My heart smote me; I threw myself on the ground, and wept bitterly. I felt that it had been my duplicity which had destroyed her virtuous resolutions; my selfishness which had ruined her peace of mind and had plunged her into guilt. She knelt by me, persuading me to rise, curbing her own feelings as she kissed the tears from my cheeks, promising never to wound my peace again. But it was gone—gone for ever; my crime burst on me in all its magnitude; I felt that I had been guilty of a grievous and unpardonable sin, and had ruined the one I loved as well as myself. She was still on her knees; kneeling by her side, I prayed to offended heaven for mercy and forgiveness. She joined me in my fervent aspirations; and, with the tears of repentance flowing down our cheeks, we remained some time in the attitude of supplication. At last we rose, “Do you not feel happier, Rosina?” inquired I; Rosina smiled mournfully in reply, and we returned to the cave.
For many hours we spoke not, but remained in sad communion with our own thoughts. The night again closed in, and we lay down to repose; and, as I clasped her in my arms, I felt that she shuddered, and withdrew. I released her, and retired to the other side of the cave, for I knew her feelings and respected them. From that hour she was no more to me than a dear and injured sister; and, although her frame hourly wasted away, her spirits seemed gradually to revive. At the expiration of a fortnight, she was too much reduced to rise from her bed, and I passed day and night sitting by her side in repentance and in tears, for I knew that she was dying. A few hours before she breathed her last she appeared to recover a little, and thus addressed me:—
“Henrique, within this hour a balm has been poured into my breast, for a voice tells me we are both forgiven. Great is our crime; but our repentance has been sincere, and I feel assured that we shall meet in heaven. For your kindness—for your unceasing love, you have my thanks, and an attachment which heaven does not forbid—for now it is pure. We have sinned, and we have pleaded, and obtained our pardon together: together shall we be, hereafter. Bless you, Henrique! pray for my soul, still clinging to its earthly love, but pardoned by him who knows our imperfection. Pure Mother of God, plead for me! Holy Saviour, who despised not the tears and contrition of the Magdalen, receive an unfaithful, but repentant spouse unto your bosom; for when I made my vow, thou knowest that my heart—”
With what agony of grief did I hang over the body! with what bitter tears did I wash the clay-cold face, so beautiful, so angelic in its repose! In the morning, I dug her grave; and cleansing my hands, which were bleeding, from the task, returned to the corpse, and bore it, in its nun’s attire, to the receptacle which I had prepared. I laid it in; and, collecting the flowerets which blossomed round, strewed them over, and watched till sunset; when I covered her up, laying the earth, in small handfuls, as lightly on her dear remains, as the mother would the coverlid upon her sleeping babe. Long it was before I could prevail on myself to soil that heavenly face, or hide it from my aching eyes. When I had, I felt that Rosina was indeed no more, and that I was indeed alone.