went to Rupert for the last time. I finished what he wished to have completed. He was dying, but there was a strange light in his eye as he followed my different movements. When all was put in order I approached him.

‘Thanks,’ he said; ‘and now farewell.’

“He held out his hand.

‘Farewell! I cannot leave you yet, Rupert.’

‘Yes, you must leave me,’ he said, distinctly and firmly; ‘Madame Serrano will be here to-night; I must see her alone.’

“I stooped down; I kissed his death-cold forehead and obeyed him. You know the rest. That night my brother arrived. The next night I went—Rupert had died alone! Madame Serrano had not arrived. When the servant went in the morning to see him, he found his master was dead.

“I have dwelt on these things to prove to you how little a woman’s life can be judged either for good or ill by the world in general. It was not headlong passion, but presumptuous self-reliance, which has been my bane. That part of God’s will which particularly concerned me, submission to a solitary and unloved life, I had revolted against, and the whole scope and result of that period, in which I was the servant of my own desires, was a proof of this. A life which has not its root in obedience to God, may be fair and apparently healthy, but it has no vitality; it is like those nosegays which the Florentine flower-girls offer you in their green Cascine, and which look brilliant and blooming, but each flower has been cut close to the blossom, and fastened on a dry stick, and it fades and perishes immediately. You may deduce this moral from my life. One can solve the enigma of human destiny with one answer alone—Resignation. When the human will unites itself, in obedience, to the Supreme and Divine will, from struggle is obtained victory, and it enters at once, according to Bossuet’s magnificent expression, among the Powers of God.

“You see, my friend, for friend you are, I am different from what has been thought of me. My life, like that of many women, bears a strange resemblance to this memorial which I send to you to keep for my sake. It is a triptych, painted by Francia. Outwardly, it seems nothing but a jewelled case, as are often the prosperous externals of our conventional life. You open it. On one side is the ‘Virgin and Child,” on the other, the ‘Virgin by the Cross.’ How often has it made me think not only of the wondrous mystery of our Redemption, but (not profanely let me whisper it), of woman’s fate also. So do we all bear a love in our hearts, or on our bosoms (let us call it what we will, love, friendship, motherly, or sisterly love), a pure, childlike, immortal love, born, as we deem it, for the most god-like destiny; and, alas! how often do we not also stand by, and see it, when full grown to man’s estate, crucified, dying, dead? The third phase, the centre, the glorified fruition, how few attain! I go to Rome to my duty—it is a forlorn hope—as such, I shrink from it less. But whatever may be my future fate, I will not forget your kindness. My life is, and has been, sufficiently lonely, for me to prize its few pleasures. There is so much to be done, to be learned, that I am less unhappy than you think.

“I know one thing, certainly, that if I were to die this instant, and meet Rupert face to face, before God, my affection towards him would need no purifying change. There is a consolation to me in this thought. Would I could feel as clearly innocent towards others. From the beginning my life has been wrong. I have been pure in thought and deed, and yet how erring. Submission to the will of God, patience in bearing trials which had been inflicted upon me, resignation, were all wanting. We can never be truly happy, till we learn to be content with unhappiness. To will, to know, to dare, is but half our duty in this world. To yield, to forego, to endure, complete the circle. The laws of society are at fault in much that affects the destiny of woman, I know—and when these laws are brought more into conformity with good sense and true religion, the fate of women will be externally happier; but the war we all have is not so much with the foes without, as with that deadliest foe within ourselves, the Self of each. We ought not to seek to embroider the tapestry of our lives according to our own will, but according to a divine pattern. I was right to choose my self-imposed exile, in preference to the danger of sin; it was not right afterwards to refuse to return to my husband. I have been humbled to the dust, and I may now do better.

“I am writing to you alone, and with this letter concludes the second phase of my life. I shall often think of you. Every good, every evil hour, before it passes away, digs its own grave, and prepares its own mourner. I will remember you always, and it is well for me I have known you. I have had a greater faith in the unselfishness of human nature since. But I must now close this record of faults, errors, and sufferings. I would say judge me leniently; but no, judge me truly. Proud Spirit be still, strong Heart surrender, impatient Will, learn to endure!

“Let me hear from you often. Our lives flow in such different channels that absence will gradually produce its usual effect. Believe me, you will change. But you have touched me too nearly in one of the fatal moments of my life, not to retain a place in my grateful regard. I shall still continue to serve the cause to which Rupert bound me. It is a holy one! Farewell, and God bless you.”

What I felt on reading this letter may be imagined. I loved her, and have loved none since.

Three years later, I received a packet from Rome, addressed to Walter Seymour. It contained the bracelet. Under the word Volere was inscribed, in small letters, Rinunziareunder, Sapere, Obbedire, under Ardire, Soffrire. Santa Rabenfels had died in Rome.

Many years have passed since then, and I have lived through the grief which then bowed me to the earth; but her memory is not wholly submerged beneath the sea of my present life, its priceless pearl is an ever new treasure and delight. I think of her, I think I see her, I fancy I hear her speak, and my life is evermore enriched by the unspeakable boon of having known and valued her. From her I have learned the widest indulgence for others, the severest judgment for myself. When I hear women condemned, slandered, belied, I throw myself into the breach to defend them. I remember her,—like her they may be innocent, like her they may have been wronged. When my heart would weep tears of blood, when I think she is dead, and that one of the noblest of God’s creatures was cut off ere her sad incomplete life had apparently found its fulfilment, I correct myself. There was an imperfect rhythm to her life here, which could be harmonised into melody in the immortal life alone.

 

(Conclusion.)