A Bushman.

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forgive him - told him that his friendship had been the greatest source
of delight to him - a friendship which in his dying moments he begged
to renew - that far from feeling pain at his approaching dissolution,
he conceived that he had merited all, and only waited his full and
entire forgiveness to die happy. George Delmé wrung his hands in the
bitterness of despair - prayed him to live for his sake - told him, that
did he not, his own life hereafter would be one of the deepest
misery, - that the horrors of remorse would weigh him down to his
grave. The surgeon was the first to terminate a scene, which he
assured Delmé was one of the most painful it had ever been his lot to
witness. This meeting, though of so agitating a nature, seemed to have
a beneficial effect on the wounded man. He sunk into a sweet sleep;
and on awaking, his pulse was lower, and his symptoms less critical.
He improved gradually, and was now convalescent. But it was otherwise
with George Delmé. He sought the solitude of his chamber, a prey to
the agonies of a self-reproaching spirit. He considered himself
instrumental in taking the life of his best friend - of one, richly
endowed with the loftiest feelings humanity can boast. His nerves
previously had been unstrung; body and mind sank under the picture his
imagination had conjured up. His servant was alarmed by startling
screams, entered his room, and found his master in fearful
convulsions. A fever ensued, during which George's life hung by a
thread. To this succeeded a long state of unconsciousness,
occasionally broken by wild delirium.

During his illness, there was one who never left him - who smoothed his
pillow - who supported his head on her breast - who watched him as a
mother watches her first-born. It was the youthful Greek, Acmé Frascati.
The instant she heard of his danger, she left her home to tend him. No
entreaties could influence her, no arguments persuade. She would sit by
his bedside for hours, his feverish hand locked in hers, and implore him
to recover, to bless one who loved him so dearly. They could not part
them; for George, even in his delirious state, seemed to be conscious
that some one was near him, and, did she leave his side, would rise in
his bed, and look around him as if missing some accustomed object. In
his wilder flights, he would call passionately upon her, and beg her to
save his friend, who was lying so dead and still.

For a length of time, neither care nor professional skill availed.
Fearful was the struggle, between his disease, and a naturally hardy
constitution. Reason at last resumed her dominion. "I know not," said
the surgeon, "the particulars of the first dawning of consciousness. It
appears that Acmé was alone with him, and that it was at night. I found
him on my professional visit one morning, clear and collected, and his
mistress sobbing her thanks. I need perhaps hardly inform you," said the
narrator, "that George's gratitude to Acmé was vividly expressed. It was
in vain I urged on her the propriety of now leaving her lover. This was
met on both sides by an equal disinclination, and indeed obstinate
refusal; and I feared the responsibility I should incur, by enforcing a
separation which might have proved of dangerous consequence to my
patient. Alas! for human nature, Sir Henry! need it surprise you that
the consequences were what they are? Loving him with the fervency of one
born under an eastern sun - with the warm devotion of woman's first
love - with slender ideas of Christian morality - and with a mind
accustomed to obey its every impulse - need it, I say, surprise you, that
the one fell, and that remorse visited the other? To that remorse, do I
attribute what my previous communication may not have sufficiently
prepared you for; namely, the little dependence to be placed on the tone
of the invalid's mind. Reason is but as a glimmering in a socket; and
painful as my professional opinion may be to you, it is my duty to avow
it; and I frankly confess, that I entertain serious apprehensions, as to
the stability of his mind's restoration. It is on this account, that I
have felt so anxious that one of his relations should be near him.
Change of scene is absolutely necessary, as soon as change of scene can
be safely adopted. Every distracting thought must be avoided, and the
utmost care taken that no agitating topic is discussed in his presence.
These precautions may do much; but should they have no effect, which I
think possible; as a medical man, I should then recommend, what as a
member of his family may startle you. My advice would be, that if it be
ultimately found, that his feelings as regard this young girl, are such
as are likely to prevent or impede his mind's recovery; why I would then
at once allow him to make her any reparation he may think just.

"To what do you allude?" enquired Sir Henry.

"Why," continued the surgeon, "that if his feelings appear deeply
enlisted on that side of the question, and all our other modes have
failed in obtaining their object; that he should be permitted to marry
her as soon as he pleases. I see you look grave. I am not surprised you
should do so; but life is worth preserving, and Acmé, if not entirely to
our notions, is a good, a very good girl - warm-hearted and affectionate;
and it is not fair to judge her by our English standard. You will
however have time and scope, to watch yourself the progress and extent
of his disorder. I fear this is more serious than you are at present
aware of; but from your own observations, would I recommend and wish
your future line of conduct to be formed. May I trust my frankness has
not offended you?"

Sir Henry assured him, that far from this being the case, he owed
him many thanks for being thus explicit. Shaking him by the hand,
he returned to George's room with a clouded brow; perplexed how to
act, or how best discuss with his brother, the points connected
with his history.

Chapter IX.

The Narrative.

"The seal Love's dimpling finger hath impress'd,
Denotes how soft that chin which bears his touch,
Her lips whose kisses pout to leave their nest,
Bid man be valiant ere he merit such;
Her glance how wildly beautiful - how much
Hath Phoebus woo'd in vain to spoil her cheek,
Which grows yet smoother from his amorous clutch,
Who round the north for paler dames would seek?
How poor their forms appear! how languid, wan, and weak."

Love! Heavenly love! by Plato's mind conceived, and Sicyon's artist
chiselled! not thou! night's offspring, springing on golden wing from
the dark bosom of Erebus! the first created, and the first creating: but
thou! immaculate deity; effluence of unspotted thought, and child of a
chaster age! where, oh where is now thy resting place?

Pensile in mid-heaven, gazest thou yet with seraphic sorrow on this,
the guilty abode of guilty man? - with pity's tear still mournest thou,
as yoked to the car of young desire, we bow the neck in degrading and
slavish bondage? Or dost thou, the habitant of some bright star, where
frailty such as ours is yet unknown, lend to lovers a rapture unalloyed
by passion's grosser sense; as, symphonious with the tremulous zephyr,
chastened vows of constancy are there exchanged? Ah! vainly does one
solitary enthusiast, in his balmy youth, for a moment conceive he really
grasps thee! 'tis but a fleeting phantasy, doomed to fade at the first
sneer of derision - and for ever vanish, as a false and fascinating world
stamps its dogmas on his heart! Celestial love! oh where may he yet find
thee? and a clear voice whispers, ETERNITY!

Hope! guide the fainting pilgrim! undying soul! shield him from the
world's venomed darts, as he painfully wends his toilsome way!

When Delmé returned to his brother, he found the latter anxiously
expecting him, and desirous of ascertaining the impression, which his
conversation with the surgeon had created.

But Delmé thought it more prudent, to defer the discussion of those
points, till he had heard from George himself, as to many circumstances
connected with Acmé's history, and had been able to form some personal
opinion regarding the health of the invalid. He therefore begged
George, if he felt equal to the task, to avail himself of the
opportunity of Acmé's absence, to tell him how he had first met her. To
this George willingly assented; and as there is ever a peculiarity in
foreign scenes and habits, which awakens interest, we give his story in
his own language.

"There are some old families here, Henry," began the invalid, "whose
names are connected with some of the proudest, which the annals of the
Knights of St. John of Jerusalem can boast. They are for the most part
sunk in poverty, and possess but little of the outward trappings of
rank. But their pride is not therefore the less; and rather than have it
wounded, by being put in collision with those with whom in worldly
wealth they are unable to compete, they prefer the privacy of
retirement; and are rarely seen, and more rarely known, by any of the
English residents, whom they distrust and dislike. It is true, there are
a few families, some of the male members of which have accepted
subordinate situations under government: and these have become
habituated to English society, and meet on terms of tolerable
cordiality, the English whose acquaintance they have thus made. But
there are others, as I have said, whose existence is hardly recognised,
and who vegetate in some lone palazzo; brooding over the decay of their
fortunes - never crossing the threshold of their mansions - except when
religious feelings command them to attend a mass, or public procession.
Of such a family was Acmé a member. By birth a Greek, she was a witness
to many of the bloody scenes which took place at the commencement of the
struggle for Grecian freedom. She was herself present at the murder of
both her parents. Her beauty alone saved her from sharing their fate.
One of the Turks, struck with, her expression of childish sorrow,
interfered in her behalf, and permitted a friend and neighbour to save
her life and his own, by taking shipping for one of the islands in our
possession. After residing in Corfu for some months, she received an
invitation from her father's brother-in-law, a member of an ancient
Maltese family; and for the last few years has spent a life, if not gay,
at least free from a repetition of those sanguinary scenes, which have
lent their impress to a sensitive mind, and at moments impart a
melancholy tinge, to a disposition by nature unusually joyous. It was on
a festa day, dedicated to the patron saint of the island, when no
Maltese not absolutely bed-ridden, but would deem it a duty, to witness
the solemn and lengthy procession which such a day calls forth; that I
first met Acmé Frascati.

"I was alone in the Strada Reale, and strolling towards the Piazza, when
my attention was directed to what struck me as the loveliest face I had
ever seen.

"Acmé, for it was her, was drest in the costume of the island; and,
although a faldette is not the best dress for exhibiting a figure,
there was a grace and lightness in her carriage, that would have
arrested my attention, even had I not been riveted by her countenance.
She was on the opposite side of the street to myself, and was attended
by an old Moorish woman, who carried an illumined missal. Of these
women, several may yet be seen in Malta, looking very Oriental and
duenna-like. As I stopped to admire her, she suddenly attempted to
cross to the side of the street where I stood. At the same moment, I
observed a horse attached to a calèche galloping furiously towards her.
It was almost upon her ere Acmé saw her danger. The driver, anxious to
pass before the procession formed, had whipped his horse till it became
unmanageable, and it was now in vain that he tried to arrest its
progress. A natural impulse induced me to rush forward, and endeavour
to save her. She was pale and trembling, as I caught her and placed her
out of the reach of danger; but before I could touch the pavement, I
felt myself struck by the wheel of the carriage, was thrown down, and
taken up insensible. When consciousness returned, I found they had
conveyed me to a neighbouring shop, and that medical attendance had
been procured. But more than all, I noticed the solicitude of Acmé.
Until the surgeon had given a favourable report, she could not address
me, but when this had been pronounced, she overwhelmed me with thanks,
begged to know where I would wish to be taken, and rested not until her
own family calèche came up, and she saw me, attended by the Moorish
woman, on the road to Floriana.

"My accident, though not a very serious one, proved of sufficient
consequence, to confine me to my room for some time; and during that
period, not a day passed, that did not give me proof of the anxiety of
the young Greek for my restoration. I need not say that one of my
first visits was to her. Her family received me as they would an
absent brother. The obligations they considered I had conferred,
outweighed all prejudices which they might have imbibed against my
nation. On _my_ part, charmed with my adventure, delighted with Acmé,
and gratified by the kindness of her relations, I endeavoured to
increase their favourable opinion by all the means in my power. Acmé
and myself were soon more than friends, and I found my visits gave and
imparted pleasure.

"I now arrive at the unhappy part of my narrative. How do I wish it were
effaced from my memory. You may remember how, in all my letters to
Delmé, I made mention of my dear friend Delancey. We were indeed dear
friends. We joined at the same time, lived together in England,
embarked together, and when, one dreadful night off the African coast,
the captain of the transport thought we must inevitably drift on the
lee shore, we solaced each other, and agreed that, if it came to the
worst, on one plank would we embark our fortunes. On our landing in
Malta, we were inseparable, and my first impulse was to inform Delancey
of all that had occurred, and to introduce him to a house where I felt
so happy. I must here do him the justice to state, that whether I was
partly unaware of the extent of my own feelings towards Acmé, or
whether I felt a morbid sense of delicacy, in alluding to what I knew
to be the first attachment I had ever formed, I am unable to inform
you! but the only circumstance I concealed from my friend was my
attachment to the young Greek. Perhaps to this may be mainly attributed
what happened. God, who knows all secrets, knows this; but I may now
aver, that my friend, with many faults, has proved himself to have as
frank and ingenuous a spirit, as noble ideas of friendship, as can
exist in the human breast. For some time, matters continued thus. We
were both constant visitors at Acmé's house. With unparalleled
blindness, I never mistrusted the feelings of my friend. I never
contemplated that _he_ also might become entangled with the young
beauty. I considered her as my own prize, and was more engaged in
analysing my own sensations, and in vainly struggling against a
passion, which I was certain could not meet my family's approval, than
at all suspicious that fresh causes of uneasiness might arise in
another quarter. As Acmé's heart opened to mine, I found her with
feelings guileless and unsuspecting as a child's; although these were
warm, and their expression but little restrained. There was a confiding
simplicity in her manner, that threw an air over all she said or did,
which quite forbade censure, and excited admiration. My passion became
a violent and an all-absorbing one. I had made up my mind, to throw
myself on the kindness of my family, and endeavour to obtain all your
consents. Thus was I situated, when one day Acmé came up to me with
frankness of manner, but a tremulous voice, to beg I would use my
interest with my friend, to prevent his coming to see her.

"'Indeed, indeed,' said she, 'I have tried to love him as a friend, as
the friend of my life's preserver, but ever since he has spoken as he
now does, his visits are quite unpleasant. My family begged me to tell
you. They would have asked him to come no more, but were afraid you
might be angry. Will you still come to us, and love us all, if they tell
him this? If you will not, he shall still come; for indeed we could not
offend one to whom we owe so much.'

"'_I_, too,' said I to Acmé, '_I_, too, dearest, ought perhaps to leave
you, _I_, too' -

"'Oh, never! never!' said she, as she turned to me her dark eyes, bright
with humid radiance. 'We cannot thus part!'

"She _did_, then, love me! I clasped her to my arms - our lips clung
together in one rapturous intoxicating embrace.

"Yet, even in that moment of delirium, Henry, I told her of you, and of
the many obstacles which still presented themselves to retard or even
prevent our union. I sought my friend Delancey, and remonstrated with
him. He appeared to doubt my right to question his motives. Success made
me feel still more injured. I showered down reproaches. He could not
have acted differently. We met! and I saw him fall! Till then, I had
considered myself as the injured man; but as I heard him on the ground
name his mother, and one dearer still - as he took from his breast the
last gift _she_ had made him - as he begged of _me_ to be its bearer; I
then first felt remorse. He was taken to his room. Even the surgeon
entertained no hopes. He again called me to his side; I heard his noble
acknowledgment, his reiterated vows of friendship, the mournful tones of
his farewell. I entered this room a heart-broken man. I felt my pulse
throb fearfully, a gasping sensation was in my throat, my head swam
round, and I clung to the wall for support. The next thing of which I
have any recollection, was the dawn of reason breaking through my
troubled dreams. It was midnight - all was still. The fitful lamp shone
dimly through my chamber. I turned on my side - and, oh! by its light, I
saw the face I most loved - that face, whose gentle lineaments, were each
deeply and separately engraven on my heart. I saw her bending over me
with a maiden's love and a mother's solicitude. As I essayed to
speak - as my conscious eye met her's - as the soft words of affection
were involuntarily breathed by my feeble lips - how her features lit up
with joy! Oh, say not, Henry, till you have experienced such a moment of
transport, say not that the lips which then vowed eternal fidelity, that
the young hearts which _then_ plighted their truth, and vowed to love
for ever - oh call not these guilty!

"Since that time my health has been extremely precarious. Whether the
events crowded too thickly on me, or that I have not fully recovered my
health, or - which I confess I think is the case - that my compunctions
for my conduct to Acmé weigh me down, I know not; but it is not always,
my dear Henry, that I can thus address you. There are hours when I am
hardly sensible of what I do, when my brain reels from its oppression.
At such times, Acmé is my guardian angel - my tender nurse - my
affectionate attendant! In my lucid intervals, she is what you see
her - the gentle companion - the confiding friend. I love her, Henry, more
than I can tell you! I shall never be able to leave her! From Acmé you
may learn more of those dreary hours, which appear to me like waste
dreams in my existence. She has watched by my bed of sickness, till she
knows every turn of the disorder. From her, Henry, may you learn all."

Thus did George conclude his tale of passion; which Delmé mused over,
but refrained from commenting on.

Soon afterwards, George's calèche, in which he daily took exercise, was
announced as being at the door. The brothers entered, and left Floriana.

Chapter X.

The Calèche.

"The car rattling through the stony street."

For an easy conveyance, commend us to a Maltese calèche! Many a time,
assaulted by the blue devils, have we taken refuge in its solacing
interior - have pulled down its silken blinds, and unseeing and unseen,
the motion, like that of the rocking-cradle to the petulant child of
less mature growth, has restored complacency, and lulled us to good
humour. The calèche, the real calèche, is, we believe, peculiar to
Malta. It is the carriage of the rich and poor - Lady Woodford may be
seen employing it, to visit her gardens at St. Antonio; and in the
service of the humblest of her subjects, will it be enlisted, as they
wend their way to a picnic in the campagna. Every variety of steed is
put in requisition for its draught.

We may see the barb, with nostril of fire, and mane playing with the
wind, perform a curvet, as he draws our aristocratic
countrywoman - aristocratic and haughty at least in Malta, although,
in England, perhaps a star of much less magnitude.

We may view too the over-burthened donkey, as he drags along some aged
vehicle, in which four fat smiling women, and one lean weeping child,
look forward to his emaciated carcase, and yet blame him for being slow.

And thou! patient and suffering animal, whose name has passed into a
proverb, until each vulgar wight looks on thee as the emblem of
obstinacy, - maligned mule! when dost thou appear to more advantage, more
joyous, or more self-satisfied, than when yoked to the Maltese calèche?
Who that has witnessed thee, taking the scanty meal from the hand of
thine accustomed driver, with whinnying voice, waving tail, thy long
ears pricked upwards, and thy head rubbing his breast, who that has
seen thee thus, will deny thee the spirit of gratitude?

Most injured of quadrupeds! if we ascend the rugged mountain's path,
where on either side, precipices frown, and the pines wave far - far
beneath - when one false step would plunge us, with our hopes, our fears,
and our vices, into the abyss of eternity; is it not to thee we trust?

Calumniated mule! go on thy way.

This world's standard is but little to be relied on, whether it be for
good, or whether it be for evil.

The motion of a calèche, such as we patronised, is an easy and luxurious
one - the pace, a fast trot or smooth canter, of seven miles an hour - and
with the blinds down, we have communed with ourselves, with as great
freedom, and as little fear of interruption, as if we had been crossing
the Zahara. The calèche men too are a peculiar and happy race - attentive
to their fares - masters of their profession - and with a cigar in their
cheek dexter, will troll you Maltese ditties till your head aches. Their
costume is striking. Their long red caps are thrown back over their
necks - their black curls hang down on each side of the face - and a
crimson, many-folded sash, girds in a waist usually extremely small.
Their neck, face, and breast, from continued exposure to the sun, are a
red copper colour. They are always without shoes and stockings; and even
our countrywomen, who pay much attention to the costume of their
drivers, have not yet ventured to encase their brawny feet in the
mysteries of leather. They run by the side of their calèches, the reins
in one hand - the whip in the other - cheering on their animals by a
constant succession of epithets, oaths, and invocations to their
favourite saint.

They are rarely fatigued, and may be seen beside their vehicles, urging
the horses, with the thermometer at 110°, and perhaps a stout-looking
Englishman inside, with white kerchief to his face, the image of languor
and lassitude.

Their horses gallop down steeps, which no English Jehu dare attempt; and
ascend and descend with safety and hardihood, stone steps which occur in
many parts of Valletta; and which would certainly present an
insurmountable obstacle to our steeds at home.

The proper period, however, to see a calèche man in his glory, is during
the carnival. Every calèche is in employ; and many a one which has
reposed for the twelvemonth previous, is at that time wheeled from its
accustomed shed, and put in requisition for some of pleasure's votaries.
Long lines of them continue to pass and repass in the principal street.
Their inmates are almost universally of the fair sex, and of the best
part of it, the young and beautiful. Cavaliers, with silken bags,
containing bon-bons, slung on their left arm, stand at intervals, ready
to discharge the harmless missiles, at those whom their taste approves
worthy of the compliment. Happy the young beauty, who, returning
homewards, sees the carpet of her calèche thickly strewn with these
dulcet favours! The driver is now in his element! He ducks his head, as
the misdirected sweetmeat approaches; he has an apt remark prompt for

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Online LibraryA BushmanA Love Story → online text (page 5 of 21)