Page images
PDF

had become grave, and often conversed of the inconstancy of fortune, and the instability of human life. “When I reflect, my dear cousin,” said she, “on the miserable death of Jus

tine Moritz, I no longer see the world

and its works as they before appeared to me. Before, I looked upon the aecounts of vice and injustice, that I read in books or heard from others, as tales of ancient days, or imaginary evils; at least they were remote, and more familiar to reason than to the imagination; but now misery has come home, and men appear to me as monsters thirsting for each other's blood. Yet I am certainly unjust. Every body believed that poor girl to be guilty; and if she could have committed the crime for which she suffered, assuredly she would have been the most depraved of human creatures. For the sake of a few jewels,

to have murdered the son of her benefactor and friend, a child whom she had nursed from its birth, and appeared to love as if it had been her own I could not consent to the death of any human being; but certainly I should have thought such a creature unfit to remain in the society of men. Yet she was innocent. I know, I feel she was innocent; you are of the same opinion, and that confirms me. Alas! Victor, when falsehood can look so like the

truth, who can assure themselves of

certain happiness? I feel as if I were walking on the edge of a precipice, towards which thousands are crowding, and endeavouring to plunge me into

the abyss. William and Justine were

assassinated, and the murderer escapes;

he walks about the world free, and per

haps respected. But even if I were

condemned to suffer on the scaffold

for the same crimes, I would not change places with such a wretch.” I listened to this discourse with the extremest agony. I, not in deed, but in effect, was the true murderer. Elizabeth read my anguish -in my countenance, and kindly taking my hand said, “ My dearest cousin, you must calm yourself. These events have affected me, God knows how deeply;

but I am not so wretched as you are. There is an expression of despair, and

sometimes of revenge, in your countenance, that makes me tremble. Be calm, my dear Victor; I would sacrifice my

life to your peace. We surely shall be

happy: quiet in our native country, and not mingling in the world, what can disturb our tranquillity?” She shed tears as she said this, distrusting the very solace that she gave; but at the same time she smiled, that

she might chase away the fiend that lurked in my heart. My father, who saw in the unhappiness that was painted in my face only an exaggeration of that sorrow which I might naturally feel, thought that an amusement suited to my taste would be the best means of restoring to me my wonted serenity. It was from this cause that he had removed to the country; and, induced by the same motive, he now proposed that we should all make an excursion to the valley of Chamounix. I had been there before, but Elizabeth and Ernest never had; and both had often expressed an earnest desire to see the scenery of this place, which had been described to them as so wonderful and sublime. Accordingly we departed from Geneva on this tour about the middle of the month of August, nearly two months after the death of Justine.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

The weather was uncommonly fine; and if mine had been a sorrow to be chased away by any fleeting circumstance, this excursion would certainly have had the effect intended by my father. As it was, I was somewhat interested in the scene; it sometimes lulled,

although it could not extinguish my

grief. During the first day we travelled in a carriage. In the morning we had seen the mountains at a distance, towards which we gradually advanced. We perceived that the valley through which we wound, and which was formed by the river Arve, whose course we followed, closed in upon us by degrees; and when the sun had set, we beheld immense mountains and precipices overhanging us on every side, and heard the sound of the river raging among rocks, and the dashing of waterfalls around.

« PreviousContinue »