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cially in the time of the famous Guy, Earl of Warwick, of whom my ancestor was a firm adherent. It was said, too, that the spirits of these unfortunate
persons still haunted the neighborhood, and made the green banks of the Avon their place of meeting. The bow murmur of the stream, as it swept gently under the walls of the Castle, was said to be but the voices of these spirits, as they breathed their lamentations over the waters which had been the only witness of their sufferings. I speak of nursery-tales and neighborhood-gossip, not of course credited by the enlightened, but which served to fill my infant mind with terror and awe. And as this sketch is intended to give the history of my mental as well as of my external life, I dwell with the more minuteness on those things which first affected it most powerfully.
On my father's marriage with a daughter of one of the noble families in Warwickshire, the Castle was almost completely metamorphosed. His family pride would not permit him to throw down a single stone of the staunch pile which had stood so long and so firmly a defence for his ancestors; while the improvements of the age required a mansion more in accordance with its refined and peaceful spirit. It was consequently resolved to add to the pile a splendid modern structure, which was to become par excellence the residence of the family. The old dininghall and the state-rooms were however allowed to remain in all their sombre grandeur. The library was not quite dismantled ; although all of the handsomer books were removed into the new room, built for that purpose. Enough nevertheless remained to save the room from utter neglect, although the dusty cob-webs around its walls gave evi. dence of the slight attention it received.
The older servants saw with dismay the preparations for enlarging the establishment; looking upon it as a virtual abandonment of the Old Castle.' This was considered a bad omen, and to augur the downfall or termination of our house. A prophecy was quoted relative to the dreaded event, now about to take place, which was said to be of great antiquity :
"When ye St. Leger shal marrie a virgyn fair,
My grand father held this prophecy in great veneration. He was wont to say, “With so plain a warning in view, the St. Legers would stand an unbroken name for countless generations. The consequence was, that nothing was done even to the old castle, except what came strictly under the denomination of repairs. Improvements were not thought of. At length, Hugh St. Leger was gathered to his fathers, and the great gong of the castle struck his last requiem amid the weeping and lamentation of relatives, servants and retainers; for he was a man of many virtues ; both generous and kind, though stern in his manner, and possessing somewhat of the haughty bearing of the preceding age.
My father was educated at a more enlightened period, when improvements waxed rife; when distinctions began to soften, and changes to be thought necessary. He affected to disregard the prophecy which had been so religiously believed by his ancestors. He maintained that the
old castle was built mainly with a view to defence, in case of assault; that it possessed great conveniences for a garrison, but comparatively few for a family residence; and while he revered it as the home of his fathers, regarding with ancestral pride its staunch battlements, which had stood firm against every assauli, still he maintained that there could exist no reason why improvements should not be made, which might accord with the present state of things. The addition' was consequently resolved upon. My father was particular always to give it that name, secretly deciding, I have no doubt, that by keeping within the letter of the prophecy, he should not incur the threatened penalty. The new mansion was built. My father married. Years rolled happily away
He was blessed with three promising children ; and every thing went on joyously and well. My own recollections are of my home in the improved state I have described. From the old servants how. ever I learned at an early age the existence of the prophecy, and the fearful construction which superstition had given it. Little was said openly; but the deprecatory air, the sombre, melancholy look, which two or three of the old crones who had become superannuated in our service constantly wore, were always a sore interruption to our childish sports. Did we meet them while full of the elastic happy feeling which child. hood so much enjoys, it was always : Poor children! God preserve ye! Who knows what ye may come to! God send ye an easy death!' and the like.
My brother - I had but one, and he was my senior — seemed but little affected by these prophecies of evil, while upon my own mind they produced a chilling and lasting effect. Like the insect that flutters nearer and nearer the flame which is to prove its destruction, I used to steal away and hold daily conferences with these old creatures; and hour after hour was wont to be entertained with stories of the bloody wars in which old Bertold St. Leger figured; of the exploits of the famous Guy of Warwick; and of my brave grand father, Hugh St. Leger, the last worthy of the race, as they were pleased to style him; always concluding however, by quoting the dreaded prophecy, and assuring me that I was doomed.
These lessons, so often inculcated, began to produce their impression. Somehow I took to myself the whole force of the prophecy, regarding my brother and sister as in some way exempt from its influence.
The result was, that in my very childhood I become serious and thoughtful. Life, even in its spring.time, was losing every charm. The world looked no longer gladsome and gay.
I had begun to suffer.
STRANGE season of childhood ! marked by cloud and sunshine; full of light-hearted pleasures and fresh griefs! Yet how fraught with consequences when the new.created being ushered into life commences upon immortality! Precious season! when every new object makes an impression, and every impression is indelible! And what fearful issues hang upon each! Issues which reach through time, and peradventure into eternity. VOL. XXV.
In order to present a proper narrative of my life, I should give some account of those who exercised most influence upon it. My father was in many respects a singular man. He possessed in a great degree the stern nature of my grandfather, which was nevertheless considerably modified by a natural urbanity of manner, which old Hugh St. Leger never manifested. He had a warm, generous heart, and was devotedly attached to his wife and children. Although a younger brother, I never could perceive any difference in the treatment of his
He was equally affectionate toward both, yet never familiar with either. His urbanity was manifested in social life with his friends and acquaintances; but when any one sought his intimacy, a repulse was certain. Yet he was neither haughty nor overbearing. Pride he certainly possessed; yet it seemed a just and honest pride, rather than the vain conceit of a weak mind. From his children he not only expected obedience, to the letter, but he never suffered his commands or wishes to be questioned. I well remember once unconsciously asking him why I must do some act which he had commanded, and the withering sternness of his response as he reëchoed the command, without deigning any explanation. In justice I should add, that his requirements were reasonable and proper, although to a wayward child they might seem otherwise. In his religion my father was strict and devoted. He hated Popery with a pious indignation, and early instilled into the minds of his children an abhorrence of the Romish Church. Frenchmen were his peculiar aversion, and it was with difficulty that he could bring himself to treat one with civility. Possessing in the main sound views, he entertained violent prejudices, which it was impossible to change. He was not anbitious, except for his children. He omitted nothing which might insure to them every advantage, as well in education as personal advancement. For them he labored and planned. No expense was too great, no sacrifice too large. But if my father was ready to do all this, much did he expect in return. What he thought we could accomplish, we were compelled to accomplish, no matter though the task were difficult, nay overwhelming. No excuse was accepted. In vain we sometimes pleaded that our companions were not tasked so heavily. With something very like a sneer, he would reply, “If you ever wish to be any thing, do not talk about what others do, but set your mark away beyond them all, and when once the mark is fixed, let there be no drawing Lack, no whining. Try, and the thing will be done.' And try we did, until it seemed as if no labor was half so hard as ours. Yet after all, we generally fulfilled what was required, and had the satisfaction of making glad a parent's heart.
I do not think I could have borne so cheerfully all that my father imposed upon me, had it not been for my mother. Oh! what a world of feeling and tenderness is in that name! Though still living, let me pay her the tribute which I cannot withhold. I should think my duty but half accomplished, did I omit to record what I owe to her. In disposition she was angelic. I think I never saw her ruffled in temper, or discomposed. She was mild, yet dignified, and possessed a sweetness of manner which was perfectly fascinating. Above all, she was devotedly pious, and it was her first care to instil into the minds of her
children a love for sacred things. Morning and evening did I lisp my infantile prayers to her, and it seemed as if she sent them up for me to God.
• Come, William, it is high time to be up, if you wish to go out with Roger to the Park, across the Avon, and see the new rookery. The sun is up long before you. Don't you hear the larks singing? It will soon be breakfast-time, and Roger can't wait.' • Dear mother, I am so sleepy! You are! and how long has my son been in bed ? Eight hours -- and sleepy yet! You must not become a sluggard! “Mother, mother, I want to whisper to you; I forgot my prayers last night. You were away, and I fell asleep without saying them.'
• Oh, my son, you should be careful never to forget them. You should remember who keeps you alive, and makes you so happy; and you should always put yourself under His care before you sleep.' Mother, let me say my prayers now. All this comes upon me now with the freshness of first ideas. And it is just what my dear mother said to me
- I remember it so distinctly! Day after day she would impress some reli. gious truth upon my mind, and so kind, so tenderly, that it would have melted an older heart than mine. How she loved me! How she loves me still! Perhaps with a difference in the feeling too.
To my mother I came with all my troubles; to her I repeated all my grievances, save one. I never could name to her what sat the heaviest at my young heart the belief that I was doomed. Often did she perceive that something afflicted me; and most soothingly did she attempt to discover the cause ; but my tongue refused to do its office, if I desired to tell her; and my only relief was in tears. My mother sometimes thought that my fears were of a religious nature ; and she would accordingly attempt to comfort me by the soothing promises of the Scriptures. But all in vain. The prophecy haunted me. And to the one of all others who might have afforded consolation I could not speak of it.
My brother Hugh was five years elder than myself, and of course was rather a protector than a play-fellow. He was a noble boy ; kind in his nature, quick in his feelings, and forgiving and generous to a fault. We loved each other fondly. Evil betide the one who dared ofier indignity to me when Hugh was present! He took a pride in defending me, and fancied himself a man, as he fought battles and achieved victories in my behalf. He was intelligent and apt in his studies, though not of a thoughtful turn. He had a fine voice, prepossessing manners, and a rapid flow of language, together with a commanding energy of character, which overcame every obstacle.
My little sister was a general favorite ; and though in great danger of being spoiled in consequence, yet by the judicious government of both parents, was preserved from such an unhappy fate. She was very like her mother in disposition, and being educated at home, under her immediate direction, it was no wonder that the resemblance daily grew stronger. I will mention one more, and our family are all told. There resided with my father a maiden aunt, many years older than himself, who had always lived at the castle. She was an elder sister of Hugh
St. Leger, and had occupied one room in the old castle all her life. This was a small but neatly-finished chamber, on the river side, commanding a fine view of the Avon, and the country beyond.
This singular woman, at the time of my birth, was nearly seventy. In appearance she was tall and commanding. Her hair was perfectly white, and she wore it short over her head. She had gray eyes, which sparkled with the brightness of youth, and retained all their original quickness of vision. Her habits were very peculiar. She required but little service, although one of the old crones I spoke of was always in attendance upon her. With the family her intercourse was singular enough. She very rarely came to the table, and never sought the society of any one ; yet when addressed, she would mingle freely in conversation, showing remarkable accuracy in matters of history, and especially in chronology. Yet she invariably added to the truth strange matters of fiction, which possessed such a verisimilitude, that none knew when to credit her. She spent most of her time either in her own apartment, musing and reading, or in wandering along the banks of the Avon, plucking a flower here and there, or picking up small pebbles on the shore; talking to herself the while, with great earnestness. The usual occupations of her sex she never engaged in for a moment. I know not if she knew the use of the needle. She rarely retired to rest until the night was far spent, and seldom rose before mid-day.
As may be supposed, such a person produced upon my mind a most lasting impression. When a child, she was a mystery to me; and as I became older, she was no less an enigma. She appeared to have no sympathies; yet she seemed, judging from her acts, to be attached to us all. If I deemed myself slighted by any of the servants, I had only to tell Aunt Alice, and without investigation or question, the offen. der was subjected to the severest reproof. If I was ill, I found my way to Aunt Alice's apartment, and received every attention which it was in her power to bestow. Nothing asked of her was refused, and she never tired of our importunities. Yet in all this, no feeling, no sympathy was manifested ; all was cold - without heart, without life. Yet she was roused to anger by the slightest opposition. Seldom in. deed did she meet with it, but when she did, the storm and whirlwind were fit emblems of her wrath. These paroxysms lasted but for a brief space; and in the exhibition of them there was the same want of feeling, of vital passion, as in her calm moments. Passionless; possessing nothing like affection in her heart, with no apparent ties on earth; she seemed to regard every thing around her like shadows on the wall: they came, they went but they were shadows still, while she remained the same. Often have I crept close to her, as she wan. dered out on some of her long walks, and listened to the conversation she was holding with herself. This was sometimes in a foreign language, of which I knew nothing. When she spoke in our own tongue, her subject was generally of things long past, of which I could under. stand but little. I could perceive that she often kept up an imaginary conversation with two, and sometimes three persons, with great volu. bility; and I could in consequence very rarely make out a connected link of what was said.