Obrazy na stronie


tion, the hearing of which she would willingly have shunned, had it been possible.

"Can this be true?" asked the major.

"Too true, my son," replied Mrs. Mowbray, sorrowfully. "And where lies the unfortunate Alan?" asked Major Mowbray.

""Twixt two cross roads. Where else should the suicide lie?"

Evading any further question, Peter hastily traversed the vault, elevating the light, so as to reveal the contents of each cell. One circumstance filled him with surprise and dismay -he could nowhere perceive the coffin of his daughter. In vain he peered into every catacomb-they were apparently undisturbed; and, with much internal marvelling and misgiving, Peter gave up the search. "That vision is now explained," muttered he-" the body is removed - but by whom? Death! can I doubt ?—It must be Lady Rookwood -who else can have any interest in its removal. She has acted boldly. But she shall yet have reason to repent her temerity." As he continued his search, his companions silently followed. Suddenly he stopped, and, signifying that all was finished, they not unwillingly quitted this abode of horror, leaving him behind them.

"he is one

"It is a dreadful place," whispered Eleanor to her mother: 66 nor would I have visited it, had I conceived any thing of its horrors. And that strange man! who or what is he?" 66 Ay, who is he?" repeated Major Mowbray. "I recollect him now," replied Mrs. Mowbray; who has ever been connected with the family. daughter, whose beauty was her ruin it is a sad tale; I cannot tell it now: you have heard enough of misery and guilt: but that may account for his bitterness of speech. was a dependant upon my poor brother."

He had a


"Poor man !" replied Eleanor, "if he has been unfortunate, I pity him. I am sorry we have been into that dreadful place. I am very faint; and I tremble more than ever, at the thought of meeting Ranulph Rookwood again. I can scarcely support myself—I am sure I shall not venture to look upon him."

"Had I dreamed of the likelihood of his attending the ceremony, rest assured, dear Eleanor, we should not have been

here but I was informed there was no possibility of his return. Compose yourself, my child. It will be a trying time to both of us; but it is now inevitable."

"The procession

At this moment the bell began to toll. has started," said Peter, as he passed the Mowbrays. "That bell announces the setting out.”

"See yonder persons hurrying to the door," exclaimed Eleanor, with eagerness, and trembling violently. "They are coming. Oh! I shall never be able to go through with it, dear mother."

Peter hastened to the church door, where he stationed himself, in company with a host of others equally curious. Flickering lights in the distance, shining like stars through the trees, showed them that the procession was collecting in front of the hall. The rain had now entirely ceased; the thunder muttered from afar, and the lightning seemed only to lick the moisture from the trees. The bell continued to toll, and its loud booming awoke the drowsy echoes of the valley. On the sudden, a solitary, startling concussion of thunder was heard; and presently a man rushed down from the belfry, with the tidings that he had seen a ball of fire fall from a cloud right over the hall. Every ear was on the alert for the next sound: none was heard. It was the crisis of the storm. Still the funeral procession advanced not. The strong sheen of the torchlight was still visible from the bottom of the avenue, now disappearing, now brightly glimmering, as if the bearers were hurrying to and fro amongst the trees. It was evident that much confusion prevailed, and that some misadventure had occurred. Each man muttered to his neighbour, and few were there who had not in a measure surmised the cause of the delay. At this juncture, a person without his hat, breathless with haste, and almost palsied with fright, rushed through the midst of them, and, stumbling over the threshold, fell headlong into the church.

"What's the matter, Master Plant? What has happened? Tell us! Tell us!" exclaimed several voices simultaneously. "Lord have mercy upon us!" cried Plant, gasping for utterance, and not attempting to raise himself. "It's horrible! dreadful! oh!-oh!"

"What has happened?" inquired Peter, approaching the fallen man.

"And dost thou need to ask, Peter Bradley? thou, who foretold it all? but I will not say what I think, though my tongue itches to tell thee the truth. Be satisfied, thy wizard's

lore has served thee right- he is dead."

"Who? Ranulph Rookwood! Has any thing befallen him, or the prisoner, Luke Bradley ?" asked the sexton, with eagerness.

A scream here burst forth from one who was standing behind the group; and, in spite of the efforts of her mother to withhold her, Eleanor Mowbray rushed forward.

"Has aught happened to Sir Ranulph?" asked she. "Noa-noa-not to Sir Ranulph-he be with the body." "Heaven be thanked for that!" exclaimed Eleanor. And then, as ashamed of her own vehemence, and, it might seem, apparent indifference to another's fate, she inquired who was hurt?

"It be poor neighbour Toft, that be killed by a thunderbolt, ma'am," replied Plant.

Exclamations of horror burst from all around.

No one was more surprised at this intelligence than the sexton. Like many other seers, he had not, in all probability, calculated upon the fulfilment of his predictions, and he now stared aghast, at the extent of his own foreknowledge.

[ocr errors]

"I tell'ee what, Master Peter," said Plant, shaking his bullet-head, "it be well for thee thou didn't live in my grandfather's time, or thou'dst ha' been duck'd in a blanket; or may be burnt at the stake, like Ridley and Latimer, as we read on -but however that may be, ye shall hear how poor Toft's death came to pass, and nobody can tell'ee better nor I, seeing I were near to him, poor fellow, at the time. Well, we thought as how the storm were all over-and had all got into order of march, and were just beginning to step up the avenue, the coffin-bearers pushing lustily along, and the torches shining grandly, when poor Simon Toft, who could never travel well in liquor in his life, reeled to one side, and staggering against the first huge lime-tree, sat himself down beneath it-thou knowest the tree I mean.'

[ocr errors]

"The tree of fate," returned Peter. "I ought, methinks, to know it."

"Well, I were just stepping aside, to pick him up, when all at once there comes such a crack of thunder, and, whizzing

through the trees, flashed a great globe of red fire, so bright and dazzlin', it nearly blinded me; and when I opened my eyes, winkin' and waterin', I seed that which blinded me more even than the flash-that which had just afore been poor Simon, but which was now a mass o' black smouldering ashes, clean consumed and destroyed—his clothes rent to a thousand tatters-the earth and stones tossed up, and scattered all about, and a great splinter of the tree lying beside him."

"God's will be done," said the sexton; "this is an awful judgment."

"And Sathan cast down; for this is a spice o' his handiwork," muttered Plant; adding, as he slunk away, "If ever Peter Bradley do come to the blanket, dang me if I don't lend a helpin' hand."



How like a silent stream, shaded by night,
And gliding softly with our windy sighs,
Moves the whole frame of this solemnity!
Tears, sighs, and blacks, filling the simile!
Whilst I, the only murmur in this grove
Of death, thus hollowly break forth!

The Fatal Dowry.

WORD being given that the funeral train was fast approaching, the church door was thrown open, and the assemblage, divided in two lines, to allow it admission.

Meanwhile, a striking change had taken place, even in this brief period, in the appearance of the night. The sky, heretofore curtained with darkness, was now illumined by a serene, soft moon, which, floating in a watery halo, tinged with silvery radiance the edges of a few ghostly clouds, that hurried along the deep and starlit skies. The suddenness of the change could not fail to excite surprise and admiration, mingled with regret, that the procession had not been delayed until the present time.

Slowly and mournfully the train was seen to approach the churchyard, winding, two by two, with melancholy step,

around the corner of the road. First came Doctor Small; then the mutes, with their sable panoply; next, the torchbearers; next, those who sustained the coffin, bending beneath their ponderous burden, followed by Sir Ranulph, and a long line of attendants, all plainly to be distinguished by the flashing torchlight. There was a slight halt at the gate, and the coffin changed supporters.

"Ill luck betide them!" ejaculated Peter; "could they find no other place except that to halt at? must Sir Piers be gate-keeper till next Yule? No," added he, seeing what followed; "it will be poor Toft, after all."

Following close upon the coffin, came a rude shell, containing, as Peter rightly conjectured, the miserable remains of Simon Toft, who had met his fate in the manner described by Plant. The bolt of death glanced from the tree which it first struck, and reduced the unfortunate farmer to a heap of dust. Universal consternation prevailed, and doubts were entertained as to what course should be pursued. It was judged best by Doctor Small, to remove the remains at once to the charnel house. Thus, "unanointed, unaneled, with all his imperfections on his head," was poor Simon Toft, in one brief second, in the twinkling of an eye, plunged from the height of festivity, to the darkness of the grave, and so horribly disfigured, that scarce a vestige of humanity was discernible in the mutilated mass that remained of him. Truly may we be said to walk in blindness, and amidst deep pitfalls! The churchyard was thronged by the mournful train. long array of dusky figures-the waving torchlight, gleaming ruddily in the white moonshine-now glistening upon the sombre habiliments of the bearers, and on their shrouded load; now reflected upon the jagged branches of the yew trees, or falling upon the ivied buttresses of the ancient church, constituted no unimpressive picture. Over all, like a lamp hung in the still sky, shone the moon, shedding a soothing, spiritual lustre over the scene.


The organ broke into a solemn strain, as the coffin was borne along the mid-aisle—the mourners following, with reverend step, and slow. It was deposited near the mouth of the vault, the whole assemblage circling around it. Doctor Small proceeded with the performance of that magnificent service appointed for the burial of the dead, in a tone as re


« PoprzedniaDalej »