« EelmineJätka »
Have you any knowledge of the book ?
office was the conduct which her youth and helptell me what has become of it?"
lessness prescribed to her friend. His title to this “ Yes, after our separation on the river, I re- money, as her guardian, could not be denied. But turned to this house. I found this volume and how was this statement compatible with former secured it. You rightly suspected its contents. representations ? No mention had then been The money was there."
made of guardianship. By thus acting, he would Welbeck started as if he had trodden on a mine have thwarted all his schemes for winning the of gold. His first emotion was rapturous, but was esteem of mankind, and fostering the belief which immediately chastised by some degree of doubt. the world entertained of his opulence and inde“What has become of it? Have you got it? Is it pendence. I was thrown, by these thoughts, into entire? Have you it with you ?”
considerable perplexity. If his statement were " It is unimpaired. I have got it, and shall hold true, his claim to this money was established, but it as a sacred trust for the rightful proprietor.” I questioned its truth. To intimate my doubts of
The tone with which this declaration was ac- his veracity would be to provoke outrage. His companied, shook the new-born confidence of last insinuation was peculiarly momentous. SupWelbeck. “The rightful proprietor! true, but I pose him the fraudulent possessor of this money, am he. To me only it belongs, and to me you shall I be justified in taking it away by violence are, doubtless, willing to restore it.”
under pretence of restoring it to the genuine pro“ Mr. Welbeck, it is not my desire to give you prietor, who, for aught I know, may be dead, or perplexity or anguish : to sport with your passions. with whom, at least, I may never procure a meetOn the supposition of your death, I deemed it no ing? But will not my behaviour, on this occainfraction of justice to take this manuscript. Ac- sion, be deemed illicit? I entered Welbeck's cident unfolded its contents. I could not hesitate habitation at midnight, proceeded to his closet, to choose my path. The natural and legal suc- possessed myself of portable property, and retired cessor of Vincentio Lodi is his sister. To her, unobserved. Is not guilt imputable to an action therefore, this property belongs, and to her only like this? Welbeck waited with impatience for will I give it."
a conclusion to my pause. My perplexity and “ Presumptuous boy! And this is your sage indecision did not abate, and my silence continued. decision. I tell you that I am the owner, and to At length, he repeated his demands with new me you shall render it. Who is this girl ? child- vehemence. I was compelled to answer. I told ish and ignorant ! unable to consult and to act for him, in few words, that his reasonings had not herself on the most trivial occasion! Am I not, convinced me of the equity of his claim, and that by the appointment of her dying brother, her pro- my determination was unaltered. He had not tector and guardian? Her age produces a legal expected this inflexibility from one in my situation. incapacity of property. Do you imagine that so The folly of opposition, when my feebleness and obvious an expedient, as that of procuring my loneliness were contrasted with his activity and legal appointment as her guardian, was overlooked resources, appeared to him monstrous, but his conby me? If it were neglected, still my title to pro- tempt was converted into rage and fear when he vide her subsistence and enjoyment is unquestions reflected that this folly might finally defeat his hopes. able. Did I not rescue her from poverty, and He had probably determined to obtain the money, prostitution, and infamy? Have I not supplied | let the purchase cost what it would, but was willall her wants with incessant solicitude ? What- ing to exhaust pacific expedients before he should ever her condition required has been plenteously resort to force. He might likewise question whe bestowed. This dwelling and its furniture were ther the money was within his reach. I had told hers, as far as a rigid jurisprudence would perinit. him that I had it, but whether it was now about To prescribe her expenses and govern her family me, was somewhat dubious. Yet, though he used was the province of her guardian. You have heard no direct inquiries, he chose to proceed on the the tale of my anguish and despair. Whence did supposition of its being at hand. His angry tones they flow, but from the frustration of schemes were now changed into those of remonstrance and projected for her benefit, as they were executed persuasion. with her money and by means which the authority “ Your present behaviour, Mervyn, does not of her guardian fully justified? Why have I en- justify the expectation I had formed of you. You countered this contagious atmosphere, and explored have been guilty of a base theft. To this you my way, like a thief, to this recess, but with a have added the deeper crime of ingratitude. But view to rescue her from poverty and restore to her your infatuation and folly are at least as glaring her own? Your scruples are ridiculous and cri- as your guilt. Do you think I can credit your minal. I treat them with less severity, because assertions that you keep this money for another, your youth is raw and your conceptions crude. when I recollect that six weeks have passed since But if, after this proof of the justice of my claim, you carried it off? Why have you not sought you hesitate to restore the money, I shall treat the owner and restored it to her? If your intenyou as a robber, who has plundered my cabinet tions had been honest, would you have suffered and refused to refund his spoil.”
so long a time to elapse without doing this? It I was acquainted with the rights of guardian- is plain that you designed to keep it for your own ship. Welbeck had, in some respects, acted as But whether this were your purpose or not, the friend of this lady. To vest himself with this you have no longer power to restore it or retain it. You say that you came hither to die. If so, I will not repeat the scene that succeeded bewhat is to be the fate of the money? In your tween my forbearance and his passions. I listpresent situation you cannot gain access to the ened to the dictates of his rage and his avarice in lady. Some other must inherit this wealth. Next silence. Astonishment at my inflexibility was to Signora Lodi, whose right can be put in com- blended with his anger. By turns he commented petition with mine? But if you will not give it on the guilt and on the folly of my resolutions. to me, on my own account, let it be given in trust Sometimes his emotions would mount into fury, for her. Let me be the bearer of it to her own and he would approach me in a menacing attihands. I have already shown you that my claim tude, and lift his hand, as if he would extermito it, as her guardian, is legal and incontrovertible; nate me at a blow. My languid eyes, my cheeks but this claim I waive. I will merely be the ex- glowing and my temples throbbing with fever, and ecutor of your will. I will bind myself to com- my total passiveness attracted his attention and ply with your directions by any oath, however arrested his stroke. Compassion would take place solemn and tremendous, which you shall pre- of rage, and the belief be revived that remonscribe."
strances and arguments would answer his purpose. As long as my own heart acquitted me, these This scene lasted I know not how long. Inimputations of dishonesty affected me but little. sensibly the passions and reasonings of Welbeck They excited no anger, because they originated assumed a new form. A grief, mingled with perin ignorance, and were rendered plausible to Wel- plexity, overspread his countenance. He ceased beck by such facts as were known to him. It was to contend or to speak. His regards were withneedless to confute the charge by elaborate and drawn from me, on whom they had hitherto been circumstantial details. It was true that my reco- fixed; and wandering or vacant, testified a conflict very was, in the highest degree, improbable, and of mind terrible beyond any that my young imathat my death would put an end to my power gination had ever conceived. For a time, he apover this money; but had I not determined to peared to be unconscious of my presence. He secure its useful application in case of my death? moved to and fro with unequal steps and with This project was obstructed by the presence of gesticulations that possessed a horrible but indisWelbeck, but I hoped that his love of life would tinct significance. Occasionally he struggled for induce him to fly. He might wrest this volume breath, and his efforts were directed to remove from me by violence, or he might wait till my some choking impediment. No test of my fortideath should give him peaceful possession. But tude had hitherto occurred equal to this. The these, though probable events, were not certain, suspicion which this deportment suggested was and would by no means justify the voluntary sur- vague and formless. The tempest which I witrender. His strength, if employed for this end, nessed was the prelude of horror. These were could not be resisted; but then it would be a sacri- throes which would terminate in the birth of some fics, not to choice, but necessity. Promises were sanguinary purpose. Did he meditate a bloody easily given, but were surely not to be confided sacrifice? Was his own death or was mine to in. Welbeck's own tale, in which it could not be attest the magnitude of his despair, or the impetuimagined that he had aggravated his defects, at- osity of his vengeance ? Suicide was familiar tested the frailty of his virtue. To put into his to his thoughts. He had consented to live but hands a sum like this, in expectation of his deliver- on one condition; that of regaining possession ing it to another, when my death would cover the of this money. Should I be justified in driving transaction with impenetrable secrecy, would be him, by my obstinate refusal, to this consumindeed a proof of that infatuation which he thought mation of his crimes ? My fear of this catasproper to impute to me. These thoughts influ- | trophe was groundless. Hitherto he had argued enced my resolutions, but they were revolved in si- and persuaded, but this method was pursued belence. To state them was useless. They would not cause it was more eligible than the employment justify my conduct in his eyes. They would only of force, or than procrastination. No. These exasperate dispute, and impel him to those acts of were tokens that pointed to me. Some unknown violence which I was desirous of preventing. The instigation was at work within him to tear away sooner this controversy should end, and I in any his remnant of humanity, and fit him for the office measure be freed from the obstruction of his com- of my murderer. I knew not how the accumulapany, the better.
tion of guilt could contribute to his gratification «Mr. Welbeck," said I, “ my regard to your or security. His actions had been partially exhisafety compels me to wish that this interview bited and vaguely seen. What extenuations or should terminate. At a different time, I should omissions had vitiated his former or recent narranot be unwilling to discuss this matter. Now it tive; how far his actual performances were conwill be fruitless. My conscience points out to me genial with the deed which was now to be pertoo clearly the path I should pursue for me to mis- petrated, I knew not. These thoughts lent new take it. As long as I have power over this money rapidity to my blood. I raised my head from the I shall keep it for the use of the unfortunate lady pillow, and watched his deportment with deeper whom I have seen in this house. I shall exert attention. The paroxysm which controlled him myself to find her, but if that be impossible, I shall at length in some degree subsided. He muttered, appropriate it in a way in which you shall have “ Yes: it must come! My last humiliation must no participation.”
cover me! My last confession must be made! To die, and leave behind me this train of enormous panied with every token of sincerity. How had I perils, must not be. O Clemenza! O Mervyn! tottered on the brink of destruction! If I had you have not merited that I should leave you a made use of this money, in what a labyrinth of legacy of persecution and death. Your safety misery might I not have been involved! My inmust be purchased at what price my malignant nocence could never have been proved. An allidestiny will set upon it. The cord of the execu- ance with Welbeck could not have failed to be tioner, the note of everlasting infamy, is better inferred. My career would have found an ignothan to leave you beset by the consequences of minious close; or, if my punishment had been my guilt. It must not be !"
commuted into slavery, would the testimony of Saying this, Welbeck cast fearful glances at the my conscience have supported me? I shuddered windows and door. He examined every avenue
at the view of the disasters from which I was resand listened. Thrice he repeated this scrutiny. cued by the miraculous chance which led me to Having, as it seemed, ascertained that no one this house. Welbeck's request was salutary to lurked within audience, he approached the bed. me and honourable to himself. I could not hesiHe put his mouth close to my face. He attempted tate a moment in compliance. The notes were to speak, but once more examined the apartment enclosed in paper, and deposited in a fold of my with suspicious glances. He drew closer, and at clothes. I put my hand upon them. My motion length, in a tone scarcely articulate and suffocated and attention was arrested at the instant, by a with emotion, he spoke: “ Excellent, but fatally ob- noise which arose in the street. Footsteps were stinate youth! know at least the cause of my im- heard upon the pavement before the door, and portunity ; know at least the depth of my infatua- voices, as if husy in discourse. This incident was tion and the enormity of my guilt. The bills-adapted to infuse the deepest alarm into myself surrender them to me, and save yourself from per- and my companion. The motives of our trepidasecution and disgrace! Save the woman whom tion were indeed different, and were infinitely more you wish to benefit from the blackest imputations; powerful in my case than in his. It portended from hazard to her life and her fame; from lan- to me nothing less than the loss of my asylum guishing in dungeons; from expiring on the and condemnation to an hospital. Welbeck hurgallows! The bills-0 save me from the bitter- ried to the door to listen to the conversation beness of death! Let the evils to which my mise- low. This interval was pregnant with thought. rable life has given birth terminate here and in That impulse which led my reflections from Wel. myself. Surrender them to me, for"
beck to my own state, passed away in a moment, There he stopped. His utterance was choked and suffered me to meditate anew upon the terms by terror. Rapid glances were again darted at of that confession which had just been made. the windows and door. The silence was uninter- Horror at the fate which this interview had enrupted except by far-off sounds, produced by some abled me to shun, was uppermost in my concepmoving carriage. Once more he summoned reso- tions. I was eager to surrender these fatal bills. lution and spoke: “Surrender them to me-for-I held them for that purpose in my hand, and was they are forged. Formerly I told you that a scheme impatient for Welbeck's return. He continued at of forgery had been conceived. Shame would not the door; stooping, with his face averted, and suffer me to add, that my scheme was carried into eagerly attentive to the conversation in the strect. cxecution. The bills were fashioned, but my fears All the circumstances of my present situation contended against my necessities, and forbade me tended to arrest the progress of thought and chain to attempt to exchange them. The interview
my contemplations to one image; but even now with Lodi saved me from the dangerous experi- there was room for foresight and deliberation. ment. I enclosed them in that volume to be used Welbeck intended to destroy these bills. Perhaps when all other and less hazardous resources he had not been sincere; or, if his purpose had should fail. In the agonies of my remorse at the been honestly disclosed, this purpose might change death of Watson, they were forgotten. They when the bills were in his possession. His poafterward recurred to recollection. My wishes verty and sanguineness of temper might prompt pointed to the grave;- but the stroke that should him to use them. That this conduct was evil and deliver me from life was suspended only till I would only multiply his miseries, could not be could hasten bither, get possession of these papers questioned. Why should I subject his frailty to and destroy them. When I thought upon the this temptation? The destruction of these bills chances that should give them an owner; bring was the loudest injunction of duty; was demanded them into circulation ; load the innocent with sus- by every sanction which bound me to promote the picion; and lead them to trial and perhaps to welfare of mankind. The means of destruction death, my sensations were agony; earnestly as I were easy. A lighted candle stood on a table, at panted for death, it was necessarily deferred till I the distance of a few yards. Why should I hesihad gained possession of and destroyed these pa tate a moment to annihilate so powerful a cause pers. What now remains ? You have found of error and guilt. A passing instant was suffithem. Happily they have not been used. Give cient. A momentary lingering might change the them therefore to me, that I may crush at once circumstances that surrounded me and frustrate the brood of mischiefs which they could not but my project. My languors were suspended by the generate.”
urgencies of the occasion. I started from my bed This disclosure was strange. It was accom- and glided to the table. Seizing the notes with
my right hand, I held them in the flame of the sudden gust had nearly whirled me into the frightcandle, and then threw them blazing on the floor. ful abyss. To preserve myself, I was obliged to The sudden illumination was perceived by Wel- loose my hold of my burden and it fell into the beck. The cause of it appeared to suggest itself gulf. This incident disconcerted and distressed
He turned, and marking the paper where As soon as I had effected my dangerous it lay, leaped to the spot and extinguished the fire passage, I screened myself behind a cliff, and gave with his foot. His interposition was too late. myself up to reflection. ... Only enough of them remained to inform him of While thus occupied, my eyes were fixed upon the nature of the sacrifice. He now stood with the opposite steeps. The tops of the trees, wavlimbs trembling, features aghast, and eyes glaringing to and fro, in the wildest commotion, and their upon me. For a time he was without speech. trunks, occasionally bending to the blast, which, The storm was gathering in silence, and at length in these lofty regions, blew with a violence unburst upon me. In a tone menacing and loud, known in the tracts below, exhibited an awful he exclaimed: “Wretch! What have you done ?" spectacle. At length, my attention was attracted
“ I have done justly. These notes were false. by the trunk which lay across the gulf, and which You desired to destroy them that they might not I had converted into a bridge. I perceived that it betray the innocent. I applauded your purpose, had already somewhat swerved from its original and have saved you from the danger of temptation position, that every blast broke or loosened some by destroying them myself.”
of the fibres by which its roots was connected with * Maniac! miscreant! to be fooled by so gross the opposite bank, and that, if the storm did not an artifice! The notes were genuine. The tale speedily abate, there was imminent danger of its of their forgery was false, and meant only to wrest being torn from the rock and precipitated into the them from you. Execrable and perverse idiot! chasm. Thus my retreat would be cut off, and Your deed has sealed my perdition. It has sealed the evils, from which I was endeavouring to resyour own. You shall pay for it with your blood. cue another, would be experienced by myself. ... I will slay you by inches. I will stretch you, as I believed my destiny to hang upon the expeyou have stretched me, on the rack!”
dition with which I should recross this guif. During this speech, all was phrensy and storm The moments that were spent in these deliberain the features of Welbeck. Nothing less could tions were critical, and I shuddered to observe that be expected than that the scene would terminate the trunk was held in its place by one or two in some bloody catastrophe. I bitterly regretted fibres which were already stretched almost to the facility with which I had been deceived, and breaking. the precipitation of my sacrifice. The act, how- To pass along the trunk, rendered slippery by ever, could not be revoked. What remained but the wet and unsteadfast by the wind, was emito encounter or endure its consequences with un- nently dangerous. To maintain my hold in passshrinking firmness?
ing, in defiance of the whirlwind, required the The contest was too unequal. It is possible most vigorous exertions. For this end it was that the phrensy which actuated Welbeck might necessary to discommode myself of my cloak and have specdily subsided. It is more likely that his of the volume.... passions would have been satiated with nothing Just as I had disposed of these encumbrances, but my death. This event was precluded by loud and had risen from my seat, my attention was knocks at the street door, and calls by some one again called to the opposite steep, by the most unon the pavement without, of—Who is within ? welcome object that at this time could possibly Is any one within ?
present itself. Something was perceived moving “ They are coming," said he. They will treat among the bushes and rocks, which, for a time, I you as a sick man and a thief. I cannot desire hoped was no more than a raccoon or opossuin, you to suffer worse evil than they will inflict. I but which presently appeared to be a panther. leave you to your fate.” So saying, he rushed His gray coat, extended claws, fiery cyes, and a out of the room.
cry which he at that moment uttered, and which, by its resemblance to the human voice, is pecu
liarly terrific, denoted him to be the most ferocious SCENE WITH A PANTHER.
and untameable of that detested race. The industry of our hunters has nearly banished animals of
prey from these precincts. The fastnesses of Nor(CLITHEKO, the sleep-walker, has become insane, and
walk, however, could not but aflord refuge to some has filed into one of the wild mountain fastnesses of Nor
of them. Of late I had met them so rarely, that walk. Edgar Huntly endeavours to discover his retreat.]
my fears were seldom alive, and I trod, without I passed through the cave.... At that moment, caution, the ruggedest and most solitary haunts. torrents of rain poured from above, and stronger Still, however, I had seldom been unfurnished in blasts thundercd amidst these desolate recesses and my rambles with the means of defence. .... profound chasms. Instead of lamenting the pre- The unfrequency with which I had lately envalence of the tempest, I now began to regard it countered this foe, and the encumbrance of proviwith pleasure. It conferred new forms of sub- sion made me neglect on this occasion to bring limity and grandeur on the scene. As I crept with me my usual arms. The beast that was with hands and feet along my imperfect bridge, a now before me, when stimulated by hunger, was
FROM EDGAR HUNTLY.
accustomed to assail whatever could provide him I had scarcely reached the opposite steep when with a banquet of blood. He would set upon the the roots were severed from the rock, and the man and the deer with equal and irresistible fero- whole fell thundering to the bottom of the chasm. city. His sagacity was equal to his strength, and My trepidations were not speedily quieted. I he seemed able to discover when his antagonist looked back with wonder on my hair-breadth was armed....
escape, and on that singular concurrence of events My past experience enabled me to estimate the which had placed me in so short a period in abso full extent of my danger. He sat on the brow of lute security. Had the trunk fallen a moment the steep, eyeing the bridge, and apparently deli- earlier, I should have been imprisoned on the hill berating whether he should cross it. It was pro- or thrown headlong. Had its fall been delayed bable that he had scented my footsteps thus far, another moment I should have been pursued; for and should he pass over, his vigilance could the beast now issued from his den, and testified scarcely fail of detecting my asylum. ...
his surprise and disappointment by tokens, the Should he retain his present station, my danger sight of which made my blood run cold. was scarcely lessened. To pass over in the face He saw me and hastened to the verge of the of a famished tiger was only to rush upon my fate. chasm. He squatted on his hind-legs and assumed The falling of the trunk, which had lately been so the attitude of one preparing to leap. My conanxiously deprecated, was now, with no less solici- sternation was excited afresh by these appeartude, desired. Every new gust I hoped would tear ances. It seemed at first as if the rift was too asunder its remaining bands, and, by cutting off wide for any power of muscles to carry him in all communication between the opposite steeps, safety over; but I knew the unparalleled agility place me in security. My hopes, however, were of this animal, and that his experience had made destined to be frustrated. The fibres of the pros- him a better judge of the practicability of this extrate tree were obstinately tenacious of their hold, ploit than I was. and presently the animal scrambled down the rock Still there was hope that he would relinquish and proceeded to cross it.
this design as desperate. This hope was quickly Of all kinds of death, that which now menaced at an end. He sprung, and his fore-legs touched me was the most abhorred. To die by disease, or the verge of the rock on which I stood. In spite by the hand of a fellow-creature, was lenient in vehement exertions, however, the surface was comparison with being rent to pieces by the fangs too smooth and too hard to allow him to make of this savage. To perish in this obscure retreat, good his hold. He fell, and a piercing cry, uttered by means so iinpervious to the anxious curiosity below, showed that nothing had obstructed his deof my friends, to lose my portion of existence by scent to the bottom. so untoward and ignoble a destiny, was insupportable. I bitterly deplored my rashness in coming hither unprovided for an encounter like this.
The evil of my present circumstances consisted chiefly in suspense. My death was unavoidable,
INFLUENCE OF FOREIGN but my imagination had leisure to torment itself
LITERATURE. by anticipations. One foot of the savage was slowly and cautiously moved after the other. He struck his claws so deeply into the bark that they Tas ideas annexed to the term peasant are were with difficulty withdrawn. At length he wholly inapplicable to the tillers of ground in leaped upon the ground. We were now separated America; but our notions are the offspring of the by an interval of scarcely eight feet. To leave books we read. Our books are almost wholly the the spot where I crouched was impossible. Be- productions of Europe, and the prejudices which hind and beside me the cliff rose perpendicularly, infect us are derived chiefly from this source. and before me was this grim and terrific visage. These prejudices may be somewhat rectified by I shrunk still closer to the ground and closed my age and by converse with the world, but they eyes.
flourish in full vigour in youthful minds, reared in Fpm this pause of horror I was aroused by the seclusion and privacy, and undisciplined by internoise occasioned by a second spring of the animal. course with various classes of mankind. In me He leaped into the pit in which I had so deeply they possessed an unusual degree of strength. My regretted that I had not taken refuge, and disap words were selected and defined according to peared. My rescue was so sudden, and so much foreign usages, and my notions of dignity were beyond my belief or my hope, that I doubted for modelled on a scale which the revolution has coma moment whether my senses did not deceive me. pletely taken away. I could never forget that my This opportunity of escape was not to be neglected. condition was that of a peasant, and in spite of I left my place and scrambled over the trunk with reflection, I was the slave of those sentiments of a precipitation which had liked to have proved self-contempt and humiliation, which pertain to fatai. The tree groaned and shook under me, that condition elsewhere, though chimerical and the wind blew with unexampled violence, and visionary on the western side of the Atlantic.
FROM CLARA HOWARD.