Page images

and bore her back into the house, when the man left her with Teresa and proceeded to rejoin his comrades.

Her recollection soon returned, and with it the memory of her bereavement. For some time she raved wildly of her husband, but at length Teresa succeeded in partially soothing her, by leading her to talk of her past life

Her husband Giacomo Renni was the only son of an industrious and excellent couple. He had but one sister, the poor little dumb girl, and he had always been remarkable for his tenderness towards this little sister, and his dutiful conduct to his parents.

The Renni family were the happiest as well as the most thriving in the district where they lived. No cows gave so much milk as theirs, no sheep produced such fine wool, no vines were so fruitful. Their cottage was the neatest and prettiest in the surrounding country, and their garden contained the finest vegetables and the choicest flowers.

Giacomo Renni was as handsome as he was

good and kind; all the young damsels in the neighbourhood were wont to put on their sweetest smiles when he was seen approaching them, and many a heart cherished a secret tenderness for him. His light brown hair fell in glossy curls around his handsome face, and his gray eyes, with their dark fringes, gave a peculiar and interesting expression to his countenance; but Giacomo seemed to be inaccessible to the tender passion, and the bright eyes and sunny smiles of the adjacent belles were insufficient to thaw the frost of his bosom. The truth was, that he was too much occupied to dream of love.

There was an old couple who lived very near to the Renni family, and the man dying suddenly, his widow began to feel lonely, and accordingly sent for a niece of her's, one of a large family, from some distance, to serve as a solace and companion to her.

From the moment of Elisa's arrival at the residence of her old aunt, all the other damsels of the country who had been talked of for sweetness and beauty, were neglected and forgotten, and Elisa reigned undisputed. But she dreamed not of conquests or admiration.

She was a modest, gentle girl, whose whole thoughts were devoted to the care of rendering her ill-tempered aunt's life comfortable, and thus proving her gratitude for her adoption, being one of a numerous and poor family.

Her kindness and exemplary patience in bearing the old woman's taunts, were soon as much commended as her beauty, and many were the offers of marriage she received ; but Elisa was fastidious in her way, and amongst those who sought her hand, none pleased her. At length she attracted the attention of Giacomo Renni, and from that moment no one could accuse her of indifference or coldness of heart; she was proud of his notice, and when he told her that she was dearer to him than anything on earth, she felt that his affection could hardly equal that which she entertained for him.

They were married, and she was replaced by a younger sister in the cottage of her aunt. They were a truly happy couple, and for some

months Giacomo never caused his gentle wife a sigh or a tear; everything went well with them, and the blessing of heaven rested on their humble roof.

But at length misfortune fell on their house. It began with the death of their first-born infant, and then followed a failure of their crops, and various losses in money.

But all this could have been borne, for they had nothing to reproach themselves for.

At length a great change came over Giacomo Renni, owing to an intimacy he had formed with some young men in the neighbourhood, who were noted for their dissolute lives. He was first attracted by their cheerful conversation when bis spirits were sorely depressed under his losses, and soon they initiated him into their habits. About this time Giacomo's father died, and the whole weight of supporting the family fell upon him; but, alas ! he was no longer industrious and cheerful, excepting the reckless sort of happiness produced by intoxication.

Gradually everything went wrong and fell into decay, and abject want began to be known where plenty had hitherto reigned.

Giacomo, when sober, was rent in heart by the changed appearance of things, and, to drown remorse, drank deeper and deeper, and every day wrought a change for the worse in lois form and face.

Pale and attenuated, his person neglected, his clothes ragged, and a reckless swagger in his gait — no one who had known Giacomo Renni at the period of his marriage could have identified him a year after. · One evening he was drinking with his favourite companions, when a recruiting party entered the house, and were hailed with cheers by the drunken Giacomo and his friends. Before the night closed in, the unfortunate young man had enlisted, perfectly unconscious of the act, and the next morning when he awoke, confused and distracted with the headache, and was reninded of his engagement, he scarce repented it. He

« PreviousContinue »