"Beggar!" involuntarily exclaimed Alonzo, and his eyes flashed in resentment.—But he recollected that it was the father of Melissa who had thus insulted him, and he suppressed his anger. He rushed out of the house, and returned to Vincent's. He had neither heard nor seen any thing of Melissa or Beauman.
Night came on, and he ardently and impatiently expected Melissa. He anticipated the consolation her presence would bestow. Edgar had told him she was more composed. He doubted whether it were proper to excite anew her distress by relating his interview with her father, unless she was appraised of it. The evening passed on, but Melissa came not. Alonzo grew restless and uneasy. He looked out, then at his watch. Vincent and his lady assured him that she would soon be there. He paced the room. Still he became more impatient. He walked out on the way where she was expected to come. Sometimes he advanced hastily; at others he moved slowly; then stood motionless, listening in breathless silence, momentarily expecting to discover her white form approaching through the gloom, or to hear the sound of her footsteps advancing amidst the darkness. Shapeless objects, either real or imaginary, frequently crossed his sight, but, like the unreal phantoms of night, they suddenly passed away, and were seen no more. At length he perceived a dusky white form advancing in the distant dim obscurity. It drew near; his heart beat in quick succession; his fond hopes told him it was Melissa. The object came up, and hastily passed him, with a "good night, sir."
It was a stranger in a white surtout. Alonzo hesitated whether to advance or to return. It was possible, though not probable, that Melissa might have come some other way. He hastened back to Vincent's—she had not arrived. "Something extraordinary, said Mrs. Vincent, has prevented her coming. Perhaps she is ill."—Alonzo shuddered at the suggestion. He looked at his watch; it was half past eleven o'clock. Again he hastily sallied out, and took the road to her father's.
* * * * *
The night was exceedingly dark, and illuminated only by the feeble glimmering of the twinkling stars. When he came within sight of the house, and as he drew near no lights were visible—all was still and silent. He entered the yard, walked up the avenue, and approached the door. The familiar watch-dog, which lay near the threshold, fawned upon him, joyfully whining and wagging his tail. "Thou still knowest me, Curlow, said Alonzo; thou hast known me in better days; I am now poor and wretched, but thy friendship is the same." A solemn stillness prevailed all around, interrupted only by the discordance of the nightly insects, and the hooting of the moping owl from the neighbouring forest.—The dwelling was shrouded in darkness. In Melissa's room no gleam of light appeared. "They are all buried in sleep, said Alonzo, deeply sighing, and I have only to return in disappointment."
He turned and walked towards the street; casting his eyes back, the blaze of a candle caught his sight. It passed rapidly along through the lower rooms, now gleaming, now intercepted, as the walls or the windows intervened, and suddenly disappeared. Alonzo gazed earnestly a few moments, and hastily returned back. No noise was to be heard, no new objects were discernible.—He clambered over the garden wall, and went around to the back side of the house. Here all was solemn and silent as in front. Immediately a faint light appeared through one of the chamber windows; it grew brighter; a candle entered the chamber; the sash was flung up, and Melissa seated herself at the window.
The weather was sultry, she held a fan in her hand; her countenance, though stamped with deep dejection, was marked with serenity, but pale as the drooping lily of the valley. Alonzo placed himself directly under the window, and in a low voice called her by name. She started wildly, looked out, and faintly cried, "Who's there?" He answered, "Alonzo." "Good heavens, she exclaimed, is it you, Alonzo? I was disappointed in meeting you at Vincent's this evening; my father will not suffer me to go out without attendants. I am now constantly watched and guarded."
"Watched and guarded! replied Alonzo: At the risque of my life I will deliver you from the tyranny with which you are oppressed."
"Be calm, Alonzo, said she, I think it will not last long. Beauman will soon depart, after which there will undoubtedly be some alteration. Desire Mrs. Vincent to come here to-morrow; I believe they will let me see her. I can, from time to time, inform you of passing events, so that you may know what changes take place. I am placed under the care of my aunt, who suffers me not to step out of her sight. We pass the night in an adjoining chamber—from whence, after she had fallen asleep, I stole out, and went down with a design of walking in the garden, but found the doors all locked and the keys taken out. I returned and raised this window for fresh air. Hark! said she; my aunt calls me. She has waked and misses me. I must fly to her chamber. You shall hear more from me to-morrow by Mrs. Vincent, Alonzo." So saying, she let down the window sash, and retired.
Alonzo withdrew slowly from the place, and repassed the way he came. As he jumped back over the garden wall, he found a man standing at its foot, very near him: after a moment's scrutiny he perceived it to be Beauman. "What, my chevalier, said he to Alonzo, such an adept in the amorous science already? Hast thou then eluded the watchful eyes of Argus, and the vigilance of the dragon!"
"Unfeeling and impertinent intruder, retorted Alonzo, seizing hold of him; is it not enough that an innocent daughter must endure a merciless parent's persecuting hand, but must thou add to her misery by thy disgusting interference!"
"Quit thy hold, tarquin, said Beauman. Art thou determined, after storming the fortress, to murder the garrison?"
"Go, said Alonzo, quitting him; go sir, you are unworthy of my anger. Pursue thy grovelling schemes. Strive to force to your arms a lady who abhors you, and were it not on one account, must ever continue to despise and hate you."
"Alonzo, replied Beauman, I perceive thou knowest me not. You and I were rivals in our pursuit—the hand of Melissa. Whether from freak or fortune, the preference was given to you, and I retired in silence. From coincidence of circumstances, her father has now been induced to give the preference to me. My belief was, that Melissa would comply with her father's will, especially after her prospects of connecting with you were cut off by the events which ruined your fortune. You, Alonzo, have yet, I find, to learn the character of women. It has been my particular study. Melissa, now ardently impassioned by first impressions, irritated by recent disappointment, her passions delicate and vivid, her affections animated and unmixed, it would be strange, if she could suddenly relinquish primitive attachments founded on such premises, without a struggle. But remove her from your presence for one year, with only distant and uncertain prospects of seeing you again, admit me as the substitute in your absence, and she accepts my hand as freely as she would now receive yours. I had no design—it was never my wish to marry her without her consent. That I believe I shall yet obtain. Under existing circumstances, it is impossible but that you must be separated for some considerable time. Then, when cool deliberation succeeds to the wild vagaries, the electric fire of frolic fancy, she will discover the dangerous precipice, the deadly abyss to which her present conduct and inclinations lead. She will see that the blandishments, without the possessions of life, must fade and die. She will discriminate between the shreds and the trappings of taste. She will prefer indifference and splendour to love and a cottage.
"At present I relinquish all further persuit; to-morrow I return to New-London. When Melissa, from calm deliberation and the advice of friends, shall freely consent to yield me her hand, I shall return to receive it. I came from my lodgings this evening to declare these intentions to her father: but it being later than I was aware of, the family had gone to rest. I was about to return, when I saw a light from the chamber window, which soon withdrew. I stood a moment by the garden wall, when you approached and discovered me." So saying, he bade Alonzo good night, and walked hastily away. "I find he knows not the character of Melissa," said Alonzo, and returned to Vincent's.
The next day Alonzo told the Vincents of all that had passed, and it was agreed that Mrs. Vincent should visit at Melissa's father's that afternoon. She went at an early hour. Alonzo's feelings were on the rack until she returned, which happened much sooner than was expected; when she gave him and Vincent the following information:
"When I arrived there, said she, I found Melissa's father and mother alone, her mother was in tears, which she endeavoured to conceal. Her father soon withdrew. After some conversation I enquired for Melissa. The old lady burst into tears, and informed me that this morning Melissa's aunt (the old maid) had invited her to ride out with her. A carriage was provided, which, after a large trunk had been placed therein, drove off with Melissa and her aunt; that Melissa's father had just been informing her that he had sent their daughter to a distant part of the country, where she was to reside with a friend until Alonzo should depart from the neighbourhood. The reason of this sudden resolution was his being informed by Beauman, that notwithstanding his precaution, Melissa and Alonzo had an interview the last evening. Where she was sent to, the old lady could not tell, but she was convinced that Melissa was not apprised of the design when she consented to go. Her aunt had heretofore been living with the relatives of the family in various parts of the state."
Alonzo listened to Mrs. Vincent's relation with inexpressible agitation. He sat silent a few moments; then suddenly starting up, "I will find her if she be on the earth!" said he, and in spite of Vincent's attempts to prevent him, rushed out of the house, flew to the road, and was soon out of sight.
Melissa had not, indeed, the most distant suspicion of the designs of her father and aunt. The latter informed her that she was going to take a morning's ride, and invited Melissa to accompany her, to which she consented. She did not even perceive the trunk which was fastened on behind the carriage. They were attended by a single servant. They drove to a neighbouring town, where Melissa had frequently attended her father and mother to purchase articles of dress, &c. where they alighted at a friend's house, and lingered away the time until dinner; after which, they prepared, as Melissa supposed, to return, but found, to her surprise, after they had entered the carriage, that her aunt ordered the driver to proceed a different way. She asked her aunt if they were not going home. "Not yet," said she. Melissa grew uneasy; she knew she was to see Mrs. Vincent that afternoon; she knew the disappointment which Alonzo must experience, if she was absent. She begged her aunt to return, as she expected the company of some ladies that afternoon. "Then they must be disappointed, child," said her aunt.—Melissa knew it was in vain to remonstrate; she supposed her aunt was bent on visiting some of her acquaintance, and she remained silent.
They arrived at another village, and alighted at an inn, where Melissa and her aunt tarried, while the servant was ordered out by the latter on some business unknown to Melissa. When they again got into the carriage she perceived several large packages and bundles, which had been deposited there since they left it. She enquired of her aunt what they contained. "Articles for family use, child," she replied, and ordered the driver to proceed.
They passed along winding and solitary paths, into a bye road which led through an unfrequented wood, that opened into a rocky part of the country bordering on the Sound. Here they stopped at the only house in view. It was a miserable hut, built of logs, and boarded with slabs. They alighted from the carriage, and Melissa's aunt, handing the driver a large bunch of keys, "remember to do as I have told you," said she, and he drove rapidly away. It was with some difficulty they got into the hut, as a meagre cow, with a long yoke on her neck, a board before her eyes, and a cross piece on her horns, stood with her head in the door. On one side of her were four or five half starved squeaking pigs, on the other a flock of gaggling geese.
As they entered the door, a woman who sat carding wool jumped up, "La me! she cried, here is Miss D——, welcome here again. How does madam do?" dropping a low curtsey. She was dressed in a linsey woolsey short gown, a petticoat of the same, her hair hanging about her ears, and barefoot. Three dirty, ragged children were playing about the floor, and the furniture was of a piece with the building. "Is my room in order?" enquired Melissa's aunt. "It hasn't been touched since madam was here," answered the woman, and immediately stalked away to a little back apartment, which Melissa and her aunt entered. It was small, but neatly furnished, and contained a single bed. This appendage had been concealed from Melissa's view, as it was the opposite side of the house from whence she alighted. "Where is John?" asked Melissa's aunt. "My husband is in the garden, replied the woman; I will call him," and out she scampered. John soon appeared, and exhibited an exact counter part of his wife. "What does madam please to want?" said he, bowing three or four times. "I want you John," she answered, and immediately stepped into the other room, and gave some directions, in a low voice, to him and his wife. "La me! said the woman, madam a'nt a going to live in that doleful place?" Melissa could not understand her aunt's reply, but heard her give directions to "first hang on the teakettle." This done, while John and his wife went out, Melissa's aunt prepared tea in her own room. In about an hour John and his wife returned, and gave the same bunch of keys to Melissa's aunt, which she had given to the servant who drove the carriage.
Melissa was involved in inscrutable mystery respecting these extraordinary proceedings. She conjectured that they boded her no good, but she could not penetrate into her aunt's designs. She frequently looked out, hoping to see the carriage return, but was disappointed. When tea was made ready, she could neither eat nor drink. After her aunt had disposed of a dozen cups of tea, and an adequate proportion of biscuit, butter and dried beef, she directed Melissa to prepare to take a walk. The sun was low; they proceeded through fields, in a foot path, over rough and uneven ways, directly towards the Sound. They walked about a mile, when they came to a large, old fashioned, castle-like building, surrounded by a high, thick wall, and almost totally concealed on all sides from the sight, by irregular rows of large locusts and elm trees, dry prim[A] hedges, and green shrubbery. The gate which opened into the yard, was made of strong hard wood, thickly crossed on the outside with iron bars, and filled with old iron spikes. Melissa's aunt unlocked the gate, and they entered the yard, which was overgrown with rank grass and rushes: the avenue which led to the house was almost in the same condition. The house was of real Gothic architecture, built of rude stone, with battlements.
[Footnote A: The botanical name of this shrub is not recollected. There were formerly a great number of prim hedges in New-England, and other parts of America. What is most remarkable is, that they all died the year previous to the commencement of the American war.]
The doors were constructed in the same manner as the gate at which they entered the yard. They unlocked the door, which creaked heavily on its hinges, and went in. They ascended a flight of stairs, wound through several dark and empty rooms, till they came to one which was handsomely furnished, with a fire burning on the hearth. Two beds were in the room, with tables and chairs, and other conveniences for house keeping. "Here we are safe, said Melissa's aunt, as I have taken care to lock all the doors and gates after me; and here, Melissa, you are in the mansion of your ancestors. Your great grand father, who came over from England, built this house in the earliest settlements of the country, and here he resided until his death. The reason why so high and thick a wall was built round it, and the doors and gates so strongly fortified, was to secure it against the Indians, who frequently committed depredations on the early settlers. Your grandfather came in possession of this estate after his father's death: it fell to me by will, with the lands surrounding it. The house has sometimes been tenanted, at others not. It has now been vacant for a few years. The lands are rented yearly. John, the person from whose house we last came, is my overseer and tenant. I had a small room built, adjoining that hut, where I generally reside for a week when I come to receive my rents. I have thought frequently of fitting up this place for my future residence, but circumstances have hitherto hindered my carrying the scheme into effect, and now, perhaps, it will never take place.
"Your perverseness, Melissa, in refusing to comply with the wishes of your friends, has induced us to adopt the method of bringing you here, where you are to remain until Alonzo leaves your neighbourhood, at least. Notwithstanding your father's injunctions and my vigilance, you had a clandestine interview with him last night. So we were told by Beauman this morning, before he set off for New-London, who discovered him at your window. It therefore became necessary to remove you immediately. You will want for nothing. John is to supply us with whatever is needful.—You will not be long here; Alonzo will soon be gone. You will think differently; return home, marry Beauman, and become a lady."
"My God! exclaimed Melissa, is it possible my father can be so cruel! Is he so unfeeling as to banish me from his house, and confine me within the walls of a prison, like a common malefactor?" She flung herself on the bed in a state little inferior to distraction. Her aunt told her it was all owing to her own obstinacy, and because she refused to be made happy—and went to preparing supper.
Melissa heard none of her aunt's observations; she lay in a stupifying agony, insensible to all that passed. When supper was ready, her aunt endeavoured to arouse her. She started up, stared around her with a wild agonizing countenance, but spoke not a word. Her aunt became alarmed. She applied stimulants to her temples and forehead, and persuaded her to take some cordials. She remained seemingly insensible through the night: just at morning, she fell into a slumber, interrupted by incoherent moanings, convulsive startings, long drawn sighs, intermitting sobs, and by frequent, sudden and restless turnings from side to side. At length she appeared to be in a calm and quiet sleep for about an hour. About sunrise she awoke—her aunt sat by her bed side. She gazed languidly about the room, and burst into tears. She wept a long time; her aunt strove to console her, for she truly began to tremble, lest Melissa's distress should produce her immediate dissolution. Towards night, however, she became more calm and resigned; but a slight fever succeeded, which kept her confined for several days, after which she slowly recovered.
* * * * *
John came frequently to the house to receive the commands of Melissa's aunt, and brought such things as they wanted. Her aunt also sometimes went home with him, leaving the keys of the house with Melissa, but locking the gate and taking the key of that with her. She generally returned before sunset. When Melissa was so far recovered as to walk out, she found that the house was situated on an eminence, about one hundred yards from the Sound. The yard was large and extensive. Within the enclosure was a spacious garden, now overrun with brambles and weeds. A few medinical and odoriferous herbs were scattered here and there, and a few solitary flowers overtopped the tangling briars below; but there was plenty of fruit on the shrubbery and trees. The out buildings were generally in a ruinous situation. The cemetery was the most perfect, as it was built of hewn stone and marble, and had best withstood the ravages of time. The rooms in the house were mostly empty and decaying: the main building was firm and strong, as was also the extended wall which enclosed the whole. She found that although her aunt, when they first arrived, had led her through several upper rooms to the chamber they inhabited, yet there was from thence a direct passage to the hall.
The prospect was not disagreeable. West, all was wilderness, from which a brook wound along a little distance from the garden wall. North, were the uneven grounds she had crossed when she came there, bounded by distant groves and hills. East, beautiful meadows and fields, arrayed in flowery green, sloped to salt marshes or sandy banks of the Sound, or ended in the long white beaches which extended far into the sea. South, was the Sound of Long Island.
Melissa passed much of her time in tracing the ruins of this antiquated place, in viewing the white sails as they passed up and down the Sound, and in listening to the songs of the thousand various birds which frequented the garden and the forest. She could have been contented here to have buried her afflictions, and for ever to retire from the world, could Alonzo but have resided within those walls. "What will he think has become of me," she would say, while the disconsolate tear glittered in her eye. Her aunt had frequently urged her to yield to her father's injunctions, regain her liberty, and marry Beauman; and she every day became more solicitous and impertinent. A subject so hateful to Melissa sometimes provoked her to tears; at other her keen resentment. She therefore, when the weather was fair, passed much of her time in the garden and adjoining walks, wishing to be as much out of her aunt's company as possible.
One day John came there early in the morning, and Melissa's aunt went home with him. The day passed away, but she did not return. Melissa sat up until a late hour of the night, expecting her; she went to the gate, and found it was fast locked, returned, locked and bolted the doors of the house, went to bed and slept as soundly as she had done since her residence in the old mansion. "I have at least, she said, escaped the disgusting curtain-lecture about marrying Beauman."
The next day her aunt returned. "I was quite concerned about you, child, said she; how did you sleep?" "Never better, she answered, since I have been here." "I had forgotten, said her aunt, that my rents become due this week. I was detained until late by some of my tenants; John was out, and I dare not return in the night alone. I must go back to-day. It will take me a week to settle my business. If I am obliged to stay out again I will send one of John's daughters to sleep with you."——"You need not give yourself that trouble, replied Melissa; I am under no apprehension of staying here alone; nothing can get into or out of these premises."——"Well, thou hast wonderful courage, child, said her aunt; but I shall be as frequently here as possible, and as soon as my business is settled, I shall be absent no more." So saying, she bade Melissa good morning, and set off for her residence at the dwelling of John.
She did not return in two days. The second night of her absence, Melissa was sitting in her chamber reading, when she heard a noise as of several people trampling in the yard below. She arose, cautiously raised the window, and looked out. It was extremely dark; she thought she might have been discovered.
Her aunt came the next day, and told her she was obliged to go into the country to collect some debts of those to whom she had rented lands: she should be gone a few days, and as soon as she returned should come there. "The keys of the house, said she, I shall leave with you. The gate I shall lock, and leave that key with John, who will come here as often as necessary, to assist you, and see if you want any thing." She then went off, leaving Melissa not dissatisfied with the prospect of her absence.
Melissa amused herself in evenings by reading in the few books her aunt had brought there, and in the day, in walking around the yard and garden, or in traversing the rooms of the antique building. In some, were the remains of ancient furniture, others were entirely empty. Cobwebs and mouldering walls were the principal ornaments left.
One evening as she was about retiring to rest, she thought she heard the same trampling noise in the yard, as on a former occasion. She stepped softly to the window, suddenly raised it, and held out the candle. She listened and gazed with anxious solicitude, but discovered nothing more. All was silent; she shut the window, and in a short time went to bed.
Some time in the night she was suddenly awakened by a sharp sound, apparently near her. She started in a trembling panic, but endeavoured to compose herself with the idea, that something had fallen from the shelves. As she lay musing upon the incident, she heard loud noises in the rooms below, succeeded by an irregular and confused number of voices, and presently after, footsteps ascending the stairs which led to her chamber. She trembled; a cold chilly sweat run down her face. Directly the doors below opened and shut with a quick and violent motion. And soon after she was convinced that she distinctly heard a whispering in her room. She raised herself up in the bed and cast inquisitive eyes towards her chamber door. All was darkness—no new object was visible—no sound was heard, and she again lay down.
Her mind was too much agitated and alarmed to sleep. She had evidently heard sounds, footsteps and voices in the house, and whisperings which appeared to be in her room. The yard gate was locked, of which John had the key. She was confident that no person could ascend or get over the wall of the enclosure. But if that were practicable, how was it possible that any human being could enter the house? She had the key of every door, and they were all fast locked, and yet she had heard them furiously open and shut. A thought darted into her mind,—was it not a plan which her aunt had contrived in order to frighten her to a compliance with her wishes? But then how could she enter the house without keys? This might be done with the use of a false key. But from whence did the whisperings proceed, which appeared close to her bedside? Possibly it might be conveyed through the key-hole of her chamber door. These thoughts tended in some degree, to allay her fears;—they were possibilities, at least, however improbable.
As she lay thus musing, a hand, cold as the icy fingers of death, grasped her arm, which lay on the outside of the bed clothes. She screamed convulsively, and sprang up in the bed. Nothing was to be seen—no noise was heard. She had not time to reflect. She flew out of the bed, ran to the fire, and lighted a candle. Her heart beat rapidly. She cast timid glances around the room, cautiously searching every corner, and examining the door. All things were in the same state she had left them when she went to bed. Her door was locked in the same manner; no visible being was in the room except herself. She sat down, pondering on these strange events. Was it not probable that she was right in her first conjectures respecting their being the works of her aunt, and effected by her agents and instrumentality? All were possible, except the cold hand which had grasped her arm. Might not this be the effect of a terrified and heated imagination? Or if false keys had been made use of to enter the rooms below, might they not also be used to enter her chamber? But could her room be unlocked, persons enter, approach her bed, depart and re-lock the door, while she was awake, without her hearing them?
She knew she could not go to sleep, and she determined not to go to bed again that night. She took up a book, but her spirits had been too much disordered by the past scenes to permit her to read. She looked out of the window. The moon had arisen and cast a pale lustre over the landscape. She recollected the opening and shutting of the door—perhaps they were still open. The thought was alarming—She opened her chamber door, and with the candle in her hand, cautiously descended the stairs, casting an inquisitive eye in every direction, and stopping frequently to listen.—She advanced to the door; it was locked. She examined the others; they were in the same situation. She turned to go up stairs, when a loud whisper echoed through the hall expressing "away! away!" She flew like lightning to her chamber, relocked the door and flung herself, almost breathless, into a chair.
As soon as her scattered senses collected, she concluded that whatever had been in the house was there still. She resolved to go out no more until day, which soon began to discolour the east with a fainter blue, then purple streaks, intermingled with a dusky whiteness, ascended in pyramidical columns to the zenith; these fading slowly away, the eastern horizon became fringed with the golden spangles of early morn. A spot of ineffable brightness succeeded, and immediately the sun burst over the verge of creation, deluging the world in a flood of unbounded light and glory.
As soon as the morning had a little advanced, Melissa ventured out. She proceeded with hesitating steps, carefully scrutinizing every object which met her sight. She examined every door; they were all fast. She critically searched every room, closet, &c. above and below. She then took a light and descended into the cellar—here her inquisition was the same. Thus did she thoroughly and strictly examine and search every part of the house from the garret to the cellar, but could find nothing altered, changed, or removed; no outlet, no signs of there having been any being in the house the evening before, except herself.
She then unlocked the outer door and proceeded to the gate, which she found locked as usual. She next examined the yard, the garden, and all the out houses.
Nothing could be discovered of any person having been recently there. She next walked around by the wall, the whole circle of the enclosure. She was convinced that the unusual height of the wall rendered it impossible for any one to get over it. It was constructed of several tier of hewed timbers, and both sides of it were as smooth as glass. On the top, long spikes were thickly driven in, sharpened at both ends. It was surrounded on the outside by a deep wide moat, which was nearly filled with water. Over this moat was a draw-bridge, on the road leading to the gate, which was drawn up, and John had the key.
The events of the past night, therefore, remained inscrutable. It must be that her aunt was the agent who had managed this extraordinary machinery.
She found John at the house when she returned. "Does madam want any thing to-day?" asked he. "Has my aunt returned?" enquired Melissa. "Not yet," he replied. "How long has she been gone?" she asked. "Four days, replied John, after counting his fingers, and she will not be back under four or five more." "Has the key of the gate been constantly in your possession?" asked she. "The key of the gate and draw-bridge, he replied, have not been out of my possession for a moment since your aunt has been gone." "Has any person been to enquire for me or my aunt, she enquired, since I have been here?"—"No, madam, said he, not a single person." Melissa knew not what to think; she could not give up the idea of false keys—perhaps her aunt had returned to her father's.—Perhaps the draw-bridge had been let down, the gate opened, and the house entered by means of false keys. Her father would as soon do this as to confine her in this solitary place; and he would go all lengths to induce her, either by terror, persuasion or threats, to relinquish Alonzo and marry Beauman.
A thought impressed her mind which gave her some consolation. It was possible to secure the premises so that no person could enter even by the aid of false keys. She asked John if he would assist her that day. "In anything you wish, madam," he replied. She then directed him to go to work. Staples and iron bars were found in different parts of the building, with which he secured the doors and windows, so that they could be opened only on the inside. The gate, which swung in, was secured in the same manner. She then asked John if he was willing to leave the key of the gate and the draw-bridge with her. "Perhaps I may as well," said he; "for if you bar the gate and let down the bridge, I cannot get in myself until you let me in." John handed her the keys. "When I come," said he, "I will halloo, and you must let me in." This she promised to do, and John departed.[A]
[Footnote A: Of the place where Melissa was confined, as described in the foregoing pages, scarce a trace now remains. By the events of the revolution, the premises fell into other hands. The mansion, out houses and walls were torn down, the cemetery levelled, the moat filled up; the locusts and elm trees were cut down; all obstructions were removed, and the yard and garden converted into a beautiful meadow. An elegant farm-house is now erected on the place where John's hut then stood and the neighbourhood is thinly settled.]
* * * * *
That night Melissa let down the bridge, locked and barred the gate, and the doors and windows of the house: she also went again over all parts of the building, strictly searching every place, though she was well convinced she should find nothing extraordinary. She then retired to her chamber, seated herself at a western window, and watched the slow declining sun, as it leisurely sunk behind the lofty groves. Pensive twilight spread her misty mantle over the landscape; the western horizon glowed with the spangles of evening. Deepening glooms advanced. The last beam of day faded from the view, and the world was enveloped in night. The owl hooted solemnly in the forest, and the whippoorwill sung cheerfully in the garden. Innumerable stars glittered in the firmament, intermingling their quivering lustre with the pale splendours of the milky way.
Melissa did not retire from the window until late; she then shut it and withdrew within the room. She determined not to go to bed that night. If she was to be visited by beings, material or immaterial, she chose not again to encounter them in darkness, or to be surprised when she was asleep. But why should she fear? She knew of none she had displeased except her father, her aunt and Beauman. If by any of those the late terrifying scenes had been wrought, she had now effectually precluded a recurrence thereof, for she was well convinced that no human being could now enter the enclosure without her permission. But if supernatural agents had been the actors, what had she to fear from them? The night passed away without any alarming circumstances, and when daylight appeared she flung herself upon the bed, and slept until the morning was considerably advanced. She now felt convinced that her former conjectures were right; that it was her aunt, her father, or both, who had caused the alarming sounds she had heard, a repetition of which had only been prevented by the precautions she had taken.
When she awoke, the horizon was overclouded, and it began to rain. It continued to rain until towards evening, when it cleared away. She went to the gate, and found all things as she had left them: She returned, fastened the doors as usual, examined all parts of the house, and again went to her chamber.
She sat up until a late hour, when growing very drowsy, and convinced that she was safe and secure, she went to bed; leaving, however, two candles burning in the room. As she, for two nights, had been deprived of her usual rest, she soon fell into a slumber.
She had not long been asleep before she was suddenly aroused by the apparent report of a pistol, seemingly discharged close to her head. Awakened so instantaneously, her recollection, for a time, was confused and imperfect. She was only sensible of a strong, sulphureous scent: but she soon remembered that she had left two candles burning, and every object was now shrouded in darkness. This alarmed her exceedingly. What could have become of the candles? They must have been blown out or taken away. What was the sound she had just heard?——What the sulphureous stench which had pervaded the room?——While she was thus musing in perplexity, a broad flash like lightning, transiently illuminated the chamber, followed by a long, loud, and deep roar, which seemed to shake the building to its centre. It did not appear like thunder; the sounds seemed to be in the rooms directly over her head. Perhaps, however, it was thunder.
Perhaps a preceding clap had struck near the building, broken the windows, put out the lights, and filled the house with the electric effluvium. She listened for a repetition of the thunder—but a very different sound soon grated on her ear. A hollow, horrible groan echoed through her apartment, passing off in a faint dying murmur. It was evident that the groan proceeded from some person in the chamber. Melissa raised herself up in the bed; a tall white form moved from the upper end of the room, glided slowly by her bed, and seemed to pass off near the foot. She then heard the doors below alternately open and shut, slapping furiously, and in quick succession, followed by violent noises in the rooms below, like the falling of heavy bodies and the crash of furniture. Clamorous voices succeeded, among which she could distinguish boisterous menaces and threatenings, and the plaintive tone of expostulation.—A momentary silence ensued, when the cry of "Murder! murder! murder!!" echoed through the building, followed by the report of a pistol, and shortly after, the groans of a person apparently in the agonies of death, which grew fainter and fainter until it died away in a seemingly expiring gasp. A dead silence prevailed for a few minutes, to which a loud hoarse peal of ghastly laughter succeeded—then again all was still. But she soon heard heavy footsteps ascending the stairs to her chamber door. It was now she became terrified and alarmed beyond any former example.——"Gracious heaven, defend me! she exclaimed; what am I coming to!" Knowing that every avenue to the enclosure was effectually secured; knowing that all the doors and windows of the house, as also that which opened into her chamber, were fast locked, strictly bolted and barred; and knowing that all the keys were in her possession, she could not entertain the least doubt but the noises she had heard were produced by supernatural beings, and, she had reason to believe, of the most mischievous nature. She was now convinced that her father or her aunt could have no agency in the business. She even wished her aunt had returned. It must be exceedingly difficult to cross the moat, as the draw bridge was up; it must be still more difficult to surpass the wall of the enclosure; it was impossible for any human being to enter the house, and still more impossible to enter her chamber.
While she lay thus ruminating in extreme agitation, momentarily expecting to have her ears assailed with some terrific sound, a pale light dimly illuminated her chamber. It grew brighter. She raised herself up to look towards the door;—the first object which met her eye, was a most horrible form, standing at a little distance from her bedside. Its appearance was tall and robust, wrapped in a tattered white robe, spotted with blood. The hair of its head was matted with clotted gore. A deep wound appeared to have pierced its breast, from which fresh blood flowed down its garment. Its pale face was gashed and gory! its eyes fixed, glazed, and glaring;—its lips open, its teeth set, and in its hand was a bloody dagger.
Melissa, uttering a shriek of terror, shrunk into the bed, and in an instant the room was involved in pitchy darkness. A freezing ague seized her limbs, and drops of chilling sweat stood upon her face. Immediately a horrid hoarse voice burst from amidst the gloom of her apartment, "Begone! begone from this house!" The bed on which she lay then seemed to be agitated, and directly she perceived some person crawling on its foot. Every consideration, except present safety, was relinquished; instantaneously she sprang from the bed to the floor—with convulsed grasp, seized the candle, flew to the fire and lighted it. She gazed wildly around the room—no new object was visible. With timid step she approached the bed; she strictly searched all around and under it, but nothing strange could be found. A thought darted into her mind to leave the house immediately and fly to John's: this was easy, as the keys of the gate and draw-bridge were in her possession. She stopped not to reconsider her determination, but seizing the keys, with the candle in her hand, she unlocked her chamber door, and proceeded cautiously down stairs, fearfully casting her eyes on each side, as she tremblingly advanced to the outer door. She hesitated a moment. To what perils was she about to expose herself, by thus venturing out at the dead of the night, and proceeding such a distance alone? Her situation she thought could become no more hazardous, and she was about to unbar the door, when she was alarmed by a deep, hollow sigh. She looked around and saw, stretched on one side of the hall, the same ghastly form which had so recently appeared standing by her bedside. The same haggard countenance, the same awful appearance of murderous death. A faintness came upon her; she turned to flee to her chamber—the candle dropped from her trembling hand, and she was shrouded in impenetrable darkness. She groped to find the stairs: as she came near their foot, a black object, apparently in human shape, stood before her, with eyes which seemed to burn like coals of fire, and red flames issuing from its mouth. As she stood fixed a moment in inexpressible trepidation, a large ball of fire rolled along the hall, towards the door, and burst with an explosion which seemed to rock the building to its deepest foundation. Melissa closed her eyes and sunk senseless to the floor. She revived and got to her chamber, she hardly knew how; locked her door, lighted another candle, and after again searching the room, flung herself into a chair, in a state of mind which almost deprived her of reason.
Daylight soon appeared, and the cheerful sun darting its enlivening rays through the crevices and windows of the antique mansion, recovered her exhausted spirits, and dissipated, in some degree, the terrors which hovered about her mind. She endeavoured to reason coolly on the events of the past night, but reason could not elucidate them. Not the least noise had been heard since she last returned to her chamber: she therefore expected to discover no traits which might tend to a disclosure of those mysteries. She consoled herself only with a fixed determination to leave the desolate mansion. Should John come there that day, he might be prevailed on to permit her to remain at her aunt's apartment in his house until her aunt should return. If he should not come before sunset, she resolved to leave the mansion and proceed there.
She took some refreshment and went down stairs: she found the doors and windows all fast as she had left them. She then again searched every room in the house, both above and below, and the cellar; but she discovered no appearance of there having been any person there. Not the smallest article was displaced; every thing appeared as it had formerly been.—She then went to the gate; it was locked as usual, and the draw-bridge was up. She again traversed the circuit of the wall, but found no alteration, or any place where it was possible the enclosure might be entered. Again she visited the outer buildings, and even entered the cemetery, but discovered not the least circumstance which could conduce to explain the surprising transactions of the preceding night. She however returned to her room in a more composed frame of spirit, confident that she should not remain alone another night in that gloomy, desolate, and dangerous solitude.
Towards evening Melissa took her usual walk around the enclosure. It was that season of the year when weary summer is lapsing into the arms of fallow autumn.—The day had been warm, and the light gales bore revigorating coolness on their wings as they tremulously agitated the foliage of the western forest, or fluttered among the branches of the trees surrounding the mansion. The green splendours of spring had begun to fade into a yellow lustre, the flowery verdure of the fields was changed to a russet hue. A robin chirped on a neighbouring oak, a wren chattered beneath, swallows twittered around the decayed buildings, the ludicrous mocking bird sung sportively from the top of the highest elm and the surrounding groves rung with varying, artless melody; while deep in the adjacent wilderness the woodcock, hammering on some dry and blasted trees, filled the woods with reverberant echoes. The Sound was only ruffled by the lingering breezes, as they idly wandered over its surface. Long Island, now in possession of the British troops, was thinly enveloped in smoky vapour; scattered along its shores lay the numerous small craft and larger ships of the hostile fleet. A few skiffs were passing and repassing the Sound, and several American gun-boats lay off a point which jutted out from the main land, far to the eastward. Numberless summer insects mingled their discordant strains amidst the weedy herbage. A heavy black cloud was rising in the north west, which seemed to portend a shower, as the sonorous, distant thunder was at long intervals distinctly heard.
Melissa walked around the yard, contemplating the varying beauties of the scene: the images of departed joys—the days when Alonzo had participated with her in admiring the splendours of rural prospects, raised in her bosom the sigh of deep regret. She entered the garden and traversed the alleys, now overgrown with weeds and tufted knot-grass. The flower beds were choaked with the low running bramble and tangling five-finger; tall, rank rushes, mullens and daisies, had usurped the empire of the kitchen garden. The viny arbour was broken, and principally gone to decay; yet the "lonely wild rose" blushed mournfully amidst the ruins. As she passed from the garden she involuntarily stopped at the cemetery: she paused in serious reflection:—"Here, said she, in this house of gloom rest, in undisturbed silence, my honourable ancestors, once the active tenants of yonder mansion. Then, throughout these solitary demesnes, the busy occurrences of life glided in cheerful circles. Then, these now moss-clad alleys, and this wild weedy garden, were the resort of the fashionable and the gay. Then, evening music floated over the fields, while yonder halls and apartments shone in brilliant illumination. Now all is sad, solitary and dreary, the haunt of spirits and spectres of nameless terror. All that now remains of the head that formed, the hand that executed, and the bosom that relished this once happy scenery, is now, alas, only a heap of dust."
She seated herself on a little hillock, under a weeping willow, which stood near the cemetery, and watched the rising shower, which ascended in gloomy pomp, half hidden behind the western groves, shrouding the low sun in black vapour, while coming thunders more nearly and more awfully rolled. The shrieking night hawk[A] soared high into the air, mingling with the lurid van of the approaching storm, which widening, more rapidly advanced, until "the heavens were arrayed in blackness."
[Footnote A: Supposed to be the male whippoorwill; well known in the New-England states, and answering to the above peculiarity.]
The lightning broader and brighter flashes, hurling down its forky streaming bolts far in the wilderness, its flaming path followed by the vollying artillery of the skies. Now bending its long, crinkling spires over the vallies, now glimmering along the summit of the hills. Convolving clouds poured smoky volumes through the expansion; a deep, hollow, distant roar, announced the approach of "summoned winds." The whole forest bowed in awful grandeur, as from its dark bosom rushed the impetuous hurricane, twisting off, or tearing up by the roots, the stoutest trees, whirling the heaviest branches through the air with irresistible fury. It dashed upon the sea, tossed it into irregular mountains, or mingled its white foamy spray with the gloom of the turbid skies. Slant-wise, the large heavy drops of rain began to descend. Melissa hastened to the mansion; as she reached the door a very brilliant flash of lightning, accompanied by a tremendous explosion, alarmed her. A thunder bolt had entered a large elm tree within the enclosure, and with a horrible crash, had shivered it from top to bottom. She unlocked the door and hurried to her chamber. Deep night now filled the atmosphere; the rain poured in torrents, the wind rocked the building, and bellowed in the adjacent groves: the sea raged and roared, fierce lightnings rent the heavens, alternately involving the world in the sheeted flame of its many coloured fires; thunders rolled awfully around the firmament, or burst with horrid din, bounding and reverberating among the surrounding woods, hills and vallies. It seemed nothing less than the crash of worlds sounding through the universe.
Melissa walked her room, listening to the wild commotion of the elements. She feared that if the storm continued, she should be compelled to pass another night in the lone mansion: if so, she resolved not to go to bed. She now suddenly recollected that in her haste to regain her chamber, she had forgotten to lock the outer door. The shock she had received when the lightning demolished the elm tree, was the cause of this neglect. She took the candle, ran hastily down, and fastened the door. As she was returning, she heard footsteps, and imperfectly saw the glance of something coming out of an adjoining room into the hall. Supposing some ghastly object was approaching, she averted her eyes and flew to the stairs. As she was ascending them, a voice behind her exclaimed, "Gracious heaven! Melissa!" The voice agitated her frame with a confused, sympathetic sensation. She turned, fixed her eyes upon the person who had spoken; unconnected ideas floated a moment in her imagination: "Eternal powers! she cried, it is Alonzo."
* * * * *
Alonzo and Melissa were equally surprised at so unexpected a meeting. They could scarcely credit their own senses.—How he had discovered her solitude—what led him to that lonely place—how he had got over the wall—were queries which first arose in her mind. He likewise could not conceive by what miracle he should find her in a remote, desolate building, which he had supposed to be uninhabited. With rapture he took her trembling hand; tears of joy choaked their utterance. "You are wet, Alonzo, said Melissa at length; we will go up to my chamber; I have a fire there, where you can dry your clothes."—"Your chamber; replied Alonzo; who then inhabits this house?" "No one except myself, she answered; I am here alone, Alonzo." "Alone! he exclaimed—here alone, Melissa! Good God! tell me how—why—by what means are you here alone?" "Let us go up to my chamber, she replied, and I will tell you all."
He followed her to her apartment and seated himself by the fire. "You want refreshment," said Melissa—which was indeed the case, as he had been long without any, and was wet, hungry and weary.
She immediately set about preparing tea and soon had it ready, and a comfortable repast was spread for his entertainment.—And now, reader, if thou art a child of nature, if thy bosom is susceptible of refined sensibility, contemplate for a moment, Melissa and Alonzo seated at the same table, a table prepared by her own hand, in a lonely mansion, separated from society, and no one to interrupt them. After innumerable difficulties, troubles and perplexities; after vexing embarrassments, and a cruel separation, they were once more together, and for some time every other consideration was lost. The violence of the storm had not abated. The lightning still blazed, the thunder bellowed, the wind roared, the sea raged, the rain poured, mingled with heavy hail: Alonzo and Melissa heard a little of it. She told him all that had happened to her since they parted, except the strange noises and awful sights which had terrified her during her confinement in that solitary building: this she considered unnecessary and untimely, in her present situation.
Alonzo informed her, that as soon as he had learned the manner in which she had been sent away, he left the house of Vincent and went to her father's to see if he could not find out by some of the domestics what course her aunt had taken. None of them knew any thing about it. He did not put himself in the way of her father, as he was apprehensive of ill treatment thereby. He then went to several places among the relatives of the family where he had heretofore visited with Melissa, most of whom received him with a cautious coldness. At length he came to the house of Mr. Simpson, the gentleman to whose seat Alonzo was once driven by a shower, where he accidentally found Melissa on a visit, as mentioned before. Here he was admitted with the ardour of friendship. They had heard his story: Melissa had kept up a correspondence with one of the young ladies; they were therefore informed of all, except Melissa's removal from her father's house: of this they knew nothing until told thereof by Alonzo.
"I am surprised at the conduct of my kinsman, said Mr. Simpson; for though his determinations are, like the laws of the Medes and Persians, unalterable, yet I have ever believed that the welfare of his children lay nearest his heart. In the present instance he is certainly pursuing a mistaken policy. I will go and see him." He then ordered his horse, desiring Alonzo to remain at his house until he returned.
Alonzo was treated with the most friendly politeness by the family; he found that they were deeply interested in his favour and the welfare of Melissa. At evening Mr. Simpson returned. "It is in vain, said he, to reason with my kinsman; he is determined that his daughter shall marry your rival. He will not even inform me to what place he has sent Melissa. Her aunt however is with her, and they must be at the residence of some of the family relatives.—I will dispatch my son William among our connections, to see if he can find her out."
The next morning William departed, and was gone two days; but could not obtain the least intelligence either of Melissa or her aunt, although he had been the rounds among the relations of the family.
"There is some mystery in this affair, said Mr. Simpson. I am very little acquainted with Melissa's aunt. I have understood that she draws a decent support from her patrimonial resources, which, it is said, are pretty large, and that she resides alternately with her different relatives. I have understood also that my kinsman expects her fortune to come into his family, in case she never marries, which, in all probability, she now will not, and that she, in consequence, holds considerable influence over him. It is not possible but that Melissa is yet concealed at some place of her aunt's residence, and that the family are in the secret. I think it cannot be long before they will disclose themselves: You, Alonzo, are welcome to make my house your home; and if Melissa can be found, she shall be treated as my daughter."
Alonzo thanked him for his friendship and fatherly kindness. "I must continue, said he, my researches for Melissa; the result you shall know."
He then departed, and travelled through the neighbouring villages and adjoining neighbourhoods, making, at almost every house, such enquiries as he considered necessary on the occasion. He at length arrived at the inn in the last little village where Melissa and her aunt had stopped the day they came to the mansion. Here the inn-keeper informed him that two ladies, answering his description, had been at his house: he named the time, which was the day in which Melissa, with her aunt, left her father's house. The inn-keeper told him that they purchased some articles in the village, and drove off to the south. Alonzo then traversed the country adjoining the Sound, far to the westward, and was returning eastward, when he was overtaken by the shower. No house being within sight, he betook himself to the forest for shelter. From a little hilly glade in the wilderness, he discovered the lonely mansion which, from its appearance, he very naturally supposed to be uninhabited.—The tempest soon becoming severe, he thought he would endeavour to reach the house.
When he arrived at the moat, he found it impossible to cross it, or ascend the wall; and he stood in momentary jeopardy of his life, from the falling timber, some of which was broken and torn up by the tornado, and some splintered by the fiery bolts of heaven. At length a large tree, which stood near him, on the verge of the moat, or rather in that place, was hurled from its foundation, and fell, with a hideous crash, across the moat, its top lodging on the wall. He scrambled up on the trunk, and made his way on the wall. By the incessant glare of lightning he was able to see distinctly. The top of the tree was partly broken by the force of its fall, and hung down the other side of the wall. By these branches he let himself down into the yard, proceeded to the house, found the door open, which Melissa had left in her fright, and entered into one of the rooms, where he proposed to stay until at least the shower was over, still supposing the house unoccupied, until the noise of locking the door, and the light of the candle, drew him from the room, when, to his infinite surprise, he discovered Melissa, as before related.
Melissa listened to Alonzo with varied emotion. The fixed obduracy of her father, the generous conduct of the Simpsons, the constancy of Alonzo, filled her heart with inexpressible sensations. She foresaw that her sufferings were not shortly to end—she knew not when her sorrows were to close.
Alonzo was shocked at the alteration which appeared in the features of Melissa. The rose had faded from her cheek, except when it was transiently suffused with a hectic flush. A livid paleness sat upon her countenance, and her fine form was rapidly wasting. It was easy to be foreseen that the grief which preyed upon her heart would soon destroy her, unless speedily allayed.
The storm had now passed into the regions of the east; the wind and rain had ceased, the lightning more unfrequently flashed, and the thunder rolled at a distance. The hours passed hastily;—day would soon appear. Hitherto they had been absorbed in the present moment; it was time to think of the future. After the troubles they had experienced; after so fortunate a meeting, they could not endure the idea of another and immediate separation. And yet immediately separated they must be. It would not be safe for Alonzo to stay even until the rising sun, unless he was concealed; and of what use could it be for him to remain there in concealment?
In this dilemma there was but one expedient. "Suffer me, said Alonzo to Melissa, to remove you from this solitary confinement. Your health is impaired. To you, your father is no more a father; he has steeled his bosom to paternal affection; he has banished you from his house, placed you under the tyranny of others, and confined you in a lonely, desolate dwelling, far from the sweets of society; and this only because you cannot heedlessly renounce a most solemn contract, formed under his eye, and sanctioned by his immediate consent and approbation. Pardon me, Melissa, I would not censure your father; but permit me to say, that after such treatment, you are absolved from implicit obedience to his rigorous, cruel, and stern commands.—It will therefore be considered a duty you owe to your preservation, if you suffer me to remove you from the tyrannical severity with which you are oppressed."
Melissa sighed, wiping a tear which fell from her eye. "Unqualified obedience to my parents, said she, I have ever considered the first of duties, and have religiously practised thereon——but where, Alonzo, would you remove me?" "To any place you shall appoint," he answered. "I have no where to go," she replied.
"If you will allow me to name the place, said he, I will mention Mr. Simpson's. He will espouse your cause and be a father to you, and, if conciliation is possible, will reconcile you to your father. This can be done without my being known to have any agency in the business. It can seem as if Mr. Simpson had found you out. He will go any just lengths to serve us. It was his desire, if you could be found, to have you brought to his house. There you can remain either in secret or openly, as you shall choose. Be governed by me in this, Melissa, and in all things I will obey you thereafter. I will then submit to the future events of fate; but I cannot Melissa—I cannot leave you in this doleful place."
Melissa arose and walked the room in extreme agitation. What could she do? She had, indeed, determined to leave the house, for reasons which Alonzo knew nothing of. But should she leave it in the way she had proposed, she was not sure but she would be immediately remanded back, more strictly guarded, and more severely treated. To continue there, under existing circumstances, would be impossible, long to exist. She therefore came to a determination—"I will go, she said, to Mr. Simpson's."
It was then agreed that Alonzo should proceed to Vincent's, interest them in the plan, procure a carriage, and return at eleven o'clock the next night. Melissa was to have the draw-bridge down, and the gate open. If John should come to the house the succeeding day, she would persuade him to let her still keep the keys. But it was possible her aunt might return. This would render the execution of the scheme more hazardous and difficult. A signal was therefore agreed on; if her aunt should be there, a candle was to be placed at the window fronting the gate, in the room above; if not, it was to be placed against a similar window in the room below. In the first case Alonzo was to rap loudly at the door. Melissa was to run down, under pretence of seeing who was there, fly with Alonzo to the carriage, and leave her aunt to scrape acquaintance with the ghosts and goblins of the old mansion. For even if her aunt should return, which was extremely doubtful, she thought she could contrive to let down the bridge and unlock the gate in the evening without her knowledge. At any rate she was determined not to let the keys go out of her hands, unless they were forced from her, until she had escaped from that horrid and dreary place.
Daylight began to break from the east, and Alonzo prepared to depart. Melissa accompanied him to the gate and the bridge, which was let down: he passed over, and she slowly withdrew, both frequently turning to look back. When she came to the gate, she stopped;—Alonzo stopped also. She waved a white handkerchief she had in her hand, and Alonzo bowed in answer to the sign. She then leisurely entered and slowly shut the gate.—Alonzo could not forbear climbing up into a tree to catch another glimpse of her as she passed up the avenue. With lingering step he saw her move along, soon receding from his view in the gray twilight of misty morning. He then descended, and hastily proceeded on his journey.
Traits of glory now painted the eastern skies. The glittering day-star, having unbarred the portals of light, began to transmit its retrocessive lustre. Thin scuds flew swiftly over the moon's decrescent form. Low, hollow winds, murmured among the bushes, or brushed the limpid drops from intermingling foliage. The fire-fly[A] sunk, feebly twinkling, amidst the herbage of the fields. The dusky shadows of night fled to the deep glens, and rocky caverns of the wilderness. The American lark soared high in the air, consecrating its matin lay to morn's approaching splendours. The woodlands began to ring with native melody—the forest tops, on high mountains, caught the sun's first ray, which, widening and extending, soon gem'd the landscape with brilliants of a thousand various dies.
[Footnote A: The American lampyris, vulgarly called the lightning-bug.]
As Alonzo came out of the fields near the road, he saw two persons passing in an open chair. They suddenly stopped, earnestly gazing at him. They were wrapped in long riding cloaks, and it could not be distinguished from their dress whether they were men or women. He stood not to notice them, but made the best of his way to Vincent's, where he arrived about noon.—Rejoiced to find that he had discovered Melissa, they applauded the plan of her removal, and assisted him in obtaining a carriage. A sedan was procured, and he set out to return, promising to see Vincent again, as soon as he had removed Melissa to Mr. Simpson's. He made such use of his time as to arrive at the mansion at the hour appointed. He found the draw-bridge down, the gate open, and saw, as had been agreed upon, the light at the lower window, glimmering through the branches of trees. He was therefore assured that Melissa was alone. His heart beat; a joyful tremor seized his frame; Melissa was soon to be under his care, for a short time at least.—He drove up to the house, sprang out of the carriage, and fastened his horse to a locust tree: The door was open; he went in, flew lightly up stairs, entered her chamber—Melissa was not there! A small fire was blazing on the hearth, a candle was burning on the table. He stood petrified with amazement, then gazed around in anxious solicitude. What could have become of her? It was impossible, he tho't, but that she must still be there.
Had she been removed by fraud or force, the signal candle would not have been at the window. Perhaps, in a freakish moment, she had concealed herself for no other purpose than to cause him a little perplexity. He therefore took the candle and searched every corner of the chamber, and every room of the house, not even missing the garret and the cellar. He then placed the candle in a lantern, and went out and examined the out-houses: he next went round the garden and the yard, strictly exploring and investigating every place; but he found her not. He repeatedly and loudly called her by name; he was answered only by the solitary echoes of the wilderness.
Again he returned to the house, traversed the rooms, there also calling on the name of Melissa: his voice reverberated from the walls, dying away in solemn murmurs in the distant empty apartments. Thus did he continue his anxious scrutiny, alternately in the house and the enclosure, until day—but no traces could be discovered, nothing seen or heard of Melissa. What had become of her he could not form the most distant conjecture. Nothing was removed from the house; the beds, the chairs, the table, all the furniture remained in the same condition as when he was there the night before;—the candle, as had been agreed upon, was at the window, and another was burning on the table:—it was therefore evident that she could not have been long gone when he arrived. By what means she had thus suddenly disappeared, was a most deep and inscrutable mystery.
When the sun had arisen, he once more repeated his inquisitive search, but with the same effect. He then, in extreme vexation and disappointment, flung himself into the sedan, and drove from the mansion. Frequently did he look back at the building, anxiously did he scrutinize every surrounding and receding object. A thrill of pensive recollection vibrated through his frame as he passed the gate, and the keen agonizing pangs of blasted hope, pierced his heart, as his carriage rolled over the bridge.
Once more he cast a "longing, lingering look" upon the premises behind, sacred only for the treasure they lately possessed; then sunk backward in his seat, and was dragged slowly away.
* * * * *
Alonzo had understood from Melissa, that John's hut was situated about one mile north from the mansion where she had been confined. When he came out near the road, he left his horse and carriage, after securing them, and went in search of it.—He soon discovered it, and knew it from the description given thereof by Melissa.—He went up and knocked at the door, which was opened by John, whom Alonzo also knew, from the portrait Melissa had drawn of him.
John started in amazement. "Understanding, said Alonzo, that you have the charge of the old mansion in yonder field, I have come to know if you can inform me what has become of the young lady who has been confined there."
"Confined! answered John, I did not know she was confined."
Recollecting himself, "I mean the young lady who has lately resided there with her aunt," replied Alonzo.
"She was there last night, answered John; her aunt is gone into the country and has not returned."
Alonzo then told him the situation of the mansion, and that she was not there. John informed him that she was there about sunset, and according to her request he had left the keys of the gate and bridge with her: he desired Alonzo to tarry there until he ran to the mansion.
He returned in about half an hour. "She is gone, sure enough, said John; but how, or where, it is impossible for me to guess."—Convinced that he knew nothing of the matter, Alonzo left him and returned to Vincent's.
Vincent and his lady were much surprised at Alonzo's account of Melissa's sudden disappearance, and they wished to ascertain whether her father's family knew any thing of the circumstance. Social intercourse had become suspended between the families of Vincent and Melissa's father, as the latter had taxed the former of improperly endeavouring to promote the views of Alonzo. They therefore procured a neighbouring woman to visit Melissa's mother, to see if any information could be obtained concerning Melissa; but the old lady had heard nothing of her since her departure with her aunt, who had never yet returned.—Alonzo left Vincent's and went to Mr. Simpson's. He told them all that had happened since he was there, of which, before, they had heard nothing. At the houses of Mr. Simpson and Vincent he resided some time, while they made the most dilligent search to discover Melissa; but nothing could be learned of her fate.
Alonzo then travelled into various parts of the country, making such enquiries as caution dictated of all whom he thought likely to give him information;—but he found none who could give him the least intelligence of his lost Melissa.
In the course of his wanderings he passed near the old mansion house where Melissa had been confined. He felt an inclination once more to visit it: he proceeded over the bridge, which was down, but he found the gate locked. He therefore hurried back and went to John's, whom he found at home. On enquiring of John whether he had yet heard any thing of the young lady and her aunt; "All I know of the matter, said John, is, that two days after you were here, her aunt came back with a strange gentleman, and ordered me to go and fetch the furniture away from the room they had occupied in the old mansion. I asked her what had become of young madam. She told me that young madam had behaved very indiscreetly, and she found fault with me for leaving the keys in her possession, though I did not know that any harm could arise from it. From the discourse which my wife and I afterwards overheard between madam and the strange gentleman, I understood that young madam had been sent to reside with some friend or relation at a great distance, because her father wanted her to marry a man, and she wishes to marry somebody else." From John's plain and simple narrative, Alonzo concluded that Melissa had been removed by her father's order, or through the agency, or instigation of her aunt. Whether his visit to the old mansion had been somehow discovered or suspected, or whether she was removed by some preconcerted or antecedent plan, he could not conjecture.—Still, the situation in which he found the mansion the night he went to convey her away, left an inexplicable impression on his mind. He could in no manner account how the candle could be placed at the window according to agreement, unless it had been done by herself; and if so, how had she so suddenly been conveyed away?
Alonzo asked John where Melissa's aunt now was.
"She left here yesterday morning, he answered, with the strange gentleman I mentioned, on a visit to some of her friends."
"Was the strange gentleman you speak of her brother?" asked Alonzo.
"I believe not, replied John, smiling and winking to his wife;—I know not who he was; somebody that madam seems to like pretty well."
"Have you the care of the old mansion?" said Alonzo.
"Yes, answered John, I have the keys; I will accompany you thither, perhaps you would like to purchase it; madam said yesterday she thought she should sell it."
Alonzo told him he had no thoghts of purchasing, thanked him for his information, and departed.
Convinced now that Melissa was removed by the agency of her persecutors, he compared the circumstances of John's relation. "She had been sent to reside with some friend or relation at a great distance." This great distance, he believed to be New London, and her friend or relation, her cousin, at whose house Alonzo first saw her, under whose care she would be safe, and Beauman would have an opportunity of renewing his addresses. Under these impressions, Alonzo did not long hesitate what course to pursue—he determined to repair to New London immediately.
In pursuance of his design he went to his father's. He found the old gentleman with his man contentedly tilling his farm, and his mother cheerfully attending to household affairs, as their narrow circumstances would not admit her to keep a maid without embarrassment. Alonzo's soul sickened on comparing the present state of his family with its former affluence; but it was an unspeakable consolation to see his aged parents contented and happy in their humble situation; and though the idea could not pluck the thorn from his own bosom, yet it tended temporarily to assuage the anguish of the wound.
"You have been long gone, my son, said his father; I scarcely knew what had become of you. Since I have become a farmer I know little of what is going forward in the world; and indeed we were never happier in our lives. After stocking and paying for my farm, and purchasing the requisites for my business, I have got considerable money at command: we live frugally, and realize the blessings of health, comfort, and contentment. Our only disquietude is on your account, Alonzo. Your affair with Melissa, I suppose, is not so favourable as you could wish. But despair not, my son; hope is the harbinger of fairer prospects: rely on Providence, which never deserts those who submissively bow to the justice of its dispensations."
Unwilling to disturb the serenity of his parents, Alonzo did not tell them his troubles. He answered, that perhaps all might yet come right; but that, as in the present state of his mind he thought a change of situation might be of advantage, he asked liberty of his father to travel for some little time. To this his father consented, and offered him a part of the money he had on hand, which Alonzo refused, saying he did not expect to be long gone, and his resources had not failed him.
He then sold off his books, his horses, his carriages, &c. the insignia of his better days, but now useless appendages, from which he raised no inconsiderable sum.—He then took a tender and affectionate leave of his parents, and set out for New London.
Alonzo journeyed along with a heavy heart and in an enfeebled frame of spirits. Through disappointment, vexation, and the fatigues he had undergone in wandering about, for a long time, in search of Melissa, despondency had seized upon his mind, and indisposition upon his body. He put up the first night within a few miles of New Haven, and as he passed through that town the next morning, the scenes of early life in which he had there been an actor, moved in melancholy succession over his mind. That day he grew more indisposed; he experienced an unusual languor, listlessness and debility; chills, followed by hot flashes, heavy pains in the head and back, with incessant and intolerable thirst. It was near night when he reached Killingsworth, where he halted, as he felt unable to go farther: he called for a bed, and through the night was racked with severe pain, and scorched with a burning fever.
The next morning he requested that the physician of the town might be sent for;—he came and ordered a prescription which gave his patient some relief; and by strict attention, in about ten days Alonzo was able to pursue his journey. He arrived at New London, and took lodgings with a private family of the name of Wyllis, in a retired part of the town.
The first object was to ascertain whether Melissa was at her cousin's. But how should he obtain this information? He knew no person in the town except it was those whom he had reason to suppose were leagued against him. Should he go to the house of her cousin, it might prove an injury to her if she were there, and could answer no valuable purpose if she were not.—The evening after he arrived there he wrapped himself up in his cloak and took the street which led to the house of Melissa's cousin: he stopped when he came against it, to see if he could make any discoveries. As people were passing and repassing the street, he got over into a small enclosure which adjoined the house, and stood under a tree, about thirty yards from the house: he had not long occupied this station, before a lady came to the chamber window, which was flung up, opposite to the place where he stood; she leaned out, looked earnestly around for a few minutes, then shut it and retired. She had brought a candle into the room, but did not bring it to the window; of course he could not distinguish her features so as to identify them.
He knew it was not the wife of Melissa's cousin, and from her appearance he believed it to be Melissa. Again the window opened, again the same lady appeared;—she took a seat at a little distance within the room; she reclined with her head upon her hand, and her arm appeared to be supported by a stand or table. Alonzo's heart beat violently; he now had a side view of her face, and was more than ever convinced that it was Melissa. Her delicate features, though more pale and dejected than when last he saw her;—her brown hair, which fell in artless circles around her lily neck; her arched eye-brows and commanding aspect. Alonzo moved towards the house, with a design, if possible, to draw her attention, and should it really prove to be Melissa, to discover himself. He had proceeded but a few steps before she arose, shut the window, retired, and the light disappeared. Alonzo waited a considerable time, but she appeared no more. Supposing she had retired for the night, he slowly withdrew, chagrined at this disappointment, yet pleased at the discovery he had made.
The family with whom Alonzo had taken lodgings were fashionable and respectable. The following afternoon they had appointed to visit a friend, and they invited Alonzo to accompany them. When they named the family where their visit was intended, he found it to be Melissa's cousin. Alonzo therefore declined going under pretence of business. He however waited with anxiety for their return, hoping he should be able to learn by their conversation, whether Melissa was there or not.—When they returned he made some enquiries concerning the families in town, until the conversation turned upon the family they had visited. "The young lady who resides there, said Mrs. Wyllis, is undoubtedly in a confirmed decline; she will never recover."
Alonzo started, deeply agitated. "Who is the young lady?" he asked. "She is sister to the gentleman's wife where we visited, answered Mr. Wyllis;—her father lives in Newport, and she has come here for her health." "Do you not think, said Mrs. Wyllis, that she resembles their cousin Melissa, who resided there some time ago?" "Very much indeed, replied her husband, only she is not quite so handsome."
Again was Alonzo disappointed, and again did he experience a melancholy pleasure: he had the last night hoped that he had discovered Melissa; but to find her in a hopeless decline, was worse than that she should remain undiscovered.
"It is reported, said Mrs. Wyllis, that Melissa has been upon the verge of matrimony, but that the treaty was somehow broken off; perhaps Beauman will renew his addresses again, should this be the case." "Beauman has other business besides addressing the ladies, answered Mr. Wyllis. He has marched to the lines near New-York with his new raised company of volunteers."[A]
[Footnote A: New-York was then in possession of the British troops.]
From this discourse, Alonzo was convinced that Melissa was not the person he had seen at her cousin's the preceding evening, and that she was not there. He also found that Beauman was not in town. Where to search next, or what course to pursue, he was at a loss to determine.
The next morning he rose early and wandered about the town. As he passed by the house of Melissa's cousin, he saw the lady, who had appeared at the window, walking in the garden. Her air, her figure, had very much the appearance of Melissa; but the lineaments of her countenance were, when viewed by the light of day, widely dissimilar. Alonzo felt no strong curiosity farther to examine her features, but passing on, returned to his lodgings.
How he was now to proceed, Alonzo could not readily decide. To return to his native place, appeared to be as useless as to tarry where he was. For many weeks had he travelled and searched every place where he thought it probable Melissa might be found, both among her relatives and elsewhere. He had made every effort to obtain some clue to her removal from the old mansion, but he could learn nothing but what he had been told by John. If his friends should ever hear of her, they could not inform him thereof, as no one knew where he was. Would it not, therefore, be best for him to return back, and consult with his friends, and if nothing had been heard of her, pursue some other mode of enquiry? He might, at least, leave directions where his friends might write to him, in case they should have any thing whereof to apprise him.
An incident tended to confirm this resolution. He one night dreamed that he was sitting in a strange house, contemplating on his present situation, when Melissa suddenly entered the room. Her appearance was more pale, sickly and dejected, than when he last saw her. Her elegant form had wasted away, her eyes were sunk, her cheeks fallen, her lips livid. He fancied it to be night, she held a candle in her hand, smiling languidly upon him;—she turned and went out of the room, beckoning him to follow: he thought he immediately arose and followed her. She glided through several winding rooms, and at length he lost sight of her, and the light gradually fading away, he was involved in deep darkness.—He groped along, and at length saw a faint distant glimmer, the course of which he pursued, until he came into a large room, hung with black tapestry, and illuminated by a number of bright tapers. On one side of the room appeared a hearse, on which some person was laid: he went up to it—the first object that arrested his attention was the lovely form of Melissa, shrouded in the sable vestments of death! Cold and lifeless, she lay stretched upon the hearse, beautiful even in dissolution; the dying smile of complacency had not yet deserted her cheek. The music of her voice had ceased; her fine eyes had closed for ever. Insensible to objects in which she once delighted; to afflictions which had blasted her blooming prospects, and drained the streams of life, she lay like blossomed trees of spring, overthrown by rude and boisterous winds. The deep groans which convulsed the distracted bosom, and shocked the trembling frame of Alonzo, broke the delusive charm: he awoke, rejoiced to find it but a dream, though it impressed his mind with doleful and portentous forebodings.
It was a long time before he could again close his eyes to sleep; he at length fell into a slumber, and again he dreamed. He fancied himself with Melissa, at the house of her father, who had consented to their union, and that the marriage ceremony between them was there performed. He thought that Melissa appeared as she had done in her most fortunate and sprightly days, before the darts of adversity, and the thorns of affliction, had wounded her heart. Her father seemed to be divested of all his awful sternness, and gave her to Alonzo with cheerful freedom. He awoke, and the horrors of his former dream were dissipated by the happy influences of the last.
"Who knows, he said, but that this may finally be the case; but that the sun of peace may yet dispel the glooms of these distressful hours!" He arose, determined to return home in a few days. He went out and enjoyed his morning walk in a more composed frame of spirits than he had for some time experienced. He returned, and as he was entering the door he saw the weekly newspaper of the town, which had been published that morning, and which the carrier had just flung into the hall.——The family had not yet arisen. He took up the paper, carried it to his chamber, and opened it to read the news of the day. He ran his eye hastily over it, and was about to lay it aside, when the death list arrested his attention, by a display of broad black lines. The first article he read therein was as follows:
"Died, of a consumption, on the 26th ult. at the seat of her uncle, Col. W. D—, near Charleston, South Carolina, whither she had repaired for her health, Miss Melissa D——, the amiable daughter of J—— D——, Esq. of *******, Connecticut, in the eighteenth year of her age."
The paper fell from the palsied hand—a sudden faintness came upon him—the room grew dark—he staggered, and fell senseless upon the floor.
* * * * *
The incidents of our story will here produce a pause.——The fanciful part of our readers may cast it aside in chagrin and disappointment. "Such an event," may they say, "we were not prepared to expect.—After so many, and such various trials of heart; after innumerable difficulties surmounted; almost invincible objects overcome, and insuperable barriers removed—after attending the hero and heroine of your tale through the diversified scenes of anxiety, suspense, hope, disappointment, expectation, joy, sorrow, anticipated bliss, sudden and disastrous woe——after elevating them to the threshold of happiness, by the premature death of one, to plunge the other, instantaneously, in deep and irretrievable despair, must not, cannot be right.—Your story will hereafter become languid and spiritless; the subject will be uninteresting, the theme unengaging, since the genius which animated and enlivened it is gone for ever."
Reader of sensibility, stop. Are we not detailing facts? Shall we gloss them over with false colouring? Shall we describe things as they are, or as they are not? Shall we draw with the pencil of nature, or of art? Do we indeed paint life as it is, or as it is not? Cast thine eyes, reader, over the ephemeral circle of passing and fortuitous events; view the change of contingencies; mark well the varied and shifting scenery in the great drama of time;—seriously contemplate nature in her operations; minutely examine the entrance, the action, and the exit of characters on the stage of existence—then say, if disappointment, distress, misery and calamitous woe, are not the inalienable portion of the susceptible bosom. Say, if the possession of refined feeling is enviable——the lot of Nature's children covetable—whether to such, through life, the sprinklings of comfort are sufficient to give a zest to the bitter banquets of adversity—whether, indeed, sorrow, sighing, and tears, are not the inseparable attendants of all those whose hearts are the repositories of tender affections and pathetic sympathies.
But what says the moralist?—"Portray life as it is. Delude not the senses by deceptive appearances. Arouse your hero? call to his aid stern philosophy and sober reason. They will dissipate the rainbow-glories of unreal pleasure, and banish the glittering meteors of unsubstantial happiness. Or if these fail, lead him to the holy fane of religion: she will regulate the fires of fancy, and assuage the tempest of the passions: she will illuminate the dark wilderness, and smooth the thorny paths of life: she will point him to joys beyond the tomb—to another and a better world; and pour the balm of consolation and serenity over his wounded soul."
Shall we indeed arouse Alonzo? Alas! to what paths of grief and wretchedness shall we arouse him! To a world to him void and cheerless—a world desolate, sad and dreary.
Alonzo revived. "Why am I, he exclaimed, recalled to this dungeon of torment? Why was not my spirit permitted to take its flight to regions where my guardian is gone? Why am I cursed with memory? O that I might be blessed with forgetfulness! But why do I talk of blessings?—Heaven never had one in store for me. Where are fled my anticipated joys? To the bosom, the dark bosom of the oblivious tomb! There lie all the graces worthy of love in life—all the virtues worthy of lamentation in death! There lies perfection; perfection has here been found. Was she not all that even Heaven could demand?—Fair, lovely, holy and virtuous. Her tender solicitudes, her enrapturing endearments, her soul-inspiring blandishments,—gone, gone for ever? That heavenly form, that discriminate mind—all lovely as light, all pure as a seraph's—a prey to worms—mingled with incorporeal shadows, regardless of former inquietudes or delights, regardless of the keen anguish which now wrings tears of blood from my despairing heart!
"Eternal Disposer of events! if virtue be thy special care, why is the fairest flower in the garden of innocence and purity blasted like a noxious weed? Why is the bright gem of excellence trampled in the dust like a worthless pebble?—Why is Melissa hurried to the tomb?"
Thus raved Alonzo. It was evident that delirium had partially seized his brain. He arose and flung himself on the bed in unspeakable agony. "And what, Alas! he again exclaimed, now remains for me? Existence and unparalleled misery. The consolation even of death is denied me. But Melissa! she—ah, where is she! Oh, reflection insupportable! insufferable consideration! Must that heavenly frame putrify, moulder, and crumble into dust? Must the loathsome spider nestle on her lily bosom? the odious reptile riot on her delicate limbs? the worm revel amid the roses of her cheek, fatten on her temples, and bask in the lustre of her eyes? Alas! the lustre has become dimmed in death; the rose and the lily are withered; the harmony of her voice has ceased; the graces, the elegancies of form, the innumerable delicacies of air, all are gone, and I am left in a state of misery which defies mitigation or comparison."
Exhausted by excess of grief, he now lay in a stupifying anguish, until the servant summoned him to breakfast. He told the servant he was indisposed and requested he might not be disturbed. Mr. Wyllis and his lady came up, anxious to yield him any assistance in their power, and advised him to call a physician. He thanked them, but told them it was unnecessary; he only wanted rest. His extreme distress of mind brought on a relapse of fever, from which he had but imperfectly recovered. For several days he lay in a very dangerous and doubtful state. A physician was called, contrary to his choice or knowledge, as for most part of the time his mind was delirious and sensation imperfect. This was, probably the cause of baffling the disorder. He was in a measure insensible to his woes. He did not oppose the prescriptions of the physician. The fever abated; nature triumphed over disease of body, and he slowly recovered, but the malady of his mind was not removed.
He contemplated on the past. "I fear, said he, I have murmured against the wisdom of Providence. Forgive, O merciful Creator! Forgive the frenzies of distraction!" He now recollected that Melissa once told him that she had an uncle who resided near Charleston in South Carolina; thither he supposed she had been sent by her father, when she was removed from the old mansion, in order to prevent his having access to her, and with a view to compel her to marry Beauman. Her appearance had indicated a deep decline when he last saw her. "There, said he, far removed from friends and acquaintance, there did she languish, there did she die—a victim to excessive grief, and cruel parental persecution."
As soon as he was able to leave his room, he walked out one evening, and in deep contemplation roved, he knew not where. The moon shone brilliantly from her lofty throne; the chill, heavy dews of autumn glittered on the decaying verdure. The cadeat[A] croaked hoarsely among the trees; the dircle[B] sung mournfully on the grass.—Alonzo heard them not; he was insensible to all external objects, until he had imperceptibly wandered to the rock on the point of the beach, verging the Sound, to which he had attended Melissa the first time he saw her at her cousin's.[C] Had the whole artillery of Heaven burst, in sheeted flame, from the skies—had raging winds mingled the roaring waves with the mountains—had an instantaneous earthquake burst beneath his feet, his frame would not have been so shocked, his soul so agitated!—Sudden as the blaze darts from the electric cloud was he aroused to a lively sense of blessings entombed! The memory of departed joys passed with rapidity over his imagination; his first meeting with Melissa; the evening he had attended her to that place; her frequent allusions to the scenery there displayed, when they had traversed the fields, or reclined in the bower on her favourite hill; in fine, all the vicissitudes through which they had passed, were called to his mind. His fancy saw her—felt her gently leaning on his arm, while he tremblingly pressed her hand.—Again he saw smiling health crimsoning the lilies of her cheek; again he saw the bright soul of sympathetic feelings sparkling in her eye; the air of ease; the graces of attitude; her brown locks circling the borders of her snowy robe. Again he was enraptured by the melody of her voice.—Once more would he have been happy, had not fancy changed the scene. But, alas! she shifted the curtain. He saw Melissa stretched on the sable hearse, wrapped in the dreary vestments of the grave; the roses withered; the lilies faded; motionless; the graces fled; her eyes fixed, and sealed in the glaze of death! Spontaneously he fell upon his knees, and thus poured forth the overcharged burden of his anguished bosom.
[Footnote AB: Local names given to certain American insects, from their sound. They are well known in various parts of the United States; generally make their appearance about the latter end of August, and continue until destroyed by the frost. The notes of the first are hoarse, sprightly, and discordant; of the last, solemn and mournfully pleasing.]
[Footnote C: See page 8. See also allusions to this scene in several subsequent parts of the story.]
"Infinite Ruler of all events! Great Sovereign of this ever changing world! Omnipotent Controller of vicissitudes! Omniscient dispenser of destinies! The beginning, the progression, the end is thine. Unsearchable are thy purposes! mysterious thy movements! inscrutable thy operations! An atom of thy creation, wildered in the mazes of ignorance and woe, would bow to thy decrees. Surrounded with impenetrable gloom, unable to scrutinize the past, incompetent to explore the future——fain would he say, THY WILL BE DONE! And Oh, that it might be consistent with that HIGH WILL to call this atom from a dungeon of wretchedness, to worlds of light and glory, where his only CONSOLATION is gone."
Thus prayed the heart-broken Alonzo. It was indeed a worldly prayer; but perhaps as pure and as acceptable as many of our modern professors would have made on a similar occasion. He arose and repaired to his lodgings. One determination only he had now fallen upon—to bury himself and his griefs from all with whom he had formerly been acquainted. Why should he return to the scenes of his former bliss and anxiety, where every countenance would tend to renew his mourning; where every door would be inscribed with a memento mori, and where every object would be shrouded in crape? He therefore turned his attention to the army; but the army was far distant, and he was too feeble to prosecute a journey of such an extent.