« PoprzedniaDalej »
pulses of his disconsolate heart --when upon the brow of yonder declivity I bade him adieu, that our parting was the last farewell to his home, and to his love. Alas! he bled and died in his country's cause, and, at the early age of sixteen, my young heart experienced the virgin bitterness of human anticipations. This youthful bereavement, added to others, proved too severe a blow to those feelings which have been but frail to withstand the shocks which the Almighty ordained that they should sustain ; I silently pined under the affiction, but endeavoured to rally my sinking frame, on account of the responsibility of that duty which I owed my parents. My mother, who was most tenderly attached to me, noticed the change effected in the character of my mind, and perhaps this circumstance, added to a painful illness with which she was assailed, bore her to an early tomb. Let me not think or speak of these past circumstances, they are trivial in comparison to others with which my broken heart hath been assailed.
I have already said that our family possessed a small patrimonial estate, and that my father felt an equal pleasure with our progenitors in its careful cultivation; but the prosperity of the former times had ceased, and being unsuccessful in his plans, and unfortunate in his flocks, he was obliged to have recourse to the assistance of a rich proprietor, whose land closely adjoined our own, and who upon many occasions had, apparently with liberal designs, proffered his pecuniary aid to my unhappy father, who would have regarded with distrust the motives of our baronial neighbour, had he been more acquainted with the world, and the too frequent duplicity of those who appear to act from generous impulses.
An engagement having been entered into for the supply of means to relieve the immediate necessities of my parent, for another twelvemonth time swept on with steady course; and I felt once more relieved from the feeling, that the fortunes of my family, which for centuries had been so uniformly prosperous, were destined, within my short career, to receive the overwhelming tempest which female constitution and mind, are by nature so ill calculated to sustain. Alas! the clouds at this moment were gathering in the horizon; and I, who had anxiously and carefully watched over and supported my only remaining friend upon earth, perceived the growing and increasing trouble, and agitation, of my father's bosom. I could have wished to share his counsels, but he appeared to withhold all information from my perplexed mind; and the shock which we were destined to receive, was to me to be as 'sudden, as when it came ruinous and decisive in its results. One fair morning, when nature belies the sorrows of the heart, and tells one that joy and peace are basking in the sunshine of human life; when the sweet essence of its fruits
sport with the fancy, and delude the imagination; when the gaiety of scene, and serenity of air appear to banish the world's cares, and to make one feel, in joyous ecstacy, proof against all trouble; that dawn so treacherously lovely, was to me and to mine the last ray of earthly benignity. The same beauties are still, perhaps, displayed; the same mountain-lark carols over the fields, and the rivulet ripples to the stream; but the dark features of despair appear to me to overshadow all things. That morn, which I have described as one so beautiful, made my parent a beggar, myself an outcast, an orphan, and, I tremble to say the word, even perhaps a maniac. I watched day and night beside the couch of my broken-hearted father, who blessed me, and bid me never fear, but, that Heaven in its bounty, would befriend and protect me. He said, he should meet my sainted mother, and that in time the orphan would no longer be fatherless, but that the chills of fortune were Heaven's trials, to amend the heart, and fit me for eternity. I watched him in the last moment of dissolution, and an awful mystery came over me,-a dream, a fearful dream, that I am now a stranger in the land where I was once a native; that I am now a captive where I once was free to roam, in the blessings and the delight of glorious liberty. There is now a cloud upon the hills; a dark, gloomy, sullenness on the lakes; the flowers no longer bloom; the birds have ceased to sing; and what is this feeling? Oh God! it is the deprivation of the most precious of thy gifts, the aberration of that light which is the ray celestial to life's gloomy declivity.
I wandered, at the close of one day, to mark the spot where I would have me laid, when the expiring lamp should burn no more. I thought that there was an unwonted brightness in the small churchyard, and, as I entered it, it appeared to me that it was less sombre than it had ever been before. I looked about me, and many of the gravestones bore my name. Some were so obscure, that the epitaphs were almost illegible; there was our good ancestor, whom all our country knew, and beside him lay a favourite daughter, and he had caused an inscription to be written over her remaims; it was from Hamlet,
“ Lay her in the earth,
May violets spring !” I had not lived alone in misery. It appeared that many of my race had been afflicted, and I thought I could trace somewhat of their histories from the characters of the epitaphs; but, as I moved indifferently from one to the other, at this moment feelingly commenting to myself on the marvellous stories and feats connected with their former lives, and at the next struck with
dismay at untimely and early death, caused perhaps by that which bedims all the fairest of earth's gems, blighted affection as mine had been; my attention was arrested by one tomb, of which ruthless time had been careful, his sacrilegious wings having scarcely tainted it; my eye rested upon the inscription, a cold perspiration came over me, I sank upon the earth, that spot was the resting-place of those who had been more than the world to me, and without whom the world was as a blank space for me to roam upon, without hope or purpose, with nought save deep anguish, which increased as reflection and recollection again came across my unhappy mind.
I remember well, that this accident of so suddenly meeting with my parent's grave, when oblivion of all the circumstances regarding them, and their existence, had taken apparent possession of my mind, that I had a long and dangerous illness; and during this period, that I formed a most dreadful, and diabolical project, of murdering the individual who had caused all our misery, and had profited by our misfortunes. It appeared to me, in my starts of mental distress, that this would be a righteous act, and was enjoined by every tie that I deemed sacred; that I was to take every precaution for secretly carrying into sure effect the unhallowed project, and that every exertion should be used to procure the necessary instruments, and to obtain the needful information prior to the attempt being made. This was no. very easy task, for I had an attendant who watched me, and the chamber where I was confined was highly situated from the ground below. It is said that cunning, and malice, form striking features, in the characters of insane persons, and those two qualities were almost the only features of mind left me, to work out my purpose. I found it was requisite, first, to ascertain whether the object of my revenge was at the baronial castle, and then, from other sources to discover, which of the sleeping chambers he was likely to occupy. In order fully to inform myself upon these points, some time must necessarily elapse, and in the meanwhile my imagination was madly dreaming, of the glory, of thus satiating my ire upon the whole family, who had so ruthlessly affected our fortunes. Of the persons who visited me, were some of the domestics of the castle, and from them I learned that the Lord of - intended for some days to take up
his abode in the suite of apartments adjoining the small chapel of St. —, which was at the south portion of the building, and in some degree detached from the more habited part of the residence. The measure of revenge now appeared full to the brim, and it was only necessary to use caution to carry this subtle and horrible plot into certain execution. I remember well the description of evening, as I gazed from my latticed window upon the wide country before me. The air was perfectly still; the
voice of no human being breathed ; a shade of deep gloom was upon the hills, that deep darkness pervaded, which has been appropriately represented as “ darkness visible," and which usually precludes the mercurial moonlight, causing a mysterious solemnity peculiarly adapted for carrying into effect deeds which shun the glare of day, and may therefore be termed the tragic hour of night, and worthy of the poetic crayon of our gifted countrywoman, Mrs. Hemans. I had bruised the field-poppy, and mixed its liquid in the evening potion of my attendant, and consequently she was deadly sleeping in an adjoining room. I drew from under the clothes of my bed a twisted line, made by the destruction of one of my blankets, and having fixed it firmly to a bar of the window, I slid gently and silently down to the garden below, and in a few minutes attained a narrow pathway which led in a direct line to the castle walls. The feeling of once more being at liberty did not cause me to lose sight of the object I had in view, in making my escape; nor if, for one moment it had done so, would the dream have been dispelled, for every step I took, was an evidence of my wrongs: there was the mossy bank where I had so often laid me down in childhood; there were the vallies where I had gathered the lovely violets and the early primrose; but sadness and misery were now my portion upon the spot which had been my birthright. The flame within my feverish breast burned more fiercely instead of being subdued, and it prompted me and hurried me onwards to complete my purpose.
I crossed a small rivulet in which my tiny fingers had formerly so playfully and happily sprinkled, and it now appeared to How heavily forward, streaked with red gore, which wound its way sluggishly along, and my eyes gloated upon it with a wildness of feeling, which makes me now shudder to reflect upon. After resting my wearied frame, and having arrived at the ruins adjoining that part of the castle in which I had previously informed myself the Baron aboded, I crept up one of the crevices which I knew would lead me into the main part of the building, and, from being well acquainted with the localities, I could have no difficulty in tracing my way to the chamber where I supposed the object of my revenge would repose. I lighted a candle of rush-grass which I had brought purposely with me, and it was well that I had done so, for, in turning an angle of the foundation of the castle, I had nearly been precipitated into one of the dungeons below, the trapdoor of which had been left open, and upon the brink of the aperture, I just caught a glimpse of my danger, in time to save myself from the dark abyss. I had nearly fainted; but it was no moment for aught but the one purpose of slaughter, and I renewed my energies in the time for reflection which the incident afforded me. I sought first the ball wherein the armour and weapons of past days were deposited; for it was an idea
greedily seized by my mind, that the instrument of destruction should be one of those which his ancestors had wielded. I searched for some minutes in vain for that which well suited me, and I then found a small dark ebony handled dirk, curiously carved and inlaid with gold; a gem studded the end of the gripe, and it was double edged, and from the condition of its appearance, it was evidently deemed a relic of much family value. I grasped it firmly, and held it before me in ecstacy, and almost with that reverence of feeling with which the soldier regards the relics of a campaign, or the blade that has served him in it; but mine was about to be serviceable, while the veteran's had been the tried and trusty servant of the purpose. I startled as the glare of the lamp fell upon the dark features of an old painting, which seemed to frown upon me as I passed on, and the armour shook at me as if it anticipated a fearful deed, but my soul's well-wrought determination was not to be thwarted with childish fancies. I gloried at the idea that another victim was about to be consigned to the family obsequies, and to add his relics to the heaps before me. As I gradually approached the chamber where my victim reposed, I had some consciousness of the desperate and bloody deed, for my footsteps at one time were faltering, and then again they were hurried, feeling, as I
“If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well
It were done quickly.” I conquered the irresolution of the moment, and advanced to the door of the fatal chamber; a deep breathing caught my ear, I listened, all was well, my victim was in a sound repose. The flower and chivalry of -, with its pomp, its unjust power, shall satiate the ire of the injured orphan, thought I. A hideous hysteric laugh was about to burst from me, but I subdued the inclination, and with stealthy steps approached the side of the couch. The light fell upon the pale features of my unconscious victim; his raven hair flowed loosely over the pillow, the neck and bosom lay partially bare, but an infant child in innocent sleep rested in his arms; its little head, clustered with auburn curls, reclining upon the father with its hand upon his breast. I muttered to myself, thou murderer of my parents, thou despoiler of the orphan's portion, dost thou fancy these walls are to you protection against guilt and injuries? do you think to close the gate, and bar the door against the right of the orphan with impunity? could the stony heart but know that eternity yawns but to receive his guilty soul, and that his child in all its loveliness might also be another expiation, and sacrificed for the wrongs inflicted on the powerless and friendless: what is now your dream? is it of ambition, the grandeur of your family, the power of your mind, or the splendour of your name and fame?