List Of Contents | Contents of Alvira- The Heroine of Vesuvius
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Charles tremble lest at any moment she would lose footing and be
precipitated down the dark and gaping chasms formed by glaciers and
rocks.  After hours of toil, and with imminent peril, they found the
body of Cassier.  A dark pallor had clouded his features, a ghastly
stare, closed teeth, and  clenched hand bespoke the last sentiment
of human passion.  Alvira trembled and stood powerless for a few
moments.  Still, necessity nerved her to action.  She removed the
money and valuables from the body of her father, and, in the midst
of wailings that echoed mournfully through the lonely mountain, they
made a grave in the snow.  Wrapping him in his cloak, they laid him
in a bank of soft crystals through which the blood had trickled in
crimson streams.

Thrilling and sad for Aloysia and Alvira the last moments of this
funeral ceremony.  Gently they placed the cold snow on the remains of
their father.  The wild eagle swooped around in anger, and the wind
swept with ominous sighs through deep ravines of the rugged mountain.
The gigantic cliff over which Cassier had been hurled by his maddened
child frowned over them in awful majesty.  It would be in centuries
to come the cenotaph of a dishonored tomb.  The winter would come again
with fresh snow to cover this valley of death; the sun would pour its
cold rays on the frozen mound that marked the grave of Cassier.  No
tear of affection would  moisten the icy shroud, but, in sympathy for
the hapless child stained with his blood, whose crime was condoned in
the provocation caused, the world has cast its abhorrent curse on the
grave of the reprobate.

   "There let every noxious thing
    Trail its filth and fix its sting;
    In his ears and eyeballs tingling,
    With his blood their poison mingling,
    Till beneath the solar fires.
    Rankling all, the curse expires."

Chapter XVII.
An Unwritten Page.

The noise of life can ne'er so dull our ear,
  Nor passion's waves, though in their wildest mood,
That oft above their surge we should not hear
  The solemn voices of the great and good.

As oft in icicles a flower remaineth
  Unwithered until spring its buds unchain,
The young heart through lifes change a good retaineth,
  And will exhume its summer leaves again.

When Charles and Henry had breathed their last sigh over the snowy
mound that covered the earthly remains of the hapless Cassier, they
continued their descent down the mountain.  They dared not go back
to the cloister; they fled when no one pursued, for outraged
conscience is its own avenger.  Each stir in the brushwood, a loosened
stone rolling quickly by, or the fluttering and scream of startled
birds of the solitude, made them tremble.

Night was fast coming on; the sharp peaks of the Tete Noir were dimmed
with clouds, and frowned with ominous terror on the path of the
terrified fugitives.  Through dangers of every kind, with bruises and
wounds all over their delicate frames, they reached in the night the
beautiful village of Chamounix.  Refreshed with sleep and food, they
prepared themselves for their future course, which for a while will
be perilous, sensational, and extraordinary.

Free from the control of an intemperate and tyrannical father,
possessing immense wealth, they cast themselves into a whirlpool of
deceitful pleasure, and for a while, in yielding to the longings of
misguided youth, hushed the qualms of conscience, which can only rest
in the bosom of virtue.

Once more free, the thought naturally came of returning to the dress
that became their sex.  Aloysia, whose sense of delicacy was still as
tender as the sensitive plant yielding to human touch, pleaded in
tears for a return to the simple ways of girlhood, to the life and
society more congenial to their habits and more in keeping with the
laws of God and nature.  Alvira had yielded for a moment.  But the love
of travel, which in those days could not be gratified in their true
condition of young and handsome girls without guardians, whilst in
their male disguise not a shadow of suspicion or impropriety would
interfere with them; the novelty of their condition, assuming each
day some new attractions; the curiosity innate in the feminine breast
to hear and see things outside her own circle; above all the
hallucinations flung on the path of disguise by the fiend of evil,
who thus intrigued for the final ruin of his unsuspecting victims,
made them agree mutually to pass a short time in travelling around as
naval cadets; then, tired and surfeited with their triumph over nature,
they hoped to retire into the sphere of utility destined for them by

But, to our own and to our readers' regret, we must pause in our
biography.  The sources from which we cull these interesting details
have cast historic silence over our heroines' ramblings of three years.
What a volume of sensation they suggest!  Were we given to the doubtful
utility of fictional biography, were we weak enough to enrich ourselves
by pandering to the morbid and often depraved longings of modern
literary taste, we might fill a couple of volumes with scenes of
excitement, of "hair-breadth 'scapes," and with heart-palpitating
suspenses of misplaced love.  We could not draw a picture more
interesting or strange than those two sweet maidens in their disguise.
We see them in the salons of the wealthy, in the clubs of the
politicians, and at the billiard-tables of giddy youth who little dream
of the intrusion, which, if they understood, would make them more happy.
We fancy we see those youths, so polished, so gay, and withal so
handsome, the idols of the society they move in; we hear compliments
about those delicate hands, those small feet, those charming eyes.
Our sympathy would chronicle the end fate of many an unsuspecting
maiden who loved and pined in the dream of secret love towards the
young officers that had crossed their path, whilst they revelled in
cruel delight in their triumph over their own frail, tender-hearted
sex.  Our tale might unravel the plottings of hopeful mothers who
vainly plied the utmost worldly ingenuity to gain for their daughters
already passed the meridian of youth such promising and charming
husbands.  What skill it would demand to describe the chagrin of those
old and young ladies, if they discovered the fraud which so heartlessly
trifled with the sacred feeling of love!

We will not tarry over imaginary incidents whilst terrible and
thrilling scenes are before us.  The record of those extraordinary
maidens is only now commending in all its romantic attraction.  It is
not the vicissitudes of an erring life that inspire our pen in this
brief sketch, but the merciful designs of Providence in following and
wresting from perdition a noble soul, endeared to heaven by the
prayers of a repentant mother, by the sighs of a saintly religious,
and by its own love for the immaculate Queen of Heaven.

Alvira opens her soul to the impulses of grace, but in dangerous and
guilty procrastination she passes through some startling vicissitudes
before the Almighty, impatient as it were for her love, draws her to
him by one of the most touching miracles recorded in the wonders of
hagiology.  We will hurry on to those events, which will warm our
hearts with love towards God, and make us look up with a deep feeling
of awe towards that "mercy which is above all his works."

Three years of strange vicissitude rolled over the career of our
heroines.  Some thousands of pounds gilded the path they passed over.
With all the recklessness of youth, they squandered their ill-gotten
money.  Many a poor ruined family eked out a miserable existence,
whilst their gold, entrusted to the wretched banker who had gone to
his account, was flung recklessly on the tables of chance by the
children he had nursed in the school of iniquity.  Like sand passing
through the fingers, like corn through perforated sack, their thousands
dwindled away, giving place to the bitter hour of retaliation, of
punishment, which will yet come for those hapless children of folly.

It did not please Almighty God to hurry them to a dreadful judgement
by sudden or awful death.  He has other and even keener pangs than
those of death, but they come rather from the hand of mercy than of
justice.  They are the pangs of remorse, which tear the heart of their
victims with agonizing stings that are known only in the deep secrets
of the soul.  A dark and secret hour of retribution is at hand for
Charles; the heavy but merciful hand of God will touch her, although
she will still follow the mad career of her hypocrisy and the wild
dreams of her ambition.

Alvira, still in her disguise of Charles, endeavored to forget the
crimes she committed in the dissipation in which she indulged.  Whilst
wealth and friends were around she feigned a gay heart and flattered
herself she was not so bad.  She involuntarily blushed at rude remarks
made by gentlemen amongst whom she passed as a companion, and in the
unsullied innocence of her sister she found a guardian for herself.
They invariably shunned low society, and thus they won the esteem of
all; they passed as young men of virtue as well as of beauty and of
grace.  The immorality that dishonored the manhood around them, the
indecency of the conversations they heard, and the open and blasphemous
impiety that often thrilled their dove-like hearts, made them form
a pleasing contrast with themselves and the corrupted society they
had now known to the core; yet, "Say not I have sinned, and what
evil hath befallen me."  Who can flee from the eye of God?  There's a
sting in the conviction of guilt that will follow its victim through
the ballroom, the mountain cave, or the cloister, to the very side
of the bed of death.

It was when Charles and Henry found their money nearly gone, and the
prospect of poverty before them, they felt in all its painful
anticipations the prospect of a gloomy and unknown future.  There is
no pang, perhaps, in nature so keen as that which pierces the rich
and ambitious when certain poverty stares them in the face; perhaps
'tis shame, perhaps 'tis pride, perhaps 'tis the despair that arises
from the shock of blasted hopes--or all together--that weight on the
sinking heart, and make each vital throb like the last heavy thud of
death.  Then suicide has a charm and self-destruction a temptation.
Many a turbulent wave has closed the career of a the beggared
spendthrift and the thwarted man of ambition.

Charles commenced now to suffer in anticipation all the pangs of coming
shame, poverty, and humiliation.  With remorse returned the virtuous
impressions of childhood, instilled into her tender mind by her
penitent mother.  She longed to return to the circle nature had
destined for her, but which seemed more difficult now than to commence
a new disguise.  Although she yielded in all virtuous impulses to that
"procrastination which is the thief of time," yet in her after-career
there was a wonderful combination of events, extraordinary and
interesting, which prove a loving and forgiving Providence hearing the
prayer of a penitent mother.  But we must raise the curtain and proceed
with the drama of sacred romance whose first cats have given so much
interest and sympathy.

Chapter XVIII.
In Uniform.

It was a bright morning in November, in the year 1684.  The people of
Milan were all flocking to the cathedral.  It was the feast of the
great St. Charles.  The magnificent Duomo which now covers the shrine
of this great saint was not in existence then; nevertheless, the
devotion of the people towards their apostle and patron was deep and
sincere.  Perhaps in no city in Italy is there greater pomp thrown
around the patron's festival than at Milan.  From morning to night
thousands gather around that venerated shrine.  The prince with his
liveried servants, and the poor peasant with the snow-white handkerchief
tied on her head, kneel there side by side.  From the first anniversary
of the great saint's death to the present day the musical services of
the great cathedral have been rendered by the greatest talent in Italy,
Professionals and amateurs flocked from every side to do honor to
the man who did so much honor to the city of Milan.  Nowadays, since
science has shortened distance, it is one of the autumnal amusements
of the wealthy Englishman to be present at the Feast of St. Charles
at Milan.  The gorgeous Duomo, hewn, as it were, out of Carrara
marble, covered with five thousand statues and pinnacles, illumined
with hundreds of thousands of lights swinging in the lofty aisles in
chandeliers of sparkling crystal; the majestic organs, accompanied
in musical harmony by hundreds of the best of human voices, rolling
in soul-stirring majesty over the heads of tens of thousands of the
kneeling children of the saint--all leave an impression never to be
forgotten.  Although in modern days the city of Milan has nurtured in
her bosom some of the firebrands of Italian revolution, yet the city
honored with the names and relics of Ambrose, Augustine, and Charles
has yet thousands of pious and holy souls, who still gather with filial
devotion around the tombs of the sainted dead.

On the morning of the festival of St. Charles our heroine awoke with
a heavy heart.  She knew the city was astir and repairing to the
cathedral.  How strange she should have chosen the name of Charles!
How great, how holy everything connected with that name!  Could the
man of God who made it so venerable to his people meet the wretch who
had assumed it to dishonor it?  Could even the pious people who flocked
to the cathedral know there was amongst them a Charles whose hands were
stained with parricidal guilt?  Like the wicked man who fleeth when
no man pursueth, Charles trembled lest the indignation of the people,
of the saint, and of God should crush her in punishment of her sins.

With thoughts like these she entered the cathedral.  Henry was by her
side.  The Pontifical High Mass had commenced, and the organ rolled
its majestic tones through the aisles of the old church.  Immense
crowds had already gathered around the tomb, and Charles and Henry
repaired to a quiet and obscure portion of the building, where they
could observe without being observed.

Some years had now passed since Charles had breathed a prayer.  There
was something in everything around her that softened her heart; she
buried her face in her hands and wept.  An eloquent panegyric was
preached by a Dominican Father.  The peroration was an appeal to the
assembled thousands to kneel and implore the blessing of the saint
on the city and on themselves.  Few sent a more fervent appeal than
the poor, sinful girls who shunned the gaze of the crowd.  The prayer
of Charles was heard, and God, who works wonders in the least of his
works, brought about the conversion of this child of predestination
in a manner as strange as it is interesting.

The crowd have left the cathedral.  The lights are extinguished.  The
service is over.  Charles and Henry are amongst the last to leave.
On coming into the great square before the church they were surprised

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