Vol. XVIII. MAY, 1841. No. 5.
THE MOTHER’S PRIDE.
BY MRS. C. H. W. ESLING.
How beauteous is childhood—how blessed, how calm,
An eye full of sunshine—a bosom all balm—
A free gushing heart of unfetter’d delight,
Like a fount of pure water, untroubled, and bright.
Such—such is the morning of innocent youth,
When hope’s every promise seems gilded with truth,
When flowers lay scatter’d in heaps ’neath our feet,
And each passing gale brings its odorous sweet.
How fair to that baby—in half-dreamy rest
Reclining its head on a fond mother’s breast,
Looks the whole outward world to those soft smiling eyes!
How cloudless its visions—how brilliant its skies!
How clear the blue heaven, whose bright borrow’d gleams
Are reflected far, far o’er the sun-lighted streams!
How gentle the music of low melody
That is whisper’d from blossom, and flower, and tree!
The earth, like an Eden, is glowing with joy,
No serpent hath enter’d its peace to destroy,
A heaven-mission’d Angel—still watches the whole,
’Tis the spirit of God, in that baby’s pure soul.
Well, well may that mother look anxiously there
On that fair, snowy brow, all unshadow’d by care;
Then turn to the future with wondering gaze,
To trace on its pages its fast coming days.
How long will her ringlets of raven-like fold,
Lie darkly amid its thick tresses of gold?
That seem in their beauty of darkness, and light,
Like the sunlight of morning in dalliance with night.
She gazes upon him—her idol, her joy,
The hope of her bosom—her sunny-haired boy,
And feels the whole world in its domain so wide,
Hath nought in its gift, like her darling, her pride.
She thinks of the days when a glad little child,
Her heart, as her baby’s, was playfully wild—
Of her own watchful mother—her blessing, her prayer,
Who guarded those days from the footsteps of care.
Her far smiling home rises full on her view,
When she—like a blossom of summer growth, grew,
The fields where she roved in her innocent mirth,
And her indoor enjoyments around the old hearth.
Those days have departed—their sunlight has fled,
And pale is the ray that gleams over the dead;
The stateliest tree may be felled to the ground,
And its branches unguarded, be scatter’d around.
Her household is broken—her father no more
Recounts to his children the bright days of yore;
’Tis broken and dreary—her fond mother lies
Encircled by earth, and watch’d o’er by the skies.
She sees the old grave-yard—each white gleaming tomb,
And the forms that are slumbering in darkness and gloom,
And a tear of remembrance, and sadden’d regret
She sheds for the homestead she ne’er can forget.
These dreamings are casting their shadows e’en now,
And dimming the gladness that erst deck’d her brow—
Her heart wanders back—when to all things beside
She was like her own baby—a dear mother’s pride.
WORTH AND WEALTH,
OR THE CHOICE OF A WIFE.
BY ELLEN ASHTON.
“And so you intend to marry Lucy Warden—eh! Harry. What on earth has put you in such a notion of that girl?” said Charles Lowry, to his friend Henry Bowen, as they sat together, cracking almonds after dinner.
“And why not marry Lucy Warden?” quietly said his friend.
“Why? oh! because she’s not worth a sous; and besides I’ve heard she’s the daughter of a brick-layer. You know, any how, that her mother kept a little retail dry-goods store until an uncle left Mrs. Warden that annuity on which they now just manage to subsist.”
“A formidable array of evils, indeed; but still they do not dishearten me. As for money I do not look for it in a wife, because I should never feel independent if I was indebted to a bride for my bread. Besides an heiress is generally educated in such expensive habits that it requires a fortune to satisfy her luxurious wishes. As a mere matter of business this marrying for money is nine times out of ten a losing speculation. You are forced to live according to your wife’s former style, and being thus led into expenses which your income will not afford, you too often end by becoming bankrupt. Then, too late, you discover that your wife is fit only for a parlor; she becomes peevish, or wretched, or sick, and perhaps all together. Domestic felicity is at an end when this occurs—”
“But her birth!”
“A still more nonsensical objection. It is one of the prejudices of the old colonial times, and was imported from England by the servile adorers of rank, who came over the Atlantic to assume airs in the provinces which they dared not assume at home, and to sneer at the honester members of society, who, instead of being like themselves drones in the public hive, earned their bread fairly. It is this latter class to which our country is indebted for its subsequent prosperity—a prosperity which all the aristocrats of Europe could not have bestowed upon it. The revolution, while it made us politically equal, did not destroy this social aristocracy. The same exclusiveness prevails now as then, but with even more injustice, for it is opposed to the whole spirit of our republican institutions. Nor is this all: the prejudice itself is ridiculous. How can people, who scarcely know their own ancestors beyond one or two generations, and whose blood has been derived from every nation and occupation on the globe, talk with any propriety of birth? Why, there is scarcely a man or woman of our acquaintance, who is not an example of this pie-bald ancestry. Take, for instance, Walter Hastings, who, you know, boasts of his family. I happen to know all about him, for he is a second cousin to myself. His father made a fortune, and married into our family. But who was he? The son of a German redemptioner. Hastings’ mother, it is true, is the grand-daughter of an English baron, and the sister—a far higher glory—of a signer of our Declaration of Independence. Such is a fair sample of our best families. Why I would undertake to furnish from the ancestry of any of them either a peasant or a peer, either a laborer or a drone. Birth, forsooth! The only persons who boast of it in this country are generally those who have the least claim even to an honest parentage; and the noisiest pretender to blood I ever met with was the grandson of a fellow who was hung fifty years ago for forgery.”
“Well, you’re really getting quite low in your notions, Harry—where, in the world, did you pick up such vulgar opinions? You, a gentleman and a lawyer, to marry such a girl! She’s pretty enough I grant—amiable no doubt—can sing and draw passably—and makes, I hear, a batch of bread, or does dirty house-work as well as a common kitchen girl. But perhaps that is what you want her for?”
“Your sneer aside, yes! It is because Lucy Warden is a good house-keeper, that I intend to marry her. Not that I would have a bride only because she could, as you say, make a batch of bread. Education, amiability, a refined mind, and lady-like manners are equally necessary. But a knowledge, and a practical one too, of housekeeping is no slight requisite in a good wife. I know such knowledge is scarce among our city ladies, but that is the very reason why I prize it so highly. Believe me, refinement is not incompatible with this knowledge.”
“Pshaw, Harry; but granting your position, what is the use of such knowledge?”
“It is of daily use. Servants will always impose on a mistress who knows nothing of her duties as the domestic head of the house. You are an importer; but how long, think you, would you prosper if you left every thing to the care of clerks, who would naturally take advantage of your carelessness to fleece you? A mistress of a house ought to oversee her establishment in person. This she cannot do unless—to use a mercantile phrase—she understands her business. If she does not do this, nothing will be well done. The whole evil, believe me, arises from the desire of our women to ape the extravagance of the English female nobility, whose immense wealth allows them to employ substitutes to oversee their domestic establishments. But even had we incomes of hundreds of thousands of dollars we could not carry out the plan, owing to the total absence of good servants of this character in our country; and in this opinion I am borne out by Combe, Hamilton, two of the most observant and just of English travellers.”
“Well, Harry, you were born for a barrister, or you could not run on so glibly. But it’s a shame that a gentleman who might command the choice of the market, and marry the richest heiress in Walnut street, should throw himself away upon a girl without a sixpence. Now there’s Charlotte Thornbury and her sister who are co-heiresses,—why can’t you take the one and I the other?”
“Merely because I love another. You smile; but despite the sneer I am a believer in love. Of Charlotte I have nothing to say, except that she is beautiful. You know how often we have discussed the matter. I only hope she will make you a good wife.”
“Allons! the ladies are awaiting us. You and I will never, on this question, agree.”
The foregoing conversation has given our readers a pretty accurate idea of the two young men to whose acquaintance we have introduced them. Henry Bowen was a young lawyer, with a small annual income, but of—what is called—an unimpeachable family. This, with his acknowledged talents, would have procured for him the hand of many a mere heiress, but he had wisely turned away from them all, and sought a companion for life in one, without name or fortune, but who, in every requisite for a good wife, was immeasurably their superior.
Charles Lowry, on the contrary, was a dashing young merchant, who by dint of attention in the counting-house, could afford to be luxurious in his style of living. He had imbibed many of the false notions of fashionable society, and among others the idea that a rich wife was indispensable. His sole object was to secure an heiress, as much for the éclat of the thing as for her fortune, although this latter was no slight temptation to the young merchant. And he had finally succeeded. Amid a host of rivals he had won the prize. Need we say that Charlotte Thornbury, the beautiful, the gay, but the careless heiress, was the guerdon?
The two friends were married in the same week. The one took his wife to a small, but neat and convenient house in one of our less fashionable streets,—while the other entered at once into a splendid mansion in Walnut street, whose furniture and decorations were the theme of general envy and admiration. The one bride kept but a single servant, the other had several. Yet the mansion of Mrs. Lowry, though always magnificent, was never tidy, while the quiet home of Mrs. Bowen was a pattern of neatness and simple elegance. The young merchant never went home without finding that his wife had been out all day either shopping, or making calls, and was in consequence tired and silent, or perhaps out of humor; while the young lawyer always found a neat dinner and a cheerful wife to welcome him. As for Charles, he had always sneered at love, and having married from motives of vanity and interest, a woman whose mind he despised, he had nothing of sympathy with her, nor was it long consequently before he found her society irksome. When the toils of the counting-house were over he went home, because it was the custom, but not because he expected to derive any pleasure from the conversation of his vain and flippant wife. He was glad when the season commenced with its round of dissipation, because then he found some relief in attending the fashionable entertainments of his own and his wife’s acquaintance. Since his marriage he had never enjoyed a single hour of real domestic felicity.
How different was the wedded life of Henry and his bride. All through the tedious duties of the day, the recollection of his sweet wife’s greeting at night, cheered the young lawyer on in his labors. And when evening came, and he had closed his office for the day, how smilingly, and in what neat attire, would Lucy preside at the tea-table, or, after their meal had been disposed of, bring out her work-stand, and sew at something, if only at a trifle for a fair, while Henry read to her in his rich, mellow voice. And then, sometimes, they would sit on the sofa, and talk of a thousand plans for the future, when their income should be extended, or, if it was in summer, they would stroll out for a walk, or call upon some one of their few intimate friends.
“Dear Henry,” said Lucy, one evening to her husband, as they sat talking together after tea, “how wearied Mr. Lowry looks of late. I think he must be in bad health. How glad I am you are always well. I know not what I should do if you were to be taken sick.”
“May that day be long averted, my own Lucy,” said the husband, as he kissed her pure brow, “but I have noticed something of the same look in Lowry; and have attributed it to the cares of business. His wife is a woman, you know, who could do little to alleviate a husband’s weariness.”
“Oh! how can she be a wife, and not wish to soften her husband’s cares. Indeed, indeed, if you only look the least worried I share your trouble until your brow clears up.”
“And it is that which makes me love you so dearly,” said the husband, as he pressed her to his bosom. “Ah!” he continued to himself, “if Charles saw me to-night I wonder whether he would not envy me?”
That evening there was a brilliant party at the house of Mrs. Lowry, who was smiling upon her guests in all the elation of gratified pride. Never had she appeared more happy. But even the envied mistress of the revel was not without her care. One or two favorite guests whom she had invited did not come, and she could not help overhearing some of the ill-natured remarks of her neighbors. Her only gratification was in listening to the flatteries of others of her visitors, who were either more fawning, or more deceitful. At length, however, the entertainment was over, and wearied and dispirited she paused a moment in the deserted parlors before retiring. Her husband was there.
“Well, Mrs. Lowry,” said he, with a yawn, “so this grand affair is over at length, and a pretty penny it has cost I do not doubt”—Charles had latterly found that his income was frightfully beneath his expenses, and had begun to wish his bride less extravagant—“But why did you purchase those new ottomans—and these candelabra—and that,” and here he used an oath, “expensive set of mirrors? I told you the old ones were good enough, and here, when I come home, I find you have purchased them in defiance of my orders. Why, madam, an earl’s fortune would not sustain you in your extravagances.”
“And whose fortune, I wonder, buys these things?” said the passionate beauty, “you wouldn’t let me have the common comforts of life if you had your way.”
“Pshaw! madam, none of your airs. But I tell you this extravagance I neither can nor will submit to.”
“You’re a brute,” said the wife, “so you are. Do you—you think” she continued, bursting into tears, “I’d ever have married you, when I might have had so many better husbands, if I’d thought you’d have used me this way?”
“Well, madam, so you’ve got up a scene,” coolly said the husband, “all I wish is, that you had married some one of your other suitors.”
“You do—you insult me—I won’t live with you a day. Oh! that I should be abused in this way,” and the now really wretched woman burst into a fresh flood of tears.
“As you please madam!”
But we omit the rest of this scene, which ended with a fit of hysterics on the part of the wife, and a volley of curses on that of the husband. The difficulty was the next day made up between the newly married couple; but from that hour their altercations were frequent and bitter. Charles began to think as his old friend had told him, that there was a great difference betwixt marrying for love or for money.
Three years passed. At the end of that period, how altered were the circumstances of Charles and his friend!
The expenses of his establishment had increased upon the former until his fortune not only staggered but gave way under the pressure, and, after several ineffectual attempts to retrieve it by speculations, which, ending abortively, only increased his embarrassments, Charles found himself upon the brink of ruin. In these circumstances he found no consolation in the sympathy of his wife. She rather upbraided him with the loss of her fortune, forgetting how much of it she had squandered in her fashionable entertainments. Their altercations, moreover, had increased in frequency and violence ever since the scene we have recorded above, until Charles, unable to find even quiet at his own fireside, sought for relief in the club. Hither he was led, moreover, by the desire of retrieving his fortune, for his embarrassments were still unknown to the world, and he trusted that by a lucky chance he might place himself once more in security. Vain hope! How many deluded victims have indulged in the same delusion before. His course from that hour was downward. He became a gambler; he neglected all business; he lost; his engagements failed to be met; and in a few weeks he was bankrupt.
Meantime the husband of Lucy had been steadily gaining in reputation, and increasing his business, so that at the end of the third year the young couple were enabled to move into a larger and more elegant house, situated in a more desirable quarter. This change of location materially strengthened the business of the young attorney; he became known as one of the rising young men; and he looked forward with certainty to the speedy accumulation of a competency.
“Have you heard any thing further?” said Lucy, one evening to her husband, as he came in from a day’s hard work, “concerning poor Mrs. Lowry or her husband?”
“Yes! my love,” said he, “and it is all over.”
“What! has any thing alarming happened?” said Lucy, anxiously.
“Sit down, dearest, and don’t tremble so,” said her husband, tenderly, putting his arm around her waist, and drawing her to the sofa, “and I will tell you the whole of the melancholy story.
“After his bankruptcy last week, some days elapsed before any thing was known of the place to which my unfortunate friend had gone. It was supposed at first that he had fled with what funds he could lay his hands on. This was the more credible from the ignorance of his wife as to whither he had gone. She, cold-hearted thing, seemed to care little for his loss, but appeared to be chiefly affected by her deprivation of fortune. She even upbraided her husband publicly, and it is said, when some forgeries which he had perpetrated were discovered, and a strict search set on foot after the criminal, she went so far as to hope he might be taken and brought to condign punishment. But you know they never lived happy together.
Well, every attempt to trace the fugitive having failed, the search was about being given up in despair, when intelligence was brought to the city this morning, that a dead body, answering to the description of that of Mr. Lowry, had been washed ashore, a few miles down the river. You may well look alarmed, for the intelligence was too true. It was the body of my poor friend. It is supposed that grief, shame at his bankruptcy, and perhaps remorse for his crime, led him to commit suicide. Poor fellow! his sad fate may be traced to his ill-assorted marriage. He chose a woman whose extravagance always outstripped her fortune, and who, from having brought him wealth, considered him beneath her. He did not know the difference in a wife between Worth and Wealth.
THE DUSTY WHITE ROSE.
BY MRS. VOLNEY E. HOWARD.
This is not thy place—oh! thou dusty white rose,
This is not thy place, by the dusty highway,
Thou shouldst bud where the murmuring rivulet flows,
And sings itself off through the meadows away.
Yes—there is thy place, on the distant green lea,
Where the sweet hawthorn blossoms, and wild warblers sing.
There, fanned by the zephyr, and woo’d by the bee,
Thou mightst rival thy fair sister buds of the spring.
Thou remindest me much, oh! thou poor blighted flower,
Of a fair human blossom, I met on life’s way;
She struggled and liv’d through dark Destiny’s hour,
But like thine, has her young bloom all wilted away.
In life’s rugged pathway, it is not the bright,
Lovely blossoms of beauty that soonest depart,
Far more do I grieve how soon sullies the light,
The pure and untainted,—the bloom of the heart.
Jackson, Md. 1841.
THE VOICE OF THE SPRING-TIME.
BY MARTIN THAYER, JR.
I come! I come! from the flowery South,
With the voice of song and the shout of mirth;
I have wandered far, I have wandered long,
The valleys and hills of the South among;
On woodland and glen, on mountain and moor,
I have smiled as I smiled in days of yore;
In emerald green I have decked them forth,
And I turn again to my home in the North.
I have roved afar through the storied East,
And held on her hills my solemn feast;
Through her cypress groves my voice was heard,
In the music sweet of my fav’rite bird;
Each plain I have clothed in sunlight warm,
And slumbered in peace ’neath the desert palm;
A garment of light to the sea I gave,
And melody soft to each rushing wave.
O’er the isles that gem the Ægean sea,
I sported and flew with frolicksome glee;
’Round the ruins grey of the olden time,
Bright garlands I hung of the creeping vine;
Ah little they thought, who slumber beneath,
That the warrior’s plume, and the victor’s wreath,
Would fade like the blossoms that spring-time flings,
’Round the cotter’s grave, and the tombs of kings.
O’er Marathon grey I walked in my pride,
And smiled o’er the plain where the brave had died.
On the field of Platæa I laid me down,
’Neath the shadows deep of old Cithæron’s frown.
Full soundly I ween doth the Persian sleep,
When the fir trees mourn, and the wild flowers creep;
His requiem soft I sang as I lay,
And dreamed of the glory won on that day.
O’er Italia’s hills soft sunlight I poured,
And her olive groves bloomed wherever I trod;
A coronet green to the mountains I gave,
And a robe of blue to each laughing wave;
With verdure I clothed each mouldering pile,
And laughed at the glory of man the while,
For I thought how old Time had trampled in scorn,
O’er the monuments proud of yesterday’s morn.
I come! I come! with the song of the thrush,
To wake with its sweetness the morning’s blush;
To hang on the hawthorn my blossoms fair,
And strew o’er each field my flowrets rare.
The lark, he is up, on his heavenward flight,
And the leaves are all gemm’d with diamonds bright;
The hills are all bathed in purple and gold,
And the bleating of flocks is heard from the fold.
Go forth! go forth! for the spring-time is come,
And makes in the North his bright sunny home;
The sky is his banner—the hills his throne—
Where in sunshine robed, he sits all alone;
In the depths of the woods his footsteps are seen
By each moss-covered rock and tell-tale stream;
And his voice is heard through each leaf-clad tree,
In the plaint of the dove and the hum of the bee.
THE REEFER OF ’76.
BY THE AUTHOR OF “CRUISING IN THE LAST WAR.”
“Sail ho!” sung out the look-out, one sunny afternoon, as we bowled along before a pleasant gale. In an instant the drowsiest amongst us was fully awake. The officers thronged the quarter-decks; the foretop-men eagerly scanned the horizon; the skulkers stole out from beneath the bulwarks where they had been dozing, and the late quiet decks of the schooner, which but a moment since lay hushed in the drowsy silence of a sultry afternoon, now swarmed with noisy and curious gazers.
“Whereaway?” asked the officer of the deck.
“Broad on the weather-beam.”
“Can you make her out?”
“A heavy square-rigged vessel.”
“Do her royals lift?”
“Aye, sir; but only this moment.”
“How does she bear?”
“West and by west sou’ west.”
“A West Indiaman, perhaps.”
“Ay, sir, I can see her to’-gallants now: they belong to a heavy craft.”
“Pipe all hands to make sail, boatswain.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
“The strange sail is hauling up into the wind,” sung out the look-out.
“Ay—take the glass, Mr. Parker, and spring into the cross trees to see what you can make of her. All hands aloft—loose and sheet home fore and maintopsails. Merrily, there. How does she look, Mr. Parker?”
“She seems a heavy merchantman by her rig; ah! now her topsails lift, large and square, with a cross in them. It’s not the rig of a man-o’-war.”
“Ease off the sheet—man the lee-braces—hard down the helm.”
“Ay, ay, sir,” said the quarter-master, as he whirled around the wheel, and the gallant craft danced lightly up into the wind, like a racer beneath the spur; while the men stood at their respective stations eagerly waiting the command.
“Round there, with the foretop-sail—haul in fore and aft—belay all!” came in quick succession from the quarter-deck, as we bowed before the breeze, and dashing the spray on either side our cutwater, went off almost dead in the wind’s eye. The sharp wind, as it sang through our cordage, and the momentary dashing of the sea across our bows, as we thumped against the surges, afforded a pleasant relief to the occasional creaking of the shrouds, or the dull monotonous sounds of the water washing lazily alongside, which we had been listening to for the last hour. The change had an exhilarating effect upon our spirits, which was perceptible as well among officers as among men. Besides, we were all eager for a prize. Every man, therefore, was at his station, and a hundred eager faces looked out from the forecastle, the tops, or wherever their owners chanced to be. The captain, too, was upon deck, scanning the stranger with a scrutinising eye.
“Can you see her hull yet, Mr. Parker?” he asked.
“No, sir—her courses show to the very foot—but here it comes—six ports on a side, sir, though they look like painted ones.”
“She’s setting her light sails.”
“Every one of them, sir: and wetting down their mainsail.”
“How are her decks?”
“Crowded, sir. There’s the glancing of a musket as I live; ah, of a dozen. She carries troops, sir, I fancy.”
The interest had gone on deepening, during these rapid questions and answers, until at my last reply a suppressed buzz ran around the ship. No one spoke, but each looked into his messmate’s face, and it was obvious that the question, “could we capture our opponents, or would we ourselves become the prey?” was uppermost in every mind. But the person most interested in the event was apparently the least concerned of any; and without moving a muscle of his face, the captain leisurely closed his glass, and turning, with a smile, to his lieutenant, said,—
“We shall be likely to have a sharp brush, Mr. Lennox; in fact our men are getting rusty, and we want something of a close-contested battle to burnish them up. We shall open the magazine, and go to quarters directly.”
Every thing that could be made to draw, was by this time set, and we were eating into the wind after the stranger with a rapidity that promised even to the most sanguine of us a speedy realisation of our hopes. As we gained upon the merchantman, the crowded state of his decks became more and more apparent, and we could plainly detect, by means of our glasses, that every exertion, even to wetting down the sails to the royals, was being made on board of him to escape. But all was in vain. Few vessels afloat could beat us on the tack we were now going, nor was it long before we had the chase within range of our long Tom.
“She hasn’t shown her bunting as yet,” said Captain Stuart, “but we’ll throw a shot across her, run up our flag, and see what answer she makes.”
The long gun was cast loose, the foot of the foresail lifted, and the gunner applying the match, the ball went whizzing on its way; while at the same moment our flag was run up to the gaff, and blowing out to leeward, disclosed the arms of our colony. For a few minutes the shot might have been seen ricocheting along the waves, until it plunged into the sea a few fathoms on the larboard of the stranger. Still, however, no ensign was shown by the chase.
“Pitch a shot into her this time, Mr. Matchlock,” ejaculated the skipper, addressing the gunner, “and see if that will bring her out.”
“Ay, ay, sir,” said the old fellow, squinting along his piece, and aware that he was one of the best marksmen afloat in any service, “ay, ay, we’ll awake them to a sense of their condition presently; we’ll drive the cold iron through and through the reprobates: too high, a little more starboard—steadily all, and mark the mischief,” cried the old fellow, applying the match. The rest of the sentence was lost in the deafening report of the cannon; a sheet of fire was seen streaming out an instant from the mouth of the piece; and as the pale white smoke sailed slowly eddying away to leeward, the old gunner might have been discerned, bending eagerly forward, and shading his eyes with his hands, as he gazed after the path of the ball.
“By the Lord Harry how it makes the splinters fly!” said the old fellow, as the shot, striking full on the quarter of the chase, went through and through her deck.
“And there goes her flag at last,” said Westbrook, as the ensign of England floated from the quarter of the merchantman, while at the same moment a cloud of smoke puffed from his stern, and a shot, skimming along the deep, toward us, plunged into the waters a cable’s length ahead.
“We’re beginning to make him talk, eh!” chuckled the gunner, waxing warm in his work. “Let him have it again now—ah! that will bring out his teeth—give it to ’em, you old sea-dog,” he continued, familiarly patting his piece, “and by the continental Congress, he’s got it among his sky-scrapers. There come his to’-gallant sails—hurrah!”
The fight now became one of intense interest, for the merchantman perceiving that escape was impossible, seemed determined to resist to the last, and kept up a brisk and well-directed fire upon us from his stern-guns. Their range not being, however, so great as that of our piece, we were enabled after a while to regulate our distance so as to cripple the chase effectually without sustaining any damage ourselves. But it was not long that we were suffered to maintain the combat on our own terms. Worried beyond endurance by the havoc made among his spars, the chase soon put his helm up, wore round, and hauling up his courses in gallant defiance, came down boldly toward us.
“We shall have it now,” whispered Westbrook as he stood by the division where he commanded, “they must outnumber us two to one—but we’ll give them a lesson for all that.”
“Ay! hand to hand, and foot to foot, will be the struggle, and God defend the right.”
No sooner had the chase altered his course, and shown a determination to accept our challenge, than the firing on both sides ceased, and the two ships steadily but silently approached each other.
The eve of a battle is a solemn time. However men may talk in their jovial hours, or feel amid the maddening excitement of the contest itself, there is something inexpressibly awe-inspiring in the consciousness that we are soon to be arrayed in deadly hostility against our fellow-creatures; and now as I gazed along the silent decks, and beheld our brave fellows gazing, as if spell-bound, upon the approaching foe, I perceived that their emotions were akin to my own. Yet there was nothing of fear in those hardy bosoms. There was a compression of the lip, an occasional flashing of the eye, and a half-suppressed word now and then among the men, which showed that amid all their other feelings, a deep, unflinching detestation of their tyrants was uppermost in their hearts. At times their eyes would glance proudly along our sanded deck, with all its apparatus of cutlasses, boarding pikes, and cannon balls, and then turn indignantly, and almost triumphantly, toward the enemy, now bearing down upon us. Meantime a death-like silence hung upon them; not a sound was heard except the sighing of the winds through the hamper, and the dash of the waters under our bows.
The chase had now approached almost within musket shot, and yet no demonstration of an attack had been made. We could see that the chase was alive with men. From every port, and look-out, and top, a score of faces warned us of a bloody battle. Each man was at his post, determination stamped on his countenance. As I gazed upon this formidable array of numbers, and beheld the comparatively gigantic hull of our adversary, steadily advancing on us, like some portentous monster of the deep, I almost trembled for our victory; but when my eye fell again on the brawny chests, and determined visages of our gallant crew, I felt that nothing but extermination could prevent them from hoisting our own flag above the proud ensign of our foe which now flapped lazily in the breeze. But my reverie—if such it might be called—was cut short by perceiving a sheet of flame rolling along the Englishman’s side, and, while his tall spars reeled backward with the recoil, a shower of shot came hurtling toward us. In an instant the gaff of our mainsail fell; our sails were perforated in various places; and a cannon ball striking us amid-ships, cut through both bulwarks, and laid one poor fellow dead upon the deck. The men started like hounds when they see their prey.
“Stand to your guns—my men!” thundered the captain in this emergency, “let not a shot be fired until I give the word. Bear steadily on your helm, and lay us across their bows.”
The moments that elapsed before this endeavor could be consummated seemed to be protracted into an age. Our gallant fellows could, meanwhile, scarcely be restrained within the bounds of discipline. As shot after shot came whizzing over us, the crew grew more and more restive, casting uneasier glances at our commander at every successive fire. Several of the spars had by this time been wounded, and our hull showed more than one evidence of the foe’s skill in gunnery. At length a shot came tearing through the bulwark but a short distance from where I was stationed, and after knocking the splinters wildly hither and thither, struck a poor fellow at his quarters, and laid him mangled and bleeding across his gun. I ran to him. One of his shipmates had already lifted the man’s head up, and laid it carefully in the lap of a comrade. The face was dreadfully pale—the features unnaturally distorted. Agony, intense and irresistible, was written in every line of the face. The motion, however, revived him, and he opened his eyes with a groan. Unsettled as was their gaze, they took in the anxious group around him. He saw, on every face, the deepest commiseration. His glazing eye lightened for a moment.
“How are you, Jack?” said the shipmate, in whose lap he lay.
The dying man shook his head mournfully.
“Don’t you know me, Jack?” said his messmate. There was no answer. The eyes of the sufferer were closed. “God knows I little thought you were to die thus!” continued his shipmate, with emotion. “For twenty years, in gale and calm, in winter and summer we have sailed together, and now you’re going to part company, without being able even to bid an old messmate farewell,” and he wiped the cold sweat from the dying man’s brow. “Jack, Jack, don’t you know me? Can I do nothing for you?”
The sufferer opened his eyes, and made a gesture as if he wished to be lifted up. His desire was gratified. He looked around eagerly until his eyes fell upon the enemy.
“Bury—me,” he faintly articulated, “after you’ve—hauled—down her flag. And—and Rover,” and his voice, for an instant, became stronger, “send the prize-money to the old woman—and—a—a.” He gasped for breath.
“What?—in God’s name what?” But the senses of the dying man began to wander.
“Speak!—Jack—for the love of God!”
“A—alls—we—e—el!” murmured the man, brokenly. He ceased. A quivering motion passed across his face. His shipmate gently laid his head upon the deck.
“He’s dead—and now boys, for revenge!” said Rover, as he started to his feet.
The crisis had come. So rapidly had the foregoing scene passed, and so intently had we all been gazing upon the dying man, that, in the interval, the schooner had gained a position on the bow of the enemy, and as the sturdy seaman rose up from beside his murdered companion, we ran short across her in a raking position; and before the words had died upon the air, the long-expected command came from the quarter-deck, to open our fire.
“Fire!” shouted our leader, “one and all—pour it into them—remember you fight for your all!”
“Give it to ’em like h—l, my boys,” thundered the gunner, “that’s it; there goes her sprit-sail yard—hurrah!”
It was a terrific scene. No sooner had the signal been given, than, as with one accord, our gallant fellows poured in their deadly fire. Every shot told. Stung almost beyond human endurance by the restraint in which they had been kept, and maddened by the spectacle of a messmate slain at his post before he could fire a shot, our crew fought like demons rather than men, jerking their guns out as if they were playthings in their hands. Nothing could withstand them. Not a shot was wasted on the rigging of the foe: every one was driven along her crowded decks. The slaughter was immense. Man and boy, sailor and marine, officers and crew went down before that murderous, incessant fire. The flashes of the cannon, the roars of the batteries, the crashing of spars, and the shrieks of the wounded and the dying rose up together in terrific discord. Meanwhile the thick clouds of smoke settling down upon us hid the hull of the enemy completely from sight. Nothing but her masts, rising tall and gallantly above the dim canopy of her decks, could be seen. Directly one of these was seen to stagger; then it swayed to and fro a moment; and directly giving a lurch, the whole lofty fabric of spars and hamper went tumbling over her side.
“Hurrah, boys! we have her now,” shouted the captain of a gun near me, “there goes her fore-mast—let her have it again,” and, jerking out his piece at the word, another deadly discharge of grape was sent hurtling along the enemy’s decks.
By this time the two vessels had got afoul, the bowsprit of the foe having become entangled with the shrouds of our mainmast. Unable longer to resist the whirlwind of grape poured along their decks, the crew of the enemy determined on making a desperate effort to retrieve the tide of battle by boarding, and gathering suddenly forward, at the call of their leader, they made an instantaneous rush upon us. But their attack was as quickly met. A momentary vacillation of the veil of smoke hanging over the deck of the foe, by disclosing the numbers gathering upon her forecastle, betrayed to our gallant leader the intention of the enemy. He saw at a glance that the attack must be repulsed speedily or that we were lost. The vessels were already rapidly swinging around side to side, and in a few moments the overwhelming numbers of the Englishman would be enabled to leap upon our decks, with almost as much ease as if we were moored along side of their craft in port. Not a moment was to be lost. Either the enemy must be repulsed at once, and so promptly as to preclude all future attempts of the like character, or else we must lose every advantage we had already gained, and be overpowered finally by the mere force of numbers. What I have taken so long to describe, flashed through our minds with inconceivable rapidity. The captain did not hesitate a moment. Waving his sword aloft he thundered,
“Boarders ahoy! muster at the main—to beat back the enemy,” and then in a lower tone he added, “charge the long gun to the muzzle with grape—”
Obedient at the word our gallant fellows hurried to their stations, and stood eagerly awaiting the onset of the foe; who having, by this time, mustered on the fore part of their craft, stood ready to spring upon our decks at the first opportunity. That was now at hand. The two ships, which had momentarily receded, now rolled together, and every man of the enemy’s crew strained his muscles to their utmost tension, as he prepared to spring on our decks.
Never shall I forget that sight. Clustered around the fore-shrouds and on the cat-head, and covering the whole space between, were the dense masses of the enemy, their dark frowning countenances, and glittering weapons forming prominent objects in the spectacle. They had sprung up, as if by magic, from a score of lurking places, and gathering at the call of their commander, now stood with threatening numbers about to leap upon us. To resist such a whirlwind of cutlasses with our little crew was well nigh madness. But our leader had already determined to make their very numbers the cause of their ruin. At this moment, when the two ships approached each other, he turned rapidly to the gunner, and shouted,
“Give it to them with the long gun—fire!”
The effect was electric. With a noise, like the bursting of a volcano, the instrument of death went off, belching forth its fiery torrent with resistless fury. An avalanche could not have swept off its victims more ruthlessly than did that discharge disperse the foe. Nothing could withstand that hurricane of grape. Its effect was awful. Clearing a lane through and through the crowd upon the forecastle of the enemy, it tore its passage onward amid the spars and hamper of the ship with resistless violence, almost drowning the shrieks of the dying, and the curses of the wounded in its terrific crash. The enemy’s boarders staggered and fell back, and before they could rally the two ships fell asunder. While they were still wavering, our hamper became disentangled, and we once more floated free of the enemy. As we passed along her side our fire was renewed with redoubled impetuosity, while the Englishman, crippled as he was by our last frightful discharge, could only feebly reply.
“Pour it in, my lads,” shouted the gunner again, “and we’ll soon bring her to quarters—give it to ’em now, for the honor of old Plymouth.”
“God save the king;” came hoarsely back from the enemy, “blow the rebels out of water.”
The speaker was standing just abaft the mainmast, and had distinguished himself, during the attempt to board us, by his vehement gestures, and apparent influence over the men. I noticed that the eye of Westbrook watched him keenly as he spoke. Suddenly an officer approached and gave him an order. He looked around, started from his protected situation, and dashed up the main-shrouds, with the intention, as we now perceived, of reeving a rope which had been shot away, and the loss of which prevented the main-topsail from being hoisted to the cap.
“They’re about to make off,” said I to Westbrook, “he’s a daring fellow to go aloft in this fire, any how.”
“He’s not so sure of success,” said Westbrook, “for they’ll have a shot at him from the forecastle.”
The man had by this time, with almost inconceivable rapidity, effected his purpose, although more than one musket had been fired at him from our craft. He now turned to descend, but proud of his achievement, he could not resist the temptation of a momentary bravado. He took off his hat and gave a hurrah.
“It’s your last boast,” cooly said Westbrook, as he snatched a musket, and lifting it to his shoulder, glanced his eye along the barrel, and fired. I shuddered involuntarily, even though an enemy was the victim, for I knew Westbrook’s deadly aim. My presage was true. The man staggered on his footing an instant; made an abortive grasp at the air instead of a rope; and falling backward, struck the shrouds, and re-bounded into the sea. He squattered a moment on the water like a wounded duck, and then sank forever, leaving only a small dark stain of blood upon the wave to tell where he disappeared.
By this time the fire of the enemy had almost ceased, and, even amid the smoke of battle, we could see that her scuppers were literally running with blood. An ineffectual attempt was now made to escape from us, but we ran down upon the enemy at the first symptom, and re-commenced our fire with unabated fury. Their rigging was soon terribly cut up, as we now aimed principally at that. As a few moments removed all possibility of an escape on the part of the Englishman, and as we had suffered ourselves in our hamper somewhat from his fire, we then ran off a short distance, and began to repair our damages. An hour and a half sufficed to place us in nearly as good a condition as before going into battle, when running down upon the enemy we once more opened our battery. The first gun, however, had hardly been fired, before the British ensign, which had doggedly been kept flying, was hauled down. I was despatched to board the capture. As I stepped upon her decks a scene of desolation met my eye. My path was literally slippery with blood. Scarcely a man was on deck. The helmsman, a single officer, two marines, and a few common seamen, were the only ones, of all that numerous crew, who were not wounded or dead. God knows a more terrific slaughter I had never participated in! I think I behold it at this day.
The present national flag, consisting of the stars and stripes, was not adopted until 1777, when Congress passed a resolution to that effect. Prior to that time each commander used whatever device suited his fancy. The first ensign of Paul Jones is said to have been a pine tree, with a rattle-snake coiled at the foot, about to strike, and the motto, “don’t tread on me.” The arms of a colony, as in this instance, were often used.—Eds.
THE HAUNTED CASTLE.
A LEGEND OF THE RHINE.
On the brow of a lofty and rugged hill, which overlooks the Rhine, stand the ruins of the ancient Castle of Ehlendorf. The ivy has clambered over its crumbling towers, as if to shield them from the destructive hand of time, and bind with its creeping tendrils the wounds which he has made. Once its halls resounded with the mirth of the young and gay, of brave knights and ladies fair, while the songs of minstrels, and tales of heroic enterprize, whiled away the hours of night, until the purple light of dawn appeared. Now it has fallen to decay: the race of its noble possessors has become extinct; and the ivy grows, and the owl hoots amid its deserted courts.
At the time when our tale commences, it was in the possession of Conrad, Baron of Ehlendorf, the remaining scion of that noble family. His brother had died in Palestine, leaving to him the title and all the vast estates of his ancestors. In early life he had wedded the beautiful Elfrida, of Aldenburg, and never was a purer gem more dearly valued than the young bride of Ehlendorf by her doting lord. Years of bright, unclouded happiness rolled over their heads; and if unalloyed pleasure has ever dwelt on earth, it was the portion of Conrad, of Ehlendorf, when he looked upon his angel bride and their little Katrine, scarcely knowing which was the loveliest, the mother or the child. Often as he saw their fair offspring, with bounding footsteps, dimpled cheeks, and laughing eye, throwing back her golden curls, and rushing with playfulness and love into her mother’s arms, he felt that without her his treasures were but glittering dust.
Like the other barons of ancient times, his retinue was composed of a vast number of armed retainers, and his power and wealth were unequalled by any other of equal rank in the country. His kindness and hospitality were every where proverbial, and the noblest of the land delighted to gather round his festive board. Thus, love, wealth and beauty conspired to fill the heart of Ehlendorf with joy, and nought could dim his happiness till his loved Elfrida was called from earth to blossom in a fairer clime. Sad and afflictive was this bereavement to the young baron, overthrowing as it did the dreams that he had been weaving through eight bright years of wedded happiness. Still, as he turned in anguish from the lifeless form of the object of his heart’s best affections, one ray of hope enlivened the surrounding gloom. His lovely Katrine grew more and more beautiful day by day, and in her he felt that he possessed a purer treasure than wealth could afford. In his constant watchful care over her helplessness, and the fond confiding affection with which she repaid his tenderness, he found forgetfulness of every sorrow.
As successive years rolled on she grew more and more lovely, and new charms in her unfolded daily. No opportunity had been neglected which would tend to her intellectual advancement; and at the age of sixteen she possessed the charms of beauty, and an intellect of the highest degree. Their castle was thronged with young cavaliers, eager to win so lovely a prize,—and though her smiles were bestowed on all, yet no one of the noble train had received any evidence of her preference. Happy in the fondness, nay, almost idolatry of her father, she remained insensible to any other than paternal affection. The baron, though still in the pride of manhood, had never indulged serious thoughts of a second union, and when bright eyes beamed on him, and silvery voices fell in tones of melody upon his ear, he had only to look upon the face of Katrine, where every feature of her sainted mother was reflected as in a faithful mirror, and his heart was steeled against every attraction.
It was a beautiful morning in the month of June, when the baron and his daughter went forth for their accustomed ride. The air was balmy; the fragrance of the flowers was borne upon the breeze, and the groves were vocal with the melody of the feathered songsters. Suddenly dark clouds obscured the sky, and foretold a coming tempest. They hurried on, but when they arrived at the castle, the storm-clouds hung darkly and fearfully over its rugged towers. Then loud thunders rent the sky; gleams of lightning darted from pole to pole. The rain fell in torrents from the darkened sky, hour after hour, incessantly; the swollen waves of the Rhine beat in fury upon their rugged banks. Katrine was seated at her chamber window, watching the raging billows as they rushed in wild commotion against the rocks. Suddenly her attention was attracted by the sight of a cavalier upon the opposite shore. The vision was transient, for scarcely had he appeared ere his fiery charger leaped from the towering height of the rock into the boiling waves below. The baron’s sturdy vassals had witnessed his disaster, and rushed forth to rescue him if possible. Urged on by impassioned signs from Katrine, they put forth every effort. For awhile he struggled successfully against the foaming billows, but was at length thrown with violence against the rocks, and when the vassals of the castle had succeeded in bearing him to the shore, he was insensible. Hour after hour the baron and Katrine hung anxiously over his couch, watching for signs of returning consciousness, but he remained pale and motionless as the work of a statuary; his faint breathing and a slight pulsation alone giving evidence that life was not extinct. At length a delicate flush overspread his marble countenance; his eyelids gently raised, and he gazed in bewildered astonishment on all around him.
“Fear not,” said the baron, “you are with friends, who will watch over you carefully, until you have recovered from your late disaster.”
The following morning he was able to relate the circumstances which had led him there. He gave his name as Hildebrand, a young knight of Hanover. He had been engaged in the chase, the day before, and had followed the deer so far that he lost sight of his companions, and wandered through the intricate mazes of the forest, not knowing whither his way might lead. Soon the tempest arose, and as he reached the opening of the forest, he spurred on his charger, ignorant of his proximity to the Rhine, until he was precipitated down the frightful chasm. He expressed his gratitude in the highest terms to his noble host for his kindness, and a wish to leave the castle as soon as possible. The extreme debility resulting from his late accident, however, precluded the possibility of his immediate departure. Besides, the ravages of the storm had rendered the highways impassable.
During this time the fair Katrine left no means untried to cheer the lingering hours. Her harp beguiled those moments which would otherwise have been tedious, and her voice, whose melody was unrivalled, seemed even more sweet than it was wont to be, as she sung the wild and beautiful legends of their country. Charmed by her beauty, her accomplishments, and filial affection, young Hildebrand became daily more and more attached to Katrine, while she returned his affection with fond idolatry. Thus passed day after day in peace and happiness, and the only sorrow which dimmed Katrine’s pleasures was the thought of parting, and his wish that their engagement should be concealed from her father, until he should return to claim his affianced bride. Sincere and trusting, she yielded to the conviction that he was urged to this wish by powerful motives, then unknown to her, nor allowed the slightest suspicion of his constancy to enter her mind.
One bright morning three weeks after his arrival at the castle, a courier alighted with despatches for Hildebrand. As he perused them, a cloud rested upon his brow, and he hastened to find Katrine. He told her that his presence was demanded at court, but with many promises of a speedy return, he bade her a fond farewell. Weeks, nay, even months passed away, and still Katrine received no tidings from her stranger lover. She had withdrawn herself from gay society, and her gladsome laugh no longer resounded through the silent halls. Her anxious parent saw with anguish the sorrow of his child, and finally won from her the tale of her love. In vain he used every endeavor to find the retreat of their guest. The name of Hildebrand was unknown to any of the barons of the vicinity, and he was forced to relinquish his fruitless inquiry. At length it was announced that a tournament was to be held at the capital, in honor of the nuptials of the Elector of Hanover, and the baron hoping that this scene of gaiety would dissipate her melancholy, won the consent of Katrine to accompany him. The morning of the day appointed dawned with unusual splendor, and the eye of Katrine beamed with the light of hope, as she took her place in a gallery commanding a full view of the field of action. “Surely,” she thought to herself, “when the bravest of the land are about to signalise themselves, Hildebrand will not desert the noble band.”
The field was elegantly prepared; and the tents, glittering with all the splendor of martial panoply, added double richness to the scene. On either side of the lists were galleries of blue and red and purple silk, crowded with the beauty of the land. All was anxious expectation. Soon a shout of joy from the assembled multitude announced that the elector and his young bride were approaching. Mounted on a fiery charger, which he managed with perfect skill, his noble form appeared to the best advantage. His bride rode a beautiful white palfrey, and though there was something noble in her flashing eye and masculine firmness, still her beauty could not be compared, without disparagement, to the angelic loveliness of Katrine. As they advanced near the place where Katrine was seated, an undefined horror thrilled through her frame, yet her eyes remained fixed upon the prince. Surely it was the same noble form. Could it be Hildebrand? He turned his dark eye upon her and met her anxious glance; the color receded from his cheek. She uttered a faint cry of agony, pronounced the name of Hildebrand, and fell senseless into the arms of her attendants.
The tale can be told in a few words. Her faithless lover had been summoned from his delightful retreat at Ehlendorf by the duties of state; and ambition had led him to form an alliance from which his heart revolted. In the cares of state and the hilarity of his nuptials he had in a measure drowned the memory of Katrine, but now she seemed to rise like a gentle spirit to reprove his falsehood. The arrows of remorse had entered his soul and poisoned his enjoyment. Though surrounded by all the honors and dignities of this world he found no peace. Katrine was borne by her afflicted parent to their once happy home, but the light of existence had fled forever, and the house of Ehlendorf was soon to be remembered as among the dead. A few sad years rolled on. The baron was borne to his last resting place. Katrine with her attendants alone remained within the castle walls. At length she yielded up her vast domains in favor of a distant relative, with this restriction, that the old castle should remain undisturbed, and as it was reported, retired to a convent in Switzerland. From this period the old fortress was left to the ravages of time, uninhabited by any mortal, though the superstitious inhabitants of the vicinity declared it to be the abode of supernatural beings. A tall form according to the neighboring villagers, robed in white, had been seen upon the battlements at midnight, while strains of wild unearthly melody were heard floating on the breeze; and when the storm was raging, the same spirit form was seen hovering over the yawning chasm and keeping its fearful vigils where no mortal foot durst approach. The benighted traveller turned away, choosing to wander through the mazes of the forest, rather than pass the fearful place, and even the adventurous mountain boy fled in terror from its lonely walls.
Years had rolled on, when the Elector of Hanover chanced in hunting to pass through the domains of Ehlendorf. One of his followers related to him the superstitions concerning the castle, and despite their entreaties he insisted upon exploring its recesses. He reached it just as its towers were gleaming in the pure moonlight; and the waters of the Rhine flowed gently on, while each tiny ripple wore its glittering coronet of moonbeams. How vividly bright the visions of the past rose in his memory, as he entered once more through the castle’s lonely gates. Just as he passed the threshold the notes of an Æolian harp sent a thrill of superstitious terror through every vein. He opened the door which led to Katrine’s boudoir, when a sight met his eye which caused him to recoil with terror. Extended on a couch, and guarded by an old attendant, was the form of the once beautiful heiress of Ehlendorf. The deep flush of agitation overspread her cheek as she recognised him and said,
“Why intrude upon the sanctity of one devoted to Heaven, or strive to bind a heart to this earth which its sorrows have broken?”
These words assured him that the true Katrine and not the spirit was before him, and he slowly approached her saying,
“I come, to crave the boon of pardon from one so deeply injured as you have been.”
A sweet smile beamed on her placid countenance as she said,
“It is granted, and may kind Heaven forgive all your wanderings, as freely as I now forgive your falsehood. I have found the bitterness of earthly sorrow, and for awhile brooded sadly over disappointed love, but the deep dream now is past. For years my hopes have been fixed upon a brighter world, and not one lingering trace of earthly idolatry has mingled in my devotions. I would have secluded myself in the sacred walls of a monastery, but my heart clung with fondness to my father’s halls. I have traced the Creator’s power in the starry heavens and stolen abroad to view the glories of nature in the pure moonlight. This has given rise to the superstitions of the peasantry, and I have carefully avoided undeceiving them lest they should intrude upon my retirement. And now, farewell. My sands of life are well nigh spent, and I shall soon join my sainted parents in Heaven. Leave me in solitude, I entreat you, lest the lingering spell be thrown again upon me. Once more farewell.”
Thus saying she motioned to the door where he had entered, and he retired in sadness of spirit. A few weeks after, the form of Katrine was deposited in the family vault, and the castle remained untenanted. The peasantry still call it the Haunted Castle, asserting that the fair lady of Ehlendorf is seen to wander by moonlight over its crumbling towers.
Female Seminary, Yonkers, N. Y. 1841.
BY J. S. FRELIGH.
I saw Alethe—she was young and fair:
A rose-bud op’ning to the balmy spring;
And as she knelt in holy, fervent prayer,
Her youthful heart to God surrendering,
The music of her voice in murmurs low,
Sounded like tones of sweetest melody,
Half-waking heard—or like the silver flow
Of some lone woodland stream—she seem’d to be
A type of perfect beauty—Heav’nly symmetry.
Again I saw Alethe.—It was where
Dwelt sickness, poverty, and misery deep—
Where prison-walls enclos’d a parent dear;
And like an angel, she had come to keep
Watch while he slept—to comfort him—to pray.
In innocence she came, like Mercy’s dove,
With healing balm, to sooth his care away!
Oh! such sweet tenderness—such holy love,
Must be akin to that in the bright world above!
Once more I saw Alethe—at her breast
Hung a sweet infant, and the radiant smile
That revell’d round its lips while calm at rest,
Was like the smile of cherubs,—free from guile.
Ethereal—bright—surpassing Fancy’s dreaming,
The mother shone—for Fancy ne’er could paint
Aught so much like a guardian Angel beaming
In full beneficence upon a saint
As sweetly innocent—as free from earthly taint.
St. Louis, 1841.
MY GRANDFATHER’S STORY.
BY LYDIA JANE PIERSON.
“Well, well,” said my grandfather, “sit down, girls, and I will tell you all about it.”
Cousin Sarah and myself accordingly got our work, and sitting down at a proper distance, assumed the attitude of earnest listeners.
“If you had ever been in France,” he commenced, “I could make you understand my story much better, but your little rustic American imaginations can never conceive any thing like the refinement, and yet freedom of society in that polished country; the softness and beauty of the earth and sky; or the striking magnificence of the old ruinous chateaux; but as it is I shall be very brief in my sketches of these things.”
“Oh, no, no, grandfather,” we both exclaimed at once, “you must be the more particular in your description; for being strange to us they are the more interesting.”
“Well,” he replied, “I will as much as I can, without making a long story of it; but do not interrupt me, for that will utterly break the chain of my recollections.
“First, you must consider that although I am an old American citizen, I was once a young French nobleman; and your grandmother whom you see busied in household duties is a Stuart, of the royal blood of Scotland. The estate of my ancestors lies in view of the ancient and noble city of Lyons, stretching from the beautiful Rhone west to the Cervennes mountains. A fine chateau near the river is the modern residence of our family; but its ancient strong-hold is a rude and magnificent old castle, built on the rocky summit of a mountain which stands alone in its majesty, looking down with seeming scorn on the proud city, and the river which can never more than kiss its feet. My noble grandsire had two sons, of whom my father was the younger. My uncle, of course, inherited the title and estate, and was sole lord of the old castle; although my father occupied magnificent apartments in the chateau. I remember when quite a child, accompanying my father in his visits to my uncle, at such seasons as he chose to reside on the mountain. My awe and admiration of the dark, old structure were boundless. There it sat, firm as the eternal rock to which it was secured, utterly inaccessible on the side toward the river; and scarcely approachable in any direction, save by an expensively constructed road, dug or built along the margin of a brook which flows at the bottom of a ravine, down the mountain, toward the river. This traversed ravine presented to my eyes a thousand wild, beautiful, and romantic spots. I had not then seen the forests, and mountains, and wild glens, of this panorama of nature’s most grand and beautiful works; this land of the majestic and the terrible; the lovely and the sweet; from the savage chieftain beside the soul-stunning Niagara, to the enameled humming bird kissing the blossoms that overhang the silver fountain. Oh! this is a glorious country; but it is not my native France.
“In that dear land every perpendicular rock, every babbling cataract, every gnarled tree, or ragged shrub was a picturesque and wonderful object to my young imagination; and to be allowed to visit my uncle at the castle was the highest reward at which my efforts were aimed. My uncle was a widower. At thirty years of age he married a beautiful child of seventeen, whom he fervently idolised: but in less than two years the fair creature began to fade. He carried her to balmy Italy, but he returned alone. From that time he was sad and gloomy, almost morose. He never left the castle, except to ramble over the mountains, among the wild recesses of which he often spent whole nights, and I sometimes shuddered as I heard the domestics hint that he was or would be utterly crazed. Such was my uncle’s condition, when on a beautiful summer morning my father set out with me toward the castle. I was eight years of age, and had just been made master of a fine sleek mule, which I was permitted to ride by the side of my father’s noble Arabian horse. That was a proud day to me. Never since have I felt myself of as much consequence as then. My uncle’s steward who saw in me the future lord of the estate, always paid me great deference, and I was an idol in his family. Of course I spent the time of my visits with them, after paying my respects to my uncle, who always saluted me with grave courtesy, and then turned sorrowfully away. I was an especial pet of the steward’s daughter, a pretty girl of about seventeen, who always treated me with choice cakes and delicious fruits. On this day she spread a table in a garden arbor with her choicest viands, adding rich creams and sweet-meats, to which we sat down joyfully. But she soon made me sad by saying that in all probability I should not soon dine with her again. She was about to be married, and go far away. But she wished to tell me something of great importance, only she feared that I was too young to have discretion sufficient to manage so strange an affair. This mysterious prelude wrought my curiosity to the highest pitch. I protested and promised every thing she required of me, and so she began:
“ ‘You see the square tower all covered with ivy that stands on the angle of that perpendicular rock. Did you ever notice how lonely it is; how small and high the windows are, and that there is no way of getting to it from without? Well, you see it is only connected with the rest of the building by one long, dark gallery; the other sides being closed up with strong walls. This tower has been called the Haunted Tower these hundred years. I used to be afraid to go near it. You were a very little baby when your beautiful aunt died abroad, and your uncle came home a mourner to this place. I was then about as old as you are now. I cried bitterly for the loss of my young lady, and pitied my lord exceedingly. I observed that he went frequently to that tower, and remained for hours within it. Once I ventured to follow him. I know not what impelled me; but I was surprised when I entered the hall. It was tastefully furnished, and adorned with the most beautiful and fragrant exotic and native plants and shrubs. I stood a moment lost in admiration, when I thought I heard low voices in conversation. I listened; I distinctly heard my lord speaking, and detected the murmur of a soft female voice. A door on one side the hall stood partly open. I approached it stealthily, and saw my lord kneeling before a most beautiful woman, who sat upon a low seat, resting her face upon her hand, seemingly in deep sorrow. She was dressed in black, and her hair was of the same dark hue, while her hands, face, and shoulders were white as alabaster, I did not look long, but I saw my lord press her hand to his lips, when she suddenly withdrew it with a shudder, and bending down placed both her hands over her face and wept. I stole away; but whether I was observed, or my intrusion suspected, or from some other cause, my lord ever after secured the door behind him, so that I entered there no more. Yet often in the mellow twilight I have heard strains of solemn music, so soft and sorrowful that I have sat down and wept until the melody ceased. But I never saw the lady since that time. I have heard others assert that they have seen an apparition, which they say is like our deceased lady, and that while they gazed it vanished away. But the person whom I saw was as unlike my lady as possible, and as to vanishing, as these sights were always seen in the evening, I suppose she wore a white dress and a black mantle, which on being alarmed she drew around her, and so became invisible. Now who she is, or how she came here, or why she keeps herself concealed I cannot guess. I have kept it secret out of respect to your uncle, but I thought as you will be lord here after his death, and as he is slowly wasting away, I would tell you, and so when you come to the estate you will examine into it. But do not mention it until then; for I am sure that any discovery or investigation would greatly afflict your poor uncle, whose melancholy I am sure is connected with this mystery.’
“Now, girls,” said my grandfather, “if you can tell me how such a piece of information would make you feel, I shall have no need of telling you the wonder, the terror, the curiosity and anxiety which it awakened in my mind. Sleeping or waking my thoughts were full of Annette’s story. Once I ventured to ask my mother why people thought my uncle’s castle haunted? ‘It is a common thing,’ she replied, ‘for the vulgar to tell marvellous tales of old buildings, castles in particular; but I hope that you will show your superior breeding, by never giving heed to such tales. Your father has been there much by day and night, and he never saw any thing wonderful; and it would grieve him if he knew that you had been listening to stories of supernatural agency.’ I assured her that I did not believe in ghosts; and I never again ventured to propose the subject. As years passed on, the impression became less vivid, until Annette’s tale of wonder seemed to me like some old familiar legend. I was about eighteen when I was suddenly summoned from the University to attend my uncle’s death-bed. When I found myself again in that old familiar place, although the old steward had died, and his place was filled by a stranger, the story of the old tower came first among the recollections of the past. My uncle was so wan and wasted that I should not have known him, yet he seemed exceedingly glad to see me. In the night as I sat beside his bed, he dismissed the nurse, saying that she must need rest and sleep. He then said that as I was his kinsman and successor, he hoped that he might confide to me something which nearly concerned his honor. I remarked that as his honor was mine he need be under no apprehension. So he commenced.
“ ‘I was, according to custom, betrothed in my boyhood to a sweet little babe almost as soon as she saw the day. Our fathers were sworn friends, and I saw the little Adela frequently, and loved her as a dear sister. But when I began to consider myself a man, I sometimes felt as if I could not wait for her, for she was much younger than I. Being fond of reading, and naturally romantic, I drank in with avidity every wild and passionate legend, and longed for some thrilling adventure. My alliance was tasteless, because it lacked the excitement of adventure or opposition. And yet when weary of noise and pleasure, I found it sweet to pass an hour in her society; she was so gentle, unassuming, and affectionate. At the age of twenty-five I departed on my travels, with a soul thirsting for adventure. I pass over all, however, until I arrived at Constantinople. Here among the licentious I felt that all the passions of man’s nature had full licence. I shall not carry you by my details into scenes by which I pray God you may never be polluted. Suffice it that a young and lovely creature, whose innocence and fond confiding I should have respected, forgot her alliance to her nominal lord, and became mine with a fervor of affection which is never equalled, or even understood in these cold climes. I thought only of dallying with her awhile when I first sought to win her; but there was an enchantment about her which I often fancied to be in reality the magic of which I had often read. At length the time of my sojourn in that unequalled city was expiring. I sought to tear myself away, for I never dreamed of taking Alma with me. But she would not leave me. I felt embarrassed as to the manner in which I should dispose of her if she accompanied me to France. But my hackneyed heart felt no compunction for the deceit I had practised upon her; and I resolved formally to retain her, keeping her, if possible, in ignorance of our laws and customs, and of Christianity of course; and to marry Adela according to contract. So I gave myself up to the pleasures of her society; and she dreamed not of the workings of the heart which she fondly considered all her own.
“ ‘Arrived at home, I placed her in an elegant mansion, furnished her with attendants, and every elegance and luxury of life; and while preparations were going forward for my union with Adela, found my highest enjoyment in the society of the ardent Alma. She was a perfect contrast to Adela in every particular. I loved them both, just as you may admire the lily and the rose. The wedding-day arrived, and I pledged to Adela a perjured vow.
“ ‘I had been married one year when my wife enquired of me who the beautiful girl was whom I was in the habit of attending to places of public amusement. I was prepared for this, and told her that it was a Turkish lady, the wife of a sea captain, a particular friend of mine, who was absent at sea. Adela insisted on being introduced to her, for she said she felt a great curiosity to look on the woman whose beauty had become the theme of every tongue. Here was a dilemma for which I was utterly unprepared. I could make no reasonable excuse, and the hesitancy and embarrassment of my manner excited or confirmed suspicion. It seemed that Adela was completely a woman, and determined to gratify her curiosity, although by so doing she made herself wholly miserable. When I next visited Alma I found her sorrowful and pale. She had been visited by a lady, whom, from her description, I knew to be my wife, who had drawn from her artless tongue her whole history, and then set before her the ignominy and sinfulness of her present situation. These were strange words for the poor girl’s ear, yet I succeeded in calming her mind, and left her with emotions of such sorrow as I never felt before. I fully comprehended the wrong that I had done her, and the anguish that must from this time be her portion. I felt angry at Adela, and yet how could I blame her. She discovered a coldness and restraint in my manner, and became herself cold and restrained; in short, we were all three wretched. Adela in her zeal employed her confessor to teach Alma the mysteries of religion. Alma was ever in tears; and Adela began to pine and waste away. At length she became so ill that the physician declared that nothing could help her unless it were a journey and short residence in Italy. But before I set forward I conveyed Alma to this castle, and placed her in the tower which superstition had cast a spell around; entrusting her to the sole care of an aged female domestic, lest during my absence she should be persuaded to enter a convent.
“ ‘I came home widowed, but not in heart. I flew to Alma, and told her there was no drawback on our happiness now; that she should now possess both hand and heart. She wept long and agonisingly upon my bosom, and then told me that the magic glass of life was broken. That the clear cold light of reality now lay upon all the ways of love. That earth to her was no longer a blissful paradise. And finally, that she had resolved to enter a nunnery. Oh! the agony of that hour. I sought by every argument to divert her from her purpose, but she was unyielding. For a long time I refused to let her go, and kept her prisoner in the tower. But when I could by no means move her, when she turned ever weeping from me, or kneeling besought me no longer to keep her from the court of heaven, I gave her the keys of her prison, and left the castle. I returned after a few days. She was gone. I was desolate; and from that hour I have been dying.
“ ‘Last week my confessor put a letter into my hand, observing that it was given him by one who said that it required no answer as the writer was dead. It was from Alma. She said she must be brief, for her minutes on earth were few. She bade me reproach myself on her account no more, as she was passing away to heaven, leaving me her prayers and blessings. She had loved me ever and alone. She begged that I would freely pardon her if she had done me wrong. But her chief object in writing was to entreat my protection for our child. Oh! my God, how that word thrilled me. I had not dreamed of such a thing. Yet she said that during my absence with my injured wife she had borne a female child. That she had concealed the circumstances from me, lest it should be made an impediment to her becoming a nun. That the child was named Adela, was now in the convent, and was ignorant of her parents. She desired me to suffer her to continue so, if she should prefer to remain and take the veil; but if she should leave her sanctuary, she besought me to be her guardian. I visited the convent; I knelt on the cold marble that lies above my Alma’s colder bosom—I saw my daughter; she told me that she would take the veil. I passed as her mother’s uncle; told her that she was an orphan, and offered her protection if she would leave the convent. She replied that as she had no earthly parents she would never leave her present place of refuge. I came home and lay down to die.
“ ‘I have now, my dear nephew, told you that which I had thought would never pass my lips; but it is for the sake of my poor child. My heart bleeds for her, orphan, and pennyless as she is. I could not speak of her to your father; but you are young, and your heart is as yet uncalloused. You will eventually succeed to these estates. Albert, I do not wish my child to become a nun; I will give you a letter and casket; you will find them in that bureau; take them to her when I am no more. Say I bade you deliver them only to her. You will thus obtain an interview with her. I am sure you will love her, for she is the image of her mother. If so, take her from the convent, and make her your wife. Promise to do this and I will die content. Your relationship need be no obstacle, for it is known only to yourself. Will you promise?’ ‘I swear to do all you ask, provided Adela is willing.’ ‘Thank you, my son. Now I can depart in peace.’
“My uncle died, and was laid in the stately mausoleum of the family. I went to execute his commission to my cousin. As I looked upon her face and figure I no longer wondered that my uncle loved her mother. She was beautiful beyond all description. No eye could scan her features, for her face was like a pellucid fountain, in which all lovely objects of earth and heaven were constantly and changefully reflected.
“As she was not of the sisterhood I was allowed to see her daily, and converse with her through the grate, and I need not tell you that I loved her madly. She confessed that her heart was mine, and promised to leave the convent and become my wife. I was now obliged to go on business into Germany. I told Adela that I would be back in eight weeks.
“I wrote to her frequently, and at length despatched a letter naming a day for our meeting. Soon after I had mailed it, I fell on the ice and broke my leg, beside injuring my head so severely that I was unconscious of my own existence for nearly three weeks. As soon as I was sufficiently recovered I wrote an account of the accident to Adela, and continued to write at short intervals until I was able to travel.
“I arrived at home after an absence of four months, and flew to the convent to see my soul’s delight once more. Judge of my agony when I was told that I could not see her, and that she had taken the veil. I felt as if the whole beautiful world had become a miserable chaos, amid the horrors of which I was eternally lost. At length I began to hope. I got a letter conveyed to her, in which I pictured as forcibly as language could, the distraction of my mind, and besought her to give me some consolation. She sent me an agonising reply. She had ever been taught that men were false, and that love was sin. When I failed in my return these precepts were enforced, and she gave them renewed credence. She saw no letter from me afterward, and being urged to join the sisterhood, in her despair and agony consented, and was now lost to me forever. But I could not so resign her. I plead with her that her promise to me being prior made her monastic vows null; and I urged her to elope with me to America.
“She at length gave a reluctant consent. I gathered up a large sum of money, and we soon found ourselves on ship-board, and plying from our native land. Think you that I was then happy? Alas for human hopes and passions! I was in possession of my adored and beautiful Adela, but I was a fugitive from my country, I was fleeing like a felon from my father’s house, and I felt that I had left mourning and bitterness in the places where I should have been diffusing peace and joy. Of the rank and wealth that I had relinquished I thought little, for poverty and contempt had not then taught me to value them. But I was sad even in the hour in which I had attained that for which I would freely have given life itself. Adela and I were united by the chaplain of the ship, on board of which we sailed, but he was a Protestant. Poor Adela scrupled at the validity of a ceremony thus performed; and the prejudices of her education, with the vows she had broken, were persecuting spirits ever torturing her heart, and mixing gall and venom forever with the cup of joy. Her eyes lost their lustre, and her smile was sorrowful; I saw it, and my heart grew sad. I had one hope left, that she would regain her spirits when we should arrive amid the novel and beautiful scenes of the New World; and then I hoped that she would become a Protestant, in which case she would cease to agonise over her monastic vows. The chaplain, at my request, used every argument with her in vain; her distress augmented and ere we had been one month at sea she was attacked by a violent fever.
“Oh! the bitter, dreadful agony with which I watched beside her couch. Her pains of body were intense, but her distress of mind was more terrible still. At length her reason failed her, and her death-bed scene was indeed agony. But as death approached more nearly, her pains remitted, and her phrenzy passed away. She said that she was forgiven, and ready to appear before God, leaning on the mercy of her Redeemer. She besought me to seek His consolations, and bidding me a fond farewell, her young spirit passed away.
“And now what remained to me of all my treasures? I had bartered every thing for her; and a cold and rigid form was all that I had left. Terrible and hideous as death had come to her, I longed to feel his hand upon me also. But he turned from me. I was obliged to live and see my poor Adela cast into the deep sea, almost as soon as her spirit had departed. My misery was now overflowing. I was bereft, and alone in the world. I dared not return to France, for I feared the power of the religion whose sanctuaries I had feloniously invaded. I assumed the name which I and all my descendants bear, and landed in Philadelphia a heart-broken and sorrowing stranger. I was greatly disappointed; for I had been taught to believe America a beautiful paradise, in which wealth and happiness awaited every adventurer who was so fortunate as to set his foot upon its shores. But I learned in time to procure a decent livelihood; the romance of youth was dissipated; I became a reasonable creature; I married your good grandmother with rational expectations, and now I am an old man, surrounded by a numerous progeny, and almost ready to depart in peace. And now girls that I have told you the story of my life, which you have entreated of me so often, I hope you will find instruction in it, and learn to value the frail and evanescent things of time, less than the peace of others, and the approbation of your own mind. Now go, and leave me to seek the repose which agitation of mind occasioned by retracing the scenes of my youth renders so necessary for me.”
THE PARSONAGE GATHERING.
BY MRS. E. C. STEDMAN.
The last Sabbath of the year 18— was far spent, and the little band of worshippers who had assembled in the village church of ——, were preparing to return to their respective homes, and digest the homily of their worthy pastor; when deacon Gravely advanced toward the altar, with all the dignity of official-bearing in his step, where pausing in the measured tones of one who is in authority, he requested the congregation to “tarry a moment.” There was a sudden revolution of faces—a quick rustling of cloaks, and rattling of foot-stools, and then all was so still, one might have heard a pin drop, and every eye bent with eager curiosity on the speaker; who only wished to remind them that the annual visit to their “beloved pastor” would take place as usual on January first, and it was hoped there would be a general attendance on the occasion.
An instantaneous gleam of pleasure ran over the faces of the audience, followed by a motion for the door, which was obstructed here and there by the meeting of female friends, who kept impatient footsteps in the rear, whilst in audible whispers, they exchanged opinions touching the sermon, the proposed visit, and their various domestic grievances. But the little church was at length empty, and the sexton proceeded to extinguish the fire in the stove, and close its sacred doors against any week-day intruders. It would be detracting from the solemnising-powers of the respected dominie, to say that the few words spoken by the deacon, had been more effectual than his well-written discourse on the departure of the year, and uncharitable to suppose that the church-going villagers thought more and talked more on their way home, of visiting their minister, than of attending to the admonitions he had that day given them; and though I am telling a true story, it does not follow that the whole truth must be told; so let me pass on to the following Monday, which dawned without a cloud.
There was an earlier stirring than usual in the village, particularly among the farmers’ wives, who must needs get their week’s-washing out of the way as soon as possible, that preparations might commence for the anticipated visit, which was to take place on Wednesday. The city-reader may not be aware that it is a custom in country villages throughout many of the older states, to atone somewhat for the meagre salaries allotted to the ministerial department, by donations from those whose hearts are opened to give of such things as they have, to him who breaks the “Bread of Life” to their souls. Furthermore, it is so arranged by the considerate deacons’ wives, that these donations shall be sweetened on the part of the donors, by a social cup of tea at the parsonage; which certainly cannot be considered as among “The multitude of Sins” which need the mantle of charity for a covering.
By the hasty moving to and fro of the villagers through Monday and Tuesday, it was evident that until their memories were jogged by deacon Gravely, they had thought nothing of, nor made any reservations for the annual gathering: but to their credit be it said, that they were not slow to act on this occasion, and designed having everything in “apple-pie order.” The farmer unlocked the rich treasures of his granary, corn-crib and fruitery: wheat in “good measures, pressed down” and overflowing, was laid aside; the best of the yellow corn was selected; the golden pippins packed systematically, and even the more solid wealth of the pork barrel gave of its abundance to complete the New Year’s offering. The axe too of the woodman resounded through the neighboring forests, and many a sturdy hickory and oak bowed the willing head, at the bright promise of adding cheerfulness and comfort to the parsonage hearth. Nor was the ambitious house-wife to be out-done by her lord: from the “wool and the flax,” which she had sought and worked “willingly with her hands,” a worthy portion was chosen for the pastor’s wife and her nursery-flock. And the store-room held out its donation of butter and cheese; not forgetting that weightier matter of economy, ycleped “black-butter”—so indispensable to the farmer’s table! (being a mixture of quinces and apples, boiled down to sauce in sweet cider, and eaten on bread by the children, instead of butter.) Nor was this all: Doughnuts and twisted cakes were soon dancing merrily over the fire, plumcakes swelling in the oven, and many a little delicacy contrived by the inventive geniuses that were busy on the occasion;—for it is understood that these gatherings are to be no source of trouble or expense to the minister’s wife. One of the neighboring house-wives is appointed to the high office of mistress of ceremonies, and some half dozen others move at her beck and call through the parsonage-house, making all needful arrangements, while the lady herself is but an admiring spectator of the scene, and has only to dress and receive her profitable visiters.
The farmers were not alone in their “labors of love,” for the enterprising shop-keepers were as busy on their part in preparation. “Dry-goods and Groceries,” read their signs, and “the signs of the times,” were read in the liberal offerings that were made ready for the day, each having the savor of their trade withal.
And the day at length arrived! A New Year’s sun enlivened the spirits of the villagers, (albeit, they knew nothing of fashionable “calls” on Time’s natal day,) and threw open the gates of the parsonage. At an early hour might be seen gliding over the polished surface of a late fallen snow, the farmer’s sled, bearing its ponderous load of wood; here and there, wheel-barrows and hand-barrows, groaning with the burden of such variety as would puzzle any head to remember, all wending their way to the pastor’s dwelling. Two o’clock, P. M. found the elder portion of his congregation, having sent their gifts as a passport, preparing to appear in person before their minister. For once, the “Sunday suit” of true blue and shining gilt, was put in requisition on a work-day; and the buxom dame came forth from her toilet in her “best” gown and cap, and when in addition, the “meeting-bonnet” and hat were donned, away trudged the farmer and his “better half,” leaving the care of the homestead to the young folks, who were to take their turn at candle-light; when it was understood that the old folks were to return, and give them a chance by themselves.
Ye who love the cheerful, unostentatious scene, peep with me in imagination into the minister’s parlor:—see that weather-beaten group of farmers in the corner, animated by the light of each other’s countenances, while the crops of the late season are compared, and the improvements in modern husbandry denounced as “innovations,” and hostile to the wisdom and practice of their respected fore-fathers. Or if you would hear of broken banks and money-matters in general, listen to that trio, which comprises the chief of the village merchants: and then pass to those social wives and spinsters who are rocking, knitting and gossiping, all most industriously at the same moment. The latter accomplishment they evidently excel in; as can be proved by their remarks on the domestic qualifications of Mrs. Tidifield; the lax government of Mrs. Gadabroad; the inferior household management of Mrs. Carelittle, and the “high notions” of Mrs. Citybred, (a late comer among them,) which they “guess will have to come down, after she has lived in the country awhile,” &c. &c. But as these industrious ladies had no ill meaning in this species of detraction, and would do “a good turn” for any of their erring neighbors before mentioned, we must attribute this propensity for scandal, to the “original sin” which is inherent to their sex. The tea “goes off” in old presbyterian style, and each discovers something of her own handiwork amid the variety spread before them. * * * But alas! all earthly pleasures must terminate. As the evening shades gather without, there is a breaking up of the gathering within, and the afternoon visiters disperse to the “quickstep” of “Homeward bound.”
The first light that gleamed through the parsonage-windows was a signal, that seemed well understood by the belles and beaux of the village; who light of heart and light of step, hurried in blooming clusters to the evening gathering, evidently reckoning on a merry-making of no common order. But after the excitement of arriving was over, and the last guest had been ushered into the presence of the company, there arose a question in the minds of some, as to what they had met together for; and in sooth no one seemed exactly to know. On one side of the ample apartment, in bright array, were seated all the fair of the neighborhood, in blushing, simpering silence! While opposite, in formidable rows, sat the young farmers and shop-keepers of the village, as “slick” as pomatum and starch could make them, twisting their thumbs one way for lack of thought, and the other way, for lack of talk; but not daring to cross the dividing-line, into “fairer realms beyond.”
“The awful pause” was at length broken by a proposition which came from some unknown source, to “get up a play,” and many were the bright smiles that responded to it. Every one knows, that when the young folks of a village once throw off the stiffness of distance, and mingle in the unrestrained mirth of a rustic game, they are the happiest of the happy! On this New Year’s evening, they would have had a regular “jollification,” but for the timely caution of deacon Gravely, who remained to sustain the dignity of his office, by keeping the lambs of the flock within due bounds; reminding them that they were at the minister’s house: a fact which they seemed quite willing to forget.
The deacon’s notice proved something of a damper upon their gaiety; but after all was far less effectual than that given on the preceding Sunday; as many a chasing for the kiss which was to redeem a pawn, and loud bursts of merriment testified; much to the discomfiture of the deacon. But there were at the party two who kept themselves aloof from the festivities of the evening, and were observed to sit in a corner together, engaged in conversation and apparently unconscious of the merry scenes around them. They were none other than the daughter of Mrs. Citybred, and the intelligent young physician of the village. It was evident that they had been accustomed to the refinements of education and good society, and were for the first time in their lives at a parsonage gathering. Many were the sly jokes and whisperings interchanged by the company touching these exclusives; but of none effect on the doctor and his unsuspecting companion.
What they conversed about is none of our business; but certain it was that the lady’s countenance glowed with pleasure; and it was observed by all that the doctor never looked happier before. On the breaking up of the party, it did not escape observation nor remark, that the doctor waited on Mrs. Citybred’s daughter home.
What the effect of such an agreeable meeting was, none could say decidedly; but as they were afterward seen riding together several times in a very exclusive looking vehicle; and as the doctor has never before been known to ride out with a lady alone, since he settled in the village, of course there were rumors of a wedding to take place before the next gathering, and much commiseration wasted on the doctor in anticipation of his “extravagant wife.” But as the next New Year’s day found him still a bachelor, it yet affords matter for gossip and conjecture among the villagers whether the Dr. and Mrs. Citybred’s daughter will ever be married or not.
Liberty, Pa. April, 1841.
TO AN OLD ROCK.
BY G. G. FOSTER.
Well! hands of friends have all been pressed—
My mother’s kiss is on my cheek—
My father’s hands and eyes have blessed
His first-born—though he could not speak!
And now I break the ties that bind
Me to the last of my own kind.
But yet, to thee, my old grey rock,
I hasten as in days of yore;
And memories sweet and pleasant flock
In throngs around me, as I pour
My last heart-gushes over thee,
Friend of my wayward infancy!
For oft ere yet my tongue expressed
The wild emotions of my soul,
And strange, proud feelings heaved my breast,
Like tides beneath the moon’s control,
I’ve wandered to this cool retreat,
The Spirit of the place to meet.
And often in the solemn night,
While kissing winds slept on the lake
Which murmurs at thy base, and light
And starry music kept awake
The thronging fires of thought within,
I’ve stolen to thee an hour to win
From all the carking care which rushed
Over my untamed spirit’s mood,
And leaned on thee, like infant hushed,
And felt, as thus secure I stood,
The god whose shrine was in my brain,
Return to his old haunts again!
And when the friends of youth grew cold,
And loving eyes were turned away,
And even Hope was growing old,
And all my heart-flowers withered—aye,
I turned to thee, my firm old rock,
And learned, like thee, to bear the shock.
But now, I go—Old Rock, farewell!
And thou my tiny lake, adieu!
Proud Hope my wandering steps impel
O’er yonder mountain calm and blue.
When fame is won and withered too,
Old friends! I will return to you.
TO THE “BLUE-EYED LASSIE.”
BY THE LATE J. G. BROOKS.
They tell me thine eyes are blue, lassie,
They tell me thy cheek is fair.
May grief never spoil its hue, lassie,
Nor give its bloom to the air.
The world lies before thee now, lassie,
And when time rolls a few more years
Its troubles may blight thy brow, lassie,
And dim thy blue eyes with tears.
Thou art come to a stormy life, lassie,
Where often the hurricanes lower—
Where wild are the waves of strife, lassie,
And strong is affliction’s power.
Where flowers soon fade away, lassie,
And strew their leaves to the blast—
Where one moment the sky is gay, lassie,
The next with clouds overcast.
Thou art the new-born rose of spring, lassie,
As soft, as fair, and as frail—
The hands of the storm oft fling, lassie,
The rose of spring to the gale.
May that hand never fall on thee, lassie,
To blight thy rose in its pride,
Mayst thou glide o’er a sunny sea, lassie,
On a calm and gentle tide.
May the cup of thy life never cloy, lassie,
May thy heart e’er be light and gay;
Mayst thou meet with the smile of joy, lassie,
And a blest, and a cloudless day.
Through the kindness of the mother of the poet, (the well-known and lamented Florio) we are enabled to present our readers with the above sweet little poem—one of his earliest compositions, and certainly not one of his worst. By mere accident it has hitherto remained unpublished.—Eds.
LEAVES FROM A LAWYER’S PORT-FOLIO.
THE ROBBERY AND MURDER.
Macd. O, horror! horror! horror! tongue, nor heart,
Cannot conceive nor name thee!
“James,” said a mild but feeble voice, “cheer up, God will yet send us relief. Has he not said that he heareth even the young raven’s cry, and think you that he will suffer us to starve? Oh! no,” continued the sick wife, forgetting her own sufferings in those of her husband, “believe it not. Succor will yet come: we shall once more see happy days—”
“Ay!” answered the husband, bitterly, “when we are in our graves. Ay! when want has driven the nails in our coffins: but not till then. My God!” he exclaimed suddenly, with the fierceness of despair, “was it for this I was sent into the world?”
“Oh! James,” said the meek wife, bursting into tears, “I can bear all except such terrible repinings. Father,” she continued, raising her streaming eyes to heaven, “forgive him, for he knows not what he says.”
The husband was moved. He turned his head away from his wife, perhaps to hide a tear; but if so, his weakness vanished as he gazed upon the ruinous and desolate apartment to which poverty had driven them, while all the bitterness of his soul once more lowered on his face.
The room was a low garret, black with age, and tottering to ruin. In its best days it had been at most but a wretched apartment, for at its highest part it would scarcely admit of a man standing upright, while on the opposite side the cracked and leaky ceiling shelved down until it met the floor. The walls had once been plastered, but age had long since peeled them nearly bare; and the time-stained beams of which the building had been constructed—it was a wooden one—now gaped through many a crevice. In several places even the weather-boarding without had given way or rotted off, admitting in copious draughts, the biting wintry blast which roared around the house. A solitary candle burned in the room, flaring wildly as the gusts whirled through the apartment. There was no fire-place in the garret—God knows it was well enough!—for the poverty-stricken inmates had not wherewithal to purchase food, much less fuel. No furniture was in the room, except an old chest, a broken cup or two, and the ricketty bedstead, on which, with a mattress of straw beneath her, lay that suffering wife. She was pale, emaciated, and evidently ill, but, amid it all, you could see on her wasted countenance, traces of the rarest beauty. The marble forehead; the classic eye-brow; the Grecian contour of face; the finely chiselled mouth and throat; and above all, the dark blue eye, its chastened expression lighting up the whole countenance as with an angel’s purity, told what must have been the loveliness of the sufferer, before care, or poverty, or woe had driven their iron ploughshares through her soul. Oh! well might it fill her husband’s heart with agony to look upon her now, and think of the day when in far different circumstances, he led her a blushing bride, to his home. But if such were his feelings when gazing on his angelic wife, how far more poignant did they become as his eye fell upon the almost famished babe lying in her arms. Poor little thing! it had fallen asleep at length, after crying long for that sustenance which its mother had not to give, although she would have drained her heart’s blood, if, by so doing, she could have appeased the hunger of her babe. By its side lay a boy, apparently about four years of age, his little delicate face worn with hunger and privation, and his thin fingers tightly grasping the bed-clothes, as though he feared lest some one should snatch the scanty covering from around his form. Alas! he had been early introduced to misfortune. Often had he gone supperless to bed of late, forbearing even to ask for food, because he knew his mother had it not, and that it would only pain her to refuse him; and often, too, when her husband being absent in the vain search after employment, his mother would indulge freely in the tears she checked in his presence, her little boy would climb upon her knee, and throwing his wan arms around her neck, kiss her and tell her not to cry. At such times the mother’s tears would only fall the faster, and clasping her babes convulsively to her bosom, she would find a melancholy pleasure in the sympathy of her child. But all these things were now forgotten by the boy. He lay in the deep sleep of infancy; and as he slumbered a smile played across his little face. Perhaps he was dreaming of the angels in heaven.
James Stanhope was a young man of good family, a fine personal appearance, and the manners of a gentleman. Destitute, however, of a fortune, he obtained a livelihood by acting as a clerk in a public office. He moved in good society, and enjoyed a moderate income, which, by proper economy afforded him, at least once a year, the means of spending a fortnight at one of those public places of amusement to which beauty, wealth, and fashion annually resort. During a visit to one of these summer pleasure haunts he met, and formed an acquaintance with Miss Howard, a young lady, scarcely seventeen, a beauty, and an heiress, who was spending a month at the watering-place, with a maiden cousin for a chaperon. An intimacy was the result of a casual introduction, which soon ripened into that most dangerous of all things to two young hearts—an acknowledged friendship. In one short word, they loved, and loved as few have done. But Stanhope, while he addressed the younger, did not neglect the older cousin; and the consequence was that the simple-hearted spinster fancied that it was her company to which the handsome young stranger was attracted. She thus shut her eyes effectually to the increasing intimacy between the young people, and their love had become not only unconquerable, but so evident as to be the theme of general remark, before the deluded chaperon, became aware of Miss Howard’s entanglement. She was then thunder-struck at her own indiscretion. She was more: she was enraged at the deception which had been practised upon her, or rather which she had practised upon herself. Dreading, moreover, the consequences of Mr. Howard’s displeasure, she determined at once, by flying from the place, to escape the attentions of Stanhope. Her carriage was instantly ordered to the door, their baggage hastily collected, and with scarcely an hour’s warning, Miss Howard was torn from her lover’s presence, without a moment being afforded her to communicate with him. She was not able even to wave him a silent adieu, as he was absent that morning on a ride. Disturbed by a thousand fears lest her lover should think her faithless, and compelled to listen to the bitter recriminations of her cousin, when sympathy was rather needed for her tortured mind, the poor girl lay back in the corner of the carriage and wept with a bitterness of heart such as she had never experienced before. Oh! who can picture the agony of one thus rudely torn from the object of her love. Life seemed to her to have lost its charm. Death, in those first moments of crushing anguish would almost have been welcome.
But if such were Miss Howard’s feelings, what were those of her lover when, on returning from his ride, he learned her sudden departure! A thousand doubts tortured him. At length, however, he gleaned enough of the real cause of Miss Howard’s disappearance, to convince him that her flight did not, as he had at first feared, originate in herself. Oh! the joy, the bliss of that knowledge. Ellen still loved him, loved him as warmly as ever. But here another reflection shot across his mind. With the sanguine temper of youth he had indulged the hope that his want of fortune would be overlooked by Mr. Howard, especially as his cousin had suffered the intimacy between his daughter and Stanhope to continue so long unopposed; but now—how could he resist the intimation so plainly given to him? Few can tell the agony of the lover’s feelings who have not passed through the same terrible ordeal.
“I will follow her,” at length he said, “I will see her once more. To live without beholding Ellen is more than I can endure,” and having come to this conclusion the ardent young man set out within a day to the city which was the residence alike of himself and his mistress.
We will not detail the progress of these two young beings’ passion. As in every like case opposition only fanned their love. Young, ardent, and uncalculating they had already exchanged those vows, which are only less lasting and holy than the marriage ones,—and the pure mind of Miss Howard looked upon it as sacrilege to break her troth, even had her heart whispered a willing assent thereto. But, on the contrary, all that was said against her lover, only increased her admiration of his character, and consequently heightened her affection. There is nothing like injustice to draw a woman’s heart closer to that of her lover. In vain they originated slanders to lower him in her eyes; in vain they even brought pretended letters to convince her of his infidelity; she remained inflexible, for every one, who knew Stanhope, joined in asserting his innocence, and it was impossible to conceal this from her without secluding her wholly from society. How often does a woman, in some trying circumstances, rise above herself, and display a sudden energy of character which those who had known her for years had thought foreign to her. Thus it was with Miss Howard. How long this reliance in her lover’s unabated integrity might have continued, if she had remained without meeting him, we know not; but Stanhope soon found a means to open a communication with his mistress, which effectually checked all danger, and deepened incalculably their mutual love.
Foiled in his attempts to obtain an interview with his mistress, Stanhope had found out the church which she attended, and thither he resorted every Sunday, to enjoy the happiness of at least, beholding, if he could not address her. It was not long before Ellen detected his presence, and the stolen glances they exchanged across the church, were mutual assurances of their unabated love. How Stanhope’s heart fluttered as he saw her enter the church, and move up the aisle to her father’s splendid pew. And if, perchance, when the family turned to depart, Ellen could, unobserved, give him a smile and a nod of recognition, how would he long to clasp the dear girl to his arms, and thank her for her kindness. Weeks passed in this manner, however, before the two lovers found an opportunity for an interview. At length one Sunday morning Ellen came alone. As Stanhope beheld her enter the door unattended, he could hardly contain himself in his seat, so great was his joy. The moment the service was over he hurried down stairs, and amid the crowd in the vestibule, with a beating heart, awaited her. Her agitation was scarcely less than his own, as he addressed her. A thousand eyes seemed to her fancy to be bent upon her, and she turned pale and trembled by turns. They had proceeded some distance down the street before either could speak more than the common words of salutation. At length Stanhope broke the silence.
“Ellen, dear Ellen, do we meet at last?” he said, in a low tone, “oh! how can I describe the joy of this moment. Since we last parted what agony have I not endured: doubt, fear, hope, despair have all succeeded each other in my mind.”
“How could you be so unjust?” said the sweet girl, reproachfully, “oh!” she thought to herself, “if he only knew what I have suffered for his sake.”
“Pardon me, dear Ellen, but though I felt convinced of your truth, yet I knew not what false accusations might be made against me. It was that which troubled me. I never doubted you, believe me. But oh! you cannot know how terrible it is to be forever excluded from your presence. How often have I watched your window at night, hoping to catch even a glimpse of your shadow, and how long and hitherto how fruitlessly have I waited for this blessed opportunity, if only to assure you of my unabated love, and to ask if you are still my own Ellen. Answer me but once more, dearest: let me hear it from your own lips again.”
The arm of Ellen trembled within her lover’s during this passionate address, and, as he continued, her agitation increased so visibly that when he ceased, and looking up into his face, she essayed to answer him, for a moment, she could not speak. At length she murmured brokenly.
“Why do—you ask me—such a cruel question?” and giving her lover a look of mingled reproach and affection that dissolved him with tenderness, she continued, “you know I love you!” and overcome, by her emotions, and even forgetting her public situation, she burst into tears.
If Stanhope could have that moment clasped her to his arms, and poured forth upon her bosom his thanks for her renewed avowal, what would he not have given! But he could only press her arm as it lay within his own, and murmur his gratitude. Oh! the ecstacy of that moment: it repayed him for all he had suffered during the months he had been separated from Ellen.
Their conversation was long and full of moment to their future lives. Urged passionately by her lover, and half persuaded by her own heart, Ellen consented at length to meet Stanhope in her morning walks; and then, bursting afresh into tears, left him at the corner of the street, not far from her father’s princely dwelling, and hurried home. It was a hard task for her that day at the dinner table to conceal her emotion; but she did so. When the meal was over, she hurried to her room to indulge in her feelings. Had she done right in thus consenting to meet her lover clandestinely? Her heart answered yes—her reason no. A fresh flood of tears came to her relief, and thus tortured by conflicting emotions, she sank toward morning into a troubled sleep.
Well—they met—once—twice—daily. It was a dream of bliss, but it could not last. Every time they saw each other their love grew stronger. Yet Ellen, although urged by her lover to elope, was unwilling to consent to it. Indeed on this point she was inflexible. With tears she said to herself in the solitude of her chamber, that if she had erred at first through her inexperience, and allowed her affections to be placed irrevocably on one whom her parent even unjustly disapproved of, she would not go farther on the path of disobedience. She was young, and she hoped. She trusted that time would make all right. But a bolt was about to fall upon her head, which, for the honor of human nature, we would gladly escape recording.
We have said little as yet directly of Mr. Howard, though a glimmering of his character must have been perceptible in the foregoing pages. Mean, crafty, purse-proud, haughty, and inflexible to obstinacy, he had nothing in common with his daughter, except the tie of relationship. Ellen was like her mother in every thing, but that mother had been long since dead,—and could the secrets of her grave have been unfolded, perhaps it might have been seen that she died of a broken heart. Yes! her husband was her destroyer. But he did nothing which made him amenable to the law. No. He was always outwardly respectful to his wife. It was only at home that his brutality broke forth; and Mrs. Howard was too meek and forgiving to publish her own sufferings. And thus like too many gentle beings in our midst she drooped, and sickened, and died; and when they laid her in her gorgeous coffin, and bore her to her tomb, amid all the splendor of wealth, how little did they think that she had been murdered—aye! murdered by her husband’s brutality. God help the thousands who thus die of a broken heart!
With such a father had Ellen now to do. He had forbidden her all communication with her lover as soon as he suspected that they met, threatening to disown her at once if she disobeyed, and Ellen was returning from a parting interview with Stanhope, in which she had told him of her father’s commands, and rejecting every proposal to elope, had signified, with a burst of tears, her determination to obey her parent, when on reaching the door-step she met Mr. Howard. He was in a towering passion, though he affected at first to conceal it.
“Very well, Miss, very well. You’ve seen fit to disobey my orders,” he commenced, “have you? I’ve watched you, you hussy, myself,” he continued, following his daughter into the hall, and closing the door, “what have you to say?”
Ellen made a vain attempt to speak, but her emotions overpowered her, and looking up imploringly into his face, she burst into tears.
“By G—, Miss, I’m not to be answered this way,” said Mr. Howard, not longer affecting to conceal his rage, and brutally seizing his daughter’s arm he shook it violently, “why don’t you speak? None of your whining: Answer me!” and again he shook her.
Never before had her parent used her thus. This personal indignity, added to his brutal language, cut her to the heart, and brought on a fresh flood of tears, which only increased her father’s rage. By this time, too, the servants had gathered in the hall, and were witnesses of the whole of this deplorable scene.
“D—n it,” he said, his face flushing with passion, as he again shook her violently, “I’ll bring an answer out of you—I will. Ain’t you going to speak? I told you I’d disown you for this,—and,” here he muttered an oath I dare not repeat, “I will. You and your beggarly, upstart paramour”—oh! had that father a heart?—“may go to the alms-house together. Out of my door this instant. You are no daughter of mine. Out, I say. Open the door, John.”
The man hesitated an instant. It only increased the rage of Mr. Howard.
“Open the door, I say. By G— am I to be disobeyed by all of you? I’ll remember you for this, you villain—you—”
“I’m sure I don’t care,” said the man, almost crying; for he had lived in the family since Ellen was a babe, and loved her as his own, “for if you are going to turn my poor dear mistress out of doors the sooner I follow the better. I’d not live with such a brute,” continued he, boldly, “for millions.”
“Out of the house, both of you, out, I say,” roared Mr. Howard, with a volley of curses, for he was now stung to an ungovernable rage, and cared not what he did, “begone!” and taking his daughter by the shoulders he pushed her violently toward the door.
Up to this period of the scene, the events of which had passed in less time than we take to describe them, Ellen, stupefied and astonished, had been unable to utter a word. Her father’s unparalleled barbarity called forth continued floods of tears. But she now spoke.
“Oh! father,” she said, “do not turn me from your doors. You are my only parent, and I will, I would have told you all. I only went to bid farewell to him—indeed, indeed I did—”
“You met him, you own to it,” said Mr. Howard, almost choked with rage, “before my face. This is too much—out I say.”
“Father! Father!” said Ellen, falling on her knees, “do not cast me off. For the love of heaven do not. I will be all you ask. I will never see him again; I have parted with him forever—oh! father! father—”
“Yes! you may father, father me now till you are tired; but it’s too late. Go, and see if your beggar of a clerk can help you. Go, and God’s and a father’s curse go with you!” and, with the fury of a madman the brutal parent seized his daughter by the arms, lifted her up, and pushing her so violently from the door that she went reeling down the steps, slammed it to after her. Ellen was alone—no! not alone, for the faithful John, who had sacrificed his place for her was at her side, and as the innocent outcast looking wildly up at the portal which was thus forever closed upon her, gave a faint cry, and fell insensible to the pavement, he caught her in his arms, and bearing her to a neighboring shop, gave her in charge to the females there, to restore her.
Shall we pursue the details of this melancholy story? Oh! let us rather hurry to its close. It terminated as might have been expected. Thrust from her father’s doors, dreading his brutality even if she could return, and knowing not where to seek protection in this sudden emergency, Ellen yielded to the solicitations of her lover, and was married. Poor girl! though she never looked lovelier than on her wedding-day, in her pale, sweet face might be seen the traces of that sorrow which had already begun to darken her life.
From the hour when Mr. Howard so inhumanly turned his daughter from his doors, he never was heard to make the slightest enquiry respecting her. He seemed to have discarded her forever from his mind. He never even mentioned her name; he appeared to feel no remorse for the deed into which his passion had hurried him. Not that his conscience never smote him. God knows that would have displayed a malignity of heart worthy of a fiend. But no one ever saw these visitings of remorse,—for his pride forbade him to betray them, as much as it hindered him from re-opening his doors to his daughter. Yet day by day he grew more irascible. The worm was at his heart: he felt, though he would not own its sting.
And for awhile the young pair was supremely happy, or if a care did cloud the young wife’s brow when she thought of her father’s curse, it was kissed away by her adoring husband. They had enough to provide them the necessaries, and they cared little for the superfluities of life. The birth of a charming boy only served to knit their hearts closer to each other.
The first spring after their marriage Stanhope embarked in business, for he found his salary insufficient for the wants of a family. And for three years he seemed to prosper. But then came reverses. The times were critical; even heavy capitalists could scarcely weather the storm; and, in a word, Stanhope was compelled to fail, after having sunk all he had embarked by heavy losses. Had he been a large trader, and becoming bankrupt, dragged scores into ruin with him, he would have been universally pitied, and perhaps his creditors would have yielded up to him from the wreck of millions a sufficiency for the rest of his life; but as he was only a poor man his case met no commiseration. He determined, however, to pay every debt. The endeavor exhausted almost literally his last dollar. He had barely a sufficiency left to transport his family to the village of ——, having been offered a situation as a clerk in a store in that obscure hamlet. Before leaving the city, however, his sweet wife, believing that under such circumstances her father must relent, had, without informing her husband of her intention, sought admittance at her parent’s mansion, determining to fling herself at his feet, and solicit his forgiveness and aid. But she was repulsed—my pen shakes as I record it—she was repulsed like a common beggar from her own father’s door.
Let us hurry on. Have we not often seen how misfortune when it once begins to lower on a man, will sometimes continue its pitiless shower without intermission, until it has laid its victim in his grave? Well! every day beheld Stanhope, in despite of his utmost exertions, sinking lower and lower into distress. His scanty salary barely afforded his family the coarsest food, and even this was lost within a year, and directly after the birth of a daughter, by an illness which incapacitated him from labor, for so long a period that his employer was forced to discharge him, and procure a substitute. At length he recovered; but how fearfully was he in debt! A year’s labor at his late scanty pittance would scarcely discharge his liabilities. Ellen had foreseen this, and ventured to write to her father, but the letter was returned unopened. To add to Stanhope’s distress, after various efforts to procure steady employment, which only resulted in constant disappointment, his furniture was sold under a distress, and his now alarmed creditors falling like vultures on what remained, left him with nothing but the bedding on which they slept, and the clothes which they wore, with the few other articles protected by the law from an execution. These, however, he was soon, forced to dispose of to gain sustenance for his family. In this strait they had found shelter in the crumbling garret, where they now were,—and though a month had elapsed, and every thing they had to part with was sold, Stanhope was still without employment. His wife, after bearing up till nature could endure no longer, had for several days been lying on a bed of sickness; and that night they had—oh! God can it be true?—gone dinnerless and supperless to bed.
Until within a few days Stanhope had breasted the storm with unshrinking firmness, although, at times, when he looked upon his angelic wife and little ones, suffering the full horrors of poverty, his resolution had almost given way. But even he could not withstand the accumulated miseries which now beat so bitterly upon his unsheltered head. Let it not be thought that we exaggerate his misfortunes. God forbid! Even in our boasted city, and at this day, too, when charity has become fashionable, more than a dozen die annually from sheer starvation. Stanhope saw nothing but this before them. He could not seek employment in other places, for how would his family subsist in his absence?—nor could he take them with him, for alas! he had not the money to transport them. Broken in spirits and maddened with despair, the thoughts which rushed through his mind as he gazed around the room can be easier imagined than described. In that moment his whole life passed before him as in a panorama. He thought of his happy boyhood; of the bright hopes of his youth; of his first sanguine love for Ellen; of the bitter disappointment which followed; of the hopes, and fears of their separation, and the joy of their first meeting afterward; of the tumult of feelings, all, however extatic, with which he welcomed the houseless wanderer to his own humble home; of the three bright and happy years which, like a dream of heaven, followed their union; and finally of the series of misfortunes, heaped one upon another, and growing daily more and more intense, which had closed the whole, and brought him down to abject poverty. Had he been alone in the world he could have borne it all without a murmur. But to see his darling uncomplaining Ellen, his little Henry, his innocent babe, starving before his eyes! Oh! it was too much. Frenzied with agony he started from his seat, placed his hand to his brow, and gazing a moment wildly around the room, rushed from the house.
Hour after hour passed, and still he returned not. His wife grew alarmed. She had noticed his wild air as he left the room; she had seen that his soul was tortured almost to madness; and she now trembled lest he might in his despair have made away with himself. But no!—it could not be. Her Stanhope would never do that. Yet it was almost dawn and he was still absent. She rose painfully from her bed, and staggered to the door to look out. A light snow covered the ground to the depth of an inch; and the whole landscape was as silent as death, except when the wind moaned out a moment in the neighboring forest. For some moments she gazed vainly through the twilight, but could perceive no one. At length her straining eyes detected the outlines of a form, and—could it be?—yes! it was her husband. She rushed into his arms, almost fainting with joy, as soon as he reached the threshold, murmuring,—
“Thank God, dear James! you are returned—oh! how glad, how glad I am,” and then burst into tears.
“Thank God! too, Ellen for I have brought you money—I begged it—we shall not starve, no matter at what cost it was gained,” said her husband wildly, as he flung a small purse upon the floor. Ellen scarcely noticed the manner or the tone of the speaker in her joy at his return.
The night passed away rapidly: indeed the day was breaking when Stanhope returned. She still wept on her husband’s bosom. At length they returned up stairs, when the contents of the purse were examined. They were not very valuable; yet they sufficed to ensure that family from starvation, mind, only from starvation, for at least a fortnight. Such a timely relief seemed indeed providential, and once more they suffered themselves to hope.
“Did I not tell you God would not utterly forsake us?” said the sweet wife. “Oh! let us thank him, dear James,” and falling upon her knees, while her agitated husband followed her example, that angelic being poured out her gratitude before her maker. Stanhope was deeply affected, and he sobbed aloud. When, at length they arose, they saw that their sweet boy, who had awoke in the interval, had also fallen on his little knees beside them. They clasped him to their arms, and wept afresh. But they were tears of joy—the first they had shed for weeks. Alas! they were destined to be but too short lived.
That morning the whole village was thrown into consternation, by the intelligence that the mail had been robbed, and a passenger murdered, just before daybreak, and within a mile of the hamlet. After the first burst of horror had passed, measures were taken to ferret out the perpetrators of this awful deed. The nearest magistrate entered promptly upon this duty; witnesses of all kinds were examined; and after a laborious, though secret investigation of several hours, a warrant was issued for the apprehension of James Stanhope charged with the double crime of mail-robbery and murder. Do not start reader! When you shall have heard the evidence which led to this fearful accusation you will yourself have painful doubts. And yet could the generous, the noble, the high-minded Stanhope be a murderer? Listen.
It appears that the mail-coach, on that calamitous night, had but three passengers besides the driver. The snow was falling fast, but evidently subsiding, when, about a mile from the village, and in sight of the turnpike-gate light at its hither extremity, three men, emerging from a hedge by the road side, had stopped the horses, cut the traces, knocked down the driver, and after rifling the mail-bags, had proceeded to rob the passengers, who, all this while, guarded by one of the robbers with a pistol in either hand, had been forced to look upon the perpetration of this enormous felony in silence. At this point, however, when each robber was occupied with his man, one of the passengers, thinking he could overpower his antagonist, attempted to escape. In the scuffle he was thrown down; oaths ensued; and the robber exclaiming suddenly, “Is that you, then by G— take this!” was seen at the word to shoot him through the brain. All this had passed so rapidly that the other robbers had not even time to interfere; but no sooner was the deed done, than apparently alarmed lest the report of the pistol should bring up succor, they sprang into the hedge and disappeared. The two passengers were so paralysed by the murder of their comrade, that they stood for some minutes, without making an effort to follow the robbers—and even when they recovered their presence of mind, they were afraid to make any pursuit until they had first obtained aid from the village. One of them therefore mounted a leader, and aroused the inmates at the turnpike gate, and in the neighboring houses. Before a sufficient force could be collected, day had broken; but as the snow had ceased falling immediately after the flight of the robbers, it was not difficult to trace their retreat. This was done for nearly half a mile to a bye-road, back of the village, where the footsteps divided—two of the robbers appearing to have turned off to a stream down which they continued their way, while the other one struck across to the village. This latter trail was followed in mute horror; and though at intervals it was almost obliterated by the drifts, yet its course could still be distinctly traced, up to the very door of the building in whose garret James Stanhope lodged.
“Now, gentlemen,” said the magistrate, “if any one left that house last night, or if any one entered it near daybreak, he is the man.”
This was soon settled. The landlord of poor Stanhope, who occupied the lower stories, deposed, that being kept awake nearly all night, by a violent tooth-ache, he had heard some one descend the stairs after midnight, and, from the heavy step, supposed it to be Mr. Stanhope. Just before daylight he heard another person come down stairs, when his curiosity being excited, he arose and peeped through the bowed shutters. He saw Mrs. Stanhope standing at the front door, as if looking for some one. In a few minutes her husband returned. He thought even then that there was something wild in his tenant’s appearance; and his attention was particularly called to it by seeing Stanhope place, or rather fling, a small purse into his wife’s hands, exclaiming, “Here is money, we shall not starve, no matter how it was got,” or words to that effect. They then went up stairs, and he retired, wondering, to bed. As soon as he heard of the catastrophe of the night, he determined on acquainting the magistrate with his suspicions.
“It does seem, gentlemen,” said the justice, taking his spectacles from his eyes, and looking around at the astonished listeners, when the witness had concluded his testimony “as if the finger of God had pointed us directly to the perpetrator of this enormous felony and murder. James Stanhope was always a beggar, and no honest man need be so in this highly-favored country.”—The magistrate forgot that but a week before he had refused to engage his victim as a common day-laborer, because he said Stanhope’s late sickness had left him too weak to work with any profit to his employer.—“Let three or four of you get ready to accompany me, for the murderer may prove desperate. I’ll take my father’s pistols he wore at Princeton.”
Meanwhile, the coroner, having been sent for by express, had arrived and impanelled a jury, in the language of the law, “super visum corporis.” The murdered man was identified as a passenger, and his name, on searching his pockets, discovered to be Mr. Howard. A verdict, that the deceased came to his death by the hands of a person or persons unknown, was given in, and the jury adjourned. Could it be that the deceased was Ellen’s parent? Alas! subsequent investigations proved it to be too true, and the village was in a few days thunder-struck with the intelligence that Stanhope had murdered his own father-in-law. But we anticipate.
Meanwhile, the victim of these investigations, exhausted by his last night’s watching, was lying in his crazy garret, in a calm deep sleep. His wife sat beside him, leaning her head on her hands, and gazing into her husband’s face, as his features smiled in slumber; while now and then, as her little boy would steal up to her for a kiss or a caress, she would drop a tear of mingled happiness and love upon his face. Sweet, noble woman! As she looked upon that calm, chiselled face, and thought of all her husband had suffered for her sake, how her heart swelled with emotions of tenderness toward him. His pale, high brow was partly shaded by the dark locks which curled around it. On every line of its broad surface could be seen the traces of care. Ellen stooped and kissed it. At that moment the door was suddenly opened, and a crowd of men broke rudely into the apartment. The noise awakened the sleeper, and he started half up and gazed around him, while the frightened little fellow ran and clung to his mother’s side, peeping tremblingly at the strangers. Ellen sprang to her feet equally alarmed, gazing with an ashy cheek on the intruders.
“There he is—seize him, seize him,” said the magistrate.
Three of the officers rushed forward, but Ellen instinctively interposed between them and her husband. One of the men attempted to thrust her aside. Quick as lightning the indignant husband felled the wretch to the floor.
“He resists the law,” shouted the magistrate, “down with him—shoot him if he don’t instantly surrender.”
“The law!—what authority have you produced for this insulting entrance on my privacy?” said Stanhope, placing himself before his wife and child, and frowning sternly on the intruders.
“I have authority,” said the magistrate, advancing, “you are my prisoner!”
“Your prisoner!—for what?” said the astonished husband.
“For the robbery of the mail, and the murder of a passenger.”
One long piercing shriek rang through that apartment as the wife of his bosom fell fainting to the floor. The next moment, despite his entreaties, despite his struggles when he found his prayers unsuccessful, despite even the petitions of his little son which might have moved a heart of stone, he was torn from his senseless wife, and borne in triumph to the village jail. When, through the humane attentions of a poor neighbor, Ellen revived, it was only to learn that her husband had been rent from her to await—perhaps the scaffold.
A few days brought the intelligence that Mr. Howard had died intestate, and that consequently his daughter was now his sole heir. His untimely fate had frustrated his design of disinheriting his only child. But oh! at what a cost had Ellen purchased his fortune. Could wealth bring any joy to that almost heart-broken wife? Willingly would she have surrendered it to have been as they were the day before, poor but unsuspected. Not that for a moment she doubted her husband’s innocence—no! she felt that the bosom on which she had so often leaned could never have been that of a murderer—but she saw that the evidence, so circumstantially adduced against him, was almost unanswerable. Alas! the public sentiment sufficiently forewarned her of her husband’s fate. No one even whispered the possibility of his innocence. One universal cry of indignation attested the horror with which the crime, and he as its reputed author, were regarded.
But how did Stanhope deport himself in these trying circumstances? From the first he had asserted his innocence, and accounted for the tracks leading to his house, by stating that he had met three men, whom he supplicated, in his agony, for aid,—and that one of them had hurriedly thrown him the purse which he brought home. Every one shook their heads at this story. Yet the general incredulity did not produce any show of weakness in Stanhope. His character seemed to rise in majesty as his fortunes grew darker, and he prepared himself to breast the storm with fortitude at least, if not with resignation. Yet the sight of his sweet wife, almost unnerved him at times; and his greatest consolation was in reflecting that, if he should perish ignominiously, she would not be left a penniless outcast. And oh! how bitterly, and with what scalding tears did that wife weep upon his bosom.
Meantime, however, another examination of Stanhope’s case was to take place, preparatory to fully committing him for trial at the next oyer and terminer. It was at this stage of the transaction that I was called in as counsel for the accused. We had known each other in society, in our younger days, and nothing ever more startled me than the news of his arrest. I could not believe him guilty of such an appalling crime. And yet I had fearful doubts. Could it be, that, stung to madness by approaching starvation, and recognising the author of his miseries in Mr. Howard, he had yielded to a momentary hallucination, and become a murderer?
Never shall I forget my first interview with him in my new capacity of his counsel. It was in a damp, narrow cell, little better than a dungeon. I had not seen Stanhope for years. When we last met it had been in a gay ball-room, where my poor client was “the admired of all observers.” Now how changed. His face no longer wore the hue of health; care had ploughed his brow across with many a furrow; and his wan cheek told of the long hours of agony through which he had passed. Yet his mien was collected, even lofty. I felt an innate conviction of his innocence, and hastened to assure him that I came not only as a professional adviser, but as a friend. He grasped my hand eagerly, but could not for a moment speak. At length he said with a faint smile in reply,
“We meet under far different circumstances than when we met last.”
“Yes!—but we shall soon, I hope, acquit you,” said I, expressing what I scarcely believed. “There is some extraordinary mistake in this matter.”
“Oh! can you indeed save us?” said his wife, eagerly advancing—I had only noticed that a female was in the back-ground of the cell, and never having seen Stanhope’s bride, I did not know her until she spoke—“God in heaven bless you, if you can!” and after a vain effort at composure, the sweet being burst into tears, and fell upon her husband’s bosom. Stanhope did not speak; he bent over her and folded her to his heart; and I thought I saw a tear-drop fall sparkling upon her dark raven hair. My own eyes were scarcely dry.
But why protract these painful scenes? Suffice it to say that I retired from that solitary cell, more than ever convinced of my client’s innocence, and full of admiration at the generous devotion of that sweet, angelic wife.
The examination of Stanhope took place on the next morning—and it was only then that I became fully aware of the terrible evidence against him. Indeed the chain of testimony was so thoroughly welded together in every link, that, for a moment, I not only despaired, but almost recanted my belief in the prisoner’s innocence. I am sure that I was the only one present who did not believe him guilty.
The evidence against him was much the same as that given on the morning after the murder. Many additional facts, however, were elicited, which materially strengthened the case for the prosecution. A purse which was found on Stanhope’s person at the time of his arrest was identified, by a passenger, as having been seen in Mr. Howard’s hands on the evening of the murder, when he paid for a bottle of wine which they drank together. Mr. Howard’s house-keeper also knew the purse. Neither of the passengers could recognise the murderer’s countenance; but both concurred in making oath that the figure of the murderer was similar to that of Stanhope. Here was a mass of testimony which was sufficient, if unanswered, to condemn any man; and when the personal interest which Stanhope had in Mr. Howard’s death was taken into consideration, was not his situation really alarming? And what had he to oppose to this? Nothing, positively nothing, except his oft repeated explanation, and his continued asseverations of innocence.
Meanwhile I spared no effort to elucidate the mystery which seemed to hang over this catastrophe. Believing, as I did, in Stanhope’s innocence, I longed for some clue which might lead to the detection of the real murderer. But in vain. As a last resort I wrote a letter to the most eminent counsel at the —— bar, earnestly urging him to join me in the case. He replied favorably.
“Speak to me freely, D——,” said Stanhope to me, the day before his trial, “for my wife is absent now, and I can hear the worst. Am I without hope? God knows it is hard enough to part with all you love; it is hard for an innocent man to die a felon’s death; it is hard to leave behind you a stain on your children’s name,—but yet, if it is to be, let me not be deceived. As you would, in my situation, wish to be done by, so do by me. Tell me frankly—tell me all.”
I hesitated; I evaded his question.
“It is enough, D——,” said he, with a quivering lip, “God help my wife and little ones,” and, overcome by his emotion, he buried his face in his hands. It was the first time I had seen him give way to his feelings. But it was soon past. He looked up, “This is weakness,—it is over now. My enemies shall not, at least, triumph in beholding my agony.”
This stoicism was even more affecting than his agitation. My eyes involuntarily filled with tears, and I pressed his hand in silence.
“God bless you,” said he, with renewed emotion, “except my poor family you are my only friend.”
The morning of the trial dawned without a cloud. Never had such an excitement pervaded the village. The atrocity of the deed; the standing of the parties; the high talent arrayed on the part of the prosecution; and a rumor which had got afloat that the prisoner intended to confess his guilt, had awakened such an intense interest, that, long before the hour of trial, the court-room was crowded to overflowing. The whole town seemed alive. From every lane and street, from every house and hovel, they poured along, rich and poor, old and young, crowding and jostling each other, until the court-room was densely packed with the spectators, and farther admittance was impossible. The windows were blocked up with the multitude; the bar, and even the bench were full of people; and hundreds of eager faces, peered one above another in the back-ground, until they terminated in the gallery above. The hall without was noisy with the populace, and crowds, unable to obtain an entrance, waited breathlessly in the yard to learn, by the murmurs from within, the fluctuations of the trial.
The prisoner entered with a firm, composed bearing, and bowing to the bench, glanced a moment round the room. There was a lofty pride in his demeanor which I shall never forget. A death-like silence pervaded the hundreds there, and scarcely an eye but quailed beneath that fearless glance. He then took his seat. A murmur ran around the room. The impression made by the prisoner’s demeanor was evidently favorable. Pity usurped the place of idle curiosity. His sweet wife’s presence did not lessen this favorable sentiment. She had insisted on being present during the whole of the trial, and she now sat beside her husband, clasping his hand in hers, and looking up into his face with a glance which told, that whatever others might think, she at least knew him to be innocent. Thank God! there is such a thing in this world as woman’s love.
The jury was impanelled; the indictment read; and the prisoner pleaded “not guilty,” putting himself, in the words of the law, “upon God and his country.” The attorney general then arose and opened his case; and rarely have I listened to a more artful address. The history of the prisoner’s love, his marriage with the daughter of the deceased, the separation which had ever since existed betwixt the families, and the natural irritation which the accused must have felt toward the murdered man, and which might have led to the sudden sacrifice of his life in a moment of passion, even without any premeditated design against him, were all worked up with such consummate skill, that, when the evidence came to be detailed, the jury looked knowingly at each other, as if satisfied that the prisoner was the only person who could have been guilty of the murder. Indeed, the circumstances were unanswerable. Look at them. Here is a man wronged, deeply wronged by the deceased—that man is stung to madness by the horrors of approaching starvation—he leaves his house, at the dead of night and does not return until morning, and he brings with him on his return a purse which is subsequently identified as having been in the possession of the murdered man. Nor is this all. The murderer obviously committed the crime under a sudden impulse, for on recognising the deceased he made a passionate exclamation, and discharged his pistol. After the deed, he, as well as his companions, terrified at what had been done, fled in dismay. They are tracked until one of their number left them, and the footsteps of that one led to Stanhope’s door. What could be more conclusive? Such was the substance of the argument against the prisoner, an argument so compact, candid, and devoid of declamation as to be irresistibly convincing; and when it was finished I trembled—and not without cause—for the life of the accused.
The evidence was the same as that upon the examination prior to the commitment of the prisoner. There was no discrepancy in the statements of the witnesses. All was clear, truth-like, and irresistible. Even the talents of my colleague failed to elicit any thing material on the cross-examination, although he subjected the witnesses severally to as severe a scrutiny as I ever saw exercised. The man especially who testified to having examined the tracks of the robbers in the snow underwent the most searching probing. The efforts of the defence were directed to establish the possibility that there might have been three fugitives on the first track even after the separation—in short, to overthrow the view taken by the prosecution that the robbers separated at this point.
“Did you,” said my colleague, “inspect the tracks of the larger body of fugitives after the supposed defection of one of their number?”
The man answered in the affirmative, and said that he was certain there could not have been more than two, by the number of foot-marks.
“How far did you follow the tracks?”
“To the neighboring creek.”
“And why did you not pursue them farther?”
“Because the creek being frozen over, the ice was what is called glip, and the wind had consequently so drifted the snow off from the surface, that we lost all sight of the path pursued by the robbers.”
“Did you examine the opposite bank in order to recover the trail?”
“Yes!—for a quarter of a mile, but to no purpose.” My colleague was foiled.
We opened our case as we best could. The gigantic difficulties against which we had to contend almost disheartened us; but one look at the prisoner and his sweet wife inspired us with renewed energy. Poor Ellen! how eagerly she hung on every word, gazing now on her husband and then on the speaker, and seeming to say in every look, that though all the world might desert the accused, she at least would cling to him to the last.
Our evidence was confined almost wholly to the character of the accused, although the account which he gave of himself on the night of the murder was skilfully introduced by my colleague, as a portion of a conversation between the prisoner and one of the commonwealth’s witnesses, which had been given only in part by the prosecution. It was in substance as follows:
Stung to madness on the night of the murder, by the horrors of approaching starvation, Stanhope had left his home, scarcely knowing whither to bend his steps for aid. For several hours he wandered about in the wintry night, and at length found himself on the borders of the creek, back of the village. While standing there moodily, it began to snow. All was silent around. As the white flakes drove in his face, and the biting air swept over his cheek, his feelings became gradually less excited, and he was on the point of returning home, when he perceived three men rapidly approaching through the snow-storm. For the first time in his life he stooped to beg. The nearest man turned sharply around on him as he spoke, seemed to hesitate a moment, and then, as if by a sudden impulse, flung him the purse, which was subsequently identified as Mr. Howard’s. The men then dashed down the bank toward the stream, and vanished as rapidly as they had appeared.
Such was the substance of our defence. It met with nothing but sneers from the prosecuting officer, who, in his address to the jury, treated it as a story fabricated solely for the occasion. Too many of the spectators appeared to agree with him, and when he sat down, the ominous faces of the jury chilled my very heart. At this moment, however, my colleague rose to reply.
Never shall I forget the impression made by this rejoinder. Few men of his day possessed so much eloquence, and on the present occasion it was exerted to the utmost. Skilfully availing himself of the course of argument adopted by the attorney general, he drew in the darkest colors, the unnatural conduct of Mr. Howard to his daughter, and her subsequent destitution owing thereto, and then, by one of those bursts of passion for which he was remarkable, picturing her as she now sat, almost heart-broken, by her husband’s side, he succeeded in awakening the deepest pity in his audience toward the accused. Then, by a sudden transition, he seized upon the testimony of the last witness of the prosecution, and in a few rapid, lightning-like sentences, tore it into shreds. “Yes! gentlemen of the jury,” continued my impassioned colleague, “there is no evidence whatever to criminate the defendant. The grand error of all prosecutions is in thinking a certain man guilty, and then proceeding to account for his conduct. But you must proceed in a manner directly the reverse of this. You must start with the murder and trace up, from that point, the perpetrator. Take the present case, dismiss the idea that Stanhope is the murderer—start afresh on the search after the guilty man—follow up the fugitives to the moment when these other footsteps are met with, and then before God and your own consciences, is there any proof—I repeat it, is there any proof, that James Stanhope left the path, or even whether any man left it? You start. But here is the gist of the argument. Here is the broken link in the chain of testimony against us. Unless you are satisfied that some one of the robbers did leave the gang, you must acquit the prisoner. Might not the unfortunate man at the bar have been, as he says, on the spot when these men passed? The finding of the purse on the prisoner proves nothing, for might he not have obtained it in alms? Would not the murderer, indeed, gladly rid himself of this tell-tale, in order to divert suspicion from himself? The character, the relationship, the honor, the common sense of my client forbid the supposition that he would commit so frightful a crime, and yet instantly seek his home, although the ground was covered with snow, and he knew that detection, under such circumstances would be inevitable. Gentlemen, it could not be. On your oaths you will say it could not be. And as you value a fellow creature’s life, as you value your eternal peace, I conjure you to remember that the least doubt must acquit the prisoner. Convict him—and you destroy an innocent man. Acquit him—and you give peace to a broken-hearted wife. If you condemn him, oh! what will be your pangs of remorse when the real criminal is detected. I leave you to your God and yourselves. I implore heaven to guide you aright.”
He took his seat. A dead silence hung over the vast assembly. The effect was too deep for words. At length a heavy, long-protracted sigh was heard throughout the crowd, as if men had held their breaths in awe, and found relief, only that moment, from the spell which bound them. Oh! how I longed that the verdict might then be taken. The sweet wife of the prisoner felt a hope which hitherto she had scarcely ventured to cherish, and clasping her husband’s hand, looked up into his face with a love no language can express, while the tears rolled fast and thick down her cheeks.
At length the attorney general rose to reply. Guarding the jury against being led away by their feelings, he plunged as soon as possible into the argument, and keeping constantly before their minds the fact of the possession of Mr. Howard’s purse by the accused, and the exclamation used by the murderer at the moment of committing the deed, he soon succeeded in removing from their minds at least, the impression of the prisoner’s innocence. How my heart sickened as I saw them turn from one to the other, with those significant glances. And when the prosecuting officer sat down, after his adroit and effective harangue, I felt almost as if my own doom was at hand.
The judge proceeded to charge the jury. Long afterward that judicial effort was talked of as a model of clear and comprehensive logic. It was as I feared. He bore terribly upon the prisoner, treated the story of the accused as of no credibility, and concluded by a powerful appeal to the jury not to be misled by the eloquence of counsel. Yet, even when thus performing what he deemed his duty, his eye happened to fall upon the prisoner’s wife, and I noticed that his lip quivered.
The jury arose and retired. The anxiety, not to say excitement of the spectators, was wound up to an unusual pitch, and increased momentarily. Whatever might be the sentiment of those who were the arbiters of the prisoner’s fate, but one feeling seemed to pervade that vast assembly—and a deep, intense sympathy for the accused, had supplanted the almost universal opinion of his guilt with which the trial had opened. Men eagerly leaned forward to catch a sight of the proud bearing of Stanhope, or the touching demeanor of his wife, and more than one hand brushed away a tear as its owner beheld that melancholy group, awaiting the decision of its fate. As time passed on, the audience grew restless with impatience, glancing now at the clock and now at the door where the jury were expected to enter,—and when at length the bearers of the prisoner’s fate entered, one by one, with slow and solemn steps, like mourners on the shores of Styx, a deep-drawn breath of mingled dread and curiosity, was heard throughout the room. It was an ominous sign to me that every man of the jury avoided looking at the prisoner.
As the accused was ordered, according to the usual form, to stand up and look upon the jury, I glanced at the face of his wife. It was pale and red by turns. She seemed fainting. But the bearing of my client was as calm and collected as a Roman martyr’s. Save a slight flushing of the face, he betrayed no emotion. The audience, however, was lost in the most intense curiosity. Judge, officers, attorney general—all gazed anxiously at the foreman. Bending eagerly forward, they breathlessly awaited the verdict. The silence of the dead reigned in the room.
“How say you, gentlemen of the jury,” said the clerk, “is James Stanhope, the prisoner at the bar, guilty or not guilty, in manner and form as he stands indicted?”
There was a thrilling suspense of a moment, which seemed protracted into an age. Then came, in a low but fearfully distinct voice, the answer of the foreman, as, laying his hand upon his heart, he said,—
“Guilty of murder in the first degree!”
A half-suppressed cry shot wildly throughout the apartment, and then followed a heavy sob at my side. It was the prisoner’s wife who had fainted, and would have fallen, had I not caught her.
“And so say you all?” asked the clerk.
The jury nodded, and while the foreman handed in the verdict, prepared to take their seats, when suddenly, in one corner of the apartment, a commotion arose, as if some person was endeavoring to make way through the crowd, but was resisted. The opposition, however, was only momentary, for after a murmured altercation, cries arose of “pass her on—make way,” ending at length in a prolonged huzza, and before the astonished officers of the court could move toward the scene of the uproar, or be heard commanding silence in the din, the form of a woman was seen hurried through an opening in the crowd, and in an instant she stood within the bar. She was evidently highly excited.
“Stop!” she said, turning to the foreman, “in God’s name stop—don’t hand in your verdict—the prisoner is innocent—I can point out the murderer.”
If I could live, throughout an eternity, I should never forget that moment. Every man started to his feet. Without waiting for an explanation, the crowd caught at her assertion, with an eagerness which could not have been surpassed had their own fate depended on its truth. A universal frenzy seized on the spectators, which showed itself in long and reiterated shouts, lasting for several minutes. Even the officers caught the excitement. The judge himself was visibly agitated. The prisoner, for the first time, turned pale as death, and gasped convulsively, while his poor wife, recovered from her momentary shock, grasped my hand as if in a vice, and trembled violently.
“Mr. Clerk—don’t record the verdict yet!” said the judge, with an excited voice. “Let us hear the woman first. Swear her!”
As soon as silence could be procured, the woman was sworn. She proved to be the mistress of the real murderer, and had intended preserving silence, but her conscience, not yet altogether seared, would not suffer her to stand by, and see an innocent man convicted, when a word from her might save him. She was cognizant of both the robbery and murder, and now offered to turn state’s evidence. The murderer had confessed to her his meeting with Stanhope, and exulted in having given him the purse of the murdered man.
The exclamation of the criminal on discharging his pistol was accounted for by his having formerly been a clerk in the employment of Mr. Howard, who had turned him off on suspicion of a robbery of which he averred he was innocent. But the imputation could not be shaken off, and he was eventually driven in reality to crime. On thus suddenly discovering his old master, he had yielded to a long-cherished thirst for revenge, and murdered him in the impulse of the moment.
“All this will be clear,” said the judge, “if you produce the real criminal. I cannot suffer the jury again to retire until you have thus corroborated your story.”
“Let your honor send a couple of officers to my house. Nat Powers, whom every one knows, is the man.”
In less than a minute a posse had set forth, every one wondering that suspicion had passed ever the most notorious character in the neighborhood, and who had not left the penitentiary a twelvemonth. Before an hour the guilty man was produced in court. He maintained his dare-devil expression of countenance until he saw by whom he was accused, when he turned pale as death, and muttered a curse on her treachery.
The real murderer was subsequently tried, found guilty, and hung. The disclosures he made after sentence led to the arrest of one of the mail robbers, who suffered also. Yet no one would ever have suspected them, if the murderer’s leman had kept silence. Thus closely allied in appearance are often innocence and guilt.
Need I say that a verdict was returned unanimously acquitting the prisoner—or that the joy of that sweet wife was past utterance? Stanhope, who had stood all till now, wept like a child. God knows their after felicity was dearly purchased by the agony of that day.
I CLING TO THEE.
BY T. G. SPEAR.
’Tis sweet, belov’d, to have thee nigh,
In pleasant converse thus with me,
For while these social moments fly,
I feel my heart-strings cling to thee—
Yes, cling to thee with stronger ties
Than e’er I felt or knew before,
As day by day some charm supplies,
That makes me bless thee more and more.
Though love may be a troubled stream,
And oftimes seek a troubled sea,
I find the passage like a dream,
In sailing down its tide with thee;
And feel resigned amidst the roar
That would against our barque prevail,
Till every idle gust is o’er
That hangs around its bridal sail.
I cling to thee, by night by day—
With all a wife’s affection tried,
And bless thee fondly when away,
And when reclining at my side.
I think of thee where’er thou art,
Nor can forget thee though unseen—
Thou beacon of my trusting heart!
That cheer’st it through each passing scene.
In doubt—in transport—or distress,
My soul reclines itself on thee,
Whose words are ever quick to bless—
And being bless’d it clings to thee.
It clings around the cherished name
It first rejoic’d to know was thine—
In bliss or sorrow—wrong or shame,
For ever yours—for ever mine.
I cling to thee as guide and friend—
The plighted guardian of my heart—
Whose presence doth a brightness lend,
That leaves a sadness when apart.
The love I know, the joy I feel,
As closely with thy Fate entwin’d—
And time cannot thy memory steal,
From out the chambers of my mind.
I cling to thee in calm or storm—
In terror—torture—bond or free,
My love from out its fountain warm,
Still rolls in tranquil rills to thee.
For thee it pours the fervent prayer—
The morning hymn—the evening lay—
That thou mayst never know despair,
Nor fell Misfortune’s friendless sway.
I cling to thee as clings the vine
Around some noble forest tree—
And when thou shalt thy strength resign,
I too would fall and sleep with thee
Yes, ’neath yon bright and flaming sun,
And this our own dear native sky,
We long have liv’d and lov’d as one,
And would as one together die.
Thou’rt dear to me through all of time—
And in that hour when life takes wing,
The thought serene—the hope sublime—
Departing still to thee shall cling.
But shouldst thou, love, first sink to sleep,
And light my worldly path no more,
My soul shall wait, and watch, and weep,
And cling to thee, though gone before.
A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTRÖM.
BY EDGAR A. POE.
We had now reached the summit of the loftiest crag. For some minutes the old man seemed too much exhausted to speak.
“Not long ago,” said he, at length, “and I could have guided you on this route as well as the youngest of my sons; but, about three years past, there happened to me an event such as never happened before to mortal man—or at least such as no man ever survived to tell of—and the six hours of deadly terror which I then endured have broken me up body and soul. You suppose me a very old man—but I am not. It took less than a single day to change these hairs from a jetty black to white, to weaken my limbs, and to unstring my nerves, so that I tremble at the least exertion, and am frightened at a shadow. Do you know I can scarcely look over this little cliff without getting giddy?”
The “little cliff,” upon whose edge he had so carelessly thrown himself down to rest, that the weightier portion of his body hung over it, while he was only kept from falling by the tenure of his elbow on its extreme and slippery edge—this “little cliff” arose, a sheer unobstructed precipice of black shining rock, some fifteen or sixteen hundred feet from the world of crags beneath us. No consideration would have tempted me to within half a dozen yards of its brink. In truth so deeply was I excited by the perilous position of my companion, that I fell at full length upon the ground, clung to the shrubs around me, and dared not even glance upward at the sky—while I struggled in vain to divest myself of the idea that the very foundations of the mountain were in danger from the fury of the winds. It was long before I could reason myself into sufficient courage to sit up and look out into the distance.
“You must get over these fancies,” said the guide, “for I have brought you here that you might have the best possible view of the scene of that event I mentioned—and to tell you the whole story with the spot just under your eye.”
“We are now,” he continued, in that particularising manner which distinguished him—“we are now close upon the Norwegian coast—in the sixty-eighth degree of latitude—in the great province of Nordland—and in the dreary district of Lofoden. The mountain upon whose top we sit is Helseggen, the Cloudy. Now raise yourself up a little higher—hold on to the grass if you feel giddy—so—and look out beyond the belt of vapor beneath us into the sea.”
I looked dizzily, and beheld a wide expanse of ocean, whose waters wore so inky a hue as to bring at once to my mind the Nubian Geographer’s account of the Mare Tenebrarum. A panorama more deplorably desolate no human imagination can conceive. To the right and left, as far as the eye could reach, there lay outstretched, like ramparts of the world, lines of horridly black and beetling cliff, whose character of irredeemable gloom was but the more forcibly illustrated by the surf which reared high up against it its white and ghastly crest, howling and shrieking forever. Just opposite the promontory upon whose apex we were placed, and at the distance of some five or six miles out at sea, there was visible a small, bleak-looking island; or, more properly, its position was discernible through the wilderness of surge in which it was enveloped. About two miles nearer the land, arose another of smaller size, hideously craggy and barren, and encompassed at various intervals by a cluster of dark rocks.
The appearance of the ocean, in the space between the more distant island and the shore, had something very unusual about it. Although, at the time, so strong a gale was blowing landward that a brig in the remote offing lay to under a double-reefed trysail, and constantly plunged her whole hull out of sight, still there was here nothing like a regular swell, but only a short, quick, angry cross-dashing of water in every direction—as well in the teeth of the wind as otherwise. Of foam there was little, except in the immediate vicinity of the rocks.
“The island in the distance,” resumed the old man, “is called by the Norwegians Vurrgh. The one midway is Moskoe. That a mile to the northward is Ambaaren. Yonder are Islesen, Hotholm, Kieldhelm, Suarven, and Buckholm. Farther off—between Moskoe and Vurrgh—are Otterholm, Flimen, Sandflesen, and Stockholm. These are the true names of the places—but why it has been thought necessary to name them at all, is more than either you or I can understand. Do you hear any thing? Do you see any change in the water?”
We had now been about ten minutes upon the top of Helseggen, to which we had ascended from the interior of Lofoden, so that we had caught no glimpse of the sea until it had burst upon us from the summit. As the old man spoke I became aware of a loud and gradually increasing sound, like the moaning of a vast herd of buffaloes upon an American prairie; and at the same moment I perceived that what seamen term the chopping character of the ocean beneath us was rapidly changing into a current which set to the eastward. Even while I gazed, this current acquired a monstrous velocity. Each moment added to its speed—to its headlong impetuosity. In five minutes the whole sea, as far as Vurrgh, was lashed into ungovernable fury; but it was between Moskoe and the coast that the main uproar held its sway. Here the vast bed of the waters, seamed and scarred into a thousand conflicting channels, burst suddenly into phrensied convulsion—heaving, boiling, hissing—gyrating in gigantic and innumerable vortices, and all whirling and plunging on to the eastward with a rapidity which water never elsewhere assumes except in precipitous descents.
In a few minutes more, there came over the scene another radical alteration. The general surface grew somewhat more smooth, and the whirlpools, one by one, disappeared, while prodigious streaks of foam became apparent where none had been seen before. These streaks, at length, spreading out to a great distance, and entering into combination, took unto themselves the gyratory motion of the subsided vortices, and seemed to form the germ of another more vast. Suddenly—very suddenly—this assumed a distinct and definite existence, in a circle of more than a mile in diameter. The edge of the whirl was represented by a broad belt of gleaming spray—but no particle of this slipped into the mouth of the terrific funnel, whose interior, as far as the eye could fathom it, was a smooth, shining, and jet-black wall of water, inclined to the horizon at an angle of some forty-five degrees, speeding dizzily round and round with a swaying and sweltering motion, and sending forth to the winds an appalling voice, half shriek half roar, such as not even the mighty cataract of Niagara ever lifts up in its agony to Heaven.
The mountain trembled to its very base, and the rock rocked. I threw myself upon my face, and clung to the scant herbage in an excess of nervous agitation.
“This,” said I, at length, to the old man—“this can be nothing else than the great whirlpool of the Maelström.”
“So it is sometimes termed,” said he. “We Norwegians call it the Moskoe-ström, from the island of Moskoe in the midway.”
The ordinary accounts of this vortex had by no means prepared me for what I saw. That of Jonas Ramus, which is perhaps the most circumstantial of any, cannot impart the faintest conception either of the magnificence, or of the horror of the scene—or of the wild bewildering sense of the novel which confounds the beholder. I am not sure from what point of view the writer in question surveyed it, nor at what time—but it could neither have been from the summit of Helseggen, nor during a storm. There are some passages of his description, nevertheless, which may be quoted for their details, although their effect is exceedingly feeble in conveying an impression of the spectacle.
“Between Lofoden and Moskoe,” he says, “the depth of the water is between thirty-six and forty fathoms; but on the other side, toward Ver (Vurrgh) this depth decreases so as not to afford a convenient passage for a vessel, without the risk of splitting on the rocks, which happens even in the calmest weather. When it is flood, the stream runs up the country between Lofoden and Moskoe with a boisterous rapidity; but the roar of its impetuous ebb to the sea is scarce equalled by the loudest and most dreadful cataracts; the noise being heard several leagues off, and the vortices or pits are of such an extent and depth, that if a ship comes within its attraction, it is inevitably absorbed and carried down to the bottom, and there beat to pieces against the rocks; and when the water relaxes the fragments thereof are thrown up again. But these intervals of tranquillity are only at the turn of the ebb and flood, and in calm weather, and last but a quarter of an hour, its violence gradually returning. When the stream is most boisterous, and its fury heightened by a storm, it is dangerous to come within a Norway mile of it. Boats, yachts, and ships have been carried away by not guarding against it before they were within its reach. It likewise happens frequently, that whales come too near the stream, and are overpowered by its violence; and then it is impossible to describe their howlings and bellowings in their fruitless struggles to disengage themselves. A bear once attempting to swim from Lofoden to Moskoe, was caught by the stream and borne down, while he roared terribly, so as to be heard on shore. Large stocks of firs and pine trees, after being absorbed by the current, rise again broken and torn to such a degree as if bristles grew upon them. This plainly shows the bottom to consist of craggy rocks, among which they are whirled to and fro. This stream is regulated by the flux and reflux of the sea—it being constantly high and low water every six hours. In the year 1645, early in the morning of Sexagesima Sunday, it raged with such noise and impetuosity that the very stones of the houses on the coast fell to the ground.”
In regard to the depth of the water, I could not see how this could have been ascertained at all in the immediate vicinity of the vortex. The “forty fathoms” must have reference only to portions of the channel close upon the shore either of Moskoe or Lofoden. The depth in the centre of the Moskoe-ström must be immeasurably greater; and no better proof of this fact is necessary than can be obtained from even the sidelong glance into the abyss of the whirl which may be had from the highest crag of Helseggen. Looking down from this pinnacle upon the howling Phlegethon below, I could not help smiling at the simplicity with which the honest Jonas Ramus records, as a matter difficult of belief, the anecdotes of the whales and the bears; for it appeared to me, in fact, a self-evident thing that the largest ship of the line in existence, coming within the influence of that deadly attraction, could resist it as little as a feather the hurricane, and must disappear bodily and at once.
The attempts to account for the phenomenon—some of which, I remember, seemed to me sufficiently plausible in perusal—now wore a very different and unsatisfactory aspect. The idea generally received is that this, as well as three smaller vortices among the Ferroe islands, “have no other cause than the collision of waves rising and falling, at flux and reflux, against a ridge of rocks and shelves, which confines the water so that it precipitates itself like a cataract; and thus the higher the flood rises, the deeper must the fall be, and the natural result of all is a whirlpool or vortex, the prodigious suction of which is sufficiently known by lesser experiments.”—These are the words of the Encyclopædia Britannica. Kircher and others imagine that in the centre of the channel of the Maelström is an abyss penetrating the globe, and issuing in some very remote part—the Gulf of Bothnia being somewhat decidedly named in one instance. This opinion, idle in itself, was the one to which, as I gazed, my imagination most readily assented; and, mentioning it to the guide, I was rather surprised to hear him say that, although it was the view almost universally entertained of the subject by the Norwegians, it nevertheless was not his own. As to the former notion he confessed his inability to comprehend it; and here I agreed with him—for, however conclusive on paper, it becomes altogether unintelligible, and even absurd, amid the thunder of the abyss.
“You have had a good look at the whirl now,” said the old man, “and if you will creep round this crag, so as to get in its lee, and deaden the roar of the water, I will tell you a story that will convince you I ought to know something of the Moskoe-ström.”
I placed myself as desired, and he proceeded.
“Myself and my two brothers once owned a schooner-rigged smack of about seventy tons burthen, with which we were in the habit of fishing among the islands beyond Moskoe, nearly to Vurrgh. In all violent eddies at sea there is good fishing, at proper opportunities, if one has only the courage to attempt it; but among the whole of the Lofoden coastmen, we three were the only ones who made a regular business of going out to the islands, as I tell you. The usual grounds are a great way lower down to the southward. There fish can be got at all hours, without much risk, and therefore these places are preferred. The choice spots over here among the rocks, however, not only yield the finest variety, but in far greater abundance; so that we often got in a single day what the more timid of the craft could not scrape together in a week. In fact, we made it a matter of desperate speculation—the risk of life standing instead of labor, and courage answering for capital.
“We kept the smack in a cove about five miles higher up the coast than this; and it was our practice, in fine weather, to take advantage of the fifteen minutes’ slack to push across the main channel of the Moskoe-ström, far above the pool, and then drop down upon anchorage somewhere near Otterholm, or Sandflesen, where the eddies are not so violent as elsewhere. Here we used to remain until nearly time for slack-water again, when we weighed and made for home. We never set out upon this expedition without a steady side wind for going and coming—one that we felt sure would not fail us before our return—and we seldom made a miscalculation upon this point. Twice, during six years, we were forced to stay all night at anchor on account of a dead calm, which is a rare thing indeed just about here; and once we had to remain on the grounds nearly a week, starving to death, owing to a gale which blew up shortly after our arrival, and made the channel too boisterous to be thought of. Upon this occasion we should have been driven out to sea in spite of every thing, (for the whirlpools threw us round and round so violently, that at length we fouled our anchor and dragged it) if it had not been that we drifted into one of the innumerable cross currents—here to-day and gone to-morrow—which drove us under the lee of Flimen, where, by good luck, we brought up.
“I could not tell you the twentieth part of the difficulties we encountered ‘on the grounds’—it is a bad spot to be in even in good weather—but we made shift always to run the gauntlet of the Moskoe-ström itself without accident; although at times my heart has been in my mouth when we happened to be a minute or so behind or before the slack. The wind sometimes was not as strong as we thought it at starting, and then we made rather less way than we could wish, while the current rendered the smack unmanageable. My eldest brother had a son eighteen years old, and I had two stout boys of my own. These would have been of great assistance at such times, in using the sweeps, as well as afterward in fishing—but, somehow, although we ran the risk ourselves, we had not the heart to let the young ones get into the danger—for, after all is said and done, it was a horrible danger, and that is the truth.
“It is now within a few days of three years since what I am going to tell you occurred. It was on the tenth day of July, 18—, a day which the people of this part of the world will never forget—for it was one in which blew the most terrible hurricane that ever came out of the heavens. And yet all the morning, and indeed until late in the afternoon, there was a gentle and steady breeze from the south-west, while the sun shone brightly, so that the oldest seaman among us could not have foreseen what was to follow.
“The three of us—my two brothers and myself—had crossed over to the islands about two o’clock, P. M. and had soon nearly loaded the smack with fine fish, which, we all remarked, were more plenty that day than we had ever known them. It was just seven, by my watch, when we weighed and started for home, so as to make the worst of the Ström at slack water, which we knew would be at eight.
“We set out with a fresh wind on our starboard quarter, and for some time spanked along at a great rate, never dreaming of danger, for indeed we saw not the slightest reason to apprehend it. All at once we were taken aback by a breeze from over Helseggen. This was most unusual—something that had never happened to us before, and I began to feel a little uneasy without exactly knowing why. We put the boat on the wind, but could make no headway at all for the eddies, and I was upon the point of proposing to return to the anchorage, when, looking astern, we saw the whole horizon covered with a singular copper-colored cloud that rose with the most amazing velocity.
“In the meantime the breeze that had headed us off fell away, and we were dead becalmed, drifting about in every direction. This state of things, however, did not last long enough to give us time to think about it. In less than a minute the storm was upon us—in less than two the sky was entirely overcast—and what with this and the driving spray, it became suddenly so dark that we could not see each other in the smack.
“Such a hurricane as then blew it is folly to attempt describing. The oldest seamen in Norway never experienced any thing like it. We had let our sails go by the run before it cleverly took us; but at the first puff both our masts went by the board as if they had been sawed off—the mainmast taking with it my youngest brother, who had lashed himself to it for safety.
“Our boat was the lightest feather of a thing that ever sat upon water. It had a complete flush deck with only a small hatch near the bow, and this hatch it had always been our custom to batten down when about to cross the Ström, by way of precaution against the chopping seas. But for this circumstance we should have foundered at once—for we lay entirely buried for some moments. How my elder brother escaped destruction I cannot say, for I never had an opportunity of ascertaining. For my part, as soon as I had let the foresail run, I threw myself flat on deck, with my feet against the narrow gunwale of the bow, and with my hands grasping a ring-bolt near the foot of the foremast. It was mere instinct that prompted me to do this—which was undoubtedly the very best thing I could have done—for I was too much flurried to think.
“For some moments we were completely deluged, as I say, and all this time I held my breath, and clung to the bolt. When I could stand it no longer I raised myself upon my knees, still keeping hold with my hands, and thus got my head clear. Presently our little boat gave herself a shake, just as a dog does in coming out of the water, and thus rid herself, in some measure, of the seas. I was now trying to get the better of the stupor that had come over me, and to collect my senses so as to see what was to be done, when I felt somebody grasp my arm. It was my elder brother, and my heart leaped for joy, for I had made sure that he was overboard—but the next moment all this joy was turned into horror—for he put his mouth close to my ear, and screamed out the word ‘Moskoe-ström!’
“No one ever will know what my feelings were at that moment. I shook from head to foot as if I had had the most violent fit of the ague. I knew what he meant by that one word well enough—I knew what he wished to make me understand. With the wind that now drove us on, we were bound for the whirl of the Ström, and nothing could save us!
“You perceive that in crossing the Ström channel, we always went a long way up above the whirl, even in the calmest weather, and then had to wait and watch carefully for the slack—but now we were driving right upon the pool itself, and in such a hurricane as this! ‘To be sure,’ I thought, ‘we shall get there just about the slack—there is some little hope in that’—but in the next moment I cursed myself for being so great a fool as to dream of hope at all. I knew very well that we were doomed, had we been ten times a ninety-gun ship.
“By this time the first fury of the tempest had spent itself, or perhaps we did not feel it so much, as we scudded before it, but at all events the seas, which at first had been kept down by the wind, and lay flat and frothing, now got up into absolute mountains. A singular change, too, had come over the heavens. Around in every direction it was still as black as pitch, but nearly overhead there burst out, all at once, a circular rift of clear sky—as clear as I ever saw—and of a deep bright blue—and through it there blazed forth the full moon with a lustre that I never before knew her to wear. She lit up every thing about us with the greatest distinctness—but, oh God, what a scene it was to light up!
“I now made one or two attempts to speak to my brother—but, in some manner which I could not understand, the din had so increased that I could not make him hear a single word, although I screamed at the top of my voice in his ear. Presently he shook his head, looking as pale as death, and held up one of his fingers as if to say ‘listen!’
“At first I could not make out what he meant—but soon a hideous thought flashed upon me. I dragged my watch from its fob—it was not going. I glanced at its face by the moonlight, and then burst into tears as I flung it far away into the ocean. It had run down at seven o’clock! We were behind the time of the slack, and the whirl of the Ström was in full fury!
“When a boat is well built, properly trimmed, and not deep laden, the waves in a strong gale, when she is going large, seem always to slip from beneath her—which appears very strange to a landsman—and this is what is called riding, in sea phrase. Well, so far we had ridden the swells very cleverly; but presently a gigantic sea happened to take us right under the counter, and bore us with it as it rose—up—up—as if into the sky. I would not have believed that any wave could rise so high. And then down we came with a sweep, a slide, and a plunge, that made me feel sick and dizzy, as if I was falling from some lofty mountain-top in a dream. But while we were up I had thrown a quick glance around—and that one glance was all sufficient. I saw our exact position in an instant. The Moskoe-ström whirlpool was about a quarter of a mile dead ahead—but no more like the everyday Moskoe-ström, than a mill-race is like the whirl as you now see it. If I had not known where we were, and what we had to expect, I should not have recognised the place at all. As it was, I involuntarily closed my eyes in horror. The lids clenched themselves together as if in a spasm.
“It could not have been more than two minutes afterward until we suddenly felt the waves subside, and were enveloped in a wilderness of foam. The boat made a sharp half turn to larboard, and then shot off in its new direction like a thunderbolt. At the same moment the roaring noise of the water was completely drowned in a kind of shrill shriek—such a sound as you might imagine given out by the waste-pipes of many thousand steam-vessels, letting off their steam all together. We were now in the belt of surf that always surrounds the whirl, and I thought of course that another moment would plunge us into the abyss—down which we could only see indistinctly on account of the amazing velocity with which we were borne along. The boat did not seem to sink into the water at all, but to skim like an air-bubble upon the surface of the surge. Her starboard side was next the whirl, and on the larboard arose the world of ocean we had left. It stood like a huge writhing wall between us and the horizon.
“It may appear strange, but now, when we were in the very jaws of the gulf, I felt more composed than when we were only approaching it. Having made up my mind to hope no more, I got rid of a great deal of that terror which unmanned me at first. I suppose it was despair that strung my nerves.
“It may look like boasting—but what I tell you is truth—I began to reflect how magnificent a thing it was to die in such a manner, and how foolish it was in me to think of so paltry a consideration as my own individual life, in view of so wonderful a manifestation of God’s power. I do believe that I blushed with shame when this idea crossed my mind. After a little while I became possessed with the keenest curiosity about the whirl itself. I positively felt a wish to explore its depths, even at the sacrifice I was going to make; and my principal grief was that I should never be able to tell my old companions on shore about the mysteries I should see. These, no doubt, were singular fancies to occupy a man’s mind in such extremity—and I have often thought since, that the revolutions of the boat around the pool might have rendered me a little light-headed.
“There was another circumstance which tended to restore my self-possession; and this was the cessation of the wind, which could not reach us in our present situation—for, as you saw yourself, the belt of surf is considerably lower than the general bed of the ocean, and this latter now towered above us, a high, black, mountainous ridge. If you have never been at sea in a heavy gale, you can form no idea of the confusion of mind occasioned by the wind and spray together. They blind, deafen, and strangle you, and take away all power of action or reflection. But we were now, in a great measure, rid of these annoyances—just as death-condemned felons in prison are allowed petty indulgences, forbidden them while their doom is yet uncertain.
“How often we made the circuit of the belt it is impossible to say. We careered round and round for perhaps an hour, flying rather than floating, getting gradually more and more into the middle of the surge, and then nearer and nearer to its horrible inner edge. All this time I had never let go of the ring-bolt. My brother was at the stern, holding on to a small empty water-cask which had been securely lashed aft under the coop of the counter, and was the only thing on deck that had not been swept overboard when the gale first took us. As we approached the brink of the pit he let go his hold upon this, and made for the ring, from which, in the agony of his terror, he endeavored to force my hands, as it was not large enough to afford us both a secure grasp. I never felt deeper grief than when I saw him attempt this act—although I knew he was a madman when he did it—a raving maniac through sheer fright. I did not care, however, to contest the point with him. I knew it could make no difference whether either of us held on at all; so I let him have the bolt, and went, myself, astern to the cask. This there was no great difficulty in doing; for the smack flew round steadily enough, and upon an even keel—only swaying to and fro, with the immense sweeps and swelters of the whirl. Scarcely had I secured myself in my new position, when we gave a wild lurch to starboard, and rushed headlong into the abyss. I muttered a hurried prayer to God, and thought all was over.
“As I felt the sickening sweep of the descent, I had instinctively tightened my hold upon the barrel, and closed my eyes. For some seconds I dared not open them—while I expected instant destruction, and wondered that I was not already in my death-struggles with the water. But moment after moment elapsed. I still lived. The sense of falling had ceased; and the motion of the vessel seemed much as it had been before, while in the belt of foam, with the exception that she now lay more along. I took courage, and looked once again upon the scene.
“Never shall I forget the sensations of awe, horror, and admiration with which I gazed about me. The boat appeared to be hanging, as if by magic, midway down, upon the interior surface of a funnel prodigious in circumference, immeasurable in depth, and whose perfectly smooth sides might have been mistaken for ebony, but for the bewildering rapidity with which they spun around, and for the gleaming and ghastly radiance they shot forth, as the rays of the full moon, from that circular rift amid the clouds which I have already described, streamed in a flood of golden glory along the black walls, and far away down into the inmost recesses of the abyss.
“At first I was too much confused to observe anything accurately. The general burst of terrific grandeur was all that I beheld. When I recovered myself a little, however, my gaze fell instinctively downward. In this direction I was able to obtain an unobstructed view, from the manner in which the smack hung on the inclined surface of the pool. She was quite upon an even keel—that is to say, her deck lay in a plane parallel with that of the water—but this latter sloped at an angle of more than forty-five degrees, so that we seemed to be lying upon our beam-ends. I could not help observing, nevertheless, that I had scarcely more difficulty in maintaining my hold and footing in this situation, than if we had been upon a dead level; and this, I suppose, was owing to the speed at which we revolved.
“The rays of the moon seemed to search the very bottom of the profound gulf; but still I could make out nothing distinctly, on account of a thick mist in which everything there was enveloped, and over which there hung a magnificent rainbow, like that narrow and tottering bridge which Mussulmen say is the only pathway between Time and Eternity. This mist, or spray, was no doubt occasioned by the clashing of the great walls of the funnel, as they all met together at the bottom—but the yell that went up to the Heavens from out of that mist, I will not attempt to describe.
“Our first slide into the abyss itself, from the belt of foam above, had carried us a great distance down the slope; but our farther descent was by no means proportionate. Round and round we swept—not with any uniform movement—but in dizzying swings and jerks, that sent us sometimes only a few hundred yards—sometimes nearly the complete circuit of the whirl. Our progress downward, at each revolution, was very perceptible, but slow.
“Looking about me upon the wide waste of liquid ebony on which we were thus borne, I perceived that our boat was not the only object in the embrace of the whirl. Both above and below us were visible fragments of vessels, large masses of building timber and trunks of trees, with many smaller articles, such as pieces of house furniture, broken boxes, barrels and staves. I have already described the unnatural curiosity which had taken the place of my original terrors. It appeared to grow upon me as I drew nearer and nearer to my dreadful doom. I now began to watch, with a strange interest, the numerous things that floated in our company. I must have been delirious—for I even sought amusement in speculating upon the relative velocities of their several descents toward the foam below. ‘This fir tree,’ I found myself at one time saying, ‘will certainly be the next thing that takes the awful plunge and disappears,’—and then I was disappointed to find that the wreck of a Dutch merchant ship overtook it and went down before. At length, after making several guesses of this nature, and being deceived in all—this fact—the fact of my invariable miscalculation—set me upon a train of reflection that made my limbs again tremble, and my heart beat heavily once more.
“It was not a new terror that thus affected me—but the dawn of a more exciting hope. This hope arose partly from memory, and partly from present observation. I called to mind the great variety of buoyant matter that strewed the coast of Lofoden, having been absorbed and then thrown forth by the Moskoe-ström. By far the greater number of the articles were shattered in the most extraordinary way—so chafed and roughened as to have the appearance of being stuck full of splinters—but then I distinctly recollected that there were some of them which were not disfigured at all. Now I could not account for this difference except by supposing that the roughened fragments were the only ones which had been completely absorbed—that the others had entered the whirl at so late a period of the tide, or, for some reason, had descended so slowly after entering, that they did not reach the bottom before the turn of the flood came, or of the ebb, as the case might be. I conceived it possible, in either instance, that they might thus be whirled up again to the level of the ocean, without undergoing the fate of those which had been drawn in more early, or absorbed more rapidly. I made, also, three important observations. The first was, that, as a general rule, the larger the bodies were, the more rapid their descent—the second, that, between two masses of equal extent, the one spherical, and the other of any other shape, the superiority in speed was with the sphere—the third, that, between two masses of equal size, the one cylindrical, and the other of any other shape, the cylinder was absorbed the more slowly. Since my escape, I have had several conversations on this subject with an old school-master of the district; and it was from him that I learned the use of the words ‘cylinder’ and ‘sphere.’ He explained to me—although I have forgotten the explanation—how what I observed was, in fact, the natural consequence of the forms of the floating fragments—and showed me how it happened that a cylinder, swimming in a vortex, offered more resistance to its suction, and was drawn in with greater difficulty than an equally bulky body, of any form whatever.
“There was one startling circumstance which went a great way in enforcing these observations, and rendering me anxious to turn them to account, and this was that, at every revolution, we passed something like a barrel, or else the yard or the mast of a vessel, while many of these things, which had been on our level when I first opened my eyes upon the wonders of the whirlpool, were now high up above us, and seemed to have moved but little from their original station. I no longer hesitated what to do. I resolved to lash myself securely to the water-cask upon which I now held, to cut it loose from the counter, and to throw myself with it into the water. I attracted my brother’s attention by signs, pointed to the floating barrels that came near us, and did everything in my power to make him understand what I was about to do. I thought at length that he comprehended my design—but, whether this was the case or not, he shook his head despairingly, and refused to move from his station by the ring-bolt. It was impossible to reach him; the emergency admitted of no delay; and so, with a bitter struggle, I resigned him to his fate, fastened myself to the cask by means of the lashings which secured it to the counter, and precipitated myself with it into the sea, without another moment’s hesitation.
“The result was precisely what I had hoped it might be. As it is myself who now tell you this tale—as you see that I did escape—and as you are already in possession of the mode in which this escape was effected, and must therefore anticipate all that I have farther to say—I will bring my story quickly to conclusion. It might have been an hour, or thereabout, after my quitting the smack, when, having descended to a vast distance beneath me, it made three or four wild gyrations in rapid succession, and bearing, my loved brother with it, plunged headlong, at once and forever, into the chaos of foam below. The barrel to which I was attached sunk very little farther than half the distance between the bottom of the gulf and the spot at which I leaped overboard, before a great change took place in the character of the whirlpool. The froth and the rainbow disappeared. The slope of the sides of the vast funnel became momently less and less steep. The gyrations of the whirl grew feeble and fluctuating—then ceased altogether—then finally reversed themselves with a gradually accelerating motion. And then the bottom of the gulf uprose—and its turgid aspect had in great measure departed. The sky was clear, the winds had gone down, and the full moon was setting radiantly in the west, when I found myself on the surface of the ocean, in full view of the shores of Lofoden, and above the spot where the pool of the Moskoe-ström had been. It was the hour of the slack—but the sea still heaved in mountainous waves from the effects of the hurricane. I was borne violently into the channel of the Ström, and in a few minutes was hurried down the coast into the ‘grounds’ of the fishermen. A boat picked me up—exhausted from fatigue—and (now that the danger was removed) speechless from the memory of its horror. Those who drew me on board were my old mates and daily companions—but they knew me no more than they would have known a traveller from the spirit-land. My hair had been raven-black the day before, and now it is white as you see. They say too that the whole expression of my countenance had changed. I told them my story—they did not believe it. I now tell it to you—and you will put no more faith in it than did the merry fishermen of Lofoden.”
SOLILOQUY OF AN OCTOGENARIAN.
BY PLINY EARLE, M. D.
’Tis nearly past—this fitful dream,
Whose phantoms dazzle to deceive,
Like glittering bubbles on the stream,
Or meteors in a summer eve;
And now, half-opening to my sight,
I see the realms of lasting Light.
These feeble pulses speak of death;
This clouded vision bids me look,
With the undaunted eye of faith,
To climes for which Elijah took
From Carmel’s cliffs his joyous way—
Translated to eternal day.
The blood which, in my childhood, rushed
Like mountain torrents in the isles
Where earth with constant life is flushed,
And everlasting summer smiles,
Now struggles in its sluggish flow,
Like streams through Greenland’s bank of snow;
Yet not all frozen,—if a beam
Of light return from earlier years,
If, from the spell of childhood’s dream,
Triumphant over grief and tears,
One bright, enchanting moment come,
Like a lost, loved one welcomed home,
The loosened current, warmed anew,
Hurries along these frigid veins,
As the hot Geyser rushes through
The frozen banks on Iceland’s plains;
And, all forgetful of my years,
I yield again to child-like tears.
Go, tell me not of loving earth;
Tell me not life is fraught with joy;
Say not this world has given birth
To happiness without alloy;
Too subtle is the spirit’s bliss
To stay in atmosphere like this.
There’s not a pang that rends the heart,
In the long catalogue of woe,
Of which I have not shared a part,
In this, my pilgrimage below;
I’ve quaffed at sorrow’s bitter cup,
And drank its turbid waters up.
And now I wish to lay me down,
My mother, Earth, upon thy breast,
When the green turf, with flowers o’ergrown,
Shall flourish o’er my couch of rest;
Gladly would I resign this trust,
And dust consign to native dust.
Why should I not? my former friends
Have fallen round me, one by one,
As fall the leaves when autumn sends
His breezes through the forests dun.
The grave has garnered all my love,
Why, why remain its walls above?—
Here do I stand alone—alone—
As stands the stern and sturdy oak,
When all its forest-frères are gone,
Before the woodman’s fatal stroke,
Or wintry tempest sweeping by,
With the leagued legions of the sky.
Then speed thou home, my wearied soul,
On angel-pinions; bend thine eye,
Unmoved, upon the glorious goal
That waits thy coming in the sky.
Ho, for the waters which arise
At Zion’s foot, in Paradise!
There shall thou lift thy spirit-tongue,
In praises, that thy bonds are riven,
As, by the fountain, Miriam sung
Hosannahs to the God of Heaven,
When Israel, freed from Pharoah’s hand,
Departed for the promised land.
A RHAPSODY BY JEREMY SHORT, ESQ.
It is April, and the rain is pattering against our window as we write, with a low monotonous tinkle like the far-off music of an evening bell. How every thing has changed since yesterday! The sunlight no longer floods the hill-side—the birds sing not their jocund lays—the brooklet by our window no more goes frolicking onward in its glittering sheen. The sky is dun, spongy, and covered with flitting clouds. The fields are drenched by last night’s rain, and the cattle cower under the sheds in the barn-yard. Yet the south wind has a warmth and freshness in its touch delicious to the fevered brow of a student, and as it breathes through the casement the blood dances more merrily along our veins and we feel a new life within us.
It is April, fickle fooling April, but already one begins to dream of May. And soon it will be here. Oh! how we long for its bright sunshine, its budding flowers, its delicious perfumes, its breezy mornings and its starry nights, reminding us of that better country where the streams sing on forever, where the spring-time never fades, and where all the sainted ones we have loved on earth, purified and made more glorious than ever, await us with their seraphic smiles. May!—bright, beautiful May!—what is like to thy loveliness? The Summer may be full of maturer beauty, the Autumn more like a matron in her queenliness, but thou art as a young and innocent bride, all blushing and trembling in thy tearful gladness. And of all days in May give us the first—the vesperus of her sky—the proudest gem in her coronal.
Is there any thing so exquisite in the older poets as their habit of constantly alluding to the merry sports with which our English ancestors were accustomed to celebrate the first of May? Is there any thing more captivating to the lover of green and sunshiny fields and antique customs, than the dance around the flower-decked pole of the village, with the rosy-cheeked maidens for partners, and the hobby-horse, the morrice-crew, and the combatants of the ring around? Alas! the day for these spectacles has gone forever. Even in merry England the first of May has lost its popularity, and it is only in some quiet dell, secluded among the hills, far away from the metropolis, that the Maypole is wreathed with garlands on the eventful morning, and the blushing beauty is crowned with flowers as queen of May. How many kindly feelings, how many happy hours, how many holy associations have been lost to us by the neglect of this simple rural custom! Far away from home and friends, in lands remote even from his native continent, the sight of a pole decked out with flowers for some pagan festival, has recalled to the wanderer’s mind the happy days of his youth, when he sported with his gay companions on the village lawn, or slily kissed some blushing little beauty who had been his partner on the first of May.
We wish this good old custom could be revived among us, not with its grotesque maskers, but as a day for greenwood sports. We sing “Io Pæn” at the few celebrations which are vouchsafed to us in these degenerate days. Your crabbed utilitarians may talk of its uselessness, and sneer at it as a childish pastime, but who that has a soul for the beautiful in nature can fail to love this merry-making on the greensward? Give us the pure canopy of heaven for our ball-room ceiling—let us dance where the birds may carol around us and the balmy breath of flowers kiss our cheeks. Let us welcome in the blushing month with the young, and beautiful, and gay, feeling as we partake in their sports, as if old Spenser had dreamed of the fair ones around us, when he drew that immortal picture of May:
“Then came faire May, the fayrest mayd on ground,
Deckt all with dainties of her season’s pryde,
And throwing flow’res out of her lap around:
Upon two bretheren’s shoulders she did ride,
The twinnes of Leda; which on either side
Supported her, like to their Soveraine Queene.
Lord! how all creatures laught, when her they spide,
And leapt and daunc’t as they had ravisht beene!
And Cupid selfe about her fluttered all in green.”
Exquisite! “The fayrest mayd on ground!” Have you ever been on a May party? Then do you not remember that blue-eyed one, with the golden tresses, and that small fair hand, whom your eyes followed throughout the whole bright day, and whom you could have gone on your knees and sworn to be not only the loveliest flower of the group, but of the county, aye! for that matter, of the world? You were just nineteen then, and she was in her sixteenth spring, by our faith! You had never met before, but long ere nightfall,—what with wandering through the wood together, or plucking flowers for each other, or lifting her over the pebbly little brook clear and musical as her own pure heart—you have come to feel as if you had known each other for years. And that night you cannot sleep for thinking of her, or if toward morning you drop into a doze, you dream—oh! how sweetly—of your little partner; so sweetly that when you awake, you sigh, and close your eyes, and would give the world if you could only sleep and dream thus of her forever. And you get up and feel even melancholy, wishing all the while that every day was the first of May, and that—for why not?—your golden-haired darling was your constant partner. And that very morning you chance, mind! only chance—to have some business that takes you down the street where she resides, and you happen so accidentally to meet her as she comes forth, looking to your eyes, with her snowy virgin robe, and her blooming cheek, and her neat chip bonnet wreathed around with flowers, more beautiful than ever—aye! more beautiful than you had imagined aught earthly could be, even though “Deckt all with dainties of the season’s pryde.” And so you can but address her—and she happens to be going your way too—and nothing can be more natural than that you should talk about yesterday—and thus you go on smiling and chatting and feeling so joyous withal, that in the very gladness of your heart you can almost carol aloud with the happy birds, or “leap and daunce as you had ravisht beene!” Ah! verily young May-goer thou hast lost thy heart.
And so it proceeds. And you call upon her—as of course you must—to ask her whether she over-fatigued herself on May-day, you having forgotten altogether in your casual meeting to propound to her that question. And when thus calling you find she has a harp or a piano, and as you play on the flute, it is the most natural thing in the world to practise duetts together. Or perhaps you are both learning French, or reading Goethe in the original, or doing something else—no matter what!—which can be better done in company. And by and bye you get so used to these visits, that not an evening passes without beholding you together; and gradually you forget your studies and care less for them, though all the while perhaps you are learning a sweeter lesson; and your golden-haired partner will sigh now—most singular!—so very often; and you yourself will begin to feel your heart flutter when her soft blue eye meets your own by chance, for of late you do not look into each other’s faces as you used to; and so by and bye—heaven only knows how—you will find yourselves sitting side by side on the sofa; a few smothered words will be whispered; you will draw her with a holy embrace toward you; her head will sink upon your bosom; and thus for—it may be five minutes, it may be longer—you will sit in silence, a deep sacred silence, with your hearts quick beating against each other in a rapture no words can tell. And at length you will whisper her name: and with a happy sigh she will look up “smiling tearfully,” as the blind old Sciote has it; and again you will press her to your bosom, breathing your deep, deep love in every word; and she will murmur back your vows, at length, with maidenly whispers, blushing to her bosom the while, and speaking lower than an angel might be thought to sigh. And so—and so—years after, when she sits beside you at your household hearth, with that fair-haired little one smiling on her knee, you will bless God that ever you went a-Maying. Ah! give us the love which comes in the freshness and innocence of youth.
But May-Day is not all that charms us in the blushing month. All through its sunny days there is the song of birds, and the odor of flowers, and the waving of green grass, the more beautiful because we have just emerged, from the snows of Winter, the blustering winds of March, and the fickle skies of April. Everything is budding and breaking into life. If you go out into the fields you can almost hear the grass growing. The garden has a thousand colors, and they all mingle in harmony. The birds greet you at morning beneath your window, and your favorite steed gambols at your approach in wanton joy. The winds murmur low like rushes by the river side, the hills are covered once more with verdure, and the delicious greenness of the meadow land is past the poet’s pen. And most of all, the ONE whom for years you have loved, seems to grow more beautiful daily, smiling and carolling around you, to your eyes more lovely than when you first won her for your bride. May! bright beautiful May, why tarry the wheels of thy chariot?
Oh! life is but a dream,
A sunbeam’s play,
A flower on a stream
A song upon the air,
A festal gay,
A something wondrous fair
A prison-house of woe,
A wintry day,
A dark gulf’s ceaseless flow
A bird upon the wing,
A meteor ray,
A wild mysterious thing
R. E. J.