Page images
PDF
EPUB

of dress. As she had not given orders for those things, she expressed her surprise at seeing them, which her attendant took no notice of, but offered to assist her to undress.

Louisa would have declined her services, as she felt no inclination to go to bed, but was not permitted. Neither was her request to have a light left with her allowed. Thus left in darkness, and agitated with terror, it was in vain she courted the soothing influence of sleep; or if she yielded to it for a few moments, the most frightful images swam before her eyes, or the most horrible ideas took possession of her fancy. She would then start up, trembling and terrified, and breathing a prayer to the protector of innocence, endeavour to compose herself again to sleep, hoping to enjoy a short oblivion of her fears.

But all her efforts to obtain composure were incfectual; she had no sooner clos

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

ed her eyes in a short forgetfulness than she either stood on the edge of a tremendous precipice, from the top of which she was hurled by an invisible power, or she was pursued by wild animals, or more frightful cruel beings of her own species, into whose grasp, if she fel), she imagined inevitable destruction awaita ed her. Just in the act of falling, or being seized, she would awake, and for a few minutes feel all the horror which actual suffering, occasioned by those causes, could possibly ha ve inflicted.

Thus passed the first night of her confinement; a confinement of which she knew not the nature or the purpose, and which she in vain endeavoured to account for. She recollected the look with which Lady Belmour had regarded her at the play; but she could hardly think that she, whom she had known from infancy, and had loved very tenderly, would have the cruelty to tear her from the

protection of friends, and deprive her of liberty : yet Miss Freeman had said so, and she was likely to know, as she had constant intercourse with Lady Belmour. But then how came she acquainted with Melford, who, it seemed, was apprised of the step they had taken ? The whole was inexplicable to her, and the more she thought of it, the more she was puzzled to account for such wanton cruelty.

With the first appearance of greyhooded morn, she arose from her uneasy couch, and sat watching the stars as they gradually receded from her view, chased by the ruddy streaks of the sun, which slowly began to tinge the horison, till by degress the east was illuminated with his all-chearing rays; and he arose in full majesty to dispense blessings on the earth, and give new life to every created being She found her spirits soothed, and inspired with confidence and hope, and she resolved to submit without murmuring to whatever might befal her.

Feeling her eyes heavy and her head ache, she opened the window to admit the refreshing air of the morning, and now observed what had before escaped her notice, that it had bars of iron placed before it, so close as to prevent her putting her head between them.

Inexpressibly shocked, she withdrew shuddering and amazed. Am I indeed in a prison ! cried she, clasping her hands in extreme agony, and can the amiable Countess of Delville have joined to betray me into the power of a jealous woman, or the avaricious designs of a man like Melford ? No, I cannot believe it; yet the noto was from her, therefore what am I to think?

Wearied with conjecture, she passed the hours till he same person who had attended her before came to invite her

to breakfast. To her she applied to know why her room bore the appearance of a prison ; but received no other answer to her question than a look that gave her exquisite pain, though she knew not how to interpret it. She however followed the person down stairs into the same room in which she had been the night before, where she found several persons assembled : in some she observed a kind of cheerfulness, which seemed to be excited without any visible motive; and in others, a fixed look of unutterable woe. They were all perfectly composed and silent, and each seemed enveloped in his own peculiar feelings. No attempt was made to enter into conversation by any one, or to relieve the melancholy which hung around them by the most trivial remark,

; Louisa felt something like the truth fush on her mind during their morning's repast, but she rejected the idea as a

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »