Page images
PDF
EPUB

66

a remedy wbich I wish to try as soon as your pa- and upper lip had sprouted a neglected beard, tient can receive it."

crisp, short, and of an auburn colour. This So saying Miss Blair came again to the bed— Ænobarbus with the hatchet face was certainly removed the elf-locks from the forehead of poor not very winning in his looks, but the eye of pity Tom Herries—looked sadly upon bis face whilst and generous appreciation which beamed upon her lips moved with unuttered words—and then, bim seemed to take no note of his extraordinary turning, left the room. Johu Herries followed ; want of comeliness. as she sped along a passage he called to her; “You perceive," said Tom lowly, “that I am looking back she saw him come up slowly and nearly gone. Have a little patience; I will be with a meditative countenance. He presently out of your way before long." said :

Minny stooped until her breath stole like a faint “ I have entertained hard, and now I am sure, south wind over the stubble of Tom's chin, and unjust thoughts of you. Pardon my rudeness— repliedforgive my evil thoughts."

“I perceive no such thing. You are strong “I do so, Mr. Herries, without reservation." and will live now. Do you know that you must

“We are overwhelmed by this domestic afflic- live for me ?" tion."

" Live for

you

.?" “Let us hope, sir."

Certainly. We are to be married-are we John Herries fixed a forgiving and even a ten- not ?" der regard upon Minny Blair ; the community of Tom sighed, and looked up sadly and wistfeeling avowed in her brief • let us hope sir,' fully. swept his mind clear of all lingering doubts, and Why do you sigh ?" of much of its fear. This gentle and generous “I must not have a wife so much above me. girl, partaking his griefs, was not an enemy to Of course you must always despise me; and be darken his future, when the power to do so should incessantly wretched yourself." pass, by the death of her uncle, into her hands; “ You are generous, and devoted," the beautimoreover, a finer chord than this selfish one was ful girl said in low tones, and with a tremor touched.

in them which is always of gentle omen. “But “I confide in you,” he said, “ for I begin now you want a just and manly self-appreciation. I to know your noble nature. We turn over a think so nobly of you that, upon my word, I am bright leaf, Miss Blair, when we discover a true unwilling to forego”—here Minny checked herand self-sacrificing friend—and all the brighter self with a smile. She presently said—“will when we find the friendship where we looked for you keep my hand, which you hold now,

if I a scornful want of sympathy. God bless you." give it to you willingly ?” Minny Blair's eyes became suffused with tears.

Tom seemed very much surprised. The gentleness of a stern man is always effect

"I perceive," said Minny, “that you are incorive.

rigible with your humble and delicate fancies; Minny sat by her uncle's side, at Lindores, one stormy morning a few days after the visit

, some solved not to speak, I must be so unfeminine as

you are a singular lover. But if you are rescenes of which I have just given to the reader.

to do so. Mr. Herries, will you remain faithful The old man quietly enjoyed her presence and discourse. He did not perceive a frequent lapse,

to your engagement, and permit me to be your

wife?" from the topic which seemed to engage her, into momentary silence, and thoughts of other things;

The truth dawned upon Tom Herries. After for the devoted girl would quickly fly back from a long silence, during which his countenance bethese broodings, and re-enter with hurried anima- trayed many varying emotions, he said: tion upon her suspended task of amusing. Break

“ You are not a human creature—but one of ing in upon her feverish discourse, came a sum

God's beautiful angels." mons; Dr. Gaunt had despatched the fast rider “Thank you. You are very much mistaken to say that Tom Herries had recovered his rea- however; you must perceive that my hand, which son. Minny, faithful to her promise, encountered you have nearly broken, is substantial. You a severe storm, and was soon at the bed-side of must also perceive that I have no wings." To her lover. Tom, whose face had become very prove this last assertion the tall and lithe girl much like a hatchet, held her hand placidly and turned her person until the graceful sweep of her welcomed her with intelligence, but without ex- shoulders became visible to Tom Herries. There citement. His cheeks were of an ashy white; were no celestial pinions; but only such shoulhis eyes were all the more prominent for the fall- ders as the quiver of Diana the huntress doubting away in the adjacent parts, but they were re- less rested upon. deemed by a soft and gentle expression; his chin Her modest lover, retaining her hand, answer

[ocr errors]

ed the speech and the pretty gesture which ac- must be well very soon, and then you will be betcompanied it :

ter looking." " Your hand is substantial and warm, and you -Adding quickly, “ I seal our contract," she have no wings, but you are at least as good and stooped and kissed his cheek. beautiful as if you were an angel. Miss Minny

When Dr. Gaunt came back to the chamber Miss Minny-do not conceal anything from me. from which Miss Blair had for an hour banished Speak truly, from the bottom of your heart. him, he found his patient in so hopeful a state You are perhaps pretending that you love me, that he began to entertain sanguine expectations in order to save my good-for-nothing life.”

of the fulfilment of Major Wright's promise. “I said just now, Mr. Herries, that you were This promise, the reader will recollect, was to incorrigible. How often do you mean to compel celebrate the recovery of Tom Herries with a me to tell you that I love you? Recollect that dinner to the “picked gentlemen” of the counyou have not once said that you loved me. Do try; at which dinner the hospitable Major was

a fine, you wish me to explain why it is that I am wil- under an obligation to toast Tom as ling to become your wife? Well, fellowship in dare-devil, dashing fellow.” bigh sentiment produces love; and did we not,

“We will get on now, I think," said Dr. Gaunt. Mr. Herries, you and I, unite ourselves in gal

If there is no change for the worse by to-morlast fellowship, when we galloped down to that row, Wright must have notice.”

And Tom Herries shook disease off. Azrael frightful gulf? I felt it possible to become your wife in that swift moment; it was because I dia has little to do with bold, hopeful hearts. Minny so that I flew back to the hope of life, and used Blair had poured oil into his flickering and failmy best means—then when the speed of our

ing lamp; it began, with the moment in which horses, on the very verge as we were, could not she did so, to burn up anew, and soon rogained be restrained—to preserve it. You heard me, in a clear and strong lustre. that last moment, call to you to be wary.”

"Speak on; your voice is so musical. What a brave heart you must have! Speak on.”

CHAPTER VIII. " I have positively very little to say, Mr. Herries. It is not often that we find inviolable truth,

When I began this history it was with the pur

pose of developing the progress of a nature ip generosity, extreme devotion of self for the ease of others, courage, tenderness, united in one which unrestrained passions in an evil hour pro

some respects well-gifted, from a single crime to human being. I think that I have found them pelled it, to remorse and eventual ruin. I found in you. Whatever drawbacks you may possess myself very early beguiled into a love-story, and with them, you will, doubtless, cure in time. thrown quite out from my original design. I must Your worst faults have sprung from a want of bell-respect; there can be little dignity of char- have been subordinate, to give in a final scene

now leave the more pleasant theme, which should acter where a modest but manly self-respect is some necessary explanations, and an appearance wanting. Is not this a strange, grave mode of of connection between the beginning and ending speaking to you? I repeat that I love you—if of my work. In hastening on to this final scene, you take any pleasure in the avowal. You still bold my hand; it shall be yours forever, when

I pass over the details of a great event—the you are well enough to receive it."

marriage of Tom Herries with the beautiful

Minny Blair; a lady whose worth, inasmuch as "Well enough to receive it? That I will be it was infinite-I trust the reader has long ago without much delay,” said Tom Herries. “I discovered this could receive no increase from have entirely given up the idea of dying. God the splendid dowry which the love of Andrew bless you-good-beautiful--generous-lady! Do Blair bestowed with her. It was a brave wedDot go yet. Leave your hand in mine. So you ding; and its results have been fortunate. An are to be my wife? This hand-how soft, and unequal match can scarcely remain unequal very white, and warm it is!—is to be mine forever ?" long, except where mutual dislike exists as a reTom drew the hand to his lips. Almost at pellant, and prevents assimilation. The coarse the same moment he caught a glimpse of him- and common must yield to the high and refined, self in a glass across the room.

He heaved an or the converse must happen. There must be a immense sigh, and muttered

lifting up or a pulling down. In the case before * There never was any one so miserably ugly us the better result has followed. It will be re

membered that the follies which Tom Herries

committed in an early part of this history were “* You are certainly not very handsome ; but after-dinner follies; he has since become somesick people are not generally handsome. 'You'what marked for a gentlemanly moderation in

as I am."

Minny Blair laughed, and said:

his cups. His intelligence is not remarkable ; but the less merciful tribunal of man; for my crime his manners are sufficiently subdued, leaving a man and his laws will not pardon. I make this fresh, entertaining and natural gayety without confession to be read by my representatives when coarseness ; indeed I find this excellent gentle- death shall have removed me from fears of earthman a very agreeable companion, in the long ly justice. Why do I make it? I know not; exevenings which I occasionally spend with him. cept that my secret struggles incessantly to esWhen we recollect, moreover, how honorable, cape, and I imagine that some peace may be courageous and devoted he certainly is, we can gained by providing even for its eventual release. scarcely pity his magnificent wife for the union, A secret of blood ravages the heart that would or deem her aristocratic hand and true heart, utterly confine it. more than his due. Now let us pass on to a con- • On the 20th day of November, in the year clusion.

184, Col. Arthur Pellew, my neighbor, came to It was a summer evening, six months after the my house. I received him kindly, and induced wedding. Death was descending upon the old him to remain and dine with me. Some months and weary master of Lindores. His intellect before, a portion of his lands had been sold unenfeebled but not clouded measured the pace of der my agency; I had been made trustee in a its approach.

deed of trust to secure payment of debts due The windows of the chamber, in which he from Pellew to certain persons living at a dislay dying, were raised; their curtains, hanging tance. The debts had slept for several years; before them, shut out a flood of moonlight, but demand of payment happened unfortunately to lot in the warm breath of an August breeze. be made shortly after a change in Pellew's poThe trees, whose long boughs rustled against the litical relations with me, and upon the heel of walls and eaves of the house, were alive with the something like a quarrel which his failure to supsharp cries of katydids and numberless other port me in a closely contested election had prolittle musicians of the summer night. Now and duced between us. At a time subsequent to the then a bat flitted in, as a curtain streamed with sale of his lands I yielded so far to my desire to the entering breeze, and circled about the ceiling appease him, and regain a lost friend, as to exuntil a succeeding swell of the wind reopened a plain fully all facts in connection with my trusway for egress. Continually several large bee- teeship. He seemed then to yield up his harsh tles droned in their harsh flight, beating the white opinion that I had brought his creditors suddenly walls with horny wings. Lights were burning upon him, and pressed the sale of his lands, in rindicdimly in the chamber.

tive return for his political desertion of my cause. At the bed-side stood Minny Blair, now Mrs. I fancied that I had convinced him of the truth, Herries, and a tall gentleman in the black dress i. e. that his creditors had made the demand of of a clergyman. As we join this group Andrew their own accord, and had even compelled me Blair begins to speak decisively.

against my earnest remonstrances to make the Minny, the time has come for acquainting sale. On the occasion of the visit to me I conyou with the dreadful secret of my life," he said tinued for several hours to believe that my guest with a transient energy.

had been quite satisfied by my explanations; as Any extraordinary communication will move we dined together, however, I perceived that I you, sir, and may injure you."

had been mistaken. His complaints were re“Go to the walnut cabinet; press the carving newed, and in exceedingly offensive terms. I enat the extreme corner next the window; you will dured them with a show of equanimity, but with find a drawer-it fastens with a spring. You an intense rage under it. He left my house; I will see a single paper-bring it to me.” could not remain behind; with a half-formed

His niece followed these directions—discov- purpose of vengeance I joined him. My manered and opened the secret drawer of the cabi- ner continued to be moderate-I uttered certain net, and presently came back with the paper. formulas of regret that my neighbor and old It was folded like a law-paper, and labelled sim- friend should misunderstand and so deeply wrong ply, “The statement of A. B.”

His answer was a direct charge of falseBring the lights nearer; and you, Mr. Gib- hood, and double-dealing, accompanied by an gon, read aloud what I have there written. Min- oath, and a look not only of anger but of coa- 1 ny remain and hear."

tempt. Then the measure was filled to over-1 Presently Mr. Gibson, the clergyman, putting flowing. Would to God that my nature bad on his spectacles and arranging the lights, open- been of the common sort which resents wrong ed the paper and read alou

or outrage on the spot, and when reflection comes. “I ask pardon of Almighty God for a griev- has no pang but for the passionate blow which ous crime which I, Andrew Blair, have com- laws and the best wisdom of man half excuss. mitted. I fear to make appeal for forgiveness to 'Ira brevis furor est. But the very moderation

[ocr errors]

me.

which I could seem to assume, and which was arm. I spoke to him--what I do not recollect. commonly considered proof of a poised intellect We left the field of blood at last. and tutored nature was my terrible curse. Why “ The name of this man I will not give. If should I not admit the truth? The moderation he has committed an offence it has been merely of manner under offence which I had always one of concealment-concealment of my crime. practised was only the result of cowardice. The And yet he has not dealt in all things gently by red blaze of anger in my fellow man paled me me. I forgive; I have so much to be forgiven. into timidity; it was only an art of manner that “The witness of my crime came to me one termade the timidity appear a temperate and wiserible night-the second night after the fatal evenforbearance. I was in fact a craven, with a vile ing-and said that men should have burial, and and vindictive temper--more unrestrainable after not be cast into pits like dead brutes. How awits subtil sort than the more ordinary passion of ful was his proposition! It was that the dead a rash choleric man. I continued to walk with body should be taken up and buried in consecraCol. Pellew, but now in silence; he gave me, at ted ground. He seemed to pity me—and if his first, a look of contemptuous surprise, when he views have since proved selfish, I am sure that found that his insults had not driven me off; then his pity was then genuine. He seemed to be full he walked on as if he had been quite alone. 1 of superstitious horror—I have no doubt he felt determined to take vengeance for his insults— it—at the idea of the brutal neglect of the redirect, terrible insults, such as no man had ever mains of a fellow man. I gave in to his propobefore put upon me. What measure or kind of sition; I could do no otherwise. The deserted vengeance? If a spark of manly courage had Baptist burial-ground, by the old church in the quickened my nature, the course would have hills, a mile from the spot of the murder, was been clear and the task easy. What easier than chosen as the place of sepulture. We went to to say in the fields—turn sir; you have grossly work that very night. A horse, snorting under insulted me; give me satisfaction ? But I was a the horrible burthen, bore the corpse. We opencoward; I could not dare so extremely; the chol- ed an old grave where the dead tenånt had reeric giant would have turned upon me as the turned to dust, and placed Arthur Pellew in his Bull of the Alpujaras meets the Toreador. I place. Some forest leaves and a dead thorn yielded to a wild anger and a base cowardice; I tree covered the marks of the fresh burial ; there was sold to the evil genius; yielded to the sub- now lie the remains of the murdered man. til devil within me; I determined to strike my “Col. Pellew had no connections in this counadversary at advantage—to murder him. When try. His disappearance excited surprise only this purpose was matured I found temperate until it was discovered that his fortunes were words to utter; if Pellew had shown the least hopelessly involved. Then it was easily conjecreturn to kindly feeling my purpose might have tured that he had collected his available means, been even then suddenly relinquished. But he and left the country. strode on in sullen silence. We came to the “I ask pardon of Almighty God for my terriline of the estates—a skirt of woodland lies on ble crime. I have besought His pardon for years. this side of it. A disused well was near us; the I do not despair of it; for His mercy is infinite ; foundation walls of an old farm-house, and some and indeed I have suffered the tortures of hell straggling fruit trees of a great age will guide here on earth. In consideration of my poor huthose who may search for this well, although it man weakness; in consideration of endured agohas long since been filled up quite to the grassy nies, and a ruined earthly peace; but above all, level.

upon the blessed basis of the Good Saviour's " As we came within a few steps of the well atonement, I beseech the divine pardon." I drew a sharp and long knife; I stood one This lamentable paper was written in a brostep behind my victim; I struck. I repeated ken hand; it was also marred and confused, in a the blow-I struck many times—for there was part of it, with repetitions, as if the writer dreada confounding and desperate struggle. But deathed to approach the principal faet. Most of the came at last; the giant was quite dead at my feet. repetitions I have suppressed; I have suppressed More in obedience to a predetermination than also here and there an interjectional comment, from any present prompting, I drew with a great into which feeling seems to have forced him, effort the body to the edge of the well, and per- upon the enormity of his offence. The original mitted it to fall heavily in. The depth was in- narrative is frequently interrupted with such considerable ; I gathered heaps of the dried grass “cries of anguish.” and weeds and threw them in upon the corpse. As the good clergyman ended his task of readAs I was engaged in this labor a man came run- ing, he heard a husky “Amen-Lord pardon ning to the spot. I remember in a dull and me.” It came from the lips, and the profound ghostly way bis looks of horror as he caught my heart of the dying man. Then, as the exclamar

Vom. XV-20

tion reached him, the minister knelt gently by the bed-side, and prayed. His prayers, accom

BOCCACCIO AND HIS WRITINGS. panied by the sobs of woman, and the feeble echoes of his words from the dying, became fervent and eloquent.

The fluctuations which may be observed in It was ended. There was a lull. The breath public taste in matters belonging to the province of Andrew Blair became obstructed. It might of literature, are no less unaccountable and rescarcely be heard for the wind that filled the markable than the variations which it undergoes chamber with the fresh odours of the summer in other respects. To endeavor to trace the world out beyond it; for the music of the insects change which has been gradually taking place housed in the rustling foliage; for the very beat- from age to age, would be to engage in a quesing of the two good hearts so near him. Finally tion the developments of which would undoubtit could not at all be heard. Andrew Blair was edly produce materials as numerous and varied dead.

as interesting. Were we for a few moments to glance over the pages of English literature, restricting our survey solely to the progressive mutations of style, independent of those which influence the language itself, we should find abun

dant food for reflection in the strange diversity Perhaps the reader will expect a few conclu- of style which each successive period has given ding words concerning the families of Herries rise to, in the comparison of the literature of any and Wright. Major Wright still lives, and has period with the history and manners of the peonot lost his relish for the chase, or his power of ple at the time, and in the reconciling of various undergoing its fatigues. He has married his theories relating to the advancement of civilizadaughter with the name of the British queen- tion. Or to be more explicit, it may be as well a name which I was quite clear upon when I to enter into a more particular explanation of the formerly gave it to the reader, but which I have revolutions to which we have reference, and illussince forgotten from some trick of a bad memo- trate them by a few concise details, and a rapid inry—to a ruddy young fox-hunter with a good dication, of the more prominent points of this subproperty. Miss Araminta Wright is still in a ject that present themselves to our view. At one condition of enforced celibacy–her father having period we shall remark a style full of conceits, dismissed " the young gentleman from town” as qaint and grotesque humor, and a trifling play too bad a horseman to marry into his family. upon words, so continuous and so frequently recur

John Herries, soon after the death of Andrew ring as to form almost the only features of the litBlair, made a bonfire upon a small scale. The erature of the time. At another period we are pictures of his dining-room were consumed. In overwhelmed with unwieldy masses of Euglish the ashes left in the hearth after this conflagra- words entangled and thrown together with all tion, a servant afterwards found the metallic skel- the perplexing inversions so characteristic of the eton of a long-bladed knife, which, as its temper ancient tongues, and which are so effective and was gone, he threw away, with some ordinary appropriate an ornament in their native soil. comment to his fellow-servants. This knife had Again we have writers whose only effort is to in its time pierced human vitals. The plough dazzle by the polished eloquence which distinhas doubtless buried it long since in the fruitful guishes them. With one class of authors every soil, over which springs and summers, as they thing assumes a hue of austere philosophy; with pass, make the hiding wheat wave in its green, another there is an artful intermingling of pathos and droop in its russet. The life of John Her- of the most touching and affecting description ries, clouded by doubtful practices but fortunate- with strokes of humor occasionally of the broadly not stained by crime, became and continues est kind.

Prosperity has proved wholesome to The character of a whole age is sometimes him. His meek wife is a picture of sedate cheer- stamped with one or other of these features, and fulness. Her daughter Georgiana, a sweet girl all works issued at these periods bear the impress whom we have too much lost sight of among the belonging to the time. But this is not univercrowding forms of this history, is her gentle and sally so, there are now and then remarkable esaffectionate companion. She looks too with ceptions. It sometimes happens that a single aupride and love to Tom Herries and his beautiful thor of original genius may produce a work whose wife, and is a great deal with them at Lindores. style and subject are both inimitable and un

I bid the reader adieu. Perhaps at some fu- imitated, and this remark applies most particuture time I will again impose upon his good will larly to English literature, containing as it does and courtesy

such productions as the Paradise Lost, Bunyan's

serene.

« PreviousContinue »