Vol. XVIII. APRIL, 1841. No. 4.
THE LADY ISABEL.
(Continued from page 99.)
There is nothing so dreadful as the heart’s first disappointment. To love vainly—oh! what is more agonising. We feel as if every one had turned against us; as if there was nothing left to live for in this world; as if the springs of life, and the joy of existence had departed forever from us. The loss of a friend may be compensated for, and the ruin of our fortunes can be borne without despair; but the hopelessness of a first love can never be ameliorated by aught on earth. Go where we will, the blight of the heart will continue with us. We can never forget. Hope will have dried up within us. We feel, like a stranger in a strange land, as an outcast on the world, beholding feelings in which we can take no part around us, and reminded daily of our misery by the happiness of others. Alas! for the one disappointed in a first love.
That night Isabel saw no more of her cousin. But when the whole of the next day passed, and she still did not meet him, she began to be alarmed. She feared to ask for him. Her father had been absent all day, and it was not until night that he returned. When he did, he brought the intelligence, that, in compliance with an old promise, he had that morning visited the earl of ——, an influential courtier of the neighboring county, in order to procure for Lorraine a commission. The page had, the preceding evening, begged to be allowed to join the army so eagerly, that having nothing particularly to do, and noticing and applauding his young cousin’s anxiety to assume arms, he had ridden over with him to —— castle, and after obtaining the appointment for him, had left him there, at his urgent request, with his new colonel.
“And I rejoice too at his determination,” continued Lord Deraine, “although it was somewhat of a sudden. I began almost to think that the lad was growing too effeminate, with his lute, and other lady pastimes, and forgetting the name that he bore. But I ween had you beheld his eye glisten to-day, when he was first addressed by his military title, you would have said that he was every inch a Lorraine. And God forfend that it should ever come to disgrace! My mother was a daughter of that house,” continued the aged nobleman, “and I feel a strange interest in the boy’s success. Had you seen him to-day you would have said he was a true descendant of the iron-hearted warrior who led that charge at Agincourt, which decided the fortune of the day. Were I as I once was, I would e’en go one campaign with him to learn how they fight in these degenerate days, and show them the manner in which we cavaliers of Prince Rupert used to charge the canting round-heads.”
“But pa,” said Isabel, scarcely venturing to speak, “did he leave no word—no message?”
“Oh! I had almost forgot. He sent a note to you—here it is—about some hawk, or lute, or his greyhound perhaps—did he bid you farewell, by the bye?”
Isabel felt her heart beat faster at the enquiry of her parent, but giving an evasive answer to his question, she took the note, and left the apartment. Little did Lord Deraine suspect the agony which had driven his young kinsman from his halls, or dream of the tears that Isabel shed that night over her ill-fated cousin’s epistle. It ran thus:
Dearest Isabel:—I know not whether to write to you; and yet why should I not? Are we not cousins—brought up under the same roof—taught to love each other from childhood—bound to one another by a thousand ties? Yet we cannot meet again as we have met! Oh! little did I think twenty-four hours ago that such agony as I now suffer would so soon be my lot. But I will not blame you. You never said you loved me—you never smiled on me except as a cousin. It is only I who am wrong. Could I ever think that you, the pure, the beautiful, the courted, would look on a poor page with love? Yet I did: I nursed the delusion long: and now—oh! God—the dream is forever broken.
Forgive me, dear Isabel—for I will yet once more call you by that name—forgive me, for I scarce know what I write. I leave you for years, perhaps forever. I go to seek a name of which you will not be ashamed, or to die. God bless you, again and again, and again dearest Isabel! May you be happy. Once more God bless you!
The tears of the maiden fell thick and fast as she perused this passionate epistle, and she sighed,
“Poor, poor Lorraine—would we had never met, or that you had never loved.”
The absence of the page was felt throughout the castle, for all had loved the generous and high-souled boy. For many a long day the old servitors loved to recall his boyish deeds, and augur a glorious career for the young soldier. And often, as Isabel sat in her splendid chamber, while twilight deepened through the gorgeously curtained windows, her thoughts would wander away after her absent cousin, and taking the melancholy hue of the hour, she would indulge in mournful memories of the past, and sigh that she could make no return to Lorraine except what was all too cold for him,—her friendship. Even De Courtenay, could he have read her thoughts at such moments, would have pardoned her that involuntary pang.
The Young Soldier.
It was the eve of a battle. Far along the sides of the hill stretched the camp of the allies, the long lines of white tents gleaming in the starlight, and the death-like silence of the sleeping army filling the mind with an awe, second only to that inspired by the holy silence of the calm and peaceful stars above. Below was a wide extensive valley, through which wound a narrow river, while here and there along the plain were scattered rich farms, and solemn woodlands. On the opposite range of uplands, the camp of the enemy might be detected by the long-line of watch-fires glittering on the horizon. Occasionally the neigh of a steed, or the “all’s well!” of the sentinel, floated past on the night air. All else was still. A profound calm reigned where to-morrow would be heard the shouts of thousands, the booming of artillery, and the clash of meeting squadrons.
It was yet long before day when Lorraine sprang from his couch, and hastily attiring himself, prepared to join his troop, at the expected summons. It was to him a day of the most intense interest, for not only was he then for the first time to behold the conflict of man with man, but he was to begin that career of arms which he had determined should give him renown or death.
“Yes!” he exclaimed energetically, “though Isabel may never love me, she shall hear my name in every mouth, or else be told by some pitying tongue that I have died in the heart of battle. I feel that within me which will make or mar me. To-day shall lay the first stone in my advancement, and men will talk no longer of the idle page, when they hear of the deeds of the warrior.”
With such emotions stirring in his bosom, Lorraine joined his corps on the morning of that eventful day; nor did he, for a moment, through the long hours of that celebrated battle, forget his vow. Wherever the danger was the most imminent, there the gallant young soldier was to be found. When the battle was at its fiercest, Lorraine seemed only more calm and collected; until even hoary veterans were astonished at the fearless composure of the young officer. Already had he performed deeds of daring, which had been alone enough to make him the wonder of his corps, when he was ordered to charge, with his body of dragoons, on a battalion of the enemy who were about making a movement on the left of the allies.
Flushed with the confidence thus displayed in his coolness and valor, Lorraine dashed off to take up his position so as to be able to check the enemy’s advance at the most favorable moment. Rapid as was his movement, however, he had been anticipated by the foe, and before he could reach the threatened position, the detachment of infantry defending the farm-house had been driven in, half their number made prisoners, and the rest compelled to fall back in disorder. When Lorraine approached their post, they were retreating up the hill immediately in the rear of the farm-house, while a strong body of the enemy’s infantry was pressing upon them in the rear. A thick wood, running at right angles with the road taken by the retreating corps, effectually hid Lorraine’s dragoons from sight, until the very moment when the enemy’s flank was exposed to his charge. Perceiving his advantage, the young soldier waved his sword, and turning to his troops, shouted,
“Charge!” and in an instant, like a whirl-wind they burst upon the astonished enemy. The shock was irresistible. Taken completely by surprise, and already disordered by the pursuit, the foe scarcely stood their ground a moment, but broke in all directions. A scene of wild consternation ensued. Through and through the tumultuous crowd of fugitives, dashed the troopers of Lorraine, hewing and treading down their antagonists at every step. Amid this wild uproar, the young officer might be detected by his snowy plume and white charger; and wherever they were seen, there the battle was sure to rage the thickest. But though broken in nearly every direction, there was still a fragment of the enemy’s corps, which, rallying around its leader, endeavored for a while to maintain its ground, and even succeeded in repelling the attack made upon it by a portion of the late fugitives, who, rallying at the first appearance of succor, under charge of their commander, attempted to cut off the retreat of the enemy. At this moment Lorraine perceived their peril. Quick as lightning he dashed to their aid, followed by a portion of his gallant band; and arrived at the very moment when his brother officer, having been struck from his horse, lay at the mercy of the enemy’s uplifted sword. It was but the work of a moment to strike up the weapon of the assailant, and with another blow to sever the arm of the French officer. Lorraine’s troopers at the same instant, rushing like a thunder-bolt upon the enemy, scattered them down the hill, and before the young officer could stoop to raise his fellow soldier, the enemy had vanished from around them.
“To whom am I indebted for this timely aid?” said the wounded man, endeavoring to rise.
“To a friend—Henry De Lorraine. As I have just joined the army even my brother officers are unknown to me.”
“But you will not be long unknown to them, for a more gallant charge I never saw made, and even a De Courtenay may consider it an honor to be the friend of a Lorraine.”
The young officer felt his heart beat as it had not beat yet through all that day’s conflict. The lover of his cousin was before him. With that name rushed a thousand memories upon his mind, and for an instant he stood silent and spell-bound before De Courtenay. But recalling, with an effort, his wandering thoughts, he bowed to the speaker’s compliment, and assisting the wounded officer from the field, recalled his troops, and prepared to maintain the position he had so gallantly recovered.
Fame: The new friend.
The whole camp was ringing with the deeds of Lorraine. The days of Roland were revived. Old and young, officers and soldiery conversed only of the youthful hero who had already won for himself the title of “the bravest of the brave.” Not only in his first battle, but in every successive engagement, Lorraine had achieved wonders. He had already been promoted through several grades; general officers and titled princes courted his society; and, as if by an enchanter’s wand, in less than a year from the opening of his career as a soldier, the name of the unknown page was ringing in every capital of Europe. Oh! how delicious was it for him to know that Isabel heard of his deeds, and that though she might not love, she could not pity him. No, he had saved himself from that. His vow had been fulfilled. He had become renowned.
A strange friendship had sprung up between Lorraine and him whom he had rescued. The grateful De Courtenay had sought the intimacy of his preserver in such a way as could not be refused, and though it was, at first, agony for Lorraine to be the confidant of his rival, yet he could not avoid it without insulting his new friend, or exposing his own hopeless love. But the former course he scorned: and to the latter alternative he could not listen. He was forced, therefore, to endure in silence that, which, like the vulture of Prometheus, was eating out his vitals. Daily did De Courtenay pour into his ear his tale of love, thinking that as the relative of Isabel, Lorraine would sympathise with his long continued separation, and join in the praises of his mistress; but little did the generous young nobleman know of the agony he was thus inflicting upon his new friend.
Meantime the war continued. Siege after siege, and battle after battle marked the conquering career of the allies, and in every brilliant action the deeds of the young hero shone forth with unabated lustre. In the hottest of the conflict, heading the assault or leading a charge, Lorraine was ever to be found, seeming to bear a charmed life.
Yet the cheek of the young hero grew thinner daily, and amid all his splendid and rapidly increasing renown, it was plain that his unquiet spirit was tossing to and fro within him, and wearing out his very existence. His brow grew darker as if with long years of care; his eye burned with a deep, restless, almost wild brilliancy; and his port became prouder and prouder, for he grew more lofty as the struggle with himself became fiercer. Yes! the contest was still waged against his unhappy love,—how hopelessly, let others in the same situation tell.
His was not the love of days, or weeks, or months, but of years: his was not an evanescent feeling of admiration, but the deep, fathomless passion of one whose whole soul was consumed by his love. How could he conquer such an emotion? No, he might fly from Isabel, but could he fly from himself? His love had become a part of his being: it was his sustenance, his life.
It was after a hard contested battle, in which his corps had distinguished itself unusually, and he had turned the tide of war on one wing by his own valor and influence, that his sovereign filled up the measure of his renown, by reviving in his person, an honor long disused, and creating him a knight banneret upon the field of conflict.
“Rise, Sir Henry Lorraine,” said the monarch, as, surrounded by a brilliant cortège, he waved his hand for the kneeling knight to arise, “you have this day won a name far more imperishable than the title I have bestowed upon you. Were a tithe of the gentlemen of my realm like you, England would have a Bayard or a Roland for every knight’s fee.”
Such a compliment, from the lips of a phlegmatic sovereign, placed the finishing stone on the renown of Lorraine. He was henceforth without a rival. Courted by the titled; adored by his fellow soldiers; and smiled on by the young and beautiful; what farther had this world to bestow upon him? Alas! all these brought him no happiness. To Lorraine they were but empty shadows, for they could not give him the love of his cousin.
“Ah! how will Isabel rejoice to hear of this,” said De Courtenay, the day after the young hero’s knighthood, “you and she were playmates in childhood, you know, and it will please her all the more that I too love you. I wonder why she says nothing of you in her letters, but then—.” De Courtenay paused. Even the happy lover felt that it would not do to say how wholly a mistress forgets in her missives all but the object of her adoration.
Lorraine could not reply. His brow throbbed to bursting, and he turned away. Yet he did not betray himself. Never had De Courtenay suspected that his friend loved Isabel; and Lorraine vowed in his inmost heart that he never should.
And thus time rolled on, and day by day, and week by week, and month by month, the renown of the young soldier increased, while the blight at his heart grew more venomous and deadly. He loved in vain. Often in the still watches of the night, when the camp lay buried in silence around him, and the holy stars looked down like guardian angels on the world below, he would stand for hours, gazing on the hushed landscape around, and wandering, in thought, back to the time when he stood at the side of Isabel, and together they gazed up upon the starry sky, or listened to the low whisper of the night-wind across the firmament, while their hearts held high communion, as if linked in with each other by some mysterious sympathy. Alas! those days were gone forever. Alone Lorraine gazed up at the sky, while Isabel perhaps thought of him no more.
“Your cousin, young Harry, now Sir Henry Lorraine, knight banneret, is coming to visit us, Isabel,” said Lord Deraine, one morning, as he entered the breakfast room, holding an open letter in his hand, “he has come over with despatches, and says that he shall have a few days of leisure. Here is his letter. It came by a special courier, to whom I gave a reply, inviting Lorraine down here at once. So you may expect the gallant boy to-morrow.”
“But pa, how know you he will come?” said Isabel, with ill-concealed agitation, for she had not yet forgotten their last parting.
“Come! why where else would he go, but to those who love him like we do? Ah! I wonder if glory has changed him. By the honor of my house but it will make me young again to see the gallant lad, who has made the name of a Lorraine to ring like a watch word through Europe.”
Isabel knew not scarcely how she felt. She dreaded, and yet wished to meet her cousin. Long did she think over it that night, and wonder if he had conquered his ill-fated passion. And when at length she fell asleep, it was after many a prayerful hope that Lorraine might have learned to look upon her only as a cousin, and have sought among fairer and loftier ones, to whom he might fearlessly aspire, a being more worthy of his fortunes.
Why had Lorraine, after tearing himself away from Isabel, determined to re-visit her? Alas! who can tell the workings of that master passion LOVE? How often do we resolve to see the face of some dear one no more, and how often do we return again and again to her presence, hoping even against hope, until we feel that the cup of bliss is too surely dashed from our lips forever.
It was a glorious afternoon when he arrived at the gates of the park, and at every step seeing something to remind him of the past, he gradually fell into a reverie, from which he was only aroused by coming in front of the hall, and finding himself welcomed by the noisy tenantry, as well as by a score of old familiar faces in the shape of trusty servitors. Their homely but joyous greetings went to Lorraine’s heart, and almost drew tears from his eyes, when he reflected how differently he had passed that threshold the last time. His uncle met him at the hall door, and falling into his arms, blessed him: while Isabel frankly extending her hand, greeted him as she would have done in their old and happy hours.
The dinner passed off, Isabel withdrew, and Lorraine was alone with his uncle.
“How you have altered, Henry,” said the old earl, “you left us a boy, and now your brow is that of a warrior. Ah! I always knew you would prove an honor to your house. Another glass of the Burgundy. But now we are alone, let us hear of your battles and sieges.”
It was almost evening when they rose from the table, and Lorraine signified his wish to seek the open air. His uncle pleaded his gout, and the young knight stepped out upon the lawn.
Soon, however, as if led by a mysterious influence, he sought the old terrace, where he had sat at Isabel’s feet the last day he had spent at the hall. His cousin was there. For a moment both were embarrassed. A woman on such occasions, is always the first to speak; and Isabel broke the spell by an allusion to their early days. Long then they conversed; for both their hearts were full. But neither spoke of love.
It was a golden evening, the very counterpart to the one he had last spent there, and when, for a few minutes both paused, it is not improbable that each reverted to that memorable occasion, and for awhile they gazed without speaking on the landscape. And mournful were Lorraine’s thoughts as he gazed. What was honor, or rank, or wealth to him, since they brought him not Isabel? But was her love then hopelessly lost to him? Alas! had not De Courtenay assured him of her continued affection; and would it not be even dishonorable to win that affection if he could? Yet might there not be hope? Such feelings, whirling through his mind, almost determined Lorraine, in the excitement of the moment, to fling himself at Isabel’s feet. Suddenly, however, two horsemen appeared in the distance, winding up the avenue of the park. Isabel and himself started simultaneously, and looked at each other. Could it be that both divined in the foremost of the riders the same individual?
A moment passed, when their ears were aroused by the rapid clattering of approaching hoofs, and looking down they beheld a couple of horsemen spring from their steeds. The eye of one of the riders happened to fall upon them, and he turned hastily in their direction. Surely it was not—yes! it was—De Courtenay. He dashed up the terrace with eager haste, and Isabel, forgetting, in her glad surprise, everything except that the lover she had not seen for years stood before her, rushed forward to meet him.
“Edward—Edward!” was all the agitated girl could utter, as she stooped to her half kneeling lover.
“Isabel—dearest Isabel, we meet at last,” passionately exclaimed De Courtenay, as he looked up, and clasped her in his arms.
Oh! who can tell the agony of Lorraine during that moment? Was it for this he had toiled; was it for this he had struggled; was it for this he had breasted the fierce assault? It was the last drop in his cup of bitterness. His heart was wrung with unutterable woe. He spoke no word, he breathed no sigh; but he gazed a moment sadly on the spectacle, and then noiselessly entered the apartment behind. When the lovers looked around he was gone.
That night a solitary traveller might be seen on the high road to London. He had just parted with another, who had pursued him hotly for several miles, and finally overtaken him. The two were Lorraine and De Courtenay. The latter, learning every thing from Isabel for the first time, had set out and overtaken his preserver, with the generous design to relinquish his mistress to the young knight. But Lorraine would not listen to him.
“No, no, you tempt me over much,” sadly said Lorraine, “for can you give me the love of Isabel? God bless you both. As for me, glory henceforth is my only mistress. Farewell!” and pressing his friend’s hand, he plunged his rowels into the flanks of his steed, and dashed on.
De Courtenay had followed Lorraine to England unexpectedly within twenty-four hours of the young knight’s departure, and, having hastily transacted his business in London, had hurried down to Deraine hall, and met Lorraine as we have described.
None of his house ever saw Lorraine again. He appeared in a few days in the camp, but within a week fell in an assault, the only man who had succeeded in mounting the breach. There he fought unsupported for several minutes, but finally sank pierced with a hundred wounds.
And long did Isabel and De Courtenay weep for the ill-fated page. And when the war was over, and they were married, often would they sit on that old terrace, and feel a melancholy pleasure in talking of Lorraine. Need we wonder that their eldest boy bore the name of Isabel’s unfortunate cousin? * * *
THE BRILLIANT NOR-WEST.
BY J. K. MITCHELL.
Let Araby boast of her soft spicy gale,
And Persia her breeze from the rose-scented vale;
Let orange-trees scatter in wildness their balm,
Where sweet summer islands lie fragrant and calm!
Give me the cold blast of my country again,
Careering o’er snow-cover’d mountain and plain,
And coming, though scentless, yet pure, to my breast,
With vigor and health from the cloudless Nor-West.
I languish where suns in the tropic sky glow,
And gem-studded waters on golden sands flow,
Where shrubs blossom-laden, bright birds, and sweet trees,
With odors and music encumber the breeze;
I languish to catch but a breathing of thee,
To hear thy wild winter-notes brilliant and free,
To feel thy cool touch on my heart-strings opprest,
And gather a tone from the bracing Nor-West.
Mists melt at thy coming, clouds flee from thy wrath,
The marsh and its vapors are seal’d on thy path,
For spotless and pure as the snow-covered North,
Their cold icy cradle, thy tempests come forth.
Thy blue robe is borrowed from clearest of skies,
Thy sandals were made where the driven snow lies,
And stars, seldom seen in this low world, are blest
To shine in thy coronet—brilliant Nor-West.
Health bounds to thy pathway, joy shouts in thy course,
The virtues of manhood thy breathings enforce;
The pure, and the fair, and the brave, and the free,
Are purer, and fairer, and braver, for thee;
As flames sweeping wildly o’er mountain and heath,
But burn the more fiercely the colder thy breath,
So glow, but more brightly for thee, in the breast,
The virtues of freedom—soul-stirring Nor-West.
Forever, forever, be thine, purest wind,
The lakes and the streams of my country to bind;
And oh, though afar I am fated to roam,
Still kindle the hearths, and the hearts of my home!
While blows from the Polar skies holy and pure,
Thy trumpet of freedom, the land shall endure,
As snow in thy pathway, and stars on thy crest,
Unsullied and beautiful—glorious Nor-West.
Philadelphia, March, 1841.
BY MRS. LAMBERT.
“I am gone sir, and anon
I’ll be with you again.”
Some years since I chanced to stop, during one of my summer rambles, in a pretty village, picturesquely situated in the county of F——d. I arrived about sun-set, and the quiet loveliness which appeared every where around, won me to the spot. A row of neat white houses, with pretty gardens in front, arose on each side of the way, for the distance of nearly half a mile. At this point the road branched off in different directions, and exactly on the centre of division stood the village church; a plain, unpretending edifice, whose slender spire rose high above the full tops of venerable elms and dark pendant willows that surrounded its peaceful walls.
A row of fine trees planted regularly at the road side, gave the appearance of an avenue to the village street, which viewed from its entrance, has an uncommonly pleasing effect, the eye ranging through the grass-bounded road, and the umbrageous arch which overshadows it, till the consecrated building terminates the vista.
The country immediately adjoining the village is divided into numerous enclosures, bearing marks of good cultivation; while pretty farm-houses are scattered in every direction, with woods, streams, rocks and groves, beautifying the landscape. A chain of hills, which might without the charge of an extraordinary degree of presumption, aspire to the name of mountains, bounds the view on the south-east—their undulating outline beautifully marked against the clear horizon. Through an opening of the range, a glimpse is caught of the deep blue waters of the sound—a sail just distinguished—diminished by distance to a mere speck, gives frequent interest, and adds to the magic of the scene.
Pleasing, however, as was the village, and abounding in objects most inviting to a lover of simple life, I determined not to make it my place of abode. Enquiring my way to a farm-house, of which I had some previous knowledge, I directed my steps thither. It was situated about a mile from the village, at the foot of a gentle slope, and adjoining a grove vocal in spring-time with the notes of almost innumerable birds.
The master of it was a plain farmer, but one of Heaven’s nobility, an honest man. He lived like one of the Patriarchs of old, surrounded by his descendants to the third generation. His still athletic form was unbent by age, although his venerable locks were whitened by the snows of seventy winters.
I was received with all the kindness I could wish. Every thing was done to make me comfortable, and cause me, as the phrase goes, to feel at home, and I did so.
The farm-house was a large, old building, abounding in long, low rooms, the ceilings of which were crossed by heavy beams, a century ago considered no defect in architectural embellishment—narrow windows, glazed with exceedingly small panes, carefully leaded—a fire-place built across one corner of the room, over the mantel-piece of which appeared a wooden clock, flanked on each side by a china figure, intending to represent, as I supposed, Flora and Pomona.
The former of these heathen beauties balanced her well-filled basket with sufficient gravity on a head none of the smallest—but her companion from the carelessness with which she held her cornucopia, suffered its treasures to escape with an indifference truly wonderful. A pair of pink-colored candles, rising from sockets garnished with curiously cut paper, finished the decorations of the fire-place.
My hostess was a little, fat, short, good-humored woman, and with her youngest daughter, the only one remaining unmarried, and a daughter-in-law, whose husband was absent in a distant part of the country, constituted those members of the family, with whom I had most frequent and social communication. There were, also, two or three large dogs, of prepossessing physiognomy, and urbane gentlemanly manners, with whom I soon found a sort of companionship.
But of all the oddities, animate or inanimate, with which I became acquainted during my visit to Redbury, I saw none that interested me more than an urchin who officiated in the family as a sort of boy of all work.
Short, stout, broad-shouldered as an infant Hercules, with a round, good-humored face, laughing grey eyes, and elf-locks tanned to a dead flaxey whiteness, by continual exposure to the sun and wind—“Our Bill,” for so he was constantly and familiarly denominated, was to be found every where, and equal to every imposed duty. He chopped wood, made the fires, fetched water, brought the cows, and helped the maids to milk them; went of all the errands, and did all the chores. When the farmer came in wearied from the field, “Our Bill” ran to the cellar and drew for his refreshment a mug of hard cider. If an extra hand was wanted in hay-time or harvest, it was only to send to the house for “Our Bill.” If a neighbor was at a loss for a messenger in any emergency—the first thought was to request of neighbor Dawkins the loan of “Bill.” In short, he was in demand for every thing, and I began to consider him ubiquitous.
The readiness with which he complied with every requisition, his unvarying good-humor and promptness to oblige, soon drew my attention and gained my approbation.
The first marked kindness which I received from him I well remember. I was sitting in the apartment allotted to my use, and taking my breakfast. The morning was dark, and it rained violently. I looked toward the windows with a sort of hopelessness of feeling, for I expected that letters were lying in the post-office in the village, from my friends in the city, and I knew not how to procure them. To be sure I might send “Our Bill,” but I had not the heart to do so.
While meditating thus, a gentle tap came to my door. I opened it, and who should appear but “Our Bill.” His garments were soaked and dripping with rain, which fell in rapid and discolored drops from numerous ragged points and edges. He held his tattered, crownless hat in one hand, while he extended to me in the other no less than three letters—three letters from dear friends in town—how dear, let friendship in absence determine.
I looked up at the windows involuntarily, as I broke the seal of one missive.
“Why William, (I never could bear to call him Bill,) you have been to the post-office—and through all the storm—I hope you did not go entirely on my account?”
“Yes, but I did though.”
“Why, my lad, I never would have sent you through such a tempest of wind and rain.”
“I know that. But I heard you say last night that you thought there were letters for you in the village, so I determined you should have ’em.”
“You are a kind boy, Will. Are you not cold? You had better go quickly and change your clothes.”
“Change my clothes, oh no—I don’t mind a wet jacket. I’ll make a fire up for you though, if you please,” and he looked at my vacant hearth.
“Do so,” said I, and while he was engaged I perused my letters. Their contents were satisfactory and pleasing, and I sat ruminating on the past, with no painful anticipations about the future, while the boy went on with his self-imposed employment.
“There,” exclaimed he, as a cheerful crackling flame blazed up the chimney, “I think you’ll do, now.”
“So do I, Willy, and here is something for your pains.” I handed him a small silver piece. He took it with a rustic bow, and looked at it with delight. His face, cheerful before, now grew bright with pleasure. Down he sat, sans cérémonie, upon the hearth, and diving his hand into some unimaginable recess about his person, brought to light a dingy-looking rag, which he untied. In it I beheld a few pieces of copper coin. He added to them the silver which I had given him, retied his little bag, thanked me again, and was about to leave the room. My voice arrested him.
“Why, Willy, you are quite rich; what are you going to do with so much money?”
The boy actually blushed and hung his head.
“I know,” he replied.
“I suppose you do,” said I, “my man, and may I not know too?” He was silent. “It will go to buy tops and marbles, I suppose,” I added.
“No it won’t,” he answered, with quickness.
“Perhaps you are saving it till you get enough to purchase a new hat, or a pair of shoes. If so, I think, you are doing very right.”
No answer, and at this moment Mrs. Dawkins calling him, he left the room.
This economy was a trait I little suspected in my young acquaintance. Most boys of his age expend the few pence which they casually acquire, in the purchase of apples, or nuts, or gingerbread, but I never saw “Our Bill” indulge in any luxuries of this sort. I, therefore, could only return to my first supposition, that he was hoarding up the means of buying a Sunday jacket, trowsers, shoes or hat. The chief things that I disapproved of, about the boy, were the indifference which he evinced as to his appearance, and his love of mischief. It is true he had not much time to devote to personal neatness; yet numerous as were his avocations, there was not a solitary scheme of mischief carried into effect within a mile of the village, in which Bill did not bear a part. If mammy Jennings’s orchard was to be thinned of its superfluous number of golden pippins—or cross-grained old Squire Grummand’s fine walnut tree laid under contribution—or the Deacon’s melon-patch to be examined by moonlight, I am sorry to say that “Our Bill” was sure to be an assistant, if not officiating as president of the board of directors. In short, he was a mischievous, but good-natured and obliging boy, that might by a little care exercised by some kind-hearted individual, be rendered a good and useful member of the community. But if neglected and suffered to grow up in idleness, or desultory employment, which is next akin to it, he stood a fair chance of falling into a career of dissipation, profligacy and vice.
I took an early opportunity of enquiring more particularly about this boy of Mrs. Dawkins: who gave me the following account. His parents, who were natives of the village, and poor, had married early in life. They were industrious—the man particularly so—and they were virtuous and honest. For some time after their marriage the world went hardly with them. An increase of family brought an increase of cares and want, with no additional means wherewith to answer them. James Lee (that was his name) became dejected—and Nancy unfortunately lost not her cheerfulness only, but her good temper: and although James worked hard from day to day, and gave her every penny of his earnings, to lay up or expend in supplying the wants of the family, as she chose; yet she was still peevish and dissatisfied. Harassed by his wife’s growing ill-temper, and threatened by all the evils attendant upon increasing poverty, James began to seek in company at the village tavern a temporary relief from care. This only made matters worse; Nancy instead of striving to make his home pleasant, and soothing his uneasiness, by bidding him hope for the best, always met him with tears and upbraidings.
Thus matters went on for some time, when one day as Mrs. Lee was about heating her oven for a baking of bread, she found that there was no oven wood cut. Her husband always prepared the wood for her in the nicest manner; but he had somehow or other forgotten to do so at this time. Instead of going quietly out to him where he sat at work in the little shop, opposite their house, (he was a shoemaker by trade) she began by angrily accusing him of negligence, and want of consideration for her comfort—with sundry reflections on the manner in which he had too frequently passed his hours of late, to the great detriment of both purse and credit. He heard all she had to say with exemplary patience; and when she had finished arose from his bench, and walked to the door.
“Are you going to get the oven-wood?” she asked.
“Yes, Anne,” he replied meekly, and walked away.
Mrs. Lee returned to her kitchen, and remained waiting for the wood till a good hour had elapsed. Out of all patience, she at last sent her daughter, a fine, stout lass, of ten years, to hurry her father, bidding her tell him her bread would be entirely ruined by waiting so long.
The girl went, but searched for her father in vain, returning to the house only to give an account of her ill success. The displeasure of her mother was again excited, and she sallied forth herself, fully determined on giving James a piece of her mind. But James was no where to be seen. The wood lay uncut. His shop was still open—the tools which he had been recently employing, lay on a bench beside that on which he had been sitting. In short, every thing remained just as he had left it one short hour before; but from that time to this, a period of seven years, James Lee has never been heard of.
“This is a surprising story,” said I, when the good dame had concluded, “what do people suppose became of Lee?”
“There’s no telling,” answered Mrs. Dawkins, “some say one thing and some another. Whether he left the country—or whether he made away with himself, there’s nobody knows—for my own part I think he was harassed out of his life by the odd temper of his good woman—but there’s no knowing—well, this here boy, that you’ve been asking about is her son. She has but two children left—Nancy, who is about seventeen, and ‘Our Bill.’ My husband took the boy, to keep him out of evil courses, and if he behaves himself, Mr. Dawkins will do well by him.”
“That is certainly very kind of your husband, and I hope the lad will reward him by industry and good conduct.”
“I hope so, too,” replied my hostess, “but Bill is rather too much inclined to mischief—yet he is a good boy, too, in many respects, and is very fond of his mother, whom he goes to see regularly.”
“What are her means of support?” I asked.
“Well—she has to work hard enough since the loss of her husband; and many a time I have seen her standing in the doorway, looking over at the little shop in which he used to sit at work, with her eyes brimful of tears. Ah, I guess it goes to her heart to think how roughly she used to speak to poor James. She takes in spinning and plain work, and sometimes goes out a nursing; and her daughter does a little at millinery, for she has a pretty taste about such matters; and so they make out a living.”
“Is the daughter industrious?” I asked.
“As industrious a girl as you would wish to see, and as handsome. She has a lover too; indeed a couple of them; but there her mother and she are at odds; for the one that Nancy likes is not favored by Mrs. Lee.”
“That is unfortunate; and what kind of a person is the young man preferred by Nancy?”
“Why, he is a likely lad—the blacksmith of our village. He has not much before hand to be sure, but is honest, good, and true.”
“And the other?”
“Oh, he is better off—quite rich. Keeps a store in the village, and makes a great dash. But for my own part I think Nancy’s choice is the best; for Josiah Goodwin is steady as a clock, while folks do say, that young Sturges, the shop-keeper, likes a small spree now and then.”
“If that is the case,” said I, “it is to be hoped that Nancy will remain firm in her determination to have nothing to do with him.”
“She has a sad time of it at any rate,” replied my informant. “Her mother keeps her close at home, and has ordered her never to see or speak to young Goodwin; who is so troubled about it, that he has closed his shop and left the village.”
“Really,” said I, “I am sorry for this poor girl, and I should like to pay a visit to Mrs. Lee.”
“That you may do this evening, if you please,” said Mrs. Dawkins, “my daughter is going to her house to carry some work.”
The circumstances of Mrs. Lee’s case as respected her husband, greatly interested me; my curiosity was awakened, and I agreed to accompany Lizzy Dawkins. At the hour appointed we set out together. After a pleasant walk through winding roads, and shady lanes, we arrived at the cottage of Mrs. Lee.
It was an humble abode, unmarked by any exterior improvement. One large sycamore grew in front, and threw a portion of its branches across the moss-grown roof. A rustic bench was placed at the foot of the tree. This had been done by James, in the earlier days of wedded love.
The door of the house stood partly open, and Lizzy, taking the privilege of an old acquaintance, entered without knocking. I followed. We walked into the kitchen, which large, clean and comfortable, served as a reception room. I must acknowledge that my first glance was directed toward the oven.
Nancy greeted us with a kindly welcome; but the first object that drew my attention was “Our Bill,” standing by the side of his mother, and emptying the contents of his dingy-looking purse into her lap. In seeing us enter he started, and looked as much confused as if he had been caught in some act of delinquency. A look from me gave him courage. I saw at once for what purpose the money had been saved, and from that moment determined that while I lived Bill should never want a friend.
After Lizzy had delivered the work which she had brought for her neighbor, the conversation fell upon different matters. Nancy, however, bore but a small part therein; she seemed absent and sad. A young female friend of hers came in, and she made an effort to appear more cheerful.
It was now the season when whortleberries were in their prime; and Bill was exceedingly anxious that a party should be formed for gathering them in the neighboring wood. Nancy’s young friend joined warmly in the project. Lizzy Dawkins was pleased with the arrangement. I agreed to make one of the number. Nancy evinced small interest in the matter, though she agreed to go with us if her mother was willing: and as the good dame was relieved from her apprehensions on the score of Goodwin, since she had learned that he had left the village, she gave her assent. The following day was fixed upon for our little excursion; and as the weather proved fine, we accordingly went.
The wood was not far distant from the house of Mrs. Lee. It was wild, shady, and beautiful: the resort of the squirrel and the rabbit—gay with innumerable wild-flowers, and vocal with the sweet music of its feathered denizens. Numerous openings amid the thickets disclosed irregular knolls, covered with the shrubby bushes which now hung full of the purple berry of which we came in search, and whose abundance in many past years had given to this rural spot the name of Whortleberry, or in village nomenclature, Huckle-berry wood. We soon met with two or three other parties on the same errand with ourselves: some acquaintances of Lizzy and Nancy were among them: we united our forces, filled our baskets with berries, and chatted and laughed the hours away.
It was about noon, when, tired and rather hungry, we concluded to seek for a shady spot where we might rest, and partake of the refreshment with which we had taken the precaution to provide ourselves. Bill, who had acted the part of master of the ceremonies during the whole of the day, now preceded us, boasting aloud of his superior skill in discovering a cool and pleasant spot for the purpose we desired. After a few turns among the bushes and underwood, we suddenly emerged upon the borders of a broad and rapid brook, which was murmuring its way most delightfully among the reeds and wild-flowers that graced its margin. And here we were at a stand. To arrive at the spot designated by our young conductor, and represented by him as the best in the wood, it was necessary that we should cross the stream; but how to do so was the question. Bill suggested the placing a few large stones in the bed of the river, by means of which we might easily step across. This was accordingly done; and Bill, taking his sister by the hand, preceded the rest of the party, who paused while they marked the progress of the adventurers across their unsteady footway. As soon as they touched the opposite margin, a loud shout from Bill electrified us. “A rattle-snake! a rattle-snake! run—run for your lives!” and forgetful of the courage which I had hitherto seen him assume on almost every occasion, Bill dragged his terrified sister up the rough bank, and disappeared with her in the thick groves beyond.
The cry had affrighted all. Each one ran in a different direction from his fellow, and each thought the rattle-snake close at his heels. The panic could scarcely have been greater had a boa-constrictor appeared wreathing its voluminous folds among the branches of the beech, walnut, and oak, that rustled above our heads. It was sorrowful to see the labors of the morning scattered in a moment, for many of the well-filled baskets, overturned by their respective owners in the precipitation of their flight, poured their purple treasure among moss, lichens, and fern-blossoms.
Meanwhile, I looked in vain for the reptile which had caused this alarm, and finding myself left entirely alone, I concluded to follow the footsteps of the valorous William and his gentle sister. Crossing the stream, and clambering the bank on the opposite side, I found myself in a charming grove of tall young trees of rapid growth.
All was still, save the whistle of the robin, or the solitary call of the cat-bird. I wandered along, almost forgetful of the cause which brought me hither, when at the entrance of a thicket of young hazels, seated at the end of a fallen tree, and leisurely employed in stripping the bark from a sapling branch, which he seemed desirous of forming into something resembling a walking stick, I discovered “Our Bill.”
Surprised at the quiet in which I beheld him, contrasted as it was with his late trepidation and alarm, I immediately accosted him with enquiries after his sister.
“She isn’t far, I guess.”
“Do you know where she is?”
“I wish to see her.”
“Well—stop a bit.”
“I want to know if she is not hurt?”
“Hurt?—what should hurt her?”
“The snake, perhaps.”
The boy grinned archly.
“Bill,” said I, “what has become of that snake, think you?”
“I’m sure I don’t know.”
“Do you think there really was any there?”
“I’m sartain I cannot tell.”
“Well,” said I, advancing, “I shall continue my search till I find Nancy.”
The boy started up, and putting his fingers to his mouth, blew a shrill whistle. I looked at him, in order to discover, if I could, the end and aim of this new fantasy. A rustle among the bushes at a little distance was heard. I turned my eyes in the direction of the sound. There was Nancy, and by her side, one of his arms encircling her waist, stood as fine and good-looking a country youth as one would wish to see.
They were about parting,—a few more last words—a kiss and then farewell. Nancy came tripping toward the spot where she had left her brother, but on seeing me stopped and looked confused. I hastened to re-assure her; and quickly retracing our steps to the brook-side as a sort of rendezvous, we soon were joined by our companions. So much for the strategy of “Our Bill.”
Gathering up our fruit as well as we were able, we pursued our way through the mazes of “Huckle-berry” wood. Bill who had been for some time in advance of our party, now came running toward us announcing our near approach to the house of Betty Nares the fortune-teller. “The fortune-teller—the fortune-teller” was echoed from lip to lip. And, “who will have their fortune told?” was asked of each, by the other.
And now we came in sight of Betty’s dwelling. A lowly roof it literally was; for a person would scarcely be able to stand upright except in the midst of the only apartment which it contained, so lowly and sloping was the roof,—so covered with moss and lichens, that it resembled a green hillock surrounded by trees. The interior was such as might have been expected from its outward appearance. An earthen floor; a stool with three legs; an empty barrel, the elastic end of which answered the purposes of a table; a glazed earthen pipkin; a bowl or two; a wooden platter and spoon, completed the number and variety of Betty’s furniture and culinary utensils. A bundle of something indescribable—rolled up in one corner, was supposed to be the couch on which this modern sybil reposed her wearied limbs. A heap of stones formed the fire-place—and an aperture in the roof answered the purpose of a chimney in so far as a portion of the smoke occasionally made its escape thereat.
We found the mistress of this inviting retreat seated beside a few dying embers, over which she extended her withered hand, seeking to animate their torpidity by artificial heat. On seeing us she rose, and presented to our view a veritable hag-like face and form. Her garments were tattered, her shoes decayed, and her grey locks imperfectly covered by a dilapidated bonnet. She saluted us in a shrill voice, and, in no very gentle terms, demanded to know our business.
As this was a question we were not altogether prepared to answer, each looked at his neighbor, desirous that he or she should expound. Betty, finding us silent, and growing rather impatient, commenced an objurgation in a high key, accompanied by a few ominous flourishes with a stunted broom which she snatched from a corner near her fire-place. At this moment Bill stepped up to her, and in a low voice made some communication which had the effect of mollifying her at once.
“Do you wish to have your fortunes told, gentlemen and ladies?” said she, addressing us with an attempt at looking gracious. One of the village girls presented her a small piece of money, while Betty, from some private nook, brought out a terribly soiled pack of cards, the corners worn by constant attrition, and the edges blackened by frequent devotion to the service of the curious in the prescient art.
It was amusing to see the interest displayed. The cards were cut and divided. Attention became fixed. The fair enquirer into the mysteries of the future, placed before this modern oracle, looked pale and red by turns. And now we were informed of a strange man who would soon arrive and bring good news to a certain family not many miles off. And of a dark-haired woman who was a friend, and of a light-haired woman who was an enemy, to the young enquirer. How a journey would be made to a distant land, and how somebody of fair complexion and immense wealth was to come over the water and offer himself a candidate for her fair hand. There were letters to be expected without number, and presents to be sent without name. At each separate piece of intelligence sly looks were exchanged among the circle; meaning smiles, and conscious glances. “How wonderfully true!” “Surprising!” “How she could have known such or such a circumstance, it was hard to tell, but so it was. She seemed to know every thing.”
Nancy Lee could not be prevailed upon to enquire into the circumstances of her future lot, and by such neglect considerably displeased Betty; and to pacify her, Bill invited her to his mother’s house the following evening. To which arrangement she at last graciously consented.
We all returned home cheerful and happy; well pleased with our day’s excursion.
The following evening I walked out to see Mrs. Lee, curious I must own, to learn the proceedings of Betty Nares in persuading Nancy to have her fortune told.
I found Mrs. Lee as usual in her neat kitchen. She was sitting quietly there, for the business of the day was finished, and that of the evening, which consisted generally of knitting or spinning, was not yet begun. Nancy was sitting on a low stool by the side of her mother, and I thought she looked as if she had been weeping. The milk pans had been placed away, filled with their simple treasure. The chairs stood aside, the hearth was swept up, and all things looked the very abode of quiet.
The last beams of the setting sun shone through the open door, and threw a soft purple tint across the humble apartment, which was reflected by a row of brightly burnished tin pans—proofs of the industry and neatness of Nancy—which decorated the opposite wall—and—just as the last tints faded away, a cricket from some crevice in the rural hearth-stone commenced tuning his “tiny reed.”—It was the hour of peace.
Mrs. Lee began to wonder why her son had not returned. He had been absent she said, for two hours in “Huckle-berry” wood. She wished with all her heart that the season of gathering berries was over. She dreaded every day when farmer Dawkins would get out of patience with his idling, and send him home.
While she was speaking the window became darkened by some opaque body, and on looking up we recognised the head of Betty Nares. Directly the fortune-teller entered, and took a seat near the fire-place.
And now Bill came in. “Well,” he exclaimed on seeing Betty, “I’m glad you are here. Now mother do just let her tell Nancy’s fortune. She told a power of things to Lucy Harroby and Kitty Dixon, and all of ’em came true—now do, mother.”
“Don’t be a simpleton, Bill. I have no faith in such stuff.”
I looked at Nancy—she smiled faintly but said nothing.
“You don’t believe me,” said the sybil—“you won’t believe me I suppose, if I tell you that you yourself are soon to be married?” I must confess that I thought this a bold and daring assertion of Betty, and calculated to strike at the root of all her hopes of success: as Mrs. Lee was known to be scrupulously correct and reserved in her deportment, most particularly since the mysterious departure of her husband. As I expected, Betty received a look of disdain.
“You need not look so scornful, Mrs. Lee,” said Betty, “what I tell you is true, and you can’t get aside of it. And I’ll tell you more. The man you want your daughter to marry, is going to meet with a great deal of trouble in his worldly matters,—and the one you don’t wish her to have is likely to be a rich man—and more—the day you give your consent that Nancy shall marry Goodwin, a stranger from across the water will come here, and give her a dowry that shall set them both well a going in the world.”
Mrs. Lee in great displeasure asked Betty if she really supposed “that she had lost her senses, that she should for one minute be induced to credit such idle trash.” Betty however, kept her ground, and repeated her opinions with a tenacity that surprised me. Bill still continued to entreat. Nancy hid her face in her hands, and burst into tears. Mrs. Lee scolded, and Betty solemnly shaking her head, declared she “had her knowledge from one who would not lie.”
Feeling my presence, in the existing circumstances, rather an incumbrance, I rose to take leave. This I did, just as Bill was blowing a coal in order to light a candle, and Betty was beginning to shuffle her cards.
Some particular business of my own, prevented me for a few days from inquiring into the civil and domestic relations of the House of Lee. I saw however, that my friend Bill was still in action. Indeed he seemed more busy than ever. How the boy sustained such a constant course of riding and running, of chopping and lugging, of cattle-driving and hog-feeding, with numerous other et ceteras, all generally terminating—of late—in an excursion to “Huckle-berry” wood, I could scarcely imagine.
Wishing one morning to speak to my hostess, I went to the kitchen; secure of finding her there,—that being the seat of empire, with a good New-England house-wife. For once, however, I was disappointed; but there sat Bill. Returned from some nameless excursion, he was eating a late breakfast. It was rather picturesque. His naked feet, stained by the soil through which he had lately plodded, were raised upon the cross piece of his chair—his knees appearing through two very unnecessary apertures in his nether garment—his ragged hat lying on the floor at his feet, and two large house-dogs seated on the ground—one on each side, watching with eager interest each morsel that he conveyed to his lips.
I have said that I was somewhat anxious on the score of Bill’s health; but when I saw the devotion with which he applied himself to his hashed pork and potatoes, and the complacency with which from time to time he eyed a smoking dish of pumpkin-pudding which stood close at his elbow, waiting his acceptance, I comforted myself with the belief that the means and appliances with which he strengthened his inward man, would abundantly enable him to sustain the labors which heaven had allotted to his share.
We had long been the best of friends, and perfectly understood each other. He looked up at me with his laughing grey eyes.
“Our Nance is going to be married.”
“You don’t say so—Bill, are you in earnest?”
Bill nodded, for by this time his mouth was again full, and he could not speak. He took a draught of cider from the great brown jug on the table. “Yes, it’s true enough.”
“And to whom is she to be married?”
“Bless me, what could have brought about such a change?”
“How has it all happened, Bill?”
“Why Betty Nares told Mother it was to be; so how could she hinder it?”
“Ah, very true. Well, when is the wedding to take place?”
“To-morrow evening—won’t you come?”
“Do,—we shall have a main sight of pumpkin pies; mother says it will be like a training day.”
Was it possible that the artful and ignorant Betty had succeeded in imposing upon the plain good sense of Mrs. Lee? I was sure there must be more in it than at first sight appeared. However, I determined to be at the wedding. On enquiry, I found that the Dawkinses were invited, and also that they were as much surprised at the turn affairs had taken as myself.
The next evening we all repaired to the house of Mrs. Lee. On entering her little parlor, we found a few of the neighbors assembled. Nancy sat near a window, and beside her one whom I supposed to be the bridegroom. I thought that I recognised in him the same young man whom I had seen with her in Huckle-berry wood. My doubts, if I had any remaining, would soon have been dissipated by her brother, who walking up to me, and looking expressively in my face, and putting two of his fingers to his mouth, produced in a subdued tone a sound resembling the hissing of a snake. The whole truth flashed upon me at once.
The exterior of Bill himself was greatly improved, dressed as he was for the occasion, in a good suit of home-spun cloth, his feet covered with a decent pair of leather shoes, and his flaxen hair combed smoothly over his forehead, cut short and even all round, with the exception of two pendant locks, left as a partial covering to his ears.
Every thing was now in readiness, and we waited only for the clergyman who had been sent for to perform the marriage ceremony.
A knock came to the door. Bill flew to open it.—“Here he is.” “That’s he”—was whispered around—“No, not yet.”—
A fidgetty restlessness took possession of the party. Steps were heard outside. The door again opened, and Bill appeared preceding a stranger. He was dressed like a plain countryman, of good-looking face and appearance, and he bore in his arms a rather unusual burthen, supposing him to be a traveller. He advanced into the middle of the room. Mrs. Lee rose from her seat and stared at him wildly. The stranger extended his hand to her smiling. “Nancy,” said he, “I’ve brought in the oven-wood.”
The poor woman gave one shriek and fell on the floor. Down went the wood on the hearth, and the stranger flew to her assistance. Slowly she regained her senses, and when she did so, she threw herself in the arms of the new comer and wept aloud. We all crowded around, eager for an explanation. It was soon given. James Lee, distressed by poverty, and worn by the fretful temper of his wife, had, on the memorable morning of his disappearance—on the impulse of the moment, resolved to quit his home and seek his fortune in a foreign clime. For this act, his only apology was the bitterness of despair. He sought the nearest port, and embarked as a common sailor on board a vessel about sailing to the West-Indies. Changing his name that he might not be traced, he made himself useful, and became a favorite with his captain: was generally esteemed, and by degrees enabled to traffic a little on his own account. He had made many voyages and been unusually successful. He had acquired a snug competence with which he now returned, for the purpose of enjoying it in the bosom of his family. As he approached his home, the recollection of the manner in which he had left it suddenly occurred to him, and when Bill opened the door, the thought struck him that he would go to the wood-pile, fill his arms with wood, and thus bring to his wife’s mind, for the joke’s sake, the remembrance of their parting scene, seven years before.
When he had concluded, and we had offered our congratulations on this happy event, a shrill voice was heard to exclaim,
“Didn’t I tell you so—didn’t I say you were going to be married, Miss Lee—hasn’t everything I said come to pass—didn’t I tell you?”—
“Yes, yes,” said Mrs. Lee, smiling, “you told me, as you tell others of things to happen which you take good care to find out before-hand.” Betty looked rather blank when she found that no credit was allowed her for her skill in prescience, more especially as “Our Bill” in the pride and fullness of his heart unfolded the secret of his numerous expeditions to the wood. Here at Goodwin’s farm which was in the immediate neighborhood, Lee had remained for a few days till the harmless plot which he laid in conjunction with the young man was ripe for development, and his wife had given her consent to his daughter’s marriage with “Siah.” It is scarcely necessary to say that Bill had met and recognised his father—been made privy to his and Goodwin’s scheme, and in short, been active agent in the whole affair.
Several years have passed since that period. William Lee has grown to man’s estate. He is married and has a snug little home of his own. He is a carpenter by trade, and fills a respectable station in the community of which he is a member.
For my own part, I love to think over the past, for many a pleasing idea is connected with the reminiscences of “Huckle-berry” wood, and “Our Bill.”
A SLIGHTED WOMAN.
BY THE AUTHOR OF “HOWARD PINCKNEY.”
And Helen, not neglectful she
Of her proud sex’s dignity,
If, in the mazes of the dance,
Perchance she met her loved of all,
You’d think that nothing met her glance
Between her and the wall,
Her eye around is thrown so free,
Her laugh rings out so merrily:
How soon a slighted woman learns
To hide that pang, however deep,
Though in her tortured heart it burns,
Her bosom-thoughts seem all asleep:
You’d think that peace was resting there,
With her light shawl upon her breast,
That exercise and healthy air,
And day-dreams that be wondrous fair,
With hopes that sweetest fruitage bear
Had caused the slight unrest:
Know you that her young heart bleeds—
That in this laughing mood.
The Pelican of Passion feeds
Her ever hungry brood—
The two extremes approach we know
And therefore often laughs our woe;
Hers tells, that laugh which rung so loud,
Of withered hopes within their shroud.
BY REV. J. KENNADAY.
“Why don’t you hurry, woman? Sure it is no wonder that the child sleeps in your arms. And yourself will be asleep next, if you walk at this creeping rate.”
“Be patient, William. You know that the mountain is steep; the child is heavy; and it’s but little strength I have, any way.”
This was part of a dialogue I chanced to hear, while passing the parties, who were clambering up one of the most rugged roads in the Catskill mountains; a road so steep indeed, that my horse puffed at every step, and the saddle creaked beneath me as I grasped the pummel.
The man was some twelve or fifteen feet in advance of the woman, and at the sound of my horse’s feet, paused till I passed, when he turned the hasty glance of his eye from me, in a heavy frown upon her whom he upbraided. A light breath of wind touching the hood, together with the effort of the woman to step aside from the road till I passed, laid open the face of the sleeping child, and gave evidence, in the fullness of its face, of the weight of its frame, and of health, derived almost at the expense of the one upon whose bosom it reposed.
Possessing an enormous and hardy frame, the man trode the mountain path almost with the step of an elephant, and appeared to require nothing but a palanquin upon his huge shoulders to enable him to carry both the mother and the babe. The woman was of small and delicate form. Her face was round and very fair, over which was cast the mildness of a bright but modest eye. Although her age was about thirty, she appeared at least fifteen years younger than her husband.
A bend in the road, and the rapid walk of my horse, soon led me so far in advance, that I ceased farther to hear a dialogue which, as far as it was heard, intimated the unfeeling character of the one, and satisfied me that the other had ample opportunity to manifest her piety in the perfect working of her patience.
In the progress of another mile of the ascending road, I came to a pass, where, in a close of about half an acre of level land, there stood a little hut, immediately on the side of the road. The building was formed of large unhewn logs, interlaid with clay. The door, swinging upon hinges made of the soles of worn-out shoes, being partially open, disclosed the scanty and mutilated furniture within. There was only one window, consisting of a slender sash, designed for four small panes of glass, but in which only two remained.
Notwithstanding the poverty indicated in the appearance of every thing presented to my view, there was a general neatness with which I was forcibly struck. A thrifty honey-suckle climbed up the little hut, and the garden was much enlivened by a variety of lovely flowers. I know not how correct the criterion may be found by others, but my observations have long since confirmed me in the accuracy of the inference that, however humble or elegant a country dwelling-house may be, wherever there is a choice collection of flowers in the garden, there is usually taste and cleanliness within the dwelling. The approach of a little boy and girl to the door of this humble hut, with coarse but well mended apparel, and the sedate and polite manner in which they expressed their obeisance as I passed, satisfied me that the mistress of this cot possessed feelings worthy of a better home. The manners of the children were the more perceptible, as they could not have been acquired at school, in as much as in this section of the mountains, schools are seldom heard of. I knew of but one school-house within a distance of three miles from these children, and that was open only during three months of the year, and when those who attended must wade through highland snows.
Another mile brought me to my place of destination, the glass-works, consisting of a low, spacious, sombre frame building, standing in a field, every where studded with the most formidable stumps of the hemlock, a tree the most common in these mountains, and the most majestic in its growth. With a trunk measuring from five to eight feet in diameter, and rising more than a hundred feet high, this tree seems the fitting plumage of the mountain it adorns. Scattered at various distances from the glass factory were a few buildings, which, from their dilapidated appearance, evidenced that their inmates would never suffer persecution for belonging to a suspected aristocracy. Perhaps, however, I ought to except one building which stood in palace-like contrast with the rest, and adjoined the “factory-store.” This was the mansion of my friend, Dr. ——, physician, agent of the glass-works, justice of the peace, keeper of the store, and frequently member of the Legislature.
Here, with as much authority as is sometimes possessed by a continental prince, the Doctor resided, enjoying the character of a “people’s-man.” Strange as it might appear, yet it is certain that the glass-blowers and wood choppers seldom remove from under his “agency,” without having a balance against them on the Doctor’s book, either for rent, medical attendance, justice, groceries or gin. He, it is true, got rich, yet no one ventured to question his integrity, or to doubt his protection of the poor.
It was not until the following day that I was able to gratify my curiosity by going into the factory. The blower, at the furnace nearest to which I stood, soon gave his instrument to another, and kindly tendered his services to accompany me through the works, and to give me the information respecting the process of glass-blowing, of which I was in quest. We had passed only one or two men before I perceived, at one of the furnaces, the man whom I passed in ascending the mountain.
“Who is that man?” said I, to my guide.
“That is Bill Hunter,” said he, “and a great bear he is.”
“Then you know him well?”
“I’ faith I do,” said the man, whose broad dialect had shown before this that he was an Englishman. “I have known him this many a year. A fine woman is she, his wife, but a dog’s life it is, she has with him.”
“He drinks, I suspect.”
“Yes, he does; but he’s a bad man when sober; and it was a dark day for her when she left her father’s house for such a dolt as Hunter.”
“Then you know something of their history, I presume. Did you know her father?”
“What, John Shaw of Spittlefields! indeed I knew him well, and it’s all good I know of him. Sure, a better man there never lived.”
“My curiosity is quite awake my friend,” said I, “and you will greatly gratify me by giving me a little of their history.”
“Oh! but it is a sorry history for her, poor woman,” said he. “Do you see, then, her father was a wealthy manufacturer, and much thought on. When Margaret was about fourteen years of age, he took this same Hunter into his factory and store to be a kind of porter or runner. For the purpose of aiding in family errands, he boarded in Mr. Shaw’s house. At the end of a year, the father discovered that Margaret treated Hunter’s addresses with favor, and in disgust and chagrin dismissed him from his employ; not because he was poor, but that he was so ould. We, who knew him, thought it was strange that the poor wench could think any thing of such a surly, selfish fellow. But then he was good-looking, and as slender as ye. It was not long before the whole town was in a stir, when it was said that Shaw’s Margaret had gone to the States with Hunter. Sure enough, it was true; for it was found out that under pretended names they had sailed from Liverpool for Philadelphia. The vessel, however, went into Wilmington, in the state of Delaware, where they were married and went into the country, and found employment in a factory. He was ever a low fellow and a fool, was Mr. Shaw, for admitting him under his roof. About three years since, he came to this place poor enough. For Margaret’s sake, poor girl, whom I knew when the whole town was proud of her, I gave him an insight into this business. He scratches a scanty living, having five children, and lives in the hut that you passed down the mountain a piece. He is but a brute to her, who shares a hard life on it, poor thing; and must ever repent leaving a father’s house for one so unworthy of her.”
With this simple narrative I was much interested, and not the less so because it was to me an additional evidence of what I had often thought to be the case, that in the humbler walks of life, and in some of the scenes, of poverty and suffering, there are those often who spend years of pain in weeping over the inadvertence of the hour in which their affections were misplaced.
BY MRS. M. S. B. DANA.
And strangers gazed and wondered at the sight.
Round that lone being glowed a hallowed light;
Upon her pale, thin face a heaven-born smile
Played like a sunbeam on some lonely isle.
Yet plaintive were her tones in speech or song,
Like the low moaning winds the trees among,
And you could see her tender heart was riven,
And all the love she had, she gave to Heaven,
Oft, when the god of day had sunk to rest,
And sunlight lingered in the rosy west,
Still would she wander forth, with noiseless tread,
And, by a secret influence spirit-led,
Seek the same spot to which her steps would stray
With those she loved—but now, oh! where are they?
A SKETCH FROM REAL LIFE.
BY MRS. E. C. EMBURY.
“Warriors and statesmen have their meed of praise,
And what they do or suffer men record;
But the long sacrifice of woman’s days
Passes without a thought—without a word;
And many a holy struggle for the sake
Of duties sternly, faithfully fulfilled—
For which the anxious mind must watch and wake,
And the strong feelings of the heart be stilled,—
Goes by unheeded as the summer wind,
And leaves no memory and no trace behind!”
“Do you believe, cousin Grace, that the world is as disinterested as it was in the days of the ‘preux chevaliers, sans peur et sans reproche?’ ”
“I do, Frank; and even though you quote the great Edmund Burke, you will not convince me that the days of chivalry are gone! The days of knight-errantry are passed away, and well is it for society that they are so, but there is as much of the true chivalric spirit now existing as was to be found in the time of Richard of the Lion Heart.”
“Do you really believe this, Grace?”
“Let me retaliate by another question, cousin Frank; do you believe that all the knights and squires of olden time were inspired purely by a noble desire to win fame and redress wrongs? Did not avarice, ambition, selfish gratification, and love of wild excitement mingle their elements then, even as they do now, in the mass of human feeling?”
“Undoubtedly the grosser passions were often commingled with the better qualities of man’s nature; selfishness existed, but was not then so widely diffused.”
“There we differ, Frank; the selfishness of modern times certainly shows itself in less fearful shapes.”
“Because society has been compelled to make laws to protect itself against those who would sacrifice all things to their own will; ‘might no longer makes right,’ and therefore the selfishness of human nature is shown less in high-handed spoliations than in secret machinations.”
“Well, Frank, that there is enough, aye, and to spare of selfishness on earth I do not mean to dispute; but I still adhere to my first assertion that there is no lack of the true chivalric spirit.”
“And pray how does it exhibit its qualities in this very dull and prosaic world?”
“Disinterestedness, self-devotion, purity of intention, integrity of principle, delicacy of sentiment, a high-toned sense of honor, and indomitable courage—these are the essential qualities of a chivalric character; and surely, Frank, there is no want of arenas in which to exercise these virtues.”
“You will find few knights ready to enter the lists if such are the requisites, cousin Grace.”
“I hope you are mistaken in your estimate of men, Frank; I have a better opinion of your sex than to adopt your ideas. But if it be as you say, if selfishness be so active a principle among men, then have the virtues taken up their abode in the hearts of women.”
“Do they possess the chivalric spirit, Grace?—courage and all?”
“You need not laugh, I can prove what I say.”
“No, no, Grace, I am willing to allow your sex all superiority in goodness and purity of feeling, but the virtues of women are of a passive nature,—they have fortitude to suffer, patience to endure, but rarely energy to act. Men make sacrifices—women suffer them.”
“How little you know of the sex when you make such an assertion, Frank. A woman’s sacrifices are of daily and hourly occurrence; she lives but to minister to others, and to forget herself. If her courage is of a more passive nature it is because her sphere of action is very properly limited. She is not called to stem the tide of battle, or to face death in warrior’s array; but is it nothing to look calmly upon the king of terrors in the chamber of pestilence—to wait for his fatal blow, with placid fortitude, when assailed by sudden peril—to gaze, unmoved, upon the weltering wave—or to perish with unquailing courage amid flames and tortures? Yet all this has been done by women. Awaken but a woman’s feelings, arouse the hidden strength of her affections, and earth holds not a peril which she will not brave.”
“You are eloquent, cousin Grace, but you scarcely make out your own case; according to your own evidence woman must have a personal motive for action; her strength of character must be called forth by some individual affection, or to use a less gentle term, by some selfish impulse.”
“According to your way of viewing character, then, Frank, the noblest impulses of our nature arise from selfishness.”
“I should like to hear you draw a parallel between the sexes, cousin Grace; you seem to be so impartial—to concede so much goodness to man’s fallen nature, while you exalt so highly the weaker sex, that I am a little curious to know how you would distinguish them.”
“You would probably only dispute my positions, and make a jest of my distinctions, Frank.”
“I will promise to do neither, Grace.”
“Well, then listen to the opinions of one who is content with the dispensations of Providence, and who believes that the finger of God himself has marked out the line which separates the impulses, the habits, the character of the two sexes:—Man has vigor—woman refinement: man has the reasoning faculty best developed—woman the perceptive: man has the power of abstraction—woman rarely possesses it: man is the creature of calculation—woman of impulse: man is capable of deep research, he proceeds slowly and cautiously, measuring every distance, and counting every step of his progress—woman bounds along with rapid foot, observing the most prominent objects in her path, and from them forms conclusions often erroneous, but always ingenious. The intellectual faculty in man is usually concentrated—in woman it is diffused: men of genius commonly devote themselves to some one favorite pursuit—women of genius are remarkable for their versatility. Man has the more correct judgment—woman the more correct feelings. He has a knowledge of right which he often forgets—she a consciousness of it which never forsakes her, even in the midst of crime: man possesses the stronger passions—woman the stronger affections: man has boldness—woman fortitude: man can perform heroic deeds—woman can endure the extreme of suffering: man has the more physical daring—woman the more moral courage: man controls others by the force of his character—woman influences by the gentleness of hers. In a word, my dear Frank, the relative position of the sexes is fixed beyond all change; their respective duties are well defined. Man has been given the weapons of moral and mental warfare, that he may go out into the world, and do battle with and for his fellows—while on woman is bestowed that skill in moral and mental culture which enables her to improve the field of duty at home.”
“Very clearly defined, cousin Grace; so then you do not agree in opinion with those who are for enlarging the boundaries of woman’s domain, and would fain make her a gladiator in the arena, instead of a spectator in the amphitheatre of action.”
“That women have some wrongs to be redressed is an undoubted fact, but I am no friend to this new warfare for the ‘rights of women;’ let the sex only do their duty at home to parents, brothers, husbands, or friends, and they will have little cause to repine that the forum, the pulpit, or the poll is closed against them. But I have not forgotten your innuendoes respecting the selfishness of women, Frank, and I should like to tell you a story which will convince you of how much self-devotion a woman may be capable, even when the strongest passions of her nature are to be subdued.
“Fanny Wilbank was one of those patient, long suffering creatures, who seem sent into the world to fulfil the command, ‘Bear ye one another’s burdens,’ for from her very childhood she had borne the burdens of the whole family. Her father, one of those good-hearted, thoughtless prodigals, who, in their readiness to help other people, are apt to forget their own interests, had been all his life unfortunate. Nothing seemed to succeed in his hands—the most promising business was sure to fail if he undertook it, and as his family increased his means diminished, until they were reduced to the utmost straits to preserve that respectability of station in which they were born and bred. Fanny was the eldest of the family, and of course upon her devolved the duty of assisting her sickly mother in the care of the children, and the management of their household. Here was a wide field for the exercise of self-denial and patience. A weary lot is that of hopeless poverty, when it relies on charity alone for food and warmth and raiment; but wearier still is the lot of those, who, amid privation and want, still struggle to keep themselves from the deep abyss of beggary, and strive with decent pride still to retain their foothold in a world which too often confounds misfortune with disgrace. It was amid cares, and troubles, and anxieties of every kind that Fanny Wilbank grew up to womanhood. To say that she was beautiful would convey but little idea of the gentleness, the delicacy, the loveliness of her countenance. I might describe her soft black eyes, her full bright lips, the jetty blackness of her luxuriant tresses, the grace of her slender form, and the elastic spring of her bounding step, but it would need the painter’s art to image the tender sweetness of her expression. Her face was such as one might fancy for a Madonna—pale, pensive and full of high-souled thought; but Fanny knew little of her beauty and cared less. Had she possessed the talisman of wealth she might have been the artist’s model and the poet’s theme; but the spell of beauty alone is powerless to unlock the treasures of earth, and Fanny was too poor to behold her own charms in the magic mirror of flattery. Indeed she never seemed to think of herself; she managed for every body, ministered to the comfort of every body, and took her share of enjoyment in beholding the gratification of others. But it must not be supposed that her beauty and goodness were unknown and unappreciated. Several unexceptionable offers of marriage were made to her—offers, which if accepted, would have placed her far beyond the reach of want and labor—but Fanny was not to be influenced by sordid motives in so momentous a matter, and resisting all the temptations of a life of ease, still preserved her quiet cheerfulness to illumine the home of her childhood.
“Her hour of severer trial, however, came at last. Among the few companions of her childhood was a youth of humble fortunes but of noble character, whose name I shall conceal under that of William Grey. Their regard for each other had grown up so gradually in their hearts, probably neither was aware of its strength, until the time when William was to go out into the world and strive amid his fellows to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. The grief which each felt at this separation, revealed the nature of their feelings, and Fanny wondered at herself when she found how closely her love for a stranger had entwined itself with the affections which she had hitherto devoted to the claims of kindred. But they plighted faith to each other, and looking forward to a future of mutual love and quiet happiness, William obeyed the call of duty, while the gentle Fanny continued to pursue her routine of heavy cares with a cheerful and hopeful spirit.
“After an absence of two years, William full of eager anticipation returned to claim the fulfilment of her pledge, and to bear her to a humble home in another part of the country. Fanny’s heart misgave her sadly, when she looked on her pale mother and thought of the burden which would fall upon her when she was gone. She half repented of her promise to William, dearly as she loved him, for she had so long been accustomed to think of the comfort of others, in preference to her own, that self gratification seemed to her almost a sin. But her scruples were soon put to rest, for her parents, unwilling to make any sacrifices on their part for their self-denying child, positively refused to listen to her lover’s suit. Nay, they even accused Fanny of selfishness, and made out a charge of black ingratitude against her, for wishing to leave them. With the usual impatience of man’s temper, William was deeply incensed at such treatment, and endeavored to persuade Fanny to a clandestine marriage. Her answer to his proposal was one which might be remembered with profit by those who rush heedlessly to the altar, even when their path lies over the crushed hearts of those who watched their helpless infancy.
“ ‘How could I hope to perform my duties to you, William,’ said she, ‘if I came to you with the curse of a broken commandment clinging to me? Think you a disobedient child could prove a good wife? No, dearly as you now love me, you would be the first to doubt me, were I to give you such a proof of my selfish disregard to the ties of blood. We are both young yet, let us then wait until the future shall bring us better prospects.’
“ ‘God knows, Fanny, I would serve for you even as Jacob did for Rachel, could I but hope to see you my own, but I know not how time is to remove the obstacles which divide us,’ was his reply.
“ ‘Oh, Mary will soon be old enough to fill my place, and then I can be spared from home,’ said she.
“ ‘Alas if I am to wait till your place can be supplied by another, I shall but live on hope to die in despair,’ said William despondingly; ‘no one can ever be the same, thoughtful, patient, affectionate, ministering angel that you have been to all around you.’ And thus they again parted, but which think you suffered most keenly from this disappointment? Was it he whose love was but the episode in the striving tale of life—who listened to the voice of affection, but as soft music played between the acts of the great tragi-comedy of existence? No! the shaft of pain sunk deepest in the heart of her who remained in the seclusion of home, shut up within the narrow circle of duties which daily, hourly reminded her of the almost hopeless nature of her feelings.
“Time sped on and brought its usual changes. The boys grew old enough to be provided with situations beyond the parental roof, and Fanny began to look forward once more to a union with her lover. But in the midst of her brightening hopes, her mother died, leaving to Fanny as her last bequest, the charge of watching over the youth of her only sister. This sacred duty was one which Fanny might easily have fulfilled without the sacrifice of a single desire of her own heart, had not Mary’s failing health rendered it a task of unceasing anxiety. An accident received in infancy had slowly and insidiously undermined the once vigorous constitution of the child, and soon after the mother was laid within the tomb, an incurable disease of the spine confined Mary entirely to her bed. It was then, with a heart bleeding over the severed ties of kindred, that Fanny first taught herself to reflect upon the necessity of a final sacrifice of her hopes of happiness. Her father was fast sinking under the infirmities of age, and Mary was now helplessly dependent on her for every comfort; how then could she indulge the vain dream of being able to study her own welfare. There was a bitter struggle in the heart of the poor girl ere she could bring herself to write a letter of renunciation to William. But she swerved not her duty, however severe might be its requisitions, and while the tears fell like rain over the thoughts of her blighted hopes, not one drop was allowed to blister the page which bore him her final farewell. But Fanny was sadly mistaken when she fancied that the severest part of the conflict was past. The letter only served to bring William in person to combat the resolution she had formed, and she was now to endure the redoubled anguish of beholding her lover’s sorrow. But in vain he sought to alter her decision. She knew that instead of being a help-meet, she could now be only a hindrance to one who was obliged to labor for his daily bread, and her unselfish love taught her that it was for her
‘Alone to suffer and alone to strive.’
“ ‘My fate is fixed, William,’ said the hopeless girl; ‘I cannot perform the duties of a poor man’s wife, without neglecting my afflicted sister; her sufferings would mar your daily comfort, and her necessities demand my undivided attention. God knows how tenderly I have loved you, and how gratefully I feel your faithfulness, in thus abiding constant through years of absence and disappointment, but that must be at an end now, William;—our long engagement must be forgotten,—you are free—and may heaven grant you a happier destiny than to be linked with one who seems born only for sorrow.’
“Poor Fanny! how bitterly she wept as she uttered these words of self-immolation! But she knew she was right, and even William, when the first burst of grief had subsided, and he was able to reflect calmly upon all the circumstances, acknowledged within himself, that Fanny had judged wisely for both. He could appreciate the honest pride which forbade her to fill a husband’s home with her own helpless relatives, and he could well understand the disinterested affection which taught her to make her own heart the victim rather than heap heavier burdens upon one with whom the world had already dealt hardly. Again they parted, but no hope of reunion now cheered their last farewell;—henceforth they were to meet as friends, but never more to exchange the sweet tones of lovers’ vows. How much less heroism is required to perform noble deeds in the sight, and beneath the applause of thousands, than thus to sacrifice love, and hope, and happiness, in silence and secrecy on the altar of duty! Yet the warrior receives his meed of glory, while the woman who calmly surrenders the ‘life of life’ without the stimulus of fame or the hope of guerdon;—she who patiently lives on, ‘in helpless, hopeless, brokenness of heart,’ ministering meekly to others, while a wasting grief is eating into her very soul—goes down to the grave unnoticed and unknown—perhaps regarded as a cold and eccentric being by those who cannot fathom the pure depths of such a mind.
Fanny’s cheek grew pale and hollow, but she gave no other evidence of secret sorrow, for she well knew that Mary’s keen eye would watch for traces of her heart’s struggle, and she would not pain her suffering sister by a knowledge of the bitter price at which her comfort had been purchased. At length she heard of William’s marriage, and this severed the last frail link that bound their hearts together. From that time his name was never mentioned, and resolutely forbidding her thoughts to dwell upon the past, Fanny Wilbank compelled herself to cheerfulness. But a shadow had gone over her bright face, and her voice learned a new tone of melancholy pathos—she spoke like one who often weeps.
“The death of her father soon after left her alone with her helpless sister, and having a small apartment, Fanny now commenced the task of obtaining a livelihood for both by the labors of her needle. The constant attention which Mary required, rendered this very difficult, for many an hour which should have been employed in earning their daily bread, was spent in soothing the pangs of the afflicted invalid. It was at that period that I first met with this heroine of humble life, for what I have hitherto been telling you I learned long afterward. My mother had occasion to employ a sempstress, and Fanny Wilbank having been recommended to her, I was sent to make some enquiry of her previous to giving her the work. I was a giddy school-girl at the time, but I shall never forget the impression made upon me by the neatness of the apartment, the snowy whiteness of the bed-linen, and above all, by the extreme beauty of both the females. Mary’s disease did not in the least impair the bloom of her lovely countenance, and as she sat propped up in bed by pillows, she looked in far better health than her pale sister. But I soon found that her face was the only part of her frame which had escaped the distorting touch of pain, for her body was shrunken to the size of that of a child, and her limbs were sadly mis-shapen. My business with them was soon settled, but the interest which they had awakened in my bosom did not so quickly subside. My mother became one of their warmest patrons, and having heard their history from one of their early friends, I need scarcely add that we felt increased respect and regard for the self-devoted Fanny Wilbank.”
“And did she meet with no reward for all her virtues, cousin Grace?”
“Alas! Frank, it is only in novels I fear, that we find virtue always rewarded and vice signally punished. Such things are rarely recompensed on earth, it is only in Heaven that we are told ‘all tears shall be wiped away.’ But I have not yet finished my story. Medical skill was procured for Mary, which, though it could not cure a disease ingrafted in her whole system, yet afforded some alleviation of her severest sufferings. Constant employment was also secured to Fanny, so that as far as pecuniary matters went, their condition was much improved; but no human hand could bring back health to the one, or restore the blighted blossoms of hope in the bosom of the other.
“Some few years later I married, and accompanied my husband to Europe, and my parents having about the same time removed to the south, I lost sight of Fanny Wilbank. When, however, after some years absence I returned to my native city, one of my first wishes was to learn something of her present condition. But the friends who had promised to employ her, had neglected to do so until it was too late; all trace of her had vanished, and I was left to conjecture her fate. I was one day passing a handsome house in —— street, when I heard a voice from an upper window exclaim ‘Mrs. ——! I am sure it is Mrs. ——!’ I looked up in surprise and beheld Fanny Wilbank. The next moment the hall door opened, and Fanny hurrying down the steps, grasped my hand with the warmth of earnest affection. I followed her into a neatly furnished room, and mechanically seating myself, wondered what it all meant. Fanny divined my thoughts, for she smiled, blushed, and seemed about to tell me some news, when a little chubby boy, of some three summers, twaddled into the room and saluted her by the appellation of ‘mother.’ This solved the whole mystery.
“ ‘Come into the next room, where you will find Mary,’ said Fanny, ‘and I will tell you all about it. For you really did not know that I was married?’
“ ‘No indeed,’ was my reply, ‘pray how long have you been a wife?’
“ ‘Almost a year.’
“ ‘Almost a year?’ I exclaimed in stupid wonder! ‘and that child?’
“ ‘Is my husband’s youngest boy.’
“ ‘Then you married to take care of another’s children.’
“ ‘Yes, I could not refuse him,—fortune had prospered him, so that he could afford to take care of poor Mary, and I consented, though I was almost ashamed to become a bride at my age.’
“ ‘At your age! why you look younger and prettier than ever, Fanny, in that tasteful little cap.’
“ ‘Do not laugh at me, dear Mrs. ——, I know it was foolish to marry for love at forty-five, but William was so lonely, and his poor children were so desolate.’
“ ‘Then it was William Grey you married?’
“ ‘To be sure;—did you think it could be any one else?’
“ ‘Ah!’ said Mary smiling, ‘William would not have won her even now, if it had not been for his motherless children. Fanny has been so long accustomed to sacrifice her own inclinations, that she cannot be persuaded to any self-indulgence unless some duty be closely connected with it.’
“Fanny Wilbank still lives; the beauty of her noble countenance has faded beneath the touch of time, and many a thread of silver is mingled with her dark locks, yet is she the centre of a circle of loving and beloved friends, still the same, patient, tender, self-forgetting being, that she was in the day of her early adversity.”
“So she was at last rewarded, cousin Grace, notwithstanding your assertion to the contrary.”
“And do you deem her after fortunes a fitting recompense for the trials of her youth, Frank? The bloom of youth, the freshness of feeling, the glow of hope, the buoyancy of health,—all things that give a charm to life, faded one by one from her view, even as the stars vanish in the slowly-gathering tempest cloud,—patience, long suffering, meekness, and resignation had taken the place of bright anticipation in her bereaved heart,—time had laid his cold touch upon her fair brow, aye, and upon her warm heart too, and then, at the last she was rewarded—how?—why forsooth, by wedding the object of her early love, after her life had ‘fallen into the sear and yellow leaf,’—and thus obtaining the enviable privilege of educating the children of her predecessor.”
“What became of poor Mary, cousin?”
“Do you not remember, Frank, the sick lady on whose bed you loved to clamber, when you were a merry little urchin, who used to cover your balls so neatly, and paint so many pretty devices for your kites?”
“To be sure I do;—I remember too how bitterly I cried when they told me she was dead, and I saw them bring in the small coffin for her shrunken form. You don’t mean to say that was Mary Wilbank?”
“It was, cousin Frank, and in the story of Fanny Wilbank, I have been relating to you the early life of one whom you have ever loved with filial tenderness—I mean your excellent step-mother.”
“She is the only mother I have ever known, cousin Grace, and you can tell me nothing good of her which I cannot readily believe; so if you take her for an example, I have no more to say against the existence of disinterestedness in this selfish world. It is only a pity there are so few like her.”
A WINTER SCENE.
BY E. CLEMENTINE STEDMAN.
Unclouded the sun from his glittering throne
Looked radiantly down where the tempest had gone!
For in darkness it came with the tokens of wrath,
But fled at the dawn on its ice-covered path.
And straight in the sunbeams the forest displayed
A host in the armor of battle arrayed;
There the “helmet of brass,” and the shield glistened clear,
And the bright flashing steel of the sword and the spear.
The garden, where Flora in summer is green,
At the glance of the sun was all dazzling with sheen;
And never a princess outvied, with her gems,
The jewels that hung there on numberless stems!
The lawn trees which stand in the glory alone,
Each sparkled with diamonds, like kings, on a throne,
And ne’er when o’erspread with their green foliage shade,
Were they in such beauty or splendor arrayed!
And silver and gold, as in Solomon’s reign,
Were plenty as stones by the wayside again,
And bright did the spire and the roof with them glow,
While diadems shone on the tall mountain brow.
I gazed on the scene with unearthly delight,
And thought, while its radiance enraptured my sight.
Of that city, which one did in visions behold,
Whose gates were of pearl, and its streets paved with gold.
Again I looked forth, while the sunlight yet shone,
But the scene of enchantment I sought for was gone!
The sun, which had gilded each shrub with its ray,
Was melting the landscape of glory away!
Thus my hopes have dissolved, which once glistened so bright
In the sun of youth’s morn, to my fanciful sight;
Their brilliancy passed off in tears,—oh! how soon!
As the sleet-jewels melt in the sunbeams of noon.
BY JOHN T. MAULL.
Ou trouverez vous un homme sans défauts?
In the beautiful season of youth, when life is just budding forth in all the dewy freshness of ardent hope; when the heart is buoyant, and the energies alive, and panting after objects around which to shed the virtuous influence of their association, oh! then it is that we feel, like the harp that is delicately attuned, the full force of every impression:—of what moment, therefore, are those early connections and restraints which are voluntarily assumed to fit us for our companionship with the world, or in other words to form the character by which we are to be known and appreciated among our fellow men; but that character when formed, like the vestal fire of the ancients, demands the constant vigilance of our noblest faculties to keep alive and perpetuate.
George Morris was in his twenty-fourth year, when partly by the intercession of rich relatives, and in a great measure by the possession of personal endowments of no ordinary kind, he was called upon to assume an office of public trust. I knew him well. Gay without frivolity—proud in the consciousness of correct principle, and gifted with enviable powers of pleasing, his career, indeed, seemed to offer the rich rewards, if not of honorable fame, at least of high respectability. He loved, and after a short courtship, was wedded. Never were two hearts more willingly allied. The whole ardor of his soul was devoted to the fair being whom he had chosen for his own, and in the retirement of his home did he acknowledge his earthly happiness. Did reflection dwell on the noise and bustle of the world without, it was only to assure him of the comforts of his peaceful fire-side. Thus did time glide on with silken wing, dispensing the calm and rational pleasures of domestic life, which Morris of all others was so formed to appreciate. He began his career, which it was foretold would be so honorable to him, in the capacity of one of the chief officers of an institution of public monetary trust. Here, with principles of integrity, deep rooted as the rock, he persevered in industrious habits, and by continued vigilance deservedly won the esteem of the community. His probity had been tested, and the man of business implicitly confided in him. Society courted him. Living in a populous city, as years progressed, he occupied an advanced position among his fellow men—honorable alike to himself and to a growing family: no cares had with him an abiding place, for his children, whom he dearly loved, were gladdening the father’s heart, and yielding him bright hopes for the future. All was happiness—all love and tranquillity. Who then would venture to disturb this domestic Eden? What baneful influence could bring desolation here? Who could wring the tear of anguish from that young and doating mother—or the helping cry from that unprotected child—who convert, as with magic wand, the happy homestead into the refuge of want and affliction? The husband! the father himself! Mystery of mysteries! yet did Morris work to himself this very ruin. Lured by the expensive fashions of the day, the splendid equipage, and the gay coterie of wealth, and desirous to equal, if not eclipse the brilliance which he saw in the circles wherein he was called to move, he had given the rein to his appetite and ambition, until he was forced to do an act—an act from which he once would have shrunk aghast, with horror and dismay. He defrauded, and was detected—he fled: but could he avoid himself? Could he escape the guilty conscience—the bitter remorse? It was in vain. Go where he would, fancy would revert to that blighted, ruined home; and the thought of that one withering act—it was insupportable—it was madness. His reputation was irrecoverably gone, and he roamed abroad far from his native land—a wandering outcast. Of what avail were now to him the common blessings of nature? the light to him was as the darkness—the very air was heavy, and laden as with the vapors of a dungeon—the world itself was one vast prison-house. Did he sleep—frightful phantoms would haunt his couch, and drive away repose; supplicating hands of beggared orphans and stricken widows would rise in airy forms, while strange, unearthly voices would cry aloud, and pierce the air in wail and lamentation, then die away as if in mock and derision.
Afar from country, relatives and friends, lived the Defaulter. Bitter was the cup which that man drained to the very dregs. Providence had set its sure seal of condemnation on his destiny, and although the laws of man were impotent, the great law of the Omniscient failed not. There was no retreat from that presence, which hath so solemnly declared “thou shalt not steal.”
At length news was brought to him from afar—it told him that the wife of his bosom was dead—his children dependant upon the charity of strangers. It was upon the receipt of this intelligence that I met Morris, who was dwelling in a retired part of one of the chief cities upon the Continent. I dared not think upon what might be the probable result of my interview. Conflicting emotions were agitating my breast, but I had fully resolved on the meeting, and on my arrival accordingly, sought out his residence. It was about eight o’clock, of a summer’s night, that, in an abstracted mood, I sauntered leisurely toward the house. Having presented myself, I was admitted to a small chamber, neatly furnished, where I found him alone. I knew not how to begin, how to address myself to my early friend—so altered. He was lying on a couch, evidently in the last stage of a fever. You felt at once he was a dying man. His presence bewildered me; the hollow and glassy eye riveted my gaze, until recollecting myself, in a subdued tone I spoke of the country I had left—my object in travelling—my desire to obtain tidings of himself; and then ventured to recall his memory to the many happy days we had spent in each other’s society.
“Gone, gone!” said he, groaning aloud, and seeming to awaken from a listless reverie. In a moment he continued. “Will not one human creature compassionate George Morris?—a stranger in a strange land! My Julia—my wife—the mother of my little ones, they tell me is dead; and I, who loved her so, poor thing, they say was her destroyer. Oh, God! have mercy on thy creature, I feel thy indignation, and am smitten in the dust. Come death, come the grave—welcome your embraces! But I cannot—cannot endure the iron that is now thrusting itself in my soul.”
There is something grand and terrible in the moral subjugation of man.
“L——,” he faintly articulated, after a pause, during which he wept—yes, wept for the first and last time, “I feel that I am dying—thank God! for his mercy; forgive, my friend, the weakness of these tears—they are of contrition—of—of penitence.”
Exhausted by this effort, he sank into my arms.
“L——,” continued he, reviving, and raising his voice—“do you not see her—there L——, there she is, she’s beckoning to me—she looks the same as on that bridal night—she smiles, too, upon me—and look, L——, look, she forgives me—I come! we were sundered once, but now they cannot disunite us.”
A struggle ensued, but it was short; a moment more, and he was dead.
The flickering flame of the taper had gone out; the moonlight rested upon the pale features of the corpse; and the soul of the Defaulter had sped to its eternal reckoning.
BY CHARLES WEST THOMSON.
A leaf upon the stream,
When the brook is rushing by
In its glorious summer dream,—
Such am I.—
A feather in the air,
When the autumn breeze is high,
Driven here and driven there,—
Such am I.—
A wild flower in the glade,
Where the quiet Zephyrs sigh,
Most happy in the shade.—
Such am I.—
As the aspen among trees,
Where the sleeping waters lie,
Stirred by every passing breeze,—
Such am I.—
But the leaf will find a shore,
The feather cease to fly,
And both be seen no more,—
So will I.—
The flower soon will fade,
And the aspen’s leaves be dry,
Both forgotten in the glade,—
So am I.—
THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE.
BY EDGAR A. POE.
It is not improbable that a few farther steps in phrenological science will lead to a belief in the existence, if not to the actual discovery and location of an organ of analysis. If this power (which may be described, although not defined, as the capacity for resolving thought into its elements) be not, in fact, an essential portion of what late philosophers term ideality, then there are indeed many, good reasons for supposing it a primitive faculty. That it may be a constituent of ideality is here suggested in opposition to the vulgar dictum (founded, however, upon the assumptions of grave authority,) that the calculating and discriminating powers (causality and comparison) are at variance with the imaginative—that the three, in short, can hardly coexist. But, although thus opposed to received opinion, the idea will not appear ill-founded when we observe that the processes of invention or creation are strictly akin with the processes of resolution—the former being nearly, if not absolutely, the latter conversed.
It cannot be doubted that the mental features discoursed of as the analytical are, in themselves, but little susceptible of analysis. We appreciate them only in their effects. We know of them, among other things, that they are always to their possessor, when inordinately possessed, a source of the liveliest enjoyment. As the strong man exults in his physical ability, delighting in such exercises as call his muscles into action, so glories the analyst in that moral activity which disentangles. He derives pleasure from even the most trivial occupations bringing his talent into play. He is fond of enigmas, of conundrums, of hieroglyphics—exhibiting in his solutions of each and all a degree of acumen which appears to the ordinary apprehension preternatural. His results, brought about by the very soul and essence of method, have, in truth, the whole air of intuition.
The faculty in question is possibly much invigorated by mathematical study, and especially by that highest branch of it which, unjustly, and merely on account of its retrogade operations, has been called, as if par excellence, analysis. Yet to calculate is not in itself to analyse. A chess-player, for example, does the one without effort at the other. It follows that the game of chess, in its effects upon mental character, is greatly misunderstood. I am not now writing a treatise, but simply prefacing a somewhat peculiar narrative by observations very much at random—I will, therefore, take occasion to assert that the higher powers of the reflective intellect are more decidedly and more usefully taxed by the unostentatious game of draughts than by all the elaborate frivolity of chess. In this latter, where the pieces have different and bizarre motions, with various and variable values, that which is only complex is mistaken (a not unusual error) for that which is profound. The attention is here called powerfully into play. If it flag for an instant, an oversight is committed, resulting in injury or defeat. The possible moves being not only manifold but involute, the chances of such oversights are multiplied; and in nine cases out of ten it is the more concentrative rather than the more acute player who conquers. In draughts, on the contrary, where the moves are unique and have but little variation, the probabilities of inadvertence are diminished, and the mere attention being left comparatively unemployed, what advantages are obtained by either party are obtained by superior acumen. To be less abstract. Let us suppose a game of draughts, where the pieces are reduced to four kings, and where, of course, no oversight is to be expected. It is obvious that here the victory can be decided (the players being at all equal) only by some recherché movement, the result of some strong exertion of the intellect. Deprived of ordinary resources, the analyst throws himself into the spirit of his opponent, identifies himself therewith, and not unfrequently sees thus, at a glance, the sole methods (sometimes indeed absurdly simple ones) by which he may seduce into miscalculation or hurry into error.
Whist has long been noted for its influence upon what are termed the calculating powers; and men of the highest order of intellect have been known to take an apparently unaccountable delight in it, while eschewing chess as frivolous. Beyond doubt there is nothing of a similar nature so greatly tasking the faculty of analysis. The best chess-player in Christendom may be little more than the best player of chess—but proficiency in whist implies capacity for success in all those more important undertakings where mind struggles with mind. When I say proficiency, I mean that perfection in the game which includes a comprehension of all the sources (whatever be their character) from which legitimate advantage may be derived. These are not only manifold but multiform, and lie frequently among recesses of thought altogether inaccessible to the ordinary understanding. To observe attentively is to remember distinctly; and so far the concentrative chess-player will do very well at whist; while the rules of Hoyle (themselves based upon the mere mechanism of the game) are sufficiently and generally comprehensible. Thus to have a retentive memory, and to proceed by “the book,” are points commonly regarded as the sum total of good playing. But it is in matters beyond the limits of mere rule where the skill of the analyst is evinced. He makes, in silence, a host of observations and inferences. So perhaps do his companions; and the difference in the extent of the information obtained lies not so much in the falsity of the inference as in the quality of the observation. The necessary knowledge is that of what to observe. Our player confines himself not at all; nor, because the game is the object, does he reject deductions from things external to the game. He examines the countenance of his partner, comparing it carefully with that of each of his opponents. He considers the mode of assorting the cards in each hand; often counting trump by trump, and honor by honor, through the glances bestowed by their holders upon each. He notes every variation of face as the play progresses, gathering a fund of thought from the differences in the expression of certainty, of surprise, of triumph or of chagrin. From the manner of gathering up a trick he judges whether the person taking it can make another in the suit. He recognises what is played through feint by the air with which it is thrown upon the table. A casual or inadvertent word; the accidental dropping or turning of a card, with the accompanying anxiety or carelessness in regard to its concealment; the counting of the tricks, with the order of their arrangement; embarrassment, hesitation, eagerness or trepidation—all afford to his apparently intuitive perception indications of the true state of affairs. The first two or three rounds having been played, he is in full possession of the contents of each hand, and thenceforward puts down his cards with as absolute a precision of purpose as if the rest of the party had turned outward the faces of their own.
The analytical power should not be confounded with simple ingenuity; for while the analyst is necessarily ingenious, the ingenious man is often utterly incapable of analysis. I have spoken of this latter faculty as that of resolving thought into its elements, and it is only necessary to glance upon this idea to perceive the necessity of the distinction just mentioned. The constructive or combining power, by which ingenuity is usually manifested, and to which the phrenologists (I believe erroneously) have assigned a separate organ, supposing it a primitive faculty, has been so frequently seen in those whose intellect bordered otherwise upon idiocy as to have attracted general observation among writers on morals. Between ingenuity and the analytic ability there exists a difference far greater indeed than that between the fancy and the imagination, but of a character very strictly analogous. It will be found, in fact, that the ingenious are always fanciful, and the truly imaginative never otherwise than profoundly analytic.
The narrative which follows will appear to the reader somewhat in the light of a commentary upon the propositions just advanced.
Residing in Paris during the spring and part of the summer of 18—, I there contracted an intimacy with a Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin. This young gentleman was of an excellent, indeed of an illustrious family, but, by a variety of untoward events, had been reduced to such poverty that the quondam energy of his character succumbed beneath it, and he ceased to bestir himself in the world, or to care for the retrieval of his fortunes. By courtesy of his creditors there still remained in his possession a small remnant of his patrimony; and upon the income arising from this he managed, by means of a vigorous economy, to procure the necessaries of life, without troubling himself about its superfluities. Books, indeed, were his sole luxuries, and in Paris these are easily obtained.
Our first meeting was at an obscure library in the Rue Montmartre, where the accident of our both being in search of the same very rare and very remarkable volume brought us into closer communion. We saw each other again and again. I was deeply interested in the little family history which he detailed to me with all the candor which a Frenchman indulges only when self is his theme. I was astonished, too, at the vast extent of his reading—and above all I felt my soul enkindled within me by the wild fervor, and what I could only term the vivid freshness, of his imagination. Seeking in Paris the objects I then sought, I felt that the society of such a man would be to me a treasure beyond price; and this feeling I frankly confided to him. It was at length arranged that we should live together during my stay in the city; and, as my worldly circumstances were somewhat less embarrassed than his own, I was permitted to be at the expense of renting, and furnishing in a style which suited the rather fantastic gloom of our common temper, a time-eaten and grotesque mansion, long deserted through superstitions into which we did not inquire, and tottering to its fall in a retired and desolate portion of the Faubourg St. Germain.
Had the routine of our life at this place been known to the world, we should have been regarded as madmen—although, perhaps, as madmen of a harmless nature. Our seclusion was perfect. We admitted no visiters whomsoever. Indeed the locality of our retirement had been carefully kept a secret from my own former associates; and it had been many years since Dupin had ceased to know or be known in Paris. We existed within ourselves alone.
It was a freak of fancy in my friend (for what else shall I call it?) to be enamored of the Night for her own sake; and into this bizarrerie, as into all his others, I quietly fell; giving myself up to his wild whims with an utter abandon. The sable divinity would not herself dwell with us always, but we could counterfeit her presence. At the first dawn of the morning we closed all the massy shutters of our old building, lighting a couple of tapers which, strongly perfumed, threw out only the ghastliest and feeblest of rays. By the aid of these we then busied our souls in dreams—reading, writing, or conversing, until warned by the clock of the advent of the true Darkness. Then we sallied forth into the streets, arm in arm, continuing the topics of the day, or roaming far and wide until a late hour, seeking, amid the wild lights and shadows of the populous city, that infinity of mental excitement which quiet observation would afford.
At such times I could not help remarking and admiring (although from his rich ideality I had been prepared to expect) a peculiar analytic ability in Dupin. He seemed, too, to take an eager delight in its exercise, if not exactly in its display; and did not hesitate to confess the pleasure thus derived. He boasted to me, with a low chuckling laugh, that most men, in respect to himself, wore windows in their bosoms, and was wont to follow up such assertions by direct and very startling proofs of his intimate knowledge of my own. His manner at these moments was frigid and abstract; his eyes were vacant in expression; while his voice, usually a rich tenor, rose into a treble which would have sounded petulantly but for the deliberateness and entire distinctness of the enunciation. Observing him in these moods I often dwelt meditatively upon the old philosophy of the Bi-Part Soul, and amused myself with the fancy of a double Dupin—the creative and the resolvent.
Let it not be supposed, from what I have just said, that I am detailing any mystery, or penning any romance. What I have described in the Frenchman was but the result of an excited, or perhaps of a diseased intelligence. But of the character of his remarks at the periods in question an example will best convey the idea.
We were strolling one night down a long dirty street, in the vicinity of the Palais Royal. Being both, apparently, occupied with thought, neither of us had spoken a syllable for fifteen minutes at least. All at once Dupin broke forth with these words—
“He is a very little fellow, that’s true, and would do better for the Théâtre des Variétés.”
“There can be no doubt of that,” I replied unwittingly, and not at first observing (so much had I been absorbed in reflection) the extraordinary manner in which the speaker had chimed in with my meditations. In an instant afterward I recollected myself, and my astonishment was profound.
“Dupin,” said I, gravely, “this is beyond my comprehension. I do not hesitate to say that I am amazed, and can scarcely credit my senses. How was it possible you should know I was thinking of ——?” Here I paused, to ascertain beyond a doubt whether he really knew of whom I thought.
——“of Chantilly,” said he, “why do you pause? You were remarking to yourself that his diminutive figure unfitted him for tragedy.”
This was precisely what had formed the subject of my reflections. Chantilly was a quondam cobbler of the Rue St. Denis, who, becoming stage-mad, had attempted the role of Xerxes, in Crebillon’s tragedy so called, and been notoriously pasquinaded for his pains.
“Tell me, for God’s sake,” I exclaimed, “the method—if method there be—by which you have been enabled to fathom my soul in this matter.” In fact I was even more startled than I would have been willing to express.
“It was the fruiterer,” replied my friend, “who brought you to the conclusion that the mender of soles was not of sufficient height for Xerxes et id genus omne.”
“The fruiterer!—you astonish me—I know no fruiterer whomsoever.”
“The man who ran up against you as we entered the street—it may have been fifteen minutes ago.”
I now remembered that in fact a fruiterer, carrying upon his head a large basket of apples, had nearly thrown me down, by accident, as we passed from the Rue C—— into the thoroughfare where we now stood; but what this had to do with Chantilly I could not possibly understand.
There was not a particle of charlatânerie about Dupin. “I will explain,” he said, “and that you may comprehend all clearly, we will first retrace the course of your meditations, from the moment in which I spoke to you until that of the rencontre with the fruiterer in question. The larger links of the chain run thus—Chantilly, Orion, Dr. Nichol, Epicurus, Stereotomy, the street stones, the fruiterer.”
There are few persons who have not, at some period of their lives, amused themselves in retracing the steps by which particular conclusions of their own minds have been attained. The occupation is often full of interest; and he who attempts it for the first time is astonished by the apparently illimitable distance and incoherence between the starting-point and the goal. What then, must have been my amazement when I heard the Frenchman speak what he had just spoken, and when I could not help acknowledging that he had spoken the truth. He continued—
“We had been talking of horses, if I remember aright, just before leaving the Rue C——. This was the last subject we discussed. As we crossed into this street, a fruiterer, with a large basket upon his head, brushing quickly past us, thrust you upon a pile of paving-stones collected at a spot where the causeway is undergoing repair. You stepped upon one of the loose fragments, slipped, slightly strained your ankle, appeared vexed or sulky, muttered a few words, turned to look at the pile, and then proceeded in silence. I was not particularly attentive to what you did—but observation has become with me of late a species of necessity.
“You kept your eyes upon the ground—glancing with a petulant expression at the holes and ruts in the pavement, (so that I saw you were still thinking of the stones) until we reached the little alley called Lamartine, which has been paved, by way of experiment, with the overlapping and riveted blocks. Here your countenance brightened up, and, perceiving your lips move, I could not doubt that you murmured to yourself the word ‘stereotomic.’ You continued the same inaudible murmur, with a knit brow, as is the custom of a man tasking his memory, until I considered that you sought the Greek derivation of the word ‘stereotomy.’ I knew that you could not find this without being brought to think of atomics, and thus of the theories of Epicurus; and as, when we discussed this subject not very long ago, I mentioned to you how singularly, yet with how little notice, the vague guesses of that noble Greek had met with confirmation in the late nebular cosmogony, I felt that you could not avoid casting your eyes upward to the great nebula in Orion, and I certainly expected that you would do so. You did look up; and I now was assured that I had correctly followed your steps. But in that bitter tirade upon Chantilly, which appeared in yesterday’s ‘Musée,’ the satirist, making some disgraceful allusions to the cobbler’s change of name upon assuming the buskin, quoted a very peculiar Latin line upon whose meaning we have often conversed. I mean the line
Perdidit antiquum litera prima sonum.
I had told you that this was in reference to Orion, formerly written Urion; and from certain pungencies connected with this explanation I was aware that you could not have forgotten it. It was clear, therefore, that you would not fail to combine the two ideas of Orion and Chantilly. That you did combine them I saw by the character of the smile which passed over your lips. You thought of the poor cobbler’s immolation. So far, you had been stooping in your gait—but now I saw you draw yourself up to your full height. I was then sure that you reflected upon the diminutive figure of Chantilly. At this point I interrupted your meditations to remark that as in fact he was a very little fellow—that Chantilly—he would do better at the Théâtre des Variétés.”
Not long after this we were looking over an evening edition of “Le Tribunal,” when the following paragraphs arrested our attention.
“Extraordinary Murders.—This morning, about three o’clock, the inhabitants of the Quartier St. Roch were aroused from sleep by a succession of terrific shrieks, issuing, apparently, from the fourth story of a house in the Rue Morgue, known to be in the sole occupancy of one Madame L’Espanaye, and her daughter, Mademoiselle Camille L’Espanaye. After some delay, occasioned by a fruitless attempt to procure admission in the usual manner, the gateway was broken in with a crowbar, and eight or ten of the neighbors entered, accompanied by two gendarmes. By this time the cries had ceased; but as the party rushed up the first flight of stairs, two or more rough voices in angry contention were distinguished, and seemed to proceed from the upper part of the house. As the second landing was reached, these sounds, also, had ceased, and every thing remained perfectly quiet. The party spread themselves, and hurried from room to room. Upon arriving at a large back chamber in the fourth story, (the door of which, being found locked, with the key inside, was forced open) a spectacle presented itself which struck every one present not less with horror than with astonishment.
The apartment was in the wildest disorder—the furniture broken and thrown about in all directions. There was only one bedstead; and from this the bed had been removed, and thrown into the middle of the floor. On a chair lay a razor, besmeared with blood. On the hearth were two or three long and thick tresses of grey human hair, also dabbled in blood, and seeming to have been pulled out by the roots. Upon the floor were found four Napoleons, an ear-ring of topaz, three large silver spoons, three smaller of metal d’Alger, and two bags, containing nearly four thousand francs in gold. The drawers of a bureau, which stood in one corner, were open, and had been, apparently, rifled, although many articles still remained in them. A small iron safe was discovered under the bed (not under the bedstead.) It was open, with the key still in the door. It had no contents beyond a few old letters, and other papers of little consequence.
Of Madame L’Espanaye no traces were here seen; but, an unusual quantity of soot being observed in the fire-place, a search was made in the chimney, and (horrible to relate!) the corpse of the daughter, head downward, was dragged therefrom; it having been thus forced up the narrow aperture for a considerable distance. The body was quite warm. Upon examining it many excoriations were perceived, no doubt occasioned by the violence with which it had been thrust up and disengaged. Upon the face were many severe scratches, and upon the throat dark bruises, and deep indentations of finger nails, as if the deceased had been throttled to death.
After a thorough investigation of every portion of the house, without farther discovery, the party made its way into a small paved yard in the rear of the building, where lay the corpse of the old lady, with her throat so entirely cut that, upon an attempt to raise her, the head fell off, and rolled to some distance. The body, as well as the head, was fearfully mutilated—the former so much so as scarcely to retain any semblance of humanity.
To this horrible mystery there is not as yet, we believe, the slightest clew.”
The next day’s paper had these additional particulars.
“The Tragedy in the Rue Morgue. Many individuals have been examined in relation to this most extraordinary and frightful affair.” [The word ‘affaire’ has not yet, in France, that levity of import which it conveys with us,] “but nothing whatever has transpired to throw light upon it. We give below all the material testimony elicited.”
Pauline Dubourg, laundress, deposes that she has known both the deceased for three years, having washed for them during that period. The old lady and her daughter seemed on good terms—very affectionate toward each other. They were excellent pay. Could not speak in regard to their mode or means of living. Believed that Madame L. told fortunes for a living. Was reputed to have money put by. Never met any persons in the house when she called for the clothes or took them home. Was sure that they had no servant in employ. There appeared to be no furniture in any part of the building except in the fourth story.
Pierre Moreau, tobacconist, deposes that he has been in the habit of selling small quantities of tobacco and snuff to Madame L’Espanaye for nearly four years. Was born in the neighborhood, and has always resided there. The deceased and her daughter had occupied the house in which the corpses were found for more than six years. It was formerly occupied by a jeweller, who under-let the upper rooms to various persons. The house was the property of Madame L. She became dissatisfied with the abuse of the premises by her tenant, and moved into them herself, refusing to let any portion. The old lady was childish. Witness had seen the daughter some five or six times during the six years. The two lived an exceedingly retired life—were reputed to have money. Had heard it said among the neighbors that Madame L. told fortunes—did not believe it. Had never seen any person enter the door except the old lady and her daughter, a porter once or twice, and a physician some eight or ten times.
Many other persons, neighbors, gave evidence to the same effect. No one was spoken of as frequenting the house. It was not known whether there were any living connexions of Madame L. and her daughter. The shutters of the front windows were seldom opened. Those in the rear were always closed, with the exception of the large back room, fourth story. The house was a good house—not very old.
Isidore Musèt, gendarme, deposes that he was called to the house about three o’clock in the morning, and found some twenty or thirty persons at the gateway, endeavoring to gain admittance. Forced it open, at length with a bayonet—not with a crowbar. Had but little difficulty in getting it open, on account of its being a double or folding gate, and bolted neither at bottom nor top. The shrieks were continued until the gate was forced—and then suddenly ceased. They seemed to be screams of some person (or persons) in great agony—were loud and drawn out, not short and quick. Witness led the way up stairs. Upon reaching the first landing heard two voices in loud and angry contention—the one a gruff voice, the other much shriller—a very strange voice. Could distinguish some words of the former, which was that of a Frenchman. Was positive that it was not a woman’s voice. Could distinguish the words ‘sacré’ and ‘diable.’ The shrill voice was that of a foreigner. Could not be sure whether it was the voice of a man or of a woman. Could not make out what was said, but believed the language to be Spanish. The state of the room and of the bodies was described by this witness as we described them yesterday.
Henri Duval, a neighbor, and by trade a silver-smith, deposes that he was one of the party who first entered the house. Corroborates the testimony of Musèt in general. As soon as they forced an entrance, they reclosed the door to keep out the crowd, which collected very fast, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour. The shrill voice, this witness thinks, was that of an Italian. Was certain it was not French. Could not be sure that it was a man’s voice. It might have been a woman’s. Was not acquainted with the Italian language. Could not distinguish the words, but was convinced by the intonation that the speaker was an Italian. Knew Madame L. and her daughter. Had conversed with both frequently. Was sure that the shrill voice was not that of either of the deceased.
—— Odenheimer, restaurateur. This witness volunteered his testimony. Not speaking French was examined through an interpreter. Is a native of Amsterdam. Was passing the house at the time of the shrieks. They lasted for several minutes—probably ten. They were long and loud—very awful and distressing. Was one of those who entered the building. Corroborated the previous evidence in every respect but one. Was sure that the shrill voice was that of a man—of a Frenchman. Could not distinguish the words uttered. They were loud and quick—unequal—sometimes quick, sometimes deliberate—spoken apparently in fear as well as in anger. The voice was harsh—not so much shrill as harsh. Could not call it a shrill voice. The gruff voice said repeatedly ‘sacré,’ ‘diable,’ and once ‘mon dieu.’
Jules Mignaud, Banker, of the firm of Mignaud et Fils, Rue Deloraine. Is the elder Mignaud. Madame L’Espanaye had some property. Had opened an account with his banking house in the spring of the year —— (eight years previously.) Made frequent deposites in small sums. Had checked for nothing until the third day before her death, when she took out in person the sum of 4000 francs. This sum was paid in gold, and a clerk sent home with the money.
Adolphe Le Bon, clerk to Mignaud et Fils, deposes that on the day in question, about noon, he accompanied Madame L’Espanaye to her residence with the 4000 francs, put up in two bags. Upon the door being opened Mademoiselle L. appeared and took from his hands one of the bags, while the old lady relieved him of the other. He then bowed and departed. Did not see any person in the street at the time. It is a bye street—very lonely.
William Bird, tailor, deposes that he was one of the party who entered the house. Is an Englishman. Has lived in Paris two years. Was one of the first to ascend the stairs. Heard the voices in contention. The gruff voice was that of a Frenchman. Could make out several words, but cannot now remember all. Heard distinctly ‘sacré’ and ‘mon dieu.’ There was a sound at the moment as if of several persons struggling—a scraping and scuffling sound. The shrill voice was very loud—louder than the gruff one. Is sure that it was not the voice of an Englishman. Appeared to be that of a German. Might have been a woman’s voice. Does not understand German.
Four of the above-named witnesses, being recalled, deposed that the door of the chamber in which was found the body of Mademoiselle L. was locked on the inside when the party reached it. Every thing was perfectly silent—no groans or noises of any kind. Upon forcing the door no person was seen. The windows both of the back and front room were down and firmly fastened from within. A door between the two rooms was closed, but not locked. The door leading from the front room into the passage was locked with the key on the inside. A small room in the front of the house, on the fourth story, at the head of the passage, was open, the door being ajar. This room was crowded with old beds, boxes, and so forth. These were carefully removed and searched. There was not an inch of any portion of the house which was not carefully searched. Sweeps were sent up and down the chimneys. The house was a four story one, with garrets, (mansardes). A trap door on the roof was nailed down very securely—did not appear to have been opened for years. The time elapsing between the hearing of the voices in contention and the breaking open of the room door was variously stated by the witnesses. Some made it as short as three minutes—some as long as five. The door was opened with difficulty.
Alfonzo Garcio, undertaker, deposes that he resides in the Rue Morgue. Is a native of Spain. Was one of the party who entered the house. Did not proceed up stairs. Is nervous, and was apprehensive of the consequences of agitation. Heard the voices in contention. The gruff voice was that of a Frenchman. Could not distinguish what was said. The shrill voice was that of an Englishman—is sure of this. Does not understand the English language, but judges by the intonation.
Alberto Montani, confectioner, deposes that he was among the first to ascend the stairs. Heard the voices in question. The gruff voice was that of a Frenchman. Distinguished several words. The speaker appeared to be expostulating. Could not make out the words of the shrill voice. Spoke quick and unevenly. Thinks it the voice of a Russian. Corroborates the general testimony. Is an Italian. Never conversed with a native of Russia.
Several witnesses recalled, here testified that the chimneys of all the rooms on the fourth story were too narrow to admit the passage of a human being. By ‘sweeps’ were meant cylindrical sweeping-brushes, such as are employed by those who clean chimneys. These brushes were passed up and down every flue in the house. There is no back passage by which any one could have descended while the party proceeded up stairs. The body of Mademoiselle L’Espanaye was so firmly wedged in the chimney that it could not be got down until four or five of the party united their strength.
Paul Dumas, physician, deposes that he was called to view the bodies about day-break. They were both then lying on the sacking of the bedstead in the chamber where Mademoiselle L. was found. The corpse of the young lady was much bruised and excoriated. The fact that it had been thrust up the chimney would sufficiently account for these appearances. The throat was greatly chafed. There were several deep scratches just below the chin, together with a series of livid spots which were evidently the impression of fingers. The face was fearfully discolored, and the eye-balls protruded. The tongue had been partially bitten through. A large bruise was discovered upon the pit of the stomach, produced apparently by the pressure of a knee. In the opinion of M. Dumas, Mademoiselle L’Espanaye had been throttled to death by some person or persons unknown. The corpse of the mother was horribly mutilated. All the bones of the right leg and arm were more or less shattered. The left tibia much splintered, as well as all the ribs of the left side. Whole body dreadfully bruised and discolored. It was not possible to say how the injuries had been inflicted. A heavy club of wood, or a broad bar of iron, a chair, any large heavy and obtuse weapon, would have produced such results, if wielded by the hands of a very powerful man. No woman could have inflicted the blows with any weapon. The head of the deceased, when seen by witness, was entirely separated from the body, and was also greatly shattered. The throat had evidently been cut with some very sharp instrument—probably with a razor.
Alexandre Etienne, surgeon, was called with M. Dumas to view the bodies. Corroborated the testimony, and the opinions, of M. Dumas.
Nothing farther of importance was elicited, although several other persons were examined. A murder so mysterious, and so perplexing in all its particulars, was never before committed in Paris—if indeed a murder has been committed at all. The police are entirely at fault—an unusual occurrence in affairs of this nature. There is not, however, the shadow of a clew apparent.”
The evening edition of the paper stated that the greatest excitement still continued in the Quartier St. Roch—that the premises in question had been carefully re-searched, and fresh examinations of witnesses instituted, but all to no purpose. A postscript, however, mentioned that Adolphe Le Bon had been arrested and imprisoned—although nothing appeared to criminate him, beyond the facts already detailed.
Dupin seemed singularly interested in the progress of this affair—at least so I judged from his manner, for he made no comments whatever. It was only after the announcement that Le Bon had been imprisoned, that he asked me my opinion respecting it.
I could merely agree with all Paris in considering it an insoluble mystery. I saw no means by which it would be possible to trace the murderer.
“We must not judge of the means,” said Dupin, “by this shell of an examination. The Parisian police, so much extolled for acumen, are cunning, but no more. There is no method in their proceedings, beyond the method of the moment. They make a vast parade of measures; but not unfrequently these are so illy adapted to the objects proposed, as to put us in mind of Monsieur Jourdain’s calling for his robe-de-chambre—pour mieux entendre la musique. The results attained by them are not unfrequently surprising, but, for the most part, are brought about by simple diligence and activity. When these qualities are unavailing their schemes fail. Vidocq, for example, was a good guesser, and a persevering man. But, without educated thought, he erred continually by the very intensity of his investigations. He impaired his vision by holding the object too close. He might see, perhaps, one or two points with unusual clearness, but in so doing he necessarily lost sight of the matter, as a whole. Thus there is such a thing as being too profound. Truth is not always in a well. In fact as regards the more important knowledge I do believe that she is invariably superficial. The depth lies in the valleys where we seek her and not upon the mountain tops where she is found. The modes and sources of this kind of error are well typified in the contemplation of the heavenly bodies. To look at a star by glances—to view it in a side-long way by turning toward it the exterior portions of the retina (more susceptible of feeble impressions of light than the interior) is to behold the star distinctly—is to have the best appreciation of its lustre—a lustre which grows dim just in proportion as we turn our vision fully upon it. A greater number of rays actually fall upon the eye in the latter case, but in the former there is the more refined capacity for comprehension. By undue profundity we perplex and enfeeble thought—and it is possible to make even Venus herself vanish from the firmament by a scrutiny too sustained, too concentrated, and too direct.
“As for these murders, let us enter into some examinations for ourselves, before we make up an opinion respecting them. An inquiry will afford us amusement,” [I thought this an odd term, so applied, but said nothing] “and, besides, Le Bon once rendered me a service for which I am not ungrateful. We will go and see the premises with our own eyes. I know G——, the Préfet de Police, and shall have no difficulty in obtaining the necessary permission.”
This permission was obtained, and we proceeded at once to the Rue Morgue. This is one of those miserable thoroughfares which intervene between the Rue Richelieu and the Rue St. Roch. It was late in the afternoon when we reached it, for this quarter is at a great distance from that in which we resided. The house we readily found; for there were still many persons gazing up at the closed shutters, with an objectless curiosity, from the opposite side of the way. It was an ordinary Parisian house, with a gateway, on one side of which was a glazed watch-box, with a sliding panel in the window, indicating a loge de concierge. Before going in we walked up the street, turned down an alley, and then, again turning, passed in the rear of the building—Dupin, meanwhile, examining the whole neighborhood, as well as the house, with a minuteness of attention for which I could see no possible object.
Retracing our steps we came again to the front of the dwelling, rang, and having shown our credentials, were admitted by the agents in charge. We went up stairs—into the chamber where the body of Mademoiselle L’Espanaye had been found, and where both the deceased still lay. The disorders of the room had as usual been suffered to exist. I saw nothing beyond what had been stated in the “Tribunal.” Dupin scrutinized every thing, not excepting the bodies of the victims. We then went into the other rooms, and into the yard; a gendarme accompanying us throughout. Our examination occupied us until dark, when we took our departure. On our way home my companion stepped in for a moment at the office of one of the daily papers.
I have said that the whims of my friend were manifold, and that—Je les menagais:—for this phrase there is no English equivalent. It was his humor now to decline all conversation on the subject of the murder, until after we had taken a bottle of wine together about noon the next day. He then asked me, suddenly, if I had observed any thing peculiar at the scene of the atrocity.
There was something in his manner of emphasizing the word “peculiar,” which caused me to shudder, without knowing why.
“No, nothing peculiar,” I said, “nothing more, at least, than we both saw stated in the paper.”
“Le Tribunal,” he replied, “has not entered, I fear, into the unusual horror of the thing. But we will not revert to the idle opinions of this print. It appears to me that this mystery is considered insoluble, for the very reason which should cause it to be regarded as easy of solution—I mean for the outré character of its features. The police are confounded by the seeming absence of motive—not for the murder itself—but for the atrocity of the murder. They are puzzled by the seeming impossibility of reconciling the voices heard in contention, with the facts that no one was discovered up stairs but the assassinated Mademoiselle L’Espanaye, and that there were no means of egress without the notice of the party ascending. The wild disorder of the room; the corpse thrust with the head downward up the chimney; the frightful mutilation of the body of the old lady; these considerations, with those just mentioned, and others which I need not mention, have sufficed to paralyze the powers, by putting completely at fault the boasted acumen, of the government agents. They have fallen into the gross but common error of confounding the unusual with the abstruse. But it is by these deviations from the plane of the ordinary, that reason feels its way, if at all, in its search after the true. In investigations such as we are now pursuing, it should not be so much asked ‘what has occurred,’ as ‘what has occurred which has never occurred before.’ In fact, the facility with which I shall arrive, or have arrived, at the solution of this mystery, is in exact ratio with its apparent insolubility in the eyes of the police.”
I stared at the speaker in mute astonishment. He continued.
“I am now awaiting,” continued he, looking toward the door of our apartment—“I am now awaiting a person who, although perhaps not the perpetrator of these butcheries, must have been in some measure implicated in their perpetration. Of the worst portion of the crimes committed it is probable that he is innocent. I hope that I am right in this supposition; for upon it I build my expectation of reading the entire riddle. I look for the man here—in this room—every moment. It is true that he may not arrive; but the probability is that he will. Should he come, it will be necessary to detain him. Here are pistols; and we both know how to use them when occasion demands their use.”
I took the pistols, scarcely knowing what I did, or believing what I heard, while Dupin went on, very much as if in a soliloquy. I have already spoken of his abstract manner at such times. His discourse was addressed to myself; but his voice, although by no means loud, had that intonation which is commonly employed in speaking to some one at a great distance. His eyes, vacant in expression, regarded only the wall.
“That the voices heard in contention,” he said, “by the party upon the stairs, were not the voices of the women themselves, was fully proved by the evidence. This relieves us of all doubt upon the question whether the old lady could have first destroyed the daughter, and afterward have committed suicide. I speak of this point chiefly for the sake of method; for the strength of Madame L’Espanaye would have been utterly unequal to the task of thrusting her daughter’s corpse up the chimney as it was found; and the nature of the wounds upon her own person entirely preclude the idea of self-destruction. Murder, then, has been committed by some third party; and the voices of this third party were those heard in contention. Let me now advert—not to the whole testimony respecting these voices—but to what was peculiar in that testimony. Did you observe anything peculiar about it?”
I remarked that, while all the witnesses agreed in supposing the gruff voice to be that of a Frenchman, there was much disagreement in regard to the shrill, or as one individual termed it, the harsh voice.
“That was the evidence itself,” said Dupin, “but it was not the peculiarity of the evidence. You have observed nothing distinctive. Re-employing my own words, I may say that you have pointed out no prominence above the plane of the ordinary, by which reason may feel her way. Yet there was something to be pointed out. The witnesses, as you remark, agreed about the gruff voice; they were here unanimous. But in regard to the shrill voice the peculiarity is—not that they disagreed—but that, while an Italian, an Englishman, a Spaniard, a Hollander, and a Frenchman attempted to describe it, each one spoke of it as that of a foreigner. Each is sure that it was not the voice of one of his own countrymen. Each likens it—not to the voice of an individual of any nation with whose language he is conversant—but the converse. The Frenchman supposes it the voice of a Spaniard, and ‘might have distinguished some words had he been acquainted with the Spanish.’ The Dutchman maintains it to have been that of a Frenchman; but we find it stated that ‘not understanding French this witness was examined through an interpreter.’ The Englishman thinks it the voice of a German, and ‘does not understand German.’ The Spaniard ‘is sure’ that it is that of an Englishman, but ‘judges by the intonation’ altogether, ‘as he has no knowledge of the English.’ The Italian believes it the voice of a Russian, but ‘has never conversed with a native of Russia.’ A second Frenchman differs, moreover, with the first, and is positive that the voice is that of an Italian; but, not being cognizant of that tongue, is like the Spaniard, ‘convinced by the intonation.’ Now, how strangely unusual must that voice have really been, about which such testimony as this could have been elicited!—in whose tones, even, denizens of the five great divisions of Europe could recognise nothing familiar! You will say that it might have been the voice of an Asiatic—of an African. Neither Asiatics nor Africans abound in Paris; but, without denying the inference, I will just now merely call your attention to three points which have relation to this topic. The voice is termed by one witness ‘harsh rather than shrill.’ It is represented by two others to have been ‘quick and unequal.’ No words—no sounds resembling words—were by any witness mentioned as distinguishable.
“I know not,” continued Dupin, “what impression I may have made, so far, upon your own understanding; but I do not hesitate to say that legitimate deductions even from this portion of the testimony—the portion respecting the gruff and shrill voices—are in themselves sufficient to engender a suspicion which should bias, or give direction to all farther progress in the investigation of the mystery. I said ‘legitimate deductions;’ but my meaning is not thus fully expressed. I designed to imply that the deductions were the sole proper ones, and that the suspicion arose inevitably from them as the single result. What the suspicion is, however, I will not say just yet. I merely wish you to bear in mind that with myself it was sufficiently forcible to give a definite form—a certain tendency—to my inquiries in the chamber.
“Let us now transport ourselves, in fancy, to that chamber. What shall we first seek here? The means of egress employed by the murderers. It is not too much to say that we neither of us believe in præternatural events. Madame and Mademoiselle L’Espanaye were not destroyed by spirits. The doers of the dark deed were material, and escaped materially. Then how? Fortunately, there is but one mode of reasoning upon the point, and that mode must lead us to a definite decision. Let us examine, each by each, the possible means of egress. It is clear that the assassins were in the room where Mademoiselle L’Espanaye was found, or at least in the room adjoining, when the party ascended the stairs. It is then only from these two apartments that we have to seek for issues. The police have laid bare the floors, the ceilings, and the masonry of the walls, in every direction. No secret issues could have escaped their vigilance. But, not trusting to their eyes, I examined with my own. There were, then, no secret issues. Both doors leading from the rooms into the passage were securely locked, with the keys inside. Let us turn to the chimneys. These, although of ordinary width for some eight or ten feet above the hearths, will not admit, throughout their extent, the body of a large cat. The impossibility of egress by means already stated being thus absolute, we are reduced to the windows. Through those of the front room no one could have escaped without notice from the crowd in the street. The murderers must have passed, then, through those of the back room. Now, brought to this conclusion in so unequivocal a manner as we are, it is not our part, as reasoners, to reject it on account of apparent impossibilities. It is only left for us to prove that these ‘impossibilities’ are not such.
“There are two windows in the chamber. One of them is unobstructed by furniture, and is wholly visible. The lower portion of the other is hidden from view by the head of the unwieldy bedstead which is thrust close up against it. The former was found securely fastened from within. It resisted the utmost force of those who endeavored to raise it. A large gimlet-hole had been pierced in its frame to the left, and a very stout nail was found fitted therein nearly to the head. Upon examining the other window a similar nail was seen similarly fitted in it; and a vigorous attempt to raise this sash failed also. The police were now entirely satisfied that egress had not been in these directions. And, therefore, it was thought a matter of supererogation to withdraw the nails and open the windows.
“My own examination was somewhat more particular, and was so for the reason I have just given—because here it was, I knew, that all apparent impossibilities must be proved to be not such in reality.
“I proceeded to think thus—a posteriori. The murderers did escape from one of these windows. This being so, they could not have re-fastened the sashes from the inside as they were found fastened,—(the consideration which put a stop, through its obviousness, to the scrutiny of the police in this quarter). Yet the sashes were fastened. They must, then, have the power of fastening themselves. There was no escape from this conclusion. I stepped to the unobstructed casement, withdrew the nail with some difficulty, and attempted to raise the sash. It resisted all my efforts, as I had anticipated. A concealed spring must, I now knew, exist; and this corroboration of my idea convinced me that my premises, at least, were correct, however mysterious still appeared the circumstances attending the nails. A careful search soon brought to light the hidden spring. I pressed it, and, satisfied with the discovery, forbore to upraise the sash.
“I now replaced the nail and regarded it attentively. A person passing out through this window might have reclosed it, and the spring would have caught—but the nail could not have been replaced. The conclusion was plain, and again narrowed in the field of my investigations. The assassins must have escaped through the other window. Supposing, then, the springs upon each sash to be the same, as was probable, there must be found a difference between the nails, or at least between the modes of their fixture. Getting upon the sacking of the bedstead, I looked over the head-board minutely at the second casement. Passing my hand down behind the board I readily discovered and pressed the spring, which was, as I had supposed, identical in character with its neighbor. I now looked at the nail. It was as stout as the other, and apparently fitted in the same manner—driven in nearly up to the head.
“You will say that I was puzzled; but if you think so you must have misunderstood the nature of the inductions. To use a sporting phrase, I had not been once ‘at fault.’ The scent had never for an instant been lost. There was no flaw in any link of the chain. I had traced the secret to its ultimate result—and that result was the nail. It had, I say, in every respect, the appearance of its fellow in the other window; but this fact was an absolute nullity (conclusive as it might seem to be) when compared with the consideration that here, at this point, terminated the clew. ‘There must be something wrong,’ I said, ‘about the nail.’ I touched it; and the head, with about the eighth of an inch of the shank, came off in my fingers. The rest of the shank was in the gimlet-hole, where it had been broken off. The fracture was an old one (for its edges were incrusted with rust) and had apparently been accomplished by the blow of a hammer, which had partially imbedded in the top of the bottom sash, the head portion of the nail. I now carefully replaced this head portion in the indentation whence I had taken it, and the resemblance to a perfect nail was complete. I gently raised the sash for a few inches; the head went up with it, remaining firm in its bed, I closed the window, and the semblance of the whole nail was again perfect.
“The riddle, so far, was now unriddled. The assassins had escaped through the window which looked upon the bed. Dropping of its own accord upon their exit (or perhaps purposely closed by them) it had become fastened by the spring; and it was the retention of this spring which had been mistaken by the police for that of the nail—farther inquiry being thus considered unnecessary.
“The next question is that of the mode of descent. Upon this point I had been satisfied in my walk with you around the building. About five feet and a half from the casement in question there ran a lightning-rod. From this rod it would have been impossible for any one to reach the window itself, to say nothing of entering it. I observed, however, that the shutters of the fourth story were of the peculiar kind called by Parisian carpenters ferrades—a kind rarely employed at the present day, but frequently seen upon very old mansions at Lyons and Bourdeaux. They are in the form of an ordinary door, (a single, not a folding door) except that the lower half is latticed or worked in open trellis—thus affording an excellent hold for the hands. In the present instance these shutters are fully three feet and a half broad. When we saw them from the rear of the house, they were both about half open—that is to say they stood off at right angles from the wall. It is probable that the police, as well as myself, examined the back of the tenement; but, if so, in looking at these ferrades in the line of their breadth, (as they must have done) they did not perceive this great breadth itself, or, at all events, failed to take it into due consideration. In fact, having once satisfied themselves that no egress could have been made in this quarter, they would naturally bestow here a very cursory examination. It was clear to me, however, that the shutter belonging to the window at the head of the bed would, if swung fully back to the wall, reach to within two feet of the lightning-rod. It was also evident that, by exertion of a very unusual degree of activity and courage, an entrance into the window, from the rod, might have been thus effected. By reaching to the distance of two feet and a half (we now suppose the shutter open to its whole extent) a robber might have taken a firm grasp upon the trellis-work. Letting go, then, his hold upon the rod, placing his feet firmly against the wall, and springing boldly from it, he might have swung the shutter so as to close it, and, if we imagine the window open at the time, might even have swung himself into the room.
“I wish you to bear especially in mind that I have spoken of a very unusual degree of activity as requisite to success in so hazardous and so difficult a feat. It is my design to show you, first, that the thing might possibly have been accomplished:—but, secondly and chiefly, I wish to impress upon your understanding the very extraordinary—the almost præternatural character of that agility which could have accomplished it.
“You will say, no doubt, using the language of the law, that ‘to make out my case,’ I should rather undervalue, than insist upon a full estimation of the activity required in this matter. This may be the practice in law, but it is not the usage of reason. My ultimate object is only the truth. My immediate purpose is to lead you to place in juxtaposition, that very unusual activity of which I have just spoken, with that very peculiar shrill (or harsh) and unequal voice, about whose nationality no two persons could be found to agree, and in whose utterance no syllabification could be detected.”
At these words a vague and half-formed conception of the meaning of Dupin flitted over my mind. I seemed to be upon the verge of comprehension, without power to comprehend—as men, at times, find themselves upon the brink of remembrance, without being able, in the end, to remember. My friend went on with his discourse.
“You will see,” he said, “that I have shifted the question from the mode of egress to that of ingress. It was my design to convey the idea that both were effected in the same manner, at the same point. Let us now revert in fancy to the interior of the room. Let us survey the appearances here. The drawers of the bureau, it is said, had been rifled, although many articles of apparel still remained within them. The conclusion here is absurd. It is a mere guess—a very silly one—and no more. How are we to know that the articles found in the drawers were not all these drawers had originally contained? Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter lived an exceedingly retired life—saw no company—seldom went out—had little use for numerous changes of habiliment. Those found were at least of as good quality as any likely to be possessed by these ladies. If a thief had taken any, why did he not take the best—why did he not take all? In a word why did he abandon four thousand francs in gold to encumber himself with a bundle of linen? The gold was abandoned. Nearly the whole sum mentioned by Monsieur Mignaud, the banker, was discovered, in bags, upon the floor. I wish you, therefore, to discard from your thoughts the blundering idea of motive engendered in the brains of the police, by that portion of the evidence which speaks of money delivered at the door of the house. Coincidences ten times as remarkable as this (the delivery of the money, and murder committed within three days upon the party receiving it,) happen to each and all of us every hour of our lives, without attracting even a momentary notice. Coincidences in general are great stumbling-blocks in the way of that class of thinkers who have been educated to know nothing, and care less, of the theory of probabilities—that theory to which the most glorious objects of human research are indebted for the most glorious of illustration. In the present instance, had the gold been gone, the fact of its delivery three days before would have formed something more than a coincidence. It would have been corroborative of this idea of motive. But, under the real circumstances of the case, if we are to suppose gold the motive of this outrage, we must also imagine the perpetrator so vacillating an idiot as to have abandoned his gold and his motive together.
“Keeping now steadily in mind the points to which I have drawn your attention—that peculiar voice, that unusual agility, and that startling absence of motive in a murder so singularly atrocious as this—let us glance at the butchery itself. Here is a woman strangled to death by manual strength, and thrust up a chimney, head downward. Ordinary assassins employ no such modes of murder as this. Least of all, do they thus dispose of the murdered. In the manner of thrusting the corpse up the chimney, you will admit that there was something excessively outré—something altogether irreconcilable with our common notions of human action, even when we suppose the actors the most depraved of men. Think, too, what must have been the degree of that strength which could have thrust the body up such an aperture so forcibly that the united vigor of several persons was found barely sufficient to drag it down! Turn now to other indications of the employment of a vigor most marvellous. On the hearth were thick tresses, very thick tresses—of gray human hair. These had been torn out by the roots. You are aware of the great force necessary in tearing thus from the head even twenty or thirty hairs together. You saw the locks in question as well as myself. Their roots (a hideous sight!) were clotted with fragments of the flesh of the scalp—sure token of the prodigious power which had been exerted in uprooting perhaps a million of hairs at a time. The throat of the old lady was not merely cut, but the head absolutely severed from the body. The instrument was a mere razor. Here again we have evidence of that vastness of strength upon which I would fix your attention. I wish you also to look, and to look steadily, at the brutal ferocity of these deeds. Of the bruises upon the body of Madame L’Espanaye I do not speak. Monsieur Dumas, and his worthy coadjutor, Monsieur Etienne, have pronounced that they were inflicted by some obtuse instrument; and so far these gentlemen are very correct. The obtuse instrument was clearly the stone pavement in the yard, upon which the victim had fallen from the window which looked in upon the bed. This idea, however simple it may now seem, escaped the police for the same reason that the breadth of the shutters escaped them—because, by the affair of the nails, their perceptions had been hermetically sealed against the possibility of the windows having ever been opened at all.
“If now, in addition to all these things, you have properly reflected upon the odd disorder of the chamber, we have gone so far as to combine the ideas of a strength superhuman, an agility astounding, a ferocity brutal, a butchery without motive, a grotesquerie in horror absolutely alien from humanity, and a voice foreign in tone to the ears of men of many nations, and devoid of all distinct or intelligible syllabification. What result, then, has ensued? What impression have I made upon your fancy?”
I shuddered as Dupin asked me the question. “A madman,” I said, “has done this deed—some raving maniac, escaped from a neighboring Maison de Santé.”
“In some respects,” he replied, “your idea is not irrelevant. But the voices of madmen, even in their wildest paroxysms, are never found to tally with that peculiar voice heard upon the stairs. Madmen are of some nation, and their language, however incoherent in its words, has always the coherence of syllabification. Besides, the hair of a madman is not such hair as I now hold in my hand. I disentangled this little tuft from among the tresses remaining upon the head of Madame L’Espanaye. Tell me what you can make of it.”
“Good God,” I said, completely unnerved, “this hair is most unusual—this is no human hair.”
“I have not asserted that it was,” said he, “but before we decide upon this point, I wish you to glance at the little sketch which I have here traced upon this paper. It is a fac-simile drawing of what has been described in one portion of the testimony as ‘dark bruises, and deep indentations of finger nails,’ upon the throat of Mademoiselle L’Espanaye, and in another, (by Messrs. Dumas and Etienne,) as ‘a series of livid spots, evidently the impression of fingers.’
“You will perceive,” continued my friend, spreading out the paper upon the table before us, “you will perceive that this drawing gives the idea of a firm and fixed hold. There is no slipping apparent. Each finger has retained—possibly until the death of the victim—the fearful grasp by which it originally imbedded itself. Attempt now to place all your fingers, at one and the same time, in the impressions as you see them.”
I made the attempt in vain.
“We are possibly not giving this matter a fair trial,” he said. “The paper is spread out upon a plane surface; but the human throat is cylindrical. Here is a billet of wood, the circumference of which is about that of the throat. Wrap the drawing around it, and try the experiment again.”
I did so; but the difficulty was even more obvious than before. “This,” I said, “is the mark of no human hand.”
“Assuredly it is not,” replied Dupin; “read now this passage from Cuvier.”
It was a minute anatomical and generally descriptive account of the large fulvous Ourang-Outang of the East Indian Islands. The gigantic stature, the prodigious strength and activity, the wild ferocity, and the imitative propensities of these mammalia are sufficiently well known to all. I understood the full horrors of the murder at once.
“The description of the digits,” said I, as I made an end of reading, “is in exact accordance with this drawing. I see that no animal but an Ourang-Outang, of the species here mentioned, could have impressed the indentations as you have traced them. This tuft of yellow hair is identical in character with that of the beast of Cuvier. But I cannot possibly comprehend the particulars of this frightful mystery. Besides, there were two voices heard in contention, and one of them was unquestionably the voice of a Frenchman.”
“True; and you will remember an expression attributed almost unanimously, by the evidence, to this voice,—the expression, ‘mon Dieu!’ This, under the circumstances, has been justly characterized by one of the witnesses (Montani, the confectioner,) as an expression of remonstrance or expostulation. Upon these two words, therefore, I have mainly built my hopes of a full solution of the riddle. A Frenchman was cognizant of the murder. It is possible—indeed it is far more than probable—that he was innocent of all participation in the bloody transactions which took place. The Ourang-Outang may have escaped from him. He may have traced it to this chamber; but, under the agitating circumstances which ensued, he could never have re-captured it. It is still at large. I will not pursue these guesses—for I have no right to call them more than guesses—since the shades of reflection upon which they are based are scarcely of sufficient depth to be appreciable by my own intellect, and since I could not pretend to make them intelligible to the understanding of another than myself. We will call them guesses then, and speak of them as such. If the Frenchman in question be indeed, as I suppose, innocent of this atrocity, this advertisement, which I left last night, upon our return home, at the office of ‘Le Monde,’ (a paper devoted to the shipping interest, and much sought for by sailors,) will bring him to our residence.”
He handed me a paper, and I read thus:—
Caught—In the Bois de Boulogne, early in the morning of the — inst., (the morning of the murder,) a very large, tawny-colored Ourang-Outang of the Bornese species. The owner, (who is ascertained to be a sailor, belonging to a Maltese vessel,) may have the animal again, upon identifying it satisfactorily, and paying a few charges arising from its capture and keeping. Call at No. —, Rue ——, Faubourg St. Germain—au troisième.
“How was it possible,” I asked, “that you should know the man to be a sailor, and belonging to a Maltese vessel?”
“I do not know it,” said Dupin. “I am not sure of it. Here, however, is a small piece of ribbon, which has evidently, from its form, and from its greasy appearance, been used in tying the hair in one of those long queues of which sailors are so fond. Moreover, this knot is one which few besides sailors can tie, and is peculiar to the Maltese. I picked the ribbon up at the foot of the lightning-rod. It could not have belonged to either of the deceased. Now if, after all, I am wrong in my induction from this ribbon, that the Frenchman was a sailor belonging to a Maltese vessel, still I can have done no harm in stating what I did in the advertisement. If I am in error he will merely suppose that I have been misled by some circumstance into which he will not take the trouble to inquire. But if I am right—a great point is gained. Cognizant of the murder, although not guilty, the Frenchman will naturally hesitate about replying to the advertisement—about demanding the Ourang-Outang. He will reason thus:—‘I am innocent; I am poor; my Ourang-Outang is of great value—to one in my circumstances a fortune of itself—why should I lose it through idle apprehensions of danger? Here it is within my grasp. It was found in the Bois de Boulogne—at a vast distance from the scene of that butchery. How can it ever be suspected that a brute beast should have done the deed? The police are at fault—they have failed to procure the slightest clew. Should they even trace the animal, it would be impossible to prove me cognizant of the murder, or to implicate me in guilt on account of that cognizance. Above all, I am known. The advertiser designates me as the possessor of the beast. I am not sure to what limit his knowledge may extend. Should I avoid claiming a property of so great a value, which it is known that I possess, I will render the animal at least, liable to suspicion. It is not my policy to attract attention either to myself or to the beast. I will answer the advertisement—get the Ourang-Outang, and keep it close until this matter has blown over.’ ”
At this moment we heard a step upon the stairs.
“Be ready,” said Dupin, “with your pistols, but neither show them nor use them until at a signal from myself.”
The front door of the house had been left open, and the visiter had entered without ringing or rapping, and advanced several steps upon the staircase. Now, however, he seemed to hesitate. Presently we heard him descending. Dupin was moving quickly to the door, when we again heard him coming up. He did not turn back a second time, but stepped up quickly, and rapped at the door of our chamber.
“Come in,” said Dupin, in a cheerful and hearty tone.
The visiter entered. He was a sailor, evidently—a tall, stout, and muscular-looking man, with a certain dare-devil expression of countenance, not altogether unprepossessing. His face, greatly sunburnt, was more than half hidden by a world of whisker and mustachio. He had with him a huge oaken cudgel, but appeared to be otherwise unarmed. He bowed awkwardly, and bade us “good evening,” in French accents, which, although somewhat Neufchatel-ish, were still sufficiently indicative of a Parisian origin.
“Sit down, my friend,” said Dupin, “I suppose you have called about the Ourang-Outang. Upon my word, I almost envy you the possession of him; a remarkably fine, and no doubt a very valuable animal. How old do you suppose him to be?”
The sailor drew a long breath, with the air of a man relieved of some intolerable burden, and then replied, in an assured tone,—
“I have no way of telling—but he can’t be more than four or five years old. Have you got him here?”
“Oh no—we had no conveniences for keeping him here. He is at a livery stable in the Rue Dubourg, just by. You can get him in the morning. Of course you are prepared to identify the property?”
“To be sure I am, sir.”
“I shall be sorry to part with him,” said Dupin.
“I don’t mean that you should be at all this trouble for nothing, sir,” said the man. “Couldn’t expect it. Am very willing to pay a reward for the finding of the animal—that is to say, any reward in reason.”
“Well,” replied my friend, “that is all very fair, to be sure. Let me think!—what reward ought I to have? Oh! I will tell you. My reward shall be this. You shall give me all the information in your power about that affair of the murder in the Rue Morgue.”
Dupin said these last words in a very low tone, and very quietly. Just as quietly, too, he walked towards the door, locked it, and put the key in his pocket. He then drew a pistol from his bosom and placed it, without the least flurry, upon the table.
The sailor’s face flushed up with an ungovernable tide of crimson. He started to his feet and grasped his cudgel; but the next moment he fell back into his seat trembling convulsively, and with the countenance of death itself. He spoke not a single word. I pitied him from the bottom of my heart.
“My friend,” said Dupin, in a kind tone, “you are alarming yourself unnecessarily—you are indeed. We mean you no harm whatever. I pledge you the honor of a gentleman, and of a Frenchman, that we intend you no injury. I perfectly well know that you are innocent of the atrocities in the Rue Morgue. It will not do, however, to deny that you are in some measure implicated in them. From what I have already said, you must know that I have had means of information about this matter—means of which you could never have dreamed. Now the thing stands thus. You have done nothing which you could have avoided—nothing certainly which renders you culpable. You were not even guilty of robbery, when you might have robbed with impunity. You have nothing to conceal. You have no reason for concealment. On the other hand, you are bound by every principle of honor to confess all that you know. An innocent man is now imprisoned, charged with that crime of which you can point out the perpetrator.”
The sailor had recovered his presence of mind in a great measure, while Dupin uttered these words; but his original boldness of bearing was all gone.
“So help me God,” said he, after a brief pause, “I will tell you all that I know about this affair;—but I do not expect you to believe one half that I say—I would be a fool indeed if I did. Still, I am innocent, and I will make a clean breast if I die for it.”
I do not propose to follow the man in the circumstantial narrative which he now detailed. What he stated was, in substance, this. He had lately made a voyage to the Indian Archipelago. A party, of which he formed one, landed at Borneo, and passed into the interior on an excursion of pleasure. Himself and a companion had captured the Ourang-Outang. This companion dying, the animal fell into his own exclusive possession. After great trouble, occasioned by the intractable ferocity of his captive during the home voyage, he at length succeeded in lodging it safely at his own residence in Paris, where, not to attract towards himself the unpleasant curiosity of his neighbors, he kept it carefully secluded, until such time as it should recover from a wound in the foot, received from a splinter on board ship. His ultimate design was to sell it.
Returning home from some sailors’ frolic on the night, or rather in the morning of the murder, he found his prisoner occupying his own bed-room, into which he had broken from a closet adjoining, where he had been, as it was thought, securely confined. The beast, razor in hand, and fully lathered, was sitting before a looking-glass, attempting the operation of shaving, in which he had no doubt previously watched his master through the key-hole of the closet. Terrified at the sight of so dangerous a weapon in the possession of an animal so ferocious, and so well able to use it, the man, for some moments, was at a loss what to do. He had been accustomed, however, to quiet the creature, even in its fiercest moods, by the use of a strong wagoner’s whip, and to this he now resorted. Upon sight of it, the Ourang-Outang sprang at once through the door of the chamber, down the stairs, and thence, through a window, unfortunately open, into the street.
The Frenchman followed in despair—the ape, razor still in hand, occasionally stopping to look back and gesticulate at his pursuer, until the latter had nearly come up with him. He then again made off. In this manner the chase continued for a long time. The streets were profoundly quiet, as it was nearly three o’clock in the morning. In passing down an alley in the rear of the Rue Morgue, the fugitive’s attention was arrested by a light (the only one apparent except those of the town-lamps) gleaming from the open window of Madame L’Espanaye’s chamber, in the fourth story of her house. Rushing to the building, he perceived the lightning-rod, clambered up with inconceivable agility, grasped the shutter, which was thrown fully back against the wall, and, by its means swung himself directly upon the head-board of the bed. The whole feat did not occupy a minute. The shutter was kicked open again by the Ourang-Outang as he entered the room.
The sailor, in the meantime, was both rejoiced and perplexed. He had strong hopes of now recapturing the ape, as it could scarcely escape from the trap into which it had ventured, except by the rod, where it might be intercepted as it came down. On the other hand, there was much cause for anxiety as to what the brute might do in the house. This latter reflection urged the man still to follow the fugitive. A lightning rod is ascended without difficulty, especially by a sailor; but, when he had arrived as high as the window, which lay far to his left, his career was stopped; the most that he could accomplish was to reach over so as to obtain a glimpse of the interior of the room. At this glimpse he nearly fell from his hold through excess of horror. Now it was that those hideous shrieks arose upon the night, which had startled from slumber the inmates of the Rue Morgue. Madame L’Espanaye and her daughter, habited in their night clothes, had apparently been occupied in arranging some papers in the iron chest already mentioned, which had been wheeled into the middle of the room. It was open, and its contents lay beside it on the floor. Their backs must have been towards the window; and, by the time elapsing between the screams and the ingress of the ape, it seems probable that he was not immediately perceived. The flapping-to of the shutter they would naturally have attributed to the wind.
As the sailor looked in, the gigantic beast had seized Madame L’Espanaye by the hair, (which was loose, as she had been combing it,) and was flourishing the razor about her face, in imitation of the motions of a barber. The daughter lay prostrate and motionless; she had swooned. The screams and struggles of the old lady (during which the hair was torn from her head) had the effect of changing the probably pacific purposes of the Ourang-Outang into those of ungovernable wrath. With one determined sweep of his muscular arm he nearly severed her head from her body. The sight of blood inflamed his anger into phrenzy. Gnashing his teeth, and flashing fire from his eyes, he flew upon the body of the girl, and imbedded his fearful talons in her throat, retaining his grasp until she expired. His wandering and wild glances fell at this moment upon the head of the bed, over which those of his master, glazed in horror, were just discernible. The fury of the beast, who no doubt bore still in mind the dreaded whip, was instantly converted into dread. Conscious of having deserved punishment, he seemed desirous to conceal his bloody deeds, and skipped about the chamber in an apparent agony of nervous agitation, throwing down and breaking the furniture as he moved, and dragging the bed from the bedstead. In conclusion, he seized first the corpse of the daughter, and thrust it up the chimney, as it was found; then that of the old lady, with which he rushed to the window, precipitating it immediately therefrom.
As the ape approached him with his mutilated burden, the sailor shrunk aghast to the rod, and rather gliding than clambering down it, hurried at once home—dreading the consequences of the butchery, and gladly abandoning, in his terror, all solicitude about the fate of the Ourang-Outang. The words heard by the party upon the staircase were the Frenchman’s exclamations of horror and affright, commingled with the fiendish jabberings of the brute.
I have scarcely anything to add. The Ourang-Outang must have escaped from the chamber, by the rod, just before the breaking of the door. He must have closed the window as he passed through it. He was subsequently caught by the owner himself, who obtained for him a very large sum at the Jardin des Plantes. Le Bon was instantly released upon our narration of the circumstances (with some comments from Dupin) at the bureau of the Préfet de police. This functionary, however well disposed to my friend, could not altogether conceal his chagrin at the turn which affairs had taken, and was fain to indulge in a sarcasm or two, in regard to the propriety of every person minding his own business.
“Let him talk,” said Dupin, who had not thought it necessary to reply. “Let him discourse; it will ease his conscience. I am satisfied with having defeated him in his own castle. In truth, he is too cunning to be acute. There is no stamen in his wisdom. It is all head and no body—like the pictures of the goddess Laverna—or at least all head and shoulders, like a codfish. But he is a good fellow, after all. I like him especially for one master stroke of cant, by which he has attained that reputation for ingenuity which he possesses. I mean the way he has ‘de nier ce qui est, et d’expliquer ce qui n’est pas.’ ”
Philadelphia, March, 1841.
AN APRIL DAY.
The spring has come, the low south wind
Is breathing sweet,—
The showers are patt’ring in the wood,
Like fairy feet.
Hark! in yon silent grove a bird
Pours out its lay,—
Such strains, I ween, have not been heard
For many a day.
The feath’ry clouds scud o’er the sky,
The sun between,—
A thousand rain-drops glisten bright,
Upon the green.
And such is life—an April morn,
A changing sky,—
To mingled joy and grief we’re born,
And born to die.
A. A. I.
Philadelphia, March, 1841.
TO THE ÆOLIAN HARP.
Say magic strain—from whence thy wild note straying?
Comes it in sadness, or in raptured glee?
Art thou a thing of earth, that sweetly playing,
Blends in each fitful blast, so tenderly?
Or, art thou from the star-gem’d vault of Heav’n,
Perchance the music of some distant sphere,
That faintly echoes on the gales of even,
To claim from earth—grief’s solitary tear?
Art thou the revelling of some fairy sprite,
Tripping the dewy world fantastically,
To keep its tryst beneath the clear moonlight,
Awak’ning tones of deepest minstrelsy?
Or, art thou, breathing from a holier clime,
A voice, that calleth tremulously low;
To lure the enraptured soul to things divine,
Far from deluding joys it meets below?
Thou com’st with inspiration ’mid thy sighing,
A melody, unearthly and unknown;
A mingled strain, that on the night-breeze dying,
Wakens the heart-strings to thy thrilling tone.
Recalling wanderings of the spirit-past,
The wayward visions of our fleeting youth;
The ling’ring day-dreams that in mem’ry last,
Untouch’d by Time’s realities of truth.
Again we roam where forest-shadows blending,
Ring with the gladness of our playful hours,
Along the murm’ring stream once more we’re wending,
Lured by the sunny mead, soft winds, and flowers—
Or, oft renew the link that death hath broken,
The cherish’d dead—again recall to view;
Hear ’mid thy varied tones, the fond words spoken,
That erst from sorrow’s fount deep anguish drew.
And fairest visions float through Fancy’s fane,
Caught from the soul’s illuminated shrine;
Elysian forms, that purer realms retain,
Thoughts of the blest, ethereal, and divine.
Earth too is mingling with her mortal hours,
The touching softness of her gentle things;
And Love—deep-gushing Love—with winged powers,
Chimes with the ecstacy each wild note brings.
Hast thou not sounds to rouse the soul to madness,
To flattering joys—emotions long enshrined;
Deep silent melodies of youthful gladness,
That spring unbidden to the raptur’d mind?
This, then thou art—the power of plaintive measure,
To call forth passion by the wind-swept wire;
To mingle Hope, with memory’s sad pleasure,
This is thy power—Oh! sweet Æolian lyre.
A. F. H.
THE REEFER OF ’76.
BY THE AUTHOR OF “CRUISING IN THE LAST WAR.”
It is scarcely necessary to detail the occurrences of that celebrated cruize. Success appeared to follow us wherever we went. After our escape from the man-of-war,—which we subsequently learned to be the Solebay, mounting twenty-eight guns—we ran farther eastward, and soon fell in with several prizes. One morning, however, our look-out detected a strange frigate hovering upon the sea-board, nor was it long before we discovered her to be an enemy. We made her out, by the aid of our glasses, to be a light frigate, pierced for sixteen guns on a side. Every rag that would draw was instantly set. With equal alacrity the stranger followed our example, and a running fight was commenced, which lasted nearly the whole day; for our daring leader, finding that we could easily outsail the enemy, kept just out of range of her guns, so that, although she maintained a constant fire, every shot fell short. Toward night-fall, however, we gave full rein to our gallant craft, and, to the astonishment and chagrin of the Englishman, left him hull down in a few hours.
After hauling aboard our tacks, we ran up toward Canseau, and for some time inflicted serious damage upon the enemy’s fishermen, around the coast of Nova Scotia. Having finally captured no less than sixteen sail, some of them very valuable, we left the scene of our late exploits, and swept down the coast toward Montauk.
It was a cloudless afternoon when we made Block Island, and, as the sun set behind its solitary outline, tinting the sky with a thousand varied dyes, and prolonging the shadow of the coast along the deep, we beheld a small schooner, close-hauled, opening around the northern extremity of the island. In less than a half hour she was close to windward of us. As it was the first friendly craft we had seen for weeks, we were all naturally anxious to learn the state of affairs on land. Paul Jones himself leaped into the rigging and hailed,
“Ahoy! what craft is that?”
“The Mary Ann of Newport,” answered a nasal voice from the low deck of the stranger, “what vessel air you?”
“The Providence continental sloop—come to under our lee and send a boat aboard.”
“Ay, ay, sir!” answered the same voice, but in an altered tone, and with the ready alacrity of a true seaman, “round her to, boys; but may be,” continued he, again addressing us, “you hain’t heerd the news yet. I calculate it’ll make the British think we Yankees ain’t to be made slaves of arter all—independence is declared.”
“What!—the Congress declared itself independent of Great Britain?” asked Paul Jones, quickly.
“Yes! by —,” but the half muttered oath of the seaman died away in a prolonged whistle, as he remembered how unbecoming an oath would be from a deacon of the church. For an instant there was a profound silence, while we gazed into each other’s faces, with mingled wonder, delight, and pride. The news was not wholly unhoped for, though we had scarcely ventured to expect it. A topman was the first to speak. Forgetting every thing in his enthusiasm, he shouted,
“Three cheers, my boys, for freedom,—huzza!”
And, suiting the action to the word, he broke into a thundering shout, which, taken up by our own crew, was answered back by that of the schooner, until the very heavens seemed to echo the sound. It was a stirring moment. A universal transport appeared to have seized upon our gallant fellows; they threw up their hats, they shook each other’s hands, they laughed, they swore, and the more volatile even danced; while Paul Jones himself, with a flushed cheek and kindling eye, timed the huzzas of his patriotic crew.
Before twenty-four hours we were at anchor in Newport, and almost the first craft that I beheld in the harbor, was the saucy little Fire-Fly. The welcome I received from my shipmates I will not attempt to describe. Over our cold junk and Jamaica, I listened to the narrative of their adventures since our parting, and rehearsed in return my own. My arrival was opportune, for the schooner expected to sail in less than a week, and had I been delayed many days longer, I might have found it impossible to have rejoined her during the war. The little time that we remained in port after my arrival, was spent in a constant round of amusements, such only as a set of gay reckless reefers know how to indulge in. Many a gay song was trolled, and many a mirthful tale related by lips that have long since been stilled in death.
But what of Beatrice? Had she forgotten me? No—the dear creature had availed herself of one of the rare opportunities which then presented themselves occasionally of communicating with the north, to answer a long epistle I had transmitted to her, by a chance vessel, we met a few days after leaving Charleston. Oh! with what simple, yet nervous eloquence did she assure me of her unabated love, and how sweetly did she chide me for the doubts I had—sinner that I was—whispered respecting it. I kissed the dear missive again and again; I read it over and over a thousand times; I treasured it the more because I knew not when the chances of war would suffer me to hear from her again. I feared not now the influence of her uncle: I felt in my inmost soul that Beatrice was too pure, too self-devoted in her love ever to sacrifice it for lucre. And as I felt this it flashed across me that perhaps she might have heard of my being lost overboard from the merchantman; and who knew but that even now she might be mourning me as dead? Happily a brig was now in port about to sail for Charleston. I seized the opportunity, and wrote to inform Beatrice of my safety.
In a few days our outfit was completed, and bidding adieu to my friends on board the Providence, we set sail from Newport. The day was bright and glorious, and the sunbeams danced merrily upon the waves. A light breeze murmured through the rigging; the gay song of the sailors from the merchantmen in port floated softly past; and the scream of the sea-birds broke shrilly over us, high in the clear blue sky.
As the day advanced, however, a thin, gauze-like vapor gradually spread over the horizon, deepening before four bells in the afternoon watch to an impervious canopy of black, which stretching from pole to pole, obscured the whole firmament, and threw a premature and sickly gloom over the deep beneath. The wind, too, began to rise, blowing in irregular puffs, and whitening the surface of the sea in patches over the whole of its wide extent; while occasionally a low, half-smothered murmur, as if arising out of the very heart of the ocean, betokened that the elements of the storm were at work far down in their wild recesses. As the day advanced the sky became even more ominous, until long before night-fall its weird-like grandeur excelled any thing I had ever beheld. By this time, too, the wind had increased almost into a hurricane, and with every thing trimmed down, we were cleaving through the fast whitening billows with an exhilarating velocity that only a sailor can appreciate. The rain meanwhile was falling fast. As night came on the watch was set, and most of us went below, so that all off duty were soon congregated in our mess-room.
“A wild night,” said the last comer, as he shook the wet from his shaggy jacket, “and I see you’re determined to make the most of it, my boys—push us the Jamaica, Parker, and don’t forget the junk in passing. Here’s to the thirteen united colonies, hurrah!”
“Hurrah! hurrah! hip—hip—hurrah!” rung around the crowded room, as we drank off our bumpers.
“Can’t you give us a toast, O’Shaughnessy?” sung out Westbrook.
“Shure and what shall it be?” said he, with humorous simplicity. A general roar of laughter followed.
“Any thing, my hearty,” said Westbrook, cramming a piece of junk into his mouth as he spoke.
“Arrah thin, and ye’ll not refuse to dhrink the memory of our gallant comrade,” said he, looking hard at me, “present this blessed minit, who fought, bled, and died at Fort Moultrie—Misther Parker, I mane, boys.”
The explosions of laughter which followed this speech, like successive peals of thunder, were enough to lift the deck of the schooner off bodily from overhead. But the most laughable part of all was the amazement of poor O’Shaughnessy, who, unable to understand this new burst of merriment, looked from one to another, in humorous perplexity. As soon, however, as the company could compose itself, the toast was drunk amid a whirlwind of huzzas. I rose to return thanks.
“Hear him—hear him,” roared a dozen voices. I began.
“Honored as I am, gentlemen, by this token of—of,” but here I was interrupted by the entrance of the purser, who, poking his head through the narrow doorway, said,
“Gentlemen, the captain must be informed of this riot if it continues.”
The purser was a stiff, starch, precise old scoundrel, with a squint in his eye, a nasal twang, and an itching after money beyond even that of Shylock. To make a dollar he would descend to the meanest shifts. But this would not have irritated the mess so much, even though he had at one time or another fleeced every member of it, had it not been his constant practice to inform on such of the tricks inseparable to a set of youngsters as came under his notice. He was, in short, a skulking spy. Added to this he was continually affecting a strictness of morals which was more than suspected to be hypocritical.
“And who made you keeper of the skipper’s conscience?—eh! old plunderer,” said Westbrook, as he shied a biscuit at the purser’s head.
“Really, gentlemen, really—I—I must—”
“Come in, or you’ll catch cold in the draught,” sung out our reckless comrade, “your teeth chatter so now you can’t talk. Haul him in there, O’Shaughnessy.”
Quick as the word the unlucky interloper was dragged in, the door shut, and he stood turning from one to another of our group in speechless amazement. We were all ready for any mischief. The rattling of the cordage overhead, the thunder of the surge, and the deafening whistle of the hurricane we knew would drown all the uproar we might occasion, and afford us impunity for any offence. Besides it was no part of his duty to be intruding on our mess, and threatening us with punishment. We had a long account to settle with our extortioner.
“Hope you find yourself at home—take a sociable glass, that’s a good fellow—glad to see you amongst us,” sung out as many voices as biscuit after biscuit was sent at the purser’s head, while Westbrook mixing a stiff tumbler of salt and water proffered it to our victim to drink.
“Spu—spu—gentlemen, spu, I promise you—the utmost penalty of—of the regulations—you shall be mast-headed—disrated—you shall, so help me God.”
“A penalty! a penalty! the worthy man is profane: how shall we punish such immorality?”
“Cob him,” said one.
“Keel-haul him,” said another.
“Make him receipt for his bill,” roared a third.
“Give him the salt and water,” chimed in Westbrook, and the salt and water it was agreed should be the penalty. Three stout reefers held the loathing victim fast, while Westbrook proceeded to administer the draught.
“Gentlemen—I—I—protest—a—gainst—you shall suffer for this—you shall—”
“Aisy, you spalpeen you, aisy,” said O’Shaughnessy, giving the purser a shake.
“Mr. Westbrook, I warn you—I warn you,” said the purser raising his voice.
But our comrade was not to be intimidated. Taking the glass in one hand, he placed himself at a proper distance in front of the struggling man, and gravely commenced haranguing him on the enormity of his offence.
“It pains me, indeed, Mr. Sower,” and here Westbrook laid his hand upon his heart, “to hear a man of your character use such language as you have been convicted of, especially in the presence of these misguided young reprobates,” here there was a general laugh, “example, example, my dear sir, is every thing. But the deed is done: the penalty alone remains to be paid. With a heart torn with the most poignant anguish I proceed to execute your sentence.”
“Mr. Westbrook, again I warn you—spe—e—u—uh.”
But in vain the purser kicked, and struggled, and spluttered. The mess was too much for him. One seized him by the nose, a second forced open his mouth, and Westbrook, with inimitable gravity, apologising for, and bemoaning his melancholy duty,—as he called it—in the same breath, poured the nauseating draught down the victim’s throat, amid roars of laughter.
“D——n, I’ll make you pay for this—I will—I will,” roared the purser, almost choked with rage.
“Open the door and let him run,” laughed Westbrook.
The mandate was obeyed, and with one bound the purser sprang out of the mess-room, while his merry persecutors, holding their sides, laughed until the tears ran out of their eyes.
“A song—give us a song, Westbrook!” shouted the one at the foot of the table, as soon as the merriment, ceasing for a while, but renewed again and again, had finally died away.
“What shall it be?” said our jovial messmate, “ah! our own mess-room song, Parker hasn’t heard it yet—shove us the jug, for I’m confoundedly dry.”
Having taken a long draught, Westbrook hemmed twice, and sang in a fine manly tenor, the following stanzas:
“Oh! what is so gay as a reefer’s life!
With his junk and Jamaica by him,
He cares not a fig for the morning’s strife.
He seeks but the foe to defy him;
He fights for his honor and country’s laws,
He fights for the mother that bore him,—
And the hireling slave of a tyrant’s cause
Will quail, like a coward, before him.
“The deep may unfetter its surges dread,
The heavens their thunders awaken,
The tempest howl as it sweeps overhead,—
He smiles at all danger unshaken;
With an unblenched eye, and a daring form
He fearlessly gazes before him,
Though he fall in battle, or sink in the storm,
His country, he knows, will weep o’er him.
“In her sun-lit vallies are daughters fair
To greet us from battle returning,
With their song and smile to banish each care
By the hearth-fire cheerily burning.
Oh! who would not fight for beings like these,
For mothers, for grandsires hoary?
Like a besom we’ll sweep the foe from the seas,
Or die, in the strife, full of glory.”
“Bravo! three times three!” and the triple sound rolled stunningly from our throats.
“Hark! wasn’t that the boatswain’s whistle?” said I, and for a moment we paused in our applause to listen. But the tumult of the storm drowned everything in its fierce uproar.
“Again, boys—hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!” and the cheers were renewed with redoubled vigor.
“Gentlemen, all hands on deck,” said the quarter-master, opening the door at this moment.
“Ay! ay! sir,” was the simultaneous response of every member of the mess, and in less than a minute our late noisy apartment was as quiet as the tomb, and we had each taken his post on deck. Such is discipline.
The spectacle that met our vision as we reached the deck, drove at once, all the excitement of our potations off; and we were as calm and collected in a second after leaving the gang-way, as if we had kept above during the whole evening. Never can I forget that moment. The rain was pouring down in torrents, not perpendicularly, however, but slant-wise, as it was driven before the hurricane. Now it beat fiercely into our faces, and now was whirled hither and thither in wild commotion. Around, all was dark as pitch. We could not see a dozen fathoms in any direction, except where the white crests of the surges flashed through the gloom. These could, however, be detected close under our lee glancing through the darkness, while the dull continued roar in that quarter, betokened our immediate vicinity to breakers. They were in fact, close aboard. Had they not been detected the instant they were, we should have run on to them the next minute, and perished to a soul. Happily we had just room to wear. This had been done before we were summoned on deck. We had now close-hauled every thing, and were endeavoring, as our only hope, to claw off the shore.
The next fifteen minutes were spent in that agonising suspense, for more terrible than death itself, which men experience when the king of terror smiles grimly in their faces, and yet witholds the blow. As we gazed out, through the driving rain, upon the dimly seen breakers on our starboard beam, and heard their wild monotonous roar as of hounds yelling for their prey, a sense of inexpressible awe stole upon our minds, which, though totally devoid of fear, was yet appalling. Who knew but that, before another hour, aye! before a quarter of that time, our mangled bodies might be floating at the mercy of the surge? Every moment deepened our anxiety, for though our little craft breasted the waves with gallant determination, sending the spray as high as her mast head at every plunge, yet there was no perceptible increase in our distance from the shore. Fierce, and fiercer, meanwhile, grew the tempest. The surge roared under our lee; the wind howled by like the wailings of the damned; and the occasional lightnings, which now began to illuminate the scene, lit up the whole firmament a moment with their ghastly glare, and then left it shrouded in darkness deeper than that of the day of doom. At intervals the thunder bellowed overhead or went crackling in prolonged echoes down the sky. The schooner groaned and quivered in every timber. Now we rose to the heavens; now wallowed in the abyss. The men, grasping each a rope, looked ominously at the scene around, or cast hurried glances aloft as if fearful that our masts would not stand the strain.
“Hark!” said Westbrook, who stood beside me, “was not that a gun?—there again?”
As he spoke the sullen roar of a cannon boomed across the deep, and for several successive minutes, in the intervals of the thunder, followed the same awful sound. We looked at each other.
“They are signals of distress,” I ejaculated, “God have mercy on the sufferers! for man can afford them no help.”
I had scarcely ceased speaking when a succession of rapid, vivid flashes of lightning, illumined the stormy prospect for several minutes, as with the light of day; and for the first time we caught a glimpse of the rocky coast, on our lee, against which the surge was breaking in a hurricane of foam. But fearful as was the spectacle of our own danger, it was surpassed by the sight which met our eager gaze. About a cable’s length ahead, and a few points on our lee bow, was a tall and gallant bark, dismantled and broached to, upon a reef of jagged rocks, now buried in foam. Her weather quarter lay high upon the ledge, and was crowded with unfortunate human beings, men, women and children, over whom the surges broke momentarily in cataracts. I hear now their wild despairing cries, although years have passed since then. I see their outstretched hands as they call on heaven for mercy. I feel again the cold chill, freezing up my very blood, which then rushed across my heart, as I thought of their inevitable doom, and knew not but that in a few moments I should share its bitterness with them. I was startled by a deep voice at my side. It was that of an old warrant officer. The tears were streaming down his weather-beaten cheeks, and his tones were husky and full of emotion as he said,
“It’s a sad spectacle that for a father, Mr. Parker.”
“It is, Hawser—but why do you shed tears?—cheer up, man—it’s not all over with us yet,” said I.
“Ah! sir, it’s not fear that makes me so, but I was thinking what my little ones, and their poor mother would do for bread to eat, should I be taken away from them. You are not a father, Mr. Parker.”
“God forgive me, Hawser, for my suspicion. I honor your emotions,” said I, pressing his horny hand, and turning away to conceal my own feelings. But as I did so, I felt something hot fall upon my finger. It was the old man’s tear.
“We must give her another reef, I fear,” said the captain, as he saw how fearfully the vessel strained, “no, no,” he added, as he glanced again at the rocky coast, “it will never do. Keep her to it,” he thundered, raising his voice, “keep her to it, quarter-master.”
“Ay, ay, sir.”
We were now almost abreast of the ill-fated wreck. Driving rapidly along, the dark waters sinking in foam beneath our lee as we breasted the opposing surge, our fate promised soon to be the same with that of the wretches on the reef. The crisis was at hand. We were in dangerous proximity to the dismantled ship; and the least falling off would roll us in upon her. It was even doubtful whether we could weather the reef, should we still hold our own. At this moment a ray of hope appeared. We perceived that the shore shelved in just beyond the wreck, and that, if we could escape the ledge, our safety would be ensured. The captain took in at a glance this new situation of affairs, which, by holding out hope, redoubled every motive to action.
“How bears she?” he anxiously inquired.
The man answered promptly.
“Hard up—press her down more,” he shouted, and then muttered, between his teeth “or we are lost.”
“She is almost shaking.”
“How does she bear?”
“A point more in the wind’s eye.”
“Harder yet, harder.”
“Ay, ay, sir.”
“Another point, sir.”
The crisis had now come. Bending almost to the horizon, under the enormous press of her canvass, the schooner groaned and struggled against the seas, and for one moment of intense agony, during which we held our breaths painfully, and even forgot the cries of the sufferers upon our lee, we thought that all was over; but, although the schooner staggered under the successive shocks, she did not yield, and as the last billow sank away, whitening beneath her lee, and we rose gallantly upon its crest, the rocky reef shot away astern, and we were safe. As the wreck vanished in the gloom behind, the cries of her despairing passengers came mingled with the roar of the tempest, in awful distinctness, to our ears.
THE OUTLAW LOVER.
BY J. H. DANA.
Com. And left your fair side all unguarded, Lady?
It was a summer afternoon, and the sunlight, glimmering through the branches of the old oak trees, fell with a rich glow upon the green sward beneath, lighting up the dark vistas of the forest, and disclosing long avenues of stately trees, through which the deer trotted in the distance, presenting altogether a picture of woodland scenery such as the eye rarely beholds, when two females might have been seen sauntering idly along, listening to the gay echoes of their own voices as they conversed in those light-hearted tones, which only youth and innocence employ. The foremost of the two, by the stateliness of her mien, and the richness of her dress, appeared to be of higher rank than her companion; and as she turned occasionally to converse with her attendant, she disclosed one of the most beautiful countenances that poet ever dreamed of, or painter pictured. A noble contour; a snowy forehead; a finely chiselled mouth; and a pair of dark lustrous eyes that shone like a cloudless night into the gazer’s soul, made up a face of surpassing loveliness. And as she conversed, each successive thought would flash up into her countenance, making it, as it were, the mirror of the pure soul beneath, and giving it an expression, such as the pen would find it impossible to describe.
“Ruth! Ruth!” said this fair vision, suddenly pausing, “hear you nothing—surely that was the cry of dogs—can we have wandered so far from the lodge?”
The color faded from the attendant’s cheek as her mistress ceased speaking, and the deep bay of approaching hounds floated down the avenues of the forest.
“Let us fly—fly, dear lady,” said the terrified girl, “or the stag will be upon us.”
The words had scarcely left her mouth before a crashing was heard in a neighboring thicket, and before the females could move more than a few steps from their position, a huge antlered stag, dripping with blood and foam, burst out of the copse, and made toward them. The attendant shrieked, and clasping her mistress’ robe, stood unable to move. Had the maiden been equally paralysed, their destruction would have been unavoidable. But in that moment of peril, though the cheek of the lady Margaret became a trifle paler than usual, her presence of mind did not desert her. Seizing her attendant’s arm energetically, she dragged her toward a huge oak behind them, whose giant trunk would afford a momentary barrier against the infuriated animal. Had the lady Margaret been alone and unencumbered, she would have succeeded in her endeavor, but her nearly senseless companion so retarded her progress that the stag had almost overtaken them while yet several paces from the tree. Another instant and their fate would be sealed. But at that crisis she heard a whizzing by her ear, and an arrow, sped by an unseen hand, pierced the heart of the stag, who leaping madly forward with a last effort, fell dead at her feet. At the same moment a light and active form, arrayed in a dress of Lincoln green, sprang out from a neighboring copse, and lifting his cap to the ladies, begged to enquire after their affright, in a tone so courtly for one of his apparent station, that Margaret involuntarily looked closer at the stranger.
He was apparently about twenty-five years of age, with an open and generous countenance, enlivened by one of those merry blue eyes which were characteristic in those days, of the pure Saxon blood of their possessor. A jaunty cap, with a long white feather drooping over it, was set upon the stranger’s head; while a green coat, made somewhat after the fashion of a hunting frock of the present day, and crossed by a wide belt from which depended a bugle, set off his graceful form. Altogether the intruder was as gallant a looking forester as ever trod the greensward.
“The hounds are in full cry,” continued the stranger, without shrinking at the scrutiny of the lady, “and will soon be upon us. Will you suffer me to be your protector from this scene?”
The lady Margaret bowed, and pointing to her attendant, who had now fainted, thanked their preserver for his offer, and signified her willingness to accept it. The youth made no answer, but seizing the prostrate maiden in his arms, he pointed to the copse from which he had emerged, and hastily followed Margaret into it. The branches, where they passed in their retreat, had scarcely ceased vibrating, when the hounds dashed into the space they had left, and in a moment after a gay train of hunters followed with horn and halloo.
Meantime the young stranger, bearing the form of Ruth in his arms, hastily traversed the forest, by paths that others could scarcely have detected, until he reached the margin of an open glade, at whose extremity stood a low-roofed lodge, such as was then used for the residence of a keeper of the forest. Here the stranger hesitated a moment, but finally perceiving that no one was in sight, he pressed across the glade, and only paused when he had deposited his now reviving burden on a cot in the lodge. The next moment he turned to depart.
“May—may we know to whom we are indebted for this timely aid?” faltered the lady Margaret, crimsoning as she spoke, with an agitation of manner unusual to the high-bred heiress.
The youth hesitated a moment, looked wistfully at the maiden, and seemed on the point of answering, when footsteps were heard approaching. Hastily bowing to Margaret, he ejaculated,
“We may meet again, farewell!” and vanished from the portal. His form disappeared in the forest as the keeper entered and saluted the lady Margaret and his daughter.
Cel. Soft! comes he not here?
As You Like It.
The Earl of Mountfort’s only daughter, the lady Margaret, was at once an heiress and a beauty. Early deprived of a mother’s care; buried in the seclusion of her father’s various castles; and knowing nothing of the great world without, she had attained the age of eighteen, without suffering any diminution of that enthusiasm which is so beautiful in early youth, but which a few year’s collision with mankind wears off.
From her earliest childhood Ruth Herewood, the forester’s daughter, had been her bosom companion; for in that day, when young females of noble rank could rarely associate together, their handmaidens were often their sole confidants. Ruth, moreover, was a foster sister to the lady Margaret, and the tie, therefore, which bound them together was one not lightly thought of, nor easily severed. It was no unusual thing for the young heiress, at least once a year, to spend a fortnight or even more at the lodge of Mr. Herewood, who held the office of a keeper in one of the king’s forests. At such times she was unattended, except by a few faithful servants. It was during one of these visits that her life had been preserved in the manner we have related. With these explanations let us return to our story.
A significant sign from her mistress put Ruth upon her guard, and as the stranger had disappeared before her father’s entrance, Mr. Herewood remained in ignorance of the danger from which the females had escaped. The motives which prompted Margaret to this concealment we shall not attempt to divine. Perhaps it was only a passing whim; but if so it was changed into a settled resolution, when, on the following morning Ruth’s father acquainted them with the fact that a stag had been found shot in the forest by the royal hunting party, and that so daring a breach of the forest laws would assuredly be punished with the utmost penalty that rigorous code afforded. Alarmed and perplexed, Margaret determined to conceal all knowledge of the stranger, lest, by her means, he might be detected; for she feared that her rescuer was one of those outlaws who were known to infest the forest, and that though he might find immunity for that particular offence, he could not escape being convicted of others as heinous.
Yet Margaret could not forget her preserver. In her waking or sleeping dreams his manly form was ever before her, looking as it did when he sprang from the copse to her rescue; and as often as the vision recurred to her memory she owned to herself that she had never seen anyone of such rare manly beauty. She strolled oftener than ever into the forest, and Ruth noticed—for are not all women quick to notice such things?—that whenever her theme of conversation was their unknown preserver, her mistress listened to her with more than common interest.
Several days had now elapsed since their escape from the stag, when, one afternoon, Margaret and Ruth, found themselves in that portion of the forest where their fright had occurred. As it was some distance from the lodge, they felt fatigued by their walk, and sitting down on a shady knoll, naturally fell into a conversation on the stranger who had so opportunely come to their aid. But a few minutes had thus passed when a light step was heard approaching, and as the females hastily arose, the stranger stood before them.
“Be not alarmed, fair lady,” said he, lifting his cap, and addressing Margaret, “I said when we parted the other day that we might meet again. I redeem my word. But if my presence affrights you I retire.”
The maiden blushed deeply at this address, so unlike that of one in the speaker’s sphere of life. Her bosom was agitated, meanwhile, with contending emotions, which produced a momentary embarrassment and confusion in her countenance, only serving to heighten her beauty in the stranger’s eyes. At length she spoke.
“But, sir stranger, do you not run a risk by this? Believe me I would not have you come to ill, but I know that danger besets your footsteps. Then,” she added, more earnestly than the next moment she thought maidenly, “fly from the forest.”
The stranger smiled as he answered.
“You think that the outlaw’s life is hazardous; but I have only to sound this,” and he lightly touched his bugle, “and a score of stout arms are around me.”
There was something so fascinating in the stranger’s manner that, despite her better judgment, Margaret felt chained to the spot. Nor did Ruth show any greater disposition to depart. Before five minutes had elapsed, Margaret found herself conversing with the gallant outlaw as freely as if she had known him for months. If, for a moment, she would think such conduct improper, the next reflection would be had he not saved her life? Besides was not Ruth at hand? Is it a wonder, therefore, that the grateful girl suffered the stranger to linger by her side for nearly an hour, or that after they had parted, she thought of him oftener than she would have been willing a week before to admit she could ever think of any one except her father? Is it a wonder that she often strolled into the forest with Ruth, and that she never returned without having seen the outlaw? In a word is it any wonder that she loved?
Never met, or never parted,
They had ne’er been broken-hearted.
There is nothing in this care-worn world so sweet and innocent as a young girl’s first love. Then—when the heart is fresh, when every thought is pure, when the poetry of life has not yet been crushed out of the soul, when as we are nearer to our childhood we are nearer to heaven—then it is that we love with an intensity such as we never love with again. And thus Margaret loved. She knew it not until it was impossible for her to drive away her passion. It had crept on her, slowly but surely, and oh! how sweetly, until it became a part of her being, and the day in which she did not see her lover, passed tediously and mournfully to her.
Yet though loving as few love, even in the fervor of a first passion, Margaret was still ignorant of her lover’s name. Often would she be tortured by fears lest he might have already forfeited his life in the career of an outlaw, but as often would she quiet her alarm by reflecting how impossible that a mere freebooter should be so courteous and even refined. In all this there was a mystery which did but feed the love of her highly imaginative mind, and though, day after day, would she resolve to question her lover so closely respecting himself that he could not evade her inquiries, yet, day after day, would she be diverted from, and forget it.
Nearly three weeks had now elapsed, and the period limited for her stay at the lodge had passed, when a messenger arrived from her father, to conduct her to one of his castles in the vicinity of London. Who can tell her feelings at receiving this summons?—a summons which would tear her from her lover, perhaps forever. But it opened to her more fully than ever the state of her heart, convinced her of her imprudence in suffering herself to love an unknown stranger, and determined her to learn that very day from her lover’s lips his name and station in life. Ah! pitiable indeed were her feelings as she reflected on her folly. But a flood of tears afforded her partial relief, and calling for Ruth to accompany her she set forth into the forest.
What a glorious old place was that royal hunting ground. For miles before you stretched a succession of hills and dales, covered with venerable and gigantic trees, or spreading out into rich meadows; while herds of deer might be seen trotting far off through the vistas of the forest, and here and there a cottage peeping out from beneath the verdant foliage. In some places the dark overshadowing trees completely obscured the light of day, and in others, the sunbeams struggling between the leaves gilded the greensward beneath. Such was the scene through which Margaret took her way, until she reached the open glade, where, of late, she had met her lover. Scarcely had she emerged from the surrounding woods before he sprang to her side, and in a moment she was in his arms.
“We meet again, dearest,” said he, kissing the fair cheek that blushed crimson at his caress.
“And I fear, for the last time,” said Margaret, “my father has sent for me, and to-morrow I leave this place. Oh! when,” and she looked into his eyes with all a woman’s tenderness, “shall we meet again?”
“Going!—and so soon!” muttered her lover, abstractedly, “why dearest, why did you not tell me of this before?”
“It was but this morning that I heard of it. Alas! that we should part so soon.”
“But how know you, sweet one, that we must part?” said her lover half smilingly. It recalled to Margaret’s mind her determination to learn her lover’s history.
“Why,” said she, “are you not a mere,” and her voice faltered, “a mere soldier of fortune, perhaps—,” and again she faltered and looked down, “an outlaw? Can you follow me? Oh! would you could,” and the unhappy maiden burst into tears.
“And why not, dear Margaret? Have not good men and true, at times, been driven to the greenwood for a temporary livelihood. Know you not how the good Earl of Huntingdon long kept wassail under the trees of old Sherwood with his ‘merrie men?’ ”
“Oh! then say you are like him—say you are not an outlaw! Did you but know how my heart reproves me for all this—how I weep to think that my father will never forgive me—and how my only consolation is in your love—did you know all this, you would keep me in suspense no longer!”
Her lover was deeply moved by her passionate entreaties, and pressing her to his bosom, kissed the tears from her cheek, and soothed her agitation by those words of kind endearment which are so eloquent when coming from one we love. He seemed too about to speak; but if so, he was prevented by a sudden baying of hounds, mingled with loud and approaching shouts, and directly a couple of dogs, followed by three keepers dashed out of the neighboring copse. Margaret, terrified and agitated, hastily followed whither her lover pointed, and retreated into the shadow of a cluster of oaks, followed by Ruth. She had scarcely done so unperceived, when the keepers rushed upon her lover, shouting,
“Down with him—the outlaw—down with him.”
Frightened almost out of consciousness, she could only see that her lover attempted what resistance he could, and that after a short but fierce contest he was overpowered, almost unarmed as he was, and borne to the ground. With all a woman’s devotion she rushed forward to his protection. But she had scarcely made a step, before she staggered and fainted. Ruth, too, was so alarmed as to be of little service; yet while, with trembling hands, she assisted to recover her mistress, so fearful was she of being discovered, that she would scarcely suffer herself to breathe.
“Oh! Ruth,” were the first audible words of her mistress “what have they done with him? Are they gone? Why did you not try to save him?”
“Alas! dear lady, it would have been in vain,” said Ruth, mingling her tears with those of her mistress, “what could I, or both of us have done, for one who had broken the forest laws?”
I’ll call thee, Hamlet.
Hurried away early on the ensuing morning, Margaret had no opportunity of learning the fate of her lover. She only knew that all delusion was at an end, and that—alas! for her future happiness—she had bestowed her affections on an outlaw, one who might soon suffer the penalty of his transgressions.
On her arrival at Mountfort castle, she learned that her father had determined to celebrate the approaching anniversary of her birth, by a tournament to be given to all comers at his castle. The preparation for this festivity, though it partially diverted her mind, could not drive away her melancholy. Often would she steal away with Ruth, to find a mournful pleasure in conversing of the happy days they had spent at her father’s lodge. Such conversations would generally end in a flood of tears, in which the tender-hearted hand-maiden would share. Yet never, not even for one moment, did Margaret suffer herself to dream of again meeting her lover, for well she knew that such a thing would call down upon her the eternal displeasure of her parent. Let it be recollected that in that age the distinctions of rank were almost as impassable as the grave. Nevertheless, the worm had fastened itself upon her heart, and like thousands before and since, the heiress found how fearful it was to love without hope.
Meantime the preparations for the tournament proceeded, and on the morning of the expected day, crowds thronged to the plain in front of the castle, on which the lists had been erected. The unrivalled beauty of the heiress in whose honor the festivities were to be given, had drawn together the chivalry of the realm, and a series of courses was expected to be run such as had not been heard of for years. But especially every tongue was loud in the praise of the young Earl of Hastings, who, had just returned from the Holy land, where he had been since boyhood, with the reputation of the best lance of the army. There were many, however, of the competitors who sneered at his pretensions, and promised themselves to unhorse him at the first shock.
“Margaret,” said her father, on the morning of the tournament, “you will see lord Hastings in the lists to-day, and I wish you to mark him well, for having heard of you by report, he has solicited your hand. Such an alliance would raise higher than ever our noble house. I did not hesitate. But now never blush, sweet one,—you maidens are ever thus,—what! in tears. Go to your bower, child, and get ready for the pageant. Many a proud dame will envy your lot to-day.”
Little did the inflexible, though affectionate father know of the agony he was inflicting on that young heart. Margaret saw that her doom was sealed, and she knew her parent too well even to expostulate, She went to her chamber, but it was to weep. All hope was over. She had nourished the romantic idea of continuing faithful to her unhappy lover by refusing every alliance, never dreaming that her father would interfere. Short-sighted girl! Already had he chosen for her, and she knew that the decrees of fate were less inflexible than her parent.
At length, however, she aroused herself and proceeded to the lists, in all the pomp of the heiress of her father’s vast possessions. How few knew the heavy heart which throbbed in agony beneath that jewelled boddice. The lists were gorgeously fitted up. A gallery in their centre, opposite to where the shock of the combatants would take place was appropriated to Margaret, who was to preside as queen of the festivities. Around were her father’s countless guests, numbering half the nobility of the realm, their wives and daughters flashing with jewels, and all envying the fortunate being, who, at that moment, would willingly have exchanged her rank and splendor for the peasant’s garb, if it came attended by happiness.
The tournament began. Several courses had been run with various success, when a herald rode into the lists and proclaimed that three courses yet remained, all of which Sir Robert De Laney, a renowned knight, would engage in with any three combatants, until overpowered or victorious. Several knights instantly presented themselves. The lot fell upon three, the Earl of Warren, Sir Edward Sidney, and lord Hastings. At once the challenger presented himself for the first antagonist. But the skill of his opponent was in vain. Lord Warren was hurled bleeding to the ground.
The Earl of Hastings now rode into the lists, and at his appearance a buzz of admiration ran around the spectators. His mien, his horsemanship, his comparative youth, and the renown he had brought with him from the east, enlisted the popular wish in his favor. Nor did he disappoint it. At the first shock he splintered his lance against his antagonist’s front, while De Laney’s shaft just grazed by him. The older knight reeled in the saddle, and scarcely saved himself from falling. A shout of general applause rewarded the young Earl’s skill.
But there yet remained an equally renowned competitor with whom to contend. By the laws of the tournament, Sir Edward Sidney had a right to contest with the conqueror for the honors of the day, a privilege of which he instantly signified his intention of availing himself. With equal readiness the young Earl prepared for the contest. The combatants took their places, and after a breathless hush of an instant the signal was given, and they vanished from their stations. The shock of their meeting was like that of an earthquake. The knight directing his lance full at his adversary’s breast, aimed to bear him by main force to the ground, but at the very instant of meeting, the young Earl bent in the saddle to evade the blow, and altering the direction of his own lance as he did so, he bore it full upon the breast of his antagonist, striking him with such force as to hurl him from the saddle like a stone from a sling. The discomfited knight fell heavily to the earth, and was borne off by his squires; while the victor swept onward amid the acclamations of the spectators. The heralds now proclaimed lord Hastings the conqueror of the day, and led him toward the lady Margaret to receive the prize.
Who can tell her feelings as she beheld the gallant train approaching? She saw before her, her destined lover, and however she might have admired his gallant exploits had her heart been disengaged, could she—loving another as she did—look upon him with aught but aversion? But though her emotion nearly overpowered her, she composed herself sufficiently to go through with her approaching duty. As the victor knelt at her feet, what sudden feeling was it which shot through her bosom? Why did her cheek crimson, her breath come quick, her heart flutter wildly? And why, as the helmet was removed from lord Hastings, did she drop the crown with which she was to reward him, and with a half suppressed scream, faint away? Why! but that in the victor of the tourney she recognised her own outlaw lover.
The joy of the reviving maiden when she found her preserver bending over her, and conjuring her to speak to him once more and forgive his stratagem, we shall not attempt to describe. Suffice it to say that the day of the tourney which opened as the darkest, set as the brightest, in her life.
The young Earl happening to see his mistress accidentally had imbibed the romantic idea of wooing her as an unknown and untitled stranger. For this purpose he had secretly followed her down to the lodge, and attired in an outlaw’s dress, had hovered around her path, waiting for a fitting opportunity to introduce himself. The manner in which he was at length favored by circumstances, as well as his subsequent success in his suit, the reader has seen. But his pretended character was not without its evils. He was seen, suspected, and captured by the forest keepers in the way we have described. He only escaped by revealing his rank. After his recovery from the wound he had received on that occasion, he had arrived at lord Mountfort’s castle, determining to contest the prize in the approaching tourney, and then reveal himself to his mistress.
It was but a few weeks after the fête, when the young Earl of Hastings led to the altar the fair daughter of the house of Mountfort, who never forgot, in her titled husband, the unknown OUTLAW LOVER.
BY MRS. C. H. W. ESLING.
How swiftly do old memories float about our riper hours!
They’re like the fragrant breath that fills the vase of perish’d flowers;
They bear an unextinguish’d ray, a light that never dies,
A borrow’d radiance gilding earth with lustre from the skies.
The joys that gather round us now, with all their rainbow beams,
Are bright, but evanescent, as the shadows in our dreams;
They pass before us like the leaves swept by the autumn’s blast,
Alas! too fragile for the earth—too beautiful to last.
We see the human flowers cut down, the kindred ones of home,
Whose garden was the loving heart, where storm clouds seldom come,
Making within that temple fair, a wilderness of woes,
A desert drear of that which once could “blossom as the Rose.”
We see the clasping chains unloose, and sever link by link,
Till hope turns shudderingly away, from sorrow’s fearful brink,
The band of sweet relationship, of close unwoven ties,
Is broken here—to reunite forever in the skies.
But memory with her guardian care, hath linger’d o’er each scene,
To paint them on the heart again when long years intervene.
When life’s bright summer days have gone, and all their beauty fled,
It brings us back the halcyon hours, that perish’d with the dead.
Oh! soft as music’s dying fall, from some loved voice’s tone,
Thine influence, mild and gentle power, across my mind is thrown;
Upon the harp strings of my heart, thine angel spirits play,
While fond old memories light its gloom, with many a moonlit ray.
THE CONFESSIONS OF A MISER.
BY J. ROSS BROWNE.
(Continued from Page 104.)
“That man,” says Theophrastus, “is justly called a lover of filthy lucre, to whom the relish and value of a gain are enhanced by the baseness of the means that have been employed in its acquisition.” I had failed in my designs; but my brutal triumph over the cause of this failure was almost equal in effect to success. I did not relent; I felt no remorse; I would have acted the same part again: parental affection was irrevocably dead. I enjoyed a kind of secret satisfaction at the awful result of my violence. A long and lingering illness, augmented by the horrors of our parting interview, had brought Valeria to the verge of the grave. She had given birth to a son. Poverty had sternly asserted its supremacy over the happiness of the young couple. Though since the rupture between us had taken place, I had never visited or enquired about her, there were many interlopers sufficiently officious to convey to me news of her approaching dissolution. These hints I would have disregarded, but for the sinister reports which from this time forth were so liberally circulated to my disadvantage. A note hastily placed in my hands one evening by a muffled figure, in whom, notwithstanding the attempted disguise, I fancied I recognised the manly form and contour of Da Vinci, confirmed me in my determination to witness the results of my violence. It was traced in a tremulous hand, and read as follows:—
“Father!—for Christian meekness and humanity, still compel me to call you by the endearing name—will you not soften your heart toward one, who, by all the laws of nature and of man, should be its solace and its idol; and whose last wish is that death should separate us in amity and mutual affection? Will you not, now at least, when she, who was once the delight of your old age, and the comforter of your bereaved heart, is on the bed of death,—will you not hearken to her dying wish, and grant the boon she so eagerly desires? O, have some mercy, my father—my benefactor! Hasten to the death-bed of your wretched—wretched daughter! May God forgive you, is the prayer of your erring
Two motives induced me to comply with the request contained in this note. First, I was anxious to avoid the contumely of those who watched my actions; and secondly, I felt a fiendish desire to behold the consummation of my revenge. Throwing a hasty disguise over my person I sallied out, and rapidly pushed my way through the thoroughfares of Venice, to a remote part of the city called Francesco della Vigna. Here, in an obscure lane, and surrounded by filth and poverty, I traced my way to the wretched tenement of Da Vinci and Valeria. A kind of involuntary sickness came over me as I ascended the stairs leading to the miserable loft in which they lodged. It proceeded not from remorse; it was not prompted by humanity; it was instinct conquering nature. With some hesitation I entered the apartment of the dying woman. A spectacle, which to any one but myself, would have appeared heart-rending, caused me to shudder for the immensity of my guilt.
The haggard and wasted form of Valeria was stretched on the bare floor. Her half-famished infant lay upon her breast. She breathed with difficulty. Her eyes were sunken, her complexion pallid and unearthly. Her features betrayed evidences of the most intense agony, both mental and physical.
But the most shocking part of the scene was the ghastly semblance of Da Vinci, as he sat by the bed-side of his dying wife. His hands were crossed—his knees drawn together; his elbows rested on a broken table; his hair fell in long and matted locks from his head; his skin was ashy and squalid; and in place of the manly beauty which every lineament of his countenance had once betrayed, his features were now haggard and care-worn, and his once mellow and intellectual eye, was fixed with an unmeaning stare on the wretch before him. Three days had scarcely elapsed since I had recognised him in the strength and beauty of manhood, but, oh, how changed! how fallen! how wretched!
On drawing near this afflicted group, I was startled and alarmed at the change that came over the countenance of Da Vinci. At first the bereaved man fixed upon me a stupid and sullen gaze; but on recognising the author of his misery, his eyes flashed with maniacal ferocity; his lips became pale and compressed; the large veins on his temples swelled, and throbbed violently; and he exhibited the most alarming symptoms of madness. I endeavored to draw back; but I was too late. His deadly purpose was fixed. With a wild, shrieking laugh he sprang upon me. In an instant his nails were buried in my neck. I struggled with desperate energy. Incontinence and debauchery had sapped my vital principle, and age had laid his searing hand on my frame; but I contended for life, and I was powerful. On the other hand, Da Vinci, nerved by the delirium which had taken possession of him, was irresistible.
“Fiend!” he shouted—“die!—die!—die!”
“You will murder me!” I groaned, already suffocating under his vice-like grasp, “have mercy, for God’s sake!”
“You showed her none!” he answered hoarsely.
“I repent—I shall make amends.”
“Too late—she is dying.”
“Oh, God, stop!—you strangle me! I am not fit to die.”
“So much the better. Die—villain, die!” and with a desperate exertion he bore me to the floor. I essayed in vain to release myself from his deadly grasp. A moment more, and death would have rescued me; but the Almighty ordained that I should live to reap the fruits of my crimes. Involuntarily, as the agonies of dissolution came upon me, my hand sought one of those small daggers, with which an Italian is never unprovided. I drew it from my bosom. I raised it to strike. Da Vinci saw his danger; but he was too late. With irresistible strength I plunged it in his side. He uttered no groan; he rolled from my person a dead man. I stooped over the bleeding corpse in mute horror. The eyes were fixed upon me with a glassy gaze. It was a fearful spectacle—one which was well calculated to strike awe into the bosom of a murderer.
I turned a searching eye toward the prostrate form of my daughter. It was inanimate. No sign of life or recognition illumined her ghastly countenance. She had evidently swooned. As if in mockery of the dreadful tragedy which had just transpired, the infant boy slumbered peacefully by her side. The reproach was more than I could bear. Guilt—guilt was whispered in my ear by a thousand voices. I rushed from the blood-stained spot. I hurried to my desolate home. Here new miseries awaited me, I bolted the doors; but they afforded me no security. I drank deeply—but inebriation came not. I endeavored to sleep; but my horrors were increased. This fearful state drove me to desperation. I tried to pray: the Almighty heard me not. My heart was too black—too guilty. Night had come. My sufferings were too intense for human endurance. The lonely and ruinous garret in which I lay, augmented the dreadful vividness with which I created the most revolting phantasmas in every recess and corner; and the hollow moaning of the wind against the roof filled my soul with ominous and harrowing sensations. A strange—an indefinable desire to return to the scene of death, took possession of my mind. It became too absorbing—too interminable to be resisted. The moon had by this time ascended her throne in all her queenliness and majesty. I rushed rapidly through the empty streets to the quay for the night-gondoliers; and aided by the moonlight, soon succeeded in reaching San Francesco della Vigna. Hastily dismissing the gondolier, I won my way to the abode of the dead. An ominous silence reigned around it. I shuddered—I turned pale; but I did not hesitate. Up the tottering stairs I rushed; the door of the death-room was open; and my eyes at once fell upon a picture which is indelibly engraved on my memory.
Valeria had, on recovering her senses, crept to the body of her husband. She held the slumbering babe in one arm, while with the other she raised the head of the dead man and reclined it on her bosom. She knew he was dead—that he would never wake again; she saw the life-blood oozing from his heart; but her devotion was superior to the evidence of her senses; her constancy to the sword of death. She chafed his temples; she fondly smoothed his hair; she kissed again and again his icy lips; and she fervently prayed for the salvation of the dead. A pale, unearthly glow was thrown over the group by occasional glances of the moon-beams; and everything conspired to strike me with awe and remorse. But I was not susceptible of the better feelings of humanity. I possessed no refined sensibility. Whatever I felt was common to the lowest of God’s creation.
“Why,” I cried in a hollow voice, “why must this be? Why must my peace be blasted by such scenes as these? I murdered him—is it not enough that he should die? I seek nothing from him after death. Why—why do you persecute me, Omnipotent God!”
“See!” shrieked a piercing voice, “see what you have done!”
For a moment I could not answer. The anguish of the accuser deprived me of speech. But at length I stammered out,
“I did but defend my life.”
“You drove him mad.”
“He ruined, deceived, beggared me.”
“It is a calumny!” said Valeria, with flashing eyes, seeming for an instant to forget her grief in indignation at the charge, “he honored you!”
“I forgive him.”
“He is dead.”
I was silent. The last words were said in a voice of such exquisite anguish that they went to my heart—stony as it was. If ever a pang of remorse vibrated in my soul it was then. Valeria regarded me with an expression more of sorrow than of anger. She clasped the infant to her arms as if it were now her only solace; and burst into a flood of tears.
“Father,” she murmured, when her agitation had in some measure subsided; “the hand of death is upon me. God in his infinite goodness has given you the means of atonement for your crimes. A few hours and I shall be no more. Take my child—you are rich—rich in worldly things—take him, and have him brought up as he should be. I rely on you—I beseech you—I command you! You cannot be so utterly callous to humanity, as to refuse; let him not die in this miserable place. O, be kind to him—be more merciful to him than you were to my poor, dead husband!”
Exhausted and heart-broken, the young mother sank upon the corpse of the murdered man. Her eyes grew dim; her breathing became short and violent; her hands and lips seemed bloodless; and after a few spasms she lay still. I approached her. I placed my hand upon her heart. Already her skin was cold and clammy. The sufferer was dead!
A chill crept over me as I stooped to examine the corpse. It seemed as if the ghastly expression of the countenance was but the effect of some horrible incubus—so vivid—so real—so revolting was it to the observer. Fearfully did the presentiment of future retribution come upon me at that moment. I was no longer the proud politician, concerting magnificent schemes; I had nothing left of the bold and desperate gambler; the greatness of purpose and energy of execution which had hitherto marked my career, were at an end. I was now, what my crimes had made me—an abject, guilty wretch. I shuddered to think of my awful destination; I felt how terrible would be the punishment I so richly merited; but remorse—penitence—sorrow—entered not my obdurate heart.
Necessity compelled me to comply with the dying request of Valeria. I was aware that my conduct had excited much suspicion. It therefore became my policy to avoid public attention; and I took the earliest opportunity to have the unfortunate objects of my malevolence interred, and the infant orphan confided to the care of a nurse. No suspicion was excited at first; but strange things soon began to be whispered by the individuals who occupied the lower part of the tenement in which the tragedy had been enacted. The storm gradually gathered its forces for a general explosion. Rumors, so liberally circulated at my expense, reached the ears of the official authorities under the Doge. Manini was not predisposed to turn a deaf ear to anything pertaining to my downfall. His suspicions relative to my integrity had long been confirmed. Enemies and interlopers were not wanted to construe every thing into its most criminal aspect. The result was such as might be expected. I was arrested by the city functionaries, on a charge of murder. Universal horror was expressed when my crimes were made known. It was evident that I had nothing to expect from public sympathy.—How many are there who profess benevolence and charity, ever ready to persecute the unfortunate with the most unmitigated severity! I experienced the full effects of this human failing. My trial was long and doubtful. Everything in the shape of evidence, however trivial or absurd, was adduced in order to convict me. But nothing of a positive nature could be brought up against me. It was true I had treated my daughter with severity and inhumanity; but I could not be found guilty on so general a charge. It was also true that a noise had been heard in the apartment of Da Vinci a few hours before his corpse had been discovered by the lower tenants of the house; but I was not seen. The whole affair then though well understood, was in the eye of the law, uncertain and inconclusive. Public opinion in a case like mine was not regarded as having any weight. I was dismissed. My persecutions, however, did not end so soon. A few devoted minions of the Doge, glad to have an opportunity of satisfying their resentment for my former conduct toward them, followed me unceasingly, and spared no pains to ensure my self-conviction.
But I baffled them. My life, however, became one of extreme misery and watchfulness. I feared to sleep lest I should be robbed or assassinated. I dreaded a sight of the human countenance; for in every man I fancied I recognised an enemy. Neither could I hide myself in solitude—my guilt was too fearful—too relentless. I dared not walk in the public thoroughfares; for the utmost detestation was pictured in every face; and my ears were assailed with reproaches and contumely. I could not roam the most obscure parts of the city, without being dogged and persecuted by the blood-hounds of Manini. It was a miserable situation. Health—comfort—happiness, were gone forever. Not even the common enjoyments of life fell to my lot. I could not sleep—I knew no pleasure in drink—I was too decrepid and impotent to enjoy artificial stimulants: what then must have been the depth of my misery? It was too great to be borne. I resolved to leave the theatre of my misfortunes; and to bury myself in the busy haunts of the great English metropolis. In the costume and character of a Jew, I embarked for the city of my destination. Arrived there, I set up a small establishment as a usurer. My thirst for accumulation was not satisfied by my crimes; nor did my honesty profit by inaction. The great object was, however, in some measure effected. I enjoyed as the guilty may enjoy the security of my secluded situation. I passed many years in a state of negative happiness. My internal miseries lost none of their poignancy; but they caused me no physical inconvenience. I was free from immediate conviction; and had every prospect of continuing unmolested. Time soothed my terrors, though I still looked forward with fear and anxiety to the day, when something worse might turn up, than mere imaginary fears.
Age and imbecility have come upon me. I have spun out nearly the remains of my guilty existence, in security and prosperity. I have acquired riches; but have never enjoyed them. I have sinned and suffered; but my crimes are not atoned for. A day will come when the fearful debt must be paid. I await it with calmness. I repent of nothing that I have done. I ask forgiveness neither of God nor of man. Let the full measure of His retribution be my eternal ruin. I am content to die as I have lived—fearless—guilty—unrelenting.
Here ends the Autobiography of this false and evil man. It is a highly-colored, but we trust, not an extravagant picture of the effects of avarice. The moral remains to be told. If, in the sequel or fourth part, we can show that sooner or later retribution will fall upon the guilty; we may say of our hero what Scott quotes of Charles the Twelfth:—
“He left the name at which the world grew pale,
To point a moral, and adorn a tale.”
CHIMES OF ANTWERP.
One, two, and three, with measured stroke and numbers on they go,
For Ghentish Charles ’twas thus they woke, for blood-stained Alva so,
And still from out their airy cage of wreathed and trelliced stone,
They tell us of our pilgrimage another hour has flown.
They float above the Plâce de Mer, and o’er thy roofs and towers,
Fair Antwerp, with thy solemn air and antique Flemish bowers;
And sweet and stately is the sound, and melancholy too,
As it should be where Memory the fabler dwells with you.
One, two, and three, with measured strokes and numbers they awake!
’Twas thus on Rubens’ ear at eve their sounds were wont to break;
And still o’er his best monument, with monumental tone,
They tell us of our pilgrimage another hour has flown.
A WINTER SCENE.
BY LYDIA JANE PIERSON.
Oh how magnificent. How beautiful
The old grey wood appears. Each sturdy tree
Crown’d with a glorious diamond diadem
Of wreathen plumes and garlands. Every bush
And slender sapling, bending with the weight
Of its bright ornaments, seems to the view
Like youthful genius shrinking and o’erwhelm’d
With the chill weight of the cold world’s applause.
The sun is rising now, and every spray,
And feathery evergreen, grows radiant
With more than earthly glory. One might deem
Each twig a chain of gold profusely set
With ruby, emerald, and amethyst,
Sapphire and living diamond, splendid all
And dazzling past description. Yet there lives
No balm, no melody of loving birds
Amongst the icy branches; grandeur reigns
And frigid beauty, without life or joy.
No gentle breezes woo the branches now,
To bend and kiss their sweetly sighing lips,
And fling a cloud of incense, and bright flow’rs
Upon their lingering pinions. No young fruits
Lie in their curtain’d cradles, rocking soft
To the glad lullaby which smiling Hope
Sings round the fragrant clusters. No young birds
Lie chirping in their nests amongst green leaves.
No passing streamlet lingers in the bow’rs,
Forgetting, for a while, its morning hymn,
To touch the rich lip of the fragile flower
That lives upon its love one summer day,
Then lays the dying head so gently down
Upon its bosom, while the trembling depth
Reflects with sympathy the blighted gem,
And murmurs promise of another life,
And blest re-union at return of spring.
No young fawns gambol through the silent wood,
In the delight of life’s first consciousness
Of freedom, strength, and beauty. No fair child
Crushes the sweet buds with its little feet,
While bounding after the bright butterfly
Which floats upon its rich, brocaded wing
In graceful carelessness from bloom to bloom.
No merry laughter, no light-hearted lay,
No lover’s whisper floats among the bowers;
But all is icy beauty, cold and still,
Radiant and passionless, and void of bliss;
A glory that will quickly melt away
And leave no trace behind.
And such I deem
Is life within a nunnery; pure and bright
With heaven’s reflected glory; but all cold
And destitute of the fond sympathies
That are at once the bliss, the ornament,
And agony of life.
Liberty, Pa. March, 1841.