Isadore (Landon)

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Isadore  (1822) 
by Letitia Elizabeth Landon
Transcript citing The Literary Gazette. Ed. Willian Jerdan. No. 290. Aug. 10, 1822. (504-505).

In the church-yard of **** there is a grave covered with a plain slab of white marble, with no other inscription than "Isadore d'Ereillo, aged nineteen." These few words speak histories for the heart; they tell of a beautiful flower withered, far from its accustomed soil, in the springday of its blossom; they tell the fate of a young and unhappy stranger, dying in a foreign country, remote from every early association, her last moments unsoothed by affectionate solictitude,—no tender voice, whose lightest sound breathed happy memories, no eye of fondness on which the fainting mourner might look for sympathy—her very ashes separated from their native earth.

"Might I not fancy myself a hero of fiction?" said Colonel Fitzallan, bending gracefully as he caught the small snow hand which had just arranged his sling; "Fair lady, henceforth I vow myself your true and loyal knight, and thus pledge my heart's first homage!" pressing the yielding fingers gently to his lips. Alas, thought Isadore, while those eloquent interpreters of the feelings, a blush, sigh, and smile, mingled together—he loves not passionately as I love, or he could not trifle thus; a light compliment was never yet breathed by love. Isadore was at that age when the deeper tenderness for woman first deepens the gaiety of childhood, like the richer tine that dyes the rose as it expands into summer loveliness. Adored by her father, for she had her mother's voice and look and came a sweet remembrance of his youth's sole warm dream of happiness, of that love whose joy departed ere it knew one cloud of care, or one sting of sorrow; a word of anger seemed to Don Fernando a sacrilege against the dead, and his own melancholy constancy gave a reality to the romantic imaginings of his child. She now loved Fitzalla with all the fervour of first excited attachment: she had known him under circumstances the most affecting, when the energies and softer feelings of woman were alike called forth; when the proud and fearless soldier became dependent on her he had protected; laid on the bed of sickness; far from the affectionate hands that would have smoothed, the tender eyes that would have wept o'er his pillow. Isadore became his nurse, soothed with unremitting care the solitude and weariness of a sick-room; and when again able to bear the fresh air of heaven, her arm was the support of her too interesting patient. With Fitzallan the day of romance was over; a man above thirty cannot enter in the wild visions of an enthusiastic girl; flattered by the attachment which Isadore's every look betrayed, he trifled with her, regardless or thoughtless of the young and innocent heart that confided so fearlessly. Love has no power to look forward—the delicious consciousness of the present, a faint but delightful shadow of the past, form its eternity; the possibility of separation never entered the mind of his Spanish love, till Fitzallan's instant return to England became necessary. They parted with all those gentle vows which are such sweet anchors for hope to rest on in absence—but alas such frail ones. For a time her English lover wrote very regularly. That philosopher knew the human heart who said, "I would separate from my mistress for the sake of writing to her." A word, a look, may be forgotten; but a letter is a lasting memorial of affection. The correspondence soon slackened on his part. Isadore, tending the last moments of a beloved parent, had not one thought for self; but when that father's eyes were closed, and her tears had fallen on the grave of the companion of her infancy, the orphan looked round for comfort, for consolation, and felt, for the first time, her loneliness and the sickness of hope deferred. Fear succeeded expectation; fear, not for his fidelity but his safety: was he again laid on the bed of sickness, and Isadore far away?—She dwelt on this idea, till it became a present reality; suspense was agony: at length she resolved on visiting England. She sailed, and, after a quick voyage, reached the land;—a wanderer seeking for happiness, which, like the shadow thrown by the lily on the water, still eludes the grasp. It was not thus in the groves of Arragon she looked forward to the British shore; it was then the promised home of a beloved and happy bride. The day after her arrival in London, she drove to her agent's (for her father, during the troubles in Spain, had secured some property in the English funds,) hoping from him to gather some intelligence of the Colonel. Passing through a very crowded street, her coach becoming entangled in the press, occasioned a short stoppage. Gazing round in that mood, who, anxious to escape the impressions within, the eye involuntarily seeks for others without, her attention became attracted to an elegant equipage. Could she be mistaken?—never in that form—it was surely Fitzallan! Well she remembered that graceful bend, that air of protection with which he supported his companion. The agitated Spaniard just caught a glimpse of her slight and delicate figure, of eyes blue as a spring sky, of a cheek of sunset; and, ere her surprise allowed the power of movement, the carriage was out of sight. Her entreaties to be allowed to alight, being only attributed to fear, were answered by assurances that she was safe. Gradually becoming more composed, she bade the coachman inquire who lived in the house opposite—it was the name she longed to hear—Colonel Fitzallan. She returned home, and with a tremulous hand traced a few lines, telling him how she had wept his silence, and entreating him to come and say she was till his own Isadore. The evening passed drearily away; every step made the colour flush her cheek; but he came not. Was he indispensably engaged? Had he not received her note?—any supposition but intentional delay. The next morning, the same fevered anxiety oppressed her: at length she heard the door, and, springing to the window, caught sight of a military man—she heard his step on the stairs, a gentleman entered, but it was not Fitzallan! Too soon she learnt his mission; he whom she had so loved, so trusted, had wedded another—the lady she saw the day before was his wife; and, unwilling to meet her himself, he had charged a friend to communicate the fatal intelligence. Edward B*** gazed with enthusiastic admiration on the beautiful creature, whose pale lip, and scalding tears, which forced their way through the long dark eyelashes, belied the firmness her woman's pride taught her to assume. Shame, deep shame, thought he, on the cold, the mercenary spirit which could thus turn the warm feelings of a fond and trusting girl into poisoned arrows, could thus embitter the first sweet flow of affection. He took her hand in silence—he felt that consolation in a case of this kind was but mockery. They parted, the one to despair over the expired embers, the other to nurse the first sparkles of hope. The next morning, scarcely aware what he was doing, or of the motive which actuated him (for who seeks to analyze love's earliest sensations?) Edward sought the abode of the interesting stranger. He found her with Colonel Fitzallan's solicitor; that gentleman, suspicious of the warm feeling evinced by his friend for the fair Spaniard, had employed a professional man; for he was well aware that the letters he had written would give Isadore strong claims upon him. He arrived at the moment when she first comprehended her lover's reason for wishing his letters restored, originated in his fear of a legal use being made of them. Her dark eyes flashed fire, her cheek burnt with emotion, her heart-beat became audible, as she hastily caught the letters, and threw them into the flames. "You have performed your mission," exclaimed she; "leave the room instantly." Her force was now exhausted, she sank back on the sofa. The tender assiduities of Edward at length restored her to some degree of composure. It was luxury to have her feelings entered into; to share sorrow is to soothe it. She told him of hopes blighted for ever, of wounded affection; of the heart sickness which had paled her cheek, and worn to shadow her once symmetrical form. She had in her hand a few withered leaves. "It is," said she, "the image of my fate; this rose fell from my hair one evening; Fitzallan placed it in his bosom; by moonlight I found it thrown aside, it was faded, but to me it was precious from even that momentary caress; I have to this day cherished it. Are not our destinies told by this flower? His was the bloom, the sweetness of love; my part was the dead and scentless leaves." Edward now became her constant companion; she found in him a kind and affectionate brother. At length he spoke of love. Isadore replied by throwing back her long dark hair with a hand whose dazzling whiteness was all that remained of its former beauty, and bade him look on her pale and faded countenance, and there seek his answer. "Yes, I shall wed, but my bridal wreath will be cypress, my bed the grave, my spouse the hungry worm!" Edward gazed on her face, and read conviction; but still his heart clung to her with all the devotedness of love, which hopes even in despair, and, amid the wreck of every promise of happiness, grasps at even the unstable wave. One evening she leaned by a window, gazing fixedly on the glowing sky of a summer sunset: the rich colour of her cheek, which reflected the carnation of the west, the intense light of her soft but radiant black eyes, excited almost hope: could the hand of death be on what was so beautiful? For the first time she asked for her lute; hitherto, she had shrunk from the sound of music; Fitzallan had loved it; to her it was the knell of departed love. She waked a few wild and melancholy notes. "These sounds," sighed she, "are to me fraught with tender recollections; it is the vesper hymn of my own country." She mingled her voice with the tones, so faint, so sad, but so sweet, it was like the song of a spirit as the concluding murmur died away. She sunk back exhausted; Edward for a while supported her head on his shoulder; at length he parted the thick curls from off her face, and timidly prest her lips;—he started from their chilling touch—it was his first, his last kiss—Isadore had expired in his arms!