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A VISION OF CRIME.
BY A NEW CONTRIBUTOR.
It is midnight! The bright sun is extinguished.' His resplendent rays, which tinged the harvest twilight with purple, azure, green, and gold, gilds at this hour the meridian of the antipodes. The shades are cast in the deep watches' of the silent night. The fleecy atmospheric haze of approaching early autumn, the doubtful, atomic light of stars, and the arid gusts of the heated forest, pervade alone our nether world. The robin has sung his evening song of praise, and gently sleeps upon his guardian bough; the honest watch-dog's deep-mouthed bay' has ceased, and man has gone to his habitation. The silvery moon has not "hung out her lamp' to-night. The peaceful aria of the zephyr, the yielding ripple of the lake, the alternating flap of cordage upon its riding masts, the light floating clouds with mildly-crimsoned coruscations at intervals, the slightly-bending trees and waving foliage with its delicious fragrance, and the sounding rivulets — these, and only these, reveal to us the truth of being and of life.
Visions are for the most part innovations and nondescripts, representing the dross or scoria arising to the surface in the fusion of our purer thoughts and ratiocination. Those of the ambitious and corrupted are always ominous, but the dreams of the conscientious and the upright are rarely prescient of evil. “It was all a dream,' exclaimed Richard, whose recent vision of Bosworth field pictured to his tortured senses a routed army and a lost kingdom. “I had a dream which was not all a dream,' said the greatest of modern poets, whose language, iteration, and embodiment are unique in the world. Men are egregiously addicted to day-dreams as well as others, and some of them assume the garb of principles and even philosophy, and imbibe in their theories the admixture of things both good and evil, wise and unwise. That which follows may indeed have been partly a dream : true, it presents a lurid picture of crime and its sentient cause, and partakes sufficiently of the horrible to elicit the highest degree of thankfulness that it has no pretence to, or foundation in reality.
The incongruity of our dreams, like the fitting aurora-borealian prototype in pature, we can in no way satisfactorily account for, neither in inception nor development; nor assuredly, were it possible, would it be advisable, as doubtless the delving into the penetralia of dreams would have no other effect than the spoiling of the aroma, and the disrobing of their mystery. It is their dissonance to the waking sense, and the regularity of thought only, that distinguish them. But we proceed with our vision.
Fancy portrays to us a wide extended prairie of the west, with a boundless plane toward the setting sun, and a distant forest limiting the south. A long line of craggy, serrated bluffs are visible in the north, and a broad expanse of lake may be seen in the east. A large, white, plain-structured, frontier farm-house, environed by a few prairie oaks and out-houses, the latter of which form the angles to an enclosure or yard, which is surrounded by a sort of paling or chevaux-de-frise, must serve as the locum somnium. The occupants of this domicil consist of two men, as many adult females, and two boys of about the age of ten years, and seem to be Irish. The children, it would appear, are visiting relatives, and direct heirs to a considerable sum of money, which otherwise would have descended to the possession and behoof of this family.
Gold, says La Harpe, is ever the incentive to crime; and here, as it proves, we have a correlative dream-murder, and the shade of gold for the cause :
0, si sic omnes!" Would that the Baconian theory might here obtain, and that all future murders might be of similar bloodless kind ; mere hypotheses, which we all, as regardless of bacon as was the factory boy of De Quincey, might be at liberty to kick at. But we suppose that this is not to be, and that so long as one of that coëxtensive class of the human species called rogues exists, by so long is the promised Golden Rule, the subtend of the Decalogue and the higher law, to be delayed of full verification. The millennium alone is to terminate this pandemic and primitive law of nature.
As long as sin pervades the earth, and the exigency of social government abides, so long is the expiation of this foul crime to stain its judicial annals, and the only coëval panacea for it is the 'ne plus ultra' of the law of Moses, Magna Charta, and hemp. This Mosaic lemma was not changed by the Advent; and the induction of statute-law, or farther legislation of any kind, upon this subject, is consequently uncalled-for and unnecessary. Revenge and cupidity are coëval, and possibly cousingermans; but gold, we think, is not necessarily evil, though ästhetical women, and men like them, are ever ready to contend that money is the root of all evil. This however is not the case; it is not money, but the love of it, which constitutes the bane. There is no evidence that Pandora's box contained any cash, or Prometheus, who was an astute fellow, and doubtless shrewd at a bargain, would not have distrusted her; but on the contrary, had he heard within it the clink of coin, would have taken her at a venture, and in so doing have saved his liver, though he might have lost his heart. But we leave these reflections, and return to the old white house and its inmates.
We are there! Several recognized and familiar forms of persons are there, in various aspects and features, from the bold, full-developed, strongoutlined, plainly-visioned, descending to the dim, adumbrant, faint, fainter still, and extinct. How or why we came thither I know not, but only recognize the fact that we were there. The mind, in self-action, (the body being asleep,) is conscious of position, and the change of position, but not of travelling. Indeed the mind is no traveller, being as devoid of nether perambulators as Cato assures us the belly is of ears; and any imaginary movement or gliding motion of ourselves, not of outward things, usually restores us to consciousness. Neither is the mind con
scious of particular light, such as day-light, lamp-light, or other kinds of light.
Whose rapt imagination ever became the recipient of the glorious sunshine! What somnambulist ever recounted the seven primary colors! What gay dreamer's optics were ever dazzled by the flammable gas of his imaginary banquet-hall! One might as soon attempt, with the poet of Ayr, under similar circumstances, to count the horns of the moon, as to dream of the overpowering rays of the orb of day.
Yet all things are naturally visible to the dreamer. The mind immortal is not more axiomatic than this, that its self-action and being imparts its own 'arch and refraction, and sheds its soft rays, direct and indirect, upon whatever it chooses to contemplate or resolve. And now the scene changes to within the house. We observe the younger of the boys imploring in a tearful manner of these women, who betray sinister and mysterious expressions, for his brother, and essaying, with cries and raving stamps and gestures, to seek him through the house, but with promises, delays, fabrications, threatenings, and even force, he is withheld in suspense :
says that she won't, she won't, and that's the end on 't.'* Through the casement, at the same time, several spectre men are seen without the palings, in the act of mowing, in regular time and swing. Here the spectrum vanishes for a moment, and mounting a fairy car or a moon-beam, leaves our mundane sphere, and flits in silence the immensity of space; probably in search of a particle of the milky-way or a comet's tail, for its perennial breakfast. But these redundant journeyings require space only; the disseverance of time and power is absolute, and bears as little affinity to the Herculean twelve labors as mind to body; and in much less time than this digression occupies, our exuberant spectrum's elliptical orbit has restored us again to the yard, which is vacant and still as a charnel-house. The place, the vacancy, and the deep silence of the hour, with fitful but noiseless .midsummer night's' breezes, alternately arid and damp, become oppressive and almost suffocating, when, heavens and earth! an explosion and a reverberation, as of a file of soldiery, are heard within the house. The scythes vanish from the hands of the mowers, who escalade the paling, gliding and fitting spectre-like above and through its crevices toward the house. Oaths and execrations fill the air in quick succession. Livid countenances and flashing eyes cast inquiring glances toward each other. One overwhelming thought prevails, but no one ventures for the moment to declare it. Men are discursively moving about, singly and in knots, all in a state of exacerbation.
At length a conspicuous and grenadier-like Caledonian advances, and demands admission, which, after many quibbles and complexities on the part of the females, is refused, with the trite plea that ‘Me brither is seike, and will saä no one. Forbearance yielded to impetuosity; restraint, to indignation; and the words, “Surround the house!' which were pealed forth in trumpet-tones from a single voice, were echoed and reëchoed in full volition.
* I HER& render all due acknowledgment to a lady-acquaintance for this bumorous aphorism
Who'll go for an officer ?' exclaims another. 'I,' replies the noble and compliant Scot, who glided away in a moment. Silence again returns, deep, thrilling, and intense. In a little time, an ominous rushing sound approaches from the south, and several monster birds, with the fapping noise of a full volery, pass over in the direction of the bluffs, uttering cries combining alike the sounds of the shrill whistle of the boatswain and the wild roll of the ataval, and which are reiterated by the crowing of the cock.
The officer now suddenly hove in sight, and, sa! presto! he is here. Cool, intrepid, salient, and prompt in character, like the helmsman Black amid the storm,* he raises and points his long finger toward the door. The waving of the 'swarthy hand' in the Vision of Judgment' was not more electric. The door flew open rather from the open sesame of the magic finger, than from the rush of power. The officer quietly walks into the house, and the men follow after, and the search is commenced. A blanket-coat is presently held up to view, blood-stained, and pierced with a musket-ball, corresponding to the thorax of the body. Bloodspots also appear along the stairs, which they now ascend, and in the first room they enter, to their consternation, they find, not the boy, but one of the Irishmen lying upon the floor, dead — shot through the heart, and a discharged musket by his side! Divided interests, non-concurrence, contrition, and above all, the fear of exposure of crime previously and jointly perpetrated, had occasioned a brawl, a not unusual sequence, in their midst, which resulted in the explosion before alluded to, and the death of this man. The others were immediately arrested, and the search was assiduously prosecuted. Boxes, barrels, bedding, trumpery, were consecutively overhauled. Baffled for a time, they at length find a pair of boy's shoes and a bloody stocking in a chest. A little parcel of hair, slightly crisped and matted with blood, and some clothes, ashes, and buttons, known to be those of the missing juvenile, are also found in the chimneycorner.
All semblance of order and human restraint is now disregarded, and the temple of the first law and its enshrined devotee are alike thrown down and trampled under foot: the man is resolved into the animal, and the green eyes of the roused tiger prey and flash in fury upon the surrounding trophies of wickedness and its authors. The remaining little brother appears terror-stricken and cries piteously, which the ever-present, prompt, and willing Scotchman is endeavoring to assuage. Another man holds up a bloody axe, which suggests a search of the cellar; and there, O horror! is found the mangled body of the boy. Vengeance is rife, lending to the scene, if possible, a yet wilder character. The assemblage now discard the majesty of law, except Lynch-law, which they resolve to execute instanter. The guilty females were ushered into the field and shot, and the man was suspended from a branch of one of his own oaks, the awful crisis of which broke the vision, and ended this imaginary tragedy. The prairie, the oaks, the house, the lake, and the men - all, all vanished! It was, indeed, ALL A DREAM!
* MR. LIVINGSTON's description of a storm during his return voyage from France, in the frigate Constitution.
The rain, the rain, the sweet summer rain,
In a sheet of white
Fall the rain-drops bright.
On the chestnut-tree,
Where the birds sang free. Where the grass-edged travell’d road winds round, Dark’ning, dust-laying the trodden ground, Falling upon the children glad, Little maiden and noisy lad,
From school then coming,
Up the hill running.
Brightening the flowers
In garden bowers.
Of the cottage small,
Do the rain-drops fall.
Or on tree-tops high,
Do its crystals lie.
Where waters rush in,
And make all the din.
On the grave-stones low,