Julian Charles Young.

A memoir of Charles Mayne Young, tragedian, with extracts from his son's journal online

. (page 43 of 50)
Online LibraryJulian Charles YoungA memoir of Charles Mayne Young, tragedian, with extracts from his son's journal → online text (page 43 of 50)
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same feet were never known to retrace their steps.

' You will naturally be curious to learn what possible justifi-
cation there could be for the adoption of measures so severe
against such a man. The public at large will, possibly, never
Imow. But you shall, on one condition; viz., that you never
divulge what I shall tell you until I am dead. The strange facts
which I have been told by my husband, he never could have
known, had he not been appointed by the Emperor a member of
the Aulic council, against whose jurisdiction, you are aware,
universal as it is throughout the Austrian dominions, there is
no appeal.'

My friend having promised to preserve the secret inviolate as
long as she lived, the Countess thus continued her narrative :

* To understand my tale, you must transport yourself back in
imagination some five-and-thirty years.

' In Upper Styria, of which Judenburg is the capital, there is
a very large but sparsely-peopled district, which, at the period
I allude to, was in the exclusive possession of three landowners.
Part of the region was mountainous ; the mountains containing
in their bowels mines of silver, lead, copper, and iron. Part
consisted of valleys, richly cultivated, yielding abundant crops
of grain, and possessing a fine breed of large cattle. The other
part was wild moorland, frequented by the chamois, and varied
in its features by dark pine-forests and lakes alive with fish and
wild fowl of all kinds.

1 Baron P , a benevolent old bachelor, was the owner of

the largest of these three properties. His estate was bounded

on one side by Madame D 's and on the other by Grafiu

E 's. Both of these ladies were widows ; both were nearly

the same age ; each had an only child. Madame D 's was a

boy, two years older than Griifin E 's little girl.

' Similarity of circumstance, proximity, sequestration from
the world, community of sorrow, knitted these ladies together


by strong ties of sympathy and friendship, and while the gentle-
ness of their neighbour, the old baron, endeared him to them
both, respect for his judgment caused them to refer to him for
jidvice on all matters of importance.

' The constant interchange of kindly offices among the three
families helped to cement their intimacy so closely, that they
were hardly ever separate. They alternated at each other's
houses visits of many months' duration.

' In the mean time the boy and girl grew up together as
brother and sister. They read together, they romped together,
they rode together, they fished on the lake together. On
meeting at morn, and on parting at night, they embraced each
other with as much unrestricted freedom as if they were the
children of the same parents.

* In this innocent and unalloyed confidence did the families
continue, until the girl was nearly seventeen, when the old baron
formally proposed for her to her mother, in some such words

1 " With your sanction, dear friend, I shall offer to your girl
my hand, my heart, and my fortune. I am emboldened to do
BO, first, because, in consequence of the seclusion in which she
has been reared, I know her affections to be disengaged ; secondly,
because, though not so vain as to fancy that, at my years, I
could hope to inspire her with a romantic attachment, I yet
believe she loves me better than any one in the world, except
yourself. If you, then, will ratify our union, I will trust to you
to explain to her that matrimony, in her case, will entail no
abridgment of her liberty. In all the pleasures and pursuits
natural to her age, she will still have her friend Albert for her
companion ; and it will be an unspeakable satisfaction to me, as
long as I live, to reflect that when I quit this scene our two
estates will centre in the person of one who loves the poor
equally on both, and whom the peasantry of each adore."

' Manages de conmnance were so common at that time
throughout Germany and Hungary, that the disparity of age
between the contracting parties was considered in no degree to
lessen the advantages of the alliance in the estimation of the

* All the preliminary arrangements, as to settlements, &c., &c.,
having been quickly disposed of, the marriage was duly solemn-
ized, though with little display or pomp ; and the three families,
who might bo said to enjoy all things in common, dwelt for
many months under the Baron's roof in tranquil and uninter-


rupted harmony ; when an incident occurred which threatened
to jeopardize its perpetuity.

4 About three or four miles from the baronial residence there
was a small town, consisting of some four thousand inhabitants,
in which there was an opera house an institution almost essen-
tial to the happiness of a people so nationally musical as the
Germans. Of course the scenery, dresses, and decorations were
not very imposing, and the corps itself was but second rate ;
yet, occasionally, some of the more celebrated metropolitan
singers would take the little town in their provincial tour, and
attract crowded audiences to hear them. Ernestine and Albert
were equally devoted to music, and generally attended the
opera three nights a week ; their mothers keeping company with
the Baron at home, until he retired to his study, his meer-
schaum, and his bed. After two years of wedded life, the
Baroness, without having any assignable grounds of complaint
against her husband, fancied that she perceived a slight dimi-
nution of tenderness in his manner towards her. The more
narrowly she watched his demeanour, the more strongly per-
suaded she became that she had, somehow or other, given him
umbrage. She told him frankly of her fears. He begged her
to dispel them, as they were groundless. After some time,
however, when she returned to the charge, and urged him to tell
her if she had, in any way, fallen short of her duty as a wife,
he was obliged to confess that, much as he liked her to amuse
herself, and grateful as he felt to Albert for escorting her to
entertainments for which he had no longer any relish himself,
he yet thought she had evinced some little want of conside-
ration for the order and regularity and comfort for his esta-
blishment in staying out so late at night. " Surely, my darling,"
said he, rt it is not important for you, who are such an habituee
of the opera, always to stay till the very end of the entertain-
ment. It is usually morning before the coachman has groomed
and fed and bedded his horses. The whole household is on the
alert when it ought to be at rest. Some of my old servants, who
have been used to my early hours, have complained to me of
the change in the family habits ; and, as for myself, although
we occupy separate apartments, I never can close an eye till I
know you have returned home in safety. I daresay, therefore,
I may have unconsciously betrayed some dissatisfaction. I am
glad, at all events, dear, we have had this candid explanation, for
I know you will now take pleasure in conforming to my wishes
for the future."


'Instead of gracefully acceding to her husband's hint, sho
bantered him on his old-fashioned punctilios ; asked him if he
could be cruel enough to wish her to quit the opera, and disturb
the house by doing so, before the piece were concluded.' Much
more she said in the same vein, showing plainly that she thought
him a purist and his objections frivolous and overstrained ; and
proceeded with the petulance of a spoiled child to say, that " it
was evident he cared more for his servants' comfort than for her
gratification." With self-enforced calmness he interrupted her
with these words : " Ernestine, I have religiously observed the
promise I made your mother before our marriage. I have
allowed you uncontrolled latitude of action. You do what you
like ; you go where you like ; you spend what you like. Your every
whim it has been my study to gratify. I am, therefore I own
disappointed to see how little you care to humour my
harmless prejudices. Until this moment you have never heard
an angry expression pass my lips. But for once and, I trust,
for once only I change my tone. As I see how lightly my
wishes weigh with you, and how entirely engrossed you are
with your own, I give you a warning." He then turned towards
her a face livid with anger, and said, in a tone the more
alarming from its unwonted asperity, " Go, madam ; go every
night of your life, if it please you, to the opera. Leave every
night of your life, if it please you, your old husband to the care
of others and to the solace of his books and his meerschaum.
But, remember, if henceforward under any circumstances you
present yourself at the park gates after midnight, they will be
closed on you for ever."

' The young wife, who, in spite of a little giddiness, was an
amiable and affectionate creature, and fondly attached to her
husband, was appalled by his ferocity. Overwhelmed with self-
reproach, she flung herself at his feet, professed the profoundest
contrition for her selfishness, and the utmost readiness to submit
to any abasement rather than forfeit his affection. As he felt
her salt tears drop on his hands, and witnessed her humility and
penitence, the angry cloud on his brow cleared off; the thunder
which had gathered over his spirit rolled by ; the sunshine of
his better nature again broke forth; and once more, she was
basking in the smile of reconciliation.

1 For a long time she adhered rigidly to her promise. On a
particular night, however, a new opera was to be represented
for the first time by a brilliant company from Vienna. Albert
and Ernestine had their coffee, and went earlier than usual, that


they might not miss a single bar of the overture. At the end
of the second act, the Baroness complained to her companion
that the interest of the piece dragged heavily, "It hangs fire
sadly," she said, " I wonder how long the act has lasted. Just
look at your watch and see; I am sure it has been unusually

' Albert looked, and found it to be close on ten o'clock. At
the instant that he returned his watch to his pocket, a sudden
thought seemed to strike him. Smiting his forehead impatiently,
he exclaimed, " Good heavens ! your asking me the hour has
reminded me of what I had forgotten, viz., my appointment
with Herr S , the avocat. I told you of it a week ago."

' " Oh, never mind," she replied, " write him an apology to-
morrow." " To-morrow," said he, " will be too late. The farm
I wanted for our old friend H will be given away by to-
morrow, unless I negotiate for it to-night. Besides, my lawyer
is such a touchy old fellow, that if I break faith with him now,
I shall find it no easy matter to appease him afterwards. You
won't mind my leaving you for half-an-hour, will you ? I shall
not be longer." " Certainly not, she replied, if your engagement
be as important as you say it is. No one will interfere with me.
Everyone knows me well. And, if I had any cause for fear,
I have only to lock the door of my box while you are away."
He left her precipitately, promising to return as quickly as he

' In the mean time the opera proceeded ; and the Baroness
became so absorbed in the interest of the plot, and so enchanted
with the singing of the prima donna, that she forgot the flight
of time, until, on the falling of the curtain, Albert re-entered
the box, and expressed his regret at his detention, telling her it
was ten minutes to twelve o'clock. On hearing this, Ernestine
evinced the most poignant distress, rushed to her carriage, told
the coachman to gallop his horses the whole way home ; and, as
she took her seat by Albert's side, burst into a flood of tears,
declaring that she was irretrievably ruined; and that he, who
knew but one side of her husband's character, could form no
conception of the violence of his temper, or the obstinacy of
his resolution, when once it was really roused, and that she was
sure she should find him inexorable. In vain he tried to re-
assure her in vain he told her, that in proportion as anger
was vehement was it apt to be short-lived that the storm once
over, it would be succeeded by a great calm and that all would
be well again. She refused to be comforted.


1 On arriving at the park lodge, tlic keeper, who was in flic
habit, when he heard the roll of the carriage-wheels on the
road, of springing forward to throw open the gates, was nowhere
to be seen. Not till after many angry words from Albert did
the old man present himself. And when he did, he respectfully
but firmly declined to open the gates, saying, in justification for
doing so, that more than twelve months ago his master had told
him never to open them to any one after twelve o'clock, on pain
of instant dismissal. " It goes to my heart, my lady, to refuse
you," he said, "for you have always been kind to me: but
I must think of my wife and children ; and what would become
of us if we were turned off without a shirt to our backs, or
a roof over our heads." "If you will only open the gates,"
she replied, {: I will take all the blame ; and if my intercession
with your master fail, you know I am myself quite able to save
you from want, and save you 1 will."

'On the strength of this assurance, though with fear and
trembling, he admitted the carriage. The instant the Baroness
had entered the house she repaired to her husband's chamber,
resolved to throw herself unreservedly on his mercy, and assure
him that it was from no spirit of wilful disobedience, but from
an unavoidable accident, which she could not have foreseen,
that she had transgressed. She tapped diffidently at his door.
Obtaining no answer, she concluded that he was either asleep or
in no mood to be disturbed, and that it would be more prudent
to postpone her interview till the morning. Early next day, ac-
cordingly, she repaired to his door, rapping two or three times,
but with no better success. " Ah ! " she thought to herself, " I
daresay he has been chafing all night with anger against me ; and
has, may be, only just dropped asleep, after a weary vigil. It
will be impolitic to try and rouse him now." About ten o'clock
she once more ventured to his door, and loudly and beseechingly
entreated him to let her in. No notice being taken of her
appeal, she went for Albert, who first shouted lustily, and then
shook the door impatiently. Still no answer. Becoming, both
of them, seriously alarmed, they had his door broken open :
tmd, on rushing to his bed, found stretched upon it, and
weltering in his blood, the ghastly corpse of the old man.
While the young widow rent the air with h r shrieks, and her
own and Albert's mother were running to see what was the
matter, Albert himself had hastened to the stables, saddled a
horse with his own hands, and scoured the country far and wide,
in hope of falling on the track of the murderer. For three days


lie was absent, never relaxing in his exertions, until, baffled and
disheartened by failure, he returned to the inmates of the castle r
at last, to give vent to the sorrow he had managed in the excite-
ment of action to repress. The country, of course, was rife
with ingenious but erroneous conjectures as to the motive of the
murder ; for no money was missing, and no provocation could
have been given to anybody by one leading a life so benevolent,,
peaceful, and retiring as the Baron's. The perpetrator of the
deed was never guessed. The only man, who ever approached
him except his servants, who had lived with him for years,
was the young Count Albert : but he was known to have idol-
ized him from his childhood, and to have been treated by him
like a father.

' In course of time curiosity and indignation died out. The
country folk subsided into their ordinary habits, firmly con-
vinced that a special revelation from heaven alone could unravel
the mystery of the murder. After a while the family lawyer
was sent for, and the will read. It was found that everything,
the good old man had died possessed of was bequeathed abso-
lutely to his widow.

* The administration of such extensive estates made it more
than ever important that the now wealthy Baroness should have
a man of probity and capacity at her elbow. Albert's presence
was therefore more than ever essential to her : and, at the
pressing solicitation of Ernestine, he and his mother consented
to break up their own establishment, leave their house and
estate in charge of a trusty steward, and take up their quarters
with their widowed friend.

* The recollection of her husband's boundless confidence in
her, implied by the terms of his will, and the tender thought-
fulness for her welfare which he had ever shown her during
life, filled his childless widow with self-reproach. The only
compeESition she could make his memory would be by carrying
out to the letter, every project she had ever known him con-
template for the good of his tenantry. Dedication to the call
of duty, with a high sense of her responsibilities, gradually
restored her to herself, and reconciled her to her lot. When
the days of her mourning were ended, and she had consented
to discard her weeds, one of her favourite occupations was to
visit every corner of the property, and devise with Albert new
plans for the greater comfort and well-being of the labouring

'In one of these joint expeditions, Ernestine observed that


Albert seemed out of spirits that lie was apt to be absent and
silent, and hang his head pensively, as if oppressed by bitter
fancies. She rallied him on the subject, and asked him what
ailed him. " Any one who was a stranger to you would suppose
you were in love, to see you thus." " And what if I were,"
was his rejoinder, " would you not pity me ? Were I to turn
the tables and ask you, Ernestine, if you were in love, you
would answer, No. But if I asked you if you loved me, you
would answer promptly, Yes, as a sister loves a brother. What
will you, then, think of me when I tell you I do not return that
love ? I say, not that love. The love I have garnered in my
heart of hearts for you has never been the love of friendship, or
of blood ; but the love of passion, maddening, bewildering, in-
toxicating passion ! You have never been to me a sister, but
my light, my joy, my life since I could lisp your name. For
your dear sake it has been that I have despised the glitter of
court life. For your sake I have relinquished the dreams of
fond ambition. For your sake I have refused to enter the army,
a profession which I love. Hitherto I have counted all these
sacrifices as dross, because I have never been away from your
side. Hitherto my existence has been a joyous one for I have
breathed your atmosphere. It rests with you, whether hence-
forth it shall not be a bitter and a blighted one. Unless you
give me the right to claim you as my own, we must soon be
severed. I have demolished my household gods for you, and at
your request. I have no sooner done so than I find a cen-
sorious world not our little world but the great one of the
metropolis condemning us for an intimacy which at one time
my youth, and subsequently the presence of your husband, fully
explained and excused.

' " You are shocked, I see, at the substance and the abruptness
of my disclosure. Alas ! of my love you would have heard
long, long ago, had I conceived it possible your mother would
have coHsented to your contracting a marriage while you were
so young. When first I was told of your betrothal, I felt as if
a thunderbolt had fallen on me. I was speechless, paralyzed
with grief. Anger I could not feel ; for my bitterest rival was
my truest benefactor. But enough of this. The dear old man
is removed. Oh, let me supply his vacant place. Though you
may think, at present, that the affection you feel for me is not
the affection a wife should feel for her husband yet is it, let
mo ask, less warm than that you felt for him you scrupled not
to marry ? Are not our years more suited to each other ? Are


not our tastes more congenial? Have we not more pursuits
in common? Stay! stay! I conjure you! Before you answer,
and seal my fate and your own, let me tell you my sole alter-
native, in the event of a refusal. If you will not be mine, I
leave this spot for ever, never to see your face again. Are
you prepared to lose the companionship and sympathy of the
friend of your childhood the depositary of the secrets of your
womanhood ? I wait your answer."

'His importunity, and the dawning sense of her equivocal
position in the eyes of the world, prevailed at last over her
natural repugnance to wed with one whom she had always
treated with the familiarity of a near relation. In a word, his
skilful wooing won her, and they married. What the course of
their conjugal life was, whether smooth or ruffled, my informant
did not tell me. But certain it was, that after the Baroness had
borne him three children, he was as recherche in the gay circles
of Vienna as ever, while she was never seen.

'And now, to return to the eventful evening of Albert's

4 The very day before it happened, an audience of the Em-
peror had been solicited by one who begged permission to
withhold his name until he had stated the object for which he
asked the interview. This unusual request being granted, a
man of wan, anxious, almost cadaverous aspect, flung himself
at the feet of his sovereign ; and, in much agitation, asked his
Majesty if he remembered a notorious murder which had taken
place some years before the murder of old Baron .

' " Full well," said the Emperor, " who can forget it ? Have
you anything to tell which can lead to the detection of its
wretched author?"

' " I have, Sire ; I know the man, and so does your Majesty.
I have come to denounce him."

' " / know a murderer ? Have a care, man. Who is it ?"

' " Albert, Count A , whom if I mistake not, your Majesty

has honoured with your confidence and favour."

' " Villain ! You calumniate an honourable man. You men-
tion the most deservedly popular of our nobility. You will
have cause to rue your temerity, unless you substantiate your
charge. What, tell me, is the evidence you offer ? "

4 4 ' The evidence, Sire, of my own senses. May it please
your Imperial Majesty, it is not under the spur of malignity,
but under the sting of remorse ; it is in dread of a highor tri-
bunal than yours, Sire, that I beg you to be my priest as well


jis my king : and to receive the confession of a wretch who has
just been told by three medical men that his hours are num-
bered. Their verdict has, I own, taken me by surprise, though
I knew a malignant malady to be preying on my vitals. I four
loath : but that which comes after death I fear still more. The
sins of my past life, within the last few minutes, have come
before me in all their aggravation. I can make no atonement
for them myself. But I will at least try to do justice to an
injured woman, and bring down condign punishment on the
wicked man who has wronged her. I charge, then, Count

Albert A with having murdered his best friend ; not from

mercenary or vindictive motives, but from an impatience to
sweep from out of his path the great impediment in the way of
his union with one he loved too madly. Alas! while I denounce
him, what can I say for myself? I was base enough to accept
a bribe to assume the priestly garb and office, and thus desecrate
the Sacrament of Marriage by performing a sham ceremony.
His motive for this crime I never have been able to fathom :
for, assuredly, he loved sincerely. Possibly he had some one iu
his eye whom he wished, eventually, to marry. But that is
mere conjecture, after all."

' The counterfeit priest was allowed to go to his own quarters.
A guard was set over him ; and within a few hours he died,
swearing to the guilt of Count Albert A .

'The unhappy man was hardly dead before Ernestine re-
quested audience of the Emperor, conjured him to see her
righted, and told him that she had been apprised of her hus-
band's treachery by his own lips. He listened to her prayer,
and promised that she should be married legally, and her
children be legitimatized. It was shortly after this interview
with the Emperor that her husband was taken from the ball-
room on the occasion referred to, and transferred to his cell i;i
Spielberg. The next night was enacted a scene alike dramatic
and affecting. As the castle bell tolled twelve, in a dismal
corridor beneath the Danube, midway between the outer and

Online LibraryJulian Charles YoungA memoir of Charles Mayne Young, tragedian, with extracts from his son's journal → online text (page 43 of 50)