Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

whether the decorations of the magnificent mansion, arranged under the immediate eyes of the Lady and the Count, were more to be admired for the richness of the materials they were composed of, or the taste with which they were selected and combined. Then the surrounding grounds were peculiarly well calculated to receive and give proper effect to those magical illusions produced by multiplicity of lights--music-and gay draperies—and moving figures in fanciful costumes, dispersed here and there amongst the trees, the temples, and along the verdant banks of the pieces of water, under the obscurity of a deliciously mild night, and a balmy air, breathing a mingled perfume from extensive shrubberies, filled with exotics. So inviting, indeed, was the pleasure of rambling unconfined by any walls but those of leaves, that superb as every thing was within doors, the house was in a manner entirely deserted, and its thousand lights continued to blaze in comparative silence and loneliness, while the continued buzz of voices, and the frequent laugh of joy ran through the varied alleys, that swarmed with human beings beneath the pale glimmering of the lamps, almost as thickly as

they had done with those myriads of bees that came to plunder the flowers of their honey in the broad sunshine of day. But more of the poison than of the nectareous fluid was extracted by these nocturnal insects.

Miss Delassaux walked out, hanging upon the arm of the tall and handsome Italian Cavalier. They were unmasked, but very gorgeously attired in the costume of Spanish Grandees. Their dresses shone with jewels, which, if not all of real value, had at least the appearance of being of price almost inestimable. However that might be, made up as they were, by every thing that dress and ornament could do, it was impossible to look on them without admiration, so perfect were the forms, and so noble was the bearing of both. As they promenaded through the various walks, the masks instinctively gave way, and all eyes were turned upon them, whilst the queen

of the entertainment, her soul swelling with conscious pre-eminence, returned the bows and compliments of her guests with an air, where self-approbation and condescension were delicately blended. Admiration it was indeed impossible to refuse, but as the libation was poured out in their path, en

[ocr errors]

vy and malignity lurked at the bottom, and were expressed in loud and bitter whispers as the crowd closed behind them. Such is fashion, that amongst all those groups who were revelling in frenzied mirth at the expence of the mistress of the de mesne, there was hardly one individual who did not join in the gibe and the sneer that followed her.

Lady Deborah, who had strongly opposed this fête while it was yet in contemplation, was peculiarly out of humour on the night of its taking place. Seeing, however, that there was now no remedy, she endeavoured to assume a placidity to which her soul was of late very much a stranger. According to the etiquette prescribed by her niece, which she was obliged to adopt, she too, though dressed in the character of a lady abbess, was unmasked. Her manner and her looks so far corresponded with the recluse habit she wore, that she seemed, amidst all the surrounding noise and gaiety, to be entirely wrapped up in the gloomy thoughts of a religieuse. Nor was the fact very much at variance with appearances. The wild mer. riment of the scene recalled to her some of those nights of a similar description which she had

passed in her earlier days, when her feelings were very different, when, borne on the bosom of the triumphant tide of prosperity, she commanded the gratification of every passion as it arose ; but the recollection now filled her bosom with adders. Good Heavens ! what would she now have given to have had her years to live over again! To religion she had indeed at one time turned with the hope of consolation. But, ignorant of the grand principles of our faith, she could not participate in its rational hopes, and her malady was rather augmented than allayed, and her guilty mind was filled with the most horrible anticipations of the future.

These she endeavoured to banish whenever they arose, but generally without effect, and on this night they came upon her, and adhered to her with an unusual degree of tenacity. She even seemed at times to be unconscious that she was not alone; and in the midst of the most perfect seeming abstraction, she would suddenly start away, as if stung by some fresh remembrance, and then, pressing after her niece through the mazes of the pleasure-ground, she would hang on her rear, as if in anxious contemplation of all her actions, and as if afraid to lose her. Now and then she would join her for a moment, but when she did so, she was but ill received, and there was always an evident inclination on the part of the young Lady to escape from her.

« AnteriorContinuar »