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[-45-]

CHAPTER CLIII.

PROCEEDINGS IN CASTELCICALA.

    THE scene, which they had just witnessed, produced a most painful impression upon the minds of the lovely Italian lady and Richard Markham.
    For some moments after they were alone in the drawing-room together, they maintained a profound silence.
    At length Richard spoke.
    "It is a mournful occurrence which has brought us together to-day, Isabella," he said.
    "And although this meeting between us be unknown to my father," answered Isabella, "yet the nature of the circumstance which caused it must serve as my apology in your eyes."
    "In my eyes!" ejaculated Markham. "Oh! how can an apology be necessary for an interview with one who loves you as I love you?"
    "I am not accustomed to act the prude, Richard," returned Isabella; "and therefore I will not say that I regret having met you,  apart from the sad event which led to our meeting."
    "Oh! Isabella, if I do not now renew to you all my former protestations of affection, it is because it were impious for me to think of our love, when death is busy in the same house."
    "Richard, I admire your feeling in this respect. But you are all our poor dying friend proclaimed you  high-minded, honourable, and generous. O Richard! the prophetic language of Mary-Anne has produced a powerful impression upon my mind!"
    "And on mine, also," answered Markham. "Not that I esteem the prospective honours displayed to my view; but because I hope  sincerely hope  that my adored Isabella may one day be mine."
    The Princess tendered him her hand, which he kissed in rapture.
    "Do you know," said Isabella, after a few moments' silence, "that events are taking a turn in Castelcicala, which may lead to all that poor Mary-Anne has prophesied? There was a strong party in the state opposed to the marriage of the Grand Duke; and the military department was particularly dissatisfied."
    "I remember that in the accounts which I read of the celebration of that marriage, it was stated that the ducal procession experienced a chilling reception from the soldiery"
    "True," answered Isabella; " and early last month  a few days after the commencement of the new year  that spirit showed itself more unequivoca1ly still. Three regiments surrounded the ducal palace, and demanded a constitution. The Grand Duke succeeded in pacifying them with vague promises; and the regiments retired to their quarters. It then appears that his Serene Highness wished to make an example of those regiments, and drew up a decree ordaining them to be disbanded, the officers to be cashiered, and the men to be distributed amongst other corps."
    "That was a severe measure," remarked Richard.
    "So severe," continued Isabella, "that General Grachia, the Minister of War, refused to sign the ducal ordinance. He was accordingly compelled to resign, the Duke remaining inflexible. The whole of the Cabinet-Ministers then sent in their resignations, which the Grand Duke accepted. Signor Pisani, the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, was charged with the formation of a new ministry  a fact which shows how completely the Duke has alienated from himself all the great statesmen of Castelcicala."
    "So that he has been compelled to have recourse to an Under Secretary as his Prime Minister," observed Richard.
    "Precisely," answered Isabella. "Signor Pisani formed an administration; and its first act was to carry into force the decree already drawn up against the three discontented regiments. The second proceeding of the new ministry was to banish General Grachia from the country."
    "This was madness!" ejaculated Markham. "Does the Grand Duke wish to seal his own ruin?"
    "It would appear that he is desperate," continued Isabella, "as I shall show you in a moment. General Grachia left Montoni, accompanied by his family, and followed by immense multitudes, who cheered him as the well-known friend of the Prince my father. The troops also crowded in his way, to show their respect for the veteran chief who had so often led them to conquest. The next morning a ducal ordinance appeared, which showed that the Grand Duke was resolved to throw off the mask, and proclaim a despotism. I have the Montoni Gazette in my reticule."
    Isabella produced the newspaper, and, opening it, said, "I will translate the ordinance to you."
    "Nay  rather allow me to read it for myself," returned Markham.
    "How? But it is in Italian," exclaimed the Signora.
    "And I will read it in that tongue," said Richard.
    "I was not aware  I knew not until now  "
    "No, dearest Isabella: until lately the Italian language was as Chinese to me," interrupted Richard: "but I have studied it intensely  without aid, without guidance; and if I cannot speak it fluently nor with the correct pronunciation, I can understand it with ease, and  I flatter myself  speak at least intelligibly."
    The lovely Italian girl listened to this announcement with the most tender interest. She received it as a proof of boundless love for her; and sweet  ineffably sweet was the glance of deep gratitude which she threw upon her lover.
    Richard took the Montoni Gazette from the fair hand which tendered it to him, and then read, with ease and fluency, the following translation of the ducal ordinance alluded to:  
    
    "ANGELO III, BY THE GRACE OP GOD, GRAND
    DUKE OF CASTELCICALA,
    
    To all present and to come, Greeting
    
    'We have ordered and do order that which follows:  
    "I. The censorship of the press is restored from this [-46-] date: and no newspaper nor periodical work shall be published in our dominions, without the consent of the Minister of the Interior.
    
    "II. Offences against this law, as well as all others connected with the press, shall henceforth be brought before the cognizance of the Captain-General of the province where such offences may occur, instead of before the Ordinary tribunals.
    
    "III. No assembly of more than seven persons will henceforth be allowed to take place, without the consent of the local authorities, save for the purposes of religious worship and ceremonial.
    
    "IV. Our Captains-General are hereby authorised to declare martial law in their provinces, or any part of their provinces, should signs of insubordination appear.
    
    "V. Our Minister Secretary of State for the Department of the Interior will see to the execution of this our ordinance.
    'By the Grand Duke, ANGELO III
    'RAPALLO PISANI,
    Minister of the Interior.
    January 10th, 1840
    
    "The Grand Duke has thus destroyed the freedom of the press, promulgated a law to suppress political meetings, and menaced the country with martial law," said Richard, when he had terminated the perusal of this ordinance.
    "And it would appear, by the newspapers and by private letters which my father has received," added Isabella, "that the Grand Duke would have proceeded to extremes far more dangerous to his throne, had not his amiable Duchess softened him. But even her intercessions  and I understand she is a most deserving princess  were ineffectual in a great measure."
    "Know you the results of that despotic ordinance!" asked Markham.
    "Several riots have taken place at Montoni," answered the Signora; "and the Captain-General of the province of Abrantani has proclaimed martial law throughout the districts which he governs."
    "Matters are then becoming serious in Castelcicala," observed Richard. "What has become of General Grachia?"
    "No one knows. He left Montoni within twenty-four hours after the receipt of the decree of exile; but my father has received no information of his progress or intentions. Oh! my beloved country," she exclaimed, in a tone of pious fervour, "may God grant that thou wilt not be the scene of anarchy, bloodshed, and civil strife!"
    Richard surveyed his beautiful companion with the most enraptured admiration, as she uttered that holy wish,  a wish that spoke so eloquently of the absence of all selfishness from her pure soul.
    The above conversation had been carried on in a subdued tone; and its topic had not excluded from the minds of the young lovers the recollection of the sad scene which they had ere now witnessed.
    Indeed they only pursued their discourse upon that particular subject, because it was connected with the chain of events which seemed adapted to carry out the prophetic hopes of the dying girl.
    Nearly an hour had passed since they had left the chamber of death.
    At length the door opened slowly, and Mr. Gregory entered the drawing-room.
    His countenance was deadly pale; and yet it wore an expression of pious resignation.
    Isabella and Richard knew that all was over.
    Mr. Gregory advanced towards them, and taking their hands, said, "She is gone  she died in my arms! Almost her last words were, 'Tell Isabella and Richard sometimes to think of Mary-Anne.'"
    The bereaved parent could subdue him grief no longer: he threw himself upon the sofa and burst into tears.
    Nor were the cheeks of Isabella and Richard unmoistened by the holy dew of sweet sympathy.
    "Richard," said Mr. Gregory, after a long pause, "you must write to my sons and tell them of this sad affliction. Desire them to return home immediately from college: I was wrong not to have sent for them before; but  my God! I knew not that my sweet child's death was so near!"
    Markham instantly complied with Mr. Gregory's request, and despatched the letter to the post.
    Scarcely was this duty accomplished, when Count Alteroni's carriage drove up to the door. It was, however, empty, having been merely sent to fetch Isabella home.
    The Signora took leave of Mr. Gregory, and bade a tender adieu to Richard, who handed her into the vehicle.
    The carriage then drove away.
    Richard passed the remainder of the day with Mr. Gregory, and returned home in the evening deeply affected at the misfortune which had over-taken an amiable family.
    But Markham, on his arrival at his own house, was doomed to hear tidings of a most unpleasant nature.
    "Mr. Tracy's footman has been here with very disagreeable news," said Ellen, the moment Markham entered the sitting-room. "Had I known whither you were gone, I should have directed him on to you."
    "Mr. Tracy's footman!" exclaimed Richard. "Why  he was here last evening, with a letter from his master inviting me and Mr. Monroe to dine with him next Monday  "
    "I am aware of it," interrupted Ellen. "And you declined the invitation."
    "Yes  because I do not seek society," observed Richard. "I wrote a proper answer: what, then, did his servant require to-day!"
    "It appears that a young person in whom you felt some interest  "
    "Katherine Wilmot?" said Richard.
    "That is the name," returned Ellen.
    "What about her!" asked our hero.
    "She has committed a crime  "
    "A crime!"
    "A crime of the blackest dye: she has poisoned Mr. Tracy's housekeeper."
    "Ellen you are deceived  you are mistaken: it is impossible!" exclaimed Markham. "I never saw her but once, it is true: and still the impression she made upon me was most favourable. I did not a mention any thing concerning her to either you or your father, because I sought to do an act of humanity in tearing her away from a wretched home, and I am not one who speaks of such a deed as that."
    "I am not deceived  I am not mistaken, Richard, answered Ellen. "The footman came and narrated to me the particulars: and he said that his master was too unwell, through horror and excitement, to write to you upon the subject."
    Ellen then related the few particulars yet known [-47-] in connexion with the case, but the nature of which is already before the reader.
    Richard remained silent for a long time, after Ellen had ceased to speak.
    "If that innocent-looking girl be a murderess," he exclaimed at length, "I shall never put faith in human appearances again. But, until she be proved guilty, I will not desert her."
    "Do you know," said Ellen, "that I do not like your Mr. Tracy at all! Not that I suppose him capable of falsely accusing any one of so heinous a crime as murder; but I do not like him."
    "A female caprice, Ellen," observed Richard. "The world in general adores him."
    "Ah! those who stand upon the highest pinnacle often experience the most signal falls," said Ellen.
    "The breath of calumny has never tainted his fair fame," cried Richard.
    "Alas! we have so many  many instances of profound ecclesiastical hypocrisy," persisted Miss Monroe.
    "Ellen, you wrong an excellent man," said Markham, somewhat severely. "I will call upon him to-morrow morning, and learn from his own lips the particulars of this most mysterious deed."

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