Abbildungen der Seite

they would not depart when I bade them; the gray dawn came, and found me wide awake and feverish, the victim of my own enchantments !

• There must have been a sort of happiness in all this,' said I, smitten with a strange longing to make proof of it. There

may be happiness in a fever fit,' replied the author. And then the various moods in which I wrote! Sometimes my ideas were like precious stones under the earth, requiring toil to dig them up, and care to polish and brighten them; but often, a delicious stream of thought would gush out upon the page at once, like water sparkling up suddenly in the desert ; and when it had passed, I gnawed my pen hopelessly, or blundered on with cold and miserable toil, as if there were a wall of ice between me and my subject.'

• Do you now perceive a corresponding difference,' inquired I, between the passages which you wrote so coldly, and those fervid flashes of the mind ?'

No,' said Oberon, tossing the manuscripts on the table. I find no traces of the golden pen, with which I wrote in characters of fire. My treasure of fairy coin is changed to worthless dross. My picture, painted in what seemed the loveliest hues, presents nothing but a faded and indistinguishable surface. I have been eloquent and poetical and humorous in a dream - and behold! it is all nonsense, now that I am awake.'

My friend now threw sticks of wood and dry chips upon the fire, and seeing it blaze like Nebuchadnezzar's furnace, seized the champagne bottle, and drank two or three brimming bumpers, successively. The heady liquor combined with his agitation to throw him into a species of rage. He laid violent hands on the tales. In one instant more, their faults and beauties would alike have vanished in a glowing purgatory. But, all at once, I remembered passages of high imagination, deep pathos, original thoughts, and points of such varied excellence, ihat the vastness of the sacrifice struck me most forcibly. I caught his arm.

Surely, you do not mean to burn them !' I exclaimed. 'Let me alone!' cried Oberon, his eyes flashing fire. •I will burn them! Not a scorched syllable shall escape! Would you have me a damned author ? — To undergo sneers, taunts, abuse, and cold neglect, and faint praise, bestowed, for pity's sake, against the giver's conscience! A hissing and a laughing-stock to my own traitorous thoughts! An outlaw from the protection

one whose ashes every careless foot might spurn, unhonored in life, and remembered scornfully in death! Am I to bear all this, when yonder fire will ensure me from the whole ? No! There go the tales ! May my hand wither when it would write another !!

[ocr errors]

of the grave

The deed was done. He had thrown the manuscripts into the hottest of the fire, which at first seemed to shrink away, but soon curled around them, and made them a part of its own fervent brightness. Oberon stood gazing at the conflagration, and shortly began to soliloquize, in the wildest strain, as if Fancy resisted and became riotous, at the moment when he would have compelled her to ascend that funeral pile. His words described objects which he appeared to discern in the fire, fed by his own precious thoughts ; perhaps the thousand visions, which the writer's magic had incorporated with those pages, became visible to him in the dissolving heat, brightening forth ere they vanished forever; while the smoke, the vivid sheets of flame, the ruddy and whitening coals, caught the aspect of a varied scenery.

• They blaze,' said he, as if I had steeped them in the intensest spirit of genius. There I see my lovers clasped in each other's arms. How pure the flame that bursts from their glowing hearts! And yonder the features of a villain, writhing in the fire that shall torment him to eternity. My holy men, my pious and angelic women, stand like martyrs amid the flames, their mild eyes lifted heavenward. Ring out the bells ! A city is on fire. See! — destruction roars through my dark forests, while the lakes boil up in steaming billows, and the mountains are volcanoes, and the sky kindles with a lurid brightness! All elements are but one pervading flame! Ha! The fiend !'

I was somewhat startled by this latter exclamation. The tales were almost consumed, but just then threw forth a broad sheet of fire, which flickered as with laughter, making the whole room dance in its brightness, and then roared portentously up the chimney.

6 You saw him ? You must have seen him!' cried Oberon. "How he glared at me and laughed, in that last sheet of flame, with just the features that I imagined for him! Well! The tales are gone.'

The papers were indeed reduced to a heap of black cinders, with a multitude of sparks hurrying confusedly among them, the traces of the pen being now represented by white lines, and the whole mass fluttering to and fro, in the draughts of air. The destroyer knelt down to look at them.

What is more potent than fire !' said he, in his gloomiest tone. Even thought, invisible and incorporeal as it is, cannot escape it. In this little time, it has annihilated the creations of long nights and days, which I could no more reproduce, in their first glow and freshness, than cause ashes and whitened bones to rise up and live. There, too, I sacrificed the unborn children of my mind. All that I had accomplished — all that I planned for future years — has perished by one common ruin, and left only this

neap of embers. The deed has been my fate. And what remains ? A weary and aimless life

a long repentance of this hour -- and at last an obscure grave, where they will bury and forget me.'

As the author concluded his dolorous moan, the extinguished embers arose and settled down and arose again, and finally flew up the chimney, like a demon with sable wings. Just as they disappeared, there was a loud and solitary cry in the street below us. Fire! Fire !' Other voices caught up that terrible word, and it speedily became the shout of a multitude. Oberon started to his feet, in fresh excitement.

A fire on such a night!' cried he. The wind blows a gale, and wherever it whirls the flames, the roofs will flash up like gunpowder. Every pump

is frozen

up, and boiling water would turn to ice the moment it was flung from the engine. In an hour, this wooden town will be one great bonfire ! What a glorious scene for my next Pshaw !!

The street was now all alive with footsteps, and the air full of voices. We heard one engine thundering round a corner, and another rattling from a distance over the pavements. The bells of three steeples clanged out at once, spreading the alarm to many a neighboring town, and expressing hurry, confusion and terror, so inimitably that I could almost distinguish in their peal the burthen of the universal cry - Fire! Fire! Fire !'

What is so eloquent as their iron tongues !' exclaimed Oberon. My heart leaps and trembles, but not with fear. And that other sound, too — deep and awful as a mighty organ — the roar and thunder of the multitude on the pavement below! Come! We are losing time. I will cry out in the loudest of the uproar, and mingle my spirit with the wildest of the confusion, and be a bubble on the top of the ferment !'

From the first outcry, my forebodings had warned me of the true object and centre of alarm. There was nothing now but uproar — above, beneath, and around us ; footsteps stumbling pell-mell up the public stair-case, eager shouts and heavy thumps at the door, the whiz and dash of water from the engines, and the crash of furniture thrown upon the pavement. At once, the truth Aashed upon my friend. His frenzy took the hue of joy, and, with a wild gesture of exultation, he leaped almost to the ceiling of the chamber.

My tales !' cried Oberon. * The chimney! The roof! The Fiend has gone forth by night, and startled thousands in fear and wonder from their beds! Here I stand - a triumphant author! Huzza! Huzza! My brain has set the town on fire ! Huzza!'

[blocks in formation]



Lima, 193– Wiru the early history of Peru, you are already as well acquainted as I am myself. We have often conversed together on the enormities committed by Pizarro and his followers, whom a lust for power and conquest carried among the inoffensive worshippers of the Sun, and led to their slaughter like wild beasts — merely to obtain from them that wealth which the poor savages would have parted with on much easier terms. Persecution, insult and injury have nearly exterminated the original owners of the soil. Their national character was that of a feeble, harmless, ignorant race - living in the constant interchange of friendly arts, with no knowledge of the true God, except through his works ; I think we have agreed, that of all heathen worship, that which sees God in his works is the most rational ; for we can easily imagine that an untutored savage would look with awe and wonder on the God of day rejoicing in the East:' and when he daily .witnessed his all-pervading power, would bow, in humble adoration, to what must appear to his unenlightened eyes the great fountain of life. The human heart must have its object of worship ; and to bow down to wondrous Nature, is certainly more rational than to bow down to the works of men's hands. But I must not indulge myself in this discursive moralizing.

You will not wish me to search the ancient records of Peru, that I may draw from its mouldy archives its long and dreadful account of conquest and of crime. I feel sure you will take more interest in the habits, manners and customs of the people as they now are, with a description of all, of nature and of art, that meets my eye, than in any of the wild legends of bigoted monks, or the fabled histories of those old grandees who first located themselves in this land of gold and precious stones. I will not forget, however, that I am writing to one who has a reasonable share of that curiosity which has been, by some saucy writers, considered a characteristic of her sex. I think I promised you, in my last, a bird's-eye view of the valley of the Rimac, in which Lima - once called the City of Kings'- is situated. I It is the most luxuriant and beautiful valley on the whole coast of Peru. Its length, from the mountain boundary on the south, to the same on the north, is about twelve miles; and its width, from the sea to the foot of the mountains on the east, is perhaps nine or ten. The whole of this is nearly an uninterrupted level, rising gently and gradually from the ocean ; its shape is nearly a half circle. Lima is about seven miles from Callao, its sea-port,

and within three of the north side of the plain. The ground on which it stands, is seven hundred feet higher than the sea.

The principal part of the city is built on the south side of the river Rimac, and encompassed with high walls — the river forming its defence on the north side. Its form is almost an oval, longest from east to west ; its circumference nearly nine miles. The water of the Rimac is conveyed into the city through aqueducts, to a number of fountains in different quarters, from which the inhabitants are supplied. It is also carried through all the streets running from east to west, by means of trenches (about four feet wide) in the centre. The elevation I have mentioned is sufficient to cause the water to run with some degree of rapidity carrying with it a large proportion of the filth of the place, which is thrown into it for that purpose: this water, after passing through the city, is carried in ditches, made on each side of the road, to Callao, and is used for irrigating the gardens and fields of the contiguous estates.

Of the view outside the walls of the city, I could say much ; but I will not expatiate — preferring to give you a description of all the principal places in the valley, and leaving your imagination to group the whole as you please.

To begin, then, with Callao -- which, being the principal port of Lima, you would naturally imagine must be a place of considerable extent and importance. But such is not the case. It is quite small, and miserable in appearance. There is scarcely a decent house in the place ; in fact, the population is made up of the lower classes. The only respectable people who reside there, are those acting as port-agents for the merchants here. I think the town does not contain altogether more than five or six hundred inhabitants. The harbor of Callao is the safest on the west coast of America ; it would be so, from its situation, were it subject to high winds; but as a gale was never known there, vessels may literally be said to ride secure with a packthread for a cable. It is strongly fortified, both by sea and land having for its defence three large and strong castles, capable of containing ten thousand men. At present, there is only a small garrison in the principal fortress, which contains very extensive public store-houses for the reception of goods in deposit, and where reside also the officers connected with the customhouse.

Directly opposite Callao, lies the island of St. Lorenzo, with a number of small ones adjacent: these make the western shelter to the harbor. They are all, I believe, entirely barren — not producing even a blade of grass. They appear to me as if thrown up by some volcanic eruption. St. Lorenzo is the Protestant burial-ground. The Catholics are too much afraid of contamination to allow even the body of a heretic to rest any nearer their

« ZurückWeiter »