THE FATE OF VELINA DE GUIDOVA (1790)
Henrique Aldovido to Velina de Guidova
With a mind distracted by all the torments of suspense, and with all the horrors of apprehension, I rise from a sleepless couch to call once more upon your pity. Velina! this is the third letter I have sent to entreat you will tell me you exist and that you remember me. I conjure you by humanity by the tenderness of love and by all that is most sacred to write. If it is only one line one word write. Let me know that you live, and, if it must be so! let me know that you have forgot to love me. Relieve me from this dreadful incertitude, any state is more tolerable than this. Oh! if it were possible you could understand the extent of my sufferings cold and altered as you are, you would pity and relieve them! Sleep gives no momentary respite to my sorrows. My imagination is incessantly haunted with the most terrific images. I see you, Velina, forgetful of my vows, I see you cold and indifferent to me. I see you married to another to another, whom your father has chosen and you have approved. I see you bestow those smiles on him which were once my own and my heart swells almost to breaking. I fly from recollection to the most rude and savage scenes I fly to the deep recesses of the forest, or to the frightful precipice of the mountain I fly to lose the horrors of my own mind in the horrors of nature but alas! your image still pursues me still torments me in the most tremendous solitudes.
My heart sickens at the light of day, and I retreat to the thickest shades. There do I spend the lonely hours in musing misery there does fancy call up all her train of hideous forms to agonize my soul. In vain I endeavour to escape from her influence in vain I endeavour to dissolve her enchantments. Every effort recoils upon my heart in tenfold misery.
Oh! Velina, if ever I was dear to you, and I once believed I was, if ever your heart melted to the woes of another, compassionate and relieve mine. If oh! if your heart no longer acknowledges me if I have a rival more fortunate than myself, yet yet tell me so. Ah! what do I say? Rather conceal what will destroy me rather deceive me with false hopes than tell me you are anotherís. All all but this I can endure! this But let me not dwell on the thought. I am not doomed to such excess of misery! Yet write. Pardon the inconsistencies of a distracted brain. . . .
Worn out with agitation, nature yielded to sleep but not, alas! to repose. The most terrifying visions haunted my fancy. Methought, Velina, methought I was in the aisle of a large and gloomy church. The obscurity of the place was dimly shewn by the reflection of torches that gleamed from a remote part of the fabric. A few people passed at a distance between the pillars and disappeared in the darkness of the pile. All was lonely and vast: as I stood musing in melancholy silence the solemn notes of an organ swelled at a distance and gradually stole upon my ear till the sounds rose at length to the most full and ravishing harmony. I stood entranced, and seemed as if in those celestial abodes, where such sounds are said to flow. While I yet listened, the notes died away at distance, and were lost in the silence of the place.
Suddenly the torches which glimmered from afar blazed with new brightness. I heard the echoes of footsteps in the aisles and presently saw some people hurrying towards the choir. The light encreased, and at length the whole church was iLluminated. As I gazed in wonder on the scene, the people dispersed, and the lights gradually declined, till the place was left in itís first obscurity.
A hollow voice from the altar called me. I endeavoured to approach down the aisles, but my feet faultered, as they do in dreams. I several times fell to the ground and vainly tried to proceed. The voice called again my feet now favoured me, and opening the iron gates which separated the aisles from the choir, I beheld an old and ghastly man in the habit of a priest standing at the foot of the altar. From him the voice had come. He beckoned me towards him. He held in his hand a glimmering taper, which threw a feeble light over the place, and discovered you, Velina, at some distance. Your look was pensive, and your eyes had all that mournful sweetness in them which they expressed in our last interview. You saw me, and, while I vainly endeavoured to approach, you sunk into the earth, waving your hands to me and seeming to implore me to save you. I struggled to fly to your assistance, but my feet again forsook me, and, without having the power to help you, I saw you gradually sink from my view and disappear. The ground closed, and I was left in total darkness. The horror of the scene awakened me.
Surely, oh! surely there is some mystery in this dream which is to destroy me. My torments are, if possible, heightened by this vision. Velina, if you do not write immediately on the receipt of this, I shall set out for Spain. No power on earth shall hold me.
[SOURCE: The Fate of Velina de Guidova, 3 vols (London: William Lane, 1790), vol. 2, pp. 15867]
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