Page images

said I was. He threatened excommunication: and hell fire in my last moments, if I continued obdurate. ... Dear lady, I had none to support me; all looked on me as a wretch doomed to ignominy and perdition. What could I do? In an evil hour. I subscribed to a lie; and now only am I truly miserable.” She paused, weeping, and then continued—“I thought with horror, my -sweet lady, that you should believe your Justine, whom your blessed aunt had so highly honoured, and whom you loved, was a creature capable of a crime, which none but the devil himself could have perpetrated. Dear William dearest. blessed child ! I soon shall see. you again in heaven, where - we shall all be happy; and that consoles me, going as I am to suffer ignominy and death.” . . . . . . . . . .

“Oh, Justine ! forgive me for having for one moment distrusted you. Why did you confess? But do not mour", iny dear girl; I will every where Pro: claim your innocence, and force belief Yet you must die; you, my playfello", my companion, my more than sis" I never can survive so horrible a mi" fortune.”

“Dear, sweet Elizabeth, do not weep. You ought to raise me with thoughts of a better life, and elevato me from the petty cares of this world of injustice and strife. Do not you, excellent friend, drive me to despair.”

“I will try to comfort you; but this I fear, is an evil too deep and poignant to admit of consolation, for there is no hope. Yet heaven bless thee, my dear est Justine, with resignation, and a confidence elevated beyond this world. Oh! how I hate its shews and mock


eries, when one creature is murdered, another is immediately deprived of life in a slow torturing manner; then the executioners, their hands yet reeking with the blood of innocence, believe that they have done a great deed. They call this retribution. Hateful name ! When that word is pronounced, I know greater and more horrid punishments are going to be inflicted than the gloomiest tyrant has ever invented to satiate his utmost revenge. Yet this is not consolation for you, my Justine, unless indeed that you may glory in escaping from so miserable a den. Alas! I would I were in peace with my aunt and my lovely William, escaped from a world which is hateful to me, and the visages of men which I abhor.” o

Justine smiled languidly. “ This, dear lady, is despair, and not resignation. I must not learn the lesson that you would teach me. Talk of something, else, something that will bring peace, and not increase of misery.” During this conversation I had retired to a corner of the prison-room, where I could conceal the horrid anguish that possessed me. Despair' Who dared talk of that * The poor victim, who on the morrow was to pass the dreary boundary between life and death, felt not as I did, such deep and bitter agony. I gnashed my teeth, and ground them together, uttering a groan that came from my inmost soul. Justine started. When she saw who it was, she approached me, and said, “Dear Sir, you are very kind to visit me; you, I hope, do not believe that I am guilty.” I could not answer. “No, Justine,” said Elizabeth ; “he is more convinced of your innocence than I was ; for even when he heard that you had conofessed, he did not credit it.” * I truly thank him. In these last moments I feel the sincerest gratitude towards those who think of me with kindness. How sweet is the affection of others to such a wretch as I am! It removes more than half my misfortune; and I feel as if I could die in peace, now that my innocence is acknowledged “by you, dear lady, and your cousin.” - Thus the poor sufferer tried to com

fort others and herself. She indeed

gained the resignation she desired. JBut I, the true murderer, felt the neverdying worm alive in my bosom, which allowed of no hope or consolation. Elizabeth also wept, and was unhappy; “but 'her's also was the misery of innocence, which, like a cloud that passes over the fair moon, for a while hides,

« PreviousContinue »