Mellen rose, and pulled him violently on his feet; as he did so he perceived a note lying on the ground which had fallen from the man's pocket during their struggle. He loosed his hold of the fellow, and stooped for the letter; the man took advantage of his freedom, darted away like an arrow, and was out of sight before Mellen could recover himself.
"No matter," he muttered, "he'll think twice before he comes again—I have the letter."
The envelope bore no address—it was sealed, but he tore it open without a moment's hesitation. Even as he unfolded the sheet his hand faltered—in the very height of his rage he could not think of the woe its contents might bring to his heart without a sharp pang.
He opened the epistle and glanced at the writing—it was the same peculiar hand he had seen at the pawnbroker's.
"It is his," he exclaimed. "Oh, this time I shall have revenge."
He read the letter—read it slowly through, though every word seemed to burn and sear his very eyeballs—standing there motionless, unable, at first, to take in the full extent of his crushing anguish.
These were the contents of the letter:
"I expected you to-day—you were wrong not to come. I know it is difficult for you to elude the vigilance of your Cerberus, but this matter will admit of no delay. I have information that the stocks are disposed of—look sharp that the broker is not playing a double game.
"The letters are ready—bring the money, and I pass out of your life for ever—since you will have it so. Let it rest there. If I am hated by those I love, be it so; hate does not kill, and love cannot be expected to last for ever, with men or women. I must have the money. I can submit to no further delay. If I do not hear from you to-morrow I shall come to the house in the night—so be prepared."
There was no signature—it needed none. Mellen knew only too well who the writer was, knew it as thoroughly as he did the name of the woman for whom it was intended.
For a full half hour Grantley Mellen was a madman; it was a mercy that, during his paroxysm, he did not rush into the house and murder the woman who had so wronged him. The fever and the insanity passed at length; he lay upon the ground, staring up at the cold sky, the letter still clutched in one hand, the other dug deeply into the earth, in a wild conflict of passion that shook him to the soul. He raised himself and looked about; it seemed as if he had been suffering in a mad dream—he glanced down at the letter—that brought conviction back.
He sat there for a long time revolving vague plans in his mind, and deciding upon the course he would pursue.
"Meet craft with craft," he muttered; "so I will."
He read the letter again.
"If he does not hear from her he will come tomorrow night—he will get no message—let him come!"
There was a horrible emphasis in his voice which none could have mistaken. He rose from the ground, arranged his dress, and walked towards the house.
"Not a sign, not a word which can betray," he said aloud. "I will meet her with a duplicity equal to her own—wait—a little longer—only a little longer."
He walked towards the house, and again Victoria called out to her companions:
"Here comes marster as fast as fast can be."
But Clorinda's thoughts were now centred upon her dinner, and she had no time even for gossip.
"Get away from dat window and go 'bout yer work," cried the dark spinster, austerely; "what hev yer got to do wid de marster's outgoin's or incomin's? Beat dese eggs into a foam rite off, for I'se in a hurry. Mr. 'Dolph puts one back so."
Victoria cast one more glance through the window, for the wild agony on her master's face rather alarmed her. But Clorinda called out in a voice so shrill that it was not to be disregarded, and she was constrained to undertake the task assigned her without more delay.
The Opera in 1680.—An idea of the splendor of ancient operas may be conceived from the mise en scéne of "Berenice," first brought out on the stage at Padua in 1680. It had three choruses. The first consisted of 100 girls, the second of 100 soldiers, the third of 100 knights on horseback. In the triumphal cortége were 40 huntsmen with horns, 60 trumpeters on foot, six tambours, together with 24 other musicians, a great number of flagbearers, pages, huntsmen, grooms, etc.; two lions with Turkish and two elephants with Moorish grooms. Berenice's triumphal car was drawn by six white horses; six other carriages, for generals, were drawn by four horses each; six others, for the booty and the prisoners by twelve. The transformation scenes represented a forest, in which were being hunted boars, deer and bears; an endless plain, with triumphal arches; Berenice's rooms; the royal dining-saloon; a picture gallery; and the royal stables, with 100 living horses. Towards the end a great golden globe appeared from the sky, which opened of itself, and threw out eight other blue globes, upon which sat Virtue, Generosity, Fortitude, Heroic Love, Victory, Courage, Honor, and Immortality, floating in mid-air, and singing a chorus!
Currants.—Dried currants of commerce, as they are miscalled, are in reality a grape, and free from stones or pits; they come from the isthmus of Corinth and several places in the Indian Archipelago. A small Spanish currant is sometimes sold in their stead. It is the island of Zante which furnishes the largest amount of these currants, and their cultivation is materially lessening, as the jealousy of the Ottomans does not allow large vessels to enter the Gulf for their purchase. These currants grow on vines like grapes, the leaves are somewhat the same figure and the grapes similar; they are gathered in August and dried on the ground; when kegged they are trodden down closely with the feet. Zante island produces enough to load five or six large vessels; Cephalonia, three or four; and other islands, one.
We have heard much of the power of a woman's eye, but the eyelids are still more powerful; they can wink down a reputation.
THE OLD BEGGAR.
BY ERNEST TREVOR.
There was an old and crippled man
Who sat a begging, where
It was my wont each morn to pass
In weather foul or fair.
He seemed so steeped in woe and want,
I thought, as I passed by,
That it would be a happy thing
For such a man to die!
For in the scorching sun or rain,
When wintry blasts are keen,
In scanty garb and tattered boots
This wretched man was seen.
So that whene'er I passed the spot
And saw this beggar nigh,
I inly said, "A happy thing
For such a man to die!"
It was upon the Sabbath morn
When church bells cheerly ring,
To summon all, both old and young,
To praise our Heavenly King,
That as with contrite steps and sad
To prayer I slowly trod,
This ppor old man was also bent
Churchward to praise his God.
But what a change! his face was bright
And he was cleaner dressed;
His step had thankful life in it—
His spirit seemed at rest.
And 'twas my chance that morn to sit
Near to him in the aisle;
And now and then I saw his face,
And caught his kindling smile.
His voice was full of thankfulness,
Praise came with every breath,
And in his look I saw the hope
That triumphs over death.
And thus rebuked, with wiser thought
I said, half audibly,
"Great Father! what a happy thing
For such a man to die!"
The Fate of Duke Alberto.
Some two centuries ago there lived in Milan, in Italy, a certain Duke Alberto. His palace was in the city, almost within the shadow of the far-famed cathedral, while his enormous possessions covered leagues of land in every direction. In person he was remarkably handsome, a giant in strength; in mind he was cunning, shrewd, sufficiently well educated for his social position; in morals he was unscrupulous, wicked and revengeful. He had immured his wife in one of his country castles, in order to have her out of the way of his daring and licentious pleasures. In fact, it was rumored throughout the city that he had murdered her; but, owing to his wealth and power, the authorities never instituted an investigation. His days and nights were passed in revelling with lewd women and parasite courtiers. His amours seemed to be the turning point of his existence, the whole end and aim of his ambition.
Such, in brief, was the character of the duke. With his tenants he was careless and liberal, caring but little about the amount of his income, provided it was sufficient to enable him to support and gratify his three great passions of wine, women and play. His principal associate and companion was one Guido Tomaselli, a libertine and spendthrift of the first water. Whenever the duke proposed an adventure, Tomaselli was ever ready to assist and co-operate with him. If a lady was to be abducted, a nunnery broken into, or a castle sacked, he was ever willing to obey the behests of his master. In age he was about fifty years, while the duke scarcely numbered thirty. He was wealthy and powerful, and was even more dreaded than Alberto. The gray hairs that plentifully sprinkled his hair and beard brought with them no wisdom - his long experience brought with it no discretion. Perhaps it was to his fatal influence that the duke ascended the ladder of crime and wickedness. He had been married, but his wife had long been dead, and from the moment of her death he abandoned himself to the world, the flesh and the devil. Such are the two principal personages with whom we have to deal in the following narrative. A more charming pair of Don Juans cannot be found in all history.
Returning home late one night they had to pass the cathedral. It was lighted, and from its vast depths poured forth the musical volumes of a requiem mass. "By my soul, Guido," said the duke, "this is strange! What noble lord or lady has departed this life and now invokes the aid of the church in behalf of the repose of his or her soul? Corpo di bacco! Let us enter. We may, perchance, light upon some fair vestal offering up her vows for the defunct, and in such case the hour and circumstances are propitious for another journey to my walled chateau at Aventino."
The pliant Tomaselli assented, and they entered the cathedral. The church was draped in black, the priests were livid beneath the yellow light of the sacred candles, and the organ filled every aisle and nave with its melodious notes. High up near the altar was a splendid catafalque, richly draped with heavy black. A few mourners knelt beside it, while here and there throughout the vast building, and dimly visible in the semi-darkness, were a few of the devout and faithful. The duke and Guido, awestruck at the scene, pressed forward towards the altar, when the former, in a whisper, inquired of a verger in attendance as to the name of the deceased in whose behalf these solemn rites were administered. In a ghostly voice, and with a pallid face and demoniac expression, he was answered:
"'Tis for the soul of the wicked Duke Alberto, of Milan."
With an expression of horror the duke gazed upon the catafalque, and there, reposing upon it, with all the gilded trappings of princely rank, he beheld himself. With a cry of dismay he sank senseless upon the pavement. Guido raised him and guided him to the outer air—both conscious-stricken at the terrible ceremonial in which they had been participants. When they regained their senses they found themselves seated upon the stone steps of the entrance, and the gray dawn beginning to develope itself in the far East.
Both agreed in the same story, although the cathedral was closed, its lights had fled, and its organ was silent. How and when the spectral procession had passed out without their notice seemed past their comprehension. Moodily and gloomily they entered the ducal palace.
Alberto looked narrowly at his companion, who was dejected and stupified.
"Wine, my dear fellow, will dispel these illusions of the brain," exclaimed he, as he filled a pair of goblets to the brim with the ruddy liquor. They quaffed and quaffed until the morning sun entered the apartment with its golden effulgence. "And now to bed for a few hours, and to-night, my good guide, with your assistance, I shall clasp in these arms the beautiful Donna Isabella, the fairest and loveliest flower in all Italy. She will return from vespers shortly after dark, and generally unattended. You shall disguise yourself as a coachman, and drive me to the corner opposite the great square, around which she must necessarily pass in order to reach her residence."
Guido Tomaselli shuddered.
“Don't say that you decline to participate in the enterprise," said the duke. "It is full of love and danger, two condiments that give a spice to every adventure of the heart. Besides, remember that I acted as your coachman in your last little affair, besides acting as your second in your duel with the lady's brother."
"It is true, Alberto,” said Guido, "but would to God these adventures as you call them were abandoned. My nerves have not yet recovered from that horrible dream of last night. However, more wine and then let us to bed."
Darkness was just beginning to cover the city with its sable pall on that quiet, holy Sabbath evening when a carriage hastily emerged from the ducal palace, and took the direction indicated by Alberto. Scarcely half an hour had elapsed when a female figure dressed in black was seen slowly wending her way from the cathedral. The duke stepped quickly upon the pavement, seized her as she passed, and the horses bounded on a full gallop in the direction of Aventino. The Donna Isabella was a captive, and Tomaselli was the coachman.
As soon as Guido reached the castle with the duke and lady, he immediately returned to the city, delivered the carriage to an attendant in waiting, and forth with proceeded in the direction of the residence of his only daughter, Lucia, a young and lovely girl of scarcely seventeen summers. The existence of this child he had always kept a profound secret for two reasons. One was that he ⟨⟩ the duke and his rapacious desires, and the other was his sense of duty in preserving her from the contamination of the outer world, among whose wicked ones he modestly acknowledged himself chief. In her society he passed many pure and happy hours, gazing with parental pride upon the golden innocence that Providence had entrusted to his keeping.
Bold and bad as this man was, he nevertheless had a corner in his heart unspotted by crime, but that corner was alone reserved for his child. All others he grasped in his net as the fowler does his prey. As he passed beneath the shadow of the great cathedral, he fancied he heard again the solemn notes of its mighty organ pealing forth a requiem mass. This time he seemed to see his own corpse lying in state upon a costly bier. Shuddering at the figures that his imagination had conjured up, he entered the dwelling of his daughter.
But no lithesome step was heard coming to meet him, no merry voice uttering a silvery welcome as of yore. A dread misgiving overcame him, and he sank upon the pavement at the base of the stairs leading to his child's apartments. Again did the organ waft its spectral music across the square. Phantoms, livid and deathly, jeeringly pointed their skeleton fingers and glared from their cavernous eyes at the wretch as he lay prostrate. They thundered in his ears:
"Thou art the man! Await thy doom, for vengeance is sure, saith the Lord."
In this condition he was found by one of his daughter's servants, who gave the alarm and procured the necessary assistance to remove him to his couch. Bewildered and crazed, he groaned in spirit, and it was some time before he could be made to understand that Lucia had not returned from vespers, and that already her attendants had scoured the city, in different directions, hoping to obtain some clue to her whereabouts, but all had returned without success.
"It is no use," he exclaimed, "I know where she is, and miserable man that I am, I am her destroyer."
In his then condition he was obliged to keep his bed for the following day, for his mind was in a state of frenzy, bordering on absolute madness. Towards evening he recovered himself somewhat and ordered a coach and horses to bear him to the castle of Aventino. We will now return to the duke and the poor girl whom he had abducted and imprisoned.
He had long watched her, knowing only that her name was said to be Isabella, hoping for some favorable opportunity of seizing her and bearing her to his fastness in the mountains, where he could defy an army in case of siege or assault. Nor did he dream for a moment that she was the daughter of his friend Guido. Had he known that fact it might have stayed his impious hand, but as it was the deed was done. After thrusting her into his carriage, he threatened her with instant death if she cried out or made the least resistance. Overcome by fright and terror she fainted away, and it was in this state of insensibility that she at length found herself in a gorgeous apartment, with a young and handsome cavalier gazing at her with looks of passion and admiration.
"O God!" she exclaimed, "where am I? Noble sir, release me, and heaven will smile upon you. I ask this boon on bended knees."
"Heaven, it appears, has smiled upon me this very night, fair lady," said the duke, "in vouchsafing to my tender care and custody so young and beautiful a flower as yourself. Believe me that I love—aye, have longed loved you—and that I shall devote the balance of my life in endeavoring to make you happy."
Her great grief at length gave way to a flood of tears, when Alberto perceiving her condition left her, promising to return as soon as time had assuaged her sorrow. She found herself in a man's apartment. From the window she could perceive that the castle was situated upon the top of a lofty mountain, and only accessible by a bridle pathway. The winds swept through the dark forest with a melancholy sound, bearing to her ears the presaging notes of death—for to die she was determined, rather than be dishonored by a villain. She examined the room and found in one of the closets attached thereto a stiletto. This she concealed in her bosom, with a feeling of security such as the fierce pride of an Italian nature only can bestow. Late in the afternoon Alberto again made her a visit, but finding her obstinate, he again left, promising to see her on the following morning. He trusted that time and patience would work a change in her obduracy.
She has now had ample time for reflection as to the ⟨⟩ of escape. The bolts and bars she could not overcome, and she was ignorant of the intricacies of the castle. Still she did not despair. Hope at length pointed out a gleam of light. If she could disguise herself in one of the duke's costumes—of which there were many in the room—she might pass the sentries after nightfall without notice. Once having reached the bridlepath she would be safe. About sunset she hastened to complete her preparations. It was about this hour that an attendant opened the door to bring her an evening repast, and she determined to sacrifice his life if necessary with her dagger, in order to secure her escape. At length steps were heard approaching, the door opened and the attendant entered. She had previously lowered the heavy damask curtains by the windows, so that a quiet gloom or semidarkness pervaded the apartment.
"My lord duke," said the servant, "I did not expect to see you here. I have brought the evening meal for the lady, according to your instructions."
"'Tis well," said the mock duke. "She is now reposing and must not be disturbed. Remain here until I return."
Saying which Lucy boldly gained the hall. Proceeding through various gloomy corridors, she at length reached one of the ramparts, where she paused a moment to survey the ground. The portcullis was lowered, and several persons attached to the duke were seen passing to and fro. Night was rapidly setting in, and now was the moment or never to carry her plans into execution. She reached the bridge without interruption, and in passing it she hummed a lively air from one of the operas in fashion at that day. And now she is on the bridlepath, and in half an hour more she will be in safety. She had nearly reached the bottom of the hill, when a tall, armed figure sprang out of the bushes and plunged his dagger to her heart. She fell and died without a groan.
"Thus perish," said the figure, "thou wretch and miscreant. Little didst thou know that it was Guido's child thou didst abduct."
Saying this he pulled the body into the forest and proceeded on his way to the castle to enforce, if need be, a return of his daughter.
As he was well known to all of the duke's retainers, he was gladly welcomed by them. To avert suspicion, he carefully asked where Alberto was? Some said he had not long before descended the mountain, while another averred that he had just passed him in the grand hall leading to his apartment. Guido knew well the direction to take, but first stepped upon the ramparts to cool his fevered brow. At this instant, to his great horror and astonishment, he perceived the duke advancing towards him.
"Ha! Guido, my pretty bird has flown; and that, too, within an hour," said he. "Just think of it; the jade donned one of my costumes and passed my guards without detection. But I will have her yet, for I have out parties to scour the mountain."
"Scoundrel! She is my daughter, and I am, unwittingly, her murderer!" exclaimed Guido. "The issue is now between you and me, and one or both must fall."
So saying he made a furious onslaught upon the duke, who, perceiving that he had to deal with a madman, began to call for assistance, at the same time defending himself with his sword. As this rencontre took place at a remote part of the castle, his cries were not heard. At length Guido closed with him and pressed him to the edge of the parapet, which overhung a depth of nearly five hundred feet. The bottom and sides of this abyss were jagged rocks, on which no one could fall and live. And now the death-struggle waxes furious. The parapet is reached; Guido, with the strength of a giant, presses Alberto over. 'Tis done! With a dull, heavy sound both are plunged into the awful darkness. parapet is reached; Guido, with the strength of a giant, presses Alberto over. 'Tis done! With a dull, heavy sound both are plunged into the awful darkness.
An Irishman describes metaphysics as follows: "Two men are talking together, and one of them is trying to explain something he don't know anything about, and the other can't understand him."