Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

I must still honestly avow that I mony to soothe the grief it cannot could not find it in my heart to utter entirely tranquillize. It was the tall one consoling word, or even to assist figure of a man that now dimly met in quieting the unsavoury“ Jacky,' my view; he was enveloped in a who, frightened because he saw his large cloak, similar to those then mother frightened, now added his used by the military on service, and yells to the harmonic combination. since in so much request among our Indeed, my only care was to remove students in law and linen-drapery. myself as far as possible from the Its ample folds concealed, in a great sphere of their influence, so, telling measure, the proportions of a form the coachman that I would walk for- of which only à confused outline ward till he should overtake me, I could be traced beneath the shadow proceeded leisurely on, not a little of a couple of tall trees that skirted pleased at the opportunity thus af- the road. I could, however, distin. forded me of enjoying a small por- guish that the person, whoever he tion of so fine an evening, and feel. might be, was of a commanding ing, I fear, a malignant pleasure at height, in spite of the unfavourablethe retributive sufferings now in- ness of the attitude in which he flicted on some of those who had so stood, as he remained, with his back long kept me in purgatory. I had towards me, leaning over a gate, and, made but little progress in my walk, as I conjectured from the position of and was scarcely clear of Johnny's his head, gazing earnestly on the shrill vociferations, when the same brilliant luminary which shone in musical and plaintive notes which mild radiance above him. As I turnhad attracted my attention previous- ed the corner of the hedge which had ly to the discovery of the accident, hitherto concealed him from my again caught my ear. The sounds sight, his song ceased. I paused for were evidently at no great distance a moment as I beheld him, but was from me, yet seemed to recede as I again advancing, when the recurapproached, till, at length, they ap- rence of the strain checked

my

footpeared to become stationary, since I steps. Apparently absorbed in his manifestly gained upon them, and own contemplations, he had not percould even distinguish a few of the ceived my approach, and I was now words which my invisible entertainer sufficiently near to distinguish, with was singing to a wild but melancholy tolerable precision, the following air. A turn of the road brought me couplets, which he sung to the same suddenly near the person who was wild melody that had at first attractthus, as it seemed, venting his sor- ed my attention, still seeming to adrows and complainings to the ear of dress himself to the shining planet night, and calling in the aid of har. on which his eyes were fixed.

SONG OF THE NIGHT WANDERER,

“ There is a low and a lonely vale,
Where the silver moon

shines clearly,
And thither I flew to tell my tale

To one whom I loved full dearly;
In jocund glee I bounded along,
And gaily I laugh'd, and trolld my song ;

Oh the Moon! the lovely Moon!

*Dearer to me the light o' the Moon
Than the gaudy blaze of the flaunting noon!
« But days are gone, and years are fled,

Fled too are those hours of brightness ;
And the nut-brown curls that waved on my head,

Are tinged with a silvery whiteness ;
And

gone is one whom I loved full well,
And I heard the hollow passing-bell

As I gazed on the Moon, the cold, cold Moon !

Yet dearer still is the light of the Moon,
Oh! dearer by far than the Haunting noon!

" There is a low and a lonely tomb,

Where the grass-green turf is sprioging,
And the wild-flowers shed their sweetest perfume,

And the nightingale's song is singing;
Oh! there lies one whom I mourn in vain,
As I listen to Philomel's dying strain,

And sadly gaze on the pensive Moon;

I seek the Moon, the silent Moon,
And fly from the gaudy blaze of noon!”

The voice of the mourner, for such ury of an inside place, he had conI was convinced he was, ceased. tented himself with the humble exThere was nothing in the words altation, if I may use so paradoxical themselves, taken abstractedly,which an expression, of the roof. Feeling could confirm the idea I had begun himself a little cramped, he, too, to entertain, that the unknown was it seemed, had availed himself of the labouring under some serious affec- same opportunity to execute a mation of the mind, more than is to be nouvre similar to the one I had found in a hundred other ultra-sen- adopted, having descended from his timental ditties with which the mu- Olympus the moment the coach stopsic-shops are so abundantly sup- ped. He now began to express his plied; but the tremulous tones in surprise that it had not overtaken which the song was given, and the him, a circumstance which I accountdeep-drawn sigh, almost amounting ed for by mentioning the injury it to a groan, which followed it, con. sustained by the bar, (the discovery veyed to my mind an irresistible of which his walking on at once had conviction that it was the offspring prevented him from knowing,) and of no fictitious grief, but the simple thus satisfied him that an apprehenexpression of a genuine and heart- sion he had begun to entertain, that felt sorrow. While I hesitated whe- the coachman might have passed ther I should accost him or not, be- him unobserving and unobserved, ing unwilling to let him suppose

was unfounded. As our conversathat I had been playing the part of tion continued, I had an opportunity an eavesdropper, and witnessing ef- of observing him more narrowly, fusions which I readily conceived and was surprised to find that he were not intended to meet the ear of was by no means so far advanced in any human being, the singer rose life as some expressions in his song from his position, and proceeded had led me to expect; he appeared, slowly on before me, keeping the indeed, to have scarcely passed the same track I was myself pursuing prime of manhood, while the firm. The lapse of a few seconds brought ness of his tread, and the athletic us nearly on a parallel, when I ven- uprightness of his figure, if they tured to give him the usual saluta- wanted the springing elasticity of tion of a passenger, with a remark youth, were at least equally removed on the uncommon beauty of the from the enervation of age. As he evening. His reply was courteous, occasionally raised his head, the and gave me encouragement by slack- moonbeams gave additional wanening my steps to bring my pace ness to a face, the features of which, more in unison with his own, and to though bold and masculine, were commence a desultory sort of con- regular, but of an ashy paleness. versation. He was at first brief He had the air of one who has seen enough in his replies, eyeing me and suffered much, while the gentleoccasionally with a suspicious glance; manly ease of his deportment, and but finding from my discourse that I that indescribable something, more was simply a traveller who had left easily understood than expressed, the mail behind me, his reserve in a which usually marks the manners great measure gave way, and he let and demeanour of a military man, me understand that he, like myself, announced him a soldier. Insensiwas à passenger, and by the same bly our conversation from commonconveyance, but with this difference, place remarks, took a more interesttkat, while I rioted (heaven save the ing turn, and, a casual allusion having mark!) in all the aristocratical lux. drawn forth an explicit avowal of

move on

his profession, the discourse not un- plum-cake, which he carried, envenaturally diverged to the various loped in brown paper, on his knees. changes and chances of a military On this said cake he had commenced life, thence to the different climes a formidable attack before we had and countries through which, in the reached the first milestone out of course of service, it was not unfre, London, and, as the poor child laquently the soldier's lot to wander. boured most heartily in his vocation, On all these subjects, I found my by the time we had arrived at the companion possessed of such infor- end of the first stage, he had made mation as evinced that, in his pro- his “Ossa a wart.” An addition gress through life, he had not hur

so vast, and composed of such disried on with a careless or unobser- cordant materials, to the load with vant eye; the few sentences with which she was previously encumwhich he had at first replied to my bered, was a burden far heavier observations, increased in frequency than Dame Nature chose to bear; and length, and, as the subject of his the goddess turned restive, and the profession, its arduous duties, its exertion used by the young gentlepleasures and its cares, came more man in expressing his tribulation, under our review, the deep dejec. assisting her endeavours, no sooner tion under which he had originally did the coach“

again, appeared to labour, softened into an

than, by a sudden and vigorous efexpression of equanimity, at times fort, she succeeded in disengaging almost rising, into cheerfulness. herself from a considerable portion Every succeeding moment I grew of the weight which oppressed her, more pleased with the manner and transferring the onus to the lap of sentiments of my new acquaintance, the quaker in the opposite corner, and heartily should I have regretted to the visible discomposure and dethe arrival of the vehicle, which was filement of his outward man. The to convey us to the place of our patience of Friend Penn himself destination, had I not recollected could scarcely have withstood so that it rested with myself to decide sudden and severe a trial, much less whether our interview should be that of Hezekiah Brimmer, whom thus abruptly cut short or not. The Satan seized the opportunity to buf, rolling of wheels, the pattering of fet sorely, and, like a cunning fiend horses' hoofs, in conjunction with as he is, nearly succeeded more than the cracking of the coachman's whip, once in forcing an ugly word of and the shrill tantivy of the guard's malediction beyond the aperture of horn, were now heard at a short dis- the good man's lips. As it was, tance in our rear, and announced Hezekiah seized the unlucky culprit the approaching termination of our with the arm of the flesh, and shook walk. I bad, as I have said already, him unmercifully; but this ill-adfostered an incipient design of emi- vised measure only served to progration from the interior

the ex

duce a repetition of the offence, by terior of that “infernal machine," which, from the different attitude and I was abundantly confirmed in poor John had been forced to asmy intention, when, on its coming sume, his mama and the honest tar up, and the guard tendering me his now became fellow-sufferers. As arm to assist me in resuming the the guard opened the door, the situation I had quitted, I discover- storm within was at its height, and it ed, through the medium of more may be questioned whether a greater senses than one, that a most se- confusion of tongues was heard in rious catastrophe had taken place Babel itself within the same number there during my absence. Master of square feet. I did not hesitate a Johnny had, it seems, previously to moment as to the course to be purhis introduction into that sepulchre sued, but, bidding the man close the of the living, been tolerably well door, sprang up the side of the carprovisioned for his journey. Inde- riage, and placed myself by my late pendently of a hearty supper on companion who had already re-occuham and oysters, his pockets had pied his seat. Half-a-crown to the been crammed with a fanciful variety coachman procured me the loan of of sweetmeats, and he had been fare

a supernumerary surtout, well calther furnished forth with a huge culated to keep out the night air,

man,

and, thus caparisoned, I felt myself rived, and up whose steep ascent in an absolute Paradise compared our conductor allowed his horses to with the Tartarus now immediately proceed at an easier pace--all, the below me. If I might judge by the whole scene, which developed nasatisfaction he expressed, the ar- ture in her most captivating state of rangement was not less agreeable to tranquil majesty, so enchanted me, my fellow-traveller than to myself; that, with the subject we had been he was still, indeed, at times pensive discussing fresh in my mind, I could and abstracted, but bis conversation, not forbear exclaiming in the words though of a grave and sombre cast of the poet, possessed an undefined charm that continued to amuse and interest me

“ How sweet and solemn is this midnight

scene! exceedingly. I know not how it happened that

At such an hour as this, in such a spot, our discourse, which had hitherto If ancestry can be in ought believed, been confined principally to the Descending spirits have conversed with manners, customs, and habits of fo.

And told the secrets of the world un. reign nations, as compared with, or

known ! " distinguished from, our own, turned insensibly upon their superstitions ; My companion shuddered as I the Brownie of Scotland, the Obi of pronounced the last two lines, and the Negroes, the Hungarian Vampire, fixed his gaze alternately on the the German Rubezahl, and even the woods that hemmed us in on either now nearly subverted empire of the side, as if he indeed expected to beFairies in our own country, came by hold some supernatural visitant issue turns under our review. It was not from their deep recesses. The wild till the famous and inexhaustible expression of his countenance was subject of ghosts became our theme, altogether so remarkable, that I could that the slightest discordance of opi- not avoid taking potice of it, nion existed between us, but, when “Really, sir," I continued, laughthis celebrated topic came at last up- ing, “ I could almost persuade my. on the tapis, I could not but perceive self that you had indeed resolved to an evident and decided reluctance in give that credence to our worthy anmy companion to enter upon the dis- cestors on this formidable subject, cussion. The levity with which I at which their unbelieving posterity first treated the notion of a visit from are determined to refuse

them.” the dead to the living seemed, I “ And why should I not ?"returncould not imagine why, to displease ed he, in a voice serious even to sadhim; his answers to my remarks, if ness, and betraying, as I imagined, not absolutely petulant, were deli- some slight token of displeasure; vered in a tone by no means conso

“ what is there so absurd in the idea nant with that urbanity and self-pos. that the disembodied spirit should session which he had up to this mo- yet desire to lipger among the scenes ment invariably maintained. His it has delighted in, or joy to watch constrained replies ended at length over and protect the happiness of in a pause of more than common du those whom it has loved ?" ration; in the meantime the singu- “ Absurdity ? nay, I do not go the lar stillness and brilliancy of the length of pronouncing the idea abnight, the countless myriads of burn- surd; the theory, on the contrary, is ing stars that gemmed the dark blue a mighty pretty one, and at times I heavens above us, the mild and mel. am almost tempted to regret that it low lustre that prevailed, interrupt- rests on so unsubstantial a foundaed only by the momentary corusca- tion. For my own part I should detions of some transient meteor, num- sire nothing better than to discover bers of which, like stars darting from the ghost of some good-natured their spheres, occasionally shed a grandmother occasionally at my elgleam of surpassing radiance as they bow, with sage hints for the better winged their way across the expansé, conducting of my life and manners;

-the finely contrasted shades of the or some maiden aunt, of a dozen gebrown woods which clothed on nerations standing, extending ber either hand a sort of defile, at the long and boney finger to intimate entrance of wbich we had now ar- where I might replenish an exhausted exchequer by the discovery of the detection of secret guilt, or the some recondite pot of money." punishment of open villany, demand The voice of my companion assu.

its interference ?" medadditional sternness as hereplied “ Well,” cried I, in the same tone

-" These, and silly tales like these, which I had maintained through the the foolish inventions of boys and whole conversation, on occasions idiots, the babblings of nurses, and of such moment as those to which the visionary dreams of mercenary you allude, still less should I wish blockheads eager in believing what to deny myself to any deceased genthey earnestly wish for-these they tleman or lady who might think proare that have thrown suspicion on per to favour me with a call. The the actual visits of immortal beings, redressing, of wrong and re-estaundertaken for far higher purposes, blishing of right is a glorious task, and with far nobler designs than the and, with a ghost to back one, and pointing out a few ounces of sordid take all the responsibility upon itdross, or with the still more con- self, must be especially delightful; temptible view of exciting causeless I really could almost wish I might terror in beings so infinitely below be selected by some aërial avenger their purified nature. These are the for so very respectable an office.” tales which the careless and the vain “ Now, Heaven in its mercy formix up and associate in their imagi. bid !” exclaimed he, with a wild nation with recorded facts of a more energy that made me start, then dignified description--facts to the clasping his hands, which still quiverauthenticity of which some of the ed with some strong emotion, “ You wisest and best of men have borne know not what you are asking; rash testimony in all ages of the world.” and unthinking young man, bitterly

“I am fully aware," rejoined I, would you rue the hour should your " that many of the narratives you mad wish be granted !”. His whole allude to appear to rest upon no

frame shook with agitation, his eyes mean authority; that Plutarch, for glistened in the moonlight with an instance, has given us several, while, unnatural brightness, and his tones in more modern times, the compre- sunk into even sepulchral hoarsehensive mind of that ' giant in in. ness, as he continued—“ No! Heatellect,' our own Johnson, was deep- ven forbid that another wretch should ly imbued with a similar persuasion; suffer the torments which have been yet, nevertheless, I cannot help im- mine since first this dreadful computing the whole system which has mission was enjoined me!” obtained from the darker ages down He paused, and, unclasping his to our more enlightened days, either hands, covered with them the whole to successful imposture, or to the ef- of his countenance. During the lat. fects of a strong imagination opera- ter part of his ejaculation, he had ting upon weak nerves. That many appeared to have become totally unof these traditionary anecdotes were conscious of my presence; and the firmly believed by the persons who strange import of the words he had have handed them down, and even used, together with the violent agi. by some who were actors in the tation which assailed him, combined scenes described, I entertain no to give strength to an opinion I had doubt; still I am not a whit the near- before begun to form, that the intel. er giving my assent to the actual ap. lects of my new friend were, on this pearance of any one spectre, from point at least, not altogether unthat of Cæsar down to the scarcely clouded. True, that on every other less celebrated Sir George Villiers, subject his conversation had been of or Mrs Veal with her rustling silk a superior description; that he had gown.'

diffused, with no sparing hand, much “ And on what is this disbelief valuable information, chastened by a founded ? You doubtless admit that correctness of thinking, a genuine Providence governs the world by taste and elegance of expression, general laws; what is there, then, ri- that evinced the richness and cultidiculous in supposing that those laws vation of his mind : still I was quite may be occasionally dispensed with aware that among the melancholy when the high and inscrutable pur- victims of mental aberration, such poses of Heaven require it? when circumstances are by no means un

« AnteriorContinuar »