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inquiry, but the gipsy, stamping her foot upon the earth, screamed again in her wild tones -
“Of whom didst thou say, woman ? Tell me, tell me quickly." And the nurse repeated faintly what she had said.
The woman uttered not another word, but rushing heedlessly away from the spot her form was soon lost amid the trees that studded the park.
When the last glance of her scarlet mantle had disappeared, Mrs. Felton, who had stood as if rooted to the spot, flung herself on the seat lately occupied by the gipsy and burst into a flood of tears. She firmly believed that the doom predicted awaited her little charge, and all that remained was bowing to avert it as long as possible by the utmost care and vigilance.
" I will not tell it to my lady,” she sobbed, half aloud, “it would finish the breaking of her sad heart to hear such a thing of her only babe ; but I will watch over my darling better than ever mother watched over her child, and protect her from every harm as long and as well as I can.”
After having formed this resolution she rose up in a calmer frame of mind, and, warned of approaching rain by the threatening aspect of the sky, quickly pursued her way towards the castle. The night set in with a very deluge of rain, accompanied by fearful thunder and lightning, and after dark the loud piercing wind began to howl amidst the trees.
We must now change the scene to a small neat cottage in the vicinity of Castle Roeben, on the hearth of which a bright fire was blazing and flinging its light upon three persons, one of whom was seated before it. She was a gentle-looking, middle-aged woman, working by the light of a candle at a well-polished oaken table ; the other two, children, a fine boy and girl, aged respectively five and three years, and those were occupied in gamboling about the room or sitting prattling by the fire. The furniture and simple decorations of the apartment, together with the dress and appearance of its inmates, bespoke the utmost attention to neatness, and told that poverty was no visitant at their abode. The storm was raging wildly and the rain beating madly against the windows, when just as the widow (for such she was) had stirred the bright embers of the fire and drawn the table more closely towards it, her attention was attracted by a knock at the door and the sound of a voice requesting shelter from the inclemency of the night. In a moment after the suppliant was admitted it was the gipsy. Mrs. Grey, which was the widow's name, offered a seat near the fire to the stranger, placed some homely fare before her, and inquired whither she
was going, and if she had been long exposed to the storm. The fortune-teller refused to partake of the food, received her attentions with brief but sincere thanks, and replied to her interrogations in a short and evasive manner; then after some further ineffectual attempts at maintaining conversation, the widow sank into silence, finding that her guest was unwilling to be communicative. Mrs. Grey did not, indeed, repent of having admitted her, for she was a woman of a kind and goodnatured disposition, but yet she felt an unpleasant sense of insecurity in the company of such a strange wild-looking person, and one who refused to give any explanation of herself. She remained silent for some time, busily engaged at her needle-work, but suddenly the sound of a low sob disturbed the stillness, and on looking up she perceived the bitter tears falling down the bronzed cheeks of her guest. All her suspicions immediately vanished ; she rose, approached the gipsy, and, kindly inquiring the cause of her grief, offered her services if they could be effectual in mitigating the cause of that sorrow.
“ Thou art a kind woman,” said the gipsy, mournfully, “but thou canst not lessen the sorrows of my heart; I was thinking of the time when I was not a childless being, and thy boy's features I fancied bore some resemblance to those of my lost one. Wo is me! wo is me; I am a desolate creature ; I'am alone-alone upon the face of the earth. I tell thee there lives not one in whose veins runs a drop of my blood; but thou hast thy children around thee; thou canst behold them; thou canst hear their voices and know that life is sweet to them, and therefore thou mayst not guess the harrowing anguish of that mother whose beautiful and only one is a murdered corpse in his grave."
As she spoke the wretched woman covered her face with her hands, and sobbed aloud in the agony of her grief.
“I do feel for you, believe me, I do,” said Mrs. Grey, much affected by this language; “but I know that relief can be found by seeking it above.”
“ Relief, relief !” said the woman, “ as long as I live I shall find no relief for the burning anguish of my heart ; but thou hast been kind to me,” she added, in a softer tone; “ to thee will I tell the tale of my troubles, and judge then if there is not cause for those tears. Dost thou see the deep furrows on this face? It is the hand of care, not the hand of time, that has ploughed them. Dost thou see the white streaks amid this black hair ? It is the hand of care, not the hand of time, that hath placed them there. Listen :-I once had a brave and beautiful son, the idol of my heart and soul; he was the only kindred being that I possessed on earth, and thou mayst conjecture how my love was twined round him; but he was a wild and wilful youth, and on reaching his twentieth year resolved to enter the army. This I at first opposed, for I knew that I should then be parted from my child, and a presentiment of evil was shadowing my soul ; but how could I crush by a refusal the high young spirit of my boy? I consented, and he entered the detachment under the command of I cannot breathe that hateful, hideous name. At parting he kissed away the bitter tears that were flowing down my cheeks, and said, . Do not weep, dearest mother, your child is about to enter the path of honour and glory ; bless your only boy, my mother; send him away with your blessing on his head.
“Oh! my son, my son!” she cried, whilst her sobs echoed through the silent room.
After a brief space the gipsy recommenced
“ About a year had passed away when one cold stormy winter's night I sat by my lonely hearth and thought of my absent child. The dear boy had lately written me a letter filled with fairy visions and lofty hopes of youth, breathing the fondest affection for me, and looking forward with anxious delight to the period when again he might visit his home. Sad were my days and sleepless were my nights, longing for the arrival of that time; for my boy was the sunlight of my heart and home, and without him both were dark and dreary. My lips had just breathed a prayer for his welfare, when a letter arrived for me. The direction was in a strange hand, but it came from the place in which my son was then quartered, and, trembling lest some misfortune might have befallen him, I eagerly broke the seal. It was written by a comrade soldier of my son, acquainting me that, having in an unguarded moment too hastily resented the tyranny of his commander, my brave, my beautiful boy had been sentenced to he flogged; he was to undergo that sentence in three days. I thrust the letter into the blazing fire; I rushed distractedly from the house; I felt not the wild beating of the rain- I heard not the loud roaring of the tempest; I thought alone of my son ; I knew only that I was going to him.
On the third day I reached the end of my journey, and learned that the son of my soul had undergone, without a murmur, his disgraceful punishment, and was lying at that moment in the hospital. I rushed like a maniac to the spot; I felt gifted with supernatural strength, for I dashed aside like children the strong men who, thinking me mad, endeavoured to prevent my entrance. I broke through them—I broke through all, till I reached the apartment of my child, and there he lay-oh, God ! how changed! how changed! The dark eyes were heavily closed, the white lips apart, a livid paleness on the beautiful countenance-1-1-oh! the anguish of that moment! I threw myself beside his bed; I raised his head and laid it on my bosom. I wiped the cold dews from his brow, and called upon him wildly to look once more on his mother. That name seemed to arouse him; he languidly unclosed his eyes and gazed upon me.
My mother! my dear, dear mother !' he faintly whispered, that thou shouldst live to see me thus dishonoured! God protect and comfort thee!'
“I felt the dear head press heavier upon me, the dear hand that I held relax and grow cold, and then I knew that I was a childless woman. I did not weep; oh, no! my grief was too deep for tears, but I laughed horribly in the frenzy of my despair; and when they came to tear me from the body by the command of the cruel tyrant who had caused the death of my child, I clung to it with all the strength of a mother's love, and threatened to destroy them if they approached. Numbers at length overpowered me, and I was thrust rudely from the house. I wandered for some time through the streets, till, by some chance, I discovered the tyrant's residence. There, through the window, I beheld the wretch seated alone, sipping rich wines in his splendid apartment, heedless of the miseries that he had caused. The sight distracted me. I stole to the hall door--it was ajar; the next moment I stood in the hall, and the next beside the murderer of my son. I had no weapon, nor was there one within reach, or I would assuredly have stabbed him to the heart. I seized him by the arm, I told him who I was. The guilty coward seemed paralysed; he trembled like an aspen leaf; his face became pale as marble; the glass that he held dropped from his hand, and was shivered to pieces on the ground. I laughed at his agony; I kneeled before him, and, raising my eyes to heaven, called down upon his head the curses of a heart-broken woman ; and there I solemnly swore, in the light of the fair moon, never, never to rest till I was revenged for the murder of my son. I rose to leave the room, and on reaching the door turned round towards the guilty villain, who still sat trembling before me. We shall meet again,' I said, looking steadfastly at him, and immediately left the house. I had resolved to watch near at hand till the funeral of my son should have taken place, and then leave for a time the land which contained the last and dearest of my race. The next day came, and the damp earth lay on the breast of my boy. Well do I remember the burial hour; it was in the soft grey of twilight. Ah! with what feelings I beheld the long, mournful procession ! with what feelings I listened to the sound of the slow measured tread, to the deep, solemn tones of the muffled drum ! with what unutterable anguish I gazed on the coffin which contained my lost, my murdered child ! I followed at a distance; I entered the churchyard unperceived ; I watched every movement of the silent crowd from the shadow of a dark cypress that grew in one corner of the burial-ground. Oh! worlds would I have given only for one moment's space to gaze on the face of my child; but I could not move hand or foot; I felt as if chained to the spot. It was at length concluded. The loud firing over that early grave had ceased, and away they went
- the listless, heartless multitude—with smiling faces, lively tread, and music as joyous as the summer breeze; thoughtless of him whom they had just lowered into an untimely tomb; thoughtless of the agony that burned in his mother's breast. Oh! how I despised, how I hated them! How deep were the curses that my heart in its bitterness showered upon them!
“I was now the only living being who remained in that lone and awful place. By degrees I recovered strength sufficient to move. I left the shadow of the tree and approached my son's grave; I sat down beside it. It was a clear, calm evening; the moon was shining faintly in the pure sky, and not a sound disturbed the silence. As I lay thus on the earth in a stupor of despair, a robin commenced singing in one of the neighbouring trees. sat up and listened to its low, melancholy strain. Since the arrival of that fatal letter I had not shed a tear; but now there was something in that simple song which fell so sadly and sweetly on my heart, that, throwing myself on the grave of my son, I wept and sobbed like a child. The moon was high in the heavens when I bade that spot farewell.
“ I was now a changed being ; the most deadly hatred burned in my breast for him who had robbed me of all that made existence sweet, and I lived for revenge alone. I soon afterwards joined a tribe of gipsies, and remained with them for several years; but, becoming tired of their society, I left them, and since then have wandered alone upon the earth. To-day--but-it matters not it matters not. Hast thou ever known,” she wildly asked, “ hast thou ever known the bitter, bitter pang of losing one dearer to thee than life itself ?"
“Alas ! I have,” replied Mrs. Grey, the tears streaming from her eyes no less at the melancholy narrative of the gipsy than at the remembrance of those over whom the grave had closed.
“Ah! but,” said her guest, “ thou couldst not have loved them as I loved him-my child! my only, only one ! my brave, my beautiful boy! Dead! and such a death! "
The violence of her emotions overcame the unhappy woman ; the colour left her lips, her eyes closed, her arms dropped powerless by her side, and she would have fallen to the ground had she not been prevented by the ready assistance of Mrs. Grey.
"I am ashamed of this emotion,” she said, after recovering from a brief but deep swoon ; “I thought that I had conquered every feeling of my heart but revenge.'
“And oh ! let me beseech you to cast away that feeling too," said the widow.
“ Cast it away !” cried the gipsy, sneeringly; "it is life, and light, and food to me ; it is my thought by day and my dream by night-for revenge alone I exist. Cast it away! Never! But," she continued, walking to the window and gazing out, “ the storm is over-the moon is shining clearly-I must go. She turned to Mrs. Grey—“My spirit is made lighter by having told thee the tale of my woes. Thou hast been kind, very kind to me; may