Imágenes de páginas

modes of existence. Grown, at length, an adept in powerful calculations, in what she called the philosophy of finesse, had I also been possessed of wealth and name, I might still have flourished a reputable and distinguished practitioner of gaming; but the known insufficiency of my means to answer any sudden and exorbitant demand subjected me to unjust surmises of intrigue. I had, then, nothing to conceal, and my carelessness of appearances created the very conjectures to which it ought to have been an antidote.

Calling one morning at Adelaide's residence, I was shocked to hear that she had abruptly quitted it, without leaving the slightest clue to her next resort. I sought her every where in vain. But her loss did not afflict me very severely: it is the curse of the vicious that even their attachments are fragile, and the edge of my feelings had already been blunted by dissipation.

What course was I now to pursue ? Utterly reduced in means, I applied to an acquaintance who was connected with the daily press: he procured me an appointment to report police intelligence. My profits were small, but my curiosity was amply gratified; I became conversant with the desperate characters whose crimes I recorded, and was no ineloquent historian of schemes which I was soon to share. Indeed, to me it was only a higher graduation in the school of artifice. But I grew weary of the labour of my employment; I resigned, and passed in rapid succession to be the purveyor of burlettas for a minor theatre, clerk in a lottery-office, and marker at a billiard-table. Debauched habits, however, and the worm within, which I had not yet succeeded in stifling, now condemned me to a long illness, and I passed three months in a miserable garret in Sherrard-street. A dispensary physician, who attended me, was interested by my conversation, and

offered to obtain for me, on my recovery, a correctorship in a printing-office. I gratefully accepted his proposal. But just as I recovered my health, I received an anonymous note, enclosing an hundred pounds with only these few words, to me too full of meaning, “You a king, and



With this supply I went to Paris. There I spent a year in improvement under consummate artists: in that circle I was a mere novice. With a new name, a new language, almost with a new face, I then opened a campaign in London. My abilities were too enlarged to be content with a single sphere of action ; at home, I practised one of the most delicate subdivisions of forgery; abroad, I often mixed in splendid assemblies, never a vulgar depredator, and, aided by dress and manners, which were more than presentable, I was caressed as an elegant foreigner. I gained some brilliant prizes with a skill, ease, and resolution, of which you are happy in having no conception. My tact was, to be very constantly seen, to place myself very forward, but to attempt very rarely, only great objects, and never unless absolutely secure. I was amassing considerable sums, and dreamed of purchasing nobility and an estate under Italian skies,-But our forging connexions became too extensive, I was betrayed, and in four hours am to breathe my last.

Two singular coincidences I must not omit: such as often occur to the actors of agitated scenes, but which, in a fictitious narrative, you would regard with incredulity. An Irishman, to whom I was deeply indebted for aid in our mutual pursuits, was tried at Appleby for secreting notes from the coach-office. He was a man of fine talents, and a kind heart, worthy of better things. I came down to endeavour to prove an alibi for him,

but in vain. But on that day, while I was standing in the inn-yard, a chaise drove up, containing yourself and your husband. You had been married on that very morning. You looked calmly on my altered features, little recognising in my faded and iron cheek the face on which you had so often gazed with confidence and fondness. What havoc does vice make on the countenance of her votaries !

Again. Returning once from the York races, I passed the night in a small inn at Bawtry. Descending the stairs the next morning, I was arrested by a faint groan issuing from a mean room, the door of which was not quite closed. On a coarse bed lay a figure, the convul. sions of which strongly agitated the clothes that covered it. What a spectacle was there disclosed !-a face, the hollowness of which would, at any time, have shocked, but a ghastly blackness was, now stealing over it, and the sunken eyes were glassy and fixed. He grasped my arm with a force that made me shudder, and hastily drew a pocket-book from beneath the pillow. It was of foreign construction, such as I had often remarked in the hands of Philip-and Philip he was, if identity could exist between that brilliant being and the loathsome form which now quivered before me on the rack of death. I pressed him to speak; it was too late. I placed a pencil in his icy hand, and opened a leaf. He looked at me, for a minute, with eyes that spoke volumes through the mist which was fast enveloping them, and wrung my hand with an ecstasy of bitterness and despair—then scrawled these trembling words: “ I do not ask your pardon-what is the forgiveness of a mortal to one hastening to hell. Arsenic is in my veins. Adelaide a ring in the book-give to Adelaide." Philip! where will our next meeting be?

Carried by my vocation to a concert given at Whitehall to the Royal Visitors, I was astonished by the neverto-be-forgotten figure of Adelaide, in all the pride of beauty and decoration; she was inhaling the whispers of a Russian general. With a dexterity that eluded notice, I slipped into her reticule an envelope, which I had always carried since my interview with Philip: it contained the ring, and his fate. She is now in Petersburgh, the mother of princes, or pacing a midnight alley.

I wonder how I can detail so minutely the tragedy of others, when my own is all but concluded. I feel a terrible indifference--all earthly pangs seem extinguished in the blaze of that eternal horizon which is frowning on me.

I could write on to you for ever, dreaming that I had still years left for repentance, for innocence. My boyish days, the green fields I loved so well, our sweet village, the kind faces that smiled on me so tenderly, my father, my mother, you,-all, all are rushing before me, and is it possible that I am here? I seem to forget all the life between.

St. Paul's clock is striking five :-how often the clock of Grasmere has roused me to happiness and sun-rise at this hour !-I hear the hammering of the scaffold. Oh, Mary-Pray for me-Pray for me.



One evening late in November, as Mr. John Locke, the celebrated philosopher, was sitting by his study-fire, biting the end of his pen, and revolving in his mind an argument of very deep metaphysical subtilty, he was

awakened from his trance of thought, by the appearance of a most supernatural phenomenon. His pen dropt from his hand ; his foot stiffened upon the fender on which it was supported, and his nightcap was visibly exalted by the rising up of the hair it covered, as the form of a tall, female figure suddenly presented itself to his view, on the dispersion of a cloud of smoke, under the disguise of which she had most mysteriously invaded his apartment. Raising her hand with an air of collegiate majesty, intimidating his inmost soul by a smile of awful encouragement, and appalling him with the studied condescension of her smile, and the supercilious humility of her manner, she silently intimated her desire to the philosopher, that he should retain the seat from which he had in vain attempted to arise. This ceremony accomplished, she flung her ponderous proportions into the close embrace of the opposite arm-chair, while the dust rose in majestic volumes from the oppressed cushion, and the apartment was violently shaken in acknowledgment of the portentous concussion.

Mr. Locke's understanding had by this time recovered from its astonishment. An humbler man might have been agitated by emotions of a more enduring terror, at the presence of so mysterious a visitation ; but the mind of the philosopher was regulated on the very best logical and mathematical principles, and its disturbance was light and transient: like the new steam-engine, it possessed the power of righting itself, under the pressure of every accident. Having re-arranged his nightcap-re-adjusted his feet upon the fender-resumed his pen, and recomposed the smooth serenity of his brow, he made an effort towards fulfilling the duties of a host, and bowed and smiled a welcome to the preternatural and unbidden visitor.

« AnteriorContinuar »