« AnteriorContinuar »
Egerton coloured to the eyes.
“I cannot suppose, Talbot, that you mean the gross and unprovoked insult that your words convey; or—"
“ Arrah, never mind that or," said the captain, with perfect coolness. “It's a nasty word, and one that has brought many a private gentleman into trouble. Now, I can fancy you ready to fly into a passion, because I told you a bit of the truth. Wouldn't that be silly, Frank? Here I am-any one can rason with me; and, as the song goes, I'll continue “mild as a dove.'
Piqued and irritated as Egerton felt at the home thrust the captain had delivered, he could not refrain from smiling at Talbot's modest description of his own placidity of temper.
“ A beautiful specimen of the dove tribe !” he said, looking his companion full in the face. Now, I ask you, on corporal oath, did your grandfather insinuate broadly that you were a scoundrel, would you not shoot him for the same ?"
"I won't swear that I would not,” returned the captain, laughing. “ The best intentions, you know, may fail; but faith, I would do my best to drill the ould gentleman for his incivility. But, bear with me, Frank; you know that what I would say to yourself and privately, no man, were your back turned, dare utter in my presence, if for the integrity of his carcase he had the slightest care. I speak to you now as I would speak to a younger brother. What are your intentions regarding that sweet and gentle girl, over whose affections and, I fear, unfortunately for both—you have gained an absolute ascendancy ?"
Nonsense, Talbot ; you have got some crotchet in your head.” And Egerton coloured.
“No crotchet, Frank; I wish to God it were. You have gained poor Rosa's heart—what, let me repeat, are your intentions ?”
Pat Talbot was a querist not to be goaded ; and the young soldier, in homely parlance, was driven into a corner, and must necessarily show fight.
“ Can a slight flirtation not be indulged in, Pat, but the parish clerk must be consulted instanter, and the parson called upon to publish the banns? You are a stout advocate for matrimony. Why not set the regiment a good example, and make Rosa-Mrs. Talbot ?"
The captain took the meerschaum quietly from his mouth, deposited it on the table, stirred his tumbler with great deliberation, raised it to his lips, discussed a moiety of the contents, and then, with perfect coolness, responded to the young lieutenant :
“I will answer your question first, and give you my private opinions afterwards. I am-should I live until next Lady-day-forty-eight; and Rosa, as she tells me, bordering upon eighteen. Have you noticed anything lately in my conduct that bespeaks approaching dotage? Why, then, propose an act of idiotcy ? Love does not consort with wrinkles : and as I never could conveniently visit Master Hymen in the morning of my life, I won't trouble him with a call in the afternoon. To be serious, Frank-I fear that you are not in a position to marry, and I estimate you too highly to suspect for one moment that you dream aught that could compromise Rosa's honour. But have you any right to play with her affections—any excuse to tamper with her heart? I love you as à brother; and, by every better feeling of a gentleman, I warn you against impending danger, and call on you to desist before it be too late ! ”
Egerton, in his soul, felt the truthful appeal which the captain had made to his better feelings; and, unable to gainsay it, he looked sorrowfully into the fire, and remained silent.
Frank, can you marry ? and if you could, will you make Rosa a wife ?" Egerton's first feeling was offended pride and the look he directed at the commander was pugnacious. The cool, unmoved, immoveable bearing of his rough but faithful monitor, showed that he, honest man, was impassive to all consequences—while conscience, which makes cowards of us all, utterly changed
his own mood, and after a moment's indecision, he admitted that a matrimonial engagement would, at the present, be impracticable-ruinous in the future.
The captain rose- -popped his hand across the table, and shook that of Egerton most heartily. “That's right, Frank-always be above board, and now my mind is easy. Never shy a fact; for what the devil is the use of men beating about the bush, instead of bolting the truth
When I shot Denis O'Dowd through both thighs, and found next morning that it was his cousin, and not himself, who had said that a respectable tailor would not be seen in my company at a bull-bait- didn't I go to his bed-side, and give him an ample apology ? Well, now that you have made a free confession, I can advise you how to actyou must be off to head-quarters—and absence may remedy matters, which intimacy, were it continued, would confirm. I'll manage all. But, hark !some one knocks. 'Tis the guager. The party is in readiness -go,
Frank and think coolly over what I have been preaching, till my tumbler's not worth drinking, it's so cold.”
Talbot's character was a singular composition. It was alloyed by some moral infinities, and it had more good ones to redeem them. His failings were rather educational than natural-he was a duellist by precept and practice; but every hour the kindliest sympathies towards his fellow men broke out. The man whom he shot at yesterday, could a pilgrimage benefit him, Pat Talbot would undertake it on the morrow. His chief peculiarities consisted in an utter disbelief that death by a duelling pistol could approximate, in the most remote degree, to murder ; the second, and a very common error with his countrymen, was the rapidity with which, at first sight, he formed a friendship, or took a dislike. With this man, and after but an hour's acquaintance, he would share his last shilling—and to that, and without any cause, he, to use his own phraseology “ presented his aversion during life." Egerton he had fancied from the first, and subsequent intimacy confirmed an early predilection. Rosa, from the moment he saw her, became an object of his warmest regard. He loved her with perfect singleness of heart, and would have traversed the world to render her a service. He had a friendship, and a most sincere one, for his young lieutenant; but had Egerton devised, or attempted aught against the purity of the unsuspecting fair one whose happiness Captain Talbot had been pleased to take under his especial care, in a gentlemanlike manner he would have qualified his friend for a post mortem examination; and that with as slight compunction as he would feel in shooting a woodcock.
The party was told off under the gallant captain's supervision--and, with trailed arms, they departed from their quarters with their officer and the exciseman to execute the midnight foray. "Talbot poked the fire, flung on more peats, fabricated a fresh tumbler, and proceeded, as was his custom, to think aloud.”
“ I have done right,” he said, recharging his meerschaum with nigger-head ; “ I will write, private and confidential,' to Colonel Crossbelt, and, as Holman has returned, get him sent out to relieve Egerton at once. Poor fellow, how quietly he took my lecture! Heigh-ho! Well, I'll sleep the sounder, for my conscience tells me I am right.”
“ Talbot speaks truly. Would to Heaven, Rosa, I were thirty for thy sake,” thought the young lieutenant, as he marched down the street, “and wrongheaded as he may be in other matters, in this case his judgment is correct. I cannot, will not marry—and, but as a wife, could I dream, between myself and Rosa, of any alternative but an eternal separation. Rosa, I will tear myself away; my heart may wring, but my honour shall pass the ordeal untarnished. I cannot wed thee, Rosa,—and he who would mean thee worse, -may curses light upon him! He would be indeed a villain.”
THE ECLIPSE OF THE MOON.
BY JOHN OXENFORD. On the lily fields of the moon dwells the mother of mankind, with all her countless daughters, in quiet eternal love. The celestial blue which flutters high over the earth is there sunken into a snow composed of flower-dust-no hatred gnaws the gentle souls ; but as the rainbows of a waterfall are intertwined, so do love and repose combine all their embraces into one; and even in her silent night the earth hangs, spread out, and, glittering beneath the stars, the souls who have known human joy and sorrow upon it look with sweet longing and remembrance upon that island which they have left, and upon which beloved ones are still dwelling, and resting their outstretched limbs; and when the earth, heavy with slumber, approaches the closing eyes with dazzling nearness, the former springs of the earth sail by in glittering dreams; and when the eye awakens it hangs full of the morning dew of joyful tears.
But when the dial of eternity points to a new century, then does a lightning flash of hot pain dart through the heart of the mother of men ; then do the beloved daughters, who have not been on the earth, proceed from the moon into their bodies, as soon as the earth has touched and benumbed them with its cold shadow, and the mother of mankind weeps as she sees them depart, because not all of them, but only the unsullied ones, return back to her from earth into the pure moon.
Thus one century after another takes the children from the impoverished mother, and she trembles when, on the appointed day, she sees our despoiling sphere close to the sun, like a broad firm cloud.
The hand of eternity was approaching the 18th century—and the earth, full of night, moved towards the sun—the mother, burning and oppressed with anguish, clasped to her heart all those of her daughters who had not yet worn the veil of a body, and, weeping, implored them-Oh ! fall not, you dear ones; but remain pure as angels, and return again.” The giant shadow nearly touched the century, and the dark earth stood over the entire sun ;-a thunderclap struck the hour ;--a comet-sword, through which light was gleaming, bung down from the dark sky-the milky way was shaken, and a voice from it cried
Appear, thou tempter of mankind.” The Infinite One sends to every century an evil genius to tempt it. Far from the little eye the plan of the Infinite One, studded with stars, and encompassing eternities, stands in the sky as an insoluble nebulous spot. *
When the tempter was called, the mother, with all her children, trembled, and the soft souls wept-even those glorified ones who had been here below." Now a giant serpent raised its monstrous form upon the earth, together with the earth-shadow, and, stretching to the moon, said, “I will'seduce you." This was the evil spirit of the 18th century. The lily hills of the moon bowed and drooped; the comet-sword waved about like a sword of justice, which shows that it will execute ; the serpent with sportive, soul-murdering eyes, with a bloodred crest, with lips licked and bitten through, and with tongue darted out, insinuated itself into the soft Eden; its tail trembled hungrily and maliciously in a grave of earth; and an earthquake upon our sphere made the twining folds and the various poisonous juices move like a liquid glittering storm. Oh, it was the black genius, who long ago seduced our wretched mother. She could not look upon him, but the serpent began :- Knowest thou not the serpent, Eve? I will seduce thy daughters, and gather them together in the marsh. Look,
* An insoluble nebulous spot (unauflöslicker Nebelfleck) is a starry heaven thrown back to an infinite distance, in which the individual suns cannot be seen by any telescope. - Jean Paul's note.
sisters, these are the baits with which I lure you all.” (Then the viper-eyes imitated the forms of men—the mottled rings looked like bridal rings, and the yellow scales like pieces of money.) “ Therefore do I deprive you of the moon and of virtue. In the snares of silken ribbons and the net of costly stuffs I will catch you; with my red crown I will lure you, and you will desire to wear it; within your hearts I will begin to speak and to praise you, and then I will creep into a man's throat, and give confirmation to my words. To your tongues I will give the sharpness and venom of my own.
It will not be till all goes wrong with you, or shortly before your deaths, that I shall give your hearts the sharp, hot, and useless bite of conscience. Take an eternal farewell, Eve. What I have told them they will fortunately forget before they are born."
The unborn souls shrunk together trembling before this cold exhaling upastree now so near them, and the other souls, which, pure as the fragrance of flowers, had reascended from the earth, embraced each other, weeping with timid joy, and sweetly trembling at a past which they had undergone triumphantly. Maria, the dearest of all the daughters, and the mother of all mankind, clasped each other heart to heart, and kneeling down in the midst of their embraces, raised their supplicating eyes, and the tears that flowed from them, praying thus: “Oh, thou All-loving One, take charge of them !"
And behold, when the monster shot over the moon its long thin tongue, cleft like the claw of a lobster, and snapped the lilies in twain, saying, when it had made a black speck in the moon: “I will seduce them,”-behold there arose the first sunbeam behind the earth, scattering light in its course, and the golden radiance illumined the forehead of a tall fair youth, who unobservedly had stepped into the midst of the trembling souls. A lily covered his heart, a laurel wreath full of rosebuds was green upon his forehead, and his raiment was blue as the sky. Mildly weeping and beaming with the warmth of love, he looked down upon the mournful souls, as the sun upon a rainbow--and said, “I will protect you !" It was the genius of religion. The rolling giantserpent seemed congealed before him, and stood petrified upon the earth and against the moon-a powder magazine filled with black silent death,
And the sun flung a greater morning upon the youth's face; and raising his eye, which opened wide to the stars, he said to the Infinite Onem" Father, I am going down into life with my sisters, and will protect all that will endure me. Crown the ethereal flame with a beautiful temple! they shall not disfigure and destroy it. Adorn the fair soul with a bower formed of earthly charms; this will only protect, not darken the fruit. Give it a beautiful eye I will move it and bedew it; place a soft heart in the bosom-it shall not fall asunder before it has beaten for thee and for virtue. Unspotted and unbroken I will bring back from earth the flower converted to a fruit ; for I will fly up to the mountains, and the sun, and below the stars, and will remind it of thee and of the world above the earth. I will change the lily in my bosom into the white light of this morn, and the rosebuds in my wreath to the red of a spring evening, and thus remind it of its brother. In the tones of music I will call upon it, and will discourse with it of thy heaven, and open that heaven to the harmonised heart. With the arms of its parents I will clasp it to myself-with the voice of poetry I will conceal my own, and beautify my own form with that of the beloved one. Yea, with the storm of sorrows I will pass over it, and cast the glittering rain into its eyes, and direct the eyes to those elevated regions and the kindred from which it has descended. Oh! ye beloved ones, who do not repel your brethren--when, after a noble deed, after a hard victory, a sweet longing is diffused over your heart, when in the starry night, and the red glow of evening, your eye fades with inexpressible pleasure and your whole being raises itself, and presses upwards, and loving, and calm, and uneasy, and weeping, and languishing, stretches out arms,—then I am in your hearts, and give you a sign that I am embracing you, and that you are my sisters. And then, after a short dream, and sleep, I will break the rind from the diamond, and let the gem fall back as light dew into the lilies of the morn. Oh! tender mother of mankind,
look not with such pain upon thy beloved children, but take a joyful leave of them—thou wilt lose but few."
The sun glowed uncovered before the morn, and the unborn souls proceeded to the earth, and the Genius of Virtue went with them; and as they flew towards the earth the sound of a melodious flute echoed through the blue, as when swans fly on a winter's night, and leave tones instead of waves in the breeze.
The giant serpent, in the broad curve of a glowing, flying bombshell, and finally bent into a torch of burning pitch, sank back to earth; and as a waterspout bursts to atoms over a ship, so did the serpent fall upon the earth ; and shrivelled into a thousand ties and knots, wound itself-slaying and despoiling-among all the nations of the world. And the sword of justice again trembled, but the echo of the ether, through which the passage had been made, lasted longer.
MEMOIR OF A MODERN CRIMINAL.
“One man may steal a sheep with impunity, while another is hanged merely for looking over the wall.” - Old Proverb.
I HAVE read casually in a modern novel or antiquated magazine, a lacrymatory notice of some interesting youth, who shuffled off this mortal coil at Tyburn tree, who exited with a nosegay in his hand; and, like Larrey O'Brien, of Irish song,
“ Tho' he kick’d, it was all out of pride,
And he died with his face to the city ;" and yet, notwithstanding his elegant and spirited departure, I could not squeeze out a tear. I belong to an obsolete school-hold drivelling philanthropists to be fools-fancy that a murderer should be hanged, and a pickpocket accommodated on the treadmill-in short, to felony cannot extend the slightest sympathy. I disown all fellowship with a cut-throat-and repudiate a gentleman who frees himself “e vinculo matrimonii” with a phial or the knife, as emphatically as the “Little Dustpan” in Holborn declares against all connection with the larger utensil at the other side of the street.
Not many years ago the penal code of Britain was so sanguinary—the severity of punishment so far exceeding the extent of the offence—that criminals generally obtained commiseration-society became surfeited with daily exhibitions on the gallows-the call of humanity became every day louder, and was at last listened to—and the criminal laws were most properly relaxed. Two or three crimes only were considered as meriting death; and although the infliction of the extreme penalty of the law, under any plea whatever, is still a questio vexata with the public, one fact must unfortunately be admitted—that while under a milder administration of justice offences against property have decreased, those against the person have undergone no abatement—while the gallows, like good fortune, has not always been attained of late by those who best deserved it.
When one obtains a ferocious romance from a country library, where daggers and drugs are employed in every page, the horror intended to be produced gives place to a smile of incredulity. But without going back to the days of