Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

on its motions. The Clerk, however, is said to have kept his seat with great firmness ; and all avowed that they had followed his example. Howbeit, unless my memory fails me, there was a whisper that the saddler contrived to be looking under the table for a sixpence, and the exciseman's sooty appearance told dirty tales of the chimney. The Clerk was much importuned not to hazard himself in the church upon the fated Sabbath ; but upon this point he was obstinate; it was finally agreed to conceal the matter, and in the event of the apparition's reappearance to set the minister at him.

On the Sunday, (for I suppose the Reader is aware that I was intimately acquainted with the causes of the alarm) it was very amusing to watch the different faces of terror or expectation which appeared at public worship,' to mark the quivering hue on the sallow check of the exciseman, and listen to the querulous intonation of the clerk's Amen. When at last the sermon was concluded, Nicholas gave his final twang in such a manner that to my ears it resembled an Io Paan. He rose from his knees with a countenance of such unmingled, unrepressed triumph, that I could no longer restrain myself !-I laughed. Alas ! dearly did I rue, unhappy wight, that freak of sacrilegious jocularity. .

« And is this all ?”_See now; you laugh at this deception, because a foolish boy was its instrument, and an honest clerk its victim. Have you not often pored, with romantic interest, upon tales of impostures equally gross? Have you not read with horror the celebrated warning of Dion ? Have you not shuddered at “ I am thine evil spirit, Brutus; thou shalt see me again at Philippi ?” and yet

“What's in a name? Nicholas' will raise a spirit as well as · Brutus.'” The Dictator's seat was soon after vacated. Ellen, the Vicar's daughter, had died some years before ; and her father, finding himself unable to reconcile himself to the residence which she had so long endeared to him, prepared to quit the village. It was supposed that poor Nicholas was overpowered by the misfortune of his patron : certain it is that he died very quietly one fine Summer's evening, quite prepared for his end, and in the fullest possession of his faculties. He was followed to his grave by as sincere a crowd of mourners as ever wept at a poor man's obsequies. There is no urn, no column, no monumental splendor where he sleeps! but what of this? Nicholas is dust and so is Cheops.

One more name lives in my recollection. The old Clerk bequeathed his library and his authority to his favourite, Arthur. Arthur !he had no other name. That of his father was unknown to him, and he was taken from life before his merits had earned one. He was a foundling. He had been left at the old Clerk's door some years before I was born; and Nicholas had relieved the parish of the expense, and had educated him with all the attention of a father. I will not relate the whisper which went about at the time, nor the whispers which succeeded afterwards. Arthur grew in health and beauty, and was quite the pet of the neighbourhood; he had talents too, which seemed designed for brighter days; and patience, which made even his bitter lot endurable. He used to write verses which were the admiration of the synod; and sang his hearers to sleep occasionally with all the good-nature imaginable. At last a critic of distinguished note, who was spending a few months near the Hamlet, happened to get a sight of the boy's poetry, and took a fancy to him. He taught him to read and recite with feeling ; pointed out to him the beauties and the errors of the models which he put into his hands; and, on his departure, gave him the works of several of our modern worthies, and promised that he would not forget him However, he did forget him, or gave no symptoms of his re membrance.

The old Clerk died, and Arthur felt alone in the world. Still he had many friends; and when the first burst of his regret was over, comfortable prospects again began to dawn upon him. He again mingled in the society of the village ; and the Dictator's chair in the chimney-corner, which had been vacated during this short interregnum, was given up to him cheerfully. He was beloved, esteemed, looked up to, by every one. Another circumstance too seemed likely to add to his happiness : he fixed his affections on a young woman, the daughter of an inhabitant of the place; his passion was returned with interest, and the former opposed no obstacle to its gratification.

On a sudden his whole appearance and behaviour was altered. He seemed as if awaking from a delightful dream; nothing which he had loved or pursued appeared to have charms for him any longer. When he was questioned as to the cause of his depression, he hinted obscurely that“ it was no matter; the infamy which his parents had heaped upon him he would bear alone; he would entangle no one else in the misery which was and must be his own portion.” This was all the explanation he gave; but it was enough to show that he had given himself up to the dominion of a morbid sensibility, which must finally be his destruction.

He ceased to lead, as he formerly was wont to do, the opinions and pursuits of his neighbours. They had always bowed to his criticisms, his logic, his lectures ; but criticism, logic, and lectures, were now silent. He would sit in the chair of dignity, hour after hour, and utter no word: sometimes, however, he would appear to shake off with a painful struggle the feelings which oppressed him, and would break out suddenly into flashes of a broad but irresistible humour, which Burns, in his brightest moments, could not have surpassed ; and then he would relapse again into gloom and taciturnity. But his mind, thus kept in a state of continual agitation and excitement, was sinking fast beneath it. The girl too, whom he loved, was wretched through his refinement of passion. She believed herself slighted, and her coldness aggravated his torments. This could not last It did not.

One day he did not make his appearance in the village. One of his friends, going to his cottage, found the door fastened; and, upon calling, received no answer. The neighbourhood became alarmed; and several of his acquaintance searched in vain for him. He was not by the stream where he often sat in solitude till the noxious dew fell round him; nor in the grove, where he used to listen to the nightingales till Fancy filled up the pauses in their songs ; nor by the window, where he would stand and gaze unconsciously till the sight of that dear face drove him from the scene of enchantment. At last they forced open his door ; I entered with them. The poor youth was sitting at his writingtable, in his old Patron's arm-chair; the pen seemed to have just fallen from his hand; the ink on its nib was hardly dry ; but he was quite still, quite silent, quite cold.

His last thoughts seemed to have been spent upon the stanzas which were on the table before him ; I will transcribe them rather as an illustration of his story than as a specimen of his talents. Some of the lines gave rise to a conjecture that he had been the author of his own death, but nothing appeared to warrant the suspicion.

“I have a devil in my brain!

He haunts me when I sleep,
And points his finger at my pain,

And will not let me weep:
And ever, as he hears me groan,
He says the cause is all my own.

I shall be calm anon !-I bad

A pleasant dream of bliss ;
And now they tell me I am mad,

Why should I mourn for this?
My good, kind Parents !-answer ye,
For what I am, and am to be.

Alas! I have forgotten, dear!

The pledging and the vow; '
There is a falsehood in my tear,

I do not love thee now;
Or how could I endure to go,
And look, and laugh, and loave thee so?

Thou shalt not come to my caress,

Thou shalt not bear my name i
Nor sorrow in my wretchedness,

Nor wither in my shame ;
Mine is the misery and the moan,

And I will die-but die alone!” Him too I saw carried to his narrow dwelling-place. In his latter days he had been regarded by his companions with a kind of superstitious awe; and, as his coffin fell with its solemn, reverberating sound, into its allotted space, the bearers looked upon each other with an expression of conscious mystery, and many shook their heads in silence. I lingered round the spot when they departed, and planted a rose upon his humble mound.

I was to leave the village the next day in order to fix my abode among the haunts of busy men. In the evening, feeling a melancholy which I could not shake off, I took up my hat and wandered towards the church-yard. From a distance I perceived a bright and delicate figure hastily retiring from my approach. I leaned over the remains of the kind, the enthusiastic, the affectionate! The rose which I had planted there glistened beneath the moon :-it was not the dew ;-it was something more clear, more precious :-it was one beautiful tear! I had rather have such a tear on my grave than a pyramid of marble.

W. M. P.

Stanzas.
Nay, let us hope ! it is not vain

Though many and many a joy be flown:
Sublimer blessings yet remain=-

A few rich hearts are still our own.

A few, a very few, whose love

Nor fate nor years from us can sever ;
And guiding light from Heaven above;,

And Time, that smiles on firm endeavour.

There is a manliness in hope,

It sets th' exorcis'd spirit free,
To burst the present's cloudy cope,

And breathe in clear futurity.

There, pure from grief, and sin, and toil,

That shade the sky of passing time,
Lies a new world—an untrod soil-

A shadowy Eden, still in prime.
There, all we honour'd, all we lov’d,

More fair, more glorious still appears ;
And hopes are crown'd; and faith approv’d;

And peace smiles calm on moonlight years.

And if, ʼmid that delicious trance,
. We waste one thought on present sorrow,
Its memory serves but to enhance

The blissful vision of to-morrow.

As when the shadowy Good repose,

Lapt on the green Elysian plain,
And dream awhile of earthly woes,

To wake in Heaven more blest again!

G. M.

On Urue Friendship.

“ Infido scurræ distabit amicus."--HORACE.

How very seldom do we find any one who has a relish for real Friendship—who can set a due value upon its approbation, and pay a due regard to its censures! Adulation lives, and pleases ; Truth dies, and is forgotten. The flattery of the fool is always pungent and delicious; the rebuke of the wise is ever irksome and hateful. Wherefore then do we accuse the Fates when they withhold from us the blessings of friendship, if we ourselves have not the capacity for enjoying them ? :

Schah Sultan Hossein, says an old Persian fable, had two favourites. Mahamood was very designing and smooth-tongued; Selim was very open and plain-spoken. After a space the intrigues of Mahamood had the upper hand, and Selim was banished from the court. Then Zobeide, the mother of the Sultan's mother, a

« AnteriorContinuar »