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ing of the fingers of the right hand, duty to take heed, that the last few which was extended on his knee. hours of the dying sinner passed pot, His shrunk cheeks exbibited a deadly without such comfort to his struggling ashen paleness, with a slight tinge of soul as human help might hold out. yellow, the effect of confinement. After reading to him some passages of His eyes were glossy and sunken, and the gospel, the most apposite to his seemed in part to have lost the trying state, and some desultory and power of gazing. They were turned unconnected conversation,-for the with an unmeaning and vacant stare poor creature at times seemed to be upon the window, where the last red unable, under his load of horror, to streak of day was faintly visible, keep his ideas connected further than which they seemed vainly endeavoring as they dwelt upon bis own nearing to watch. The sense of my own si- and unavoidable execution, I pretuation now recoiled strongly upon vailed upon bim to join in prayer. me ; and the sight of the wretch sit- He at this time appeared to be either ting stiffened in quiet agony, (for it so much exhausted, or laboring under was no better,) affected ine with a so much lassitude from fear and want faint sickness. I felt that an effort of rest, that I found it necessary to was necessary, and, with some diffi- take his arm and turn him upon his culty, addressed a few cheering and knees by the pallet-side. The hour consolatory phrases to the miserable was an awful one. No sound was creature I had undertaken to support. heard save an occasional ejaculation My words might not-but I fear my between a sigh and a smothered tone was too much in unison with his groan from the wretched felon. The feelings, such as they were. His an- candle burned dimly ; and as I turned swer was a few inarticulate mutter- I saw, though I scarcely noticed it at ings, hetween which, the spasmodic the moment, a dim insect of the moth twitching of his fingers became more species, fluttering hurriedly round it, apparent than before. A noise at the sound of whose wings mournfully the door seemed decidedly to rouse filled up the pauses of myself and my him; and as he turned his head with companion. When the nerves are a sudden effort, I felt relieved to see strained to their uttermost, by such the gaoler enter. He was used to triling circumstances are we affected. such scenes; and with an air of com- Here, (thought I,) there has been no miseration, but in a tone which lack- light, at such an hour, for many years ; ed none of the firmness with which he and yet here is one whose office it habitually spoke, he asked the unhap- seems to be to watch it! My spirit py man some question bis welfare, selt the necessity of some exertion ; and seemed satisfied with the head and with energy,
for which shake and inarticulately muttered re a few minutes before I had hardly plies of the again drooping wretch, as dared to hope, I poured out my soul if they were expected, and of course. in prayer. I besought mercy upon Having directed the turnkey to place the blood -stained creature who was some wine and slight refreshments on grorelling beside me, I asked that rethe table, and to trim the light, he pentance and peace might be vouchtold me in a whisper, that my friends safed him—I begged, for our Redeemwould be at the prison, with the cler- er's sake, that his last moments might gyman, at the hour of six; and bid- know that untasted rapture of sin fording the miserable convict and my- given, and a cleansed soul, which self, after a cheering word or two, faith alone can bring to fallen man-I “good night,” he departed—the door conjured him to help and aid me to was closed—and the Murderer and I call upon the name of Christ; and I were finally left together.
bade him put off lise and forget it, It was now past the hour of ten and to trust in that name alone-I ino'clock; and it became my solemn terceded that his latter agony might
be soothed, and that the leave-taking needed it not, but to man, who did. of body and soul might be in quiet- I besought birn, for the good of all, ness and peace.
But he shook and and as he valued his soul's health, to shivered, and nature clung to the mi- detail the particulars of his crime, serable straw of existence which yet but his eye fell. That dark enemy, floated upon the wide and dismal cur- who takes care to leave in the heart rent of oblivion, and he groaned hea- just hope enough to keep despair vily and muttered, “No, no! no !” alive, tongue-tied him; and he would as if the very idea of death was un not-even now-at the eleventh hour bearable, even for a nioment; and give up the vain imagination, that “ to die,” even to him that must, the case of his companion might yet were a thing impossible, and not to be confounded with bis, to the escape be thought of or named. And as I of both-and vain it was. It had not wrestled with the adversary that had been felt advisable, so far to make him dominion over him, he buried his acquainted with the truth, that this shrunk and convulsed features in the had already been sisted and decided; covering, of his miserable pallet; and I judged this to be the time. while his fingers twisted and writhed Again and again I urged confession about, like so many scotched snakes, upon him. I put it to him that this and his low, sick moans, made the act of justice might now be done for very dungeon darker.
its own sake, and for that of the When I listed him from his kneel- cleansing from spot of his stained ing position, he obeyed my movement spirit. I told him, finally, that it like a tired child, and again sate on the could no longer prejudice him in this low pallet, in a state of motionless world, where his fate was written and and unresisting torpor. The damp sealed, for that his coropanion was resweat stood on my own forehead, prieved. I knew not what I did. though not so cold as on his ; and I Whether the tone of my voice, untupoured myself out a small portion of tored in such business, had raised a wine, to ward off the exhaustion momentary hope, I know not-but the which I began to feel unusually strong revulsion was dreadful. He stared upon ine. I prevailed upon the poor with a vacant look of sudden horrorwretch to swallow a little with me; a look which those who never saw and, as I broke a bit of bread, I cannot conceive, and which-(the rethought, and spoke to him, of that membrance is enough)—I hope nerer last repast of Him who came to call to see again-and twisting round, sinners to repentance; and methought rolled upon his pallet with a stifled his eye grew lighter than it was. moan that seemed tearing him in The sinking frame, exhausted and pieces. As he lay, moaning and worn down by anxiety, confinement, writhing backwards and forwards, the and the poor allowance of a selon's convulsions of his legs, the twisting of gaol, drew a short respite from the his fingers, and the shiverings that rao cordial; and he listened to my words through his frame, were terrible. with something of self-collectedness To attempt to rouse him seemed -albeit slight tremblings might still only to increase their violence—as if be seen to run along his nerves at in- the very sound of the human voice tervals ; and his features collapsed, was, under his dreadful circunstances, ever and anon, into that momentary intolerable, as renewing the sense of vacuity of wildness which the touch reality to a reason already clouding, of despair never fails to give. I en- and upon the verge of temporary deavored to improve the occasion. I deliquium. He was the picture of exhorted him, for his soul's sake, and despair. As he turned his face to the relief of that which needed it too one side, I saw that a few, but very much, to make a full and unreserved few hot tears had been forced from confession, not only to God, who his glassy and blood-shot eyes; and
in his writhings he had scratched one He held the glass and sipped occacheek against his iron bedstead, the sionally, and appeared in some sort to red discoloration of which contrasted listen, and to answer to the words of sadly with the deathly pallidness of consolation I felt collected enough to hue, which bis visage now showed : offer. At this moment the low and during his struggles, one shoe had distant sound of a clock was heard, come off, and lay unheeded on the distinctly striking one. The ear of damp stone-floor. The demon was despair is quick ;-and as he heard it, triumphant within him ; and when he be shuddered, and in spite of a strong groaned, the sound seemed scarcely effort to suppress his emotion, the that of a human being, so much had glass had nearly fallen from his hand. horror changed it. I kneeled over A severe nervous restlessness now him,-but in vain. He heard nothing rapidly grew upon him, and he eager-he felt nothing—he knew nothing, ly drank up one or two small portions but that extremity of prostration to of wine, with which I supplied him. which a moment's respite would be His fate was now evidently brought Dives' drop of water—and yet in such one degree nearer to him. circumstances, anything but a mercy. his gaze intently and unceasingly He could not bear, for a moment, to turned to the window of the dungeon. think upon his own death—a moment's His muttered replies were incoherent respite would only have added new or unintelligible, and bis sunk and strength to the agony-He might be weakened eye strained painfully on dead; but could not “_die;" and in the grated window, as if he momentathe storm of my agitation and pity, I rily expected to see the first streak of prayed to the Almighty to relieve him the dawn of that morning, which to at once from sufferings which seemed him was to be night. His nervous too horrible even to be contemplated. agitation gradually became horrible,
How long this tempest of despair and his motions stronger. He seemcontinued, I do not know. All that I ed not to have resolution enough to can recall is, that after almost losing rise from his seat and go to the winmy own recollection under the agita- dow, and yet to have an overpowering tion of the scene, I suddenly perceiv- wish or impulse to do so. The lowed that his moans were less loud and est sound startled him-but with this continuous, and that I ventured to look terrible irritation, his muscular power, at him, which I had not done for before debilitated, seemed to revive, some space. Nature had become ex- and his action, which was drooping hausted, and he was sinking gradually and languid, became quick and anguinto a stupor, which seemed something lar. I began to be seized with an unbetween sleep and fainting. This re- defined sense of fear and alarm. In lief did not continue long—and as vain I combated it; it grew upon soon as I saw him begin to revive me; and I had almost risen from my again to a sense of his situation, I seat to try to make myself heard, and made a strong effort, and lifting him obtain, if possible, assistance. The up, seated him again on the pallet, loneliness of the gaol, however, renand pouring out a small quantity of dered this, even, if attempted, almost wine, gave it him to drink, not without desperate-the sense of duty, the a forlorn hope that even wine might dread of ridicule, came across me, be permitted to afford him some little and chained me to my seat by the strength to bear what remained of his miserable criminal, whose state was misery, and collect his ideas for his becoming every minute more dreadlast hour. After a long pause of re- ful and extraordinary. turning recollection, the poor creature got down a little of the cordial, and Let us not scorn or distrust our as I sat by him and supported him, I obscurest misgivings, for began to hope that his spirits calmed. strangely constituted; and though the
49 ATHENEUM, VOL. 2, 3d series.
evidence for such conclusions often be the floor on which he had fallen. His in a manner unknown to ourselves, relaxed features had the hue of death, they are not the less veritable and and his parched lips, from a livid blue, just. Exhausted by the wearing ex- became of an ashy whiteness. In citement and anxiety of my situation, appearance he was dying; and in the I had for a moment sunk into that agitation of the moment I poured a confused absence of mind with which considerable portion of the wine those who have been in similar cir- which had been left with us into a cumstances cannot be unacquainted, glass, and, after wetting his temples, when my miserable companion, with a held it to his lips. He made an efconvulsive shudder, grasped my arm fort to swallow, and again revived to suddenly. I was for a few seconds consciousness; and holding the vessel unaware of the cause of this emotion firmly in his hands, got down with difand movement, when a low, indistinctficulty and at intervals, the entire sound caught my ear. It was the draught. When he found it totally rumbling of a cart, mingled with two exhausted, the glass fell from his or three suppressed voices; and the hands; but he seized and held one of cart appeared to be leaving the gate mine with a grasp so firm and ironof the dismal building in which we like that the contrast startled me. were. It rolled slowly and heavily as He seemed to be involved in a confusif cumbrously laden, under the paved ed whirl of sensations. He stared gateway ; and after a few minutes, all round the cell with a wildness of purwas silent. The agonized wretch pose that was appalling; and after a understood its import better than I time, I began to see with deep redid. A gust of the wildest despair morse, that the wine I had unguardedcame suddenly over him. He clutch- ly given was, as is always the case, ed with his hands whatever met his adding keenness to his agony and grasp.
His knees worked. His strength to his despair. He half rose frame became agitated with one con once or twice and listened ; all was tinued movement, swaying backwards silent—when, after the pause of a and forwards, almost to falling ;-and minute or two, a sudden fit of despehis inarticulate complaints became ration seemed to seize upon him. terrific. I attempted to steady him He rushed to the window, and hurriby an exertion of strength-I spoke edly surveying the grates, wrenched kindly to him, but he writhed in my at them with a strength demoniac and grasp like an adder, and as an adder superhuman, till the iron bars shook was deaf : grief and fear had horrible in their embedients. possession. Myself, almost in a state From this period my recollections of desperation—for the sight was are vague and indistinct.
I remempitiful. I at last endeavored to awe ber strongly remonstrating with the him into a momentary quiescence, and poor creature, and being pushed away strongly bade him at last to die like a by hands which were now bleeding man ; but the word “ Death” had to profusely with the intense efforts of him only the effect it may be suppos- his awful delirium. I remember ated to have upon a mere animal nature tempting to stop him, and hanging and understanding—how could it have upon him, until the insane wretch any other? He tried to bear it, and clutched me by the throat, and a strugcould not, and uttering a stifled noise, gle ensued, during which I suppose I between a yell and a moan, he grasp- must at length have fainted or become ed his own neck; his face assumed a insensible ; for the contest was long, dark red color, and he fell into a state and, wbile consciousness remained, of stifled convulsion.
terrible and appalling. My fainting,
I presume, saved my life, for the When despair had wrought with felon was in that state of maniacal him, I listed him with difficulty from desperation which nothing but a
perfect unresistingness could have mechanically at intervals, and only evaded.
kept from fainting and utter insensiAfter this, the first sensation I can bility by the unused and fresh mornrecall is that of awakening out of that ing air, which breathed in his face as state of stupor into which exhaustion if in cruel mockery. I looked once, and agitation had thrown me. Shall but looked no more.--Let me hasten I ever forget it? The anxiety of to conclude. I was ill for many some of my friends had brought them weeks, and after recovering from a early to the gaol ; and the unusual nervous fever, was ordered by my noises which had been heard by some physicians into the country. This of its miserable inmates occasioned, I was the first blessing and relief I ex. believe, the door of the cell in which perienced, for the idea of society was we were, to be unlocked before the now terrible to me. I was secluded intended hour. Keenly do I recol- for many months. Time, however, lect the struggling again into painful who ameliorates all things, at length consciousness, the sudden sense of softened and wore away the sharper cheering daylight, the sound of friend - parts of these impressions, but to this ly voices, the changed room, and the hour I dare not dwell upon the events strange looks of all around me. The of that awful night. If I dream of passage was terrible to me : but I them, although the horrors fall far had yet more to undergo. I was re- short of the appalling reality, yet for covered just in time to witness the the next sun I am discomposed, and poor wretch, whose prop and consola- can only seek for rest from that Altion I had undertaken to be, carried, mighty Power, who, in his inscrutable exbausted and in nerveless horror, to providence, thought fit I should read a the ignominious tree-his head droop- lesson so hideous, but—so salutary.ing on his breast, his eyes opening Reader, farewell.
The Casket is no less deserving of
But my spirit is o'erladen,
My heart is out of tune ; favor for its intention,—the relief of
I may not breathe a poet's vow, misfortune, than for the many beauti My music is a name, ful specimens of poetry it contains. And it seldom breaks its slumbers now
For beauty or for fame. The plan of the editor, Mrs. Blen
Yet there are some who still can break cowe, to whom the public are indebt
The spell that round it clings, ed for projecting this cento of contri
And gleams of thought, that yet awake butions from the gifted writers of the Sweet murmurings from the strings ; day, is excellent; and we think no But then, with something of its old
And long-forgotten art, small credit is due to the active kind
Oh ! there mingle tones, that fall as cold ness which has thus followed up its As midnight on the heart. first impulse of benevolence. We
I hung it on a blighted tree, do not conceive the volume at all ame
In a dream-remember'd land, nable to criticism ; it is an appeal to Where the waters ripple peacefully, our kindliest and best feelings. We
In their beauty, to the strand, cannot therefore do better than use
Beside my own lanthe's bower,
Where I had traced her name,our best taste in the selection of a few But, from that most ill-omen'd hour,
It never was the same. specimens. The following by Mr. Edward Fitzgerald, is touchingly sim Yet, though its gayer notes be flown, ple and beautiful :
My spirit doth rejoice,
When I deem that visionary tone “ Stanzas addressed to
The echo of her voice : You ask me, gentle maiden,
For like the voice of the evening brceze, For a rhyme, as friendship's boon;
When the autumn leaf it stirs, * The Casket. 8vo. pp. 445. London, 1829. Murray.