FROM THE ITALIAN OF UESIGLIO.
'This wreath must be finished before the evening. Down with those
tiresome hands; you jumble together all my leaves; you give me one
colour instead of the other: you are spoiling all I have done. Be it
known to you, however, that I am determined you shall not leave Padua
until I have put the last leaf to our garland.'
These pettish words, qualified by the sweetest of smiles, were
addressed by a beautiful girl of sixteen to a young man who was
sitting beside her, and taking a mischievous pleasure in disturbing
her work; now catching hold of her hands; now removing out of her
reach something that she wanted; now playing with her long and
luxuriant hair, which floated negligently on her shoulders:
affectionate interruptions, which left a doubt whether the name of
brother or lover better suited them. But the light which flashed
from, the eyes of the youth, and seemed to irradiate the countenance
of the maiden, showed that his emotions were more rapid and ardent
than those inspired by fraternal love. They were seated at a table
strewed with shreds of cloth, gummed cotton, green taffeta, little
palettes of colours, small pencils, and all the necessary apparatus
of artificial flower-making.
'Well, then,' replied the youth, 'I will do as you wish; but what
haste with a wreath that is not to be used till Heaven knows when?
Ah! if you were to wear it tomorrow, I would then assist you with
hands, eyes, heart, mind—with my whole being.'
'What matters it? What harm will it do these flowers to wait for us?
I promise you to keep this garland so carefully, that it shall look
quite new on the day when it shall encircle my head; and then it will
seem to all others but an ordinary wreath: but to us—to me—oh, what
charms it will have! It will have been born, as it were, and have
grown with our love; it will have remained to me in memory of you
when you were obliged to leave me for a time; it will have spoken to
me of you when absent; will have a thousand times sworn love to me
for you. I shall have consulted, and kissed it a thousand times, till
that day in which I shall be yours! Do you hear that word, Edoardo?
Yours—yours for ever! never more to leave you!—to be divided from
you only by death!'
'That will indeed be a blessed day—the loveliest day of our life!
The desire of devoting all the powers of my mind to your happiness
will then become a right. Poor Sophia, you know not yet what
happiness is: so young, so good; you have hitherto met with thorns
only in your path. Poor Sophia, I desire no other glory in this world
than that of being able to make you feel the sweet that Providence in
pity mingles with the bitter of human existence. There is no
sweetness in the life of mortals that is not the offspring of love.'
'Yes,' added Sophia, 'when love is united with constancy. But what
are you daubing at, Edoardo? You are actually putting red on orange
leaves. Where have you learned botany? And what does that rose
signify? Is not this a bride's wreath, and are not bridal wreaths
always made of orange flowers? Do you know what I mean to do with
those roses? Ah, you would never guess. I shall make of them a
funeral crown. Here, take these leaves, and reach me the palette. You
have positively learned nothing all the time you have been seeing me
A servant entered the room, saying, 'There is no post to Venice
either to-day or to-morrow: the Signor Edoardo cannot set out before
'Friday!' exclaimed Sophia, 'vile day!' and with a clouded
countenance she silently resumed her self-imposed task. Edoardo, on
the contrary, seemed glad of the delay.
'No matter; but,' he added, 'is not this a trick of yours—a plot
concocted by you and Luigia to prevent me from leaving Padua?'
'You mistake, Edoardo; I would wish rather to hasten your departure.'
'I am very much obliged to you,' replied Edoardo, half vexed. 'What
do you mean? If you do not explain your words I shall be very angry.'
'The explanation—the explanation, Edoardo, is here in my head, but
not in my heart. The explanation, Edoardo, is that I love you too
much, and I am not pleased with myself. Yes, but there are sorrows,
Edoardo, which sadly wear away our life; but these sorrows are a
need, a duty, and to forget them is a crime. My poor sister, the only
friend I have ever had, that poor saint, the victim of love, dead
through the treachery of a man hardly two years since: on memory of
her I have lived for eighteen months; but I even forget her when I
see you, when I speak to you. Perhaps I do not bestow on my mother as
much attention as her unhappy state requires. Alas! there is no
reproach more bitter than this: "You are a bad daughter!" And this my
conscience reproaches me with being a thousand times. Thus, Edoardo,
I am wanting in my duties. I am a weak creature: a powerful, and too
sweet sentiment threatens to take entire possession of me, to the
detriment of the other sentiments that nature has implanted in our
heart. Go, then, Edoardo; I have need of calm—I have need of not
seeing you. Suffer me to fulfil my duties, that I may be more worthy
of you. When you are far away, I shall have full faith in you. But if
your father should refuse his consent to our union?'
'Leave those sad thoughts. My father wishes only to please me, and it
will be sufficient for me to ask his consent to obtain it. Even
should he refuse it, in two years the law will permit me to dispose
of myself as I choose.'
'May Heaven remove this sad presentiment from my mind; but it makes
me tremble. Oh! if you return with the desired consent of your
father! oh! if my mother, as the physicians gave me reason to hope,
should then be well! we shall be the happiest of mortals.'
The sound of a silver bell, heard from a chamber close by, took away
Sophia from her occupation. She rose hastily, saving, 'My mother! oh,
my poor mother! Adieu for a while, Edoardo.'
Edoardo Valperghi was the son of a wealthy Venetian merchant. He had
received a grave but unprofitable education, it being that which is
wholly directed to the intellect and nothing to the heart. He was
studying in one of those colleges in which the system of education is
as old as the walls of the edifice. He had been told that he had a
heart, but no one had spoken of how it was to be directed to good. He
had been told that he must resist his own passions, but no one had
shown him what arms to make use of in this moral warfare. He had been
told to love virtue and to hate vice, but no one had furnished him
with a criterion for distinguishing true virtue from its counterfeit.
The temper of Edoardo was ardent and hasty, but flexible and weak.
Nature had made him good, but society could make him very bad. He was
like a ship without a good pilot—one to become good or bad according
to circumstances. Enthusiastic, easily impressed by example, he would
be most virtuous if his first steps had moved among the virtuous; if
among the wicked, he would rush to perdition.
A letter of recommendation to the father of Sophia, who had formerly
had some commercial dealings with the Valperghi, introduced him into
the house. His timidity made him prefer that family to richer ones
with which he was also acquainted, and amongst whom he could have
found youths, amusements, and habits similar to those he had left
behind in Venice. But Sophia, lovely, amiable, and frank, had shown
him the affection of a sister. He had soon conceived a passion for
her; declarations of love, promises, oaths, everything had thus been
impetuous and sudden with him, as his disposition prompted. The
inexperienced girl believed that a sentiment so strong, so ardent,
must be equally profound and constant, and yielded to the enchantment
of a first love. Edoardo had terminated the first year of his legal
studies, and was now preparing to return to Venice.
Alberto Cadori, the father of Sophia, was also a merchant. He had
begun business in a small sphere; but having guided his industry
prudently, from being poor he had gradually become rich, and at
length retired from commerce with a considerable fortune. Cadori was
avaricious, harsh, exacting: he wished rather to be feared than
loved: he was not the father, but the tyrant of his family. There was
seemingly some secret cause of disagreement between him and his wife:
it was perhaps for this reason that he did not love his children; but
what it was no one could tell. His family was now limited to Sophia
and his wife. He had had another daughter, fair and amiable as
Sophia; but the sad school of the world, and the all-powerful empire
of love, had untimely laid her low. The Signora Cadori, though still
young, was already on the brink of the grave. The grief that preyed
on her life, and especially the lamentable end of her first-born, had
brought on paralysis. She could no longer move without assistance.
One other person formed part of the family, without being connected
with it by relationship—a woman who seemed at first sight to have
reached her seventieth year, so slow and difficult were her
movements. Her words savoured a little of obscurity, and her
countenance was rather repulsive. She was a Milanese. Having come to
the baths in Padua, she had taken lodgings in Cadori's house. She
seldom spoke, and paid no attention to what was passing around her.
She always seemed unconscious of the loud and angry language of
Cadori, which was proving fatal to the neglected wife and the
oppressed daughter. She appeared to love no one; no one loved her.
However, as she paid largely for her apartments, Cadori did
everything to keep her in his house.
Though Sophia led a melancholy life, it was much relieved by the
exercise of her accomplishments, which were numerous. No female in
Padua, for instance, could compare with her in the art of
flower-making. Her friends contended for the pleasure of adorning
themselves with one of these flowers; courteous and kind to all, she
distributed some to each. Even the mercers of the city, when they had
need of flowers of superior beauty, applied to Sophia, who willingly
acceded to their requests.
The two days of delay to Edoardo's departure were past, and in those
two days the Signora Cadori had had a new and very violent attack,
which placed her life in danger. Edoardo came to take leave of the
family. When alone, the conversation, the adieus of the lovers, were
not long; they both wept, looked at each other, and were silent. Yet
how many things had they to say to each other, how many promises to
renew, how many hopes and fears to exchange!
They parted; Edoardo pleased with himself, and Sophia dissatisfied
with him and herself, without knowing why.
The heart is a true prophet: the fears of Sophia were about being
realised; the days of her mother were drawing to a close. Sophia,
sad and terrified, was never absent from her bedside. Her heart, her
heart alone, sometimes wandered after the footsteps of another
beloved, but less unhappy being. Forgive that thought of love to the
maiden; call it not a sin. Sixteen! a soul so tender! the first love!
The maternal eye saw into the inmost heart of the daughter, and felt
no jealousy at those thoughts flying to her distant love. In those
moments she silenced her own wants, lest she should disturb her in
her reveries, and humbly prayed for the happiness of her child.
Sophia, on recollecting herself, would testify the greatest sorrow,
ask pardon of her dear invalid, and redouble her attention. Neither
day nor night was she away from the pillow of her dying mother. Her
strength supported her, as if by a miracle. No one divided with her
this pious office, except the Countess Galeazzi, the mysterious guest
of that house, and she came but seldom to the chamber of suffering.
But the last hour had struck for the Signora Cadori. With her dying
breath she spoke of Edoardo. 'You love,' she said, 'and your love may
be the source of good to you. Take this cross, which I have worn on
my heart since the day of your birth; it was the gift of your father;
take it, and wear it in memory of your poor mother. You will find in
my chest a sum of money, and some bills on the imperial bank of
Vienna. It is no great riches, but it is sufficient for the
unforeseen wants that may press upon a woman. I would never consent
to give up these sums to your father, and that was one source of our
disagreement; but it was impossible for the heart of a mother to
deprive herself of what she could one day share with her children.
And I am glad that I have not done so; for, without such aid, your
poor sister would have died of misery, as she did of grief and
She said more, and seemed to make other confidences to her daughter,
but her words were uttered so feebly that they were lost. She then
leaned her head on the shoulder of Sophia, never to raise it more.
Four months after this event, the time of study returned, and Edoardo
came again to Padua. He did not bring the consent of his father to
their marriage, but only some distant hopes. Cadori, who was aware of
Sophia's inclinations, forbade Edoardo to frequent his house, until
the formal permission of his father could be procured. Thus was
Sophia deprived of the pleasure of being often near her lover, of
enjoying his society, his conversation. She could see him but seldom,
and that unknown to her father.
But Edoardo was changed. He was no longer the frank, the loving
Edoardo of former times. A residence of five months in Venice,
without being subjected to restraint, or having means to elude it;
the company of other young men, familiar with vice and dissipation;
above all, a fatal inclination had depraved and ruined him! He had
suffered himself to be fascinated by the fierce delight which is
found in gaming; play had become his occupation, his chief need. Play
and its effects, the orgies that precede, the excesses that follow,
were the life of Edoardo. Waste and debt were the consequences; and
when he had, under a thousand pretences, extorted from his father all
the money he could, he began, on arriving in Padua, to apply to
Sophia, whom he neglected, at least did not see as often as he might,
though he still loved her. Sophia was as indulgent as he was
indiscreet. At every fatal request for money, she offered him double
the sum he had asked. When Edoardo began to tell her some feigned
story, to conceal the shameful source of his wants, and to give her
an account of how he had employed those sums, she would not listen to
'Why,' said she, 'should I demand an account of your actions? Why
should I think over and debate what you have already considered? Will
not all you have be one day mine? Shall we not be one day man and
wife?' And these words took away from Edoardo every sense of remorse:
conscience ceased to reproach him for the baseness of despoiling that
poor girl of the little she possessed. The thought that he was one
day to make her his wife, justified him in his own eyes; for by this
he thought he should have recompensed her for all her sacrifices.
Edoardo's demands increased with his exigencies. He was making rapid
advances into the most terrible phases of the gamester's vice; and
the mania in Sophia of giving—of sacrificing all her means for
Edoardo, did not stop. All the money left her by her mother had
already disappeared; most of her valuable ornaments had been sold;
some of the bank bills had been parted with: but as this could not be
done without her father's knowledge, he had made the laws interpose,
and sequestrated the remainder. Sophia did not dare to speak or
complain. She felt in her heart that her father was probably in the
right, that her own conduct was at least unreflecting, and that
Edoardo's expenses were too great; but still she found a thousand
arguments to excuse both herself and him. She spent all the day
making flowers, and stole a great part of the night from repose to
devote it to this labour; but she, formerly so ready to make presents
of her flowers, and adorn with them the young girls of her
acquaintance, now exacted payment for them; so that every one
wondered at this new and sudden avarice. But what did she care what
was said of her? What did she care for appearing without those
ornaments which women so love, and which add so much to their charms?
What mattered it to her that she was ruining her own health by
depriving herself of rest, toiling, and weeping? One look, one smile
of Edoardo, the having satisfied one of his desires, compensated for
all. What afflicted and troubled her was, that her labour should be
so insufficient to meet his wants. Often did it occur to her mind
that he gambled, that he was ruining himself, and she thought of
reproving him for it, but had not courage to do so. Sometimes she
accused herself of aiding him to destroy himself. Then she thought
that she was mistaken; her doubts seemed to her as injuries to his
love, and she grieved for having for a moment admitted them.
One treasure alone remained, the cross which her mother had given her
on her death-bed. It was of brilliants, and might bring a large sum.
She thought over this, and wept for a whole week. Many times she went
out with the intention of selling it, but her heart could not resolve
to do so, and she returned penitent and sorrowful.
Meanwhile, Edoardo was involving himself more and more in debt.
Assailed by creditors on one side, and drawn to the gaming-table by
desire and necessity on the other; menaced with a prison, threatened
to be denounced to his father, stupid from want of rest, midnight
revelling, and anxiety, he one day presented himself before Sophia in
a state so different from usual, that the poor girl was terrified at
him. Whither, Edoardo, has departed the beauty, the freshness of your
youthful years?—whither your simplicity of heart? Buried, buried
amid dice and cards. Sophia no longer doubted that Edoardo gambled,
that he had given himself up to a life worthy of reprehension; but
she was disposed to pardon him, to hope that he would repent and
turn to better counsels. But what made her tremble was the hoarse and
desperate accent in which he told her that he had need of money, that
he was, hard pressed by necessity, obliged to pay ten thousand
lire. The glance that he directed to every corner of the apartment,
perhaps because he did not dare to look her in the face, was dark and
unsteady: some broken words, uttered in a low voice, pierced her
heart like a dagger. And without any available means, she promised
Edoardo to procure him the required sum by next day.
When he left the house, therefore, she threw herself at her father's
feet, and begged him for a sum of money that belonged to her, but of
which she could not dispose without his signature; but Cadori refused
it. I shall not repeat their dialogue. I shall only say, that she
came out from that conference in a state of distraction. Her mind was
fraught with desolation. Hideous thoughts passed through her brain.
It was night: she found she was alone. She felt desperate. A terrible
temptation passed through her mind. Her father, she knew, had heaps
of gold lying useless in his coffers; but locks and bolts placed
their contents out of reach. She then bethought herself of the
countess's bureau, in which her own cross had been deposited, secure
from the old man's covetousness. There, too, the countess kept her
treasures. She took a light, observed whether any one saw her, or
could follow her, and repaired to the apartment of the Countess
Galeazzi, who was from home, spending the evening with an old
acquaintance. Hardly breathing, and walking on tiptoe, Sophia took a
key from under a bell-glass, and opened the bureau. Oh, how she felt
her heart throb! She was terrified; she trembled in every movement!
The noise she made in opening the money-drawer seemed to be the
footsteps of some person following to lay hands on her. The light of
the lamp, reflected in the mirrors and in the furniture, seemed to
her so many eyes that looked on and reproached her. She opened the
drawer and took out her cross. Under it were several notes of the
bank of Vienna. The temptation was strong; she laid her hands on the
papers; but a thrill of terror seemed communicated through her frame
by the touch, and, overcome by intense excitement, she fell senseless
on the floor.
Some time afterwards the Countess Galeazzi returned home. On entering
her apartment, she beheld the wretched girl stretched on the floor
with the diamond cross in her hand. The bureau was still open. She
ran to succour Sophia, and by the application of essences recalled
her to life. The moment the latter awoke to consciousness, she threw
herself on her knees, wept desperately, tried to speak, but could
not; the only words she was at length able to articulate
were—'Forgive me! forgive me!'
The countess used every means to pacify her, by the compassionate
expression of her countenance, by her maternal gestures, caressing
and pressing her to her bosom, with words of comfort and tenderness.
'Calm yourself, calm yourself,' she said; 'go and take some repose;
you have need of it.'
'Countess,' replied Sophia, then wept anew. 'Shame, shame and
desperation! Oh, wretch that I am! Oh, my poor heart!'
'Go, go to bed, Sophia; to-morrow we will talk. Here is the light.'
Saying this, she reached her the lamp with one hand and led her by
the other, using a little affectionate violence to conduct her out of
the room, and prevent her from speaking another word.
The next day Sophia was so overwhelmed with grief and shame, that she
took to her bed, struck down by a violent fever, which was the
commencement of a dangerous illness. The countess was her nurse.
Edoardo, having lost the source whence he derived all his supplies,
through the illness of Sophia, could no longer prevent his father
from coming to the knowledge of his irregularities. He was
immediately recalled to Venice, and shut up in a house of correction.
Disgraced in the eyes of the companions of his debaucheries, and
forced in his solitary confinement to make painful reflections on the
consequences of his conduct, he seemed to be cured of his fatal
passion, and when released, he returned no more to Padua; but, giving
up the study of the law, he devoted himself to commerce, to which the
contagious mania of making money, of becoming rich, made him steadily
apply himself. His old inclination had changed its name; it was
'mercantile speculation;' but the substance remained the same. He had
written to Sophia that his father would not consent to his marriage,
unless it were with a lady of large fortune: unfortunately, she was
not rich enough; however, that he would wed none but her, and that
they must be resigned, and trust to time; and Sophia, living on the
few letters that Edoardo continued to write her, and grieving that
she was not as rich as Valperghi would have wished, waited and hoped.
Her illness had been long and dangerous; her youth, and the care
bestowed on her, had alone been able to save her life. She had long
been oppressed by remorse: it was long ere she dared to lift her eyes
to the countess, or address one word to her.
The latter had sought to evade every allusion to the past; and the
poor girl, beginning to overcome her fears, ended at length in making
her her friend, her confidante. She told her everything, and was
fully forgiven everything.
After a time, Sophia recovered. They had lived together for four
years, during which Sophia had opened her whole heart to that lady,
made her the repository of all her everyday thoughts, her hopes; but
the countess had always answered her with vague, uncertain words, or
with silence. Alas! Sophia was fated to lose every object on which
she had set her affection. After having closed the eyes of her mother
and sister, adverse fortune obliged her to witness the death of the
When her affairs were looked into, it was found that she left her
large fortune to Sophia Cadori; so that that which deprived her of so
tender, so generous a friend, should also have made her happiness
complete. Every obstacle that divided from her Edoardo, which
separated her from him she loved so ardently, had vanished. In a few
days a boundless love, a love of six years, a love she had cherished
through so many sorrows, would be crowned! In a few days she would be
She wrote a letter full of the joys and hopes soon to be realised to
her dear Edoardo; she was happy, as happy as she had desired, as
happy as she had so long dreamed of being; she made all preparations
for her marriage. Being now quite independent of him, she spoke of it
to her father—to every one; she sought garments of the colour and
taste that she knew Edoardo liked; she imagined and planned a
thousand surprises. How many times did she put the cherished wreath
on her head, consult her mirror, study every position in which those
flowers might appear to better advantage and increase her beauty! How
often did she open the box that contained it to kiss it, to look at
it, scarcely daring to touch it for fear of spoiling a leaf, of
disarranging a fibre!
At length came the answer to her letter; an answer that to any other
person might have seemed constrained, cold, terrible; but it was, on
the contrary, to Sophia the seal of her felicity. She was only
afflicted that Edoardo should have made illness an apology, which he
said prevented him from coming immediately to Padua. To Sophia it was
as clear as the sun that expressions of affection did not abound,
because they had now at command what she and Edoardo had so long
hoped and looked for; that the letter did not dwell on particulars,
precisely because great joy is not talkative, and because the illness
of Edoardo prevented it. She made ready to set out to Venice without
delay, expecting that her father would join her there, and that the
nuptials would be celebrated in that city when the health of Edoardo
Arrived at Venice, she was set down at the house of the Valperghi,
and ordered the trunk which contained the few robes she had brought
with her to be brought into a room, into which she had been
introduced while the servants went to announce her arrival to Edoardo.
After a few minutes he entered the apartment, to discover who wanted
to see him; and, on recognising Sophia, was disconcerted and abashed.
She was surprised at seeing him splendidly dressed, as if for some
extraordinary occasion. Then he was not ill! She read confusion and
terror in his countenance.
'My own Edoardo,' said she, after some moments of silence;' are you
'It was but a slight indisposition, as I have written to you,'
replied he; 'nor was there any reason for your hasty presence in
'Edoardo, Edoardo!—there was no reason!—I have written to you!
Edoardo, why do you speak so to me? Why are you disturbed? Are you no
longer my own Edoardo? Tell me, tell me what is the matter with you?
'Nothing. But what do you think will be said of you? A young girl
alone in the house of a family she does not know!'
'Oh, Edoardo, you kill me! Explain yourself more clearly. This a
house I do not know? Am I not to be mistress in this house? Am I not
to be your wife?'
'But without any previous announcement of your coming, it would not
be well if my father were to find you here so unexpectedly. I think
it would be better if you were to lodge, at least for a very short
while, in an inn.'
'Your father! But am I not rich enough for him? This is a fearful
mystery. Explain it, if you do not wish me to die.'
This conversation was interrupted by the entrance of a servant,
saying: 'Signor Edoardo, your bride requests you to pass into her
apartment for a moment.'
Sophia had strength to command herself until the man was gone away.
She then threw, or rather let herself fall into a chair, covering her
face with her hands, crying: 'His bride! his bride! Is it true? Is it
not a dream? For mercy's sake, if you have the heart of a man, tell
me that it is false, that I have not heard rightly. For pity's sake
answer me—answer me or kill me.'
'It is too true, Sophia; it was my father's will. In a little time I
am to give my hand to another woman.'
'Oh, merciful Heaven! I have heard these words, and live. Oh, my poor
life! But it cannot be: it is not true: you are not yet married:
there is still time. Go—fly to the feet of your father, tell him you
do not love that woman—that you love me, me only; that you have
loved me for six years!'
'Impossible, Sophia; things have already gone too far. She is a
princess—one of the first families of Florence. It breaks my heart,
but it is impossible.'
'What matters her rank, her relatives, if you do not love her?'
'And if I did love her?' said Edoardo, wavering, rather to see
whether it would be a means of ridding him of Sophia than expressing
the sincere feeling of his heart.
'If you did love her? oh, then, you would he the most infamous of
men—you would he a monster. But no; you cannot have forgotten your
vows; you cannot have forgotten all your words, our life of six
years.' Then rising, and throwing herself on her knees: 'Oh! Forgive
me, Edoardo; forgive my words. I rave; I know not what I say! Tell me
that you have only wished to put my affection to the proof—that you
love no other woman—none but me alone! Oh, do not drive me from this
house, Edoardo; do not give yourself to another woman!'
'Sophia, if I could help it, do you think I would make you weep
'If you could help it? What prevents you? Nothing—nothing.'
'Honour! Where was your honour if you have forgotten all your sacred
promises—if you have perjured yourself?'
'Sophia, Sophia, pity me. Do not make me the talk of all Venice. I am
the most infamous of men; but I can do nothing for you. Now I will
confess to you the whole truth—a truth I had not the heart to tell
you before. That woman is already my wife; I have married her by
civil contract; and the ceremony that is about to be performed
presently is a mere formality. Sophia, forgive me if you can—forgive
me, and depart.'
'Oh, no, no, I cannot go from this house. I will die here before your
A sound of footsteps was heard. It was easy to guess that those light
steps were a woman's. Edoardo turned towards a table, as if to look
for some papers, saying to himself: 'I am lost.' And Sophia knelt
down by the trunk that contained her clothes, pretending to rummage
for something in it, while she wiped away her tears, and suppressed
Edoardo's bride entered. She stood for a moment perplexed, seeing a
woman with him; then said: 'Edoardo, I sent for you that you might
yourself choose one of these wreaths. Which of them do you think will
become me best?' showing him at the same time two bridal wreaths
which she held in her hand.
'Neither,' said Sophia, rising and presenting a third wreath to the
bride. 'The Signor Edoardo ordered me to make this some time ago for
his bride, and I trust I have not laboured in vain.'
'In truth it is much handsomer than either of these others,' said the
bride; 'but you told me nothing of this, Edoardo?'
'It was a surprise,' added Sophia.
'My own Edoardo,' said the bride again; 'another kindness; a new
expression of your love. Oh, how dear this wreath will be to me!' and
she retired, taking it with her.
Sophia looked at the door through which the lady had disappeared, and
bursting into tears, exclaimed: 'Oh my poor wreath!'
'Sophia, Sophia, you are an angel,' said Edoardo. 'Once more I owe
you my life.'
'Since she is yours,' replied Sophia mournfully, and sitting down
faint and exhausted on her trunk—'since she is yours, ought I to
bring death to her mind, the death that I feel already in my poor
heart? No one knows, no one can know what is suffering, but those who
suffer; oh, no woman ever endured what I endure at this moment!
Go—go, Edoardo; prepare yourself for the ceremony: they are waiting
for you. I have no more reproaches to make you—no more right to make
them. All was in that wreath, and in renouncing that, I have
renounced this. Go—I have need of not seeing you. I promise you that
when you return I will be no longer here to trouble you with my
Edoardo, pale, confused, penitent, bent a long last gaze on Sophia;
then left the room, saying: 'I am a villain—I am a villain.'
Two hours after, the marriage-ceremony was performed. The gondolas
that bore the bridal cortège, on their return from the church of St
Moisè, were met by some fishing-boats that had drawn up a drowned
female. The gondolas had to stop in order to let them pass. 'A sad
omen for the bride and bridegroom,' said an old woman of the company.
Edoardo, who had recognised that pale corpse, had thrown himself at
the bottom of his gondola, in order to conceal his emotion, and with
a convulsive motion pressed the hand of his bride, which he held
between his own. The simple girl, interpreting that squeeze as an
expression of love, said: 'Oh, my Edoardo, you will ever love me?'
'Ever, ever,' replied Edoardo, wiping away a tear. He then muttered
to himself: 'Poor, poor Sophia!—she was an Angel, and I am a