International Weekly Miscellany Vol. I. No. 3, July 15, 1850
Author: Various
Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse

Affairs had been for some time in this position, when, one fine morning, Alphonse de Bellefonds was not to be found in his chamber when his servant went to call him; neither had his bed been slept in. He had been observed to go out rather late on the preceding evening, but whether or not he had returned, nobody could tell. He had not appeared at supper, but that was too ordinary an event to awaken suspicion; and little alarm was excited till several hours had elapsed, when inquiries were instituted and a search commenced, which terminated in the discovery of his body, a good deal mangled, lying at the bottom of a pond which had belonged to the old brewery. Before any investigations had been made, every person had jumped to the conclusion that the young man had been murdered, and that Jacques Rollet was the assassin. There was a strong presumption in favor of that opinion, which further perquisitions tended to confirm. Only the day before, Jacques had been heard to threaten Mons. de Bellefonds with speedy vengeance. On the fatal evening, Alphonse and Claudine had been seen together in the neighborhood of the now dismantled brewery; and as Jacques, betwixt poverty and democracy, was in bad odor with the prudent and respectable part of society, it was not easy for him to bring witnesses to character, or prove an unexceptionable alibi. As for the Bellefonds and De Chaulieus, and the aristocracy in general, they entertained no doubt of his guilt; and finally, the magistrates coming to the same opinion, Jacques Rollet was committed for trial, and as a testimony of good will, Antoine de Chaulieu was selected by the injured family to conduct the prosecution.

Here, at last, was the opportunity he had sighed for! So interesting a case, too, furnishing such ample occasion for passion, pathos, indignation! And how eminently fortunate that the speech which he set himself with ardor to prepare, would be delivered in the presence of the father and brother of his mistress, and perhaps of the lady herself! The evidence against Jacques, it is true, was altogether presumptive; there was no proof whatever that he had committed the crime; and for his own part he stoutly denied it. But Antoine de Chaulieu entertained no doubt of his guilt, and his speech was certainly well calculated to carry that conviction into the bosom of others. It was of the highest importance to his own reputation that he should procure a verdict, and he confidently assured the afflicted and enraged family of the victim that their vengeance should be satisfied. Under these circumstances could anything be more unwelcome than a piece of intelligence that was privately conveyed to him late on the evening before the trial was to come on, which tended strongly to exculpate the prisoner, without indicating any other person as the criminal. Here was an opportunity lost. The first step of the ladder on which he was to rise to fame, fortune, and a wife, was slipping from under his feet!

Of course, so interesting a trial was anticipated with great eagerness by the public, and the court was crowded with all the beauty and fashion of Rouen. Though Jacques Rollet persisted in asserting his innocence, founding his defense chiefly on circumstances which were strongly corroborated by the information that had reached De Chaulieu the preceding evening,—he was convicted.

In spite of the very strong doubts he privately entertained respecting the justice of the verdict, even De Chaulieu himself, in the first flush of success, amidst a crowd of congratulating friends, and the approving smiles of his mistress, felt gratified and happy; his speech had, for the time being, not only convinced others, but himself; warmed with his own eloquence, he believed what he said. But when the glow was over, and he found himself alone, he did not feel so comfortable. A latent doubt of Rollet's guilt now burnt strongly in his mind, and he felt that the blood of the innocent would be on his head. It is true there was yet time to save the life of the prisoner, but to admit Jacques innocent, was to take the glory out of his own speech, and turn the sting of his argument against himself. Besides, if he produced the witness who had secretly given him the information, he should be self-condemned, for he could not conceal that he had been aware of the circumstance before the trial.

Matters having gone so far, therefore, it was necessary that Jacques Rollet should die; so the affair took its course; and early one morning the guillotine was erected in the court-yard of the jail, three criminals ascended the scaffold, and three heads fell into the basket, which were presently afterward, with the trunks that had been attached to them, buried in a corner of the cemetery.

Antoine de Chaulieu was now fairly started in his career, and his success was as rapid as the first step toward it had been tardy. He took a pretty apartment in the Hotel Marboeuf, Rue Grange-Bateliere, and in a short time was looked upon as one of the most rising young advocates in Paris. His success in one line brought him success in another; he was soon a favorite in society, and an object of interest to speculating mothers; but his affections still adhered to his old love Natalie de Bellefonds, whose family now gave their assent to the match—at least, prospectively—a circumstance which furnished such an additional incentive to his exertions, that in about two years from the date of his first brilliant speech, he was in a sufficiently flourishing condition to offer the young lady a suitable home. In anticipation of the happy event, he engaged and furnished a suite of apartments in the Rue du Helder; and as it was necessary that the bride should come to Paris to provide her trousseau, it was agreed that the wedding should take place there, instead of at Bellefonds, as had been first projected; an arrangement the more desirable, that a press of business rendered Mons. de Chaulieu's absence from Paris inconvenient.

Brides and bridegrooms in France, except of the very high classes, are not much in the habit of making those honeymoon excursions so universal in this country. A day spent in visiting Versailles or St. Cloud, or even the public places of the city, is generally all that precedes the settling down into the habits of daily life. In the present instance St. Denis was selected, from the circumstance of Natalie's having a younger sister at school there; and also because she had a particular desire to see the Abbey.

The wedding was to take place on a Thursday; and on the Wednesday evening, having spent some hours most agreeably with Natalie, Antoine de Chaulieu returned to spend his last night in his bachelor apartments. His wardrobe and other small possessions, had already been packed up and sent to his future home; and there was nothing left in his room now, but his new wedding suit, which he inspected with considerable satisfaction before he undressed and lay down to sleep. Sleep, however, was somewhat slow to visit him; and the clock had struck one, before he closed his eyes. When he opened them again, it was broad daylight; and his first thought was, had he overslept himself! He sat up in bed to look at the clock which was exactly opposite, and as he did so, in the large mirror over the fireplace, he perceived a figure standing behind him. As the dilated eyes met his own, he saw it was the face of Jacques Rollet. Overcome with horror he sunk back on his pillow, and it was some minutes before he ventured to look again in that direction; when he did so, the figure had disappeared.

The sudden revulsion of feeling such a vision was calculated to occasion in a man elate with joy, may be conceived! For some time after the death of his former foe, he had been visited by not unfrequent twinges of conscience; but of late, borne along by success, and the hurry of Parisian life, these unpleasant remembrances had grown rarer, till at length they had faded away altogether. Nothing had been further from his thoughts than Jacques Rollet, when he closed his eyes on the preceding night, nor when he opened them to that sun which was to shine on what he expected to be the happiest day of his life! Where were the high-strung nerves now! The elastic frame! The bounding heart!

Heavily and slowly he arose from his bed, for it was time to do so; and with a trembling hand and quivering knees, he went through the processes of the toilet, gashing his cheek with the razor, and spilling the water over his well polished boots. When he was dressed, scarcely venturing to cast a glance in the mirror as he passed it, he quitted the room and descended the stairs, taking the key of the door with him for the purpose of leaving it with the porter; the man, however, being absent, he laid it on the table in his lodge, and with a relaxed and languid step proceeded on his way to the church, where presently arrived the fair Natalie and her friends. How difficult it was now to look happy, with that pallid face and extinguished eye!

"How pale you are! Has anything happened? You are surely ill?" were the exclamations that met him on all sides. He tried to carry it off as well as he could, but felt that the movements he would have wished to appear alert were only convulsive; and that the smiles with which he attempted to relax his features, were but distorted grimaces. However, the church was not the place for further inquiries; and while Natalie gently pressed his hand in token of sympathy, they advanced to the altar, and the ceremony was performed; after which they stepped into the carriages waiting at the door, and drove to the apartments of Madme. de Bellefonds, where an elegant dejeuner was prepared.

"What ails you, my dear husband?" inquired Natalie, as soon as they were alone.

"Nothing, love," he replied; "nothing. I assure you, but a restless night and a little overwork, in order that I might have to-day free to enjoy my happiness!"

"Are you quite sure? Is there nothing else?"

"Nothing, indeed; and pray don't take notice of it, it only makes me worse!"

Natalie was not deceived, but she saw that what he said was true; notice made him worse; so she contented herself with observing him quietly, and saying nothing; but, as he felt she was observing him, she might almost better have spoken; words are often less embarrassing things than too curious eyes.

When they reached Madame de Bellefonds' he had the same sort of questioning and scrutiny to undergo, till he grew quite impatient under it, and betrayed a degree of temper altogether unusual to him. Then everybody looked astonished; some whispered their remarks, and others expressed them by their wondering eyes, till his brow knit, and his pallid cheeks became flushed with anger. Neither could he divert attention by eating; his parched mouth would not allow him to swallow anything but liquids, of which, however, he indulged in copious libations; and it was an exceeding relief to him when the carriage, which was to convey them to St. Denis, being announced, furnished an excuse for hastily leaving the table. Looking at his watch, he declared it was late; and Natalie, who saw how eager he was to be gone, threw her shawl over her shoulders, and bidding her friends good morning, they hurried away.

It was a fine sunny day in June; and, as they drove along the crowded boulevards, and through the Porte St. Denis, the young bride and bridegroom, to avoid each other's eyes, affected to be gazing out of the windows; but when they reached that part of the road where there was nothing but trees on each side, they felt it necessary to draw in their heads, and make an attempt at conversation. De Chaulieu put his arm round his wife's waist, and tried to rouse himself from his depression; but it had by this time so reacted upon her, that she could not respond to his efforts, and thus the conversation languished, till both felt glad when they reached their destination, which would, at all events, furnish them something to talk about.

Having quitted the carriage, and ordered a dinner at the Hotel de l'Abbaye, the young couple proceeded to visit Mademoiselle Hortense de Bellefonds, who was overjoyed to see her sister and new brother-in-law, and doubly so when she found that they had obtained permission to take her out to spend the afternoon with them. As there is little to be seen at St. Denis but the Abbey, on quitting that part of it devoted to education, they proceeded to visit the church, with its various objects of interest; and as De Chaulieu's thoughts were now forced into another direction, his cheerfulness began insensibly to return. Natalie looked so beautiful, too, and the affection betwixt the two young sisters was so pleasant to behold! And they spent a couple of hours wandering about with Hortense, who was almost as well informed as the Suisse, till the brazen doors were open which admitted them to the royal vault. Satisfied, at length, with what they had seen, they began to think of returning to the inn, the more especially as De Chaulieu, who had not eaten a morsel of food since the previous evening, owned to being hungry; so they directed their steps to the door, lingering here and there as they went, to inspect a monument or a painting, when, happening to turn his head aside to see if his wife, who had stopt to take a last look at the tomb of King Dagobert, was following, he beheld with horror the face of Jacques Rollet appearing from behind a column! At the same instant, his wife joined him, and took his arm, inquiring if he was not very much delighted with what he had seen. He attempted to say yes, but the word would not be forced out; and staggering out of the door, he alleged that a sudden faintness had overcome him.

They conducted him to the Hotel, but Natalie now became seriously alarmed; and well she might. His complexion looked ghastly, his limbs shook, and his features bore an expression of indescribable horror and anguish. What could be the meaning of so extraordinary a change in the gay, witty, prosperous De Chaulieu, who, till that morning, seemed not to have a care in the world? For, plead illness as he might, she felt certain, from the expression of his features, that his sufferings were not of the body but of the mind; and, unable to imagine any reason for such extraordinary manifestations, of which she had never before seen a symptom, but a sudden aversion to herself, and regret for the step he had taken, her pride took the alarm, and, concealing the distress she really felt, she began to assume a haughty and reserved manner toward him, which he naturally interpreted into an evidence of anger and contempt. The dinner was placed upon the table, but Du Chaulieu's appetite of which he had lately boasted, was quite gone, nor was his wife better able to eat. The young sister alone did justice to the repast; but although the bridegroom could not eat, he could swallow champagne in such copious draughts, that ere long the terror and remorse that the apparition of Jacques Rollet had awakened in his breast were drowned in intoxication. Amazed and indignant, poor Natalie sat silently observing this elect of her heart, till overcome with disappointment and grief, she quitted the room with her sister, and retired to another apartment, where she gave free vent to her feelings in tears.

After passing a couple of hours in confidences and lamentations, they recollected that the hours of liberty granted, as an especial favor, to Mademoiselle Hortense, had expired; but ashamed to exhibit her husband in his present condition to the eyes of strangers, Natalie prepared to re-conduct her to the Maison Royale herself. Looking into the dining-room as they passed, they saw De Chaulieu lying on a sofa fast asleep, in which state he continued when his wife returned. At length, however, the driver of their carriage begged to know if Monsieur and Madame were ready to return to Paris, and it became necessary to arouse him. The transitory effects of the champagne had now sub sided; but when De Chaulieu recollected what had happened, nothing could exceed his shame and mortification. So engrossing indeed were these sensations that they quite overpowered his previous ones, and, in his present vexation, he, for the moment, forgot his fears. He knelt at his wife's feet, begged her pardon a thousand times, swore that he adored her, and declared that the illness and the effect of the wine had been purely the consequences of fasting and over-work. It was not the easiest thing in the world to reassure a woman whose pride, affection, and taste, had been so severely wounded; but Natalie tried to believe, or to appear to do so, and a sort of reconciliation ensued, not quite sincere on the part of the wife, and very humbling on the part of the husband. Under these circumstances it was impossible that he should recover his spirits or facility of manner; his gayety was forced, his tenderness constrained; his heart was heavy within him; and ever and anon the source whence all this disappointment and woe had sprung would recur to his perplexed, tortured mind.

Thus mutually pained and distrustful, they returned to Paris, which they reached about nine o'clock. In spite of her depression, Natalie, who had not seen her new apartments, felt some curiosity about them, whilst De Chaulieu anticipated a triumph in exhibiting the elegant home he had prepared for her. With some alacrity, therefore, they stepped out of the carriage, the gates of the Hotel were thrown open, the concierge rang the bell which announced to the servants that their master and mistress had arrived, and whilst these domestics appeared above, holding lights over the balusters, Natalie, followed by her husband, ascended the stairs. But when they reached the landing-place of the first flight, they saw the figure of a man standing in a corner as if to make way for them; the flash from above fell upon his face, and again Antoine de Chaulieu recognized the features of Jacques Rollet!

From the circumstance of his wife's preceding him, the figure was not observed by De Chaulieu till he was lifting his foot to place it on the top stair; the sudden shock caused him to miss the step, and, without uttering a sound, he fell back, and never stopped till he reached the stories at the bottom. The screams of Natalie brought the concierge from below and the maids from above, and an attempt was made to raise the unfortunate man from the ground; but with cries of anguish he besought them to desist.

"Let me," he said, "die here! What a fearful vengeance is thine! Oh, Natalie, Natalie!" he exclaimed to his wife, who was kneeling beside him, "to win fame, and fortune, and yourself, I committed a dreadful crime! With lying words I argued away the life of a fellow-creature, whom, whilst I uttered them, I half believed to be innocent: and now, when I have attained all I desired, and reached the summit of my hopes, the Almighty has sent him back upon the earth to blast me with the sight. Three times this day—three times this day! Again! again!"—and as he spoke, his wild and dilated eyes fixed themselves on one of the individuals that surrounded him.

"He is delirious," said they.

"No," said the stranger! "What he says is true enough,—at least in part;" and bending over the expiring man, he added, "May Heaven forgive you, Antoine de Chaulieu! I was not executed; one who well knew my innocence saved my life. I may name him, for he is beyond the reach of the law now,—it was Claperon, the jailer, who loved Claudine, and had himself killed Alphonse de Bellefonds from jealousy. An unfortunate wretch had been several years in the jail for a murder committed during the frenzy of a fit of insanity. Long confinement had reduced him to idiocy. To save my life Claperon substituted the senseless being for me, on the scaffold, and he was executed in my stead. He has quitted the country, and I have been a vagabond on the face of the earth ever since that time. At length I obtained, through the assistance of my sister, the situation of concierge in the Hotel Marboeuf, in the Rue Grange Bateliere. I entered on my new place yesterday evening, and was desired to awaken the gentleman on the third floor at seven o'clock. When I entered the room to do so, you were asleep, but before I had time to speak you awoke, and I recognized your features in the glass. Knowing that I could not vindicate my innocence if you chose to seize me, I fled, and seeing an omnibus starting for St. Denis, I got on it with a vague idea of getting on to Calais, and crossing the Channel to England. But having only a franc or two in my pocket, or indeed in the world, I did not know how to procure the means of going forward; and whilst I was lounging about the place, forming first one plan and then another, I saw you in the church, and concluding you wore in pursuit of me, I thought the best way of eluding your vigilance was to make my way back to Paris as fast as I could; so I set off instantly, and walked all the way; but having no money to pay my night's lodging, I came here to borrow a couple of livres of my sister Claudine, who lives in the fifth story."

"Thank Heaven!" exclaimed the dying man; "that sin is off my soul! Natalie, dear wife, farewell! Forgive! forgive all!"

These were the last words he uttered; the priest, who had been summoned in haste, held up the cross before his failing sight; a few strong convulsions shook the poor bruised and mangled frame; and then all was still.

And thus ended the Young Advocate's Wedding Day.

* * * * *



Quiet enough, in general, is the quaint old town of Lamborough. Why all this bustle to-day? Along the hedge-bound roads which lead to it, carts, chaises, vehicles of every description are jogging along filled with countrymen; and here and there the scarlet cloak or straw bonnet of some female occupying a chair, placed somewhat unsteadily behind them, contrasts gaily with the dark coats, or gray smock-frocks of the front row; from every cottage of the suburb, some individuals join the stream, which rolls on increasing through the streets till it reaches the castle. The ancient moat teems with idlers, and the hill opposite, usually the quiet domain of a score or two of peaceful sheep, partakes of the surrounding agitation.

The voice of the multitude which surrounds the court-house, sounds like the murmur of the sea, till suddenly it is raised to a sort of shout. John West, the terror of the surrounding country, the sheep-stealer and burglar, had been found guilty.

"What is the sentence?" is asked by a hundred voices.

The answer is "Transportation for Life."

But there was one standing aloof on the hill, whose inquiring eye wandered over the crowd with indescribable anguish, whose pallid cheek grew more and more ghastly at every denunciation of the culprit, and who, when at last the sentence was pronounced, fell insensible upon the green-sward. It was the burglar's son.

When the boy recovered from his swoon, it was late in the afternoon; he was alone; the faint tinkling of the sheep-bell had again replaced the sound of the human chorus of expectation, and dread, and jesting; all was peaceful, he could not understand why he lay there, feeling so weak and sick. He raised himself tremulously and looked around, the turf was cut and spoilt by the trampling of many feet. All his life of the last few months floated before his memory, his residence in his father's hovel with ruffianly comrades, the desperate schemes he heard as he pretended to sleep on his lowly bed, their expeditions at night, masked and armed, their hasty returns, the news of his father's capture, his own removal to the house of some female in the town, the court, the trial, the condemnation.

The father had been a harsh and brutal parent, but he had not positively ill-used his boy. Of the Great and Merciful Father of the fatherless the child knew nothing. He deemed himself alone in the world. Yet grief was not his pervading feeling, nor the shame, of being known as the son of a transport. It was revenge which burned within him. He thought of the crowd which had come to feast upon his father's agony; he longed to tear them to pieces, and he plucked savagely a handful of the grass on which he leant. Oh, that he were a man! that he could punish them all—all,—the spectators first the constables, the judge, the jury, the witnesses,—one of them especially, a clergyman named Leyton, who had given his evidence more positively, more clearly, than all the others. Oh, that he could do that man some injury,—but for him his father would not have been identified and convicted.

Suddenly a thought occurred to him,—his eyes sparkled with fierce delight. "I know where he lives," he said to himself; "he has the farm and parsonage of Millwood. I will go there at once,—it is almost dark already. I will do as I have heard father say he once did to the Squire. I will set his barns and his house on fire. Yes, yes, he shall burn for it,—he shall get no more fathers transported."

To procure a box of matches was an easy task, and that was all the preparation the boy made.

The autumn was far advanced. A cold wind was beginning to moan amongst the almost leafless trees, and George West's teeth chattered, and his ill-clad limbs grew numb as he walked along the fields leading to Millwood. "Lucky it's a dark night; this fine wind will fan the flame nicely," he repeated to himself.

The clock was striking nine, but all was quiet as midnight; not a soul stirring, not a light in the parsonage windows that he could see. He dared not open the gate, lest the click of the latch should betray him, so he softly climbed over; but scarcely had he dropped on the other side of the wall before the loud barking of a dog startled him. He cowered down behind the hay-rick, scarcely daring to breathe, expecting each instant that the dog would spring upon him. It was some time before the boy dared to stir, and as his courage cooled, his thirst for revenge somewhat subsided also, till he almost determined to return to Lamborough; but he was too tired, too cold, too hungry,—besides, the woman would beat him for staying out so late. What could he do? where should he go? and as the sense of his lonely and forlorn position returned, so did also the affectionate remembrance of his father, his hatred of his accusers, his desire to satisfy his vengeance; and, once more, courageous through anger, he rose, took the box from his pocket, and boldly drew one of them across the sand-paper. It flamed; he stuck it hastily in the stack against which he rested,—it only flickered a little, and went out. In great trepidation, young West once more grasped the whole of the remaining matches in his hand and ignited them, but at the same instant the dog barked. He hears the gate open, a step is close to him, the matches are extinguished, the lad makes a desperate effort to escape,—but a strong hand was laid on his shoulder, and a deep calm voice inquired, "What can have urged you to such a crime?" Then calling loudly, the gentleman, without relinquishing his hold, soon obtained the help of some farming men, who commenced a search with their lanterns all about the farm. Of course they found no accomplices, nothing at all but the handful of half-consumed matches the lad had dropped, and he all that time stood trembling, and occasionally struggling, beneath the firm, but not rough grasp of the master who held him.

At last the men were told to return to the house, and thither, by a different path, was George led till they entered a small, poorly-furnished room. The walls were covered with books, as the bright flame of the fire revealed to the anxious gaze of the little culprit. The clergyman lit a lamp, and surveyed his prisoner attentively. The lad's eyes were fixed on the ground, whilst Mr. Leyton's wandered from his pale, pinched features to his scanty, ragged attire, through the tatters of which he could discern the thin limbs quivering from cold or fear; and when at last impelled by curiosity at the long silence, George looked up, there was something so sadly compassionate in the stranger's gentle look, that the boy could scarcely believe that he was really the man whose evidence had mainly contributed to transport his father. At the trial he had been unable to see his face, and nothing so kind had over gazed upon him. His proud bad feelings were already melting.

"You look half-starved," said Mr. Leyton, "draw nearer to the fire, you can sit down on that stool whilst I question you; and mind you answer me the truth. I am not a magistrate, but of course can easily hand you over to justice if you will not allow me to benefit you in my own way."

George still stood twisting his ragged cap in his trembling fingers, and with so much emotion depicted on his face, that the good clergyman resumed, in still more soothing accents: "I have no wish to do you anything but good, my poor boy; look up at me, and see if you cannot trust me; you need not be thus frightened. I only desire to hear the tale of misery your appearance indicates, to relieve it if I can."

Here the young culprit's heart smote him. Was this the man whose house he had tried to burn? On whom he had wished to bring ruin and perhaps death? Was it a snare spread for him to lead to confession? But when he looked on that grave compassionate countenance, he felt that it was not.

"Come, my lad, tell me all."

George had for years heard little but oaths, and curses, and ribald jests, or the thief's jargon of his father's associates, and had been constantly cuffed and punished; but the better part of his nature was not extinguished; and at those words from the mouth of his enemy, he dropped on his knees, and clasping his hands, tried to speak: but could only sob. He had not wept before during that day of anguish; and now his tears gushed forth so freely, his grief was so passionate as he half knelt, half rested on the floor, that the good questioner saw that sorrow must have its course ere calm could be restored.

The young penitent still wept, when a knock was heard at the door, and a lady entered. It was the clergyman's wife; he kissed her as she asked how he had succeeded with the wicked man in the jail.

"He told me," replied Mr. Leyton, "that he had a son whose fate tormented him more than his punishment. Indeed his mind was so distracted respecting the youth, that he was scarcely able to understand my exhortations. He entreated me with agonizing energy to save his son from such a life as he had led, and gave me the address of a woman in whose house he lodged. I was, however, unable to find the boy in spite of many earnest inquiries."

"Did you hear his name?" asked the wife.

"George West," was the reply.

At the mention of his name, the boy ceased to sob. Breathlessly he heard the account of his father's last request, of the benevolent clergyman's wish to fulfill it. He started up, ran toward the door, and endeavored to open it; Mr. Leyton calmly restrained him. "You must not escape," he said.

"I cannot stop here. I cannot bear to look at you. Let me go!" The lad said this wildly, and shook himself away.

"Why, I intend you nothing but kindness."

A new flood of tears gushed forth; and George West said between his sobs,

"Whilst you were searching for me to help me, I was trying to burn you in your house. I cannot bear it." He sunk on his knees, and covered his face with both hands.

There was a long silence, for Mr. and Mrs. Leyton were as much moved as the boy, who was bowed down with shame and penitence, to which hitherto he had been a stranger.

At last the clergyman asked, "What could have induced you to commit such a crime?"

Rising suddenly in the excitement of remorse, gratitude, and many feelings new to him, he hesitated for a moment, and then told his story; he related his trials, his sins, his sorrows, his supposed wrongs, his burning anger at the terrible fate of his only parent, and his rage at the exultation of the crowd: his desolation on recovering from his swoon, his thirst for vengeance, the attempt to satisfy it. He spoke with untaught, child-like simplicity, without attempting to suppress the emotions which successively overcame him.

When he ceased, the lady hastened to the crouching boy, and soothed him with gentle words. The very tones of her voice were new to him. They pierced his heart more acutely than the fiercest of the upbraidings and denunciations of his old companions. He looked on his merciful benefactors with bewildered tenderness. He kissed Mrs. Leyton's hand then gently laid on his shoulder. He gazed about like one in a dream who dreaded to wake. He became faint and staggered. He was laid gently on a sofa, and Mr. and Mrs. Leyton left him.

Food was shortly administered to him, and after a time, when his senses had become sufficiently collected, Mr. Leyton returned to the study, and explained holy and beautiful things, which were new to the neglected boy: of the great yet loving Father; of Him who loved the poor, forlorn wretch, equally with the richest, and noblest, and happiest; of the force and efficacy of the sweet beatitude, "Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall obtain Mercy."

I heard this story from Mr. Leyton, during a visit to him in May. George West was then head-plowman to a neighboring farmer, one of the cleanest, best behaved, and moat respected laborers in the parish.

* * * * *



The Russian is eminently fitted for a soldier's life; his education is almost as martial as if he had been brought up in a camp; for his relatives and neighbors hold their lands by military tenure, and love to talk together of the days when they served in the wars. All, from the highest order to the lowest, look to the fulfillment of their ancient prophecy, that "All the world is to be conquered by the arms of Russia." Should some man of resplendent genius, like Suwarrow, chance to command, there is no calculating on the position to which the Russian army might attain. Suwarrow was not alone fitted to lead an army, but was exactly the general to form one: his frankness and generosity, and the manner in which his habits identified him with his soldiers, endeared him to the army; while his religious feelings and exercises, and the habit of participating in some of their superstitions, sanctified him in the eyes of the men, and gave him unbounded influence. Some of the anecdotes with which we have met exhibit feelings for which we were but little inclined to give the devoted warrior credit, for most certainly we should never have sought in rude camps, and among wild Cossacks, for gentle affections and tender emotions; and yet even there they may be found; and we see that he whose whole existence was nearly an uninterrupted series of military exploits, was by no means devoid of those congenial sympathies which make up the charm of domestic life.... This is the more worthy of observation, as he has been regarded by many as something not far removed from an ogre—an impression which the barbarous warfare carried on between the Turks and Cossacks, in which he took such a prominent part, seemed to justify; coupled as it has been, too, with the story of his having packed up in a sack the heads of the Janissaries who had fallen by his hand, for the purpose of laying them at the feet of his general. The spirit of the times, and of those with whom his lot was cast, must be looked to as some palliation for the savage conflicts in which he was engaged. That they had not hardened his heart against all tender emotions is surprising.

Pierre Alexis Wasiltowitch, Count Suwarrow, was born in 1730, in Moscow, according to his biographer, of a Swedish family. He began his military career when but twelve years of age, having been placed in the School of Young Cadets in St. Petersburgh by his father. He was a mere boy when he entered the Russian service as a private soldier. For some years he was not advanced beyond the rank of a subaltern. From the earliest age the decision and originality of his character were developed, and he was not long in perceiving his own superiority to those by whom he was commanded. This conviction rendered the control to which he was forced to submit extremely distasteful, and made him determine to raise himself from a subordinate situation. To determine was to achieve, in one possessed of his powers of mind and matchless energy. The singularity of his bearing was very remarkable, and as he lost no opportunity of rendering it conspicuous, it soon attracted observation, which was all that was necessary for the discovery of the extraordinary intellectual powers which he possessed. Thus recommended by his superior abilities, his advancement was rapid. Before he was twenty-nine he was a lieutenant-colonel. His reliance on his own unaided powers was so entire, that he could ill brook the thought of considering himself bound by obedience to any one. When speaking at a later period on the subject, he said, "When my sovereign does me the honor to give me the command of her armies, she supposes me capable of guiding them to victory; and how can she pretend to know better than an old soldier like myself, who am on the spot, the road which leads to it? So, whenever her orders are in opposition to her true interests, I take it for granted that they are suggested by the enmity of her courtiers, and I act in conformity to what appears to me most conducive to her glory." On some occasions he acted in accordance with this declaration, and on a very remarkable one showed that he was justified in the dependence which he had on his own judgment; but whether his acting on it was defensible, must be left to the martinets to determine. In the year 1771, during the campaign, when he held the rank of major-general, he found that the Grand Marshal of Lithuania was assembling the Poles at Halowitz, of which he directly apprised the commander-in-chief, Marshal Boutourlin, and demanded leave to attack them. Boutourlin, who was a cautious man, thought such a risk should not be attempted, as Suwarrow had but a few hundred men under him, and therefore decidedly forbade any attack. At the same time, an account reached Suwarrow that the Regiment of Petersburgh had just been beaten by the Poles, whose numbers amounted to five thousand men, and were increasing every day. Fired by the intelligence, he at once determined on action, and advanced at the head of a thousand men to the attack. Every danger but excited him to additional exertion. In four days he marched fifty leagues, surprised the Poles at dead of night, and beat and dispersed them. He took the town of Halowitz and twelve pieces of cannon. His victory was complete, but he had disobeyed orders; and according to all rules of military discipline he deserved punishment. It was thus he announced his success to the commander of the army:

"As a soldier I have disobeyed—I ought to be punished—I have sent you my sword; but as a Russian I have done my duty in destroying the Confederate forces, which we could not have resisted had they been left time to unite."

Boutourlin was in the utmost astonishment, and quite at a loss what steps he should take. He laid Suwarrow's extraordinary dispatch before the Empress, and requested her orders as to the manner in which he should act. Catharine lost no time in addressing Suwarrow:

"Your commander, Marshal Boutourlin, ought to put you under arrest, to punish military insubordination. As your sovereign, I reserve to myself the pleasure of rewarding a faithful subject, who by a splendid action has well served his country."

The Order of St. Alexander accompanied this gracious letter. Never was commander more loved by his soldiers than Suwarrow. Like Napoleon, he shared their hardships and privations as well as their dangers. He would often pass the cold winter nights in their bivouac and partake of their humble fare. In every difficulty he kept up their spirits by his alacrity and cheerfulness. However tinctured with superstition, he had deep devotional feelings; and it is stated that he never went to battle without offering up a prayer, and that it was his first and last occupation every day. Often when provisions were failing he would order a fast to be observed by the troops, as a token of humiliation for their sins: and he always set the example of the prescribed abstinence himself. The noble self-denial which made him scorn any care for himself which was beyond the reach of the common soldiers, so thoroughly identified him with them, that all their tender sympathies were with him, as much as their respect and veneration. He was never seen on the long and heavy marches of his infantry but on foot by their side; and in every advance of his cavalry he was at their head on horseback. He worked indefatigably with them in the trenches, and in all their military operations. When the war broke out afresh with the Turks in the year 1785, he was surprised in the town of Kenburn by an advance of a great body of Osmanli horse; his troops were scattered through the adjacent country, and could not be brought together without great difficulty—a successful attack had been made upon one his generals. When the news was brought to him he betrayed no agitation, but instantly repaired to the church, where he directed that a Te Deum should be chanted as for a victory. This he might have done to show his firm trust in the prophesied success of the Russian arms, even under discouragement. He joined in the chant with animated fervor. As soon as the service was over he placed himself a the head of a small body of troops which were in waiting, and hastened to meet the enemy, who were coming on in considerable force. By a most desperate onset he drove them back, but in the engagement he was wounded; and his soldiers, no longer animated by his presence, became disheartened, and fled in confusion. Suwarrow leaped from the litter in which he was carried—all bleeding and wounded as he was—and springing on horseback, exclaimed, "I am still alive, my children!" This was the rallying cry—he led them on to victory.

Of all the brilliant achievements of Suwarrow, there was none more wonderful than the conquest of Ismail. It had stood out against two sieges, and was considered almost impregnable. The Empress, provoked at its not having yielded, gave an absolute order that it should be taken. Potemkin, who was then at the head of the Russian army, dreaded Catharine's displeasure should she be disappointed the third time. In his embarrassment he consulted with Suwarrow, who undertook the conduct of the siege. Notwithstanding the great danger of an enterprise which had failed twice, he felt confident of success; and said, with earnest faith in the result, "The Empress wills it—we must obey!"

After a forced march of four days he reached Ismail at the head of his troops. A few days were spent in the preparations necessary for an assault. When all was ready, orders were given: the column marched forward at midnight. At that moment a courier rode up at full speed with dispatches from Potemkin. Suwarrow was no sooner apprised of his arrival than he guessed with his usual quickness the nature of the dispatches, and he determined not to receive them till the fate of the enterprise was decided. He ordered his horse to be brought round to the door of his tent; he sprang on it and galloped off, without seeming to observe the courier. After a desperate resistance the Turks at length gave way, and Ismail fell into the hands of the Russians. With his staff gathered eagerly round Suwarrow to offer their congratulations, the eyes of the Marshal fell upon the officer who bore the dispatches.

"Who are you, brother?" said he.

"It is I," replied the courier, "who brought dispatches from Prince Potemkin yesterday evening."

"What!" exclaimed Suwarrow, with affected passion,—"what! you bring me news from my sovereign!—you have been here since yesterday, and I have not yet received the dispatches!" Then threatening the officer for his negligence, he handed the dispatch to one of his generals and bade him read it aloud.

A more striking scene can scarcely be conceived. There was deep silence as the dispatch was opened. Suwarrow and his companions in victory listened with breathless interest. Every danger which they had braved and surmounted was enumerated one after the other. It was urged that an enterprise undertaken in the midst of a winter even more than usually severe, must be disastrous, and that it was absolutely preposterous to think it possible to make an impression on a fortress furnished with 230 pieces of cannon and defended by 43,000 men, the half of whom were Janissaries, with a force that amounted to no more than 28,000—little more than half their number. The dispatch ended with a peremptory order for the abandonment of the enterprise.

"Thank God!" exclaimed Suwarrow, as soon as the general had ceased reading, raising his eyes to heaven and crossing himself with devotion, "thank God, Ismail is taken, or I should have been undone!"

There was silence for a moment, as if all participated in the feeling with which Suwarrow glanced at the different situation which would have been his had he not succeeded; every eye was fixed on him, and then a sudden shout of triumph burst through all the ranks. He then penned the following brief reply: "The Russian flag flies on the ramparts of Ismail."

It is not to our purpose to follow the victorious steps of Suwarrow through the campaigns in which he was engaged; they are now a part of history, and won for him that military glory after which his heart panted from his early boyhood. Decoration after decoration, honor after honor: title after title, marked the high estimation in which the services of this intrepid soldier were held by his sovereign; and never did ruler dispense favors with a more munificent hand than Catharine. What most attracted us, and from which we most wished to make a selection, were those characteristic traits which brought us in a manner personally acquainted with Suwarrow. In person Suwarrow was unlike what the imagination would picture. He was but five feet one inch in height, and of a fragile form; his mouth was large, and his features plain; but his countenance was full of fire, vivacity, and penetration. When he was moved, it became severe, commanding, and even terrible; but this seldom happened, and never without some powerful cause. His brow was much wrinkled, but as it seemed to be so from deep thinking it gave still greater expression to his face. Though of a form which appeared delicate and feeble, no one could endure greater fatigue. This may be attributed to his active and temperate habits, and to the wonderful energy of his mind. He was most certainly able to use more exertion and undergo more hardship and toil than most people of a robust frame. The spirit "which burned within him" was indeed equal to any effort. The only weak point in his character was the horror which he had of being reminded in any way of his age as he advanced in life: he most carefully avoided everything which could make him think of it. All the looking-glasses in his house were either removed or so completely covered that he could not catch even a transient glimpse of his face or person. He often joked about his personal appearance, but said that he had all his life avoided looking at himself in the glass, solely that he might not perceive the change which years bring, and which might perhaps make him suppose himself growing too old for military pursuits. Be this as it may, he never would look near a mirror. If he happened to go into a room where there was one, the very moment he perceived it he shut his eyes, made all manner of odd faces, and ran by it at his utmost speed out of the room. When a chair chanced to be in his way he jumped over it, to show that he retained his activity; and for the same reason he always ran in and out of the room. It was but seldom that he was seen to move at a slower pace. When in the company of strangers he even quickened the speed of his motions, and exhibited the most droll antics to impress upon their minds that he was still equal to take the field. It was the custom to rise early—never later at any time of the year than four o'clock, and often even at midnight—to the end of his life. As soon as he rose he was well drenched with cold water, even in the depth of the most severe winter. He generally dined in winter at eight o'clock in the morning, and in summer at seven. Dinner was his principal meal. Though his cookery could not have been very tempting, as it was made up of ill-dressed Cossack ragouts, nobody ventured to find any fault with it, and his good appetite made it palatable to himself. He never sat down to a meal without a thanksgiving or an invocation for a blessing. If any among his guests did not take part in the grace by responding "Amen," he would say, "Those who have not said amen shall have no eau de vie." He never took any refreshment through the rest of the day, but a few cups of tea or coffee. He never exceeded at table, but was fond of sitting long after dinner. This habit he wished to correct, and gave his aid-de-camp, Tichinka, directions to order him from table whenever he thought he was remaining too long; and this was to be managed after the fashion which he prescribed. When the injunction was obeyed, he would ask, "By whose order?" When Tichinka made reply, "By Marshal Suwarrow's order," he immediately rose from table, and said, with a smile, "Very well: the marshal must be obeyed." According to his desire the same ceremony was gone through when he was too sedentary, and as soon as he was told by his aid-de-camp that Marshal Suwarrow had ordered him to go out he instantly complied. As he was unlike every one, so he dressed like nobody else. He wore whole boots so wide that they fell about his heels. His waistcoat and breeches were of white dimity; the lining and collar of the waistcoat were of green cloth; his little helmet of felt was ornamented with green fringe. This was his military dress throughout the whole year, except when the weather was intensely cold, and then he substituted white cloth for the dimity. His appearance was still more strange from his frequently leaving the garter and stocking hanging loose upon one leg, while the other was booted; but as the boot was thus occasionally discarded in consequence of a wound in the leg, it was nothing to laugh at. His long sabre trailed along the ground, and his thin dress hung loosely about his slight person. Equipped in this extraordinary manner it was that Suwarrow reviewed, harangued, and commanded his soldiers. On great occasions he appeared in his superb dress as field-marshal, and wore the profusion of splendid ornaments which had been bestowed on the occasion of his victories. Among them was the magnificent golden-hilted sword, studded with jewels, and the gorgeous plume of diamonds which he had received from the hand of the Empress, among other marks of distinction, for his extraordinary services at Aczakoff. At other times he wore no ornament but the chain of the order of St. Andrew. He carried no watch or ornaments with him, save those which commemorated his military exploits. On these he delighted to look, as they were associated in his mind with the most gratifying events of his life—his glory, and the favor of his sovereign. He would sometimes show them to a stranger, exhibiting them one by one, and setting his stamp of value on each, as he would say, "At such an action I gained this order—at such another, this;" and so on till he had told the remarkable occurrence to which he owed the possession of each—a pride that was natural in one who had earned them so bravely. His whole style of living was marked by the greatest simplicity. He preferred the plainest apartment, without any article of luxury: he scarcely ever slept in a house when his troops were encamped; and he not only stayed in his tent at night, but for the most part of the day, only entering the house appropriated to his staff at dinner-time. Throughout his whole military career he had never passed an entire night in bed. He stretched himself, when he lay down to rest, on a bundle of hay; nor would he indulge himself in a more luxurious couch, even in the palace of the Empress. He had no carriage, but a plain kibitk, (a sort of chariot,) drawn by hired horses, for he kept no horses; but when he required one, as on the occasion of a review or some other military operation, he mounted any which chanced to be at hand. Sometimes it belonged to one of the Cossacks, but oftener was lent to him by his aid-de-camp, Tichinka. He was without servants, keeping but one attendant to wait upon himself, and employing some of the soldiers in the service of his house. This mode of living arose not from parsimony, but from an utter indifference to any kind of indulgence, which he considered beneath a soldier's attention. He had a contempt for money as a means of procuring gratification, but valued it as often affording him the pleasure of being generous and kind. He gave up his entire share of the immense booty at Ismail, and divided it among his soldiers. He never carried any money about him, or asked the price of anything, but left all to the management of Tichinka. His strictness in doing what he considered just, when he conceived himself in the slightest degree accountable, was very remarkable. On one occasion an officer had lost at play sixty rubles, with which he had supplied himself from the military chest. Suwarrow reprimanded the officer severely, but refunded the sum from his own resources. "It is right," said he, in a letter to the Empress, in which he alluded to the circumstance, "it is right that I should make it good, for I am answerable for the officers I employ." One of Suwarrow's odd peculiarities consisted in keeping up the appearance of a soldier at all times. When he saluted any person, he drew up, turned out his toes, threw back his shoulders, kept himself quite erect, and turned the back of his hand to his helmet, as soldiers do when saluting their officers. He was greatly attached to Tichinka, an old soldier, who had once saved his life. From that time he never separated from him: he made him his aid-de-camp, and gave him the sole management of all his affairs.

Suwarrow was very remarkable for his directness; and so great was his aversion to an evasive or unmeaning expression, that he never could bear the person who made use of such, and was sure to give him the name of Niesnion, which may be translated, "I don't know," "possibly," or "perhaps." He would take no such answer; but would say, in an emphatic tone, "try," "learn," or "set about it." Indeed, the abhorrence in which he held any mode of expression which was not dictated by the most perfect frankness was so great, that he could not endure the flattery and unmeaning civility of courtiers; and he never hesitated to mark his displeasure by bitter satire, regardless of the presence of those against whom it was directed, even if the Empress herself made one of the company. This caused him to be feared and disliked by many at court. His acquirements were considerable. He spoke eight languages—French, like a native. He composed verses with facility; he had read much, and was particularly well-informed in history and biography. Notwithstanding his remarkable frankness and all his oddities, his manners were engaging and polished: his conversation was original, energetic, and lively; he would often indulge in sallies of pleasantry to amuse the Empress, and as he was an excellent mimic, he would take off the uncouth manners and accents of some of the soldiers to the life. He had a dislike to writing, always asserting that a pen was an unfit implement for a soldier. His dispatches were laconic, but not the less striking on that account. Once or twice they were couched in concise couplets. His brevity was laid aside when he addressed his soldiers. It was his custom to harangue them at great length, sometimes even for two hours at a time, and in the very depth of winter.

"I remember," says M. de Guillaumanches, "that one day, in the month of January, he took it into his head to harangue a body of 10,000 men drawn up on parade at Varsovia. It was bitterly cold, and a freezing hoar frost came down from the sky. The marshal, in a waistcoat of white dimity, began his usual harangue. He soon found that the coldness of the weather made it seem long; accordingly, he stretched it to two hours. Almost all the generals, officers, and soldiers caught cold. The marshal was nothing the worse, and was even gayer than usual. His quarters rang with continued fits of coughing, and he seemed to enjoy hearing it. He had the satisfaction of thinking that he had taught his army to disregard fatigue, and winter with all its frosts."

M. de Guillaumanches speaks of the veneration which Suwarrow had for the ministers of his religion. He would often stop a priest on the road to implore his blessing. He loved to take part in their religious services and to join in their chants; but it is on the goodness of his heart that his biographer most delights to dwell. He tells us, "he was a kind relation, a sincere friend, and an affectionate father." In the midst of all his triumphs, it has been said that he was touched with pity and with sorrow for suffering humanity. "I asked him," says Mr. Tweddel, "if after the massacre of Ismail he was perfectly satisfied with the conduct of the day. He said, he went home and wept in his tent." Though Suwarrow spared but little time from his military avocation for social intercourse, his tenderness for children was so great that he could not bear to pass them without notice. He would stop, embrace, and bless them whenever he met them: that he fondly loved his own is sufficiently proved by the following anecdote:—

While on his way to join the army, thoughts of home were in his mind. He felt it might be long before he should see it in, if indeed, he should ever see it. He was seized with the most intense longing to look on his children once more. The desire became so irresistible, that he turned from the road he was traversing, and took that to Moscow. He rested neither day nor night till he got there. It was the middle of the night when he reached his house; he sprang lightly from his carriage, and knocked gently at the door. All the family were asleep. At length he was heard by one of the domestics, and let in. He stole on tiptoe to his children's room, and, withdrawing the curtains cautiously, for fear of disturbing them, bent over them; and, as he gazed on them in delight, they slept on, unconscious of their midnight visitor. Then throwing his arms gently over them, he held them for a moment in his fond embrace and left them a father's blessing, and then went away to join his troops.

After the death of Catharine, in the year 1796, there was a sad change in the fortunes of her faithful soldier. He served her successor with the same heroic devotion with which he had promoted her interest and glory. In 1799 he effected one of the most brilliant retreats that stand in the annals of history. Opposed in Italy by Moreau with an overwhelming force, when a retreat was resolved on he was so afflicted that he wrung his hands and wept bitterly. He led his troops over the heights of Switzerland into Germany with such consummate skill and undaunted energy as added fresh honors to his name. The dangers and difficulties of this memorable operation were such as would have been considered absolutely insurmountable by one less daring, and a commander less beloved could never have encouraged his troops to hold out against surrender. But they followed him in the midst of winter snows, through unknown and intricate paths and deep ravines; sometimes passing in what haste they could along the edge of frightful chasms and awful precipices, such as the weary traveler would tremble but to look at. Here they were frequently exposed to the fire of the enemy, who lay in ambush among the rocks, and ofttimes had to fight their way at the point of the bayonet. But still, even in retreat victorious, he achieved his object, and never yielded to the foe. He is the only general, it is stated, except Marlborough and Wellington, who was never defeated. The title of Prince Italisky was conferred to commemorate the glory of his having led his army unconquered in his retreat from Italy. He died the next year at St. Petersburgh. A broken heart was alleged by many to have been the fatal disease which ended his days. The indomitable spirit which is proof against danger, toil, and privation, may yet be borne down by the stings of ingratitude. The death of Suwarrow, so soon following his recall, and the indignities which he received at the hands of the emperor, tells in itself a tale of outraged feeling that needs no comment. It has been truly said that ridicule is more bitterly resented and more rarely forgiven than injury. The indulgence of a satiric humor, in some words spoken in jest by Suwarrow, is said to have piqued Paul so much that he took a cruel revenge. The rage of the emperor for the introduction of German fashions was so great, that he determined to have the German uniform adopted in the army.

When old Marshal Suwarrow got orders to introduce this uniform, and received little sticks for measures and models of the soldiers tails and side-curls, "Hair-powder," said he, "is not gunpowder, curls are not cannons, and tails are not bayonets." This, in the Russian language, falls into rhyme, and soon spread as a saying through the army: and having reached the emperor's ears, is said, in The Secret Memoirs of the Russian Court, to have been "the true cause which induced Paul to recall Suwarrow and dispense with his services."

The genius of Suwarrow was superior to every difficulty, and led him to fame and honors such as few have ever attained. Though born of a good family, he had neither money nor interest to advance him, but pushed his own fortunes from his boyhood. He rose to the rank of colonel when he was but twenty-nine. He was nominated general-in-chief for having compelled the Tartars to submit to the Russian arms. He was created a count, and obtained the surname of Rimnisky for a victory over the Turks near the river Rimnisky, by which he saved the Prince of Saxe Coburg and the imperial army. For his services in Poland he was made a field-marshal, and received the grant of an estate. In the year 1799 the title of Prince Italisky was conferred. This was the last favor shown: the following year saw him laid in the grave.

* * * * *




"Just under an island, 'midst rushes and moss, I was born of a rock-spring, and dew: I was shaded by trees, whose branches and leaves Ne'er suffered the sun to gaze through.

"I wandered around the steep brow of a hill, Where the daisies and violets fair Were shaking the mist from their wakening eyes, And pouring their breath on the air.

"Then I crept gently on, and I moistened the feet Of a shrub which infolded a nest— The bird in return sang his merriest song, And showed me his feathery crest.

"How joyous I felt in the bright afternoon, When the sun, riding off in the west, Came out in red gold from behind the green trees And burnished ray tremulous breast!

"My memory now can return to the time When the breeze murmured low plaintive tones, While I wasted the day in dancing away, Or playing with pebbles and stones.

"It points to the hour when the rain pattered down, Oft resting awhile in the trees; Then quickly descending it ruffled my calm, And whispered to me of the seas!

"'Twas then the first wish found a home in my breast To increase as time hurries along; 'Twas then I first learned to lisp softly the words Which I now love so proudly—'Press on!'

"I'll make wider my bed, as onward I tread, A deep mighty river I'll be— 'Press on' all the day will I sing on my way, Till I enter the far-spreading sea."

It ceased. A youth lingered beside its green edge Till the stars in its face brightly shone; He hoped the sweet strain would re-echo again— But he just heard a murmur—"Press on!"

* * * * *




I address you, gentlemen, as an humble individual who is much concerned about the body. This little joke is purely a professional one. It must go no farther. I am afraid the public thinks uncharitably of undertakers, and would consider it a proof that Dr. Johnson was right when he said that the man who would make a pun would pick a pocket. Well; we all try to do the best we can for ourselves—everybody else as well as undertakers. Burials may be expensive, but so is legal redress. So is spiritual provision; I mean the maintenance of all our reverends and right reverends. I am quite sure that both lawyers' charges and the revenues of some of the chief clergy are very little, if any, more reasonable than our own prices. Pluralities are as bad as crowded gravepits, and I don't see that there is a pin to choose between the church and the churchyard. Sanitary revolutionists and incendiaries accuse us of gorging rottenness, and battening on corruption. We don't do anything of the sort, that I see, to a greater extent than other professions, which are allowed to be highly respectable. Political, military, naval, university, and clerical parties, of great eminence, defend abuses in their several lines when profitable. We can't do better than follow such good examples. Let us stick up for business, and—I was going to say—leave society to take care of itself. No; that is just what we should endeavor to prevent society from doing. The world is growing too wise for us gentlemen. Accordingly, this Interments Bill, by which our interests are so seriously threatened, has been brought into Parliament. We must join heart and hand to defeat and crush it. Let us nail our colors—which I should call the black flag—to the mast, and let our war-cry be, "No surrender!" or else our motto will very soon be, "Resurgam;" in other words, it will be all up with us. We stand in a critical position in regard to public opinion. In order to determine what steps to take for protecting business, we ought to see our danger. I wish, therefore, to state the facts of our case clearly to you; and I say let us face them boldly, and not blink them. Therefore, I am going to speak plainly and plumply on this subject.

There is no doubt—between ourselves—that what makes our trade so profitable is the superstition, weakness, and vanity of parties. We can't disguise this fact from ourselves, and I only wish we may be able to conceal it much longer from others. As enlightened undertakers, we must admit that we are of no more use on earth than scavengers. All the good we do is to bury people's dead out of sight. Speaking as a philosopher—which an undertaker surely ought to be—I should say that our business is merely to shoot rubbish. However, the rubbish is human rubbish, and bereaved parties have certain feelings which require that it should be shot gingerly. I suppose such sentiments are natural, and will always prevail. But I fear that people will by and by begin to think that pomp, parade, and ceremony are unnecessary upon melancholy occasions. And whenever this happens, Othello's occupation will, in a great measure, be gone.

I tremble to think of mourning relatives considering seriously what is requisite—and all that is requisite—for decent interment, in a rational point of view. Nothing more, I am afraid Common Sense would say, than to carry the body in the simplest chest, and under the plainest covering, only in a solemn and respectful manner, to the grave, and lay it in the earth with proper religious ceremonies. I fear Common Sense would be of opinion that mutes, scarfs, hatbands, plumes of feathers, black horses, mourning coaches, and the like, can in no way benefit the defunct, or comfort surviving friends, or gratify anybody but the mob, and the street-boys. But happily, Common Sense has not yet acquired an influence which would reduce every burial to a most low affair.

Still, people think no more than they did, and in proportion as they do think, the worse it will be for business. I consider that we have a most dangerous enemy in Science. That same Science pokes its nose into everything—even vaults and churchyards. It has explained how grave-water soaks into adjoining wells; and has shocked and disgusted people by showing them that they are drinking their dead neighbors. It has taught parties resident in large cities that the very air they live in reeks with human remains, which steam up from graves; and which, of course, they are continually breathing. So it makes our churchyards to be worse haunted than they were formerly believed to be by ghosts, and, I may add, vampyres, in consequence of the dead continually rising from them in this unpleasant manner. Indeed, Science is likely to make people dread them a great deal more than Superstition ever did, by showing that their effluvia breed typhus and cholera; so that they are really and truly very dangerous. I should not be surprised to hear some sanitary lecturer say, that the fear of churchyards was a sort of instinct implanted in the mind, to prevent ignorant people and children from going near such unwholesome places.

It would be comparatively well if the mischief done us by Science, Medicine and Chemistry, and all that sort of thing—stopped here. The mere consideration that burial in the heart of cities is unhealthy, would but lead to extramural interment, to which our only objection—though even that is no very trifling one—is that it would diminish mortality, and consequently our trade. But this Science—confound it!—shows that the dead do not remain permanently in their coffins, even when the sextons of metropolitan graveyards will let them. It not only informs Londoners that they breathe and drink the deceased; but it reveals how the whole of the defunct party is got rid of, and turned into gases, liquids, and mould. It exposes the way in which all animal matter as it is called in chemical books—is dissolved, evaporates, and disappears; and is ultimately, as I may say, eaten up by Nature, and goes to form parts of plants, and of other living creatures. So that, if gentlemen really wanted to be interred with the remains of their ancestors, it would sometimes be possible to comply with their wishes only by burying them with a quantity of mutton—not to say with the residue of another quadruped than the sheep, which often grazes in churchyards. Science, in short, is hammering into people's heads truths which they have been accustomed merely to gabble with their mouths—that all flesh is indeed grass, or convertible into it; and not only that the human frame does positively turn to dust, but into a great many things besides. Now, I say, that when they become really and truly convinced of all this; when they know and reflect that the body cannot remain any long time in the grave which it is placed in; I am sadly afraid that they will think twice before they will spend from thirty to several hundred pounds in merely putting a corpse into the ground to decompose.

The only hope for us if these scientific views become general, is, that embalming will be resorted to; but I question if the religious feelings of the country will approve of a practice which certainly seems rather like an attempt to arrest a decree of Providence; and would, besides, be very expensive. Hero I am reminded of another danger, to which our prospects are exposed. It is that likely to arise from serious parties, in consequence of growing more enlightened, thinking consistently with their religious principles, instead of their religion being a mere sentimental kind of thing which they never reason upon. We often, you know, gentlemen, overhear the bereaved remarking that they trust the departed is in a better place. Why, if this were not a mere customary saying on mournful occasions—if the parties really believed this—do you think they would attach any importance to the dead body which we bury underground? No; to be sure: they would look upon it merely as a suit of left-off clothes—with the difference of being unpleasant and offensive, and not capable of being kept. They would see that a spirit could care no more about the corpse it had quitted, than a man who had lost his leg, would for the amputated limb. The truth is—don't breathe it, don't whisper it, except to the trade—that the custom of burying the dead with expensive furniture; of treating a corpse as if it were a sensible being; arises from an impression—though parties won't own it, even to themselves—that what is buried is the actual individual, the man himself. The effect of thinking seriously, and at the same time rationally, will be to destroy this notion, and with it put an end to all the splendor and magnificence of funerals, arising from it. Moreover, religious parties, being particular as to their moral conduct, would naturally consider it wrong and wicked to spend upon the dead an amount of money which might be devoted to the benefit of the living; and no doubt, when we come to look into it, such expenditure is much the same thing with the practice of savages and heathens in burying bread, and meat, and clothes, along with their deceased friends.

I have been suggesting considerations which are very discouraging, and which afford but a poor look-out to us undertakers. But, gentlemen, we have one great comfort still. It has become the fashion to inter bodies with parade and display. Fashion is fashion; and the consequence is that it is considered an insult to the memory of deceased parties not to bury them in a certain style; which must be respectable at the very least, and cost, on a very low average, twenty-five or thirty pounds. Many, such as professional persons and tradespeople, who cannot afford so much money, can still less afford to lose character and custom. That is where we have a pull upon the widows and children, many of whom, if it were not for the opinion of society, would be only too happy to save their little money, and turn it into food and clothing, instead of funeral furniture.

Now here the Metropolitan Interments Bill steps in, and aims at destroying our only chances of keeping up business as heretofore. We have generally to deal with parties whose feelings are not in a state to admit of their making bargains with us—a circumstance, on their parts, which is highly creditable to human nature; and favorable to trade. Thus, in short, gentlemen, we have it all our own way with them. But this Bill comes between the bereaved party and the undertaker. By the twenty-seventh clause, it empowers the Board of Health to provide houses and make arrangements for the reception and care of the dead previously to, and until interment; in order, as it explains in a subsequent clause, to the accommodation of persons having to provide the funerals—supposing such persons to desire the accommodation. Clause the twenty-eighth enacts "That the said Board shall make provision for the management and conduct, by persons appointed by them, of the funerals of persons whose bodies are to be interred in the Burial Grounds, to be provided under this Act, where the representatives of the deceased, or the persons having the care and direction of the funeral, desire to have the same so conducted; and the said Board shall fix and publish a scale of the sums to be payable for such funerals, inclusive of all matters and services necessary for the same, such sums to be proportioned to the description of the funeral, or the nature of the matter and services to be furnished and rendered for the same; but so that in respect of the lowest of such sums, the funerals may be conducted with decency and solemnity." Gentlemen, if this enactment becomes law, we shall lose all the advantages which we derived from bereaved parties' state of mind. The Board of Health will take all trouble off their hands, at whatever sum they may choose to name. Of course they will apply to the Board of Health instead of coming to us. But what is beyond everything prejudicial to our interests, is the proviso "that in respect of the lowest of such sums, the funerals may be conducted with decency and solemnity." Hitherto it has been understood that so much respect could not be paid in the case of what we call a low affair as in one of a certain style. We have always considered that a funeral ought to cost so much to be respectable at all. Therefore relations have gone to more expense with us, than they would otherwise have been willing to incur, in order to secure proper respect. But if proper respect is to be had at a low figure, the strongest hold that we have upon sorrowing relatives will be taken away.

It is all very fine to say that we are a necessary class of tradesmen, and if this Bill passes must continue to be employed. If this Bill does pass we shall be employed simply as tradesmen, and shall obtain, like other tradesmen, a mere market price for our articles, and common hire for our labor. I am afraid that it will be impossible to persuade the public that this would not be perfectly just and right. I think, therefore, that we had better not attack the Bill on its merits, but try to excite opposition against it on the ground of its accessory clauses. Let us oppose it as a scheme of jobbery, devised with a view to the establishment of offices and appointments. Let us complain as loudly as we can of its creating a new rate to defray the expenses of its working, and let us endeavor to get up a good howl against that clause of it which provides for compensation to incumbents, clerks, and sextons. We must cry out with all our might upon its centralizing tendency, and of course make the most we can out of the pretense that it violates the sanctity of the house of mourning, and outrages the most fondly cherished feelings of Englishmen. Urge these objections upon church-wardens, overseers, and vestrymen; and especially din the objection to a burial rate into their ears. Recollect, our two great weapons—like those of all good old anti-reformers—are cant and clamor. Keep up the same cry against the Bill perseveringly, no matter how thoroughly it may be refuted or proved absurd. Literally, make the greatest noise in opposition to it that you are able, especially at public meetings. There, recollect a groan is a groan, and a hiss a hiss, even though proceeding from a goose. On all such occasions do your utmost to create a disturbance, to look like a popular demonstration against the measure. In addition to shouting, yelling, and bawling, I should say that another rush at another platform, another upsetting of the reporter's table, another terrifying of the ladies, and another mobbing the chairman, would be advisable. Set to work with all your united zeal and energy to carry out the suggestions of our Central Committee for the defeat of a Bill which, if passed, will inflict a blow on the undertaker as great as the boon it will confer on the widow and orphan—whom we, of course, can only consider as customers. The Metropolitan Interments Bill goes to dock us of every penny that we make by taking advantage of the helplessness of afflicted families. And just calculate what our loss would then be; for, in the beautiful language of St. Demetrius, the silversmith, "Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth."

* * * * *



Observing an old branchless trunk of the largest size, in a striking position, where it looked like a broken column, we walked up to examine it. The shaft rose, without a curve or a branch, to the height of perhaps forty feet, where it had been abruptly shivered, probably in some storm. The tree was a chestnut, and the bark of a clear, unsullied gray; walking round it, we saw an opening near the ground, and to our surprise found the trunk hollow, and entirely charred within, black as a chimney, from the root to the point where it was broken off. It frequently happens that fire steals into the heart of an old tree, in this way, by some opening near the roots, and burns away the inside, leaving merely a gray outer shell. One would not expect the bark to be left in such cases, but the wood at the heart seems to be more inflammable than the outer growth. Whatever be the cause, such shafts are not uncommon about our hills, gray without, charred within.

There is, indeed, much charred wood in our forests; fires which sweep over the hills are of frequent occurrence here, and at times they do much mischief. If the flames are once fairly kindled in dry weather, they will spread in all directions as the wind varies, burning sometimes for weeks together, until they have swept over miles of woodland, withering the verdure, destroying the wood already cut, and greatly injuring many trees which they do not consume. Several years since, in the month of June, there was quite an extensive fire on the eastern range of hills; it lasted for ten days or a fortnight, spreading several miles in different directions. It was the first important fire of the kind we had ever seen, and of course we watched its progress with much interest; but the spectacle was a very different one from what we had supposed. It was much less terrible than the conflagration of buildings in a town; there was less of power and fierce grandeur, and more of treacherous beauty about the flames as they ran hither and thither along the mountain-side. The first night after it broke out we looked on with admiration: one might have thought it a general illumination of the forest, as the flames spread in long winding lines, gaining upon the dark wood every moment, up and down, and across the hill, collecting here and there with greater brilliancy about some tall old tree, which they hung with fire like a giant lustre. But the next day the sight was a sad one indeed: the deceitful brilliancy of the flames no longer pleased the eye: wreaths of dull smoke and hot vapors hung over the blighted trees, and wherever the fire had wandered there the fresh June foliage was utterly blasted. That night we could no longer take pleasure in the spectacle; we could no longer fancy a joyous illumination. We seemed rather to behold the winding coils of some fiery serpent gliding farther and farther on its path of evil: a rattling, hissing sound accompanying its movement, the young trees trembling and quivering with agitation in the heated current which proclaimed its approach. The fresh flowers were all blighted by its scorching breath, and with its forked tongue it fed upon the pride of the forest, drying up the life of great trees, and without waiting to consume them, hurrying onward to blight other groves, leaving a blackened track of ruin wherever it passed.

Some fifty years since a fire of this kind is said to have spread until it inclosed within its lines the lake and the valley, as far as one could see, surrounding the village with a network of flame, which at night was quite appalling in its aspect. The danger, however, was not so great as it appeared, as there was everywhere a cleared space between the burning forest and the little town. At times, however, very serious accidents result from these fires: within a few days we have heard of a small village, in the northern part of the State, in St. Lawrence county, entirely destroyed in this way, the flames gaining so rapidly upon the poor people that they were obliged to collect their families and cattle in boats and upon rafts, in the nearest pools and streams.

Of course, more or less mischief is always done; the wood and timber already cut are destroyed, fences are burnt, many trees are killed, others are much injured, the foliage is more or less blighted for the season; the young plants are killed, and the earth looks black and gloomy. Upon the whole, however, it is surprising that no more harm is done. On the occasion of the fire referred to in these woods, we found the traces of the flames to disappear much sooner than we had supposed possible. The next season the smaller plants were all replaced by others; many of the younger trees seemed to revive, and a stranger passing over the ground to-day would scarcely believe that fire had been feeding on those woods for a fortnight only a few seasons back. A group of tall, blasted hemlocks, on the verge of the wood, is the striking monument of the event. The evergreens generally suffer more than other trees, and for some cause or other the fire continued busy at that point for several days. We repeatedly passed along the highway at the time, with the flames at work on either side. Of course, there was no danger, but it looked oddly to be quietly driving along through the fire. The crackling of the flames was heard in the village, and the smell of smoke was occasionally quite unpleasant.

A timely rain generally puts a stop to the mischief; but parties of men are also sent out into the woods to "fight the fire." They tread out the flames among the dry leaves by trampling them down, and they rake away the combustible materials, to confine the enemy to its old grounds, when it soon exhausts itself. The flames spread more frequently along the earth, than from tree to tree.

* * * * *



Dear friend, love well the flowers! Flowers are the sign Of Earth's all gentle love, her grace, her youth, Her endless, matchless, tender gratitude. When the Sun smiles on thee—why thou art glad: But when the Earth he smileth, She bursts forth In beauty like a bride, and gives him back, In sweet repayment for his warm bright love, A world of flowers. You may see them born, On any day in April, moist or dry, As bright as are the Heavens that look on them: Some sown like stars upon the greensward; some As yellow as the sunrise; others red As day is when he sets; reflecting thus, In pretty moods, the bounties of the sky.

And now, of all fair flowers, which lovest thou best? The Rose? She is a queen more wonderful Than any who have bloomed on Orient thrones: Sabaean Empress! in her breast, though small, Beauty and infinite sweetness sweetly dwell, Inextricable. Or dost dare prefer The Woodbine, for her fragrant summer breath? Or Primrose, who doth haunt the hours of Spring, A wood-nymph brightening places lone and green? Or Cowslip? or the virgin Violet, That nun, who, nestling in her cell of leaves, Shrinks from the world, in vain!

Yet, wherefore choose, when Nature doth not choose? Our mistress, our preceptress? She brings forth Her brood with equal care, loves all alike, And to the meanest as the greatest yields Her sunny splendors and her fruitful rains. Love all flowers, then. Be sure that wisdom lies In every leaf and bloom; o'er hills and dales; And thymy mountains; sylvan solitudes Where sweet-voiced waters sing the long year through; In every haunt beneath the Eternal Sun, Where Youth or Age sends forth its grateful prayer, Or thoughtful Meditation deigns to stray.

* * * * *

French Eulogy has always been prone to run riot. One M. Philoxene Boyer, in a grave work which has just published, in Paris, thus addresses Victor Hugo:—"You, Victor Hugo, will become not only President of the French Republic, but President of the Universal Republic, Chief of the Oecumenic Council of Nations, Intellectual Pope reigning in your Paris, whilst the Pope of Religion, united with you and Jesus Christ, the common master, will continue to reign in his Rome."


Previous Part     1  2
Home - Random Browse