Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

smitten swain say to himself, “ If the way to the damsel's favor lies through such a fearful pilgrimage, I will pluck up a stout heart, and go on.” Poor man, his heart had never been of the stoutest, and now it quivered like a spider's web in the whirlwind !

At eleven o'clock, on that eventful night, lantern in hand, and Bible at his neck, Jacob Little might have been seen stealing along the road which leads through the village of Westminster. As he came within view of his place of destination, he paused to gather up his soul for the enterprise. The moon, ever and anon brushing away the masses of feathery clouds which swam around her, gave forth the uncertain light that superstition loves; the circling hills seemed like giant spirits wrapped in their robes of mist; and, from the elevated site of the road, the broad Connecticut night be seen passing quietly on, and singing its sleepy lullaby to the restless trees. Jacob scarcely dared trust a glance in the opposite direction; for there, where a steep bank led down to the meadows, was hidden the pirate's treasure; and a little west of that glimmered the place of graves.

The hair on his harmless pate was wet with the dews of terror, and his knees smote each other, as if they had been belligerent powers; but Betsy Slack's promise carried him through that dreadful moment of irresolution; and Jacob's lantern soon illuminated one of the numerous strange epitaphs in the burial ground of his native village. For one dreary half hour, the silenca heard was like darkness felt. Then there was a mournful noise from the opposite corner of the grave yard, and something white, gradually towering up to an enormous height, was seen in motion towards him. Before the frightened sinner had tiine to remember that, even in fear of instant death, he must not utter a syllable, his parched tongue had sent forth a half howling, half shrieking, “Oh!” The figure held up its hand in a threatening manner, and moved on more swiftly. Then it motioned Jacob to follow, and turned rapidly round. He, poor fellow, obeyed as he might; often stunbling against the grave-stones, and rending the little flesh he had, till the sparks flashed from his eyes in very agony. On, on, went the phantom; and on, on, followed Jacob, toward the steep bank, where the ill-gotten wealth lay secreted. All at once, the spectre deviated from the straight line in which it had darted along; but the heedless Jacob, out of breath with terror and fatigue, kept on in a tangent, and instantly found himself — up to the chin in meadow rnud!

His lantern was broken by the fall; the moon was hidden behind a dense cloud; and there was Jacob, at midnight, alone, in the dark, and striving, in vain, to grasp the edges of his slippery prison. “Ah, Betsy Slack, Betsy Slack!” thought he, “if you could but see your poor sinful lord and master in a plight so piteous to behold!” But he dared not utter his sorrowful cogitations aloud. The ghost was nowhere to

Once he thought he heard a suppressed giggle; and in his ears it had a most awful, unearthly sound. I know not why it is, there is pleasure in the idea that departed spirits still care for us, and continue to bave sympathies and feelings like our own; but whose blood does not curdle, and drop coldly through his veins, at the thought that the dead may laugh ? A stronger mind than Jacob's might well have quailed at that trying moment. Before his bewilderment of horror began to pass away, he felt himself caught up by a strong arm, and placed upon his feet. His first motion was to lay hold of his Bible. Alas, it lay buried at the bottom of the ditch. Nothing could have added so much to his superstitious fears. He groped around, in hopes of finding the protecting volume; and, while thus engaged, a strong light fell upon him from the torches of his companions, who were slowly proceeding towards the spot indicated by the magician's rod of witch-hazel, filled with quicksilver. Jacob felt the mud tightening on his face and hands, as if it had been an armor of steel; but, regardless of personal beauty, he joyfully strode onward to meet his human companions. Ebenezer Green was the only one who ventured to grin at his uncouth appearance. The others, with features elongated, and ears erect, stood the very images of distress. As for Anthony Slack, with his long, white, flannel coat, and his matted hair, swinging in the wind, he actually seemed more like a spectre, than the figure which had beckoned Jacob away from the tomb; and at that moment, I verily believe Anthony wished himself a ghost. After a short pause, the signal was given; and pick-axes, shovels, and crowl ars were busy in the ground. For one hour, they dug as if life depended on their success — all save Anthony Slack. He had never loved work, since he left the camp; and for the last year especially, he said it had been borne in upon his mind to revive the long neglected jubilee year of the Hebrews. Enough to keep breath within the body was all he did, or would suffer to be done in his household; and the fructification of a peck of beans, which his niece planted by stealth, was the only labor imposed on his extensive farm. The old man was as obstinate in theology as in politics; and whoever meddled with his whims, was sure to hear a volley of words clattering on his ears, like the machinery of a steam boat. Thus unmolested, Anthony grew more and more perverse in his laziness; and before he had dug ten minutes for the treasure, he leaned doggedly on his spade, and thus remained, in spite of the winks, and jogs, and treading on toes, which his silent neighbors chose to give. At liist, however, even Anthony was aroused from bis sluggishuess; for the crowbars struck upon an iron chest ! All was eagerness and expectation. Anthony threw down his spade; and Jacob Little, with his long legs clinging to the ground, and his rickety body hanging down the hole they had just dug, like an ourang outang ready to dart upon his prey, actually placed bis hand on the flat surface of the chest. Suddenly, it slid beyond his reach; a terrible explosion rent the air; and volumes of crackling flame roared forth like a cataract! Loud shrieks were heard, answered by the same distant laugh, which had frightened Jacob, when struggling alone in the ditch. Some fled in one direction, some in another, and in five minutes all was

be seen.

still around the pirate's treasure. Jacob Little was never seen or heard of after. His scanty portion of goods and chattels disappeared with him, and Betsy always supposed that he left the country, in shame and sorrow. Anthony Slack maintained with his dying breath, that he saw him high up in the air, riding on the tail of a fiery dragon. Anthony himself died in three weeks, of the effects of that night's race. Betsy thought she could do nothing better than to intrust herself and farm to the care of Ebenezer Green. The kind hearted girl certainly lamented her uncle's death, as much as such a being could be lamented; but in a few months, the frolicksome lass could not forbear saying, “Well, Eben, since he was scared out of the world by a rocket, it is a sad pity he did not know it was of American manufacture. It would have been such a comfort to his republican soul!”

HONOR.

True honor, though it be a different principle from religion, is not contrary to it. Religion embraces virtue, as it is enjoined by the law of God; honor, as it is graceful and ornamental to human nature.

The religious man fears, the man of honor scorns, to do an ill action. The latter considers vice as something that is beneath him; the other as something that is offensive to the Divine Being; the one, as what is unbecoming, the other, as what is forbidden.

« AnteriorContinuar »