« PreviousContinue »
• Young man !' said the doctor, you must go on my sick-list immedi. ately – forth with and directly, Sir; you are sick, Sir !
Me sick, doctor ! exclaimed the innocent; no more sick than a spring alligator on a sunny mud-bank, or a lazy nigger in cotton-pick. in'-time.'
• Yes, young man, you are sick. The first lesson which you have to learn on board ship, is subordination and obedience to your superior officers, of whom I have the honor to be one. Silence, Sir! no interruption !' thundered the doctor, as his victim opened his mouth to speak;
understand me at once, Sir: you must take a dose of medicine, and to bed. You ’re on the sick-list, Sir!'
Oh Lord, no! You do n't think so, do you, doctor ? whined the subject.'
• You ’re to obey orders here, Sir,' was the doctor's brief answer, as he turned round and instructed the loblolly.boy to prepare the following prescription : the doctor was a bit of a rhymester:
"Of epsom salts, a quart in a pot,
And a plaster large of Spanish flies.' The compounds were mixed, and with great difficulty forced down the patient's throat; the plaster was also duly applied. After this the subject became rather sick, and began to believe it himself. He anx. iously inquired for a bed. He was pointed to a hammock, swung be. tween two carlines, with a slip-not in the lanyard - made especially for his benefit.
He looked at it for a moment, and then in a piteous tone, asked:
• Lord, boys! you do n't mean for me to sleep up in that ar' swingin' bag, do ye?'
He was informed that that was the only kind of bed allowed on board a man-o'-war. Finally, with our assistance, he was hoisted up into the hammock, not without many misgivings as to the safety of the “ 'tarnal swingin' thing ! He had just got fairly stretched out in it, when down it came by the run' upon the deck, where his head and shoulders made the acquaintance of a large tub full of cold salt-water, which • by acci. dent' had found its way beneath the hammock.
For an instant his head remained under the water, just long enough for his medicine to get well washed down with brine, and then he rose to his feet. With the most wolfish face that I ever gazed upon, he roared rather than spoke :
• Now darn and blast your big canoes and swingin' bags all to thun. der! Whar's the Cap’n ? I'll be Alambusticated into ten thousand thunderin' cane-breaks, if I'll eat this sort o' hominy! Whar's the Cap'n, I say? I want to quit these thunderin' diggin's !
We now found that we had gone far enough with the poor fellow; and, ladies and gentlemen, I presume you think I have likewise gone far enough with my yarn ; therefore I'll heave to, as I anticipate another cruise with you all before long, and must look out not to be tedious. In closing, however, let me remark, that the middy whose introduction'
I have literally described to you, is now sailing.master of one of the finest frigates in the United States' service, and is as good a sailor and as perfect a gentleman as there is in the American navy; one whom, I doubt not, from his known amiability of character, will excuse the liberty here taken by his old friend and shipmate. Cincinnati, Ohio.
It was a night of gloom. A starless sky hung over the earth like a tablet of black marble upon a tomb. Nothing disturbed the silence, save a strange noise like the light beating of wings, which from time to time was heard over town and country. The darkness grew thicker, and all felt their hearts beat quick, and a shiver ran through their veins.
In a hall hung with black, and lighted by a lurid lamp, seven men, clothed in purple, with their heads encircled by a crown, were seated upon seven seats of iron. In the midst of the hall was raised a throne of bones, and at its foot, as a footstool, lay a prostrate cross. Before the throne was a table of ebony, and upon the table a vase full of blood, red and foaming, and a human skull.
The seven men appeared sad and thoughtful ; and their eyes from the depths of their deep sockets from time to time shot forth gleams of livid fire; and one of them rose up and approached the throne, and placed his foot upon the crucifix. At that moment his limbs shook, and he seemed near falling. The others regarded him unmoved; but a something, I know not what, passed over their features, and a smile that was not human contracted their lips.
And he who stood toitering stretched out his hand, seized the vase full of blood, filled the skull and drank; and the draught seemed to strengthen him. Raising his head, this cry escaped from his breast : “Cursed be Christ, who has brought back liberty upon the earth! And the other kings rose up all together, and all together raised the same cry : “Cursed be CHRIST, who has brought back liberty upon the earth!'
When they had reseated themselves upon their seats of iron, the first said : “My brothers, let us stifle Liberty, for our reign is finished if hers
commences! Our cause is the same; let each one propose that which seems best. For my own part I give this counsel, for before CHRIST came, who dared to stand upright before us? It is his religion which destroys us : let us abolish the religion of Christ!'
And all responded : 'It is true ! let us abolish the religion of CHRIST !!
And a second advanced to the throne ; took the human skull.; filled it with blood ; and after drinking, said : It is not religion alone that should be abolished; but still farther science and thought; for SCIENCE teaches that which is, for us, not good for man to know; and THOUGHT is always ready to rebel against oppression !
And all responded: It is true ! let us abolish Science and Thought !
And when the third had done what the two first had before done, he said: “When we have replunged mankind into brutishness by depriving them of religion, and science, and thought, we have done much; but there yet remains something else to be done. The brute has dangerous instincts and sympathies. One people should not hear the voice of any other people; for fear that if any complain and rise in rebellion that they should be tempted to imitate them. No noise from without should penetrate within !'
And all responded : “It is true ! No noise fromr without should be heard within !
And a fourth said: “We have our interests, and the people have their interests opposed to ours. If they should unite against us to defend that interest, how can we resist them ? Let us separate them, out of policy. Let us create in each province, village and hamlet an interest contrary to that of the other hamlets, villages and provinces. In this manner they will hate each other, and will not think of uniting against us !
And all responded: It is true! let us make political divisions ! Concord would destroy us !'
And a fifth, after twice filling and twice draining the human skull, said: 'I approve of all these means; they are good, but insufficient. Make brutes that is well; but frighten these brutes ; strike them with the terror of inexorable justice, and the most atrocious punishments; if you would not, sooner or later, be devoured! The EXECUTIONER is the PRIME MINISTER of a Good Prince !'
And all responded : “That is true! The Executioner is the Prime Minister of a good Prince !
And a sixth said: "I perceive the advantage of punishments, prompt, terrible, inevitable. Nevertheless, there may be some one, of brave heart and desperate courage, who will brave punishments. If you would govern men easily, enervate them with voluptuousness. Virtue we do not want: it nourishes strength. Let us debilitate it entirely by corruption !
And all responded : It is true ! let us destroy strength, energy, and courage by corruption !
Then the seventh, after he had, like the others, drank from the human skull, said in his turn, with his foot upon
the cross :
· Let us have no more Christ! There is war to the death, eternal war, between Him and us. But how shall we detach the people from him ? It is a vain attempt ! What shall then be done? Hear me ! It is necessary to buy up the
priests of Christ with wealth, honor, and power; and they will command, on the part of CHRIST, to submit to us completely in whatever we desire or command ; and the people will believe and obey from conscience; and our power will be firmer than before !
And all responded : 'It is true ! let us buy up the priests of CHRIST !'
And, all at once the lamp which lighted the hall went out, and the seven crowned men separated in the gloom.
And a voice came to a just man who at the moment watched and prayed before the cross : ' MINE HOUR APPROACHES! ADORE, AND FEAR NOT !
PART SECOND. THROUGH a mist, thick and gray, I saw, as one looks upon the EARTH at the hour of twilight, a naked plain, desert and cold. In the midst rose a rock, from which trickled, drop by drop, a blackish water; and the feeble and dull sound of the drops which fell was the only sound one could hear.
Seven paths winding about through the plain ended at the rock; and around the rock, at the entrance of each, was a stone covered with, I know not what; moist and green, like the slime of a reptile. And behold, in one of the paths I perceived one like a shadow, who moved slowly; and, as little by little the shadow came near, I discerned — not a man, but the semblance of one. Upon its left breast this human form had a drop of blood; and it sat down upon the wet green stone, and its limbs shook. Its head was bowed, and it pressed its folded arms closely together, as if to retain a little vital warmth. And by the six other
paths, six other shadows successively arrived at the foot of the rock. Trembling, with folded arms they sat down upon the stone, damp and green ; and they were silent there, and oppressed by the weight of a hidden
agony. Their silence continued a long time; I know not how long; for never did the sun rise on that unearthly plain; neither night nor morning was known there; but the drops of the blackish water, by their falling, alone measured a duration monotonous, obscure, heavy, eternal; and this was so terrible, that unless God had strengthened me, I could not have endured the sight.
After a kind of convulsive shudder, one of the shadows, raising his head, uttered a sound rough and harsh like the sighing of the wind through a skeleton, and the rock echoed this exclamation to my ear: Christ has conquered ! cursed be he!' And the six other shadows started, and all together raising their heads, the same blasphemy escaped from their bosoms : Christ has conquered! cursed be he! And instantly they were seized with a greater trembling; the mist parted; and for an instant the blackish water ceased flowing ; and the seven shadows bent anew under the weight of their secret agony; and then succeeded a silence far longer than the first. Then one of them, with. out rising from the stone, immoveable and bent down, said to the others :
• The same then has happened to you that has happened to me! What have availed our counsels! And another replied: Faith and Thought