Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

had no belief that their virtue could have been so very valuableto themselves. Tom, however, would not be baffled. No; a voice issued from the box, that, like the voice of jeering beauty, at once piqued and animated him. And now he was resolved. His sinews might crack – his Adam's clay might be flawed beneath the load-nevertheless, he would lift it.

“ Jingo,” whispered Tom, “don't move a foot. The damned box”-in this way does ungrateful man too often treat his superflux of wealth!-i can't be lowered out of window ; 'twould go smash. I'll creep down and unbolt the door, and then ”—Blast had said enough ; Jingo nodded his perfect comprehension of his father's plan ; and the robber, silently as a shadow creeps along the floor, passed from the room. Jingo was alone-alone, with his murderous toys—for to him they were very playthings and the sleeping sot. Again, did strange thoughts tingle in that mistaught little brain-again did a devilish spirit of mischief begin to possess him, when his paternal monitor returned, with a lightened, a pleased look.

It was, doubtless, a charming sight-a spectacle hugely enjoyed by the few select - spectators - to behold Hercules make his final muscular preparation for the achievement of any one of his labours. The majesty of will—that moral regality of man-must have so beamed and flashed around his brows, that even the gods may have looked from the windows of heaven, pleased with a royalty that seemed a shadow of their own. And so be of good heart ye many sons of Hercules, fighting, wrestling with the monsters of adverse fate.be of good faith, though you combat in the solitude of a desert ; nevertheless, believe it, if ye fight courageously, there are kind looks from heaven always beaming on you!

We incline to the belief that Tom Blast had never heard of Hercules ; or if indeed he had, the name was so associated with the Pillars, that if he ever considered the matter at all, he may perchance have thought Hercules some very famous tapster, and that certain London hostelries known as Hercules' Pillars merely eternized his reputation. We forget, too, the name of the antiquary who wrote a very thick book, proving that the pillars set up by Hercules-vulgarly supposed to commemorate his labourswere no other than a very classic public-house, wherein, after his last day's work, he drained his cool tankard. Be this as it may, Blast was in no way strengthened by the thought of the reforming Hercules, when he prepared himself to lift upon his shoulder that

bitter sweet—that “heavy lightness, serious vanity”--that sustaining, crushing weight of gold. Nevertheless, the preparation of Blast was worthy of the best scoundrel hero of the world's old age and weakness. He looked at the box with flashing resolution

-set his teeth-fixed his feet-and put forth his arms, as though he would root up an oak.

And now shout, ye imps! Scream, ye devilkins,—for it is done! The gold is on the thief's shoulder! His knees quiver beneath the sudden wealth—his chest labours—his face grows purple as grapes—and the veins in his gibbet brow start thick and black with blood, -yet a proud smile plays about his horse-shoe mouth, and he looks a Newgate hero!

Breathing hard, in hoarse whispers, the robber gives directions to the boy—“ Jingo-good fellow-don't stir---only a minute only a minute-when I'm clear off-then-you know.” And with this broken counsel, Blast-his strength strained to the utmost, turned to the door and staggered from the room. Young Jingo's face darkened, and now he glanced towards the window, to secure himself a retreat, now he listened to catch the progress of his father's footsteps. To trip-to stumble but an inch-and what a crashing summons to the whole household would result from that fallen heap of gold! Still he listened, and still he felt re-assured! The robber made silent and successful progress. It was a difficult passage that narrow, crooked staircase; and as the thief accommodated his burthen to its winding way, thoughts of mortality would come into the thief's brain ; for he marvelled how when anybody died-and it was an old, old house_they carried the coffin down that confined, sinuous path. But gold heart-strengthening gold-is on his shoulders, and he bears up with Atlantean will, the whilst he moves along noiselessly as the hare limps on the greensward. He has crossed the threshold-closed the door behind him-he is in the wide world, with his fortune on

Direct, assist him, ye good genii that, all unseen, favour and strengthen the mere money-maker ; the man, who only eats, and drinks, and takes his temperate rest, that he may be keener at a bargain, sharper for profit. How many,--save that their golden burdens are lawful gains, that is, obtained by no gross violation of the statute--are, like Tom Blast, puzzled, confounded, by the very treasure they have toiled for? What a hard, ungrateful weight,--their monstrous wealth! Somehow, with all the blessings mingled with it, they cannot extract heart's ease from it. They sweat and toil under the load, when-though they know not how to secure the happiness—they would fain sit themselves down on some green, pleasant spot, and enjoy their long-toiled-for delight. No, it may not be. The spirit—the sole possessing spirit that, day and night, made them subdue all gentler, softer influences, to the one exhausting purpose, wealth-the spirit is still their despot, and rules them as tyrannously when in cloth of gold, as when in frieze. They have worked, sweated for the precious load ; and, when obtained, it is hung about with fears. How many have crawled, brute-like, on all-fours through dirty, winding ways to wealth, with the sweet unction at their souls that, arrived at the glorious bourne, they would then walk very erect; would cleanse themselves of the inevitable defilements of the road ; would, in sooth, become very sweet men indeed. Well, they have reached the shrine; they have learned the true “Open Sesame !”—they are rich, past all their morning dreams of wealth—but somehow, there is the trick of old habit,—they cannot well stand upright ; and their hands have been so dirtied, feeling their way to Plutus, it seems to them a foolish task to try to whiten and purify them. This, however, they can do. They can, somehow, blind the world : yes, they can put on very white gloves.

Take from Tom Blast the spot of felony,--and as he staggers onward in darkness and uncertainty, almost crushed with his weight of wealth-knowing not where to find repose-he is no other than your monstrously rich man, who has exchanged his heart at the Mint for coined pieces.

Fatigued, perplexed with rising fears, the robber goes on his unknown way. He strikes wide from the village-goes down lanes—crosses fields. And then he pauses ; and casting his load upon the earth, he sits upon it, takes off his hat, and wipes the streaming sweat from his brow, a myriad of unthought of stars looking down upon his felon head.

Yes ; he has taken the good resolution." He will henceforth be an honest, respectable man. Let fate be only so kind as to assure him his present spoil, and he will wash his hands of all such work for the rest of his days. He will he thinks-leave London. Yes ; he will discipline his soul to forego the sweet allurements, the magic wiles of that city of Comus. He will go into the country, and be very good to the poor. He will change his name. With such change, he cannot but slough much of the bad reputation that the prejudice of society has fixed upon him. He will become a country gentleman. He will give away a bullock and blankets at Christmas. He will go regularly to church. Yes ; he will show that he can be truly religious ; for he will have a pew as fine, if not finer, than any pew he had peeped into yesterday. If fate, for this once-this last time-would only be kind to him ! This virtuous determination so befooled the felon, that he felt his heart opened ; felt all his nature softened to receive the best and kindliest impressions. Though, in his various crooked ways, Tom Blast had gulled many, many men, yet had he never so completely duped any man, as, at that moment, Tom duped Tom. He felt himself mightily comforted. He looked around him—at the hedges—the trees ; as though carefully noting their particular whereabout. He rose blithely, with some new resolution. With renewed strength, he swung the box upon his shoulder, and in a few minutes he had hidden it. He would come back at a proper season -and with proper means—to make the surer of it.

Return we to Tangle's chamber. Oh, innocent sleep! There was the parliamentary agent—the man with the golden key to open the door of St. Stephen's to young St. James—there was he, still in port-wine slumbers-still sunk in the claret sea ! Beautiful was the morning! The nimble air frolicked in at the open window—for the mercurial Jingo had not closed it when he departed with Tangle's treasures. The glorious sun rose blushing at the ways of slothful man. The sparrows, tenants of the eaves, flew from distant fields, many a one proving, by the early worm that writhed about its bill, the truthfulness of proverb lore. And still the attorney slept! Sleep on, poor innocence! Thou knowest not the gashes cut in thy pocket ; thou knowest not how that is bleeding mortal drops of coined blood ; for how much seeming gold is there, that, looked upon aright, is aught other metal? Sleep on.

And Tangle sleeps and dreams. A delicious vision creases and wrinkles his yellow face like folds in parchment. Yes ; Tangle dreams. And we know the particular dream, and-sweet is the privilege !—we may and will tell it. Somnus, father of dreams—what a progeny has he to answer for !-did not kindly send to the lawyer a visionary courier to apprise him of his loss; and so to break the affliction to his sleep that, waking, he might perhaps the better endure it. Oh, no! there would have been no sport in that. Contrast is the soul of whim ; and Somnus was inclined to a joke with the razor-sharp attorney.

Whereupon, Tangle dreamt that he was on his death-bed-and nevertheless, bed to him had never been so delicious. He knew his hour was come : a smiling angel-all effulgence-on either side-had told him so. And Tangle, calling up a decent look of regret at his wife and children, standing about them, told them to be comforted, as he was going immediately to heaven. This he knew; and it showed their ignorance to look any doubt of the matter. That chest of gold-the gold once taken to pay the electors of Liquorish--was, after the manner of dreams, somehow his own property. And therefore, he ordered the chest to be placed on the foot of his bed, and opened. The lid was raised ; and oh, what a glory! It was filled to the edge with bright, bright guineas, all bearing the benevolent face--a wonderful likeness, in fact, as every face on gold is, a speaking likeness, for it talks every tongue-of George the Third! When Tangle saw them, he smiled a smile-ay, could we have followed it-to the very roots of his heart. “I am going to heaven," said he ; “I have toiled all my life for that goodly end ; I have scraped and scraped those blessed things together, knowing that if I had enough of them to bear my weight, they would carry me straight to Paradise. No, my dear wife, my darling children, think not my brain is wandering ; think me not light-headed ; for at this solemn time, this awful moment, I only hope to consummate the great object of my life. I have made money in this world, that, by its means, I might make sure of heaven in the next. And they”-and Tangle again pointed to the guineas—“ those bright celestials will carry me there !” And now comes the wonderful part of the dream. When Tangle had ceased speaking, every guinea rose, as upon tiny wings, from the box ; and, like a swarm of bees, filled the death-chamber with a humming sound. And then gradually every King George the Third face upon the guinea grew and rounded into a cherub head of glittering gold, the wings extending and expanding. And who shall count the number of the cherubim glorifying the chamber with their effulgence, and making it resound with their tremendous music! A short time, and then Tangle dreamt that the cherubim were bearing him from his bed—all lifting, all supporting him, all tending him in his upward flight. And then again he smiled at his worldly wisdom, for he felt that every guinea he had madeno matter how, upon earth-was become an angel, helping him to heaven. And still in his dream-smiling and smiling, he went up-up-up!

« AnteriorContinuar »