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A Singular Family by Clelia Lega Weeks


Almost as far back as I can remember three brothers, Italians named Noele, were intimates and occasionally inmates of our home. The youngest brother, Eugenio, had been imprisoned during the political disturbances of his country, but had escaped and made his way to England. Here, at a lecture given by Mazzini in London under the auspices of the liberal Italians and those who espoused their cause, Eugenio, who to handsome features and aristocratic appearance added a modulated voice and persuasive manner, rose during the course of the evening, and in words that held the audience spellbound narrated his own sufferings and those of some of his friends under the yoke of Austria. As he concluded with the utterance of the sentiment, "Libertà! Equalità! Fraternità!" a storm of applause burst from the assembly, and many were the high personages who at the close of the meeting requested an introduction to the fascinating young orator. My father was present on this occasion, and here his acquaintance with Eugenio Noele commenced. The young man having discovered to him that his pecuniary resources were at the lowest ebb, my father took him home with him, and my mother afterward united with him in requesting Eugenio to consider their house as his own. My father also introduced him to his mercantile connections and initiated him into mercantile affairs, when by his astuteness and perseverance he was enabled to lay the foundations of an excellent position. Indeed, but few years had elapsed (during which time he had frequently resided with us) ere he had acquired considerable wealth and we a clearer insight into his true disposition.

His principles were such as the promptings of self-love, a violent temper, pride and ambition could without difficulty overcome. As he rose higher in the social scale the reflection that he had owed the impetus to others was a constant source of annoyance to him. Our house was now but rarely visited by him, unless when some legal difficulties had arisen on which he wished to consult my father or some important papers required translating. Then the air of pride would yield to one of deferential affection, and in silvery tones he would discourse on such topics as he imagined were the most pleasing to us. My father would be termed "Signor Padre" and my mother "Signora Madre."

At about this time he sent to Italy for his brother Rugiero to assist him in his affairs. Rugiero became as intimate at our house as Eugenio had been. There were singularly contradictory elements in this brother's character. At one time the history of a destitute family would move him to tears, and his purse would be freely emptied for their benefit: at another time he would spend half an hour in searching for a lost farthing, and if not successful his countenance would betray lines of anxiety for hours afterward. If he made me the gift of a paper horn or box of sweets, his heart for the rest of the day would seem to be expanded with the most joyous emotions, and for weeks after I was liable to be asked whether I remembered the day when I was so pleased with his little gift; and then he would request permission to examine the pictures painted thereon, and call my attention to their merits. He was ordinarily slow to understand the point of a witticism, but when he had by deep pondering discovered it, nothing could exceed his enjoyment: bending his head and clasping the bridge of his handsomely shaped nose, he would laugh till the tears were ready to start. On the other hand, he was extremely sensitive, jealous and suspicious. No one knew how soon the pleasant smile and kindly word would give place to angry passions as ungovernable as they were disagreeable to witness. A smile passing from one person to another without his being acquainted with the cause, was sufficient provocation for him to rise, make his respects in a frigidly polite tone and take his leave, to return a few moments after with heightened complexion and excited voice, and declare that he could not suffer an affront with equanimity—that he would rid those present of his "abhorred" society, and would never enter those doors again whilst he drew the breath of life. We paid little attention to these egregious eccentricities, merely remarking with a smile of amusement, "Poor Rugiero! how ridiculous! He must be out of his senses;" and about a fortnight later he would make his appearance, penitent, apologetic and studious to remove the ill impression that his strange conduct must have caused.

A third brother, Giuseppe, was added to the group, of whom vacillation was the distinguishing characteristic. Giuseppe, in the innumerable discussions that arose between Rugiero and Eugenio, would acquiesce with first one and then the other in whatever exaggerated sentiments their enraged frame of mind might prompt them to utter, with the view of keeping on good terms with both; but the only result was that when the flag of truce had been raised, grievances passed over and differences adjusted, he would have the mortification of finding the whole of the blame laid on his shoulders, and himself stigmatized as "a feather-head," "a meddler" and "a spy."

As the years rolled on I grew into womanhood, and became the unwitting source of constant ill-feeling between the brothers. Eugenio was handsome, but I distrusted him; Rugiero was nearly as handsome, but I regarded him as I would have regarded an uncle; Giuseppe was also handsome, but unstable and entirely wanting in force. Time passed, and the brothers had separated. Eugenio had married a woman in every way his inferior. Rugiero had been drawn into a like union that surprised all those who knew his refined tastes and sensitiveness to the social amenities. Though a man of honor, his circumstances had become embarrassed. In his emergencies he had recourse to his old friends, whose aid was not withheld, but, a crisis arriving, he was declared bankrupt. Eugenio, instead of assisting his brother, upbraided with being a disgrace to his own respectability, publicly disowned him, and, with the view of forcing him to abandon the country, spread injurious reports concerning him amongst many of the merchants who would otherwise have been willing to extend a helping hand.

Soon after this Eugenio made a journey to Italy on business. Here he visited his native place with an equipage designed to astonish the simple peasants and suggest to them the immensity of his wealth. Never had the village on the outskirts of which dwelt his widowed sister seen such magnificence or experienced such munificence. His name was on all tongues; ovations were made to him; he was almost a king in their eyes. His sister, Lucretia Mortera, had borne to her husband a large family, of whom but three survived—a youth named after his uncle Eugenio, and then being educated for the priesthood; Celestino, a boy of eleven years; and Virginia, a girl of eight. The little home in which they resided in quiet retirement had been given to the widow for as long as she chose to occupy it by a friend of her late husband, as a token of respect to his memory. Eugenio Noele, ashamed to see a sister of his living in a way so unsuited to her birth and former expectations, requested her to dispose of whatever property she might be possessed of, and prepare to accompany him with her family to London, where he would provide for them, and his nephew Eugenio, leaving his studies, could take a place in his counting-house. This request—or rather command—was embraced with gratitude, though it cost a pang to think of leaving the home that had sheltered them under many vicissitudes. Besides which, it was a matter of doubt to Signora Mortera and her eldest son whether any worldly promotion could justify his deserting the priestly vocation to which he had felt himself called.

One evening my mother and I were surprised by a call from Rugiero. His face was pale and his eyes were wild. He sank into an easy-chair, and after a long silence broke into the most terrible invectives against his brother Eugenio, who had dragged the widow and orphans from a peaceful home to cast them adrift.

"What widow? what orphans?"

"Simply, Madama Melville, my poor sister Lucretia, whom he induced to accompany him to London, with her family, on the pretence of providing for them all, is now with those children at my house, without means, without even a change of clothing. Yes, my sister Lucretia, who was a mother to him when his own mother died; and yet he prospers!"

"But, Rugiero, what was the cause of his treating them thus?"

"When they had arrived at my brother's house the wife, who had not expected them, took an aversion to them, and no sooner did she learn that they were strict Roman Catholics than she believed them to be capable of every crime. Celestino, who is in a decline, was treated with the greatest neglect. Every occasion of showing disrespect toward her sister-in-law before her children or the servants was eagerly sought by my brother's wife, whilst in the presence of her husband she was all amiability. The sickness of one of her own children was made the occasion of accusing Lucretia of an attempt to poison it, and the wily woman so worked on my brother's parental feelings that he had not returned home an hour ere he commanded his 'infamous sister'—'quel assassinatrice!'—to leave his house with her children on the instant! The door was closed upon them, and the outer apparel that had served them for their journey was thrown to them from the window by the servants. Amazed and full of grief, they directed their steps toward the house of the good priest whose chapel they had once or twice attended. Here they procured my address, and soon after came to my house, where they now are in the extremest affliction. You, madama, may well imagine that I can scarcely maintain my own family at this juncture, and that I am therefore unable to do for my sister and her children what my heart dictates. After a sleepless night I came to the conclusion that you, Madama Melville, whose goodness of heart has so often been put sorely to the test, would be able to suggest some plan by which to mitigate the sufferings of my unfortunate sister or bring Eugenio to reason."

"My dear Rugiero, I feel certain that my husband would think as I do—that for the present they had better stay here with us. We can turn one floor into sleeping apartments for them, and have one sitting-room in which your sister can receive callers or remain when she wishes to be alone. You know that I have so often heard you speak of your sister Lucretia that I can take the privilege of giving her an invitation to come and make us a long visit; and so you must tell her."

"God bless you, dear madama, as you deserve to be blessed! This is indeed a weight off my heart and mind."

The result of this conversation was that on the next morning Rugiero returned, bringing with him his sister and her children. Signora Lucretia responded to the welcome of my parents with expressions of fervent gratitude, calling them the saviors of her family. She was a short, slender woman, in whose dark eyes, long, finely-cut features, and pale, thin face one could discern the spirit of asceticism and the traces of past afflictions. Of the children she had buried, all had reached their tenth year in apparent health and remarkable for their physical and moral beauty, but from that age they had rapidly trodden the pathway to the tomb. None of her children had resembled their father but Eugenio, who was a well-made youth of wiry constitution, and gave every promise of attaining the ordinary age allotted to man. Celestino was destined soon to rejoin the children gone before. How can I describe the thrill I felt when I saw that child's face as he entered the room? Never had I seen in picture or in dream a countenance so lovely. But what can I say of those soul-speaking eyes, the large, dark-brown iris surrounded by the brilliant azure-white and shaded by long dark lashes? Finely chiseled features were added to a rounded face of a clear pale olive, except where a flush like the pink lining of a shell played upon it. Virginia greatly resembled her brother Celestino, but was in full health, and in spirits that would have been lively but for the constant and harassing admonitions of her mother, who in every free and graceful movement saw a tendency to levity that must be repressed. The poor child was doomed to a perpetual entanglement of the lower limbs, owing to her garments being made as long as those of a grown person. If, forgetting decorum, she chanced to skip or jump, Signora Lucretia would exclaim, "Va scompostaccia! sta più composta" ("Go to, most discomposed one! be more composed"), and seating her by her side would supply her with needlework or knitting until my mother would intercede, assuring Signora Lucretia that the child could never attain healthy womanhood unless allowed the full play of her muscles and the expansion of her lungs by singing and laughter.

"Ah, madama, you know not how I fear lest the natural gayety of her disposition should cause the loss of her soul."

"Oh, my dear lady, such ideas are born of the troubles through which you have passed, and not of your native good sense. God has implanted this gayety in your child's heart to enable her to enter with zest into those amusements so necessary to her development."

One day my mother (by permission) had a tuck taken up in Virginia's dress, and, directing me to take her for a walk, she privately commissioned me to purchase for her such attire as was suitable to a child of her years. I began with her head, and secured the jauntiest little hat with feathers that I could find, not without a misgiving that it would ultimately be consigned to the flames. Amongst other articles that I procured was a wax doll, at the sight of which Virginia screamed with delight. It was her first doll. Even Signora Lucretia's face was lit by a smile of undisguised admiration at the improvement in the child's toilette, but it soon gave place to a sigh at her own "vanity of spirit," and she held the little hat as Eve might have held the apple offered to her by the serpent.

Signora Lucretia and her children spent some hours every morning before breakfast in reciting litanies and other prayers, and on retiring to rest the same forms were repeated. During the day, whenever the clock struck the hour, the whole family, leaving whatever might be the occupation of the moment, knelt on their chairs and made a short prayer or meditation on the flight of time.

At the time of their arrival my cousin Oswald was staying with us, and on the first evening he retired early to give them an opportunity of conversing more freely on the melancholy topics that filled their minds. After bidding good-night to my mother and kissing her, he paid me the same tokens of regard. This incident had not escaped the notice of the young Eugenio, for when directed by his mother to retire to rest also, he advanced toward me, shook hands, and (although, seeing his intention, I drew back) succeeded in imprinting a kiss on my cheek. Signora Lucretia turned as pale as death. My mother, to avoid a scene, turned with a playful laugh to Eugenio, who by this time was scarlet with shame, and said, "My dear boy, in this country such salutations are only permitted from near relations or very intimate friends, but I am not surprised that Mr. Oswald's thoughtlessness before you should have misled you into doing the same. So I am sure that your good mother will not be displeased with you."

"Oh, madama," exclaimed Signora Lucretia, bursting into tears as soon as the door had closed upon him, "to think that my son should have been tempted by the Evil One so far as to forget what is due to the holy vocation for which he is to fit himself! In Italy never had he even been in the same room with any woman but myself and the priest's old housekeeper. This is the first time that his lips have been so desecrated." (Here my mother and I interchanged smiles.) "Unhappy mother that I am! by what sufferings can I atone for his sin? What shall I impose upon him to mortify the spirit that has arisen within him?"

The next morning Eugenio came down looking pale and sad, and I felt sure that he had been reprimanded in no measured terms. I gave him a pitying glance, which fell like dew on the thirsting earth.

At every breakfast the children were taught to say good-morning to each person separately. The elder son would commence, "Good-morning and good appetite, Mr. Melville! good-morning and good appetite, Madama Melville! good-morning and good appetite, Signora Felicia!" and so on. Then Celestino would go through the same ceremony, and finally Virginia, and a grace was uttered, during which the breakfast was liable to become cool, and Rugiero's temper (if he were present) not so. "Andiamo! I am sure that Signor Melville and madama do not insist upon so many compliments; and you, Eugenio, should have more gallantry than to keep the Signora Felicia waiting whilst her toast becomes cold." That he should connect the word gallantry with Eugenio was an imprudence, to say the least. But the offence was more serious when once at dinner he favored us with some reminiscences of his own gallantries: "I remember that when I was in the army the wife of our colonel had a sister, a splendid-looking creature, with eyes like stars, who (to tell the truth) was head over ears in—But my sister Lucretia, who is frowning at me, is right. One would say that she must have had an enlarged experience in such matters, seeing how sensitive she is to the danger of discussing them." (Here Signora Lucretia, with blushing cheeks, glanced from Rugiero to her son, who with downcast eyes appeared to be absorbed with the roast chicken on his plate.) "Without entering into details that would appear ill-timed to my dear sister" (here his eyes twinkled with roguishness and his lips parted in laughter), "suffice it merely to say that I acted as any other man under the circumstances would have acted, and kissed her not once or twice, but—"

"Go to thy room, Eugenio, most audacious!" panted Signora Lucretia, for he had raised his head, and, meeting his uncle's laughing gaze, had faintly smiled—"Go to thy room" (and here she struck him on the face), "and recite the Litany of the Blessed Virgin three times, and pray for thy uncle, that he may be converted."

Eugenio with flaming cheeks and ears rose submissively from the table, and without a word or look ascended to his room to do her bidding.

"What!" exclaimed Rugiero, rising from his seat, "would you dare to insult me by desiring my own nephew to pray for me? It seems to me that I dream! Per Bacco!"

Here my father observed that he must own he saw nothing very outrageous in what Rugiero had narrated, yet, as Signora Mortera had her own peculiar views on the matter, he considered that her brother was bound to respect them. Rugiero then admitted that he had been too hasty, and a reconciliation was effected, but he never met his nephew's eye thereafter without the same roguish smile, at which the poor youth would blush painfully and lower his gaze.

During this scene at the dinner-table Celestino breathed quickly, but never moved his eyes from the table-cloth, while Virginia looked at each one of the speakers in open-mouthed astonishment and curiosity.

One day I accompanied Signora Lucretia and her children to a Roman Catholic chapel in the neighborhood. I could not be unconscious of the odd and incongruous appearance of the two sons—Eugenio in a suit like that of a stage grandfather, snuff-colored, and with collar that raised the lobes of his ears; and dear little Celestino with a similarly cut coat in bottle green, with large gilt buttons, making him look like a man in miniature. Such had been the style pronounced by the village tailor to be in the height of Parisian fashion, but being a novelty to the London "gamins," it attracted more notice from them than we could have wished. After Signora Mortera and her children had attended the confessional she seemed to be much easier in her mind, and was so amiable as to tell my mother on our return home that it was edifying to behold the signorina walking like a Roman matron, in contrast to those who were giggling and turning their heads first one way and then the other, like so many pulcinelle. Notwithstanding this compliment, however, I perceived that she was uneasy concerning Eugenio and myself. It was evidently a satisfaction to her that I should load Celestino with caresses and endearing epithets, but that Eugenio should sit near me, speak to me, or even be in the same room with me (whether alone or in company), was the signal for demonstrations of the extremest vigilance. On one evening my cousin had brought home some gifts, consisting of a silver pencil-case with gold pen for Eugenio, a traveling writing-case with his name on it for Celestino, and a small traveling work-bag similarly marked for Virginia. These were highly appreciated. Celestino seemed unwilling to have his desk out of his sight for a single moment, and when his bed-time came wanted to take it up with him. His mother, unwilling to leave Eugenio in my society without her watchful presence, directed him to carry his brother up.

"Signora madre," said Celestino, "I am not tired to-night."

"Well, then, Eugenio can carry up thy writing-case for thee."

"Signora madre, it is not heavy, and I would like to carry it myself."

So Signora Lucretia went up with him herself, and, leaving my mother to entertain Eugenio, I went immediately into another room. I felt too deeply for the misfortunes of the unsophisticated Eugenio ever to have willingly trifled with the nascent susceptibilities of his heart.

One little incident, however, occurred to interrupt the orthodox reserve of our demeanor. An old friend of ours, Captain Stuart, had sent Virginia a bank-note with which to procure some keepsake. One evening the old gentleman called, and was shown into the drawing-room, where my mother received him. The rest of us were in the dining-room below. On my mentioning Captain Stuart's name to Signora Lucretia, she exclaimed, "Let us go, my children, and thank this good man for his kind present to our Virginia."

It was dark, but the hall-lamp had not been lit, so I took a wax taper from the writing-table and, lighting it, proceeded to escort them up the staircase. Some spirit of mischief prompted me by a sudden movement to let the light be blown out. In an instant the hand of Eugenio met mine, and thus hand in hand, swinging to and fro, we came to the drawing-room door, and a flood of light bursting upon us discovered to Signora Lucretia my face flushed with suppressed laughter, and Eugenio's eyes no longer timid, but sparkling with joy. From this time he would spend whole nights in writing verses, which he would show to his mother. She, noting the classical allusions, and having a great respect for literary talents, did not repress his efforts, but on the contrary appeared desirous that he should show his verses to my mother and to me. Mingled with expressions of grief and despair at the inconstancy of fortune and the decrees of fate were allegorical fancies in which I could perceive that I held a place, but I never allowed him to think that I noticed this; and indeed after the escapade of the staircase I became more distant than before.

However, one day when Celestino was feeling more weak and tired than usual, and I was propping him up on the sofa, I observed with some trepidation that Eugenio, who had been reading at the window, changed his seat to one near the head of the sofa. His mother and mine were busy sewing at a window in the next room, from whence they could see us through the folding doors. His eyes were full of tears, and, suddenly bending over his brother and rearranging a cushion, he seized my hand and covered it with silent kisses. In a moment I had disengaged my hand, full of fear for the result to Eugenio should Signora Lucretia's attention be directed toward us. The same evening, on returning from a visit, I learned that my mother and Signora Mortera had gone out under the escort of Oswald to attend vespers at a church some distance off. We young people passed the evening alone together. The crimson curtains were closely drawn, and the cosy room was lighted by a blazing fire. Reclining in an easy-chair, I held Celestino's fragile form in my arms, the wonderful eyes gazing into mine as I watched with emotions too deep for words their ever-varying expression. Eugenio sat on an ottoman at my feet, alternately reading aloud from Dante and pausing to observe me, while Virginia was on the hearth-rug, happy in adorning her doll with pieces of silk, beads and flowers.

Suddenly Eugenio said, "Does the signora remember in the narrative of Dives and Lazarus how Lazarus was thankful for the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table?"

I understood him, and hiding my face in Celestino's tendril-like curls, I replied, "Yes, but I wonder whether he would have been hungry enough to eat crumbs that he knew to be poisoned?"

He made no reply.

"Eugenio," I continued, "what are your plans for the future? Is it your own desire to become a priest?"

This last word made him tremble. "I once desired it," he answered, "thinking it the most honorable position to which I could aspire, and also my natural vocation. But now—God knows whether it be a sin or not—I would pass through any affliction He might send rather than become one. But my mother's heart is fixed upon it more than ever, and soon my family will be wholly dependent upon me. Ah! young as I am, I have suffered and still suffer. Far happier is that child in your arms, dying slowly though it may be, than the unfortunate Eugenio."

"Have a care," I said, "lest, entering the state of priesthood, you bear with you a heart fixed on the things of this world. Do not yield to the impulses of a strong imagination, but endeavor to forget whatever might prove a hindrance to you hereafter."

"Ah, Felicia, my heart is too full ever to forget. Celestino, my brother, thou art indeed happy. Dost thou know it?"

"Yes, Eugenio, I feel even too happy."

"God bless thee, Celestino! I love thee more than ever;" and, stealing his brother's hand from mine, he gently kissed it, whilst Celestino smiled on us with a heavenly smile.

It was arranged that I should accompany my father to the counting-house of Eugenio Noele and strive to obtain some redress for the widow and orphans, for I had always been a favorite with him, and my mother imagined that my influence would have more power than her own. But the only result of this interview was that Eugenio promised, for my sake, to furnish his sister and her family with sufficient funds to enable them to return to their own country: he also told my father that he should send one of his clerks to accompany them and see that they did go there.

On our way home we called on Dr. Newcastle, our old friend and physician, and after describing the circumstances of the Mortera family, asked him to call and see Celestino in the evening. The doctor was a fine-looking man, with a profusion of silvery white hair and beard, a deep thinker, blunt and sincere of speech, and full of dry wit that made every one laugh but himself. His footman (a colored man) was once overheard to say, "Berry strange man, my massa! berry sing'lar man! I say to him, 'I can't walk fast in dese yere boots, sar—dey's too short.' 'Oh,' he says, ''tis but the cutting off a piece of your toes, Caesar, and de boots will fit well enuff.' Him berry sing'lar man. One day I hear, through de open window of a lady's house, him say to her, 'For what did you send after me, madam?' and she say, 'I feel a leetle 'stericky again dis morning, doctor: what can you pescribe for me?' 'Pescribe!' says my massa with a sort of short laugh: 'why, dat you go to de top of de house wid a brush and dustpan and sweep de stairs all de way down, and make all de beds, and leave off drinking strong coffee;' and a berry fashionable lady too, as dey tell me after. When de doctor get into him carriage he talk to himself, and give him short laugh."

After an introduction to Signora Mortera, the doctor turned his attention to Celestino, who lay on the sofa pale and agitated: "Bless my heart! what a handsome lad! what splendid eyes! Ah! hm! hm! poor fellow! hm!" and he cleared his throat. "Let me feel your pulse."

As Celestino turned and gazed on him with mute surprise the doctor proceeded with his examination in complete silence, and then began discoursing about the weather and politics.

"But, doctor," said my mother, "you have told us nothing about the boy? What is your opinion? what shall we do for him? what do you prescribe?"

"Whirr! whirr! how many questions! I prescribe for him a course of early rising, accompanied by long prayer and fasting. If he shows an inclination for exercise, give him a rosary. Take away juvenile books, and give him the Lives of the Saints and Martyrs. Let him remember the days of fasting and abstinence. Why, bless me! the boy is nothing but heart and brain. He must be kept cheerful and well-nourished. Let him be in the open air when it is pleasant. I will prescribe a little something for him, but his case is beyond all medicine."

"Oh, doctor, do you really mean to say that he will die?"

"Die?" and the doctor laughed his little cynical laugh. "Why, we shall all die some day, shall we not?"

"Now, doctor, do be serious. Is there no hope for him?"

"I don't see that there is;" and he continued to gaze at the boy's face as if it had some fascination for him.

Eugenio Noele failed not a week later to send his clerk to make arrangements for the departure of the Morteras. As the time drew nearer Celestino failed rapidly. He would lie for hours without speaking except with his eloquent eyes. Frequently he would kiss a little ring that I had given him, and a few days before his departure I gave him a trinket consisting of a turquoise heart, with a cross set with crystals over red stones, emblematical of the blood and water that flowed from the side of our Redeemer. This he received with great emotion, and as I tied it to his neck with a ribbon he said, "I will wear it as long as I have life."

"Does Celestino fear to die?"

"No, signora, not whilst you are near me; and by dying I shall see my brothers and sisters in heaven, and can come and watch over you all."

"Sweetest child! It will break my heart to lose thee."

"Ah, do not weep;" and the boy's lips paled and his eyelids closed. I gave him water, and called to his mother to come and speak to him.

"Ah, this child of my bosom! my poor Celestino! must he leave me too?"

"Dear signora, he goes to a world free from such sorrows or cares as yours have been. He is like an angel even now."

"Celestino, kiss thy poor afflicted mother." Without a word, but with trembling lips, he stretched forth his arms to embrace her, and I stole away, leaving to her sacred sorrow the poor woman who for the moment, forgetting her self-imposed ascetic restraint, was yielding to every impulse of demonstrative tenderness.

The night before their departure Eugenio wrote an ode addressed to me, and placed it in my hands. I did not then read it through: I felt too dispirited and preoccupied. The next morning his eyes met mine with a questioning expression that I did not comprehend. When the hour for parting had arrived tears and broken exclamations were mingled. Eugenio lingered to kiss me, with a look first of inquiry, then of deep despair. I found afterward that the poem he had presented to me contained a protestation of humble and devoted love, which he entreated me not to neglect with scorn, and thereby add to the cruelties of his situation.

What a sense of loneliness we experienced! I felt restless and unhappy: I was pursued by the imploring face of Eugenio and haunted by the eyes of Celestino. It was long ere our household recovered its old equilibrium. Letters full of gratitude came from the Morteras. They were re-established in their old home; Eugenio had resumed his studies; Virginia was not so well; Celestino was dying. Soon after I received a letter in Eugenio's handwriting informing me that the trinket he enclosed would be to me an evidence that his beloved brother Celestino was dead. He had died with a smile on his lips, and Eugenio with his own hands had unfastened the jewel from his neck. In a letter written some time after to my mother Eugenio implored her by all she loved to rescue him from a position which he felt to be daily more unendurable, by procuring for him some engagement, in however humble a capacity, that would enable him to support himself and assist his family. A priest he could not, would not be. My parents had scarcely time to discuss the matter ere another letter came from Eugenio, telling them that his mother had discovered the subject of his correspondence, and that she and their good old priest had succeeded in convincing him of his wickedness in attempting to relinquish the holy vocation of priest—that it had been a snare of the devil; and he implored Signor and Madama Melville to forgive him for the scandal he had caused concerning his holy religion by such unworthy backslidings, which he now deeply repented.

One day Oswald came in exclaiming, "Aunt, who do you think has failed and left the country?"


"Why, your friend, Eugenio Noele! As I passed the house I saw men carrying away the pictures and things. I could not help stopping to inquire into the matter. One of the workmen, who seemed to know a great deal about it, said that a confidential clerk was at the bottom of it all, and had run off before the great smash came."

The last news we heard of this singular family was that Rugiero, who had gone to Italy with his family, was retrieving his position, that Giuseppe was with him, and that Eugenio was a priest, and beloved by all for his noble qualities and extended usefulness.